Archive for June, 2011

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Wonderful Whole Wheat Bread

June 21, 2011

This was one amazing loaf of bread I baked today. Although I shouldn’t’ve expected anything less—this was Vegan Dad‘s recent whole wheat bread recipe, after all. Vegan Dad knows a ton about baking delicious bread and he’s never led me astray before. I especially liked this recipe because it was easy and straightforward, calling for only a handful of standard ingredients and not even all that much time. The finished loaf is very soft and springy, but keeps its integrity incredibly well, allowing it to be sliced thinly without falling apart. The taste is great, too, of course. Anyway, you should make it!

Vegan Dad’s post includes a very instructive recipe video which shows you how to make the bread. I really liked watching this, as I often feel a clueless when kneading and preparing bread dough, and being able to watch Vegan Dad’s technique gave me some helpful pointers. So you should definitely check that out too!

Finally, for those of you like me, who both only really need to make one loaf of bread at a time and only have one bread pan to bake in anyway, you may feel that Vegan Dad’s original two loaf recipe is a bit much. Also, for those of you like me, who still don’t own a kitchen scale, even though you know all bread baking ingredients should really be measured by weight and not by volume, you may feel a little lost by Vegan Dad’s provided ingredient list by weight. So for all you people, here’s an ingredient list by volume for only one loaf; you can still follow the recipe’s steps as they are in the video (except don’t cut the risen loaf in two, unless you want to make mini-loafs).

  • just under 2 cups hard whole wheat flour (more precisely, 1.9 cups)
  • 1/2 tbsp instant yeast
  • 9 fl oz warm soy milk
  • 1.25 cups white bread flour
  • 1 1/8 tsp salt
  • 2 1/4 tbsp sugar
  • 3 tbsp oil

Happy eating!

Until we eat again,

Willie

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Toronto Café Tour: Tik Talk Cafe

June 20, 2011

Here’s today’s Toronto Café Tour post, reviewing Tik Talk Cafe near Harbord and Spadina.

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Latte: This latte ran for a steep $4.13, which was too much given the only average quality of the drink in my opinion.

Wifi: No!

Atmo: The interior of Tik Talk is really cute, with several nice tables and plenty of chairs to go around. It really feels more like you’re in someone’s sunroom rather than in a cafe, which is very nice. So overall, it’s a very good place to come relax and do some work.

Food: Tik Talk has a wide variety of sweet and savory options on their menu. I didn’t try any on this visit, but I remember getting something on an earlier visit which was both tasty and affordable.

Final Verdict: The best thing Tik Talk has got going for it is its location, which though conveniently located right by the university still seems to avoid being overrun with university traffic. The space inside is also very nice and comfortable. However, the steep price of its average latte and the lack of wifi are harsh marks against it in my opinion.

Until we eat again,

Willie

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Toronto Café Tour: El Cafecito

June 19, 2011

For today’s Toronto Café Tour stop, I’m here to review a newly opened place called El Cafecito, a little coffeeshop tucked away on Westmoreland Avenue, just off of Bloor near Dovercourt. So how does this new joint stack up? Let’s see…

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Latte: A solid cup of java; not out of this world, but not bad in any way. In addition, alongside the standard choice of single or double shot for your latte, El Cafecito also offers a choice of 8 or 12 oz. sizes, which I like. This little guy was an 8 oz. single, and it was an affordable $3.00.

Wifi: Yes!

Atmo: El Cafecito offers a rather big indoor space to sit and enjoy your drink or do some work. There are plenty of tables and it was pretty much empty the entire time I was there, so there’s problem concentrating or finding a seat.

Food: They had a couple things on offer, but I didn’t try any of them (none looked particularly enticing).

Final Verdict: El Cafecito is a quality addition to the neighborhood in my opinion. It’s nondescript location will probably keep it from getting overrun any time soon; I just hope it can keep getting enough customers to stay in business! Consider this your exhortation.

Until we eat again,

Willie

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Toronto Café Tour: Saving Gigi

June 18, 2011

Back again for another TCT review, this one of Saving Gigi, a nearby (to me) café right off of Ossington and Bloor. The rundown…

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Latte: Nice and tasty, and reasonably priced at $3.25. Overall, fairly standard, but done well.

Wifi: Sorta? They have a router and network set up, but the afternoon I was there no one was able to sign on, and the baristi had no clue how to fix it. Admittedly, this is more Bell Internet’s fault than Saving Gigi’s; however, I really hope they get their act together by the next time I stop in.

Atmo: Saving Gigi has a laid-back vibe that I really like. There’s a good amount of seating available inside, including a long table in the center for many to share, and there’s also an informal patio space outside for the summer. I know from previous experience that Saving Gigi can get really packed at times, but on the Tuesday afternoon I chose to visit it was fairly quiet.

Food: Though I didn’t try any, Saving Gigi offers a wide assortment of freshly made sandwiches and such, many of which looked pretty tasty. They usually have pastries and other baked goods on offer as well it seems, but by the time I got there in the afternoon they were already all out (which is probably a good sign).

Final Verdict: I like Saving Gigi, and not just because it’s close. Though maybe not always the ideal place to go to do some work, it is a nice space with good food and drinks on offer, and nice people to serve them to you!

Until we eat again,

Willie

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Bannock (Canadian Skillet Bread)

June 15, 2011

Ahoy, readers!

Since moving to Canada two years ago, I have always been curious to learn more about Canadian cuisine. After being here for two years, I am still not convinced that there is such a thing as Canadian cuisine—and if there is, then I have no clue who eats it. Sure, there are a handful of signature Canadian dishes, many of which I’ve even recreated here on this blog, such as our recent vegan (gnocchi) poutine, vegan tourtière, and my very own vegan spin on Timbits. But I have yet to discover any sort of flavors or seasonings or culinary techniques that define Canadian cooking in the way other ethnic cuisines are identified. And unfortunately, I am not going to put an end to this ignorance today. However, I did recently discover a new Canadian dish which both tastes great and is easy to make, so I thought I’d at least share that with you!

The dish is bannock, a flat quick bread which is cooked by pan-frying a slab of dough in a skillet, somewhat like a pancake. I found out about this bread from watching this week’s episode of Top Chef Canada, where it popped up in chef Dale MacKay’s almost-winning dish representing the British Columbia Interior. Now a common Canadian campsite meal, the origins of bannock in fact trace back to the indigenous Aboriginal peoples of Canada—so that’s right, this bread is legit Canadian. But it makes sense why bannock would be popular in their cultures as well as among campers. In its simplest form, it requires only flour, salt, baking powder and water to make, about fifteen minutes to prepare, and no more than an open flame and a skillet to cook. Just mix together the ingredients to form a dough, throw it on a griddle, fry for ten to fifteen minutes, and you’re set! Sure, it’s not going to win any awards for style or composition, but for an effective and quick bread, it really can’t be beat, especially if you love that salt-and-baking-powder taste in breads and biscuits as much as I do. Plus, the recipe is easily modified to accommodate whatever other ingredients may be available as well.

For my first foray into bannock baking, I decided to follow this basic bannock recipe found on the webpage of the Government of British Columbia’s Ministry of Forests and Range—so that’s right, my bannock was extra legit Canadian. This webpage also includes many other bannock varieties, should you want to experiment. Other bannock recipes can of course be found around the internet as well, but once you get the basic idea of the dish, it’s really yours to mess with, and hard to mess up.

Aside from its history and ease to make, what I like about bannock is that it’s also the perfect summer bread, as there’s no need for an oven, so you can keep your kitchen cool while still enjoying some freshly cooked bread. This also makes it a really good breakfast bread to have in one’s cooking repertoire, especially given its short prep and cooking time.

So I hope you enjoyed learning about bannock! I promise you will also enjoy eating it as well, so give it a try the next time you’re hankering for some bread or biscuit. And please, if you can, help cure me of my ignorance of Canadian cuisine, and let me know if there are any other Canadian dishes that I need to try!

Until we eat again,

Willie

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Toronto Café Tour: Ideal Coffee

June 7, 2011

Another day, another café. Today’s location is Ideal Coffee (or “i deal coffee”) in Kensington Market. Here’s what I thought…

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Latte: Nothing spectacular, but not bad either. It cost me $3.50 for this medium-sized glass. However, Ideal Coffee seems to sell itself more on its original coffee blends than on its drinks, so maybe I shouldn’t have been expecting too much from them latte-wise. Still, it wasn’t bad.

Wifi: No! Boohoo.

Atmo: Keeping with Kensington’s bohemian vibe, Ideal is a lively joint. There’s a good amount of space and tables inside, and a nice patio out in front (which for an open space did a remarkably good job of maintaining the aroma of marijuana the entire time I was there *wink wink*). However, I probably wouldn’t recommend coming to Ideal to do work. It’s much more a place for meeting up and hanging out.

Food: A small selection of baked goods was out on the counter, but I didn’t try any.

Final Verdict: I probably won’t come back to Ideal. The latte was nothing to write home about, and the space isn’t what I usually look for in a café. However, I could see Ideal being, well, ideal for other types of people.

Until we eat again,

Willie

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Two Perfect Summer Vegan Lunches

June 6, 2011

Hi all!

Although you may think that all I’m doing these days is touring Toronto cafés, I have actually been making some food as well. And today I’m here to share with you two awesome vegan lunch recipes that I think are perfect for summer. Ready? Here we go!

So what’s our first perfect summer vegan lunch? Spring rolls, of course! (Seriously, I really think spring rolls have got their seasons mixed up.)

I was reminded of the excellence of spring rolls last weekend during a brief visit back home, when my parents offered me some for lunch. Caitlin and I had actually made spring rolls together a while back and loved them, but for some reason we never got around to blogging about them! When I realized this, I knew this was something I would have to remedy. Then, as soon as I returned to Toronto, my roommate who was just about to move out happened to give me a big pack of rice paper wrappers from her pantry, and with that my fate was sealed. Some higher power was definitely telling me that it was my duty to make some spring rolls—an imperative to which I happily complied.

As when Caitlin and I made them before, I followed Vegan Dad’s general guidelines for spring rolls, which I think are a really good introduction for anyone who hasn’t made spring rolls before. However, this time I took a few more liberties in my choice of ingredients, coming up with this tantalizing combination:

Moving clockwise from the top, what we have here is: (a) Korean-style sweet potato starch noodles/glass noodles/cellophane noodles/dangmyeon/당면; (b) some raw Ontario asparagus; (c) daikon radish; and (d) chili ground tempeh. The noodles were simply boiled and then strained, the asparagus stalks were simply chopped in two, and the daikon was simply shredded. The tempeh took a little more work, but not much: following Vegan Dad’s recipe, I simply boiled the tempeh for 10 minutes and then panfried it with some soy sauce, mixing in some sriracha chili sauce at the end. It’s a really great way of preparing tempeh that is very versatile and works well in many dishes, though I particularly like how it works in these spring rolls.

With these ingredients all set, I then quickly microwave the noodles and tempeh just to get them a little bit warm, and then assemble my rolls. It took a little bit of practice of first, but now I’m pretty good at squeezing all these things together. All in all, I love how these spring rolls came together. The crunch of the asparagus, the freshness of the daikon, and the strong flavor of the tempeh combine to make a wonderful treat which is light, fresh, but still filling. These little guys are also easily taken on the go; simply wrap them up in plastic wrap and just make sure they don’t get smushed!

In addition, Vegan Dad has an excellent (though fairly standard I guess) recipe for chili dipping sauce, which complements these spring rolls nicely. It’s just vinegar and sugar simmered together for a few minutes with some sriracha mixed in at the end, but it makes for a very authentic tasting and pungent sauce which I love. Enjoy!

And for our second perfect summer vegan lunch, we have Choosing Raw Gena’s Pistachio Pesto Zucchini Pasta!

This easy-to-make dish is not only tremendously tasty, it’s also raw, which means it’s cool, light, and fresh—perfect for summer—while at the same time being quite filling and very nutritious. The formula is simple: You start by making a batch of pistachio pesto in your food processor (more or less like regular pesto but with pistachios in place of pine nuts), and then mix this in with some spiralized zucchini pasta. Top with some chopped up cherry and sun-dried tomatoes, garnish with some nutritional yeast, and you’ll all set! It really is delicious. Also, if you’re without a spiralizer, don’t fear—you can still make zucchini pasta by just finely slicing up a zucchini yourself.

And that’s all I have to share for today. Summer is a great time for eating, and I hope to be back soon with more light and fresh recipes to share!

Until we eat again,

Willie

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