Snowflakes, A Winter House, and Veggie Orange Chicken – Scrapbooking a Winter Menu at King’s Cafe

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It’s been one crazy, topsy-turvy winter this season, but one thing is for certain: we can’t resist that silent, magical feeling we feel when we watch snowflakes gently fall from the sky and the breathtaking, picturesque scenes of pure white snow on pine trees and rooftops.  We may not enjoy shovelling, and we may mumble and grumble about winter under our five layers of clothing, but we all know that feeling of serenity that comes along with the winter season.

This is why I’ve enjoyed scrapbooking winter and holiday layouts so much over the past few months.  I didn’t think I’d love it this much because in reality, I’m not much of a snow bunny, but when I put scissors to paper and stickers to cardstock, winter is one of the most beautiful and versatile themes to scrapbook.  I love using winter themed stickers and embellishments (snowflakes!  mittens!  snowmen!  hot chocolate!) and I love how I can simaltaneously play up the cool, icy colours of winter (whites, grays, and blues) and bright spring ones, such as greens and pinks, all at once.  And scrapbooking winter comfort food is so much fun because you get to focus on all the things that make you feel warm and cozy.  The hot chocolate one I made for The Hot Chocolate Series is one of my favourite layouts to date because I put so much creative energy into piecing together a colour scheme and building a winter story out of it.

You’re probably wondering why some of the photos on the scrapbook layout look so familiar, especially the one of me (hint: the photo is from a page on my main toolbar), and that’s because those photos were featured in December 2010 (yes, 2010!) during my first month of blogging in my first King’s Cafe post.  It’s taken a little over a year for me to get around to, but I finally made a scrapbook layout for it!  Let it be known that there is no rhyme or reason to the order and sequence of scrapbook layouts that I create and post here.  Sometimes I’ll create and post things a little more strategically, but really, it’s about the amount of time I have to devote to a particular layout, idea, or set of photos and this set has been waiting in the wings for months!

This layout was so much fun to make.  The layout was entirely devoted to and inspired by King’s Cafe’s seasonal winter menu.  King’s Cafe has a winter menu that they put out every year for the season and there are special menu items featured in it that are not available during the rest of the year.  For example, to my knowledge, the meal I had (the orange veggie chicken with asparagus, fruit, and green salad) is exclusive to the winter menu, along with the amazing lemongrass fried rice and many other dishes.  Scrapbooking these photos made me realize just how much more I wanted another meal at King’s Cafe – I’ve been craving their delicious food for months!

Look at the adorable winter house!

I wanted to use the bright colours from my meal and the colours I was wearing that day to guide the colour palette, and the adorable winter house pictured in the winter menu as a focal point.  I knew right off the bat that I wanted to use gray as a base and bright colours to complement the melancholy, wintry shade.  The main colour palette was a mix of gray, white, bubble gum pink, and bright sky blue with pops of green.  I used the orange from the food photos and a bit of brown to warm everything up.  I was so excited to make my own little King’s Cafe winter house out of paper and cardstock and I think it turned out pretty darn cute!  The most fun I had was actually making the windows.  The bright blue jumps off the page, I got to use my old-school brown metallic gel-pen, and windows are just fun.  They were always my favourite Lego pieces to play with!

You all know how much I adore seasonal menus (especially fall and winter ones), so we’ll see if I can around to scrapbooking more winter meals (and maybe a Hot Chocolate layout, Part II!) before the weather gets really balmy and spring is here!

*****

Scrapbooking materials used: gray, white, bubble gum pink, emerald green, powder blue, beige, chocolate brown, and cappuccino cardstock (Recollections); bright sky blue construction paper; Green Pinstripe patterned paper (Recollections Basics); holiday patterned paper (Me & My Big Ideas holiday paper mat pad); holiday striped cardstock (DCWV holiday cardstock mat pad); cream and gold foil “circus” alphabet stickers (Recollections); Christmas ornament adhesive embellishments (Recollections); “Winter” adhestive embellishment (K&Company); holographic snowflakes; scalloped edge decorative scissors (Provo Craft); deckle edge decorative scissors; circle paper punch (Marvy Uchida).

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Eating Your Weight in Vegetarian & Vegan Goodness – The Vegetarian Food Fair at Harbourfront Centre! Part I

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Whether you circled, ‘x’ed, or highlighted the days on your calendar, this weekend is the weekend that vegetarians, vegans, and foodies have been looking forward to for months in advance: the Toronto Vegetarian Food Fair at Harbourfront Centre presented by the Toronto Vegetarian Association!  The food fair runs the entire weekend (festivities commenced yesterday) and will continue on through tomorrow until 7pm in the evening.  After all these years of missing out and not being able to go, I finally made it this time and I am SO happy I did! 

Like I posted on my Facebook and Twitter, I wish the food fair took place EVERY WEEK (or, you know, day) and I wish I could just live at the veggie food fair because it was that fabulous and fun.  The big area of faux grass at Harbourfront Centre is quite nice to sit on, lay on, and dance around on, so parking a sleeping bag here really wouldn’t be an issue.  The cool breeze coming in from the lake would keep me comfortable and there’s plenty of scenery and entertainment around the vicinity to keep me occupied while I’m not eating.  I knew I would enjoy the fest, I just didn’t know I would enjoy it THIS much.

So much, in fact, that I took 120 photos.  I don’t know whether to be embarrassed or amused; 120!  I’m nothing if not overzealous.  After deleting some of the oopsie shots, I still have a good 110 to work with and I have no idea how I’m going to fit everything into a few posts!  On the way home, I quickly decided that I would split the posts up into two parts: one for savoury food and the other for sweets.  After going through all the photos, I’m not even sure I could do that.  You all wouldn’t mind two veggie dessert posts, right? 😉  Anyway, I’m going to start with the savoury foods and work my way to the sweet stuff in the next few posts! 

Knowing how crazy it would be later on in the afternoon, I got up at the crack of dawn, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed (or so I’d like to think.  I actually stumbled to smack my alarm clock shut) and got ready for a jam-packed, foodie day.  The food fair was slated to start at 12 noon, so I made my way down to Harbourfront Centre and arrived at 11:30am with plenty of time to spare.  If I was going to get photos (and avoid massive line-ups later), I needed to snap them early before I started getting flailing arms and cut-off heads in all my shots!  It was such a gorgeous day out and the atmosphere was bubbly with excitement and enjoyment as people took their seats at picnic tables and on the faux grass area to listen to live music on the main stage, as people grabbed free samples of food before food demos, and as people scooted from booth to booth with lots of delicious food in their hands.

I was picking up flyers, business cards, and promo materials left and right, trying samples, and scoping out a ton of options before settling down with a delicious lunch.  There was SO MUCH to see and try.  There were booths and booths of vegan desserts up the wazoo by many well-known and well-loved bakeries in and around the city selling everything from cookies, cupcakes, cream sandwiches, donuts, squares, pastries, fruit crisps, brownies, and more.  There was vegetarian and vegan Indian, Chinese, and Mexican food, fresh fruit and fruit smoothes, veggie barbeque, veggie turkey and Thanksgiving-esque meals, and plenty of retailers with snacks, take-home pantry and freezer foods, and handmade goods. 

I was trying roasted soybeans from The Bean Ladies and I fell in love with the Gotta Be Garlic ones and the Cracked Pepper and Lime ones.  Kind Food gave me cookie samples, Tofu Shirataki by House Foods  handed me sesame ginger tofu stir-fry, and I licked my sample of cinnamon raisin swirl peanut butter clean from Peanut Butter and Co.’s booth.  I walked away with a jar of The Bees Knee’s honey peanut butter and a tote bag so stinkin’ cute it makes me squeal.  What an amazing foodie marketplace it was today!  This fair didn’t just showcase Toronto’s vegetarian and vegan culture, but also great eats from Oakville, Burlington, Ottawa, and even New York!

And for lunch?  I stepped on up to the World Cafe.  Harbourfront Centre hosts a World Cafe every weekend during the summer (May 21st to October 10th this year), with ethnic and international cuisine catered by restaurants and eateries around the city.  The World Cafe is kind of like a food pavillion and outdoor patio lakeside deck at Harbourfront Centre, housed in a square building with vendors on all sides and tables and chairs for everyone to sit down and enjoy their food.  The name of the game was vegetarian and vegan on all fronts, and some of Toronto’s lovely veggie eateries were doing the honours in World Cafe today: King’s Cafe, Udupi Palace, Green Earth Vegetarian Cuisine, Nzyme Living Foods Bistro & Juice Bar, Govinda’s (a vegetarian and vegan buffet), and El Cilantro Catering.  And to my delight, prices for food were incredibly reasonable!  There were some great sharing plate options for $10, and lots of meals for $4-$5 and appetizers for $1-$2.

I wish my tummy was a bottomless pit that had no threat of getting sick or fat because I wanted to eat everything!  I was mega happy with what I noshed on though: tostadas from El Cilantro!  Three crispy corn tostadas with refried beans, lettuce, crumbled feta, sour cream, and lots of juicy pico de gallo salsa!  And to take home in my little tupperware container were some soy nuggets from King’s Cafe.  I inhaled these on the subway after I reluctantly left the fest.  I told myself that I would save them for dinner later on.  Then I rationalized with myself and allowed myself one bite.  I took a bite and all hell broke loose as I scarfed the whole thing down.  They were so good and you can better I’ll get these the time time I go to King’s Cafe.  I could eat these for the rest of my life and die happy.

Parts II and III to follow in the coming days!  Prepare that sweet tooth of yours because it’s going to be jaw-dropping awesome.

*****

The Toronto Vegetarian Association (TVA) is located at 17 Baldwin St., 2nd floor (near the corner of Baldwin St. and McCaul St., south of Cecil St.).  To learn more about TVA’s mandate, events, news, and more, click here.  The Harbourfront Centre is located at 235 Queens Quay West.  For more info on their festivals, events, workshops, gallery shows, and more, click here.

On the Chinese Lunar Calendar, Today’s the Day: It’s Green Leaf Sticky Rice Day!

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Even though I don’t follow the Chinese Lunar calendar, my grandparents, older relatives, and my mom, to an extent, do.  I was informed the other day then, that today is what I refer to as “greef leaf sticky rice” day 😀  In Cantonese, we refer to them as “joong” and there’s a period of time every year (around May and June) that our older Chinese relatives will make them in honour of the Dragon Boat Festival.  I feel like a doof because I’m constantly mixing this up with the Mid-Autumn Chinese Festival that happens in September with the moon cakes! 

Anyway.  Let it be known that I actually don’t really eat these wrapped packets of sticky rice as I’m rather indifferent to sticky rice.  However, my parents, brother, best friend, and even my hairdresser do and they love them.  They’re very popular in dim sum and traditional Chinese and Cantonese cuisine, as well as other Asian cuisines such as Japanese and Cambodian.  In a nutshell, a packet of sticky rice (or glutinous rice) is stuffed with a number of different fillings and then wrapped in “green leaves”, which can take the form of banana leaves, lotus leaves, bamboo leaves, etc.  The packets of sticky rice are then tied and secured with string and then steamed (as you see above in the little dim sum steamer) and served as a meal.

Back in the day, my grandmother would make SO many of these for us and my mom would stick them in the freezer and my mom, dad, and brother would eat them and unload from the freezer as they went along.  These are labour-intensive though so my grandma hasn’t made these in quite a number of years because, well, she’s not getting any younger!  My hairdresser has even given us a bag of them to eat in past years.  My grandma would stuff them with everything from cured Chinese sausage (lap-cheung), chestnuts, peanuts, beans, edamame, pork, and lots of other stuff.  You can drizzle them with a bit of soy sauce and eat them as a savoury meal, or you can even drizzle some of them with honey if they are made as a sticky rice dessert with syrup. 

You can definitely order these green leaf sticky rice packets anytime during the year at a number of dim sum places (the first picture up top is one I took at King’s Cafe in Kensington Market), and you can even find them in Chinese supermarkets already steamed and cooked at times, like the mini ones I took a photo of!  The “green leaf” day, as I refer to it, is just a special time during the year that the consumption of these is more popular.

My apologies for the lack of interior shots though.  I promise when I get some I’ll update the post!  In the meantime, enjoy the cuteness of the mini ones my mom bought at the Foody Mart Chinese supermarket here in Markham.  Oh, and if you’re wondering why I have a strawberry in my photos it’s because my dad said to me, “you should put a strawberry beside them to show just how teeny and cute they are”.  Oh dad, always the thinker, haha!  And so I did.  I think it looks quite cute.  Happy “Green Leaf Sticky Rice” Day!

My Vegetarian Oasis After a Long (and I Mean LONG!) Dundas West Trek – Lemongrass Fried Rice at King’s Café

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Although I love King’s Café very much, I did not actually intend to eat there this past week.  So there is a story here.  If you’ve been reading and following my blog, you know how deeply I love the city and the joy it brings me to explore and learn as much as I possibly can.  However, my exploration of the city and my love for all things food will sometimes get the best of me and I will do crazy things! 

This past Monday I went back to Bunner’s Bake Shop in the morning for a chocolate chip cookie creamie sandwich (because I can seriously eat these babies every day oh my god.  Creamie blog post coming soon!) and then proceeded to go on the longest trek of my life within a morning window.  And when I say long trek, I mean long!  I thought to myself, “I want to go back to Kensington Market but eh, I’d really rather not use another bus token to get there.  Let’s walk it and see how far I can get!  And I can explore Dundas West to my heart’s content!  I can take pictures!  Yeah, let’s do that!”  That was one heck of a motivational talk I had with myself.  So I put my mitts on, stuck my knitted hat on my head and went on my way and by the end of it, I walked from Keele St. alllll the way back east to Spadina!  In one morning.  On foot.  And it was chilly out.  To put this into perspective for those who don’t live in Toronto or who only have a vague sense of direction, I walked a total of 6.3 km!  I was, and still am, uber proud of myself 😀

Needless to say, I was one tired cookie by lunch time!  I was even shocked with how ambitious I was taking that long of a walk through the city, good lordy.  I made my way back to Kensington Market, walked into the vegetarian oasis that is my lovely King’s Café, and collapsed into a cushy chair.  It was time for some food and the belly eagerly wanted some lemongrass fried rice!  I’ve written about King’s twice on the blog since I started it, once back in December on Christmas eve and another time in January, not to mention I took my family there back in February for the first time.  For the past few months I’ve been craving the lemongrass fried rice from their special winter menu because my family and I loved it so much when we ordered it.  I quickly flipped through the menu and was ecstatic to find that their winter menu selections were still there.  So I happily ordered the lemongrass fried rice.  I’m no fool; I wasn’t about to pass  up something that 1) I was craving for months and 2) that was probably not going to be around for much longer!

This rice seriously kicks the ass of anything with meat in it.  Trust me when I say that any meat-eating person won’t miss the meat and any vegetarian and vegan will prance around the room with glee over it.  My dad and brother, who are “manly men” meat-eaters, loved this rice.  And this also isn’t your typical mixed veggies vegetable fried rice either.  The lemongrass fried rice has amazing ginger flavour to it and the edameme beans and strips and chunks of bean curd MAKE this rice. 

The dish has goji berries in it as well and although they give the dish another dimension of flavour with a bit of sweetness and a spicy, minty bite, I actually think the rice could do without them because the rest of the dish is so amazing on its own.  The bean curd in the rice just blows me away.  It’s crispy and it gives the rice its body and protein.  I love it because it’s different from any other fried rice I’ve had, it’s flavourful without being greasy, and it’s fresh quality.  You get a big plate of it (I think even 2 people could share this!) with some freshly steamed broccoli and it’s a meal that doesn’t make you feel like collapsing into hibernation afterward.

Another thing that I absolutely love about King’s Café is how they nail the ginger flavour.  Most times I find ginger to be too overwhelming and with too much of that spicy bite to it.  The way they use ginger here is fantastic though and it’s demonstrated in the fried rice as well as in their ginger “chicken” dish which I would recommend to anyone.  It was my mom and brother’s favourite when I ate here with my family, and it’s also one of my mine.  I guzzled down glasses of lime water and wolfed down half my plate of rice and took the rest back with in a doggy bag (which by the way is adorable, ha).  This was the perfect meal to refuel my tired (but happy!) body last Monday after that crazy long trek through Dundas West.  Look out for pictures from my walk, as well as my Bunner’s Bake Shop creamie post!  I hope everyone is having a great start to the long Easter weekend!

*****

King’s Café is located at 192 Augusta Ave (accessible from both Dundas and College St, just west of Spadina) and is open at 11:30am seven days a week until 9:30pm from Monday-Saturday, and until 9pm on Sundays.         

A Vegetarian Par-tay! Coming Together With Friends at King’s Café

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“Food is our common ground, a universal experience” – James Beard

King’s Café in Kensington holds some really wonderful memories for me.  I first wrote about this fantabulous Chinese vegetarian restaurant on Christmas eve after spending some quality stuffing-our-face-and-bellies time with my bestie, Melissa.  And I am so happy that I have another amazing memory from here to tuck away in my mental time capsule (and my scrapbook!).  Over a month before the holidays even started, I got the opportunity to meet some of my beloved online friends who were coming in from out of town for a weekend in Toronto, friends that I had known and conversed with for years through my computer screen but had never actually seen or met in person.  So on the first weekend of November, I got together with a great group of friends for some awesome veggie eats and a day out on the town!

This get-together was so, SO much fun!  We ate.  We gabbed.  We laughed.  We snapped a gazillion pictures.  And most importantly, we sat and relaxed and enjoyed a fantastic meal among friends.  I don’t know about you, but as I’ve gotten older, it has become increasingly difficult to hang out with friends in a group, with friends being out of town, in school, working, and just  plain busy with the day-to-day.  People can’t make it, people bail, whatever the reason, it takes a lot of effort to co-ordinate a meet-up.  I mean, sure, times with friends one-on-one and with your significant other mean a lot.  At times it’s even hair-pulling trying to co-ordinate time for that!  But there’s something to be said about getting a group of friends together and enjoying each’s other company; it’s a heart-warming feeling and you realize how much you miss it and cherish it when you’re in it.

And I loved my food SO MUCH!  I drank the most amazingly delicious vanilla milkshake ($4.25)  in my entire life at King’s Café oh my lordy!  It was sweet, creamy, and smooth and quite possibly heaven in liquid form *wiggles with glee*. 

As for solid food, we all ordered lots of different things: Richard had the veggie ginger chicken, Wini had some hot n’ sour soup with her meal, a few friends ordered bento meal sets, my friend Maree ordered the spicy eggplant dish, and I ordered the sweet n’ sour bites ($9.99), yuuuummmm.  The sweet n’ sour bites were made from TVP (textured vegetable protein, made from soy) and were mixed with tons of deliciousness: green and red bell peppers, mushrooms, snow peas, and pineapple chunks in a sweet n’ sour sauce.  To go along with it, a warm bowl of purple rice!  In terms of texture, the bites reminded me of those soft tofu poofs that my mum buys sometimes at the Chinese supermarkets.  The portions are hearty and very satisfying.  And because I eat slow (and talk a lot, haha), I was the last person hacking away at her meal when everyone else was already finished, whoops! 😀

Believe it or not, this was only the 2nd time I had ever been to King’s Café!  Surprising considering how much I love it here, right?  I don’t know why I never got around to coming back more, but I’m happy that the times I have come have all been sweet and memorable.  The very first time I came here was back in the 2007, right around the end of August.  My beloved friend Jen and I were exploring Kensington and stumbled on this eatery and loved it from the get-go.  And you can bet that I’ll be back many times to come 😀 

*****

King’s Café is located at 192 Augusta Ave. in Kensington Market (accessible from both Dundas and College St, just west of Spadina) and is open at 11:30am seven days a week until 9:30pm from Monday-Saturday, and until 9pm on Sundays.         

Scrapbooking materials used: moss green, golden rod, and white cardstock (Recollections); patterned paper (DCVW); black and white polka dotted epoxy alphabet stickers (atd); coloured alphabet stickers (K&Company); Asian food stickers (Decole Style, Kamio Japan Inc.; Jolee’s).

A thank you to Wini for allowing me to use her cute photo as the focal point on the first page 😀