Giant Chai Bowls, Deconstructed Desserts, and PB Hot Chocolate!

Hello! I was really tempted to start this post with ‘Chai there’, but… I resisted. Well, without further ado (this is such a weird word), I visited Three Monkeys Cafe yesterday. It’s described as the most atmospheric cafe in the city, and boasts the biggest mug bowl of chai.

According to The Urban List: “Where else can you get a tureen of chai at 9.30pm on a Wednesday night? When it comes to serving sizes, Three Monkeys knows what’s up. Their yawning bowls of chai have garnered such a rep that a recent stigma has developed towards anyone hoping to ‘nip in for a small one’. To be fair, Three Monkeys’ largest vessel is probably more than most people can handle, but chai addiction is as real as it is harmless and I’ve never known a fiend to hold back when that flagrant spice display hits the table.”

It was delicious, and a perfect serving size for me because I can never get enough chai. It came with a single packet of honey, which was perfect, but I think two packets would’ve made my sweet tooth even happier. Next time, I’ll come back for some of the cakes – I was bewildered by the number of cheesecakes, tiramisus (is this how you pluralize it?), mud cakes, and more. It was amazing. I’m actually very tempted to stand up, get dressed, and leave my house right now to go back to Three Monkeys.

After I spiced up my life with the chai (pun stolen from the Urban List), I went to Botanica! I talked about this place in my last blog post, so you all know already how much I love this place. Gluten-free treats, a massive variety of vegan salads, incredible quiche – everything made with fresh ingredients. If this place was any closer to my home, I’d be bankrupt.

I went for a walk yesterday to Brisbane’s awesome West End! When I leave Australia, I will really miss the beautiful river walks and early sunsets.

The river walk and the Go Between Bridge took me to the Boundary Street Markets! The markets run every Friday and Saturday evening, from 4:00 to 10:00 pm. There were about eight to ten stalls, all selling unique ethnic eats. Ones that stood out to me include a Malaysian satay vendor, an Italian waffle ice cream vendor, Dutch miniature pancakes, Korean barbecue, and Nepalese momos (steamed dumplings). I had dinner plans, so unfortunately I didn’t get to grab any of the treats.

Some funny things – a tweet I saw and a street sign that someone improved. 😉

On Monday morning, I felt like going for a nice walk. Since it’s getting cooler in Brisbane, to a much more comfortable weather, I love going for refreshing, sunny morning walks. One morning, I headed straight ti John Mills Himself, a trip I’d been looking forward to for so long. Finally, finally, I got my hot chocolate! They offered hot chocolate in every flavour imaginable, and you can choose between two levels of chocolatey-ness: milk chocolate or dark chocolate (70%). The lady behind the counter informed me that while the milk chocolate is sweeter, the dark chocolate is richer. Then, you add a shot of flavour! These are some of the flavours I remember:

  • lemongrass
  • bergamot (the citrus from earl grey tea)
  • chai
  • peanut butter
  • peppermint
  • lavender
  • rose petals
  • and about four or five more… that I can’t remember! But don’t worry, I’ll be back to double check 😉

I originally came for the lavender, but was so tempted by the peppermint – and ended up choosing peanut butter. If I see peanut butter, anywhere on a menu, I need it! Next time, I want to try the peppermint or the lavender, though I’m sure the chai would taste wonderful with hot chocolate as well. In the end, my 70% chocolate peanut butter hot chocolate was topped with a heap of chocolate shavings, freshly-cracked sea salt, and… it was divine. Honestly. From heaven.

Also, love the double-walled (is that what you call it?) cup.

Today, I felt… celebratory? For no reason. Why not? I celebrated my Tuesday morning by visiting the Gunshop Cafe, where I had a spectacular and memorable brunch. I’ve always loved the West End, an area of Brisbane which is known for hundreds of trendy and hip cafes and restaurants, but I hardly ever go there. Don’t ask me why because I don’t know why.

Well, I went! I finally went!

Thanks to this incredible picture on Instagram posted by the Gunshop Cafe, showing their famous gnocchi with blue cheese sauce and mushrooms. Doesn’t that look amazing?

I went for brunch, so the gnocchi wasn’t an option, but I was exhilarated to order the raisin and walnut toast, which was topped with – get this! – grilled camembert cheese, sautéed mushrooms, crispy sage, and red onion jam. Is this real life?

For dessert, the deconstructed carrot cake was calling my name. This came with a parsnip puree and a scoop of nutmeg gelato, garnished with carrot-coconut chips and walnut crumble. Even better, the carrot cake itself was warm! One of the dreamiest desserts I’ve enjoyed in a long time. It was also such a photogenic dish that I took a million photographs, and had a hard time narrowing it down to three images.

Some other little bits and pieces:

  • I had a chai latte from Merlo’s Coffee (on campus) this morning. Merlo’s, to me, is the Aussie version of Starbucks – they sell breakfast goods, plenty of drinks, and have snacks to-go. Their chai latte was mediocre: not hot enough, overly sweet, overpoweringly milky. I’m 99% sure that it was made with chai syrup rather than real spices (in other words, the chai latte didn’t even have tea in it). Thankfully, I got it for free because everyone who signs up for a Merlo’s card gets two free drinks!
  • I have the most serious internal debates when I’m trying to figure out which restaurant or cafe I want to go to!
  • In the suburb that I live, it’s so easy to go to the “busy part” of Brisbane, or the “downtown” area, by walking! It’s not a long walk, and there are plenty of water fountains, benches, flowers, and areas to rest along the way.

On Saturday evening, I had tickets to see a spectacular one-woman show called Invisible Things. Before the show, I chatted with some friends from aerials, and they recommended a different show to me. Kelsey and I share a lot of mutual friends, though I haven’t met her in person before, and I’ll probably pick up tickets for her one-woman show as well.

Invisible Things was created by Alex, who coached my old aerial straps instructor, Ben, and his partner, Maddy. Alex’s show was described by reviewers as an “emotionally-charged performance [that] journeys to an intimate inner world. In the show, Alex fuses dance, theatre, and circus arts.

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According to the site, Alex designed the show to reflect on nearly two decades of her personal journals, where she battles with her identity, and the dark voices in her head. I’ve never met Alex personally, but I have heard incredible things about her athleticism and creativity. All my friends who saw the show before me told me about how the powerful storytelling and gorgeous hand balancing made up an amazing show. They were right! This was super cool. I was amazed by how one woman, without even using words, could captivate an audience for 45 minutes.

That’s all! I’m not sure if I have anything else to share with you guys today, so I suppose I will leave it at that. Wishing you all a wonderful last week of May!

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Seline’s first ice cream of 2018!

Summer Things (Quinoa Overload)

Good Saturday morning, everyone! This semester is a challenging one. It’s called my “2B” semester, and it’s known by all as the semester “2B or not 2B” because it’s kind of that make-it-or-break-it time.

A delicious creamy pumpkin quinoa casserole was made, topped with loads of fontina (new favourite cheese!) and broiled. I loved every bite of this 8×8 pan that I made!

Long lab reports were written… (this isn’t even all of it!). Glad it’s done.

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Memes were made for my sister, Seline 🙂

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I had plenty of great toast. This was a multigrain thick-sliced loaf baked in-store at Vincenzo’s, and it had great crunch and wonderful flavour from all the seeds. I topped half with smashed avocado, and the other half with almond butter and chopped prunes.

I’m really excited for next week, because I made a full food schedule. I’m looking forward to trying a dark chocolate breakfast quinoa recipe, and revisit some old favourites like broccoli casserole and sweet potato spinach stew. A shopping list was also made!

These peanut butter chocolate banana snacking squares are some of my favourite desserts of all time. All-time, I tell you!

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These chocolate muffins were chock-full of ricotta and surprisingly egg-free! The ricotta lent a great, springy texture.

Mom eats so much fruit back home in BC. I miss having fruit bowls all the time, because it’s pretty unfeasible for a university student to eat say, 1/4 an apple with 1/2 a kiwi, 1/2 a banana, and 1/2 a pear. 😦

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Canada Day happened! No, I didn’t go to see the fireworks… but I stayed at home and listened to got annoyed by them all night. Is that close enough?

Another serving of that amazing pumpkin quinoa casserole, with some brownie! I made a massive pan of spectacular brownies, using pureed prunes (soaked in boiling water). They turned out very rich and decadent… and I have two squares left before I’ve eaten an entire 8×8 pan. By myself.

Oats – I mean quinoa! – in a jar with banana slices.

As you can see, I have a lot of quinoa to use up before I move out in mid-August. This was  another quinoa dish, this time mixed with sautéed mushrooms and yellow squash, mixed with a ricotta-plum tomato sauce, and topped with fontina. It tasted great! On the side, some garlicky green beans sautéed with tons of butter. Butter makes everything better 😉

Another day, I whipped up these glorious pancakes! Two eggs and half a sweet potato were whisked with a bit of flour, some baking powder, vanilla, and cinnamon. They always turn out super tender, and a perfect base for nut butter, yogurt, and granola. This was my favourite breakfast of the week.

Here is that quinoa-ricotta-plum tomato casserole again! I have one serving left, which I’ll be having for dinner tonight. The fontina is my favourite part 🙂

Some other things: I have to sell everything on my desk (actually, everything in my room for that matter). Also, my favourite calculator broke, and it was the saddest moment of my life. Friends and I are loving the summer semester, and we live in the same direction so we often walk home from classes together. Also, FaceTime-ing with Seline! She is the best.

Baked oatmeal (my favourite recipe) was made and enjoyed with blueberries, granola, and coconut chips. Almond butter on top of the baked oats. I have another serving of baked oats that I’ll be savouring tomorrow morning with some peanut butter!

Mom and Dad look so cute.

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Another afternoon, I walked to Sobeys to grocery-shop and saw the nicest sunset over Columbia Lake.

Revisiting old photographs – I took this when I visited the Ripley’s Aquarium last year with my dad. It’s o-fish-ially the best non-food photo I’ve ever taken. <– I’m also good at stealing puns and reusing them multiple times.

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One more thing that I found on the internet and completely agree with:

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Hope you all have a wonderful, wonderful rest of the weekend!

2B or not 2B

My phone lock screen was my school schedule, but it’s been ten weeks so I don’t think I should be using the schedule anymore. My memory isn’t that bad… I hope. This semester, my 2B semester, is pretty insane.

New wallpaper = Mom’s buttered toast.

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A new ice cream truck opened in Uptown Waterloo (ice cream in uptown FINALLY!), so I had to stop by to try some! I had a scoop of Grammy’s Cupboard (vanilla with cookie dough, peanut butter cups, and brownie chunks – OMFG I know), and one scoop of chocolate caramel swirl with cashews. This tasted amazing, was a bit on the sweeter side, but I don’t think I would buy it again, considering the 2 half-scoops (= 1 full) was $5.00.

 

Here’s what it looks like! The person who served me was very gracious and kind.

 

Before the hearty ice cream, I had a glorious meal at Princess Cafe. The sandwich was my all-time favourite: grilled cheese with harvarti, goat cheese, walnuts, rosemary butter, and honey. The soup of the day was vegan tomato ale, which I was extremely skeptical about, but it tasted incredible. I am officially a fan of tomato soup! I enjoyed every drop of the soup and savoured every bite of the rich, crispy, cheesy, crusty sandwich.

 

For breakfast (don’t ask me why I am moving in reverse chronological order) – I enjoyed a bowl of plain oatmeal topped with a banana and tons of peanut butter. Yes, there is more underneath the massive scoop. Hemp hearts and cinnamon also made an appearance.

 

Then, the oats became granola, the bowl became a jar, and my nice messy desk at home became the bus stop bench on a sunny day. That sounded kind of poetic… or maybe I just have very low standards for poetry. This was so yummy – PB on anything!

 

Jars, because they save my lazy butt from washing dishes 😉

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So colourful! The natural lighting at the window makes for some lovely photos of my lunch and snacks. I wish I could say that I made those falafel, but I didn’t – everything else is homemade!

 

This frittata was also homemade, and I can’t wait to make another one. Eggs, spinach, roasted red peppers, mushrooms, and garlic goat cheese came together to make a tasty breakfast that I enjoyed with a nectarine and some yogurt with granola.

 

I’m cleaning out my room and found these pictures that I drew two years ago! Drawing is so much fun. I used to love drawing so much, but now have no time to draw waste all my time doing other things.

 

Have an incredible week, friends!

Life.

Screen Shot 2017-05-21 at 1.08.40 PM.pngDo you like poetry? Quick promo, friends! Did y’all know that my crazy, studious, funny, awesome 17 year-old sister writes a blog, too? Hers is called Purely Poetic, and she writes all about mythical lands, strange sensations, and weird-but-wonderful worlds. Seline has a way with words, and is quite talented when it comes to writing creatively. Paired with some incredible aesthetics, I think you will love her writing. Take a look by clicking on this link, which will open up in another tab.

On another note, Mother’s Day was last weekend, and I was more than happy to wish a special day to my one and only mom. ❤ She is such a resilient, compassionate, caring person.

I had oatmeal this morning with an overripe banana, cocoa powder, tons of sunflower butter, and granola with hemp hearts to top.

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Yesterday night’s dinner was fresh pasta from the market, cooked with a pumpkin sauce and market asparagus with frozen peas. Parmesan on top!

The same sauce paired gloriously with fresh gnocchi. I love gnocchi. In fact, I think it is my #1 favourite pasta. What’s yours?

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For lunch yesterday, I met up with some friends to enjoy a meal at Cafe Pyrus. Every semester, the Schulich Leaders Foundation sponsors a get-together, and this time one of my friends recommended this vegan cafe in downtown Kitchener. I savoured every sip of my vanilla steamer, and loved the Angry Vegan sandwich: a panini with Daiya, caramelized onion, spinach, tomato, and a great garlicky aioli. Broccoli soup of the day was tasty, too.

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I wish I was back in Toronto so I could see this aerials showcase, starring my friends. 😥 They all look so beautiful in this shot.

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Eggs, broccoli, cheese, yogurt, fruit, granola – what better breakfast can you ask for?

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Loved this dinner that I enjoyed two nights in a row: baked herb salmon, broccoli, and a side of schoolwork.

I went to Freshii last weekend for this deluxe salad, which was loaded with brown rice (it was essentially a grain bowl), beets, carrots, corn, mushrooms, beans, aged cheddar and feta cheese, crispy wonton strips, spinach, and a spicy yogurt sauce. Loved this!

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Pancakes are another love, of course: this tasted awesome smeared with peanut butter and sunflower butter.

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A tasty lunch featured eggs and frozen almond croissant from Thobors.

Met with my friends at The Works, where I had a big turkey burger with great toppings! I love arugula on my burgers.

Meal prep, which involved a mediocre quinoa pesto chickpea salad and subpar cucumbers.

Chocolate baked oatmeal always exceeds my expectations. This tasted incredible with yogurt and granola… plus peanut butter. Always, peanut butter.

Baked sweet potato, beans and corn, cheddar, avocado, salsa. I need to buy more sweet potatoes this week. They are so versatile.

These are Seline’s drawings. Her artwork never fails to impress me. She did these spontaneously, somehow… with just a pencil and an old notebook!

Her oil paintings are equally wonderful. The waterfall painting is one of my favourites that she’s done. I cannot believe that she is self-taught, and has only been painting for two years.

Yay for cookies! Make this recipe, friends. I adopted the recipe slightly from Oh She Glows, and it is brilliant. And vegan. 😉 I made it with some arm power and a handheld whisk. You don’t need an electric beater for this. You won’t regret it – I baked ’em up and all ten were gone in 4-5 days. I was the only one eating them.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

10 large cookies

Ingredients:

Wet ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon ground flax mixed with 3 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 cup virgin coconut oil (do not melt)
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter (see note)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Dry Ingredients:

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1.5 cups oat flour
  • 1-2 teaspoons non-dairy milk (only if needed to moisten batter)
  • 1/4 cup mini chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large mixing bowl, mix together the flax and water and set aside for a few minutes so it can thicken up. Whisk the flax egg again once thickened.
  2. Add the rest of the wet ingredients into the bowl with the flax egg (coconut oil, sunflower seed butter, brown sugar, cane sugar, and vanilla). Beat the ingredients until combined and smooth.
  3. Now, beat in the dry ingredients, one by one, as you go down the ingredient list (baking soda, baking powder, salt, cocoa powder, oat flour). If your dough is a bit dry, add a teaspoon (or two) of non-dairy milk and beat the mixture again. The dough should be moist enough to form balls without cracking, but not super sticky.
  4. Beat the chocolate into the batter or simply stir by hand.
  5. Shape balls of dough (about the size of a golf ball or 2 heaping tablespoons) and place on the baking sheet 2-3 inches apart. Gently press down on each ball with your hand to form a disc (it should be 1/2-inch thick or so). Sprinkle lightly with salt.
  6. Bake for about 12 minutes until the cookies are spread out nicely.
  7. Cool cookies on the baking sheet for 7 minutes or so and then transfer to a cooling rack for another 10-15 minutes.

One more recipe! This one was a killer dessert that satisfied every cakey craving.

CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE MICROWAVE MUG CAKE
 Serves: 1
INGREDIENTS
  • ¼ cup oat flour
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • ½ tablespoon maple syrup
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ⅛ teaspoon butter extract (optional)**
  • 1 tablespoon mini chocolate chips
  1. Spray a microwavable mug with cooking spray and then mix together oat flour, baking powder, salt, milk, maple syrup, vanilla and butter extract (if using). The batter should be somewhat thick, but not dry. Add 1 to 2 teaspoons more of almond milk as needed for consistency. Stir in mini chocolate chips and sprinkle a few over the top, if desired.
  2. Microwave on high for about 1 minute and 25 seconds. Take out of the microwave and if desired transfer to a plate. Enjoy!

Have a great rest of the weekend, everyone!

Toronto’s Best Ice Cream?

How is it MAY already?

Let’s talk food!

I tried Venezuelan food, from El Arepazo in the Kensington Market, for the first time and loved these arepas stuffed with fried plantains, queso, black beans, avocado, and fresh tomato. Next time, I will add hot sauce!

The London Fog tea latte from Moonbean Cafe in Kensington Market is the #1 tea latte I’ve ever had, hands down. I’m drooling for this mug right now.

Sunset on Sterling road, the magical little street that takes me to Cirque-ability where I practice aerials.

Mmmmm, desserts! I bought these from Thobors. This was:

  • almond paste tart with peach slices
  • chocolate hazelnut mousse cake that tasted like ferrero rocher in a cake form

I went to Pomegranate Restaurant to try Iranian food for my first time on Friday night. This was their famous fish, which involved boneless chicken breast in a stew made of crushed walnuts and pomegranate syrup. I’ve never had anything like this before, and loved it. Though, I wish I had more of the yellow saffron rice.

Dessert was this saffron ice cream, which, sadly, tasted like frozen rose shampoo.

I had the BEST Indian dinner at Banjara! Cassie – look! I had Indian food! This was delicious and featured:

  • vegetable pakora (fried)
  • yellow lentil dahl
  • palak paneer (spinach and cottage cheese curry) –> my #1 favourite Indian dish of all time
  • aloo gobi (potato and cauliflower curry)
  • rice pudding with cardamom, carrots, and cinnamon
  • curry basmati rice

All this… for around $13?!

For dessert, I went crazy for this caramelized peanut butter cookie with two scoops of ice cream: totarn (ube, or purple yam) and one scoop of cinnamon toast. Cinnamon toast ice cream? Purple yam ice cream? If you’ve never had them, you need to try. And also, this peanut butter cookie was mind-blowingly delicious. One of my dessert highlights of my Toronto life.

Life back home in BC… oh, and I finally got new shoes! My toes were starting to peep out of my old ones. These black shoes were on discount from Nordstrom, and are ridiculously comfortable.

A breakfast to remember: banana oats in a cashew butter jar, yogurt, blackberries, and a slice of oat banana bread. YUM!

For the last two/three weeks in Toronto, the only things in my fridge were cheddar cheese and vegetables – and the one thing in my pantry was quinoa. With that, I made vegetable quinoa casseroles about 3-4 times during my last month in Toronto, but I never grow sick of it. This square featured wilted spinach, little carrots and corn, peas, quinoa, and creamy, sharp cheddar.

One bucket list item checked off – I finally went to Maha’s, an Egpytian restaurant, for brunch! It was a Sunday afternoon, so I should have expected a long wait. Ended up waiting from 1:00 to 2:30 before getting into the restaurant, which only seats 24 people. This plate features some Egyptian balady bread, Turkish cheese, a spinach falafel, sliced hard-boiled egg, and creamy beans. The little cup on the right was full of spices and raw cucumber, peppers, and tomato. It was a superb meal that I thoroughly enjoyed, but I wouldn’t wait 1.5 hours for it again.

I followed up that meal with some desserts. Two, to be exact…

  • one chestnut mousse cake with walnut sponge, wrapped in milk chocolate
  • one earl grey tea latte
  • one pistachio and chocolate croissant

After the Egyptian brunch, and the desserts, AND the mug of tea, it was hard to walk because I was so full!

 

Now that summer is on the horizon, I can’t wait to make tasty salads like this one. I have pesto – I just need to buy some arugula, peppers, penne, and cheese/tofu!

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I will miss Toronto’s massive selection of restaurants.

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But I am glad to be back in school!

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Have a delicious week, friends 🙂

The 42-Ingredient Salad

It’s been a long time since I’ve been to a Thai restaurant. I’m pretty leery of them since I love cooking Thai food at home, whether that’s a flavourful curry or a tasty pad thai. This meal, from PAI Toronto, did not disappoint. I loved scraping the coconut meat out of the coconut itself!

I know you want this. It’s a cinnamon sugar cone, chocolate soft-serve, Nutella spread, butter toffee bits, cocoa drizzle and salted caramel brownies.

From the website: Chimneys, or Kurtoskalacs, are freshly baked Hungarian bread-like pastries that have a satisfying crunch on the outside and a light and fluffy dough on the inside. They have a hollow, cylindrical shape and you can pull them apart like a spiral as you eat. We bake traditional Chimneys Cakes and also Chimney Cones™ (aka “Doughnut Cones”). Our base dough is made fresh on the premises daily with 100% natural and mostly organic ingredients and is vegan. There are only seven ingredients.

Croissants freeze so well. These were stored in the freezer until a sad day that I ran out of bread. 🙂

Banana smoothie in a bowl with muffin on top.

A Cuban brunch spot in Roncesvalles, called La Cubana, serves up some mean baked eggs! The queso cheese and spicy rice and beans were my favourite. Yuca was so tasty with the crispy cabbage.

Oatmeal gives me life. Especially pear oatmeal with granola and PB, one of my new favourite combinations.

So many eggs have been devoured lately!

Chabrol is a French restaurant in Yorkville. I enjoyed this entire escarole gratin and an apple tart which is baked on the SPOT, with homemade puff pastry. I enjoyed every bite of this classic, simple, but ultra-satisfying meal.

Toronto truly has so much to offer. The Royal Ontario Museum is such a spectacular place. I’m the first to admit that I’m not a big art lover or history buff, but I thoroughly enjoyed browsing the Biodiversity floor, where I learned that 99% of known species are smaller than a bee. WHOA!

The famous 45-ingredient salad from Hibiscus was also enjoyed. The glass noodles on top had incredible texture, and I loved the creamy ginger soup. That’s a raw cracker on the side, made with dehydrated rye and other cracker-ish ingredients. I liked the kidney beans and sweet potato mash in this bowl, which I do want to recreate!

My doggie Arnie is doing great back home in BC. He had surgery a couple weeks ago to remove a tumour on his back, and recovery has been going quite well. He still loves to run and play!

I’m not really sure why I’m showing you these half-eaten meals, but I already uploaded the photos, so…

Have a phenomenal rest of the week, all!