Guest Post: Cooking Time with Mattster Chef

Matt wanted to showcase another side of our eating lives: the food we cook! Today, he documented one of our go-to fast and easy weeknight meals.

It may seem like April and I eat out quite a bit but, but we do cook a lot as well. We love food!  Most of the time, we eat at home during the week, and since we work during the day, we plan our meals so that they’re relatively easy to make. And though we want something easy, we like fresh, home-cooked meals and not frozen foods.

So what’s for dinner tonight?

Soy Cumin Chicken with Balsamic Roasted Carrots and Brussels Sprouts

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For the Chicken

  • Chicken Breast
  • ½ tbsp cumin
  • 2 tbsp of soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For the Veggies

  • 1 lbs of Brussels sprouts
  • 1 small/medium carrot
  • 3 tbsp of balsamic vinegar (you can use less if you want)
  • 2 tbsp of olive oil
  • ½ tbsp of garlic powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For the prep (15 mins): I usually get home well before April does, so I do all the prep work while she is still at work. For the chicken breast, my suggestion would be to use a meat mallet to flatten out the chicken breast for even cooking time.  This will make it easier for you to predict when your chicken is cooked.

Once you have flattened the chicken, place it into a bowl large enough for you to marinate the chicken.  Add all the ingredients and rub it into the chicken, then set aside. The longer you let it sit, the more flavour the chicken will have. Usually I try to have it marinate for about an hour.

After you have the chicken marinating, peel the carrot and slice it into chunks. Then slice the bottom of the brussel sprouts and halve them. Set all this aside until you are ready to cook.

Cook time (35 min): The toughest part of saving time to eat a soon as possible after a long day at work is the preheating the oven.  This is what I hate the most! I usually start preheating the oven once April gets home so that we aren’t waiting forever.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  While you are waiting, toss the carrots and Brussels sprouts in the roasting pan with all the ingredients. Once everything is tossed, make sure as many of the flat sides of the Brussels sprouts are face down in the pan. Once the oven is done preheating, bake for 35 mins.

The chicken will take approximate 4-5 mins on each side to cook.  If you can cook all the chicken in one pan all at once, then start heating your pan when there is 12 mins left on the Brussels sprouts and carrots. Make sure the pan is hot, add a little bit of oil, and fry the chicken at medium-high heat.  Once you see the juice in the chicken is clear, everything is good to go.

After that, it’s time to plate and dig in! I hope you enjoy this meal as much as we do!

Where Our Happy Jar’s Been: Our My Places Map of Toronto

I absolutely love My Places on Google Maps (Lifehacker has a good article on this topic). I was first inspired to start creating/using personalized maps a few years back when visiting our friends G & M in San Francisco; M had created a map of all the places they’d been, which was super helpful for visiting friends like us!

I now use My Places almost every time Matt and I travel to a new city. That way, the eateries, landmarks, and points of interest I’ve earmarked are at our fingertips! I’ve been putting off creating one for Toronto because it was pretty daunting, but I finally took the plunge and started one.

Access the map via my Where Our Happy Jar’s Been: Toronto page!


You can also access the map by clicking this image!

So far it’s all food (surprising, right? 😉 ), and I’ve only made a dent in the places we’ve been, but I’ll continue to add more restaurants, places we love in Toronto, and points of interest. If you have a map to share (Toronto or otherwise), I’d love to hear from you!

Where We Ate: Pizza Libretto, Lisa Marie, and Torito

I’m still playing catch-up on restaurant posts (being the piggies we are, we hit up food joints faster than I blog), but here are some recent eats:

Pizza Libretto (Danforth Location)


Pizza Libretto has been on our radar for awhile, so we were really excited to try it on an impromptu date night tonight. The restaurant has two locations, one on the west end on Ossington and one on the east on Danforth; both have been around for some time, but the Danforth location is the newer of the two. To be honest, we didn’t have a preference between the locations, but the fact that the Danforth location takes reservations pretty much sealed the deal!

What We Ate

  • Buttermilk fried calamari with romesco sauce and herb oil: the buttermilk batter and sauce were delicious!
  • Libretto Margherita (bufala mozzarella, crushed tomatoes, basil, grana padano) and Housemade Sausage (sausage, caramelized onion, mozzarella, chili oil) pizzas: both were really good—our only complaint was that the chili oil could have been a tad spicier!
  • Libretto Tiramisu: decadent and yummy!

Lisa Marie


Lisa Marie is a new restaurant on Queen West opened by the owner of Fidel Gastro’s. When Matt told me about the restaurant, I was pretty excited because I already know about Fidel Gastro’s from the Toronto food truck scene (which I hope will become as big as it is in many US cities) and from TUM. I’ve also seen Matt Basile in Rebel Without a Kitchen, so it was kinda cool to see him in the flesh at the restaurant!

The restaurant has a fun bar vibe and serves cicchetti, which are explained on the wall as being “kind of like tapas… but not”—this is true because Matt and I found some of the dishes to be bigger than the usual small plates that you get at tapas-style restaurants.

What We Ate

  • Deep fried pizza with smoked duck: to me, this was like a spin on Peking duck wraps,  which was kind of neat, but wasn’t mind-blowing
  • Moroccan beef short rib with crushed pistachios: very tender and fall-off-the bone (yum!)… my favourite of the dishes we tried
  • Eggplant balls with goat cheese and basil: this reminded me of a falafel, and the Jalapeno mint jelly was a nice touch
  • Bulgolgi ravioli
  • Alabama tailgaters (bacon-wrapped beef carpaccio, cilantro, aged cheddar, and kimchi)
  • Elvis in a Jar: the picture (bottom-left corner above) looks oddly phallic, but maple syrup + rum french toast, peanut butter cream, bananas, and candied bacon… this was to die for! This and my first Eton mess at The Standard Grill in NYC have convinced me that layered desserts in jars can do no wrong!

Torito Tapas Bar


There are a number of eateries at Kensington Market we want to try, and Torito was one of them. The restaurant has a more quiet (which might have been because it was an early dinner), cozy atmosphere. The team that works there was extremely friendly and attentive!

What We Ate

  • Avocado fries with roasted tomato salsa: these are a must if you go there… crunchy on the outside, but still soft and creamy on the inside.
  • White bass ceviche with corn, fresh chili peppers, and cilantro
  • Jamón Croquettes
  • Squid ink rossejat (paella-style pasta with octopus and aioli): we enjoyed this a lot, but it REALLY made us crave the siciliana at Joso’s (which deserves a full blog post of its own at a later date, hopefully soon!)

Torito Tapas Bar on Urbanspoon

Where We Ate: Boston Edition!

Happy 2014! Our Happy Jar has crossed my mind a lot, but blogging has admittedly fallen by the wayside recently. In my Thailand post, I had intended to blog about the Hong Kong portion of our recent Asia trip, but there’s so much to say about the city, my family, and my longtime friends that make it hard to fit into a single blog post. Maybe the inspiration to write my heart out will come soon…

Anyways, this past Family Day long weekend, Matt and I had planned time off to go somewhere, one of the options being a close city like Boston. As luck would have it, I had an offsite meeting at our Burlington, MA office last week, so Matt and I decided to tack on some days at the end to make it a weekend getaway.


The weekend got off to an interesting start, with the big snow storm falling on the day that Matt was supposed to fly in. His afternoon flight was canceled, but he was fortunately able to catch an earlier one on standby. I ended up sharing a cab with a stranger who was rushing downtown to catch a train to New York. The trip from Burlington to downtown Boston took us 2 hours, but we made it! Definitely would want to visit Boston again (and Cape Cod) in the summertime; I’m sure it’s beautiful!


Where We Ate: The Highlights

Neptune Oyster

Neptune Oyster has received a number of glowing reviews, and rightfully so—everything was delicious! The oysters were fresh and perfectly shucked, the buttermilk johnnycakes (with honey butter, smoked trout tartare, and caviar) were outstanding, and the lobster roll with hot butter was to die for.

The restaurant is incredibly small, and as promised in reviews, there was a line (even at 3pm on a weekday!). Luckily, our wait was short, and we were seated in a roomier table in the back. Definitely recommend going on a weekday during off-hours.

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Neptune Oyster on Urbanspoon

Mike’s Pastry and Modern Pastry

Other than Neptune Oyster, there were a LOT of places we wanted to try in the North End. We were fortunate enough to hit up two pastry shops. The cannolis at Mike’s Pastry and the giant lobster tails at Modern Pastry are AMAZING!


Mike's Pastry on Urbanspoon Modern Pastry on Urbanspoon


Dollar oysters and clams every day between 4–6 pm and 9–10 pm… need I say more? We arrived much earlier than our original 9pm reservation, so we ended up starting off some wine, beer, escargots, Brussels sprouts, and artisan cheeses and meats. Everything was really good, and the oysters and clams were worth the wait. They also had a variety of oysters to choose from, which is kinda great because many buck-a-shuck places often limit you to one kind.

Marliave on Urbanspoon

Shōjō Restaurant

Our hotel was right on the edge of Chinatown, which is where Shōjō was located. Matt and I are fans of tapas-style restaurants and it had good reviews, so we decided to give it a shot. We ordered the suckling pig bao with kimchi and jalapeno, duck confit dumplings with parsnip puree, almond shrimp balls with pumpkin chili puree, BBQ pork ribs, kimchi fried rice with quail egg, and the charcuterie board. I personally thought some items were hit or miss (dessert, sesame balls filled with chocolate, was definitely a big miss), but overall, it was a yummy meal. The mural in the restaurant is also really cool!


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Shojo on Urbanspoon

Boston Kitchen Pizza

Matt and I had a low-key Valentine’s Day—we generally avoid dinner at fancy restaurants like the plague. And because we had a very late lunch at Neptune Oyster, we wanted to have an inexpensive, casual dinner. After a lengthy search (and a long nap for me :P), we ended up picking up a pizza from Boston Kitchen Pizza in nearby China town and taking it back to the hotel to watch the NBA all-star rookie-sophomore game. The pizza was not bad at all!

Shojo on Urbanspoon

Atlantic Fish

We visited the Back Bay area in search of Cole Haan and Niketown. Unfortunately, Niketown Boston is closed until spring (the same thing happened to us during our first trip to Chicago Niketown!) Before our Niketown plans got cut short, we stopped off for lunch at Atlantic Fish. To me, the restaurant was a bit more old school (I also didn’t like being segregated in an area with all the other Asians, but I think that might have been a coincidence), but the food, especially the clam chowder, was really good.

Atlantic Fish Co. on Urbanspoon

The Good Kind of Muffin Tops

And last but not least, the muffin tops! SO many coffee shops seem to have these in Boston… why aren’t they more common in Toronto?


This week it’s back to the usual grind… thank goodness for a short week!