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My Favourite Restaurant

Of all the things people ask me about moving home from “the big city,” two questions come up over and over:

1) Aren’t you going to get bored?
2) How will you eat??

The answers are actually quite simple.

First, a girl can make her own fun wherever she is. Trust me. It’s pretty darn simple to be in a big city with a million things to do and still feel bored and lonely. Sometimes you just have to be a little more creative in smaller towns ;)

Secondly, one word: Calactus.

Actually, one of my best friends told me that I won’t miss any of those Toronto restaurants because Moncton’s Calactus is all I really need.

Exaggerated, yes. But still not that far from the truth.

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I’ve been blogging about this place for years now. It’s my favourite restaurant. Ever. And all right here in my hometown.

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I first started going to Calactus over a decade ago when it was in a small old house on Mountain Road. It was around the time my family first started eating vegetarian, and this vegetarian/vegan restaurant helped introduce a whole new style of eating to me.

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Calactus is also home to the world’s best veggie burger. Seriously. This coming from a girl who spent eight years as a vegetarian and has choked down a lot of veggie burgers in her day…

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But the even better thing about this restaurant, is that they are more than just one standout dish. Everything is good. All house made, fresh, flavourful. The kind of meal that doesn’t weigh you down, but leaves you feeling healthily satisfied.

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Like with they’re Burrito Bandito.

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Or their extravaganza pizza with tomato sauce, veggie pepperoni, falafel, red onion, green pepper and cheese. Along with a beet and goat cheese salad.

I have yet to try their pakoras, but their munchables are amazing.

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The Thousand and One Nights with chapati bread, feta cheese and olives, falafels, hummus, tofu cream and veggie sticks.

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Their falafels are the bestest. Perfectly seasoned, crunchy on the outside, soft in the middle, without being greasy. Their tofu cream still alludes me. They put it on a lot of their dishes. Like a garlicky tofu hummus or tzatziki of sorts.

My latest visit to Calactus was on Saturday for lunch and my midday cravings wanted something rolled up in bread.

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I went with a “Flute” which is essentially a wrap. Falafel flavour, because as I said, their falafel is out of this world.

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With sprouts, lettuce, red onion, tomato, and a drizzle of that savoury tofu cream. My oh my it was good! Their house made chapati bread never ceases to amaze me. Always so soft and fluffy. A million times better than the usual flour tortilla.

The tabbouleh is something to write home about as well. Rather than being pre-mixed, it’s couscous with the dressed parsley and tomatoes dolloped on top. Tastes almost like a bruschetta on couscous.

Then of course there’s Christie and Tiffany.

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My Calactus lunch-mates on Saturday. We’ve lunched manymany times together over the ooohhh 20 years (?) we’ve known each other.

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They’re both living back at home now too. So the three of us live just down the street from each other like we did growing up!

Except you know, with a few extra stories to tell from along the way.

Told ya, a girl can find some good fun and good food just about anywhere ;)

Project Food Blog Challenge #3 – Keeping It Classy: A Beer Filled Dinner Party

Three months ago, I moved from my small Atlantic Canadian hometown to the country’s largest city. My first time ever living away from my home province of New Brunswick. Apart from learning a lot about other cultures here in the self-proclaimed “multicultural capital of the world,” I’ve also learned a lot about my own Maritime culture. Or rather, people’s perception of Maritime culture.

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At first, I was taken aback to hear that the rest of Canada stereotypes Atlantic Canadians as heavy drinkers. I mean, we just love our beer as much as the next Canuck!

However, over the past three months, I have learned the stereotypes are in fact true. Us Maritimers really do love our booze more when compared to the rest of Canada. These Ontario folk have two glasses of wine on a Friday and call it a night. Meanwhile, that’s just a usual weeknight in New Brunswick!

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When reading through the third challenge of Project Food Blog, I immediately became weary…

Challenge Prompt: Celebrate! You’ve made it this far, and the next challenge is to hold a party for your friends and family (at least four guests, you can include yourself in the 4 person count). Whether you’re an experienced host or an entertaining newbie, get creative and host a luxurious dinner party where your guests will discover new tastes and exotic flavors. 

First things first, I still live like a college student. I have never thrown a dinner party. Any parties I have thrown have been far from “luxurious.”

Secondly, the majority of my friends in Toronto are all Maritimers such as myself. The type of people who blow through a case of Keith’s and end up gathered in the kitchen for a traditional “Maritime Kitchen Party” by the end of the night.

With this in mind, I decided to create a “luxurious” menu with a little bit of kick. Something that would take the class up a notch and yet make us still feel right at home.

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That’s right my friends, a menu where every dish features beer as an ingredient. 

Who said beer can’t be luxurious? ;)

Because I worked both Saturday & Sunday this weekend, I opted to do the majority of my food preparations Friday night. Then have everyone over after work on Saturday night. The Friday night in the kitchen was kind of fun!

I began by baking a loaf of Beer Bread with Guinness & Molasses.

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Recipe found here with a few changes.

4 cups flour (I used 1/2 all purpose, 1/2 whole wheat)

1/4 cup sugar molasses 

2 Tablespoons baking powder

12 ounces beer (NOT light beer) (I used Guinness draught)

2 teaspoons salt

2 eggs, slightly beaten

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While that puppy was in the oven, I got to work on baking project number two: Guinness Stout Brownies.

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Recipe found here.

1 cup all-purpose flour

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons unsalted room temperature butter, cut into cubes

8 ounces dark bittersweet chocolate, chopped (I used 6oz bittersweet, 2 oz semi-sweet)

3/4 cup white chocolate chips

4 large eggs, at room temperature (I used cold eggs and it didn’t explode or anything)

1 cup superfine or granulated sugar

1-1/4 cups (10 ounces) Guinness Extra Stout beer, room temperature

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/8 cup (about) confectioners’ sugar for dusting

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Adding the Guinness to the brownie batter…

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With the baked goods out of the way, I got to my cold salad that would sit in the fridge overnight: Pale Ale Cabbage Slaw.

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I was deeply disturbed when this recipe called to boil the beer right off the bat. Boiling beer feels so wrong!

1 pound red cabbage, finely shredded

1 pound green cabbage, finely shredded

1 package (1 pound) carrots, shredded I cheated and bought bagged slaw

1 sweet onion, thinly sliced

1/3 cup sugar

½ tsp celery seeds

1 bottle (12 oz) Pale Ale Beer I used Bud Light Lime

1/3 cup grape seed oil canola oil

¼ cup cider vinegar rice vinegar

1 TBLS honey mustard

1 ½ tsps salt

½ tsp black pepper

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Buying the bagged slaw made the prep for this so easy! By then my bread was done, rising quite a bit thanks to the yeast in the beer. I couldn’t help myself – I had a slice right away!

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The bread powered me through the last bit of Friday night prep. I put the brownies in the oven then got started on the sauce for the Chicken & Tofu in a Peanut & Beer Sauce.

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Beer and peanut butter. Two of my favourite things!

The original recipe comes from here and is meant for chicken wings. Chicken thighs were on sale and tofu is cheap! What can I say, I’m a frugal hostess.

24 chicken wings, tips removed 5 chicken legs/thighs and 1 block tofu

1 12-oz can Lager Beer  used Brava Lager (local!)

½ cup molasses

¼ cup creamy peanut butter

¼ cup lemon juice

¼ cup Worcestershire sauce

2 Tablespoons mustard

1 teaspoon salt

1 Tablespoon chili powder

1 Tablespoon chopped parsley Forgot this step – oops!

 

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I’ll admit, it felt very odd mixing those ingredients together all in one pot as I see them being so different. But it smelled heavenly!

I prepared the raw chicken and sauce so I could pop it in the oven come party time.

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Meanwhile, I MacGyvered a tofu press to work its magic overnight.

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Soon the peanut butter sauce smells were overtaken by chocolate smells indicating the stout brownies were done…

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What?? You’ve got to test this stuff before you serve it to other people ;)

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Dense, fudgy, rich. A definite stamp of approval.

 

On Saturday, I had two more people confirm they’d be coming. I started to worry that I might not have enough food. Plus, not everyone was scheduled to arrive at the same time. Thankfully, my roommie was on the ball and prepared a Cheesy Beer Dip while I was away at work.

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I’m told the dip was Cheez Whiz, cream cheese, and beer. Bam.

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Along with some Vodka Tomatoes.

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Made by poking holes in tomatoes and letting them soak in the goodness. Thank you Megan!! Both munchies were a hit!

Meanwhile, I still had one last dish to make: Cheddar and Beer Soup.

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The veggies, to offset the butter, beer and cheese of course.

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Recipe found here.

2 medium leeks (white and pale green parts only), cut into 1/4-inch dice (2 cups)

2 medium carrots, cut into 1/4-inch dice (1 cup)

2 celery ribs, cut into 1/4-inch dice (1 cup)

2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic

1 Turkish or 1/2 California bay leaf

1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

2 cups whole milk

1 3/4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth (14 fl oz)

1 (12-oz) bottle ale such as Bass I used Kronenbourg – a French ale.

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 lb extra-sharp Cheddar (preferably English; rind removed if necessary), grated (4 cups)

4 bacon slices (3 1/2 oz total), cooked and crumbled

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When buying the cheese, I didn’t really clue in to the fact that I’d be adding the whole pound to the soup.

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To put it in perspective, the volume of cheese was equal to the volume of liquid in the pot!

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Before I knew it, my guests had trickled in and the dishes were ready to eat!

The Starter

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The cheddar and beer soup was very hearty. Mostly cheesy with a slight hint of beer. We briefly discussed how many servings of cheese there were in one bowl, then decided it was in our best interest not to know. I toasted the beer bread and it made for a perfect dipper! The Guinness and molasses flavours definitely shine through.

 

The Main

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The sauce for this was uh-mazing. You must make it. Sooner rather than later.

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With the coleslaw. This was a hit as well. The flavours were very subdued and it was a nice light side dish to go with the heavier dishes. I think the Bud Light Lime was a great choice for this.

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The Dessert

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The ice cream was actually a last minute thought. After trying the rich brownies, I knew they needed to be paired with cool and creamy vanilla ice cream. You can’t taste the Guinness in the brownies at all, although I dare to say it brings out the intensity in the chocolate flavour. I saw people go back for seconds on this one!

 

The Cast of Characters

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Megan, my roommie, hostess extraordinaire. Living together for three months and already our kitchen has turned into a foodie paradise.

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Amanda, the only non-Maritimer present, but adopted as one of our own.

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Billy and Jer, keeping up the “luxurious” standard.

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Tom, always ready with an inappropriate comeback.

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Colin, who says “no” to mix or ice.

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Me! After pulling off my first ever “luxurious” dinner party for my decidedly un-classy group of friends from back home. We ate, we drank, we ate what we drank. Proof that we Maritimers may like our drink, but damn it, we know how to do our drink well. Thank you to Foodbuzz for inspiring this gathering. My lush friends and I had a blast!

 

Voting for the third challenge opens Monday, October 4. Vote for my booze-infused dinner party here!! And remember to keep it classy blogland!

A Waffleless Wednesday

Hello friends!! Another Waffle Wednesday without waffles! Boo! My Belgian waffle maker is actually in Ottawa right now with my sister. Long story, but I will be reunited with it once again in two weeks time :)

This time next Wednesday I’ll be landing in Calgary! Eeeee!!

Anyways, as always, I am getting ahead of myself again.

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This morning I brought back an old favourite – Oatmeal & Yogurt Parfait.

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I started with a base of rolled oats cooked with egg whites. Then topped with frozen berries.

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The layers continue with yogurt, fibre cereal and sliced almonds.

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First time having yogurt in over a month!!! It hasn’t changed much in a month ;) My belly digested it just fine!

I must also report that my family completely wrecked and demolished the pan of chocolate chip blondies in less than 24 hours.

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I played my part by having one as the pre-workout snack of champions. Blondie + apple. It was the perfect fuel!!

I dragged my mom to the gym with me today. We both wanted to do plyometrics and knew we’d need the moral support to get through it ;)

We started with 15 minutes on the elliptical to warm-up. The recommended warm-up time is only 3-5 minutes to get oxygen to your muscles. If you don’t warm-up, you demand too much of your body too quickly and you will tire out sooner. Obviously, my usual 15 minutes is above and beyond my muscular needs, but it’s just long enough to get my heart rate into a working zone. Personally, once it reaches that level through straight-up cardio, I can keep it pretty elevated during strength training. However, it doesn’t get that high with strength training alone. I just don’t have the muscular power yet to make my heart pump that much. Make sense? There’s a method to my madness!

Today’s workout had one upper-body move alternated with one plyometric move. It was brutal.

Back set:

Exercise Sets Reps Load
Two arm dumbbell row 3 12 20 lbs each
Squat jumps 3 24 bodyweight

Chest set:

Exercise Sets Reps Load
Push-up  3 10 bodyweight
Lunge kicks 3 30 sec each bodyweight

Shoulder set:

Exercise Sets Reps Load
Prone cuban snatch (on ball) 3 10 5 lbs each
Weighted jumping jacks 3 60 sec 5 lbs each

Ab set:

Exercise Sets Reps Load
Plank on bosu ball 3 45 sec bodyweight
Bosu ball russian twist  3 30 8 lbs

Triceps/Biceps:

Exercise Sets Reps Load
Cable pushdown  2 15 45 lbs
Cable curl 2 15 25 lbs

 

And then we collapsed into a sweaty mess :P No, it was an awesome workout and I’m glad I had my mommy to suffer through the squat jumps with me!

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I came home with images of meltycheesy pitas dancing in my head.

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Pepperoni + cheddar. Halfway through I remembered I forgot to put the mayo on and didn’t even miss it! Just goes to show that condiments aren’t always required.

Chocolate however is always a necessity.

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My mom and Nana are going to Newfoundland the day after I leave for Banff, so my mother gave me permission to polish off this box.

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I only just noticed today that it says “Newfoundland Wild Berries” on the box – no wonder they all had a hint of fruit!

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Apparently each box is different. I have no clue what kind this was or what kind of berry was in it. But I can tell you it was delicious ;)

I spent aaallll afternoon applying for jobs and getting life details sorted out. I found out yesterday that my subtenant in my old place isn’t moving in after all. She had some sort of falling out with my landlord, but still agreed to pay the remainder of my lease. Jeeze louise, what a headache!

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I took a break for a Honeybar Sweet & Salty bar. I lovelovelove this bar. It reminds me of those Nature Valley Sweet n’ Salty bars – but BETTER!

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Ingredients: Peanuts, honey, peanut butter, almonds, almond butter, crisp brown rice, kosher salt. Nutritional info here!

I had a special dinner date today – I got to see one of my best friends!!

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Meghan and I have been friends since the first grade and even lived together during part of our undergrad (oddly enough, one of my new TO roommies is named Megan too!) She’s living back at home doing fun things like working with monkeys and lemurs. 

Meghan is also a fabulous cook. I arrived to a beautifully set table.

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I want those placemats please.

Meg whipped up some General Tso’s chicken. I can’t remember all what was in the pan, but I recall garlic, ginger, soy sauce, chicken broth, sesame oil, red pepper flakes, and probably magical fairy dust because it was freakin’ good.

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Paired with coconut lime rice.

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And a salad dressed with Newman’s Own sesame ginger dressing.

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SO delicious!! I miss living with Meghan!!! I miss our Lost nights and MSN-ing each other when we’re too lazy to get out of bed and speak face to face ;)

I was lucky enough to have a dining companion by the name of Simon.

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Simon’s name is pronounced in a British accent ;) Meg also works at an animal shelter, and this is one face she couldn’t let go. I don’t blame her!!

Dessert was the perfect end to the perfect meal.

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It went with the rice!
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With chamomile tea. It made me sleepy :)

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Check out Meghan’s Mom’s mug – Supernatural!!

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The other bestie Erika got me hooked on this show and I squealed like a schoolgirl when I saw this.

I regret typing that. These are some things I should just not admit to on the internet.

Simon is not the only cute kitty face I came across tonight.

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Meet Peter. His proper name pronunciation however is “Pedro.” Don’t forget to roll the R… Pedrrrroo.

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Simon suffered brain damage from smoke inhalation in the house fire he was rescued from. He’s a little slow, but in the most endearing of ways :)

 

Gosh, I have turned into a crazy cat and dog lady. But I need to get my fill – I’ll be without pets soon :(

 

Question of the day: What’s your favourite kind of Chinese food? I don’t have a lot of experience in either traditional or North American Chinese food. All I know is that I genuinely love the taste of fortune cookies ;)

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