Category Archives: Food

Self check-out counters – yay or nay

Our local grocery stores, most of them, are switching to self check-out counters. While they still have check-outs with cashiers, there are more of the self check-outs in the stores.

Of course, the giant conglomerate, Walmart, has more self check-outs than tellers. Which is to be expected. It’s a big chain all around the world, and there is the pressure for them to be the leaders in changes.

But recently, our local grocery stores have been renovating and adding the counters. At first, I was skeptical of them. I disliked the fact that I had to bag my own groceries (then realized that at most of the stores I shop at, I bag them myself anyway). And are they really faster than a cashier? I have debated back and forth about this.

Yesterday, I realized that in fact I LIKE them ! More than a cashier in fact. And I do not believe for a moment that so many people are losing their jobs because of them. I believe a few may have, but for the most part, I still see the same amount of cashiers and employees milling about the stores.

What changed my mind? Well, I had to make a quick stop in our local Food Basics store on my way to work. As I walked in, I noticed the “express lane – 10 items or less” had at least 8 people standing there. I went to get my items (I knew what I wanted to get and knew exactly where the items were). As I approached the cashiers, some 5 minutes later, the SAME PEOPLE were still standing in line with their items, and no one was using the self check-out lanes. There are 6 self check-out counters. Every one was available. So my thought was – well I could stand in line, and possibly be late for work, or I could zip on through the self check-out and be on my way with lots of time to get to work. Off I went. In a matter of 3 minutes, I had checked them out, bagged and was back in my car ready to go. I spent a total of 8 minutes in the store getting my stuff and paying and heading out. The same people were still standing in the express lane.

So my thinking is – if I only have a few items, YES I am going to use the self check-out. If I have a buggy full of groceries, then I will most likely use a cashier. But for those people making a stand and refusing to use them, who are you helping? You are all standing there, holding each other up, paying for your 10 items or less, and wasting valuable time – time is not forever. I choose to use mine carefully.

Okay, I know not everyone will agree with my thinking, and that’s okay. I don’t expect everyone to agree with me, or to perhaps “see the light” that it makes sense (at least to me) to be quick picking up a few things. But maybe, if you think of it as – how much time do I really have in this world to waste it protesting over something that will not change, no matter how much you protest – is it really worth it?

Thoughts to ponder…

Favourite places to eat in Ottawa Ontario

I finally had a chance to travel to Canada’s capital – Ottawa, Ontario. I had the pleasure of trying different restaurants while there and enjoyed everything I tried! Here are my favourite places that I went to.

You can’t go to Ottawa without having a beavertail – it’s a Canadian tradition. A beavertail is basically a sweet dough that is pulled and fried and topped with different things, including nutella, peanuts, and the basic cinnamon and sugar. This one is my favourite! Sweet, warm and chewy – and oh so delicious!

This is a beavertail -yum!

Nate’s Deli is a tradition in Ottawa, located on Sparks Street right in the heart of the legislative buildings and business. It opens early and serves a wide variety of breakfasts, as well as lunches and dinners. I tried the spinach and goat cheese omelette with the crispiest hash browns and it was absolutely delicious. If you love goat cheese, this is the omelette to try!

Nate’s Deli – spinach and goat cheese omelette

Another tradition in Ottawa is the King Eddy. It’s a cool restaurant with lots of 50’s memorabilia and traditional diner foods. I tried the King Eddy burger with their secret sauce – just enough of a spice to give it a bit of a kick! Definitely give it a try!

Delicious burger and the best fries I’ve ever had!

Of course, it wouldn’t be right if I travelled and didn’t try a dessert or two. I indulged on my last night and headed to the Byward Cafe and had a delicious triple chocolate cake. Just look at it – it tasted just as good as it looks!

Triple chocolate decadence…

But my favourite place in Ottawa was Zak’s Cantina – they are famous for their margaritas apparently but as someone who doesn’t drink very much, I stuck with the food. The chicken burrito was so filling I couldn’t even finish it all!

Delicious!!!

There was so much to see and do in Ottawa, and definitely the food scene is one of the best I’ve seen in Canada. I will be going back just to indulge in more food!

Mr. Mike’s Restaurant – Welland Ontario

As you walk through the doors, the aroma of the cooking steak wafts through.  It smells divine.  We were given the option of the restaurant side or the lodge side – the lodge side sounded more homey and fun, so we opted for the lodge side.

 

As we were seated, we discovered that there was a Jenga game ready to be played!   While we waited for the others to arrive, we embarked on a lively game and doing remarkably well too – I had never played Jenga before so was amazed at just how well I played!

 

The other ladies arrived, hugs were given and conversation abounded.  We were gently interrupted by the patient waiter asking for our order.  We took a few minutes to scour the enticing menu and finally decided on what to eat.  One ordered a steak, one ordered pasta and one ordered a “kick-ass” chicken salad.  I opted for the shrimp tacos, and I added a shareable bruschetta for all of us to enjoy.

 

While we waited for the appetizer to arrive, conversation continued about what our lives had been like since high school ended, how we ended up where we did, and generally catching up after many years.

 

The bruschetta arrived.  It is a toasted garlic baguette, with fresh tomato, red onion, fresh basil, herbed aioli, balsamic glaze and parmesan.  I have had a lot of bruschetta in my life and this was by far the BEST bruschetta I have ever had!  The herbed aioli with the balsamic glaze gave it a tang that was absolutely divine!!  I will go back just for that!  And there was enough to share with everyone.

 

The main course arrived shortly after.  The pasta dish had the herbed aioli drizzled over it and looked amazing.  The kick-ass chicken salad looked just that – kick ass.  And the steak looked delicious.  Everyone enjoyed their meals very much.  I had the shrimp tacos and I had three generous sized crispy panko shrimp tacos topped with tangy coleslaw, salsa, herbed aioli and fresh cilantro.  It was served with a lovely garden salad with ample vegetables and a light dressing.  The meal was hot and delicious.  The service was timely and we were not waiting long for the meals to arrive.

 

Of course, it would not be a girl’s night out without dessert!  I opted for the Rocky Mountain Madness which is a turtle and chocolate cheesecake with caramel in a chocolate cake shell with almonds, shaved chocolate, and chocolate hazelnut sauce.  It was sublime. It was rich and creamy and absolutely perfect to end the meal.

While it’s not cheap, neither is it too expensive.  And with the casualness of the restaurant and the general ambience, it is most definitely a place I will return to!  Mr. Mike’s is definitely a place to head to with friends.

Indulgences

If you could indulge in anything without consequence, what would it be?

 

It’s an interesting question, one that has made me think of all the indulgences I have experienced over the years.  My ultimate indulgence has always been food.  Which is why I have a love hate relationship with my body and my weight!  Food wins every time though.  I am not at my ideal weight, however, I am happy with how I look, and if I want to indulge in cheesecake, then I will.

 

So my answer to this question is all Italian food!  I cannot narrow this down – it’s just too hard.  Lasagna, risotto, pasta of all sorts, arancini, polenta, biscotti, cheeses, desserts – the list is very long!  If I could indulge in Italian food every single day, without consequence (and in my eyes – that means without gaining weight!), then that would be the indulgence I would pick!

 

My trip to Italy in 2014 let me experience the authentic Italian cuisine and it did not disappoint.  I loved all of the scenery, the history, the churches, the beaches, Venice – but the food was absolutely out of this world.  Even with me suffering a horrible cold the entire two weeks I was there, the food was amazing.

 

Just thinking of the food makes me want to go right now and have a bowl of angel hair pasta, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and parmesan reggiano and roma tomatoes – mmmmm.

 

So what would you indulge in?  Would it be food, or something more sinful??

 

 

Community gardens

After a very rainy day yesterday, with temperatures dropping to the mid-teens finally, (and a decent sleep last night), the sun shone brightly this morning, and I decided to head out for a coffee and then a walk. 

 

The area of Changchun that I live in is very nice.  It’s a new community, with new buildings going up, and new shops opening.  The school I taught in is only two years old, and they are already improving it.  The population is exploding.  I enjoy walking in this area and feel safe at night walking too.

 

Today, I was on a mission.  I had seen the community garden back in May and it was starting to grow.  Some small unknown plants (a gardener I am NOT!) were sprouting at that time, and I had kept telling myself I needed to go back to see it.  Well I was not disappointed this morning!!

 

The growth in just two months is incredible. The sunflowers are tall and beautiful.  The corn stalks are up and there is corn for picking.  Eggplants are still small but they are coming along nicely.  And the tomatoes!!   They are all still green but my goodness there are hundreds of tomato plants!!!  I hope to get back to pick some fresh tomatoes before I leave, but I am not sure if they will be ripe enough for picking by then.

 

This community garden is a fantastic idea!  Anyone can come and pick produce from there.  You don’t need to pay for anything.  It is there for everyone.  And while I can recognize corn, eggplants and tomatoes – I have no idea what else is growing but there is a lot growing there and in abundance. 

 

This is a project that should be undertaken in all cities around the world in my opinion.  It is a great community project, everyone gets involved.  I saw at least four families there today weeding, and cleaning up the area.  Some were picking the eggplants – although I don’t think they were quite ready to be picked.  But who am I to say that – like I said I am not a gardener.

 

It is a fantastic idea to make the community stronger, and healthier, and to get the children participating in something that is good for them, their neighbours, and the environment!!   The children love telling me about it when they see me – they tell me what they have picked or planted and that they spend their time there with their grandparents and parents.  It really is an incredible thing to see. 

And this is another thing that I will miss about the area that I live in – the community and family feel.  The generosity and kindness that I see in these people to each other. 

​Traveling with IBS

I have IBS. I have suffered with this for my entire adult life. As the pressures of being an adult became more stressful, the IBS got worse.

I have learned to deal with it. I meditate, which helps reduce the stress.  I exercise, although not nearly enough.  (Now that school is done, I will be better at getting out and walking!)  And I try to be very careful with what I eat.  Stress is the biggest factor in IBS sufferers, but food can exacerbate it too.

Traveling has been challenging. I always have medicine with me to help alleviate any pains or symptoms.  I have grown accustomed to asking how spicy the food is (bu la in Chinese means no spice ~ the second thing I learned after hello!).

I would love to be even more adventurous with food but it terrifies me that I will be out, try something new and right away it affects my IBS. This has happened in the past and it is very upsetting and unnerving.

I have become more open about this condition as I don’t want to offend anyone by saying I can’t eat that or go out.   I want all IBS sufferers to know that it is possible to travel, you just have to be careful with what you consume. Remember ~ ginger ia your friend!

In the meantime, I cautiously try new food everywhere I go. I am as adventurous as my body allows me!

Chopsticks

Forks and knives are not easy commodities to find in China. If you go to a Western restaurant, then they will provide you with them (ex. Pizza Hut).

But usually you are given chopsticks. Wooden ones, disposable ones ~ I have even used metal ones!  Only once though ~ they are NOT easy to use!

When I first arrived, I was very self-conscious about using them. Was I holding them right? No I wasn’t haha.  Were people staring at my ineptness? Yes and taking pictures too!  That doesn’t make one more self-conscious at all!  One day I will ask why they insist on taking pictures of foreigners eating.  It is very disconcerting!

After a few weeks of eating at the school with only chopsticks available, I became much more comfortable with them.

So now, 10 months after arriving in China, I can say that I can eat everything with chopsticks!  Except soup… haha.  I can pick up a single piece of rice with my chopsticks!  I can pick up a piece of chicken and easily eat it. 

One more thing I have succeeded at while in China ~ eating with chopsticks!!