Tonka Beans: What They Are and How to Use Them

You may have seen these wrinkly little beans at your local spice shop, or tasted their distinctive warm flavour at a restaurant. If you’ve ever wondered which spice makes this distinctive aroma, something like a mix of cinnamon, vanilla, almond and cloves, you’re not alone.

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A wonderful alternative to ingredients like vanilla, cinnamon, almond extract or nutmeg, tonka beans are popping up on restaurant menus and slowly working their way into home cooks’ pantries. In Winnipeg, for example, you can sip it in an infused coffee cocktail at Clementine, or head over to Calgary for a scoop of tonka bean and cherry ice cream at Made By Marcus.

My first encounter with the tonka bean was at Silk Road Spice Merchant, a local spice shop in Calgary. A friend grabbed a small jar filled with stout, wrinkled black beans and said, “smell this.” The distinct aroma was unforgettable, but difficult to put into words. Part almond, part vanilla, a little cinnamon and maybe a hint of something fruity, like cherry. Whatever it was, it was intoxicating.

A little digging will tell you these beans are actually the seeds of flowers on gigantic trees (cumaru) that grow in Central and South America. Prior to its debut in the food world, the bean was used in tobacco and perfume production (and still are in some countries) because of its one-of-a-kind aroma. They’re also illegal in the United States, so consider yourself lucky to be an eager home cook in Canada!

The possibilities are endless with tonka beans, but here are few ideas to get you started.

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Simple Syrup: Use equal parts water and sugar, heat in a pot with one tonka bean until sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat, and let steep and strain into a bottle. Use in cocktails or in morning coffee.

Whipped Cream: Prior to whipping cream, place one tonka bean in a container with cream and let sit in fridge for at least six hours to infuse flavour.

Pumpkin or Apple Pie: The beans can also be grated the same way you would grate fresh nutmeg. Skip the pumpkin spice blend for once (blasphemy, I know) and use about a teaspoon or two of tonka bean for a new, delicious flavour.

Squash Soup: People seem to shy away from using ingredients typically associated with dessert (i.e. cinnamon, cloves, etc.) in savoury applications. Much like pumpkin pie filling loves its aromatic spices, a roast squash soup loves the same. Either drop a bean straight into the pot for 30 minutes or so to infuse its flavour, or ladle soup into a bowl and grate the bean on top using a microplane.

Caramel Sauce: Making homemade caramel sauce is really easy, so once you’ve made a batch and it has cooled down a bit, add a bean and let the magic happen.

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Tonka Bean Caramel Sauce

Cook Time: 15 minutes
Makes: 2 cups

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream, room temperature
1 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tonka bean

Directions:
1. Working in batches, sprinkle a thin layer of sugar in a large pot and place it over medium-high heat.
2. Once the layer of sugar turns to transparent beads, sprinkle a little more sugar on top. After repeating this several times, you’ll see that the sugar becoming more and more fluid.
3. Once you’ve melted enough sugar to cover the bottom of the pot, slowly add the rest of the sugar to the pan and as it heats, it will start to become darker in colour. You’ll be looking for a dark brown. (Note: this will happen progressively faster, so work quickly and do not walk away.)
4. Next, pour the heavy cream into the pan while stirring. The mixture will bubble up slightly. Once it goes back down, remove from heat and add in the butter. Stir until incorporated and add tonka bean.
5. Once cool, remove tonka bean and store in desired container or jar to use are desired.

How to Make Bloodshot Eyeball Devilled Eggs

Devilled eggs get a bit more kitsch by soaking in an eerie red bath, creating a bloodshot eye pattern on their tops. Inside, these bites get a double hit of spice from a creamy wasabi filling and Sriracha squiggles, and are then topped with black olive slices for eerie “pupils.”

This seriously spooky appetizer is a cute way to dress up devilled eggs for Halloween, but you can enjoy them anytime. Simply omit the red food coloring and add a few drops of hot sauce over top.

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Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 6 hours, 10 minutes
Total Time: 6 hours, 25 minutes
Serves: 6 to 12

Ingredients:

Eggs:
6 large eggs
1 Tbsp red or burgundy food colouring gel
4 cups of water

Filling and Toppings:
6 egg hardboiled egg yolks, from above
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 Tbsp prepared wasabi
1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil
6 pitted black olives, sliced into rounds or 24 pre-sliced black olive rounds
3 Tbsp to 1/4 cup Sriracha

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Directions:

Eggs:
1. Add water to medium saucepan and stir in red food colouring. Add eggs and stir. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat, cover and let sit for 20 minutes.
2. Carefully remove eggs from red water with a spoon. In the bowl, tap egg with a spoon or press gently with your thumb to create cracks all over exterior. Place back in red water. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight.
3. Once chilled, peel and rinse eggs. Slice in half lengthwise and add egg yolks to a medium bowl for the filling. Place hollowed egg whites cut side-up on a serving platter.

Filling:
1. Mash removed yolks with a fork until yolk is in fine pieces. Add mayonnaise, wasabi and sesame oil. Mix well to incorporate.

Assembly:
1. Spoon or pipe filling into hollowed egg whites. Dot filling with a black olive round to create the “pupil” or use. Pipe Sriracha onto whites to create a bloodshot eye appearance. Serve.

Take Babka to the Next Level with These 3 Twists

Babka is a delectable giant pastry typically filled with chocolate or cinnamon. In the first recipe, we transform this traditionally sweet treat into a savoury masterpiece. Sheets of soft dough get rolled up with plenty of ooey-gooey cheese and tomato sauce to make a pizza babka. And If pizza isn’t speaking to you, maybe the cherry cheesecake or chocolate hazelnut versions will satisfy your sweet cravings.

This babka dough recipe is extremely versatile and easy. Get creative and let your babka dreams come true!

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Pizza Babka

Prep Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 9 hours 30 minutes
Serves: 6-8

Ingredients:

Dough
1/2cup milk, at room temperature
1 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp (8g package) instant yeast
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
6 Tbsp butter, at room temperature
1 large egg

Pizza Filling
1 cup very thick tomato sauce
10 fresh basil leaves
1 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Directions:
1. Combine milk, sugar and yeast in a large bowl. Let stand undisturbed until small bubbles form on the surface of the milk, about 10 minutes. Add 1/4 cup flour, salt, butter and egg, stir until combined. Add the remaining flour and stir until a raggedy dough forms. Turn the dough onto a clean surface and begin to knead until a ball of dough forms. Continue kneading until dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. If dough is sticking to surface, add more flour 1 Tbsp at a time. Place dough in an oiled bowl and cover with plastic. Refrigerate for 6 hours or overnight. Dough will rise, but less than double in size.
2. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into a rectangle about 12 x 20 inches. If dough is very elastic and won’t easily roll out, let rest for 5 minutes and then continue.
3. Spread tomato sauce over rectangle in an even layer from edge to edge. Scatter the basil leaves over tomato sauce then sprinkle mozzarella.
4. Beginning at a long edge of the rectangle, roll the dough into a long rope. With flat palms, rock the rope back and forth to reinforce the roll.
5. Using a sharp knife, cut the roll in half lengthwise. Face both cut sides upwards and twist the two ropes by alternating one rope over, then under. Spiral the twisted ropes into the cast iron pan starting in the center. The dough will be flimsy. Don’t worry if it loses form as you place it in the pan. Tuck in any loose filling or dough into a tight spiral. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and place in a warm place until the dough doubles in size, about 2 hours.
6. Preheat oven to 325°F. Remove plastic wrap. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over babka. Bake on the centre rack of your oven until babka is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the dough comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Cherry Cheesecake Babka

Filling Variations:

Cherry Cheesecake Babka
1. Smear 3/4 cup of softened cream cheese over rolled out dough. Spread 2/3 cup of cherry pie filling or cherry preserves over cream cheese. Proceed with recipe. Rather than laying the dough in a cast iron pan, you can also place twisted dough ropes on a lined baking sheet. Let rise as per recipe above. Bake for until golden brown, about 40 minutes.

Chocolate Hazelnut S’more Babka
Smear 3/4 cup of chocolate hazelnut spread over rolled out dough. Scatter 1/2 cup of mini marshmallows over dough and sprinkle 1/3 cup graham crumb over chocolate hazelnut spread.

How to Roast Vegetables Like a Pro

Now that we’re halfway through fall (how did that happen?), roasted vegetables of all shapes and sizes are back on the dinner table on a regular basis. Beautiful rainbow carrots, stark white, earthy parsnips, acorn squash, love-it-or-hate-it eggplant …the list goes on and on. To ensure each veg is cooked to perfection, you might want to think twice about chopping them up and tossing them in the same baking dish.

Here are a few simple tips and tricks to help you roast vegetables like a pro, and maybe even find a new appreciation for certain varieties that you weren’t so fond of before. I’m looking at you, Brussels sprouts!

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Tips and Tricks:

1. Roast like vegetables with like vegetables.
Yams and potatoes can be best friends in a baking dish, but something juicier, like zucchini or tomatoes tossed in? Not so much. A juicy vegetable will impose on the crispy, caramelized texture you’re looking for in starchy varieties, so keep ‘em separate.

2. Don’t overcrowd the pan.
Similar to the above, overcrowding vegetables on a roasting pan impedes their ability to caramelize. It’s not that you need to space out chunks of broccoli two inches from each other, but work in batches if needed. This mentality can also be applied when pan-searing mushrooms in butter Try it and taste the difference!

3. Working with large vegetables.
Roasting a halved butternut squash, whole heads of cauliflower or big russet potatoes should not be cooked at the same high temperatures as their chopped counterparts. Lower and slower is a better approach in these cases.

4. Make sure to use enough oil.
Dry vegetables typically result in not-so-great roasted veggies. Depending on what you’re doing with them once they’re cooked, it’s better to stick with a neutral-tasting oil like canola. This variety has a high smoke point than your standard olive oil.

5. A little sweetness goes a long way.
While coating vegetables with oil, I will often add a little something sweet like maple syrup or brown sugar to the mix. Not only does this add extra flavour, but it helps things caramelize nicely. This works especially well with ingredients like carrots, parsnips or Brussels sprouts.

6. The unusual roasters.
There are plenty of vegetables at the grocery store you might walk by time and time again, and never think of taking home to roast. I operate with the mentality that any vegetable can be roasted. Radishes taste completely different when roasted (sweet and juicy), kohlrabi, which is also delicious raw, turns out tasting like a turnip. One of my favourites is taking thick cuts of green cabbage and roasting it at a high temperature. Once charred, it develops an unbelievably delicious umami flavour. Out of this world!

General Roasting Temps and Times for Popular Veggies:

Small/Cubed Potatoes & Squash (1” or smaller): 450°F for 20 to 25 minutes
Whole Russet Potatoes & Large, Halved Squash: 375°F for 45 minutes to 1 hour
Chopped Broccoli, Cauliflower & Brussels Sprouts: 425°F for 30 to 45 minutes
Whole Broccoli Stems & Heads of Cauliflower: 350°F for 1 hour to 1 hour, 15 minutes (turn to high broil near end of roasting for better caramelization)
Whole Beets: 350°F for 50 minutes to 1 hour, depending on size
Carrots & Parsnips: 400°F for 20 to 25 minutes
Eggplant, Zucchini & Kohlrabi: 400°F for 15 to 20 minutes

Witch Fingers

Whip Up These Frightening No-Bake Witch Fingers

Fire up the cauldron for a bewitching no-bake treat perfect for your Halloween party. Crispy pretzel batons are dipped into green-tinted white chocolate, then topped with a dab of raspberry jam ‘blood’ and sliced almond nails. No witch finger would be complete without warts, so we’ve added one for good measure. Ghoulish guests won’t be able to keep their hands off these frightful fingers that make an eerie snap with each bite.

Spooky Witch Fingers

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Makes: 24

Ingredients:
1 cup of white melting chocolate
1 tsp green food dye
24 3-inch pretzel batons
1 Tbsp toffee bits
2 Tbsp raspberry jam
2 Tbsp almond slices

Witch Fingers

Direction:
1. Line a baking sheet with parchment.
2. Place chocolate in a microwave safe measuring cup. Microwave on high in blasts of 20 seconds until melted, stirring in between, about 3 blasts.
3. Stir in food dye until colour is uniform.
4. Dip a pretzel baton into chocolate, leaving about 1 inch at the bottom. Hold the pretzel over the measuring cup to allow excess chocolate to drip off.
5. Place dipped pretzel on prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining pretzel batons.
6. To create the witch’s “warts” place 1 toffee bit on the dipped pretzel about 1 inch away from the tip.
7. Cool pretzels in refrigerator until chocolate is set, about 20 minutes.
8. Once chocolate is set, create the witches “bloody nails” by placing a dab of raspberry jam on the tip of dipped pretzel. Place 1 almond slice over jam and gently push down to spread jam to outer ridges of the almond slice. Continue with remaining pretzels.
9. Using the sharp end of a wooden skewer, etch 3 horizontal lines in the chocolate of the dipped pretzel to create finger details.
10. Store in a cool place until ready to serve.

Does Chicken Soup Really Cure a Cold?

Cozying up with a bowl of chicken soup certainly feels good this time of year, whether you’re on the mend or feeling in top form. If you happen to catch a cold, you’re probably looking for anything that will help ease those aches, soothe your tender throat and clear your sinuses. And while chicken soup is certainly comforting, can it really help make you feel better?Here, we dive into the facts to uncover the truth behind this old (and tasty) kitchen remedy.

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Fact: Chicken soup helps relieve congestion.

Enjoying a bowl of chicken soup can help ease congestion, according to Mayo Clinic. Warm liquids, like the savoury broth in chicken soup, make your nose run (in a good way), working to clear uncomfortable nasal congestion. The more your nose runs, the better, as this means the virus has less contact time with the lining of your nose.

Try this recipe: Tyler Florence’s Chicken Noodle Soup

Fact: Chicken soup can rehydrate you.

Eating and drinking when you have a cold can seem highly unappealing, but staying hydrated is key to a quick recovery. Chicken broth delivers hydration along with a bit of salt so your body retains the liquids more effectively.

Try this recipe: Ina Garten’s Chicken Soup 

Fiction: Chicken soup can boost your immune system.

You can’t truly “boost” you immune system, but you can support it — and chicken soup may help in this area with its rich mineral profile. Your body needs energy (calories) for recovery, and chicken soup brings this in a highly digestible form, especially helpful when you don’t feel like eating. And, the ingredients in chicken soup, like garlic, onion and carrots contain potent immune-supportive compounds.

Try this recipe: Michael Smith’s Roast Chicken Noodle Soup

Fact: Chicken soup has medicinal properties.

Surprisingly, it might. A study published in the journal Chest discussed blood samples of volunteers given chicken soup. These samples showed that the soup lessened the movement of neutrophils, which may be beneficial to the upper respiratory tract (where colds tend to linger). While this is just one study, it may make that soup you’re eating taste just a little better.

Try this recipe: Ricardo Larrivée’s Chicken Noodle Soup

Fact: Chicken soup eases an upset stomach.

A common cold can make your stomach ache, and while inherently flavourful, a classic (not spicy!) chicken soup is mild, cold-friendly food. Homemade versions, made with chicken bones, have the added benefit of gelatin, which can nourish the intestinal tract.

Try this recipe: Chuck Hughes’ Chicken Soup with Ground Chicken Meatballs

Fact: Chicken soup makes you feel better, faster.

While researchers realize there’s a bit of a placebo effect going on, slurping up chicken soup may help to speed up recovery thanks to its rich protein content, a macronutrient needed in larger amount for those who are sick.

Try this recipe: Awesome Chicken Soup for the Lazy Soul

Verdict:

Though it may not “cure” the common cold, research shows promise that the combination of the mineral-rich broth, lean protein and easy-to-digest cooked vegetables helps to make you feel better in an almost magic way.

Even if you’re on the fence about the science, it’s tough to argue about the comfort food factor chicken soup brings in both its aroma and taste. Enjoy one of our many chicken soup recipes and get well soon.

Must-Make Vegan Apple Crumble Tart with Salted Caramel

This delicious and decadent vegan salted caramel apple crumble tart is perfect for fall, but definitely one to add to your arsenal year round. Why not go apple picking with the family and then bake up this dreamy dessert together!

Vegan Baking Tip: use Earth Balance Buttery Spread as your vegan butter, not margarine. Margarine often has added or hidden ingredients that aren’t vegan friendly and unlike most margarine varieties, Earth Balance Buttery Spread acts the same as real butter in baking.

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Makes: 1 tart (approximately 8 servings)

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Ingredients:

For the crust:
1/2 cup almonds
1/2 cup pecans
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 Tbsp cold vegan butter
3 Tbsp maple syrup
1/4 tsp sea salt

For the filling:
3 apples
3 Tbsp coconut sugar
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tsp cinnamon

For the crumble topping:
1 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup coconut sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
6 Tbsp cold vegan butter
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp all-spice

For the salted caramel:
1 cup coconut sugar
1/4 cup non-dairy milk
3 Tbsp vegan butter
1/4 tsp sea salt

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Directions:
1. In a food processor, blend almonds and pecans into a fine meal, then add the remaining crust ingredients and blend until well combined. It should stick together when you pinch it.
2. Press into a 9 1/2″ fluted pie pan with a removable bottom. Poke a few holes in the surface of the crust with a fork and bake in a pre-heated 350°F oven for 8-10 minutes. Time may vary depending on your oven, so watch it closely. It should be half-baked with a slight colour difference.
3. Remove pie crust from the oven and place on a cooling rack while you make the filling and topping.
4. Peel, core, quarter and thinly slice the apples. Mix apples and filling ingredients together with your hands in a mixing bowl until well coated.
5. In another mixing bowl, blend the crumble topping ingredients together with your hands until it comes together into large crumbs.
6. Layer apple slices in the crust and top with the crumble topping evenly. Bake at 350°F for 25 minutes.
7. While the tart is baking, make the salted caramel by combining the ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk constantly for 7 minutes as it thickens. Remove from heat.
8. Allow the baked apple crumble tart to cool for 10-15 minutes before slicing.
9. Just before serving, drizzle some salted caramel over the entire tart with a spoon.

Note: The caramel recipe makes extra so that you can bring it to the table for guests to add more!

See more from hot for food on their YouTube channel.

Easy Halloween Cookie Pizza

While Halloween is all about the treats, make life a little easier with this dessert trick. Instead of baking a batch of individual cookies, wow the kids and adults with a giant Halloween cookie pizza. The huge slice-and-serve chocolate chip cookie is topped with delicious chocolate icing, and decorated with your favourite Halloween candy for a spooky seasonal treat that will be gone before you can say ‘boo!’

Halloween Cookie Pizza

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes
Serves: 12

Ingredients:

For the Cookie:
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

For the Topping:
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
2 Tbsp butter
1/4 cup milk
1 cup icing sugar
1 1/2 cups assorted Halloween candy (we use candy corn, pumpkin marshmallows, coated pretzels, and ghost shaped sour candies)

Directions:
1.  Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 14-inch round baking tray.
2.In a small bowl combine flour, baking soda and salt.
3. In the bowl of a hand mixer, cream butter with sugars until light and fluffy. Add in eggs one at time and then vanilla and beat until combined. Gradually add the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips.
4. Spread the batter in an even layer onto the baking tray leaving a 1-inch border around the edges. Smooth the top.
5. Bake in the center rack of the oven until golden brown and cookie is baked through, about 22 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for 15 minutes.
6. To make the the topping, place chocolate chips in a small saucepan over low heat. Add butter and milk and stir until just melted and immediately remove from heat. Transfer mixture to a large bowl.
7. Gradually whisk in icing sugar until mixture is smooth and spreadable. If mixture becomes too thick, add a few drops of milk.
8. Spread a layer of chocolate icing onto the cookie leaving a 1 1/2 inch border around the edge. Top with assorted Halloween candy.
9. Slice pizza into 12 slices and serve.

Looking for more ghoulish delights? Try our 20 Spook-tacular Halloween Treats.

3 Fun Ways to Spice up Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Save the pumpkin seeds from your Jack ‘O Lantern this fall and bake up a crunchy, high-protein snack that you’ll be eager to add on top of soups, salads — even ice cream! Including garlic honey mustard,  maple bacon, and chocolate pumpkin spice, we’ve got three fantastic flavour combos for tasty snacks that will satisfy you all week long.

Roasted-Pumpkin-Seeds

Note: One sugar (pie) pumpkin yields approximately 1/2 cup of seeds.

Prep time: 5 minutes (per recipe)
Cook time: 30 minutes (per recipe)
Makes: 1/2 cup (per recipe)

Garlic Honey Mustard Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Ingredients:
Seeds from 1 sugar pumpkin, approximately 1/2 cup, pumpkin flesh removed, rinsed, and dried well, or 1/2 cup raw, unsalted green pumpkin seeds
1 Tbsp honey
1/2 tsp dried mustard powder
1/4 tsp granulated garlic powder (not garlic salt)
1/8 tsp salt

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 375ºF. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. In a large bowl, combine honey, mustard powder, garlic and salt; stir in pumpkin seeds.
3. Add coated seeds to prepared baking sheet, tossing well to combine. Spread into a single layer.
4. Roast for 25–30 minutes if using sugar (pie) pumpkin seeds or 10–15 minutes if using green pumpkin seeds, until brown and beginning to pop.
5. Cool completely. Store airtight at room temperature for up to 1 week.

Roasted-Pumpkin-Seeds-Baking-Sheet

Maple-Bacon Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Ingredients:
Seeds from 1 sugar pumpkin, approximately 1/2 cup, pumpkin flesh removed, rinsed, and dried well, or 1/2 cup raw, unsalted green pumpkin seeds
1 Tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp bacon fat, melted
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
1/8 tsp salt

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 375ºF. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. In a large bowl, combine maple syrup, bacon fat, smoked paprika and salt; stir in pumpkin seeds.
3. Add coated seeds to prepared baking sheet, tossing well to combine. Spread into a single layer.
4. Roast for 25–30 minutes if using sugar (pie) pumpkin seeds or 10–15 minutes if using green pumpkin seeds, until brown and beginning to pop.
5. Cool completely. Store airtight at room temperature for up to 1 week.

Chocolate Pumpkin Spice Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Ingredients:
Seeds from 1 sugar pumpkin, approximately 1/2 cup, pumpkin flesh removed, rinsed, and dried well, or 1/2 cup raw, unsalted green pumpkin seeds
1 Tbsp maple syrup
1 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
1 tsp coconut oil, melted
1/2 tsp pumpkin spice
Pinch of salt

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 375ºF. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. In a large bowl, combine maple syrup, coconut oil, pumpkin spice and salt; stir in pumpkin seeds.
3. Add coated seeds to prepared baking sheet, tossing well to combine. Spread into a single layer.
4. Roast for 25–30 minutes if using sugar (pie) pumpkin seeds or 10–15 minutes if using green pumpkin seeds, until brown and beginning to pop.
5. Cool completely. Store airtight at room temperature for up to 1 week.

Bacon-Wrapped Cheesy Jalapeño Ghouls

The thrill of stuffed jalapeños is that you never know how spicy a pepper will be — a true trick or treat! A fun twist on Halloween mummies, these crowd-pleasing ghoulish appetizers are stuffed with a creamy filling of sharp Parmesan cheese, yogurt, mustard and thyme. The ghouls are then wrapped in smoky bacon, and gain vision with diced black olives.

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Serves: 4 to 8

bacon-wrapped-jalapeno-ghouls1

Ingredients:

For Filling:
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
1 tsp grainy mustard
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp dried thyme

For Assembly:
4 large jalapeños, cut lengthwise, seeds and veins removed
4 strips bacon, cut lengthwise into thin strips
2 pitted black olives, cut into small dice (for “eyes”)
Food colouring gel or melted dark chocolate (for “eyes”)

bacon-wrapped-jalapeno-ghouls2

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 325ºF. Line a large baking sheet with foil and add jalapeños, cut side-up.
2. In a small bowl, combine filling ingredients. Divide evenly between jalapeños and smooth out top.
3. Wrap thin strips of bacon around jalapeños, leaving a small gap near the stem for the eyes. Up to this point (precooked), you can cover and refrigerate the mummies for up to 1 day.
4. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until bacon is crispy and cheese is bubbling. Cool for 5 minutes.
5. Place two pieces of diced olive on each jalapeno (the “eyes”) in the small gap near the stem. Serve warm.

Pop Tart Slab Pie

How to Make a Giant Raspberry Slab Pie

This sweet and sprinkle-topped pie reminds us of everyone’s favorite breakfast pastry. Essentially a dressed-up slab pie, this giant “Pop-Tart” is filled with a sweet raspberry filling and topped with classic pink icing. Not only does it serve a crowd, it also  brings back memories of the flaky crust and confetti sprinkles of the store-bought toaster variety. Instead of the hand-held version, go for this super-sized DIY dessert you can share with all your friends.

Pop Tart Slab Pie

Prep time: 30 minutes
Bake time: 45 to 55 minutes
Total time: 80 to 90 minutes, plus cooling

Ingredients:
Pie dough for 3 single crusts, homemade or store-bought
8 cups of fresh or frozen raspberries
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp cinnamon
2 Tbsp cream
Sugar for sprinkling

2 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
2 to 4 Tbsp milk
Food colouring
Sprinkles

Pop Tart Slab Pie

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
2. Lightly dust a clean surface with flour. Roll out 1/2 of the pie dough to about 1/4-inch thick and in the shape of a large rectangle. The dough should be about 2 inches larger than your pan on each side. We used a 9 by 13-inch jelly roll pan.
3. Gently roll the dough back over the rolling pin, lift and place inside the pan. Fit the dough into the rectangular pan, leaving a bit of overhang around the edges. Place in the refrigerator to chill.

Pop Tart Slab Pie

4. Meanwhile, gently fold the raspberries with the sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl. Remove the pan from the fridge, and fill the bottom pie crust with the raspberries. Leave any juices behind. Return to the refrigerator to chill.
5. Again, lightly dust a clean surface with flour. Roll out the remaining pie dough to about 1/4-inch thick and in the shape of a large rectangle. The dough should be about 1 inch larger than you pan on each side.
6. Gently roll the dough back over the rolling pin, lift and place on top of the raspberries.

Pop-Tart-Slab-Pie
7. Tuck any excess dough from the edges under on all sides and press to seal. Using a fork, crimp the two pieces of dough together all around the edges to seal the crust in place. Trim the edges as needed.
8. Use a paring knife to cut small vents in the top of the crust. Mix cream with a dash of water and brush over the crust with a pastry brush. Lightly sprinkle with sugar.
9. Place the pie on a baking sheet and into the oven. Bake for about 45 to 55 minutes, or until the top crust is golden and juices slightly bubble out of the vents. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.

Pop Tart Slab Pie
10. When the pie has completely cooled, make the icing. Gently stir enough milk into the sugar until a thick yet spread consistency. Add food coloring until desired color is achieved. Spread the icing on top of the cooled pie with an offset spatula or the back of a spoon. Immediately top with sprinkles before the icing sets.
11. Enjoy!

Pop Tart Slab Pie

How to Roast a Whole Chicken in Your Slow Cooker

Whole roast chicken is such a comforting food, but turning your oven on, roasting it and letting it rest can be a feat at the end of a busy day. Many people resort to picking up a rotisserie chicken at the grocery store, but there’s a better answer. Toss the whole chicken in your slow cooker in the morning and you’ll come home to the aromas of a mouth-watering home cooked meal. The chicken will be perfectly juicy and tender, the meat will fall right off the bone and you’ll be left with a jus at the bottom of the pot that’s liquid gold. Interested? Here’s how to do it.

Slow Cooker Chicken

Quick and Easy Slow Cooker Chicken
Season a 4-lb chicken with salt and pepper. Place roughly chopped onion, celery and carrot in slow cooker to cover the bottom of the pot. Place chicken on top of the vegetables breast side down. Cook on high heat for 4 hours or low heat for 7 hours. Carefully remove the chicken from the slow cooker. Strain the jus collected at the bottom of pot. Serve chicken with jus.

Tasty Flavour Ideas:

Southwestern Spiced Roast Chicken
Replace the carrot with a green pepper. Rub chicken with a little salt, pepper, smoked paprika and cumin. Cook on high heat for 4 hours or low heat for 7 hours. Carefully remove the chicken from the slow cooker. Garnish with fresh chopped cilantro. Serve with rice or baked beans.

Sweet and Spicy Glazed Chicken
Place a roughly chopped onion and a few garlic cloves on the bottom of the slow cooker. Mix together equal parts sriracha, honey and soy sauce and rub onto the chicken. Place chicken, breast down, on top of garlic and onion. Cook on high heat for 4 hours or low heat for 7 hours. Carefully remove the chicken from the slow cooker. Garnish with sesame seeds and sliced green onion. Serve with sticky rice or fries.

Rosemary and Citrus Roast Chicken
Place several garlic cloves, a quartered orange and lemon in the bottom of the slow cooker. Rub chicken with orange marmalade. Place a few sprigs of rosemary in the cavity of the chicken. Cook on high heat for 4 hours or low heat for 7 hours. Carefully remove the chicken from the slow cooker. Serve with buttered country bread.

Looking for more delicious ideas? Try our 20 Best Chicken Slow Cooker Recipes.

mummy pops

Spooky No-Bake Mummy Pops

No Halloween party is complete without some sweets. Pass on those classic peanut butter cups and wow your guest with homemade Halloween pops. Each bite of these yummy mummies will fill your mouth with sweet white chocolate, peanut butter and the addictive fall flavour: pumpkin spice!

Mummy Pops

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Serves: 12

Ingredients:

For the Filling
2/3 cup natural peanut butter (unsalted, unsweetened)
2 Tbsp sweetened condensed milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp pumpkin spice
1/4 tsp salt

For the Coating
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 Tbsp coconut oil

For the Mummy Eyes
Food colouring gel

Directions:

Filling
1. In a medium bowl with a spatula or spoon, vigorously stir together the filling ingredients until mixture seizes into a thick dough. Roll into 1 Tbsp-sized balls and form around wooden sticks. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Chill while preparing coating.

Coating
1. In a double boiler, melt chocolate and coconut oil until liquified. Remove from heat.

Assembly
1. Dip end tip of stick into melted white chocolate and spear 1 peanut butter ball with the coated end. Dip peanut butter balls (on stick) into melted chocolate, rolling to coat. Place on cake pop rack. Repeat with remaining peanut butter balls. Chill for 30 minutes.
2. Once chilled, remove peanut butter balls from fridge. Return chocolate to heat over a double boiler. Using a spoon or fork, drizzle over chocolate to create thin mummy “bandages.” Chill for 30 minutes longer.
3. Create eyes by dotting food colouring with a toothpick. Serve. Store leftovers lightly covered in refrigerator for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 1 month.

Chopped Canada Host Brad Smith

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Brad Smith

You may already know Brad Smith as a CFL star and a Bachelor, but the host of Chopped Canada is also a food lover who enjoys haute cuisine, fast food, and everything in between. We chatted with the Montreal native to talk about his palate – and his heart.

Chopped Canada Host Brad Smith

Here’s what we learned:

1. He wants to open a restaurant with Lynn Crawford
During a recent Facebook Live Q&A, Brad was asked which chef he’d love to team up with to open a restaurant. Brad says that hands down, he’d love to work with Chef Lynn Crawford and he’d name their restaurant Goofballs. “We’d specialize in rice balls or something like that!”

2. He loves Brunch in Toronto
Like many of us, Brad is a sucker for a good weekend brunch. He especially loves the indulgent offerings at Toronto restaurant Lisa Marie. “They do s’mores pancakes there,” he says, adding that Nutella is cooked inside the pancake and marshmallow fluff is toasted, and top with maple syrup. Brad recently appeared in an episode of Neighbourhood Eats and, of course, he stopped by Lisa Marie.

3. He loves cooking
Before he ever stepped foot on a Food Network Canada set, Brad was already a good cook. Still, working alongside Canada’s top chefs hasn’t hurt his kitchen skills. “It increased my ability to go from a pretty decent cook to actually being pretty proficient at it,” he says.

4. He puckers up before every meal
When Chopped Canada judge Susur Lee told contestants they all needed more acid in their dishes, the host listened. “My girlfriend will tell you this– she hates me for it—everywhere I go, no matter what I’m eating, I’ll always ask for a lime or lemon wedge just because Susur Lee said for everybody to add more acid. On everything! I learned that enough salt and enough acid makes anything good. So I literally squeeze lemon on everything.”

5. He’ll do anything for a good burger
After watching Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, Brad needed to try the American chain’s burgers. It took him 16 hours to drive to Maryland but it was worth it.

6. He loves cooking for his parents
Cue the awwws: If Brad could cook for anyone, ever, he’d choose his mom and dad. “I think I just get the biggest enjoyment from when I go home and cook for my parents,” he says. “They’re the ones who’ve appreciated it the most in my entire life. They always look forward to when I’m back and I’m going to make food.”

7. He shares his stomach with Eden Grinshpan . . .
“Eden eats everything,” says Brad of Toronto-born Chopped Canada judge Eden Grinshpan. “Eden would eat out of a garbage can. She’s like my food sister. We have the exact same food taste.”

8. . . And his heart with Lynn Crawford
“She’s the nicest woman ever,” says Brad of Chopped Canada judge Lynn Crawford. “She has the most beautiful heart you’ll ever meet. She treats every single person like they’re the most important person at that time to her.”

9. He loves haute cuisine, but he’s not a food snob
Get Brad talking about food and he’ll rave about his favourite gnocchi, Montreal’s amazing food scene, Susur Lee’s famous slaw and his favourite dish . . . a Big Mac from McDonald’s.

10. The weirdest thing he’s ever eaten was . . .
You’ll have to stay tuned to Chopped Canada for this one. “I can’t say it until the show comes out because it’s in one of the episodes,” he reveals. “Roger [Mooking] threw up and Mark McEwan said it was the most disgusting thing he’s ever put in his mouth. It tasted like . . . it was disgusting.”

Chopped Canada returns with brand new specials starting with Chopped Canada Junior on Sunday, October 16 at 8 E/P. See schedule information here.

Alternative Ways to Make Coffee Shop Drinks at Home

Making your favourite coffee shop drinks at home is a great way to satisfy those in-between cafe trips. And if you’re searching for dairy milk alternatives in coffee shops due to allergies, intolerances or just to explore a range of new flavours, you may have a hard time finding exactly what you want. Here, we break down the best lactose-free milks and the popular café beverages they pair best with.

almond-milk

Lactose-Free Milks

Nut Milk: Popularly made with almonds, but trendy new varieties such as hazelnut and macadamia are equally available. Homemade nut milk is simple, but won’t be as stable when heating for beverage recipes. Look for nut milk fresh or in shelf-stable tetra packs in your local grocery store. Many cafés and even some larger chain coffee shops are now beginning to carry nut milks as a second dairy-free option along with soy milk.

Soy Milk: One of the first lactose-free, dairy-free milks to sweep the café seen, soy milk is thick, creamy and sweet. Choose unsweetened, plain varieties (or you’re getting a ton of added sugar) when purchasing for homemade coffee shop drinks. Soy milk has the most protein of all non-dairy milks, but many people avoid it due to its high amounts of phytoestrogens, which can disrupt hormone balance in both women and men.

Coconut Milk: Coconut milk is popular with larger coffee shop chains as a soy alternative because it’s not actually a nut, but a fruit. Creamy, sweet and floral, coconut milk (usually the thin beverage is used as opposed to thick canned types) compliments everything from espresso to chocolate, and heats well without curdling.

Rice Milk: Offering little in the way of nutrition, rice milk is usually purchased by those who are seeking something slightly creamy, but are allergic to nut, soy, dairy and coconut milks. Very thin, it’s not the best non-dairy milk to use for coffee shop beverages, but will still give a “milky” appearance. Other grain milks appearing on the market include oat milk and quinoa milk, which have more nutrients and a touch more creaminess (though they are more expensive).

Lactose-Free Milk: This milk is an animal product (dairy) that has had the lactose taken out of it. If you have lactose intolerance but still love the taste of dairy milk, choose this for your coffee when out and at home. Some baristas say that this milk tastes a touch sweeter than regular dairy variety. If you’re concerned about sugar, go for whole milk varieties because when it comes to dairy, the higher the milk fat percentage, the lower the sugar/carbohydrate content.

888_coffee-shop-drinks-at-home

Coffee Shop Drinks and Lactose-Free Milk Pairings

The flavours of alternative milks go wonderfully with coffee, lending sweet, nutty notes to your drinks. Here are some ideas to get your started in the flavour department.

Drink: Latte
Best With: almond milk, coconut milk beverage, soy milk or lactose-free milk.
Try this recipe for Allison Day’s Classic Pumpkin Spice Latte

Drink: Americano (Hot or Iced)
Best With: thick canned coconut milk.

Drink: Frappuccino
Best With: thick canned coconut milk.
Try this recipe for a Light Frappuccino

Drink: Macchiato
Best With: thick canned coconut milk or soy milk.

Drink: Chai Latte
Best With: coconut milk beverage, almond milk, rice milk, lactose-free milk.
Try this recipe for Bal Arneson’s Chai Latte

Drink: Cortado
Best With: soy milk, macadamia nut milk, lactose-free milk.

Drink: Cold Brew Coffee
Best With: thick canned coconut milk, soy milk.
Try this recipe for Ashley Tomlinson’s Cold Brew Coffee

Drink: Flat White
Best with: almond milk, hazelnut milk or soy milk.

Drink: Hot Chocolate
Best With: hazelnut milk (for a “nutella” flavour), almond milk, macadamia nut milk, soy milk, or thick canned coconut milk (for extra-rich hot chocolate).
Try this recipe for Mexican Hot Chocolate

Drink: Cappuccino
Best With: almond milk, oat milk, soy milk, macadamia nut milk.

Stick of Butter

4 Ways to Soften Butter Quickly for Baking

We’ve all been there. You plan to make your famous banana bread and you’re faced with rock-hard butter. The best way to soften butter is to set it out on the counter an hour before baking, allowing it to come to room temperature. But if you’re aching to get baking, you likely don’t have an hour to spare.

Many of our favourite baked goods start with warm, soft butter. It’s the key to perfectly moist cookies and cakes, making them light and fluffy. Starting with soft butter makes it easier to cream, which beats air into it thus giving it structure. Creaming it with sugar helps to hold air into the mixture, meaning maximum fluffiness for your cakes and cookies.

If you’re faced with the dreaded cold butter and are in a rush to begin baking, here are some easy ways to soften it while avoiding a melty mess.

Stick of Butter

Chop, Chop!
Run a knife under hot water for a few minutes and slice up your butter for faster warming time. The smaller pieces will warm faster than one big block. Arrange on a warm plate to speed up the process even more.

Just Beat It
Place your block-o-butter between two pieces of parchment paper or inside a freezer bag, and beat it with a rolling pin. This technique takes some muscle, but it will soften much faster flat, rather than as a solid stick.

Got You Covered
Warm up a bowl or cup and place it over top of your butter block. The gentle heat will speed-up warming time, without melting your block into a puddle.

Grate Expectations
Another way to get your butter to room temperature fast is to pop it in the freezer for a few minutes — bear with us — then use your trusty box grater to turn it into fine pieces, allowing them to warm up even faster.

Not sure what to bake? Anna Olson’s 50 Best Cookie Recipes is a delicious place to start.

Giveaway! Win a Signed Copy of Anna Olson’s New Cookbook

Dust off your rolling pins and pre-heat the oven! Our favourite baker is back in the kitchen with a sweet new season of Bake with Anna Olson, airing Sundays at 10 am E/P.

Not only is Anna returning with new episodes, she’s got a brand new cookbook to boot! The aptly named book, Bake with Anna Olson, features more than 125 of your favourite recipes from the hit show, so you can take your baking to the next level. From a decadent Tarte au Chocolat to classic Pecan Butter Tarts, baking is so fun and easy when you’ve got this experienced chef at your side!



To celebrate Anna’s sweet return, we’re giving away 10 signed copies of the Bake with Anna Olson cookbook. See the details below to win your very own copy.

Giveaway Details:

You could win one of ten (10) signed cookbooks each valued at $35 CDN. If you are a Canadian resident (excl. Québec) and are the age of majority or older, comment below and share your favourite Anna Olson recipe by 12:00 pm on October 18th for a chance to win. Odds of being selected depend on number of eligible entries received. Winners will be randomly selected and notified by email no later than 12:00 pm October 19th.

See full rules and regulation here.

Halloween pumpkin

5 Tips to Make Your Halloween Pumpkins Last Longer

It’s the countdown to Halloween: the decorations are appropriately ghoulish and the kids are a quiver with anticipation of sugary excess. But wait — has the family Jack ‘o lantern gotten a bit too eerily rotten even for fright night? With a little bit of forethought, you can avoid a scare on Halloween with our five tips for putting your pumpkin’s best face forward this year.

Halloween Pumpkin

1. Choose Wisely
Even before the knives come out, starting with the freshest possible pumpkin is the best way to ensure longevity in your Jack o’ lantern. The best way to choose a pumpkin in the patch (or your local grocery store) is to look for plump and unblemished specimens with a vibrant orange colour and an intact stem. Avoid gourds that are mushy or have soft spots, indicating that spoilage is already occurring or will occur shortly.

2. The Power Of Procrastination 
Sometimes, it’s OK to leave some things to the last minute. Waiting until the day before Halloween (or the day of, if you’ve got the day off and are super ambitious) delays the start of the clock in terms of rot and decay. Rushed for time or trying to keep those costumes pristine? Consider using stickers, glue-on adornments and markers instead of — or to complement — the decorative cutting.

3. Keep It Clean
Making sure your hands  are clean when prepping your pumpkin will keep yesterday’s pudding out of the middle of your creation and inhibit mold. Also wipe down your surfaces as well as the outside of the pumpkin, and dry it thoroughly. A mild bleach solution, vinegar or lemon juice may help keep bacteria and fruit flies at bay. Scrape the inside of the pumpkin and remove all the gooey innards, and be sure to give it a wipe out as well.

4. Polished Presentation
To keep your pumpkin perfectly plump, you can use petroleum jelly or oil to coat the insides and cut edges and wrap the whole thing well (or rehydrate it with a quick soak before trick or treaters arrive, but be sure to drain it completely to avoid pumpkin puddles).

5. Think About Temperature
Pumpkins are like most people: happiest when it’s not too cold or too hot. Bring your pumpkin indoors if the weather falls below zero to avoid a cycle of freezing, thawing and rotting, but avoid making them too toasty lest they shrink. To prevent mold, keep them away from high humidity. If storing your gourd outside, concrete may add heat and the potential for spoilage, so consider giving it a cushy seat with a piece of cardboard until the big night.

Prefer to eat pumpkin? Try these 25 Tasty Pumpkin Desserts.

Meet the First Ever Food Network Star Kid!

In the heart-wrenching finale of Food Network Star Kids, the three finalists poured their hearts into the last challenge, but it was Amber Kelley who was crowned the first ever Food Network Star Kid.

This young culinary mastermind is set to host a new web series, Kids Menu Makeover, where she will reinvent restaurant classics for kid palates with the help of pro chefs. Before Amber competed on Food Network Star Kid, the 13-year-old from Seattle hosted her own YouTube show called Cook with Amber. She loves making everything from steak spring rolls to okonomiyaki, a savoury Japanese pancake. She loves snacking on fruit and says the strangest thing she has in her fridge is homemade kimchi.

Amber’s cooking mantra is “healthy is cool,” and she makes it a priority to cook only using fresh, wholesome, good-quality ingredients. “Eating those foods can have a huge impact on your life, ’cause it makes you smarter, stronger, makes you genuinely feel better,” she tells Food Network.

Watch Amber’s journey come to a gratifying end on the finale of Food Network Star Kids. Congrats, Amber!

Turkey Sandwich

A New Thanksgiving Tradition: Braised Turkey Sandwich

This year, instead of roasting a whole turkey, flout tradition and go straight for everyone’s favourite next-day dishl the turkey sandwich. While we love the iconic moment of carving the bird, this hassle-free recipe delivers all the moist, tender flavour, minus the intimidation factor.

Turkey legs are braised low and slow in a bath of milk, and the result is fall-off-the-bone meat with a subtle sweetness from the milk. Pile it high and top with a slather of mustard, cranberry sauce and a pickle for a sandwich worth giving thanks for.

Braised Turkey Sandwich

Prep: 10 minutes
Total: 2 hours 10 minutes
Serves: 4

Ingredients:
2 turkey legs
1 Tbsp salt
2 tsp pepper
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp canola oil
3 shallots, quartered
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
3 cups milk
2 sprigs thyme
8 slices sourdough bread, toasted
1/4 cup bread and butter pickles
4 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 cup cranberry sauce

Directions:
1. Season turkey legs with salt and pepper.
2. Heat butter and oil in a large heavy bottom pot over high heat. Place 1 turkey leg in pot and brown on all sides, about 5 minutes. Transfer leg from pot to a plate and repeat with other leg. Transfer other leg to plate.
3. Place shallots and cider vinegar in pot. Using a wooden spoon scrape the bottom of the pan to lift any brown bits.
4. Reduce heat to medium and cook shallots until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
5. Return turkey legs to pot and pour in milk with thyme sprigs. Increase heat to medium-high to bring milk to boil. Quickly reduce heat to medium-low and cover pot. Let cook, rotating leg every 30 min until turkey is cooked through and falling off the bone, about 2 hours.
6. Transfer turkey legs to a bowl and pull the meat off the bones using a fork. Discard tendons and bones. Shred meat using two forks.
7. Pour 1 cup of cooking liquid over pulled turkey meat and stir to combine.
8. Spread dijon mustard over two pieces of toasted sourdough bread. Place desired amount of meat on one piece of bread and top with pickle and cranberry sauce.
9. Close sandwich and serve immediately.