The Fall Harvest Series – Apple Lemon Poppy Seed Teatime Muffins!

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Happy Friday everyone!  I am so excited to officially start the Fall Harvest series and I can’t wait to show you all the photos and posts I have planned for the next week or so.  I’m starting the series off with some homemade baked goods because I really think it epitomizes what fall comfort is all about: the warmth and love of homemade food, chilly mornings warmed up by some yummy baked goods, and lots of fall harvest fruits and colours.  Introducing my beloved apple lemon poppy seed teatime muffins! 😀  They’re so perfect for breakfast, an afternoon tea, or just for a midday snack to tide you over until dinner.  Stuffed with juicy chunks of apple, they show off one of fall’s best loved fruits.  As well, it just so happens that our Jewish friends are currently celebrating Rosh Hashanah (Jewish new year) and apples are one of the several foodie symbols of sweetness and prosperity for the new year, so this recipe  nicely performs double duty!

I know I’ve been on a cookie baking kick for months (check out the Cookie Jar!), happily baking my way through Joanne Fluke’s Hannah Swensen foodie murder mystery novels.  I thought it would be fitting to do muffins though and I’m so glad I did.  The muffins turned out even better than I expected because they’re so fragrant, so moist, and just bursting with flavour, and they taste even more amazing the day after they’re baked and even a few days after that!  The flavour just seems to intensify and they’re wonderfully yummy.  The lemon makes these muffins smell and taste divine, the apple gives the muffins its interior juiciness, and the poppy seeds give the muffins a great texture and appearance.  They come out with lovely golden brown tops and there’s a special ingredient in the recipe that I think really heightens the flavour and moistness: yogurt! 

I tweaked the recipe a bit to suit what I had on hand though so there are some differences between mine and the one in the recipe and book.  It actually includes a recipe for mint syrup to drizzle over top of the muffins, but I wasn’t feeling it so I didn’t make it.  You’ll see why I think mine are even better than the ones in the book based on the changes I made 😉  And the book in question is my beloved apple cookbook!  I bought this at the Blue Banana market in Kensington Market and I love it because it helps me, as a person with apple and fruit allergies, learn how to cook and do different things with apples other than biting into them raw.  Yay for baked apple goods!

Recipe for Apple Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins (yields 18 tea muffins if apples are cut into chunks, 12 if apples are finely chopped)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons poppy seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 and 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature (1 stick)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 cup plain yogurt (*Deb’s note: I didn’t have any plain yogurt so I used a small container of vanilla and a small container of vanilla cinnamon, and just eyeballed it to make the total amount 1 cup or 250 ml.  Because I was using vanilla flavoured yogurt though, I only used half the amount of vanilla extract the recipe called for).
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 large Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and finely chopped (*Deb’s note: I didn’t have any Granny Smith apples, so I used two small Red Delicious apples instead).

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 375°F.  Line a 12-cup muffin or cupcake pan with paper liners (*Deb’s note: I had to line 18 spaces when I realized I had more batter because of the larger cuts of apple I had).
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, poppy seeds, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.
  • In a separate medium bowl, beat butter and sugar until smooth and creamy.  Beat in eggs, one at a time, beating well between additions.  Add lemon zest, yogurt, and vanilla extract, beating until well combined.
  • Stir in flour mixture, mixing until just combined.  Fold in apple.  Spoon batter into muffin cups, filling each cup 3/4 full. 
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until tops are golden and a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffin comes out clean (*Deb’s note: Mine baked for 20 minutes because my oven at home runs a little hot).
  • When muffins are ready, transfer to a wire rack and let stand 10 minutes before taking muffins out.  Let cool and enjoy!

*****

Recipe adapted and taken from Sarina Jackson’s Apples.  New York: Sterling Publishing Co., Inc., 2010.  Photographs taken by me.  The recipe can be found on page 46.

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Pumpkins, Squash, Apples, and Plenty of Fall Sweet Eats & Comfort Food – The Fall Harvest Series on Ate by Ate!

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Just like the seasons, our tastes and preferences change as we grow up.  I used to love summer, not just because of the summer-vacation-from-school angle, but because I genuinely enjoyed all the things I got to do during this time.  Things like going swimming every week and playing sports outside and wearing shorts.  However, I’m 26 now and over the past few years I’ve done a complete 18o, for many reasons!  The humidity started wreaking havoc on my skin, I had to start wearing a hat nearly every day I was out because heat and sun exposure would give me migraines, and all in all, my enthusiasm for the sunshiney, beachy season just wasn’t where it used to be.  I longed for the crisp, cool air of the fall season to brush against my cheeks, to simaltaneously take photos and kick up the gorgeous fallen leaves, and to completely delve into fall comfort food, markets, and activities. 

Fall is my favourite season now and I know I’m not the only one super excited about it!  I know fall officially started last Friday, but here in Toronto the temperatures have still been seasonably warm and on some days, hot, hot, hot – there was a humidex this past Monday!  Temperatures aside, my giddiness over fall is still very much intact and I cannot wait to wear chunky sweater knits, scarves, boots, fuzzy shoes (I have a very cute pair of flats with fuzzies around the collars!), and long-sleeved cardigans.  My camera is waiting with baited breath for all the leaves to change colour and because I’ve been looking forward to fall so much, I’ve already gotten a head start on the fall harvest and comfort food noshing 😉

Since I started Ate by Ate on the last day of November last year, I didn’t get a chance to do anything fall-related for the blog or to show you all some of my favourite fall photos so here’s some to get the ball rolling!  The first three were taken from Main Street Unionville on a gorgeous fall day several years ago with the obligatory feet in leaves shot 😀  I am BEYOND excited to start my Fall Harvest series now, and to show off some amazing fall foods and meals around the city.  I have so many ideas and so many things I want to do – go to an apple orchard, attend as many farmers’ markets as possible before the seasonal ones close up show for the year, and of course, indulge in some special fall eats and treats.  There are some amazing fall menus being put out by a number of places and so many shops are creating their own special versions of some classic sweets and desserts.  I started brainstorming fall food over a month ago to prepare for this series – think pumpkin, squash, apples, maple, chilies, stews, soups, and LOTS of fall inspired drinks and desserts!

This Fall Harvest series is one that I’ve been looking forward to for quite some time so I hope you all enjoy it as I embark on a week-long journey of posts leading straight up to Thanksgving!  I’m hoping I can extend it to make this into a 2-week series, but it’s really going to depend on the amount of baking I can do and the number of markets I can get to.  The Fall Harvest series starts first thing tomorrow and you’re going to looooove it (well, at least I hope so!) because it’s yummy and baking related!  In the meantime, here are some of my favourite fall photos. 

The Vegan Chili Series! First Up: Vegan Chili Brunch With Grilled Tofu Steaks at Niche Coffee & Tea on Queen West

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I’m not quite ready to unleash Ate by Ate’s Fall Harvest series just yet, so I thought it’d be fun to do a bit of a lead-in to get us all revved up first!  The best thing about fall food is the warm and fuzzy comfort factor and chili and stews are some of the best meals to induce that great cozy cocoon feeling.  Enter the vegan chili series to Ate by Ate!  Over the past year, I’ve come across a number of places around the city that serve their own unique interpretations and versions of vegan chili and I’m so excited to start this new series, not only as an individual series, but also as tie-in to the upcoming Fall Harvest series on the blog. 

Why the interest in vegan chili though, and how did I become interested in vegan chili in the first place?  Let it be known that I absolutely hate beef chili.  I may not be vegetarian or vegan, but that certainly doesn’t mean I enjoy all meat dishes and beef chili is one such meal I’d turn the other cheek to.  I can see myself enjoying turkey chili and I’m actually really looking forward to making some of my own in the near future, but for the time being, vegetarian and vegan chili is my way to go.  I have so many vegetarian and vegan friends (some of you might be reading this right now!) and I thought this would be a great way to introduce some veggie meals and the places that serve them to you all so you can tuck the information away for future reference.  Or if you’re really into what I post, you might just run on over right now and try the dishes out for yourself!

The first time I had vegan chili was 3 years ago when I was a newbie grad student eating lunch at The Grad Lounge at York.  As an every day, permanent menu item, the vegan chili was one of the most popular meals and I was constantly seeing people order it with the cute little corn muffins for lunch.  Growing up though, I was never the biggest fan of chili (I blame the beef varieties for turning me off) so even though I knew so many of my friends and classmates enjoyed it, I shyed away from it at first.  Then temptation and curiousity took over and I said to myself, “to hell with it, I’m getting me a bowl!”  And from then on, my chili ways changed forever and their vegan chili became one of my favourites, especially during the fall and winter.  Granted, my chili remained vegetarian as opposed to vegan at times because of the side of sour cream I’d order, but the meal itself is vegan through and through and a well-loved meal among the graduate student community.

Now, let’s get started with the first post of this vegan chili series!  First up, the grilled tofu on vegan chili brunch at Niche Coffee & Tea Company!  I mentioned this brunch dish in my first Niche post almost two weeks ago and I was itching to have this showcased in the series the second I found out the dish existed on the menu.  Niche is a coffee, tea, and brunch cafe located on Queen Street West just west of Bathurst St. with everything from eggs benny to French toast to omelettes to banana bread with Nutella and cinnamon sugar.  Their vegan chili is served two ways: vegetarian with eggs, or vegan with grilled tofu, and both styles ($10.50) come with your choice of either homemade grilled foccacia or cornbread.  I was so excited to order this that I was fidgeting in my seat and probably grinning like a fool when the nice waitress came around to take my order.  And that excitement wasn’t die down when my food came.  Behold!

What we have here: a nice big bowl of chili made with spiced tomato curry puree, chickpeas, red kidney beans, diced carrots, celery, and corn, served with 4 grilled tofu steaks, strips of crunchy baked tortilla chips, a slice of fresh tomato, arugula (no guacamole for this time unfortunately, but that wasn’t a big deal), and grilled wedges of fresh foccacia.  Oh my goodness, there were so many wonderful things about this meal.  First, the chili had some kick to it!  If you can’t tolerate heat in the slightest amount, this might not be the most comfortable meal for you to eat, but if you’re like me and you can take a bit of kick, you will LOVE this!  The flavour is so different because it’s not your run-of-the-mill crushed tomato chili.  It’s almost like a fusion of curry, tomato, and chili and I enjoyed it so much. 

The grilled tofu steaks were perfection.  They were so cute, like mini decks of tofu cards 😀  The texture was firm, the flavour was savoury, and there was that slight crispness around the edges from the grilling that made it even more delicious.  The crunchy tortilla strips were a fabulous addition and the foccacia…oh man.  I think the grilled foccacia wedges I had with this meal might have been some of the most delicious bread I’ve ever had.  The edges and outsides were crisp and the insides were amazingly soft and the bread just melts in your mouth.  It had a wonderful rosemary-thyme and olive oil flavour and I literally said, “ohhhh my god, this is so good” out loud after I took my first bite of it.

The whole vegan chili and tofu dish worked so well because of all the different textures (soft, crispy, juicy, moist, etc.) and all the flavours.  Even though I was drinking water with my meal, the tofu and foccacia is the perfect complement to the heat from the chili because it mellows it out and you get the best of all the flavours when you alternate between all the items of food.

If you try this out, I hope you’ll all enjoy it as much as I did.  If you have suggestions or requests for the series, feel free to leave a comment!  This is the first of hopefully many more vegan chili posts to come!

*****

Niche Coffee & Tea Company is located at 626 Queen Street West just east of Palmerston Ave. and west of Bathurst St.  They serve brunch during all hours of operations and are open 7 days a week at 8am on weekdays and 9am on weekends, with closing hours at 5pm on all days.

Deb’s New Morning Haunt – Coffee, Tea, and Beautiful Country Kitchen Gifts and Goodies at La Merceria

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Thanks to Lisa from Le Dolci, I am now aware of this beautiful gem of a coffee, tea, and giftwares shop!  I felt so silly the first time Lisa took me here because it’s located on a street I’ve been on a number of times and in a downtown neighbourhood I’m not entirely unfamiliar with.  Located near the intersection of Adelaide Street West and Portland Street (just east of Bathurst), La Merceria sits snuggly beside Sadie’s Diner and is wedged neatly between the Fashion Districts of King and Queen.  With a few mannequins standing in the storefront window draped with pretty scarves, I completely mistook the shop for being a hip clothing boutique and always strolled past, conveniently averting my eyes so as to not tempt myself with more pretty things.  I love accessories and clothes, yes, but we’re in the downtown core here; I want to come home with something in my wallet.  I often avoid independent boutiques like the plague not because I don’t want to own all the gorgeous garments they have to offer, but because window shopping in such shops just makes me heart whimper a little.

So when Lisa took me here, I was shocked out of my pants to find out that La Merceria was in fact not a clothing boutique but was instead a fusion of 1) a gift shop, 2) a kitchen housewares store, and 3) a coffee and tea cafe with drinks and food.  I could have died right there on the spot.  It walked in and it was like a halo of light floated around me.  This cafe and shop is beautiful.  So country chic, so bright and clean, and so wonderfully cozy.  Think wood floors, wood chairs, wood tea tables, cushiony seats and pillows, brilliant sunlight streaming through the front windows and door, and shelves and tables lined and stocked with some of the most adorable kitchen housewares, accesssories, stationery, and gifts imaginable. 

It’s perfect for the cafe lover, droolworthy for those in love with interior decorating, and just dangerous for the kitchen accessory fanatic.  Oh, this was bad.  This might have been even worse than a clothing boutique.  And all because I couldn’t stop ogling the lavender and powder blue tea cups, dishes, and tea towels.  Oh, and the tote bags in the back of the shop.  And the cute stationery.  And the rest of the shop.

As Lisa informed me, the owners of La Merceria hail from Argentina and many of the drinks, artwork, and interior design and decorating in the shop show off this cultural heritage.  I can’t wait to show you guys more of the food and coffee drinks they have here in future posts; I may not be a coffee drinker but I’m sure I can make an exception every once in awhile 😉  They have both hot and chilled coffee drinks (lattes, americanos, espressos, mochas, and more) and they also have lemonades and In terms of food, think more along the lines of light breakfast and lunch, snacks, and tea time with crunchy cream cheese toasted bagels, quiche pies, salads, sandwiches, small baguettes and biscuits, cookies and sweets, and vegan, dairy and nut-free desserts from Sweets From the Earth.  I am so excited to actually have some food here.  The quiches, biscuit cookies, and cute biscuit sandwiches were calling my name!

For the time being though, my favourite thing to do here (aside from staring at all the pretty things I want to buy) is to sit down at one of the lovely wooden tables by the front with the squishy cushions behind me with a hot cup of tea.  They serve a selection of yummy Tealish teas and thus far I’ve had their Sweetie Pie Rooibos and Tahitian Moon Vanilla Rooibos and between the two I’m definitely in love with the Sweetie Pie!  What I absolutely adore about La Merceria and their “tea”ness is how they serve it!  The tea is served in giant glass or ceramic mugs on a dish with a little spoon (to stir with or to add honey or sugar) and the cutest little shortbread cookie biscuit!  This biscuit with my tea just makes my morning.  I may not have been to every cafe in town, but I can assure you that no other place I’ve been to serves their tea like this.  It makes me so giddy and I love starting my morning this way.  It’s the kind of place you envision yourself having a sunny bite in or a great coffee or tea date.  It’s so peaceful, relaxing, and beautiful being here and I love it.  This, my lovelies, is my new morning haunt.

 

*****

La Merceria is located at 506 Adelaide Street West by the northwest corner of Adelaide and Portland Street, east of Bathurst.  La Merceria is located beside Sadie’s Diner and Juice Bar.  Visit their website and blog here for updates, info, promos, events, pictures, and contact information and visit their Facebook page here.   

What We’d All Love to Sit By the Fire With – The Sweet Creaminess of the S’more Cupcake at Prairie Girl Bakery!

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If you’ve been following some of my tweets on Twitter, you might have noticed how giddy I’ve been over paper food as of late!  Paper food…wait, what?  No, I haven’t been sticking paper in my mouth (I love food but I’m not that desparate!), but I’ve been instead making my own scrapbooking embellishments for my scrapbook layouts!  I have a hefty collection of scrapbook supplies with everything from alphabet stickers, ribbons, embellishments, adhesive jewels, and everything in between.  But every once in awhile, I plan out some scrapbook layouts knowing I either don’t have certain supplies for them or not enough of a particular item.  No matter though – I would just go out and pick up one or two things and I’d be good to go.  When my bank of disposable income was a little larger, I would even order things online without batting an eye.

This time around, things didn’t go exactly as planned.  I had been meaning to go to Michael’s for weeks, but my timing, for a lack of a better word, stunk.  I wasn’t willing to wait around any longer to do my layouts so I did the most logical thing: make them myself.  My days of making food out of construction paper date all the way back to the age 6.  There I was at my kiddle table with my first pair of pink scissors and my first pack of construction paper, so excited to cut and paste to my heart’s content.  Guess what I did with my first stack of construction paper and my first pair of scissors?  I made eggs out of the beige construction paper, bananas out of the yellow, and ham out of the pink.  Paper dolls?  Pish, I was making my own supermarket.  Two decades later, I’m still snipping away making my own paper sprinkled donuts, and marshmallows and s’mores for today’s Prairie Girl Bakery post! 😀

The first Prairie Girl post I did was back in July and it featured their juicy lemon frosted golden vanilla buttermilk cupcake from their everyday, permanent menu.  This post features one of their many Treats of the Week!  Prairie Girl has a permanent menu available every day from Monday-Sunday in both regular and mini sizes, but they also have a weekly Treat of the Week that changes every Sunday.  I’ve already developed a routine every Sunday where I check their website to see what their weekly treat will be!  These special flavours are only around for a week until they decide to repeat it at another point in the year and although I’m not certain how often they repeat special flavours, I know for a fact that they have brought a few back for another Treat of the Week stint. 

Obviously, if you work or live nearby, you could feasibly snatch every Treat of the Week and believe me, I ache for the opportunity to do that but it’s just not possible for me.  I’m going to try my darn hardest to try as many as I can though!  Some of their past Treat of the Week cupcakes include peanut butter and jelly, cafe au lait (coffee), pumpkin and cinnamon, cotton candy, and cherry cheesecake.  I’m still heartbroken over the ones I’ve missed and because I’m still bitter, I’m not saying which ones! 

This particular Treat of the Week is the kind you’d happily eat and eat over and over again as you sit by a toasty fire: the amazingingly fudgy, creamy, get-it-all-over-your-hands-and-mouth s’more cupcake!  The special s’more cupcake was outfitted with lots of creamy graham cracker flavoured frosting, mini marshmallows, and a crunchy piece of chocolate biscuit chocolate bar on a fudgy, dark cocoa cupcake known as Grandma’s Dark Cocoa cake – cute, right? 

I know I described their sizes in my first Prarie Girl post, but it’s worth mentioning again.  These cupcakes eat like a meal.  I’m not kidding.  If you intend to eat this after your lunch or dinner, I’m warning you, you’re going to have a massive food baby so if you care about your level of comfort, decrease the amount you eat during your lunch or dinner.  Because the cupcake is worth every bite and you’ll want to eat the whole thing 😉  There are a number of places in the city that price their cupcakes for $3 and I am telling you, Prairie Girl’s are the most bang for your buck at that price point.  The cupcakes are big, they give you ample frosting (so much so that I have to make sure it doesn’t dribble down my chin as I’m eating), and their boxed packaging is really great because it’s 1) recyclable and reusable and 2) it does the job because the cupcake(s) fit snugly in their slots.

The dark cocoa cake is extremely moist and soft with a rich fudgy flavour to it and their s’more frosting was out of this world.  It was more than just a “graham cracker flavoured frosting”; it tasted like sweet cookie dough ice cream married with sweet graham crackers.  You know that taste that hits the back of your tongue when you eat a graham cracker and you let the cookie melt in your mouth a bit?  Imagine that mixed with those sweet cookie dough balls in cookie dough ice cream and you have this frosting.  It tasted amazing with the dark chocolate cake and was super creamy. 

However, a frosting is just a frosting and if you’re going to execute a s’more cupcake the right way, you need that crunchy texture somewhere in there.  Ah, that’s where the crunchy chocolate bar biscuit piece comes in.  Atop all the s’more cupcakes were 3 mini marshmallows and a crunchy chocolate bar piece and this rounded out the theme and flavour of the cupcake really well.  And even though I think my 2-point perspective drawing is a bit off, I think my paper s’more does it justice ^_^

*****

Prairie Girl Bakery is located at Suite 106, 18 King St. East off King St. E and Victoria St.  The cupcake shop itself actually faces Victoria St., so it’s just a smidge north of King on Victoria St.  They are open 7 days a week from 10am-6pm from Monday-Saturday, and from 11am-5pm on Sundays.  A special thank you to Jean for allowing me to take photos in the shop, it is very appreciated.

Scrapbooking materials used: to be added!

Martini, Anyone? Chocolate Cupcakes and Fondant Fun at Le Dolci Cupcakes & Cakes Design Studio, Day 2!

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I’m so glad you all liked the photos and post of my first day at Le Dolci’s Cupcakes & Cakes design studio the other day!  The support and excitement means a lot to me and it makes me really happy knowing you guys want to know and see more of what I do when I’m here.  I can say with absolute conviction that I have the baking itch more than ever now.  I know there are times when we all feel like our passion for certain things starts to wane and we start doubting if we actually love what we believe we love.  But I’ve been doing scrapbooking since the age of 13 and have only wanted more for myself over time and I have a gut feeling this passion for baking is only going to be fuelled more and more in the best way possible.

On the agenda for Day 2 at Le Dolci: chocolate cupcakes and fondant fun!  You’d think after baking cupcakes at home and baking vanilla cupcakes at the studio I’d be set with the chocolates ones.  Not exactly.  You can bake a million times and still not get it right sometimes.  The chocolate batter looked, smelled, and tasted awesome (oh please, like you don’t stick your finger in the mixing bowl to have a taste, right?), but I eyeballed the amount of batter in some of the baking cups wrong and ended up putting a little much batter in some of them with resulted in some chocolate cupcakes that were a little uneven and too big and puffy.  Whoops.  Sigh.  No matter, live and learn, right?  I’m showing the ice cream scoop who’s boss next time and you can bet my next batch is going to be freakin’ perfect.  One very important thing to learn and always keep in mind: if at first you don’t succeed, kick the problem in the ass and do better next time 😀  Regardless, it was mouthwatering seeing the cooling racks with rows and rows full of chocolate and vanilla cupcakes.

Next up, fun with fondant!  This was my very first time playing around with fondant and I felt so giddy as I started rolling, squishing, and moulding balls of it in my hands.  I thought to myself, “hmm, I kind of feel like Duff from Ace of Cakes.  That, and a pizza maker”.  You should have seen me go.  I was smacking it down, stretching it out, kneading it, twisting it, poking it with toothpicks to add colour to it, and because I’m silly, sniffing it.  Mmm, sugary.  Anyway, the fondant fun called for 18 olives with little pimentos in the centers for a corporate cupcake order, so there I was with a dish of different food colourings, a container of toothpicks, and some white fondant to start things off. 

Being at Le Dolci is like being in art class and oh how I’ve missed art class.  The last time I was in an art class was in 10th grade and sadly, for reasons I’d rather not hash out right now, life went in a different direction and my art classes stopped after that.  But art class was the best.  You came in every day with your trusty art kit for a solid hour and and a half to work on whatever project you were working on at the time whether it was moulding clay, watercolour, printmaking, or drawing and the best atmosphere was the best.  You sat on your art stool with your classmates and friends with the radio on in the background and the time just flew by.  And that’s exactly how I felt as I sat in the studio squishing and stretching sweet fondant, and sticking toothpicks into containers of food colouring, quietly trying to achieve the desired olive colour of the company’s olive logo.

And as luck would have it, it took me only one attempt to get the right colour for the first olive!  SWEET.  A dab of leaf green and two dabs of brown did the trick for the first test olive, so all I needed to do was duplicate the colour for a larger ball of fondant big enough to make 18 olives.  I think they turned out okay!  They’re not perfect, but I’d say it’s decent for my first time working with fondant.  I thought it’d be cute to stick a few toothpicks in them for the photos to make them look like martini olives, hee.  With or without – invisible – drinks, every day is a cupcake party at Le Dolci and I can’t wait to keep doing more things with the frosting making, cupcake baking, and fondant squishing 😀

*****

Le Dolci is a private studio located at 75 Portland St., just east of Bathurst near King St. West.  The studio hosts cupcake decorating classes and handles catering for both corporate and personal events.  For more information on classes, schedules, rates, and more, visit their official website here and their Facebook page here.

Getting My Mango and Tofu On – The Mango Tango Burrito at Freshii!

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I look a little silly cradling my burrito half like a baby, but when my food is yummy, I take great care in ensuring all of it ends up in my tummy as opposed to on the floor or on myself.  Well, that, and because I just needed a way to get the burrito in the photo with me!  I love burritos and I love how making them and eating them are one of the easiest and healthiest ways to get all my protein and veggies into a single meal.  I’m crazy about rice and beans and stuffing things like chickpeas, avocado, peppers, cheese, and spinach into them.  And don’t even get me started on the sauce!  I mop up my sauces real good and a burrito just isn’t a burrito unless there’s guacamole, sour cream, or some other delectable dressing to dunk it in. 

I’m a huuuge fan of the fish, shrimp, and veggie and bean burritos at Burrito Boyz, but haven’t really ventured out to other places around the city to try out others.  I always want to, but there’s so many things I always want to eat that sometimes it goes on the backburner until I’m reminded of one and think, “hmm, that burrito looks scrumptious.  I want to stick my face in it”.  I wasn’t kidding though when I said I was afraid of soiling myself with my food; one of my earliest memories of eating tacos and burritos was unfortunately dropping rice and sauce on my dress at the age of 5.  However, I have since replaced that exasperating experience with many happier ones, like the times when I would have build-a-burrito night for dinner at home and have bowls of chopped peppers, tomatoes, ground meat, rice, cheese at my disposable, and the heavenly meals at Burrito Boyz.

This burrito was the first item I tried from Freshii’s Social Menu (mains ranging from $7.29-$9.99), which debuted back in August at all Freshii locations and it was also the first time I tried one of Freshii’s burritos in general.  After being seduced by brown rice Freshii bowls for over a year, it was time for a temporary change of scenery and lucky me, there was a special menu to work with!  Freshii’s Social Menu was introduced over a month ago and the menu features a number of different combinations voted in and recommended by social media followers on sites such as Twitter and Facebook.  This menu not only highlights what some of Freshii’s biggest fans love, but it also attests to the proliferation of social media as a tool for businesses to communicate with consumers, gauge likes and dislikes, reciprocate feedback, and to build relationships across borders.  More and more, businesses are using social media outlets to promote their image and brand and to engage consumers in different ways.  For example, Freshii has used Twitter to ask followers about menu items to add and to pass along promotions and news among other things.  Freshii’s Social Menu thus reflects a very current and relatable mode of communication and creative process.

Freshii’s Mango Tango burrito had my name written all over it: brown rice with avocado, roasted red pepper, melted Jack and cheddar cheese, grilled tofu, and a mango, tomato, roasted red pepper, and cilantro salsa all wrapped in a grilled whole wheat tortilla.  It goes without saying that I loved the combination of avocado, roasted peppers, and cheese, but what totally made this burrito a hit for me was the tofu!  You’d think the tofu would be standing in the wings with a supporting role, but the tofu shined in this one.  The tofu was cut into cubed chunks and it was so good because it didn’t taste rubbery and it had this great warm, nutty flavour to it.  It added another dimension of taste and texture to the burrito and it was my favourite part of the whole thing. 

Some people might think burritos are child’s play to make, but they really aren’t because you need a balance between wet and dry foods.  Too much of things like tomatos and cucumber makes for a gross, leaky burrito and not enough means you’ll end up eating nothing but dry rice and tortilla.  The avocado added creaminess to the rice and tortilla, the tofu added body and nuttiness, the peppers and mango added moisture, and the cheese added its natural saltiness.  I also loved how the tomato and peppers in the salsa didn’t overpower the mango.  Throughout the entire burrito I got little bursts of juicy mango flavour and I only wish it was more than a salsa and instead ginormous chunks!  It was great and I enjoyed it even more after getting a side of blue cheese dressing to dunk my burrito in!  Their blue cheese dressing goes fab with this and as usual, I cleaned it all off.  And I didn’t make a mess the entire time.  Win-win 😀

*****

Freshii in Toronto serves 12 locations in the city with one also serving Mississauga.  Click here for a list and map of specific locations, as well as more information on Freshii’s menu, goals, and mission statement.  The Yonge and St.Clair Freshii is located at 1560 Yonge St., just north of St. Clair Ave. on the west side of Yonge.