Lunch


My oh my, it certainly has been a while. In fact, this blog hasn’t received love since the beginning of the year. Now I could list you a whole bunch of reasons (some valid at that!) as to where I’ve been but it’s neither here nor there. What does matter is that I’m back just in time for the summer. Now while nothing may have shown up on here, I’ve definitely kept this blog ever-present on my mind and continued to take photos, try out recipes, go out to eat and thought about food in general so that when I did return there would be plenty of content to make up for it.

I’ve also endeavoured in running a tumblr featuring food that has taken up a lot of my time and effort. But while I love looking at food photography and showcasing the works of others on that blog, it’s time for me to get back to what I originally got into blogging for.

I’m often left responsible to make dinner each night for my family during the summer time and while I do get a lot of feedback and suggestions from my family, I’m often left to my own devices to somehow come up with something edible to put on the table. I had been inspired by a chickpea salad photo and decided to make my rendition. Chickpeas are so delicious and healthy. If you have the chance to cook them yourself, it would be even better but I never have enough foresight to soak them in advance to accommodate for my craving. So for those pressed for time like myself, canned chickpeas work just as well.

My parents had recently returned from a trip to the Philippines and they brought with them numerous cans of tuna and fish in various flavourings. In keeping with the inspiration photo, I decided to take a can of chick peas and picked one of the cans of tuna to combine to make a super quick and easy side salad. Having not previously tried any of these before, it was a tough decision as to which one would accompany the chick peas the best.

I ended up deciding on afritada which in Filipino food refers to a tomato based stew. Upon opening the can, I realized how much sauce/oil was in the can which worked in my favour as that allows sufficient coating for my chickpeas. I don’t know how easily you can find this particular product in your local grocery/asian grocery store but of course you can use any flavoured tuna. You could also use plain packaged tuna and add a dressing/sauce of your choice to toss in your salad.

To add freshness, feel free to add whatever vegetables that you like to accompany the chickpeas. I added cucumbers and red onion to bring freshness. I considered tomatoes but since the sauce was tomato-based, I opted out. Bell peppers, corn, carrots, fresh herbs…whatever you had on hand would be great. Don’t forget to season to taste and get creative with the salad.

My family had this alongside chicken burgers that night as a healthier alternative to fries or chips.  I’m not necessarily a big fan of tuna or canned fish in general but I thoroughly enjoy this. I also certainly loved the ease of this recipe combination. Try it out one night and of course, Happy Eating!

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My love affair with chickpeas started in my first year of University. As a student living on campus and stuck with a meal plan, it was easy to get bored with the food pretty quickly. So I spent a good amount of time trying to eat salads (the only relatively healthy meal option available). And before I knew it, chickpeas became an integral part of my diet.

Chickpeas (otherwise known as garbanzo beans) are a great addition to meals. They are a great source of folic acid, fiber and protein to name a few. They can help lower cholesterol and improve blood sugar levels making them ideal for diabetics. They are often consumed from the canned variety. I certainly took a liking to them even after I moved off campus but discovered the economical and health benefits from just cooking dried chickpeas for yourself and that’s where this meal came in.

I keep a jar of dried chickpeas in my pantry whenever I need them. The process of cooking them from a dried state is this:

How to cook chickpeas/garbanzo beans

1. Soak the chickpeas in room temperature water overnight. Change the water if needed.

2. Fill a large pot with water. Put in the chickpeas. Make sure there’s about 2-3 cups of water for every 1 cup of chickpeas that you are cooking.

3. Bring the water to a boil and then reduce to a slow simmer.

4. Leave for about 1 hour +, checking on the doneness and tenderness of the chickpeas.

5. Use as you’d like.

It’s a fairly simple process. I’m not entirely sure it’s the exactly correct way to cook them so if anyone has better suggestions let me know as I based it off of the instructions I could find (but of course everything has variations so it’s hard to determine who is right)

Along with my chickpea obsession at this time, I was also obsessed with corn. I bought several cans of corn and decided for this meal to create a spicy fried rice with the chickpeas and the corn.


I’d provide a more solid recipe but to be honest, I just threw in whatever I had on hand (a typical tactic I employ when making food in a hurry)

Essentially I had cooked some bacon a little earlier in the day so instead of letting that valuable bacon fat go to waste, I decided to sauté some onions and garlic, threw in some sausage from a leftover the night prior, added the chickpeas and corn and finally the rice. Once that was all well incorporated and mixed together, I added whatever spices I fancied that day. I added some chili powder for kick, garlic powder and other spices. I also finely chopped some parsley and added it at the end for some fresh flavours. I can’t remember every single thing I added but I definitely remember enjoying it. It just goes to show that cooking doesn’t have to be hard. It’s all a matter of throwing together what you think would taste good to you and heating it up. Voila!

Writing this up has put me in the mood for some chickpeas so I think I’m gonna go soak some tonight. As for you guys, I hope you’ll think about trying chickpeas if you haven’t already. Happy Eating! :)

The eating habits of a student can turn for the worse really easily and soon enough, you realize that you’ve spent the last few weeks chowing down on some seriously unhealthy food: pizzas, wings, chips, chocolate, baked goods. Even when you have the best intentions, you find yourself slipping back into those reliable favourites and that freshman 15 turns into a yearly 15 (yikes!). I try to combat it whenever I can by making something simple, delicious and fairly healthy (certainly a lot healthier than a bag of chips)

Cravings come often for me and some are fleeting while others stick around for a while. Eating corn was one of those lasting cravings. While grocery shopping one day I decided to pick up a can of corn just to add it to my pantry and from there got hooked. Generally speaking I’m a big fan of corn but it’s not easy to come by past the summer months hence the reliance for canned or frozen. But hey, the stomach wants what it wants and I ain’t about to start denying it the deliciousness of life.

Tilapia is another star of this dish. This fish is sweet, flaky and filling. I get the frozen filets from Costco at the beginning of every school year so I can stock up on fish in my fridge. One of my favourite ways to cook it is lightly breading it in seasoned panko crumbs and then pan-friend until golden brown. Balanced out with the corn and tomato salsa this was an extremely delicious dish.

Ingredients:

  • Filets of tilapia
  • panko crumbs
  • cooked corn niblets, room temperature (fresh, frozen or canned variety)
  • ripe tomato, chopped into cubes roughly the same size as the corn
  • spring onion, chopped
  • oil for frying
  • Ziploc bag for mixing
  • salt, pepper , taco seasoning mix

Recipe:

This is the method I went through to create this exact dish as plated in the picture. Substitutions and alternatives will be mentioned in the review section.

  • In a skillet, turn it to a medium heat and put enough oil to evenly coat the pan
  • In a large ziploc bag, fill it up with about 1/2 cup to a cup of panko crumbs. Season with salt and pepper and taco seasoning to crumbs according to tastes. Close and shake bag well to properly incorporate the spices into the crumbs.
  • Take a fillet of tilapia and place inside of bag. Shake to coat fish with panko crumbs evenly. (Essentially the shake-n-bake concept)
  • Once the oil has heated, place the fish gently into the pan. Turn over after a couple of minutes. Ensure that fish is cooked completely through and that it has turned opaque.
  • While that’s cooking, combine the corn, tomatoes and spring onions into a bowl. Season with pepper and some salt.
  • Plate together once the fish has finished cooking.

Review:

As you can see this is a totally simple recipe that I made on the fly one lunchtime. Variations come in every shape and form. Use whatever fish you’d like and season it however you’d want.  A lemon & pepper seasoning would go great with this as well. As for the salsa, use red onions if that’s what you’ve got on hand or opt out of them altogether. Chickpeas (another fav of mine) would be a nice addition to the salsa. Mix it up however you want with whatever you’d got on hand. Let me know what you decide to add to it or any other suggestions you think would go well with this. Also to clarify, the corn in my cooking prep was room temperature as I had bought already cooked canned corn so it was just a matter of adding it to the mix. However you can definitely opt to have warm corn with the tomatoes as that would work as well.

As for my opinion on my own creation, I adored it. Frying tilapia this way had already become a standard for me so the real novelty of this dish was the salsa. It only heightened my love for corn. A great balance of (semi) freshness to counteract the lightly fried fish. This would make for a great lunch or dinner for the family as it involves minimal cooking but great flavour. Try it out when you get the chance and as always, Happy Eating! :)

I often get sushi cravings considering there isn’t a multitude of good places to go in Kingston which is real shame. So when I manage to make the trip back to Toronto I instantly think of certain foods in hopes of satisfying my cravings until I finally come home for the summer. I have a definite fav place to go for my sushi craving which is out in Whitby (Sushi Mountain, yum!) but I’m always open to new suggestions especially ones closer to where I live. A friend of mine, J suggested heading to a place in Markham for All U Can Eat and I was happy to accompany. I had limited amounts of time to spend so we decided to go for lunch.

I had come to this specific plaza several times to visit other surrounding places but had never noticed the Japanese sushi place on the side. J often came here with friends for crazy feasts from what he described. I was certainly eager to see what they had and definitely hungry.

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I’ve noticed in the last little while that my home cooking strays more towards the vegetarian region and my restaurant/takeout meals lean more towards more  meaty dishes. So I wanted to switch things up and try the vegetarian fare at Lotus Hearts Blossom. Since moving to downtown, I became aware of the  lovely vegetarian restaurant close to where I live. I’m actually able to look into the restaurant from where I live and I often people watch from time to time while in my kitchen. I was thoroughly surprised at how much traffic the restaurant received. I looked over their great website and wonderful menu and I realized that I had to give the restaurant a try.

I decided to do take out because I’m the type of person who feels a little uncomfortable being in a restaurant alone, especially one that I’ve never tried before. Take out was also more appropriate because at the time I was busy doing lots of readings and housework so I just didn’t want to bother with sitting in the restaurant. Their menu is quite diverse and features so many great dishes and drinks. They feature some vegan and gluten free items when they can. They’ve chosen dishes that have lots of spices and herbs to bring out the most flavour from their ingredients. There are hints of indian, mexican and mediterranean to their meals.  It was actually very difficult for me to decide since it all sounded so appetizing. Their menu is separated by all day selections, lunch meals and dinner meals. They also have a brunch menu for the weekends. Check their site for hours.

It was lunch time when I decided to get something so I decided to opt for their meatloaf meal or “Neatloaf” as they call it, lunch portion. I love meatloaf but I can’t seem to bring myself to make one from scratch. I was intriguied in what a vegetarian version would taste like. They describe the meal as “A loaf baked with rice, grains, eggs, ricotta cheese & tofu served with mashed potatoes and rich mushroom gravy.” After reading that, how could I resist? I also decided to get a strawberry milkshake because I knew their version would probably delicious and healthy as opposed to the version you could pick up at a fast food chain. I adore strawberry or berry milkshakes. As I’m writing this, I’m craving one. :)

When I picked up my meal, I got the opportunity to see the interior of the restaurant myself. It’s an experience for sure. There wasn’t too many people in the restaurant when I went to pick up mainly because it was later in the afternoon so the place was rather quiet and calm. The lady who gave me my meal was very friendly and sweet looking. The whole place had a relaxing aura, very colourful and warm. It definitely doesn’t give off this eat and run vibe to it that some other restaurants can give off. Unfortunately I didn’t take any photos inside since it was a quick visit but the website does show a few.

This is how the meal looked like upon pick up. I thought the writing was a cute touch :)

Let’s have a look inside!

Although you could definitely eat it from the very sturdy box, I opted to transfer my whole meal onto a plate for easier photo taking and easier eating. I don’t know about you but I don’t normally eat out of a box. (hehe)

First thing I noted was that it was quite a lot of food for a lunch time portion. I remember having to finish off the rest another time. The neatloaf was definitely hearty. You could taste all the ingredients that went into the neatloaf, especially the tofu. You could also see the bits of rice. It was definitely delicious and filling. The neatloaf was covered with the gravy so you definitely tasted the mushroom gravy sauce first. My piece of meatloaf seemed to have been a corner so some of the edges were a bit more tough that I would have preferred. The bottom was also a bit more crisp that I really would have liked. The whole thing held well together and had a meaty taste so I definitely didn’t miss any of the flavours.

As mentioned it comes with mash potatoes and a salad. The mash potatoes were nicely seasoned. I normally eat the boxed mixed version of mash potatoes for convenience sake so this was a nice change. and the gravy went really well with the potatoes although I would like more gravy to cut the thickness of it. The salad was really tasty. It had a lot of fresh vegetables which included mixed greens, sprouts, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, red onions; all yummy things! The salad dressing that came with it was unique and had an interesting taste. I was testing it for the longest time trying to figure it out but my palate just isn’t good enough to determine the ingredients. It’s not my favourite dressing but I was willing to eat it, although next time I’ll probably opt for my own dressing. It did go well with the vegetables though.

As for the milkshake, it was super light and full of strawberry flavour. They didn’t overdo it with the ice cream so you could definitely drink it through a straw but not so thin that it was a smoothie. There were specks of the strawberries while I was drinking which made me wonder if it was made with actual strawberries. My questions were answered when I found a chunk of a strawberry at the bottom of my cup. I have a sneaking suspicion that they were frozen strawberries as opposed to completely fresh but for milkshakes, frozen strawberries will do. It was a beautiful pink colour and very well blended. Delish!

In total my whole meal was approx $15 with tax included and it was definitely worth it for all that I got. Had it not been the fact that I live so close to the place, I wouldn’t have come across it which would have been a shame. Its definitely an experience, meat fan or not and I highly recommend it. Happy eating!

Lotus Hearts Blossom Restaurant
185 Sydenham Street, Kingston, ON
613-549-7777
website

Lotus-Heart-Blossoms Vegetarian Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Every once in a while I buy a whole roasted chicken from the grocery store. Although roasted chicken isn’t too hard to make, I just opt to buy it as is to save me time. I normally eat it plain or with some white rice. Everyone has their favourite parts of a chicken and for the most part, people will choose the darker meats and breast meat can sometimes dry out. Besides the wings, I prefer the breast meat. It’s a good base flavour to work with and experiment with. Breast meat is typically the last meat I eat from a roasted chicken for the sole purpose that I can do more creative things with it than eating it plain. It can be used for salads, pastas, soups…etc. I choose to eat it as a sandwich. The breast meat actually lasted me a long while so I ate a few of these during the week.

A recipe isn’t exactly necessary but I will list the ingredients for those who are wondering. I toasted the white bread so that the bread was crispy and holds up to the filling. I used mayo for both sides (because I happen to like mayo), slivers or red onion, shredded chicken breast meat and cilantro leaves. I opted for cilantro leaves because a) it’s all that I had on hand and b) I happen to like the idea of using a strong flavour like cilantro leaves as opposed to lettuce or spinach but use whatever you have.

I just wanted to feature my photos l because I’m really working towards improving my photography skills, learning about composition, utilizing the light that I have…etc. So enjoy :)

UPDATED 01/12/09 @ 3:45PM — I forgot a few more dishes so for those who have already read this post, check the end to see even more food from the party

New Year’s is a huge event for my family because it’s a two fold celebration. In addition to the general excitement for the new year, New Year’s day happens to be my father’s birthday. My family throws an annual New Year’s bash, invite all of our family and friends and party from the afternoon until the wee hours of the morning. Because it is such a long event and there are more people than the normal get-together, there’s a pretty big spread on our table.

After a year of numerous parties, my family tends to feel like we’ve gone through the majority of the Filipino dishes out there. Therefore, we like to attempt to ring in a new year with different food that isn’t always typically seen at a Filipino party. When deciding upon the menu, we consulted a variety of sources for inspiration and recipes and came up with a menu that features some of our most favourite dishes, some experimental food and some tried and true Filipino food.

Recipes that I reviewed

Recipes from various sources

Click to see more food from the party!

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