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Drinking More Water – it’s all about baby steps!

20 May

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This post is part of the YummyMummyClub.ca and the Nestlé Pure Life #RethinkYourDrink sponsored program. I received compensation as a thank you for my participation. This post reflects my personal opinion about the information provided by the sponsors.

Although my son is almost 2 years old now, I still consider myself to be a new mom….yes, that’s right I still feel “new” and I don’t think I’ll ever feel like the expert some people assume I am by now. Once my maternity leave ended, I joined the ranks of many others before me and found myself with two jobs  –  my day job and my all day/all night job as Mom of cutie pie Baby R. On top of still feeling “new,” my husband and I soon found our lives turning into a bit of a chaotic mess, involving a lot of scheduling, wrangling (I can’t believe how strong my son is!) and the sprint that is dinner/bath/bedtime every night.

In doing our best to take care of Baby R., we forgot about taking care of ourselves. Fast food and desserts washed down by wine and pop became the norm, all quick ways to treat ourselves either during the workday or after work and we both knew that these bad habits would catch up with us quickly. To top it all off, I found myself going back to my old bad habit of not drinking enough water. I know myself well enough to know that I wouldn’t be able to get rid of the bad stuff easily and that I would have to take baby steps to get healthier. Over the past few months, we’ve taken steps at home to reduce our fast food consumption and I’ve been trying to increase my water intake.

It was going okay but I knew I could do better, so Nestlé’s invitation to join their “Wellness Week Challenge” featuring Nestlé Pure Life Sparkling Water couldn’t have come at a better time. For 7 days, they challenged me to “rethink my drink”with one of their Nestlé Pure Life Sparkling products (each containing 0 calories and 0 sugar) in an effort to show everyone how easy it is to get more water into their diets. They sent me a beautiful tote bag with a few of their sparkling water products to get rolling, making it very easy for me to say yes (that’s right, that’s one less trip to the grocery store with a toddler, SCORE!).

I received three products in my kit – one bottle each of their Nestlé Pure Life Sparkling Original and Lemon flavours and a case of 12 cans of their Raspberry-Lime flavoured sparkling water. In the fridge at home and work they went….

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For the next 7 days, I tried each of the beverages straight up and in my favourite, sparkling drink recipes (see below), replacing my lunch or dinner beverage with sparkling water. My favourite flavour overall was the lemon one,  I found the flavour to be clean and light enough that it wasn’t overpowering. While I was pregnant, I reduced the amount of sugary beverages I was consuming as I knew they would be terrible for Baby R., and for my health. The drink recipes below certainly came in handy for those days when I wanted to have something a little different. They were perfect for this challenge as they both dress up sparkling water quite nicely.

Sugarless Mock Mojito

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One of my favourite non-alcoholic beverages….simple and delicious.

Makes 1 serving

Ingredients:

1 lime

2 springs of mint (washed)

1 bottle of Nestlé Pure Life Sparkling Original, chilled

1 tall glass

Ice (if desired, I didn’t use any)

Cut the lime in half and squeeze the juice from one half into your glass. Tear the mint leaves from one sprig of mint and put them into the glass along with the lime juice. Use a spoon to mash the mint leaves into the lime juice.  Add some ice at this point if you would like some, and then top your drink off with some chilled Nestlé Pure Life Sparkling Original. Drop in the sprig of mint, garnish your glass with a slice of lime and enjoy!

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Sugarless Nimbu Pani

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Nimbu pani is a thirst quenching Indian drink that my family introduced me to on my last trip to India.

Makes 1 serving.

Ingredients:

1 lime

1/8 teaspoon of kosher salt or rock salt (if you want a more pronounced salty taste, use ¼ teaspoon or more to taste)

1 bottle of Nestlé Pure Life Sparkling Lemon or Original, chilled

1 tall glass

Ice (if desired, I didn’t use any)

Pour the 1/8 teaspoon of salt in the glass. Cut the lime in half and the juice from half of a lime into the glass. Mix well. Add some ice at this point if you would like some. Top your drink off with some chilled Nestlé Pure Life Sparkling Original. Garnish your glass with a slice of lime and enjoy!

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Taking the challenge forced me to drink more water and I’m so glad it did. Habit change is so much easier to achieve by setting smaller daily goals and adding one more glass of water a day was an easy change to make. I’ve now upped that amount and I’ve added 2 additional glasses of water per day and I find myself feeling less hungry and sluggish which is fantastic. Taking Nestlé’s challenge reminded me that healthy hydration is key to keeping my mind alert and body functioning at its best and it’s as simple as adding more water to my diet. As my son gets taller, faster and stronger I will need to be on my game even more than ever as I try to stop each and every impending disaster!

Nestlé Pure Life Sparkling is available in a variety of tasty formats and flavours including:

  • Recyclable 1L bottles in Lemon, Lime, Mandarin Orange, Black Cherry and Original.
  • 355 ml cans in three flavours – Lemon-Lime, Raspberry-Lime and Mango- Peach-Pineapple

If you end up taking the challenge, be sure to let me know and share your wisdom about sparkling water using hashtag #RethinkYourDrink – good luck!

Want the easiest challenge you’ll ever take and maybe win a trip in the process?

It’s time to Rethink Your Drink! Register online at Sparkling7DayChallenge.ca and pledge to switch out one of your regular drink choices for a Nestlé Pure Life Sparkling water once a day for seven days.

 Not only will you receive a coupon to save $3 off a case of Nestlé Pure Life Sparkling Water, six Canadians will have the chance to win a luxurious weekend away in Toronto.

It’s time to add some sparkle to your life. Register now.

 

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Stuffing Our Faces with St-Hubert’s Poutine Bites

21 Dec

Disclosure:  This post has been sponsored by Group St-Hubert, Retail Division and I’ve been compensated with product and pay. As always, I only write about what I actually like. I think you’ll like this product too!    

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Poutine is one of my favourite dishes, yes, that’s right I said poutine. You’re probably wondering why or how that could be since it has gravy in it…well, there are a few wonderful Canadian poutine hawkers who make delicious vegetarian gravy, including a food truck in the Toronto area. I consider myself to be a vegetarian poutine aficionado so I was thrilled to be invited to try a new product from St-Hubert, Poutine Bites. The taste of poutine, made at home and all in one bite? This I had to try.

I received two boxes of the product and I couldn’t wait to try them out. On my first attempt at baking the Poutine Bites I ended up overcooking them as I thought the longer I put them in, the crunchier they would be. Sadly, after over 10 minutes in the oven the Poutine Balls started to pop on me, oozing out their precious filling! It didn’t matter because they were still so tasty. My second attempt at baking them was far more successful as I left them in the oven for the recommended 8 minutes and they were perfect. Crunchy potato balls filled with oozing St-Hubert gravy, mozzarella and cheddar cheese, all in one bite. My parents were visiting, so my husband and I joined them in polishing off both boxes. I should note that the box looks small and so do the bites when you open up the packaging. What’s inside is flavourful and rich, so after just a few Poutine Bites I actually started to feel full. They are definitely easy to eat, I couldn’t stop after having just one : )

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The folks at St-Hubert say that Poutine Bites are perfect for “Appy Hour” or Appetizer Hour. With a toddler at home, we haven’t been having many “soirees” in our house lately so our version of “Appy Hour” usually takes place right after work when we want a snack before dinner. Right now since it’s almost Christmas, snacks that keep us going while we wrap Christmas presents are key and these hit the spot. We aren’t big drinkers so the Poutine Bites were perfect with a glass of sparkling water or sparkling water plus juice for flavour.

Great job St-Hubert, looking forward to seeing what else you’ll come up with next!

Learn more about St-Hubert’s Poutine Bites here: http://bit.ly/1U1fNZn

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meals with My Munchkin: More-ning McWraps at McDonald’s

17 Nov

 

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I was excited to learn that McDonald’s Canada came out with the Kale and Feta More-ning McWrap, a  breakfast wrap that sounded like a great option for my vegetarian diet. As I’ve mentioned on my blog before, it’s hard to find good vegetarian options at quick service restaurants, so I couldn’t wait to try it. Yes, even we vegetarians want the experience of hitting the drive thru for breakfast! Right now my go-to breakfast item at McDonald’s is an Egg McMuffin, minus the ham but with tomato added. I love it and it’s one of things I crave but it’s the only thing I get right now. The thought of a new veggie option was exciting.

As a vegetarian married to a meat-eater, I’ve found over the years there are only a few quick service restaurants we can visit that have good options for both of us. Knowing my dietary preferences and my husband’s, McDonald’s challenged us to try the new More-ning McWraps and share our thoughts. Since McDonald’s also came out with a Sausage and Hash Brown More-ning McWrap, it was a good opportunity to grab my husband and my son for a Sunday morning breakfast outing. Our order – the new wraps for my husband and I and a Hotcakes Happy Meal for my toddler.

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We got our order and started to dig in…per the McDonald’s website, the Kale and Feta More-ning McWrap contains scrambled eggs, baby kale, sliced tomato and feta cheese, all wrapped up in a soft tortilla. The wrap has 21 grams of protein, which is terrific as I’m always looking for on-the-go vegetarian options with protein. I took my first bite and I was happy to see that the wrap was generously filled with the ingredients. As I got deeper into the wrap, I was happy with how the ingredients interacted with one another. The scrambled eggs were moist and the addition of feta cheese gave the wrap a bit of a bite against the fresh veggies. I would have liked to have a little bit of spice in it but that’s just who I am, I always want spicy food. Overall, I really enjoyed it and I would get it again.

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While I was chowing down, my husband dug into the Sausage and Hash Brown  More-ning McWrap. This wrap contains scrambled eggs, breakfast sausage, a hash brown and a slice of cheddar cheese, all wrapped up in a soft tortilla. He took a few bites and he immediately said, “this is a whole McDonald’s breakfast in one bite! I like how the flavours are mixing together” – he actually liked it so much that he kept his head down and ate the whole thing without coming up for air. I was barely able to get a photo in. When he was done, he simply said, “Yeah, that was pretty good, I would get it again” – always a good sign : ) What’s great about both of these wraps is that McDonald’s is using ingredients from their other products and meals to create them, which I thought was really smart.

While we munched on our wraps, my son happily sat in his highchair with his cool McDonald’s bib, gobbled up his Hotcakes and ate the yogurt that came with his meal. I appreciate that every McDonald’s location has high chairs and bibs and that there are healthy options on the menu like yogurt and apple slices. Everyone was full and happy, especially my son who also enjoyed checking out the fish tank at our local restaurant : )

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Thank you McDonald’s for creating another veggie option, hopefully there are more items to come! And that’s a “wrap” folks (pun intended).  Have you tried the new More-ning McWraps? If you have, please let me know what you thought of them!

Turning Frozen Fruit Into Healthy Desserts with Yonanas

1 Sep

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Disclosure: I was given a Yonanas machine to try out and I thought it was pretty cool, so I thought I would tell you all about it. All opinions are my own.

I’m more than a little obsessed with kitchen appliances. If it does something new and different, I must have it, much to the dismay of my hubby who is trying to declutter our home while I clutter it up. One of the machines I’ve had my eyes on for some time is Yonanas, a frozen fruit dessert machine that lets you take any frozen fruit you have and turn it into a creamy, non-dairy soft serve dessert. I was already having high hopes for this machine…

The box arrived and I couldn’t wait to tear into it. The instructions were great and it was very easy to assemble, I had the machine up and running within minutes. I had some frozen banana and frozen blueberries that I wanted to try mixing first as this is one of my favourite fruit smoothie combinations. Per the instructions, I allowed the fruit to thaw for a few minutes before starting up the machine. I started with two frozen bananas and one cup of frozen blueberries. I read that banana needs to be placed into the machine first before adding any other fruit and sure enough, it was a good tip as the banana kicked things off and acted as a base. It was pretty amazing to see how quickly it turned my boring old fruit into a creamy looking frozen dessert. After tasting it, I was really happy….there was no added sugar and no additives, just the pure flavor of my own frozen fruit.

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Since that first trial run, I mostly throw in whatever frozen fruit I have on hand along with frozen bananas, which we always have in the house. This machine is the perfect place to use up spotty bananas that are a bit past their prime to eat fresh. I find that I get the best texture when I use a mix of old and new bananas (ones that have been frozen recently) along with a few handfuls of my favourite fruits. If you’re not a fan of bananas, you can use any other frozen fruits that you have on hand, just remember to let them sit out and thaw for about 5 minutes for best results.

To me this is a great machine for families to have as it can please everyone…ice cream lovers, people who are lactose intolerant, vegans and anyone who wants to make their own healthy, frozen desserts. I’ve used it to introduce my son to different fruits and as an added bonus, the cold helps to relieve his teething discomfort. His favourite combo…mangoes and strawberries…yum! The possibilities are endless, I have only tried a handful of the recipes on the Yonanas site…there are still so many others I have to check out.

To learn more, visit http://yonanas.com/ for info about their products and tips and recipes for frozen fruit desserts made both with bananas and without them.

Here are a few of my favourite “no bananas” Yonanas recipes, taken from their website. Enjoy!

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Strawberry Pineapple Sorbet

Ingredients: 1/2 cup frozen strawberries and 1/2 cup frozen pineapple

Directions: 1. Slightly thaw your frozen fruit prior to putting through your yonanas maker. 2. Insert 1/4 cup frozen strawberries. 3. Insert 1/4 cup frozen pineapple. 4. Alternate remaining ingredients

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Peach and Cherry Sorbet

Ingredients: 1/2 cup frozen peach slices and 1/2 cup frozen pitted cherries

Directions: 1. Slightly thaw your frozen fruit prior to putting through your yonanas maker. 2. Insert 1/4 cup frozen peach slices. 3. Insert 1/4 cup frozen pitted cherries. 4. Alternate remaining ingredients

How a Strauss WaterBar Can Grow With Your Family  

4 May

Disclosure: Baby R and I were recently invited by Strauss Water to join their team for an afternoon of fun at the BabyTime Show in Toronto. Again, I’ll say that I only write about products/services I actually believe in and have tried on my own. This is one of them!

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I recently had the chance to join Strauss Water at the BabyTime Show in Toronto, to learn about how their Strauss WaterBars can help families to consume and enjoy purified water – chilled, boiling or room temp – all at the touch of a button.

I’ve written about this product before but the more I learn about it, the more I can see the benefits of having one in our home. Since we are in a period of transition at the moment, it doesn’t make sense for us to purchase one just yet but hopefully we will very soon. (Hubby if you’re reading this, I think I might want an orange WaterBar now).

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At this event at the BabyTime Show, Strauss Water focused on how their WaterBars can support families as they grow. The key points I took away were:

  • Water is ready for formula mixing – already purified and can be set to the perfect temp. It’s a small thing but one of the most annoying things my husband and I have experienced about making formula is the need to constantly boil and cool water, so having a machine that removes these steps from the process would be so useful.
  • The WaterBar is great for breastfeeding moms who need to make sure they are hydrated all the time as they can dispense various temperatures of water at the press of a button. No need to wait too long for a hot drink anymore! Who has time when a little person wants cuddles (or is screaming at you LOL)?!?!
  • As my son grows up, so will my nephews and I know that they would love it if we had a Strauss WaterBar because kids (and adults) love to use machines to pour themselves a drink. There’s something that makes it a bit more special than turning on a tap and if that gets all of us to drink more water (myself included because I’m always dehydrated) then so be it!

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To learn more about Strauss WaterBars, head to:

Website: http://www.strauss-water.ca

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/StraussWaterCanada

Twitter: https://twitter.com/StraussWaterCA

Hashtag: #StraussWaterBar

Warming Up With Pastries at Starbucks

2 May

Disclosure: The lovely folks at Starbucks (where I pretty much live anyway) gave me a gift card to try La Boulange pastries and others that were introduced into their stores.

Note: Before I begin, I KNOW I’m more than a tad late on this, but hey, I’ve been soaking up the last few weeks of my maternity leave with Baby R (*sniff*)!

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The team at Starbucks Canada recently offered to send me a gift card and asked if I would like to try the line of La Boulange warm pastries that they had released. The invite came at a bit of an odd time because my husband and I were trying to reduce the amount of sugar we were eating and we had told ourselves that we would cut out pastries and other treats from our diets. So what do you do when you get an invite like this one from one of your favourite coffee companies (hello Pike Place coffee on tap….yum!)….you strap your baby into his car seat, you make an exception and you head out to try things out anyway : )

So I’m a bit obsessed with pastries and I seek them out wherever I go in the world. I first visited a La Boulange shop when I visited San Francisco a few years ago and I loved their pastries (I ate there every day pretty much), so I was excited to see Starbucks Canada partnering with them to introduce a line of warm pastries to their stores.

My husband and I shared the Almond Croissant Blossom and the Single-Origin Chocolate Croissant. Hubby had his with an iced black tea lemonade and I had mine with their Pike’s Place coffee. Both pastries were tasty in my opinion but my husband and I both agreed that the Almond Croissant Blossom was the clear winner as it reminded us of a pastry we had tried when we were in Europe. It wasn’t too sweet, there was just the right amount of almond flavouring, the pastry was flaky and it went well with their coffee. It’s a nice addition to their pastry lineup and an item that isn’t easy to find in our area….actually I would say that it’s quite a challenge to find an almond pastry in anything but a specialty bakery.

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The Single-Origin Chocolate Croissant was also good, hey, a girl needs some chocolate to get her day going sometimes : ) The pastry was decent but I wished that it had the light crunch that I associate with chocolate croissants a.k.a Pain Au Chocolat as it’s known in France. I think this might be due to having it warm, so I’ll have to try it at room temperature next time.

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I also found out that they had updated some of their other items including their Banana Loaf. Their new Banana Loaf is moister, more pillowy and to me it has more of a true homemade banana bread taste than the older version. Warmed up, the new Banana Loaf is definitely one of my favourites. Another item I enjoyed warm is their Fruit and Oat Cookie, which a gentleman in line randomly told me that I “must have” a few months ago. He told me that he buys one 2-3 times a week, sometimes more!

Overall, I think the addition of warm pastry items and a revamp of some of their other baked goods was a good move for Starbucks Canada. Next up, I hope they can upgrade to a model where each store bakes at least some of their own pastries in-house. How lovely would it be to be greeted by the smell of fresh coffee AND baking when approaching a Starbucks location? Fingers crossed!

Why We’re In Love with the Strauss WaterBar

31 Mar

Disclosure: I received an invitation from Strauss Water to learn more about their Strauss WaterBars at the Green Living Show in Toronto. I only share info about products I think are cool. Let me know what you think!

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My husband and I first saw the Strauss WaterBar at a food show in Toronto a few months ago and I can honestly say that we were smitten at first glance. I was drawn to it immediately because I love funky kitchen appliances in bold colours. At first, I thought it was a new type of espresso machine but I was surprised to find out that it was a water machine. Yes, a water machine…it can dispense cold, room temperate, hot and boiling water at the touch of a button.

 

 

After getting a small taste of what this clever little machine was all about, I was excited to have an opportunity to get a closer look at it at the Green Living Show, which took place a few days ago. The machine is more than just a pretty face, it takes the water through a triple-filtration and purification system that it is tapped directly into your main water line, so that there’s a continuous supply of water. The folks at Strauss say that once the water has been processed, the essential minerals stay in the water but bacteria and bad tasting chlorine is reduced by 99.9%. Since our son was born last year, we have always used filtered and boiled water for his formula and solid food, so the concept of having purified water available at all times with no effort on our part is very appealing. They currently sell two machines in Canada, the T6 and T7 and both are available in a ton of cool colours, with yellow being my favourite.

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While Strauss Water has only been in Canada for a few years, as a company, they’ve been around for over 40 years. While we have been blessed with a decent water supply here in Canada, that’s not always the case in other countries. Water machines have been popular in Asia for a number of years now. The last time I was in India, I was surprised to see them in quite a few of my relatives’ houses. Water purification is a huge business there as water treatment varies from region to region. A number of my relatives had machines hooked up to their taps that would boil, cool, filter and dispense water in a range of temperatures from cold to boiling. They all swear that they can’t live without them.

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So, you might be wondering why anyone living in North America would want a Strauss WaterBar. I mean, you’ve lived without one until now right? Well check this out….

  • Water is dispensed at the touch of a button, at the temperature you choose. The machines have an energy-saving sleep mode and an automatic wake-up mode, so you can wake up to water at the temp you need, even boiling. 
  • Instant boiling water for preparing food or your favourite hot beverages. Note: The hot and boiling water functions on a Strauss WaterBar are more energy-efficient than a kettle. I boil a lot of water for my son’s baby formula and his food. On average, we use our kettle at least three times a day, so there would be a savings for us. On a side note, parents (myself included) will be happy to find out that they have a child safety lock on the hot and boiling water functions of the machine.
  • Eco-friendly water consumption. The average family wastes 400-600 small plastic bottles every year (we are guilty of this!), not to mention the large plastic jugs some families use. Add to that the use of gas and carbon emissions from driving….
  • Innovative and funky design helps to encourage family members to drink more water. How gorgeous would that yellow one look on our kitchen counter? Right babe? (Husband’s read blogs too). The folks at Strauss say that not only do adults drink more water with a Strauss WaterBar in their kitchens but so do kids!

In all seriousness, I think it’s a great product and I want one in my home (and so does my husband) which is why I’m sharing this info with you. If the market for water machines in Europe and Asia is any indication, I think they will soon takeoff and be popular in North America too. On a side note, I spotted a version of the Strauss WaterBar that’s sold in other parts of the world that has a sparkling water function….fingers crossed that it makes its way to Canada soon!

To learn more about Strauss Water, head to:

Website: http://www.strauss-water.ca

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/StraussWaterCanada

Twitter: https://twitter.com/StraussWaterCA

Hashtag: #StraussWaterBar

 

Tasty bites at Dr.Laffa Restaurant

13 Mar

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I recently had the opportunity to visit Dr. Laffa Restaurant in North York, Ontario for a family-style tasting session with a group of fellow food lovers. Like me, you’re probably wondering what this restaurant’s name is all about. Well, Yoram Gabay and his passionate team are serving up some tasty Israeli and Iraqi cuisine for their faithful customers, along with their delicious laffa bread, which is served alongside dishes or as a wrap.

Yoram came out from his busy kitchen to tell us a little bit about Dr.Laffa Restaurant. He wanted to create a restaurant in Toronto that featured the food and flavours he cherished the most back home. He tries to make everything as authentic as possible, going so far as to have spices specially delivered from his homeland every few weeks. He even designed his own laffa oven, so he could recreate his recipe perfectly.

After a warm welcome from the Dr.Laffa team, the share plates of dishes started to come out of the kitchen in a steady stream. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that they had quite a few vegetarian dishes on their menu, including a number of salads, dips, mains and sides. I love meals with lots of different things to try, so their cuisine was absolutely perfect for me.

Vegetarian Highlights:

Fresh laffa

This is why I wanted to visit Dr.Laffa Restaurant in the first place. I was dying to try this special bread that I kept reading about. Laffa is fresh chewy flatbread of medium thickness that to me tasted mostly like naan (an East Indian flatbread). Naan is fairly easy to tear and I found that the laffa bread didn’t necessarily tear easily, which is a good thing as it is widely used in sandwiches and wraps.

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Fresh, hot laffa!

Salads, dips and sides

Marinated beets, roasted peppers, tabouli, baba ganouj, falafel, grilled eggplant with tahini….there were so many fresh and tasty choices at Dr.Laffa. If you’re having trouble choosing what to try, don’t worry too much, you can order a platter with a variety of different items on it.

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Clockwise from top left: Hummus with fried eggplant, baba ghanouj, marinated beets, tabbouleh, roasted eggplant with tomato

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Hummus with fried eggplant and tahini

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Grilled eggplant with tahini

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Fresh, piping hot french fries

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I enjoyed these tasty potato fritters, they reminded me of pakoras, another type of fritter that’s common in East Indian cuisine. They were served with a sour mango sauce that one of the chefs said would take it to “the next level” and he was absolutely right! The sauce enhanced the flavours in the fritters and created a whole set of new flavours when everything was mixed together. They serve these fritters in a sandwich which they also call Sabich, so I found it a bit confusing! The sandwich contains these fritters, eggplant, hard boiled egg and your choice of toppings. Since we were tasting a ton of food as a group, we had the fritters straight up, but I’m looking forward to trying them in a sandwich on my next visit. They can also be purchased in the Sabich Plate, which includes the fritters and several salads.

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Fresh, hot sabich. Have them with sour mango sauce and watch your tastebuds explode : )

Shakshuka

My favourite dish of the night was their Shakshuka, an absolutely delicious piping hot skillet of stewed tomato sauce with poached eggs. I’ve had Shakshuka at a few restaurants in Toronto but this was my favourite version so far. Their tomato stew included small pieces of vegetables and beans along with a delicious mix of spices that I’ve never tasted before. It was so comforting… every bite just warmed up my tummy, the seasoning was perfect and the spices just took everything to another level. I can’t wait to bring my husband and son in sometime soon to share a skillet of Shakshuka with some fresh laffa.

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My favourite dish of the night, Dr.Laffa’s Shakshuka. Hearty, piping hot and packed with flavour!

Many thanks to Yoram Gabay and the hardworking team at Dr. Laffa for introducing me to their food. Thank you Vicky @momwhoruns for the invitation! I’m already looking forward to my next visit, this time with my meat-loving husband, as I know he would enjoy their Shawarma Laffa, Dr. Laffa Hummus (with ground meat and pine nuts) and their Pasties Plate a.k.a Moroccan Cigars (phyllo rolls with a meat filling). All of these dishes were very popular with the others at the table, so I know he’ll love them too.

Restaurant Info:

Important!

This is a Kosher restaurant, so they are NOT open after sundown on Friday’s. They are also closed on Saturdays. Please call the restaurant before heading over there so you won’t be disappointed!

Dr. Laffa Restaurant

3027 Bathurst St

North York, Ontario

M6B 3B5

Tel: 647-352-9000 or 647-352-9001

Website: http://www.drlaffa.com

Twitter: @DrLaffa

Instagram: @Dr.Laffa

Facebook: http://on.fb.me/18iq0yM

Zomato Meetup at The Good Son

22 Feb

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I haven’t had a fabulous vegetarian meal at a Toronto restaurant in long time. Now, I know that Toronto has a number of vegetarian and vegan restaurants but I’m talking about great vegetarian dishes at “regular” restaurants, so I can enjoy a meal with my carnivore of a husband (I say that with love!). Just when I was about to give up hope, along came the amazing team at Zomato with an invitation to join them for a #ZomatoMeetup dinner at The Good Son. I quickly scanned the menu before heading downtown and I saw a few veggie dishes that sounded tasty, so I felt confident that there would be something for me to eat. Who knew that I was about to have a very exciting and memorable meal….

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I arrived to see that the Zomato group had reserved a large table near the Chef’s station…yippee! As soon as I saw that, I knew we were in for a treat. If you’ve never sat near the kitchen or at the “Chef’s Table” in a restaurant, make an effort to do so. You’ll be close to the action, you’ll get to hear all of those glorious kitchen sounds and you’ll often be surprised with off menu dishes and treats. To me, they are the best seats in the house. At the table were Zomato’s Toronto team, including Justin, Jimena and Pam and a group of fellow bloggers from a mix of food and lifestyle sites. Zomato is an online and mobile restaurant discovery platform and social food network, with presence in over 13 countries and 44 cities. They just upped their game and recently purchased Urbanspoon too!

I did some reading about Zomato before coming to the event and I found out that their team physically collects information from every single restaurant/cafe/bar in town (menus, photos, pricing, timings etc.) and they make sure this information is always up to date. Users of Zomato (which is free to join by the way!) have the unique opportunity to rate and review restaurants, follow other foodies and create a trusted network of people whose opinions they value, all based around one common love… food! They also have the opportunity to “wish list” restaurants, upload photos and tag their friends. It’s a really cool platform, so I do hope you’ll check it out. If you do join, please look me up under Sandy Avvari Nayani.

So why am I sharing this information? I wasn’t asked to share it, I want to share it, because the Zomato team is fiercely passionate about food and the work that they do and I don’t see people with that amount of passion very often. I’ve been using Zomato for a few weeks now and I can already see the benefits of it as I’m able to check out which restaurants my foodie friends have checked into and take a look at photos of the dishes they’ve had. It’s been a great resource so far.

So now onto the meal at The Good Son….oh and what a meal it was. There was a set menu for the evening and I was the only vegetarian at the table, so the restaurant made a special effort to provide me with dishes from their regular menu or vegetarian versions of dishes the rest of the group was having.

IMG_4469First course: Shishito peppers wrapped in potato. Crunchy, spicy goodness with a ton of flavour. I’ve never had anything like it. Oh yeah.

IMG_4464Second course: Watercress salad with poached pear, blue cheese and caramelized onion. It was my first watercress salad and it won’t be my last, the flavours were just incredible.

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Third course: Sweet potato soup with coconut milk. It was warm and comforting on a cold day. There was so much flavor in this soup, I could have eaten bowls of it.

IMG_4468Fourth course: Dupuy lentils with kale. It was so delicious I couldn’t even stand it. One of my favourite dishes of the evening. Where has this dish been all my life? Why haven’t I had Dupuy lentils before? So many questions….

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Fifth course: Spicy brussels sprouts. Another favourite of the evening. Sweet, spicy, crispy on the outside and soft on the inside…wow, wow, wow. Why haven’t I had them like this before? Mind blown.

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Sixth course: Rapini and roasted cauliflower with potato purée. A simple and delicious way to start winding down the meal.

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Seventh course: Poached pear with a Riesling sabayon, pear gelée and chocolate crunch. Lots of great textures, with a ton of flavour. A small but mighty dessert!

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Eighth course: We were all stuffed and happy and just when we thought the meal was over, out came this amazing dessert from Pastry Chef Sat Shastri – red velvet cake with chocolate mousse, cherries and meringue. It was huge and we easily could have shared the dessert and we all started to protest, but Chef Shastri insisted that we just dig in. It was not only beautiful to look at but also incredibly delicious to eat : ) Most of us managed to finish more than half of the dessert, myself included!

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While I was swooning over the creativity and care that went into my vegetarian meal, there were yelps and moans of foodie pleasure at the rest of the table, where my fellow food lovers were savoring their meat and seafood dishes. All in all, I felt that The Good Son did an amazing job at catering to everyone at the table, which to me is a huge feat. Huge thanks to Chef Vittorio Colacitti and the team at The Good Son for a fantastic vegetarian meal, the best I’ve had in a long time! Thank you Justin, Jimena and Pam from Zomato for creating an evening of great food and great people, I’m so thankful that I had a chance to enjoy a #ZomatoMeetup. If they are all this amazing, I would be happy to join again : ) See you again very soon Chef Colacitti! XO

Info:

Zomato – https://www.zomato.com

Zomato’s Toronto feed – https://www.zomato.com/toronto

The Good Son

1096 Queen Street West (at Dovercourt)

Toronto, ON M6J 1H9

Tel: 416-551-0589

Website: http://thegoodsontoronto.com

About Chef Vittorio Colacitti (from The Good Son’s website)

Born and raised in Toronto, Chef Colacitti, learned his culinary art from some of the best names in Toronto’s restaurant industry including: Lorenzo Loseto (George), Scot Woods (Lucien), and Didier Leroy who is a master Chef of France.  Chef Colacitti’s craft in the kitchen also draws from several years of international experience, having studied at the Thai & International Food Academy, staging in various regions across Italy and working as a stagiaire at Thomas Keller’s, Bouchon.

 

Fab finds at Grocery Innovations Canada 2014

3 Oct

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A few days ago I had the opportunity to attend Grocery Innovations Canada, an industry conference and trade show hosted by the Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers. I love to learn about new products and I’m also obsessed with food packaging, so I look forward to this show every year. I should explain that grocery shopping is a huge passion of mine. One of my favourite post-work activities is wandering the aisles of grocery stores (yes, I’m serious). Even when I’m on vacation, I seek out local and chain grocery stores, just to check out their products. So when I got to the show, it was one of those scenarios where I walked in and I was so excited to be there that I didn’t know where to start : )

Warning – this is going to be a LONG post. Not long in words but long because of the number of products I’ll be talking about. Note: Some of the products pictured below aren’t new but the brands were showing them again as a reminder to retailers and media that they are available. Here we go….

For those who follow a gluten-free diet, there’s a gluten-free version of Cream of Rice in market. I didn’t get to sample it but I thought I would share this info for those who enjoy the product. Learn more here: http://www.creamofwheat.com/products/cream-of-rice/

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I love mushroom risotto and I’ve made it at home several times. It’s an easy dish to make but it’s just very time-consuming so I was happy to find out about In Cuisin’s Mushroom Risotto. I’ve seen it in the freezer section many times (often on sale) but I had never tried it. I had a hot sample of the risotto and it was delicious! There was an assortment of mushrooms in it and the rice was just the right texture. In my opinion, for a frozen dish it was as close to restaurant style as you could get. I’ll definitely be picking this up to keep in the freezer for a last-minute lunch or dinner. Learn more here: http://infoodsinc.com/en/products/in-cuisin-risotto/mushroom-risotto/

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Coffee + coconut water? Yes, it’s true. The fine folks at Vita Coco have combined coconut water with espresso and a splash of milk to create a mighty tasty drink. I was surprised by how good it was (Apologies for the poor photo!). Vita Coco was also showing their flavoured coconut waters – I enjoyed the mango and pineapple flavours the most. Learn more here: http://vitacoco.com/products/vita-coco-cafe/#cococafe
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Robin Hood showed some quick bread mixes with flavours including banana bread and lemon poppy seed bread. This looks like a great idea for those who wish to make quick breads at home without the effort of scratch baking. While they weren’t giving out samples of the baked breads to try, I did receive a coupon to try the product. I’m a huge fan of Robin Hood flour, it’s the only brand I’ll buy, so I’m sure this product meets the same standards. Learn more here: http://www.robinhood.ca/Products/Mixes

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Another packaged baking product I wanted to mention are Duncan Hines Strawberry Flavoured Cupcakes, this product comes with cream cheese icing and a piping bag. I’m very big on baking from scratch but I have to say that the cupcakes I sampled were quite tasty and weren’t too sweet. Definitely a good option for some easy home baking. http://www.duncanhines.ca/products/cupcakes/strawberry-flavoured-cupcakes/

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Rotkappchen De-alcoholized Sparkling Wine….wow, I loved the taste and I thought the packaging looked quite nice as well. It’s a great option for those who wish to have a non-alcoholic beverage but don’t want to feel like they are missing out on anything. Learn more here: http://www.therealbubbly.com/products.html

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I wanted something spicy after having the cupcakes and sparkling wine so I was so happy to spot No. 7 Hot Sauce’s display. They have a range of flavourful sauces with different levels of spice, so there was really something for everyone.  The best part, they are from Toronto! Learn more here: http://no7hotsauce.com

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This was big news for me….I love the Moroccan 9 Vegetable Soup that I can buy hot and ready at Loblaws and Longo’s. I found out that the supplier was Campbell’s and I was thinking of asking them to sell the soup in cans and voila…my wish was granted when I visited their display at the show! I bought a can of the soup after the show and I’m having it right now. While it is close to their Campbell’s FoodService version, it isn’t 100% the same. I’ll still keep a can or two in my cupboard to squash the cravings as needed though. Learn more here: http://www.campbellsoup.ca/en-ca/products/everyday-gourmet/campbells-everyday-gourmet-moroccan-spiced-eight-vegetable-chickpea

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Next up, Supereats Kale + Chia Chips. I enjoyed these, they were tasty, nice and crunchy and left me feeling satisfied. I’m look for these at my local health food store. Learn more here: http://www.supereats.com

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Another tasty chip, Luke’s Organic Protein Chips with blue corn and red lentils. Also really tasty, especially considering the fact that they are “healthy” chips. Another one to look out for in health food stores. Learn more here: http://www.lukesorganic.com

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Mmmm Wonderful Pistachios! These aren’t new but I love their variations on the humble little pistachio. I tried their Sweet Chili pistachios for the first time and I was kicking myself for not trying them earlier, they were so good! I also loved the salt and pepper flavour, it’s simple but oh so tasty. Can we just talk about their cute packaging for a minute? It’s eye-catching and very fresh. Go get some, now. Learn more here: http://getsnackin.ca

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I’m looking forward to trying the Blueapple, a product that was made to help keep fruits and vegetables fresher for longer in the fridge. Learn more here: http://www.thebluapple.com/how-it-works

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These aren’t new but I thought I would share since there is a huge slow cooker movement right now. These liners make cleanup easy, you just line the cooker, make your dish and then just pull the liner out and toss it after. Learn more here: http://www.reynoldskitchens.com/products/slow-cooker-liners/

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KitchenAid was showing their new Produce Preserver, designed to help keep produce fresher for longer. I received a sample of this so I’m really looking forward to testing it out. Stay tuned! Learn more here: http://www.kitchenaid.ca/en_CA/shop/-%5BP1KG6S1B%5D-2104325/P1KG6S1B/

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Maple water. It was the first time I had heard of it and apparently it’s the next big thing. Surprisingly it contains protein, prebiotics and antioxidants and you know what, it tasted pretty good. Not too sweet, just a fresh clean taste. Bonus points, the company is Canadian! Learn more here: http://www.eauderableseva.com/en/

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Huge news…Tassimo and McDonald’s have partnered up to create McCafe t-discs for Tassimo machines. I adore my Tassimo machine and I can’t wait to try the McCafe discs. Learn more here: https://www.tassimo.ca/en/beverages/mccafe/

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Greek yogurt with chia mixed in from Olympic Dairy (they’re Canadian!). A great option for vegetarians who want to add more protein in their diets. Learn more here: http://www.olympicdairy.com/index.php

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Two more great products from Sol Cuisine – the first one is their Tangy Korean BBQ Meatless Chicken. I liked the flavours and the texture of the meatless chicken was great. Their Veggie Breakfast Sausages were great too, they would be perfect in a breakfast sandwich with egg, cheese and tomato. (my favourite sandwich combo). I’ll definitely pick up both of these next time I’m at the grocery store. Learn more here: http://solcuisine.com/canadian-retail

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I loved these Korean filled pancakes (called Hotteok) from Arumi. I tried both the Hotteok Red Bean and Hotteok Brown Sugar, both were really tasty. The rep said these products are available at major Korean grocery stores in the Toronto area. The company doesn’t appear to have a website with these products on it…

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A few side items…Coca-Cola brought their “Share A Coke” machines to the show and I was able to finally get some cans made with my (full) name and my husband’s names on them. So cool! Learn more here: http://www.shareacoke.ca

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Lastly, not a product but a really cute giveaway at the show from McCain Foods. They were focusing on their frozen potato products so they handed out potato shaped stress balls. I just had to share : )

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The show was quite big, big enough that I’m sure that I missed some good finds. Luckily fellow blogger Vicky Weiss  attended as well, so please check out her blog to find out which products she loved at GIC at www.momwhoruns.com

Have you tried any of the above products? Are there any that you’re excited about?

 

 

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