The Best Vegan Margherita Pizza

Simple, delicious and comforting, traditional Margherita pizza is made vegan thanks to this tasty, cheese-less recipe that replaces classic mozzarella with non-dairy cheese shreds. The cast iron skillet method is ideal for creating a restaurant-quality pie, helping you get a super-crispy, thin-crust slice without any special equipment.

Whether you’re looking for vegan alternatives or just want to cut back on cheese and dairy, this vegan pizza recipe is a must-try.

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Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 18 minutes
Total Time: 33 minutes
Serves: 2

Ingredients:
All-purpose flour, as needed
2 tsp fine cornmeal, for pan
1/2 lb fresh pizza dough (from supermarket or local pizzeria), room temperature
1/2 cup strained tomatoes or crushed tomatoes
1 cup non-dairy shredded mozzarella cheese, such as Daiya Mozzarella Style Shreds
1/4 tsp flaky sea salt or fine-grain sea salt
8 fresh basil leaves, torn
2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil, more for hands

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Directions:
1. Place one oven rack in the very bottom slot of the oven. Preheat oven to 500ºF.
2. Sprinkle a medium (12-inch) cast-iron skillet with a light dusting of all-purpose flour and cornmeal.
3. With a bit of flour, work dough to stretch into a round. Add to prepared cast iron skillet, grease hands and finish pressing into place all the way to the outside (this takes a few minutes, but it’s worth the wait for a thin crust).
4. Cover dough with tomatoes and top with cheese. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, until cheese is bubbling and crust is crisp.
5. Remove from oven, decorate with basil and drizzle with olive oil.
6. Slide onto a cutting board, slice and serve hot.

Check out this collection of 40 comforting recipes you won’t believe are vegan.

creamy lobster linguini

Giada de Laurentiis’ Romantic Valentine’s Day Menu

Forgo the fancy restaurants and prix-fixe menus this Valentine’s Day and make your sweetheart swoon with a little taste of Italy right at home. Start the evening off with a restaurant-worthy Italian cocktail, followed by a rich risotto appetizer and a luscious pasta dish that’s so good, it may just lead to a romantic, Lady and the Tramp moment.

So set the table, light some candles and let Giada De Laurentiis’ simple and delicious Italian menu complete your intimate evening.

The Gentle Italian
Treat your loved one to a pink, effervescent Italian aperitif that goes down smooth. This light, lemon-scented sipper gets a hint of orange and rhubarb from a splash of Aperol, and a fizzy finish from Italian Prosecco.

Artichoke Arancini

Artichoke Arancini
Nothing says ‘I love you’ like a warm, gooey and crispy bite of arancini. These golden risotto balls are lovingly made from scratch with toasted arborio rice, white wine and fresh basil. For an extra-special surprise, add a touch of fresh mozzarella or spicy sausage to the centre of each arancini ball.

Creamy Lobster Linguine

Creamy Lobster Linguine
Rich, buttery lobster gets even more indulgent in this gorgeous dish complete with bacon, shallots and a creamy garlic sauce. Basil, tarragon and a heaping handful of freshly grated Parmesan is enough to woo your lucky dinner guest.

Chai Chocolate Truffles

Chai Chocolate Truffles
Valentine’s Day wouldn’t be complete without chocolate, and these rich, indulgent handmade truffles are just the answer. There’s only five ingredients in Giada’s scrumptious chai-flavoured truffle recipe, and your special someone won’t know that it took you less than 20 minutes to make them. For a truly romantic touch, present them in a heart-shaped box with a cappuccino to sip as you enjoy these delicate treats.

Looking for more romantic recipes? Try one of these 12 Romantic Recipes to Make at Home.

Watch Giada Entertains Sundays 12 pm E/T.

flapper-pie-karlynn-feature

Rediscovering Old-Fashioned Prairie Desserts

Karlynn Johnston is bringing your grandma’s baking back. We’re not talking jello salad, but rum balls, danties, squares and the ultimate Prairie classic, flapper pie.

With her new cookbook, aptly named, Flapper Pie and a Blue Prairie Sky, the Edmonton-based blogger behind The Kitchen Magpie, takes us back in time with recipes for classic Canadian desserts of yesteryear. Passed down on scraps of paper or typically only published in community cookbooks, Johnston has brought together a perfect selection of long forgotten sweets from Prairie kitchens past and present.

flapper pie and blue prairie sky

Flipping through the cookbook, each page takes you back to your grandmother’s kitchen, school bake sales and community halls, where many of these desserts have been enjoyed for generations.

“My grandma, out on the farm, would always have danties in the freezer for company,” says Johnston. “That was a big part of Prairie life.”

For Johnston, her love of baking started at a young age, where she spent summers in her grandmother’s farmstead kitchen in Dauphin, Manitoba. There she was put to work turning buckets of freshly picked blueberries and Saskatoons into dozens of freshly baked pies, made with classic Canadian Tenderflake dough.

“Pie days were a lot of work,” says Johnston. “She’d start in the morning. If you could fit three in the oven, you’d bake those for an hour and have the next ones ready. It was a huge assembly line.”
From there, the pies were cooled, wrapped and frozen for the cold Prairie winter. While she ample experience mixing, rolling and baking pie dough, she admits that she doesn’t quite have her grandmother’s touch.

“She had the lightest touch, out of everyone I know,” she says. “By touch she always knew if it needed a little more vinegar or cold water. She made the best pie pastry.”

Karlynn Johnston's Flapper Pie.

Excerpted from Flapper Pie and Blue Prairie Sky: A Modern Baker’s Guide to Old-Fashioned Desserts by Karlynn Johnston. Copyright © 2016 Karlynn Johnston. Published by Appetite by Random House®, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.
Excerpted from Flapper Pie and Blue Prairie Sky: A Modern Baker’s Guide to Old-Fashioned Desserts by Karlynn Johnston. Copyright © 2016 Karlynn Johnston. Published by Appetite by Random House®, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

Johnston prefers to make the simple graham crust of the classic Prairie flapper pie, which dons the cover of her book. Known as the ‘almost’ forgotten pie, the custard-filled treat topped with meringue is a family favourite across the prairies, with variations abound.

“I’ve had a lot of people tell me it’s the proper one, because it has cinnamon in the graham crust,” says Johnston, who received the recipe from her mother. Once she baked it up, and posted it on The Kitchen Magpie, she was flooded with nostalgic notes from readers.

“I had hundreds of people telling me they had forgotten about it,” says Johnston. “I think it is one of those foods that their grandmas and their aunts used to make and it just has the memories attached to it.”

“My mom didn’t make it, but she remembers her mom making it. Her generation forgot about it and now my generation is going back and recapturing all those memories.”

Saskatoon-Berry-Pie

Excerpted from Flapper Pie and Blue Prairie Sky: A Modern Baker’s Guide to Old-Fashioned Desserts by Karlynn Johnston. Copyright © 2016 Karlynn Johnston. Published by Appetite by Random House®, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

Johnston isn’t surprised by the newfound love for classic recipes, especially Canadian ones. With new, over the top food trends popping up almost daily, she thinks that people still crave that down home comfort.

“It is fantastic to go to a restaurant and eat it, but these (classic recipes) are the recipes that mean the most to us,” she says.
That doesn’t mean she isn’t open to creative twists on the classics. Her book is riddled with new interpretations of Canadian sweets, including her new favourite: Saskatoon Butter Tart Pie.

“There’s something about the flavours that are perfect,” she says. “You won’t think they would work but it does really, really well. It is like the culmination of everything Prairies in one recipe.”

super bowl menu roger mooking

Roger Mooking’s Ultimate Super Bowl Menu

Maybe you like football, maybe you don’t. But if a snack-centred event featuring classic comfort foods sounds like your idea of fun, then it’s time to add Super Bowl Sunday to your annual calendar of delicious events. Here, chef and Chopped Canada judge Roger Mooking shares his tips for hosting a superb Super Bowl Party.

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Pass the snacks
One of Chef Roger’s favourite Super Bowl memories was watching the 2016 game at his cousin’s place, while his cousin screamed and jumped around the TV. “The whole family knows he is a Broncos fanatic so we all went there to watch him,” he says. “It was one of the most hilarious things I did last year and will never forget it.” That energy is what makes the day, so don’t quash it by asking fanatics to sit down for dinner. “Finger foods and hand-held foods are always good because people tend to get excited, and want to nibble through the stress and excitement throughout the game,” says Roger.

Honey-Glazed Ham

Roger recommends:
Sweet Potato Wedges with Chipotle Sauce
Honey-Glazed Ham
Red Cabbage and Green Apple Slaw
Mini Apple Pie Pockets

Prepare for a thirsty crowd
A mix of alcoholic and non-alcoholic brews and caffeinated and non-caffeinated drinks, will allow guests of all ages to cater to their own energy and entertainment requirements. If you’re serving booze, Roger recommends taking everyone’s keys as they come in the door. “Call a cab if people get too tipsy or are too worked up to drive,” he says.

Ginger Beer

Roger recommends serving:
Chocolate Malted Milkshakes
Ice cold light beer with lime wedges
Ginger beer
Iced coffee with condensed milk

“Make a coffee, add ice and drizzle some sweetened condensed milk in it,” says Rogers. “Stir it all up just before you drink and there will be enough sugar and caffeine in there to turn the most docile sports fan into Mike Tyson backed into a corner.”

iced coffee

Game day plan
Stock up on side plates and serviettes, since guests will invariably go back for seconds (and thirds), and some of the tastiest game day treats the messiest. Avoid a post-season house slump by keeping a garbage nearby so it’s easy to tidy up during commercial breaks.

Looking for more Super Bowl ideas? Try Patricia Heaton’s Best Game Day Recipes.

Jos Louis Cake

How to Make a Giant Jos Louis Cake

Before red velvet became all the rage, Canada had the humble Jos Louis. A red velvet cake sandwich with a creamy marshmallow-y filling and milk chocolate coating, this portable snack was one of my favourite lunchbox desserts in the 80’s.

So what could be better than a Jos Louis? A giant Jos Louis! This cake, inspired by an iconic Canadian snack, is sure to delight both kids and adults with its delicious and nostalgic flavour.

Jos Louis Cake

Giant Jos Louis

Prep Time: 1 hour 30 min
Total Time: 1 hour 30 min
Makes: 12 servings

Ingredients:
1 box red velvet cake mix, baked in two 9-inch round cake pans

Marshmallow Icing:
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup icing sugar
1/2 cup whipping cream
2 x 198 g jars marshmallow creme

Chocolate Glaze:
1 1/3 cup milk chocolate chips
1/3 cup whipping cream

Jos Louis Cake

1. Use a serrated knife to cut the domed top off one of the 9-in. round cakes. Place cake on a platter. Leave the second cake as is.

2. To make icing, beat whipping cream in a large bowl with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form, 2 to 3 min. Beat in butter and icing sugar until very stiff, 1 to 2 min. Fold in marshmallow creme until just combined. (Icing should not be runny.)

3. Spread marshmallow icing over cake layer on platter to the edges. Top with second cake layer. Place cake in freezer for 10 minutes.

4. To make glaze, microwave chocolate chips and whipping cream for 30 seconds. Stir until chocolate is melted. Let the chocolate cool slightly.

5. Pour glaze over top of cake. Use a metal spatula to spread the glaze over top and sides of cake. If chocolate pools at the bottom of the cake, use your spatula to scrape off excess chocolate. Refrigerate cake for 1 hour or overnight.

6. Slice and enjoy!

The Best Vegan Chicken Noodle Soup

When the weather gets chilly and all you want to do is stay cozy inside, we know exactly what you’ll be craving: a steaming bowl of chicken noodle soup! Our favourite childhood meal, this faux chicken noodle soup is made entirely from plant-based ingredients and we promise you won’t notice the difference.

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Serves: 6-8

888_vegan-chicken-noodle-soup

Ingredients:
1 cup diced yellow onion
1 cup diced carrot
1 cup diced celery
3 garlic cloves, minced
7 cups low sodium vegetable stock
170 g meatless chicken strips (approximately 2 cups)
200 g fettuccine noodles
1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
2 Tbsp sunflower oil
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp fresh thyme
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp dried sage
1/4tsp ground pepper

888_vegan-chicken-noodle-soup2

Directions:
1. Pull apart the meatless chicken strips with your hands to make smaller pieces that look shredded.
2. In a large pot, heat sunflower oil over medium heat and then add meatless chicken strips and brown for 1 minute.
3. Add basil, thyme, sage, sea salt and ground pepper, and continue browning the strips for another 5 minutes.
4. Add onion and sauté for another 2 minutes, allowing them to soften and sweat, stirring occasionally.
5. At this point, add a bit of vegetable stock to lift up the brown bits off the bottom of the pot, stir in celery and carrots and sauté for 4-5 minutes.
6. Add minced garlic and sauté for 2 minutes.
7. Add all the vegetable stock and noodles (you can use any type of pasta, which may vary the cook time) and stir to combine.
8. Cover pot with lid, lower heat and simmer for 15 minutes, or until noodles are tender and cooked through.
9. In the last 2 minutes of cooking, add in parsley.
10. Serve immediately.

How to Make Your Own Dumplings for Chinese New Year

Born and raised in Richmond, BC, Chef Nicole Gomes has been celebrating Chinese New Year ever since she can remember. The west coast city, just a stone’s throw from Vancouver, is known across North America for its dynamic Chinese food scene and famous night market brimming with all sorts of delicious eats.

nicole-and-dumplings-2

The Top Chef Canada alum has been calling Calgary home for over 16 years, where she runs a high-end catering company (Nicole Gourmet) and the uber-popular fried chicken eatery, Cluck ‘N’ Cleaver. But with strong family ties in Richmond, she always heads back west to celebrate the holiday with her family.

“Most of my memories about Chinese New Year just revolve around spending time with my family,” says Gomes, smiling. “Well, spending time with family and then eating and eating and eating. There’s always so much food!”

So when it comes to Chinese New Year cooking, Nicole Gomes is something of an expert. Here are some top tips she has picked up over the years, plus how to make perfect Chinese dumplings.

 

dumplings-final2

The Perfect Dumplings for Chinese New Year

While Gomes says food has always been central to her upbringing, one of her most fond food memories is spending weekend afternoons learning to make dumplings (jiaozi) with her grandmother and younger sister.

“We would make dumplings all of the time with my grandma. Hundreds and hundreds of them,” says Gomes. “That is one of the best things about dumplings. You can make a huge batch, freeze them and eat them when you want.”

After years of making dough, rolling, filling and pinching, Gomes has become quite the dumpling expert, practically making them with her eyes closed. Though the filling can be flexible, Gomes’ favourite filling is a classic one made with ground pork and Shanghai bok choy.

If you’re celebrating the Lunar New Year at home this year, you should definitely have some dumplings on the table — so why not make some that are chef-approved?

Nicole Gomes’ Homemade Pork Dumplings

Prep and Cook Time: 1 hour
Makes: 30 dumplings

dumpling-making

Ingredients:

Pork and Bok Choy Filling:
2 heads Shanghai bok choy (halved, thinly sliced and blanched)
1 pound ground pork
2 Tbsp oyster sauce
2 Tbsp light soy sauce
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 tsp cane sugar
2 Tbsp Chinese rice cooking wine
1 Tbsp sesame oil
Canola oil (for testing filling)

Dumpling Dough:
2 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup boiling water

Dipping Sauce:
1/3 cup black vinegar (available at Asian grocers)
2 Tbsp garlic chili paste
Crushed chili flakes (for garnish)

Tip: Always cook off a bit of your filling in a pan and taste it first before filling your dumplings. Add more seasoning if needed. You don’t want to fill a whole bunch of dumplings only to find out they don’t taste as good as they could!

dumpling-filling

Directions:

Pork and Bok Choy Filling :
Place all ingredients in a bowl and stir until combined.

Dumpling Dough:
1. Mix flour and water together in a medium bowl and knead until smooth.
2. Split dough into six equal logs, roll to 3/4-inch thickness (approximately) and cut into 5 pieces per log for a total of 30 dumplings.

filling-dumplings
3. Roll out into rounds and fill with approximately prepared pork and bok choy filling.

pinching-dumplings
4. To seal, lightly dab water around the edge of one half of the dumplings. Bring sides together and gently pinch along seam to seal.

Dipping Sauce:
Place black vinegar, garlic chili paste and chili flakes in a small bowl and stir to combine.

Cooking:
1. Pour 1 1/2 Tbsp canola oil in a large pan to evenly coat and turn to medium-high heat. Place dumplings into pan and cook until bottoms start to brown, about 2-3 minutes.

dumplings-browning
2. Next, pour in 1 1/2 cups water, cover with lid and let steam for 6-8 minutes or until water is absorbed.

dumplings-cooking
3. Remove lid to allow any remaining water to evaporate. Dumpling should be tender on top and golden brown on the bottom.
4. Transfer from pan to serving dish and let cool slightly before serving.

Tips for a Great Chinese New Year:

It’s a numbers game
The number eight is regarded as the luckiest number. That’s a good baseline to work with when you’re preparing dinner. Eight dishes can easily feed a big group of family or friends. On the other end, stay away from four in any shape or form (i.e. guests or dishes). Its pronunciation is the same as the word for death, so it’s considered very bad luck.

The longer the noodle you’re cooking with, the better
Noodles represent longevity in life. You will always see them on the table at Chinese New Year, but in a lot of different forms, like stir-fried or steamed with vegetables and soy-based sauces. Never cut the noodles — it is bad luck!

You don’t need to cook everything yourself
Popular dishes like suckling pig, barbecue pork and peking-style chicken or duck aren’t ideal for a home cook to make, especially if it’s their first time. Most Canadian cities have great Chinatown neighbourhoods with Chinese barbecue restaurants. Order these from a good quality spot and spend your time in the kitchen making delicious side dishes.

dumpling-discs-and-ingredients

Not every dish has to be hot
Many dishes in Chinese culture are served cold; a lot of people forget about that. Marinating soft tofu in a soy garlic sauce overnight in the fridge, for example, is really delicious and doesn’t take much prep at all.

Plan for some surf and turf
It isn’t a Chinese New Year dinner without lobster. Whole lobster is usually served because of its resemblance to a dragon (a creature that is synonymous with Chinese culture). It is usually paired with chicken. The presentation of a whole chicken represents family and prosperity.

What you should be drinking
Simple drinks are served along with Lunar New Year celebrations. Red and white wine to sip on throughout dinner, and finishing off with cognac when dessert comes around is perfect.

Always accept an invitation to someone’s New Year dinner, if possible
It is a real honour to be invited to someone’s Chinese New Year celebration, and one big plus is then you don’t have to worry about any of the cooking or the dishes afterwards.

Check out these 15 mouth-watering dumpling recipes for Chinese New Year.

 

5 Clever Ways to Use Store-Bought Pizza Dough

A good batch of pizza dough can go so much further than being just the base for a super cheesy pie. Whether made from scratch or  store bought, this basic yeast dough is incredibly versatile, perfect for carrying a wide range of flavours. Not only is it super easy to work with, it also bakes up easily!

So pick up some dough and try one of these 5 clever new ways to use it.

Monkey Bread

Monkey Bread
Lightly butter a 9×5-inch loaf pan. Pour 1/3 cup melted unsalted butter in a medium bowl. Combine 1/2 cup packed brown sugar with 2 tsp cinnamon in a separate medium bowl. Roll 450 g pizza dough into 1-inch balls. Dip each ball into butter, then sugar mixture until well coated. Arrange balls in a staggered fashion in prepared loaf pan. Gently press down to flatten slightly. Cover with a damp kitchen towel and let stand until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake monkey bread in centre of oven until golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer to a rack and let stand, 10 minutes, then turn out onto a plate.

Stir 1/2 cup icing sugar with 2 tsp milk in a small bowl until smooth. Drizzle over monkey bread. Serve warm.

Garlic Sticks
Roll out 450 g pizza dough into a 1/4-inch thick rectangle. Cut into 1-inch-thick strips. Arrange on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake in centre of oven until almost golden. Brush sticks with melted garlic butter, then sprinkle evenly with grated mozzarella or Parmesan. Continue baking until cheese is melted and sticks are golden brown.

Focaccia
Roll out 450 grams pizza dough until 1/4-inch-thick. Arrange on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Drizzle generously with olive oil, then top with thinly sliced red onion, chopped fresh rosemary and flaked sea salt. Bake in the centre of oven until golden brown.

Beignets
Roll out 450 g pizza dough until 1/8-inch thick. Cut into 2-inch squares. Fry in canola oil over medium heat until puffed and golden. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate. Dust generously with icing sugar or toss with granulated sugar.

Stromboli
Roll out 450 g pizza dough into an 1/8-inch thick rectangle. Top with tomato sauce, sliced prosciutto, grated fontina cheese and sautéed spinach, leaving a 1-inch border. Brush border with eggwash. Fold over all edges, then roll the long end upwards to form a log, pinching all edges to seal well. Arrange on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake in the centre of oven until golden brown. Cut into thick slices before serving.

Tartiflette

A Hearty French Dish to Comfort You This Winter

By Corinna Horton

The chef in my life, Benoit Gelinotte, is Burgundy born. Raised in Renève France, a small village just south of Dijon, he possesses an almost encyclopedic knowledge of French cuisine. As a child he shunned family vacations and long, hot days of sitting in the backseat of the family car en route to the French Riviera for the certainty of being well fed in his grandmother’s kitchen. A chef herself, she proved time and again that even the humblest of ingredients; handled with a measure of respect and solid technique, can be made into the mightiest of meals.

On occasion, when he pines for an authentic taste of home, he takes to the kitchen and makes this incredible dish out of a couple of potatoes, an onion, a chunk of bacon, a sizeable amount of cream and a piece of pungent, soft cheese. The result is classic simplicity, in its purest form.

Tartiflette, Courtesy of Corinna Horton, foodgypsy.ca, Aylmer, QC

Tartiflette

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes
Yield: 6-8 servings

Ingredients
2 1/2 pounds (1 kg) new potatoes
1/2 pound (225 g) thick-cut, smoked bacon
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 cups (475 mL) heavy cream
1 lb (450g) Reblochon-style cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Directions
1. Wash and scrub potatoes well. Slice 1/4 inch slices and rinse in cold water. In a medium sized pot, cover with cold, salted water and boil until just tender (10-12 minutes). Drain, rinse in cold water and set aside. (If using late harvest potatoes peel first.)
2. While potatoes cook, slice bacon in two inch pieces, sauté over medium-high heat until tender.
3. Pour off excess fat, leaving about a tbsp. Add chopped onion to sweat with the bacon until transparent. 4. Taste. Season with salt and pepper and remove from heat to cool.
5. Pre-heat oven to 350°F (175°C).
6. When potatoes are cool enough to handle place a layer in the bottom of a large ovenproof pan and season with salt and pepper.
7. Take remaining potatoes and toss with bacon and onion. Season as needed and add to the top of the potato layer.
8. Add cream until potato mixture is almost covered.
9. Cut cheese into 1-inch chunks and place on top before sliding pan into the oven. Bake until tender, with a crispy, browned top (about 45 minutes).
10. Check with tip of a knife. Be sure potatoes are tender, but not mushy. Remove and rest 10 minutes.

Food Gypsy
Corinna Horton Pro Cook. Amateur Mom. Passionate Wino. Gypsy.
Recipe testing, blogging about food, wine and the art of living well from her home kitchen just outside Ottawa; Corinna (Cori) Horton trained at Le Cordon Bleu, spent five years as the owner of Nova Scotia’s Dragonfly Inn, and is currently at work on her second book.

3 Healthy Baked Veggie Fries

Homemade vegetable fries, baked right in the oven, are a healthier way to get your fry fix. Just like potatoes, sturdy vegetables such as rutabaga, carrot, parsnip and zucchini, can withstand the heat of the oven needed for a crispy, golden-brown exterior and tender interior. These nutrient-rich frites offer great flavours and texture, in a healthy-carb package that was made for dipping.

Here are three simple variations of oven-baked French fries, along with a few tips on how to get them crisp, plus tasty dip ideas.

Italian-Zucchini-Fries-2

Veggie Fry Baking Tips
– After slicing, pat vegetables dry with a cloth or paper towel to remove excess moisture.
– Coat veggies in cornmeal or panko bread crumbs to add another layer of crunch to the exterior.
– Use the convection setting on your oven if you have it; baking at a higher heat (400ºF to 425ºF) for slightly less time. Circulating air means a crispier exterior.
– Use a high-temperature cooking oil, such as grapeseed, avocado, camelina or olive oil (not extra-virgin) to avoid smoke in the hot oven.
– Enjoy the fries as fresh as possible – like their deep-fried counterparts, these will soften as they cool.
– Make sure your parchment paper brand can withstand heat up to 425ºF.

Dip Ideas
Classic ketchup
Curry mayonnaise
Tzatziki
Greek yogurt with chipotle and lime
Garlicky honey mustard
Marinara sauce
Homemade cheese sauce

Rutabaga-Fries-1-1

Rutabaga Herb Oven Fries

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Serves: 4

Ingredients:
1 large rutabaga, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch matchsticks
2 Tbsp olive oil or grapeseed oil
1 tsp herbs de Provence or dried thyme
1/2 tsp salt
Ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 425ºF. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Add all ingredients to prepared baking sheet and toss to combine; spread into a single layer.
3. Roast for 30 to 35 minutes, or until tender and golden brown on the underside. Serve.

Italian-Zucchini-Fries-3

Italian Zucchini Panko Wedge Fries

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Serves: 4

Ingredients:
1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 tsp Italian seasoning or dried oregano
1/4 tsp salt
2 zucchini, halved crosswise and lengthwise, cut into thick sticks
1 Tbsp olive oil or grapeseed oil

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 425ºF. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Combine panko, Italian seasoning or dried oregano and salt on a plate. Coat zucchini in oil. Press zucchini into breadcrumbs and line up on prepared baking sheet.
3. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, until zucchini is tender and golden brown on the underside. Serve.

Sesame-Carrot-Fries-1

Sesame Carrot Shoestring Fries

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Serves: 4

Ingredients:
4 carrots, peeled, halved crosswise and cut into thin matchsticks
1 Tbsp olive oil or grapeseed oil
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 tsp black or white sesame seeds
1/4 tsp salt

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 425ºF. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. In a medium bowl, toss carrots with olive oil, sesame oil, tamari and sesame seeds. Transfer to prepared baking sheet and spread into a single layer.
3. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, or until carrots are crisp and beginning to caramelize. Serve.

For more healthy alternatives, check out these 13 baked versions of your favourite fried foods.

Vegan Shepherd’s Pie with Crispy Cauliflower Crust

There’s something ultra-comforting about a wintery shepherd’s pie. But this vegan version turns the concept of the classic comfort food on its head. Protein-packed lentils and vegetables are smothered in an easy pan gravy and topped with lean puréed cauliflower.

This veganized shepherd’s pie is not only nutritious, delicious and satisfying, it’s also really easy to make. All your guests — meat-eaters and vegans alike — are sure to enjoy a scoop of this cozy meal.

vegan-shepherds-pie-recipe

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour, 13 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour, 23 minutes
Serves: 4

Ingredients:

Filling
3/4 cup uncooked brown lentils
1 Tbsp coconut oil or vegan butter
2 cups finely chopped savoy cabbage
2 stalks celery, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup water
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 Tbsp vegan Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp salt
Ground black pepper, to taste
1/8 tsp ground cloves

Crispy Cauliflower Crust
1/2 head cauliflower, roughly chopped
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
Ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 375ºF.
2. For the filling, add lentils to a medium saucepan, cover with 3 inches water, bring to a boil, reduce to medium and cook, uncovered, for 20 to 30 minutes, until tender. Drain. Reserve.
3. For the crust, steam cauliflower until very tender. Add to a food processor along with olive oil, salt and pepper, and purée until smooth. Reserve.
4. In a large high-sided skillet, heat coconut oil or vegan butter over medium heat. Add cabbage, celery, carrot and garlic. Sauté for 5 to 8 minutes, until vegetables are almost tender. Thoroughly stir in reserved cooked lentils, water, vinegar, Worcestershire, tomato paste, salt, pepper and cloves.
5. To assemble, pour filling mixture into an 8×8-inch square glass or ceramic baking dish; smooth surface. Add dollops of cauliflower crust over top and smooth to cover filling. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until bubbling and beginning to brown on top. Serve.

Be sure to check out these 40 comforting recipes you won’t believe are vegan.

Seared Salmon and Crispy Tofu Poke Bowls

The bowl of the moment is most certainly the poke bowl, coming to your kitchen straight from Hawaii.  A spin on the traditional fish salad,  the poke bowl is typically composed of raw ahi tuna, seaweed and rice with a few simple, versatile garnishes. It’s lighter, fresher fare that makes a fun lunch or dinner.

Ahi tuna and sushi-grade salmon is a challenge to come by in regular grocery stores, and specialty markets can be expensive. But, you can make a poke bowl at home that suits your locale and budget by searing some wild salmon, or using vegetarian-friendly tofu. Experiment with the vegetables in this bowl, like avocado and steamed greens, or even some juicy fresh mango.

Enjoy these abundant bowls for a taste of warm Hawaiian sunshine.

Poke-Bowl-5

Prep Time: 20 Minutes
Total Time: 25 Minutes
Serves: 4

Ingredients:

Bowl Components
2 cups cooked short grain brown rice or sticky white rice
1 diced cucumber
1 diced carrot
1 diced cooked or raw beet
1 diced roasted red pepper
1 cup finely shredded kale
1 sheet nori (seaweed)
1 fresh red chili, thinly sliced
Black or white sesame seeds

Dressing
2 Tbsp sweet white miso
2 Tbsp unseasoned rice vinegar
1 Tbsp hoisin sauce
1 Tbsp maple syrup
1 Tbsp sesame oil

Poke-Bowl-1

Seared Salmon Poke Bowl
4 oz (per serving) fresh wild salmon (skinned or skinless)
1 tsp black or white sesame seeds
2 tsp coconut oil

Crispy Tofu Poke Bowl
4 oz (per serving) extra-firm tofu, cubed
1 tsp black or white sesame seeds
2 tsp coconut oil

Directions:

Seared Salmon Poke Bowl
Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Press sesame seeds into top of salmon. Add oil to hot pan followed by salmon, seed side-down. Sear for 2 to 3 minutes; flip and cook until desired doneness (about 30 seconds to 1 minute for medium-rare). Transfer to a plate. Remove skin from salmon (if it has it) and flake into large pieces. Reserve.

Poke-Bowl-4

Crispy Tofu Poke Bowl
Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat tofu with sesame seeds. Add oil to hot pan followed by tofu. Sear for 1 to 2 minutes per side, or until golden brown. Transfer to a plate. Reserve.

Poke-Bowl-2

Assembly
To large serving bowls, add a mound of rice. Add your vegetables of choice, leaving a space for desired protein. Add salmon or tofu (or both) to bowls, sprinkle with sesame seeds and garnish with chili. Serve warm or chilled drizzled with dressing.

Poke-Bowl-6

Looking for more creative takes on sushi? Try making this shareable sushi pizza.

RIV-Chip-Stand

Fry Guys on the Hunt for Spectacular Spuds Across Canada

The Fry Guys are on a delicious mission. A mission to eat at every single chip truck on the Trans-Canada Highway. The group of four, fry-loving friends from Toronto started their epic journey last summer. Packing up a vintage ‘74 Airstream trailer, they set out on the three-week Ontario leg, cameras and forks in hand, documenting every delicious, golden spud along the way.

Patrick T. Lo, 31, Chris Solomon, 32, Zachary Muir-Vavrina, 33, and Paul Parolin, 32, met at the Ontario College of Art and Design, where they bonded over a love of food, travel and Canadiana. Last year, the longtime friends cooked up the mouthwatering idea of eating their way across the country together, on an epic road trip along the Trans-Canada Highway.

trans-canada-fryway

Conjuring fond memories of roadside food, chip trucks stuck out as a quintessential part of Canadian road trips.

“It is such an interesting part of Canadiana that doesn’t really get the attention that it deserves,” says Parolin. “What if we went around and reviewed all of them and documented them? It might be what people are looking for to embark on the trip themselves.”

With Solomon at the wheel and Lo filming their culinary adventure, they hit the Trans-Canada Fryway in Toronto last August. Driving east to Québec, north to Kenora and round-trip back to Toronto, the Fry-Guys taste-tested chips at 55 different wagons along the way.

Each exit was a chance to taste a bit of local flavour, and the guys were ready with a slew of criteria and a five-fork rating system to apply to each stand. Only judging the fries, they got one small order with gravy, per stand, looking for fresh, crispy chips that stood up on their own. While the fries were the most important part, they were only one component. The ambiance, the number of picnic tables and even the number of seagulls were all factors for a winning chip truck.

“If there’s seagulls, you know it is worthwhile,” says Parolin.

While they started as humble food lovers, the Fry Guys refined their potato palate considerably on this road trip.

“At first, we were earning our credentials, but now I feel like we are the experts, for sure,” says Parolin. “After the pure number, I know right away if (the fry) has been sitting out, or if it has been frozen.”

Wes' Chips in Arnprior, ON

Wes’ Chips in Arnprior, ON.
Trans-Canada Fryway

In the three-week journey, only three spots earned the Fry Guys ultimate 5-Fork rating. Wes’ Chips in Arnprior stood out with its evenly-cooked fries and the Ottawa Valley tradition of letting the customer add in ketchup, salt or vinegar halfway, before topping up the container with more perfectly-fried spuds. Excellent fries, combined with lots of picnic tables and vintage signage makes Wes’ a must-visit, as locals have known for years.

“If you were remotely close to Arnprior, it is definitely worth the stop,” says Parolin.

Kingston’s Country Cabin Chip Hut and Kenora’s Ye Olde Chip Truck are also the trucks to beat in Ontario. Beyond the fantastic fries, Ye Old Chip Truck was one of the Fry Guys’ most interesting stops along the way. The chip truck chain is owned and operated by a pair of 20-something best friends, who bought their uncle’s former business, turning it into a spud-tacular empire.

“It was such an amazing passing of the torch moment, to see a place that has been around for 60 years in such great hands now with these two young entrepreneurs,” says Parolin.

While chowing down was a big part of the trip, it’s that unique Canadian chip truck culture that the guys aimed to capture. Like the dueling French fry stands in Sturgeon Falls.

Situated between North Bay and Sudbury, Larry’s and the Riv have been serving up fries across the highway from one another for more than 25 years. These fry-vals caught word of the Fry Guys’ trip long before they arrived and there was a crowd ready to greet them.

“Larry’s is run by people who have been there for 20 years, themselves. Then to go next door to Riv’s, it was like a high school class, everyone there knew each other,” says Parolin. “Their older siblings worked there, and their parents had worked there. It was almost like a right of passage if you are from that region.”

RIV-Chip-Stand

Fries and gravy from The Riv in Sturgeon Falls, Ont.

While these stands are often social hubs for the local community, the Fry Guys found their voyage helped connect fellow fry-cooks across Ontario. One stop in Deep River was especially moving. They asked the owner of a fry stand to sign their trailer and she stopped and told them how much it meant to her to see all the other people who spend their day slicing and frying.

“When she looked at all these other names of people across our country who are doing the same thing she’s doing, it felt like she was a part of something bigger,” says Parolin. “It is stuff like that that made the trip worthwhile.”

Since the sunny days of August, the guys have been working away to publish the first leg of their trip as a web series. (Check out their first episode below.) They hope to have the rest of their Ontario episodes complete this spring, and to continue their cross-Canada road trip this summer, ahead of Canada’s 150th birthday.

“Eating the French fries was the thread that holds our idea together, but it is just as important to us to focus on the actual journey of going across the country and what that means to Canadians,” says Parolin.

3 Easy and Delicious Desserts Using Frozen Fruit

It’s that time of year again; the days are short, the wind is bitter cold and, to make things worse, most of our favourite fruit isn’t in season.
If you’re craving a fresh, fruit-filled dessert, avoid the pricey, less-than-tasty fresh berries at your grocery store and turn to your freezer.

Frozen fruit is preserved at its peak, making sure that it’s perfectly sweet and juicy. While you’re used to popping it into your morning smoothies, why not transform them into amazing crumbles, turnovers and sundaes? Follow our easy tips to make these three quick and tasty desserts right at home.

frozen cherry turnovers

Cherry Turnovers: Thaw one sheet (half of a 450g package) of puff pastry; cut into 6 rounds. Pat dry 1 cup thawed frozen sweet black cherries to remove excess liquid. In small bowl, combine cherries, 2 tsp cornstarch and 1/4 cup granulated sugar. Divide cherry mixture and place in centres of pastry rounds. Brush water around perimeter of each pastry round. Fold pastry in half to enclose filling, pressing edges of pastry to adhere. Using fork, seal pastry. Bake in 400°F oven until pastry is puffed and golden.

Berry Crumble: Thaw frozen fruit of your choice, such as peaches, berries or rhubarb. Thoroughly pat fruit dry to remove excess liquid. Combine fruit with a little sugar, vanilla extract and a squeeze of lemon juice; scrape into oven-proof dish and set aside. In separate bowl, combine 1 part brown sugar to 1 part flour. Stir in a dash of cinnamon. Using your fingers, rub in 1/3 part cold cubed butter to create a mixture that resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle crumble mixture over fruit. Bake in 375°F oven until fruit is bubbly and topping is golden.

Homemade Sundae: In saucepan, combine frozen fruit such as raspberries, strawberries or cherries with a couple Tbsp of sugar and a splash of water. Bring to boil; simmer, stirring occasionally, until fruit breaks down and mixture is sauce-like. Stir in a squeeze of lemon juice. Spoon sauce over vanilla ice cream; top with dollop of whipped cream and sprinkle with toasted chopped almonds.

Looking for more bright ideas? Try these 20 Life-Changing Freezer Hacks.

French Onion Soup Casserole for Chilly Days

The biting cold of winter requires major comfort foods to indulge in, and French onion soup is at the top of our list. While we love a big bowl of soup, turning it into a cheesy casserole is a no-brainer. It’s super easy and delivers huge on flavour. The combination of rich, caramelized onions, gooey melted cheese and toasted baguette packed with the deep flavour of French onion soup will leave you weak in the knees and totally satisfied.

onion soup casserole

Prep: 15 minutes
Total: 1 hour 15 minutes
Serves: 6

Ingredients:
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
4 cups sliced Spanish onion
1 tsp salt
2 Tbsp Madeira wine
2 1/2 cups beef stock
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp black pepper
2 sprigs fresh thyme
6-8 1 inch slices of French baguette, toasted
1 cup of Gruyere cheese, shredded
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
1 Tbsp butter, melted

Directions:
1. Heat butter in a large pan over medium. Once butter is bubbly and foaming, add the onions and salt. Stir onions to coat in butter and let cook until deep brown and caramelized, about 30-40 minutes, stirring intermittently.
2. Once onions have caramelized, pour in Madeira wine, stir and continue to cook until alcohol is evaporated and liquid is fully absorbed into onions, about 1 minute.
3. Preheat oven to 400°F. Add beef stock, Worcestershire sauce, black pepper and thyme. Increase heat to medium and cook until stock reduces by about 1/3, about 5 minutes.
4. Pour contents of pan into a medium-size casserole dish. Remove thyme sprigs. Arrange toasted baguette slices over onion mixture and press down allowing the bread to absorb the liquid. Sprinkle with cheese and drizzle with melted butter.
5. Bake in oven until cheese is melted and golden, about 30 minutes. Serve immediately.

Looking for more comforting dishes? Try Ina Garten’s Most Comforting Casseroles.

vegan-mac-and-cheese

Creamy Vegan Cauliflower Mac and Cheese

Dairy-free and delicious, a “cheese” sauce made from cauliflower and nutritional yeast (aka “nooch”), hugs macaroni noodles for a classic comfort food made into a modern masterpiece. Enjoy this super-creamy vegan dish, right out of the pot or top with breadcrumbs and bake for a casserole-style of mac and cheese. Either way, it’s family-friendly comfort food with a twist!

vegan-mac-and-cheese2

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes
Serves: 6

Ingredients:
1/2 head cauliflower, roughly chopped
1/4 cup plus 2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 tsp unseasoned rice vinegar
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp salt
Ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 tsp granulated garlic (not garlic salt)
Pinch, ground nutmeg
1 cup unsweetened soymilk or other non-dairy milk
3 cups dry macaroni noodles
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 tsp Italian seasoning

vegan-mac-and-cheese1

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350ºF.
2. Bring a large pot of water to the boil; salt well. Cook macaroni according to package directions, drain and add back to pot.
3. Steam cauliflower until very tender. Add to a food processor or blender along with 1/4 cup oil, vinegar, turmeric, mustard, salt, pepper, garlic, nutmeg and milk. Purée until smooth and add to cooked noodles, mixing well to combine. Pour into a large casserole dish.
4. In a small bowl, combine panko, Italian seasoning, nutritional yeast and remaining 2 tsp oil. Top macaroni with breadcrumbs and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until hot and crisp on top. Serve.

probiotic rich foods

5 Probiotic-Rich Foods to Eat This Year

If you spent your holiday season eating, drinking and being merry, you may be one of the many people who are looking for a healthy menu makeover. Eating fermented foods rich in probiotics can get you back on track. Probiotic-rich foods introduce good bacteria to your body and help balance the bacteria in your gut, which is important to your health. A good bacteria balance can help boost your immune system and stimulate your digestive system, help regulate your hormones, and help control your appetite. Yogurt is probably the best-known probiotic food, but we’re introducing you to the five other tasty ways to consume beneficial bacteria.

probiotic-rich-foods

Kombucha
Kombucha is a mixture of black tea and sugar that’s fermented by an organism of bacteria and yeast commonly known as a SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast). The SCOBY is a living colony of beneficial organisms that turn sugar into healthy acids and probiotics. Kombucha is a fizzy, low-sugar drink that many claim can help with liver detoxification, improved digestion and boosting the immune system. The best part of kombucha is the tangy flavour, making it a great substitute for sugary, carbonated drinks. Find it in a variety of flavours at your local specialty grocery store or health food store.

Miso
Miso is a smooth paste made by fermenting soybeans with grains and fungus. It’s most often found in Japanese cuisine — you may have enjoyed miso soup. It has a rich, sweet and salty flavour, full of umami, and is delicious in salad dressings, stir fries, dips or even baked goods.

Kimchi
Kimchi is a staple in Korean cuisine. The crunchy, spicy dish is a mix of fermented vegetables and seasonings, given a powerful flavour boost from red chili peppers. Kimchi can be used as a condiment, eaten alone or added to soup, stew or salad. Make sure you add it last in the cooking process as the heat can kill the beneficial enzymes found in this nutrient-rich food.

Natto
Natto is a traditional Japanese food made from fermented soybeans. It has a very unique pungent flavour, and is commonly mixed with rice and eaten for breakfast in Japan. Its brown, stringy appearance and cheese-like flavour makes it less popular than other fermented foods, but Natto is not only a probiotic, it’s rich in nutrients like protein, fiber and contains tons of vitamins.

Kefir
Made by adding ‘grains’ to cow or goat’s milk, kefir is a fermented milk drink sold at most grocery stores. With a slightly sour flavour, the yogurt-like drink is best enjoyed plain. Beware when comparison shopping, as many flavoured kefir drinks contain added sugar.

Inspired? Learn how to brew kombucha.

8 Comforting Soup Spots Across Canada

Soup is notorious for filling one’s belly, warming the soul and curing a cold — but it’s also known as a simple, oftentimes cheap and hearty lunch (or dinner). Here are eight great spots in Canada that are cooking up delicious one-pot wonders.

Souper Duper Soup

Photo Credit: Souper Duper Soup

Ambrosia (Calgary, AB) 
Located right beside a Buddhist Monastery in downtown Calgary, this vegetarian Chinese eatery does an impressive job of creating unique and satisfying dishes. Go for the pickled cabbage soup for a hearty lunch or the robust and warming preserved Chinese radish soup.

888_babas-homestyle-perogies

Photo Credit: Baba’s Homestyle Perogies

Baba’s Homestyle Perogies (Saskatoon, SK)
With a huge Ukrainian population in Saskatchewan, it should come as no surprise that you can find a lot of perogies and borscht around town. Baba’s (the Ukrainian term for grandmother) is located in a more industrial area of town, but worth checking out for a big bowl of this rich, salty and sweet beet soup.

Lunch Bell Bistro (Winnipeg, MB)
With quality, local ingredients and a recipe that is the embodiment of beauty in simplicity, one can never be let down by a classic chicken noodle soup. Tender chunks of Manitoba chicken, thinly sliced carrots and tender egg noodles float in an almost-clear broth that can make your shivers disappear after only a few sips.

888_marche-soupson

Photo Credit: Marché Soupson

Marché Soupson (Montreal, QC)
Open Monday to Friday, Marché Soupson’s offerings change daily. These beautiful pots of soup can range from anything like corn chowder to red lentil with toasted spices, and are mostly vegetarian or vegan; they opt for cashew cream to add that rich, velvety texture.

Soup ‘n Such Café Inc. (Toronto, ON)
Stay warm on a blustery winter day in Toronto with one of the signature soups from this little café. Turkey vegetable is a go-to. For vegan options that are equally filling, you can rely on cauliflower and red pepper, or vegetable lentil soups.

Souper Duper Soup

Photo Credit: Souper Duper Soup

Souper Duper Soup (Dartmouth, NS)
There is a long list of fun soups on the menu here, like Greek Lemon Rice, and Cheeseburger and Chicken Enchilada. But no soup stands out more than the Donair; as Halifax and Dartmouth’s (unofficially) official food, this flavourful dish features beef, tomatoes, onions and donair spice.

Stock up Café (Vancouver, BC)
With a great array of pre-made soups to take home and heat up, Stock Up also has your basic stocks and a few daily specials like butter chicken or tomato bisque to eat on the go. There’s always something at this quaint little spot that your taste buds will agree with.

Stock up Café (left) and Ravi Soups (right)

Photo Credit: Stock up Café (left) and Ravi Soups (right)

Ravi Soups (Toronto, ON)
There’s a handful of little cafés to pop into for a bite in downtown Toronto. But when it’s extra chilly outside, one of Ravi Kanagarajah’s three eateries is sure to be a short walk from the office. The popular curried apricot and lentil soup with lime crème fraiche proves that Ravi isn’t just ladling out your basic out-of-a-box soups.

Ginger Beef

The Delicious History of Ginger Beef

There’s one iconic Canadian dish that’s a “must try” in Calgary, and you won’t find it at the steakhouse. Instead, head straight to Chinatown — the birthplace of sticky-sweet ginger beef. Here, you can savour a plate of crispy and golden battered beef swimming in a sticky, spicy sauce, often served over rice.

“It usually has deep-fried beef, ginger, peppers, carrots and onions, and is served in a sweet sauce that is a bit like General Tso’s,” says Lenore Newman, food historian and author of Speaking in Cod Tongues: A Canadian Culinary Journey. “I see it as an excellent example of the early mixing of Canadian and Chinese tastes.”

Food lovers have likely encountered this crunchy, satisfying dish in restaurants across Canada and abroad, but there’s nothing quite like eating “real deal” ginger beef in Calgary.

Ginger Beef

“Whenever I go to Chinatown in Calgary, ginger beef is in the back of my mind,” says Ryan O’Flynn, chef at Calgary’s acclaimed The Guild Restaurant and winner of the 2015 Canadian Culinary Championship. “It’s a staple. When the Chinese restaurants get ready for a busy night, they’ve got the 150 portions of ginger beef ready and probably 30-50 of everything else.”

Chinese food wasn’t always so popular in Cowtown. In the early- to mid-20th-century, Chinese-owned restaurants struggled to popularize Peking-inspired dishes, and instead served comfort fare like burgers, fries and grilled cheese sandwiches. In the 1970s, George Wong, chef at The Silver Inn in Calgary, was looking for ways to boost business and make his menu more appealing to Western patrons.

Playing with a recipe from Northern China and inspired by British pub grub, Chef Wong deep-fried shredded beef, and then simmered the crispy strips in a spicy chili sauce. He dubbed the dish “Deep fried shredded beef in chili sauce” and began serving it to patrons.

“It had that fast food flavour,” says Chef O’Flynn. “It’s kind of ingenious — George Wong was one of the first to adapt and push the boundaries in Calgary.”

Turns out, Chef Wong’s creative cooking instincts were bang on: customers gobbled up the newfangled dish, loving the zingy sauce and the beef’s crunchy texture.

“It caught on and became known as ‘Ginger Beef,'” says Karen Anderson, President of Alberta Food Tours. “Because Canadians mistakenly believed there was ginger in the sauce.”

Today, ginger beef remains a staple on The Silver Inn’s menu, and has become such an iconic dish that it was even included in the Royal Alberta Museum’s Chop Suey on the Prairies exhibition. Four decades later, there’s a growing appetite for this dish across Canada, with more chefs incorporating ginger beef onto their menus.

“To think that a dish from Calgary built in the 1970s can now be found in Victoria to Toronto to all the way Halifax is pretty fantastic,” says Chef O’Flynn. “It gained way for other Chinese restaurants to do a new style of Asian food.”

The original recipe has evolved over the years, to reflect changing tastes and ingredients. Some renditions include ginger and garlic, and it’s more common now to add sauteed onions, peppers and carrots into the mix before serving. Regardless of the fixings, the outcome is always tasty.

Ginger Beef

“The result is tender morsels of beef in a crispy coating with sweet hot sauce and brightly coloured vegetables,” says Karen Anderson. “When it’s done right, it’s out of this world delicious.”

Some daring chefs are even playing around with this Canuck favourite, creating everything from ginger beef lettuce wraps with a pita holder to ginger beef poutine to a sesame ginger beef burrito. The dish has even fueled a “Ginger Beef Throw Down,” a one-time cooking competition between food trucks that was hosted by the Royal Alberta Museum.

Of course, why go out to eat when you can make your own tasty version at home? A plate of Ginger Beef Blowout is dressed to impress — succulent slices of sirloin paired with delicate gourmet salad rolls.

For something simpler, this one-pot recipe from Chef Michael Smith produces a big batch of braised Orange Ginger Beef Stew simmered in tangy spices. For a more traditional recipe, try this easy 15-minute recipe for Ginger Beef with Carrots and Rice, deep-frying the beef until crunchy and golden.

But whether you’re eating out or at home, Chef O’Flynn has one piece of advice for ginger beef lovers everywhere:

“You must go to The Silver Inn,” he says. “You can’t have it anywhere else! Have it there first, so you know what it is, and then go and check out other renditions.”

The Perfect Vegan Lasagna

It’s a vegan lasagna! I’m sure Italians would kill me for putting vegan and lasagna in the same sentence, but it’s delicious and very easy to make.

It may look like a lot of work, but the only thing that takes time is the baking of the lasagna. Everything else is just prep, and you can do it all in 25 minutes. If you plan ahead, you can make both sauces and the tofu ricotta, and keep them in the fridge until your ready to assemble and bake the lasagna for dinner.

Vegan-lasagna-recipe

Tomato Sauce Ingredients:
1 15 oz can crushed tomatoes
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 Tbsp light vegetable oil (sunflower or grapeseed oil)
1/2 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp each of fresh chopped basil and parsley
1 Tbsp fresh or dried oregano
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp ground pepper

Directions:
1. In a heavy sauce pan, sauté onion in oil for 1 to 2 minutes until soft. Add garlic and cook for another 2 minutes. Add tomato paste and herbs and stir into the onions and garlic sauteing for another 2 minutes.
2. Next add the crushed tomatoes, sea salt, and ground pepper. Simmer on low heat for 30 to 45 minutes while you prep the rest of the components for the lasagna.

Note: You could also just buy a jar of your favourite pasta sauce and use that.

Vegan-lasagna-recipe-tofu-ricotta

Tofu Ricotta Ingredients:
1 block extra firm tofu, crumbled
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp olive oil
2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 cup fresh basil, finely chopped
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp ground pepper

Directions:
1. Crumble the tofu into small pieces (resembling ricotta cheese) with your hands. Add in the remaining ingredients and combine with a fork.
2. Keep in the fridge until you’re ready to assemble the lasagna.

Note: Tofu ricotta is optional. Alternatively you could use ONLY daiya mozzarella shreds in the layers, in which case you’ll need to use 1 whole bag instead of 1 cup as listed below.

Bechamel (White Sauce) Ingredients:
1/2 cup silken tofu
1/2 cup unsweetened soy milk
1/2 cup vegetable broth
2 Tbsp tahini
2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
2 tsp corn starch
1/2 tsp sea salt

Directions:
Put all these ingredients in a blender and combine until smooth.

Vegan-lasagna-recipe-ingredients

Layer Ingredients:
1 pack of ready-bake lasagna noodles (gluten-free brown rice noodles also work well)
1 cup daiya mozzarella shreds
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp vegan parmesan (optional)
1 small zucchini, thinly sliced
1 cup carrot ribbons
4 cups baby spinach
1 tsp light cooking oil (sunflower or grapeseed oil)

Directions:
1. You can make nice carrot ribbons using a vegetable peeler or you can shred the carrot with a cheese grater.
2. Partially cook the zucchini and carrot in a pan over low to medium heat with 1 tsp of sunflower or grapeseed oil. Set them aside on a dish and use the same pan to cook the spinach.
3. Get the spinach wilted and soft but don’t overcook it. It should still be bright green. If you want to use frozen spinach just make sure you thaw and drain out the water.

vegan-lasagna-recipe-layering

How to Layer the Lasagna:
Once all your ingredients are prepped and ready, use a deep 9-inch glass baking dish to assemble the lasagna in. Lightly coat the inside of the dish with 1 Tbsp of olive oil you can spread around evenly with your hand.

The lasagna can be assembled however you want, but here’s what I did:
1. Pour a quarter of the tomato sauce into the bottom of the dish and spread out an even layer with a spoon.
2. Add one layer of noodles across. You might need to break them in half and you can overlap the noodles if they don’t fit perfectly in the dish.
3. Then take half the amount of tofu ricotta and spread it evenly over the noodles (if you’re just using Daiya then skip this).
4. Take 1/3 cup of Daiya mozzarella shreds and sprinkle over top (if you’re only using Daiya than you can use more to your liking here).
5. Use up all the spinach as the next layer.
6. Pour half the white sauce evenly over the top being sure to get some of it down the sides of the dish.
7. Add another quarter of the tomato sauce.
8. Add another noodle layer, turning the noodles the opposite direction from the first layer.
9. Use the other half of the tofu ricotta as the next layer (if you’re just using Daiya skip this).
10. Take another 1/3 cup of Daiya mozzarella shreds and sprinkle over top of the tofu ricotta (if you’re only using Daiya than you can use more to your liking here).
11. Add the zucchini and carrots in an alternating fashion as one layer.
12. Pour the remaining white sauce evenly over top.
13. Add another quarter of the tomato sauce on top of the white sauce.
14. Then add one more layer of noodles and the remaining tomato sauce on top.
15. Add the last 1/3 cup of Daiya mozzarella shreds and vegan Parmesan as the topping.

vegan-lasagna-recipe-layering-2

Directions:
1. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 400°F covered with foil for 40 minutes. Then remove the foil and turn the broiler to high and bake for 10 minutes.
2. Allow the lasagna to sit for 15 to 20 minutes before cutting and serving.

See more from hot for food on their YouTube channel.