Family Fun: Holiday Squares for the Time-Crunched

Baking cookies for the holidays is one of my favourite seasonal to-dos. But a person becomes a little Scrooge-ish with the goodwill after a holiday bake-a-thon with a 4-year-old that includes cleaning up puffs of flour every 5 minutes. So, last weekend I turned to this 7 Layer Squares recipe. It could not be more child-friendly (plus: no flour!): the kids can truly feel like they did everything themselves and the results are always a hit.


Recipe: 7 Layer Squares

125g (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup graham crumbs
1 ½ cups shredded coconut (unsweetened)
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup butterscotch chips
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup chopped nuts (pecan, walnuts or almonds)


Preheat the oven to 350°F. Start by pouring a ½ cup melted butter into the bottom of a 13 x 9 inch oven-safe dish. Sprinkle with 1 cup graham crumbs and press down with the back of a spoon to combine and form a nice graham base.


Now, evenly sprinkle 1 ½ cups shredded, unsweetened coconut. (As you can see from the pic, this is where the kids can really start to participate.)


Now add in the 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (this is where the kids start to participate in eating the ingredients). Usually, I will add a few extra chips to help cover the whole area better.


Now, add 1 cup butterscotch chips. I find these very sweet so I do not add any more than the recipe asks for.


I added the picture below to show you the “coverage.” It is also exciting to see so many chips and imagine their melting potential (well, it is for me).


Drizzle the whole dish with about ¾ cup condensed milk. Do lick sticky fingers.


Now add your last layer — the 1 cup chopped nuts. I used walnuts but you can also use pecans or slivered almonds.


Now, drizzle on the last of the condensed milk — just for a glaze on top. You don’t have to use it all up.


Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the nuts are golden and the edges of the squares look slightly crisp. Allow to cool, then slice into squares. These cookies are rich, so I portion them very small — almost 1 x 1 inch. They look really nice on a cookie tray this way, too, and they are also perfect for a cookie exchange. You know someone will be sending out that email soon….

Recipe: 7 Layer Squares

125g (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup graham crumbs
1 ½ cups shredded coconut (unsweetened)
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup butterscotch chips
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup chopped nuts (pecan, walnuts or almonds)


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Pour the melted butter into a 13 x 9 inch baking dish.
  3. Pour in the graham crumbs and combine gently with butter to absorb and form even layer on bottom of the dish.
  4. Evenly distribute the coconut on the graham base.
  5. Evenly distribute the chocolate chips.
  6. Evenly distribute the butterscotch chips as the next layer.
  7. Drizzle ¾ can of condensed milk over the layers.
  8. Evenly distribute the chopped nuts.
  9. Drizzle with the rest of the condensed milk to act as a glaze.
  10. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the edges crisp up and the top layer is golden brown.
  11. Cool and slice into small squares.


Sue_Riedl Sue 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 4-year-old.





Boozy Leek and Mushroom Risotto with Candied Radishes and Walnuts from Dan’s Good Side

Risotto is one of those never-fail comfort foods. It’s not nearly as finicky as most people think and a little bit of arborio rice can go a long way when it comes time to feed a group of people. On top of all that, risotto has a reputation for being quite ‘fancy’. So, the next time you’re having friends over for dinner, you can whip up a filling meal for everyone in one big pan. How rad is that? Pretty rad, I’d say! Also, a little beer in your risotto never hurt anyone, right?
Now, make this for dinner tonight!


What You’ll Need…
5 cups chicken broth
1 cup cream
2 TSP yellow curry powder
1 TSP cayenne pepper
1 slice pancetta (1/4? thick, finely cubed)
2/3 cup oyster mushrooms (loosely chopped)
1 TBSP unsalted butter
1 yellow onion (finely chopped)
2 garlic cloves (minced)
1 leek (halved, thinly sliced)
1 cup Steam Whistle Pilsner
2 cups arborio rice
1 lemon (zested and juiced)
1 1/2 cups radishes (trimmed, halved)
1/3 cup cane sugar
1/3 cup water
2/3 cup walnut halves
salt and pepper
olive oil

1. First off, place the first four ingredients (chicken broth, cream, yellow curry powder, cayenne pepper) into a medium-sized pot and heat until it almost comes to a boil. Reduce to low heat to keep nice and hot. While that’s happening, fry up the bits of pancetta in a large, deep pan until they’re crispy. Remove from pan and place onto paper towel to absorb any excess grease.
2. Next, add the chopped oyster mushrooms to small pan. Let them fry in the pancetta’s fat until golden brown. About 2-3 minutes per side. Remove from pan and set aside for now.
3. Still using the same large pan, melt the butter and cook down the onions and garlic on medium-high heat for 5 minutes. Add the sliced leeks to the pan and continue to cook until the onions start to caramelize, about 8-10 minutes.
4. Pour in the beer and let it reduce by half. Now, stir in the arborio rice and let cook for another minute or so.
5. Using a ladle, pour in some of the hot broth, stir and let cook until most of the liquid is absorbed. Continue ladling and stirring until the rice has absorbed all of the broth and has an el dente texture.
6. At this point, stir the crispy pancetta and mushrooms into the risotto until evenly mixed.
7. Finally, add in the lemon juice and zest, some fresh ground pepper (salt if needed) and keep warm until ready to serve.

To candy the radishes and walnuts, first sauté the radishes lightly with a bit of olive oil in a small pan until light pink and tender, about 5 minutes. Remove from pan, add in the sugar and water and turn to medium-high heat. Let the mixture cook until almost all of the liquid has evaporated leaving thick, syrupy bubbles. Quickly toss the radishes back into the pan, along with the walnuts and toss evenly to coat. Remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes.

For serving, place a couple spoonfuls of the risotto onto a plate, then top with some of the candied radishes and walnuts. Dinner is served!

Serves 5-6
Total cook time…35 min


Dan Clapson 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.







Recipe to Riches Vote

We hope you’ve been loving Recipe to Riches this season! Now that all seven episodes have aired, the competition really begins. After seven weeks of challenges and surprise outcomes, we want you to be the judge and have your say in who goes home with the $250,000 grand prize! The voting poll opens on December 5th at 12:01pm ET and closes on December 7th at 4:59pm ET. During this time, you can vote for your favourite recipe at Then on December 12th, tune in to watch the season finale at 9pm ET/8pm PT to see which of the finalists will take home the grand prize!

You can also catch up on all the episodes during a marathon on December 5th from 3pm ET/12pm PT until 10pm ET/7pm PT.


The seven category winners eligible for the grand prize vote are:
Jason Keary, Nerepis, NB – Honey Cheese Pastries (Cakes, Puddings and Pies)
Stephen Childs, Victoria, BC – Chipotle Chili Bites (Savoury Snacks)
Tracey Rigden, Etobicoke, ON – Dulce de Leche Brownies (Cookies and Squares)
Jackie Koh, Vancouver, BC – Smoky Korean Meatballs (Hors d’Oeuvres)
Rick Matharu, Brampton, ON – Butter Chicken Lasagna (Entrées)
Don Harquail, Burnaby, BC – Golden Toffee Nut Gems (Candies and Chocolates)
Cathy Ferguson, Gloucester, ON – Montreal Deli Dip (Condiments and Dips)


The much-anticipated Recipe to Riches season finale will air December 12th at 9pm ET/8pm PT on Food Network Canada and repeat Saturday, December 15th at 7pm ET/PT on Global TV.  Recipe to Riches is produced by Temple Street Productions.




Recipe to Riches: Episode 7 Judges’ Recap




The finalists in the condiments and dips category were all very different.  I felt like Courtney’s Gourmet Mushroom Topping was leaning too much towards the high-end of the market. By the time you try to make something high-end people actually want to eat it in a restaurant or make it themselves at home. So I think it would have been a lot of harder to sell it as a product.
Kayode’s Hot Sauce surprised me! It tasted so healthy and had unbelievable texture. It wasn’t just a shot of heat and when I think of hot sauce I think of sauces that are there to mask the flavour of the food you are eating. But Kayode’s had such a complex taste it felt very healthy.
Cathy‘s Montreal Deli Dip spread was a fun concept and it really did pack an image of a whole place and culture into one pot.

Montreal Deli Dip




The condiments and dips category turned out to be way more interesting than I thought it was going to be. When I first found out we were having that category I thought we’d be brought salad dressings, chutneys and jams but we ended up getting three very unique recipes. The hot sauce was the only one that was close to being traditional but Kayode did it in such a unique way that it was brand new and fresh as well.
That meant going into batch-up, I wasn’t sure what we would get. It would either be a walk in the park or a complete nightmare. It was interesting to see that each competitor had a unique set of challenges.
I was a bit surprised that Kayode was so incredibly confident in the kitchen and brought such an ease to his recipe it just shows how well he knows it, and how he was such a deserving candidate.
I was also surprised that Courtney had trouble with her roux and getting the texture to be perfect even after we had talked about it. Her recipe had looked like it would have been the simpler of the two recipes to put together, but nothing is ever as it seems.
Cathy’s recipe was the kind of thing that you looked at on paper and thought it would be a slam-dunk but she also had her own challenges. It was interesting to see what a big kitchen does to these home cooks psychologically.

Gourmet Mushroom Topping


I thought that the Condiments and Dips category was a difficult one to judge because we had recipes that couldn’t be further apart from one another.
Cathy brought us an innovative idea of combining a Montreal Deli Sandwich into a dip and the judges had a lot of questions if this would be served fresh or in a jar. In her product launch challenge she brought in a food truck and created her own deli on the streets. But she didn’t advertise the fact that you could serve it hot or cold or the different ways in which you could use the dip. Yes it was a deli but there is so much more to her recipe than that one aspect.
Kayode brought us a hot sauce, which you automatically think “Does the world need another hot sauce?” but it was delivered in such a unique way with wonderful texture and a lot of heat. But I wasn’t happy with Kayode’s name because he focused so much on heat and didn’t get across the texture of the product. But in his product launch challenge he took the HEAT and created one of the most successful launches I’ve seen on the show. Not only did he have fire-eaters, but he let consumers take the heat challenge which was a lot more interesting then just a simple taste test.
It was very difficult to decide and I think the scale tipped to the Montreal Deli Dip because of its originality.
Tobman’s Hot Sauce


If you missed it, you can watch the full episode here.

Look for Cathy Ferguson’s President’s Choice Montreal Deli Dip in grocery stores this weekend.




Recipe to Riches: Episode 7 Recap

It was an all-Ontario battle last night on Recipe to Riches, as your favourite home-cooking competition introduced a brand-new category: Condiments and Dips. So who were these Premiers of puree, these Sultans of sauce?

-Hard-working TorontonianCourtney O’Leary offered her “gourmet mushroom topping,” a ready-made serving for adding something extra to a variety of meats.
-Gloucester’s Cathy Ferguson captured the experience of eating a Reuben sandwich in her “Montreal deli dip.”
-Hamilton resident (and aspiring filmmaker) Kayode Atobatele spiced things up with his “Tobman’s hot sauce.”


(Above from left: Cathy Ferguson, Kayode Atobatele, Courtney O’Leary)

Batch-Up Challenge
As we’ve come to expect, our competitors were uniformly unprepared for the sheer scale of cooking required of them in the first of their two tests. All three seemed to be most comfortable eyeballing their measurements, which is definitely not the way to go in the commercial kitchen, where different cooking devices—and occasionally even different ingredients—can mess with one’s recipe. That said, I liked the way Kayode handled things: instead of “batching up” directly from his home recipe, he first made a small test batch in the R2R facilities, and only when he was satisfied with that version did he up-size to the required 75 litres. The method served him well, as our judges agreed that Kayode’s sauce was even better than what they tasted in his audition.

Courtney’s mushroom topping, however, was not. She had some trouble getting the right consistency for her roux, which, frankly, is a fatal flaw when you have to serve it to Laura Calder, a bona fide expert in classical French cooking. Though conceptually sound, Courtney’s goopy final product was the least promising, and so her Recipe to Riches journey came to a close.


(Above: President’s Choice Montreal Deli Dip)

Product Launch
Sometimes I wish we as viewers got to see a bit more of the “product development” portion of each R2R contest. In a way, the show is just as much about food marketing as it is about actual cooking; the former has a significant bearing on each episode’s ultimate outcome.

In this particular product launch we saw two opposite strategies. Kayode’s marketing team talked him into focusing very specifically on a target audience of 25- to 45-year-old men, presumably the largest demographic for extra-spicy hot sauce consumption. As a result, his product was rebranded rather aggressively (as “Tobman’s Fire Starter” sauce) for the young, male market. The judges criticized Kayode’s decision to go masculine, noting that it undersold the distinctiveness of his sauce. There are dozens of “heat for heat’s sake” hot sauces, they chided. The appeal of Kayode’s product was its complexity of flavours and textures. It should’ve been a gourmet sauce, not just something you’d eat on a dare.

The creative types, on the other hand, were unable not sway Cathy. She felt she knew exactly what her product was and to whom it would appeal, and stuck to her guns accordingly. While both her recipe and Kayode’s were well received at the launch event in front of Queen’s Park, it was revealed that Cathy’s Reuben-by-the-scoopful offering, though decadent, had broader appeal among the streetside samplers. Our four judges don’t often miss a good product when it’s right in front of them, and they never overlook a niche that’s waiting to be filled. In this case they agreed with public opinion. You’ll be seeing Cathy’s meaty Montreal Deli Dip on Loblaw’s store shelves this weekend.


If you missed it, you can watch the full episode here.

Look for Cathy Ferguson’s President’s Choice Montreal Deli Dip in grocery stores this weekend.



Craig Moy





Craig is an editor at a Toronto-based city magazine. He also writes about all manner of cultural topics, including food culture.





Easy Holiday Potluck Ideas

Perhaps the most popular way that people choose to celebrate the holiday season is by throwing a potluck. It’s such an easy and fun way to bring a large group of people together and have everyone share their yummy creations. If you’re heading to a holiday potluck this season and aren’t sure what to bring, don’t fret. Here are some simple and delicious suggestions that everyone will love.


Sides and Main Dishes


Mac-and-Cheeseburger Casserole

Creamy Bacon and Broccoli Salad

Garlic and Parsley Mashed Potatoes


Green Bean Salad with Crispy Prosciutto and Warm Lemon Dressing

Savoury Corn Bread

Root Vegetable Gratin

Lasagna Rollups




Easy Mint Brownies

So Good Pumpkin Pie

Raspberry Apple Pie

Blueberry Cobbler


Shortbread Cookies

Chocolate Chip Cheesecake

Trifle with Pears and Caramel

Top 5 Casserole Recipes

It’s time for our weekly top 5 post, and this week we’re counting down the top 5 casserole recipes from the past year (according to site stats). Whether you’re heading to a potluck or you want to serve your family a warm and hearty meal that they’re sure to love, casseroles are a staple for any occasion.


1. Name-That-Tuna Casserole


Courtesy of Greta and Janet Podleski of Eat, Shrink and Be Merry, this tuna casserole recipe is only 388 calories per serving but sacrifices none of the flavour of a typical casserole.

2. Scalloped Potato Casserole


Chock full of potatoes, mushrooms, onions, ham and cheese, this casserole is the ultimate in comfort food.

3. Macaroni and Cheese Casserole


If you want to impress your little ones, this macaroni and cheese recipe is sure to do the trick. Courtesy of Theresa Albert of Just One Bite is a real treat.

4. Leftover Turkey and Polenta Casserole


Coming in at number four is this delicious leftover turkey and polenta recipe. You can do pretty much anything with leftover holiday turkey, and pairing it with tomato sauce and polenta is a fantastic option.

5. Beef Enchilada Casserole with Tomato Avocado Salad


Rounding out our top 5 is Sandi Richard‘s yummy, ooey-gooey casserole from Fixing Dinner. Bonus: it only takes 20 minutes to make!




Hasselback Potatoes from The Hot Plate


When comfort is what you’re craving, roasted chicken is a natural choice. To accompany it, potatoes and a simple green salad will do. One problem…I was already bored to tears of plain old baked, roasted or mashed potatoes. I know, I know…too early in the winter to already be bored, but come on! When you cook for a living, chances are that you’re enjoying these foods 12 months a year.
It was then, while flipping through the channels that I saw my inspiration. David Hasselhoff was up on the screen and for whatever strange reason a recipe I’d seen years ago popped into my head. I started thinking, “wasn’t there a dish name after this guy?” Well no, there isn’t a dish named after the Hoff himself, but there is a dish with close copy: The Hasselback potato.
Not just notable for its name, this uber cool potato dish is sliced into a fan-like accordion providing it with the perfect shape and texture for a crispy exterior and perfectly tender centre.
When it comes to cooking such an incredibly classic ingredient it is sometimes best to keep it simple. I dressed mine up with a little extra-virgin olive oil and kosher salt. If you’re up for a bigger pop of flavour, try using garlic and parsley oil for a great hit of freshness.
The result, the girls loved them and couldn’t believe a potato could look so gourmet after having next to nothing done to it. They were such a hit that they even asked for more! Hasselback potatoes really are the perfect way to spice up an ordinary side dish, and a great way to impress your friends with a simple potato.

Calories per serving: 183 calories, Fat: 7 grams, Sodium 590 mg, Carbs 27 grams, Fiber: 2.5 grams, Sugars 1.2 grams, Protein: 2.5 grams

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Serves 4


1 ¼ pound baby yellow potatoes
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoons maldon sea salt or kosher salt

1. Preheat the oven to 425F. Scrub the potatoes and remove any grit, pat dry.
2. Thinly slice each yellow potato into 3mm intervals without cutting all the way through the potato. Watch our quick 3-minute video to learn Amanda’s secret for foolproof hasselbacking. Use your fingers to gently separate the slices.
3. Arrange the potatoes in a single layer (cut-side up) on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Gently brush with oil and sprinkle generously with salt.
4. Bake for 30 minutes until crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. For extra crispy results, broil for 3-5 minutes. Perfect with beef, lamb, chicken or fish!


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.






Scalloped Potatoes from The Hot Plate

Some of my fondest memories of the holidays are when my family would get together for potlucks. All of us would bring our most prized dishes that we had perfected over the years.
The best part was trying each other’s dishes, and deciding who’s was the best that year. There were cakes, cookies, roasts, dips. You name it and it was there! But no matter how hard everyone worked and slaved over their dishes to win, my grandmother’s scalloped potatoes always seemed to blow everyone away.  They were so gooey, warm and packed with so much flavour. To me, this was the perfect side dish for a holiday meal.

After a few years of family reunion hiatus, I decided to start up the tradition again and gather us all for the holidays this year. In order to keep the tradition alive I needed to come up with a dish to share with everyone. I knew that it was time to come up with my own scalloped potatoes recipe that would make grandma proud!

I am so excited to have my family try these, and to let me know if they are anywhere as good as grandma’s. Believe me, they will make sure I know. I used Gruyere cheese, which will help make them extra gooey, just like hers! What makes scalloped potatoes great is that you can use your favourite kind of cheese, so it’s just the way you like it! I can tell you that if you make these for any occasion, you can’t go wrong, my grandmother sure knew that!
Calories per serving: 269, Fat: 14.5 grams, Sodium 421 mg, Carbs, 25.2 grams, Fiber 2.3 grams, Sugars 6.1 grams, Protein 13.8

*Use skim milk to cut down on fat and calories
*Gruyere cheese can be substituted for your favourite mozzarella, cheddar or other shredded cheese

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes
Serves 8


6 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 1/2 cups milk
2 cups shredded Gruyere cheese
salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 400ºF.
2. Heat an 8 to 9-inch oven safe skillet over medium heat. Add 3 tablespoons of butter and reduce heat to low; cook until melted and frothy. Add flour and whisk until lightly browned and raw taste is cooked, about 30 seconds. Season with salt and pepper. Whisk in milk until smooth.
3. Remove skillet from heat and pour milk mixture into a bowl or large measuring cup.
4. In a separate bowl, toss sliced potatoes with salt and pepper. Arrange potato slices in the skillet so that they slightly overlap. Using 1 ½ cups of the cheese, sprinkle between every second layer of potato. Pour milk mixture back into the skillet to coat potatoes. Top potatoes with remaining ½ cup cheese. Dot the cheese with the remaining tablespoon of butter; season with pepper.
5. Cover with foil and bake for 60 minutes. Remove foil and bake or broil for 5-10 minutes until top is golden and bubbly. Remove from the oven and let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

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.






Pistachio Brittle from Duhlicious

I recreated a recipe for pistachio brittle that one of my favorite pastry shops sells. I fell in love with the sweet and salty combination of this recipe.
You have the option to skip the chocolate layers and just sprinkle nuts on to the warm brittle, but if you have the time and patience, chocolate makes it that much more special.

* Make sure you have all your ingredients scaled out and ready to go– you won’t have time to measure things in between. It requires you to react quickly.
– 1 cup white sugar
– 1/2 cup light corn syrup
– 1/4 teaspoon salt
– 1/4 cup water
– 1 cup hulled pistachios, chopped
– 2 tablespoons butter, softened
– 1 teaspoon baking soda
– 1 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate, tempered and melted (optional)
+ candy thermometer

1. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or silpat. In a heavy, large sauce pan (a large one because the sugar will foam and almost double in size when you add the baking soda), over medium heat, bring sugar, corn syrup, salt, and water to a boil. Stir until sugar is dissolved.  Set candy thermometer in place and continue cooking. Stir frequently until temperature reaches 300 degrees F (150 degrees C). You’ll want to brush the sides of the pot occasionally with cool water to prevent any crystalization. This will take about 7 to 9 minutes, and it will turn an amber color.
2. Remove from heat and stir in butter, vanilla and baking soda – it will immediately get foamy. Working quickly, spread nut brittle onto prepared baking sheet.  Allow to set completely.
3. Once the brittle is completely set (approximately 30 minutes), spread a thin layer of chocolate on one side. Let it fully set, carefully flip the brittle over, and repeat. Sprinkle pistachios on the chocolate and allow to set.
4. Once the chocolate is set, you get to break the brittle into pieces. You can use a blunt object to get the process started, but it should be fairly easy.


MadalinePaulMadalina 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.






Restaurant Takeover: Chef Adam Hynam-Smith Takes Us Behind-the-Scenes

G’day folks. The larrikin Aussie here. Well what a trip being part of a hugely popular TV show!  I am very humbled.

When I left my home to travel the world I never thought I would be here writing this blog post! That said, let’s get down to business.

I get depressed when I look around at all the lifeless looking restaurants that have had no thought or love put into them.  Rundown, boring, same food, etc.  I want to see them change, because I want to see this industry grow.  It kills me to see food being mishandled, disrespected and mistreated.  We can’t just go throwing it on a plate and not think about where it came from and what went into the whole process.
This being said, it was an eye opening experience entering Hillbilly Heaven.


Undercover (I always wanted to be a spy)
So Amanda and I got briefed and handed our spy cams. You as viewers get to see some great close-ups of what’s happening at the table.
Amanda and I were both shocked at the appearance of the outside of the restaurant.  Before we had even entered we new we had our work cut out for us!  This was going to be one HELL of a ride. I hope you noticed the dryness of the proverbial mound of meat on the bun.  It was as dry as a dead dingoes donga.  This was the first thing I was going to address.  You can’t serve dry BBQ.
Amanda and I both spent the entire time at the table sliding around like we were on an ice skating rink.  The floor was so dirty and greasy that the chair would just slide away from the table mid bite!
Amanda was going to be very busy.  She needed to rip apart what can only be described as a grease trap and turn it back into a dining room!  But with her passion and talent she would make this place look amazing.

Cam Cooking For me
Okay, I was scared, let’s be honest.  I take pride in my appearance and the state of my kitchen.  After all we are serving food and we could kill someone if things are not properly maintained. So when Cam served up what can only be described as a T-rex size portion of meat my heart sank. Picking that thing up was one thing.  Eating it was an entirely different story. I was worlds apart from what I had eaten during the stakeout. Why can’t he serve it like this all the time?
I mentioned to him that one of the reasons he was losing money was because he was putting wads of cash on the plates for the guests to take home with them.  Step one was making Cam see what I was seeing.


Low Point Tour
Bringing in Cam to see the devastation of hurricane Igor was interesting. Cam bragged about how he had done a lot of the upkeep and little renos to the place.  Like I said.  Cam is clearly not that handy with a hammer.   I gotta be honest, I was kind of excited by the whole thing.  You could feel the pressure, not only of Cam thinking what have we done and can we finish it in time, but also by the realization that we had a lot to do and little time to do it.  I love pressure!

Menu Talk
You all know the drill with how these menu-grading talks work.  I am going to give you a behind-the-scenes heads up.  Cam and I came to a head.  We had a massive argument.  I now had a real challenge to make him see what I was trying to achieve.  I had put myself deep in a hole and it was going to be a tough climb out.
It was important that I make Cam see that with the change of the resto the menu had to follow.  With the work that Amanda was doing the options were now there to attract a bigger demographic.  But the food had to speak the same words.

Salad, salad, salad.  Just because it’s a BBQ joint does not mean you can’t have salad on there somewhere.  It’s something different to cater to the people who don’t want 45678 pounds of meat on their plate. So I decided to invite Cam to come onto my truck and see what I do out of a tight space while serving a monster line up.

Field Trip
So first things first, I took Cam to get some beautiful fresh produce from the local farms to use as a salad of the truck.  The guy thought garlic comes from a jar! This was going to be a challenge. We got to the truck to set up for a service while the line formed outside. And all the time I was putting the pressure on Cam.  I wanted to make him sweat!

We got thumped. It was a busy service.  Though edited to a short clip Cam spent the entire service on the truck and to my shock picked up the flow and was pumping along.  And believe it or not, he was starting to see how a salad is an important option.


RTO Kitchen
The food I put together for Cam was aimed at getting new customers.   I love the cucumber salad. A crisp, sweet, pretty dish that’s easy to prep and bang out during the rush, just the fit for the all-new Hillbilly Heaven.  And to my surprise Cam was starting to see where I was coming from.  Though I was always wondering if he was just hamming it up.  But nonetheless he loved the salad.
Cam really enjoyed the remake of the pulled pork.  But he is stuck on serving big portions of meat. I tried!

So both Amanda and I were very nervous while we were waiting to get Cam to bring him in.  We did not know what to expect from his reaction.
Amanda had done an amazing job; the restaurant looked brand new, a huge breath of fresh air.  Now to get Cam to stick with my menu!

Cam loved the place.  He spoke to us of his worries and told us that he was unsure if Amanda and I would not be able to come through with the goods.  But he was happy with the result and was itching to get back into work and start serving some new customers.





Recipe to Riches: Episode 6 Recap

Another batch of three Canadians sought the sweet smell (and taste) of success on last night’s Candies and Chocolate episode of Recipe to Riches. Let’s take a closer look at who they were and how their food fared.

– Mont-Jolie, Quebec music teach Lucie Dion presented to the country her Sucre à la Crème, a Quebecois tradition she learned from her grandmother and mother.
– Montreal-based gallerist Robert Armatta proffered vegan-friendly Dark Chocolate Treats, which he originally developed in an effort to draw some extra traffic to his art showroom.
– Burnaby, B.C.’s Don Harquail’sGolden Toffee Nut Gems were but one example of how cooking helped him recover from a brain aneurysm.


(Above from left: Robert Armatta, Lucie Dion, Don Harquail)

Batch-Up Challenge
Our contestants were tasked with producing 1,000 portions of their respective treats. Easy peasy, right? I mean, Robert just needed to melt some chocolate onto a cookie crumble, and Lucie was only heating sugar into fudge. And Don’s recipe—essentially nuts, caramel and a drop of chocolate—wasn’t much more complex. But I’m sure none of you were deceived, faithful Food Network viewers that you are. The preparation of all three treats required careful monitoring, to ensure that finicky ingredients didn’t burn, congeal or worse.

For the most part, things went surprisingly smoothly. Lucie did have a mixer explode on her, and Don was nearly foiled by the unruly foil wrapped around his baking sheets, but all in all this batch-up contest seemed relatively trauma-free.

Even judges’ table was a reasonably sweet-natured affair. Robert’s treats, which Laura noted were like a truffle on top and breakfast on the bottom, earned kudos for originality and healthiness (specifically pertaining to his vegan-friendly base). It also seemed like they were the perfect size for snacking, unlike Don’s toffee squares, which were criticized for being the size of flooring tiles. So I was surprised when the Montreal gallerist and his offering were shown the exit. Did I miss something?!?


(Above: President’s Choice Triple Nut Toffee)

Product Launch
Not that Don and Lucie weren’t worthy of continuing onward. They both had appealing recipes that were quickly turned into potentially marketable food products. The former had his golden toffee nut gems renamed as Triple Nut Toffee (was I the only one who hadn’t realized there were three nuts in that recipe?), while somewhat sadly, Lucie ended up deemphasizing the Quebecois nature of her treat, calling it “Sweet Moments” instead.

I was happy to see that, once they were sent out into the world, so to speak, our home cooks finally broke from what was, in my opinion, a played-out trend: neither of them used dancers to help launch their wares! They still did, however, fall into the familiar trap of doing almost too much to bring customers to their events. Lucie’s focus on offering an “indulgent” experience meant that shirtless men and free massages took precedence over her fudge, while Don spent altogether too much time wrangling his hyperactive chipmunk mascots.

Fortunately, their products were strong enough to overcome any launch missteps—Lucie garnered 95/84/97 splits on the enjoy/buy/recommend scale, while Don had an even stronger 99/93/97 showing. The numbers, in this case, did not lie, and the boisterous man from Burnaby edged out his Quebecois counterpart to take not only the challenge win, but the overall victory as well. Of the episode’s three sweets, his was the most novel without being “unfamiliar.” And while his recipe was arguably more complicated, he benefitted from the judges’ concern that Lucie’s fudge would be too unpredictable to produce on a mass scale.

Look for Don Harquail’s President’s Choice Triple Nut Toffee in grocery stores this weekend!

If you missed it, you can watch the full episode here.


Craig Moy

Craig is an editor at a Toronto-based city magazine. He also writes about all manner of cultural topics, including food culture.







Recipe to Riches: Episode 6 Judges’ Recap




Robert had a delicious truffle thing, but he had changed it so much during the batch up that I felt I was judging a completely different recipe. The wholesomeness of his base contrasted too much with his decadent truffle-y topping.
Lucie made one of the best fudges during the audition round that I have ever tasted. But when she got to the batch up it crystallized and that’s when I realized that the strength of that recipe was in the texture and not so much in the taste because it’s sugar, that’s what fudge is, sugar. Unless you get that texture where it’s really doing things in your mouth, you lose the recipe.
Don made his squares the size of kitchen tiles, they were huge! But he had a lot of tastes and textures layered up. There was a crunch of nuts and a squishy crunch of the cookie caramel base. They were delicious and complex in their taste and texture, but they were just too big!

Dark Chocolate Treats




The candies and chocolate batch up was really interesting. I didn’t expect to walk into the kitchen and see Lucie struggling and looking like a deer in headlights. I think that the initial discomfort she had in that big kitchen setting might have been what was her downfall was and why she wasn’t able to focus on just getting her recipe the way it is when she makes it at home.
Robert surprised me at how calm and cool he was considering that he was making a brand new cookie base that he was quite unfamiliar with. If we had taken some of Lucie’s anxiety and put it into Robert then that would have helped both of them!
I just loved watching Don’s team. They were very efficient and they were also having a lot of fun. It was the perfect atmosphere for a batch up; that’s exactly how you want to see things go and surprise, surprise it worked out perfectly for him in the end!
Going to the batch-ups this year has been a great benefit to me because I love to see how the competitors work. As much as the mentors are bright people and they communicate their insights very well, it’s still not the same as being there and seeing how they are interacting with one another and the choices they are making.

Golden Toffee Nut Gems


The candies and chocolate competition was a lot fiercer than I had originally imagined. Lucie had an incredible passion for her recipe and for her Quebec roots but where she went sideways was in her product launch challenge. She moved from Sucre a la Crème to Sweet Moments. Her concept was when you ate her candy it would take you to a Sweet Moment, which is more of an advertising concept then a product name. At her event she had a massage table, harpist and then these half naked sort of Chippendale guys. I wasn’t sure where the focus was, and you certainly wouldn’t be able to eat Sucre a la Crème while you’re laying face first on a massage table. The whole event got lost in translation.
Don came up with a beautiful brand name called Triple Nut Toffee. He’s a quirky guy and that quirkiness was certainly demonstrated in his event. He created a forest and had giant chipmunks running around and he had a lot of energy, which was fantastic to see. The only criticism I gave him was that some of his products ended up on the ground. I wasn’t sure if they fell off the tray or people tried them and didn’t like them, but regardless I saw Don step over them at least twice. When you’re running a marketing event, attention to detail is so important. It sent a signal to people that the product wasn’t worth tasting, and that Don was more interested in the fun of his event then the actual reason he was there.
Sucre à la Crème


If you missed it, you can watch the full episode here.

Look for Don Harquail’s President’s Choice Triple Nut Toffee in grocery stores this weekend!




Family Fun: Sneaky Cauliflower Pancakes



I told Felix we were having pancakes for dinner the other night — which was a little bit sneaky, because they were cauliflower pancakes. I wasn’t really worried: he loves them and they’re delicious; plus, so simple to make.


Recipe: Cauliflower Pancakes
Makes about 10 pancakes. For a bigger batch, double the recipe.

4 cups grated cauliflower (about ½ kg of whole cauliflower)
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 eggs
2 teaspoons salt
pepper (to taste)


You can serve them with a bit mayo on the side and a green salad. They also make a nice addition to a pot luck, or even as little appetizers if you fry them bite-sized. I’m not kidding, these ’cakes are seriously good; craveable, even. And, aside from the frying, they are totally kids-in-the-kitchen friendly.


I usually use half your average large-ish cauliflower, which is about 4 cups grated or about ½ a kilo in size. Before you grate, remove the interior stem and any outer leaves.


Cut the cauliflower into large, manageable pieces and grate on the largest holes.


You can have some smaller lumps — but no large bits, or the pancakes won’t hold together.


Add 3 eggs and 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour to the grated cauliflower. Mix well, also adding 2 teaspoons salt and as much pepper as you enjoy.


Put a non-stick pan over medium-high heat and add enough vegetable oil (I like to use a neutral oil, like canola) to just coat the bottom. Use a heaping soup-spoon of batter for each pancake. Fry each side until golden and crisp.


Cool slightly on paper towels. Now, they’re ready to eat!


I allow these to be eaten sans utensils and with much mayonnaise. But I do insist on many napkins.
Recipe: Cauliflower Pancakes
Makes about 10 pancakes. For a bigger batch, double the recipe.

4 cups grated cauliflower (about ½ kg of whole cauliflower)
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 eggs
2 teaspoons salt
pepper (to taste)


  1. Cut out the core of the cauliflower and peel off any leaves.
  2. Cut it into large pieces and grate on the largest holes of your grater.
  3. Put the grated cauliflower into a medium bowl and add the flour, eggs, salt and pepper. Mix until well combined.
  4. Heat a non-stick pan over med-high. Add enough vegetable oil to coat the bottom.
  5. Fry the pancakes a few at a time using a heaped soup spoon of batter for each. Cook 1-2 minutes on each side or until golden.


Sue_Riedl Sue 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.





Les Petit Chefs Go Molecular from

This week Les Petits Chefs really got to see the marriage of science and cooking (perfect since we work out of the science lab!) thanks to the generosity of Chef John Placko of the Modern Culinary Academy. Yes, the man who has dined at El Bulli in Spain and Noma in Denmark graced us with his presence for a fleeting (but action packed) hour this week and I can safely say we all left the labs thinking that science is way more fun than we thought!

Chef John has worked in Canada for the past 17 years with various organizations including Cara Operations Ltd, Prime Restaurants Inc, Campbell Company of Canada and recently completed 3 years as Director of Culinary Excellence at Maple Leaf Foods’ ThinkFOOD! centre. He has worked in Australia and Mexico in hotels, airline and contract catering as well as restaurants. He has competed in culinary competitions in Australia, Germany, Canada and France (in the prestigious Bocuse d’Or competition). Over the past 6 years he has been invited to present, demonstrate and teach modern cuisine to various culinary groups including GFTC, Humber College, George Brown College, The Cookbook Store and Nella Cucina. His articles on molecular gastronomy, restaurants and other topics can be found in Food and Hospitality Magazine and Food in Canada Magazine. He runs John Placko Culinary Consulting and recently launched Modern Culinary Academy to promote the awareness and education of molecular gastronomy. Whew! What a resume! We are so lucky to have welcomed him into our humble labs!
Chef John came with an ambitious list of four recipes we would tackle in small groups, changing every 12 minutes or so (he’s so precise, you can tell he’s a Chef!) so that each group would work with each recipe. Organised chaos? Maybe. Fun? SO. MUCH.

I was put on the “Yoghurt Sheet” station where the boys and I worked with Iota carrageenan and Kappa carrageenan (both of which work to form an elastic gel when mixed with dairy proteins) to transform yoghurt into thin sheets that you can roll up around various fillings. Magic!

Meanwhile, over on the “cranberry foam” station, the boys worked with Ms Stephenson using cranberry juice, Versawhip and Xanthan gum to create a stable foam tasting just like cranberry sauce, only without the lumps! So pretty! This foam also stays stable for several hours and can even be caramelized with a blow torch! Super cool.
Chef John manned the “Chocolate Micro Sponge” station where the boys made chocolate cake batter, poured it into those whipped cream dispensers you see at Starbucks (charged with Nitrous Oxide – N2O), then dispensed it into paper cups with slits down the side to allow some air circulation. Then they popped them in the microwave and zapped them for 45 seconds and watched as the magic happened…

Meanwhile, on the “melon caviar” station, Ms. Carter supervised what Chef John had demonstrated right at the start of the session.  Melon juice and sodium alginate are mixed together in a blender to form the “gummy” base for the “caviar”. The liquid is then dripped, one drop at a time into a mixture of water and calcium chloride – the setting bath – where it forms little pearls, or the “caviar”.
And the results? Well Chef John had us plate all the ingredients and they came together to produce a remarkably cohesive plate.  The boys seemed to love it and headed out with an odd assortment of food in their tupperwares, thrilled and proud of what they had achieved over the course of a short hour. Who said that cooking with kids can’t be sophisticated? Chef John shares my view that if you raise the bar high, kids will come up to meet it.  I am SO proud of the guys. Some weeks more than others they totally make me want to tell everyone how great they are. Thank you Chef John for sharing your knowledge in a patient, organized and fun way – it’s definitely an afternoon we will all remember!


 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!


Holiday Gift Guide: For the Fashionable Foodie

The Fashionable Foodie

For the one on your list who simply can’t resist dotting their home with beautifully curated pieces and splashes of colour.


1. Take a Bow

Prim, pretty and totally Upper West Side, this dainty glass bowl ties up any decor loose ends.

Kate Spade New York Grace Avenue Large Crystal Bowl. $65. Available at The Bay. 

2. Serves You Right

Gold accessories are all the rage. Add a touch of glamour to the table with this covetable set.

Doma Serving Set, US $128. Available at Anthropologie.

3. Spice Girl

Add a pinch of pretty to the pantry with spice jars crowned by coloured tops.

Chalkboard Spice Jar. US $12. Available at Anthropologie.

4. Whisky a Go-Go

Deck out the bar cart Mad Men-style with these sophisticated glass bottles that can also be monogrammed.

Vintage Whiskey Bottle. $32. Available at West Elm

5. Cocktail Hour

These linen hemstitched cocktail napkins are a throwback to more elegant times, when blotting one’s lipstick just so was the kind of signature move only the most glamourous ones could pull off.

Hemstitched Cocktail Napkins. $46. Available at Williams-Sonoma. 

6. Style Coaster

These shimmery coasters go with just about any colour palette and are even better when paired with a chilled bottle of bubbly.

Glitter Coasters, set of 4. $35. Available at Chapters. 

7. Ain’t It Dwell

The iconic fish scale motif gets re-imagined in this DwellStudio tray that boasts hand screen-printed glass framed by lacquered wood.

DwellStudio Scallop Square wood tray. US $98. Available at Zinc Door.

8. Party Favours

These appetizer dishes come in a rainbow of sherbet-bright colours and look fantastic when filled with spiced nuts, dips or even candy.

Lunares Appetizer Bowls Set. $190. Available at ShopBop.

9. Hi, Tea

There’s nothing dusty about this tea set. The so-chic-it-hurts cup and saucer collection by celebrated British artist Damien Hirst features six of his most recognizable artworks and is decidedly grown up.

Damien Hirst: Mixed Anamorphic Cup And Saucer Set. US $125. Available at MoMA Store. 

10. Nice Mug

The iconic pattern on this Jonathan Adler mug has a bold and retro vibe that serves as the visual kick in the pants we need some mornings.

Jonathan Adler Carnaby Vertabrae Mug, US $18. Available at Zinc Door.

Book Review: Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi


The Stats

Title: Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi
Price: $35.00
Availability: Major book retailers

The Book

Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi grew up on two different sides of one city.  Sami was a child in Muslim east-Jerusalem, with Yotam in the Jewish west. Although being born in the same city and in the same year, the two didn’t meet until nearly three decades later – world’s away in London UK.  Becoming close friends and business partners (Tamimi is part owner of Ottolenghi’s eponymous chain of restaurants and the co-author of Ottolenghi: The Cookbook (Ebury Press, 2008).) the two began to explore their parallel childhoods, and the city so rich in culture that is their common bond.

Ottolenghi’s latest follows the New York Times bestseller Plenty (Chronicle Books, 2011) which was an ode to vegetables with a collection of fresh and original plant-based fare. Jerusalem’s focus is on the traditional, with 120 age-old recipes based on the rich cultural traditions of the Mediterranean, and the flavours that are embedded in both Ottolenghi and Tamimi’s DNA. Some recipes are classics, some have benefitted from creative updates and lastly others are inspired by the flavours of the city itself.

The spirit of Jerusalem is wound through the book, with a brief introduction outlining the history of the city and its complicated past. Photographer Jonathan Lovekin showcases gorgeous food images alongside more candid snaps of everyday life. While the book’s recipes focus on its namesake city, There are dishes with Palestinian and Georgian influence as well. Jerusalem is a cultural melting pot and home to Jews originating from Russia, Poland, Tunisia, Libya, France, Britain, Iraq, Ethiopia, Argentina as well as Christians and Muslims.  The result is a complex and cosmopolitan book full of the unpredictable, family recipes, heart-warming nods to childhood, and a wonderful homage to the city from which the book takes its name.

Overall:  As with Plenty, a number of dishes require ingredients that are not pantry staples, so the dishes take some pre-planning. This book assumes basic culinary knowledge. With exciting flavors, and both inventive and traditional combinations, Jerusalem is the most enticing cookbook I have seen in a while. Jerusalem has me excited about Middle Eastern basics like Hummus. I don’t think I have ever been this excited about hummus.
Selected Recipes
? Na’ama’s fattoush (Worth getting the book for this recipe alone)
? Burnt eggplant & mograbieh soup (Palestinian equivalent to cous cous) soup
? Pistachio soup
? Ruth’s stuffed Romano peppers
? Roasted chicken with clementines & arak

Food Porn Rating: 5 out of 5 on the food porn scale. Part cookbook, part travelogue, Jerusalem features gorgeous photos of Israeli marketplaces and mouthwateringly beautiful dishes.


Final Analysis

You may like it if…
? You have a love of history, culture, trying new things.
? You are unapologetically into farmers markets, organics, the fresh & the best
? You love preparing food, are awed by unique flavours, love wandering through spice markets.

You may not like it if…
? If you are looking for quick, no-nonsense easy weeknight meals
? You do not have easy access Mediterranean ingredients
? Are not into trying new or unfamiliar flavors (although, I would still give it a try)




Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Fresh Figs

4 small sweet potatoes (2 lb / 1 kg in total)
5 tbsp olive oil
scant 3 tbsp / 40 ml balsamic vinegar (you can use a commercial rather than a premium aged grade)
1 tbsp / 20 g superfine sugar
12 green onions, halved lengthwise and cut into 1-in / 4cm segments
1 red chile, thinly sliced
6 ripe figs (8 oz / 240 g in total), quartered
5 oz / 150 g soft goat’s milk cheese (optional)
Maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper



Preheat the oven to 475°F / 240°C.
Wash the sweet potatoes, halve them lengthwise, and then cut each half again similarly into 3 long wedges.
Mix with 3 tablespoons of the olive oil, 2 teaspoons salt, and some black pepper.
Spread the wedges out, skin side down, on a baking sheet and cook for about 25 minutes, until soft but not mushy.
Remove from the oven and leave to cool down.
To make the balsamic reduction, place the balsamic vinegar and sugar in a small saucepan.
Bring to a boil, then decrease the heat and simmer for 2 to 4 minutes, until it thickens.
Be sure to remove the pan from the heat when the vinegar is still runnier than honey; it will continue to thicken as it cools.
Stir in a drop of water before serving if it does become too thick to drizzle.
Arrange the sweet potatoes on a serving platter.
Heat the remaining oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat and add the green onions and chile.
Fry for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring often to make sure not to burn the chile.
Spoon the oil, onions, and chile over the sweet potatoes.
Dot the figs among the wedges and then drizzle over the balsamic reduction.
Serve at room temperature. Crumble the cheese over the top, if using.


Excerpted from Jerusalem.  Copyright © 2012 Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi.  Published by Appetite by Random House Canada, which is a division of Random House of Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.




Jennifer Myers is lead web designer on & She loves deconstructing recipes in her mostly all-white loft with her mostly all-white French Bulldog.



How to Create Your Own Holiday Sweet Table

The holidays are upon us, and I couldn’t be more thrilled! In my house, we dance, eat, sing and be merry, and we love to go a little crazy with the festive extras.
For me, entertaining loved ones in fun, delicious elegance is the whole point of the holiday season. Allow me to share with you a few easy tips for creating your own sweet table that you can be proud to show off!
1. Pick your colour palette and/or theme.
Yes, the general theme is of course the holidays but here is where you get to be inventive! What does the season mean to you? What do you most look forward to about this time of year? The standard red and green shades can be made new by the introduction of less-traditional tones to spice them up. I like to take one main color and mix and match different shades and textures for a very eye-pleasing effect.

2. Use what you have at home
It isn’t always necessary to go out and buy everything new. Yes, we aim to be stylish and cutting-edge, but there is definitely something to be said for the fine skill of re-purposing old decorations, platters, jars, etc. If food will not be directly touching the item, don’t be afraid to paint it to match your color palette!
3. Ribbon, paper & flowers make ALL the difference!
Yes, it is all about the desserts but a crafty host wants to give their treats a table that is like a glamorous miniature party! Scour craft stores for coordinating ribbons and strings to tie around jars, and pretty papers to line platters and trays. Mismatched trays can still look great together if they are lined in the same coloured paper, or tied with matching ribbons. Sometimes, just to be extra sweet, I skip the paper and instead make a layer of colored sugar to lay my treats on. And, never underestimate style and beauty a floral arrangement brings to a table! The secret is in the details.
4. Don’t be afraid to outsource
In a perfect world, we’d never run out of time to bake but this is the busiest time of year! Don’t consider it cheating if you make some things and buy or order the others. If given enough notice, most bakeries will customize colours and flavours to match your theme and décor.

5. Candy is a must!
It’s not just about the baked goods . . . candy is an important part of the sweet table too! Bulk food stores tend to have the best selection, and you can buy as much or as little as you need. I like to put out little paper bags and scoops so my guests can take some treats home with them.
6. Choose a focal point to the table
As a general rule, the tallest item on the table is the centrepiece. Tiered cakes, floral arrangements, tall candy jars and macaron/cupcake towers all make excellent focal points, and from there you can strategically display the rest of your treats around it.

7. Get the kids involved
The holidays are about family time, and creating lasting memories that turn into family traditions. Obviously, small kids shouldn`t operate the oven but there are lots of things they can help out with, like pressing cookie cutters, spoon-mixing batter, or decorating gingerbread houses. Unsteady little hands can ice cupcakes and cookies to look surprisingly abstract-chic.
8. Have fun!
The most important message I can pass on is to make it fun! In my house, we blast music and get very jolly while we’re baking and decorating. If you aren’t having fun, you’re missing the whole point!


Open-faced French Macarons
Ingredients: (makes 30 half-shells)
90g ground almonds
135g powdered sugar
75g egg whites
50g granulated sugar
Food colouring of your choice

Sift ground almonds & powdered sugar together in a mixing bowl. Measure egg whites into another clean mixing bowl.
Using a whisk attachment, start whipping egg whites at medium speed and slowly add the granulated sugar.
Gradually increase speed and continue to whisk the whites until they form a glossy stiff meringue, and the sugar is dissolved. Add food colouring and mix just until nicely blended. Adding the dry ingredients just a little bit at a time, carefully fold the meringue and gently blend. *Careful not to over-mix!
Spoon mixture into a pastry bag with a 10mm tip. Onto a baking sheet covered with parchment paper, pipe small rounds. Since they will spread in baking, it is best to keep them under 3cm in diameter. Let rest on baking sheet for 15-30 minutes before baking at 160 C for about 12 minutes.
Let cool on cooling rack, then remove from parchment paper. Cookies should come off easily if they are cooked enough.


Dark Chocolate Ganache
150g whipping cream
150g dark chocolate (64% min. cocoa content)

Weigh chocolate into a medium-sized bowl. Cut into small pieces.
Weigh whipping cream into saucepan, bring to a boil, then pour heated cream over dark chocolate in several stages, making sure it is smooth and well-incorporated every time. Refrigerate for about 40 minutes or until texture is workable.
White Chocolate Ganache
45 g cream
100 g white chocolate
pinch of fleur de sel
Once mixed, the method is the same as for chocolate ganache. For variety and different flavor, it can be folded into Greek yogurt or mascarpone after the ganache is cool but still soft, the amount of yogurt or cheese depends on your taste preference. For example, start with 100 g of yogurt and add more if you prefer.
You can garnish with berries, figs, pomegranate seeds, kiwi, your favorite nuts and a chunk of your favorite chocolate.



Video: Chuck Hughes on the Chef’s Challenge for a Cure 2012

On December 1st, Food Network celebrity chefs Chuck Hughes, Lynn CrawfordMichael Smith, Mark McEwan and David Rocco will be competing as part of the Chef’s Challenge for a Cure at The Fairmont Royal York in Toronto. The event raises funds for breast and ovarian cancer research and education at Mount Sinai Hospital. This year’s special guest host is Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives host, Guy Fieri.

We caught up with Food Network Canada’s Chuck Hughes for some insight about the event.


Check out the video below for a touching (and sometimes hilarious!) interview with Chuck Hughes and find out why the event hits so close to home, and who he hopes to beat during the challenge.