My Toronto Vegan Food and Drink Festival Bucket List

The Toronto Vegan Food and Drink Festival is coming up on Saturday, August 19th at Fort York and I’m so excited! This is my opportunity to try food from restaurants and street vendors that have been on my ‘bucket list’ and maybe even, explore new foods to add to my repertoire. I’ve been doing research on all the vendors that will be in attendance and here are my ‘must see’ picks:

Doomie’s

Doomie's Vegan Big Mac
Photo c/o Foodora Canada

I’m actually surprised I’ve never been to this restaurant; it has been on my ‘must-try’ list forever (basically since they opened). I have heard so many amazing things about it. I follow them on Instagram to review their menu. I’m excited to finally give them a try at the Festival; but I must make my way to their hip and cool restaurant soon.

The most talked about food item is their Vegan Big Mac. Seriously, how good does it look?  I’m skeptical if it’s really vegan because it looks too much like the real deal!

Cinnister Vegan

Cinnister Vegan cinnamon buns
Photo c/o Cinnister Vegan

I have been obsessed with cinnamon buns ever since my mom started baking them. I was exploring Instagram one day when I cam across Cinnister Vegan and let me tell you, their vegan cinnamon buns look decadent! Their name is on the festival vendor list and I am finally going to have my chance to sample their buns.

Bald Baker

Bald Baker's Grain Free Granola Bars
Photo c/o Bald Baker

The Bald Baker is a sugar conscious dessert company that offers delicious, worry-free treats. I saw the booth at a farmers market a couple weeks ago but never got around to trying out their stuff. A friend of mine told me that the Grain-free granola bars were really good, as well as healthy.  I must give them a try.

After eating a Big Mac from Doomie’s, I will need all the healthy snacks I can get!

Rescue Dogs

Rescue Dog Vegan hotdog
Photo c/o Too Bad You’re Not Vegan

I have seen these vegan ‘hotdogs’ on the shelf at my local organic food store.  I’ve been tempted to buy a package but couldn’t justify the purchase if there was a chance they didn’t taste good. Once I saw their name on the food vendor list, I got excited. Street meat I can finally enjoy! (I just hope they taste as good as they look).

Are you planning on attending the Toronto Vegan Food and Drink Fest? Please let me know in the comments which vendors you’re most excited to try!

The best vegetarian mac and cheese in Toronto

If the world was about to end and the only food available to eat was mac and cheese, I’d survive because it is my favourite food! Ironically, I’m lactose intolerant – dairy foods are my (food) worst enemies. However, that does not stop me from eating it, as the saying goes ‘you want what you can’t have’.

Thankfully, I live in the beautiful city of Toronto, where the streets are full of vegan and vegetarian restaurants that serve my ultimate comfort food, macaroni and cheese. So, I went on a mission to find the best the city has to offer.

Here are my top 5 must try vegetarian & vegan mac and cheese dishes in Toronto:

#5 Hard Rock Cafe

Hard Rock Cafe Mac Daddy Mac and Cheese

I managed to visit the Hard Rock Cafe’s Toronto location in May before it closed to try their vegetarian Mac Daddy Mac & Cheese. It is amazing, made with twisted macaroni in a creamy cheese sauce and it even comes with a side of garlic bread! I felt like I was in rockstar heaven! If you are ever in the Niagara Falls area (or anywhere else in the world where the Hardrock Cafe is located), I totally recommend trying this dish!

I’m hurt that the Hard Rock closed in Toronto and that’s why I ranked this dish at number five. Also, it is technically an appetizer; I had it as my main because their menu is not very vegetarian friendly.

#4 Thompson Diner

Thompson Hotel Truffle Mac 'n Cheese
Photo c/o the Thompson Hotel

The Thompson Diner is a Toronto staple. Has anyone ever gone to the Thompson Diner and ordered something other than their Double Mac & Cheese made with Truffle Oil? It’s delicious! The Diner is open until 3am everyday and I’ve enjoyed many late night meals here. The menu says it’s made with LOTS of asiago and mozzarella cheese; as you can tell, I like anything with lots of cheese!

I can’t have it all of the time because it’s very rich, that’s why it is number four. Although it is mouth watering, I would not be able to survive on this mac and cheese dish every day unless I wanted to weigh 400lbs.

You can find their menu here.

#3 Grasshopper Restaurant

Grasshopper Restaurant Quinoa Mac 'n Cheese

Located in the Junction area and on College Street, Grasshopper’s vegan Quinoa Mac ‘N Cheese is a game changer. Meals like this make me consider going vegan. It’s made with quinoa rice (red and white) macaroni in a creamy ‘cheesy’ vegan chedda sauce, you can’t tell it’s not the real deal.

I ranked this dish at number three because it is the healthiest one for me to eat. Since this is vegan, it doesn’t make my tummy spin and my lactose intolerant pills are not required. Also, I’m glad there are multiple locations and I don’t have to trek to the Junction in order to get my fix.

You can find them on FacebookInstagram – Junction area and Instagram – College St.

#2 The Sweet Potato

The Sweet Potato organic Baked Mac and Cheese

This past winter, I interned at a social media marketing agency located in the Junction area and was introduced to The Sweet Potato. It’s not a restaurant, but a little organic food store that also sells prepared food. One day I stumbled accross their baked vegetarian Mac and Cheese, and I knew I had to give it a try. My verdict? Mouth watering good. You can find it on the shelf in their prepared food section.

Ranked at number two, this dish is delish! Plus, the Sweet Potato has the nicest staff.  Even though it’s a grocery store, their prepared food is made fresh every day. If you’re ever in the Junction area, I highly recommend visiting this food store because it will change your life.

You can also find them on Facebook and Instagram.

#1 Mom’s home cooked mac, broccoli and cheese

Mom's home cooked Mac, Broccoli, and Cheese

One of the reasons why I still live at home is because my mom is an unreal cook. A specialty of hers and my personal favourite is mac, roasted broccoli (plus tons of other veggies) and cheese. Made just for me, mom puts a healthy spin to my favourite dish by using whole wheat macaroni, and reduced fat cheeses. It’s really tasty.

Out of all the ones I have tried, nothing beats my mom’s home cooked mac and cheese!

Have you tried unreal mac and cheese in Toronto? My research is on-going, please reply in the comments where your favourite hotspots are.

Is the Minimalist Baker’s Muffin Recipe Really ‘Minimal’?

As you probably know by now I’m not very skilled in the kitchen. To read my confession, take a look at my About Me page. I figured after defeating what started out to be a stressful week, it was a perfect opportunity to face another challenge:  the oven. My friends tease me that I only know how to use a microwave.  Today, that was going to change!  The monster-sized oven in my kitchen wasn’t going to intimidate me. On the Minimalist Baker’s website, I found an easy recipe for Vegan Banana Nut Muffins and it only required one bowl – now that’s minimal!

To me, the worst part about cooking or baking (besides actually cooking or baking) is the clean up. After reading that this recipe only required one bowl, I was hooked! Another great thing about baking muffins, if you use muffin cups there is less cleanup afterwards. Also, who doesn’t love muffins?

Challenge: Accepted.

You can find the ingredients and directions, here.

The ingredients

Ingredients I used for my banana blueberry muffins

The recipe calls for 100% gluten-free and vegan ingredients. I am not vegan and chose to use egg and flour (and because I didn’t have any vegan ingredients in my house).

Even though the recipe title is ONE BOWL, I ended up using two

I ended up using two bowls. One for the egg, baking powder, and baking soda. While I mashed the bananas in a seperate bowl before adding them to the mix

My mom keeps a stash of frozen, overripe bananas for baking purposes. I’ve never used them, but she says they are sweeter than fresh ones. I microwaved them for three minutes, then cut off the tops and squirted them (eww) into a separate bowl.

I could have gotten away with using one bowl; however, I figured I would add the egg, baking powder and baking soda in one bowl, mash the bananas in another and then combine them together in order to avoid any messes. It worked! But, I now have an extra bowl to wash…

Whisking, whisking, and more whisking

My Almond milk contains sweetener, I eliminated the cane sugar and opted for brown sugar instead

After I mixed in the bananas, next was to add the following ingredients:

  • vanilla
  • olive oil
  • brown sugar
  • a dash of salt
  • cinnamon

and whisk, whisk and whisk until it was light and fluffy looking.

I omitted the cane sugar because the almond milk was sweetened – didn’t need the extra sugar.  So far so good.

Whisking, whisking, and more whisking

Next, I added whole grain oats, white flour and whole wheat flour (to make them some-what healthy) and whisked some more until everything was mixed together. I waited a few minutes to allow the oats to soften (and reflected on how smoothly everything was going)…

Surprise! blueberries are in the mix

 

I added blueberries to the batter to make the muffins even more healthier

Everything, so far, has been a total breeze! After I let the batter sit, I decided to be scandalous and added some blueberries (instead of nuts) to make the muffins even healthier.

The batter made it into the muffins tins. Now we just sit, wash dishes, and wait.
The recipe says it makes 12 muffins, but I actually made 12 large and 8 mini muffins. I can’t believe it, I made it to the final stretch! I put them in the oven for 20 minutes while I washed the dishes.

No cooking experience is complete without disaster

No cooking experience is complete without disaster. I managed to break a glass bowl while washing dishes.

I’m about to complete my mission complication-free, when a glass dish slips out of my hand and shattered in the sink! At least there was no mess involved (just pieces of glass inside my sink). I figured this was a good disaster and decided to embrace it.

Final result

So proud at how nice my muffins turned out!

Wow! I could not believe how great these turned out! (disclaimer: I love my muffins a little crispier on the top😋)

Although the Minimalist Baker claims the recipe only requires one bowl, I ended up having to wash:

  • two bowls
  • two muffins tins
  • measuring cups
  • lots of measuring spoons

Not what I call ‘minimal’.

Was the recipe as simple as it sounds? Yes!

Would I make it again? Of course, with chocolate chips instead of blueberries!

You can follow The Minimalist Baker (and the yummy recipes) on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

What is your favourite Minimalist Baker recipe? Let me know in the comments section – I am definitely going to try more in the future!

Toronto Vegetarian Food Review: Grasshopper Restaurant

This past weekend, my friends and I went to Grasshopper Restaurant (on College Street) for a vegetarian dinner. After working an eight hour shift on Canada Day, I was starving and very eager for a drink.  I’ve frequented their Junction location many times (only for take-out) but I never have had the true ‘dine-in’ experience.

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The experience

Emily, our server, told me about their updated Summer Cocktail menu, which made me very excited to try an updated libation. Since this is a vegan restaurant and I know Bourbon Sours are made with egg whites, I was surprised to see it on the list.  My curiosity piqued, I wanted to give it a try.  Unfortunately, they ran out of Bourbon, so instead I opted for the Sweet Tea Sangria.

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At first sip it was cold, sweet and delicious! However, it was so hot outside and NO air conditioning inside, the ice melted very quickly and it wasn’t so yummy anymore. Once it got warm, the drink reminded me of rubbing alcohol, which isn’t appealing.

Like I said, I had worked all day and didn’t have a chance to eat very much, deciding what to eat was a challenge. I was too hungry and should have probably chosen a salad – that would have made for a VERY boring blog. Their Quinoa Mac ‘N Cheese is my personal favourite (absolutely a MUST HAVE should you go to the restaurant). This time I wanted to try something different from their menu.

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The ‘Mushroom ‘N Rice’ bowl (although based on the photo you’re probably thinking where’s the rice? 🤔) is made with sautéed cremini and portobello mushrooms smothered with house tahini sauce and served over steamed red rice. It arrived at the table nice and hot, which under normal circumstances is perfect, but tonight (based on the lack of AC) it was not so lovely. As I was eating, I felt 10x warmer, and between the heat and hot food it was all too overwhelming – the meal went to ‘pot’. If I gave this bowl another try, on a less humid day, I would enjoy it 100x more.

The best parts

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I shared a plate of Kimchi fries and WOW they were amazing! I wished I had chosen this dish for my dinner. I tried not to eat more than my share, because we were splitting them three ways, and to go back to eating my rice bowl but I couldn’t resist. My friends agreed; the fries were excellent!

No dinner is complete without dessert…

As one of my friends is gluten-sensitive, our choices were limited.  We shared a Cashew Cookie. It was moist, warm and delish – the only thing missing was dairy-free frozen yogurt on top!

Final verdict

I must admit, I was a little shocked when the bill arrived. This isn’t an over the top restaurant. Dinner with drinks was slightly more than $100 including tip for three people.  Definitely not in my student budget!

Would I go back for drinks? No!

Would I go back for another vegetarian meal? Of course, but not on a hot, humid day or for a big feast.

You can visit their website here, or find them on InstagramFacebook, and Twitter.

Have you eaten in any terrific vegetarian restaurants in Toronto or the GTA? Please let me know, I am always open to trying new places!

My Favourite Breakfast

Hey Everyone, I’m Zoe (aka The Friendly Vegetarian) and welcome to my blog about all things vegetarian! 😛

I have been a vegetarian basically my entire life! I still live at home and one the benefit is, my amazing mother LOVES to cook! Even though my family are carnivores, she never has an issue making a veggie meal for me. Sometimes, I wish she didn’t enjoy cooking as much because I never had the opportunity to learn the craft myself…

…Until now.

My journey

It only makes sense to start my blog talking about my journey, learning to create my favourite vegetarian breakfast: oatmeal.

Ask yourself the following question: how ‘foolproof’ is making steel-cut oatmeal in the microwave?

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Pictured, ‘The Oatmeal Disaster of 2015’!  You’re probably shaking your head, thinking how can anyone screw up microwaving oats and water? Well, for me making the oatmeal wasn’t as easy as it sounds. I forget what brand of steel-cut oats I used but the directions on the box said ‘makes two servings’. – Wanting to make one portion, I divided the ingredients in half but neglected to reduce the cooking time!

Let’s just say for a week our kitchen smelled horrible!

The Present

Fast-forward to today and I’ve become quite the steel-cut oatmeal chef 👏. It’s no surprise (as with anything) practise makes perfect. I have mastered the art of making oatmeal and have it for breakfast every day!

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This is my standard Steel-cut oatmeal recipe. I call it the ‘Zoe special du jour’ –  I incorporate different fruits every day, depending on what is in fridge. I usually use Quaker or PC Blue Menu steel-cut oats and the recipe is as follows:

– 1/3 cup of Steel-cut oats
– 3/4 cup of water

The oatmeal cooking times vary for different brands of oatmeal. Today, I am using Quaker and the directions said to microwave on 50% power for 2 minutes and 50 seconds. Once it’s finished cooking, let stand for 2 – 3 minutes.

Now for my favourite part: dress-up! It really takes the hassle out of preparing food when you make it pretty. Every day is a different masterpiece! My fruits of choice today:

– strawberries
– green grapes (my favourite)

 No matter the day, I always include the following ingredients to give my oatmeal added protein and a ‘kick’:

– A spoonful of peanut butter
– A tablespoon each of: roasted & unsalted pumpkin, sunflower and chia seeds

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There is no better feeling than when you create something that is visually appealing and tastes good too (not to mention ‘healthy’). I finally understand why my mom so enjoys cooking.

Mastering beginner vegetarian recipes will be a HUGE accomplishment for me! I can’t wait to share with you my passion for vegetarian food, as I reward myself by enjoying the fruits of my labour.

I’d love to hear about your favourite vegetarian breakfast!