I seldom visit the Pickle Barrel restaurant, not because a lack of decent food or a dislike with the atmosphere but simply because it never springs as a go-to option when hunger strikes. I’ve gone a total of 3 or 4 times in the past, mostly to this exact location since it is the closest to my home.

My sister had just gotten another acceptance letter from another university so our family decided to celebrate by going out for the night and getting some food. After much deliberation as to where we could get what my sister was craving, we decided to head  down to Markville Shopping Centre and visit the Pickle Barrel for some dinner.It had been a long time since our last visit but we were excited.

The Pickle Barrel has a wide range of menu items for any meal of the day. Breakfast until late at night, there are many options to choose from. Although we had gone for dinnertime, my sister and I were drawn to their breakfast and brunch items (who could resist pancakes smothered in sweet goodness?) but we went the traditional route and stuck to dinner entrees. Pickle Barrel was also featuring new items on the menu as seen in the above photo. An adaption to the summer season, this menu has lighter, fresher options. I’m sure there’s something on the menu that would entice you. (more…)

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I first tasted this dessert in during my summer employments. Like many other office jobs, sweet treats are a favourite especially during those  long days where you need a sugar boost at 4 in the afternoon. Doughnuts, cookies, cakes, chocolates, and candy were prized at my office.  These sweet treats were no different. Given to us as a reward when we had zero errors on our reports, we were treated to this unique Greek dessert.

I will admit that when first offered to me, I refused due to just unfamiliarity. It didn’t look completely appetizing at the time that I first saw it, inside a box clumped as one big sticky mess. I finally got the courage to eat it and totally fell in love. It was definitely as sweet as it looked. The ball itself was like a doughnut but surrounding and absorbed inside is the honey syrup that bursts into your mouth when you bite into it. It’s warm and filling, definitely not something you could eat handfuls of.

I recently remembered eating the dessert and tried to find if any Greek restaurant in town had them on their menu. Sadly, there was none. My craving had grown and I just had to have some so I took it upon myself to find a recipe, gather the ingredients and give this dessert a try.

P.S. I apologize for the lack of photos during the creating process. I didn’t really know how it would turn out and I spent a lot of time checking things twice and ensuring things would go well to take the necessary pictures. Should I make this again, I’ll be sure to update with step-by-step photos (more…)

Now I know this is not anything gourmet and I’m not about to blog about some unique twist or original take on traditional hamburger helper. I’m here to simply blog about the experience of it. Now I don’t want to assume or generalize too much but based on what I’ve been told by friends, family and society and what I’ve seen via the media, I don’t think it would be too far a stretch to say that food staples such as hamburger helper and mac & cheese are the iconic food of university students and many Americans as they grew up. I never had these things.

In my childhood I had no kraft mac and cheese, no hamburger helper, no chef boyardee or riceroni. I’ve eaten the first one about two times in my life, and I’ve yet to experience the last two. I often talk to people and they describe how there was a time in their life, generally childhood or college years where such things were staples in the household. I was convinced by a friend of mine that I just had to try one of them and I settled on hamburger helper. Growing up I had seen the commercials for it and it always look simple and delicious. Now that I’m more food conscious, I’m highly aware of the ingredients and nutrition of something processed such as this but I did want to give it a chance; and so I did. (more…)

The Rainforest Cafe experience is highly kitschy, unique and appealing to the senses. I remember when the restaurant used to have multiple locations in  Toronto and my family often went when I was younger. I even attended a birthday party there which is an experience I’ll never forget. Unfortunately, the only two places left to experience it in Canada is either in the Niagara Falls area or at Yorkdale mall. On another shopping trip, my family decided to head over to Yorkdale mall which instinctively created a craving for both my sister and I to eat their famous dessert. With most franchised restaurants, the menu doesn’t have highly unusual food but it remains fairly consistent and hits the spot when you’re hungry.

Their menu changes from time to time to keep things new and innovative but one classic remains; the volcano. Their iconic volcano dessert never slips my mind and there are many days where I’m left craving the luscious dessert. I would have gladly just eaten the dessert but the family decided to make a meal out of the entire thing and see what was on the menu. A favourite of my parents had sadly disappeared on the menu so we decided on two other dishes. We shared the food so that we could save  room for the highly filling dessert. (more…)

Szechuan Szechuan is a pan Asian and Szechuan restaurant. It has two current locations; one in Vaughan mills and the other in the First Canadian Place in downtown Toronto. On a shopping excursion to Vaughan mills, my family decided to eat at the Szechuan Szechuan restaurant. We decided for quicker service and general convenience to stick with the takeout/express service as opposed to the sit down meal in the restaurant. I can’t comment too much on decor but it looks really classy and modern inside the restaurant. The website displays some pictures.

image taken from google

The food choices are quite extensive even for the take out. There are soups, salads, main dishes of every meat, sushi, side dishes, rice, noodles and set menus with the type of food ranging in the Chinese, Thai and Japanese flavours. Simply ideal if you ask me. We ordered 4 dishes, one for each of us and ended up with leftovers. The other bonus to the take-out service is that they provide take out boxes of all sizes if you’re unable to finish. There’s also water on hand so you don’t have to worry about buying tons of drinks if all you need is some refreshing water to go along with the meal. The take out service has certain special up on the board with enticing photos as well as the menu. It’s all very clean-looking and appetizing. I can’t really explain the thought process behind choosing what we did that day. We all wanted a little something different.

I remember choosing the Pad Thai ($9.95) simply because the other noodle choices didn’t seem appetizing at the time and although Pad Thai dishes in most places aren’t all that authentic, I’d settle for it over other options. It was surprisingly better than I had anticipated, certainly not super authentic but better than most. There was a lot of flavour and you could definitely tell that it was freshly made to order. I could happily live off of Pad Thai for the rest of my life.

My father got the General Tso Chicken ($10.50) since it was advertised as a house speciality. I can’t say it  looks all that appealing in this photo but it was definitely delicious. A little too much on the salty side so luckily we had some rice to go with it. There wasn’t as much spice and kick as you’d think there’d be considering all the dried peppers in the dish. I like my food spicy but I don’t mind either way. Definitely a hearty dish.

I’m not 100% sure what this is. Upon reviewing the online menu, I tried to figure out what this might be and was torn between two choices. I’m leaning more towards Crispy Ginger beef ($10.95) but someone correct me if I’m wrong. At my favourite Szechuan restaurant, they have a similar crispy beef dish so we decided to try this out. It was certainly tasty but a little salty as well. We might have ordered extra rice because of it. Again not as much spice and kick as you’d think considering you can see the big pieces of dried peppers. We had some of this left over in the end.

And finally, my sister decided she wanted Sweet & Sour Pork ($8.95), a Chinese classic dish. Also tasty but pretty generic compared to others you could find elsewhere. She happily gobbled it all up.

Overall, Szechuan Szechuan is a great place to grab a bite. There’s a wide selection and I certainly appreciate the takeout option as it is certainly much more convenient especially while on a shopping trip. The portionning is really good and great value. It’s a different level of fast food. Maybe one of these days, I’ll venture into the restaurant itself but in the meantime, I hope you try it for yourself and enjoy :)

1 Bass Pro Mills Dr
Vaughan, ON L4K 5W4
(905) 738-8398
Website
Take Out Menu
Cash/Credit/Debit

Szechuan Szechuan on Urbanspoon

After making the rice that day, I decided to make  a stir fry to go along with it. I kind of threw everything together based so ingredient amounts are unknown. I suggest you experiment for yourself. Just everything in little amounts untill it tastes right to you. It’s essentially a basic stir-fry. you could substitute the meat for any kind and use prepared sauces if you’d like. sky’s the limit :)

Ingredients

  • 1 small onion
  • snow peas, chopped in half or thirds
  • carrots, chopped
  • chicken strips, frozen or fresh
  • few tbsps of soy sauce
  • pepper to taste
  • 1 tbsp of vegetable oil

Instructions

1. Heat the pan up to medium to medium-high. Add oil. Stir in onions until slightly translucent

2. Add carrots and sauté with the onions for a few minutes.

3. Add the snow peas. Pour a small amount of water to generate more steam. Add soy sauce and season to taste. Stir often and ensure continued moisture in the pan.

4. I opted to use frozen chicken strips because they were what I had on hand and they were quick. I actually enjoy the taste of these chicken strips and it went really.

Review

This is the final product. The stir fry went really well with the pilau rice. A squeeze of lemon freshened everything up. It was fairly light, full of flavour and well seasoned. Looking at this photo makes me want to cook it up again. I hope you enjoy. If you have any further questions on the recipe, let me know :)

Rouxbe is an online cooking school that I came across a while ago. It has informative professional videos that demonstrate cooking techniques, information on food varieties and overall good source for food information. After watching the videos you can take quizzes and see your progress. Membership gains you access to more videos. I highly recommend checking out the site for yourself. Here’s a preview video of this specific recipe and their overall style of videos.

The video recipes are really wonderful and explain everything step by step. While looking over their recipes one afternoon I came across a rice recipe  that enticed me. I was fortunate to have all the ingredients and tried it out myself. Unless done in a Asian  fried rice manner,  most of the rice I’ve eaten has been plain to accompany as a filler for the rest of the dishes on the table. I also love anything with coconut in it (curries, soups, noodle dishes) so coconut infused rice sounded just as good. I followed the instructions, adjusting to my taste and equipment. The end result was amazing.

Recipe adapted from Rouxbe

Ingredients

  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp vegetable oil
  • 1 cup basmati or jasmine rice
  • 1 1/2 cups Cold Water
  • 1/2 cup thick coconut milk
  • 1/8 tsp white pepper
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • small sprinkle of lemon grass seasoning (optional)
  • 1 bunch cilantro (1 cup)
  • 3 green onions (approx. 1/2 cup)
  • handful of crushed peanuts (optional)

Instructions


1. Heat up the rice cooker then add the oil and diced onions and sauté until translucent.

2. Then add the rice and sauté for a few minutes until the rice is coated in the oil and slightly translucent.

3. Add the cold water, coconut milk, salt and pepper and lemon grass seasoning. Place the lid on the rice cooker (making sure the rice cooker is still on, and has not switched to the warm setting).

4. Let cook for approximately twenty minutes, or until it switches off indicating that the rice is done.


5. Fluff rice with a fork to ensure no clumped mounds of it. Roughly chop the cilantro and green onions and fold into the rice along. The peanuts I have are home roasted and seasoned whole so I crush them myself with whatever I can find that’s heavy.

Review

This is the final product. The original recipe calls for fried crispy onions which you can make at home or buy. I didn’t really want to go through that process so I opted for crushed peanuts for a textural difference and it went well with the coconut rice. It added a nice nutty element. Although liquid amounts are quite precise (straying from it might result in undercooked rice or to the other extreme, a coconut soup with rice), seasonings are yours to experiment with. Cilantro and green onions add freshness to the rice. You could experiment to put more spice into it as I might do at some point. I added lemon grass seasoning just because I had it on hand. Let me know how yours turns out and enjoy :)