Weekly Feature: The Grad Lounge – Stuffed Red Bell Peppers With Rice and Melted Cheddar Cheese

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Hurray for new menu items at The Grad Lounge!  Paul and Mike are churning out some new dishes over the course of the summer and I have to say, I’m happy to be their unofficial taste-tester!  I can’t even begin to describe the feeling I get when I go in and see something on their specials menu board that I’ve never seen before.  New food to try!  My eyes light up, my heart flutters, and I think, “YES!  A new item to add to The Grad Lounge archive!”  Don’t even get me started when I see more than ONE new item on the menu though.  I’m initially overcome with excitement but then I’m quickly wracked by indecision because choosing between food things frustrates me to no end and it’s happened before and I’m left pacing staring at the board not knowing which one to choose.  I’m know, I’m crazy.  I take my food very seriously.

Their stuffed peppers were introduced on their daily specials rotating menu just recently and they took them out for a test drive.  Lucky for me, I was on campus that day and went there to eat.  I love these meant to be moments 😀  I adore stuffed peppers not just because it’s a healthy meal that incorporates both vegteables and grains, but also because the stuffings and fillings are so versatile.  You can use rice, quinoa, couscous, roasted bread crumbs, and the fun part is topping it off with cheese!  My favourite things about these stuffed peppers were the grill marks (everything tastes awesome off the grill!), the extra softness of the rice from the tomato and pepper salsa sauce, and the ooey gooey melted cheddar cheese in the rice stuffing.    The incorporation of the cheese IN the rice stuffing totally made this dish.  With a generous sprinkling of black pepper, I was good to go.

What I also really loved about this dish was how it demonstrated the resourcefulness of The Grad Lounge and their rotation of ingredients and dishes.  They created a stuffed peppers dish out of many things they normally serve on a daily basis.  They almost always have rice in some way, shape, or form for chicken dishes, for example, and the tomato and pepper salsa has used be on a number of occasions on noodles, for tofu dishes, and other vegetarian mains.  It just shows that you don’t need to be fancy and outlandish to made great food.  Using a particular number of ingredients in different ways challenges you to think outside the box and that’s exactly what The Grad Lounge did with this new stuffed pepper dish.  It gets a big thumbs up from me.

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The Grad Lounge is located at 166 South Ross at the York University Keele campus.  The Grad Lounge’s summer operating hours are from 11:30pm-6:30pm, Monday to Friday.

  

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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!

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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.

Weekly Feature: The Grad Lounge – Veggie & Bean Gumbo on Salsa Rice

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I love learning about food.  Ever since I was a little girl, I would pore over recipes in my grandma’s Homemaker’s magazines and make food collages out of random magazine scraps and weekly supermarket flyers.  I never feel more focused, more driven, than when I’m photographing and scrapbooking, and something in me just ignites when I learn about ingredients and origins and histories, so really, I don’t know what the heck I’m doing in a liberal arts university program because hell, I should be out growing herbs and learning about spices at a culinary institute, ha!  I am fascinated by New Orleans and Southern Creole cuisine in general, so I was really excited to take photos of this veggie gumbo dish – and you know, it was just as wonderful eating it too! 😀 

Gumbo is a traditional Louisiana dish, a stew generally served over rice and in this particular case, purely vegetarian.  Not only do I love to eat, I love to know what I’m eating.  When I’m putting a spoonful of yumminess in my mouth, I think, “what in the world is in this that makes this so delicous?”    Some things are obvious when you taste them, while other ingredients are much more subtle and work behind the scenes to complement other tastes and to bring the dish together in a well-rounded way.  I can’t tell you how ecstatic I was when Mike and Paul, who run and cook for The Grad Lounge, gave me their ingredient notes (after I politely and sweetly asked for them of course!).  I think I stared at the paper for the whole day after they gave it to me.

The veggie and bean gumbo is chock full of sweet potatoes, okra, red and green bell peppers, onions, white beans, chopped spinach, and seasoned with black and cayenne pepper, ground cumin, oregano, thyme, and paprika.  The delicious veggie stew sits on top of a bed of salsa rice: white rice cooked in fresh tomato juice (from homemade salsa), and simmered with red onions, lime juice, oregano, chiptole pepper, and cilantro leaves.  And the dollop of sour cream is my own special touch as the coldness and tanginess complements the salsa flavour of the rice and vegetables and, well, I eat and love sour cream with everything!  The vegetables are fresh and juicy, and the salsa rice has this great bold flavour that continues to absorb from the gumbo up top. 

A defining feature of traditonal gumbo is the okra, and as weird as this sounds, I learned of okra from a Baby-Sitters Club book (written from Jessi’s perspective, Jessi being the African-American girl of the group) when I was a little girl!  (I’m not kidding).    And after doing a little research on Wiki, I was fascinated to learn that okra is what inspired the name of the dish: “ki ngombo”, the West African Bantu tribal word for “okra”.  It’s a joy expanding my knowledge and just being more aware of the food in front of me.  Learning about food has this amazing snowball effect for me where one thing leads to another and in this case, it’s learning about okra from my favourite childhood book series 🙂

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The Grad Lounge is located at 166 South Ross at the York University Keele campus.  The Grad Lounge and GSA are hosting a Dinner & Dialogue event next Thursday, January 27th, from 5:30pm-7:30pm.  Free movie screening (Spike Lee’s “4 Little Girls”) and free food with some thoughtful discussion about the movie afterward.  All grad students are welcome!

As well, a HUGE thank you to Mike and Paul for being so wonderful and kind to me in taking the time to write out ingredients for dishes I asked about and sharing this information with me for the blog.  I really appreciate it.   

Weekly Feature: The Grad Lounge – Welcoming the New Year with Beans!

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It’s the first day of the new year, 2011.  Happy new year everyone!  And we’re going to start the new year off just the way I like it: food, food, and pictures!  That’s the way I roll, baby 😀  Since I haven’t posted a Grad Lounge post yet this week, here is another vegetarian dish from The Grad Lounge with, yup, you guessed it: beans!  A warm bowl of egg noodles with ladles of vegetable stew over top, with crushed tomatoes, green beans, celery, chunks of potato, and white kidney beans.  Egg noodles = total weakness.  It’s delicious and I remember eating egg noodles when I was little, either with a bit of sesame oil and oyster sauce or with a bit of Miracle Whip dressing.  Eating this meal makes me realize how much I miss having egg noodles and that I should really get some for the pantry!  And as you’ll see further down, I have also recently become majorly obsessed with beans. 

Much like home, food is where the heart is.  What you eat and who you eat it reveals so much about your habits, personal tastes, and cultural traditions.  You carry a part of that everywhere you go and in turn, you bring something back each time you venture out.  I found out the joys of bocconcini cheese from an old co-worker at the flower shop; I ate chick peas for the first time on a picket line; and I realized my love for juicy blackberries from eating a Tim Hortons yogurt.  The love for food is infectious in the best way possible because you learn all the time.  And this is definitely a reflection of the food I eat at home now and what my mum has grown to love too.

Mum and I made a 6-bean salad today equipped with: dark red kidney beans, black eyed peas, white kidney beans, romano beans, baby lima beans, and chick peas, all tossed with grape tomatoes, diced green bell pepper, a drizzle of olive oil, and a handful of chopped fresh flat leaf parsley sprinkled over top.  Colourful, fragrant, and so damn good.  I have a smattering of other food photos that I’m posting along with the bean salad just because I love colours that pop.  Simplicity is the name of the game.  Instant noodles with crab meat and shrimp prawns, mixed green salad with olive oil and bocconcini, and vanilla icecream with fresh raspberries and blackberries.  Enjoy the pictures!

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The Grad Lounge is located at 166 South Ross at the York University Keele campus.  The Grad Lounge is set to reopen its doors for business this coming Tuesday on January 4th.

Weekly Feature: The Grad Lounge – L’Eggo my…falafel?

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Okay, so it doesn’t really rhyme, but I like saying falafel so much I had to put that in there, ha!  Continuing on with the weekly Grad Lounge feature, here’s what I have for you today:

Falafel!!  You kind of saw that coming, didn’t you?  Chick peas and/or fava beans in cute little patties or balls?  Sign me up!  Yet another tasty vegetarian concoction: falafel balls with spring mix salad, sundried tomato dressing, red bell peppers, pita wedges, and tahini sauce.  I was all over that tahini sauce like mud on a pig.  Hummus too?  Good.  Baba Ganoush?  Goooood.  *insert image of Joey from ‘Friends’ noshing on Rachel’s “trifle” that according to Ross, tasted like feet* </end nerdy ‘Friends’ moment> 

Really, it’s crazy to think just how much wonderful food I’ve incorporated into my diet since I was a teenager.  I wouldn’t say I was picky per se, but there were soooo many things I had yet to try and every month and every year I seemed to add  new things to titillate my palate.  Case in point: the first time I had falafel was two years ago (on a picket line, no less!) and I actually hated bell peppers as a kid.  Now?  I inhale them like nobody’s business.

I was tagged by Wini from winipedia to reveal 7 secrets about myself and I wanted to keep it food related, but it was rather hard thinking of 7 things that most people don’t know about me already!  Here are the 7 secrets and quirks that I came up with:

  1. When I drink juice boxes, I bite and gnaw on the straw until it looks like it went through war and back.
  2. I have been known to eat cream cheese by the spoonful straight out of the container.  Only one spoonful, but regardless, straight out of the tub.  I love my cream cheese.  A lot.
  3. I eat my sandwiches and burgers in a circle. 
  4. The first time I tried brussel sprouts was just a month and a half ago.  I had no idea what all the fuss was about when we were kids, I was genuinely clueless!
  5. I hate cauliflower.
  6. The sight and smell of caramel corn makes me NAUSEOUS.  I had a very bad experience with caramel corn when I was 6 where I threw up for hours after eating it and just the sight and smell of it now makes me want to run away to the hills screaming.
  7. According to my mother who watched me eat to figure out why I often eat so slow, I chew my food 22 times.  It’s no wonder I savour and enjoy my food so much.  Hmm.

And to end off, a quote from my brother: *gorges on falafel* “This is so good, they taste just like meatballs!”  😀  It still makes me laugh just thinking about that *snorts at the carnivourous nature of my brother*.  It’s win-win for everyone, baby.