The Best Food Court Meal I’ve Ever Had

Hey, hey, hey! Quick update on everything, now that September is coming to a close.

Yes, I know that many of my previous posts were flashbacks to my short time at home in BC. And as much as I wish I was back in BC, chowing on croissants every morning, I’m actually living in Scarborough, a quiet, academic suburb of Toronto. You might remember the little tour post that I did of my room/bathroom/kitchen and my office at work.

Remember my day at SLXCA in downtown Toronto? On the same day, I went to the Kensington Market, where I stopped at Hibiscus Cafe and devoured this buckwheat crepe with brie, roasted apples, pecans, arugula, and avocado. Super beautiful, yes, but the flavours needed a little something (maybe pepper?).

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Most of my eats at home have been simple, but oh-so-delicious. This quiche was from the farmer’s market, and I’ve been purchasing one little one every week. Truly the best crust I’ve ever had.

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Soups have also been making regular appearances, along with scones.

I found out recently that the uwaterloolife Instagram account featured me! I’ve seen my paragliding photo from Nepal 2016 used in several University of Waterloo Study Abroad advertisements. I was thrilled to see this post, shared with me by a friend, since I don’t have my own Instagram.

Pumpkin seeds, guys! Why did it take me so long to fall in love with them?

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On a tragic note, I finished all my sunflower butter. I suppose that merits another trip to Trader Joe’s once I return to BC? 😏

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Life at the college has been good, too. My students, for the most part, have been incredibly dedicated, well-prepared, and ready to learn and work hard. Thank you ❤

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Check out this stunning stretch that I walk down, each time I go to the Dollarama, Bulk Barn, and Food Basics plaza. Gorgeous, right? I had no idea that Scarborough would be so dramatically different from downtown Toronto.

Dollarama is a lifesaver. I love my soft slippers and the Halloween decorations that I purchased for my office. It’s never too early for Halloween, if you ask me.

Now this! O-M-G (part 1). On Saturday, I visited Scarborough Town Centre, the local mall, where I enjoyed this amazing lunch from Naan&Kebab. You see, I was expecting a greasy, sticky mess with dry, hard pieces of chicken, and perhaps a couple limp leaves.

Nope, nope, nope. What did I get instead?

  • two generously-sized pieces of piping hot, toasted naan bread
  • a large helping of basmati rice cooked in savoury beef broth, mixed with shredded carrots and plenty of plump, juicy raisins
  • six large, tender, flavourful and spiced chunks of chicken
  • a creamy, rich, and spiced just-right chickpea stew
  • romaine lettuce, red cabbage, mixed vegetables, and two types of salsa, with a creamy spiced yogurt on top

For less than $12. I tried to save half for a future meal, but I knew after my first few bites that it wasn’t happening – it was too fresh and tasty, so I happily finished it all. Next time, I’m going to try the paneer version!

Sweet Jesus is pretty much a legend in Toronto. Everyone knows about it, and most people have tried it. Well, on Saturday, I got to see what the hype was all about. I chose the vanilla and chocolate swirl ice cream. A generous drizzle of Nutella was artfully drizzled on top of the soft serve, and the entire thing was coated in crunchy chopped pistachios and cornflakes. The soft serve itself reminded me of Costco ice cream. My only complaint is that it was physically hard to eat, simply because of the size of the ice cream compared to the size of the cup. It got pretty messy, but I should have asked for a larger cup, or at least some napkins.

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The same day, I cooked up a vegetarian chili for dinner.

Vegetarian Chili

Serves 4-6

INGREDIENTS

  • 1.5 tsp oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/3 cup chopped carrots
  • 1.5 cloves minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 1/3 cup chopped celery (I omitted since I didn’t find any)
  • 1 scant tbsp chili powder
  • 3/4 cup chopped mushrooms
  • 14 oz can diced tomatoes with liquid, chopped or crushed
  • 10+ oz kidney beans
  • 10+ oz black beans
  • 5+ oz whole kernel corn
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • black pepper
  • cayenne
  • cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp dried oregano
  • 3/4 tsp dried basil

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Heat oil and saute all vegetables with chili powder. Add salt.
  2. Stir in tomatoes, kidney beans, black beans, and corn. Season with remaining spices. Stir in pumpkin.
  3. Boil, then reduce heat to medium.
  4. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir occasionally.

The chili itself was a winner! These are some of the topping ideas that I’ll be using next time. This time, I kept it simple with some shredded cheddar.

TOPPINGS

  • cheddar cheese (personal favourite)
  • sour cream, creme fraiche, or thick plain yogurt
  • lime
  • avocado
  • cornbread
  • rice

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I saw some kind of list about Top 10 Fall Soups (or something!), and had the urge to create a big pot of chicken and wild rice soup. Since I didn’t want to buy and cook chicken, I subbed in an entire carton of white mushrooms. I really enjoyed this soup, especially on the second day with extra salt.

Creamy Mushroom Wild Rice Soup

Serves 5

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 tbsp butter, or oil
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 1/2 cup diced carrot
  • white or cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • shallot
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup AP flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup cooked wild rice
  • 1/2 tsp dried parsley flakes
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • black pepper

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat.
  2. Add onions, celery, and carrots. Cook until tender, about 7 mins. Add mushrooms and shallot.
  3. Stir in garlic clove. Cook for another minute, until fragrant. Add flour until dissolved.
  4. Slowly stir in milk, 1/4 cup at a time, stirring frequently until thickened. Add broth, wild rice, parsley, garlic, thyme, bay leaf, and season with salt and pepper.
  5. Bring to a low boil. Reduce to simmer, cook for 30-40 minutes.
  6. Remove bay leaf.
  7. Serve!

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And that’s pretty much it for today! I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend.

10 Questions

Name the number one thing on your bucket list.

  • Scuba diving or snorkeling!

Go-to exercise routine?

  • Long walk in the park, or yoga.

Would you rather repeat the same day for a month, or repeat every single day twice for the rest of your life?

  • This is trippy – is “neither” an option? I think it would be neat to repeat every single day twice, so you can make things right. But for the rest of my life? Does that mean I can live until 160? Whoa.

What are your three most important components for optimal health?

  • Self-love, good spices (so you can make veggies taste good!), and clothes that motivate you to move.

Do you prefer spending leisure time with friends or by yourself?

  • By myself. Interesting Wikipedia articles, here I come.

Have any secret talents?

  • I can fold my tongue into a flower with three petals! I gotta show you guys some pics one day.

Weirdest food combination that you think surprisingly works?

  • Some people think tea with milk and honey is weird, but I always found it normal and absolutely delicious. I also love seafood with cheese, like in Hong Kong style baked seafood rice with béchamel sauce and broiled with cheese. Another one – toast topped with nut butter, sliced banana, cinnamon, and get this – chopped prunes!

Describe your perfect vacation getaway!

  • Thinking about vacation makes me so happy, but it is really impossible to choose. At this moment, I’m envisioning a couple of weeks in Casablanca, Morocco, or Tunis, Tunisia. I’d give away half my belongings to visit Carthage, in Tunisia! You must google Essaioura, and Sidi Bou Saïd, right now, because they are so stunning. Oh, and French Polynesia. I’d love to see the Baie d’Along.

If you had your own garden, what would you grow?

  • I would grow strawberries and green onions. Strawberries because I love them, and I think they look cute when growing, and green onions because they are super easy. It would be neat to always have green onions at your fingertips for a good ‘ol stir-fry.

Where would you go during a full day of restaurant hopping?

  • Chocolate almond croissant and a rich hot chocolate from a French patisserie for breakfast à all kinds of sushi for lunch à a London Fog (Earl Grey tea latte) from a café in the midafternoon à variety plate of Indian food for dinner (palak paneer must be involved!) à freshly-made ice cream sandwiches from a food truck for dessert.

In your honest opinion, do you believe in good luck, or is hard work the only component to success?

  • I definitely believe in good luck. Success depends on who you meet, when you do things, where you do things. You need to be at the right place at the right time for success in certain cases. Though, I know that the harder you work, the luckier you get. J Maybe hard work comes with luck, but luck can’t stand alone?

Thanks, Cassie, for these questions! It only took, eh, three months for me to get around to it…

 

The Vancouver Pastry Taste-off

Ultimate 5-Sentence Backstory: I love almond croissants. I really, really, really love almond croissants. I left my home in BC to come back to Ontario for work. Dad offered to take me on a Vancouver almond croissant tour. I was told to not be too greedy…

#1

Yes, I know it’s not a croissant… but why don’t we talk about it anyways?

Sour cherry buckwheat scone from Purebread Bakery ($4.50): crispy exterior, very tender inside, excellent flavour with a strong, toasty, grainy (but not excessive) buckwheat taste. I really enjoyed it. The texture is crumbly, which I really like and look for in a good scone, and it is studded with fairly large, juicy dried cherries. This is one of my favourite scones of all time, and in fact, I chose to come to Purebread for this scone, which I’ve had before (and have been thinking about, ever since). I vaguely remember there being white chocolate chunks in this scone previously, but I did not find any chunks of white chocolate this time.

#2

Almond croissant from Sweet Victory Bakery ($9.50 for the croissant and a London Fog tea latte): firm, loose/separated layers, chewy, hard, scantily-filled. This was my least favourite croissant because it was more hard than crispy, causing me to suspect that it had been baked a day or two ago. I picked up a London Fog tea latte from Sweet Victory, and enjoyed it greatly, despite it being a little cooler than I would’ve liked – they nailed the flavour and I liked the touch of latte art, which I rarely see on tea lattes. Completely unrelated: the bakery itself was quite nice, and I loved the modern décor (marble, geometric gold, wood finishings).

#3

Double-baked almond croissant from Thomas Haas: heartily-filled, and the almond filling was reminiscent of blanched almond flour. It was not very gooey, and held its shape nicely. The layers were buttery, and the exterior crisp (not hard). There was much more filling than the almond croissant from Sweet Victory, and the texture was better as well. In fact, Thomas Haas’s almond croissant beat the almond croissant from Sweet Victory in every sense: taste, texture, and in my opinion, presentation. This croissant was my dad’s second favourite, and my mom and I ranked it third place.

#4

Lavender Earl Grey scone from Purebread Bakery ($4.50): lavender haters beware – this scone was extremely strong in lavender flavour. I could barely detect the Earl Grey, and had I not known it was a lavender Earl Grey scone, I would’ve assumed it was purely lavender. My dad disliked this scone greatly, as he hates lavender. You can smell the lavender from quite a distance away. My favourite thing about this scone was the dense, buttery texture. I don’t want to say that it was fudge-like, but it was truly a dense, thick scone with immense buttery flavour.

#5

Almond pistachio croissant from Thomas Haas: this croissant had a large “puff”, in that there was a lot of air space between the base, where the filling ended, and the peak of the croissant. The filling was minimal. Unlike Delysees (Toronto), where the pistachio croissant is filled to the brim with gooey pistachio paste, this croissant had a mere smudge of pistachio-almond paste, which was disappointing. The texture of the pistachio was similar to chestnut, noted my mom. My dad pointed out that the filling could be saltier. This croissant was truly a disappointment; I would’ve liked to see at least six times as much filling and a crispier exterior, as if it’d been double-baked like the almond croissant from Thomas Haas. Both Thomas Haas croissants came in cute paper bags (unlike the paper bags from other places), and I was offered a nice plastic bag to hold the two.

#6

Double baked rhubarb cheesecake croissant from Beaucoup Bakery ($4.60): fantastic topping. The topping of this double baked rhubarb cheesecake croissant was the best of the batch. I loved the crispiness of the top, as well as the caramelized sugar on the base. As for the filling, the rhubarb was cooked until very tender, though not mushy, and carried its signature sour flavour. The sweet, crusty exterior provided excellent contrast to the sour-tender filling of the rhubarb and cheesecake. My mom noted that the cheesecake filling tasted like sour cream, so it would’ve been nice to detect some citrus or vanilla notes in the cheesecake batter filling. On a different note, we felt that the chunks of rhubarb inside were too big and would’ve been more enjoyable if they were cut smaller.

#7

Chocolate almond croissant from Beaucoup Bakery ($4.60): incredible croissant. My dad ranked this one in second place, while my mom and I felt like it should come in third. It was filled generously, and the chocolate was rich and satisfying. Almonds covered the top generously, but I wish the chocolate had been more evenly spread. We cut the croissant in fourths, and my quarter was almost entirely filled with chocolate while my parents’s pieces lacked chocolate completely. Regardless, this croissant was tender inside and had rich, buttery layers that I would not hesitate to order again and again.

#8

Almond croissant from Timbertrain Coffee Roastery ($4.90): good thing we tried this one last, because all three of us agreed that this croissant was the number-one croissant of the batch. First of all, the filling was more “liquid-y” than the filling from Thomas Haas’s croissant, and all three of us enjoyed the gooeyness. The layers tasted like perfectly-toasted bread, though one end of the croissant was slightly burned. Despite being crisp, the croissant was anything but hard. The filling was sweet, but not too sweet, and the exterior provided great contrast. We also enjoyed the base of the croissant, which carried the taste and texture of caramelized sugar. There was no doubt that this almond croissant came in first place, and I would easily go back to Vancouver for more of these. My only complaint? Timbertrain Coffee Roastery doesn’t make tea lattes – I wanted a London Fog tea latte, but they could only make mistos (steamed milk + tea base), as they don’t have syrups in their cafe.


Any thoughts? Are you a croissant or scone person? What do you look for in a good pastry?

Marché With Rae

Not too long ago, I spent some time with Vancouver blogger friend Rachel. Rachel has been super busy lately, finishing her first year of university, returning from a monthlong trip to Europe, and getting ready for the new school year.

We met up at Le Marché St. Georges, a quaint, homey cafe and market with a fairly extensive coffee bar, patisserie, and brunch/lunch food options.

Side note: for stunning photography and snippets of life, you’ll have to take a look at her Instagram. Otherwise, for mouthwatering food photos (especially ice cream!), visit her foodie Instagram.

Rachel ordered the Crepe of the Day, which featured marinated mushrooms, goat cheese, and arugula, all enveloped by a toasty buckwheat crepe. I had a London Fog, which looked adorable in a 12 oz bowl, followed by the most delicious asparagus and asiago quiche (chard salad on the side).

Despite sitting outside on this hot, hot day, I was completely infatuated by my hot, creamy, crispy quiche. The asparagus was tender, the eggs sharp and flavourful, thanks to the asiago. My favourite part of the quiche was the crust, which tasted fresh, buttery, and flaky – an easy 10/10.

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Of course, no get-together would be complete without dessert!

At Earnest Ice Cream, a Vancouver staple just a few blocks away, we sampled some of their flavours and enjoyed one scoop of espresso flake (Rachel) and cookies and cream (me).

It was hard to decide between cookies and cream, London Fog, oatmeal brown sugar, and some other unique and flavourful options.

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Rich, creamy, just-sweet enough, studded with texture – I’m in love. The quality is absolutely stellar.

My “Winter in BC To-Do List” is already growing. I need this sesame shaved ice in my life!

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Then we parted ways!

Previous meet-ups with Rachel:

  1. The first time we met, we had croissants, coffee, and hummus toast at Matchstick Coffee Roasters (alongside our mothers)
  2. Salad for lunch at Railtown Cafe, followed by incredible Soft Peaks ice cream and shopping at Daiso
  3. Brunch at the trendy Cafe Medina, where we had super unique lattes and shared Mediterannean brunch specials
  4. Incredible vegan brunch and special brownies at Heirloom Vegetarian
  5. Lebanese dinner at Nuba
  6. And now, brunch/lunch at Le Marché St. Georges with ice cream from Earnest 🙂

I miss you already, Rachel! Here’s to many more delicious meals and great conversations. ❤

Starstruck: 2017 Schulich Leader Scholarship Get-Together

Saturday was SLxON, a special networking event for Schulich Leader Scholarship recipients across Ontario. It took place, like last year, at the MaRS Discovery Centre in downtown Toronto. This year, it was extra-special because the event was Canada-wide.

A post from the 2016 SLxON can be found here!

Here are some photos from the event.

We had a great time, especially during the Instagram challenge.

How does SLxON make you feel? Wish I had thought of the word starstruck. These people amaze me.

SLXCA… with our bodies! The floor was pretty comfortable.

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There were some fantastic speakers and a wonderful presentation by Dr. Julielynn Wong, who was incredibly passionate and inspiring.

Selfie!

❤ ❤ ❤

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More ❤ ❤ ❤ at the post-event, at Prenup Pub where we had snacks and drinks.

Then it was off to Scarborough for a restful night at home!

Adventures with Seline: UBC

Flashback to mid-summer 2017 ☀☀☀

Today, I don’t feel like writing will let the pictures do the talking.

Mom Meal

PNE at Playland

False Creek Caravan Show

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Backyard and walking my dog with Mom

Beaty Biodiversity Museum at UBC

Seline and the legendary whale fossil

One More Sushi (UBC Campus) and Rain or Shine ice cream (also on the UBC campus)

Nitobe Gardens

Museum of Anthropology

UBC Campus Bookstore/Gift Shop and gardens

Miss you, Seline! I can’t wait for another one of our fun outings.