8 Sugar Shacks You Need to Visit This Winter

Sorry Western Canada; you might have all the gorgeous mountain ranges and top ski destinations, but Eastern Canada rules the roost when it comes to homegrown maple syrup and sugar shacks.

From Ontario to Nova Scotia, here are eight sugar shacks that are worth putting on those winter boots and stomping through the snow for.

Sugar Moon Farm

Sugar Moon Farm

Cabane PDC (Montreal, QC) 

Arguably the most well-known sugar shack in the country, Martin Picard’s Cabane au Sucre is also one of the hardest spots to get a seat. Just like his Montreal eatery, Au Pied De Cochon, it’s all things rich and indulgent here, so don’t expect to walk out feeling anything but full to the brim.

Crinklaw Maple Products (London, ON) 

Having been in operation for over 180 years, I think it’s safe to say this family-run maple syrup business has truly stood the test of time. Though it doesn’t open until early March and doesn’t offer a dining experience, there’s tons of winter fun to partake in, like sleigh rides and maybe throwing a snowball or two.

Érablière Au Sous-Bois: Brunch

Brunch at Érablière Au Sous-Bois

Érablière Au Sous-Bois (Mont-Saint-Grégoire, QC) 

A bit larger than your regular sugar shack, Érablière not only offers the standard maple producing tours, and food and drink, but also night time dancing. Open until 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights, this spot would make a super fun outing for a group of friends or a couple on a date.

La Tablee des Pionniers (Saint-Faustin-Lac-Carré, QC) 

Owned by celebrity Québecois chef Louis-Francois Marcotte, this sugar shack is a must-try for any self-proclaimed lover of the maple delight. With coursed, family-style menus (centred around maple syrup, of course), ranging from $30-$50 per person, you can dive into a myriad of dishes; pulled pork and mushroom in puff pastry, warming split pea soup with savoy cabbage and bacon, and much more. Don’t worry, there’s maple taffy, too.

La Tablee des Pionniers

La Tablee des Pionniers

Sand Road Sugar Camp (Moose Creek, ON) 

You’ll find this popular maple syrup manufacturer just a short drive from Ottawa. Ideal for a family excursion, there’s so much to explore including how maple trees are tapped, strolling around forest trails, or simply enjoying a big brunch buffet.

Sugar Moon Farm

Sugar Moon Farm: Sugar Baby Jarfait

Sugar Moon Farm (Earltown, NS) 

A beautiful drive on winding roads in rural Nova Scotia will bring you to this charming little spot nestled in a forest of maple trees. The menu offers good, honest food with a focus on breakfast. The pancakes and maple baked beans are the perfect sweet-meets-savoury combination, but don’t skip the Sugar Baby Jarfait; layered with maple granola, organic yogurt and Nova Scotia blueberries, this is simplicity at its best!

Sugar Moon Farm

Sugar Moon Farm: Maple Baked Beans

Temple’s Sugar Bush (Lanark, ON) 

Once you’re done exploring the outdoors, take a seat inside Temple’s main building to find that it’s anything but a dusty old shack. Tall vaulted ceilings, a large fireplace and lofted areas make you feel like you’re in more of a mansion than a maple farm. Don’t forget to pick up some maple sugar and their signature maple sticky buns on the way out!

Temple’s Sugar Bush

Temple’s Sugar Bush

Trites Maples (Stilesville, NB) 

Just outside of Moncton, this cozy family-run sugar shack operates during the weekend until 3 p.m. For breakfast, you can enjoy big stacks of buckwheat pancakes, sausages, maple baked beans cooked in a wood-fired oven, and (the most important one of all) all-you-can-eat maple taffy. Meet me there?

ice wine

Canadian Icewine: From Bitter Cold to Liquid Gold

Canadians aren’t ones to brag, but when it comes to icewine, we’ve got the world beat. Icewine, like Canada itself, is the sweetness born of warm summers, cold winters and rich agricultural traditions. It’s no wonder we come out on top in quality and quantity.

ice wine

With notes of honey, caramel and fresh fruit, icewine is a fragrant treat. However, typical Canadian humility may be interfering with the homegrown appreciation of our internationally coveted export.

“When you’re talking about something sweet, people get scared,” says Marco Celio, sommelier and general manager of Toronto’s Ovest. “Generally they want something a little bit more powerful, dry and bitter. But if you know how to pair it, I think icewine is one of the most enjoyable drinks you can have from grapes.”

Ovest sommelier Marco Celio

Legend has it that the first batch of icewine, produced in 18th century Germany, was a lucky accident. Unseasonably cold weather had frozen grapes on the vine before they could be harvested. Struggling to make the best of things, the German vintners pressed the grapes. To their surprise, the resulting wine was so delicious they purposefully let future grapes freeze whenever conditions allowed.

Luckily for Canadian icewine enthusiasts, conditions in Ontario’s Niagara region and British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley almost always allow. Warm summers and cold – but not too cold – winters are the ripe conditions that make Canadian icewines the most consistently delicious.

Ironically, that consistency requires flexibility. True icewine can only be made from grapes frozen on the vine, which are typically handpicked at night to maintain proper temperature.  Harvesters wait for the call, and when conditions are optimal, bundle up and get picking for results that are true north and sweet.

Serving

True to its name, icewine is typically served chilled. Celio recommends refrigerating your bottle a few hours before pouring into a standard, wide-mouth glass. “The beauty of icewine is that it’s something that really has to be enjoyed from the nose,” he says, “So you don’t want to use a small glass. You want a nice open glass where there is perfect ventilation and all the aroma can come out.”

Tasting

When including icewine in a tasting, Celio suggests letting it warm a bit, to better release its unique fragrance. Then enjoy it exactly as you would any other wine. “You want to see the colour, because you’re going to have different icewine with white grapes and dark grapes,” says Celio. “You want to understand the nose, because the nose is very different than what you’re tasting – usually it’s much sweeter than what you get on your mouth.” Finally, be sure to serve it alongside complimentary nibbles. “Icewine is something that needs to have a friend,” says Celio.

Pairing

Pairing icewine requires care, but modern sommeliers are challenging the idea that it’s only fit to serve with dessert. In addition to dark, bitter chocolate and chocolate hazelnut-based desserts, Celio suggests serving icewine with cheese, particularly strong blues for a playful contrast. If you do serve it with dessert, be sure to choose a treat that’s less sweet than the wine itself, to avoid overpowering the food.

Cocktailing

Marco Celio is a wine purist, and while he wouldn’t personally dilute icewine’s special flavour with other spirits, he concedes that others might like mixing it with aperol or bitters.

Storing

Keep opened bottles of icewine in the fridge. The less frequently they’re opened, the longer they’ll last, says Celio. Regardless, the flavours in most bottles will start changing in about five to six days. If you can’t finish the bottle on the first go, grab some wide glasses and a few friends and enjoy a second round of sweet times.

The Ultimate Canadian Kitchen Sink Cookie

If there’s one cookie that will both satisfy your cravings and fill you with Canadian pride, it’s this one. A twist on the classic chocolate chip cookie, this wacky recipe combines uniquely Canadian junk food, like Hickory Sticks and Coffee Crisp, with good old-fashioned maple fudge, so you get a bit of Canada in every single bite.

The result: a cookie that’s so Canadian, it can only be made here.

Canadian Compost Cookie

Canadian Kitchen Sink Cookie

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Makes: 14 cookies

Ingredients:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup Hickory Sticks
1/2 cup Coffee Crisp Bites, halved or 1 Coffee Crisp bar, roughly chopped
1/2 cup maple fudge, roughly chopped

Directions:
1. Arrange oven racks in top and bottom thirds. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment. Set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, stir flour with salt, baking soda and baking powder.
3. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter with sugars until creamy, about 2 minutes. Beat in egg. Using a wooden spoon, gradually stir in flour mixture until just combined. Mix in remaining ingredients.
4. Roll dough into balls about 2 Tbsp in size and place on prepared sheets, spacing 3 inches apart. Bake cookies, rotating and switching sheets halfway through, until edges are just golden, 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool slightly, about 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Looking for more Canadian treats? Discover 10 Iconic Canadian Foods You Can Make at Home.

How to Make Paul McGreevy’s Saskatoon Pie Fries

“When you make a lot of pies, you end up with a lot of dough trimmings,” says Paul McGreevy, executive chef at Calgary brunch hotspot The Beltliner. “As a chef, you want to think of ways to utilize the leftovers of any ingredient or product, so we tested out this idea I had for pie ‘fries’. We ran it for a feature for a few weeks and people really loved it, so now they’re on the menu.”

888_pie-fries

Here’s how to make The Beltliner’s signature treat at home:

Do the dough right.
The most important tip is to avoid over-mixing your dough, says McGreevy. The second most important thing is to work with cold butter or lard to make sure you get a perfectly flaky pastry.

Fill ’em up.
“I have tried a lot of fillings and have yet to find one that hasn’t worked,” says Chef McGreevy. “Use a filling you love.”

Chill out! Your filling, that is.
It’s always better to work with chilled filling while making these pie fries or any pie in general. Warm filling and cold pastry don’t go together!

Play with presentation.
“I like to play off of French fries for presentation,” says McGreevy, “so paper bags, small baskets work well.”

Serve with dip.
Vanilla crème Anglaise and caramel are great choices.

Saskatoon Pie Fries
Makes: 12 pieces

Ingredients:

For the Filling:
4 cups Saskatoon berries (fresh or frozen)
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 cup granulated sugar
1/8 cup cornstarch
1 Tbsp unsalted butter

For the Pie Dough:
315 g all purpose flour
3/4 tsp salt
1 Tbsp granulated sugar
250 g unsalted butter
125 ml ice water

Directions:

For the Filling:
1. Combine all ingredients except butter in a heavy bottom sauce pot and place over medium heat.
2. Once the juices have started to come out of the berries, turn the heat up to high and continue to cook until the liquid has reduced and the mixture is thick.
3. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely before use.

For the Pie Dough:
1. Dice butter into 1/4-inch cubes and place in fridge.
2. Mix all dry ingredients together in a stainless steel mixing bowl.
3. Add diced butter to flour and using a paddle attachment, mix at low speed until the butter is pea meal size.
4. Add ice water and mix until just incorporated.
5. Wrap the dough and place in fridge for at least 1 hour.

To Assemble:
1. Place filling in a food processor and pulse until the berries have broken up. Place mix into a piping bag.
2. Cut the ball of dough in half.
3. Roll the dough until 1/4-cm thick and into a rectangular shape (15 inch x 9 inch). Repeat with second piece.
4. Starting 1/2 an inch from the edge of the pastry, pipe the filling approximately 1 cm thick. Leave a 1-inch space then pipe a second line of filling. Repeat twice more.
5. Carefully lay the second sheet over top and gently rest on top. Using a chef’s knife, cut in between each row of the filling.
6. Cut strips into 3-inch long pieces and place on baking tray lined with parchment paper.
7. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Bake at 350°F for 8-10 minutes.

Sticky Rice

Easy Fixes for Sticky Pasta and Rice

Cooking pasta should be as easy as, well, boiling water. But alas, it’s more complicated than that. The quantity of cooking water, timing and amount of stirring all play important roles in how things turn out. So what do you do when you get yourself into a sticky situation? Here’s how to unglue sticky pasta and rice, without becoming unglued yourself.

How to Stop Sticky Rice

For Pasta

If your noodles are clumping, your best bet is to dump them into a colander and run cold water over top. They’ll loosen up and then you can rewarm them gently in the sauce. Your other choice is to toss or sauté the pasta with a bit of oil or fat to coat it — slippery noodles will slide apart from one another.

For Rice

If a pot of basmati rice is a sticky mess, it’s usually because, like pasta, it was cooked with too little water. To unstick it, dump the rice into a larger saucepan, add about a 1/2 of water and heat on low. Gently break up the clumps with a fork. Simmer, covered, for a few minutes and the clumps should start to relax. At this point, remove the saucepan from heat and let it stand with the lid on for at least 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork. Drain, if any water remains in the bottom.

If this doesn’t work, the rice might have either been too far gone, or sticky for a different reason — either because it over-stirred or overcooked. At this point, you can rinse it in cold water, like with pasta, to remove as much excess starch as possible and break up the clumps, but it won’t be perfect. To rewarm, gently sauté in a bit of oil. Better yet, repurpose it into creamy Cinnamon Raisin Rice Pudding.

Looking for recipes? Try these 14 Delicious Pasta Dishes from Giada De Laurentiis.

Secret Timbit Cupcakes

Can’t choose between cupcakes or doughnuts for your next party? Now you can have your cupcake and eat your doughnut too. We’re bringing you the best of both dessert worlds with these deceptively plain vanilla cupcakes.
Take a bite and you’ll find that each one carries an iconic Canadian treat – a Timbit! We think you’ll agree that these bite-sized doughnuts have never been such a sweet secret.

Timbit Cupcake
Secret Timbit Cupcakes
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 50 minutes
Makes: 24 cupcakes

Ingredients:

Cupcakes:
1 pkg vanilla cake mix
24 Timbits

Vanilla Icing:
1 cup unsalted butter
4 cups icing sugar
1/4 cup whipping cream
2 tsp vanilla extract

Timbit Cupcake

Directions:

1. Preheat oven according to vanilla cake package directions. Line two 12-cup muffin pans with cupcake liners.
2. Prepare cake mix batter. Drop 1 tbsp of batter into each liner. Top each with one Timbit. Drizzle 2 tbsp of batter over each Timbit to coat. It’s okay that batter will not fully cover doughnut.
3. Bake according to package directions, until a skewer inserted into cupcakes come out clean. Cupcakes may have a ‘dip’ in the centre. Transfer to a rack to cool completely, about 1 hour.
4.To make icing, beat unsalted butter with an electric mixer in a large bowl until fluffy. Gradually beat in icing sugar, alternating with cream when it gets too thick. Beat in vanilla until very smooth.
5. Spread icing on cooled cupcakes using a spoon, or fill a piping bag fitted with a star tip and swirl frosting on cupcakes.
6. Serve and enjoy!

Timbit Cupcakes

Substitution Tip: We used chocolate Timbits in our cupcakes, but you can use any Timbit flavour of our choice. We recommend using chocolate cake mix and icing (instead of vanilla), if you want to use plain Timbits.

Chicken and Italian Sausage Cacciatore

Braising chicken is underrated. Everyone always wants to roast, fry, or grill, but braising gives the chicken time to absorb the utmost flavour and become extremely tender while staying moist.

Chicken cacciatore, a hunter-style one-pan braised dish that’s usually a humble mixture of chicken, herbs and peppers, gets turned up a few notches in this recipe.

Chicken_Sausage_Cacciatore_Danielle_Oron-4

This version of chicken cacciatore is made with the addition of sausage, peppers, garlic, potatoes, rosemary, bay leaves, olives and lots of red wine. It’s warming and luxurious, perfect for any winter table. I serve it with a chunk of crusty bread to soak up all of that delicious gravy, but it can also be served over rice or pasta. The garnish of lemon zest at the end brightens up the dish just enough.

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Serves: 4

Chicken_Sausage_Cacciatore_Danielle_Oron-1

Ingredients:
2 Tbsp olive oil
4 mild Italian sausages
4 chicken legs (thighs and drumsticks attached)
Salt and black pepper
1 large red onion, cut into ½” thick slices
1 large or 2 small green peppers, cut into ½” thick strips
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 Tbsp all purpose flour
2 cups dry red wine (like a Chianti or even a Rioja or Malbec)
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup strained tomato puree
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp fresh black pepper
4 medium Yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1” pieces
1 cup pitted green olives (I use Castelveltrano olives)
2 sprigs rosemary
6 bay leaves
Lemon zest
Crusty country loaf of bread

Chicken_Sausage_Cacciatore_Danielle_Oron-2

Directions:
1. In a large sauté pan with a lid, heat the olive oil over medium. Sear the sausages for 3-4 minutes per side.
2. While the sausages are searing, season the chicken legs well with lots of salt and pepper.
3. Once the sausages are browned on all sides, remove them from the pan and place the chicken into the pan, skin side down first.
4. Sear the chicken for 4-5 minutes per side until nicely browned. Remove them from the pan.
5. Add onions and peppers to the pan, and sauté until softened and they’ve picked up a bit of colour, about 6 minutes stirring often.
6. Add garlic and sauté for 1 minute, then add flour and cook for 1 minute.
7. Deglaze the pan with the red wine, scraping the bottom to lift all of the flavour bits into the sauce.
8. Reduce the wine by half until there is about 1 cup left.
Stir in stock, strained tomatoes, salt and pepper.
9. Add in potatoes, olives, chicken legs and sausages to the pan. Be sure the chicken and sausages are in one layer. It’s fine if the potatoes are all underneath.
10. Add rosemary sprigs and bay leaves to the pan.
11. Bring to a boil and then turn down to a simmer and cover with the lid. Simmer on low for 1 hour, undisturbed.
12. Uncover and continue to simmer for an additional 20 minutes until the gravy is thick.
13. Before serving, zest a lemon over top. Enjoy with a crusty loaf of fresh bread!

Chicken_Sausage_Cacciatore_Danielle_Oron-5

Chopped Canada: Signs Things Are Going Awry in the Kitchen

It’s one thing to cook from the comfort of your own restaurant kitchen, but finding yourself on the set of Chopped Canada means two things: you’re good enough to compete on national television and the heat is on.

Claudia Bianchi can tell when a contestant is in over their head. The Chopped Canada culinary producer shares the warning signs that a contestant is headed for trouble.

888_chopped-canada-kitchen

They’re frantic in the pantry.
“Sometimes they have a missing ingredient, where they’re looking and searching,” says Bianchi. “One time a chef yelled out, ‘Any red onion?’ and another competitor replied, ‘I’m a Canadian and I’m happy to share.’” That chef was lucky, says Bianchi, as a missing ingredient means switching plans in the middle of a round, which can throw off a chef’s concentration — and their final dish.

They’re scrambling.
It’s normal for chefs to break a sweat during Chopped Canada’s timed challenges, but there’s a difference between hustling and struggling, and you can see it on the plates, says Bianchi. “Not having enough time to plate the dish and scrambling with not enough time for presentation at the end,” are clear indications of trouble.

They’re bleeding.
“Most competitors come to the Chopped Canada kitchen with confidence in their cooking and knife skills — these are almost a given because it’s what they do everyday,” says Bianchi. “But nerves can get the best of some of the competitors, and we see nicks and cuts on their fingers.” Some chefs recover quickly from these uncharacteristic cuts, while others start to unravel.

They’ve got pots on every burner.
If you can’t multitask, you can’t run a restaurant kitchen, and you certainly can’t compete on Chopped Canada. But it is possible to have too many things on the go at once, says Bianchi. “Sometimes the whole stove is full, then they’re running to the deep fryer. And things are burning and bubbling over. We see burns.”

Watch Chopped Canada on Saturdays at 9 E/P.

Mangoes

Is This Fruit Ripe? Tricks to Buying the Sweetest Produce

Although it’s easy to spot which fruit is perfectly ripe at a roadside stand in the peak of summer (hello, juicy peaches and oh-so fragrant strawberries!), during the remaining months it can be challenging to figure out if the fruit you’re purchasing is truly at its peak.

While we have seemingly endless options available at the grocery store year-round, it’s not as simple to tell when some fruits are ripe. Here are some easy tips to make sure you are never disappointed when you crack into a beautiful piece of fruit.

orange

Citrus
Since citrus grows in a separate climate from ours, it’s easy to forget that there actually is a season when they’re at their best. Lucky for us, prime citrus season is in the dead of winter, just as we’re so desperately looking for those bright and sunny flavours.
Indulge in blood oranges, pomelos, grapefruit and Meyer lemons from December to March while they’re super sweet and juicy. Look for citrus with tight skin that doesn’t have a lot of give when pressed. If they’re too soft, they could be passed their prime. Always make sure to give them a good sniff. The ripest citrus will be bursting with the scent of their essential oils.

Pineapple

Pineapple
Choosing a ripe pineapple can seem a bit tricky, but they’re actually one of the easiest fruits to tell if they’re ripe — as long as you know what to look for. Counter intuitively, a pineapple can have some green throughout its body and still be perfectly ripe. So take a step back and look at its overall appearance. Its top leaves should be deeply green and not too wilted or browned. and its skin should be tight and only gives slightly when pressed. Most importantly, a fully ripe pineapple will always have super sweet scent, so pick it up by the top and smell the base. Its aroma should be fruity and delicious.

Melons
Unlike oranges and pineapples, not every variety of melon will give off a scent to gauge its ripeness, but luckily there are other simple ways to find out. Look for melons that have consistently even skin, free of any soft spots, bruising or cracks. Smooth melons, such as watermelon, should have a matte finish and lacy melons, such as cantaloupe, should be vibrant in colour underneath their rough, top layer. Regardless of the melon you’re buying, pick it up. It should feel heavy , then give it a gentle knock; a ripe melon will always sound hollow inside.

Mangoes

Mangoes
The best rule of thumb when it comes to purchasing a mango is pretty simple: a soft mango will always be a ripe one. Once you know this rule, it’s easier to look for indicators to make sure the mango isn’t overripe. The skin should be tight and plump, without any shrivelling or discolouration. Take the time to pick it up and smell it by the stem; it should smell sweet and fresh, not alcoholic or sour.

Avocado

Avocados
If you’re shopping on a Sunday and want to have an avocado towards the end of the week, it’s best to buy ones that are under-ripe so it has a few days to reach perfection. If you want to make a bowl of guacamole tonight, look for avocadoes that are so deeply green, they’re almost black and have a slight give when pressed. Be careful if doesn’t feel too soft, an overripe avocado will have a lot of give and feel squishy inside.

8 Vegan Restaurants in Canada You Have to Try

Eating vegan in Canada used to be a bit of a challenge but cruelty-free cuisine has become widespread in recent years and continues to thrive. Here are eight veggie-centric restaurants across Canada that are sure to satisfying any palate.

Boon Burger

Boon Burger

be love (Victoria, BC)

Start off your meal with a spread of house-made nut and seed cheeses and then try some fun takes on classic dishes, like the pastrami-spiced portobello ‘reuben’ sandwich. They also offer a weekend brunch (Victoria is big on brunch!) Vegan or not, the cardamom pear pancakes with maple ginger syrup and vanilla cashew ‘cream cheese’ will give your taste buds a shake.

Boon Burger (Winnipeg, MB and Barrie, ON)

It would be a shame to spend a chunk of time in Winnipeg (where Boon Burger’s original location is) and not pop in for one of their big, juicy vegan burgers. Whether you’re having the jalapeño ‘cheddar’ burger with pickled jalapeños and house burger sauce or the spicy boon buffalo burger, don’t forget to end your meal with their homemade coconut soft serve. Winter be damned!

Boon Burger: Vegan Poutine

Boon Burger: Vegan Poutine

Chau Veggiexpress (Vancouver, BC) 

Fresh and aromatic, the myriad of dishes offered at this vibrant Vietnamese joint are just as much of a treat for your eyes as they are for your mouth. Try their spin on pho (“candlelit lantern”), and since no Vietnamese dinner is complete without spring rolls, order the “non la rolls” filled with kale, shallots and tofu with a lemon vegan ‘fish sauce’.

ChuChai (Montreal, QC) 

Many of my friends that have eaten at ChuChai have left with a, ‘I can’t believe there was no meat in those dishes’ reaction. Using products like seitan (a glutenous meat substitute that can be seasoned, shaped and formed in a variety of ways), this Thai restaurant is able to create plates of food similar to many classics. From panang beef to salt and pepper squid, these vegan takes have all of the robust flavours of the original dishes, but none of the meat. Fooling your taste buds has never been so rewarding.

The Coup (Calgary, AB) 

It comes as no surprise that there aren’t many options for vegan dining in the land of beef, but The Coup, 11 years in business and counting, does a stand-up job. Aside from an exquisite interior, the restaurant offers creative food (the menu is about 75 percent vegan) and drink, including refreshing cocktails made from house-made juices and dishes like tandoori cauliflower wings with chimichurri.

The Hogtown Vegan: Philly Cheesesteak

The Hogtown Vegan: Philly Cheesesteak

enVie: A Vegan Kitchen (Halifax, NS) 

This popular vegan eatery on the east coast offers a little bit of everything, from lunch and dinner to weekend brunch. They also have a full-service grab-and-go area where you can buy an array of cold-pressed juices, salads and more. Their poutine with house-made ‘cheese curds’ will make anyone’s tummy happy, whether you’re a carnivore, herbivore or somewhere in between.

The Hogtown Vegan (Toronto, ON) 

While the name and branding (a gigantic pig as the logo) can be a little puzzling, everything you eat at this Toronto hotspot is completely meat-free. That being said, Hogtown is all about taking those classic, greasy-good pub dishes like nachos, wings and mac ‘n’ cheese, and making them deliciously vegan.

The Hogtown Vegan: Unchicken and Waffles

The Hogtown Vegan: Unchicken and Waffles

Kupfert & Kim (Toronto, ON) 

This small chain of fast-casual vegan restaurants is not only meat and dairy-free, but wheat-free too. Don’t worry, that certainly doesn’t mean the food is flavour-free. Swing by for a quick lunch and try one of the rice or quinoa bowls, or the congee made with brown rice, organic bok choy, house-made kimchi and loads of other veggies. There’s kombucha on tap here too!

Kupfert and Kim

Kupfert & Kim

How to Cool Down Spicy Food

3 Ways to Cool Down Spicy Food

Sometimes chili peppers are unpredictable. Jalapeños can range from bell pepper sweet to inferno hot, with subtle variations depending on the climate where they were grown and the ripeness of the fruit when it was picked.

You can make a recipe, finding it perfect the first time and inedible the next. Or maybe you just have a heavy hand with the cayenne. In any case, what do you do when you’ve prepared a meal that’s painfully hot to eat?

How to Cool Too Spicy Food

1. Add Dairy.
Capsaicin, the molecule responsible for the burn, is fat-soluble, so water alone won’t wash it away. Your best bet is to incorporate a rich, creamy dairy product. Casein, a protein found in dairy, has a neutralizing effect on capsaicin, so doctor up your your curry with cream, your chili with sour cream, or offer a cooling cucumber-yogurt salad alongside too-spicy meats.

2. Try Texture.
Another trick, offered by the acclaimed food science writer Harold McGee, is to use a rough-textured food to distract your nerves with a different sensation. Try mixing your dish with rice or quinoa, or serving it alongside a particularly tongue-scratchy food, like dry crackers or toasted baguette.

3. Dilute it.
Lastly, you could follow an approach similar to fixing over-salted food. Dilute the spiciness by cooking more of the same dish and mixing the two batches.

Jennifer Pallian is a Vancouver-based food writer and photographer, who shares vibrant recipes on her blog Foodess.

Winter Wonderland Birthday Party

A Whimsical Winter Wonderland Birthday Party

When I was younger, given the choice, I would always pick chocolate cake over coconut.  But as I got older, I really started to appreciate the subtle flavour of coconut — especially in winter.

With a hint of warm spices, coconut’s dreamy qualities are even more pronounced, making it an ideal cake for a winter birthday party. The fact that shredded coconut looks like snow is an added bonus!

Celebrate a winter birthday with a whimsical, winter wonderland themed party, complete with a snowy coconut cake and rustic decorations.

Winter Wonderland Cake

Give your party a fun, winter wonderland feel by creating a rustic woodland scene complete with DIY evergreen tree toppers, a  gold winter hare and lots of shredded coconut. If you want to kick it up a notch, make a shimmering snow scene by dusting some fine edible glitter on top of the coconut layer.

Coconut Cake Slice

Coconut Chai Cake with Coconut Buttercream
Makes: 1 three-layered 6 inch cake

Coconut Chai Cake:
185 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/3 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs
2-1/4 cup flour
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
200 ml coconut milk
100 ml milk
2 chai teabags (~2 tbsp chai tea leaves)

Coconut Buttercream:
227g (1 cup) butter, at room temperature
3 cups icing sugar
3 tbsp coconut milk

Winter Wonderland Cake

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 350°F and grease the 6-inch cake pans.
2. Over medium heat, let the two chai tea bags steep in the milk. Once milk comes to a light boil, remove from heat and let tea bags steep for 5-10 minutes. Once milk has cooled down, combine the milk with the coconut milk.
3. In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together. Gradually add in the eggs, one at a time.
4. In a separate bowl, whisk to combine flour, baking powder, shredded coconut and salt.
5. Add half of the dry ingredients to the butter-sugar mixture and mix on slow to combine.
6. Pour in the milk and coconut milk and add in the remaining of the dry ingredients. Mix until combined.
7. Divide the mixture evenly among the three prepared cake pans and bake for 33-35 minutes. Check for doneness by using a toothpick. If the toothpick comes out clean, you’re good to go! You can also test for doneness by gently pressing your finger on the cake — it should spring back up.
8. For the icing, using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment cream the butter until mixture is pale in colour and fluffy. Add the icing sugar, one cup at a time and alternating between adding the icing sugar and coconut milk, beat until light and fluffy. Add more coconut milk, 1 Tbsp at a time if buttercream is too thick.

Winter Wonderland Decorations

You’ll Need:
– Skewer sticks
– Assortment of felt, scrapbook paper, card stock
– Glue
– Plastic figurine
– Gold paint (non-toxic)
– Fresh flowers

Winter Wonderland Cake Toppers

Tree Cake Toppers

Draw out tree shapes on a variety of scrapbook paper, felt and glitter card stock. Cut out your trees.

Using a hot glue gun, apply a small dollop of glue at the blunt end of a skewer stick. Gently press a paper tree on top of the glue. Let the glue dry for a couple of seconds before arranging on your cake.

Gold Hare Cake Topper

Gold Hare Topper

Using non-toxic gold paint (easily found in the kids section at your local arts and craft store), apply a thin coat onto the plastic toy figurine. Apply a second coat if desired. Let paint completely dry (overnight, if possible) before placing on top of cake.

Tip: Your local craft store or toy store will have a great selection of plastic toys that will work as toppers.

By Amy Ho

When she’s not completing statistics homework for her graduate studies, Amy Ho can be found in her tiny kitchen testing recipes and adorning cakes with flowers. She can also be found dreaming up new cake ideas for her blog, Constellation Inspiration

Olive Oil Pasta

5 Simple Olive Oil Pasta Sauces

While a high-quality bottle of olive oil can carry a hefty price tag, investing in a beautiful and pure variety will allow you to make quick and simple pastas that are not only delicious, but require minimal ingredients. Because a true olive oil demands less heat and cook time, it’s the ideal solution to whip up an impressive dinner. No matter where in the Mediterranean it was produced, choose an extra-virgin olive oil that carries fruity notes and has a peppery finish. Then, use it in one of these five satisfying sauces.

Olive Oil Pasta Sauces

Caramelized Mushroom Sauce
Cook ribbon cut pasta, such as tagliatelle, in a large pot of well-salted boiling water. Heat a large frying pan over medium-high. Add chopped, mixed mushrooms to the dry pan and cook, stirring often, until the mushrooms have released their moisture and are golden-brown. Reduce heat to medium. Generously drizzle mushrooms with extra-virgin olive oil. Stir in a thinly sliced garlic clove and continue cooking until garlic is soft. Add pasta, then freshly chopped flat-leaf parsley. Toss until pasta is well coated.

Classic Parmesan Sauce
Cook short-cut pasta, such as penne, in a large pot of well-salted boiling water. Reserve a splash of cooking water. Heat a large frying pan over medium. Add a generous drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil, then two minced garlic cloves. Cook, stirring often, until garlic is soft. Add pasta, along with a large handful of grated Parmesan cheese and reserved cooking water, tossing until mixture is creamy. Season generously with freshly cracked black pepper.

Capers and Basil Pasta
Cook decorative-cut pasta, such as orecchiette, in a large pot of well-salted boiling water. Heat a large frying pan over medium-low. Add a generous drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil, then two finely chopped anchovies. Cook, stirring often, until fragrant. Stir in a handful of chopped, drained capers and continue cooking until slightly crisp. Add pasta, then freshly chopped basil. Toss until pasta is well coated.

Fresh Breadcrumb Pasta
Cook long-cut pasta, such as bucatini, in a large pot of well-salted, boiling water. Heat a large frying pan over medium-high. Add fresh breadcrumbs and cook, stirring often, until lightly toasted. Transfer to a plate. Generously drizzle extra-virgin olive oil into same pan and set over medium. Add three thinly sliced shallots and cook, stirring often, until soft. Stir in roughly chopped green olives and fresh thyme leaves until warmed through. Add pasta and breadcrumbs. Toss until well coated.

Sundried Tomato Pesto
Cook short-cut pasta, such as rigatoni, in a large pot of well-salted boiling water. Add oil-packed sundried tomatoes, drained, with toasted slivered almonds, one garlic clove and a handful of grated Parmesan to a food processor until finely chopped. With the motor running, slowly pour extra-virgin olive oil until mixture is smooth. Season with salt and freshly cracked pepper. Toss with pasta.

Looking for more delicious pasta recipes? Try Giada De Laurentiis’s 14 Best Pasta Recipes.

roger-mooking-batch-cooking

5 Foods Roger Mooking Always Cooks in Batches

Roger-Mooking-Chopped-Canada

Think you know everything when it comes to batch cooking?

When it comes to the art of cooking in bulk, Chopped Canada judge Roger Mooking has it down pat. As the father of four kids, he makes it a weekly priority.

“During the week, we’re busy running kids to and from activities, so I tend to spend Sundays cooking and freezing a bunch of stuff that we can build meals from easily,” Rogers says.

From easy sauces to breakfasts-on-the-go, here are 5 things that Roger batch cooks for his family.

Hummus
“I add it to sandwiches instead of mayo, or to soups to thicken and make heartier.”

Stock
“I reserve all the bones from roasted meats and freeze them until I have enough to make a decent pot of stock. Then I freeze it into smaller batches and use it as needed.”

Herb Purées
“I add it to sandwiches, stews, meat marinades, veggie marinades and mixed into mayo for potato salads.”

Slow-Roasted Tomatoes
“I like to slow roast a bunch of tomatoes and serve it in salads, to quinoa dishes and reheated into side dishes for steak or chicken. I also like to purée it into soups and for vinaigrettes.”

Simple Breakfasts
“I make batches of biscuits, pancakes and waffles for freezing. I just thaw and reheat for a quick breakfast or snack.”

Looking for family-friendly recipes? Check out our Cooking for Kids guide. And tune-in on Saturdays at 9 E/P to catch Roger Mooking on Chopped Canada.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

How to Fix Overcooked Meat

How to Rescue Overcooked Meat

We’ve all been there; the grey pork chop, the expensive steak that’s cooked all the way through and chicken breast that emits a puff of dry air when pierced with a knife.

Whether the result of distraction or fear of undercooking, we’ve all taken a beautiful cut of meat and cooked it to bone-dry oblivion. Unfortunately there’s no undo button, but there are two great strategies to coax deliciousness back into your sad, overdone meat.

How to Fix Overcooked Meat

1. Change your tactics. Switch from a dry cooking method like grilling, roasting or pan-frying, to a moist one like braising or stewing.
Gently simmered at a low temperature for a long period of time, the meat’s collagen will dissolve into gelatin and the muscle fibres will separate, producing the fall-apart tenderness relished in braises and roasts. Watch closely and stop cooking immediately when the meat is easily pulled apart with a fork. Remember: low and slow — don’t let it rise above a simmer or you will dry it out further.

2. Shred it and sauce it. The second option, which is quicker but with less succulent results, is to slice or shred the meat as thinly as possible and warm it in a liquid. The meat itself will still be dry but small pieces have lots of surface area to absorb moisture. Try a barbecue sauce and repurpose the protein into tacos (here’s a great sauce recipe for that) or bathe it in marinara sauce and make a quick ragu for polenta or spaghetti.

There’s no way to rewind a steak from well-done back to rare, but you can definitely re-purpose it into a delicious new dinner.

Jennifer Pallian is a Vancouver-based food writer and photographer, who shares vibrant recipes on her blog Foodess.

Brad Smith’s Dinner Date Dos and Don’ts

As a former Bachelor star, current Chopped Canada host Brad Smith knows a thing or two about dating. We caught up with Smith to learn some of his best tips for a deliciously simple and romantic date night, just in time for Valentine’s Day.

Brad Smith

Don’t Wait for V-Day
Valentine’s Day is just another day of the week,” says Brad. If your romance needs rekindling, celebrate it, but otherwise being thoughtful and caring with every date is the best approach.

Forget the Dark Corners — Love Needs Light
“Do go somewhere where you can hear [your date],” says Smith, preferably a spot that’s not too dark. And if you can, sit next to each other. “I always order a four person table and then tell them it’s only two people. That way we can both sit in the booth or both sit on the chairs.” This proximity helps establish a closer connection, Smith suggests.

Turn it Off to Turn Them On
Brad Smith reveals another advantage of sitting close is that’s it’s harder to reach for the date-killer lurking in your pocket — your phone.

Mac and Cheese

“Whether you make mac and cheese or fine dining, the important part is trying,” says Smith.

Trying is Sexy
If you want to impress your boo — on Valentine’s Day or any other — it’s all about effort. “You can make me macaroni and cheese and hot dogs and I’d like it as much as if you made me some fine dining,” explains Smith. “There’s nothing like coming home to the thought of someone doing something for you, regardless of what it is.”

Be Clear About Your Intentions
“In the industry I’m in, you either meet people you’ve known beforehand or you meet people at events and they’re kind of like your first date,” he says. “You don’t have to be like, ‘Oh, can we get a drink?’ because you just had a drink and talked for three hours at an event.” But in other professions, Smith admits a little candour goes a long way. Always establish that a date is a date, and not, say, a networking lunch or business coffee.

Tune-in on Saturdays at 9 E/P to catch Brad Smith on Chopped Canada.

Chefs Share Their Most Memorable Valentine’s Day

Most chefs spend Valentine’s Day feeding other peoples’ flirtations, but our lovable stars have had their share of romance, too.

888_chefs-valentines-memories

From a morning with Parisian pastries to an evening that literally went up in flames, here are their favourite Valentine’s Days memories.

Anna-Olson-Chef-Head-01

Anna Olson’s Sweet Morning
“My most memorable Valentine’s Day was on a layover in Paris,” says the Bake with Anna Olson host. “My sweetie, Michael, and I had a romantic bistro dinner on Valentine’s Eve, but what I remember most was getting up incredibly early on February 14th to catch the patisseries just as they were opening. I loaded up on pastries of all sorts, to bring as carry-on. Happy and delicious memories all the way home!”

Devin Connell

Devin Connell’s Hot Night
“My most memorable Valentine’s Day moment was when my husband tried to make me steak frites and started a grease fire in our kitchen,” says the Chef in Your Ear star. “Thank goodness for fire extinguishers!”

Craig Harding

Craig Harding’s Engaging Dinner
“Since I’m always working on Valentine’s Day, I usually look for something exciting to happen at work,” says Chef in Your Ear’s Craig Harding. “The most memorable night was when we had three proposals all in the same seating. By the end of the night we were all drinking champagne, and to my knowledge the couples were all strangers before that night, and still maintain friendships to this day.”

Josh-Chef-Heads

Josh Elkin’s Burning Love
“I especially love creating holiday-specific recipes,” says the Sugar Showdown host. “A few years ago on Valentine’s Day, I created some bacon strip roses and assembled them in a nice ‘floral arrangement’ for a special someone. Upon presenting her with this delicious bouquet, I realized that there was still grease coming off the bacon petals, and I ended up burning her leg. The burn wasn’t too bad, but it certainly left a lasting (yet delicious) impression on her.”

141x141-Susur-Lee

Susur Lee’s Labour of Love
“Sadly, most of my Valentine’s memories are actually other people’s,” says Chopped Canada judge and Top Chef Masters star Susur Lee. “As you can imagine, Valentine’s Day is huge in the restaurant industry, and I have never had a Valentine’s Day off. I’ve seen proposals, rejections, people stood up… I’ve seen it all! But mainly I’ve seen a lot of people making an effort to do something special and make their own memories.”

Cory Vitiello

Cory Vitiello’s Casual Date Night
“I’ve spent every Valentine’s Day (and Mother’s Day and New Years Eve) of the last 15 years in the restaurant,” says Chef in Your Ear star Cory Vitiello. “A couple years ago at Harbord Room, we just blocked off a whole room and invited our closest friends for Valentine’s Day, and cooked them a menu at cost. We had a nice party among friends and it didn’t have to be this contrived date night.”

141x141-Michael-Smith

Michael Smith’s Double Date
“My most memorable Valentine’s Day memory was making heart-shaped pancakes for my two girls before school,” says the Chopped Canada  judge. “They were pretty impressed with Dad’s breakfast chops!”

You Gotta Eat Here: Dining for One on Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day can be tough for single people but going out to dinner that night can be a nightmare! With restaurants full of annoying couples smooching through overpriced prix fixe menus, it’s enough to make you hide at home with a pizza.

But this year is going to be different. This Valentine’s Day, don’t hide your single self inside your house, go out and eat your feelings! And these restaurants from the upcoming 5th season of You Gotta Eat Here! have meals so good, you’ll want to enjoy all to yourself.

Prohibition Montréal -  Fried Chicken and Deep Fried     French Toast - IMG_20016

1. Prohibition (Montreal, QC) – Fried Chicken and Deep-Fried Challah French Toast

If no one’s making you hollah at home, get yourself some of this deep fried challah French toast with crispy fried chicken instead. Prohibition takes chicken and waffles to the next level with deep fried French toast, which is exactly as delicious as it sounds.

Southern Pork Chop - IMG_81046

2. The Cure (Toronto, ON) – Southern Pork Chop

Is there anything better than a pork chop to make you feel better? How about a pork chop that’s been marinated in butter milk then pan fried in crispy, golden cornmeal? With a plate of cheesy grits and cucumber relish, you’ll be glad to have this meal at The Cure all to yourself.

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3. Flavio al Velovevodetto (Rome, Italy) – Ravioli fatte in casa alla velavevodetto

While those other suckers are spending their money on roses and chocolates, why not treat yourself to a trip to Rome! Flavio’s handmade ravioli stuffed with creamy fresh ricotta, smothered in fresh tomatoes and more ricotta will make you forget your own name.

 The Earl Grey Cake Donut - IMG_86304

4. Cartems Donuterie (Vancouver, BC) – Earl Grey Cake Doughnut

So no one sent you flowers for Valentine’s Day? Who cares? Cartems Donuterie makes an Earl Grey tea glazed doughnut with rose petals sprinkled on top. Flowers wilt, love fades, but a doughnut sprinkled with roses is forever!

Catch the season 5 premiere of You Gotta Eat Here! Friday, February 26 at 9 E/P and catch up on episodes online.

 

winnipeg ice bar

6 Cool Canadian Ice Bars to Visit This Winter

Looking for a cool new place to grab a drink? Chill out (literally) at one of these 6 wintry ice bars across Canada. Just make sure you meet the dress code: toques and parkas, please!

Belvedere Ice Room

Courtesy of The Belvedere Ice Room.

The Canadian Brewhouse’s Belvedere Ice Room (Kelowna, BC)
Though you’ll find this pub chain in a lot of Western Canadian cities, it is only in Kelowna where you can suit up and sip on some vodka in a room made of ice. The whole tasting experience lasts about 10 minutes, so you’ll be in and out before you get too chilly.

Chill Ice House

Courtesy of Chill Ice House.

Chill Ice House (Toronto, ON) 
This large event space made up almost entirely of ice is not only a spectacle to be seen, complete with a rotating line-up of ornate ice carvings, but to be sat in as well. At night, it becomes a lively bar with loud music and bartenders serving up cool concoctions in glasses made of ice. Bring your coat!

The Great Ice Show’s Ice Bar

Photo courtesy of Cody Chomiak.

The Great Ice Show’s Ice Bar (Winnipeg, MB)
Operated by Mon Ami Louis, a seasonal restaurant on Winnipeg’s Esplanade bridge, you can expect not only hot boozy drinks like mulled wine but a nice selection of crêpes, soups, chili too at this pop-up ice bar that runs until the end of February.

Hotel de Glace (Quebec City, QC) 
Ice isn’t just for skating on, it’s for sleeping on too. If you can’t quite muster up the courage to spend a night in this ice hotel (yes, even the beds are made of ice), you can still get a taste of the experience by having a drink in the lounge.

Courtesy of Bearfoot Bistro.
Courtesy of Bearfoot Bistro.

Ketel One Ice Room at the Bearfoot Bistro (Whistler, BC) 
Similar to the ice room mentioned above at The Canadian Brewhouse in Kelowna, this spot at the famed Bearfoot Bistro in Whistler offers a chilly vodka tasting followed by a warm, refined dining experience once you shed your layers and sit down to eat.

montreal-ice-bar

Courtesy of Restaurant de Glace Pommery.

Restaurant de Glace Pommery (Montreal, QC) 
Head down to Old Montreal to discover Canada’s only igloo restaurant. Now, this isn’t a basic snow igloo you’ll find on someone’s front lawn in the dead of winter. At a whopping 12 metres in diameter and a peak height of 9 metres, Pommery can comfortably fit 60 patrons at one time. I’m so in!

The Notebook

‘The Notebook’ Inspired Romantic Movie Menu

Bourbon iced tea cocktails, popcorn rock shrimp and a restaurant-worthy crab dish are at the heart of this seafood-heavy Valentine’s Day menu inspired by the seaside town where Noah and Allie’s epic love story unfolds.

Set in the 1940’s this tear-jerker tells the life-long love story of lovers from two different worlds who meet one hot, sun-soaked summer.

The chemistry between Noah and Allie (played by Canadians Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams) is what fuels this epic romance that has become one of the most heart-squeezing, tissue-drenching love stories of a generation.

Back Nine Cocktails

Bourbon Iced Tea
A few sips of these sweet tea and bourbon cocktails and you’ll be transported to hazy summer evenings spent watching the sun go down on a wrap-around porch.

Popcorn Rock Shrimp

Popcorn Rock Shrimp with Spicy Honey
Inspired by their first date at the movies, this playful popcorn shrimp appetizer combines the sweetness of honey with a dash of spicy chili flakes and smoked paprika to heat things up.

Beer Steamed Mussels
When Allie shows up after seven years at the big white plantation house that Noah built for her, they catch up over beers and steamed seafood. This sharable beer and mussel dish is infused with lime, chorizo, red pepper and garlic.

Crab Pasta

Fogo Island Crab & Kina Pappardelle with Preserved Lemon

Impress your date with this restaurant-worthy pappardelle pasta and crab dish that’s a nod to the fictional seaside town of Seabrook, South Carolina that serves as the backdrop to their story.

Crepe Cake

 

Maple Pecan Crêpe Cake

Upon meeting Allie for the first time, Noah’s father whips up a big batch of pancakes. Cap off your romantic meal with breakfast for dessert in the form of this elegant crepe cake drenched with pure maple syrup.