New Season of Top Chef Canada Introduces Next Generation of Canada’s Culinary Elite

Top Chef Canada, the country’s most prestigious culinary competition returns April 8 for an exciting new season! Eleven extraordinarily talented, up-and-coming chefs from across Canada are vying for the illustrious title and the opportunity to be catapulted into Canadian culinary stardom alongside previous winners Dale Mackay, Carl Heinrich, Matt Stowe, René Rodriguez and Nicole Gomes.

The new lineup of next generation chefs competing this season on Top Chef Canada are (from L-R in above image):

Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef Eden Grinshpan returns as host, guiding the chefs through their challenges and helping to deliberate at judges’ table. Culinary legend Chef Mark McEwan is back as head judge along with the esteemed resident judges, renowned food journalist and critic Chris Nuttall-Smith, food blogger Mijune Pak and powerhouse restaurateur Janet Zuccarini.

“You really felt a fresh new energy walking into this new season and meeting all the chefs,” Eden revealed.  “There was an overwhelming sense of excitement. Everyone brought their A-Game. Everyone really wanted to win. I found there were so many new, creative ways these chefs were bringing their food to the table.”

Head Judge Chef Mark McEwan has been with Top Chef Canada since it launched in 2011. Looking back on the past seasons, he shares, “Every year’s been good but every year’s gotten better. This year the chefs are hitting a new level. This was our best season yet for food.” He elaborates,  “The young chefs show a great sign of maturity and really excellent dexterity and ability to make flavours happen. Some real, great surprises!”

Not only will the chefs have to impress judges’ panel, they’ll also need to win over the palates of celebrated guest judges featured throughout the series. This season, guest judges include chef-owners of some of Toronto’s best-known restaurants, such as Lynn Crawford (Ruby Watchco), Susur Lee (Fring’s, Lee), Rob Gentile (Buca, Bar Buca) and Alexandra Feswick (Drake Devonshire). Top Chef Canada alum returning as guest judges include Steve Gonzales of Baro, Dustin Gallagher of 416 Snack Bar as well as Top Chef Canada: All-Stars winner, Nicole Gomes of Calgary’s Cluck ‘N’ Cleaver. Additionally, Evan Funke, L.A.-based chef and co-owner (with Janet Zuccarini) of the acclaimed Felix restaurant, and Danny Bowien, chef-owner of New York’s Mission Chinese Food join as guest judges.

Each week during the season, topchefcanada.ca will be your destination for everything Top Chef Canada! You’ll find full episodes online, exclusive exit interviews with each of the departing chefs, behind-the-scenes secrets from life on set, chef cooking tips, episode recaps and our must-see interview with the winner.

Bumble Bee Cake

Bee-utifully Sweet Spring Honey Cake

With whimsical bumblebees swarming around a beehive-shaped cake, this honey and apricot dessert is perfect for a springtime birthday party. The slight tartness of the apricot filling pairs perfectly with the sweet and smooth honey buttercream icing. The simple shape is easy to carve, and just a swirl of buttercream transforms an ordinary layer cake into an edible birthday centerpiece. The best part? The marzipan bumblebees are super fun (and simple!) to make with a few basic cake-decorating tools.

Spring Bumble Bee Birthday Cake

Bumble Bee Birthday Cake

Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 40 minutes
Makes: 8-10 servings

Ingredients:

Honey Butter Cake
3 cups cake flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup honey
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1-1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 large eggs

Honey Buttercream
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
3-1/2 to 4 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/4 cup honey, or to taste
2 tsp vanilla extract
Yellow gel food coloring

Assembly
1/2 cup apricot preserves
6 marzipan bees (See instructions below)

Spring bumble bee cake

Directions:

Honey Butter Cake
1. Pre-heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour four 6-inch cake pans and set aside.
2. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
3. Measure the milk and honey in a liquid measuring cup and set aside.
4. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth.
5. Add in the sugar and mix until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
6. With the mixer on low, add in the vanilla and eggs, one at a time.
7. Stop the mixer, and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
8. With the mixer on low, add in 1/2 of the flour mixture. Pour in the milk and honey mixture, scraping out any remaining honey if necessary.
9. Add the remaining flour mixture and mix on medium-low until combined.
10. Evenly distribute the batter between the four pans. Bake for about 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean.
11. Let cool on wire rack for 10 to 15 minutes before removing the cakes from their pans.

Honey Buttercream
1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and cream cheese on medium until smooth.
2. With the mixer on low, gradually add in the sugar, honey and vanilla.
3. Once everything begins to combine, turn the mixer up the medium-high.
4. Continue mixing until the buttercream is light and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes.
5. Add in the gel food coloring, a few drops at a time, until desired shade is reached.
6. Cover with a piece of plastic wrap until use.

Bumble bee cake

Assembly
1. Once the cakes are completely cool, trim to tops so that each layer is flat.
2. Fill a piping bag fitted with a medium round tip with some of the buttercream and set aside.
3. Place the bottom layer of cake on a cake board or serving dish.
4. Pipe a ring of buttercream around the top, outer edge of the cake. Fill in the buttercream dam with about 1/3 cup of apricot preserves.
5. Top with the next layer of cake and repeat.
6. Pipe a double ring of buttercream on top of the third layer of cake and fill with about 1/4 cup of apricot preserves.
7. Use any remaining buttercream left in the piping bag to fill in the gaps between the layers of cake. Use an off-set spatula to smooth out.
8. Chill in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes, or until the buttercream firms up a bit.
9. Once chilled, use a serrate knife to carve the cake into a beehive-shape. Taking only a little bit off a time, carve the cake until the top is shaped like a dome.
10. Once carved, crumb coat the cake with the honey buttercream. Chill to set about 10 to 15 minutes.
11. Frost the entire cake with buttercream.
12, Set the cake on top of a cake turntable. Place the tip of a metal spatula near the bottom of the cake. Gently press into the frosting and spin the cake. As you spin, slowly bring the tip of the spatula up the side of the cake and over the top to create the spiral texture.
13. Finish with the marzipan bees while the frosting is still soft.

Bumble Bees

Marzipan Bees

Materials:
7 oz marzipan
Rolling pin
Paring knife
Piping tip
Thin paint brush
Yellow gel food coloring
Black gel food coloring

Bumble Bees How to

Directions:

1. Tint about 3 ounces of marzipan yellow and 1 to 2 ounces black.
Divide the yellow marzipan into about 6 half-ounce balls (about the size of a large gumball) then roll into a bee shape.
2. Use the end of a thin paintbrush to indent two eyes and the large opening of a small piping tip to create a smile. Set aside.
3. Roll out the black marzipan to about 1/8-inch thick.
4. Use the paring knife to cut thin strips. Wrap the strips of black marzipan around the body of the bees and secure by gently pressing the ends into the belly of the bees.
5. Re-roll the remaining black marzipan. Use the large, round opening of the piping tip to cut out one circle per bee. Adhere the black circle to the back ends of the bees.

Bumble Bees
6. Roll out plain (untinted) marzipan to about 1/4 to 1/8-inch thick. 7. Using the large, round opening of the piping tip, cut out two circles per bee. Pinch the tips and elongate the circles slightly to create wings.
8. Press the tips together on the backs of the bees.
9. Roll two tiny balls of plain marzipan per bee to create the eyes.
10 Gently press them into the indented eye markings.
11. Lightly dip the end of the paintbrush in the black gel food coloring and mark the centers of the eyes. Let dry.

Looking for more great birthday party ideas? Check out our Winter Wonderfuland Birthday Party or our 25 Best Birthday Cakes.

Irish Slow Cooker Stew

This Slow Cooker Irish Stew Recipe is a Classic Restored

Irish beef stew is a cozy, family-friendly dinner, and it can be incredibly easy to make, especially when all you have to do is toss everything in a slow cooker. Our recipe uses beef, however, if you’re a true lover of lamb, feel free to use that instead. Of course, a hearty Irish stew isn’t complete without earthy root veggies and here, Yukon gold potatoes, parsnips, carrots and celeriac shine in a hearty medley. Make this easy version in your slow cooker or Instant Pot for St. Patrick’s Day or a chilly, yet busy weekday. It’s classic comfort food for contemporary schedules.

Irish-Slow-Cooker-stew-in-bowl

Slow Cooker Irish Stew

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 4 hours on high, 8 hours on low
Total Time: 4 hours 10 minutes on high, 8 hours 10 minutes on low
Serves: 4 to 6

Irish-Slow-Cooker-stew-ingredients

Ingredients:

2 lbs stewing beef, cut into 1-inch pieces (see Notes below)
3 Yukon gold potatoes, cubed
1 celeriac (celery root), peeled and cubed
3 medium carrots, sliced
1 medium parsnip, sliced
1 yellow onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups beef stock
1 bay leaf
1 tsp dried thyme
salt, to taste (check the saltiness of your beef stock before adding)
ground black pepper, to taste
chopped fresh parsley, for serving

Irish-Stew-in-the-Slow-Cooker

Directions:

1. Add all ingredients except parsley in a large slow cooker and stir to combine. Replace lid and cook on high for 4 hours or on low for 8 hours.

2. Once your cook time is up, give the stew a stir, spoon into bowls and top with fresh parsley. Serve warm.

Notes: 
If you have time, brown the beef first by searing the cubes in a skillet with a splash of olive oil over medium-high heat – it adds a great depth of flavour.

Serve something cool and creamy for dessert while keeping with the Irish theme and mix up this Guinness Ice Cream Float.

How to Make Italian Meatballs with Veal and Ricotta

Serve up an Italian classic that pleases a crowd, with the best recipe ever for spaghetti and meatballs. In this episode of Food Network Canada Chef School, Mark McEwan delivers tried and true tips for making the time-honoured comfort food speciality, including the requisite marinara tomato sauce, with ease. And, if you’re wondering how to make real-deal meatballs on a weeknight, Mark has the answers, guiding you through an Italian meatballs and spaghetti dinner, complete with salad and baguette, by utilizing your pantry and freezer.

 

How to Make Classic Italian Meatballs for Spaghetti

In Mark’s meatball recipe, you’ll see there’s more to meatballs than meat. Ricotta makes them tender, while Parmesan acts in lieu of breadcrumbs, elevating the mix and keeping everything neat and tidy when rolling. Onions, cooked and cooled, are added for depth, while a good bit of salt and pepper season the mix.

Mark favours a medium-sized meatball, which gets rolled in flour before being seared, creating a flavourful brown crust – at this step, he notes, it’s important to not overcrowd the pan so the crust can form.

Of course, the perfect meatball needs the perfect marinara sauce, the heartbeat of the Italian kitchen.

 

A Simple Tomato Sauce Recipe for Your Meatballs

Canned San Marzano tomatoes are preferred by Mark because their sugar content is dialled-in for pasta sauce perfection, picked and canned within 24 hours. For this ultimate spaghetti and meatballs recipe, they’re worth seeking out. A bit of butter in the tomato sauce enriches the dish and creates a glossy, restaurant-quality look and taste.

For the pasta, keep your noodles al dente, with a touch of bite in the centre. The starch from the pasta binds the sauce, bringing everything together. The three components briefly cook in one pan, melding to create something super-special and ultra-delicious.

How to Freeze Meatballs

For those who want to get ahead of the game, freezing meatballs is essential for making a cozy, gourmet weeknight meal, in a flash. And Mark knows the perfect way to prepare meatballs for the freezer.

“I would cook them and then freeze them [in] plastic sealed containers. My wife does this all the time, she’ll make 300 meatballs and she’ll make a big batch of San Marzano tomato sauce. And then she puts eight meatballs in each container and then she covers them in sauce, lets them cool, pops them in the freezer and we eat perfect meatballs all month long. It’s the greatest fast dinner.”

To defrost the frozen meatballs, he recommends bringing them out the day before or slowly defrosting in the microwave (on a low setting) before finishing heating on the stovetop.

“They’re just the most amazing thing to have in your freezer,” Mark adds.

Batch-Cook Your Way to Dinner

Batch cooking helps this Chef create homemade meals that feed and please a crowd, any night of the week. It’s all about planning ahead, creating a pantry, refrigerator and freezer that works in your favour.

“We keep actually we keep Bolognese in the freezer, meatballs in sauce, and we keep straight sauce in plastic containers so that we can do a quick little meal,” says Mark. “One Saturday you do a bunch of stock, one Saturday you do your meatballs, the next Saturday you do your Bolognese and then you do your San Marzano [sauce], or you can do those together. You create this great inventory of products and you can always make a wonderful meal.”

An Italian Feast, Thanks to the Freezer

Continuing with a well-stocked freezer, Mark likes to keep baguettes in there, which would also pair nicely with meatballs and tomato sauce, with or without the pasta.

“I always have a baguette that gets cut in half, wrapped in foil and then [put in zip-top] bags,” he says. “I have them in the freezer so I can always take a baguette out, thaw it in the microwave throw it in the oven, crisp up the crust on it and I have a fresh baguette.”

And no pasta dinner is complete without a bright, fresh salad.

To make this happen, Mark keeps a well-stocked pantry, filled with such things as, “Good vinegars and good oils for throwing together a simple vinaigrette. A little bit of mustard, a little bit of anchovy paste, tiny bit of garlic. Boom. Fresh greens tossed. So healthy, so simple and it escapes a lot of people because…they overthink it.”

With spaghetti and meatballs on the table, an effortless salad ready to go and a baguette at hand to tear up and soak up that glossy San Marzano tomato sauce, dinner is served. Of course, a bottle of wine to complement the meal is a nice touch, if you have one handy.

All that’s left to do is twirl, slurp and dig in.

Make your own Italian feast tonight. Get Chef Mark McEwan’s recipes for Spaghetti and Meatballs, and Classic Marinara with San Marzano Tomatoes.

Winning Recipes for Your Academy Awards Party

Celebrate the Academy Awards with Oscar-worthy spread that is sure to impress even the toughest critic. Hollywood’s biggest night deserves your best kitchen performance and these recipes are sure to earn you at least a ‘Best Host’ nomination.

Whether you’re channeling old-Hollywood elegance or have a casual evening in mind, we have a slew Oscar party ideas for easy appetizers and cocktails that will keep you well fed from the red carpet through to the credits.

Oscar Party Menu

Champagne Cocktail

Champagne Cocktails

Greet your guests with a celebratory champagne cocktail. Crème de cassis, a dark red liqueur made from blackcurrants gives these bubbly sippers their bright red-carpet shade.

Oysters with Caviar

Oysters, Caviar and Bubbles

Your movie-buff guests may shy away from spoilers, but they won’t mind you spoiling them with these indulgent appetizers that are packed with old Hollywood glamour. Reserve a little champagne from your cocktails for the mignonette sauce, which is seasoned with fresh shallots and bright pink peppercorns.

White Bean Puree on Endive

White Bean Puree on Endive

We’d like to thank Patricia Heaton for this delicious and simple bean dip that gets a fancy flourish when served on individual Belgian endive leaves. Place these apps on a gold tray for an elegant cocktail-party feel. Not a fan of endives? Serve this light dip in a dish with toasted pita points or chips.

Deviled Eggs with Caviar

Devilled Eggs

Party like the stars with these lavish appetizers. The ordinary snack gets a lavish twist with a dollop of salty Sturgeon roe. For a paired-down version, omit the caviar and season each egg with a sprinkle of smoked paprika.

Cheese and Spinach Puff Pastry Pockets

Cheese and Spinach Puff Pastry Pockets

Puff pastry is your best friend when it comes to whipping up a tray full of appetizers in no time at all. These spinach bites are everything you want in an appetizer: golden flaky crust paired with a warm, cheesy filling you can enjoy in two delicious bites.

Maple Sriracha Popcorn

Maple Sriracha Popcorn

No Academy Awards party is complete without popcorn! When those acceptance speeches go on and on, you’ll be happy to have this sweet and spicy popcorn to snack on. Leave out the peanuts and cashews if you want to keep it nut-free.

Caramel Popcorn

While not everyone can go home with a golden statue, your guests can each enjoy their own golden caramel popcorn treat. For added fun, shape each popcorn ball into your own version of the iconic statue and ceremoniously hand them out to your special guests.

Rumarita Cocktail

Rumarita Cocktail

As soon as the credits start to roll, that’s when the real party starts. Kick off your after-party with a rumarita, made with gold rum and fresh citrus.

Looking for more ideas? Try our 20 Best Recipes for an Awards Show Party.

4 Things You Didn’t Know About Expiry Dates

We’ve all been there, squinting at tiny writing on a milk carton wondering if it is still OK to add it to your morning cereal. Should you trust your nose, or stick to the best before date? The answer isn’t always clear.

Expiry dates might be the finite end of when you can safely consume food, but most of the foods we purchase are only stamped with a best before date, meaning it’s merely a suggested date to guarantee freshness and nutritional value. Here are some things you need to know about expiry dates so you can save money, and avoid tossing away food that’s still perfectly good to eat.

1. Only 5 types of products have actual expiry dates

In Canada, the only products to carry a true expiry date are: infant formula, nutritional supplements, meal replacements, formulated liquid diets and food formulated for low-energy diets sold by pharmacists. Not what most of us envision when it comes to filling up our grocery carts! All other food that stays fresh for 90 days or less are stamped with a best before date, which is just the industry’s way of guaranteeing it will taste as it should and be nutritionally accurate to its label.

milk-pour-over-cereal

2. The best before date only applies to unopened packages

While we usually rely on these dates the most when consuming already purchased foods at home, the best before date is no longer valid once a package is open, meaning the countdown to the last sip of milk isn’t as set in stone as it seems. Since food has a higher chance of being contaminated once the package is opened, the best before date is only an accurate gauge of freshness while you’re strolling the aisle of the grocery store.

hard-boiled-eggs

3. You can still consume food past the best before date

Just because it’s on or past the best before date doesn’t mean you have to throw it out. Milk and yogurt can be safely consumed for up to one week after their best before date. How long are eggs good for? You can test uncooked eggs to see if they are still good by placing them in a glass of water. If the egg floats, it has gone bad; if it sinks, it is good to eat. But make sure to use common sense when consuming any food past their stamped date. Always remember the saying: when in doubt, throw it out.

frozen-shrimp

4. There are still some foods to watch out for

Fresh fish, shellfish and most meat (even deli meats) have a smaller window of opportunity to consume after their best before date, so it’s best not to risk eating these items after that suggested time.

Food waste costs the economy billions of dollars a year, so why not be more mindful of what you’re tossing in the garbage can? It’ll keep extra money in your pocket while helping out the environment.

Want to learn more? Check out: 10 Foods You Can Eat After the Expiry Date.

The Great Canadian Salad

Make this Canadian Summer Salad Packed with Home Grown Ingredients

In this salad, we’re combining classic Canadian ingredients, bacon and maple syrup, with two great Canadian-grown ingredients, lentils and mustard. Did you know Canada is the world’s largest exporter of lentils and mustard seeds? Really! Here, they come together in a great Canadian salad that’s a little bit sweet and a touch salty with a nice earthy crunch from grated beets and peppery bite from tender greens. Canadian pride never tasted so good.

Great Canadian Salad

Lentil, Bacon And Feta Salad With Maple Dijon Dressing

Total Time: 15 minutes
Serves: 4

Ingredients:
Maple Dijon Dressing

3 Tbsp Dijon mustard
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1½ Tbsp maple syrup
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground black pepper 

Lentil, Bacon And Feta Salad
2 cups cooked lentils (from 3/4 cup dry or canned)
100 g (approx. 1/2 cup) roughly diced cooked peameal bacon
100 g roughly chopped feta cheese
2 large handfuls greens, such as arugula
1/4 cup grated beets

Great Canadian Salad

Directions:
Maple Dijon Dressing:
1. Place all dressing ingredients a small jam jar, place the lid on and shake well. Refrigerate until ready to dress the salad.

Lentil, Bacon And Feta Salad:
1. In a large bowl, mix to combine lentils and bacon. Add the feta and stir gently to distribute evenly though the salad. Add the greens and beets and mix gently to avoid bruising the green leaves.
2. When ready to serve, dress the salad with your prepared dressing, to taste. Portion into bowls and serve.

Keep the Canadiana theme going and treat yourself to a little post-salad dessert in the form of butter tart monkey bread.

vanilla-chocoalte-cake

1 Easy Vanilla Cake, 3 Stunning Ways to Customize it

If baking is a science, then this is an experiment you’re going to love. We’ve created a one easy vanilla cake recipe that bakes up into a moist, buttery dessert. But the real beauty of this batter is that a few ingredients additions, and it can be transformed into an entirely different dessert. 

Bake this master recipe into a cinnamon swirl coffee cake, a chocolate and vanilla marble loaf or maybe even a rustic rhubarb upside-down cake. You’d never guess that each of these delectable desserts starts with the same batter.  Get ready to add this astoundingly versatile recipe to your baking repertoire. 

vanilla-cinnamon-bundt-cake

Basic Buttermilk Batter

Prep Time: 
15 minutes
Cook Time: 55 minutes
Cooling Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 40 minutes
Makes: 1 cake

Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup buttermilk

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350ºF.
2. In a medium bowl, mix flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda.
3. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer or sturdy wooden spoon, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in eggs and vanilla.
4. Add in one-third of flour mixture followed by one-third of buttermilk. Repeat additions, ending with buttermilk. Mix until batter is just combined. Do not over-mix.
5. Proceed with any one of the three cake variations below.

vanilla-chocolate-bundt-cake

Variation 1: Chocolate and Vanilla Marble Loaf
Divide Basic Buttermilk Batter (recipe above) evenly between two mixing bowls. In one bowl, mix in 2 Tbsp cocoa powder and 1 Tbsp sugar; leave the other batter as is. Grease a 9-inch (23 cm) loaf pan. Pour one-third basic batter into pan lengthwise, covering only one side. Pour one-third chocolate batter into pan beside basic batter for two long strips of cake batter. Repeat additions, forming a checkerboard pattern, finishing with chocolate batter. Run a small wooden spoon side to side through loaf to create the marble effect. Bake in preheated 350ºF oven until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean, about 55 minutes. Remove cake from pan and transfer to a wire rack to cool. Slice and serve.

 

vanilla-rhubarb-upside-down-cake

Variation 2: Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake
Toss 2 cups of chopped fresh rhubarb in a large bowl with 3 Tbsp granulated sugar. Let rhubarb and sugar stand for 2 minutes. Grease an 8-inch (20 cm) round cake pan. Chop 2 Tbsp unsalted butter into small pieces and arrange over the bottom of cake pan. Add rhubarb to cake pan in an even layer over butter. Pour Basic Buttermilk Batter (recipe above) over rhubarb and smooth top. Bake in preheated 350ºF oven until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes, then invert onto a serving plate so the rhubarb is on top and remove pan. Cool, slice and serve.

vanilla-cinnamon-bundt-cake-sliced

Variation 3: Glazed Cinnamon Swirl Coffee Cake
In a small bowl, mix 1 cup of brown sugar with 2 tsp ground cinnamon. Pour half the prepared Basic Buttermilk Batter (recipe above) into a greased Bundt pan. Sprinkle brown sugar mixture over top. Pour remaining batter into Bundt pan and smooth top. Bake in preheated 350ºF oven until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Remove cake from pan and transfer to a wire rack to cool. To make the glaze, mix 1 cup icing sugar with 1 tsp cinnamon and 3 Tbsp buttermilk. Add more buttermilk if necessary to reach a thinner consistency. Pour glaze over cooled cake. Slice and serve.

Eager to keep baking? Try these Best Birthday Cake Recipes.

4 Comforting Sheet Pan Dinner Recipes for Easier Cooking and Clean-up

When we’re in a rush and looking for shortcuts in getting dinner on the table, sheet pans are a life saver. They let you roast your main and sides together (like in this Glazed Chicken and Broccoli Sheet Pan Dinner) saving you time and clean-up.  What if we told you that economy-sized sheet pans can also be used to bake up some of your favourite comfort foods, and in some cases even give them a slightly healthier twist? Think classics like lasagna or meatloaf, all baked up to perfection in a short enough time to get dinner done on a weeknight.


This eggplant parmesan is baked, saving you the mess and stress of frying. 

Okay, so you may have to do a couple of extra dishes during prep, but considering how hearty and wholesome these recipes are, we’d say it’s worth the extra effort. Check them out:

No-Fry Sheet Pan Eggplant Parmesan

Trade in your fryer for a sheet pan and whip up this easy comfort food with a healthier twist. Crispy eggplant is topped with a quick, homemade marinara sauce and then smothered in mozzarella and Parmesan until it bakes up into a bubbly pan of yum.

All-Crust Sheet Pan Lasagna

If you’re a fan of those crispy lasagna edges then this recipe is most definitely for you. Pre-cooked noodles are assembled on a sheet with delicious ricotta, sausage and a homemade sauce. It all culminates in not just the perfect lasagna flavour, but it also allows the edges to cook evenly, giving you crispy perfection with every bite.

Extra-Crunchy Sheet Pan Mac and Cheese

Want to take your regular old bowl of macaroni and cheese to the next level? Spoon it out into a pan sheet and cover it with deliciousness like panko and butter. In the oven, the top will crisp up and the noodles will bond together in all of their cheesy glory, creating little squares of mac ‘n’ cheese heaven that will have you coming back for more.


Sheet Pan Glazed Meatloaf
What’s not to love about savoury, caramelized meatloaf the way your mom or grandma used to make? What we enjoy most about this sheet pan version of the comfort food staple is that thanks to its wider surface area, you’re guaranteed that each bite comes with that glazed goodness from the top that we all know and love.

 

Looking for more easy dinners? Try these Hearty Sheet Pan Dinners That Make Clean-up A Breeze.

vegan-bolognese-on-table

What is the Flexitarian Diet and Why Are People Doing It?

You’ve heard of Meatless Monday, veganism and plant-based diets, but there’s a new way of eating that’s easier to stick to – and you may be doing it already. It’s called flexitarian, and it’s described as “one whose normally meatless diet occasionally includes meat or fish.” While not quite this simple, the dictionary definition isn’t too far off.

The diet places produce,  whole grains and plant-based proteins at its core, using meat, poultry and fish as a sort of side dish. As you can imagine, it’s flexible!

Health and Environmental Benefits of the Flexitarian Diet

Flexitarians – even those who don’t know they’re flexitarians – may already be making the shift towards a more plant-based, low-meat diet for the health benefits that come along with vegetarianism and veganism. This includes lower heart disease and diabetes rates, along with lower overall body weight and reduced LDL “bad” cholesterol. The more whole foods, including vegetables and beans, you’re eating, the more vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and fibre you’re getting as well.

An additional benefit of flexitarianism is the enjoyment of occasional animal protein, which, when sourced from healthy meat, poultry and fish, can boost well-being. Choose wild fish, cage-free eggs, grass-fed beef and free-range chicken; these choices can deliver a range of valuable nutrients including omega-3s, choline for a healthy brain, vitamin B12 for iron uptake and protein for muscle maintenance.
The smaller portions and cumulative amounts encouraged by flexitarianism make these often pricier animal products more affordable.

Many plant-based diners choose veganism or vegetarianism because it creates less of an impact on the environment. Meat, poultry and fish, including raising and transportation, can be environmentally taxing, so eating these foods less often or in smaller portions, reduces your environmental footprint.

So How Much Meat Can You Eat?

The malleable approach to flexitarianism relies on you to make the call. If you’re going out for a meat-heavy dinner at a steakhouse, consider making tomorrow a meat-free or low-meat day. Cookbook author Mark Bittman, whose book, VB6: Eat Vegan Before 6:00, is based around the idea of flexitarianism, encourages people to eat a vegan breakfast and lunch, and save the meat for dinner. The idea is to not eat meat at every meal, and when you do eat it, make it count with quality ingredients.

Put Animal Products on the Side

Rethink your dinner plate, and consider meat, poultry, fish, eggs and cheese as a garnish or side dish, building a plate around produce, grains, beans and legumes. An example of this would be a farro risotto with butternut squash, a few strips of crispy bacon to garnish and crumbling of goat cheese on top. Or, a big salad with avocado, black beans, tomatoes, corn chips and 2 oz. chicken breast in the mix.

Flexitarian Meal Prep and Meal Planning

Like any diet, preparation and planning are key. Vegetables and whole grains take more forethought than convenience foods, but putting aside just one afternoon a week to shop, meal plan and meal prep, will reward you with last-minute breakfasts, lunches and dinners.

Flexitarian Meal Prep Tips

– Batch cook large pots of grains like brown rice, quinoa and farro at the beginning of the week for “instant” meals; store airtight in the refrigerator.
– Build a single-serving smoothie pack in small plastic bags with 1/2 peeled banana, handful of spinach, 1/4 cup berries and 2 Tbsp hemp seeds; freeze and make a smoothie on-demand with coconut water or almond milk (or water) when you’re ready to go.
– Cook chicken breast and bacon ahead of time to add morsels of meaty flavour and protein to your meals in seconds; store airtight in the refrigerator.
– Keep a variety of canned beans in the pantry for quick protein boosts at lunch, dinner and snack time (i.e. make chickpeas into hummus).
– Keep umami flavours on hand, like tamari or soy sauce, anchovies, nori (roasted sushi seaweed), Parmesan cheese, pine nuts, tomatoes, blue cheese, marmite, mushrooms and hoisin sauce to boost the “meaty” satisfaction of meals.
– Hard-boil eggs, cooked ahead of time; store airtight to add on top of salads, slice onto toast or pop in your lunch for an easy protein boost.

How to Make Your Favourite Meat-Filled Meals Flexitarian

– Use half mashed white beans, half ground beef when making meatballs.
– Make tacos with roasted sweet potatoes, black beans and feta cheese.
– Use mashed potatoes as the base for fish cakes.
– Amp up umami flavours with mushrooms marinated in tamari or soy sauce.
– Bulk up frittatas and quiches with a pile of finely chopped, cooked greens and herbs.
– Top pizza with thinly sliced prosciutto – a little bit of meat, especially when it’s this flavourful, goes a long way.
– Use lentils, kidney beans, quinoa, black beans and a smaller amount of ground beef in your favourite chili.

Flexitarian Make-Ahead Breakfast Ideas

– Muesli or overnight oats made with nut milk.
– Homemade granola with yogurt and berries.
– Slow cooker oatmeal with dried fruit.
– Green smoothies with frozen fruit, spinach and cashews.
– Tofu scramble with greens, peppers and tomatoes.
– Avocado toast sprinkled with hemp seeds.

Flexitarian Lunch Ideas

– Hummus, sprout and grated carrot sandwich on whole grain bread.
– Quinoa salad with salsa, black beans, feta cheese, cilantro and cucumbers.
– BLT salad with lettuce, tomato, avocado, white beans and a garnish of crumbled bacon or coconut bacon; dressing on the side.
– Moroccan chickpea, squash and kale stew with spiced yogurt garnish.
– Egg salad wrap made with half mashed chickpeas, spiced up with curry powder.
– Buckwheat noodle salad with cubed smoked tofu, sesame dressing and crispy shredded vegetables.
– Ground tofu (or half chicken, half tofu) and edamame lettuce wraps with basil, eggplant and sriracha.
– Creamy broccoli soup made silky smooth with white beans instead of cream and cheese.

Flexitarian Dinner Ideas

– Pasta carbonara made with a touch of pancetta bulked up with mashed peas
– Vegan Caesar salad with whole grain croutons, coconut bacon and (optional) 2 oz. grilled chicken
– Warm steak sandwich made with 2 oz. thinly sliced flank steak, olive tapenade, arugula and vegan mayo; vegan miso gravy for dipping
– Sheet pan bake with a mix of half veggie, half pork sausages, apples, onions, sweet potatoes and spices
– Flexitarian lasagna with tofu ricotta, ground chicken Bolognese, zucchini and cashew parmesan
– 3 oz. Roasted salmon with pesto roasted potatoes, broccoli and mashed chickpeas
– Chicken or vegetable stock-stewed white beans on polenta with thyme and garlic
– Brown butter pasta with butternut squash, sage, kale and toasted pine nuts to garnish
– Chili with lentils, black beans, quinoa, corn and peppers topped with lime-spiked Greek yogurt (dairy-free or regular) and cilantro, served with corn chips.

Looking for more delicious plant-based ideas? Try our High-Protein Vegetarian Recipes.

 

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Absolutely Addictive Cauliflower Buffalo Wings

Cauliflower’s reign continues with this amazing recipe. This healthier version of the classic pub favourite is starting to pop up in restaurants all over the place. Try it and you’ll be surprised by how “meaty” cauliflower really is.

cauliflower-buffalo-wings-vegan-recipe-2

Ingredients:
1 head of cauliflower
1/2 cup non-dairy milk
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup all-purpose flour (can substitute for gluten-free rice flour)
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp cumin
1 Tbsp of paprika
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp ground pepper
1 Tbsp Earth Balance buttery spread
1 cup Frank’s red hot sauce

cauliflower-buffalo-wings-vegan-recipe

Directions:

1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and preheat your oven to 450°F. Wash and cut cauliflower head into small bite-sized pieces.
2. Mix all the ingredients (minus the Earth Balance and hot sauce) into a mixing bowl.
3. The batter will be thin enough that it runs off your fork and the cauliflower florets. Dip each floret into the mixture and coat evenly. You can shake or tap off the excess on the side of the bowl.
4. Lay florets in an even layer on the parchment lined baking sheet.
5. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown.
6. While the cauliflower is baking get your ranch dip and wing sauce ready. In a small saucepan over low heat melt Earth Balance and mix in hot sauce, bringing to a low simmer before removing from the heat.
7. Remove the cauliflower from the oven and put all the baked florets into a mixing bowl with the wing sauce and toss to coat evenly. Then spread all the florets in wing sauce out onto the same baking sheet. Bake in the oven for another 25 minutes.

cauliflower-buffalo-wings-vegan-recipe-1

Ranch Dip Ingredients:
1 cup Wildwood zesty garlic aioli (or vegan mayo of your choice)
1/8 cup non-dairy milk
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp dill
1 Tbsp parsley
1 Tbsp chives
1 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp ground pepper

Note: If you use a regular vegan mayo you might also want to add 1 tsp of garlic powder.

Directions:
1. Blend all the ingredients in a blender until smooth. Refrigerate for at least 30 mins before serving.

Tip: The wings can be made with any sauce so try it with your favourite BBQ sauce or a nice version is lemon and pepper. For a milder salt and pepper wing just toss them in salt and pepper right out of the oven — no need for the second baking…the options are endless!

See more from hot for food on their YouTube channel.