Popcorn Gifts

This is a very random post, but I’ve noticed that my friends have been bringing me gifts/souvenirs from around the world and there has been a common theme – POPCORN! Not that there is anything wrong with popcorn, I just found the trend interesting. The first being popcorn flavoured candy from Taiwan.

These little square, yellow candies come in these tiny boxes. Oddly enough, it actually tastes like buttery popcorn – only in the form of soft, chewy candy like taffy. I guess you could say the flavour reminded me of those jellybeans that are used in that Beanboozled game or those Bernie Botts beans for those Harry Potter fans out there. It was interesting to eat.

Another friend of mine came back from Disney World, Florida, and she bought me a bag of kettle popcorn that was Sriracha flavor.

While the popcorn itself wasn’t shocking, it was the flavour. I was also happy to learn that it was GMO-free popcorn. While it didn’t exactly have “Sriracha” listed in the ingredients (more like sugar, sunflower oil, organic apple cider vinegar, salt, natural garlic flavor and chili pepper flavor, paprika powder, citric acid and lecithin), it was surprisingly good! It had a contrast of sweet and savory flavors with some spice to it. I might be the only person in the world that doesn’t really care about going to Disney World (more than once, anyway), but the popcorn may be worth a visit.

Although I never expect my awesome friends to buy me anything when they come back from a trip or for a visit, I wonder if I’ll be seeing another popcorn treat in the near future? Have you noticed any popcorn trends or received/given any popcorn related gifts?

Chicken Barley Soup (Recipe)

Last week, we were teased with a glimpse of spring only to be blown away (literally) by the crazy winter cold again. Mother nature plays tricks on us! So, to warm up I made a soup with some barley. Although I naturally tend to lean towards a beef barley soup for some heartiness, I decided to make a chicken barley soup instead. This is an easy peasy one pot cookery recipe and it’s healthy too.

20170304_200416 (2)

Ingredients:

400g skinless and boneless chicken breasts cut into cubes
2 tablespoons butter
4 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
3 stalks celery, peeled and thinly sliced
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
900 ml of chicken broth
3 cups of water
3/4 cup pot/pearl barley, rinsed and drained
Salt and pepper

In a pot on medium heat, add the butter and let it melt. Add the chicken cubes and cook for about 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally to seal in the juices.

Then, add the remaining ingredients and cook for about 45 minutes or until the barley is tender. From what I can gather, you can use pearl barley and pot barley interchangeably.

The soup tastes very similar to a chicken noodle soup, but the noodles were replaced with barley, making it a healthier alternative. For next time though, I would change the cut of the chicken cubes into smaller slices of chicken strips (like in a stir fry). 🙂

20170304_200339 (2)

Note: the barley tends to soak up the liquid, so this soup is best eaten on the same day it’s made. Otherwise you’ll end up with a chunky porridge, unless that’s what you want. Enjoy! 🙂

Based off the recipe by Ricardo (Who? An an awesome Canadian chef from Québec)

Mezes, Ketokeftedes and Taramosalatas – Oh My!

I don’t recall if I ever mentioned this before, but I missed out on going to Greece. Not once, but twice because of work. To this day I still wonder what it would have been like to go to there, especially since it was before the whole economical crisis. In addition to missing out on seeing the ancient ruins and swimming around in the beautiful blue waters, I missed out on eating the food!

For now, I have to settle with living vicariously through friends that have travelled there and wandering into seemingly authentic Greek restaurants. And by that, I mean the non-franchised kind. I am fortunate that there seem to be many family-owned Greek restaurants to choose from. It’s also helpful when there are many immigrants from Greece and even our own little Greektown. 🙂

Although souvlaki (cubes of beef, chicken, lamb or pork skewers) is probably one of the most well known Greek dishes out there, there is also spanakopita (spinach pie), baklava and many other tasty dishes too.

One such dish is known as ketokeftedes, which are little fritters made with grated courgettes (aka zucchini) that can come in the form of flat patties or balls. They are lightly fried, so they are soft and mushy rather than crispy. This particular version was mixed with feta cheese and sesame seeds and flavoured with dill and spices. However, I was informed that some recipes use mint. And to complement the flavours of the ketokeftedes was a side of regular tzatziki sauce and some warm honey tzatziki drizzle. I can vouch it’s a yummy combination! The dill gives the ketokeftedes a unique flavour, like an unexpected but happy surprise for your taste buds, and the creamy tzatziki is just refreshing!

Like many other areas in the Mediterranean, the Greek also have mezes, which are platters full of dips, spreads and small, bite-sized pieces of food. What I want to highlight in the meze below is the pink blob on the top. It’s a dip called taramosalata.

Taramosalata is a very smooth mashed potato mix made with red caviar (which gives it that rosey hue), onions and extra virgin olive oil. It goes great as a dip with pita bread and isn’t fishy tasting at all. It’s also something different to try from your typical Greek dips, in case you want to change it up. 🙂

Even though I missed out on several Greece trips, I’m hoping I will be able to finally hop over to Greece by the end of next year. I can only hope when I do, I’ll be bouncing from island to island, chowing down on their delicious food while watching the beautiful blue skies go by and the waves of the Mediterranean sea wash ashore…

The Burrata

When I first heard the word burrata, I thought it was some sort of Latin dance like salsa or meringue. However, unlike these two dances which are also known synonymously as types of food (one is a sauce and the other is a confectionery treat), burrata is just a type of food. At least, to my knowledge. If it’s actually a dance, that’s news to me!

I came across burrata when Gail from snapshotincursive mentioned it in her recipe posting about delicious Burrata Meatballs. If the name isn’t enough, check out her recipe after staring at her beautifully mouthwatering photo below!

burrata

Photo courtesy of snapshotincursive

Being a cheese lover and never actually having the joy of tasting burrata cheese, I was highly motivated to find out more about it and hunt it down. This is what I discovered:

Burrata cheese is a fresh, semi-soft cheese made from cow’s milk, leftover scraps of mozzarella cheese and cream. It’s a fresh curd that is dipped into a hot whey and stretched and kneaded. It’s texture is pliable, but it has some resistance and bounce to it too. So far so good, right?

I was fortunate enough to find burrata at a restaurant that made it fresh, which also meant a minimal 20 minute waiting time (though I’m sure it takes longer than that to make it). It was doused in honey and truffle cream and when it arrived, it looked like a flat, creamy blob that was accompanied with freshly toasted focaccia crostini.

It had an interesting texture to it. When I cut into it, I expected it to just flatten out but it magically retained it’s shape. Needless to say, it was soft yet firm. It tasted similar to mozzarella cheese (obviously), but not as strong and had a creaminess in the middle. The texture somewhat reminded me of Québeçois cheese curds, minus the squeakiness. The added honey sweetened the flavour of the cheese and the truffle cream created an earthy taste to it. It was interesting, to say the least! From what I understand, it’s not common to find burrata at a typical grocery store, so if you’re looking for it you may need to find a cheese specialty store or a restaurant that makes it fresh. Give it a try and let me know what you think. 🙂

 

The Real Neat Blog Award

Wow! Since I slowed down from daily blogging to focus on some future plans/travels, I didn’t think many would notice my sudden change. Well, Hellen Die from Dark Food to Die For (Necro Nom Nom Nomicon) proved me wrong! Not only did she notice, she nominated me for the Real Neat Blog Award despite the change. I feel special. And fancy, no?

real-neat-blog-award

We all have a dark side. I’d recommend succumbing to her entertainingly devilish remarks and dark humour where Halloween is (as it should be) every day. Her posts are awesome and off the rails, but it’s what I enjoy about her blog! She is creative, has a unique perspective on things and an awesome talent in writing. Plus, she’s a pro that works in the entertainment/film industry  (like her stint at Z Nation). Who knows who or what will pop up. Celebrities? Zombies? Vampires? – Preferably the non-sparkly Twilight kind (ew)! In fact, here’s her puppy with George R.R. Martin:

george-and-luci

“Borrowed” from Dark Food to Die For

And if that’s not enough to entice you, she posts a random assortment of goodies – ranging from spooky looking treats to eerie looking décor for your manor. She’s a talented one. Just remember when all of Hollywood is chasing after her to work with them, you heard about her here first!

The Rules:

  • Thank and link the person who nominated you.
  • Answer the seven questions your nominator has provided.
  • Nominate 7 other bloggers and create 7 questions for them.

Nom Nom Nominator’s Questions:

  • What is the most recent food photo you took with your phone and why?
    • I’m not going to lie; most of my food photos are off my phone because my camera is too big and flashy for a restaurant outing/food hunt. Unless I’m travelling. If I’m travelling, all bets are off and my tourist immunity applies from judgment.
  • Tell me about your most vivid dream.
    • I wake up knowing my dreams are crazy, but I couldn’t recall them if I tried.
  • What is your favorite monster movie?
    • Do shark movies count because I like shark movies. They make my friends jump and me laugh. Otherwise, Stir of Echoes. I should note I’m several decades behind in the movie world.
  • Tell me about your best summer ever.
    • Any summer that is jam packed full of travelling and camping with awesome friends is a good summer to me. I’m simple like that.
  • If you were trapped on an island for a year and could only have 3 things with you…what would those 3 things be?
    • To be practical or not practical for this one? An endless supply of paper to draw/write on, pens/pencils and a year’s worth of lasagna. Maybe I should’ve added sunscreen and bug spray somewhere.
  • Quick:  Cats or dogs?  Why?
    • How about a catdog? I love the independence and cruel sense of humour of a cat, but I love the cuteness and loyalty of a puppy. Can’t go wrong with a catdog. Best of both worlds.

catdog

  • What do you know now as a blogger that you wish you knew when you first started?
    • That a food blog would eat so much of my time (see what I did there?). And a lot of people start a blog and stop after a week which makes me sad. They’re missing out!

My Nominations for this award:

Although I think there are so many wonderful bloggers out there, here are just seven (because the rules say I can only pick 7!) nominations for this award in random order:

  • Lithuanian in the USA: At first, I started following Liucija (aka Lucy) because of her drool-worthy pictures of food. This is because she wrote in – what I could only decipher as – Lithuianian. Then I realized, “scroll further down!”(duhh). I don’t know anything about Lithuiania other than being a small country in Europe, but this is a good start into her culinary world.
  • The Shameful Sheep: One word – hilarious. I can’t emphasize that enough. Blair comes up with the most random things and somehow always makes it funny. If you need a chuckle, this is the place to be.
  • Coniferes & Feuillus – A fellow Canadian, Annika has beautiful pictures, beautiful stories and a beautiful personality. She says she’s a newbie to food photography, but she had me fooled!
  • Tasty Eats – Exactly what the blog name says, Ronit does a great job showcasing his talent of tasty eats with tasty pictures and tasty recipes. Yum!
  • Tracey O’Brien – A lovely blog about food and recipes with lifelike pictures that just make you salivate.
  • Estonian Cuisine – Eesti Toit – Just like Lithuanian in the USA, I am clueless about Estonian culture, food, etc. Another great blog to take a peek into the world of another culture.
  • P&N – which stands for “Pan and Nell” is a husband/wife duo from Japan and Malaysia. P&N is a relatively new blog, but I can see it has a bright future. Like me, they like to eat and travel.

My Questions:

  1. What is your most favourite dish in the world?
  2. If you were an animal, which one and why? (Sorry, been watching a lot of National Geographic lately)
  3. What’s on your top 3 countries to travel to bucket list?
  4. If you could make one change in the world, what would that be?
  5. Why did you start blogging?
  6. What advice would you give to other bloggers about blogging?
  7. What inspires/motivates you in life?

To see some of my previous awards and nominations, check out Liebster Award, Blogger Recognition Award and Sunshine Blogger Award – not as shameless self promotion, but to look at the awesome blogs I have previously nominated!

Banana Pancakes (Recipe)

While McDonald’s has officially announced all day breakfast, I’m making my own (stay away McGriddle, you delicious, heart clogging sandwich!) – banana pancakes. I came across these years ago and it was a weird concept to me. Pancakes without any flour? Well, although this recipe isn’t quite the same as having fluffy, buttermilk pancakes, they are a healthy alternative! All it takes is three simple ingredients.

Ingredients:

1 banana
2 eggs
Cooking oil

Peel the banana and mash it into a bowl with a fork (or potato masher). Then, crack the two eggs and mix well.

Add a bit of oil to a non-stick pan on medium-low heat. Add some of the banana-egg mixture and cook until it’s stable enough to flip. Continue cooking until the other side is also golden brown and the pancake is no longer watery.

If you want circular pancakes, you may have to help guide it (translation: use a spatula to help reshape it as the batter tends to be a bit watery).

Although I don’t personally endorse a low-carb diet (everything in moderation is my motto), these banana pancakes are great to have. They’re moist and healthy and easy to make.  Just ensure you mix the batter properly, otherwise some pancakes will taste more eggy like a strange banana flavoured omelette. Whether you decide to eat it as a healthy breakfast (or snack), if you want to be naughty you can add some maple syrup or chocolate syrup on top. Enjoy! 🙂

 

Izakaya – A Loud but Delicious Experience

I love Japanese food. Although a majority of people may only be familiar with sushi and teppanyaki, there are many other delicious dishes too. Thus comes Izakaya – a type of Japanese bar styled restaurant that typically offers skewers and tapas. It’s a very informal setting where people come in for drinks and food. I went with a friend and upon entering the restaurant, the staff shouted “irasshaimase!!!” at us, which means “welcome” in Japanese. Other than giving customers a mild heartattack upon entry, it’s normal at an Izakaya as a way to greet customers. When we sat down and looked at the menu, there were too many options to choose from. Instead of going à la carte, we decided to go with an eight course set menu which had many of their most popular dishes.

First up, a blanched spinach dish called gomaae. The rolled up ball of greens were topped with sesame seeds and a black savory sauce filled with the aroma of sesame oil. To my shock, the dish was cold but it was an interesting starter.

Then came the deep fried brie cheese balls. It was packed full of gooey cheese, just the way I like it.

The crumb coating was quite chunky, but it came out super crispy. It was accompanied with a fusion of two fruit sauces underneath – the yellow being a mango sauce and the purple one being a berry sauce. It was definitely an interesting mix and tasted so good. Besides, cheese and fruits usually pair well together. 🙂

We barely touched the second dish, but the plates were flying out of the kitchen so quickly we had to ask the waiters to slow down! Perhaps it’s because time is money and the restaurant was filling up fast. Despite this, the third fish was a typical Japanese style salad with lettuce, radish, noori and tofu cubes. It had a wafu (Japanese style) soy-based dressing. Refreshing!

The forth dish was a hot stone pot rice dish. It came out sizzling hot piled up as a pretty display, but the server mixed it up in front of us so quickly I wasn’t able to get a shot of it. The bowl was so hot that the rice was still crackling well after the dish was mixed, but the purpose of the bowl is to make the rice burn a bit to give it a nice and crispy texture (similar to a bibimbap).

My friend didn’t enjoy this dish as much as I did. It was a sweeter rice dish filled with rice, mushrooms, cheese and seaweed. Perhaps the cheese threw her off, but I liked it! The following dish was karubi, which is similar to Korean kalbi. These delicious short ribs were flavoured in a soy sauce marinade and came with a side scallion-oil dipping sauce, lemon and lettuce leaves. Very tasty, I must say.

Next, although they called it carpaccio, I’m going to assume it’s because a majority of people wouldn’t know what beef tataki is. Although similar, the former is completely raw whereas the latter is slightly seared. It is also topped with a ponzu sauce, wasabi mayo, daikun, green scallions and garlic crisps. Given that the garlic was dehydrated, it was quite potent but I love garlic so it worked with me!

The seventh dish was chicken kaarage, a Japanese style fried chicken that is marinated in soy sauce, battered and deep fried to a crispy golden brown. Of course, we had some sake (a Japanese rice wine) to go with this as well. 🙂

And no meal is complete without dessert, but can you believe I forgot to take a photo before I inhaled it? It was a simple black sesame ice cream. Usually I find restaurants tend to pre-scoop and leave it in the freezer until it is needed, but I found this restaurant had it freshly prepared – meaning no frozen icicle bits on my ice cream! An Izakaya restaurant is quite the experience. It’s a lovely place with plenty of food options, but it may not necessarily be great for those who want a nice and quiet dinner. Just be prepared for an evening with lots of yelling and delicious food 🙂

Le Petit French Bistro

When it comes to French food, I think one of the most classical dishes is escargot (aka snails). I know many people get the heebie jeebies when it comes to things that look squirmy, but escargot is delicious! Often, you will find them in a special dish that is cooked in a simple garlic and butter concoction. However, when I went to a 2017 Winterlicious event, I got a bowl full of them. This particular version was sautéed with portobello mushrooms and cooked in a cognac and basic cream sauce. And to remove the “creepy” factor, I guess it helps when the snails have been deshelled. It also came with some bread to help soak up the delicious sauce.

Although the classical bowl of “moules et frites” (mussels and fries) was tempting, I ended up having a seafood risotto. It had big and succulent tiger shrimp, bay scallops, mussels, red peppers and spinach and was cooked in a white wine rosé sauce. Although it wasn’t the best risotto I’ve ever had (a fungi risotto is still at the top of my books), the beautiful pieces of seafood made up for it.

And of course, save the best for last! Dessert! I had a crème brûlée. It had such a nice and thick burnt sugar top in contrast to the creamy custard underneath. It was a great way to end the meal and you can never go wrong with a crème brûlée!

Winterlicious is an annual event that occurs in Toronto. It’s fun and it’s a great way to try out new foods and discover new restaurants. Although Winterlicious is over for 2017, there’s another version called Summerlicious. Let’s see where I end up. 🙂

The Churro Donut

Donuts? Yum! Churros? Also great. Combining the two make a churro donut? Hello?! I haven’t been impressed by any donuts for the past while, so when a fellow foodie highly recommended the churro donut at our local café franchise, Tim Hortons, I jumped to try it. Like the green and white competitor with a medusa mascott, Timmie’s (which is what it’s known as colloquially) is on almost every corner.

This churro donut is essentially an updated version of a honey crueller donut. I’m personally not a huge fan of cruellers, but the remake is worth the hype.

The churro donut is soft, sweet, and covered in a cinnamon sugar. Inside reveals a caramel filling. It’s a bit on the overly sweet side, but it’s still amazing. I think they added this filling because churros are often accompanied with a dip or drizzled in a sauce, but this way makes it much more convenient.

I know a lot of my followers aren’t from Canada, but if you happen to come for a visit, check out Tim Hortons and give this delicious churro donut a try! And no, I am not being paid to say this. It’s just really good! Plus roll up the rim is back! 

On a side note: since I made the decision to slow down on blogging to redirect my focus on upcoming projects, I’m going through writer’s withdrawl!!! I do miss doing daily posts, but I plan to post at least once a week. 🙂

One Year Anniversary – Made It!

Today is officially the one year anniversary of Yes! All Roads Lead to Food.  

I have surpassed my goal of getting 100 followers well before a year (thanks to you guys!) and connected with some awesome fellow bloggers along the way. I also made it a goal to blog for 365 days straight because I know it takes time to acquire a habit. Despite working 50-60 hour weeks at times, going to school and travelling throughout the year, I managed to successfully accomplish this!

Things I learned along the way:

  • It’s difficult to maintain a daily blog
  • Never think that a potential photo opportunity is useless because a good story related to it may come to you down the road
  • You can never really predict the outcome of your post, so write to your heart’s content!
  • Either I’m really technologically challenged or WordPress is a super glitchy platform (computer versions don’t always sync properly with the phone and visa versa)
  • As much as I would like to share recipes, I really hate writing them so I honestly admire you guys for doing the great job that you do!

Other than to commemorate the one year anniversary of this blog, I’m also announcing that I will be slowing down. While I am not exactly ending my gastronomic journey, I made a big decision to take time away from my job to study abroad and travel the world. While this won’t be taking place until later on in the year, I have a lot of planning to do and I need to focus on that. It does sadden me that I’m not able to blog as much, but it also means I will make new discoveries along the way and will be able to share it with you down the road. For now, I’ll post periodically. Until next time… Happy blogging, my friends! 🙂