Family Fun: Nachos with Roasted Summer Tomatoes

I don’t often think of making nachos, because I usually eat them at pubs where (despite digging in with heart) they are laden with toppings and very heavy. A few weeks ago, my cousin put out homemade nachos on the cottage deck as an afternoon snack and I realized how much everyone enjoyed them. Inspired, I came up with a simple recipe that is not too heavy, and fairly easy to make (there’s a little extra effort required — and I mean “a little”). I decided to use flavourful aged cheddar, sweet summer tomatoes (roasted for more intense and smoky flavours) and, for added crunch, some crisp green pepper.

RECIPE: Nachos with Roasted Summer Tomatoes
Serves 4
2 pints cherry or grape tomatoes
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
1/2 bag of your favourite tortilla chips
200g aged cheddar, grated
1 green pepper, diced
1/2 cup sour cream (optional)



Preheat your oven to 425°F. You need about 2 pints of tomatoes; you can use your own garden tomatoes or anything from the market or grocery store. Toss them in a bowl with olive oil, salt and pepper. Make sure everything in well-coated. Don’t forget: mixing is a fun “kid” job.

Line a cookie tray with parchment paper (to avoid messy cleanup) and spread out the tomatoes. Put them in the oven for about 20-25 minutes, or until they’ve shrivelled up on the tray. They can be a little brown and caramelized on the exterior — it just adds to the flavour. Set aside the tomato tray, and keep the oven on.
Pour your tortilla chips onto another parchment-lined tray.



Sprinkle the tortilla chips with approx. 200g of grated aged cheddar. (Another fun “kiddie” job. See how much joy can result from putting the kids to work?) You may be a cheese-indulgent family, so feel free to add more cheese if you think I’m being chintzy. Sprinkle with diced green pepper and put into the oven until the cheese melts (4-5 minutes).



Once the nachos come out, spoon the roasted, room-temperature tomatoes all over and serve. Don’t forget some sour cream on the side for dipping.



Now? Forget about making dinner — who’s going to be hungry?

RECIPE: Nachos with Roasted Summer Tomatoes
Serves 4

2 pints cherry or grape tomatoes
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
1/2 bag of your favourite tortilla chips
200g aged cheddar, grated
1 green pepper, diced
1/2 cup sour cream (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
2. Put the washed and dried cherry tomatoes in a bowl and toss with the olive oil, salt and pepper until well-coated. Season to your own taste.
3. Put the tomatoes on a parchment-lined cookie sheet, and into the oven for about 20-25 minutes, or until the tomatoes are soft and starting to wrinkle. They will caramelize a little on the exterior. Set aside. Leave the oven on.
4. Fill another parchment-lined cookie sheet with tortilla chips. Sprinkle them with the grated cheddar and the then the diced green pepper. Put into the oven until the cheese has melted (4-5 minutes).
5. Spoon the warm tomatoes over the nachos and serve with sour cream.

Sue_RiedlSue Riedl is a Toronto-based food writer with a passion for cheese who writes a column called The Spread for The Globe and Mail. She loves to push stinky cheese on her 3-year-old.


David Rocco in New York City – Part 2

It’s not too late to squeeze in one last trip before summer comes to an official end.  My counterpart over at just came back from a two-week vacation to Italy. I don’t have the time or the money for a plane ticket but luckily for us David Rocco has mapped out a personalized Italian getaway in New York.
Here are David Rocco’s favourite Italian eateries in the Big Apple.


Favourite Places to Eat:


Barbuto – The irony is chef Johnathan Waxman is not Italian and yet every time I’m there I feel I’m eating at my mom house; it’s that authentic! They make a wonderful Carbonara, and definitely try their roasted herb chicken and golden crispy roasted potatoes with pecorino! I usually have two orders of the roasted potatoes because they are just that good!!  This casual restaurant attracts even the neighbourhood celebrities. Last time I was there Heidi Klum was at the next table having lunch with her kids.


Eataly – There are so many reasons to love Eataly, and one of them is their cookbook section where yes, my cookbook is for sale there – reason enough to go I would say ;)!  But seriously, it has 5 mini restaurants under its roof, including everything from pizza, pesce, carne, salumi and formaggi where you can stop in for their very own house-made mozzarella, to a quick gelato or espresso.  There is also a wonderful selection of quality Italian products, deli, cheeses, olive oil, wine and fresh fruits and vegetables to shop like any super market – if you have money to spend. I guess you could call this an amusement park for Italophiles. Check out my video below and see the fun time I had at Eataly!

Don Antonio – It just opened this year and is some of the best pizza outside of Napoli, and that is saying a lot! I go there every time I’m in NYC. A must!


Rafaelle – I would order everything on the menu if my waistline could afford it!  Chef Rafelle is from Naples and has a modern twist on Italian classics and it’s all served in sharing dishes, which makes you want to order everything on the menu…and not share!



Chicken with Tomato Cucumber Salsa from The Hot Plate

This week, we are talking about healthy, quick meals that are delicious, nutritious, and help get your lifestyle back on track after a crazy eating frenzy… like, say, the Food Truck Frenzy at CNE 2012! These meals are designed for individuals looking to cut a few calories and a few inches off those backyard BBQ beer bellies. The secret? Focus on fresh fruits and vegetables with small portions of lean proteins.


Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Serves: 1



1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 3oz chicken breast

1 Italian Plum Tomato, cut into wedges

3-inches cucumber, cubed

1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar

1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar

kosher salt



1. Toss the tomato, cucumber, sugar, vinegar and pinch of kosher salt in a bowl. Set aside to macerate for 15-20 minutes.

2. Preheat a skillet to medium high. Meanwhile, season chicken breast with chili powder and pinch of kosher salt. Add olive oil to the skillet and sear on both sides until cooked through, about 10 minutes per side.

3. Serve chicken with tomato and cucumber macerated salad.


Amanda_GarbuttAmanda Garbutt is the host of The Hot Plate, a free online cooking show dedicated to inspiring culinary confidence in new cooks. The Hot Plate also offers regular cooking tips and advice, how-tos, and information on seasonal ingredients.

David Rocco in New York City

There is no shortage of things to do in New York City. However, if you’re planning a trip to the Big Apple, it can be difficult to narrow down your list of what to do and see. Thankfully, Chef David Rocco has got you covered.



My favourite corner:
Broadway/5th – I love the energy of this intersection and how it’s littered with beautiful historic buildings, including the Flat Iron building, New York Life Building, Toy Centre, and the Met Life Tower. The Courthouse, which is across from Madison Square Park, has some beautiful white marble sculptures as well.

Fun Fact: in 1842, before the area developed, The New York Knickerbocker Baseball Club, one of the first professional American Baseball teams, practiced in an empty sandlot on this site.

My favourite street:
Bleecker – It feels like an old New York neighbourhood with everything from trendy new clothing boutiques to old school bakeries and cafés. Once a breeding ground for bohemian culture, it has maintained its atmosphere but over the years has transformed into one of the best food streets in southern Manhattan. Try to have a bad meal on this street, I dare you! Also, my favorite gelato place in Florence, called ‘Grom’ opened up on Bleecker to make me feel like I’m right at home in Florence! Fun Fact: One block north of Bleecker, at Minetta & MacDougal, is Café Wha?, where many influential people like Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, and Woody Allen got their start.




My favourite park:
Madison Square Park – Situated at Broadway/5th, it’s a large park with so many great spots to relax and read, eat lunch or just people watch. There’s a dog park, kids’ play ground, benches and places to sit all over. For food, there’s the famous Shake Shack if you want to grab a quick lunch in the park and Eataly if you want to get a quick salad, panino, or gelato to have outside. Don’t worry you won’t be alone; from 11 to 3 it’s packed with people eating lunch so getting a seat somewhere could get tricky.
Fun Fact:  Free WiFi!

My favourite walk:
High line  – It’s an oasis in New York city that starts in the Meatpacking district just above Standard Hotel. It is a walking path lined with beautiful gardens, flowers and trees. Many residents along the High Line have purchased their apartments to show them off, so don’t be shy to peek through some windows. This level of surveillance has also contributed to the park’s extraordinarily low crime rate.
Fun Fact: The High Line was originally an elevated railroad track, part of the New York Central Railway, which would go directly through the buildings it was delivering to! The last train to run on the Railway was in 1980 and was full of frozen turkeys.

My favourite place for brunch:
Standard Hotel – The food is always good and I love the atmosphere. They have a beautiful pergola and it’s a great place to relax and enjoy a few cups of coffee reading the paper and some people watching.

My favourite place for cocktails:
Saxon + Parole – This restaurant, named after the two most celebrated race horses in America at the turn of the century, is a fun neighbourhood place on the corner of Bowery and Bleecker. The restaurant’s decor and design is made to feel like an old ‘upscale’ horse stable (without the smell of course!).  Horse saddles, trophies, and horse blankets make the atmosphere relaxed and comfortable.  The food is excellent but I especially enjoy their unique cocktails. Try the ‘Bottled’ Champagne Negroni or the Spritz Cocktail for a modern twist on Italian classics.
Fun Fact: If you enjoy going there, and go often enough, they will keep your very own bottle of gin or whisky with your name on it on the bar shelf to you can have shots from your own bottle..
My Favourite Market:
Chelsea Market – I LOVE the market with its old wooden beams, as well as the Lobster Stop. Their lobster rolls are to die for! Check out my video below to see more:


Fun Fact: This is also headquarters for Food Network USA and where Iron Chef America is filmed !







Rob Rossi at Beerfest 2012

Earlier this summer, Toronto’s CNE fairgrounds were host to the 2012 Festival of Beer. While most visitors came for the brews, the gastronomically inclined had the opportunity to watch some of Canada’s favorite chefs demo a dish or two in the Napolean grill tent.


Amidst the afternoon heat, Top Chef Canada season one alum Rob Rossi casually sipped on an ice-cold glass of Keith’s and kept his cool – even while having to improvise his recipe on the fly. Originally intending to pan fry the scallops, Rossi made a change in plans to grill them directly, which worked out beautifully.


Rob and sous chef Frank Vanditti prepared a dish of grilled scallops on a bed of corn, prosciutto and mushroom, adding cilantro to finish on a whim. The captive audience was filled with home cooks eager for samples (some more intoxicated than others, of course) and fans that came to swoon from the front row in hopes of a photo op after the event. Rossi fielded questions like a pro, the audience asking impressive and intelligent questions through a constant stream of beer.


Want to see Rob Rossi in action? His restaurant Bestellen has an open kitchen!




Jennifer Myers is a Toronto based web designer/art director who loves food, design and travelling.



Bobby, Rick and Susan Share Their Easy Go-To Summer Meals

Not to be the bearer of bad news, but there’s no denying that summer is coming to an end (don’t shoot the messenger). But before you bust out your fall wardrobe, keep in mind that there are surely a few warm weekends left, and what better way to celebrate that than by having the family over and putting together your favourite summer meal?



Everyone has a go-to meal that reminds them of a hot summer day. What’s yours? Check out the video below, where Chefs Rick Moonen, Bobby Flay and Susan Feniger share their tips for making an easy and memorable meal that is sure to impress your guests and make them (and you!) temporarily forget that fall is just around the corner.





Smooth Cashew Flax Juice from The Hot Plate

Don’t let the name of this drink throw you off. This creamy meal is sweetened with natural ingredients and gets an added dose of fibre, protein and healthy omega-3 fats from chia or flax seeds. This drink is perfect as a lunch substitution, for a juice cleanse, or post-workout snack.


This protein-packed cashew juice is a creamy drink that gets its flavour and thickness from whole raw cashews. There are no artificial ingredients and the honey can be swapped for maple syrup or agave for a vegan lunch. Cashews are packed with healthy fats so make sure to portion control when pouring. Aim for 3/4 cup per serving.


Nutritional Information:

300 calories

20 grams fat (15.5 monounsaturated)

15 grams carbs

6 grams fibre

10 grams protein


Prep Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 10 minutes

Serves: 6



270 grams whole raw cashews

2 tablespoons honey

2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 tablespoons ground flax or chia seeds

4 cups cold filtered water

1/2 cup ice cubes



Combine all the ingredients in a blender and blend until completely smooth, about 2 minutes. If too thick, add another 1/2 cup of water until desired consistency. You can strain the juice if you’d like, or drink it as is.


Amanda_GarbuttAmanda Garbutt is the host of The Hot Plate, a free online cooking show dedicated to inspiring culinary confidence in new cooks. The Hot Plate also offers regular cooking tips and advice, how-tos, and information on seasonal ingredients.

The Swedish Chef does Meatballs

I dyed my hair a little blonder just before departing for Sweden. It just felt right. I also resolved to turn my very flexitarian diet into a carnivorous one, to fully appreciate köttbullar, or Swedish meatballs.
To make this situation a little tricky, I stayed with two very dear friends who live in Gothenburg.  The first: a vegan. The second: a vegetarian. Although I am a fan of tofu, I did not see the authenticity of the recipe shining through a bean curd product.

The great part is that even vegan Swedes have a meatball recipe. It is as ingrained in them as good design sense and a propensity for an afternoon cinnamon bun the size of one of Princess Lea’s side-buns. Thank goodness for that, because I was eager to see if I could eat a meatball in the wild, untamed restaurants of Gothenburg and then recreate the hearty simplicity back home. Challenge accepted.
The first stop was an establishment of which there is no Canadian equivalent: Köttbullekafee (translation: meatball café). Café du Nord was near the main shopping street. Although the modern sign suggests otherwise, it was established way back in 1875.
Swedish meatballs have as many interpretations as cookie recipes.  Everyone is passionate about his or her own version of course, because it was passed down through many generations. Who would ever say that their grandmother was wrong? The side dishes are where the tradition does not deviate as much. Lingonberries replace our North American cranberries with a less tart jammy sauce that has a hint of raspberries or apple. Mashed or boiled potatoes stand up to the hearty meat and “brown sauce” is generously poured over top.  Forget Thanksgiving – we went on a Thursday afternoon and the place was packed. Old men in suits sat with plates heavy with meatballs, giving the impression that they may have sat in that same seat some fifty years prior.
If the meatballs gave me a taste of Swedish history, what a sweet taste it was. Like a juicy burger, they were light and almost melted in my mouth, with the poorly named “brown sauce” (the English translation of gravy) soaking into them like they were sponges. The mashed potatoes helped the plate from looking like a soupy hospital tray, and the lingenberries were a nice break from the solid Viking fare. The result was truly amazing, and truly unlike the meatballs often defrosted to decorate a plate of pasta.


So of course I had to learn how to recreate such culinary genius at home. My vegan friend gave me her boyfriend’s meat pan and three ingredients: ground beef, an egg and an onion. Really?  That’s it? Apparently simplicity is key in Sweden. As with most meatball recipes, a light touch was necessary. It began with grated onion which would melt into the meat. Then the meat was mixed in and an egg was added. Not much more to it than that.
In Gothenburg, Swedish meatballs are usually quite small so I went to work rolling tablespoons into my hand and laying them beside one another. I then made the error of crowding the pan and with the light delicate ingredients, they did not respond well to frying. The meatballs became a rather tasty meat lump. So I tried again. By the end, I was adept at turning the raw meat into fried golden perfection. And with some brown sauce from a packet, boiled potatoes and lingonberries, it was pretty spot-on.  Meat and vegetables themselves do taste different in every country, so I am interested to see how this dish will recreate with Canadian meat and homemade gravy. I certainly do not think it will disappoint.



Top 5 Grilled Cheese Sandwich Recipes

There’s no denying it anymore; it’s officially back to school time. That, my friends, means the end of lazy summer days.


So with busy schedules a reality, it helps to be as efficient as possible when feeding the kids, while still serving healthy foods they’ll actually eat. We have great tips and recipes from David Rocco, Scott Conant, Trish Magwood and more in our Back to School guide. (We were very pleased to find out David Rocco dreads packing school lunches as much as we do!)


So when we thought of the ultimate kid-friendly food, grilled cheese sandwiches obviously topped the list. Show us a child (or grownup) who doesn’t love the taste of hot, gooey cheese melting between two pieces of toast. (Seriously, tweet us at @FoodNetworkCA and let us know why your little one isn’t a fan!).  Without further ado here are our top 5 (according to our site stats) grilled cheese recipes from the past year.



1. Grilled Cheese with Caramelized Onions by Chuck Hughes tops our list. Even if your munchkins aren’t so cool with onions, the sweetness that these caramelized ones add to the classic sandwich will have them asking for seconds.



2. Michael Smith’s Grilled Cheese Bites scream kid-friendly. They’re basically begging kids to eat them. Shocking twist: these are regular grilled cheese sandwiches cut into small triangles. Alert the press.



3. Next on the list is Christine Cushing’s Ultimate Grilled Cheese Sandwich. We’re daydreaming about this delicious sandwich as we type. Your kids will go bananas over the added ingredient (feel free to substitute pancetta with any sort of bacon, salami or ham).



4. Michael Smith’s up again, this time with this lip-smacking Grilled Ham and Cheese Sandwich. The classic combo is already a kid favourite, so what could go wrong by grilling it? Nothing, that’s what. Your little ones will eat it up. Literally.



5. Rounding out our top 5 is this Aged Cheddar Grilled Cheese with Caramelized Onion Relish by the late, great Anthony Sedlak. Sometimes you have to spoil the kiddies and give them something a bit out of the ordinary. Indulge – you’ll taste the difference.



Honey Garlic Shrimp from Duhlicious

Easy honey garlic marinade works well for steak or shrimp. You can sautee or toss your shrimp on the barbie. When I grill, I try to keep things simple; I hate spending more time in the kitchen than needed in the summer. It is equal parts honey, soy sauce, and oil.


Honey Garlic Shrimp (BBQ)



(serves 4)

– 2 dozen large shrimp (raw)

– 2 cloves garlic

– 1/4 cups honey (or agave nectar)

– 1/4 cups low sodium soy sauce

– 1/4 cups oil

– 1 tbsp yellow mustard (optional, adds extra zing)

– 1/2 tbsp black pepper



1. Finely mince garlic. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk until combined. Add shrimp and stir until coated. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to marinade for a minimum of one hour in the fridge. *Tip: You can pour marinade and shrimp in a large freezer ziplock bag for easy clean-up.


2. Soak wooden skewers in water for an hour (to avoid burning). Skewer shrimp and BBQ for three minutes on each side or sauté in cast iron pan over medium heat.


3. Allow five to seven minutes total cooking time, half on each side. Larger shrimp take longer than smaller ones, naturally. Shrimp are done when the complete outside surface has changed colour to a bright pink/red color. Once the skin surface of the shrimp no longer shows any of its original colours it is done. You must remove shrimp from the heat the second it is done, before it over cooks (and becomes rubbery).


MadalinePaul Madalina Paul is the blogger behind Duhlicious, a food blog dedicated to creating and sharing unique and original recipes for great tasting food and featuring tutorials, food news, and culinary adventures.

Pan-Seared Quail with Beetroot Couscous from Derek’s Kitchen

This recipe is definitely a bit of work, but it’s a great dish for when you are having a small number of friends over for dinner and you want to impress them. The vibrant colours should get some “oohs” and “ahhhs” and the rich flavours will have your guests swooning. If you find the dish as a whole a bit too daunting to take on, you can try making just one element at a time first. The red beet coucous is great with chicken or fish. The glazed onions would go well with just about anything. They’re awesome with grilled flank steak. If you practice each element with other recipes that you’ve already perfected, making the complete quail dish will be a piece of cake. Then you’ll be ready for when it’s time to have the in-laws over.


Recently, a winemaker in Niagara Valley gave me a bottle of Ice Syrup to try and I though it was pretty delicious, so I decided use it to glaze the cipollini onions. It’s a non-alcoholic syrup made using the same grapes used to make ice wine. It’s similar to maple syrup, but instead of a woody flavour, it has a nice grapiness to it. If you can’t find Ice Syrup, you can use ice wine and a little sugar to glaze the onions instead.


Time: 1 hour

Makes 4 appetizers



4 quails, de-boned

2 cups couscous

2 cups red beets, peel and chopped

12 cipollini onions

3 tbs butter

60ml (2oz) Ice Syrup (or 2oz ice wine + 2tbs sugar)

12 cherry tomatoes

olive oil, salt & pepper

mustard sprouts (optional)


1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Boil the beets in salted water until soft. Strain the beets, reserving 2 cups of the cooking water. Place the couscous in a large mixing bowl. Add the 2 cups cooking water while it is still hot and stir. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel and let rest for 10 minutes.


2. Heat a small amount of olive oil in a frying pan and add 1tbs butter and the cipollini onions. Sautée on medium-high heat until the onions start to brown. Add the Ice Syrup and then lower the heat to medium. Continue cooking until the onions are soft and glazed.


3. Generously season both sides of each quail with salt and pepper. Heat a small amount of olive oil in a large frying pan and then add the quails skin side down. Be careful not to overcrowd the pan. You can fry the quails in batches of two. Fry the quails on medium-high until the skin is brown and crispy, about 5 minutes. Transfer the quails, skin side up, to a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Place the boiled beets and cherry tomatoes on the baking tray. Drizzle the beets and tomatoes with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven until the quails are cooked, about 8-10 minutes.


To serve: Reheat the couscous on the stove with a bit of olive oil. Divide the couscous among four plates. Top with the beets, cherry tomatoes, and then one quail. Add the glazed onions along with extra syrup from the pan. Garnish with mustard sprouts.


DerekBockingDerek Bocking is a professional chef with over 15 years culinary experience. On his blog, Derek’s Kitchen, he shares restaurant-style recipes for amateur gourmets to try at home, from quick and easy meals to more elaborate showstoppers.


Roasted Nectarine and Baby Kale Salad from Dan’s Good Side

Yup, I’m still on the salad train, apparently! Not that it’s a bad train to be on, I just wish I would have embraced tasty, nutrient-filled salads prior to the summertime to obtain that beach body I “strive” for every year. There’s always next year, right? Perhaps, I’ll book a sunny vacation for December and aim for then. We shall see!


If you’re looking for a nice, light lunch while enjoying some sun on your deck, then this will do the trick. In lieu of roasting the nectarines, you can leave them halved and toss them on the barbecue to get some nice grill marks on them.


Serves 4

Total prep time: 25 min


What you’ll need…


2 nectarines (halved, stoned and 1? sliced)

1 14-oz can artichoke hearts (drained and quartered)

4 cups baby kale

1 cup cucumber (thinly sliced)

1 cup radishes (quartered)

1/2 red onion (thinly sliced)

1 lemon (zest and juice)

1/3 cup greek yogurt

1 TBSP honey

1 TBSP white wine vinegar

salt and pepper

olive oil


Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Toss the nectarine slices with a bit of olive oil, season with salt and pepper, place them into a small baking dish and pop them into the oven until they’ve softened and begin to caramelize, about 20 minutes.


While those are roasting away, place the next 5 ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Add the lemon zest to the bowl as well. Instead of grating the lemon or using a microplane to get the zest off, for this salad I like to use a vegetable peeler to get nice, big pieces of the peel. Once I’ve peeled all of the zest off, I thinly slice it, then add it to the salad. This way, it packs an awesomely bright punch to each bite of the salad; kind of like sunshine on your plate and then in your mouth. Trust me!


In a separate small bowl, whisk together the yogurt, honey and vinegar. Add some fresh ground pepper and a few pinches of salt then pour over the salad mix. Toss gently with tongs until well dressed. Remove the nectarine slices from the oven and serve warm over top a generous portion of the kale salad.


Dan ClapsonDan Clapson is a food writer and culinary instructor based out of Calgary. He is constantly creating new recipes and striving to expand his culinary horizons. He thinks yam fries are overrated.

Natural Light Natural Food Photography from Eat Live Travel Write

The invitation came just as I arrived in Paris in late June. “Join us at the table at Camont for le 14 juillet.” As an amateur food photographer, an invitation from Kate Hill to come and work in her kitchen with Tim Clinch is like winning the lottery. Kate runs Camont, a culinary retreat in Gascony in southwest France. On her site, she asks “Want to change the way you cook? Reboot your own style? Or get inspired by an up close and personal relationship with the people who grow our food?” Tim is an award-winning photographer (whose credits include Conde Nast Traveller) who runs photography workshops at Camont, amongst other locations. He shoots using only available natural light and claims that his workshops “offer you a chance to explore a different approach to food photography and styling…a natural one.”


To be honest, at first glance, some of these descriptions sound a little, well, airy fairy. Changing the way I cook, changing my outlook on photography? But hey, I was ready for a change. I’ve been to a few food blogging conferences where I have attended photography sessions that were of little to no use to me in practical terms. Hearing from someone who is a professional that you just need to “find your style, shoot what you love, and be passionate about it”, well it may be inspiring (the first time) but it’s not too helpful. Of course, such sessions don’t promise to fix your photography or give you much technical insight (they cannot possibly in such a short amount of time) so it’s not fair to compare a three-day workshop with a 40-minute (or less) session. But I was definitely ready. Ready for more. Ready to challenge myself. Ready to take my photography and technical knowledge to the next level. But was I ready for the world of Kate and Tim?


I shouldn’t have worried. About anything actually. The moment I arrived in Agen late one Thursday night to be greeted by Kate and the lovely Bacon (her dog), I knew it was going to be ok.  Driving through the dark back lanes en route to Camont, Kate and I fell into easy conversation. We have common friends and a common love (charcuterie).


Arriving at Camont, we were greeted by Tim and Monica – the only other student that weekend – sharing Armagnac and apricots at the kitchen table. And immediately, I knew I had hit the jackpot. Far from being self-important and arrogant, Tim is humble and, well, hilarious. And kind and generous. Monica (and her sweet dog, Rocky) and I also hit it off straight away. An American living in England, Monica was also stuck in the “same old same old” photography rut so it felt good to not be the only one Tim had to help. Initially I was concerned that the other student might be a way better photographer than me so I didn’t even look at Monica’s blog or work until after I had met her. I didn’t want to be more intimidated than I already was. Turns out, we all got on famously. Kind of like, the Famous Five. Except we were only four. (I guess you had to be there, right?)


Truly, and I can’t stress it enough, watching Kate (and this is going to sound silly) interacting with her food as she shops for and prepares it is both calming and invigorating all at the same time. Using only seasonal, local produce, Kate is inspired by the day’s offerings either at the market or in her own garden. It’s the way we should all be eating and cooking. And it’s what we all know, right? But seeing it in action, truly in action, makes it hit home more. It’s “right”. And it makes me want to emulate that, as much as possible now I am home (though we don’t exactly have the giant market close to our house, I can shop local at the vendors on my high street or at my tiny farmers’ market once a week at the end of my street). I might not be able to have Kate’s life (yet) but I can take what I have learned from her home.


And in terms of photography? Monica and I watched Tim, tentatively, that first morning. Shooting the apricots that would be come the tart. He shot a few pictures, showed them to us, gave a few suggestions and then went to work photographing Kate in the kitchen. Close by, but not hovering. Close enough to shout a few suggestions but not telling us what to do. This is scary. I am a Taurus. I like to know what I am supposed to be doing. Monica, it seemed, felt the same way. We kind of flailed about with our cameras at first but soon got the hang of it. Find something you like the look of. Find a place you think it might look even better. Find an angle that works (preferably something different from the dreaded “top down” shot syndrome from which Monica and I seemed/seem (?) to suffer) and shoot away.


Now you might think that this type of instruction sounds about as useful as being told that if you are passionate your photos will be amazing.  And I guess it depends on how you approach the workshop. If you truly DO want to find your style, there’s no point having someone style each shot for you, right?


Even though it was hard for me to be left on my own like that feeling at some points that I had no idea what I was doing, I was determined to “go with the flow” that weekend and the biggest thing I probably learned was to slow down. Yes, that’s right, slow. down. When a workshop has a siesta scheduled in every afternoon, you know it means business. I have to say neither Monica or I took a nap on any day but we did take a while to sit and ponder. Something it seems neither of us take the time to do too often. Though now we know how important it is. Slowing down that weekend helped me take what I consider to be some of my best pictures to date.


And as for the photos?


Well, the pictures in this post are not perfect shots, technically or maybe even in terms of composition. But for a learning weekend, I’m pretty happy with the results.  I’m hoping that those of you who read my blog regularly will take a look at these pictures and realise that they are different. They’re not “not Mardi” but they’re not my regular “look” either. They are very different from the types of pictures I normally take. They don’t so much have a “style” – let’s just say I am experimenting for now. I’m also hoping that in the past month, you might have noticed a change in the photos on my blog, even though it might still be subtle. Though Tim would tell me to go for it in my search for a style, I am still a Taurus at heart. So I go forth with caution.


A huge component of the weekend was learning how to use Lightroom. I have had this on my computer for an embarrassingly long time. I’ve been scared to use it. Too many tutorials I have read made it sound way too complicated and I am a hands-on learner so a book or an online tutorial isn’t the best way for me to learn. But watching Tim work magic in Lightroom with literally a few clicks – he doesn’t spend very long editing pictures – as he says, “you can’t make a bad photo good in post-processing”, so it makes sense to work hard to get the best shot you can in your camera and then just make it better in post-processing – resulted in a huge WOW factor for both Monica and me. And, to be fair, I probably don’t use 95% of what Lightroom has to offer (yet) but I learned a few tips with Tim that have really (well, I think) helped me spend less time for better results in post-processing. I am spending way less time processing my pictures there days – I find Lightroom so much easier than Photoshop Elements, more intuitive. But it’s personal preference, right?


In any case, the most important lesson from Tim was about getting the good shot in the camera. That can’t be stressed enough.


Those of you who follow me on Twitter or Instagram might recall much merriment that weekend in Camont. Rosé in the garden. Heading to the night market in Vianne and spending a good long while there. Observing. Being. And being so taken with the moment that someone Tim nearly lost his cash in his oyster shells.


It was truly a weekend of friendship. Fun. Learning. And taking the time. Slowing down. I cannot recommend this experience highly enough. If the opportunity presents itself, run, don’t walk to The Kitchen at Camont. It WILL change the way you cook, photograph and more.


Disclosure: I was a guest of Kate Hill and Tim Clinch at Camont for their Natural Light Natural Food Photography workshop. I was not required to post about this workshop and am not being compensated for doing so. All opinions (and photos, believe it or not!!!) are 100% my own.


You can read Monica’s Food Story from Gascony here.


Mardi_MichelsMardi Michels is a full-time French teacher and part-time food blogger based in Toronto. Her blog,, focuses on culinary adventures both near and far because she travels as often as she can!


Peanut Butter Cups from The Hot Plate

For anyone who’s ever wondered “How do they get the peanut butter inside the cup?” we’ve got news for you! Making peanut butter cups at home couldn’t be easier. In fact, they take under an hour to bake and only require four ingredients. The important thing to remember when making these is how to combat sticky peanut butter. You know the old saying about peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth? Well, these treats make that look like child’s play. To create these confectionary dreams like a pro, keep a bowl of cold water beside you. Simply wet hands lightly before handling the peanut butter and you’ll stay non-sticky.


Cooking for one, but battling with your sweet tooth? Divide peanut butter cups between snack size bags and freeze for up to 2 months. These treats are delectable straight from the freezer or thawed.


Okay, enough chatting and back to noshing.


Prep Time: 45 minutes

Cook Time: 5 minutes

Total Time: 50 minutes

Serves: 30



3 – 225gram bags white or semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 cup smooth peanut butter

3/4 cup powdered sugar

pinch kosher salt

30 mini aluminum or paper cupcake wrappers



1. Arrange the cupcake wrappers in a mini cupcake tin or on a rimmed baking sheet.

2. Arrange a large metal or glass bowl over a pot of simmering water. Add the chocolate chips to bowl and melt until smooth.

3. In a bowl, mix together the peanut butter, powdered sugar and salt. Refrigerate for 20 minutes.

4. Add 1 teaspsoon of melted chocolate into the bottom of each of the cupcake wrappers. Using a small pastry brush or the back of a small spoon, spread the chocolate up the sides of the wrappers to form a thin even layer. This layer should be thin, but not transparent. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, keep chocolate on the double boiler to stay hot.

6. Wet hands gently and divide the peanut butter into 30 discs wide enough to fit inside the wrapper.

7. Divide the remaining chocolate over top of each peanut butter disc and smooth with the back of a spoon to seal the peanut butter cup. Refrigerate for 20 minutes until firm.


Amanda_GarbuttAmanda Garbutt is the host of The Hot Plate, a free online cooking show dedicated to inspiring culinary confidence in new cooks. The Hot Plate also offers regular cooking tips and advice, how-tos, and information on seasonal ingredients.

Mini Kurtosh Colac from Duhlicious

Kürtös Kalács is a traditional Hungarian pastry that is hollow. The pastry is baked on a wooden spit and rolled slowly on an open fire until golden brown. A few years back, my boyfriend and I went traveling to Europe. En route to Romania, we had a seven-hour lay-over in Hungary. Instead of taking an uncomfortable nap in the airport concourse, we decided to roam the streets of Budapest. We wandered to the city center, and on that particular Saturday, vendors lined the street selling everything under the sun. My favourite part about any market is the food: the kind that is made on the spot and more often than not it’s unusual and delicious.

Enter Kurtosh Colac. I believe it’s pronounced something along the lines of “keer-toosh-col-ak.” Essentially, a Kurtosh Colac (kürtös kalács) means “chimney cake” and it is DELICIOUS.


To make these, you wrap a thin strip of pastry around a wooden cylinder and cook on an open flame, rotating it as it cooks until golden brown. Once cooked, they’re heavily sprinkled with sugar, cinnamon, walnuts, almonds, or any combination of the four.

This recipe is a cheater’s version. I don’t have access to an open flame, nor the robust wooden cylinders that are traditionally used for this dessert. I used mini hand-crafted wooden cylinders and a small square metal pan to deep fry these little suckers instead. If you ever come across these at a street fair, I urge you to try them.


Mini Kurtosh Colac (kürtös kalács)

(makes ~ 24 x 7? (2.5? dia) colacs)


Sweet Bread Dough:

– 1 tsp white sugar

– 1 pkg (.25oz) Fleischmanns Active Dry Yeast

– 1/2 cup warm water

– 1/2 cup milk

– 1/3 cup white sugar

– 1/4 cup butter

– 1 tsp salt

– 2 eggs, beaten

– 4 cups all-purpose flour

+ 4 cups of oil for frying

+ 4 x 2.5? diameter dowels, tapered at the end with handles

+ square metal pan for frying



1. In a small bowl, mix 1 tsp sugar, yeast and warm water. Allow the yeast slurry to stand for about 10 minutes, or until it turns foamy (as below). If the mixture doesn’t foam, it could be an indication that your yeast is no longer active and your dough won’t rise.


2. In a sauce pan, scald milk over medium heat. Once it bubbles, remove it from the stove and mix in 1/4 cup sugar, 1/4 cup butter, and salt until melted. Allow to cool until luke warm.

Prepare dough, and first rise:

3. In a large bowl, combine yeast slurry, milk mixture, eggs, zest and flour. Using your hook attachment on your stationary mixer, mix on low until combined. Once most of the ingredients appear damp and slightly combined, increase speed and allow to mix for 8 minutes or until it is smooth and elastic.

4. Once the dough has pulled together, turn it onto a lightly flour-dusted surface and knead for an additional 2 minutes. Round into a ball and place in large, lightly oiled bowl. Cover with a damp cloth and let it rise in a warm place until doubled in volume (about 30 minutes)


Shaping and Second Rise:

5. Remove your dough from the bowl and return to lightly floured surface. Evenly divide the dough into 6 parts (each roll will make approximately 4 colacs.  Round divided dough into balls and return to greased bowl for the second rise. Cover with a damp cloth and let it rise in a warm place for an additional 25-30 min.


Dowels are slightly tapered on one end, with a nail in the center to grip the edges of the square pan. The square baking pan is heated on the stove and you rotate the dowels as it bakes to create an even golden color.

Prepare the dowels:

6. Generously grease the dowels with oil.


Roll and Cut Strips:

7. Roll out each dough ball into oblong ovals (5 x wider than tall, think “beaver tail”), and cut out 1? strips. Beginning from one end, wrap the dough around the dowel on a slight angle, pinching the dough and “tucking it in” when you get to the end.


8. Prepare all of your dowels prior to baking, and fry at 350’F, rotating until golden brown. Remove from oil, and allow to cool. Once cooled, carefully remove the pastry from the dowel. Brush with a one-to-one ratio of sugar/water syrup and roll in sugar or nuts. Serve immediately or wrap for later.


…Watch a video of a pro making this awesome pastry.


MadalinePaul Madalina Paul is the blogger behind Duhlicious, a food blog dedicated to creating and sharing unique and original recipes for great tasting food and featuring tutorials, food news, and culinary adventures.


Bobby and Susan Dish on Summer Salads that Shine

When the mercury rises in the summer and it’s just too hot to turn on the stove, a cold and refreshing salad is my quick and easy go-to meal. I’m a big fan of being prepared and I always make sure to have some mesclun mix or lettuce in my fridge; along with my favourite salad ingredients which include: tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots and radishes.

Salads can be a bit bland in the taste department, so I like to build their flavour profiles by adding sliced cold cuts (usually black forest ham or smoked turkey), avocado, cheese and fresh herbs (such as cilantro, chives, mint, or basil). When it comes to dressings, I prefer citrus vinaigrettes due to their lighter taste, but the flavour combinations for salads are endless and it all really depends on your personal tastes and preferences.


Above: Cobb Salad

Every chef has their own way to make a salad shine, including some of our favourite Food Network personalities. So when we caught up with Bobby Flay and Susan Feniger at the Vegas Uncork’d food and wine festival, we got them to reveal how to turn a summer salad from drab — to FAB! Check out the video below to learn which ingredient Bobby believes is a must-have for any summer salad, and find out Susan’s secret to a delicious salad.

How do you make a salad shine? What are your favourite salad ingredients? Share them below!


Top 5 Hamburger Recipes

I equate summertime with hamburgers and it seems you do as well. Hamburgers (and not burgers which incidentally brings up a new set of recipes) was one of our top 5 searched terms last week. So without further ado, here are the top 5 hamburger recipes starting with the most popular.

1. Slow Cooker Hamburger Soup with Buns and Corn on the CobTopping the list is one of four recipes from Fixing Dinner. The show is off the air but Sandi Richard’s easy and family-friendly recipes are popular as ever. Plus the slow cooker is THE best for no-fuss meals.

2. Sandi Richard’s Mexican Burgers is the next most popular hamburger recipe. A dash of chipotle gives these bad boys a smoky Mexican twist.



3. Hamburger with Homemade Relish and Caramelized Onions
Remember Rob Feenie and his show New Classics with Chef Rob Feenie? That show takes me way back. Although his show is no longer airing, this recipe gets top marks. I adore caramelized onions!




4. Hamburger on a Stick, Rice Noodles, Peanut Satay Sauce and Broccoli This is the third of four recipes from Fixing Dinner. I love this Asian take on hamburgers, so fun and sophisticated.



5. Old-Fashioned Hamburger Stew with Fresh Fruit  Rounding out our list is yet another recipe from Sandi Richard. The fresh fruit may sound a bit unorthodox but it’s a great sweet compliment to the savoury stew. I’m sure the kids will love it as well.





Top 5 Brain Foods

It’s almost that time of year again – back to school. While your kids may be less than thrilled that summer is coming to an end, one way to make the transition from summer vacation to the routine of school a bit easier for both you and your little ones, is by incorporating brain foods into their meals and snacks. Providing food that is great for their bodies and minds, while still being tasty, will ensure that you and your kids are on the same page when it comes to what they’re eating. Serve them these five foods and over time, their ability to concentrate, retain information and think more clearly will begin to improve. What’s not to love about that?


1. Blueberries

It’s no secret that blueberries are rich in antioxidants, but did you know that studies have shown that eating blueberries improves brain memory over time? Include these yummy berries in your kids’ breakfast or mix a handful in with other fruits for a refreshing snack.


Pancakes and Blueberry Sauce


2. Yogurt

Yogurt is known to improve memory function and alertness, and because it’s rich in calcium, it also aids in developing nerve function in children. Since many fruit yogurts are full of sugar, make your own homemade fruit salad topped with yogurt.


Fruit Salad with Lemon Yogurt Jelly


3. Avocados

Avocados are chock full of healthy, monosaturated fats, which contribute to an overall healthy brain and will keep your kids full and energized all day. Surprise them by packing yummy avocado pudding in their lunchbox.


Avocado Pudding


4. Salmon

The power of salmon should not be underestimated. The yummy fish is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, which aid in developing brain tissue to keep minds strong and healthy. If your little ones are fish-eaters, pack them a delicious salmon bagel to keep them full and happy.

Smoked Salmon Bagels


5. Dark Chocolate

That’s right, we are officially encouraging you to let your kids eat chocolate. It’s a natural mood-booster and also helps with concentration. While most kids won’t immediately love the bitter taste of dark chocolate, pairing it with fruits like oranges or raspberries will help to balance out the bitter flavour and make it more enjoyable.


Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Crunches

Mini S’mores Pies from The Hot Plate

S’mores are that perfect nostalgic dessert that put a smile on everyone’s face. This summer the fire ban has probably left many people wanting. Summer campfires may be out but that doesn’t mean that s’mores need to be. These mini pies are packaged with chocolate, graham crackers, marshmallows, and even a fresh banana topping.


These mini pies are a delicious and versatile. If s’mores aren’t your favourite campfire treat then pick another. Try fresh fruit, berries, and even savoury fillings.


Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

Serves: 6



1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup finely ground cornmeal

3 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided

1/2 teaspoon salt

11 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces and divided

2/3 cup cold water plus additional tablespoons

1 egg lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water

6 graham crackers, roughly crumbled

6 tablespoons mini marshmallows or marshmallow fluff

6 tablespoons semi sweet chocolate chips

1 medium-sized banana, thinly sliced



1. Preheat the oven to 350F.

2. In a large mixing bowl, add flour, cornmeal, 3 tablespoons granulated suga and salt; stir to combine. Add 11 tablespoons of cubed butter. Cut in butter (see video) until reduced to pea sized pieces. Add water and stir until dough comes together in large clumps. The dough should not feel wet.

3. Flour a clean surface. Add the dough and knead for 1-2 minutes until it forms a smooth ball. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 15 minutes; let the dough rest.

4. Remove the dough from the fridge. Divide into six smaller dough balls. Roll dough into 8-inch circles, repeat with remaining dough balls. Transfer each of the rolled out doughs onto parchment paper.

5. Place a graham cracker in the center of each mini pie leaving a 2-inch border. Top with marshmallow fluff, chocolate chips, and banana slices.

6. Decoratively fold the dough border up and over the filling leaving a 2-inch window at the top. Brush each piece lightly with egg wash (egg-water mixture).

7. Bake the mini pies for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.


Amanda_GarbuttAmanda Garbutt is the host of The Hot Plate, a free online cooking show dedicated to inspiring culinary confidence in new cooks. The Hot Plate also offers regular cooking tips and advice, how-tos, and information on seasonal ingredients.