Winterlicious 2015 – Scaddabush (plus a chance to win a prize)

I’ve always thought that Italy has a bit of an edge on food, elegant and classy flavours that are timeless, like a William Shakespeare play or a Chanel 2.55. Earlier this week I got a sneak preview of Scaddabush’s Winterlicious menu and the two items that piqued my interest most were the salads. I’m all for indulgence but when done well, the lighter side of things can be just as decadent.

Have you ever opened a restaurant menu, glanced at the salad section and wondered who orders them? Me, I am that person. I love eating them and not just because they are supposed to be healthy, but because they can be so yummy. At home my salads are packed with protein, crunch, delicious dressings, colour and texture, and never bland.

The trouble with most restaurants, unless you go to a very specific place that relies on their salads, this dish is usually the most disappointing pick even though they deserve the same love as every other item on the menu. Encouraging people to eat greens, means making them as dynamic and appealing as all the other things on offer and yet most restaurants just throw that opportunity away, serving up leaves and an unimaginative drizzle. Give me a restaurant that knows how to whip up some mean greens and you will find me going back again and again for more.

Scaddabush Caprese Salad

In this instance, Scaddabush may have to take out a restraining order on me. Their Winterlicious menu has two beautiful salads which I could not resist ordering. A caprese salad (freshly made in-house mozzarella, Campari tomatoes, baby arugula, herb oil and basil) and for mains, a Tuscan Salad with grilled shrimp (baby green kale, arugula, marinated raisins, toasted pumpkin seeds, semi sun-dried tomatoes, cipollini onions, Pecorino cheese and balsamic lemon vinaigrette). You just know a lot of thought has gone into them.

Both salads were so lovely, fresh and vibrant. Each has unique notes that really stand out. The caprese, sweet and sharp balsamic dressing married with soft creamy cheese, plump red tomatoes, peppery leaves and every now and again my tongue was kissed with basil.

Scaddabush Tuscan Salad (Winterlicious 2015)

The Tuscan looked like a beautiful green nest covered in white Pecorino moss and had a fierce and zingy dressing. I loved all the different components, especially the sundried tomatoes, raisins and cipollini onions. Every bite was something different because I kept trying out different combinations.

Scaddabush Winterlicious Jail Island Tomato & Caper Salmon

They also treated the hubby to some Jail Island salmon. Crispy on the outside, succulent and soft flaking pink within, lying there in its tomato caper glory on a bed of seasonal vegetables alongside parsley butter potatoes, it is wonderful for those seeking healthy but hearty satisfaction.

Having said that though, whatever you do, don’t leave without trying their chocolate gelato, it is tastes amazing and life is too short.

Scaddabush Winterlicious 2015 Chocolate Gelato

Check out Winterlicious 2015 at Scaddabush from January 30th – February 12th. Lunch $18 (plus gratuity & taxes) and Dinner $25 (plus gratuity & taxes.)

GIVE AWAY TIME: I’ve teamed up with Scaddabush to brighten up your January. I’m giving away two gift cards worth $25 dollars and it couldn’t be easier, just follow me on Twitter or Instagram for a chance to win, I’ll be posting more details them later today. Good luck! (Toronto based only.) 

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That in-house mozzarella though

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My hubby and I recently attended a menu tasting event at Scaddabush, a restaurant named after the Italian slang word for a little bit of this and a little bit of that.

My first memory of Italian food is about twenty years or so old. I don’t think I was even into my first set of double digits in age, but then my Dad had us eating avocados and shellfish before we really understood that it was Sebastian from The Little Mermaid we were enjoying so much.

It was on the Isle of Man, we had decided to take a coastal drive, my father, my younger sister and I. We drove along the Island’s roads adjacent to the Irish Sea, making our way to Laxey of all places. My Dad is a real foodie, he loves all cuisines, has a serious sweet tooth, which he has passed down to my sister and I, and is never one to turn down a food adventure or not seek it in this case.

As we went down that teeny tiny road towards the beach, we passed a little restaurant – windows lit up with warm orange light and though we were supposed to be having dinner at home, Dad just decided to stop.

I still remember the first time I tried garlic bread that was flat and round, pizza that looked at though it had been made on tandoori naan and fresh pasta. In movies, I’ve heard people talk about the first time they tried heroin, nothing has ever lived up to that first experience of Italian food at La Mona Lisa.

We haven’t been to La Mona Lisa for many years now but some food memories just stay with you and it still plays on my mind whenever I order food in an Italian restaurant. It’s not as if I haven’t had great Italian food since then but nothing close to how that experience felt, studying the menu, bewildered by all the new words, asking Dad about items on the menu and watching him trying to figure it out (there was no Google back then), before waving the server over. Then, waiting for the food to come out, unsure why everything was the way it was but determined to try it all the same and having Manx ice cream after the entire event.

A few months a go, I went on a date with the hubby to Scaddabush after which we signed up to their social club. I love this place because there is nothing better than a restaurant that makes in-house mozzarella and with that tomato jam? I’ll happily concede to my hips and wave goodbye to any thoughts of abs.

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So about a week or so ago, I signed us up to one of their social events that took place a few days ago (thank goodness I follow the 70/30 rule, there were seven courses to try). Upstairs the vibe was super cozy and upbeat. Another reason, I love the Scaddabush interior is because it reminds me of The Elbow Room in Karachi (the only place in the world I have had lasagna to die for), rustic and inviting.

Honestly, I don’t remember the names of all the dishes, but I remember how good they were. The taste testing started with artichokes and calamari. Went onto freshly baked focaccia and warm olives, a mozzarella cheese bomb that oozed onto fiery peppers and tomatoes, followed by bite sized meatballs, pizza, and pasta and ended with a chocolate jar cake. Ahmed shamelessly ate two and went to the gym the next day.

Steve Silvestro, their executive chef, kind of paid homage to all my taste buds and challenged them with the delicious and the unexpected, sweet (honey drizzled onto a pizza with truffle oil) salty, sour (I didn’t know I could like olives so much) and spicy (the calamari had a kickass sauce on it). As course, after course came out, I felt closer and closer to home, that little restaurant close to the beach I love, and the little girl who fell in love with Italian food.

Glow Again

Here is the second day of recipes! A lentil soup for you to try as well as my favourite on-the-go snack mix! If you are still cynical, just try a couple of them, they are yummy enough to be enjoyed just for the heck of it too!

Day Two: Eating in a way that enriches the body, will enrich your mind and soul too. Today, you’ll find more beautifying foods that I love to indulge in like pomegranate and pumpkin seeds, detoxifying foods like pear and broccoli and healing food such as buckwheat and spices.

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Breakfast – Pomegranate Overnight Oats

Another simple, delicious and nutritious recipe that can be put together the night before and heated up in the morning for a lovely breakfast. Pomegranate is the most incredible fruit, I ate so much of this during my wedding. I throw it into salads, on top of hummus or pop handfuls of it whenever in my reach.

(Serves 2)

1 cup gluten free oats
2tsp chia seeds
2 cups of nut milk (I used cashew)
A splash of vanilla essence
A pinch or two of cinnamon
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
2tsp coconut sugar (optional)
Some shredded coconut (optional)
Some flaked almonds (optional)

Mix oats, chia seeds, nut milk, vanilla essence, cinnamon and divide equally in two bowls, cover and put in the fridge overnight.

In the morning, warm the oats gently in a sauce pan for a few minutes and top with pomegranate. Transfer to a serving dish, if using also top with the coconut sugar, shredded coconut, almonds and serve.

Midmorning – Pick-Me Up Smoothie

This was one of the first recipes I created for We Heart Living. It’s still one of my favourite smoothies. Nutrient dense, it fills you up and gives you a really healthy kick for the day. Avocados (the beauty fruit) are high in protein and packed with vitamins, pears have pectin in them, which help to remove toxins from the body, spinach helps to boost immunity and coconut water adds incredible hydration to this smoothie. Try to have wheatgrass everyday, the numerous potent benefits of wheatgrass are incredible so it is well worth making it part of your daily diet. Adding orange juice delivers a hit of vitamin C but also cuts through the richness of this green juice with some citric deliciousness.

(Serves 2)

2 big handfuls of baby spinach
500ml coconut water (chilled)
1 small ripe avocado, chopped
1 small ripe pear, chopped
3 heaped tsp Naturya wheatgrass powder
120ml smooth not from concentrate orange juice (optional)

Blend the spinach with coconut water first on high. Add the avocado and pear, pulse to blend. Add the wheatgrass, pulse to blend again. If using, add the orange juice and give it one final blend.

Lunch – Green Lentil Soup

This too was one of my earlier recipes for We Heart Living, but I love going back to it for a chilled out lunch during the week or at the weekend. Here, I have modified it a little from the original recipe.

(Serves 4)

1 tbsp coconut oil
1 red onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
½tsp each of ground cumin, ground coriander, ground nutmeg, ground cinnamon, cayenne pepper & turmeric
1½ cups green lentils washed, soaked and rinsed
3 cups vegetable broth
1 bay leaf
1 tin of coconut milk

To serve: a squeeze of lemon and freshly ground black pepper

Gently heat the coconut oil in a large pan on a medium to low heat, add the onion and sauté for 5 minutes. Add a tablespoon of stock and then add garlic and sauté for another 5 minutes. Add another tablespoon of stock and then add all the healing spices and sauté for another 5 minutes.

Stir in the lentils and cover in spices. Pour in the remaining stock and add the bay leaf, bring to a boil then cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

Add coconut milk and bring to the boil once again, then cover and simmer for another 15 minutes. Remove bay leaf and use a blender or a hand-held blender to blend mixture, leaving it a little chunky. Serve with a fresh squeeze of lemon and black pepper.

Snack – Super Pick’n’Mix

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I love a snack, especially after ballet or working out, or while watching Masterchef and The Voice. I really enjoy brown rice cakes topped with avocado or hummus, date balls and Nakd Bars but there is nothing quite like a pick’n’mix! You can even try making your own using the ratio below.

(Serves 1)

2tbsp pecans
1tbsp pumpkin seeds
1tbsp cacao nibs
1tbsp goji berries
1tbsp toasted coconut

Toss the lot together and munch away!

Dinner: Buckwheat Noodles with Tamari, Green Chillies & Ginger

I’ve shared this recipe on the blog before, but it’s such a wonderful gluten free vegan option, it would be remiss not to include it on this eating plan. I’ve noticed my lazy Sunday recipes are fabulous during the week because they come together so easily and quickly!

(Serves 2-3)

King Soba Buckwheat Noodles
1tbsp Coconut oil
2 cloves minced garlic
1tbsp grated ginger
2 small green chillies (we love spice so kept the seeds, but you don’t have to)
3 spring onions sliced (including the green part)
2 cups steamed broccoli florets
2 cups sliced mushrooms
1tbsp tamari (you can add a little more if you like)
1/4tsp smoked paprika
1/4tsp cayenne

Cook the noodles according to packet instructions.

Melt the oil in a wok on a medium heat and sauté ginger, garlic and chillies until they start to sizzle. Then add the spring onions, mushrooms and broccoli. Stir-fry while the noodles cook.

Once the noodles are done, drain and rinse in cold water and then throw them into the wok. Add the tamari, paprika and cayenne. Mix everything well and stir-fry for a few more minutes. Serve immediately.

December Dates

The holiday season brings out the lover in me. It’s something about those festive activities that become beautiful stolen moments and end up being wonderful impromptu dates. Not just with your significant other, but friends and family too.

These moments happen all year round too, of course, and are just as wonderful, but I cannot deny loving dates set against a backdrop of twinkling fairy lights, Christmas music, seasonal food and the hope of snow. So here are some of my favourite places and ways to spend time with the special people in my life.

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The Christmas Market

Toronto’s Christmas Market is in the beautiful Distillery District, which just oozes with romantic nostalgia of the past and brings so much flavour to the tradition of these German markets. In the UK, my sister and I would always do them together, it was our thing, depending on which city we were in at the time, we would always eat way too much free stollen and pretzels.

I think they are gorgeous places to go on dates because they engage all your senses. There is much to see and do, with divine smells wafting from cute little wooden shacks, you can try different foods together while cozying up to each other and making your way along cobbled paths. Toronto’s Christmas Market has lots going on during the week and at the weekend. Peruse the stalls, get some hot drinks and find a warm spot in front of their outdoor bonfires.

Love & Pizza

If there are two things that go hand in hand, it is pizza and my love of it. When I was living on the Isle of Man, Isola was and still is one of my favourite restaurants in the world. It is small but the food is really good. My favourite floor is their cellar, which is part of the restaurant and is decorated with barrels, lovely artwork, soft light and candles. I took Ahmed there last year while we were visiting the Isle of Man, sharing a pizza (or two) is my favourite way to celebrate loved ones.

The first time I went to Lil’ Baci in Leslieville, I got that homely feeling. You are greeted with the smell of pizza and a warm glow. The restaurant and patio have a lovely ambience, and it is always a great evening with your significant other or friends. Their pizzas are really good especially with the chillies they serve on the side. While we mostly go in the summer because we enjoy walking to Leslieville, it’s stunning there right now with all the pretty lights. Lil’ Baci is the perfect chilled out or dressed up dinner date spot.

All day, everyday

I walk past 7 West a lot on the way to ballet school. The other day they were putting up their decorations and it looked even prettier than usual through the windows. I love this coffee shop, it’s my favourite place to make time stand still while I sip on something warm. The best part is you can go whenever you want because it is always open.

Healing Eggs

We watched The Hundred-Foot Journey over the weekend, so I was looking forward to cooking these eggs up and sharing them with you. This recipe is a great one for colder weather. Cayenne and turmeric are some of my favourite spices to use, because of their potent healing properties. You can cook it up in a flash and start your morning well, this is how we make them back home.

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1/2tsp of coconut oil
3 eggs, beaten with a splash of almond milk
1/8tsp of cayenne pepper or more depending on your taste buds
1/8tsp turmeric or more
1 spring onion, sliced
A handful of coriander, chopped
Himalayan salt and black pepper to season

Heat oil in a pan on a medium heat.

Add spices to eggs and mix well. Once oil is hot, pour the eggs in and then throw the spring onion and coriander on top.

Let the egg set a little and then move it around with a wooden spoon. Repeat a few times until the egg is scrambled.

Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

The Rush Line

I am guilty of it, you know, those quick fixes for a meal, where you boil something and open a jar? While those meals are great and comforting every once in a while, we had been doing it far too much, choosing the easier option because we were too tired, had to dash off somewhere or go to work.

It would be lovely to practice mindful eating all the time, but honestly these days life in the city just doesn’t yield to it, so this detox we are on was one way to do that. We have really made a point of sitting down at the table these past few days.

So here we are into the second week. I haven’t seen my fellow girl and favourite yogi at work for a couple of weeks and she told me my skin was glowing, yay! It might just be the sheen of Toronto humidity though. We did our Monday night usual while working at The Yoga Sanctuary, chugging coconut water, sharing life stories and recipes.

I was rushing on Monday and I knew if didn’t eat something I would attack the sesame snaps and granola bars at work and Ahmed would probably just eat nothing until dinner.

So I whipped this up. Like most things I do, it comes from what is in at home, you can always add a little extra something or take an ingredient away depending on what is available. The dish is gluten free and if you are a vegan, omit the salmon.

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Oriental Pea and Noodle Salad

(Serves Two)

For the salad:

1/3 packet of King Soba Buckwheat Noodles cooked, drained & rinsed
2 spring onions sliced
1 and a 1/2 cups of steamed petit pois

For the dressing:

1tbsp olive oil
1tbsp rice vinegar
1tbsp tamari
1/2tsp coconut sugar
1inch piece ginger, grated
Juice of 1/2 a lemon

Optional: Two fillets of wild salmon cooked to your liking (I pan seared this in a little olive oil with some garlic, red chilli & lemon)

Combine all your salad ingredients to a bowl.

Add each dressing ingredient separately to the bowl and toss it all together, well.

Divide in two dishes and serve immediately.