Let’s Talk Bagels! Toasted Poppy Seed Favourites with Cheddar & Cranberry Chicken Salad

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It’s been quite some time since my last bagel-related post, so here are a batch of photos of three of my favourite things rolled up in one bagel sandwich: poppy seed bagels, cheddar cheese, and dried cranberries in chicken salad!  There hasn’t been much bagel love on the blog (you can check out my two bagel-related posts listed at the bottom here) so I’m determined to change that with a little more exploration on the bagels and great bagel bakeries that are waiting for me in our city.  There was a time when I avoided bagels like the plague because I believed they were ungodly fattening.  Coming from a girl who loves cupcakes, that probably sounds like a huge hoot to everyone.  But it’s true.  For about 2 years I did not nosh on one single bagel.  I didn’t eat toasted bagels when I was out.  I didn’t buy any from the bakery.  And I hated the ones that looked as though they’d been pumped with a steroid gun.  

Then one day I realized that I was missing out on some of the truly good quality stuff and that I actually kind of missed them.  So I snapped out of it, stopped caring about the aforementioned fat, and enjoyed the delightful toasty stuff with my favourite fillings and spreads such as cream cheese (no butter for me!), smoked salmon, chicken salad, and grilled veggies on either toasted sesame seed or poppy seed bagels.  Those two are my favourites with onion and garlic ones coming in at a close third.  And while what you see here is a bagel sandwich, I actually love eating my bagels open-faced because I think they taste yummier that way!   

This bagel in particular came from Bruegger’s Bagels (an American chain that has opened up shop on our side of the pond in both Hillcrest Mall in Thornhill and in the underground PATH near the Dundee Place food court) and the first time I came across their goods was last fall when they had pumpkin bagels with pumpkin cream cheese!  Even though I didn’t have any of the special cream cheese because I was taking bagels home as opposed to eating one right away (not getting a taste makes me a little sad now that I think of it!), I really enjoyed theirs and there’s some fab Jewish, Montreal-style bagels I’ve had during my time as icing sugar queen at Le Dolci.  Oh!  And the jalapeño asiago mozzarella bagel from our dear Tim’s is also a favourite of mine!  With cream cheese, it’s exactly like eating a creamy, cheesy, stuffed jalapeño popper.  Indulgent?  Sure.  But life is that much funner with a few indulgent moments savoured every now and then.      

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For a look at previous bagel-related posts in Ate by Ate, check out my veggie bagel from Seventh Sister Bakery on Roncesvalles and my delicious smoked salmon and cream cheese bagel brunch from Niche Coffee & Tea Company.

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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.

  

Chicka-Chicka-Boom-Boom! Chick Peas, Sunflower Seeds, and Other Crunchy Munchies at Freshii

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If you couldn’t tell by the scrapbooking and my love for adorable decor in foodie places, I LOVE working with themes!  Themes get my creative juices flowing like crazy and it’s especially fun applying it to my meals!  I think it’s really great when an eatery fills their own niche, has their own personality, and is cohesive in their decor and menu.  Call me a food nerd, but when I look over a Freshii “menu” (the little white checklists attached to the cute little clipboards which you can view here), I start thinking of how I can put together a meal centered around a common theme and how I can make it really fun 😀  I look over all the toppings and ingredients and think, “Ooo, this would make a good ‘breakfast’ themed meal!” or “oh yum, if I put these ingredients together, it’ll taste like a Mediterranean pizza!”  and “hey, I could make this into a Chinese take-out box!”  I guess this is part of the fun in eating at Freshii, being able to truly customize a meal in whatever way you like.  I feel excited when I come to eat here not just because I enjoy the food but because it’s almost like a creative outlet.  And you know, creating a themed meal makes it that much more fun to scrapbook, ha.

The theme for this meal was crunchy munchie!  I thank my friend Maree for the inspiration for this term 😀  I know I can eat anything from salad to wraps to burritos to soup here, but I love the brown rice bowls so much that I’ve never deviated from this since I first ate here during the fall season of 2009.  I know, shocking considering how much I harp on trying different things, right?  I do want to eventually try their soup with rice noodles, but brown rice bowls at Freshii are one of the few things that I stick with on a consistent basis and I’m pretty content with that for the time being.

I wanted to go full out with the flavour and the texture, so what I have here is a brown rice bowl with baby spinach, avocado, shredded jack & cheddar cheese, sliced mushrooms, chopped celery, corn, cilantro, edamame beans, chick peas, and sunflower seeds with yummy caesar dressing.  The spinach, celery, chick peas, sunflower seeds, and edamame made me crunch-a-munch like crazy and I absolutely adored this combination.  The combination of cheddar and caesar dressing made it flavourful and rich and the whole thing was just fun to eat!  Your jaw might get a bit sore by the end of the meal, but I totally recommend this combination of ingredients and toppings!  You never know if certain flavours will mesh well with one another (I’m hesitant about putting mandarin oranges with chicken, eh) but I’m glad that this meal turned out delicious.  I think next time I’ll try out my Meditteranean pizza idea!

Freshii is also offering a Spring Fling menu for the season with special menu items like the santa fe salad, sprouter bowl, and buffalo chicken burrito.  Click the link up top for more info on what’s in each of these menu items.  If I can get around to it, I think might be interested in trying either the santa fe salad or the sprouter bowl.  Happy crunchy munching everyone!

*****

Freshii in Toronto serves 11 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.