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

Leave a comment

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!

*****

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.

Something Special to Call Your Own – Countryside Strawberry Trifle in a Sweet Little Jar at Simple Bistro, Part II

2 Comments

When I think of summer desserts, I think of fresh summer berries, juicy sorbets, and sweet, creamy custards and puddings in their frozen and non-frozen states.  I think of chasing down the ice cream truck and devouring soft serve ice cream cones like they’re about to go out of style.  And then there are the childhood memories of turning your tongue purple from licking popsicles and getting brain freeze from chugging freezies down at the speed of light.  As fabulous as those things are, summer just got a lot more interesting: savour the sweet taste of summer with dessert – in a jar! 

What used to be exclusively reserved for canning and preserving and holding spaghetti sauce and pickles in many of our kitchen pantries has now transformed into chic DIY food projects and a creative and adorable way of presenting desserts.  People are using little (and sometimes not so little) glass jars to create one-of-a-kind gifts and some very cute and portable sweet treats, and I think part of the appeal lies not only in the aesthetic but also in the singularity and portion control factor along with the “Ooo, this is special and was made just for me!” type of mentality.  The humble little glass and metal food storage container has taken the foodie world by storm: granola and yogurt parfaits in a jar, layered cookie and cake mix in a jar, cookbooks devoted to these decadent little morsels (the brand spankin’ new Desserts in Jars: 50 Sweet Treats that Shine by Shaina Olmanson!) and in the case of Mount Pleasant’s Simple Bistro, summer strawberry trifle in a jar!

Simple Bistro’s dessert menu is comprised of four different desserts ($9 a la carte or $4 when you order one along with you meal) including a vanilla blancmange (a dessert similar to that of a panna cotta) with blueberry compote and candied mint leaves, a lemon curd tart with Limoncello chantilly and candied lemon zest, a chocolate Black Forest cake with milk chocolate mousse, dark chocolate ganache, and kirsch soaked cherries, and my belove dessert, the strawberrry trifle!

Like any food decision I make, this choice entailed a ton of hemming and hawwing.  My thought process: “How could I give up an opportunity to have something lemon?  Vanilla and blueberry are a perfect combination!  I really don’t eat vanilla desserts often enough” and so on and so forth.  The strawberry trifle sounded so lovely though so I made up my mind and stuck with it.  I had no idea this dessert was going to be THIS fabulously adorable!  And of course, wonderfully delicious! 

When my little strawberry trifle in a jar arrived at my table, I gaped at it for the longest time trying to wrap my head around the fact that my dessert was brought me to in a sweet little country farmhouse jar filled and layered with little strawberries, light-as-air crème patissière (sweet pastry cream custard), little lady fingers, and Fragoli strawberry liqueur.  Even though I’m not 100% sure about this, my gut was telling me the strawberries were Ontario ones, just from the size and sweet taste of them.  I had Ontario strawberries at their peak last month and as soon as I bit into one, I knew right off the bat that’s what they were without even being told or without the strawberries even being labelled as such. 

The dessert was amazing.  I couldn’t believe how fluffy and airy it was and oh my goodness, the lady fingers were to die for!  These were not your run-of-the-mill bone-dry lady fingers that are way too cakey for their own good.  These were sweet little lady finger biscuits sprinkled with sugar (my guess would have to be demerara sugar) and they tasted SO unbelivably good with their bright and sweet syrupy, caramel taste.  The dessert in a jar just made it all the more summer-like, like it was made to be eaten out in the countryside on a porch on a summer day.  It was delightful and the perfect ending to my summer morning brunch meal.  

*****

Simple Bistro is located at 618 Mount Pleasant Rd between Eglinton Ave. East and Davisville Ave. in Mount Pleasant Village.  They serve weekend brunch on Saturday and Sunday from 11am-2:30pm.  Visit their website HERE to view their menus and for more info.

Chinese Bakery Swiss Roll Cakes & Blackberries – The Summer Berry “Bread Pudding” Yogurt Parfait

Leave a comment

Inspired by trifles and bread puddings: sponge cake cubes as the backdrop of my latest summer yogurt parfait!  Every time I think of trifles, I laugh and snort because I’m reminded of the F.R.I.E.N.D.S. episode in Season 6 where Rachel is in charge of making Thanksgiving dessert at Monica’s.  She decides to make a pretty, fancy trifle, only to get the recipe mixed up (magazine pages stuck together – whoops!), thus ending up with half a trifle and half of what appears to be shepherd’s pie: “We have a layer of lady fingers, and then a layer of peas and onions…”; and don’t even get me started on Ross’s, “it tastes like feet!” comment!  Ha!

Lucky for me, no shepherd’s pie and trifle mix-up on my end, just good old fashioned sponge cake with yogurt – a little like a trifle because of all the layering, fruits, and cake, and a little like a bread pudding with the bread “soaked” fruit and yogurt mixture!  In my breakfast bowl we have vanilla and mango sponge cake cubes, dried cranberries, plump blackberries, strawberry yogurt, honey nut flake cereal (I know it’s hard to see since the poor things are buried, but I promise they’re there!) and shredded coconut.

I don’t eat sponge cake very often, but there’s this one Chinese bakery in Scarborough called Kin-Kin Bakery (specifically the one in Agincourt Mall) that makes the BEST Chinese sponge-cake swiss rolls!  These swiss roll cakes, in general, can either be absolutely fabulous or absolutely horrid (think dry, crumbly, and tough to eat) and after many years of trying out different bakeries, my family has finally found our holy grail Chinese bakery for these lovely swiss roll sponge cake logs at Kin-Kin and every single one of their cake flavours are delicious.  My favourite flavour, hands down, is their mango one and I decided to use a slice to pretty up my morning breakfast.  For a really decadent parfait in the future, I’m thinking chocolate sponge cake swiss roll, strawberries, chocolate chips, and vanilla yogurt – yet another opportunity to make breakfast sweet and fun.

It’s Strawberry Season! A Strawberry Shortcake Style Yogurt Parfait

Leave a comment

It’s strawberry season!  Aside from strawberry ice cream, I loooove strawberry desserts and I’m really excited about the prospect of possibly going strawberry picking this summer.  I just need to find the right farm that’s not too far away, bring a floppy hat, and wear some comfortable pants and shoes and I’ll be good to go!  I’ve never been strawberry picking before and I want to so much.  The thought of bringing home a mini truckload of strawberries makes me giddy because it’s one of the few “pickable” fruits that I’m not allergic to!  I went cherry picking once when I was little down in Niagara, before my cherry allergy developed, and I remember having such a fun time, holding my little basket and filling it to the brim with plump cherries. 

We’ll see if the strawberry picking trip pans out, but in the meantime, I’m celebrating the strawberry love with a strawberry shortcake style yogurt parfait!  What we have here: vanilla yogurt, sliced strawberries, crunchy honey granola, and white chocolate chips.  I completely forgot about the graham cracker crumbles for this concoction, but it was yummy nevertheless because strawberries and white chocolate are meant to be and any excuse to use white chocolate is a good one.  

I’m going to keep my eye out for any and all strawberry fests in town over the next little while and although this is wishful thinking, I really hope Il Fornello will bring back their special strawberry themed menu from two years ago.  I never got the chance to try anything off of it and would love to go crazy and indulge in a 3-course meal chock full of stawberries!  There were so amazing strawberry dishes on that menu, both sweet and savoury, and you can bet I’d be posting up a storm here if I got the opportunity to take advantage of it the second time around.  So, with baked goods and savoury eats in mind, here’s to many delicious strawberry goodies over the course of the summer! 

All Dressed Up and Only One Place to Go: My Tummy! Berries and The Yogurt Parfait Breakfast Cocktail Party

Leave a comment

I call this concoction the Yogurt Parfait Cocktail Party!  For those of you who know me by my online pseudonym, you get the significance.  On the menu for yogurt parfait breakfast number two: peaches n’ cream yogurt topped with diced fruit cocktail of pears, peaches, pineapple, and maraschino cherries, drained (remember, I can only eat these particular fruits canned or cooked!), strawberries, blueberries, crunchy honey vanilla granola, and shredded coconut.  Words of wisdom: if the parfait is not colourful, it’s not good enough, and there is no such thing as too much granola and coconut.  The combination soaks up any excess moisture (nobody likes a soggy parfait) and they just taste good together.  I went back for multiple fistfuls throughout the meal – like my yogurt mountain wasn’t big enough as it was!  In the end, all dressed up and only one place to go: in my tummy.

A Berry Good Morning! Strawberry Blueberry Aunt Jemima Pancakes

2 Comments

Another edition of Aunt Jemima pancakes!  This time with lots of strawberries and blueberries for a very fruit pancake 😀  It’s been so much fun experimenting with different fruits and fillings and there is a lot more I want to try.  My mum and I had ourselves a field day on Saturday at Bulk Barn, picking up almonds, walnuts, granola mix, and lots of other goodies for baking!  It’s going to be a fun next few weeks, yay.  So far I’ve done plain banana with some sliced bananas and strawberries on top, and banana with dried fruit and nuts mixed in with the batter and sprinkled on top (dried cranberries with golden raisins, pumpkin seeds, and cashews).  This time we wanted to try a berry pancake so we mashed up about a pint of strawberries (yes, again with my beloved potato masher.  This thing is a godsend) and used around half a pint of blueberries.  We added the mashed strawberries to the pancake batter and gently folded in the blueberries.  The result was a sweet, fluffy, fruit pancake!

The pancakes were fluffier and had that tart sweetness from the juicy fruits!  These cook differently from the ones with banana in them though.  There’s more moisture from the fruit and it takes more time for the pancake batter to be completely cooked through so as a note, definitely let them hang out in the pan longer so they have a bit more time to crisp up and brown.  You don’t want soggy pancakes!  I had myself two large pancakes with powdered sugar dusted on top and lots of sliced strawberries, blueberries, sliced almonds, and honey!  I love fruit for breakfast and I’m warming up to different kinds of nuts so I really enjoyed these.  I’m thinkin’ tropical for next week 😀

The Aunt Jemima Pancake Mix Experiment: Banana Buttermilk Pancakes

4 Comments

Bananas were never one of my favourite fruits when I was little.  I preferred other fruits like apples and melons, but because I developed some nasty allergies to a bunch of fruits during my teens, I was forced to reevaluate my fruit diet and I’m really glad I did.   I nosh on fruit like it’s going out of style and I take advantage of its versatility by using them in yogurt, dried fruit and granola mixes, and of course, cooking.  Over the past several years I’ve been finding myself reaching for a banana much more often, especially as part of my breakfast.  And I love baking and cooking with bananas too!  Awhile ago, I made a post and showed you all some French toast I had cooked up and just this past weekend, I had pancakes!  

My mum had bought a box of Aunt Jemima’s Buttermilk pancake mix and at first, I was skeptical.  When she told me, I scoffed and thought, “pancake mix in a box?  Ugh, we could make our pancakes from scratch, mum, why??”  So I went into our Aunt Jemima pancake experiment not really knowing what to expect.  Were they going to be dry?  Hard?  I hoped not because I really wanted pancakes and I was looking forward to mashing my bananas with my potato masher.  Call me selfish.

The directions were simple: for every 1 cup of pancake mix, add 3/4 of water.  Simple!  No eggs, no additional ingredients.  Just plain water.  The pancake mix itself contains wheat flour, corn flour, buttermilk powder, and dried egg yolk.  1 cup of pancake mix was said to yield around 6 to 7 pancakes 10 cm (or 4 inches) in diameter per pancake, but hey, we were feeding 4 people for breakfast and wanted bigger pancakes, so we doubled the amount to 2 cups of pancake mix and 1 1/2 cups of water.  It worked just fine and there was enough for all 4 of us to eat, so mission accomplished! 

We had plenty of bananas, so I sliced and mashed 2 of them, and sliced and reserved a 3rd for fruit topping later.  I added the mashed bananas to the pancake batter and mixed the batter until large lumps disappeared.  When you’re mixing up any kind of pancake batter, be sure not to over mix!  You’ll end up with cardboard hard pancakes and that is not sexy.  We used a soup ladle to ladle the batter into our skillet, which was over a medium-high heat, and added a drizzle of vegetable oil when needed.  When bubbles started to form and the edges crisped and browned, we flipped.  Easy!  And voila!  Banana buttermilk pancakes for breakfast!

How did they taste?  They tasted freakin’ amazing!  SO soft and moist and not “cakey” in the least.  The addition of the bananas made these so flavourful and it was like tasting banana cake without actually eating cake.  They were so yummy and I was really happy that they turned out so well.  Thumbs up on this one, Aunt Jemima! 😀  To jazz up my pancakes, I dusted them with a little powdered sugar, topped them with sliced bananas and fresh strawberries, and drizzled a little bit of honey over top.  Heavenly breakfast!  The pancakes themselves were fab, but the fruit and honey gave it a bit of subtle sweetness and juiciness, so A+ on all counts.  And I’m so, so excited to experiment a little more with pancake toppings and other fruits.  I’m thinking blueberry almond, apricot almond, apple cinnamon, and maybe a tropical themed one too.  Yay pancakes!