Ottawa: The Tea Party Cafe

Last Tuesday I was in Ottawa, our nation’s capital, to continue my own celebration of our country’s 150th birthday. I was on the hunt for a cool cafe with character because for me, a visit in a city is not complete without exploring at least one cafe or tea shop! Luckily for me, my cousin Flo, a local of Ottawa, knew just the place to take me!

Located on a quiet street inside the historical ByWard Market, The Tea Party Cafe is a cute cafe with two floors, and its own private patio, perfect for tea sipping and chatting with friends under the sunshine.

OttawaTea1

It has a charming yet funky vibe, with Alice in Wonderland drawings all over the walls.

OttawaTea6

OttawaTea7

We arrived around noon, and it was still calm. There were a few people outside in the patio, and only one table was occupied inside.

For vegetarians and vegans, the lunch menu was a delight. There were a variety of healthy options to choose from. I selected Daal Curry with basmati rice while Flo chose Thai Tofu Curry with basmati rice. We decided on the large size ($8.50) for our vegan dishes as opposed to small ($5.50), and were not disappointed with the generous portion size and price. Both dishes were extremely fresh and delicious!

OttawaTea5OttawaTea4OttawaTea8

After our lunch, we ordered the “Cream Tea” for dessert, which included a pot of tea and their famous scone with clotted cream and strawberry jam. The Tea Party Cafe has over 50 types of tea to choose from including a series called “Alice in Wonderland”, which goes nicely with the theme of this cafe. The fun part of selecting our own tea was we could walk up to the tea shelves and open up any jar of tea to smell it, before deciding which one we wanted!

I opted for Japanese Kyoto Cherry Rose while Flo opted for Jasmine with Flowers. Both teas had strong flavours associated with their flowers. We enjoyed the taste of both!

OttawaTea10

We got very lucky that we were served scones fresh out of the oven, since they ran out of all ingredients after the Canada Day long weekend, and made a stop that morning to buy the ingredients for the scones. With a dollop of clotted cream and a spread of strawberry jam over the scone, the scone simply melted into our mouths. As claimed by the cafe, they are definitely the best in the city!

OttawaTea9

At the end of our meals, we came to the conclusion that The Tea Party Cafe is a nice cozy peaceful place to hang out with your friends, over yummy food, desserts and teas!

Next time I’m back in Ottawa, I would love to try their afternoon tea menu. The best part is that they also offer a vegan version of the afternoon tea! For a vegan afternoon tea, they only need two orders and 48 hours notice.

If you’re ever visiting Ottawa, check out The Tea Party Cafe!

Website: http://www.theteapartycafe.com/ottawacafes/

Advertisements

Rice Cooker Recipe #1: Vegan Noodle Soup (Gluten-Free)

My globetrotting friend Karen once told me that the rice cooker was her best investment while living abroad in London, England. And you know what? She is absolutely right about the rice cooker!

It’s my third week in Taipei, and I’m quickly discovering that I love using the rice cooker! As mentioned numerous times previously in my blog, I’m not really a cook. However, when using the rice cooker, I can be a great creative cook. 😉 The rice cooker is quite versatile: I can make simple, quick AND healthy delicious meals with it.

I’m so excited to share the following vegan recipe with you. I’ve made it a few times this week and it’s definitely going to be one of my go-to recipes from now on.

I call it my comfort food recipe, as it was created when I was not feeling well a few days ago. I think it’s comparable to chicken noddle soup, except it’s a vegan gluten-free version with a Taiwanese influence as most of the ingredients were bought in a local vegetable market and organic grocery store in Taipei. 🙂

So happy to have found these organic buckwheat noodles in a nearby small local organic grocery store. They're so yummy! :)

So happy to have found these organic buckwheat noodles in a nearby small local organic grocery store. They’re so yummy! 🙂

 

Serves: 1

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Cooking Time: approximately 50 minutes

Total Time: approximately 60 minutes

 

Ingredients:

2 cups filtered water

1 tomato, cubed

1 teaspoon ginger, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon sesame oil

a pinch of sea salt

a pinch of ground black pepper

a handful of shiitake mushrooms (or more if you like)

a handful of snow peas (or more if you like)

1/2 cup tofu, cubed (or more if you like)

a handful of buckwheat noodles (or more if you like)

 

Instructions:

1. Put water, tomatoes, ginger, sesame oil, sea salt and black pepper  into rice cooker. Allow this soup base to cook and simmer for about 40 minutes.

2. After 40 minutes, put the remaining ingredients into soup base and allow it to simmer for 10-15 minutes.

3. Put vegan noodle soup into a big bowl. Sprinkle sesame seeds on top if you like.

4. Bon appetit! 🙂

IMG_20150920_180607

A Quick & Healthy Chinese Recipe: Vegetarian Fried Rice

One of my favourite easy home-cooked meal is finding whatever is in the fridge and putting them together in less than 30 minutes. It definitely comes in handy when one is starving! I know I can always count on my vegetables and my go-to main staple, leftover brown rice, to make a yummy bowl of fried rice for dinner.

I am by no means a superb cook (as I’ve mentioned many times already; I’m more of a baker!) but this bowl of fried rice is quite satisfying, if I say so myself. 😉

In honour of Lunar New Year a.k.a Chinese New Year in my world, I am excited to share this simple and quick vegetarian fried rice recipe, à la Violet style, with you. The beauty of this recipe is that any rice and veggies will work!

I hope you will add this recipe as your go to when you need to make a quick and healthy meal within 30 minutes! 🙂

Happy cooking!

XO, Violet

Fried Rice

 

Serves: 2

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Cooking Time: 15 minutes

 

Ingredients:

Oil (I like to use grapeseed or avocado oil) for stir-frying

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

1 inch ginger, finely chopped

1 cup leftover cold cooked rice

½ pound of broccoli , chopped stalks and florets

1 tomato, chopped

1-2 tablespoons light soy sauce

Toppings: sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, nuts (almonds/walnuts) and/or raisins

 

Instructions:

1. Heat a wok or frying pan and add 1 tablespoon of oil or less (according to your preference) over medium-high heat and when the oil heats up, add in the egg. Cook and stir until the egg is lightly scrambled, not too dry. Remove egg from wok/pan and place in a separate plate/bowl for now.

2. If needed, add a little bit more oil into the wok/pan and add the garlic and ginger; briefly stirfry until they just show signs of changing colour or until fragrant.

3. Add the rice and stirfry it for a few minutes, using chopsticks or a wooden spoon, to break it apart.

4. When the rice is heated through, add the broccoli and tomato, and cook, until the broccoli is crisp-tender.

5. Stir in the soy sauce as desired and add the scrambled egg back into the wok/pan. Mix thoroughly and quickly.

6. Serve hot in a bowl, and sprinkle with your choice of toppings.

 

Special Note:

-If you want to add other ingredients, or serve more people, simply double or triple the recipe.

Quick, Easy & Healthy Vegan Recipe: Avocado Pesto-Inspired Pasta

Last week, when I returned from St. Lucia late, tired and starving, I quickly looked at what was available in my kitchen so I could make a quick and simple meal. What resulted was a quite filling meal that was made in about 20 minutes. It is inspired by the following recipes:

http://loveandlentils.com/2014/03/24/walnut-hemp-seed-pesto-pasta-with-fresh-tomatoes-olives/

http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/pesto_pasta_with_spinach_and_avocado/

http://againstallgrain.com/2013/04/05/dairy-free-pesto-sauce/

Due to lack of certain ingredients, such as basil which really gives pesto its flavour, I modified between these 3 recipes and made my own yummy and healthy vegan version.

 

Avocado Pasta

Serves: 1 or 2

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Cooking Time: 10 minutes

 

Ingredients:

1 cup fusilli or penne pasta (I used gluten-free fusilli)

1 tablespoon organic almonds

1 tablespoon organic pumpkin seeds

1 tablespoon organic sunflower seeds

1 garlic clove

1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary leaves

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 avocado, peeled and chopped

ground black pepper

 

Instructions:

1. Boil pasta as indicated by package instructions. Remove from heat, drain and pour pasta back into the pot, and set it aside.

2. Blend almond, seeds, garlic, rosemary leaves, lemon juice, sea salt and olive oil in a food processor/blender until smooth.

3. Put sauce into the pot of pasta over low heat and quickly combine pasta and sauce together until warm.

4. Put pasta onto a plate.  Add avocado on top and sprinkle some black pepper to taste.

5. Mix avocado and ground pepper with pasta; to be eaten warm or at room temperature. Enjoy! 🙂

 

Special Notes:

-I found one plate of this pasta very filling due to the avocado, so my suggestion is to take half of the portion and pair it with a mixed greens salad tossed in a few drops of raw apple cider vinegar and olive oil. That way, you can share the other portion with someone else, or you have extras for tomorrow’s lunch or dinner!

Red Fish Blue Fish: Best Fish & Chips with a Beautiful View in Victoria, BC!

A friend of mine recommended that I have to try Red Fish Blue Fish if I visit Victoria, British Columbia. According to him, it is very popular and they make the best Fish & Chips from fresh and sustainable fish. Therefore, the minute we stepped off the bus that took us from the ferry terminal into downtown Victoria, we went in search for this famous place.

I was looking forward to trying some tasty Fish & Chips since the last time I had the best ones ever was in London, England about 2 years ago. Ever since returning to Canada, the Fish & Chips I’ve tried have been rather disappointing since I tasted more batter and oil than the actual fish.

When we arrived around 11:30am, there was already a line up! We assumed it was a sit-down restaurant, but it turned out to be a little eatery, made of an “up-cycled cargo container” (according to its website).
Red Fish Blue Fish lineup1

We used the time while waiting to examine the menu and debated what kind of Fish & Chips to have. There were so many yummy options other than Fish & Chips but we couldn’t try them since we had to leave some room in our tummies for our Afternoon Tea at the Empress afterwards, so in the end we decided we will just try Fish & Chips.

Red Fish Blue Fish Menu

We shared 1 piece of Salmon Fish & Chips and 1 piece of Cod Fish & Chips. Each fish came with tartar sauce, coleslaw and Kennebec chips. I wanted to try the salmon since it is well known in British Columbia and I’ve never had Salmon Fish & Chips before. Ordering 1 piece of Fish & Chips is enough since the portion size is large and it tastes sooooooooooooooo good! When you bite into the fish, you can actually taste the freshness and tenderness of it. The batter was made just right;  it was light and crispy, and you can barely taste or feel the deep fry oil, unlike some other Fish & Chips I’ve tried. Paired with the tartar sauce, coleslaw and the side of well-seasoned crispy Kennebec fries, it was perfect!

Overall, we enjoyed the Salmon Fish & Chips more than the Cod Fish & Chips because we found that there was more “meat” to eat than the cod. The salmon had more flesh whereas the cod had less so when you bite into it, you taste more of the batter and less of the fish. Therefore, we felt cheated! However, that’s just a personal preference. Some people might prefer the taste of cod more so they will of course savour every little bite they can get from it.

Besides having the most delicious and affordable Fish & Chips in the city, Red Fish Blue Fish also has one of the most beautiful views of Victoria’s waterfront through its outdoor seating on the wooden pier. Nothing beats eating super delicious Fish & Chips with a view like the one below on a warm sunny summer day! 🙂

Red Fish Blue Fish food with view

When we left, the line was still long and it seemed never ending. Clearly, it shows how popular this place is because of its food and the wait in line is well worth it in the end.

I will definitely come back to Red Fish Blue Fish someday! 🙂

 

For more info on Red Fish Blue Fish, visit their website: http://www.redfish-bluefish.com

Red Fish, Blue Fish on Urbanspoon

Korean Cuisine: Homemade Healthy Bibimbap

When I was teaching English in South Korea a few summers ago, I fell in love with the Korean culture especially its food.  I found the food delectable, diverse and healthy.  I learned that Hansik (Korean cuisine) is known for its healthy and well-balanced meal, using fresh and natural ingredients.  For example, the vegetables are almost always lightly blanched which means they have retained most of their natural nutrients.  Hansik uses less meat than most cultural cuisines.  Also, the meats are usually boiled or steamed which indicate they are low in fat and calorie.  Fermented foods are a large part of Hansik, and as research demonstrates, fermented foods benefit our health and digestion, because they are rich in probiotics (friendly bacteria), enzymes and minerals.  Kimchi, the most well-known Korean side dish and the staple of the Koreans (aside from boiled rice), is an example of fermented food.  In fact, it is considered one of the world’s top 5 health foods. ( http://www.health.com/health/article/0,,20410299,00.html)

According to Han Bok-ryeo, the Director of the Institute of Korean Royal Cuisine: “Korean food is a great source of energy, and for Koreans, energy goes beyond physical strength, it pertains to strength of the mind and soul.”  Also, Korean traditional wisdom states that “food and medicine are grown from the same root,” and therefore “there is no better medicine than food.” (taken from Korean Cuisine: Refresh Your Senses by Korea Tourism Organization, December 2009)  This philosophy demonstrates that food is very important to the Koreans, and it is made with care and thought into the overall well-being and health of its people.

After discovering I am gluten sensitive, my naturopathic doctor said that I can still have rice, because it has no gluten.  Thank goodness I can still eat rice, since rice is a staple of Korean food, and I especially love its signature dish: Bibimbap!

The direct translation of Bibimbap is “mixed rice”.  It is steamed/boiled rice mixed with a variety of vegetables and/or meat and Korean chili paste (a.k.a hot pepper paste).  I find the taste so delicious, nutritious and healthy for my body, mind and soul.  It’s like comfort food. 😀

This weekend I decided to give it a try, making homemade Bibimbap, as I’m discovering I enjoy cooking more and more, and this version is so much healthier than eating out!

The following recipe is taught and given to me by my dearest Korean friend Chris.

 

Serves: 4-6 people

Preparation Time: 40 minutes

Cooking Time: 15 minutes

 

Special Notes:

-I decided to make this bibimbap vegetarian; you can add a bit of ground meat (beef/chicken/pork); sautéed first if you like to have your meat. 🙂

Vegetables: You can substitute the vegetables in this recipe with any veggies you like.  The idea is to make it as colourful as possible so the bibimbap looks beautiful and eating a rainbow of vegetables is good for you!!

Rice: Make water less than normal in the rice cooker/pot so the rice is not as soft as usual, since after you still need to cook it in a big pan.

Spicy level: You can adjust the spiciness of the chili/hot pepper paste to your preference by either decreasing or increasing the tablespoons used for flavouring.

Egg: You can cook it sunny-side up if you like.

Optional: Roasted seaweed.  I personally like putting it in the bibimbap because it gives that extra crunch and flavour!

 

Ingredients for Bibimbap: 

All the vegetables needed for the bibimbap.  Only spinach is missing.

All the vegetables needed for the bibimbap. Only spinach is missing.

1 white radish, peeled and sliced into small, thin strips about 5 cm long

1 package of soy bean sprouts, washed and drained

1 big carrot, peeled and sliced into small, thin strips about 5 cm long

2 big zucchinis, peeled and sliced (see photo above)

1 big eggplant, washed and sliced (see photo above)

1 box/bag enoki mushrooms, washed and drained

1 bunch/bag spinach, washed and drained

4 tablespoons sesame oil (this is an approximate, but it is up to you to decide how much sesame oil you want to drizzle on top of the vegetables)

2 1/2 cups cooked white rice

a dash of salt

4-6 eggs

2-4 big sheets of roasted seaweed

 

Ingredients for Hot Pepper Sauce:

You can get this from any Korean supermarket and my friend recommended buying a big tub, since it can be refrigerated and lasts for 6 months!

You can get this from any Korean supermarket and my friend recommended buying a big tub, since it can be refrigerated and lasts for 6 months!

2 tablespoons hot pepper paste

1 tablespoon vinegar

1/2 tablespoon sugar

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon sesame seeds

 

Unlike the bibimbap I'm used to eating in Korean restaurants, where the vegetables are on top of the cooked rice in a bowl (and I need to mix everything), this bibimbap's toppings are already mixed in while cooking!

Unlike the bibimbap I’m used to eating in Korean restaurants, where the vegetables are on top of the cooked rice in a bowl (and I need to mix everything), this bibimbap’s toppings are already mixed in while cooking!

 

Instructions:

1. Lightly blanch (about 30 seconds, and for the carrots, a bit longer like approximately 60 seconds or less) each vegetable in boiling water, and drain.

2. Put all vegetables in a big pan.

3. Pour sesame oil all around the vegetables, but not too much.

4. Put rice into pan with vegetables and start mixing on medium heat.

5. Slowly add salt to the mix for seasoning.

6. Add hot pepper sauce all around and start mixing until evenly distributed and cooked.  Set aside and it’s best to cover the bibimbap in the pan with a lid so when you serve it, it’s still hot.

7. Fry eggs in a frying pan.  One egg per person/bowl.

8. Cut seaweed into strips or squares.

9. Place bibimbap into bowls, sprinkle some seaweed and put an egg on top of each bowl.

10. Masissge Deseuyo!! ^^ (Korean for Bon Appetit!)

 

One simple hot bowl of nutritious, delicious meal for yourself, family and/or friends! :)

One simple hearty hot bowl of nutritious and delicious meal for yourself, family and/or friends! 🙂

 

*If you want to find out more bibimbap (and get another recipe) and its history, check out this site: http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/FO/FO_EN_6_5_2_3.jsp

A Healthy Fast Food Alternative: Gluten-Free Pizza!!

As I continue on my gluten-free eating journey, I’m now exploring places that offer gluten-free options. Yesterday, my dear cousin came along with me on my little gluten-free adventure: finding a healthy and quick lunch!  We went to check out Pizzaville, a fast food franchise across Southern Ontario, to try its gluten-free pizza, as recommended by a friend of mine.

We ordered one with the following toppings: grilled chicken, mushrooms, broccoli, red peppers and light cheese.  The gluten-free pizza is only offered in one size (8 slices) and on extra thin crust.  The amazing thing is that the gluten-free crust is made with flaxseeds, which is high in fibre.

Pizzaville 1

I took a photo of the gluten-free pizza poster in the store so you can read for yourself how healthy it is.

Pizzaville 3

Overall, we found the taste of the gluten-free pizza very delicious, fresh (you can actually taste the REAL flavour of the tomato sauce and vegetables, and the chewy texture of the flaxseeds), crispy and light.  My cousin, who is not gluten sensitive, was surprised that this pizza was not greasy at all in comparison to a regular pizza.  She also commented that after eating 3 slices, she did not feel bloated as she usually does after eating pizza.

I’m now seriously a fan of Pizzaville’s gluten-free pizza, and I highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for a healthier fast food option.  In my opinion, its gluten-free pizza is wholesome and healthy!! 🙂

Love, Violet

P.S. I love how Pizzaville lists the nutritional information of the pizza here:  http://www.pizzaville.ca/gluten_free

P.S.S. Pizzaville also has a Gluten-Free Product Guide: http://www.pizzaville.ca/pdf/pv_gluten_chart.pdf