Joy in a Jar – Layers of Coconut Granola, Yogurt, Seeds, Maple Syrup, & Dried and Fresh Fruit at Joy Bistro!

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Coconut granola, pulled pork eggs benny, and lemon ricotta pancakes with blueberries – what can I say?  With a menu that boasts dishes like these, and after my fabulous first visit to Joy Bistro in Leslieville, I was really happy going back to the sweet and breezy eatery on Queen East for seconds!  Joy Bistro really does make you feel, well, joyous!  Whether you’re out on the airy patio or relaxing inside with the sunlight streaming in through the windows, being here makes you feel like you’re truly enjoying time off during your weekend brunch meal. 

You see everyone else around you sharing plates of food, digging into their large brunch dishes, slicing into pancakes, French toast, and eggs, spearing a piece of peameal onto their fork, and sipping Caesars by the bar and you feel their joy just bursting out.  I’ve been told that I look so happy when I eat.  As funny and silly as that sounds in a way (it makes me snort with giggles) I understand where it’s coming from because I see the enjoyment on people’s faces when I glance at others around me and it’s the joy of being around the people you love and the joy of having great, delicious food right in front of you. 

And if you can believe it, my second meal here was even more fantastic than the first!  Part of me was really leaning toward the lemon ricotta pancakes, but I was also incredibly curious about the coconut granola ($8.50) with sesame, pumpkin, and sunflower seeds with fruit and maple syrup.  I know, I eat yogurt parfaits at home.  But that’s like saying, “hmm, I bake cookies, I’ll never buy another cookie outside again!”  As simplistic a dish may be, I feel it’s always worth checking out because everyone prepares and presents their dishes differently.  And let’s face it, when the professionals do what they do best, it’s second to none and so darn good.

I was absolutely delighted and floored when my coconut granola and yogurt was brought out.  Absolutely in awe.  You should have seen my face.  I probably looked like a little one seeing her birthday cake with candles come out for the first time!  I’m not really sure what I was expecting.  Maybe a glass with yogurt and granola layers.  Maybe a bowl.  Never did I expect my sweet, fruit, crunchy, yummy coconut granola to come in a giant glass jar with snap lid!  It was SO cute and adorable!  Something you’d see from a country kitchen and house out of House on the Prairie or something!  I couldn’t believe how sweet the presentation was! 

Food and treats in jars are all the rage right now.  Remember my sweet little strawberry shortcake custard trifle from Simple Bistro on Mount Pleasant?  And all the layered desserts and cookie and baking mixes that DIYers make as gifts and favours?  Food in jars has definitely come a long way from its sole association with baby food, that’s for sure!  Regardless of the trend factor though, this yogurt and granola brunch scored top-notch points in presentation and in deliciousness.

The coconut granola brunch dish was layered with maple syrup, creamy, mildly sweet vanilla yogurt, granola with oats, various types of seeds, coconut, dried fruit (cranberries and apricots), and tons of fresh fruit including blueberries, sliced bananas, and sliced strawberries.  Not only did the whole dish taste fresh and juicy and wholesome, it really showed off how resourceful Joy Bistro was in their usage of food and their waste management. 

I know, this is supposed to be about delicious food, not waste!  But we all know waste is always part of the equation when we talk about food; it’s not all hearts and daisies.  The volume of fruits, vegetables, and dairy is so difficult to manage because of their short shelf life and it really impressed me seeing them use the strawberries, blueberries, and bananas that were present on my banana bread French toast my first time there in another brunch main.  You’ll never be able to eliminate waste completely, but using all your ingredients in different ways for different dishes shows your resourcefulness and versatility and a willingness to work with the food in more than one manner.

Their coconut granola yogurt parfait was delicious and terrific.  I was floored at how good the vanilla yogurt was.  Much of the time, yogurt can come off as too tangy, too watery, too thick, and admittedly, somewhat tasteless.  I love yogurt but even I can acknowledge its flaws.  Their vanilla yogurt wasn’t any of those things.  The sweetness and vanillaness to it was noticeable enough for me to take note and love it, but also perfectly mild enough to let the granola and fruit shine.  The fruits were juicy and plump, the granola was crunchy and honey sweet, and the maple syrup was bang on what the parfait needed to make it extra special.  I love the dried fruits, I love the seeds, and I loved how the texture of the granola was chunky and crunchy yet also finely crushed and milled in other ways with the coconut and seeds.       

Joy Bistro has really become a favourite of mine in the area and it’s only a matter of time before I tick off the eggs benny and pancakes off my brunch list!

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Joy Bistro is located at 884 Queen Street East in Leslieville, at the corner of Booth Ave. and Queen East across the street from Jimmie Simpson Park.  They serve weekend brunch, lunch, and dinner as well as plenty of drinks at the bar!  Hours of operation: Monday-Wednesday 11am-12am midnight, Thursday-Friday 11am-1am, Saturday 8am-1am, and Sunday 8am-12am midnight.

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Baking From the Pantry – Dried Apricots, Pecans, and White Chocolate for Nutty Apricots & Cream Cookies

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I did something a little bad today.  I bought two new cookie and cupcake magazine cookbooks because they were on mega sale and because only a fool would pass up a sale as good as the one I stumbled on today.  “Bad?  What’s so bad?” you ask.  “Sales are great, you love to bake, and two more magazines of recipes doesn’t sound so terrible” you say.  But it is.  Because I already have a stack of food magazines and paper inspiration almost up to knees.  I know I’m short, but the stack is UP TO MY KNEES.  I am an uncontrollable cookie monster!  If I’m not reading cookbooks and magazines and thinking about future scrapbook layouts, I’m thinking about the next batch of cookies I want to bake and creating new spin-off recipes in my head.  I’ve been putting stars next to all the ones I want to try in my Hannah Swensen foodie murder mysteries and I’m even mulling over different flavours of cookie sandwiches with frostings and fillings.  At this point, I’m surprised I’m not swimming in cookies and cake. 

I recently baked new cookies for my grandparents again (new ones for my grandpa to take with him during his dialysis trips and cookies for my grandma’s birthday!) and I am so happy the cookies make them happy because it totally and completely justifies the incessant urge to bake.  At this rate, it’s only a matter of time before my house looks like the one in Hansel & Gretel.  Only instead of the evil woman, I’m the cookie princess who wishes I could share my treats with the world instead of just photos.  Until I have that dream cookie bakery of mine though, the internet will have to do.  I have two new batches of cookies for you all and this is the first of the two, coming straight from my pantry!

We always have some form of dried fruit in our house now.  Ever since my mum and I started eating yogurt, cereal, and fruit and granola on a regular basis (and I do mean all three at once!), we’ve always had dried fruit and plenty of nuts on hand.  Dried apple rings, dried cranberries, almonds, walnuts, chestnuts, you name it.  Baking straight out of my cupboards, I came up with this yummy combination: dried apricots with pecans and white chocolate to create nutty apricots and cream cookies!  I love dried apricots and I love using white chocolate and oatmeal in everything so I wanted to see how the all of them would work out in a cookie.  At first, I was only thinking of doing an apricots and cream one (kind of like peaches and cream), but then I realized we had way too many pecans and figured I would give them a shot too.

The cookies turned out fab!  Aside from making them bigger and using the drop method as oppose to the dough ball method, I wouldn’t change a thing.  The pecans give the cookies such an amazing crunch and aroma and the white chocolate and apricots cut through the slight taste of toasty savouriness from the pecans to keep them sweet.  The cookie experiment was a success!

Recipe for Nutty Apricots & Cream Cookies (yields 3-4 dozen cookies)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup quick-cooking or old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2½ sticks unsalted butter (10 ounces), at room temperature
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups of dried apricots, chopped (measure after chopping) 
  • 1 ½ cups of pecans, chopped (measure after chopping)
  • 1 ½ cups of white chocolate chips

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 325°F.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper (*Deb’s Note: (*Deb’s Note: Depending on how big you make your cookie dough balls or spoonfuls, you’ll need to reuse your cookie sheets a few times.  My oven runs hot, so I actually don’t bother putting anything on the bottom rack and only use the top rack, placing 2 baking sheets vertically side by side).
  • In a medium bowl, mix the flour with the oats, baking powder, baking soda, and salt (*Deb’s Note: I didn’t use the mixer for this step, I just used a large spoon to mix everything together).
  • In a standing mixer fitted with the paddle, beat the butter and both sugars at medium speed until creamy.  Add the egg followed by egg yolk and vanilla, beating well between additions and scraping down the side of the bowl as necessary (*Deb’s Note: I don’t have a standing mixer so I used a handheld).
  • Beat in the dry ingredients, then add the chopped apricots and pecans, followed by the white chocolate chips.  Using a large spoon or your clean hands, fold in until evenly distributed. 
  • Spoon heaping tablespoons of the dough onto the baking sheets, 2 inches apart.  Bake 12 minutes, until the cookies begin to brown at the edges.  Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets, then transfer them to a rack to cool completely (*Deb’s Note: I rolled my cookie dough into golf ball size balls to create bon bon size cookies.  Use the drop method if you want them bigger and flatter.  As well, I placed 15 on each baking sheet).

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Recipe inspired by Food & Wine magazine.  Sampson, Sally.  “How Baking Can Change the World.” Food & Wine November 2011: 130.