Memphis Fire BBQ

headerIt’s apparently season for BBQ restaurant eatins!

Oh Memphis Fire BBQ. I’d been hearing about this place from everyone. The must try place. The oasis in the wasteland of Steel Town. Located on Queenston Road, 15 minutes east of the Red Hill Valley Parkway was a wonderful wonderful place that I had to bring everyone to. They smoke their chicken, ribs, pork, everything for at least 6 hours. They serve chicken and waffles at the beginning of the week, and it’s amazing. Though, I am happily stuffed after munching on just a few appetizers. Completely worth it.

ribs

First up, entree. Ribs, served Thursday – Sunday. Soft, meaty, huge portions of ribs on ribs on ribs. The sauce was a little too tangy and sour for my liking, but it was good nonetheless. Boyfriend and I shared just one entree together, and we were completely stuffed by the end.

mac

Chili mac and cheese. Um… YUM?! Gooey, soft, ultra-cheesy mac and cheese below a generous helping lovely smokey chili topped with more cheddar and onions. Chili mac and cheese. Why didn’t I think about that? The combination of the two is just lovely. And of course, to up the ante, I went ahead and started mixing my ribs with my mac and cheese. It just pushed it over the top. So damn yommy.

ranch friesThis is what everyone has to has to has to try:

Ranch fries.

Crispy, thick cut french fries, topped with ranch dressing, cheddar, onions, bacon, and more cheddar. It’s like Jesus jizzed on a pile of fries in the best way possible. Honestly, the best pile of fries I’ve ever had. It’s tangy, bacony, cheesy, carby, best things in the world.

pieLastly, they have an impressive selection of pies. A list of at least 10 different ones. I really wanted to try the banana cream pie, but I had a little princess with me who “doesn’t like bananas” or some ridiculous excuse, so we settled on the pecan pie, a princess favourite. The staff here are really extraordinarily nice. I asked for a buttload of extra whipped cream. Really overemphasizing the amount I wanted (a whole can, please) and they gave us a huge pile with an extra plate of whipped cream!

Both times I went to eat here, I left very happy and very satisfied. The prices aren’t exorbitant, and the food is fabulous!

HillyBilly Heaven

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Smoky. Sweet. Salivating. Seductive. SCRUMPTIOUS SOUTHERN… sfood. This place is located at Upper James and Fennell in Hamilton, where I’ve recently moved. I’d been hearing a lot about Hillbilly Heaven BBQ joint for a while. They’ve been showcased on the Food Network, and the amount of word-of-mouth buzz has been insane. I hear it from everyone that it’s so amazing, so naturally, I had to go give it a shot. Oh lordy lord did I not know what I was getting myself into.

brisket

I ordered the BBQ beef brisket with a side of baked beans, because I am a sucker for baked beans. However, these beans aren’t like those sweet molasses beans you get with breakfast. No, no. These were smoky, filling, slightly spicy, and a hint of tart sweetness from the apples. And then there’s the sandwich. A bread that’s soft and yet doesn’t fall apart. It soaks up the meaty juices without getting soggy. That is a bread deserving of a place called Heaven. The meat is piled high on the bun. It’s soft, juicy, and peppery. Wonderful on it’s own, but they offer 3 kinds of BBQ sauce that to top your sandwich with: mild, medium, and hot. I don’t know how else to describe how amazing this plate was, except for the fact that the plate you see there cost me $8.95. Now do a double take. You saw that right. Under $10 for a sandwich the size of your head and a hog sized bowl of baked beans. Ooooooh mama.
chillay

 

You can expect the same with the pulled pork platter. The sandwich just as big and juicy and comes with a side of thick cut crinkle fries that are wonderfully seasoned and crisp. My cousin upped the ante by turning his side of fries into chili cheese fries for an extra $3.50 and making it into a monster meal.

Hillbilly Heaven is amazing and everyone should eat there. The staff are really friendly, the decor homely, and the food is just to die for.

Banh Mi Boys

Banh Mi Boys, the place I’ve oft heard about but never been to. On par with Burrito Boyz and Smoke’s Poutinerie for after-clubbing eats. BMB is situated on Queen West, just west of Spadina and I finally convinced boyfriend to go there for dinner. This proved to be the best decision I could ever make. Having known myself for 22 years now, I should have known walking in, that we would pretty much “accidentally” order everything on the menu.

We started off with two Banh Mi, the restaurant’s namesake. For those who don’t know, an original Banh Mi (which means bread or sandwich in Vietnamese) is a kind of Vietnamese sandwich served on a crusty baguette, has various unidentifiable meats and pâtés in it, topped with pickled radish, pickled carrots, cilantro, and chili peppers if you’re feeling feisty. We got duck confit, and pork belly, and just having one each would have filled us up enough without all the other things we bought. These were really good. Warm and meaty, it’s a nice mix of western and eastern cuisines. I liked them alright, but I think I prefer my original banh mi to these (which you can buy for $2.50 up the street) but that’s okay because they offer some other great things on the menu.

This is the beef cheek steamed bao. I love beef cheek because it is always so soft and moist, and this one had a great smokey flavour to it. Topped with cucumber, cilantro, and pickled radish and carrots, it’s stuffed in a steamed bao pocket. In Chinese, it’s called a “siopao” and in Vietnamese, a “banh bao”. It’s a white steamed bun that’s like a bread, but spongy, airy, and slightly sweet.

We move onto the tacos and I am a sucker for coleslaw. We ordered a squid taco and a kalbi beef taco and it came with all the fixings of a banh mi with the addition of the coleslaw and kimchi. Kalbi beef is a korean style short rib beef. It’s got a sweet flavour which contrasts well with the tanginess of the coleslaw and pickled carrots. Very yummy, very messy to eat. The three types of sandwiches are pretty much the same in fillings, but you can change up how you want it served: as a banh mi, a taco, or a steamed bao.

I saved you the best for last though, because this is what the people really come for:

Kimchi fries.

The perfect french fries topped with perfect pulled pork and perfect kimchi, as well as mayo and a bunch of green onions makes this dish, well, perfect. It’s like a poutine on steroids. The crispy fries compliment the soft, sweet pulled pork compliment the crunchy tangy spicy kimchi that makes this something you must try when you visit Toronto. You won’t find it anywhere else in Toronto, and any imitations  are just that. Imitations. Cause nothing comes close to the perfection of this dish.

My Green Smoothie Variation!

Tired of my healthy blogs yet? Don’t worry, I’ve got a couple of restaurant food blogs coming up soon. My diet has loosened up considerably since I started, but I’ve lost a total of 10 pounds now! Yayyy.  It took me almost two months, but that’s because I pretty much stopped exercising about a month ago. I knoow, booo me. But, I have switched to a healthier (food) lifestyle. I don’t eat fast food anymore, and I’ve been drinking exclusively water for about two years now, save for the occasional tea or alcohol. But since moving away from Toronto, I don’t find myself drinking (alcohol) every weekend or every other weekend. I’m mostly a hermit.

I never thought I’d become one of those people, but I actually caught myself saying, “Ugh, is it organic though…?” the other day, and I found that weird. But I’ve been trying to buy organic food when my budget allows and when it’s available. I’m not too strict on it. I’ve heard people say that generally, the things where you don’t eat the peel (oranges, watermelon, etc) you don’t have to buy organic, but other things you should (lettuces, veggies, etc) or at least wash very very thoroughly before using.

So, in accordance with this healthy (food) lifestyle, I either have my oatmeal for breakfast or this smoothie that I’m going to share with you. For the last 2-3 weeks, I’ve been having this smoothie exclusively because it’s so darn tasty. This smoothie gives me tons of energy and usually keeps me full for 4-5 hours! I’ll have it in the morning before I go to work and then by the time my lunch break comes around, I’ll have just started to get hungry.

I first heard about green smoothies from one of my favourite vloggers, itsjudytime, on her daily vlog channel called itsjudyslife. Her husband, Benji, does a green smoothie/juice recipe on his channel, BenjiManTV. I made up my recipe by watching them make their smoothies, as well as doing my research on green smoothies (it supposedly makes your skin glooooow), and adjusting it to my own taste preferences. So without further ado, here we go!

Alright! This is what I put into my smoothie on a pretty regular basis. Well, except for the mixer.. that’s just what I use to mix them all together… jeez.

So I start off with half a banana (~50 cal.), as much spinach as I can fit (~10 cal.), and some almond milk (~25 cal), just so it’s not too thick. You can adjust the amount of almond milk to how thick or thin you like your drink. You can also substitute for water if you want to lower calories, or coconut water for a delicious flavour. I actually added fresh coconut water with some coconut flesh the other day, and it tasted super fresh! As you can see, after blending, the drink is a wonderful bright and alien green.

Please forgive my typography here. Next, I put in one stalk of celery and a few slices of apple in there (~15 cal.). I like to mix my ingredients in batches because it doesn’t overwork my magic bullet. If you have a full-size blender, it can probably handle all the ingredients in there at once, but I like how I just have to wash the “cup” I use after I’m done with it instead of a whole different container (I hate dishes).

Now this is where it gets… sludgy looking. I add in 1/4 cup of my frozen berries (~40 cals.) and 1/4 cup of my frozen fruits (~40 cals depending on the kinds of fruits). You can easily do this with all berries, or even no berries at all. I had a berries and mango mixture going on for a while. Yum yum yum!

I add some more spinach for good measure. A cup of spinach is only 7 calories, people! And you can’t even taste the spinach. You can also add kale, which is a known superfood, but I’ve never had kale before. Once, my brother bought me a spinach blend instead of just spinach, and it had radicchio and arugula in it. Usually, I love arugula, but I found its flavour in a smoothie much too overpowering.

I only add half a scoop of whey protein in to save calories. Also, if you follow my vlog, you will have seen that the first time I ever made a smoothie, I added a whole scoop, and though it made me very very full, I really disliked the sickly sweet flavour. I use the vanilla flavour from Kaizen 100% Whey Protein. For more information about protein, what protein he uses, and for more health and fitness information, check out my friend Edmond’s blog. Boy is cut as heck!

Here’s the nutritional information for the protein that I use:

So, half a scoop of protein is about 75 calories. You can skip it, but I feel like this is the thing that really keeps me full throughout the day. Though it’s a lot of calories for one ingredient, it keeps me from eating more later on. I mix everything up after adding the whey protein.

Next step you don’t really have to add, but I like to put in a third to half a package of plain oatmeal (20-25 grams) which equals 65-95 calories. I would usually add just bulk oatmeal but I had some packages leftover. If you’re watching your calories, I would exclude it, but I wanted to have more fibre. That’s about 25% of the reason. The other 75% is because with the berries, there are those really annoying raspberry/strawberry seeds that are left and you have to chew and get stuck in your teeth. So I add in the oatmeal (and shake, not blend!) so that I have something that I can chew and distract from the annoying seeds because I added the oatmeal on purpose. Plus, I like chewing something substantial in my smoothie. The best way to add oatmeal in is if your smoothie is relatively thick. If it’s too juice-like, it’ll just sink to the bottom. Ew.

So in total, this smoothie comes up to about 330 calories. About 250 if you omit the oatmeal, and 175 if you omit the protein too. Anyway, I like it because it’s healthy, tastes good, and you don’t even have to add any sugars because the banana, berries, and protein add enough sweetness. You even get some veggies in there without having to taste them! I completely recommend you trying it out! :)

How I Keep On Track

Another healthful bloggy blog! This one is about the apps I’ve tried and used to keep my eating habits on track. I’ve used quite a few over the years and they’ve always been super helpful in helping me lose weight. I am currently using Calorie Count and it’s the best one that I’ve found so far, so this post may be slightly biased towards it. I’m going to be comparing three different apps. They’re all available on both iPhone and Android, and if you don’t have a smart phone, they all have websites where you can track your calories, exercise, and water intake.

I don’t know if it’s because I’m a phone junkie, but I love having the apps on my phone so that I can input all my information as I’m doing it. It also helps with me being able to keep track of everything and not relying on my shoddy memory to remember everything at the end of the day.

The three contenders today are: Calorie Count, Lose It!, and MyFitnessPal.

All three apps are great (and free!), and it’s just my nit-picky nature that makes me choose Calorie Count. They all come highly recommended though.

  • Calorie Count has been talked about in Today, Self, TechCrunch, and PCMag.
  • Lose It! is so popular that it has it’s own book out and has been talked about in the New York Times and Macworld.
  • MyFitnessPal seems to be the most publicized, appearing in Today, the New York Times, BBC, the Guardian, USA Today, Marie Claire, Wall Street Journal, PCWorld, and more.

The Encourager

This portion of the app is meant to give you a support group to rally around and keep you motivated. As everyone knows, it’s always easier to diet when you have someone to diet with you because then you are held accountable by that person. For me, that person is this app because I’ll feel guilty if I type in a 1000-calorie meal into it.

If you’re dieting with friends, you can use the same dieting app and add each other as friends. This helps keep each other accountable, as well as celebrate each other’s accomplishments.

If you, like me, don’t have friends, this part of the app is completely pointless except in Calorie Count. CC gives you the published records of random users (who enable their feeds as public) and it’s just a feed of positive people accomplishing their goals. Not only that, but they’re real people who sometimes miss a work out, over eat their daily caloric limit, and ultimately, just completely relatable. Sometimes when I’m feeling the diet blues, I’ll read through these either for motivation or for commiseration.

Food Log

The food logs are pretty standard across the board. I like that CC gives you the carbs, fat, and protein breakdown at the top, as well as a grade for each food you eat. Some things that you think are healthy might actually surprise you with just getting a B rating. However, I give points to LI and MFP because they give you the remaining calories you’re allowed to eat at the top, which is really helpful.

Searching for Foods

Again, these are pretty standard. My only complaint is that the variety in LI and MFP aren’t as large as in CC. CC is partially user generated so it may be off, but a lot more brands are available. The information may be slightly less reliable, but as the great mantra of dieting goes: overestimate your calorie intake, underestimate your calorie output. Those are in my own words, but I’m sure someone out there has a more elegant way of saying it. A problem I noticed this morning is that I couldn’t find my Almond Breeze almond milk or my Whey Isolate in MFP, so there’s 150 calories that are unaccounted for because they weren’t available to me!

What I also like about CC is that if you’re easily obsessive and can’t find the certain food that you are eating, CC allows you to enter your food under “Custom Foods” and input all the nutritional information in, to keep your food analysis accurate. That information is then saved for the next time you eat it. I even put my special oatmeal from the last post into it. I’m not sure if it uploads that information so that other users can search for it though. If you’re using CC, let me know if you can find Judskii’s Oatmeal! in there. :)

Daily Nutritional Breakdown

I love this part. At the end of the day, it takes all the things you ate that day, and you can see what you’re eating a lot of, what you’re missing in your diet. What I like about it is that it doesn’t focus purely on eating less calories to lose weight, but also eating better and healthier for your body. You could be 700 calories a day, but 3x the sodium, fat, and sugar that you should, and that’s not going to get you anywhere.

I find Lose It! pretty lacking in this area, showing just the basics. CC and MFP break it down for you, showing quite clearly what percentage of your daily suggested carb/protein/fat/sugar etc intake you’ve already had, and how much you need for a balanced diet. Again, I’m slightly more biased towards CC. I find their information clearly laid out, the bar graphs instantly give you an overview of your day’s nutrients. MFP has the same information, but their pie chart is on a different page than the nutritional breakdown. Again, not a huge deal.

Activities Log

These are pretty standard. There’s not much difference, except again, I think CC has more choices and relatable content.

Weight Log

And last but not least, the weight log that allows you to track your weight from the beginning. This is the only place that  I really feel CC was lacking. It looks as though it was made only for people with large amounts of weight to lose, and it really only shows your trend after a long time of using it. That little dip at the end is after a whole month of me using it. Very disappointing.

Lose It nicely lays out your information as well as your diet plan at the top. The only thing is though, that it is not generally recommended for women to be eating less than 1200 calories a day in order to lose weight. CC doesn’t allow it, and the minimum setting you’re allowed to have is 1200 cal/day. For men, it’s 1500 cal/day. I mean, people are generally going to eat a little under anyway.

I feel like MyFitnessPal comes out on top with this weight portion. The layout is clear, you can see what you’ve lost clearly, without extra information above or below the graph, and you can toggle to see what you’ve lose in the last 1, 2, and 3 months.

And that’s all I’ve got on the subject. Choose the app that’s right for you. If you don’t want to be tethered by technology, whether it’s on your phone or the computer, you can always get one of those calorie counter books with all the nutritional information of most foods, and a dollar store journal and record your food there. It’s a great way to keep you on track, and you’ll be surprised at where most of your calories come from!

Some stand out points I’ve picked up during my journey are:

  • A cup of spinach (raw) is only 7 calories.
  • A medium banana is ~100.
  • A meal at A&W, I should have known this. I think I did, but didn’t want to admit it. A teen burger (500), fries (300), root beer (200). That’s 1000 calories in a single meal. QQ
  • Veggie soup is awesome (put that through an immersion blender and you’re ready for fall) and ridiculously low in calories. Allows me to splurge my calories on croutons and garlic bread to dip.
  • Make butternut squash fries (baked) because they are ridic low in calories and super duper yummy.
  • Counting calories may sometimes be tedious, sometimes fun, sometimes heartbreaking, but the results are always evident.

Hope you gleaned some good information from this post. :)

Cheers,

Judy