The Fall Harvest Series – Getting to the Root of Great Food With Weekend Brunch, Butternut Squash & Beets at Hotel Gelato

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I’ll never forget the moment I felt my mouth start to quiver, my breathing grow shallow, and my eyes tear up.  This could not be happening, I thought.  Not again.  My Veggielicious hopes crushed and my plans for Veggielicious bliss foiled right before my eyes on the last weekend of an event I had been looking forward to for over a year.  The timing couldn’t have been worse.  I was stunned and rendered speechless, sputtering my discontent in sighs of frustration.  I couldn’t believe my rotten luck.  Right then and there, I wanted to throw in the towel on blogging anything altogether.

Melodramatic?  Maybe a little.  Heartbreaking?  To a foodie like myself, positively absolutely.  But!  Let’s remind ourselves though that, like any great drama, there can still be excitement and joy amidst the angst and turmoil.  So get comfortable because this is a story of initial heartbreak gone right, silver linings, the bright side, and new doors opening after others close.  This is the story of the Veggielicious that never happened and, given the circumstances, just wasn’t meant to be.  This is a story of food at Hotel Gelato.

Let’s rewind to last weekend, the last weekend of Veggielicious 2012.  I was so excited I was almost skipping down the street.  After my plans for Veggielicious at E.L. Ruddy had fallen through the weekend prior, all cylinders were raring to go and my sights and tastebuds were set on Hotel Gelato and their Veggielicious menu: spinach and kale salad with chickpeas, sun-dried tomatoes and tahini dressing, quinoa and sweet potato chili, and lentil cakes made with red lentils and zucchini with a root vegetable salad.  I was salivating even before I walked in.  My heart was pumping a bazillion clicks a minute and I was beyond ecstatic.  And then, the world came crashing down around me when I was delivered the news: because of weekend brunch, Veggielicious was only going to be around from 3pm onward over the weekend.  On any other day it would have been available during the day, for lunch, what have you.  But for the weekend?  Not so much.

I wanted to cry.  Again.

On the way to Hotel Gelato…

The unthinkable had happened.  I had messed up both Veggielicious plans and there was nothing I could do about it.  I couldn’t come back for dinner because I had promised my mum I’d come home for a great meal she had in the works.  And I wasn’t going to pack up and leave.  I adored Hotel Gelato and the thought of up and leaving didn’t seem…right.  So I sat down in my seat, moped for all of a few minutes, and snapped out of it.  Okay, so Veggielicious was no longer within my grasp.  But by golly, there were shiny pumpkins on their mantle and I thought, come hell or high water I’m going to enjoy my weekend brunch here and make the best of it!

And I did.  With one of the most fabulous vegetarian fall salads EVER to grace my tastebuds!

Introducing Hotel Gelato’s fluffy fall-inspired quinoa salad ($13) with butternut squash, beets, arugula, roasted shallots, and toasted pine nuts, tossed in a fresh lemon basil dressing and topped with some crispy beet chips on top!  Talk about getting to the “root” of fabulous food!  Fall vegetables with a light as air, crisp and clean dressing with an equally light as air quinoa?  Perfection.  What a fantastic salad and brunch dish.  As part of Hotel Gelato’s permanent weekend brunch menu, it had such an air of lightness to it, like it was only meant to be enjoyed during a peaceful zen moment.  The quinoa was fluffy and the vegetables, which were mostly diced, were beautiful in colour, taste, and texture.  There was crunch from the nuts, juiciness from the squash and beets, air pockets from the quinoa, that great peppery, leafy bite from the delicious arugula, freshness from the dressing, and warmth, coziness, and savouriness from the roasted shallots.

Here’s a very important tidbit to know though about this dish: the online menu says sweet potato in the salad but when you’re dining in, the menu clearly says butternut squash and it is butternut squash that you will receive!  Just by looking at them, sweet potatoes and butternut squash look nearly identical in appearance, especially when the flesh is scooped out and diced.  But, based on taste and texture,  it’s obvious when you eat it which one is being used in the salad.  Sweet potatoes have a much higher content of starch whereas butternut squash is juicier.  I am definitely not complaining about the difference in dine-in and online menu though because butternut squash floats my boat so finally, some good vibes coming my way!

And this was by no means a piddly serving.  This was a ginormous dish!  The salad was served on a huuuge square serving dish with a salad gift that just kept on giving!  I brought home leftovers, shared them with my mum who’s an absolute fiend for beets, and she loved it so much she wishes we had 10 more plates of it!  THAT is how wonderful this brunch salad is.  The colours and flavours scream fall and comfort and it has to be one of the healthiest, most satisfying vegetarian and vegan brunch dishes.  For those who love cheese there’s an option of adding crumbled goat cheese for $3 and grilled chicken for $4 for the meaties.

I was so, so happy and relieved in the end.  A heart-sinking moment of dread turned into a memorable, delicious dish that I would come back for in a heartbeat.  Veggielicious or not, I got the chance to try a vegetarian and vegan dish I had never tried before and I got to eat some butternut squash which is so fitting for fall!  What seems meant to be sometimes isn’t and sometimes, the best things are right under your very nose.

*****

Hotel Gelato is located at 532 Eglinton Ave. West just west of Heddington Ave. between Avenue Rd. and Bathurst Street.  They serve breakfast and lunch every day from Monday to Friday with a weekend brunch menu on Saturdays and Sundays.  Their breakfast menu is available from 8am-11:30am and lunch all-day.

The Fall Harvest Series – Like a Stack of Fluffy, Golden Pancakes with Syrup! The Eh? Cupcake From The Cupcake Shoppe

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Hallowe’en is just a week and a half away, we’re in the thick of fall, and the Fall Harvest Series has been up and running for 3 weeks now!  Although the weather here hasn’t been co-operating (can you say doom and gloom and rain?  I thank my lucky stars that I started photographing the fall farmers’ markets at the end of September as oppsed to trying to do it now!), it’s been so much fun immersing myself up to my eyeballs in fall themed foods and scrapbooking.  I love scrapbooking seasonal stuff and as I mentioned on my Twitter, the very first 8×8 scrapbook album I did was a Christmas one that will always be a special favourite in my collection.

What’s also been amazing?  Eating through the seasons at some of my favourite places in the city!  Ate by Ate will be celebrating its first birthday at the end of November and we’ve almost come full circle with many of my frequent noshing spots, hitting the seasonal menus and special seasonal flavours.  I am THISCLOSE to going 360 at The Cupcake Shoppe by Yonge and Eglinton; all I need to do is hit them up during the Christmas holidays!  However, after all the visits I’ve made to The Cupcake Shoppe, there are still cupcakes I haven’t even seen, much less tried!  Their cupcake selection operates on a system of rotation where different flavours will make their appearances at different times.  The arrangement here doesn’t work quite the same way as Short & Sweet Cupcakes though.  At Short & Sweet, the flavour selection is fixed based on the days of the week whereas as at The Cupcake Shoppe, it’s much more random.

Depending on the luck of the draw, there may be cupcake flavours that you will never come across or eat.  I’ve never even seen Sleepless in Toronto (the coffee mocha one), nor have I seen Lime n’Licious or Candy Cane Lane, both pf which are seasonal flavours.  And up until this past September, I hadn’t even laid eyes on the maple Eh? cupcake.  But that all changed on a cloudy day during the first week of September.

I was SO excited when I went to the shop and saw shiny orange pumpkins, chocolate cupcakes with bright orange frosting with cherry red candies, and a giant acorn in the front window display.  Fall was here and the cupcake shops and bakeries were decorating to the nines.  My heart fluttered even faster when I went into the shop and saw the maple buttercream cupcake!  YES!  A flavour I had never seen or tried!  Granted, even though I know the name of the cupcake is meant to be tongue-in-cheek, it still makes me wrinkle my nose and grit my teeth.  For the record, as a Canadian, I do not say “eh” after all my sentences.  ANYWAY.  Both my brother and my boyfriend love maple things to pieces, so this was extra special.  And because I just love eating my way through all the flavours, there was no way I was passing up this baby!

This cupcake knocked it out of the park!  Remember how I ticked off my 3 favourite cupcakes from here awhile ago?  How I professed my undying love for the Lemon Drop, Cookie Dough, and Red Velvet cupcakes with the Naughty n’ Spice one hovering close by?  The maple Eh? cupcake kicked Little Miss Red Velvet out and is now happily occupying a spot in my Top 3.  This cupcake is SO.DAMN.DELICIOUS.  I say this often whenever I write up a post about The Cupcake Shoppe, but it’s worth repeating: I know so many people who have a love-hate relationship with the cupcake frosting here.  It’s either amazingly scrumptious or it flat-out misses the mark.  The Eh? cupcake doesn’t associate with those that miss the mark.  It hangs out with the “I-want-to-shove-this-entire-cupcake-in-my-mouth-because-it’s-so-yummy” crowd.

I opened the box to eat mine and as soon as I did, the smell of maple literally HIT me in the nose and face.  It wafted out and it was one of the most mouthwatering smells.  The frosting sits on a vanilla cupcake and it’s the frosting that makes this cuppycake a real winner.  It’s not the buttery, whippy buttercream that some have an issue with.  The maple frosting is thick and creamy and it makes you want to eat it by the spoonful and shudder in “mmm”ness.

This maple cupcake smells and tastes EXACTLY like maple syrup and pancakes.  Imagine a cold winter morning.  Imagine coming down the stairs of a lodge or cabin of some sort with the fire on and the warm, fragrant, sweet smell of fresh, fluffy, golden brown pancakes tickling your nose and rumbling that hungry stomach.  Now take that image and stick it into this sweet morsel of a cupcake.  Amazing.  The vanilla cake is like the pancake and the rich, maple frosting is the syrup dribbling down the stack and when you have a mouthful of this cake and frosting in your mouth, it’s heaven.

Now, I normally wouldn’t outright encourage everyone to start eating cupcakes for breakfast, but I have to tell you…if you want a sweet, delicous alternative, this works quite well.  And if you’re lucky, you’ll step into the shop with a whole cupcake stand of them waiting for you.

*****

The Cupcake Shoppe is located in the Yonge and Eglinton neighbourhood at 2417 Yonge St., north of Eglinton on the east side of Yonge St.

Scrapbooking materials used: chocolate brown, orange, burnt orange, red, cherry red, and goldenrod yellow cardstock (Recollections); gold foil alphabet stickers (Sticko); fall leaves stickers (Recollections); fall embellishment (K&Company); medium scallop circle paper punch (ek success); black finepoint Sharpie pen.

The Fall Harvest Series – A Thanksgiving Sandwich! Fresh Turkey, Cranberry Compote, and Focaccia at Atelier Cafe

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Thanksgiving may have come and gone for us here in Canadaland, but that doesn’t mean I – or everyone else – should do away with the traditional Thanksgiving foods.  Things like the roast turkey, the stuffing, the cranberries, the pumpkin and apple desserts, and all the delicious vegetable dishes using potatoes, squashes, beans, and root vegetables.  It’s the fall season, I love the traditional Thanksgiving food with all the trimmings and really, I’m just getting started!  I think we can all enjoy those holiday favourites any time throughout the season and I love finding different interpretations of these classic meals and dishes whether they’re with meat or without, because I have seen some amazing vegetarian and vegan Thanksgiving spreads over the past week!  Regardless of the fact that Thanksgiving happened a week ago, I’m happy to indulge in all the goodness so long as it’s still available and the way I see it, my American friends won’t be celebrating their Thanksgiving for another month so I think it’s a perfect excuse to continue the holiday meal love. 

Enter the Thanksgiving sandwich.  You can think of it as Thanksgiving leftovers, or just Thanksgiving in a neat, delicious sandwich.  I love the sandwiches at Atelier Cafe, and after having my amazing smoked salmon, cream cheese, and guacamole sandwich on sundried tomato focaccia my first timethere, I wanted to eat my way through their menu. 

I noticed there were entree salads listed after the sandwich items on the menu and I smiled when I saw a Thanksgiving inspired one: turkey salad with cranberry compote, guacamole, grape tomatoes, cucumber, and salad greens.  How perfect is that for the Thanksgiving and harvest season?  Cranberries are in season and the turkey fits the bill quite nicely.  And the guacamole is just a delicious added bonus.  I hesitated when it sunk in that the menu item was a salad though.  I like salad, but I really wanted it as a sandwich.  Being the charmer that I am (or so I’d like to think), I sweetly asked if I could have the salad as a sandwich and the server was extremely nice and told me it wouldn’t be a problem at all.  Score!

Piled high on crunchy toasted focaccia bread was my Thanksgiving meal in a sandwich.  Thick wedges of roasted turkey, sweet and juicy cranberry compote, juicy grape tomatoes and cucumber sliced in half, and a leafy layer of spring mix greens.  This sandwich was fabulous.  Sandwich-loving Joey Tribbiani fabulous.  The cranberry compote was a wonderful complement with its sweetness and fruitiness.  Before I ever had compote, I had no idea what the difference was between that and jam.  I sighed in exasperation whenever I heard the term because I just thought the term was being used as a synonym for jam.  You know, a fancy French word that we unnecessarily use to take the place of the same thing in English so we can feel like we have air of sophistication.  To my relief, not so. 

Although compote is indeed a French word, compote is not jam.  Aside from having a little less sugar content than jam, compote, in this context, is made by boiling whole or chopped fruits in water and a little sugar.  The main difference is consistency.*  Compote can sometimes take the form of fruit and syrup, fruit puree, or even as a dessert or drink, whereas jam is much more gelled because of the pectin released from the fruits during the boiling and cooking process.  With the cranberry’s sweetness and tanginess, it added a great dimension of flavour that played off the turkey really well.

I’m a fan of Atelier’s focaccia and their roast turkey for this sandwich was amazing.  Although turkey is such a star and staple in Thanksgiving and other holiday meals, so many people complain about its dryness and compare the experience to how one would envision eating paper.  Lucky for me, I’ve had relatively good experiences eating turkey but I know others have either gotten stuck with the bone dry variety or the dripping, greasy parts that aren’t all that appetizing. 

Not this turkey.  It wasn’t greasy or “juicy” in a gross way, it wasn’t desert dry, and there was plenty of it in the sandwich to my delight.  It had the skin on, the turkey meat was moist and flavourful, and it was cut into nice thick wedge slices.  Turkey sandwiches are one of my favourite kinds of sandwiches and I’m so happy the staff at Atelier were nice enough to turn the salad menu item into a sandwich for me.  In a way, each bite was like a delicious mouthful of Thanksgiving holiday festiveness.  Just without the food coma at the end of the meal.

*****

Source*= Metro website

Atelier Cafe Lounge is located at 510 King St. West, west of Spadina Ave.  They serve both breakfast and lunch during the day and turn into a lounge and nightclub at night.

The Fall Harvest Series – It’s Time For Pumpkin Sweets! Delicious Pumpkin Pie Gelato at Boreal Gelato Company

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I’m so excited to finally introduce my very first gelato post to the blog!  And I’m so ecstatic I finally got to do some scrapbooking!  It took me forever and a half to get my photos developed.  I had some layout sketches done, but for weeks I could never find the right time to get them developed (I was either at Le Dolci or out with my boyfriend or family, and no where near a Wal-mart, Loblaws, or any other photo developing spot) and my scrapbooking withdrawal was making me seriously cranky.  Moping-in-front-of-the-tv-and-glaring-at-the-supplies-I-couldn’t use-yet cranky.  I’m fine now.  Peeling and slapping stickers on cardstock alleviated my teeth-grinding and now I get to look forward to replenishing my stash of fall and alphabet stickers!  That, and maybe some Hallowe’en goodies too.  It’s going to be great. 

I have Andrew/TOfoodie on Twitter to thank for this delicious snack and post.  He mentioned PUMPKIN PIE GELATO and holy mother of pearl, I couldn’t scribble the details down fast enough if I tried.  I may love cupcakes and cake, but I also loooove ice cream, frozen yogurt, and gelato.  I’m the one who eats frozen dessert treats in the dead of winter while everyone else is hugging their coffee cups for dear life.  I promised myself I’d fatten up the ice cream, frozen yogurt, and gelato categories on here because compared to what I have on cupcakes, it’s paltry.  So here we are with the first gelato post featuring the pumpkin pie gelato from The Boreal Gelato Company in Parkdale!  When I first started doing a little research for the Fall Harvest series, I came across so many sweet pumpkin goodies and options around the city!  Cupcakes, teas, lattes, cookies, tarts, loaves, and yes, GELATO!  I kept them in mind and slowly but surely, I’m going to tick them off one by one.

The Boreal Gelato Company, located on Queen West just west of Dufferin St., is amazing.  Check out the adorable Inuksuk logo!  With an emphasis on homegrown, local Canadian ingredients, Boreal Gelato strives to be ethically sound and as environmentally conscious as possible, using certified fair-trade products and biodegradable packaging, as well as offering patrons a place to dispose their recycables and compostable waste.  Now, obviously, their efforts to use local, Canadian ingredients can only go so far as certain products don’t grow in Canada (cocoa, coconuts, and bananas, for example)*, but their mission is to offer customers the best of the best when it comes to the availability of seasonal, local fare. 

Not only do they have a fab selection of gelato flavours, but they also have a great cafe menu (they serve weekend brunch now too!), and ample seating inside the shop.  I know you can look up their gelato flavours on their website, but not all the flavours are listed and I’m going to throw out a few that I saw that day just to make this post a little more exclusive 😉  Flavours include tiramisu, anise (black licorice), Irish cream, coconut cream, salted caramel, triple chocolate crunch, earl grey, spicy rosemary shortbread, pumpkin pie, and gingerbread.  The sheer volume of flavours is one of the things I love most about gelato shops.  Some of the flavours are just so creaitve and it makes you salivate looking at all the metal bins filled up with colourful, delicious gelato.

I know some people like or find it necessary to take their food to go, but I like having a spot to sit down when I’m in a place and Boreal Gelato has plenty of comfortable seating inside, with tables and chairs and a long seating booth against one wall.  It’s open, it’s airy and spacious, and it’s exactly what I love about shops with seating.  Although their specialty is gelato and sorbet, their menu isn’t exclusive to just those two items.  They have coffee drinks (espressos, cappuccinos, cafe mochas, macchiatos, pumpkin lattes, and hot chocolates), fruit, milk, and soda drinks (think apple cider, smoothies, root beer floats, and milkshakes), cakes, pies, cookies, baked Alaska (I know, oh my gosh), annnd gelato cookie sandwiches!

Their prices are very average and run-of-the-mill in comparision to other gelato places in and around the city (and yes, I’ve eaten at other places but just haven’t blogged about them!  If I don’t like my photos or if I don’t have any, it doesn’t get blogged).  There are 3 tiers: mini scoop ($2.75), regular scoop ($4.00), and double scoop ($5.50), and what’s really fab about their scooping arrangement is that you can choose two flavours to make one scoop!  So if you’re indecisive like me, this is perfect for you!  Oh!  And toppings!  You get free toppings!  Right by the cash, there are canisters of topping goodies and squeeze bottles of sauces to dress up your gelato or sorbet.  That day they had pecan and walnut topping, graham cracker crumbs, cocoa nibs, and chocolate, caramel, and maple syrup. 

I got myself some pumpkin pie and vanilla bean gelato and sprinkled graham cracker crumbs onto it and oh my goodness, this was even BETTER than actual pumpkin pie!  I could have eaten triple scoops of this.  So refreshing, so smooth and creamy, and sweet!  I have friends who always wish pumpkin desserts were just a tad sweeter and this gelato delivers.  The sweet flavour and cool refreshingness does it for me.  I wouldn’t say that pie itself is necessarily drying, but when you eat this, you just feel it melt in your mouth the way pie never could.  The pumpkin pie gelato was amazing, with the perfect balance of sweetness and earthiness with a hint of spice, and combined with the vanilla bean and graham cracker crumbs it was like eating creamy, sweet, scrumptious pumpkin pie with a graham cracker crust and vanilla ice cream on top.    

I have something embarrassing to admit right now though.  I was SO excited about stuffing my face into the pumpkin pie gelato that the rest of the menu was completely lost on me.  And I feel so silly because of it.  I went in with the intention of eating the amazing pumpkin pie gelato and although I got what I wanted (which I’m thankful for – they sold out of their first batch and JUST had another one ready for me when I came in!), I would have ordered a gelato cookie sandwich and pumpkin latte had I realized they had something like that!  It was only after I finished my gelato that I realized how much other stuff they had and I almost groaned out loud at my stupidity.  Sigh.  Well, that just means I’m going to have to go back again.  And again.  And again.

*****

The Boreal Gelato Company is located at 1312 Queen Street West in Parkdale, just west of Dufferin St. between Noble St. and Elm Grove Ave.  They serve weekend brunch and are open from Tuesday to Sunday.  Their hours from Tuesday to Thursday are 1pm-10pm, 1pm-midnight on Fridays, 10am-midnight on Saturdays, and 10am-10pm on Sundays.  Click here to visit their website.

Source*= Boreal Gelato website

Scrapbooking materials used: to be added!

The Fall Harvest Series – Today’s Thanksgiving! Enjoying Baked Goodies From Evergreen Brick Works, Part III

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Happy Thansgiving to all my fellow Canadian lovelies!  I hope everyone’s had a fun and relaxing long weekend and I hope you all got the chance to eat some amazing food, with or without the turkey!  I’ve had a fabulous weekend, going to Evergreen Brick Works with my family for the first time, having a delicious Sunday brunch at Cardinal Rule (blog post forthcoming!), visiting two more markets on Sunday, and catching up on some much needed sleep today!  There’s so much that I want to do and see still (I still want to get in an apple orchard visit for starters!), and I feel like the days and weeks go by so quickly I can never get everything I want done actually done.  I will say though that this weekend was fantastic and I’m glad I got to fit in so much of what I wanted to do. 

I am bummed though that I wasn’t able to get out and capture a Thanksgiving meal to the nines for you all though.  There were some amazing Thanksgiving feasts being put on by some really places in the city, but the timing just didn’t work out for me.  No extravagent Thanksgiving meal photos – not for this year anyway!  Even though my family and I fancy the idea of traditional Thanksgiving food (you know, the roast turkey, potatoes, cranberry sauce, that kind of thing), there have been very few times in my life that I’ve actually had that type of meal with all the trimmings.  Just think, the first time I ever had pumpkin pie was last October and the last time our family did the big Thanksgiving dinner with the turkey was five years ago!

Mini pumpkins from Kensington Market. Awww ❤

Amazing mini buns from Evergreen Brick Works!

Do I wish that I had more of those meals to enjoy?  Sure I do, but at the same time, I’ve been really happy just having fun with the season in other ways.  I love fall comfort food and baking, and every year I get excited about the festiveness that surrounds Thanksgiving.  My brother and I love watching the Thanksgiving episodes of F.R.I.E.N.D.S, I adore reading holiday-centric books (the Baby-Sitters Club fan in me is still alive and kicking!), I get inspired by scrapbooking fall themed pages, home decor and kitchen accessories, and flipping through fall food magazines and cookbooks.  I may not have the tradtional meals under my belt, but what I have are sweet memories from Thanksgivings past (I don’t think I’ll ever forget the amazing spread my aunt put out when I was 9!), wonderful, homecooked food, and a family, boyfriend, and friends to go through life with.

    

Pumpkin cranberry scones!

I’m bookending the Evergreen Brick Works fall series today with a look at some of the mouth-watering baked goods at the market!  Bread and baked yummies and sweets are definitely a weakness for both my mum and I.  She’s a breadhead and I have a sweet tooth, so together we basically carry a whole bakery home with us when we decide to purchase things.  The market is amazing for things like this because there’s so much variety.  Different kinds of baguettes, loaves, and buns, muffins, cakes, pies, squares, pastries, and all sorts of other goodies.  We picked up a beautiful and delicious mini vegetable and cheese pizza  for my lunch, a blueberry maple syrup scone (OH.MY.GOD), a raisin muffin, and a grab bag of 8 mini bread buns in all these different flavours!  The grab bag had plain ones, wheat ones, corn bread, pumpkin, and BEET BREAD!!!

As my family and I were waiting for the Evergreen Brick Works shuttle bus, there was this nice woman who we chatted with who told us about the famous beet bread at the market and we totally lucked out finding the vendor and bakers who made it.  I’m a weenie though because in my giddy haste over cute buns I didn’t take a photo of the booth itself or get the name of the lovely people behind it.  All I can tell you is that it’s one of the first tables you see on the left when you come into the farmers’ market barn.  I promise I’ll get the name for you guys next time!  The bread was absolutely delicious and I loved it because we were able to try so many different kinds in the grab bag.  We popped them in the oven for our Thanksgiving brunch this morning and they were crispy on the outside and mega soft on the inside.  Every farmers’ market has its own draw and for me, this would have me coming back for more all on its own.

I’ve enjoyed doing the Fall Harvest series so much over the past week and there’s so much more that I want to show you guys that I’m going to continue the series intermittenly for the rest of the month!  I would keep it going every day for the next two weeks or so, but if I’m going to be honest, I am so behind on my scrapbooking that there are certain posts I don’t want to post because I want to do my scrapbook pages for them first.  I’m having a lot fun with the series though, so I’m not going to stop it until winter hits.  There’s still too much pumpkin fall fun and delicious food I have yet to unleash 😀

*****

Evergreen Brick Works is located at 550 Bayview Ave.  The farmers’ market takes place year-round every Saturday from 8am-1pm.  If taking public transit, there is a free shuttle bus that operates 7 days a week beside Broadview subway station, as well as the 28A Davisville TTC bus that runs on Saturdays from 8am-3pm between Evergreen Brick Works and Davisville subway station.  Click here to learn more the site, their events and programs, and how to get here by bus, bike, car, or foot.

The Fall Harvest Series: Like Apple Pie in a Muffin – Apple Almond Muffins With Cinnamon Sugar Topping!

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It’s Friday, it’s Thanksgiving weekend for us Canadian folk, and the weather is absolutely gorgeous.  It’s true that I prefer the cooler weather (remember how many times I whined about the gross humidity and heat this past summer?), but for this weekend, I’ll make an exception because it truly is beautiful out and I can’t even begin to express how excited I am about the next few days.  I’m visiting some amazing farmers’ markets, enjoying some sunshine, taking photos, and enjoying everything I’m thankful for.  And one of those things is food.  Baked goods, more specifically.  And baked goods with apples in them. 

For all of you who have the same fruit allergies as I do, there is hope!  I am going to town with the apples this fall and considering how allergic I am to the raw variety, even I’m surprised by how many different ways I’ve used and eaten them this season.  I know I’ve been going honky tonky with the apples for the Fall Harvest Series, but I promise that I have some awesome pumpkin goodies in the mix coming soon!  In the meantime though, I have another fabulous fall recipe to share with you all: apple almond muffins!  I thought the apple lemon poppyseed muffins I posted earlier in the series was a great fall recipe, but this…oh, this.  Do you like apple pie?  Fresh, hot, apple pie?  You do?  Then these are perfect for you because these apple almond muffins with cinnamon sugar topping are like apple pie in a sweet, sugary, moist tea muffin.  And yes, they do deserve the bold and italics because they are that delicious.

This is actually the first time I used a recipe I found online.  Call me traditional, but I hug my cookbooks and love my paperbacks and hardcovers to pieces.  Even though I know there’s a wealth of amazing recipes online and in blogs (hello, some of my most awesome friends have cooking blogs with recipes!), I’ve been somewhat resistent to using the internet as a crutch when it comes to this because of this. 

This changed though when I made a boo-boo buying ingredients.  Long story short, I bought one too many bags of ground almonds, thinking I had used up my supply from before only to have my mum unearth 3 bags of the stuff from my baking ingredient bags.  Oops.  Needless to say, I need to use up some of those ground almonds, and fast.  Enter the interwebs.  Thanks to a recipe I found for apple almond muffins on Eleanor Snare’s blog, The Magic Square Foundation, I was able to use up some of stash and I came away with some of the most delicious muffins I’ve ever had in my life.  I made adjustments to the recipe though (converting some of the measurements, for example), so this recipe is the one I ended up with after the adjustments.  If you want to see the original, the link is at the bottom of the post.  Looking for a knock-out fall or Thanksgiving dessert or snack?  Here it is:

Recipe for Apple Almond Muffins With Cinnamon Sugar Topping (yields 24 tea muffins if apples are cut into small chunks, 18 if apples are grated)

Ingredients for muffins

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 sticks of butter (1 cup), at room temperature
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 4 small apples (*Deb’s note: I used Gala apples)
  • 3/4 cup of all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 ground almonds
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 cup milk (*Deb’s note: honestly, I just eyeballed it when I poured milk into the batter.  I’d say anywhere from 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup should be good)

Ingredients for cinnamon sugar topping

  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds (*Deb’s note: it’s completely up to you how much sliced almonds you want on the muffins, so if you love them, add more and if not, add less or omit them entirely).
  • 3 tablespoons of brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350°F.  Line 2 12-cup cupcake or muffin pans with paper liners (or any amount of pans that will equal to 24 spaces for 24 muffins).
  • Cut the butter into small pieces and beat together with both the brown sugar and the white sugar in a large mixing bowl until creamy.  Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition.
  • Cut the apples into small chunks (or grate them if you wish) and add the chopped apples to the wet mixture.  Don’t beat the apples in, just mix them in with a mixing spoon.
  • In a separate mixing bowl, add the flour, ground almonds, cinnamon, and baking powder.  Mix gently with a spoon until everything is evenly distributed.  Fold this into the wet apple mixture by hand.  Slowly mix in the milk.
  • Spoon batter into muffin cups, filling each cup until it is full.  Sprinkle sliced almonds on top.
  • To make the cinnamon sugar topping, mix the brown sugar with the cinnamon until combined and sprinkle over top the almonds and muffin mixture.  Bake for 15-20 minutes or until tops are golden and a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffin comes out clean.

*****

This recipe was adapted from The Magic Square Foundation and the original can be viewed here.

The Fall Harvest Series – Sweet Apple Cinnamon Cupcakes and Chai Lattes on Main Street Unionville

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Hands cupped around a warm mug.  The smell of baked goods and comfort food wafting through the air, with the tastes enveloping your tastebuds in happy delight.  The sight of reds, oranges, yellows, and golds just bursting before your eyes.  The feeling of coolness and crispness in the air as you listen to the crunch of fallen leaves under your feet.  When I think of fall, I envision sights, smells, and tastes that tickle my inspiration; fall is a beautiful season that ignites the senses.  It makes me think of my first trip to the apple orchard as a kid, all the times I skipped through leaves at the park, the family trips I went on to see the changing colours, the pumpkins I carved with my aunt and uncle, and of course, the food!  I’ll never forget the amazing Thanksgiving feast my aunt put out when I was 10, the apple cider and warm drinks I had in the company of friends, and my memories of eating pumpkin pie for the first time.  In a nutshell, fall for me is comfort and nostalgia at its finest. 

One of my favourite neighbourhoods to enjoy the fall season in is Main Street Unionville in Markham, where I live.  Having lived in Markham for 13 years, I have memories of doing fun things here from every season and I will never grow tired of strolling through the old-town, Victorianesque streets, visiting the library, and ambling through the parks and pond.  When I think about taking photos of colourful leaves in the area, it gets me all excited because it’s just that beautiful.  I am so lucky to have such a scenic neighbourhood nearby to enjoy both the green (or rather red, orange, and yellow this time of year!) space and the yummies!  Photographing pretty trees, curling up with a hot drink, and having a sweet treat – now that’s the kind of fall day I love!

After going bananas during my first visit to Old Firehall Confectionery back in August, I was dying to see whether or not there were seasonal treats.  I know, I know, it’s a mecca of sugar and spice and everything nice so of course they would have seasonal desserts!  But I had to be sure.  So I went.  And internally squealed.  Fall desserts!  Pumpkin pie tarts, maple pecan tarts, maple cupcakes, and apple cinnamon cupcakes!  YES!  Where you find new flavours of cupcakes, you will find Deb.  That’s just how it works.  The devil on my shoulder wanted one of everything, but the angel on the other shoulder rolled her eyes and said no because dinner was coming in another two and a half hours.  I picked out one apple cinnamon cupcake ($2.89).  So the angel won.  This time.  The cupcake needed a friend though, so I paired it up with a nice warm drink from Timothy’s World Coffee down the street.  I plan these things out.  I’m nothing if not resourceful.

Even though I consider myself a wuss in the presence of a hot drink (I’m the one who sits there and gingerly pokes at the mug or cup to see if my fingertip gets hot before taking a tiny cautious sip), there’s nothing like the feeling of holding a warm drink in your hands with the sun shining at you through a window.  A drink that smells so good it makes you forget how afraid you are of hot liquids.  Enter the apple chai latte!  Timothy’s has two new fall drinks on their fall seasonal menu, including the apple chai latte and the chocolate pumpkin spice lattebene (I KNOW, holy schmoly.  You can bet I’ll be coming back for that one).  Back in August, I made it a mission to try as many fall-related drink out there once all the seasonal stuff hit, so there I was happily sprinkling ground cinnamon and nutmeg into my mug and taking careful sips (or maybe slurps) as I admired my apple cinnamon cupcake. 

Delicious drink with an even more delicious cupcake!  After all these years, I’ve never actually taken advantage of seasonal drinks much, so I was really happy that this one was so yummy.  The chai flavour came out crystal clear with a zing and it smelled divine with the addition of cinnamon and nutmeg.  If you’re looking for a flavour comparision between apple cider and the apple chai latte, the chai latte is a lot less tart and the apple flavour is more blended and nuanced in it.  It’s wonderful.

And the cupcake!  The lemon cupcake I had during my first visit was yummy, but jeebus, the apple cinnamon one blew that experience out of the water.  This cupcake was SO creamy and moist and I almost shoved the whole thing in my mouth.  I like to savour my food and make my food last by taking small bites, but all resolve was lost on this sweet morsel of goodness.  The frosting was amazing.  It was thick (not thick as in paste-like, but thick as in not whippd cream-like), rich, and creamy with the perfect amount of cinnamon spice and apple flavour.  The cinnamon flavour wasn’t overkill and there were some apple crisp and nut crumbles on the frosting that give the cupcake a scrumptious bite of crunch. 

It’s a season that I relish in, not just for its natural beauty, but also for the happy nostalgia it brings.  Looking back makes me that much more excited to look forward to even more awesome things to come.

*****

Old Firehall Confectionery is located at 170 Main Street in the historic Main Street Unionville neighbourhood between Carlton Rd. and Hwy 7.  The dessert haven is located between Carlton Rd. and Fred Varley Drive.  Main Street is located just east of Kennedy Rd.  Timothy’s World Coffee is located just a few shops down the street from Old Firehall Confectionery.