10 Best Places for Pie Across Canada

If you’ve been living in Canada long enough, you already know that pies are one of our country’s most beloved and iconic desserts. Whether it’s the seasonal fruit pies or creative twists on classics, here are 10 of the best places to get pie in Canada.

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Rustique Pie Kitchen

Goodies Bake Shop (Winnipeg, MB)

Expect nothing but the classics from this indulgent little spot in Winnipeg. Of course, you can get a lemon meringue pie with the meringue piled high, but anyone who’s a fan of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups will be more than happy with the chocolate peanut butter pie.

Mabel’s Bakery (Toronto, ON)

With a few locations around Toronto, it’s easy to find your way to a Mabel’s to grab a pie on your way home from work. Granted, if you’re too late, they may all be gone — so you might want to stop by on your way to work instead. Heading into the holiday season, a well-made pecan pie is always appreciated after a big dinner and, luckily, they’ve got you covered here.

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Mabel’s Bakery

The Flaky Tart (Toronto, ON)

This classic bakery is a popular spot for a simple, homemade pie like cinnamony sweet apple. With a more simple approach to pies and their fillings, these versions are easy to pick up and pawn off as your own at a dinner party. I’m not saying you should lie to your friends, but if you’re a terrible baker and tasked with making dessert for a potluck, the choice is yours!

Life of Pie (Ottawa, ON)

Arguably the city’s most popular pie shop, this great little spot offers a nice range of pies, with a slew of different weekly flavours. Always expect some fruit varieties (pear ginger crisp was this past Wednesday), quiches and much more. And yes, if you’re wondering, it always smells ridiculously good in here.

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The Pie Hole

Pie Cloud (Calgary, AB)

Not just somehwere to go just for some take-home pie, this newer eatery in the Kensington neighbourhood is all pie, through-and-through — offering it up for breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert. Try a wintery option like the Turkey Dinner, made with a stuffing “crust”, turkey, tender vegetables, mashed potatoes and cranberry relish. You’ll find the usual pie suspects here (apple, pecan, etc.), but try the Marshmallow Mermaid for something more new and fresh: orange and blue curaçao curd in a flaky crust with a marshmallow topping.

The Pie Hole (Vancouver, BC)

There is creativity abound with the in-crusted creations from Pie Hole. Maple French Toast Bacon and Bourbon Pecan Pumpkin are just two of the delicious pie varieties that shoul have your mouth watering in no time. They don’t have a proper bricks and mortar location, but customers are still able to find their goods at shops and cafes around the city, as well as online.

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The Pie Hole

The Pie Lady’s Drive-up Bake Shop (Halifax, NS)

Too quirky not to mention, this mom-and-pop operation is an online-only ordering system, where you select your pies from a drop-down menu. You can then head over to their shop where they hand you freshly baked pies through the car window. How sweet is that?

The Pie Shoppe (Vancouver, BC)

With choices like walnut and bourbon and salted honey, it becomes apparent (after looking through the bake case) that this is not your standard pie shop. Big on seasonality, don’t expect to see the bakers offering you a cherry pie in the middle of winter. Don’t forget to grab a cup of coffee while you’re here, since they roast their own beans in house.

Rustique Pie Kitchen (Montreal, QC)

One of the nicest things about pies is they’re meant for sharing — so if you’re looking for a simple dessert option for dinner, you can’t really go wrong here. Rustique’s pie options change with the season, so right now you can find a freshly baked strawberry rhubarb pie sitting on display screaming, “Take me home with you!” Naturally, you will.

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Rustique Pie Kitchen

Wanda’s Pie in the Sky (Toronto, ON)

Custard-filled, cream-filled, and almost any fresh fruit you can imagine, Wanda’s got it going on at her popular bake shop. The chocolate bottom pecan pie is a fun spin on the classic, with a chocolate shortbread base. You also can’t go wrong with the “Ambrosia,” which is a rich myriad of flavours with peaches, wild blueberries, apples, pecans and raspberries. With Wanda by your side, you can’t lose at dessert this holiday season.

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Wanda’s Pie in the Sky

A Baked Goat Cheese and Spinach Dip That Can’t Be Beat

By Jo-Anna Rooney

Winters in Calgary are long and very cold, but we try to embrace the season by enjoying all it has to offer. This means that during those long winter months our family can often be found outdoors, taking part in great Canadian activities like pond hockey, snowshoeing, skiing and tobogganing.

After all of the fun, we look forward to heading indoors to gather around a crackling fire and enjoy warm drinks and comforting eats. There is just nothing like filling your belly with hearty, homemade food on a cold, wintery day. This Baked Goat Cheese and Bacon Spinach Dip is perfect for such an occasion! I like to prepare it ahead of time, and have it ready to go as soon as we come inside. Serve it bubbling hot with loads of crusty bread and your favourite red wine.

Baked Goat Cheese and Bacon Spinach Dip, Courtesy of Jo-Anna Rooney, aprettylifeinthesuburbs.com, Calgary

This make-ahead treat is the perfect reward after a day of winter fun.

BakedGoatCheeseBaconSpinachDip

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time:
30 minutes

Yield: 8 servings

Ingredients
2 Tbsp (30 mL) olive oil
8 oz (225 g) fresh spinach, chopped
1 onion, diced
1–2 cloves garlic, minced
5 oz (140 g) goat cheese
¾ cup (175 mL) sour cream
¼ cup (50 mL) chopped marinated artichoke hearts
8 slices cooked bacon, crumbled
salt to taste
pepper to taste
crusty bread or crackers for dipping

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).
2. In skillet heat olive oil over medium-low heat. Sauté spinach, onion and garlic until onion is translucent and spinach is wilted. Remove from heat.
3. Stir in the goat cheese, sour cream, artichoke hearts and bacon. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
4. Scrape mixture into ovenproof dish and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until mixture is bubbling.
5. Serve with crusty bread or crackers for dipping.

A Pretty Life in the Suburbs
Jo-Anna is the editor, director, chief, main cook, dishwasher and home decorator on the site A Pretty Life in the Suburbs. She created the site as a way to share her love of a simple home life through uncomplicated home tips and fresh and easy recipes. Her hope is that by spending some time on A Pretty Life in the Suburbs, you are inspired to add some simplicity and deliciousness into your home and life.

Anna Olson’s Tips on How to Make Perfect Challah

Challah bread is a delicious dish that can be enjoyed year round, and is as much a pleasure to look at as it is to eat. Making it from scratch is satisfying and delicious — bread is a fundamental part of our food world and when you make it with your own two hands, you won’t take it for granted.

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Here are some helpful tips for making the perfect egg braid:

Don’t rush the rise.
Patience is the key to making any bread. It takes time to let the dough rise (also called proofing), develop flavours and texture, and to allow the yeast to produce carbon dioxide, which gives the bread its airy texture.

Braid with two, not three pieces of dough.
Braiding with 3 “ropes” of dough may seem to make sense, but you will find that your bread or buns may appear flat when baked. To make a braided bread that has height (and hence more surface area for butter once sliced), braid using 2 “ropes” of the dough. Lay the 2 ropes across each other like an “X” and then cross over the ends of one rope completely to their opposing side, maintaining that “X” shape. Repeat with the second rope until you reach the ends (which can then be tucked underneath).

Don’t fear a do-over.
Not happy with your braid? Because this egg dough isn’t sticky, you can always undo your braid and start again. Try to avoid using too much flour when rolling out your “ropes” and braiding, as this might make a matte finish on the bread.

To build up your confidence, check out my technique to get a beautiful braid: Rolls & Buns.

How to Make Montreal-Style Bagels

In the bagel world, there’s quite a divide between the classic New York bagel and the sweeter, Canadian counterpart — the Montreal bagel.

Montreal bagels are denser, sweeter and traditionally made in wood fired ovens as opposed to the fluffy-on-the-inside, crisp-on-the-outside, baked bagels made south of the Canadian border.

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Both varieties of bagels are made using yeasted dough and are boiled before being baked. NY-style bagels are dipped in boiling water that has baking soda or lye, whereas Montreal bagels get dunked in boiling water that has honey or malt, creating a sweeter, denser dough.

The sweet and chewy nature of Montreal bagels lends them to eating them plain. So put away the cream cheese, jam and butter because once you make a fresh batch of Montreal bagels, you’ll want to enjoy them just as they are!

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Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 55 mins
Makes: 12 bagels

Ingredients:
1 cup warm water
2 *x 8 g pkg quick-rising yeast or 1 tbsp

1 Tbsp sugar
1 egg
¼ cup vegetable oil
2 tsp salt
1 cup honey, divided
4 ½ cups flour (or more if dough becomes too sticky)
Poppy seeds, sesame seeds for tops of bagels (about ½ cup each)

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Directions:
1. In a large bowl, mix together warm water, yeast and sugar. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.
2. Mix in egg, vegetable oil, salt and ½ cup honey. Gradually add flour until mixture comes together to form a dough. Dump the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8-10 minutes.
3. Pop the dough back into the bowl (no need to clean) and cover with a damp tea towel. Let the dough rise until about doubled in size, about 1 hour.
4. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Fill a large pot with 8-10 cups of water and add remaining ½ cup honey. Bring to a boil while you shape your bagels.
5. Divide the dough into 12 equal sized balls. Shape into bagels by either rolling into long logs and joining the ends together or shaping into rounds and poking holes in the middle using a wooden spoon. Stretch the dough around the spoon handle to make large holes. Make the holes quite large as they will rise and shrink considerably when baked.
6. Preheat oven to 450°F. Put the bagels onto the baking sheets and let rise for about 10 minutes. Place your poppy or sesame seeds onto a plate.
7. Using a slotted spoon dip your bagels, about 2 at a time, into the boiling honey water and leave for about 30 seconds per side. Scoop them out with a slotted spoon and dip them straight into the seeds and then back onto the baking sheets, seeds side up.
8. Once boiled, bake the bagels for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown and cooked through.

The Warming Gnocchi You Can Make Ahead of Time

By Cassandrea Gascoyne

Gnocchi has always been one of my favourite dishes. The first time my husband and I tried making it at home, it was on a winter night that was -30ºC, so now making and eating gnocchi always makes me feel warm and cozy. This recipe is a little different than traditional gnocchi in that it is made with a light tomato broth instead of a rich cream or cheese sauce.

When we were making the broth that cold winter night, the kitchen windows fogged up from the steam. The whole house smelled of tomatoes and garlic. The broth is light and complements the gnocchi well.

As we ate our heaping bowl of gnocchi and broth I can remember thinking this is the perfect winter dish! The best part is that the gnocchi and broth are freezable, so you can come home from work during a blizzard and know you can look forward to a warm bowl of comfort food that will be ready in just a few minutes.

Gnocchi in Tomato Broth, Courtesy of Cassandrea Gascoyne, chewsandbrews.ca, Spruce Grove, Alta.

This simple pasta dish is the perfect comfort food for dinner in the depth of winter.

 

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Prep time: 2 hours
Cook time: 1 hour
Yield: approximately 80 gnocchi and 2.5 cups (625 mL) broth

Ingredients
Gnocchi

4 russet potatoes
1 large egg, beaten
1 tsp (5 mL) salt
3/4 cup (175 mL) all-purpose flour
3/4 cup (175 mL) whole-wheat flour

Tomato Broth
2 Tbsp (30 mL) olive oil
2 medium carrots, chopped
2 medium stalks celery, chopped
1 large yellow onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1/2 cup (125 mL) white wine
2 cups (500 mL) chicken stock
12 oz (341 mL) jar Italian tomato purée
handful fresh basil (plus more for garnish)
salt
pepper
Parmesan cheese

Directions
Broth
1. Meanwhile, in large pot over medium heat, heat olive oil. Add carrots, celery, onion and garlic. Sauté until vegetables have softened and onions and garlic have started to brown.
2. Pour in wine and stir, scraping up browned bits. Cook until wine has reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Stir in chicken stock, tomato purée and basil; reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Gnocchi
1. Bake potatoes in 400ºF (200ºC) oven for 1 hour or until easily pierced with a knife. Let cool.
2. Peel cooled potatoes and grate into large bowl. (Or use a potato ricer, instead of grating.)
3. Stir in beaten egg and salt. Add all-purpose and whole-wheat flours, 1/2 cup (125 mL) at a time, mixing until the mixture forms a soft dough that isn’t too sticky.
4. Turn dough out onto floured surface and knead for 3 to 4 minutes. Divide dough into quarters; roll each quarter into a long rope, about 3/4 inch (2 cm) in diameter. Cut rope into 3/4-inch (2 cm) pieces.
5. Place gnocchi on parchment paper–lined baking sheet. If desired, freeze gnocchi on tray, then transfer into a freezer bag.
6. To cook the gnocchi, drop into a large pot of boiling salted water. Cook the gnocchi about 2 minutes, or until they float. (If cooking from frozen, let them cook for 3 to 4 minutes.) Drain.
7. To serve, put 10 to 12 cooked gnocchi in each bowl and top with hot tomato broth. Garnish with fresh basil and grated Parmesan cheese.

Note:
-If you like a traditional-looking gnocchi, there are some neat tools you can use in Step 6 to add ridges, such as the Gnocchi Board or Gnocchi Stripper.
-A slice of garlic toast goes nicely as well, and can soak up any leftover broth at the end!

Chews and Brews
Cassandrea Gascoyne loves to cook and eat, and now has a passion for writing about and sharing everything she cooks and eats. She also enjoys wine, craft beers and good coffee. When she isn’t eating or drinking you can find her camping and hiking with her husband in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Her kids have four legs and are fuzzy and are named Bob and Sam.

SkilletLasagna

Skillet Lasagna in Under an Hour

By Kelly Kwok

Once the weather begins to cool down, my family starts craving comfort food. Anything with cheese or pasta is always a hit at our house.

My husband’s favourite pasta dish is lasagna, but I only make it on the weekends – it takes time to layer everything, and creates a huge mess and piles dishes to clean afterwards. During the week, one-pot meals are my favourite.

After some digging around in my pantry, this easy skillet lasagna was born. I added my own touches to make it lighter, and packed it with veggies, including zucchini and spinach. I even used low-fat Parmesan and cottage cheeses to cut down on the fat without sacrificing taste. The entire dish – pasta cooking and all – is done in the same skillet on the stove.

The best part? It was a hit with my family!

Easy Skinny Skillet Lasagna, Courtesy of Kelly Kwok, lifemadesweeter.com, Niagara Falls, Ont.

This easy one-pot meal is a surefire weeknight dinner.

SkilletLasagna

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 35 minutes
Yield: 5-6 servings

Ingredients
1½ tsp (7 mL) olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb (225-450 g) extra-lean ground turkey
salt, to taste
black pepper, to taste
2 medium zucchini, peeled and chopped (optional)
14 oz (398 mL) can diced tomatoes (San Marzano or fire-roasted)
8 oz (225 mL) can tomato sauce
2½ Tbsp (37 mL) chopped fresh basil, divided
1½ tsp (7 mL) dried oregano
½ tsp (2 mL) crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
2 cups (500 mL) water or low-sodium chicken broth
8 oz (225 g) bow-tie pasta
2 cups (375–500 mL) spinach, chopped (optional)
1 cup (250 mL) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
⅔ cup (150 mL) fat-free cottage cheese
⅓ cup (75 mL) low-fat ricotta cheese (optional)
2 Tbsp (30 mL) chopped fresh parsley
grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Directions
1. In extra-large skillet over medium-high heat, heat olive oil. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute or until fragrant.
2. Add ground turkey and cook, stirring, for 4 to 5 minutes or until browned. Drain excess fat.
3. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add zucchini, if using. Add diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, 1 tbsp (15 mL) of the basil, oregano and red pepper flakes.
4. Stir in water or chicken broth. Add pasta. Bring to boil; cover skillet with lid and reduce heat.
5. Cook, stirring every 3 minutes and adding more water or broth as needed, for 15 to 18 minutes or until pasta is tender. If using spinach, stir in after 13 minutes.
6. Remove from heat. Stir in mozzarella and cottage cheeses. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
7. Dollop ricotta cheese over top; cover skillet for 2 minutes, or until cheese is melted.
8. Sprinkle with chopped parsley, remaining basil and Parmesan cheese, if using.

Notes
This recipe allows for lots of creativity. You may choose to use a different protein or choose to substitute gluten-free or whole-wheat pasta. Cooking times may vary.

Life Made Sweeter
My name is Kelly Kwok. I am a wife and mom of two – and the writer, recipe developer and photographer behind Life Made Sweeter, where I share desserts, family favourites and healthy recipes.

6 Ways to Boost a Bland Recipe

We’ve all been there; after we’ve cooked up a storm, we go to taste our finished dishes only to find the flavour falls, well, flat. Something is missing, but we’re not quite sure what it is.

Our taste buds or receptors have five main components: sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami. When trying to identify what’s missing from a meal, it’s a good idea to think in terms of taste: does it need more sweetness, saltiness, etc. Next time your dish seems to be lacking flavour, reach for one of the six ingredients below.

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1. Vinegar
Vinegar is the most common ingredient to boost a bland recipe. The acidity of vinegar can actually help to balance out the five tastes. My personal favorite is balsamic vinegar, as it not only adds acid but also adds notes of sweetness as well. An acid, depending on which one, can work to increase sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami tastes. Other wonderful vinegars include apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar and rice vinegar. Each of them have their place in boosting the flavour for particular cuisines – for instance, rice vinegar is very good at enhancing Asian fare. Vinegar is strong so if adding it to a dish, go slowly, you can always add more but you can’t take away!

2. Lemon
Lemon is one of my favourite ingredients to use to enhance a recipe. The acidity and sourness of a lemon works similarly to vinegar to boost and bring together flavours. You can even use the zest of a lemon to enhance a dish. Zest adds a refreshing flavour with hints of sweetness. If lemon isn’t your thing, try using limes, grapefruits or oranges for varying levels of acid and flavour.

3. Sea Salt
Salt is a classic seasoning to add to any dish when it is bland – but be careful, adding too much salt can ruin a dish. I have included sea salt instead of table salt because it has more of a boldness in flavour. Table salt has also gone through more processing and bleaching. Salt helps to bring out all other flavours while also adding saltiness. If you have specialty salts such as truffle salt, garlic salt or herb salt try using those to add different layers of flavour. Always remember, you can add more but you can’t take away!

4. Mustard
Mustard is a fantastic emulsifier that adds a creamy texture as well as a sweet, sour, salty and bitter flavour. A squirt of Dijon or whole grain mustard can go a long, long way. I especially like to use it in Mediterranean style dishes. There are many different mustards to choose from that can add a whole array of flavour to a bland dish.

5. Tamari
Tamari is a Japanese style soy sauce that can be gluten free and is usually a by-product of miso. This is one of the best ways to enhance a recipe. Simply because it is an Asian ingredient, it doesn’t need to be reserved for Asian cuisine only. Tamari is not as salty or harsh as traditional soy sauce, although it is quite salty. It has a natural sweetness and just a teaspoon can enhance a flavour profile hitting sweet, salty and umami notes.

6. Honey
Honey is a classic sweetener, it is not refined, like white sugar, although it is still incredibly sweet. Sometimes, a dish is simply missing more of a sweet flavour. Honey is so rich and sweet that only a little bit needs to be added. Take a bite of your recipe and if you feel like it’s missing a touch of sweet, slowly add honey half a teaspoon at a time. Remember the golden rule – you can always add more but you can’t take away!

10 Best Comfort Food Spots from ‘You Gotta Eat Here!’

Do you ever get jealous of John Catucci? I mean, I certainly do; traipsing around North America, diving into unique and tasty food, and getting all of those tried-and-true recipes to boot? You’re a lucky man, Catucci!

Here are 10 You Gotta Eat Here! restaurants from coast-to-coast that are even more delicious when it’s cold outside and you’re looking for some down-home comfort food.

2 Doors Down (Halifax, NS) 
Good ol’ comfort food with a little refinement is something everyone can appreciate, and that’s exactly what you’ll find at this popular joint in downtown Halifax. The classic cheeseburger is quality through and through with a house-made “processed” cheese slice, tangy pickles and a big, juicy patty sandwiched between a pillowy sesame seed bun. Then there’s the more unique interpretations of popular classics like a Korean-inspired gnocchi, and mac ‘n cheese that’s loaded up with kale, roasted broccoli and brussels sprouts, oh, and lots of cheese, too!

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2 Doors Down

Calabash Bistro (Vancouver, BC) 
Caribbean spices like nutmeg and cinnamon are coupled with the heat from spicy scotch bonnet peppers, resulting in a residual heat that may overwhelm your taste buds at first — but will settle down to a gentle warming that will make you feel cozy and satisfied. The oxtail stew with fried coconut dumplings, or classic the Jamaican meat patties are good examples of the comfort food fare you can find at Vancouver’s premier Caribbean eatery.

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Calabash Bistro

EE Burritos (Saskatoon, SK)
It’s no secret that it gets cold in Saskatchewan starting mid November — like bone-chilling, wear-a-snowsuit-to-work sort of cold. So why not shake off the snow and warm up at this lively Latino eatery, with a big bowl of pozole soup or the beef flauta (think jumbo-sized taquito), or maybe a side of refried beans for good measure.

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EE Burritos

Murray Street Kitchen (Ottawa, ON)
This nose-to-tail spot in the country’s capital is known for its meat-heavy menu, house-made charcuterie and bold, cozy flavours. More adventurous eaters can find comfort in a plate of braised ox tongue with cheese curd creamed corn, while Murray’s ode to Newfoundland, “Dan’s Beef” — a mix of cured, smoked and braised beef shank, cabbage and veggies, with bone marrow “buttered” garlic toast — would be just right for, well, just about anyone.

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Murray Street Kitchen

Naina’s (Calgary, AB)
A go-to restaurant in Calgary for grilled cheese sandwiches, poutine and Naina’s famous stuffed burgers, it should come as no surprise that the comfort level of these plates of food are off the charts. Order up a big burger topped with pulled pork, barbecue sauce and mozzarella cheese to see what all the cool kids have been raving about.

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Naina’s

Rock Lobster (Toronto, ON)
As the name implies, lobster is the name of the game at Matt Dean Preddit’s duo of restaurants in Toronto. As satisfying as lobster rolls are, they’re more of a warm-weather sort of meal, so stick to the rich and creamy dishes like the lobster cheese dip, lobster mac ‘n cheese or lobster poutine. Too much lobster, you say? I say, there’s no such thing.

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Rock Lobster

Saint John Ale House (Saint John, NB)
There’s a double whammy of Food Network Canada show history here as you’ll find one of Top Chef Canada’s most charismatic and bubbly chefs, Jesse Vergen running the kitchen. Being a family man, Vergen makes sure there’s plenty to choose from for kids, like chicken fingers (with local chicken meat, no pre-packaged frozen strips here) or grilled cheese, while adults can look forward to things like warm rock crab and cream cheese dip, pork sausages with mashed potatoes, braised cabbage and more.

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Saint John Ale House

Smoke and Spice Southern Barbeque (Windsor, ON)
Pulled pork sandwiches, smoky, fall-off-the-bone smoked ribs and cornbread are just a few of the Southern-style dishes you can sink your teeth into at this family-friendly joint. Swing by midday any weekday for some Southern-inspired lunch with such fare as smoked meatloaf, waffle fries, collard greens and their specialty, the pulled pork sundae.

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Smoke and Spice Southern Barbeque

The Tallest Poppy (Winnipeg, MB)
Since appearing on season one of You Gotta Eat Here!, The Tallest Poppy has relocated to a bigger and better space at the front of the Sherbrook Inn in Winnipeg. The cozy comfort food remains the same though, with big bowls of homemade matzo ball and chicken soup, bison meatloaf and other large plates of goodness that are ready and waiting to warm you up on a chilly night.

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The Tallest Poppy

Topanga Cafe (Vancouver, BC)
Some Mexican food, like tacos and tostadas, doesn’t always have the same charm on a chilly day as they do when you’re soaking up some sun and sipping on a cold beer. So stick with this restaurant’s more comforting dishes like burritos, enchiladas, black bean soup and tamales. A friend told me that their chocolate cake, baked fresh every day, is to die for. Chocolate is comfort 365 days a year, right?

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Topanga Cafe

SkilletEggs_Waffles

Easy Waffles and Eggs in a Skillet

By Lisa Bolton

In our house, brunch is one of the most special meals, because usually it means slow, lazy mornings with loved ones. Whenever family or friends stay with us, brunch is always my favourite meal to plan. There is a high likelihood the dress code will be cozy pyjamas. And to me, brunch should always be family style – let everyone take a little of this and a little of that and pull up a seat at the dining table, a stool at the counter or even call dibs on the cozy spot on the sectional.

This skillet waffle and eggs dish is perfect for those occasions. Making one big waffle means the host won’t be confined to the kitchen cooking two waffles at a time. This dish has a little bit of savoury, a little bit of sweet and even a hint of heat – something for everyone. With the vibrant green and red, this brunch is our family go-to over the holiday season.

Skillet Waffles and Eggs, Courtesy of Lisa Bolton, foodwellsaid.com, Surrey, B.C.

Enjoy lazy holiday mornings with this all-in-one brunch dish.

SkilletEggs_Waffles

Prep time: 7 min
Cook time: 12 min
Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients
2 eggs, separated
1 1/4 cups (300 mL) milk
1 cup (225 g) all-purpose flour
4 tsp (20 mL) baking powder
1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt
3.5 oz (100 g) butter, melted and cooled, plus more for skillet
4 eggs
4 thick slices smoked bacon
1 tbsp (15 mL) maple syrup
sliced scallions
jalapeno pepper
chopped cilantro
plain Greek yogurt mixed with sriracha sauce

Directions
1. In bowl, whisk together egg yolks and milk.
2. Sift in flour, baking powder and salt. Stir until combined.
3. Drizzle in butter; mix until just incorporated.
4. In bowl, whip egg whites until peaks form. Carefully fold into batter.
5. Heat skillet over medium-high heat; grease generously. Pour batter into skillet and cook about 8 minutes or until bottom is golden. Using two spatulas, flip and cook until golden, about 4 minutes more.
6. Meanwhile, soft-boil eggs, cooking for about 6 minutes. Remove eggs from saucepan and run under cold water. Peel and set aside.
7. While eggs are cooking, heat frying pan over medium-high heat. Add bacon and maple syrup; fry until bacon is crisp.
8. To assemble: Break waffle into quarters. Top each quarter with a bacon strip, halved, and an egg. Just prior to serving, break egg to release yolk.
9. Garnish as desired with scallions, pepper, cilantro and yogurt.

Food Well Said
Lisa Bolton is a part-time freelance food writer and recipe developer, and a full-time mom. Her blog, Food Well Said, focuses on thoughtfully prepared, whole-food recipes that will please carnivores, vegetarians and everyone in between. Knowing we eat with our eyes first, she likes to focus on presenting family-style comfort food in an elevated fashion.

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Ina Garten’s Easy Dinner Party Menu

The best part about throwing a dinner party is the company. Whether you’re hosting colleagues, good friends or family, the crowd hasn’t just assembled for the feast—they’ve come to catch up with you too. Recipe choices are so important during a dinner party, and as a host, your best bet is to avoid dishes that have you running in and out of the kitchen to stir and mix, leaving you much less time to spend mingling with company.

The Barefoot Contessa is the dinner party hostess of dreams. Her dishes are simple yet sophisticated, and top notch when it comes to stress-free entertaining. Take a leaf out of Ina Garten’s book and partygoers will never know how you made it look so easy.

Preparation is Essential

Finger foods are quick appetizers that’ll keep well as you wait for your guests to arrive. You can prepare them ahead of time, while you check off the rest of your to-do list. A light first course also ensures that your visitors have plenty of room for the entrée.

Try a honey-glazed baked Brie and Marcona almonds with sea salt.

baked-brie-honey-recipe

Serve the Brie with a variety of crackers, dried cranberries and sliced apples or pears. (Quick tip: sprinkle a small amount of lemon juice on the apples and pears to prevent them from going brown.) The sweetness from the honey-glazed Brie mixed with the salty Marcona almonds pair perfectly with cocktails.

Family-Style Dining is a Feast for the Eyes

For dinner parties, roasting meat in the oven is a cinch. Lock in tons of flavour by making your marinade early in the day and combining it with your choice meat for at least an hour in the fridge. And the more you can pop in the oven, the better, as dishes cooked on a stovetop require too much attention.

Try this herb-roasted turkey breast with Parmesan risotto and crispy roasted kale.

herb-turkey-recipe-Ina-Garten

Forget individual plating because ‘family-style’ dining can be just as striking. Showcase your herb-roasted turkey on your finest dinnerware. (Quick tip: if the platter is white, be sure to wipe off any extra juices from the meat, which may have spilled along the sides, while transferring the turkey breast from the roasting tray.) Lay the crispy roasted kale on a rustic cutting board alongside a block of Parmesan cheese and a small grater so you can offer guests freshly grated Parmesan for the risotto.

It’s Okay to Delegate

After the main course, leave ample time for the group to enjoy each other’s company at the dining table. (Dessert is best served once the main course has settled.) When everyone’s ready, politely recruit a willing helper to lend you a hand while you put together your final dish. Don’t be shy about delegating—guests are generally eager to learn new recipes.

Try this five-minute Limoncello and ice cream with biscotti.

limoncello-and-ice-cream-biscotti

Limoncello is often served as an after-dinner ‘digestivo’ in Southern Italy. Paired with ice cream and biscotti, it’s a well-balanced dessert—creamy, crunchy, sweet and tangy—that looks lovely in a frozen martini glass and finishes off your dinner party nicely.

WestCoastFishChowderBowl

The Seafood Chowder That Represents Vancouver Island

By Amy Bronee

One of the perks of living on the southern tip of Vancouver Island is being able to go for a walk on the beach any time of year. In the cold months, the blustery winds churn up the ocean, sending waves crashing onto the rocky shore. Standing there looking out at fishing boats in the strait, it’s easy to start daydreaming about comfort seafood, the kind that warms the belly and soothes the soul. It was after just such a walk that I first made this creamy fish chowder. It uses seafood commonly found around Vancouver Island – salmon and rockfish – along with diced potato, carrot and chopped kale. Use chicken or vegetable broth if it’s what you have on hand, but nothing beats chowder made with homemade fish stock. I save fish bones and tails and simmer them in water with onions, carrots and celery, then freeze the stock for another day. For me, this fish chowder is Vancouver Island in a bowl.

West Coast Fish Chowder, Courtesy Amy Bronee,  FamilyFeedbag.com, Victoria

With rockfish and salmon, this chowder represents some of the West Coast’s best seafood.

WestCoastFishChowderBowl

Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 30 mins
Yields: 4 to 5 servings

Ingredients
1 tbsp (15 mL) butter
1 cup (250 mL) diced yellow onion
1 cup (250 mL) diced peeled carrot
1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt
2 tbsp (30 mL) all-purpose flour
1 tsp (5 mL) dried thyme
3 cups (750 mL) peeled diced potato
3 oz (85 g) smoked candied salmon nuggets, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
4 cups (1 L) fish stock (or chicken or vegetable stock)
10 oz (280 g) rockfish fillet, cubed (or other firm white fish)
1 cup (250 mL) roughly chopped kale
1/2 cup (125 mL) heavy cream
1.5 oz (45 mL) white wine

Directions
1. Melt butter in soup pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrot and salt. Cook for 5 minutes to soften, stirring frequently.
2. Stir in flour and thyme to coat vegetables. Add potato and candied salmon. Pour in stock. Turn heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Stir in rockfish, kale and heavy cream. Increase the heat to medium-high and cook, uncovered, for 10 more minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat. Stir in wine.

FamilyFeedbag
Amy’s home-cooking blog FamilyFeedbag.com has earned her several recognitions, including a Jamie Oliver Blog of the Month award and being named to Western Living magazine’s list of the Top 40 Foodies Under 40. Amy’s bestselling cookbook The Canning Kitchen: 101 Simple Small Batch Recipes is a celebration of home canning traditions in the modern home kitchen. Through her hands-on cooking classes in Victoria, Amy loves to connect with other home cooks and make simple, delicious food together.

SlowCookerButterChicken

Slow-Cooker Chicken Sliders With an Indian Twist

By Sarah Huggins

My husband and I hail from vastly different culinary traditions. We are both Canadian-born and raised, but he’s from a vegetarian Indian family and I’m from a meat-eating British one. Our wedding was a two-day affair at which our guests enjoyed a taste of each food heritage: chai, naan and chana masala on Day 1, and lamb chops, oysters and B.C. pinot gris on Day 2.

Six years and two kids later, we have evolved our own shared culinary tradition, which can be best described as a Canadian “mash-up.” Our four-year-old eats seaweed salad alongside her chicken curry, and our 20-month-old is just as likely to shovel in a bowl of tabbouleh as he is to devour a piece of pizza.

If we had a poster child recipe for this new family cuisine, these Slow Cooker Butter Chicken Sliders would be it: shredded slow-cooked chicken bathed in rich butter chicken gravy, piled onto a soft bun and garnished with fresh veg. Is it “Indian food”? That might be a stretch. But it’s our food. It’s authentic to our experience as a mixed family living a busy life in the most multicultural city on earth. There are few things more Canadian than that.

Slow-Cooker Butter Chicken Sliders, Courtesy of Sarah Huggins, kiwiandbean.com, Toronto

These bite-size butter chicken sliders are perfect for get-togethers – and they’re easy to make ahead.

SlowCookerButterChicken

Prep time: 15 min
Cook time: 7 hour
Yield: 8-10 servings

Ingredients
2½ tbsp (27 mL) butter or oil
1 large onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 thumb-size pieces gingerroot, peeled and finely grated
2 tsp (10 mL) garam masala
2 tsp (10 mL) cumin
1 tsp (5 mL) tsp turmeric
½-1 tsp (2-5 mL) cayenne pepper (optional)
14 oz (398 mL) can full-fat coconut milk
5½ oz (156 mL) can tomato paste
3 lb (1.35 kg) boneless skinless chicken thighs
1 tsp (5 mL) cornstarch
¼ cup (50 mL) whipping cream (optional)
salt and pepper, to taste
10 small slider-sized hamburger buns
shredded cabbage
sliced cucumber
chopped cilantro
mango chutney

Directions
1. Heat butter in medium-sized skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook until softened and starting to brown. Add garlic and ginger; continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is brown and caramelized.
2. Add garam masala, cumin, turmeric and cayenne pepper, if using, and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant.
3. Stir in coconut milk and tomato paste. Bring to boil, then remove from heat.
4. Make ahead: Transfer mixture to airtight container; cool and cover. Refrigerate or freeze until ready to use. Or pour into slow cooker and proceed.
5. Add chicken thighs to coconut milk mixture in slow cooker. Cook on low for 6-8 hours or until chicken thighs are very tender.
6. Remove chicken to plate and shred. Whisk cornstarch into the sauce and turn the slow cooker to high. Stir in whipping cream, if using. (To prevent cream from curdling, add 1 tbsp (15 mL) butter chicken sauce to whipping cream to bring to room temperature, and then pour into crock pot). Add salt and pepper to taste.
7. Return shredded chicken to sauce and stir.
8. Serve on slider buns; garnish as desired with cabbage, cucumber, cilantro and chutney.

Note: Leftovers can be cooled in the fridge and then frozen in Ziploc bags or containers.

(Cooking For) Kiwi and Bean
(Cooking for) Kiwi & Bean is all about simple, wholesome family recipes: dinners you can create with pantry staples when you walk through the door at the end of the day, breakfasts you can whip up the night before, and snacks and treats that you can make with your kids.

ClassicCanadianCaesar

A Classic Caesar to Enjoy Any Time of Year

By Nancy Wu

Some use oysters, prawns, bacon or onion rings to garnish theirs, but I prefer a classic Canadian Caesar. No, it is not a Bloody Mary. It is delicious. It is genuinely Canadian. It is all about the clam juice – the slightly spicy saltiness that defines a Caesar. As a born and bred Vancouverite, the smell just pulls at my heartstrings. It reminds me of the summer: long barbecues on the beach, fishing on Vancouver Island and hiking the local trails.

The Caesar is my cocktail of choice. I particularly crave this whenever I’m away on vacation simply because it reminds me of home. But when I order it, I often just get blank stares. “So what’s in a Caesar?” people ask. This classic Caesar is made with tomato juice, Worcestershire sauce, horseradish, spices and, of course, clam juice!

Classic Canadian Caesar, Courtesy of Nancy Wu, Nomss.com, Port Coquitlam, B.C.

The clam juice makes all the difference in this tasty cocktail.

ClassicCanadianCaesar

Prep time: 10 mins
Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients
Caesar glass rimmer
1 lime (cut into 5 wedges)
4-8 oz (120-240 mL) vodka
3 cups (approx 725 mL) Caesar mix
2 tbsp (30 mL) lime juice
1 tbsp (15 mL) Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp (15 mL) prepared horseradish
ice (optional)
pepper to taste
fresh sage leaves
4 bamboo skewers

Directions
1. Cover small flat plate with Caesar rimmer.
2. Use 1 lime wedge to wet rim of each glass. Coat rims with Caesar rimmer.
3. Divide vodka among glasses.
4. Pour Caesar mix, lime juice, Worcestershire sauce and horseradish into large pitcher and stir.
5. Top vodka with Caesar mix and stir.
6. Add ice if desired.
7. Top with fresh pepper. Thread 1 sage leaf and 1 lime wedge onto each skewer; use to garnish drinks.

Note:
Use 10 or 12 oz. (325 or 375 mL) glasses or mason jars for that ultra-Canadian look.

Nomss
Nancy is a finance professional by trade and the editor-in-chief of nomss.com, a Vancouver food blog focused on food journalism, lifestyle, travel, branding and social media. Nancy is passionate about invoking vivid imagery, descriptive experiences and public relations. She is digitally savvy and energetic about content marketing, strategic goodwill, digital relationships and food photography.

8 Ways to Adjust Any Recipe for a Slow Cooker

Embrace slow cooker season by tweaking your favourite recipes for some serious countertop cooking. Here are 8 important tips for perfecting your slow-cooker game and ensuring you get it right.

888_adapt-recipes-for-slow-cooker

1. Choose the Right Recipe
If the recipe calls for braising or slow-roasting, consider it a good dinner omen because chances are it’ll be a slam-dunk in the Crockpot. While you can bet that almost any soup or stew will work, don’t forget that recipes for things like pulled pork, chicken thighs and even ribs, all benefit from a slow and low cook time, which means it’s perfect for the slow cooker.

2. Cooking Meat
There’s no hard and fast rule for slow cooking meat, but tough and inexpensive cuts happen to work best, since the tough fibres have time to relax and soften during a low and slow setting. To coax the best flavour out of your meat, take the time to brown it well before putting it in the Crockpot so that you seal in as much moisture and flavour as possible. That being said, meats like a well marbled pork shoulder, chicken thighs and legs, and brisket all trump boneless, skinless chicken breasts, which tend to dry out in the slow cooker.

3. Opt for Fresh
If you’ve got fresh vegetables, use them. While we love frozen vegetables for quick cook recipes, they tend to release more water and steam in the slow cooker, which can add excess liquid and make for soggy vegetables. Also remember to chop all your vegetables roughly the same size to ensure even cooking.

4. Be Mindful of Seasoning
Cooking in the slow cooker doesn’t allow aggressive seasonings and flavours time to meld and mellow the same way they do when simmering on a stove or in the oven. Be careful when using strong seasonings like paprika, chili powder and cumin, which should be used in moderation, and adjusted or added at the end. When it comes to wine, reduce it before adding it to the mix so you can properly cook off the alcohol and leave behind the concentrated flavour.

5. Know When to Add Ingredients
Leave delicate ingredients like herbs for the final 30 minutes, and starchy items like rice or pasta for the end. If the recipe calls for dairy, add it at the end of the cooking time so the fat won’t separate, and when it comes to veggies like green peppers, pop them in about 20 minutes before the timer goes off to keep them from turning bitter.

6. A Rule for Starch
If your recipe calls for cooked pasta, cook it a few minutes before the suggested time on the box, until it’s a bit firmer than your traditional al dente and then add it in near the end. For rice, try converted or long grain versions, and add an extra 1/4 cup of liquid per 1/4 cup of uncooked rice or choose parboiled rice, added about 20 minutes before the dish is done. For longer cooking recipes, add fully cooked rice just before serving.

7. Liquid Remedy
Since cooking liquid doesn’t have anywhere to escape in a slow cooker, it will simply accumulate and make recipes like chili and stew too soupy. A good rule of thumb to follow when adapting a recipe for the slow cooker is to halve all liquids. If you find it’s still too much, transfer the dish to a heavy-bottomed pot and simmer uncovered until it reduces and thickens up.

8. Time it Right
If your recipe calls for 15 to 30 minutes in the oven, it’s going to need roughly 4 to 6 hours on low or 1 1/2 to 2 hours on high. If it says cook for 35 to 45 minutes, set your Crockpot on low for 6 to 8 hours or on high for 3 to 4 hours. For a recipe with a longer cook time of 1 to 3 hours, set it on high for 4 to 6 hours or leave it on low overnight for 8 to 12 hours.