Lambrusco Sangria

Giada De Laurentiis’ Go-To Menu for Entertaining at Home

Why go out to a fancy restaurant to eat with friends when you can stay home, cook a quality meal and share a long and leisurely dinner party with your pals, instead? If you love to cook the way Giada De Laurentiis does, entertaining friends and family at home seems like a no-brainer. Unlike Giada, though, most of us scour the web for top-notch recipes and ideas in advance, stressing over how to make the perfect appetizer, main or themed cocktail.

Here, Giada shares her top tips, tricks and recipes for effortlessly elegant entertaining.

giada's holiday handbook

Before you head into the kitchen, consider the simple-is-best approach to entertaining. At least, that’s the philosophy the pros, including Giada, subscribe to. Rather than whipping out a bunch of fancy appetizers to put out for guests to munch on while she makes dinner, the chef tries to keep the number down to one or two items.

“I’m not big on making tons of appetizers, especially if I’m making dinner,” Giada says. “So I kind of vacillate between a few things. I do crostini with various toppings. [Or] I put lemon juice, a little bit of salt and some lemon zest in store-bought ricotta cheese and I top it with a variety of things such as pink peppercorns and peaches and then drizzle a bit of honey on top to finish it off.”

Simple and easy, right? Giada has a few other suggestions, like her go-to White Bean Dip with Pita Chips  or a Basic Parmesan Pomodoro Sauce served with crostini.

white-bean-dip-with-pita-chips-giada
Get the recipe for Giada’s white bean dip with pita chips. 

“I put my [Basic Parmesan Pomodoro Sauce] in ice cube trays in the freezer. Sometimes I just pop a couple of ice cubes, I let them defrost and then I heat up that sauce. I make some crostini and everybody dips it,” she explains. “I keep it super-duper simple… simplicity is the best way to go. People appreciate it.”

As for the main event, Giada is all about quality ingredients that speak to a variety of palates, like her Pan-Seared Salmon topped with a freshly prepared grainy mustard sauce, or grilled steak.

“I like to do a protein, a carbohydrate and a salad or some kind of greens. I’ll take a big rib eye and then I’ll grill it very simply with Herbes de Provence, salt and sometimes smoked paprika, put it on the grill, grill it up and then slice it over a bed of arugula and tomatoes and radishes,” she says. “For carbs I’ll make either an orzo salad or my lemon spaghetti – whatever goes better with the protein of choice.”

pan-seared-salmon-with-summer-succotash
Get the recipe for Giada’s pan-seared salmon with summer succotash. 

And what about those must-have greens?

“Sometimes I will do butter poached asparagus in a chili-lime vinaigrette,” Giada explains.

Of course, as any good host knows, a signature cocktail is always in fashion – but it doesn’t need to be complicated. In the summer months, Giada opts for an Aperol Spritz, a refreshing combination of bitter, sweet and effervescent. And in the winter, it’s a good old-fashioned sangria for her.

“I like to make a red wine sangria – I usually put berries in it, along with a little nutmeg and a cinnamon stick,” she says of her wintertime beverage of choice.

Lambrusco Sangria
Get the recipe for Giada’s lambrusco sangria. 

Sounds pretty festive to us.

“In sum, I keep it simple but very flavourful with different textures and flavours in every dish,” the host with the most says.

See more recipes from Giada’s Holiday Handbook that are perfect for entertaining.

Homemade Baileys

Homemade Irish Cream is Your 5-Minute DIY Christmas Gift

In coffee, on ice, in adults-only smoothies or as an eggnog add-in, homemade Irish cream is the gift that keeps on giving. You won’t believe how easy it is to make this holiday favourite right at home. Packaged in small glass jars, one batch will yield at least a dozen homemade gifts or enough to treat guests, friends and family during the holidays.

Homemade Baileys

Total Time: 5 minutes
Makes: Approximately 3 cups

Ingredients:
2 cups half-and-half cream
1 (300 mL) can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup whisky
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp finely ground coffee or freeze-dried instant coffee
1/4 tsp salt

Homemade Baileys

Directions:
1.Add all ingredients in a blender and puree until fully combined. Pour into sterilized glass jars, seal and store in the refrigerator up to 1 month.
2. To serve, stir into hot coffee, serve on ice, blend into a milkshake, whisk into eggnog or whatever you can dream up. Irish cream also makes a great base for truffles, homemade ice cream and boozy custards for your holiday trifle.

Looking for more homemade gifts? Try 4 Genius Homemade Christmas Gifts from Anna.

buttertart crack candy

Saltine Cracker Toffee Gets a Maple Butter Tart Twist

Butter tarts rank with as one of the most classic and loved Canadian treats. The gooey filling and pecan crunchiness inside flaky pastry is hard to beat. These sweet, buttery flavours, combined with saltine crackers and creamy chocolate make an addictive, utterly delicious treat that’s perfect for holiday candy making and gifting. Give this sticky, sweet, crackly treat a try with dark chocolate and chopped almonds for a different take, or white chocolate and trail mix – the possibilities are endless. Deceptively easy to toss together, this will be your most-requested holiday treat, year-after-year.

butter tart crack candy

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Cool Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 40 minutes
Serves: 24

Ingredients:
48 saltine crackers
1-1/3 cup butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups milk or dark chocolate chips
1-1/2 cups chopped toasted pecans

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 400ºF. Line bottom of a 17×11-inch rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and arrange crackers in one layer on sheet (you may need to break some to fit), set aside.

Crack prebake

2. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine butter, brown sugar, maple syrup and salt, stirring occasionally until the mixture comes to a boil. Boil for 8 minutes without stirring. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Carefully pour mixture immediately over crackers (it does need to completely cover the crackers as the mixture will spread in the oven).

Crack choc chip

3. Bake until butter and sugar mixture has spread over crackers and bubbling, about 6 minutes. Remove from oven (rearrange crackers using a butter knife quickly if they shift at all during baking) and immediately sprinkle chocolate chips evening; let stand 3 minutes, allowing chocolate to melt. Using an offset spatula or the back of a spoon, spread chocolate evenly over cracker mixture and sprinkle with pecans. Cool for 20 minutes at room temperature before transferring to the refrigerator to chill for at least 45 minutes, or until completely chilled through.
4. Once mixture has cooled completely, break into rustic pieces. Serve. Store covered at room temperature.

For another easy candy recipe to add to your holiday cookie tin, try this festive Canadiana-themed chocolate bark.

7 Most Indulgent Desserts You Need to Try from The Baker Sisters

There are desserts, and then there are unforgettable, show-stopping masterpieces that are so good you can’t get them out of your head. Considering that Rachel Smith and Jean Parker have travelled far and wide in search of the best bakeries for their series The Baker Sisters, it’s safe to say that when it comes to indulgent desserts they definitely know a thing or two.

From deep-dish dessert pizza that’s so indulgent you won’t be able to stop yourself after just one slice, to a mousse cake that’s like a giant chocolate-wafer-hazelnut confection that goes by a certain name, here are some of their top picks from across the country.

1. Chocolate Peanut Butter Caramel Corn Crunch Cupcakes at Crave Bakery in Calgary


Click here to get the
Caramel Peanut Popcorn Topping recipe.

It’s like the bakers at Crave took the wishes of every sweet-toothed consumer out there and combined their cravings into one delightful cupcake with this mouthful of a concoction. Between the chocolaty peanut butter, the salty popcorn and the sweet caramel, this is exactly what we picture an explosion of flavours to physically look (and taste!) like.

“It had the biggest name and in one little cupcake, it delivered,” Jean says. “You had your two frostings playing with each other, the chocolate and the peanut butter. Their cake recipe itself was like grandma’s and it was spot-on perfect…Then we made our own caramel corn, and put that on top of it. It was little and stacked up, but it was crazy good.”

2. The Dark Knight Cake at Chess Piece Patisserie & Café in Fredericton

This Fredericton-based Parisian style café may offer a wide range of baked goods and pastries, but for the Baker Sisters one thing truly stood out: the Dark Knight Cake that Jean got to recreate for the show.

She raves:  “It’s a mousse cake, praline in the inside, and covered in a chocolate glaze. The flavours, the textures, everything about it…”

“Your fork slid through it,” Rachel adds. “It was so indulgent because of those layers of chocolate.”

3. The London Fog Cake at Cadeaux Bakery in Vancouver

In terms of making classic hot beverages come to life in cake form, Eleanor Chow Waterfall has an instant, indulgent winner with her London Fog cake.

“There were 37 steps to make it,” Jean recalls. “Eleanor was awesome. One cool chick, but very precise and would not skip or take any shortcuts. It took a long time. I think there were nine layers of cake; it was huge, and it was perfect. It was infused with this tea, silky, light and fluffy, really high.” No wonder the sisters thought it was to die for.

4. The Amazing Schnecken at Trafiq in Vancouver

We may never be able to look at cinnamon buns with a fair eye (or taste them with the same palate) again after witnessing the magic that went into making the Schnecken at this cafe. Rachel goes so far as to call the treat, which is reminiscent of a Chelsea bun, “insane.”

“Even in the show when I’m doing my tasting, I turn to the baker and I’m like, ‘I need to take a private minute,’” she says. “It was buttery. It was ooey goey. You pour your caramel on the bottom and then your nuts, and then you put your buns on it. He actually froze his buns and then sliced it, and then baked it frozen because what ends up happening is it doesn’t over-bake the dough. So the dough is still really soft and the outside of it gets that firm, crispy that you want. And it was huge.”

Get the recipe for the amazing schnecken here. 

5. The Deep Dish Pizza at Junked Food Co. in Toronto

You don’t have to travel to Chicago to experience delightful deep-dish pizza, especially if you’re looking for a sweeter riff on the original. The crew at Junked Food Co are renowned for their sweet eats, especially since they’re open late and speak to a very specific, sweet-toothed crowd.


Rachel eyeing a slice of that dessert deep dish pizza made by Junked Food Co.’s Brian McKilligan.

“That deep dish pizza was crazy. These men know exactly what they’re doing and who they’re selling to,” Rachel says. “This deep-dish dessert pizza had everything—marshmallow goo, chocolate, caramel, gummy candies. It’s got it all.”

6. Wild Strawberry Brioche Bun with Cream Cheese Icing at The Old Apothecary Bakery & Café in Halifax

Sometimes the most indulgent offerings are the ones that actually bring us back to the basics thanks to the simplicity of their ingredients. That was definitely the case for the sisters when they travelled to Halifax and made these wild strawberry brioche buns.

“It’s not terribly fancy, but it was a brioche wild strawberry bun, like a cinnamon roll, but it was made with wild strawberries from Halifax,” Jean recalls. “The brioche dough was slathered in this cream cheese icing. It was so fresh and lovely and decadent.”

Want to see more indulgent treats? Take our delicious quiz: Pick a Dessert and We’ll Tell You Where You Should Live. You’re gonna want some cake after, though.

Anna Olson’s Easiest-Ever Holiday Desserts

The sheer bustle of the holidays is enough to trip up even the most prepared party-throwers among us. So why make things even harder for ourselves when it comes to whipping up a holiday meal? Or more specifically, when it comes to everyone’s favourite part — dessert.

Whether you have last-minute guests or a big dinner party planned, Anna Olson has your back. Here are four of her ridiculously easy-to-assemble favourites that will leave all your guests impressed and satisfied, giving you way more time to actually enjoy the holidays themselves.

Super Simple Chocolate Mousse

Who doesn’t want delicious chocolate mousse in a matter of minutes? This genius recipe calls for just two ingredients, making it the perfect dish for last-minute guests. Whip some up while you’re getting dinner ready, or make it in advance and keep some on hand in the fridge. This yummy dessert will last as long as the expiry date on the cream you used to make it, which means it can be the perfect standalone dish or serve as a fancy-schmancy garnish.

Lemon Cheesecake Mousse

If it’s a cheesecake flavour you’re looking for but you find yourself low on time, this zesty mousse certainly lives up to expectations. With just five ingredients—including fresh lemon juice—and a hand-mixer doing most of the actual labour, the hardest part about this recipe is not licking the spatula every time you scrape down your cream cheese mixture.

Last-Minute Lemon Delight

Whisk up this three-ingredient, warm lemony delight and serve it over fresh fruit for any last-minute guests you find yourself hosting this holiday season. Or, add some cream to stabilize the mixture and refrigerate it for a dreamy lemon mousse later on. Heck, why not just make both while you’re at it and enjoy the best of both dessert worlds? We promise, it’s that easy.

Easy Apple Tart

Anna can’t take full credit for the deliciousness that is this easy peasy apple tart; it’s actually her husband Michael’s go-to recipe. Four simple ingredients and a half hour in the oven mean this sweet-and-savoury dish is impressive without being time-consuming. Seriously, the hardest part is probably peeling the apples.

Looking for more inspiration? Try these 4 Genius Homemade Christmas Gifts from Anna Olson.

7 Great Bakeries the Baker Sisters Are Sweet On

When you’ve pretty much made it a life mission to source and sample all of the best baked concoctions in Canada and beyond, it’s safe to say that you know a thing or two about where the best bakeries are located. Especially if you grew up with baking in your blood the way Rachel Smith and Jean Parker did.

So as the first season of The Baker Sisters wraps up on December 1, it only made sense to ask the sisterly duo to dish on their favourite bakeries, letting us all know where to indulge the next time we crave sweet, sugary cinnamon rolls or the best baked bread around.

Here are seven of the sisters’ top picks; some are their local haunts and some are new ones they fell in love with while filming The Baker Sisters.

Christie’s Mayfair Bakery LTD, Saskatoon

If it’s a family style, European bakery experience you’re looking for, then Christie’s is certainly it. From their pretty cookies to their bountiful breads, this establishment has the vibe and flavours to match.


Jean and Rachel pose with the bakers from Christie’s Mayfair Bakery while filming an episode of The Baker Sisters. Photo courtesy of Jean Parker and Rachel Smith.

“They’re an Italian family. For lunch, they brought over their stone pizza oven that’s on a trailer and they made pizzas for everybody, even in the community,” Rachel recalls. “People came over and they were giving them free pizzas. This bakery actually figured out when we were flying back home, and they met us at the airport with boxes of granola and t-shirts just to say thank you. You felt like you were one of the family.”

Watch baker Tracey make cannoncini, an Italian pastry classic:

 

Sugar Bakeshop, Charleston, SC

This small-batch bakeshop is known for its made-to-order concoctions and wedding-worthy, seasonal cupcakes, but it was the place’s small-town charm that really spoke to this sisterly duo.

“The vibe those guys were putting out was amazing,” Jean says. “[They’re] huge members of the community. We could stay there forever and their baked goods were delicious. They were so welcoming and hospitable. Southerners do have their charm.”

Leslieville Cheese Market, Toronto

Don’t let the name fool you—this establishment may have earned a huge reputation for its amazing variety of cheeses, but this shop knows how to whip up some baked goods to match—especially when it comes to melt-in-your-mouth, buttery croissants.

Just being baked by #epibakery . At 10am this delicious croassaints will be at #leslievillecheesemarket

A post shared by Leslieville Cheese (@leslievillecheesemarket) on

“I love Leslieville Cheese Market. They have the best butter croissant,” Rachel raves. “You gotta go early because they go quick, and I normally buy two.”

Evergreen Brick Works Farmers’ Market, Toronto

Jean admits that choosing an all-encompassing farmers’ market is “cheating” slightly, but both sisters call out Henry from The Humble Bread for having “beautiful” breads, and Alli’s Bread for the amazing cinnamon buns.

“The cinnamon bun at Alli’s will blow your mind,” Rachel says.

“You really have to share it. As much as it hurts my heart to share, you have to because it’s so sweet and lovely. And huge,” Jean adds.

Celena’s, Toronto

Umm… I'm having a #Chocolate #Croissant for #breakfast today! #CelenasBakery #TorontoBakery #DanforthEast #pastries

A post shared by Celena's Bakery (@celenasbakery) on

This traditional bakery makes everything fresh and in-house, and they have a wide variety of goods including breads, pies, sweets and cookies. For Rachel though, this place is her local haunt for one pretty big reason: its chocolate croissant.

“They do a chocolate croissant that no matter what time of day it is, and even if it was made in the morning, when you bite into it, it melts,” she says. “It’s not a hard piece of chocolate. I want one right now.”

The Rooster Coffee House, Toronto

To be fair, the location that Jean frequents on Broadview in Toronto gets their baked goods from places like Jules Patisserie and Circles and Squares. Still, it’s still her favourite place to hang out at while enjoying a hot beverage and a pastry (or two).

“They have the best view of the city, 100 per cent, on the patio,” she says. “The baked goods are plentiful and gorgeous and delicious.”

Wanda’s Pie in the Sky, Toronto

When pie is a part of your name it’s safe to say that you know how to whip up a mean tart or two. The sisters experienced this firsthand when they visited Wanda to learn her tricks of the trade, and the establishment has since become one of their favourites.


Click here to get the recipe for Wanda’s sour cherry pie.

“When we baked at Wanda’s, that sour cherry pie,” Rachel remembers. “She made the best sour cherry pie. She’s known for her pie, and her favourite is the sour cherry pie and one of the first pies she really started making. It blew your mind.”

OK, we’re sold. Road trip, anyone?

Use our bakery map to find all all the bakeries featured on The Baker Sisters

4 Genius Homemade Christmas Gifts from Anna Olson

One of our favourite parts of the holidays is the gift giving—there’s nothing quite as satisfying as finding the perfect little treat for that special someone and handing it to them “just because.”

Even better? When you can handcraft that gift yourself, adding a dash of personalized love to the package.

That’s what makes these foodie gift ideas from Anna Olson so awesome. Whether you’re gifting the gift of food this season or are simply looking for a few cool host/hostess gifts to dole out at your scheduled soirees, any of these unique ideas will certainly do the trick.

Hot Cocoa Mix

What better way to warm someone’s heart over the holidays than with some thick and rich hot cocoa to go? Anna uses three ingredients for an indulgent chocolate base, then wraps these thoughtful gifts up with some marshmallows, a candy-filled ornament and a pretty little bow. It’s like giving a warm hug.

 

Oatmeal Cranberry Chocolate Chip Cookies

Who doesn’t love freshly baked cookies, especially during the holidays—a classic time of indulgence? Anna has assembled elegant layers of dry mix, chocolate chips, cranberries and oats in a pretty little mason jar, making for the cutest (and most delicious) homemade gifts on the block. The only thing missing is a fresh glass of milk.

 

Santa’s Choice Granola

Homemade granola is pure bliss in a bowl, but how often do we actually take the time to whip up a batch of the stuff? Not often enough, we say. This particular concoction is hearty and rich, not to mention it smells like a fresh batch of cookies. Parcel some up for a unique gift from the kitchen this holiday season, and watch it get devoured before your very eyes.

 

Sweet Popcorn Blends

Snacks are the official fuel of the holidays, and popcorn is pretty much our go-to healthy(ish) snack of choice. So why not sweeten up a friend’s day with these pretty parcels of homemade sweet popcorn blends a la Anna? There’s a white chocolate and cranberry concoction; some classic s’mores popcorn with melted milk chocolate; and the ultimate indulgence, dark chocolate popcorn with a sprinkling of sea salt. On second thought, we may just have to save this gift for ourselves.

 

Looking for more? Try Anna Olson’s Best Cookie Recipes.

squash-risotto-in-pot

No-Stir Baked Risotto with Chicken, Mushrooms & Squash Was Made For Weeknights

There’s nothing I love more than a home-cooked meal at the end of the workday. But spending a lot of time in the kitchen isn’t exactly what you’re looking for after a long day. What to do then? Comfort food for cold weather without all the fuss. Can it be done? I say, yes! Risotto, for example, is one of my favourite comfort foods, but many people are put off the idea of making this for a weeknight meal, placing it firmly in the category of Too Time-Consuming.  All that stirring and the need to stand by the stove the entire time it cooks is off-putting. The good news is that this recipe, while not the risotto of a purist, will change your mind.

Risotto on a weeknight is made doable when it’s oven-baked. There are a few minutes’ prep at the start (even easier if you have pre-chopped squash on hand), but the bulk of the work is done in the oven, leaving you around 30 minutes to prepare a salad, or just relax before dinner is on the table. I’ve chosen chicken and mushrooms to go with the classic fall flavour of squash, though this is a very flexible recipe and lends itself to many different interpretations. Once you’ve oven-baked one risotto, you’ll be a convert.

Squash Risotto

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 55 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Serves: 6 

Ingredients
Roasted Squash
1/2 butternut or red kuri squash, peeled and seeded, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp dried thyme or Herbes de Provence
1/8 tsp flaky sea salt
1/8 tsp ground black pepper

Baked Risotto
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 clove garlic, minced
500 g boneless skinless chicken breast, cubed
1-1/2cups white mushrooms, finely sliced
1-1/2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup white wine
4 cups warm chicken stock, more as needed
4 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only, stems discarded
Zest of 1/2 a lemon
3/4 cup grated fresh Parmesan
Fresh thyme leaves
Flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to season

Directions

DSCF4436

Roasted Squash:

1. Preheat the oven to 375ºF.
2. Line a large baking tray with parchment paper and spread the squash pieces over the tray evenly. Drizzle with the olive oil, sprinkle with thyme or Herbes de Provence, salt and pepper and toss to combine.
3. Bake for 15 minutes, or until your risotto is ready to go in the oven, whatever’s fastest, until squash is just starting to get tender. The squash will go back in the oven alongside the risotto and will finish cooking at the same time.

Baked Risotto:
1. Heat oil in a large ovenproof dish or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add garlic and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until it’s just starting to get soft (remove from heat if garlic is browning).
2. Add chicken pieces and cook for 5 to 7 minutes until beginning to brown. Mix in rice and stir to combine until the rice is glossy and coated in oil.
3. Add wine and cook until evaporated, 2 to 3 minutes, then add stock and thyme. Stir well.
4. Bring mixture to the boil, then cover, remove from the heat and place in the oven. Bake risotto in same oven as tray of squash for 25 minutes.

Baked Risotto

Serving:
1. Remove risotto and tray of roasted squash from the oven. If the risotto is looking a little dry, add up to 1/2 cup of warm chicken stock (you may need less), stirring until it’s no longer dry. To the risotto, stir in the Parmesan and lemon zest, followed by half of the roasted squash, stirring carefully (so it doesn’t, well, get squashed!)
2. Serve the risotto immediately, topped with remaining roasted squash, salt, pepper and fresh thyme leaves.

Keep the effortless Italian theme going and serve up this arugula and radicchio salad on the side.

Save

vegetarian-Cacciatore-recipe

Vegetables Star in This Healthy, Comforting Cacciatore

Known as a “hunter” style meal, this Italian classic is typically made using chicken or rabbit, but our rustic take serves up vegetables as the star.  A mix of veggies and wine simmer together to create layers of flavour that become a perfect pair with pasta.  We’ve intentionally used an array of vegetables to offer lots of textures and tastes with each bite, but if you’re not particularly fond of one veggie, omit and replace with what you love.

vegetarian Cacciatore

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Serves: 2 to 4

Ingredients:
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 lb mixed mushrooms (cremini, shiitake, button), sliced
1 yellow onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 red pepper, sliced into strips
1 celery stalk, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 zucchini, sliced into semi-circles
1 Tbsp capers
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp red chili flakes (optional)
1/2 tsp sea salt
Pinch pepper
1 15-oz can diced tomatoes
1 cup vegetable broth
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup fresh basil, roughly chopped, for serving
2 to 3 cups pasta of choice, cooked

Vegetarian Cacciatore6

Directions:
1. Place a pot or deep skillet over medium heat and coat the pan with olive oil.
2. Add mushrooms and allow them to cook for 10 minutes, so they’ll release their moisture and begin to brown.

Vegetarian Cacciatore5
3. Add onion, garlic, red pepper, celery, carrot, zucchini, capers, oregano, chili flakes, sea salt and pepper and allow to cook for 7 minutes.
4. Pour in the diced tomatoes, vegetable broth and white wine. Cover the pot, bring to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes.

Vegetarian Cacciatore3
5. Top with fresh basil and re-season with sea salt and pepper to taste.
6. Mix with your favorite pasta and enjoy.

Vegetarian Cacciatore

Looking for tastier veggie-filled dinners? Try our All-Time Best Vegetarian Recipes.

the-perfect-caesar

The Boozy History of the Caesar Cocktail

Spiking a vodka and tomato juice with clam essence is cocktail bliss for Caesar-swilling Canucks, but the combination in this oh-so-Canadian cocktail wasn’t always so obvious. In fact, according to Alberta researchers, it took months for Calgary bartender and Caesar inventor Walter Chell to hit the perfect proportions.

the perfect caesar

A mixologist at the Calgary Inn before mixologist was a title, Chell was tasked with creating a cocktail to celebrate the 1969 opening of the inn’s new restaurant, Marco’s Italian. Inspired by his favourite Italian dish, spaghetti vongole, Chell set out to create a cocktail that would capture the pasta’s hearty clam and tomato flavours.

Eventually he came up with the recipe Canadians have come to love: vodka mixed with clam-infused tomato juice, lime, hot sauce and Worcestershire sauce, with a delicious celery salt rim.

If we’re being honest (and after a few Caesars, who can lie?), the thought of a clam-based cocktail is a little strange — even for those of us who know how good it is. But surprisingly, Walter Chell wasn’t the first to come up with the concept. As Michael Platt notes in an article for the Calgary Sun, a 1900 copy of Modern American Drinks contains a recipe for a clam juice cocktail, as does a 1951 Betty Crocker cookbook. “So then what did Calgary’s beloved father of the Caesar really do?” asks Platt. “That’s like asking what Henry Ford did for the motor car or The Beatles did for music.”

Simply put, Chell perfected the recipe, taking it from clammy outlier to a red hot hit. Soon after, Mott’s beverage company released what is arguably the world’s best-known clam-infused tomato juice, Clamato.

Great Canadian Caesar Garnishes

Chell invented the Caesar, but widespread distribution of Clamato brought it to homes and bars across the country. According to an Ipsos-Reid poll commissioned by the company in 2009, the Caesar, or Bloody Caesar, is the most popular cocktail in Canada; Mott’s estimates that more than 350 million are consumed each year.

But beyond the occasional American article praising the “Canadian Bloody Mary,” Chell’s heady blend of sweet, salty, sour, spicy and bitter notes hasn’t gotten much love beyond our borders. Never mind — here, it’s not only a source of pride, but it’s a symbol of Canada’s changing demography and Canadians’ expanding palates.

Modern variations reflect international influences, substituting or enhancing British Worcestershire sauce with horseradish, wasabi, kimchi, chipotle, sriracha, teriyaki, tandoori, jerk spice, Dijon mustard or any number of multicultural flavours. A staple at Canada Day celebrations and weekend brunches, and a drink as red as our flag, the Caesar is a cocktail that can rightly claim that it came, it quenched, and it conquered Canada.

Craving a Caesar? Learn how to make these tasty Great Canadian Cocktail Garnishes.

pear kuchen recipe

Pear Kuchen Cake Will Make You Feel Warm and Cozy

As these days grow colder and darker, a slice of this lightly spiced pear cake will warm the spirit. It’s the perfect fall dessert for when you are craving something simple, warming and just sweet enough. Unlike layer cakes or those smothered in frosting, this streusel-topped kuchen is full of flavour without being overly indulgent. Since it’s neither too fussy or sweet, feel free to enjoy either with your morning coffee or afternoon tea. Or serve with lightly sweetened whipped cream or ice cream for a fancy dessert after your fall feast.

Pear Kuchen

Prep time: 20 to 30 minutes
Bake time: 50 to 60 minutes
Total time: 70 to 90 minutes
Serves: 8 to 12

Ingredients:
Streusel Topping:
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp oats
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Pinch salt
2 Tbsp cold unsalted butter, diced
2 to 3 Tbsp sliced almonds, divided

Pears:
3 to 4 ripe pears, peeled, cored, and sliced into 1/2-inch pieces
Juice from 1/2 lemon
2 tsp granulated sugar

Cake:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup almond flour
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
Zest of 1 medium lemon
2 large eggs
1 cup plain yogurt
Icing sugar, optional

Pear Kuchen

Directions:

1. Pre-heat oven to 350ºF.  Line a 9- or 10-inch spring pan with parchment and set aside.
2. Make the streusel topping. Combine the flour, oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt and 1 tablespoon of the almonds together. Rub the cold butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture starts to clump together.  The streusel should be crumbly – no need to make the pieces uniform.  Chill until ready to use.
3. Toss the sliced pears in the lemon juice and sugar. Set aside.
4. For the cake, whisk together the dry ingredients and set aside.  Using a hand or stand mixer, beat the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes.  Add the vanilla and lemon zest.  With the mixer on medium, add the eggs, one at a time.  Stop the mixer and scrape down the side and bottom of the bowl.
5. Add in half of the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.  Add the yogurt and mix until smooth.  Add the remaining dry ingredients and mix until combined.  The batter will be quite thick.
6. Dump the batter into the prepared pan and smooth out with a small offset spatula or the back of a large spoon.  Leaving all the juices behind, arrange the pear slices on top of the cake batter.  Sprinkle the top with the streusel and remaining almonds.PearKuchen_06

7. Bake in the preheated oven for 50 to 60 minutes, or until a wooden skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs.  If the topping is browning too quickly, cover with foil.
8. Leave in the pan to cool for about 10 minutes before removing the springform collar.  Finish cooling on a wire rack before slicing.
9. Dust with icing sugar, if desired.

Pear Kuchen Cake

 

Looking for more warm fall treats? Try these Awesome Apple Recipes from Anna Olson.

Cornbread Chili Pot Pie

Two Comfort Foods, One Glorious Cornbread Chili Pot Pie

Chilly weather calls for chili, and chili calls for cornbread. But doesn’t chilly weather also call for pie? Like a pot pie? Well, how about combining these three classic comfort foods into one with a cornbread-topped chili pot pie? It makes the ultimate in cold-weather comfort food, even better. You could even make the chili on its own, enjoy it one night and make the pot pie the next night – cook once, eat twice! 

Cornbread Chili Pot Pie

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 40 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 55 minutes
Serves: 6 to 8

Ingredients:
Chili
1/4 cup vegetable oil, divided
1 lb lean ground beef
1 lb stewing beef cubes
2 small onions, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium  tomatoes, chopped
2 cups beef stock
4 Tbsp tomato paste
1 to 2 Tbsp chili powder, to taste
1 (540 mL) can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper

Cornbread Topping
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
2 Tbsp granulated sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup milk
2 large eggs
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup corn kernels, drained if canned

Note: Chili Powder is a mix of chili pepper and other spices like garlic, cumin and oregano, not pure chili pepper

Directions:
Chili:
1. In a large pot or large Dutch oven, heat 2 Tbsp of the oil over medium heat. Cook the ground beef completely and drain on a paper towel-lined plate, about 10 minutes. Next, cook the stewing beef until just browned and drain on another paper towel-lined plate, about 5 minutes.
2. Heat remaining 2 Tbsp of oil in same pot (no need to clean) over medium heat, and cook onions until translucent, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes, until fragrant.
3. Add drained ground beef and stewing beef back to pot and stir to combine with onion mixture. Cook on medium-high heat until the beef is evenly browned, about 5 minutes.
4. Add tomatoes, stock and tomato paste and combine well, followed by chili powder. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 30 minutes. Add the beans and continue to simmer, uncovered for 15 to 20 minutes longer. Season with salt and pepper.
5. Preheat the oven to 375˚F. Spread cooked chili evenly into a deep ovenproof baking dish with a capacity of 4 cups (1 quart). Set aside while you prepare the cornbread topping.

Cornbread Chili Pot Pie

Cornbread Topping:
1. In a large bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk the milk, eggs and melted butter. Gently stir in the corn kernels.
3. Add the milk and corn mixture to the flour mixture and stir until dry ingredients are just incorporated.
4. Working quickly, spread the cornbread batter over top of the chili, trying to make the batter reach the edges.
5. Bake for 25 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the bread comes out clean. Scoop into bowls and serve.

Cornbread Chili Pot Pie

We’ve also got the vegetarians covered with our top 10 hearty meat-free chili recipes.

ketchup-chips-history

The Crunchy History of Ketchup Chips

It’s no secret that Canadians love their ketchup chips. The crunchy, thinly sliced fried potatoes, doused in a tangy reddish powder, have been a favourite flavour since the early 1980s, sparking snack attacks and staining fingers across the nation. It’s bewildering that a Heritage Minute hasn’t been created for Canada’s signature snack.

But what’s the story behind ketchup chips? French fries and ketchup have gone hand-in-hand since the early 1800s, but the duo really became BFFs in the 1940s with the rise of fast food and drive-ins at the time.

Ketchup Chips

Inspired by this classic combo, adding ketchup-flavoured seasoning to potato chips came to be sometime in the 1970s. Each chip was dusted with tomato powder, garlic, onion and spices, infusing smoky, salty and sweet flavours with a tart bite into every crunch. Since then, millions of chip bags have been torn open and devoured by hungry hordes of Canadians, who can’t get enough of this quirky and addictive ketchup-y flavour.

Although a quintessential Canadian snack, the origins of ketchup chips are mired in mystery, with no one stepping forward to officially take the credit. At its simplest, it’s believed that this red-powdered snack was first invented by Hostess Potato Chips in the early 1970s, and sold exclusively to the Canadian market. The newfangled flavour was a huge hit in the Great White North, triggering a ketchup chip craze to erupt from coast-to-coast.

Digging deeper, it appears that the story could be more complicated. An American company in Pennsylvania, Herr’s Snacks, has reportedly been making ketchup-flavoured chips since the early 1980s. A decade later, the Heinz Ketchup company got on board with Herr’s, realizing that potato chips and ketchup seasoning makes a killer combo. They’ve since blended the brands to create Herr’s Heinz Ketchup Flavoured Potato Chips.

The bottom line? Although ketchup chips likely hold dual citizenship, it’s definitely a Canadian classic to the core. While the flavour tends to be scarce south of the border, Canadian store shelves are almost always well-stocked with bags of this favourite Canuck snack. Plus, smaller Canadian-owned companies are jumping on the ketchup wagon and making their own versions.

Ketchup Chip Seasoning

Featured on Food Network Canada’s Food Factory, the Covered Bridge Potato Chip Factory in New Brunswick uses their grandmother’s recipe to make their chips, but revamped the recipe to include Homestyle Ketchup Chips. Made with Russet Potatoes, these ultra crunchy chips are dusted with tomato powder and other goodness, making it a favourite Canadian brand.

Nowadays, Canadians can do more than rip open a bag, as chip lovers are taking ketchup-style snacking to the next level. For one, the ketchup-y powder makes a sensational seasoning for many other tasty snacks, and it’s easy to make in your home kitchen. With this homemade ketchup chip flavouring, you can spice up everything from popcorn to roasted potatoes to squash, without adding artificial flavours and colours.

Short on time? You can also buy ready-to-go ketchup seasoning from the Covered Bridge Potato Chip Factory (along with bags of chips too!). Or just crush up some ketchup chips and use the bits as a crunchy topping for hot dogs or other mains. For more adventurous home chefs, why not try making a batch of Ketchup Chips Chicken Strips? The crispy batter of crushed ketchup chips transforms routine pub grub into a tangy and sweet dish.

The verdict? Ketchup chips hold a special place in the history and hearts of our delicious nation — but we’re still waiting on that Heritage Minute!

For more Canuck eats, check out these 45 Canadian Comfort Food Recipes.