While there ain't much free these days...And if it is, do exercise some caution...But if it's coming from McDonalds?  You take it!  I don't care how my coffee aficionado friends swear by their gourmet cups of coffee...It's all caffeine in the end.  And if it's free, I say it tastes even better ;D

And nothing beats a nice, hot cup of free coffee after shovelling 3 rounds of wet and heavy snow.  When the driveway and sidewalks are cleared of snow and you're tucked warmly inside the familiar neighbourhood McD and only have the strength left to lift that fraqrant cup of coffee and play a little Sudoku from the free Metro News paper...Ahhh...Small pleasures, small pleasures.
 
 
Scotland Yard on Urbanspoon
One of Toronto's appeal is that there are ethnic/cultural pockets scattered throughout the city.  There's Chinatown, Korean Town, Little Italy, Greek Town etc. that's just perfect for exploring and sampling ethnic fare.  What's interesting though, is to see how ethnic food creeps into different restaurants.  The pub visited had traditional pub food, but a twist of Indian and a touch of Thai can be found.
This beefy stew is from Scotland Yard.  The Guinness stew is tender chunks of sirloin steak braised in Guinness, carrots, potatoes served on a Yorkshire pudding (a bready pastry) and is a dish I'd probably expected to find here.  It was tasty but was too beefy for me.  What I did find particularly delicious probably shouldn't be in a Scottish pub...Butter chicken and naan!  So, a little bit of Indian food to go with the ales.

The butter chicken was moist and tender and the Tandoori tomato sauce was not  too spicy and also perfect for dipping the naan (which was more like sliced
pita). I much preferred this dish. There was a side of yogurt too which served as dipping sauce too...But the Tandoori sauce was much more flavourful.  At $13.00 for each of the two mains ordered, not bad for dinner.

Also had Torpedo Shrimps as a starter and came with sweet Thai chili sauce for dipping.  Crunchy!  Yummy! 
The pub itself had character...The low lighting really set the mood.  Booths to the side, lamps and stained glass artwork, recessed bookshelves with old-leathered tomes...An area for people playing darts...Quite a relaxed place to enjoy a beer or two with friends.  It's along a short street with other pubs and so the area is fun for those who wish to do a little pub/bar-hopping. 

Our host was friendly and was helpful in allowing some dish adjustment to suit my low-carb diet (substituting the chips from from fish & chips for some extra greens).  In the end I didn't go for it but I appreciated the help.
 
 
Tekka Sushi on Urbanspoon
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That's right!  You read the title correctly...Carb-free sushi at Tekka Sushi.  How?  By eleminating the rice!  I was skeptical about it but figured if it's going to help with my low-carb diet, might was well try it.  And I'm glad I did!  

It's a refreshing sushi, more suitable for the warmer months but just as tasty now.  Crab meat, salmon, tuna and avocado rolled up in thin slivers of fresh, crunchy cucumber slices.  Very tasty!

The other dishes ordered were good but didn't really stand out.  We had an order of gyozas...They brought out two accidentally and we just weren't sure if they had split the dish into two portions.  We finally asked and then they took it away.  mm, wouldn't have minded if they just decided to give it to us...There weren't too many other diners at that time anyway.  The deep fried tofu tasted as expected but the  chicken terriyaki was thin and this resulted it being dry. 

The restaurant functions as a buffet but as we were only in a nibbly mood, we opted for the a-la carte.  If we do come back, it'll be to try the buffet or to have more of the no-rice sushi!

 
 
Made in China Hot Pot Restaurant on Urbanspoon
Fushion food is fun...You get mix-matched items and the pairings can be endless.  It either suits your personality or not...And since I'm a 'Bamboo Girl' (mish-mesh of Western/Asian upbringing) fushion is me!  Though I must say, of the three bamboo girls in this family, I am probably the one who would most often opt for asian fare...Give me a HK-styled milk tea over a latte any day!

Perhaps more accurate to describe this as Hong Kong-styled breakfast; it usually includes or a variation of: choice of eggs, choice of breakfast meats (ham, luncheon meat, bacon or sausage), toast and bowl of soup noodle (Macaroni or vermicelli with ham, satay beef or minced pork with peserved vegetable.  This all gets washed down with a hot drink, lemon tea, coffee or Hong Kong-styled milk tea. 

Pros: Very filling breakfast at around $5-$6.00.  Much cheaper than a western brunch and healthier than a fast food breakfast.  Love the mix of dry, salty food (eggs and bacon) with a soupy noodle (this is the Asian side of me coming out).  Love milk tea!

Cons: My pet-peeve...They use the word 'sausage' but it's really hot dog wieners which leaves me disappointed.  Places that serve this food tends not to be a place where decor and comfortable seats are priority.

But here at 'Made in China', the place is relativey clean and they've got some interesting bird cages going on as their ceiling decoration.  The booth seats are much too wide to eat comfortably though and we changed to regular tables/chairs.  It's an interesting restaurant; it shares the kitchen in the back with their sister restaurant next door, a Korean BBQ.  Made in China is a hot pot lunch/dinner restaurant but they're clever to draw in the morning breakfast people.  The staff are young and can be a bit abrupt but I'm here for good food and value. 
 
 
The Bristol Yard on Urbanspoon
Brunches and good friends are a terrific combination and I suspect there will be many entries on this topic. 

The Bristol yard was recommended by a friend and it certainly lived up this it's name.  There's an eye-catching unionjack hanging above the front door.  The all-day break ranges from about $12 - $15 and the portions are generous.  The only draw-back is that it's TINY.  Seems like everyone was out this day for exactly the same thing...A big hearthy brunch meal.  We waited a good 30mins or more for our table.

Given my low-carb diet, I opted for what sounded like a vegetarian-option...The description did not mention anything about my portobellow mushrooms and heirloom tomatoes being served on a English muffin.  So I was a bit disappointed at not getting what was expected. 

However, to be fair, the food was great and the few little pieces of homefries I nibbled on guiltily were tasty. You cold get brunches a bit cheaper, but if you're a big eater, this is the place to go. 

 
 
Was out running a banking errand and decided to stop by a store, part of a chain, which was closing down.  There used to be one close to where I live but that must have been when I was still in elementary school.  Over the years, they started closing them down, one by one, especially when Wal-Mart came in.  Now that Target is coming, they just couldn't compete.  Big box stores are great...When it's raining or snowing, there's lots of aisles to wander about...But it's the smaller guys that have their own indpendent character and contribute to the local neighbourhood identity.

Anyway, with everything priced to go, I indulged by buying some games; Game of Life and Battleship in card form.  Hmm, it's been awhile since I played boardgames.  Maybe I should host a games night one day.  Too many kids and adults these days are glued to their electronic gadgets...Sometimes a good ole-fashion boardgame can be even more rewarding.
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After shopping about, decided it was time for a coffee.  It's TIm's Rrroolll Up the Win time!  Saw a newsclip of this guy who one big...Made me feel like I needed a cup of coffee too and see if I'd win anything.  Nope...All I got was 'Please try again'.  How discouraging.

So, Day 2 of my no-carbs diet saw me grating cauliflower as a rice substitute.  Was not bad actually.

Stir-fry Cauliflower Rice with Tofu:
Ingredients:
-cauliflower, red bell pepper, onion, bok choy, ground beef,
-1 tube of smooth tofu
-crushed garlic, black pepper, salt

Instructions:
1.  Roughly cut up a cabbage into several large pieces.  Run each piece through a grater carefully creating small rice-like pieces.  Set aside.
2. Dice the red pepper, onion and bok choy.  Set aside.
3.  Brown the ground beef in a skillet.  Season with some salt, black pepper and chilli flakes as desired.  Set aside.
4. Heat a little olive oil in the skillet.  Add the garlic and brown lightly.  Add the grated cauliflower and stir-fry lightly for about 5 mins, stirring occassionally.
5.  Add the diced vegetables.  When cooked, stir in the cooked ground beef.   Add a dash of salt and black pepper.  Once everything is heated through, dish out in to serving bowl.
6.  Slice up tofu into 1cm think slices.  Heat a little oil in the skillet and brown the tofu on both sides.  Once cooked, layer tofu on the cauliflower rice.
 
TIPS:
**A variety of ingredients can be used such as diced carrots, peas or corn.






 
 
So, first day of no-carbs diet....I LOVE my breads...Crusty, fragrant and with a good bite.  This whole day, I kept feeling something was missing.  Had a handful of home-toasted cashews to have something to chew on.  Thankfully, mom keeps and array of fruits in the house.  There's apples, oranges and a few Asian pears.  What you see in the pictures, for those not familiar with Asian fruits, are dragonfruits (the bright pink skinned one) and longans, which translated means dragons' eyes.  

The dragonfruit was introduced to me when I moved to Hong Kong about 10 years ago.  They're big and hefty and like watermelon, great for quenching thirst.  They're bright pink on the outside with green leaf-like petals. When I was visiting Malaysia, I saw purple dragonfruits. Looked the same on the outside but once you cut it open, there's this shocking bright magenta colour.  But, for all their prettiness, dragonfruits can be a bit bland at times.  I heard that many Asians eat it as part of their diet plans; kind of like how we eat grapefruits here.  I phoned mom to tell her I've discovered where black sesame comes from...From dragonfruits!  Too which she chuckled and said 'No dear'. 

Longans and lycees are similar.  There's a shell on the outside, juicy white meat on the inside with a seed in the middle.  Longans are smaller though, about the size of a cherry.  You need a little patience to eat them but sweet and tasty and well worth the effort. 

So, with all these pretty fruits around me, I hope my carb craving can be abetted somewhat.  And I also have the cashews we made for munching.  
Mom saw raw cashews on sale and decided to toast her own; thereby controlling the amount of salt added to the nuts; saves money too.   For the amount she paid for all these cashews, you would only be able to get one tub of the toasted variety. 
 
 
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So in my attempt to tackle my muffin top and to achieve an overall sense of well-being, I decided to take up zumba with TDSB's Continuing Education program.  Was SO sore after my first class...Could really feel it going up and down the staires.  Thankfully, after my 3rd class tonight, I'm delighted to say I've picked up most of the steps and don't feel as tired now. 

It's a room full of ladies with similar health concerns so we're cheering each of us on...Especially at the halfway mark of each class.  The spring session is up for registration and I wonder how many of us are going to stick to it. 

With thoughts of weight, exercise and health on my mind, I found myself staring at a magazine on the rack next to the cashier at the neighbourhood grocery.  It talked about people who loved eating breads and pasta and having wheat bellies.  I superstitiously eyed my own tum-tum while I waited for my turn to pay and thought "Yup, I've got a wheat belly"  

So, starting tomorrow, I'm going on a 14 day no-carbs diet to see if it will make a difference.  More fresh fruits, veggies and lean meat for me....AND, I figured, since I've written this down here, I have to stick to it. 

I decided to reward myself for making a possible change to my health and diet with a nice croissant. 

 
 
Visited this the same day I did Allen Gardens.  Although there was only one hour left until closing, we decided to go for it anyway...It was a small little place so there was enough time.

Toronto's library MAP pass is awesome; so much so that I hesitate to promote it here...Free passes to various museums and historical centres and MacKenzie House was one of them.

Upon entering, an informative man shared with us information about MacKenzie's print shop.  As Toronto's first Mayor, it turned out he wasn't that rich at all and left behind debts.  Perhaps money was poured into his printing business or to the upkeep of their home.
Leaving the printshop, we were given a short guided tour of the ground level comprised really of a large room with dividing doors separating the parlour and the dining area.  The lady who led this guided portion was cheerful and knowledgeable and quite pleasant. 

We were left on our own to explore the upstairs portion;  two bedrooms and a storeroom/maid's room and the basement portion which housed the kitchen and pantry.  All the rooms were outfitted with furnishings appropriate for the time period though not necessarily original to the House. 
 
 
One cold, snowy weekend, we were looking for something to do INSIDE...Other than eating of course, which as you can see from my previous posts, is quite often.  As we were in the vincinty and having just fed ourselves a yummy brunch, we decided to give Allen Gardens a go. 

We were pleasantly surprised to find it bigger than it looked.  The attached conservatory held numerous colourful flowers and presents itself as great photo-ops for those looking for a colourful place to practice photography...Had a bit of fun myself playing with various camera features; mind you, I can't take credit for that lovely pic at the top of this post...Got it from Google ;p

Beautiful flowers, a little carp pond, colours galore...All in the middle of winter!
Now that we've admired the pretty flowers, look at what it was like outside!  Made me want to just stay in the garden!