My Vegetarian Oasis After a Long (and I Mean LONG!) Dundas West Trek – Lemongrass Fried Rice at King’s Café

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Although I love King’s Café very much, I did not actually intend to eat there this past week.  So there is a story here.  If you’ve been reading and following my blog, you know how deeply I love the city and the joy it brings me to explore and learn as much as I possibly can.  However, my exploration of the city and my love for all things food will sometimes get the best of me and I will do crazy things! 

This past Monday I went back to Bunner’s Bake Shop in the morning for a chocolate chip cookie creamie sandwich (because I can seriously eat these babies every day oh my god.  Creamie blog post coming soon!) and then proceeded to go on the longest trek of my life within a morning window.  And when I say long trek, I mean long!  I thought to myself, “I want to go back to Kensington Market but eh, I’d really rather not use another bus token to get there.  Let’s walk it and see how far I can get!  And I can explore Dundas West to my heart’s content!  I can take pictures!  Yeah, let’s do that!”  That was one heck of a motivational talk I had with myself.  So I put my mitts on, stuck my knitted hat on my head and went on my way and by the end of it, I walked from Keele St. alllll the way back east to Spadina!  In one morning.  On foot.  And it was chilly out.  To put this into perspective for those who don’t live in Toronto or who only have a vague sense of direction, I walked a total of 6.3 km!  I was, and still am, uber proud of myself 😀

Needless to say, I was one tired cookie by lunch time!  I was even shocked with how ambitious I was taking that long of a walk through the city, good lordy.  I made my way back to Kensington Market, walked into the vegetarian oasis that is my lovely King’s Café, and collapsed into a cushy chair.  It was time for some food and the belly eagerly wanted some lemongrass fried rice!  I’ve written about King’s twice on the blog since I started it, once back in December on Christmas eve and another time in January, not to mention I took my family there back in February for the first time.  For the past few months I’ve been craving the lemongrass fried rice from their special winter menu because my family and I loved it so much when we ordered it.  I quickly flipped through the menu and was ecstatic to find that their winter menu selections were still there.  So I happily ordered the lemongrass fried rice.  I’m no fool; I wasn’t about to pass  up something that 1) I was craving for months and 2) that was probably not going to be around for much longer!

This rice seriously kicks the ass of anything with meat in it.  Trust me when I say that any meat-eating person won’t miss the meat and any vegetarian and vegan will prance around the room with glee over it.  My dad and brother, who are “manly men” meat-eaters, loved this rice.  And this also isn’t your typical mixed veggies vegetable fried rice either.  The lemongrass fried rice has amazing ginger flavour to it and the edameme beans and strips and chunks of bean curd MAKE this rice. 

The dish has goji berries in it as well and although they give the dish another dimension of flavour with a bit of sweetness and a spicy, minty bite, I actually think the rice could do without them because the rest of the dish is so amazing on its own.  The bean curd in the rice just blows me away.  It’s crispy and it gives the rice its body and protein.  I love it because it’s different from any other fried rice I’ve had, it’s flavourful without being greasy, and it’s fresh quality.  You get a big plate of it (I think even 2 people could share this!) with some freshly steamed broccoli and it’s a meal that doesn’t make you feel like collapsing into hibernation afterward.

Another thing that I absolutely love about King’s Café is how they nail the ginger flavour.  Most times I find ginger to be too overwhelming and with too much of that spicy bite to it.  The way they use ginger here is fantastic though and it’s demonstrated in the fried rice as well as in their ginger “chicken” dish which I would recommend to anyone.  It was my mom and brother’s favourite when I ate here with my family, and it’s also one of my mine.  I guzzled down glasses of lime water and wolfed down half my plate of rice and took the rest back with in a doggy bag (which by the way is adorable, ha).  This was the perfect meal to refuel my tired (but happy!) body last Monday after that crazy long trek through Dundas West.  Look out for pictures from my walk, as well as my Bunner’s Bake Shop creamie post!  I hope everyone is having a great start to the long Easter weekend!

*****

King’s Café is located at 192 Augusta Ave (accessible from both Dundas and College St, just west of Spadina) and is open at 11:30am seven days a week until 9:30pm from Monday-Saturday, and until 9pm on Sundays.         

Cookies, Cookies, and Sprinkles Galore! Pretty Easter Pastels at Kensington’s My Market Bakery

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I can eat cookies and cookies all day long, and when they look THIS cute and pretty, it’s not hard 😀  With all my exploration of the city and yummy food stories, I have truly made my mom and brother obsessed with going downtown with me and getting delicious goodies from Kensington’s My Market Bakery among many other places!  With the long Easter weekend ahead of us, we picked up fresh bread and buns (my brother picked out some potato and rosemary sour dough!), sweet flaky dessert pastry squares (apricot almond, apple cinnamon, and raspberry coconut omg!), and a special Easter shortbread cookie just for me!  Rows upon rows of shortbread cookies with oodles of colourful sprinkles, frosting, and sprinkled sugar in adorable egg, bunny, and baby chick shapes just waiting to be taken home and enjoyed by cookie monsters like me. 

I haven’t always celebrated Easter on a regular annual basis, but occasions like these remind me of the time my aunt gave me a little painted egg bunny toy for Easter a few years ago and jokingly said to my mum, “of course YOU don’t get one, they’re for the little ones!”  Peering into display cases and picking out sprinkled cookies remind me how young at heart I am and will most likely always be.  It reminds me that it’s the simple things in life that bring the most joy and all it takes is a little splash of colour and cuteness to make make happy.  Mornings like these just strolling through one of my favourite neighbourhoods in Toronto mean the most to me and that cookie made me one very giddy girl today.  I picked out the cookie with the pink and white and lavender sprinkles with the frosted candy bunny.  And yes, I ate it already.  Just the beginning of a weekend of Easter and good eats goodness 😀

*****

My Market Bakery is located at 184 Baldwin St. in Kensington Market.  The bakery is located west of Spadina Ave. and south of Nassau St.   

The Name’s Sprout…Alfalfa Sprout. Here’s My Partner Banana Pepper. And We’re Fabulous in a Sandwich!

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I’ve become very amoured with alfalfa sprouts with just about everything, and I’ve recently developed quite a crush on hot banana peppers too!  After eating my fab grilled cheese sandwich from T&T Bakery and Café I thought to myself, “why in the world have I not been eating banana peppers more??”  And so began the hunt for a decent jar of the spicy stuff to add my growing list of sandwich fillings.  My tolerance for spicy food is certainly not sky high, but I can take a bit of heat.  I’m finding it really fun to try out different veggie combinations in my sandwiches and to switch things up whenever I can.  Mushrooms, grilled zucchini, bell peppers, spinach, arugula, herbs, different lettuces and cheeses – I love them all and the combinations are endless.   

Part of the reason why I’ve suddenly become so inspired by sandwiches within the last little while has a bit to do with the great bread my mum and I consistently get from our local bakery, and it also has to do with something my friend Wini brought up almost a month ago.  She wanted to find great vegetarian and vegan sandwiches around the city and since then, I’ve been on the hunt not just for her, but for me as well.  I’ve found several amazing ones to tuck into my “sandwich portfolio” along the way (grilled vegetables on tomato foccacia!  Breaded eggplant and basil on a crusty baguette!) and I’m on the lookout for as many great sammies as possible.  Part of the issue, I think, is that there’s a lack of creativity with fillings.  Lettuce and tomato just don’t cut it anymore (or did they ever?) so it makes it all the more fun and challenging to find something fabulous and worth eating out for.  Experimenting in the kitchen allows me to try out different combinations of flavours and it inspires me to look  for creativity elsewhere.

Although not vegetarian, it was a tasty sandwich if I do say so myself!  A pepperoni sandwich with mozzerella cheese, baby spinach, alfalfa sprouts, and hot banana peppers on crunchy kaiser bun!  Crunchy, spicy, and all sorts of yummy.  The sandwich experiments are delish and the vegetarian and vegan sandwich hunt in the city continues on.  I’m really excited to share my discoveries when I eventually gather up a good-sized selection and I have a few places in mind to try out, so keep an eye out for my full on report by summer!          

A Sunny Sunday Morning Breakfast With Sun Maid Raisins – Cinnamon Raisin French Toast!

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This is what transpires when my mum sees cinnamon raisin bread on sale in the Sobeys weekly flyer: she buys two loaves and we have ourselves a ball making French toast for Sunday morning breakfast 🙂  I know raisins aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I personally really like raisins in baked goods like oatmeal and chocolate chip raisin cookies and raisin bread. 

However, that is not to say that raisins and I have have always been friends.  I will always and forever remember my tragic encounter with raisins at the age of 6.  My first grade teacher thought it would be fun if a group of us brought a snack to school and did a blind trade with one another.  We’d all secretly place our snack in a plastic bag and then one by one we’d close our eyes and reach in for a random snack that wasn’t our own.  I had brought little gummy fruit snacks and I distinctly remember another classmate bringing Twizzlers, but that’s about all I can recall.  Anyway, I was second last to go and my own snack was still in the bag so I was left with having to choose the other item that was left: a box of raisins.  No, I’m not kidding.  Needless to say I cried my little 6-year-old heart out when I came home from school and I’ve never quite forgotten the heartbreak.  But raisins and I have reconcilliated since then.

We tried out a loaf of the cinnamon raisin bread for our French toast and it turned out great!  The cinnamon made the toast really fragrant and there was tons of flavour so there wasn’t even any need for syrup.  Just a little drizzle of honey and a bit of powdered sugar to pretty it up and the slices were good to go.  Each loaf had about 12 slices around 14 if you count the ends) and we cracked and whipped 6 eggs.  We had a tiny bit of leftover egg in the end which we ended up just scrambling in the skillet, but it’s always better to have a little extra than not enough, so half a dozen eggs should be sufficient enough for a loaf of the cinnamon raisin bread.  We had our stove top dial set to 7 (so 2 notches away from maximum heat) and it made for a soft inside and a nice, browned outside!  The amount of heat is a nice happy medium; high enough so that the egg gets cooked through and doesn’t soak through the bread making it soggy, and yet not hot enough to burn it.  I really loved how yummy this was and I’m thinking that it would also make great bread pudding too!

Weekly Feature: The Grad Lounge – Chickpea, Quinoa, and Red Pepper Stew

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Yet another great healthy meal dished out by The Grad Lounge!  A warm vegetable stew of chickpeas, quinoa, and roasted red peppers served over rice with a side spring mix green salad.  It was the first time I had seen it on their daily specials menu and you know me and new things; I pounced on it!  Sometimes it really amazes me how many new things I’ve integrated into my diet over the past four years and how I can’t imagine my life without them now.  Lentils, falafel, avocado, okra, kale – I love them all, and I’m so glad that I’ve added quinoa to this list too! 

Pronounced “keen-wah”, it’s a great high protein, gluten-free alternative to wheat grains.  It’s a fantastic food for those who follow a plant-based diet and you eat it much the same way you would rice, corn, and cous cous.  When cooked, quinoa is fluffy in texture with a beady kind of bite to it.  It’s tiny-tiny like cous cous and is pale and a bit translucent.  The first time I ate quinoa was at Kale Eatery last September, with portobello mushrooms.  To me it tastes like cous cous, only a tiny bit chewier and fluffier 🙂  Although I enjoy rice, I really love eating other grains too and I’m excited to try other dishes with it and to use it in some breakfast yogurt!

*****

The Grad Lounge is located at 166 South Ross at the York University Keele campus.  Starting today (Monday, April 11th), The Grad Lounge will be changing their hours to summer hours until September.  Summer operating hours are from 12pm-6:30pm, Monday to Friday.

Springtime at Mela Café – Bright Watercress Spring Salad & Vegan Banana Cream Pies

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It figures that I would create and post some of my cheeriest scrapbook pages on one of the most atrocious spring weekends.  As I was cutting out scraps of cardstock and snipping ribbon at my kitchen table early afternoon, I turned around to look out the window and saw the sky raining rice krispies.  Or as a meteorologist would say, tiny bits of hail.  I even did a double take when I woke up this morning and saw a light layer of snow on my neighbour’s rooftop, which melted within an hour into a wet mess.  If it’s any consolation, I have pretty things like ribbon and metal brads to show off and pictures of yummy food! 

Even though this meal wasn’t part of Veggielicious (since this was from March), what I’m showing you all today could very well be something you could eat when you go to Mela Café this week, depending on the selection they have for the day.  This is the last week of Veggielicious which runs until Sunday, April 24th.  Mela’s price fixe of $15 gets you a delicious vegan dessert and two of the following, your choice: panini sandwich, soup, and salad.  If you haven’t seen my post about their amazing vegan eggplant paninis, check it out here!  And to help fill in the blanks and give you all an idea of what their salads and desserts are like, I have pictures of their bright watercress spring salad and vegan banana cream pie dessert!  This meal was so much fun.  I brought my best friend here during her spring break and it was the first time I had a salad and dessert here (the other times I had the eggplant panini and their famous ravioli!), so I was super excited! 

I mean, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to me anymore, but every time I come here I am blown away at how light and delicious everything is.  I KNOW everything here is awesome, but there’s always something that throws me for a loop, keeps me on my toes, whether it’s the fusion of different flavours or textures.  With the eggplant panini, it was the contrast between the crispy breaded eggplant and the sharp, fresh flavour of basil leaves.  With the ravioli, it was lightness of the tomato sauce and the airiness of the ricotta.  And with the salad?  The bright, refreshing flavour of the olive oil.  It just blew me away.  I swear, a bright green spring salad is not a salad unless it tastes like this.  Oh my goodness.  For one thing, I was chomping on the bit with my green beans.  I love green beans so much.  The spring salad was a fresh mixture of green beans, chopped celery, Shanghai bok choy, cauliflower, watercress, and chick peas. 

Let’s put it this way: I don’t like cauliflower.  Besides regular bean sprouts, it is quite possibly the only other vegetable that I do not like.  If it’s mixed in with a steamed vegetable medley, I’ll eat it, whatever, but it’s not my cup of tea.  This salad, with the olive oil, made me like it and inhale it.  This salad was THAT good.  There are varying types of olive oil dependent on how ripe the olives are when pressed, where it’s been harvested, the level of acidity, that kind of thing.*  Based on the grade of olive oil, you can judge whether or not it’s appropriate to used cooked or uncooked.  The (extra virgin) olive oil had this bright, fruity flavour to it that just took the taste buds on a tailspin.  SO YUM 😀

And of course, a meal is not complete without dessert.  At least no meal in my book!  My best friend and I were noshing on our food (me with my spring salad and her with a plate of ravioli which I recommended.  She loved it so much and said she could eat 3 plates of it, ha!) and were contemplating going back to Pusateri’s gourmet market down the road in Yorkville for a dessert.  We saw the vegan banana cream pies and chucked that idea straight out the window (sorry, Pusateri’s, but you got ousted!).  There was no way in hell we were going to pass on fresh, homemade desserts at Mela.  And I’m so glad we didn’t. 

This dessert was divine.  My best friend and I could have eaten 4 of them.  It had the bold banana flavour that you’re used to getting from fresh baked banana bread, the texture and consistency of thick custard pudding, and piped vegan cream and toasted coconut on top.  We were so busy mmming over it that I completely forgot to ask Roberto what was in it.  Oops.  I’ll get on that for next time, promise!

This was such a memorable, happy foodie outing.  I was out with my best friend for some amazing eats, I was eating at a place that I felt so comfortable and at home at, and I was among some of the nicest, most genuine and generous people I’ve met since I started this blog.  This blog has opened up a whole new world to me, allowing me to meet people I’d otherwise never cross paths with and to do what I love to do so much: take pictures, scrap, and eat!  I’m so lucky for everything I’ve been able to see, eat, and experience and I’m really grateful.  And to show his gratitude, Roberto (owner of Mela) was a real trooper with all the pictures and even posed for one himself! 😀

Enjoy the last week of Veggielicious, everyone!

*****

Mela Café is located at 7 Yorkville Ave., north of Cumberland St. and just west of Yonge St.  Their regular hours are from 10am-5pm, but they are open on Thursday and Friday during Veggielicious until 8pm.

*= source from TLC Cooking

Scrapbooking materials used: emerald green, grass green, neon green, cobalt blue, and beige cardstock (Recollections); powder blue scalloped patterned paper (Colorbok); journalling tags (Darcy collection by Anna Griffin); brown and white polka dot alphabet stickers, spring time alphabet stickers (K&Company); spring themed metal brads (Amy Butler for K&Company); chipboard patterned embellishments (Winners Homesense); spring time flower and snail ribbon (Sweet Little Fairies by Michael’s); sewing buttons; medium scallop circle paper punch (ek success); aluminum foil.

A Beachy, Spring Day – Yummy Soba Noodles, Grilled Veggies, and Sunflower Sprouts in Fresh’s Beach Bowl

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Here’s some bright cheery colour to brighten up our otherwise drab rainy day!  It’s been a total washout here in Toronto today so for those of you who ventured out, props to you because good god, I would have been wrestling with my umbrella all day had I gone out.  It was freakin’ windy out!  I spent my day at home scrapbooking and organizing photos in photo albums.  I live dangerously, I know, ha!  I hope you guys like the scrap layout up top because I had a ton of fun making it 😀  Pink, green, and pastels.  Ahhh, the way to my heart.  So, for your drooling pleasure today: Fresh’s soba noodle beach bowl!  Even though this particular dish isn’t the one currently being featured in Fresh’s Veggielicious special (the one featured is actually the Ninja bowl), I figured it was appropriate anyway given how Fresh is participating in Veggielicious and all. 

I know I raved on and on about how much I adored my spicy black bean burrito dish on my bed of greens here the first time I ate at Fresh, but I have to say, the beach bowl just might be tied for possibly my favourite dish so far!  I looove soba noodles.  Also referred to as buckwheat noodles, they are Japanese noodles that are served both warm and cold.  The first time I had soba noodles was a number of years ago.  I found these great noodles at T&T supermarket and they were packaged and served cold with big leaves of green leaf lettuce, cold shrimp, wedges of tamago (Japanese egg), and peanut sauce.  Oh god, I loved it so much and devoured it every time I ate it.  I was so sad though when I found out they no longer made them, so Fresh’s soba noodle bowls totally fill that void in my heart whenever I’m out to eat and in the mood for them.

This meal was really special.  My boyfriend and I were celebrating our 2-year anniversary and were out during that Sunday to see the Raptors play that afternoon.  It was a nice, peaceful Sunday morning brunch and even though I probably could have ordered off of Fresh’s popular weekend brunch menu, I reeeally wanted noodles and veggies and cheese and all that good stuff, so that’s what I had.  It was a day to celebrate and besides, I’m a girly little piggy ^_^  I went out all out and even ordered myself a fresh glass of mixed fruit juice: mango and strawberry, super bright and refreshing!  It’s fun to mix and match fruits and other drinks to create my own special concoction and I especially love choosing things like mango, grapefruit, coconut milk, things like that.

Fresh has a number of bowls on their menu and you can either have them with brown rice or soba noodles, which cost an extra dollar.  The bowls have amazing combinations of vegetarian and vegan protein and vegetables.  Think tempeh, tofu steaks, sprouts, grilled vegetables, raw vegetables, and curry stews and sauces.  Depending on whether you choose to have brown rice or noodles, and whether you add cheese to your meal, bowls range in price from $8-$15, and some bowls offer a “baby” size (a half portion) at a discounted price.  It was my first time trying a Fresh bowl (remember what I said about eating my way through the menu?  Ha!) and I chose the beach bowl with soba noodles.

The beach bowl, to me, is perfection in a bowl.  SO many of my favourite things all in one!  The beach bowl is served with warm delicious grilled red bell peppers, sweet potato, and zucchini, thick slices of avocado, thinly sliced sun-dried tomato, a huge helping of sunflower sprouts, and olive oil, tamari (a variation of soy sauce that is slightly thicker and wheat-free), and lemon juice.  I added goat cheese to my bowl and oh my god, YUM, they gave me a nice generous scoop of cheese.  As you already know, I love cheese dearly and because the grilled vegetables were nice and warm, the goat cheese was easy to spread around and made everything so deliciously creamy.  The mixture of olive oil, lemon juice, and herbs just made the soba noodles so amazingly good. 

And this was actually my first time eating sunflower sprouts and I loved them.  Which is awesome because I am so not a fan of regular sprouts, so along with alfalfa, I can enjoy sunflower ones!  For me, it was a fusion of new things (sunflower sprouts) and old favourites (um, hello avocado and noodles), and I couldn’t have been more satisfied.  It was delicious and I was full.  So full I needed to doggy bag the rest!  Time and again, Fresh delivers and lives up to its name and their menu just inspires me every time I look at it…which is a lot, ha.  So in conclusion: I LOVE YOU BEACH BOWL! 😀

*****

Fresh currently serves 3 locations in downtown Toronto:

  1. 326 Bloor St. West (right off the intersection of Spadina Ave. and Bloor St. West, just east of Spadina)
  2. 894 Queen St. West (at the intersection of Crawford St. and Queen St. West, near Trinity Bellwoods Park)
  3. 147 Spadina Ave. (near the intersection of Spadina Ave. and Queen St. West, a block south of Queen)

They are currently serving a Veggielicious special until April 24th for a price fixe of $15: 16oz Chi-Spa Juice (ginger, dates, apple, soymilk, banana, cinnamon, chia seeds), Ninja Bowl (salad greens, tofu cubes, sundried tomatoes, sunflower sprouts, spicy ginger tamari sauce, and your choice of dressing on brown rice or soba noodles (add $1 for soba), and a Ginger Molasses Cupcake with Lemon Frosting.

Scrapbooking materials used: emerald green cardstock (paper printing shop); baby pink and beige cardstock (Recollections); green and blue patterned cardstock paper (Green Tea stack by DVWV); patterned journalling tags (Darcy Collection by Anna Griffin); pink floral chipboard alphabets (K & Company); spring pastel flower embellishments (Paper Bliss); glitter blue, green, and brown chipboard button embellishments (WT, Westrim Crafts); scalloped edge decorative scissors (Provo Craft); circle paper punch (marvy uchida); paper corner rounder.