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5 places to dine in Toronto this winter

Just because it’s winter, doesn’t mean the fun has to end. A friend of mine said that her favourite thing to do is dress up and go out for dinner, a casual lunch or even an early morning breakfast. So here are five recommended spots by Women’s Post to dine this winter in Toronto.

Copacabana Brazilian Rodizio

You don’t have to go all they way to Brazil to experience an authentic way of cooking grilled Brazilian foods. Copacabana has four locations in Canada and two are based in downtown Toronto. This unique style of serving food is similar to many rodizio’s around the world. Rodizio refers to an all you can eat style Brazilian steakhouse, where servers bring large skewers of meats and grilled vegetables ( but mostly meat) around to your table and they carve off slices. The servers keep coming until you over indicate with a card you wish not to be served. Copacabana Toronto also adds lively Brazilian flair to their atmosphere by having samba dancers performing on Fridays and Saturdays as well as an aerial silk performer.

Blu Ristorante

As the name may suggest, this restaurant is self-proclaimed as the number one Italian restaurant in Toronto. It has actually been the recipient of Open Table’s Diner’s Choice for the past seven years in a row. This Yorkville-based restaurant offers an intimate and formal dining space with the ambiance of live music. Expect menu choices such as braised octopus with black kale pesto and fettuccine with Nova Scotia lobster tail, calamari and tiger prawn. Blu is the place to enjoy great Italian food and a wide selection of wine in a warm and inviting space.

Cactus Club Cafe

This trendy Adelaide West restaurant,located in the heart of the financial district is a personal favourite, no matter the season, Cactus Club Cafe will give you a lively and upbeat atmosphere even on a dreary Monday night. There are three levels to choose from, and a heated rooftop for those milder winter nights featuring a live DJ. With prompt and friendly service, you will certainly enjoy this restaurant as you dine on the creations of culinary masters and specially crafted cocktails for each season. This winter, bar operations manager Kris Jensen introduced two new seasonal creations, the Whiskey Ginger Smash and the LateHarvest Daiquiri with hints of Saskatoon berry and elderflower.

La Banane

Voted as one of the best new restaurants of 2017 by Toronto Life, La Banane offers eclectic french cuisine to the streets of Toronto. Located on Ossington Avenue, this stunning spot offers a fresh raw bar with mussels, oysters, shrimp, crab, lobster, and scallops. Obviously, all that seafood pairs will the abundance of wine that this french bistro has to offer. La Banane is led by Chef Brandon Olsen, who has curated the menu consisting of his personal french inspired food passions.

Cacao 70

One of the key points of going out to eat in the winter is that you want to feel comfortable and cozy. Cacao 70 is located in the Distillery District and offers a Queen W. location as well. This popular chocolate drinking bar, originated in Montreal, but has slowly spread all over Canada. It is not just all about their speciality of Chocolate, but the restaurant offers the experience of using Chocolate in different flavour adventures. Enjoy drinks like Black Sesame hot cocoa and Champurrado, which features  hot chocolate with spicy cinnamon and whipped cream.

What’s your favourite Toronto restaurant?

Recipe: Ethiopian chickpea stew

Don’t let the warm weather fool you, the traditional Fall weather will be here soon enough. Often with the change in weather, people start to crave comfort foods — soups, stews and slow cooker recipes are in high demand. Ethiopian chickpea stew is the perfect mixture of everything in one hearty bowl. This stew is originally called Ethiopian chickpea wat.

A wat essentially refers to a stew or curry made by adding different ingredients and vegetables. The mixture of different spices is called berbere and often includes salt, chilli peppers, ginger, paprika etc. So, expect to use different blends and adjust flavours accordingly, especially if you prefer something more spicy.

 

Ingredients:

  • 2 cans chickpeas ( rinsed)
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic ( chopped)
  • 1 piece of fresh ginger ( chopped)
  • ¼ cup fresh cilantro ( chopped)
  • 3 large red tomatoes ( diced)
  • 1 ½ cups chicken/vegetable broth or water
  • 1 lemon ( juiced)
  • 2 carrots ( chopped)
  • 1 red potato ( diced)
  • 4 tsp olive oil

 

Spices ( Berbere)

  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • ½ tsp all spice
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp brown sugar

 

Directions:

  1. Mix dry spices ( berbere) together on one bowl and set aside
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large pot set to medium heat
  3. Add the onion, garlic and ginger and toss in the pan for two minutes or until slightly browned.
  4. Add the lemon juice
  5. Stir in the dry spices, stirring occasionally ,for one to two minutes or until you form a paste.
  6. Add the chickpeas, tomatoes, carrots and potato and pour in the broth or water
  7. Mix well and sprinkle brown sugar.
  8. Reduce the heat to low, cover and let simmer for 25 minutes, checking halfway and adding more water or stock if necessary.
  9. Sprinkle cilantro before serving

 

This stew can be enjoyed by itself, or with rice and flatbread. In Ethiopia, it is often enjoyed with Injera, a sourdough flatbread with a spongy texture.

 

Let us know what you think of this delicious fall comfort food in the comments below.

Summer activities and culinary delights in Abbotsford, B.C.

Summer is a great time to explore British Columbia, with her many outdoors activities and festivals. While some will make the drive straight to Vancouver, the more enlightened traveler will stop and visit Abbotsford, the largest city in the Fraser Valley. According to Destination B.C., Abbotsford is known as the “City in the Country” for its agriculture, hospitality, and outdoors activities.

Abbotsford is nestled on flatlands between the Coast and Cascade mountain ranges. With a burgeoning population of approximately 143,000, Abbottsford lies in the heart of the Fraser Valley, 68km east of Vancouver and just 5km from the US border. While Hwy 1 connects the community east and west, its airport has put Abbotsford on the international map. Abbotsford is an alternate arrival/departure point to Vancouver’s International Airport.

It’s a great place to stretch your legs walking, hiking or running one of Abbottsford’s numerous scenic trails or have a bite at some of the best eateries you’ll find anywhere, and perhaps spend a night. Enjoy the panoramic view at 300 meters after hiking the Abby Grind or run the Mill Lake trail, for a perfect sample of what Abbottsford offers outdoors enthusiasts. My partner, John and I checked out both trails recently in perfect mid-spring conditions. Read on for our detailed analysis:

Outdoors – Abby Grind

The Abby Grind is like the little sister to North Vancouver’s Grouse Grind. This was our first time hiking the steep Glen Ryder Trail. It has a viewpoint that can be reached in about 45 minutes. The 4km trek can be a challenge if you’re not wearing the proper shoes, though on this sunny day runners and walkers with their dogs enjoyed the trail as much as we did. The Abby Grind has been around since 2013 and offers a great workout. Steep though it is, there are sections that level off, allowing one to rest.

View from the top of Abby Grind. Photo by John Moe.

Outdoors – Mill Lake

We started out walking around the paved pathway and boardwalk that encircles beautiful Mill Lake Park in central Abbottsford, but ended up running parts of the two kilometre path. Mill Lake is a popular trail that attracts everyone, with picnic tables, a playground, and water park. Prepare for photo ops abound with spectacular views of Washington State’s Mount Baker. A fun fact: did you know that Mill Lake Park is the Jewel of Abbotsford because of its rich history? The first saw mill was built there in 1903 and  remained active until 1934.

Wellness/Health

After our workout we were welcomed to lunch by friendly staff at the Harvest Grill n Greens in downtown Abbotsford. It’s a one-of-a-kind eatery in which owner/chef Dion Brisson presents a varied menu of all healthy choices for the vegan and meat lover alike. It’s comfortable, bright, and super clean, built in part with 100-year-old cedar beams that were discovered under the original building by Dion’s friend and carpenter. The wood benches and foot rests are brought back to life from barns that once occupied the site.

Dion says he’s always been passionate about healthy eating from being an athlete himself as a hockey player, wrestler and an avid Abby Grinder. His passion for healthy eating led him to create custom meals from soups, salads to entries. Dion says the food is local and all fresh, as we tried his recommendation – salad served with local produce and sausage. Dion says, “it is the new Kits,” in reference to Vancouver’s trendy Kitsilano district, in offering a gluten-free menu to a knowledgeable clientele.

Brodeur’s Bistro carb loading!

Brodeur’s made me feel like I was home in Quebec with their Montreal style menu. It’s a great place for carb-loading before a hike or a long run. I couldn’t resist ordering my favourite Quebec dish, poutine, along with Pierre’s Cuban sandwich. Their specialty is Montreal smoked meat, which is served in large portions. John had a half rack of ribs with Brodeur’s barbecue sauce, which he devoured. Chef Jay Baker has about 20 years experience and the food dishes are a fusion blend of New Orleans and Montreal cuisine.

Brookside Abby

En route to our overnight stay at the Brookside Abby, we drove by pristine farmlands that seemed to stretch for miles. It’s a charming boutique inn on Chardonnay Lane that is close to local vineyards. The Brookside Abby was voted best small hotel in Canada by TripAdvisor for 2017 and their award list goes on. We stayed in the “Midnight in Paris” suite, which is themed after the romantic comedy about a writer, directed by Woody Allen. Each suite has a movie theme and is decorated with items based on the movie, such as an Underwood typewriter from the late 1920’s in our suite, as well as other fascinating artifacts and paintings. Chris and Sandi, the owners told us, “the items were to remind people of the movie theme. The movie is the central theme. All of that is Sandi’s idea. She thought of which movie themes: Thomas Crowne Affair, Breakfast at Tiffany’s. We are not aware of any other hotel like this in the world.” We were treated the following morning to a homemade gourmet breakfast, which was included in the stay. As a rather muscular action movie star might say, “We’ll be back.”

If you have a passion for living a healthy lifestyle, your visit to Abbotsford will be fulfilling. The city is a gem of a place with healthy eateries, lots of outdoors activities, beautiful vineyards, parks, mountain views and lots more.

Look for next week’s feature as we explore Harrison Hot Springs……

 

www.runwithit.ca

Twitter: @christineruns

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What’s in your child’s lunch?

With public school students across the country already back in class, the release of Good Food to Go could not have come at the better time. Co-authors Brenda Bradshaw and Dr. Cheryl Mutch, who also wrote The Good Food Book for Families, are here to show that packing a healthy lunch your child will enjoy does not have to be difficult. Together they’ve create the ultimate resource in lunch packing, including recipes, tips, and the latest in health research, and medical studies. From using lettuce as a barrier against soggy bread to a demystification of the Canada Food Guide this book includes all of the knowledge necessary to make any parent into a lunch packing expert. And Bradshaw insists this is something everyone can do, no matter how busy their schedule is. All it takes is some time spent on meal planning and a weekly trip to the grocery store.

Research has shown that children are more likely to eat food that they have helped prepare. Bradshaw suggests involving kids in every stage of the process, including meal planning. Talk to children about the different food groups and help them brainstorm a list of foods that they like from each category. Let them pick out a few of these foods at the grocery store each week and find ways of involving them in their preparation, whether it be washing veggies or mixing up sandwich spreads.

Packing an age-appropriate lunch increases the likelihood that it will get eaten. For young children Bradshaw suggests picnic-style lunches, which incorporate small pieces of different foods that their short attention spans are less likely to find overwhelming. For older children sandwiches, wraps, soups and salads offer endless possibilities for variety.

Although it can be tempting to opt for processed options to save time, Bradshaw insists that homemade is always better. A recent study shows that 89 percent of foods marketed towards children are poor in terms of their nutritional content. They are usually high in sugar, low in fibre and almost none of them live up to the nutritional claims designed to entice health-conscious parents. Instead Bradshaw encourages making foods from scratch whenever possible. However, she explains that there are healthy grocery store options for some foods, like hummus, but notes the importance of always reading the labels.

Not only are most processed foods unhealthy, they all generate a lot of waste.  With the average school-aged lunchbox producing 67 pounds of garbage, Bradshaw and Mutch promote packing litterless lunches. This means that the only thing leftover when your child is finished eating is compostable, meaning that it will breakdown over time rather than spending decades or centuries in a landfill. By buying a reusable lunchbox and filling it with packaging-free, homemade foods parents can create lunches that are healthy for their children and the environment.

Although it may seem overwhelming, Bradshaw and Mutch have put together a guide that makes packing a child’s lunch fun and you might even find some inspiration for your own lunchbox.

This article was previously published on September 12, 2011.

 

7 nutrients to boost your immunity

by Dr. Suzanne Bober

Stress can be high this time of year, which means your body is particularly vulnerable to common viruses. Adequately feeding your immune system boosts its fighting power. There are a number of nutrients to add to your diet now to cut down on missed time from work due to illness.

1. Vitamin C

Vitamin C increases the production of white blood cells that fight infection and increases interferon levels, which prevent viruses from entering cells in the body. It is important to know that you don’t need massive amounts of vitamin C, as any excess just gets excreted from the body. Therefore you just end up with very expensive urine. You can obtain the necessary amount by eating six servings of fruits and vegetables per day.

2. Vitamin E

Vitamin E helps to stimulate the production of natural killer cells, which seek out and destroy viruses, bacteria and cancer cells. It may also reverse the decline in the immune system seen with aging. Seeds, vegetable oils, and grains are good sources, but supplementation may be needed to reach the recommended 100-400mg per day.

3. Carotenoids

Carotenoids increase the number of infection-fighting cells as well as mop up excess free radicals that accelerate aging. Carrots are high in beta-carotene, which the body converts to vitamin A to boost immune function.

4. Bioflavinoids

Bioflavinoids help to protect the body’s cells against environmental pollutants. A diet that contains a wide variety of fruits and vegetables will help you get the bioflavinoids needed to help increase your immunity.

5. Zinc

Zinc increases the production of white blood cells and helps them to fight infection more aggressively. It also increases the number of T-cells that fight against viruses, especially in the elderly who are often deficient in zinc, and whose immune system often weakens with age. Be careful with zinc supplements however, as too much zinc can actually lead to reduced immunity. Generally 15-25mg per day is adequate.

6. Garlic

Garlic is a powerful anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal nutrient that is also rich in antioxidants. It also helps to lower blood-cholesterol levels.

7. Omega-3

Omega-3 fatty acids increase the activity of phagocytes, which are the white blood cells that eat up bacteria. They also protect the body against damage from over-reaction to infection. Always ensure that you are taking additional vitamin E when taking omega-3 supplements for antioxidant protection, as they act together to boost the immune system. Add one or two teaspoons of flax oil to a fruit and yogurt smoothie.

If you do happen to fall ill with a cold, stay away from drinking milk as this will increase the production of mucous in the nasal passages. Hot foods such as chili peppers and onions contain ‘mucolytics’ which break up the mucous that accumulates in the nasal passages.

Arm yourself with these nutrients now, to prevent a cold or flu from overcoming you over this season; your immune system will thank you.