Weeknight Meal: Turkey Stuffed Bell Peppers

By Randa Derkson

I’ll never forget the first time I made these stuffed peppers. I originally made them because they were a healthier option to what I was craving (Sloppy Joes) and while they were in the oven, the doorbell rang. It was my photographer, hand-delivering my son’s first birthday photos.

Ever since that day, the smell of these stuffed peppers roasting in the oven reminds me of running into my home office, popping the disc of images into my computer and being overjoyed with the memories captured from my son’s birthday, smashed cake and all. It gives me butterflies just thinking about it.

This recipe also shows me how far my blog has come. The stuffed peppers recipe is my most-pinned recipe on Pinterest and by far the most popular recipe on my blog. The original photo was a poorly lit, badly filtered image, yet still gathered an audience of admirers. It’s a reminder of my humble beginnings in both my personal and professional life.

Isn’t it amazing how a simple recipe can leave a lasting impression on your heart?

Paleo Turkey Stuffed Peppers, Courtesy of Randa Derkson, thebewitchinkitchen.com, Terrace, B.C.

Developed as a healthier alternative to Sloppy Joes, these baked peppers are just as easy to prepare for a fast and filling weeknight meal.

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Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour
Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Ingredients
1 tbsp (15 mL) olive oil
1 lb (450 g) ground turkey
3 cups (750 mL) spinach
2 cups (500 mL) crushed tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp (15 mL) chopped fresh parsley
1 tbsp (15 mL) chopped fresh basil
1 tsp (5 mL) dried oregano
1 tsp (5 mL) sea salt
3 red bell peppers, stems removed, halved and seeded

Directions
1. In large skillet over medium heat, heat oil. Add turkey; sauté no longer pink inside. Add spinach, stirring until wilted.
2. Stir in tomatoes, garlic, parsley, basil, oregano and salt. Simmer for 20 minutes.
3. Place on rimmed baking sheet. Divide turkey mixture evenly among pepper halves. Cook in 425°F (220ºC) oven for 25 minutes, or until meat mixture has browned and peppers are tender.

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The Bewitchin’ Kitchen
Randa is a work-at-home mom who resides in British Columbia. She believes that the kitchen is the heart of the home. Whether it’s discussing your day, sharing the highlights of a trip or just having quality time with a loved one, life revolves around the kitchen table.

How Cream Cheese Transformed This Banana Cake

By Audrey Vrooman, as told to Alex Mlynek

Former bank executive Audrey Vrooman’s post-retirement passions—cake decorating and quilting—led her to this moist and flavourful banana cake. It’s become her go-to recipe for when a special treat is called for to celebrate family and friends, plus she gets special requests to make it for weddings and showers once or twice a year.

Twelve years ago, I was putting together a cookbook for our quilting guild to sell as a fundraiser. One of the members of our guild at that time, Ruby Sowpel, gave me a banana cake recipe. After reading the directions, it struck me as a very old recipe, so I had to ask Ruby where she got it from. She told me that when she was a young bride—so in the early 1940s—she had been given this recipe by her sister-in-law, who had received it many years before from her mother-in-law. We were able to trace the origin back to about 1900. It was originally handwritten with things like “a handful of butter”—there was no measuring. When I included this recipe in the book, I had to convert all the ingredients from the original instructions into what I guessed they’d be in measuring cups.

I like the original recipe, but I’ve made some changes that I think result in a much lighter, fluffier and longer-lasting cake. Using buttermilk, instead of regular milk or cream, definitely helps lengthen the life of the recipe. I also use a lot more bananas than the original recipe called for—I wouldn’t add any fewer than five.

Ruby’s original banana cake was served with maple fudge frosting, but I don’t care for the kind of firmness that a fudge icing gives (it makes it harder to decorate), so I started experimenting. I really like my recipe for maple cream cheese frosting even better than other versions I’ve seen because it’s less stiff on the cake. The original recipe called for chopped walnuts; personally, I wouldn’t put chopped walnuts in many things, as they go rancid easily. But in the olden days, that was all you could get. We’re quite spoiled. For instance, I remember that when it was winter, you didn’t get certain fruit or vegetables, but now we can get everything we want year-round.

I didn’t grow up in a family where my mother did much cooking or baking; it’s something I came to after I retired. I started to make cakes for my grandsons, and at first, I would make just chocolate and white. When I found this banana cake recipe, I began to play around with it. It reminds me of how when I was a child, my mother used to make banana bread. That would be a really special treat for us.

A bride-to-be asked if I would make her this cake for her wedding. On the night of her wedding, she wrote me an email while traveling between her reception and hotel room to say how awesome the cake was, that there was none left. That was really, really nice.

The truth is I don’t eat much dessert, but I do love to make them. I like the satisfaction of knowing how happy they make other people. This is a delicious, awesome cake, and people are going to get a lot of accolades if they make it.

Banana Cake With Maple Cream Cheese Frosting, courtesy of Audrey Vrooman

Banana cake with Maple Cream Cheese icing - Blog Embed

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 1 ¼ hours
Yields: 1 large 9-inch (2.5 L) square cake or 9-inch (1.5 L) round cake, or 12 to 16 servings

Ingredients
Cake
5 bananas, peeled
1 tsp (5 mL) baking soda
½ cup (125 mL) butter
1½ cups (375 mL) granulated sugar
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups (500 mL) cake-and-pastry flour
2 tsp (10 mL) baking powder
½ tsp (2 mL) salt
1 cup (250 mL) buttermilk
1½ tsp (7 mL) vanilla

Frosting
250 g tub cream cheese
¼ cup (60 mL) butter
¼ cup (60 mL) pure maple syrup, medium grade
1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla
1 tsp (5 mL) pure maple extract
4 cups (1 L) icing sugar
2 tbsp (30 mL) meringue powder

Directions
Cake
1. In small bowl, mash bananas; add baking soda. Set aside.
2. In separate bowl, cream butter with sugar; whisk in eggs.
3. In third bowl, mix together flour, baking powder and salt. Add one-third of flour mixture to butter mixture, stirring to combine. Stir in half of the buttermilk. Stir in another third of the flour, the remaining buttermilk and the remaining flour. Stir in banana mixture; stir in vanilla.
4. Scrape into cake pan. Bake in 350°F (180°C) oven for about 40 minutes. (Option: Slice cake horizontally to make two layers, instead of cake with no layers.)

Frosting
1. In large bowl, beat together cream cheese and butter until smooth. Add maple syrup, vanilla and maple extract; beat until well combined. Beat in icing sugar and meringue powder until smooth.
2. Ice top and sides and cake.

Option for layer cake with banana filling: Cut cake horizontally into 2 layers. Ice cut side of bottom layer (you could use vanilla cream cheese icing between layers with maple cream cheese icing on top and sides of cake. To make vanilla cream cheese frosting, omit maple syrup and maple extract). Lay sliced bananas on top of iced layer. Replace second layer of cake over filling, cut side down. Frost sides and top of cake.

Any leftover cake or icing can be double-wrapped in plastic wrap and frozen for up to three months.

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Fried Zucchini: A 15-Minute Recipe With Crunch

By Alisha Enid

My mother always found ways to spend one-on-one time with each of her three children. Usually she would show up at school, pull one of us out for the day and we would enjoy a special lunch at a restaurant, just the two of us. Those are the days I remember like they were yesterday.

On one of these lunches, she asked if I wanted to share a plate of zucchini sticks. We didn’t really eat zucchini growing up, but I was feeling adventurous that day, so I agreed.

The sensation of the crunchy coating combined with the mild flavour of the zucchini made this dish love at first bite.

Since then, I have tried many versions of zucchini sticks. Baked, fried, coated, uncoated, you name it: they all make me think of those lunches with Mom. To this day, when we go out for lunch, we always share a plate of zucchini sticks. It’s tradition now, and one that I hope to continue with my own sons.

In this version, I went for zucchini rounds rather than sticks, and I coated them in crunchy Panko crumbs combined with Parmesan cheese. Fried to perfection, these zucchini rounds bring me back to my childhood.

Panko-Crusted Parmesan Zucchini Rounds, Courtesy of Alisha Enid, alishaenid.com, Delta, B.C.

A healthier, homemade version of deep-fried zucchini sticks.

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Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 3 minutes per batch
Yield: 2 servings

Ingredients
1 cup (250 mL) all-purpose flour
1 tsp (5 mL) ground pepper
2 large eggs
1 cup (250 mL) Panko crumbs
1/4 cup (50 mL) grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp (2 mL) fine sea salt
1 large yellow or green zucchini; cut into 1/4-inch rounds
2 cups (500 mL) oil for frying

Directions
1. Using three shallow bowls, set up dredging station. In first bowl, combine flour and pepper. In second bowl, beat eggs. In third bowl, stir together Panko, salt and Parmesan cheese.
2. Heat oil in deep cast-iron skillet over medium heat until a breadcrumb dropped in the oil creates bubbles and turns brown.
3. Working in small batches, dredge zucchini rounds in flour, then submerge in beaten eggs and dredge in Panko crumbs.
4. In batches, lower breaded zucchini rounds into hot oil; fry about 3 minutes, or until golden brown all over. Remove from pan; place on paper towel to soak up excess oil. Repeat with remaining zucchini rounds.

Serve with your favourite dipping sauce.

Click here to print, save or share this Panko-Crusted Parmesan Zucchini Rounds recipe.

Alisha Enid
I am a wife, a mother and a daydreamer; a lover of film, food and photography. You can usually find me in the kitchen, behind the camera or chasing after my boys.

Grown-Up Summer Corn Salad

By Denise Bustard

Eating corn on the cob is always at the top of my summer bucket list, along with fresh berries, cherries and s’mores. There is just something about corn on the cob that represents all things summer to me. For one thing, it is the ultimate easy summer food. And I’m sure that everyone remembers eating it as a kid on a hot, sticky summer night, pretending to be a typewriter…chomp, chomp, chomp, ding! (I’m not alone here, am I?)

As a grown up, I look for new ways to enjoy my summer corn, and this salad is my new favourite way! It is healthy, packed with summer produce (hello, blueberries and fresh mint) and other delicious goodies (goat cheese and sliced almonds). The barley gives it some staying power, the almonds some crunch, the blueberries and corn a hint of sweetness, and goat cheese lends creaminess to it all. Best of all, it is easy to make this salad ahead of time, and it’s a perfect picnic lunch or barbecue side.

Grilled Corn and Barley Salad with Goat Cheese and Blueberries
, Courtesy of Denise Bustard, sweetpeasandsaffron.com, Calgary, AB

A fresh and summery salad that’s perfect for a barbecue.

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Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 60 minutes
Yields: 6 servings

Ingredients
Vinaigrette:
1/4 cup (50 mL)white wine vinegar
1/4 cup (50 mL) olive oil
2 tbsp (30 mL) honey
1/2 tsp (2 mL) Dijon mustard
salt and pepper, to taste

Salad:
1 cup (250 mL) pearl barley (uncooked)
2 cobs corn, husks removed
1 cup (250 mL) blueberries
1/2 cup (125 mL) sliced almonds
1/4 cup (50 mL) red onions, sliced
1/4 cup (50 mL) chopped parsley
1 pkg (4 oz/115 g) soft goat cheese, crumbled

Directions
Vinaigrette:
1. In bowl, whisk together vinegar, oil, honey, mustard, salt and pepper. Set aside.

Salad:
1. Cook barley according to package directions. Allow to cool completely.
2. Meanwhile, heat barbecue to medium-high heat. Spray grill rack lightly with cooking spray. Grill corn, turning every 5 minutes, for 25 minutes. Cool, then cut kernels from cobs.
3. In large bowl, combine barley, corn, blueberries, almonds, red onion, parsley and goat cheese.
4. Pour reserved vinaigrette over salad ingredients and toss gently to combine.

Click here to print, save or share this Grilled Corn and Barley Salad recipe.

Sweet Peas & Saffron
Sweet Peas & Saffron is a food blog run by busy mom and grad student Denise. Here you’ll find a variety of fast and healthy dinners that are perfect for busy families who struggle with the 5 p.m. “what’s for dinner?” dilemma.

How to Make Creamy Pennsylvania Dutch Mennonite-Potatoes

By Abram Shantz, as told to Jasmine Mangalaseril

Abram Shantz was born in 1933 to an Old Order Mennonite family in Wallenstein, Ont. At 16, Abram left his family and moved to Kitchener, where he got married, raised a family and started a construction company. This retired widower and great-grandfather now lives in Breslau and happily shares the food of his childhood with his friends and family.

I was born during the Depression. My father had many kids: He had 10 with my mother, then after she died, he married again and had three more. We didn’t have a farm, but we had three acres with two little barns and one or two cows for milk, cream and butter, some pigs and a pen with chickens for eggs and meat. And we always had a big garden.

We kids weren’t in the kitchen a lot while the cooking was going on—we were outside playing or outside working—but I most vividly remember the smell of cooking when we came in. Everything had its own aroma. Of course, potatoes don’t give off as much of an aroma as a chicken in the kettle!

In our house, bledley grumbara (“saucer potatoes” in Pennsylvania Dutch), or cream potatoes, was a common Mennonite dish my mother served at the evening meal.

We weren’t tempted to sneak a taste while it was cooking, but the moment that cream was added, and especially when my mother grabbed a big slab of butter, that’s when you really wanted to taste it.

I got my wife to make cream potatoes a few times, but she said that cream costs too much, and they just didn’t turn out when she used skim milk! After she passed away, I did my own cooking and started trying this, trying that. I didn’t have the recipe, but I knew what was supposed to happen, so I had to make it happen.

I use russets, but I think white potatoes would have good flavour, too. Peel the potatoes, then slice them like saucers, as thin as you can comfortably slice them, as you would for scalloped potatoes. The texture isn’t right if you chop them so that some are thick and others are thin. Boil the potatoes in water with a pinch of salt until they fall apart. Drain the water, then pour in enough cream to coat the potatoes and the inside of the pot. Bring to a boil to create the sauce—the potatoes will absorb a lot of the cream, which will stop them from becoming dry. Add a spoonful of butter and more salt, if you want, for flavour.

When I eat cream potatoes, I think back to when I was little, sitting at a big table along with lots of hungry kids. My father is at the end, and then my mother, and then we kids are all around. The potatoes are in a great big bowl served with summer sausage and pickled beets. Always in the middle of the table is a plate with a tall stack of fresh bread. Everyone grabs what they want.

Cream potatoes are so simple to make. It just happens I like them, and I’ve liked them for 80 years.

Do you have a delicious dish to share with the rest of Canada? Submit your recipe for a chance to be featured on Great Canadian Cookbook and Food Network Canada!

Waterloo County’s Most-Coveted Butter Tarts

By Peggy Nagle, as told to Jasmine Mangalaseril

When Peggy Nagle first tasted her future mother-in-law’s butter tarts, she didn’t know she would eventually become the keeper of a prized family tradition. These Waterloo County–style butter tarts are sweet and just a little gooey—popular additions to dessert tables and potlucks.

My mother-in-law, Teresa Weadick, was an amazing cook. In her day, the farming community had a lot of events where people would get together and share food: You’d roll back the rug at home for family reunions and get-togethers; all the neighbours gathered together for “presentations,” which were community showers to honour a bride and a groom; and, of course, people would have potluck dinners.

Teresa always received a lot of praise whenever she brought her butter tarts. Sometimes, people would hide one or two away to be certain they’d have one when dessert time came! I don’t know where she got her recipe, but she knew it from memory. She usually made the same type, but occasionally, she’d try something different, like adding a dab of raspberry jam to each tart before she poured the filling.

She was known as the “Queen of Tarts,” and she was really particular about them. If they were the least bit too brown, the least bit too pale or they broke as they came out, they weren’t good enough to go; those stayed home. Not many were culled, but the kids were always ready to help out with the ones that weren’t “good enough.”

The first time I had Teresa’s butter tarts was probably when I was dating her son, Rob. It was summertime. Rob and I were both at the University of Waterloo, but he was home for the summer while I was still in class because I was a co-op student. I remember thinking how amazing his mother’s tarts were. They were divine! I had made butter tarts before, but I knew these were really, really good.

I treasure the memory of Teresa teaching me how to make them. At the time, I felt it was special, but as I was so young—I was probably 21—I didn’t really realize how special. I was focused more on eating the finished product than on the learning process, or appreciating the teaching. But it was a fun activity, and I’m so glad I did it.

I worked on the tarts and served them to my mother-in-law quite a few times—she really liked them. I found the pastry difficult, and I still find the pastry difficult. It’s about balance: work it too much and they’re tough; not enough and they’re too crumbly.

Follow the jump for Peggy’s tutorial on making the perfect butter tart pastry.

What made Teresa’s butter tarts so good? I think it was the texture. They weren’t gelatinous, like store-bought ones, or dry, like some others. When you bit into hers, they had a fabulous viscosity—runny, but not too runny. Maybe the reason is how she baked them: a few minutes in a hot oven, then finished off in a moderate oven.

Our family’s tradition is to “only” eat butter tarts the day they’re made. Day-old butter tarts don’t cut it—they may as well be culls! Of course, there’s nothing wrong with day-olds, but butter tarts are best on that first day, and they’re even better when they’re still warm.

Waterloo County Butter Tarts, courtesy of Peggy Nagle

Waterloo Butter Tarts embed size

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 4 hours (includes pastry chilling time)
Yields: 18 tarts

Ingredients
Pastry
5½ cups (1.375 L) all-purpose flour
2 tsp (10 mL) salt
1 lb (450 g) chilled lard, cut in chunks
1 egg
1 tbsp (15 mL) vinegar

Butter Tart Filling
½ cup (125 mL) raisins, scalded and plumped
1 egg
1 cup (250 mL) packed brown sugar
2 tbsp (30 mL) corn syrup
2 tbsp (30 mL) butter or margarine
1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla

Directions
Pastry
1. In large bowl, combine flour and salt.
2. With pastry blender or 2 knives, cut in lard until mixture resembles coarse meal with a few larger pea-size pieces. (I used to do it that way, but now I blend this mixture in my food processor. Much faster and less messy.)
3. In glass measure, using fork, beat egg with vinegar. Add enough very cold water to make 1 cup (250 mL). Drizzle into flour mixture a bit at a time, mixing with fork until dough looks evenly moistened and holds together when gently pressed between fingers. (You might not need all of the liquid.)
4. Divide dough equally into 6 balls. Chill in refrigerator for 3 hours. Prepared dough can be stored for 2 days in the refrigerator or 2 months in the freezer.
5. Roll dough on lightly floured surface. Using jar lid or cookie cutter or large glass, cut circles of the right size for your tart tins. If the dough cracks while rolling, allow it to sit at room temperature for 10 to 15 minutes or until pliable enough to roll without breaking. The secret to flaky pastry is to handle the dough as little as possible. The more you handle it, the tougher it gets. (Tip: Butter tarts are best fresh, even better warm, but they’re messy to make at the last minute. I like to make the dough and fill the tart tins the night before, then just add the raisins and the filling and bake right before serving.

Butter Tart Filling
1. Place raisins in bottom of pastry-filled tart tins.
2. In a bowl, beat together egg, brown sugar, corn syrup, butter and vanilla. Spoon about 1 tbsp (15 mL) filling over raisins into each well of tart tins. (You should have enough filling for 18 tarts.)
3. Bake in 400°F (200°C) oven for 5 minutes, then turn down to 350°F (180°C) for 15 more minutes.
4. Remove from oven; let cool. They generally slide out of the tart tins fairly well. However, the rule is that any broken ones cannot be served at a meal or to company. These culls must be given to onlookers in the kitchen who are hinting for a tasty treat (or at least that’s what Rob tells me!).

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A Newfoundland Kitchen Party Seafood Feast

By Ray Palmer, as told to Crys Stewart

When Ray Palmer was growing up, his family didn’t need a lot of people to have a kitchen party. With him on guitar, his brother at the piano and his dad playing the accordion, they were the party. Now sharing a home with his wife, Wanda, in the City of Mount Pearl (near St. John’s, N.L.), this born-and-raised Newfoundlander keeps the province’s strong traditions of hospitality alive and kicking.

You’re definitely going to have a kitchen party at Christmastime, and during the year, there might be an occasion, too. The food is always out in the dining room. Over the years, we’ve learned that you shouldn’t keep the bar in the kitchen because that’s where everybody hangs out, and the first stop, of course, is always in the kitchen.

Squid is the highlight for a lot of my friends. You can stuff them with anything, really, but we use a basic bread crumb dressing. They’re a ‘picky’ type of thing, like an hors d’oeuvre. I’ve got a son who comes early when he knows I’m doing squid. And I say, “Now, boy, you can only have a couple because you know there’s a few more here besides you, so don’t have them all gone.” My friend used to have a kitchen party every Christmas with a crowd of 20 or 25 people, and there’d be more there than cod tongues and squid, I can guarantee you—we’d have a moose heart that would be stuffed. Other kinds of pickies, too.

A lot of people think that fish don’t have tongues, but they do. When you look at the fish and open its mouth, there it is looking at you. Years ago, young boys on the wharf would wait for when the fishermen came in with their fish, cut out the cod tongues, then go sell them. They were very cheap back then. The better ones are the smaller type that cook pretty quickly. The bigger cod tongues take longer to cook, so they’re not as good. Once they’re crisp and crunchy, they’re fantastic.

If you get a knock on your door and a bunch of mummers come in that you’re not expecting, you can have no idea who they could be. Mummery is sort of a dying thing, but we’re trying to keep it alive. A bunch of people get together and dress up—you’re disguised—and you go around to your friends’ homes. They don’t know you and your fellow mummers are coming, and you’ve probably got a guitar and an accordion with you. You come in and have a little scuff (a little dance) in the kitchen or wherever they can fit you, then have a little toddy. Everyone in the house is trying to guess who everybody is, of course. Sometimes, they’re right; sometimes, they’re wrong.

When we’re having a party, my three grandchildren are always a part of it. They’re only six and seven years old, but I’m sure once they get into their teens, they’ll be having kitchen parties, too. Guaranteed, they will.

Fried Cod Tongues With Scrunchions, courtesy of Ray Palmer
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Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes
Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients
2 lb (900 g) cod tongues (preferably fresh; I prefer the smaller tongues)
½ cup (125 mL) flour
1 tsp (5 mL) salt
¼ tsp (1 mL) pepper
½ lb (225 g) pork fatback

Directions
1. Wash tongues carefully; dry with paper towel. Add flour, salt and pepper to plastic bag. Add tongues, shaking bag to coat. Set aside.
2. Cut pork fatback into small cubes. Add to skillet; fry at low to medium heat until fat is rendered out and fatback is crispy and brown. (Don’t overheat or the fat will burn.) Remove pork scrunchions; set aside.
3. Add tongues to same skillet; cook over medium heat until tongues are brown and crispy on both sides. Put scrunchions back in skillet when tongues are almost ready. Cod tongues can be served as an appetizer by themselves or served with fries as a main meal.

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Baked Stuffed Squid, courtesy of Ray Palmer
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Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour
Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients
6 squid tubes, cleaned and washed thoroughly
½ tsp (2 mL) salt
4 cups (1 L) bread crumbs (1 bag of bread crumbs)
¼ cup (60 mL) savory
¼ cup (60 mL) melted butter
1 medium onion, chopped finely
pepper to taste

Directions
1. Sprinkle squid with salt.
2. Mix together bread crumbs, savory, butter, onion and pepper. Loosely stuff squid (don’t overstuff).
3. Add enough cold water to cover bottom of 13 x 9-inch (3 L) baking dish. Add squid; cover with foil. (Don’t seal foil around sides of dish; keep tented.) Bake in 325°F (160°C) for about 50 minutes. Turn quid halfway through; add more water, if necessary. Remove from pan when cooked; slice into rings.

Click here to print, save or share this stuffed squid recipe.

Follow the jump to see more of what a Newfoundland kitchen party is really like.

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Fresh and Minty Salsa Verde

By Amy Bronee

Chips and dip are party classics, and fresh tomatillo salsa kicks things up a notch at the snack table. I like to make my tomatillo salsa verde with fresh mint leaves from the patch in my garden that returns faithfully along our backyard fence every year. Those tender mint leaves are so flavourful and so versatile, ending up in everything from salads to sauces and even meatballs in our kitchen— and also regularly make their way into our mojito cocktails. My kids like to munch on mint leaves straight from the plant while running through the sprinkler in the summer sunshine.

Tomatillos come wrapped in a husk, and although they look like green tomatoes they are more closely related to the cape gooseberry (also known as a ground cherry, Peruvian cherry and golden berry). One thing they do have in common with tomatoes is that they make fantastic salsa.

Fresh Tomatillo Mint Salsa, Courtesy of Amy Bronee, familyfeedbag.com, Victoria

A tangy green salsa you’ll love with tortilla chips, tacos or enchiladas.
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Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 5 minutes
Yield: 2 cups (500 mL)

Ingredients
1 lb (450 g) fresh tomatillos, husks removed, rinsed, and cut in quarters
15 fresh mint leaves
2 cloves garlic
2 tbsp (30 mL) lime juice
½ tsp (2 mL) salt
½ tsp (2 mL) ground cumin
Tortilla chips for scooping

Directions
1. In a food processor, combine quartered tomatillos, mint leaves, garlic, lime juice, salt and cumin. Pulse until finely chopped.
2. Serve with tortilla chips.

Note: If you don’t have a food processor, simply finely chop tomatillos and mint leaves, and mince garlic, before stirring ingredients together.

Click to print, save or share this Mint Salsa recipe.

Family Feedbag
Amy Bronee is the writer and photographer behind the award-winning home cooking blog FamilyFeedbag.com. Her bestselling cookbook The Canning Kitchen: 101 Simple Small Batch Recipes was published by Penguin Canada in June 2015. Amy’s favourite place in the world is her cozy family kitchen in Victoria, where she enjoys an island lifestyle with her husband and two young sons.

Borscht: ‘My Family’s Version of Chicken Soup’

By Sam Yachiw, as told to Leslie Wu

Sam Yachiw shares her love of curling with local kids through the nonprofit Curl Saskatoon. At home, this fourth-generation Ukrainian-Canadian loves sharing a hearty bowl of her baba’s borscht with family and friends. In fact, Yachiw’s favourite way to explore her heritage is to navigate her grandparents’ dinner table, where some of her fondest memories take place.

Borscht was my family’s version of chicken soup, fed to us when we were sick or sad. I’ve had it since I was a toddler, and I’ve always liked its unique taste and that warm feeling with every mouthful. It would have been my great, great-grandmother who brought the recipe over from Ukraine. The core recipe is the same, but it’s been adapted and tweaked over the years.

With my baba [grandmother] and dido [grandfather], we make a big batch of this soup once a year: about 20 single-serving jars and a whole bunch of larger jars, which are distributed among the family. On borscht cooking day, we start early in the morning with the chopping. The whole process takes about two hours, or even three, depending on how much we’ve been talking. We’re usually done by noon, then we’ll heat up some fresh borscht for lunch. For most of the afternoon, we come together as family and just talk! We’re such a close-knit family, and I love it.

We sit down to share borscht as the second course at Ukrainian Easter. This holiday is different for every family, depending on how traditional you are. For us, it’s lunch after church, which turns into about four hours of feasting, then relaxing in a comfortable chair to chat with someone you may not have seen in many years. My grandparents know so many people I’ve never met in the 27 years I’ve been alive, so there’s always someone new at the kitchen or dining table. Last year, they hosted a lady who was in their wedding party more than 60 years ago.

Borscht has brought my baba and I together. Most of my memories of her are in the kitchen; it’s part of who she is, and she’s always been like that. My grandfather, on the other hand, doesn’t really do a lot of cooking, but he helps out. Any memory I’ve had, he’s been around helping, especially if it’s a bigger meal. My baba’s a social butterfly, so she loves to cook for people. It didn’t matter if we were just visiting for a day or a weekend, there were these amazing, extravagant meals. It’s something I learned from her, and I try to continue this tradition even now with my own friends; we all get together and celebrate, even if it’s just over an everyday meal. Food is one thing that brings everybody together—it doesn’t matter what culture you’re in.

Baba’s Borscht, courtesy of Sam Yachiw

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Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 1½ hours
Yield: 10 to 12 servings

Ingredients
2 tsp (10 ml) salt
4 cups (1 L) beets, peeled and shredded
2 carrots, diced
1 large onion, chopped
1 large potato, diced
? cup (75 mL) diced celery
2 tbsp (30 mL) white vinegar
1 cup (250 mL) canned diced tomatoes
1 can tomato soup
1 tbsp (15 mL) fresh or frozen dill

Directions
1. Add salt to 8 cups (2 L) water. Cook peeled and shredded beets for 30 minutes.
2. Add carrots, onion, potato and celery; simmer for 30 minutes.
3. Add vinegar, tomatoes, tomato soup and dill; simmer for about 15 minutes. (Add peas and/or beans, if you like.) Cook until vegetables are tender. Serve with borscht.

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How to Make the Perfect Pork Schnitzel

By Teresa Huegle, as told to Jasmine Mangalaseril

For Teresa Huegle, food and restaurants are in her blood. Her extended family owned several restaurants and cafés in Waterloo County before her parents opened Angie’s Kitchen (now The Original Angie’s Since 1962) in Uptown Waterloo in 1962. Today, this Waterloo landmark continues to offer foods once favoured by the area’s early German settlers.

When my parents opened Angie’s in the ’60s, hot beef sandwiches and fish and chips were the big things here. Schnitzel really didn’t become famous until the Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest was established a few years later, in 1969.

Customers didn’t want to wait until the festival came, so schnitzel became part of the food we’d serve. All the local university teams ate here—schnitzel was for the pregame meal or for the party after they won. Later, it became part of our catered banquets, while in the restaurant, schnitzel became a staple for an evening meal, or on a bun at lunch.

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Originally, our breakfasts were bacon, eggs, toast, jam and sausages, but people started asking for an egg on top of schnitzel. We eventually created a breakfast platter with Oktoberfest sausage, Krug’s smoked sausage, schnitzel, eggs and a slice of lemon.

While some of the guys like it, the full breakfast platter is a very, very big meal. I think to finish the platter you need to be young and know you can wear it all off! I’ve dissected it and cut the portions a bit, so you can get a taste and have just one of the sausages or schnitzel. At breakfast, sauerkraut isn’t normally served, but you can certainly have it. Personally, I love the flavour combination of lemon on top of schnitzel with eggs and salt and pepper.

My father was Greek, and my mother was Italian, so food was always a part of our lives. Since I was the eldest of five, I was constantly in the kitchen as the clean-up girl. My mum was cooking all the time, and I learned by watching her. My parents used to bread chicken, and also pork, so basically the schnitzel was a family recipe. I married a German-Austrian, which means schnitzel also came into my life through his family.

For me, a great piece of schnitzel is made with salt, pepper and garlic. At home, I’ll often serve it with fresh homemade applesauce. If the kids want pasta on the side, I might add oregano to the breading, just to give it a different flavour. I make a curried schnitzel salad by adding chopped celery, onions, curry powder and mayo to leftover schnitzel that I’ve cubed—it’s awesome!

Schnitzel is a treat, and a treat can also be healthy and fun. For those who aren’t supposed to have salt, take it out, but add some oregano and thyme. Will you miss the salt? Not if you’ve got lemon juice squeezed over it!

When we think of schnitzel, we think of fun. We think of beer. We think of a good time. That’s part of this community, what Kitchener-Waterloo is.

Pork Schnitzel, courtesy of Teresa Huegle

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Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients
4 boneless pork loin pieces
1 cup (250 mL) flour, mixed with salt and pepper to taste
2 eggs
splash milk
4 cups (1 L) bread crumbs, mixed with salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste
Extra-virgin olive oil for frying
Lemon wedges for serving
Applesauce for serving

Directions
1. Place each pork loin between sheets of plastic wrap. Gently pound each loin with meat tenderizer until thin and even. (The wrap will help prevent splattering the counter and yourself.)
2. Put seasoned flour in shallow bowl or pan, making sure seasoning is well mixed into flour.
3. In second bowl or pan, whip together eggs and milk.
4. In third pan, add seasoned breadcrumbs, again making sure seasoning is well mixed.
5. Dredge each loin in flour, then dip in egg mixture, then in bread crumbs. Pat lightly; put on plate until frying pan is ready.
6. Heat oil in pan. Fry each schnitzel until golden and crispy, about 3 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels.
7. To serve, place schnitzels on platter with lemon wedges. Serve with fresh applesauce. For breakfast, I add any style of eggs. You will love the flavours with a bit of extra salt and pepper on your eggs and a squeeze of lemon on your schnitzel. Yummy!

Click here to print, save or share this Pork Schnitzel recipe.

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A Healthy Cantaloupe Salad

By Janet Malowany

Cantaloupe may seem like an odd ingredient to use in a salad, but the sweet fruit plays a lead role in this delightful, unassuming recipe.

Bulgur—steamed wheatberries that need little additional cooking—is another underused ingredient featured in this salad. It has a nutty flavour and chewy texture that melds beautifully with chunks of sweet cantaloupe. For a Middle Eastern-inspired twist, I infuse the bulgur base with a vibrant citrus dressing, fresh mint and parsley. Crunchy hazelnuts round out the flavours and textures.

Pick a small cantaloupe that is firm and fragrant, but not overripe. That way, the flesh you use in the salad will keep its shape better and not overwhelm the other ingredients.

Bulgur and Cantaloupe Salad with Hazelnuts and Mint, Courtesy of Janet Malowany, tastespace.wordpress.com, Toronto, ON

Healthy and vibrant, you’ll love this sweet-and-savoury cantaloupe salad.
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Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Yields: 6-8, as a side

Ingredients
Juice of two large oranges (about 3/4 cup/175 mL)
Juice of half a lemon (2 tbsp/30 mL)
2 tbsp (30 mL) water
1 cup (250 mL) medium-grain bulgur
2 tbsp (30 mL) extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp (15 mL) red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt, or to taste
fresh-ground pepper to taste
4 green onions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
1/2 cup (125 mL) chopped mint
1/4 cup (50 mL) chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 cantaloupe, cubed (4 cups/1 L)
1/4 cup chopped toasted hazelnuts

Directions
1. Combine orange juice, lemon juice and water in medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil. Add bulgur and stir. Turn off heat, cover pan and let sit for 20 minutes or until liquid has been absorbed.
2. Meanwhile, in large bowl, whisk together oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Stir in green onions, mint and parsley. Add cooked bulgur and stir well. Stir in cantaloupe.
3. Just before serving, sprinkle with hazelnuts. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Jump over here to print, save or share this Bulgur and Cantaloupe Salad recipe.

The Taste Space
I’m a doctor by day, amateur chef by night. I enjoy creating and sharing healthy, delicious recipes. Five years ago, I adopted a whole-food vegan diet without refined sugars or flours, and I haven’t looked back. The Taste Space focuses on healthy, whole-food vegan meals.

Super Easy French Onion Soup

This is a pretty standard, classic dish — not much to change, only to tweak. Seasonings are up to you, so make them personal. Use vegetable broth instead of beef if you’re vegetarian, or use chicken stock if you’re just looking for lighter fare. This version is very heavy on the onions, so reduce those if you find them overpowering.

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Ingredients:

2 Tbsp butter
6 medium to large yellow onions, sliced in half and then into half rounds
3/4 cup vermouth (like Noilly Prat)
2 cloves garlic, grated or minced
8 cups beef broth
1 bay leaf
3 large sprigs fresh thyme
Salt & pepper
Round slices of crusty bread (optionally buttered on both sides)
1 cups grated Swiss Gruyère
1/2 cup grated Parmesan

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Directions:

  1. In a large, deep saucepan, heat the butter on medium high. Add in onions and sauté for 30 minutes. The onions should begin to caramelize and turn brown. Remember to stir often so nothing sticks to the bottom, but scraping some of the brown bits into the onions is a good thing.
  2. Add garlic and sauté 3 minutes. Deglaze saucepan with vermouth, and simmer for an additional 5 minutes.
  3. Add stock, herbs and salt & pepper.
  4. Bring to a boil, tunr down and simmer for anywhere from 1 hour to 1 hour and 45 minutes. The longer the flavours have to meld, the better.
  5. In oven proof bowls, ladle the soup. Top with some crusty bread, sprinkle on the cheese and pop under the broiler until the cheese is bubbly and brown. Bon Appetit!

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Tip: Try this as a showy appetizer (in small bowls) at your next get together, or savour it alongside a light spinach salad as a full meal. Whatever you choose, just be sure to use good quality cheese, it makes all the difference.

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Blueberries and Cream French Toast Bake

Start this weekend off on the right foot with this oven-baked French toast casserole that can be assembled the night before for a stress-free breakfast or brunch in bed. Using cream in the custard makes this extra decadent and delicious, but milk will work as well for a lightened up version.

Blueberries and Cream French Toast Bake 

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Serves: 6

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Ingredients:

Maple Brown Sugar Drizzle:
2 Tbsp packed brown sugar
2 Tbsp maple syrup
2 Tbsp melted butter
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

French Toast Bake:
1 cup 10% cream or whole milk
3 eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
Pinch salt
1 tsp vanilla
8 cups cubed day-old egg bread or Italian loaf
2 cups fresh blueberries, divided
Whipped cream (optional)

Directions:

Maple Sugar Drizzle:
1. Stir brown sugar with maple syrup, butter and cinnamon until combined.

French Toast Bake:
1. Grease an 8 x 8-inch square glass baking dish. In a large bowl, whisk cream with eggs, sugar, salt and vanilla. Add bread cubes and toss to coat. Stir in 1 cup blueberries.
2. Transfer mixture to prepared baking dish. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to overnight, or until mixture is absorbed.
3. Preheat oven 350°F. Top evenly with Maple Sugar Drizzle. Bake, uncovered, for 50 to 60 minutes or until fluffy and golden.
4. Serve with remaining blueberries and whipped cream if desired.

amanda riva Amanda Riva 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.  Amanda Riva is part of the Lifestyle Blog Network family.

8 Surprising Lunch Ideas Your Kids Will Love

School is back in session which means that it is time to break out the lunch boxes, bags and thermoses and get back into a lunch packing routine. Many of these recipes can be made for dinner then sent as leftovers the next day. You can also make a bigger batch and portion some for future use. Here are some great ideas for delicious, vegetable and fruit-filled meals to set your child up for a day of success at school.

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1. Veggie Quiches and Frittatas
Baked egg dishes are terrific for busy weeknights and for lunch boxes: they come together quickly and pack protein and vegetables into every single bite. Leftovers are delicious warmed up or at room temperature the next day. This Roasted Vegetable Frittata recipe features bell peppers and zucchini which are all at their peak this season which will make lunch even tastier. Or try making these Mini Spinach and Cheese Vegetable Quiches that are cooked in muffin cups. Not only are they a quick and easy option, but also make a great freezer item to be reheated later for a quick snack.

2. Pancakes and French Toast cups
Opening up a lunchbox to find pancakes or French toast cups is a nice surprise and an unexpected break from regular lunch fare. Kids will get their fill of fruit with these delicious recipes. This recipe for Gluten-Free Pancakes with Berry Compote will bring a smile to your kids face and have them gobble up every single bite. Just make sure to pack the compote separately from the pancakes. And don’t hesitate to throw in this Kids’ Smoothie in an insulated bottle to go along with this lunch.

French toast cups also make a fun alternative to traditional lunch. Pack the ricotta and berries on the side so that the French toast cups don’t get soggy by the time the lunch bell rings. This recipe calls for almonds — but you can swap it out for some roasted pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds instead to make it nut-free.

3. Waffle Pizzas
Pizza is always a hit with kids and is a terrific way to get them to eat some veggies. Instead of a regular crust made of dough, this Waffle Pizza recipe makes savoury sundried tomato waffles as a base and tops them with a selection of tasty vegetables. If you are short on time, don’t hesitate to swap in a pre-made frozen waffle and then top it with tomato sauce, your child’s favourite veggies and a sprinkle of cheese.

4. Chicken and Rice Vermicelli Salad
Rice vermicelli is available in the Asian section of large supermarkets and at Asian grocery stores. These fine rice noodles cook in moments immersed in hot water which makes them a terrific option for a lunchbox and any quick meal. This Chicken and Rice Vermicelli Salad recipe combines some carrots, peppers and fresh herbs along with some chicken — leftover roast chicken from dinner would be perfect here — and some dressing that you can pack on the side to be poured over at lunchtime. Note: This recipe calls for red chili and chili paste to add some heat, but you may want to omit for little ones.

5. Vegetable and Chicken Dumplings
Dumplings are a delicious lunch option and a terrific vehicle for protein and vegetables. They are especially useful for using up odds and ends, like a lone celery stalk or carrot, or a half of a chicken breast that you have hanging around in your fridge. You can send these Vegetable and Chicken Dumplings to school hot in a thermos or at room temperature in a lunch box. Kids can also get in on the action and help to fold up the little bundles in conventional or not-so-conventional ways! Dumpling wrappers are available in the produce or deli section of the supermarket.

6. Chicken Noodle Miso Soup
As the weather cools, soup is a perfect lunch to warm up your child before they head outdoors to play. Soup can be warmed up in the morning and sent in a thermos. It is also easily frozen in portions that can be pulled out of the freezer on demand. Chicken Noodle Miso Soup is a tasty twist on traditional chicken soup and uses miso to add depth of flavour without hours of cooking time. It includes no fewer than 6 vegetables, chicken breast and pasta — all of which combine to make a delicious and nourishing whole meal.

7. Pizza Soup
Seems like a genius idea, right? Transforming all of the deliciousness of pizza into a bowl of soup. Your kids are going to be thrilled when they open their thermos to this warming meal. The simple Pizza Soup recipe is written so that you can customize it with your child’s favourite pizza toppings.

8. Chicken Meatballs with Roasted Vegetable Sauce
Chicken meatballs in a red sauce made of puréed roasted carrots, peppers, zucchini, squash, onions and tomatoes are a fantastic dinner for a cool night and an even better lunch the next day. Rolling out meatballs can be a little time consuming but are a terrific task for little hands so invite any aspiring chefs in your house to roll up their sleeves and help out. They are even more likely to gobble up this delicious meal if they had a hand in preparing it.

Aviva Wittenberg is the founder of 196lunches.com, a blog that documents a year of making healthy and delicious school lunches for her kids. Follow her on Instagram at @avivawittenberg.

Easy Lentil and Vegetable Curry

Curries are a meatless-Monday staple. They’re quick to make and filling, plus it’s a great way to use up all those vegetables lying around your fridge — we like to call it the “clean out the fridge” curry! It doesn’t sound too glamorous, but it’s definitely delicious. There really are no rules when it comes to what you can add to the pot, all we suggest is starting with some fragrant spices.

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Serves: 4-6

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Ingredients:
2 cups brown & wild rice mix (or basmati rice)
3 ½ cups water
1 Tbsp vegan butter
3 Tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp chili flakes
1 tsp garam masala
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp fresh ginger
½ cup onion, finely chopped
6 cups chopped veggies of your choice (red pepper, carrot, cabbage, broccoli, etc.)
1 cup dried red lentils
2 cups vegetable stock
1 can full fat coconut milk
1 cup frozen shelled edamame or peas
2 Tbsp lime juice
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp ground pepper

Garnish (optional):
Coconut yogurt
Chives, finely chopped

Directions:
1. In a pot bring rice, water, and vegan butter to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer, cover the pot with a lid and cook for 45 minutes.
2. Meanwhile in a large, deep pan heated to medium, add 2 Tbsp of coconut oil and cumin seeds, coriander seeds, turmeric, chili flakes, and garam masala. Toast the spices for 6 minutes until fragrant.
3. Lower the heat so the spices don’t burn and add minced garlic, ginger and onions, and cook for 2-3 minutes stirring frequently until the onions are translucent and soft.
4. Add another Tbsp of coconut oil and all your veggies and cook for 8-10 minutes until they just start to get soft, but are still bright in colour.
5. Add lentils and stir frequently for another 5-6 minutes, allowing the lentils to toast up and absorb some moisture.
6. Bring the heat back up to medium and gradually stir in vegetable stock. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low and cover with a lid for 10 minutes.
7. Add coconut milk, lime juice, sea salt, ground pepper and any frozen vegetables you want to add. Stir well to combine. Cover with a lid and cook for another 20 minutes.
8. Serve over rice and garnish with a dollop of coconut yogurt and finely chopped chives.

See more from hot for food on their YouTube channel.

How to Shape a Perogie

By Colleen Fisher Tully

When Lynn Crawford paid 90-year-old Mary Didur a visit to enjoy her homemade perogies, even Lynn couldn’t stuff and shape a perogie with much finesse. Luckily, Didur has shared her step-by-step method so we can all practise her time-honoured technique.

You’ll need:
• 4½ cups (1.125 L) flour
• 1 cup (250 mL) milk, room temperature
• 1 cup (250 mL) boiling water
• ½ cup (125 mL) vegetable oil
• 1 tsp (5 mL) salt
• rolling pin
• chopping board
• small knife or pizza cutter

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1. Mix and Roll Out Dough
Mix together flour, milk, water, oil and salt. Knead dough until smooth. Let stand for 30 to 60 minutes. With rolling pin, roll dough as thin as you can, as shown.

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2. Square Off
Cut dough into squares, as shown. (Didur prefers to make smaller perogies, so they’re 2 x 2 inches/5 x 5 cm.)

Editor’s note: Why aren’t these circles? Didur prefers squares. We trust her.

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3. Fill
Spoon about 1 tbsp (15 mL) filling onto each square, as shown. The filling can be any sweet or savoury combination. Featured here is Didur’s potato-cheese filling.

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4. Fold and Pinch
Fold dough into triangle and pinch edges closed to seal in filling, as shown.

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5. Boil and Enjoy
Add perogies to saucepan of boiling water. Once floating, cook for 1 to 1½ minutes. Serve with sour cream, chef Dale MacKay’s caramelized onions and his crisped lardons.

Here’s the full recipe and story behind Didur’s perogies with potato-cheddar filling.

What to Do with Leftover Plums

By Mardi Michels

Just this past summer I discovered the joys of canning and preserving, a wonderful way to make the most of the short-lived season for some of my favourite fruits: apricots, cherries and plums.

While it’s lovely to be able to enjoy the taste of summer in the dead of winter through jams and jellies, there’s nothing quite like enjoying fruit at the height of its season. At the market I can sometimes be a little over-enthusiastic in estimating the amount of fruit I can use. After a few days I find myself racking my brains for ways to use up the abundance of fruit in my kitchen when it’s not quite enough for a small batch of preserves or jam.

The answer? Cake. (Let’s face it, there aren’t many situations when cake isn’t the answer!) And with this recipe—a simple butter cake studded with jewel-like, juicy summer plums—there’s nothing better.

Nana Russell’s Plum Cake, Courtesy of Mardi Michels, eatlivetravelwrite.com, Toronto

This simple, summery cake highlights the beauty and flavour of plums.

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Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 45 mins
Yield: 8 servings

Ingredients
2 oz (60 g) butter, at room temperature
4 oz (112 g) sugar
zest of 1 lemon
2 eggs
6 oz (170 g) self-raising cake and pastry flour
¼ cup (50 mL) milk
5 to 6 plums, halved and pitted
granulated sugar

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180ºC). Butter and flour 8-inch (2 L) square cake pan.
2. Cream together butter, sugar and lemon zest. Add eggs, one at time, beating well after each addition.
3. With wooden spoon, stir in half the flour. Gradually stir in half the milk, mixing until just combined. Stir in remaining flour, then remaining milk. Mix until well combined.
4. Pour batter into prepared cake pan. Place plum halves, cut side up, on top of cake batter. Sprinkle plums with sugar.
5. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean and the cake is golden brown on top. Serve warm.

Jump to print, save or share this Plum Cake recipe.

Eat. live. travel. write.
Mardi Michels is a full-time French teacher to elementary school–aged boys. She writes eat. live. travel. write, a blog about culinary adventures near and far. She also runs twice-weekly cooking classes for seven- to 13-year-old boys and teaches cooking and baking classes for adults. She was one of the founding members of Food Bloggers of Canada, is a Food Revolution Day Ambassador for Toronto and contributes to jamieoliver.com.

5 Easy Ways to Turn Tonight’s Dinner into Tomorrow’s Lunch

So you’ve got visions of Pinterest-worthy lunches floating around in your head — join the club. Like anyone who has ever eaten a sad desk lunch knows, good intentions won’t fill you up. Here are five realistic ways to take last night’s dinner, transform it into today’s lunch and brown bag it like a pro.

Become a Sandwich Master
Leftover roasted vegetables, steak or roasted chicken make for the beginnings of a mean sandwich. Simply stack what you’ve got — red peppers, tomatoes, steak or chicken — and line a soft baguette with a little mayo, goat cheese or some hunks of brie, add few fresh sprigs of arugula and you’re all set.

Try: Grilled Steak Sandwich with Onions & Arugula

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Undress Your Salad
That big salad at dinner will be a soggy mess after a night in the fridge, so if you plan to take it to work the next day, keep it naked. Give it some heft by adding canned tuna, shredded roast chicken, smoked tofu or even leftover quinoa, and save the dressing until the very last minute to keep it perky and fresh.

Try: Bobby Flay’s Chicken Salad with Red Chile Peanut Dressing

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Double Up on Your Sides
Whether it’s brown rice, quinoa, pasta or potatoes, plan to make more than you need. Then, turn those sides into a hearty desk-side salad by adding a simple vinaigrette, a whack of raw or cooked vegetables and some fresh herbs.

Try: Quinoa, Roasted Eggplant and Apple Salad with Cumin Vinaigrette

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Soup it Up
A hot lunch of leftover soup or stew can warm the biggest office chill, and you can be sure that any soup you’ve got will taste even better while slurping in the staff lunchroom. Make it a main by adding a buttered baguette to dip in chicken stew, some pita wedges for that lentil soup or even a some rice, fresh thyme and and parsley to chicken soup.

Try: The Pioneer Woman’s Chicken Rice Soup

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Takeout Transformation
Instead of simply nuking your leftovers, give them new life with a few fresh ingredients and a little creativity. Last night’s pad Thai can be today’s cold noodle salad when you add green beans or shelled edamame, while a Chinese delivery of rice, beef or chicken and vegetables can easily be reborn as a quick stir-fry.

Try: Korean Beef Fried Rice

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BonnieMo Bonnie Mo is a Toronto-based editor and the face behind Food Network Canada’s Food Fetish column. She’s also a contributing editor over at slice.ca.

Crispy Tofu with Sweet and Sour Sauce

This Meatless Monday we’re keeping things easy with this recipe for lightly crisped tofu doused in traditional tangy sweet and sour sauce! It’s perfect served over rice or with sautéed chinese broccoli or bok choy.

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Sweet and Sour Tofu Recipe

Makes: 4 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes

Ingredients:

Sweet and Sour Sauce:
2 teaspoons cornstarch mixed with 2 teaspoons water
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ teaspoon fresh grated ginger
¼ teaspoon chili pepper flakes
1/3 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
½ cup water
½ cup agave nectar
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
¼ teaspoon sea salt

Tofu and Batter:
1 brick of medium firm tofu (or firm tofu)
3 cups vegetable oil for frying
1 cup brown rice flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon ground pepper
1 cup cold soda water

Directions:

1. Drain the brick of tofu from the packaging water and cut into bite size cubes. Allow the cubes to sit on a clean tea towel or paper towel to get rid of excess water while you prepare the sauce.
2. To make the sauce mix cornstarch and water in a small bowl and set aside.
3. In a small saucepan heat 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil over medium-low heat. Add minced garlic, ginger, and chili pepper flakes. Stir for 30 seconds to 1 minute until fragrant, being careful not to burn the garlic or ginger.
4. Add in remaining sauce ingredients and whisk together over medium heat until just bubbling. Then whisk in the cornstarch and water mixture. Whisk frequently for 10 to 12 minutes until slightly thickened and reduced. Remove from the heat and set aside while you prepare the crispy tofu.
5. Heat 3 cups of vegetable oil in a medium sized pot to 375°F.
6. Prepare the batter by combining rice flour, cornstarch, sea salt, garlic powder, and ground pepper together in a mixing bowl. Do not add the cold soda water until your frying oil is ready.
7. When you’re ready to fry, stir in soda water to the flour mixture and combine well.
8. Using your hands coat 3 to 4 cubes of tofu and drop each one in the frying oil delicately. Fry for 2 to 2 ½ minutes. If some stick together you can gently separate them in the frying oil with a slotted fryer spoon. Remove crispy tofu from the oil with the slotted spoon and let them sit on paper towel to absorb excess oil. Continue this process with remaining tofu cubes.
9. Heat up the sauce again if needed. In 2 to 3 batches you can coat the crispy tofu with sauce by adding some sauce to a large bowl and tossing crispy tofu cubes until coated evenly. Serve over rice or vegetables.

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10 Ways to Eat Peanut Butter and Jelly

There’s no flavour combo more classic than peanut butter and jelly. This tried, tested and true marriage of salty and sweet is here to stay, so you might as well make it a little more interesting. Sure, there’s nothing wrong with a delicious PB&J sandwich, but if you’re looking to explore some new options, you’ve come to the right place. Check out our picks for the seven most creative ways to snack on peanut butter and jelly.

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1. Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars

2. Peanut Butter and Jelly Doughnuts

3. Peanut Butter and Jelly Foie Gras

4. PB&J French Toast

5. Peanut Butter and Jelly Cookies

6. Peanut Butter and Jam Bread Pudding

7. Moroccan PB&J

8. PB&J Burger

9. Healthy Peanut Butter & Jam Squares

10. PB&J Treats