Pazzo Taverna and Pizzeria

I’m going to tell you something and it’s going to make me sound like a giant dork.

I created an Excel chart for my restaurant bucket list, organized by city and type of food. This way I can easily pick out just a few restaurants to suggest when I’m making plans with someone. It’s kind of neat!

A few Fridays ago I crossed one Stratford restaurant off my bucket list. JZ was able to get off work early, so we headed there mid-afternoon and planned to explore the city a bit before dinner.

Highway 7

It was chillier than we expected out, so we wanted to grab some hot drinks to warm ourselves up. I suggested Balzac’s, a local chain with great coffee, but as we were walking we stumbled upon a small independent cafe called Slave to the Grind that we decided to check out.

Slave to the Grind

I liked it immediately! Exposed brick walls always create a really cool atmosphere. This place had several other great features too, like lattes made with various brewed teas and a selection of vegan milk options. I got a masala chai latte made with almond milk with a dusting of fresh cinnamon on top. It was delicious while not being a sugar bomb like most chai lattes.

Slave to the Grind

We sipped our drinks while walking around Stratford. I found at least 3 other restaurants there that I had to add to my bucket list when I got home! We also wandered through Shakespeare Gardens, which was exactly what I pictured the gardens looking like when I read Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. As a side note, if you haven’t read that Shakespeare play yet, add it to your reading list. It’s my favourite one!

Shakespeare Gardens Stratford

When our reservation time came, we headed over to Pazzo Taverna and Pizzeria, one of Stratford’s best known restaurants that is both a Taverna in the upper level and a Pizzeria in the lower level. Our reservations were for the pizzeria.

Pazzo Taverna and Pizzeria

Because it’s below street level with stone walls, you almost feel like you’re in a wine cellar! It gives it a really cool atmosphere, although I wish our table wasn’t so close to our neighbours’ table. It’s hard to have a nice conversation when you can almost join in the conversation of the people next to you.

I had a glass of their wine special for the night, which our waitress recommended and I really enjoyed. I wish I had written down what kind it was! JZ really liked his Tawse Riesling as well.

Pazzo Taverna and Pizzeria - red wine

I had the Soiled Reputation (a local farm) green salad to start, which had slow roasted tomatoes and fennel in it. It was a bit overdressed but I otherwise really enjoyed it. I like that they stuck to only a few flavours to let them really stand out. Unfortunately JZ didn’t love his Caesar salad, and I had to agree with him. It had a strong punch of garlic, but was somehow bland at the same time.

Pazzo Taverna and Pizzeria - salad

We both really enjoyed our pizzas though.

I took a while to decide on my order (like always – decision making is not my strong point!) but eventually decided on the Don Corleone pizza on the whole wheat crust, which came topped with pepperoni, Italian bacon, roasted red peppers, and fresh basil. It had the perfect thickness of crust (thin, but not too thin) and such great flavours on it! John loved his Italian Stallion pizza too, topped with prosciutto, Italian sausage, Italian bacon, spicy calabrese, bocconcini, roasted garlic, and fresh herbs.

Pazzo Taverna and Pizzeria - Don Corleone pizza

They were pretty big servings though and we both left with half our pizzas in to-go boxes. Two meals from a $16-20 pizza ain’t bad! But my forgetful self ended up leaving my box in JZ’s fridge, so I didn’t get to enjoy my leftovers. Guess we’ll just have to go back some time!

Pazzo Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

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Are “healthy choices” on restaurant menus actually healthy?

You know what makes me laugh? Seeing some of the options under “Healthy Choices” or “Lighter Fare” on a restaurant menu. Because sometimes, they’re not actually that healthy at all.

Are "healthy choices" on restaurant menus actually healthy?

I mean, who decides what is a “healthy” choice? Do they have a background in nutrition? Are they a dietitian? Did they enter the ingredients into a nutrition processing software to see its nutrition information? Do they even really understand what constitutes a “healthy” choice? Not always.

Sometimes the menu items under those headings don’t even have criteria, so its up to the discretion of whoever wrote the menu. One of my favourite examples is finding “Yogurt layered with granola and fruit with a drizzle of honey” under the “Healthy Choices” on breakfast menus. That meal is going to be packed with added sugars from the yogurt and granola, not to mention the honey. And considering that granola is often over 250 calories per half cup, this option may be even more calorie dense than one of the options on the regular menu!

restaurant table

At some restaurants there is criteria for the options labelled as a “Healthy Choice”, so at least there is some degree of discrimination behind it. Most of the time I find that criteria is based on being under a certain number of calories. On the plus side, you know that you won’t be eating an entire day’s worth of calories in one meal. But an item’s calorie count doesn’t say anything about other important nutrition considerations such as its sugar content, its fat content, how much sodium it contains, whether its made from whole grains, or whether it contains fruits or vegetables. I’ve seen some menu items labelled as a “Healthy Choice” that still have more than three quarters of your day’s allowance of sodium, and others that are basically just refined carbohydrates with little other nutritional value. Essentially the “Healthy Choices” section on menus often really just means “The Least Unhealthy Options”.

Now I’m not one to say that we always need to be making health-conscious choices at restaurants. Food is meant to be enjoyed too! But for people who do want to make healthier choices when eating out, it’s important to be aware that the “Lighter Options” section of restaurant menus (while having good intentions) may not always be that healthy.

Do you agree/disagree?

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Cheesy baked cauliflower

Thanksgiving is typically a very traditional holiday for most families, including mine. It’s often filled with the same people, the same food, and the same rituals year after year. That’s what makes it so comforting.

But this year my Thanksgiving was a blend of the old and the new. It was filled with most of my favourite things that makes Thanksgiving feel so familiar, but with some new twists and perhaps even new traditions. It was different, yet still had all the elements that make Thanksgiving so special.

On Sunday I went to JZ’s family’s Thanksgiving for the first time and got to partake in their traditions including his grandma’s Slovenian soup and an intense game of Blackjack! I made these apple spice cupcakes with cinnamon cream cheese frosting from Canadian Living to contribute to the meal. They were basic cupcakes, but the caramel topper I made using this tutorial really made them stand out!

apple spice cupcake 3

My family’s Thanksgiving was on Monday. Like always, we went to the Norfolk County Fair beforehand. It no longer holds the same appeal now that I’m older and don’t care for the rides or games, but I keep going back because of its nostalgic meaning to me. And I still enjoy the horse shows and giant pumpkins!

norfolk county fair

Our Thanksgiving meal was essentially the same as every family holiday dinner, right down to the side dishes. Despite eating the same thing two or three times a year for my entire life, I still look forward to their familiar flavours every time!

Thanksgiving dinner

I like to add a twist every year by contributing a new side dish though. This year I made this roasted squash with lemon tahini sauce from Bon Appetit, which was a hit amongst all the squash lovers in my family. The slightly bitter, tangy sauce was a good complement to the sweetness of the squash.

roasted squash with lemon tahini sauce

The real side dish standout was my dad’s cheesy baked cauliflower though. With a topping made of mayonnaise and two types of cheese, it will convert even the biggest cauliflower skeptics (just ask JZ)! I love the dish as is, but as an experiment, I decided to try making a lighter version with the leftover cauliflower.

Cheesy baked cauliflower

To lighten it up slightly, I replaced the mayo with Greek yogurt and reduced the cheese by just a touch. The result was a healthier version of my dad’s dish without sacrificing any flavour.

See? Sometimes slightly changing traditions can be a good thing.

Cheesy baked cauliflower

Cheesy baked cauliflower

Serves 3-4 | Vegetarian, gluten free, egg free, nut free

4 cups large cauliflower florets
1/2 cup shredded extra old cheddar cheese
1 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
1.5 tbsp plain 2% Greek yogurt
1 tsp Dijon mustard
Salt to taste

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Fill a large pot with about 1 inch of water, and bring to a boil. Add the cauliflower and let cook for about 4-5 minutes, or until it is tender and able to be pierced with a fork. Then drain and place in a 1 to 1.5 quart baking dish and sprinkle with salt.

In a small bowl, combine the cheddar, Parmesan, Greek yogurt, and Dijon mustard. Stir to mix well, then spread it on top the cauliflower. Bake in the oven for about 15-20 minutes, or until the cheese starts to brown.

cheesy baked cauliflower

What are your Thanksgiving traditions?

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Enjoying fall in Burlington

I think one of the reasons I love fall so much is the fact that it’s so fleeting. It seems like that perfect period of time when the weather is still comfortable and the trees are still vibrant with colour goes by in the blink of an eye. So I’m trying to soak up autumn as much as I can. Here’s how I’m enjoying fall in Burlington right now:

Apple picking at Applevale Orchards

A few weekends ago I dragged JZ to go apple picking with me at a local orchard because it’s one of my favourite fall activities. I like Applevale because it’s not an entertainment farm that charges up the wazoo to just enter its property. It’s simple and to the point: just pay for your desired size of bag, and go pick apples. We picked a huge bag of Macintosh apples that have been great for snacking on. I’m also hoping to go back soon to get some Golden Delicious apples for applesauce and apple crisp!

Enjoying fall in Burlington - Applevale orchards

Hiking at Dundas Valley Conservation Area

Fall is the ideal time for hiking in my opinion. The temperatures are just right, and you really can’t beat the views! Dundas Valley is just a short drive away from Burlington, so my friend Andrea and I decided to check it out one afternoon. We hiked the Main Loop, which took us about 1.5 hours (including a 10 minute period where we got lost). But you could seriously stay there and hike all day on its various trails while taking in its gorgeous views:

Enjoying fall in Burlington - Dundas Valley Conservation Area hiking

Fall treats at Kelly’s Bake Shoppe

Before our hike we stopped for a treat at Kelly’s Bake Shoppe, which always has amazing fall goodies (and nut free too!). I went for their ginger molasses cookie since it was one I’d never tried before. I’ve also had their pumpkin chocolate chip muffin and pumpkin scone which are both delicious.

Enjoying fall in Burlington - Kellys Bake Shoppe ginger molasses cookie

Comfort food at West Plains Bistro

As soon as fall hits, I’m hit with cravings for comfort food! Which is why my home cooked dinners lately have consisted of casseroles, risotto, pasta, and stew. I also recently had a fantastic beef bourguignon at West Plains Bistro with the most tender beef! Served over shallot infused mashed potatoes and enjoyed with a glass of Merlot, it was comfort food at its finest.

Enjoying fall in Burlington - West Plains Bistro beef bourguignon

Lattes at Tamp Coffee Co

This is my and JZ’s favourite coffee shop! There’s a little seating nook there that’s the best place to hang out for a few hours on a chilly fall day with one of Tamp’s pumpkin lattes (which, FYI, are eons better than the pumpkin spice lattes from Starbucks!).

Enjoying fall in Burlington - Tamp Coffee Co latte

Fall produce at the Burlington Mall farmers market

Fall to me means one thing: squash! I go nuts for all the great squash at the farmers market. A few years ago you could mostly just find butternut, buttercup, and acorn squash but these days I’m finding all sorts of different varieties like delicata, hubbard, kabocha. It’s awesome! I also love the Brussels sprouts, leeks, potatoes, parsnips, and carrots this time of year too. They’re perfect for using in all my comfort food cooking. Oh, and let’s not forget The Cheese Man’s stand – because comfort food requires cheese, am I right?

Enjoying fall in Burlington - Burlington Mall farmers market

Speaking of comfort food, I’ll be busy cooking, eating, and enjoying Thanksgiving this weekend, so I won’t be posting again until mid next week. Happy Thanksgiving to all my fellow Canadians!

How are you enjoying fall where you live?

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Healthy oat and flax date squares

This past weekend was a pretty low key one. The weather was gorgeous on Friday, so JZ and I went on a bike ride to the farmers market to pick up some ingredients for lunch and dinner.  I also picked up a gorgeous cauliflower that I’m making risotto with this week as well as the last of the season’s local blackberries – I can’t believe summer is really over!

The skies opened up once we got back, so we spent the rest of the rainy afternoon cozied up with some blankets and a vanilla scented candle while he did some work and I edited these pictures.

Healthy oat and flax date squares

After a dinner of pork tenderloin Diane (here is the recipe – it was pretty good!) and falling asleep on the couch in the last 5 minutes of the Leafs game against Detroit, we were in bed by just after 10 pm.

Gosh, that makes me sound old. And my obsession with date squares just adds to my premature senior citizen status. I mean, before getting into blogging, I’d never met anyone under 70 who likes date squares. I love them though! Buttery, crumbly, gooey, and sweet – they’ve got all the components of a perfect dessert.

My version is a healthier twist on the classic dessert, based upon a date flax bar I had at Borough Market in England. These oat and flax date squares are low in added sugar and fat, making them healthy enough to be an everyday snack. Plus they’re free of dairy, eggs, and nuts, so they’re a safe choice for allergies. But the real selling point is all the fibre in these guys! With oats, flax, and dates, there’s tons of the good stuff in these squares to help move things along – if you know what I mean.

… I really do make myself sound old, don’t I?

Healthy oat and flax date squares

Healthy oat and flax date squares

Makes 16 squares | Dairy free, egg free, nut free

Crust:
2 cup rolled oats
0.5 cup ground flax
1/4 cup melted coconut oil
4 tbsp honey
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 + 1/8 tsp salt

Filling:
1.5 cups pitted Medjool dates (about 15 dates)
1/4 cup boiling Water

Before getting started, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line a 8×8″ square baking pan with parchment paper.

In a food processor, combine the oats and flax, and process until the oats are slightly ground (don’t grind them into a flour). Then add the melted coconut oil, honey, vanilla, and salt, and process until everything is combined. Remove mixture from the food processor into bowl, then take about 2/3 of the mixture press it down firmly into the baking pan to form the bottom crust. I spent at least 5 minutes making sure it was very firmly pressed down.

Give your food processor a quick wipe if needed to remove any crumbs, then add the Medjool dates and boiling water. Process until it is a soft, sticky paste. You may need to add more or less water – you want it to be a consistency that you can spread on top of the crust, but isn’t too liquidy. When it is a good consistency, carefully spread it on top of the oat and flax crust.

Then take the remaining 1/3 of the crust mixture and sprinkle it evenly on top of the date layer, pressing it down lightly.

Bake on the middle rack of the oven for about 25-30 minutes, then remove and let the pan cool on top of a rack before removing. Cut into 16 squares and store in an airtight container in the fridge for 2 weeks.

Healthy oat and flax date squares

Do you like classic date squares? Do you ever feel like you act older than your age?

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Lucinda Scala Quinn’s Eggplant Parm Stacks

Disclaimer: In exchange for promoting The Delicious Food Show, I received a media pass to attend the event. I was not otherwise compensated for this post, and all opinions are my own!

One of the things I love the most about living so close to Toronto is all the great food events in the city. It seems like every month (heck, every week) there’s a new food festival or event being promoted on Twitter. It’s hard to keep up with!

One event that I’m particularly excited for is the Delicious Food Show, happening October 17-19 at the Direct Energy Centre. It’s going to be three days of exhibitors, cooking demos, tastings, workshops, appearances by Food Network and celebrity chefs, and of course lots of good food! If you’re interested in attending, check out their website and be sure to follow the event on Twitter and Facebook.

Delicious Food Show 2014

One person than I’m excited to see there is Lucinda Scala Quinn, who is the Executive Editorial Director of food for Martha Stewart Living Magazine, and also the author of 4 books. She will be doing a hands on workshop on Saturday at 2:30 pm as a part of the Exclusive Chef Series. And based on her Eggplant Parm Stacks recipe that I’ve been given permission to share, I bet she’ll be cooking something delicious!

Eggplant Parm Stacks

Eggplant Parm Stacks

Excerpted from Mad Hungry Cravings by Lucinda Scala Quinn (Artisan Books). Copyright 2013. Photographs by Jonathan Lovekin.

Serves 8 | Vegetarian

2 eggplants (2-1/2 pounds total),
sliced 1/3 inch thick (24 slices total)
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 cup fine bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
3 cups Italian Tomato Sauce (recipe follows) or other tomato sauce
A 1-pound ball fresh mozzarella, halved lengthwise and sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick (24 slices total)

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F with a rack in the center position. Preheat a grill or grill pan over medium-high heat.

2. Brush the eggplant slices on both sides with 1/3 cup of the olive oil and season with the salt. Working in batches, add to the grill pan and cook, flipping once, until charred and soft, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer to a platter or baking sheet.

3. Combine the bread crumbs, Parmesan, pepper, herbs, and the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a medium bowl.

4. Place 8 slices of the grilled eggplant on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet. Top each with 2 tablespoons tomato sauce, 1 tablespoon of the bread crumb mixture, and a slice of mozzarella. Repeat to make 2 more layers.

6. Bake for about 30 minutes, until soft, golden, and bubbly. Serve immediately.

Italian Tomato Sauce

Makes 3 cups, enough for 1 pound of pasta

1-1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
One 28-ounce can whole plum tomatoes, pulsed in a blender to a semichunky consistency
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1 basil sprig (optional)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter (optional)

1. Heat a medium saucepan over medium heat. Swirl in the olive oil to coat the pan. When the oil shimmers, add the garlic and pepper flakes and stir constantly for 30 seconds, just long enough to release the garlic’s fragrance; don’t cook it to golden.

2. Stir in the tomatoes and salt, raise the heat to high, and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes, until the sauce is slightly reduced and a deep tomato color. Add the basil sprig in the last 5 minutes of cooking, if using. Remove the basil before serving and swirl in the butter, if desired.

Toronto folks: will I see you there?

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Pin It Party #3

Today I’m joining in another Pin It Party hosted by The Lean Green Bean. All bloggers are welcome to participate – and it’s not too late to join in. Here’s what you do:

6June1

  • Round up 5 blog posts you’ve written that you would like to see on Pinterest.
  • Make sure there is a nice, pinable image or photo included in each post.
  • Write a short post featuring the posts you chose, including 5 nice images & links to the posts, along with a short description of each post.
  • Publish your post within the next few days, then visit Lindsay’s blog and add your post to the linkup (the link up will be open for about a week!)

The only rule is this: If you add your post to the linkup, please take a few minutes to visit at least three other posts and pin some of their images!

Here are my 5 posts (click the title or the image to get to the original post):

1. Pesto and arugula pasta with goat cheese and toasted pine nuts

This simple vegetarian pasta takes as little as 20 minutes to whip up, making it a great week night dinner! Amp up the protein by adding chicken if you’d like.

Pesto and arugula pasta with goat cheese and toasted pine nuts

2. 10 ways to keep fruits and vegetables fresh for longer

I don’t know about you guys, but when I’m at the farmers market, I tend to go a bit overboard and buy too much. These tips will help your produce last longer so that you don’t end up throwing it out!

10 ways to keep fruits and vegetables fresh for longer

3. Breakfast tofu scramble

Vegan. Gluten free. Nut free. Protein packed… this meal is about as trendy as it gets. And it’s tasty too!

Breakfast tofu scramble -- vegan and gluten free

4. Zucchini salad with Parmesan and basil

Who else thinks zucchini can taste pretty bland? I do! But with just a few simple ingredients, it can taste fantastic.

Zucchini salad with Parmesan and basil

5. Cacao avocado pudding

This pudding is literally just 3 ingredients: avocado, dates, and cacao powder. So easy, so unbelievably delicious.

Cacao avocado pudding

Comment with a link to your Pin It Party post!

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Artichoke dill hummus

This whole job hunting process can be pretty discouraging. It’s been over a month since I got back from England and started applying, and my job prospects are still 0. When I find out about other internship graduates starting jobs, it can be hard to not be filled with self doubt. Is my resume good enough? Are my skills good enough? Should I have attended more conferences in the past?

Artichoke dill hummus

But I’m trying to remind myself that I’m only looking for a job in a very specific area where very few jobs (i.e. none) dietitian jobs exist at the moment… the odds are not in my favour! So the only thing I can do is keep trying.

Kind of like working with my DSLR camera. Back in March I got so frustrated with my DLSR that I wanted to hurl it across the room. I didn’t (probably a smart move), but I put it down and didn’t pick it up again until recently. And thanks to practice and some tips from Davida, I’ve managed to improve. I’m not calling myself the Monet of photography yet, but at least you can tell what the food is (unlike that picture from March).

Maybe in a few more months I’ll have an even better grasp on it – and hey, maybe even a job!

Artichoke dill hummus

Artichoke dill hummus

Gluten free, nut free, vegan | Makes approximately 2 cups

1 398-ml can of chickpeas
1/3 cup packed canned artichoke hearts
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp tahini
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp dried dill
1/2 tsp salt

In a large food processor blend the chickpeas, artichoke hearts, lemon juice, tahini, olive oil, dried dill (or fresh – if using fresh, I would increase to at least 1 tbsp), and salt. Process until smooth, and add more olive oil if needed. Store in a closed container in the fridge for up to two weeks.

Artichoke dill hummus

Can anyone relate to my job hunting woes? What’s your favourite kind of hummus?

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4 things you should know about Canada’s nutrition label

4 things you should know about Canada's nutrition label

1. The Percent Daily Value (% DV) is not individualized

I’m starting off with this point because I think it is the most misunderstood aspect of Canada’s nutrition label. The Percent Daily Value is based on a single reference amount for all people over 2 years of age. For example, the reference level for iron is 14 mg, and this applies to everyone over 2 years of age, regardless of their life stage or gender.

However, people of different age groups and genders have different requirements of different nutrients. So how can the percent daily value for iron apply to both a 9 year old boy and a 30 year old woman? It can’t!  A 9 year old boy needs only 8 mg, whereas a 30 year old woman needs 18 mg. So if a food says that it supplies 25% DV for iron, in reality it actually meets 44% of the young boy’s needs and 19% of the woman’s needs.

percent daily value

2. The Percent Daily Value (% DV) may be outdated

There is always new research coming out on food and nutrition. As a result, nutrition guidelines and tools are always going to be slightly behind the times. An example of this is the % Daily Value for vitamin D, which is based on an amount of 200 IU. This value comes from the Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) set in 1997; however the DRIs for vitamin D were updated in 2010.

To explain this further: the nutrition label for 1 cup of skim milk states that it gives you 45% DV for vitamin D, but this is only 45% of 200 IU. Based on the updated DRIs, 1 cup of milk actually only meets 15% of vitamin D needs for most people!

3. “Sugars” refers to both added sugars and sugars naturally found in the food

We all know that added sugar is something that we should avoid in foods. But some foods like dairy, fruits, and vegetables contain naturally occurring sugars that do not need to be avoided. Unfortunately “sugar” on the nutrition label (found beneath “Carbohydrates”) refers to both added sugars and naturally occurring sugars, which makes it difficult to understand which foods contain added sugars.

Greek yogurt nutrition facts table

For example, a 3/4 cup serving of plain 2% yogurt may have between 5-8 grams or more of sugar on its label. But all of this comes from lactose, a naturally occurring sugar found in dairy products. As another example, a 1/2 cup serving of unsweetened applesauce will have around 8 grams of sugar on its label. The applesauce contains no added sugar, but these 8 grams come from the glucose and fructose in the apples.

4. 0 mg of trans fat doesn’t necessarily mean the food has no trans fats

If a food contains less than 0.2 mg of trans fats per serving and also meets the criteria for calling itself “low in saturated fats”, it can say that it contains 0 mg of trans fats on the label. I have a problem with this for two reasons:

  1. Trans fats of any amount are unhealthy, so consumers deserve to know if their product contains any amount
  2. If someone eats more than the stated serving size of a product containing trans fats (even though the label says 0 mg), they could end up eating a significant amount.

The best way to find out if a product contains trans fat is to check the ingredients list for “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated” oils and fats. If you see these listed as an ingredient, put it back on the shelf! For example, Pillsbury biscuits have 0 g of trans fat per biscuit on their label; however there is hydrogenated fat on its ingredient list, so it may have up to 0.19 g of trans fat per biscuit. If I ate three biscuits in a sitting, I could be eating almost 0.6 g of trans fat!

Hydrogenated oil on ingredients list

The bottom line

Nutrition labels can be confusing and may not always be telling the whole story. The good news is that Canada’s nutrition label is undergoing some proposed changes that will make it easier to read and more transparent. I’ll be talking about some of these proposed changes in an upcoming blog post!

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Cookbook review: Refresh

If you live in Toronto you probably either a) have already eaten at Fresh restaurant and love it, or b) always hear your plant eating friends raving about their latest meal at Fresh. It’s the vegan restaurant to go to in Toronto. I’ve been there once before and didn’t love my dish, but I hear there are much better ones on the menu. I hope to go their again, but in the meantime I’m content with just cooking some of its dishes from its Refresh cookbook.

Today I’ve chosen to review it for the next post in my cookbook review series:

Refresh cookbook review

Refresh is a vegan cookbook, and it’s centered around whole grains, vegetables, sprouts, legumes, nuts, seeds, and soy protein. I’d say it’s Asian-inspired with lots of rice bowls and noodle recipes, but it also has salads, brunch foods, smoothies, and more. It’s my go-to cookbook when I need a healthy boost!

Things I like about the Refresh cookbook

  • Its recipes are directly from the restaurant’s menu, so you can exactly replicate them!
  • It’s a great resource for sauce, dressing, and marinade recipes
  • The ingredients are all fairly easy to find in most grocery stores

Things I don’t like about the Refresh cookbook

  • The recipes can be very time consuming to make, since there are often multiple marinades/sauces involved in one recipe
  • Some of the recipes have large yields, so I find myself having to half or even quarter the recipes when I make them

Recipes I’ve tried from Refresh

1. Green goddess bowl: Brown rice / steamed greens / nori / marinated tofu / lemon tahini sauce

This is my favourite dish from the cookbook – the flavours are amazing! It takes a while to make though, since you have to make a marinade for the tofu, a tamari dressing for the steamed greens, and the lemon tahini sauce.

Refresh cookbook review

2. Mega life salad: Mixed greens / shredded carrots and beets / sprouts / mixed nuts and seeds / marinated tofu

This is a such a light, fresh dish and I love the shredded veggies in it! I used the cookbook’s green dressing for it, which paired nicely with the flavours.

Refresh cookbook review

3. California salad: Mixed greens / pesto white beans / cherry tomatoes / hearts of palm / avocado

This salad was good, but it didn’t blow me away. I love their idea to mix white beans with pesto for some added flavour though.

Refresh California salad

4. Fresh granola: Rolled oats / nuts and seeds / dried fruit

If you’re looking for a granola that is very healthy and low in sugar, this is it. It’s only sweetened with apple juice and the tiniest bit of maple syrup, so it’s not very sweet at all. I appreciate the healthiness of this recipe, but I have to admit I found this granola pretty bland and won’t be making it again.

Refresh granola

5. Dragon rice bowl: Brown rice / grilled zucchini and tomato / marinated tofu / miso gravy

I think this was my least favourite of the recipes I tried. The grilled tomato was messy, the miso gravy was only okay, and the flavours weren’t that great together. I won’t replicate this dish again, but I might play around with the miso gravy to come up with a better flavour.

Refresh dragon rice bowl

There are still a ton of other recipes from this book that I want to try, like their famous Buddha rice bowl with a peanut sauce (I would sub in sunflower seed butter), split pea soup, and their house made veggie burger. Stay tuned for my reviews of these recipes on Instagram once I try them out!

Looking for more cookbook review posts? Make sure to check these out:

The Oh She Glows Cookbook
Clean Food
Fresh Food Fast
Veganomicon

Locals – have you ever been to Fresh? Non locals – have you ever been to a similar restaurant?

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