April 5, 2013 § 2 Comments
If you follow The Starved Writer, you may have noticed that I haven’t posted in a while. No I am not going to make up a whole bunch of excuses about being busy and not having time to cook. This time, I have a good excuse. A really good excuse. For the past little while I have been working on putting together The Mouthful, which will be my completely new, entirely improved, absolutely awesome new blog! While it isn’t live just yet, it will be soon and I cannot wait to share it with you.
It will include lots of vegetarian and vegan cooking and baking, of course, but also more about the natural living, health and fitness that is such an enormous part of my life. Avocado face masks, distance running and morning music never felt like a good fit for the Starved Writer, but it also felt odd not to talk about those things. Now I will have a place where I can share all of the things that inspire me! I will also be sharing more of my life on The Mouthful, from my friends and family to my endeavours as a recent university graduate, and with a sharper, sillier, more honest tongue that better reflects who I am.
Oh, and just so you know, I will be moving a few of the more popular Starved Writer posts over to The Mouthful but I will also be leaving the rest of the blog here. You know, in case you get a craving for some oatmeal cookies.
I cannot even begin to tell you how jazzed I am about The Mouthful! I will be sure to let you know as soon as it is ready and I hope that you will follow me there!
February 28, 2013 § 3 Comments
You know how it goes: Your days start to slowly be taken up useless meetings and long shifts at the restaurant and the time you have to yourself is spent editing drafts and writing papers and you’re stressed about passing your driver’s test. (Okay, that last one may just be me.) Before you know it, you can hardly remember the last time you made a decent meal and all you have in your fridge is a couple of carrots and you just don’t feel like making anything for dinner so you eat cereal instead. (That last one may just be me too.) It happens.
But, for me, it almost never lasts long. I am always able to find some inspiration on Tumblr, Pinterest or from other food bloggers, and lately, after a month of dry toast for dinner, I have begun to find so much inspiration! I first found this quinoa dish with peas, white beans and thai green curry sauce from Madde of The Collegiate Vegan a while back and then came across another one of her green curry quinoa bowls with spinach. Then, the other day, my beautiful friend Stephanie of Snacking on Sunshine shared her own green goddess bowl with soba noodles, nuts and greens, and that was it. I had to make my own. Nothing picks up my spirits quite like a big bowl of green goodness. And no, I don’t mean some silly, leafy salad with a couple cherry tomatoes tossed in. I am talking about broccoli, asparagus, basil, spinach, kale, peas, cucumbers and maybe a bit of arugula with a heap of whole grains.
I have made many green bowls before but this is the best one yet! I could eat those crunchy little peas all day and I never get tired of cauliflower. I also threw some spinach in there for iron and quinoa for protein, but it is the tangy green coconut curry sauce that makes this dish.
Do you ever make your own green bowl and, if you do, what do you like to put in it?
February 16, 2013 § 2 Comments
Remember in elementary school when you had to bring in something from home that you thought would be worth showing and telling the other kids in your class about? Yeah, well, for my first show and tell, I brought a sticky note that I found on the ground. Don’t worry, I brought my puppy in the week after and made up for it.
Anyway, I have decided to start doing my own show and tell here, so that I can share with you some of the beautiful, hilarious, delicious and interesting things that I find in my online wanderings. There is going to plenty of food, for sure, but also fashion, photography, art, design and music. I am going put these up on Saturdays so that you have something to read with your pancakes and coffee that will hopefully get your day off to a thoughtful start. Enjoy!
1. This Munchies episode of chef Emma Hearst and the rest of the gorgeous, talented, hilarious ladies at Sorella in New York. This is me crushing a little bit.
3. This incredible short film from Perennial Plate about life in India, which has got me wanting to travel there even more than I already did. The bustling markets, the dosa, the goats, cows and chickens seem to wander the sidewalks – count me in!
4. These stunning postcards of some of the greatest cities in the world, from Amsterdam to Barcelona to Valencia, with the name of the city written on it in some serious typography. It’s design, photography and travel porn at its best.
6. And these jaw-droppingly sexy photos of Beyoncé in a tawny, blonde top knot, vintage athletic tees, hipster glasses and gold chains. No one does it better.
February 13, 2013 § 2 Comments
Seeing as that I am beyond busy with school and just started hostessing at Trattoria Mercato, I don’t know when I’ll be able to do much cooking, baking and blogging. So, for now, I have dug up a story that I wrote last year about the True Love Café, a Toronto landmark known to anyone who takes the Dundas streetcar west of Yonge.
Photo courtesy of Ashton Pal
The streets at Dundas and Sherbourne are lined with once stately Victorian homes now fallen to disrepair, broken bicycles, trash cans and run down stores with faded signs and barred windows. On one corner a dingy, brown brick apartment barely stands, its doors manned by a group of men and women in oversized winter coats and torn jeans. Two of the women begin to scream at each other. One darts into the street, into oncoming traffic
On the other side of the street the True Love Café sits quietly. Its white siding has begun to fade but the red and purple hearts that cover it are what the café is known for. Inside, the walls and ceiling are painted purple and there is a leopard print couch to one side of the room. Most of the tables are for two and most of the chairs are upholstered in red velvet. “How Deep Is Your Love” by the Bee Gees plays. There is a feeling of calm in the café.
Early on a cold, grey November morning, a large man with a scruffy red beard and a black, leather jacket saunters in the open front doors of the True Love Café. He strolls up to the counter, orders his coffee and begins to chat with John and Lina Lee, the brother and sister that own the True Love Café. But their banter is not the kind of small talk shared by strangers.
“See you later guys,” the man says. “In the morning.” On his way out, the man spots a neighbour at a table near the front of the café.
“Hey,” he says, raising his hand in a brief wave.
“Hey,” says the other man, looking up from his newspaper.
The man is one of many Dundas and Sherbourne locals who come to the True Love Café each morning for their coffee and bagel. And, like most, he will be back for his coffee tomorrow and each day after that. John and Lina always take a couple of minutes to talk to the True Love Café regulars at the counter about the weather, their brother’s wedding or their travels, even as a line begins to form. But instead of groaning or asking John and Lina to hurry, most of the locals waiting in line at the True Love Café have stories to tell as well, their own thoughts to share. Names are exchanged. Sometimes, friends are made
The True Love Café may look and feel out of place on the corner of Dundas and Sherbourne but it has become a sort of gathering place for the people that live nearby. Now and then, John does have to ask loud, vulgar or unruly patrons to leave the café. He even asked a group of men to leave after hearing them talk badly about women. But, for the most part, the cafe has become a safe place for people in the neighbourhood to go when they are surrounded by what can seem like nothing but drugs, violence and crime.
Around early afternoon, a gaunt, old man in a filthy, red jersey sits down at a table with a wiry-haired woman in fishnet stockings and leather boots. The two talk quietly, the woman running a hand over her weathered face and shaking her head, her eyes downcast. The man sips from his coffee and nods. His demeanor is calm, almost wise. Moments earlier he had begged for change just outside the True Love Café doors.
While not as notorious as Jane and Finch, the Dundas and Sherbourne area has more poverty than anywhere in Toronto and is home to dozens of rooming houses and shelters, many of which are illegal. It also has the most violent crime of anywhere in the city and is plagued by prostitution and drug use – mainly crack. And, unlike Jane and Finch, the area has had almost no support from social programs or police.
“The area is rough,” says Joe Carriere, 40, looking out at the infamous apartment on the other side of the street as he waits for his coffee. “The True Love Café is a safe haven for people. A place for them to ease their minds.” Carriere is another regular of the True Love Café. He and his girlfriend, who live nearby, began coming about a year ago after they met John and Lina.
“You can come here with any problem and John and Lina will either make you laugh or give you a way of fixing it,” Carriere says. As he leaves, he wishes John and Lina a good day.
Rob M., 49, a tall man with a long, black ponytail and a peppery beard, is another True Love Café regular. He works nearby and says that he has been coming to the True Love Café for nearly four years, often three or four times a day, for coffee and the occasional breakfast. Rob knows what people think when they come to the Dundas and Sherbourne area. “Walk fast, get in and get out.” But when Rob gets his coffee at the True Love Café he likes to take his time and stay a while. He and John could talk for hours, he says, about movies, history and John’s travels to Hungary.
“It is such a small town feel in here,” Rob says. “And if John were a neighbour he would be a great friend to have.”
By the early afternoon, Rob is back at the True Love Café again for a business lunch with his colleague, Dennis Brooks, 57. They both work nearby for Unitas, a security company that focuses on social programs and housing. Brooks has worked for there for about eight years and has been coming to the True Love Café for coffee once or twice a day since it opened in 2004.
Brooks says that the café is not just a place for people to go but that it is actually crucial to the Dundas and Sherbourne community. Jane Jacobs, he says, would have loved it. Jacobs was an urban planner in Toronto during the 1950s who believed that cities like Toronto should not try to build their communities outright but that they should allow them to grow naturally. She believed that communities needed a focal point, whether a public space or a gathering place, like the True Love Café, to bring people together.
“In a neighbourhood of such modest resources, places like the True Love Café are important,” Brooks says as Lina brings a tray of soup and sandwiches to where he and Rob sit by the window, sunlight falling on the table through the grimy glass windowpane. Lina makes a quiet joke and Brooks laughs as she walks back to the kitchen.
In recent years, there have been a few attempts to revitalize the Dundas and Sherbourne area by building condos at Queen and Sherbourne and by developing the nearby Regent Park, Brooks says. But he hasn’t noticed much change in the area. The True Love Café has done more to bring people in the area together in recent years than anything else and that, Brooks says, is where real change starts.
Just after lunch, an elderly man named Bobby strolls in the open front door of the True Love Café, leaning on a cane. Bobby is another one of the True Love Café’s regulars.
“Hey gang! How are you doing?” Bobby shouts to a group of older men at a table nearby.
Coffee in hand, Bobby takes a seat with his pals and the men begin to debate which hockey team will make the Stanley Cup playoffs this year. Bobby says, loudly, that he has always loved the Montreal Canadiens. A couple of the men laugh and give Bobby a hard time. The Montreal Canadiens haven’t won many games this year.
“Those rascals,” Brooks says with a smile, gesturing over his shoulder.
Bobby comes to the True Love Café most days to hang out and watch the Price is Right or whatever old Western is on the dated television set. It is even said that he takes the True Love Café’s remote control home with him when he leaves the café. Ask John about Bobby and the remote though and he just throws up his hands and sighs. John says he doesn’t want to get involved. Besides, he is busy. The lunch crowd will be in soon.
Allan Vanalstyne, 42, lives just a couple of doors down from the True Love Café. He says he and his wife come to the café for lunch and dinner all the time and, although the soup is tasty, they say they come most for John and Lina.
“John and Lina make you feel like you’re part of the family,” Vanalstyne says. “They are kind.”
John and Lina grew up near Dundas and Jarvis themselves, just a couple of blocks from the True Love Café, and today they live above the café. To John and Lina, Dundas and Sherbourne truly is home and the people that come to the café truly are their neighbours.
“You can’t go through life not knowing who your neighbours are,” Lina says.
Rob says that John wants to make things better – for the Dundas and Sherbourne neighbourhood and for the world. But John is modest. He says that the True Love Café is just a café and that he doesn’t like to get caught up in praising it for anything beyond serving up coffee and muffins.
As the evening approaches and the light inside the True Love Café begins to dim, John sits at a table behind the counter, chopping potatoes. One of Bobby’s pals has fallen asleep on the couch. Bette Midler’s “Wind Beneath my Wings” plays softly. The dinner crowd at the True Love Café is slower but a few locals still come by for a burger or a plate of spaghetti and meatballs “made with love.”
After, some will linger at the café late into the evening and others will head home for the night. Either way, most will be back in the morning to have their coffee and chat with John and Lina, to share breakfast with a friend or to get off the busy, chaotic, often dangerous streets of Dundas and Sherbourne.
“I don’t know why people come here,” John says from behind the counter as he chops potatoes, slowly. “I’m just glad that they do.”
January 29, 2013 § 3 Comments
People are always surprised to hear of how much I love poutine.
Perhaps it is the Canadian in me but I never seem to have a problem waiting in the long, cold line outside Smoke’s after a night of beer and whisky shots. The drunkenly made friends, generously poured gravy and Quebec cheese curds are worth it.
But the best poutine I have ever had is the chili cheese poutine at Lou Dawg’s. The crispy French fries and fresh cheese curds are definitely there but it is the chunky chili of kidney beans, chickpeas and tomatoes that makes this poutine so hearty and wonderful.
January 29, 2013 § Leave a Comment
It has been almost a month since I last posted, which is shameful. December was just such a disaster of chocolate and pecan pie and buttery mashed potatoes and beer that I spent most of January hauling my bloated self out for a run and slurping on cabbage soup, which meant not much cooking and baking took place. But, don’t worry, I didn’t go hungry! Please. I had plenty of delicious eats this month and so I thought I would share a few with you.
Remember the last minestrone I made? Yeah, this one was even better. It was the same soup base, only I used potatoes, broccoli and kidney beans. It warmed me up like nothing else on the couple of frigid days we have had here in Toronto and left me feeling so satisfied. Minestrone may be my new obsession.
I have also been roasting up all kinds of vegetables after having this delicious dinner at my boyfriend’s parent’s house. Manicotti with roasted carrots, sweet potatoes, zucchini, red pepper and onion was just perfect. When you’re roasted vegetables, don’t just stop at olive oil and salt. Sprinkle some crushed red pepper or garam masala on those vegetables to amp up the flavour.
I also had the most wonderful vegan curry with tofu, green beans, peppers, onions and carrots, which the Ryerson Vegan Club was selling on campus the other day. It was saucy and packing lots of heat, which I love. Even the tofu was cooked just how I love it. Leave it to a vegan.
December 31, 2012 § 6 Comments
Minestrone soup, with its warm, hearty broth, was one of the best things that I discovered when I went vegetarian. It was one of the only broth soups that I was able to eat and I could even get those giant cans of Habitant minestrone soup at the grocery store. I often eat Habitant minestrone soup for lunch when I come in from a chilly morning of snowboarding but I also like to make my own homemade minestrone for a lunch at home. It is so simple and you can use whatever you want, which makes it ideal for using up leftover vegetables in your fridge. When I get back to my apartment I am going to make this minestrone again but using potatoes, broccoli or kale, kidney beans or white beans and penne or ditalini.
few cloves of garlic, minced
can of diced tomatoes
1. Start with plenty of olive oil in a large soup pot. Over medium heat, sautée the garlic, onion and celery until they are beginning to soften.
2. Pour in the vegetable broth and can of tomatoes. Toss in the carrots and bring the soup to a boil for a couple of minutes or until the carrots are beginning to soften. Then stir in the basil, tomato paste, zucchini and chickpeas and simmer for a couple more minutes. Salt to taste.