Restaurant Takeover: Host Cheryl Torrenueva Takes Us Behind the Scenes

This week’s episode had the best elements of the old Restaurant Makeover:  Igor smashing everything and the designer having meltdowns, mixed with lots of new TAKEOVER twists.


What’s at stake this time? Owner, Piraba’s livelihood and his relationship with his wife and daughters. Talk about stress!

Chef Derek Minkensky and I skipped the pen cams this week and managed to talk waitress Nicole into getting us a key to the resto. When we walked through the door, we literally felt like we went back in time.  The decor looked like it hadn’t been changed for at least 50 years. I don’t even know what they were going for: a hospital waiting room or just plain tacky? When did the combination of peach walls and teal vinyl become cool? The only thing that I was absolutely sure of was that it all had to go! Yuck!

After we spoke with Piraba, Derek and I had absolutely no choice but to help him because he was 2 seconds away from going bankrupt! I needed to come up with a new name for the restaurant, communicate my “Cool Mo’ D” (Cool Modern Diner) design style to Igor before he jumps ship, and get our Chef to come up with a menu that compliments my design.


I wanted this place to be THE diner destination in the city and  my design had to stand out among the rest. I kept the stainless steel equipment that was covered by that horrible divider and used typical “diner” finishes like subway tile, chrome, moulded plastic chairs and vinyl but went for a hyper-modern twist with really graphic wallpaper and a high-contrast colour palette. All big ideas, now I just had to figure out a way to get Igor on the CherCher train.

We discovered holes in the floor, ceiling tiles that were falling off, and layers and layers of wallpaper. We uncovered a multi-coloured landscape with buildings and trees behind a booth. It gave me a glimpse of how bad the decor was from the start, so the institutional peach coloured walls wasn’t the worst after all.

In my design, I had specified the main wall behind the new bar to be painted a crisp shade of white. As Igor removed the multiple layers of wallpaper, we noticed that the residue had created a very cool texture on the wall. I was going for an industrial look so this was perfect! Normally, that would cost thousands of dollars to have someone recreate this aged finish so I felt like I had hit the jackpot! And I have Igor to thank because it was his idea!  A few coats of sealer applied to the wall and suddenly the old becomes new!

Probably a 15! I was running around like a chicken with its head cut off. From the exterior sign, to the flooring and furniture, we had to replace everything! Every time we took down a wall, a new problem popped up. The bar sink was rotting, the fridges broke so we had to buy new ones and we’re talking thousands of dollars here. So when you saw Igor and I argue about budget, we were extremely stressed! The bar top didn’t arrive until just hours before the reveal. Not the easiest thing to deal with when it’s midnight and you’re installing a 40 foot countertop in the dark. We stayed all night and I even had Chef Derek helping me to reupholster the banquettes! Go RTO team!







Delish! Chicken and waffles, now that’s something that every diner should have! His twist on the typical diner fare was refreshing and I could definitely see the Uptown becoming the new family  spot for cool twists on comfort food. The only thing that I didn’t get to sample was the banana pie since I’m actually allergic.  I know, I know…you’re thinking, who’s allergic to bananas? Just me!




Family Fun: Blueberry Clafoutis (a.k.a. Rock the Dessert Table)

I was in New York last weekend and had lunch at Café Boulud. I was with a friend, we were on the patio on one of the last warm days of the year and, well, we were in New York City — sans children. What else need I say? Except that we had a beautiful charcuterie board and finished lunch with a cherry clafoutis. Which was so lovely that it inspired me to make it at home.


RECIPE: Blueberry Clafoutis
Via Julia Child

1¼ cups milk
2/3 cup sugar (divided)
3 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla
1/8 tsp salt
1¼ cup AP flour
icing sugar (for dusting)


This is Julia’s Child’s recipe, slightly adapted and, as she says, “it’s one of the simplest desserts you can imagine.”. But no one has to know. (Well, Daniel Boulud might call you on it.)


I couldn’t find cherries at my market, so I went with blueberries.


Other than the fruit, everything is pretty much a staple: milk, sugar, eggs, vanilla, salt and flour.


Add 1¼ cups milk, 1/3 cup sugar, 3 eggs, 1 tbsp vanilla, 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1¼ cup flour into your electric blender. Mix on high for 1 minute.


Grease a 8″ x 8″ (or 9″ x 9″) baking dish. If you have a round 9″ dish, use that — it will present prettier when you cut it. Alas, I didn’t have one; so, square it was. Pour about ¼” layer of batter into the bottom, and bake until it has started setting — about 7-10 minutes.


Remove the dish from the oven and pout on 2 cups blueberries. Sprinkle with remaining ¼ cup sugar.


Now pour the rest of the batter over the fruit and pop the dish back into the oven.


Bake 45-60 minutes — just until the clafoutis is puffed, browning and a knife comes out clean from the centre. Cool, the clafoutis will collapse slightly; this is normal.


Serve warm, sprinkled with icing sugar and some whipped cream on the side. And, yes, do bring this as your contribution to Thanksgiving dinner. Accept compliments graciously.

RECIPE: Blueberry Clafoutis
Via Julia Child

1¼ cups milk
2/3 cup sugar (divided)
3 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla
1/8 tsp salt
1¼ cup AP flour
icing sugar (for dusting)

1. Preheat oven to 350 °F
2. Place milk, 1/3 cup granulated sugar, eggs, vanilla, salt and flour in a blender and mix on high for 1 minute.
3. Grease a 9″ x 9″ baking dish and pour in a ¼” layer of batter.
4. Bake until a film has set on the top and it is firming; about 7-10 minutes.
5. Remove from oven and spread the blueberries on top. Sprinkle with 1/3 cup granulated sugar.
6. Bake for about 45 minutes or until the clafoutis is puffed and browning. A knife should come out clean from the centre.
7. Dust the top with icing sugar. Serve warm. The clafoutis will collapse a bit once cooled.


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.


Healthy Halloween Treats

Halloween is fast approaching and like many parents, you may be starting to worry about what your little ones will be eating. If your kids are the trick-or-treating type, there’s no avoiding the fact that they will be collecting lots of candy, chocolate, chips, and other treats that offer little to no nutritional value. However, if you’re planning on throwing a Halloween party for your kids and their friends (or, let’s be honest, for your friends and their kids), your options are endless. You can control what the kiddies eat and that means healthy snacks are back on the table! Now all that’s left is thinking of snack ideas that are both yummy enough for kids to be drawn to, and also offer nutritional value (at least some). Quite a challenge, right? Nope. We’ve got you covered. Happy Halloween!


Granola Bars

Broken Finger Cookies


Butterscotch Popcorn

Ghoulish Halloween Punch

Maple Baked Apple Bites


Carrot Oatmeal Muffins

Cinnamon Sugar Pumpkin Seeds

Melon Ball Monster with Dark Fudge Dipping Sauce


Top 5 Pie Recipes

It’s time for our weekly top 5 post and we have a feeling that you’re going to love this one. Just in time for Thanksgiving, we present to you the top 5 pie recipes from the past year (according to our web stats). It appears you love single-serving treats and so do we. We’ll definitely be trying out these delicious recipes on Thanksgiving weekend, and we hope you will too.


1. Individual Coconut Cream Pies


First up is this amazing coconut cream pie recipe from the one and only Anna Olson. Your Thanksgiving dinner guests will go nuts over these stunning individual pies. Not only is this a great way to maintain portion control, but mini desserts are just plain adorable. It’s a win-win situation.


2. Creme Caramel 2


Coming in as our only non-single serving pie on the list, this creme caramel creation by Laura Calder of French Food at Home is absolutely drool-worthy. Surprise your guests with this caramel-drenched delicacy that have them licking their plates clean.


3. Frosted Raspberry Hand Pies


Are you obsessed with how gorgeous these raspberry pies by Anna Olson are? We can’t get enough of them! It’s always nice to create something homemade that looks like it came straight from a bakery and these beautiful hand pies will definitely impress your family and friends.


4. Baby Cherry Pies


Anna Olson does it again with these cute baby cherry pies. Who knew something so tiny and bite-sized could create such monstrous cravings? These are the ultimate party treat.


5. Beef and Vegetable Pot Pies


Rounding out our top 5 is the only pie that is not belong on a dessert table. These scrumptious beef and vegetable pot pies from Theresa Albert of Just One Bite are so yummy-looking. Your Thanksgiving set-up will gain a few points with these on the table.



Book and Giveaway: Susan Feniger’s Street Food


The Stats:

Title: Susan Feniger’s Street Food

Price: $32 CDN

Availability: Major bookstores and retailers


The Book:

Susan Feniger is nothing short of an absolute legend in the food industry. She is one of the original stars of Food Network, the woman behind Border Grill and STREET restaurants and a regular on the series Top Chef. It’s safe to say the woman does it all.


Her latest book, Street Food, is sure to be a hit among her devoted fans, and will also surely attract a new following of foodies. Since much of her inspiration comes from food carts around the world, it’s no surprise that her book is full of delicious and creative international recipes. If you’re a fan of ethnic cuisine, or you’re thinking of incorporating a wider range of foods in your kitchen, Street Food is just the book you need.


Featuring 83 gorgeous and unexpected dishes, this book will truly blow you away. Throughout her years of traveling, Susan has become an expert in combining different ingredients to create meals that taste authentic and stay true to their roots. What’s even better is the fact that the book includes Susan’s personal travel stories as well as stunning snapshots from her time abroad. This is much more than just a cookbook. My favourite aspect of Street Food has to be the fascinating description of ingredients that may be unfamilar to many readers. If you love learning about different cultures around the world, you’ll adore this book.


Street Food has got you covered from all sides. Featuring main dishes, desserts, appetizers, drinks, and even condiments, you won’t have to search very hard for inspiration to create a meal that you and your guests will never forget. Check out and try her recipe for Spicy Yuzu Mayo below!


Final Analysis:

You may like it if…

  • You’re open to experimenting in the kitchen
  • You love ethnic cuisine

You may not like it if…

  • You prefer familiar comfort food
  • Your guests/family are picky eaters


I have two autographed (!!) copies of Susan Feniger’s Street Food to give away to a couple of lucky winners. For your chance to win, email with the answer to the following question:

How many recipes are included in Street Food?




Spicy Yuzu Mayonnaise

Makes 2 cups


This mayo is a killer (and I mean that in the best way only). You can use it as a dipping sauce with a steamed artichoke, or with leftover steak for your steak sandwich. We squirt this on top of our tatsutage fried chicken at STREET (see page 94), and it’s what makes people die for that dish! The flavor of yuzu is uniquely floral and more complex than fresh lime, which is more sweet and acidic. The combination of yuzu juice with the sweet Japanese mayonnaise is what makes this simple sauce exceptionally delicious. However, if you can’t find yuzu or Japanese-style mayonnaise or the chile paste, use regular store-bought mayonnaise, lemon juice, salt, and any fresh chile, chopped or pureed in a blender, to create a similar result.


2 cups Japanese-style mayonnaise (I prefer Kewpie brand)
2 tablespoons yuzu juice
2 tablespoons yuzu kosho chile paste


Put the mayonnaise, yuzu juice, and chile paste in a small bowl and whisk together until well incorporated. Store the mayonnaise in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.

Yuzu Kosho Chile Paste


This Japanese seasoning is a mixture of yuzu zest, chile peppers, and salt, which is then allowed to ferment. Look for yuzu kosho in Japanese specialty markets. If you can’t find the paste but can find yuzu juice, you can mix it with roasted serrano chiles and the zest of fresh limes.

Home-Made Bruschetta from Duhlicious

I have to say that I am the world’s worst gardener. Seriously, I suck. I always forget to do something (like plant the seedlings; water the plants, etc). This year, when planting my tomato seeds, I forgot to actually plant them. In Ontario, tomatoes should be planted indoors about 3-4 weeks after the last frost.This year, that fell somewhere near mid-April.

I planted my tomato seeds at the end of July. I got a lot of flack from my family about this– they made fun of me for having such a crappy green thumb, and joked that my tomatoes will be ready in time for Christmas.
The joke faded when my tomatoes started to populate the garden, and I’m happy to report that we picked a full bushel. I didn’t have enough to make tomato sauce, but had plenty to make Bruschetta (pronounced  BROO-SKET-TA).

Bruschetta Anti-Pasto

– 6 or 7 ripe vine tomatoes
– 2 cloves garlic, minced (more or less depending on your personal taste)
– 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
– 5 fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
– 1/2 of one large white onion
– Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
– 1 baguette, or ciabatta loaf
– 1/4 cup olive oil



– Finely dice onion– once diced, place in sieve and rinse in frigid water. This is to minimize the pungent flavor and smells of the onion.
– Finely mince garlic.
– Finely chop basil leaves.
– Finely dice tomatoes.

Combine the diced tomatoes, onions, garlic and basil in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper, and toss in olive oil. Mix until just combined.

Prepare bread:
My favorite way to enjoy bruschetta is over toasted ciabatta baguette:
– Slice ciabatta baguette on a bias
– Brush each slice with olive oil
– Bake slices on a foil- lined cookie sheet at 450’F (top rack) for about 2 minutes per side, or until the bread begins to turn golden brown. Allow to cool slightly before serving.

Serve! You can make the bruschetta the day before serving, storing it in an airtight container. Make sure to toast the bread on demand, so it doesn’t harden.


duhlicious 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.




SugarStars Recap: Episodes 9 and 10

This week’s episodes of SugarStars showed us some of the most stunning creations the team has come up with yet! The first episode, called Italian/Chocolate Ball, had the gang busy coming up with two very different – yet equally challenging – sweet tables. The first was an Italian cuisine-themed table for a multicultural event.


Yolanda, Elle, Caspar and Antonella worked to create some amazing sweet interpretations of traditional Italian dishes. Some of the desserts included cookies that looked like raviolis, salami made of chocolate and the main attraction, a cake that looked like an overflowing pot of spaghetti and meatballs.


Next, the gang had to create a sweet table for a Chocolate Ball (um, amazing) and the results were spectacular. From the amazing use of white, dark, and milk chocolate, to the backdrops of chocolate-splattered canvases, and especially the incredibe SEVEN cakes with different chocolate textures, this sweet table was one for the books.


In last night’s second episode, Mustache/Cupcake, the SugarStars are presented with two challenges. The first is a red and pink cupcake-themed sweet table for client Christie’s daughter. The centerpiece was a gorgeous cake shaped to look like a giant cupcake. Adorable, right? The second is a Movember-themed sweet table, meaning lots of mustaches. From chocolate mustache-shaped sweet pops to fondant-covered sugar cookies, this sweet table is adorable and is for a great cause. The only problem is that Elle booked the second table the day before Christie’s party! How stressful!




What did you think of the episodes? What was your favourite creation?



Giveaway: Canada’s Baking and Sweets Show

Are you a baker? Are you a fan of Duff Goldman, Anna Olson and SugarStars? Do you live near Toronto? Then you’re in luck.


Congratulations to Emma W, Chris M, Antonietta M and Viviana M for winning the giveaway!


North America’s only consumer baking and sweets show is taking place this weekend in Mississauga, Ontario. Click here for the complete schedule of events.


We have four pairs of tickets to giveaway to Canada’s Baking and Sweets Show presented by Redpath Sugar. To win a pair email:  the answer to this question with the subject title “Baking Show Giveaway:” Name two cast members from SugarStars.

Please see giveaway rules (below)

Baking Show Giveaway Rules

The following are the giveaway rules (“Rules”) for the Baking Show Giveaway (the “Giveaway”) being administered by Shaw Media (“Shaw”).

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. To enter, entrants must answer giveaway question and send one email with the correct answers as determined by a Shaw representative to  The Giveaway shall run from September 24th, 2012 to September 28, 2012 after which time no answers will be considered.

Upon completion of the Giveaway, a Shaw representative shall review the answers submitted by each entrant to determine which entrant answered the question correctly. From the entrants that correctly answered the question, Shaw will randomly select the prize winner (“Winner”) and provide the prize to the winner.  For the purposes of this Giveaway and the awarding of prize, these Rules shall govern in all respects and the decision of any Shaw representatives shall be final.

There is 9 prizes available to be won, which consists of one pair of tickets to the CNE. (“Prize”). The approximate value of the Prize is twenty eight Canadian dollars (CDN $28).

By participating in this Giveaway, you agree to abide by these Rules and the decisions of Shaw in awarding the Prize, which decisions shall be final and binding upon all entrants. Entrants who have not complied with these Rules are subject to disqualification. Shaw reserves the right to modify the Rules, before or during the Giveaway, in its sole discretion, in any way at any time it deems necessary or appropriate without materially affecting the terms and conditions of this Giveaway. Interpretation of these Giveaway rules by Shaw shall be final.

Personal information collected during the course of this Giveaway shall be used by Shaw and its authorized representatives solely for the purposes of conducting the Giveaway and awarding prizes, and will not be used or disclosed for any other purpose unless required by law.

The Prize is not transferable and not redeemable for cash, will not be extended under any circumstances and must be accepted as offered without substitution.

Employees of Shaw and its affiliates, subsidiaries, related companies, advertising and promotional agencies and the household members of any of the above, are not eligible to participate in this Giveaway.

By participating in this Giveaway, the Winner agrees that his/her name may be used in any and all forms of media, without any further compensation by Shaw and waives all rights (including moral rights) with respect to printed, broadcast and other forms of publicity.

In the event of a dispute as to who submitted an electronic entry, the entry will be deemed to have been submitted by the authorized account holder of the e-mail address submitted at the time of entry. “Authorized account holder” is defined as the natural person who is assigned to an e-mail address by an Internet access provider, on-line service provider or other organization (e.g., business, educational institution, etc.) that is responsible for assigning e-mail addresses for the domain associated with the submitted e-mail address.

Notwithstanding the defined Contest Period, Shaw reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to terminate the Giveaway, in whole or part, and/or modify, amend or suspend the Giveaway, and/or these Rules in any way, at any time, for any reason without prior notice.  Interpretation of these Giveaway Rules by Shaw shall be final.

The Giveaway is subject to all applicable laws of the province of Ontario and the laws of Canada applicable therein.


Braised Cinnamon Chicken with Buttercup Squash from Derek’s Kitchen

While I’m not so thrilled to see summer fade away and I’m certainly not a fan of cold weather, I do love cold weather food. Comfort food. It’s the kind of food I love to cook and the kind of food I love to eat. This dish is just the thing I think of when the cold winds start blowing. It features what I call “the Fall Spices” – cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg – cinnamon being the star of the show here. Those rich spices are a perfect match for the buttercup squash and it gives a nice depth of flavour to the chicken.

This is a good go-to dish when you want something that’s delicious and comforting, but simple to make. It’s a perfect example of what professional cooks like to refer to as a “One-Pot-Wonder.” Everything is thrown into same pot, simmered together, and it’s done. This dish isn’t the prettiest thing around, but it’s damn tasty. Just roughly chop up your ingredients and throw them in the pot. Cutting the vegetables big and chunky will give the final dish a nice hearty texture. I even chop the garlic into big chucks because it will mellow out and give all its flavour to the broth as the stew cooks.


I used buttercup squash, but any variety will do the trick. If you can’t find yellow beets, I would not recommend using red beets. Aside from the fact that they will turn everything purple, their flavour is too strong for this dish, and wouldn’t go well with the cinnamon. If you can’t get your hands on yellow beets, just double the amount of squash.

To make this dish I used one whole chicken, which is enough for 2 big portions, or 4 smaller ones. Buying whole chickens is the most economical choice, and I personally find it fun to butcher it myself. For braised chicken, legs and thighs are better than breasts (which tend to dry out when stewed) so feel free to just use a package of pre-cut dark meat. About 6 drumsticks or 6 thighs can take the place of the whole chicken in this recipe.

Prep time: 20 minutes. Cooking time: 40 minutes




1 whole chicken
1 cup onions, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
4 cups chicken stock
2 cups buttercup squash, peeled & cubed
1 cup yellow beets, peeled & cubed
1 cup potato, peeled & cubed
3 sticks cinnamon
1 pinch ground nutmeg
2 cloves
2 tbs vegetable oil,
salt & pepper



1. Start by breaking down the chicken into drumsticks, thighs, wings & breasts. Discard the skin from the breast & thighs because it will make the broth too fatty, but keep the carcass because it will add flavour to the broth. Generously season all the cuts of chicken with salt & pepper. If you don’t know how to break down a whole chicken, Gordon Ramsay has a good how-to video on You Tube.

2. In a large pot with a wide bottom, heat 2 tbsps of oil and then add the onions. Sautée until the onions are translucent and then add the chicken. Let the chicken brown on one side, about 4 minutes, then turn the pieces to brown the other side. If your pot is not wide enough to fit the whole chicken in one even layer, use a frying pan to brown what doesn’t fit and then add it to the pot. Add the garlic and sautee for 1 more minute.

3. Deglaze the pot with 1/2 cup chicken stock and then use a wooden spoon to scrape up the brown bits stuck to the bottom. Add the remaining chicken stock, followed by the vegetables and spices.

4. Bring to a boil and then gently simmer for 30 minutes.



Family Fun: Melt into Fall with Cheese Sauce

It’s cheese sauce season, the time when even the vegetables need to be made cozy and warm. This recipe for cheese sauce (a.k.a. Mornay Sauce) is fast; better still, you can make it ahead of time and just reheat. After a few goes, it’ll become an easy staple.


This is also the base for mac and cheese. You can switch up the cheese to keep it child-mild or make it a little more sophisticated (try Gruyere or Fontina or Comte) for a gourmet dinner.


RECIPE: Cheese Sauce
Makes 2 cups of sauce

2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
1½ cups 2% milk
1 cup shredded cheddar, Gruyere or Emmanthal cheese
salt and pepper


The other nice thing is that as long as you have a block of cheddar in the fridge you probably have everything you need in the pantry.


Put a saucepan on the stove over med-low heat. Add 2 tbsp butter and let them melt, the butter will foam a little and once that subsides add 2 tbsp flour.


This mixture will become your roux. It’ll thicken the sauce. You need to stir it constantly (to prevent burning) with a spatula for about 2-3 minutes. You want to cook out the starchy texture of the flour.


Now, pull the roux off the stove and let it cool for 30 seconds (just so the milk doesn’t scald when it hits the hot pan) before adding 1½ cups milk. Put the pot back on the stove, bringing the mixture to a simmer. Again, stir constantly (I use a whisk) until the sauce thickens.


Once thickening, you can test for the right consistency by dipping in a wooden spoon. You should be able to run your finger through the sauce so it holds a “line.”


Adding some fresh nutmeg (very French!) gives the sauce a nice, warm nuance. Start with a little and taste it.


Pull the sauce off the heat and add 1 cup shredded cheese. Just mix it in until it melts completely. Season if needed.


You can let everyone add the sauce on their own or just pour it over a big family-style plate of veggies.


If you make this in advance, cool it on the stove with a layer of Saran wrap on it (to prevent a skin) — but punch a few holes, to allow steam to escape. Then, refrigerate in Tupperware.

RECIPE: Cheese Sauce
Makes 2 cups of sauce

2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
1½ cups 2% milk
1 cup shredded cheddar, Gruyere or Emmanthal cheese
salt and pepper

1. Put a saucepan on the stove over medium-low heat. Add butter and melt until foaming subsides.
2. Add the flour to make a roux. Stir constantly (so it doesn’t burn) for about 2-3 minutes until the starchiness of the flour gets cooked out.
3. Pull the saucepan off the heat and allow to cool slightly. Pour in your milk. Put the mixture back onto medium heat and bringing it to  a simmer. Stir or whisk constantly until the sauce thickens and is very smooth.
4. Stir in a pinch of grated nutmeg.
5. Take the sauce off the heat and stir in the grated cheese until smooth. You can thin the sauce with extra milk, if needed.


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.


Restaurant Takeover: Behind The Scenes with Host Cheryl Torrenueva

Hi, it’s Cheryl, the veteran designer from Restaurant Makeover, the feisty addition to Restaurant Impossible.


I thought I had seen it all, until I got to the Shamrock & Thistle! A run down Irish pub that was on its last legs and in desperate need of second chance. Mick, the resto owner, needed a wake-up call and he managed to get the toughest experts on Restaurant Takeover. Top Chef Andrea Nicholson and I decided that it was necessary to go into “tough love” mode. So here we go with some fun “Behind the Scenes” moments that you don’t get to hear about on TV.


Day 1 – THE AMBUSH: Director Dean Davis hands us our pen cams. First of all, they are much bigger than a pen, it feels like you’re holding a mini flashlight! Super awkward to hold but wow…so much fun to use! I literally tried to hide it in my hair at one point as Shamrock customers watched the two of us order plates and plates of food. What you didn’t see was the mound of food that I collected which ended up going in my NO THANK you pile. Was I being over dramatic? YES! Boring and undercooked food is not acceptable and we wanted to show Mick that we could do better.  The decor was even worse; talk about a space that needed more than just a makeover. Holes in the walls, broken glass, a microwave in the kitchen, and every surface was literally falling apart before our eyes.  Eekkkkk!



Chef Andrea and I are UBER passionate about what we do and that’s why I love that saying, “We scare because we care!”. We dished the dirt about some of the issues with their food, the tiny kitchen and how we needed to get him on the same page so that we could work our magic and give him the restaurant of his dreams! So here’s the thing…Mick wanted an Austin, Texas theme which was inspired by many trips there with friends. He loves the music, the food, the energy, the whole nine yards. But here’s where the problem begins for me…I’ve never travelled there, so how do I create an authentic Austin space just outside of the GTA? And to tell you the truth, that doesn’t really go with my signature polished elegant style either. Well, the good thing is that I love a good challenge and Chef Andrea was the perfect partner in crime. So I prayed to the designer gods for a double rainbow or at least a lucky charm to help me with this unique project. I had one chance to get this right.


DAY 2 – DEMO DAY: There was nothing to demolish! Seriously, the place was already at its lowest point and Igor agreed! Mick expressed his love for the existing bar so that would be an RTO record breaking time of 10 seconds of Igor’s demo time, which was basically enough time to walk through the restaurant. And why was Igor wearing that hat?! I bought it as a prop and had no idea that Igor would love it so much! Very cute.


DAYS 3 to 6 – RENO TIME:  So let’s get started! I had dreams of black and white sketched cows on the wall (a very cool wallpaper from, mixed with new age rustic flair, I wanted to throw in some aged metals found from Toronto’s best architectural salvages, contrasted with my love of modern sleek polycarbonate dining chairs in all shades of Texas, accented with cool industrial bar stools from West Elm. I tried to share my vision with Igor, and he literally laughed in my face when I gave him the scope of work!  Basically, the laundry list included repairing surface in the resto, and then completing the daunting task of getting my design completed within the next six days. This is not the usual circumstance, but we had no choice. After working with Igor a few times, you know what makes him happy and what makes him want to run. Luckily, I chose this awesome Vinyl Plank flooring (Karndean) that resembles reclaimed wood. Perfect for the look that I was going for and I scored some major brownie points with Igor too.



The staining of the bar, the floor, the shutter divider wall…ha! What didn’t we fight about?


My duty as a designer is to introduce new and exciting things to a space. So I was approached by this fabulous company called Picture Panels that produces multi-functional sound panels that can help to reduce the amount of noise in a restaurant. This was the perfect solution to help make Mick’s dreams of having a lounge/stage area in the resto. Now the bonus was that you can customize these panels by choosing any image that you want. What we couldn’t control was the fact that the panels were stuck in customs and literally arrived the day before the reveal!! I’ll let you do the calculations here…400 sqf of sound panels, a crew of 3 people, 1 scaffold and a restaurant that is 60% done. Talk about stressful!!  A big thank you to Igor, Graeme and the RTO Team for staying up all night. I owe you big time. The end result was so worth it!!



When Andrea and I did our “Modern Family” debrief chat on the couch. We both did our best evil laugh after the money talk and it somehow it made the cut!


I had to stand on a table in heels for one of my debrief interviews so that our lovely camera man could get the perfect shot! Don’t worry, safety first! Our production assistant was holding my hand the whole time.
Andrea I both love to dance, and did multiple takes of us doing a country jig…or maybe it was a line dance? Either way, it went on for at least 5 minutes with the entire crew was on the floor laughing because we were sooooo bad. Needless to say, that didn’t make the cut, but it was so much fun!

I love this pic! My vision came together with the use of sleek modern dining chairs (Alma Design, available at C-Living Inc.) contrasted with the vinyl plank flooring (Karndean), the reclaimed wood dining tables and of course, we can’t forget the awesome cow wallpaper (New Wall Inc.)! A designer twist to an Austin Texas Chic bar that will definitely be the coolest place to have a nice cold beer and Po’ Boy at the end of a long day!


And the drum roll please….here’s the amazing transformation of the SHAMROCK becoming the newest addition to the Dundas West Strip, Etobicoke…6th STREET!






Top 5 Sandwich Recipes

To me, sandwiches of any kind just scream autumn. Whether you’re talking about back to school or just the general weather change and desire to layer up and get cozy, they’re the perfect comfort food when the temperature starts to drop. Here are our five most popular sandwiches (according to website stats) of the past year.


1. Pulled Pork Sandwich


Courtesy of Chef Michael Smith, this classic pulled pork sandwich unsurprisingly tops our list. Perfect for lunch or dinner, this is sure to be a crowd-pleaser.


2. Pulled Pork and Kimchi Sandwich


For a twist on the traditional pulled pork sandwich, try Chuck Hughes’ version, with kimchi. The combination of classic and exotic is sure to excite your tastebuds.


3. Brioche Tea Sandwich


Who else but Anna Olson would create such gorgeous tea sandwiches? From salmon and cucumber to cream cheese and cherry, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.


4. Crab Cake Sandwich


Chef Ricardo Larrivée doesn’t disappoint with these yummy crab cake sandwiches. Earn some points with the seafood lovers in your family by making these for lunch.


5. Hot Chicken Sandwich


Ricardo’s up again with a classic hot chicken sandwich. Delicious and filling, this is the ultimate autumn meal.




Pickled Beet Salad from Derek’s Kitchen

Beets are probably my favorite vegetable. They have a delicious earthy flavour and are really versatile. They are easy to grow at home and local varieties are plentiful at any grocery store or vegetable market. It’s fun to make your own pickled beets and pickling is a great way to preserve any surplus from a home vegetable garden.

This salad is a slight twist on a classic recipe. A lot of Montreal restaurants have a beet & goat cheese salad on their menu. I’ve certainly made my fair share. What makes this one different is that instead of roasting the beets, as most restaurants do, I pickle them. Also, instead of just roasting the walnuts, I candy them because I find the little bit of extra sweetness goes well with the tangy pickled beets. I then add some peppery arugula for a welcome bitter edge. This salad packs a flavour punch, and so a small serving portion is all you need.

Often chefs choose fresh goat cheese to make this salad, but to balance out the strength of the pickled beets, I like to use a semi-ripened goat cheese (specifically Paillot de Chevre from Fromagerie Alexis  de Portneuf.) This cheese has a really nice texture when melted, so I hit it with a blowtorch before serving. I realize that a blowtorch is not exactly a common tool in every home kitchen, but they do come in handy. If you ever want to make creme-brulée at home you will definitely want to buy one. You can also use a torch to melt brie cheese over a steak, or you can even torch the steak directly to get an extra crispy sear.


Propane torches can be picked up inexpensively at any hardware store, or you can splurge on a butane creme-brulée torch at a kitchen supply store. A butane torch is a good choice because they are smaller and easy to use. If you don’t have a torch at home, you can melt the cheese under a broiler on a piece of parchment paper and then use a spatula to transfer the cheese to the salad. Just make sure you don’t melt the cheese too much or you will have a hard time lifting if off the paper!

To pickle the beets you will need some pickling spice. You can find pre-mixed pickling spice at most grocery stores. Sometimes I like to make my own mix, but the advantage of the store-bought mixes is that they will have all sorts of spices in them that you might not already have in your pantry, such as dill seed and fennel seed. The important spices that you will want to use are mustard seed, coriander seed, black pepper, bay leaf and clove. Generally you will want your mix to have lots of mustard and coriander, but few cloves, because they are so strong. In this recipe, I don’t add any salt until after the beets are cooked so that I can take a bit of the unsalted cooking liquid and reduce it down to a syrup to garnish the salad.

This recipe takes a little while to cook and let all the ingredients cool down before serving. The good thing is that all the cooking can be done well ahead of time. If you are planing on making this salad for guests, I recommend you make the pickled beets and candied walnuts a day ahead. You can even double or triple the recipe if you want because both the beets and the candied nuts have a long self-life. Once those are made, the salad takes just minutes to throw together. You could always just go and buy pickled beets and candied walnuts and skip the majority of the steps of this recipe (go straight to step 4). Sure, you wont get the satisfaction of making everything from scratch, but at least you’ll have a damn tasty salad.

Prep time: 20 minutes. Cooking time: 45 minutes + 30 minutes to cool.  Serves 6






Pickled beets:
5 cups fresh red beets, peeled and sliced.
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tbs pickling spice
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup red wine vinegar
3 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt

Candied walnuts:
100g walnuts
1 tbs vegetable oil
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup water

beet syrup:
2 cups cooking liquid
1/2 cup sugar
3 cups arugula
200g semi-ripened goat cheese (Paillot de chevre)

Pre-heat the oven to 350F

1. Place the pickling spice and crushed garlic in a cheese cloth or coffee filter and tie it closed with string. Place the beets & onions in a large pot and cover with 3 cups water and 1 cup red wine vinegar. Add the sugar and sealed spices. Add a bit more water if necessary to ensure that the beets are covered. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a gentle simmer. Cook until the beets are tender but still have a slight crunch, about 45 minutes. Pour off 2 cups of the cooking liquid to make beet syrup. Season beets with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Let beets cool to room temperate.


2. To make the beet syrup, add 1/2 cup sugar to the reserved cooking liquid and simmer on medium heat. Reduce the syrup until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

3. Place the walnuts on a baking tray and drizzle with oil. Roast in the oven at 350F for 7 minutes. Combine 1/2 cup brown sugar with 1/4 cup water in a small pot and bring to a boil. Allow to simmer while gentle shaking the pot, without stirring, until it reaches 130C (265F) on a candy thermometer.  Place the nuts in a metal mixing bowl and pour over the caramel, stirring constantly. Spread the candied nuts on a baking tray and leave to cool.

4. Once the beets, syrup & nuts have cooled to room temperature, you are ready to assemble the salad. Strain the beets and toss in a mixing bowl with the arugula.  Drizzle some beet syrup around the plate. Place a small mound of salad on each plate (a ring-mold will help keep things neat & tidy.) Place a few slices of goat cheese on each salad and then melt it with a blowtorch. Garnish with candied walnuts.



derekbocking Derek 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. 




Pumpkin Seeds: Your New Go-To Snack

Just because the temperature’s dropping and you’re settling in for cozy nights spent watching movies by the fireplace, does not mean that you have to get back into the habit of unhealthy snacking. This autumn, put down the bag of chips and reach for these healthy (and delicious!) pumpkin seeds instead. We’ve got you covered with a variety of different recipes to jazz up these baked treats just the way you like them, from spicy to salty and even sweet. They’re so good that even your kids will love them!


Chocolate Coconut Pumpkin Seeds


Chocolate Drizzle Pumpkin Seeds


Chocolate Orange Pumpkin Seeds


Cinnamon Sugar Pumpkin Seeds


Garlic Parmesan Pumpkin Seeds


Jalapeno and Lime Pumpkin Seeds


Orange Spice Pumpkin Seeds



Susan Feniger’s Artichoke and Avocado Cooking Tips

Artichokes and avocados are two of my most favourite foods. They are both full of rich flavours, and they are delicious on their own or as an ingredient in a more complex dish.

I enjoy eating artichokes in every way imaginable: steamed, grilled, raw, or pureed. At my restaurant, STREET, we steam our artichokes, cut them into quarters and then roast them in a wood-burning oven. However, you can easily grill them for a similar effect. Once the artichokes are browned, toss them into a bowl with fresh chopped herbs (use a combination of parsley, mint, thyme, oregano, and  hoja sante), extra virgin olive oil and lemon or lime juice. Then, serve this delightful vegetable with a dipping sauce made from kalamata olives, fresh limes and mayonnaise. Alternatively, some of my other favourite flavour combinations that work extremely well with artichokes include: a Middle Eastern lemon za’atar dipping sauce with sumac (get recipe below); a quick and easy mayonnaise dip made with lime and lots of cracked black pepper; mayonnaise mixed with canned chipotle and lime; and butter dressed up with cayenne pepper, lime and salt.

When it comes to avocados, what can I say?  I love them in every single possible way! Remember, they don’t ripen on the tree, so if they are rock hard — just place them in a paper bag or leave them on the counter for a few days to ripen. Avocados should give to your touch when you apply a bit of pressure to them; and if they do, they are ready to be eaten. Here’s a simple way to enjoy avocados — cut one in half, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, salt and eat! Another way to relish in their rich flavour is to grill them on the bbq; the heat from the flames releases an incredible aroma found in the fruit’s natural oils.

Guacamole is definitely one of the most common dishes made with avocados. Give your guacamole a flavour kick by adding lime, red onions, cilantro and chilies to the mix. For the more adventurous gourmet, try adding roasted tomatillos! At home, I love to make a simple goat cheese and avocado dip by mashing avocados and goat cheese together, adding the juice of a fresh lime, and a pinch of salt and pepper. The unique taste will have your guests wondering what made the dip so great!

Avocados can also be added to soups, salsas and scrambled eggs. Since avocados are full of nutrients and healthy fats, you can substitute avocado puree for butter when finishing a soup; it gives a richness to the soup that you are sure to love. For a quick compliment to your favourite grilled meat dish, try serving a simple salsa made from corn, diced avocados, cilantro, extra virgin olive oil and lime. Scrambling eggs with diced avocado and diced tomatoes adds flavour and texture to your eggs, and it is one of my personal favourites; however, you can also mix up some tomatoes and avocados with extra virgin olive oil and top your scrambled eggs with the mixture for a hearty and comforting meal.


Artichokes with Lemon Za’atar Dipping Sauce

Serves 6

3 large artichokes
1 lemon, quartered
2 tablespoons kosher salt
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Lemon Za’atar Dipping Sauce (recipe follows)

1. To prepare the artichokes, first cut off the bottom portion of the stem, leaving only 1 inch of the stem attached. Using a sharp knife (sometimes a serrated knife works best for this), cut off the tip of the artichoke, slicing straight across about 2 inches down. Using scissors, clip off the sharp spikes on the tips of the remaining leaves.

2. Put the artichokes in a large pot, and add enough water to reach three-quarters of the way up the artichokes. Squeeze the lemon quarters into the water and then throw the quarters in as well. Add the salt and olive oil to the water. Cover, and cook over high heat until the water comes to a boil, about 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, still covered, for 30 minutes. Test an artichoke to see if it’s done by gently tugging one of the lower leaves. It should come off easily but with resistance, and the whole leaf should pull out in one piece, not fall apart.

3. Turn off the heat. Remove the artichokes, put them upside down on a plate to drain, and let them cool to room temperature, 15 to 20 minutes.

4. Once they have cooled, cut each artichoke in half lengthwise. With a spoon, gently scoop out and discard the fuzzy inner choke and the pointy purple leaves that line the inside. Cut each half in half again, creating small portions that are more easily shared. Arrange them on a platter and serve with the lemon za’atar dipping sauce.

Lemon Za’atar Dipping Sauce

Makes 1¼ cups

1 cup mayonnaise
Juice of 1 lemon (about ¼ cup)
¼ cup sesame seeds, toasted
3 tablespoons dried thyme
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon ground sumac
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Put the mayonnaise, lemon juice, sesame seeds, thyme, mustard, sumac, salt, and cayenne in a small mixing bowl. Stir well with a rubber spatula or a spoon to combine. The sauce can be refrigerated, with plastic wrap pressed against the surface, for up to 2 days.
SusanThumb  Susan Feniger is a chef, restaurant owner (STREET, Border Grill), cookbook author and Food Network personality.



Anna’s September Bake Off: Tender Pumpkin Muffins


Ah yes, it’s back to school, back to work and back to a regular routine for many of us, but hopefully baking is a regular part of that routine. While our schedules ramp up this month, I thought your homework assignment should be something straightforward and simple, but also healthy and school-friendly (no nuts).


These Tender Pumpkin Muffin are exceptionally low in fat, a snap to make, are nice and moist, and the taste starts hinting towards fall with its pumpkin & spices.


To inspire you, I want to share that my own homework assignments in terms of recipe development are not always neat & tidy.  Here is a shot of my notebooks that I use when I’m in the kitchen – I need to use pen & paper to best translate my thoughts  (a laptop in the kitchen just doesn’t cut it).



I write down everything from the date I test, the order of ingredients, the yield, track the minutes in the oven, and even taste reviews (as you can see towards the bottom of the photo, I commented that the Pear Plum Walnut Squares were “boring & dull” – clearly they have not made it in print anywhere!)


It can take many tries to get there before I type up the recipe, and even then it gets tested again before it goes to my associate who tests it in her kitchen.  Everybody gets homework!


So your homework this month is to make these Pumpkin Muffins.  I’d love to hear about your after school homework routines, or morning practices as you pack up lunches and nutrition breaks for a full, productive day at school or the office.


Next month will be a bigger challenge – with entertaining season approaching, you’re going to need a dessert that offers the “wow” factor!



Pumpkin puree is a fantastic ingredient to use in low fat and low sugar baking.  Outside of its nutritive benefits (it has alpha and beta-carotene, Vitamins C and E, potassium, magnesium and is high in fiber) pure pumpkin puree adds moisture and a natural sweetness to many recipes.
Makes 12 muffins



1 cup  whole wheat flour
2/3 cup  all-purpose flour
1 ½ tsp  baking powder
1 tsp  baking soda
½ tsp  salt
½ tsp  ground nutmeg
¼ tsp  ground allspice
1 ½ cups pure pumpkin puree
2/3 cup  packed demerara or dark brown sugar
2/3 cup  buttermilk
2  egg whites
3 Tbsp  vegetable oil

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and line a 12-cup muffin tin with large paper liners.

2.  Stir the whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg and allspice in a large mixing bowl.

3.  In a separate bowl, whisk the pumpkin, brown sugar, buttermilk, egg whites and vegetable oil.

4.  Pour the liquids into the dry mixture and stir just until blended.  Spoon the batter into the muffin cups and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until a tester inserted into the centre of a muffin comes out clean.  Cool the muffins for 20 minutes before removing from the tin.

The muffins can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days or frozen.  Do not refrigerate.


Here’s how Bake Off works:

  • Our hostess with the mostess, Anna Olson,  picks a recipe middle of every month
  • You make the recipe (follow it or add your creative flair)
  • Email us ( a picture and short descriptive blurb before October 17th 9amET for your chance to win! Anna will pick the winner (We are giving away another KitchenAid Classic Stand Mixer and an autographed copy of Anna’s cookbook). 

Anna_OlsonProfessionally trained pastry chef Anna Olson is the host of Food Network’s Bake with Anna Olson. Anna’s culinary philosophy is based on a common-sense approach of cooking and baking with the seasons, as well as respecting the ingredients, the technique and the process of sharing with others through food. Most of all, cooking and baking should be fun!


Anna’s Bake Off: Amazing Peach Berry Cobber Results

I’m thrilled that you all had such fun with August’s Bake Off Challenge (see my recipe for it below).  From your notes and photos I can tell you put your hearts into it, and your confidence shone through with the variations in fruit and presentation.  I truly appreciate the stories around your desserts.  A picture may say 1000 words, but when it comes to baking, the story really shows your commitment.



Congratulations to the winner this month: Clarice McGurk.  You captured the essence of late summer with your story and your photo, and I like how you were able to customize your cobbler, using tin cans to bake them individually!  And Honourable Mention goes to Gillian Fretiag – I’m glad that the cobbler served as the sweet ending to your parents’ anniversary dinner – sounds like it was enjoyed by all, and i hope you enjoy the cookbook you’ll receive.


And a special shout-out to Alana – it was great to see your entry after we baked together at the CNE, and another big hello to Tina Mitroi who has been following my recipes since before she moved to Canada from Romania. I look forward to seeing your results to the September challenge!



Makes 1 8-cup baking dish
Serves 6 to 8
6 cups  peeled and sliced fresh peaches
1 cup  fresh raspberries
½ cup  fresh blueberrie
3 Tbsp + ½ cup sugar, plus extra for cinnamon sugar
¼ tsp  ground cinnamon, plus extra for cinnamon sugar
2  eggs
6 Tbsp  unsalted butter, melted
2/3 cup  milk
2 cups  all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp  cornmeal
4 tsp  baking powder
½ tsp  salt

1. Preheat oven to 375 °F (190 °C).

2.  Toss the peaches, raspberries and blueberries with 3 Tbsp of sugar and ¼ tsp of the cinnamon and spread on the bottom of an 8-cup baking dish.

3.  Whisk the eggs, the remaining ½ cup of sugar, and melted butter together in a large bowl.  Whisk in the milk.  Sift in the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt and stir until combined (the batter will be wet).

4. Spoon the batter over the fruit, leaving a little space between spoonfuls to allow for expansion as the cobbler bakes.  Stir a little sugar and cinnamon together and sprinkle this overtop the cobbler.

5. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until the peach juices are bubbling and the topping is cooked through (you can lift a piece up to check that it is cooked through).

Serve the cobbler warm with ice cream.

The cobbler will keep, refrigerated for up to 2 days.

From Back to Baking, Whitecap Books, 2011


Anna_OlsonProfessionally trained pastry chef Anna Olson is the host of Food Network’s Bake with Anna Olson. Anna’s culinary philosophy is based on a common-sense approach of cooking and baking with the seasons, as well as respecting the ingredients, the technique and the process of sharing with others through food. Most of all, cooking and baking should be fun!



SugarStars Recap: Episodes 7 and 8

Last night’s back-to-back episodes of SugarStars were definitely the most glamorous of the season thus far! In the first episode, called The Garden Shop, the team worked on two very different assignments. First, they designed an interactive Sweet Court that was displayed in the middle of one of Toronto’s most popular malls, the Eaton’s Centre, to celebrate the shopping centre’s 35th anniversary. Next, Yolanda, Elle, Caspar and Antonella created a gorgeous edible contemporary garden for a historic castle. What made it more nerve-racking was that the sweet table was to be presented to a group of event planners who were sure to be super attentive to every little detail, meaning everything had to be perfect.


The shopping-inspired sweet table featured a yellow carpet framed by four podiums, each topped with a different cake (everything from hatboxes to shopping bags) and surrounded with fresh fruit, cupcakes, candy and a multi-coloured chocolate fountain (which, by the way, was gorgeous and jaw-dropping, don’t you think?). For their contemporary garden sweet table, the team was instructed to use some sort of flower ingredient in every single dessert. From edible flowers to rose water, the gang got the job done, even if they did encounter some trouble with the flower extract in Yolanda’s petit fours.

Last night’s second episode was called Beauty Boudoir and both sweet tables featured in the episode were beauty-themed. The first was for a product launch for a facial cream at a high-end department store, which inspired Yolanda to create a giant cake replica of the makeup product itself. The purple-themed table was a hit! Makeup and cakes; what could be more chic? The SugarStars’ second assignment was to turn their entire shop into an edible makeup boutique for the launch of a new cosmetics company. From edible lip gloss and brownie compacts to makeup brush-shaped desserts, don’t you think this sweet table might have been the team’s best work yet?)


Finally, in the show’s most heartwarming moment, when Elle finds out that Antonella is working on the day of her 9th wedding anniversary, she (along with Yolanda and Caspar) plan a surprise day at the spa, complete with a full makeover, for Antonella. (I won’t lie; I teared up a bit while watching that part).

What did you think of this week’s episode of SugarStars? What was your favourite creation?




Summer Squash and Beer Bisque from Dan’s Good Side


What you’ll need…

1 yellow onion (finely chopped)

2 garlic cloves (minced)

1 cup pilsner beer

3 cups zucchini squash (1? cubed)

1 cup rutabaga (peeled, 1” cubed)

2 1/2 cups chicken broth (or vegetable to stay vegan)

1 TBSP grainy dijon mustard

2 TSP soy sauce

½ cup fresh basil (chiffonaded)

1 lemon (zested and juiced)

salt and pepper

olive oil

sour cream (garnish, optional)





When I think ‘back to school’, I think ‘zucchini’ and ‘beer’. Zucchini squash because there are approximately fourteen million of them available at any grocery store or neighbour’s backyard at this time of year. Beer because, well, university life is synonymous with beer. What better way to bring these two wonderful things together than in a delicious bowl  of soup? Although the weather seems fairly temperate right now, chances are we’ll be getting some frost before the month comes to an end. Have soup on-hand and be ready to warm up! Start off by cooking the onion and garlic with a drizzle of olive oil in a medium-sized pot until softened, about 5 minutes. Pour the beer into the pot and let cook until liquid has reduced by half, about 8-10 minutes.

Add the zucchini, rutabaga, broth, mustard and soy sauce to the pot. Once it comes to a boil, reduce to low heat and let simmer for 25 minutes. Remove pot from heat to let cool slightly. Next, puree soup until smooth using a food processor or blender. Return to pot, stir in the chopped basil (reserve some for garnish, fresh lemon juice and zest. Season to taste with salt and pepper.)

For serving, place a spoonful of sour cream on top and finish with a few pieces of fresh basil.
Serves 4-5
Total cook time…45 min

dan_clapson_avatar2 Dan 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.