8 Vegan Ice Cream Recipes You Need to Make This Summer

Summer desserts are all about ice cream in all forms. And for those who follow a vegan diet, dessert fiends who require their sweets dairy-free and anyone who just loves an ice-cold treat, these veganized recipes deliver. There’s everyday ice pops given a cocktail twist, a zippy apple sorbet, no-churn vegan ice cream that tastes like the real thing, a celebratory ice cream cookie cake and more, all given a plant-based makeover. So embrace that brain-freeze this summer, and scoop up something delicious.

No-Churn Vegan Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

This recipe uses whole-food ingredients to create a no-churn, better-for-you ice cream tinged with summer childhood nostalgia. Rich in healthy fats from avocado and cashews, sweetened with dates and infused with real mint and a surprise, naturally green superfood ingredient, it’s a healthy way to satisfy your ice cream craving during a heat wave.

Vegan Oreo Ice Cream Cake

One of the best-kept secrets in the snack food industry: Oreos are vegan. An entire cookie package forms the base, freckles the filling and garnishes the top of this decadent creation. Use your favourite vegan vanilla ice cream to keep things simple, or prepare your go-to homemade version. A true crowd-pleaser everyone, vegan or not, will scream about.

Dairy-Free Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

This recipe is doing its best Elvis impression, combining bananas, peanut butter and chocolate chips for a plant-based ice cream that you can make in a food processor. Frozen bananas act in lieu of dairy as the base, whipping up light and fluffy, just like ice cream, when frozen and blended. The peanut butter can be replaced with almond butter, sunflower seed butter or vegan chocolate-hazelnut spread.

Watermelon and Strawberry Icebergs

These pretty pink ice cream floats skip the dairy and soda pop, made instead with lycopene-rich watermelon, vitamin C-loaded strawberries and corn syrup-free sparkling water. This no-churn recipe can be made with the help of your freezer and a food processor or blender. For that “frosé” vibe, use sparkling pink wine in place of water.

Green Apple Sorbet

This (egg white optional) dairy-free sorbet is a refreshing end to a big vegan BBQ feast. Green apples bring a lovely pistachio hue to the finished product, but you could try this with your favourite apple variety like royal gala, pink lady or golden delicious for a rainbow of colours and tastes.

Vegan Strawberry Cheesecake Bites

Skip the scoop and turn to your muffin tin for a no-churn plant-based ice cream option. These freezer treats are like personal-sized icebox cakes, and are completely vegan, tasting like the best strawberry cheesecake ice cream from your local parlour.

Cocktail Popsicles

If a nightcap rather than ice cream is more your style for dessert, chill out with a cocktail popsicle. Choose from Stawberry-Aperol, Cucumber-Gin or Orange-Negroni ice lollies, all made without dairy.

Banana Ice Cream Sundae

Pile scoops of healthy, one-ingredient, frozen banana “ice cream” with your favourite sundae toppings for a vegan treat that both kids and adults will love to build and eat. Garnishes of mashed raspberries, blueberries, chocolate chips, pistachios and toasted coconut add a rainbow of colour, texture and summertime flavour (just skip the Greek yogurt called for or use coconut yogurt or coconut whip in its place). And the best part? Sundae add-ons don’t cost extra at home.

Grilled Lamb Kofta Kebabs, Two Ways (Skewers and Sliders!)

Heat up your BBQ menu with a little help from these grilled lamb koftas. These juicy kabobs are made with a ton of fresh herbs and a dash of spice, before being threaded on a skewer and grilled. Serve it as I did here with an unbelievably fresh-tasting tabbouleh salad and you’ve got a pretty stunning summer meal. While I’m aware my variation on this salad may get tabbouleh enthusiasts furling their brow, the addition of torn grilled pitas and crunchy baked chickpeas is beyond worth venturing off the path. You can also use the same lamb mixture and shape into mini patties for a take on the ultimate summer favourite — the almighty slider. Smear on a spoonful of hummus, some thinly sliced cucumber for an open-faced version.


Grilled Lamb Kofta Kebabs

Cook Time: 8 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours
Servings: 9 skewers or sliders


1 lbs ground lamb
½ large onion, minced
½ cup parsley, chopped
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 ½ Tbsp harissa
1 tsp ground cumin
Black pepper


1. In a large bowl, combine ground lamb with the rest of the ingredients. Form ¼ cup-sized portions into an oval shape and thread onto a metal or soaked bamboo skewer. Chill in fridge for at least 1 hour.

2. Cook on a medium-heat BBQ and grill kofta kabobs until cooked through, about 6-8 minutes.

Tabbouleh Salad With Baked Chickpeas and Grilled Pita


1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
¼ cup olive oil + extra
1 Tbsp harissa
2 large pieces of pita bread, grilled
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
½ cup bulgur
2 cups tomatoes, chopped
1 cup cucumber, chopped
1 cup parsley, chopped
¼ cup mint, chopped
⅓ red onion, minced
¼ cup sliced black olives (optional)
½ cup lemon juice

Related: Healthy Middle Eastern Recipes You’ll Make on Repeat


1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Rinse and drain chickpeas and pat dry. Toss with olive oil and harissa and bake for 40-50 minutes, stirring once at halfway point.

2. Brush pita bread with olive oil and season lightly with salt and pepper. Grill on both sides until crispy.

3. Combine bulgur and 1 cup warm water in a bowl and let soak for 10 minutes. Drain, rinse thoroughly and transfer to a large bowl along with remaining ingredients and toss to combine.

Lamb Kofta Sliders



1 lbs ground lamb
½ large onion, minced
½ cup parsley, chopped
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 ½ Tbsp harissa
1 tsp ground cumin
Black pepper
Mini pitas
½ cup hummus
½ large cucumber, sliced thin

Related: Recipes That Prove Harissa Paste Belongs in All Your Meals

1. In a large bowl, combine ground lamb with onion, parsley, olive oil, harissa, cumin and black pepper. Form into ⅓ cup-sized patties. Chill in fridge for at least 1 hour.

2. Cook on a medium-heat BBQ and grill lamb kofta sliders until cooked through, about 6-8 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, brush mini pitas with olive oil and season lightly with salt and pepper. Grill until warmed through.

4. Spread pitas with hummus and top with sliced cucumber and lamb. Garnish with more chopped parsley and a sprinkle of harissa.

Published May 27, 2015, Updated May 29, 2018

Pecan Whisky Butter Tarts are a Classic Canadian Treat, All Grown Up

Canada’s quintessential dessert, the butter tart, gets a grown-up twist with warming whisky, rich pecans and pure maple syrup. Canadian rye whisky adds a touch of warmth and natural spice notes, complementing the super-sweet buttery interior. It’s all balanced by the addition of pecans to add the perfect contrasting crunch. For the pastry, a mixture of butter and shortening helps to create those pretty frilled edges homemade butter tarts are known for – they also help to capture every bit of that sticky, just runny enough, spiked filling.

Canadian Pecan Whisky Butter Tarts

Prep Time: 25 minutes
Chill Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
Bake Time: 18 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 3 minutes
Makes: 12


Pastry Dough
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for shaping and rolling
1 1/2 Tbsp granulated white sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into 1-inch pieces, plus more for tin
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, chopped into 1-inch pieces
1/3 cup cold water
1 large egg yolk
1 1/2 tsp lemon juice

3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup dark corn syrup
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
5 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs
2 Tbsp Canadian rye whisky
1 tsp distilled white vinegar
1/4 tsp salt
2/3 cup pecan halves, roughly chopped 


Pastry Dough
1. In a food processor, pulse flour, sugar and salt until combined. Add shortening and butter, and pulse until the mixture is crumbly. In a small bowl, whisk together water, egg yolk and lemon juice until combined. With the processor running, gradually add egg yolk mixture to the flour mixture, until dough just begins to come together.

2. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and briefly knead until dough comes together. Divide dough in half and shape into two discs. On a lightly floured piece of parchment paper, roll out one disc into a circle measuring 1/8-inch or so in thickness. Carefully transfer, with parchment paper intact (to keep it from sticking), to a baking sheet. Repeat this with the second dough disc (use two baking sheets or layer on top of each other using parchment to separate). Cover each rolled disc loosely with additional parchment paper to avoid drying out, and refrigerate for 1 hour, or until chilled and firm.

3. Preheat oven to 450°F. Lightly spray a 12-cup muffin tin with nonstick cooking oil or lightly grease with oil or extra shortening.

4. Using a round 4- to 5-inch round cookie cutter or wine glass, cut dough into 12 circles, re-rolling dough once if necessary. Gently press rounds into prepared pan allowing edges to fold up around each other and extend above the rim of pan. Freeze for 20 minutes to firm up. Meanwhile, prepare the filling.

1. In a medium bowl, preferably one with a pour spout, whisk together brown sugar, corn syrup, maple syrup, melted butter, eggs, whisky, vinegar and salt until smooth and sugar begins to dissolve.

2. Remove pastry shells from freezer. Divide pecans evenly in the bottom of each frozen pastry shell. Pour or ladle filling on top of pecans, filling 1/2-inch below the top of the pastry.

3. Bake in the bottom third of oven for 10 minutes at 450ºF. Reduce heat to 400°F and continue to bake for an additional 6 to 8 minutes, or until filling is set and puffed, covering with foil or parchment to prevent excess browning if necessary.

4. Transfer pan to wire cooling rack and let cool for 10 minutes. Run a sharp knife around edges of tarts and let cool completely in pan. Pop them out when you’re ready to enjoy them. Serve and store butter tarts at room temperature.

From cheesecake to ice cream, these fresh takes on Canadian butter tarts will satisfy every sweet tooth.

Zucchini Noodles With Spinach Pesto is a Yummy Weeknight Dinner

This easy vegan spinach pesto recipe is perfect if fresh basil is out of season, above your budget or difficult to find. Pair it with traditional noodles or enjoy with fresh zucchini noodles for a healthy alternative. Note: a food processor is required for this recipe.


Zucchini Noodles With Spinach Pesto

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 2


1 ½ cups fresh spinach (firmly packed)
1 clove garlic (optional)
2 ¼ tsp lemon juice
¼ tsp sea salt
½ cup walnuts
⅛ cup olive oil
2 medium zucchinis

1. Add spinach, garlic, lemon juice and salt to your food processor. Process until spinach is completely processed and garlic is reduced (about 45 seconds).

2. Add remaining ingredients (walnuts and olive oil) to the food processor mixture. Process again until walnuts are fine, resembling pesto.

Related: Best-Ever Pasta Recipes for Easy Dinners

3. To make your noodles, peel your zucchini (remove outer green peel).  Use a clean vegetable peeler (or a vegetable spiralizer if you have one) to slice zucchini into “noodles.”

4. Place noodles and sauce into a large bowl and gently stir using two spoons until well combined. Enjoy immediately.

Tip: Spinach pesto keeps extremely well in the fridge for up to 4 days. If making in advance, store sauce in fridge. Then make fresh zucchini noodles at the last minute and assemble.

Published August 11, 2015, Updated May 29, 2018


Exclusive Interview With The Winner Of Top Chef Canada Season 6

In a sixth season that featured next-generation talent, Top Chef Canada ran the gamut in terms of competitors. But it was Newfoundland’s Ross Larkin who rose to the top with his simple plates and bold flavours, taking down “mad-scientist” Mark Singson in the big finale. Not only did Larkin, the Chef de Cuisine at Raymonds, bring the win home to The Rock, but he proved that even a chef without formal training can impress judges with the right combination of ingredients, flavours and raw talent.

Although he faced elimination on several occasions (often with an immunity in his back pocket) Ross eventually went on a winning streak in the back half of the season and didn’t look back.

We chatted with the chef about the pressure he faced after winning immunity, why Nathan Guggenheimer leaving the show surprised him most of all, and what he plans to do with his winnings.

Mark congratulating Ross on his win.

 What made you enter the competition?

A big part was my wife pushing me to do it.

Did you do anything special to prepare? Or more accurately did your wife make you do anything special to prepare?

Yes, my wife is a pastry chef here at Raymonds so I did some training with her. I built on the foundation of flavours more than methods and recipes. I memorized a couple of ratios for shortbread and things like that, but I’m not a trained pastry chef by any sense of the imagination so I didn’t want to overstep my reach by doing all these things I knew I couldn’t execute properly. I approached pastry in a way that I knew I could execute flavours that would meld well together and be comfortable in what I was doing. If you’re not trained in desserts or have some sort of pastry background in your repertoire it’s difficult. It’s not like savoury cooking where you can kind of put things together and wing-it, so to speak. You need to know temperatures, you need to know ratios… you need to know a lot.

Ross in Episode 5 of Top Chef Canada

Did you learn anything from watching past seasons of the show?

I knew going into it that there’s no real training, no real preparation that can get you ready for the mental side of things. We can all cook—everyone that was on the show is an amazing chef. Their skills are great and they’re very talented. It’s the time restraints, and the challenges, and everything you’re not allowed to do that you can’t train for. In your own kitchen, you’re in your comfort zone. You know where everything is and how your kitchen flows and how your equipment works. Being taken out of that comfort zone is more than half of the show. It might sound weird to say, but I didn’t think too far ahead, other than the challenge at hand. There’s no point in thinking about tomorrow because you might not be there tomorrow. With what you know how to do, trust yourself, trust your instinct. We were all chosen to do Top Chef Canada because of the people who cast us, or the judges felt like we were the best to be there. They wanted to see what we had to offer and how we cook and who we are. That’s what I did; I never changed the way I cooked or the ingredients I used. I never second-guessed myself one step of the way.

You bring up the mental aspect, which we really saw with Nathan when left this season. Were you surprised he made that decision?

Yeah. Nathan was my best man at my wedding. I worked with him in Saskatoon at Dale McKay’s restaurant Ayden’s Kitchen and Bar. I know Nathan and I know who he is. He’s an amazing chef and his food is great. But he has so many ideas and so many thoughts running through his head that he sometimes has a hard time just picking one because he wants to do everything. He’s thinking way too fast and his speed can carry him and it can get the best of him.

Ross’ first entrée: skin on pan-roasted cod with onion soubise, charred onions, leek and sea urchin beurre blanc

Did you have a favourite challenge?

Even watching it now and trying to remember it, you’re not focused as much as you wish you were. In the moment when you’re doing it, I don’t think I ever had a favourite, except the last challenge because those flavours were close to me and so close to home. I brought the island and what I love to the judges, finally. That was definitely my favourite meal, because I had control. I knew my ingredients, I knew what I was doing, I knew what I was using. It wasn’t like, okay, how quickly can you make a dessert out of dried ingredients? I’ll always go back to that one because that was… ridiculous. They’re all tough no matter how simple people think they are. Yeah, it’s only fried chicken but it’s fried chicken on a fryer you’ve never used in a kitchen you don’t know for Nicole Gomes, who has one of the best fried chicken restaurants that I know. It’s not easy. Nothing was easy about the show.

Ross’ amuse bouche: moose heart tartare, whelk skewer and cod chitlin with capelin gold leaf

If you weren’t looking ahead, at what point did you conceptualize that meal?

When they told me I was allowed to source whatever I wanted, that’s when I knew exactly what the menu would be. Other than that I remember talking amongst ourselves and some of the others knew what they were doing for the final meal. I remember thinking, man I don’t know what we’re doing tomorrow so I don’t know why you’re thinking so far ahead. But once it was known that this was the meal you’re allowed to use whatever ingredients you wanted, like make a wish list, I knew what I was going to cook. I was going to cook food from the island.

Ross and his mentor Jeremy Charles putting the finishing touches on Ross’ final meal

What did it mean to have your boss and mentor Jeremy Charles beside you to cook that meal?

That was like a day in the kitchen. By saying that it was like any other day cooking at the restaurant with Jeremy; it was a huge weight lifted. I knew then and there whatever the outcome was, it was going to be a great day. I was cooking with one of my friends, it was going to be fun, everything was going to be beautiful. We know each other. I’ve learned so much from him like less is more. Cooking simplistic, beautiful, ingredient-driven food is a major thing I’ve learned from him.

Let’s talk immunity. Did you feel extra pressure once you had it?

Oh of course. As soon as it was bestowed upon me, immediately I could feel everyone look at me in a different way. Everyone was there to win, but then having this immunity, everyone really stepped up their game that much more. Once there was one immunity for the entire season and I had it and you could only use it within four other challenges, it was like you have a target on your back.

Matt Sullivan, in particular, kept gunning for you after that.

Yeah! [Laughs.] I had no idea! We’re all there and friends and joking but you don’t know what’s going on in the interview rooms or what people are saying or thinking until we’re all watching the show. It’s like ‘Wow.’ Even my friends and family were like, ‘Did you know Matthew was out for you?’ I don’t feel like he was out for me but like he said, he felt I was a threat and he wanted to make sure that was known. It was funny because he sent me a text and he was like, ‘You must hate me.’ I don’t hate anyone. It’s a competition and I think sometimes people forget that. It’s like this is a competition, we’re all friends walking away from it, but going into it everyone wanted to win.


Was it like Murphy’s Law that once you had the immunity you wound up on the bottom three times?

I’m going to say yes, I’ll take that. That was more than ironic I guess. The first time I didn’t use the immunity, I just knew. I knew what I cooked, I stood by it and didn’t second guess myself. Even if I was eliminated on that challenge I would have been eliminated happy with what I did. I wouldn’t serve food that I wasn’t happy with, so I just felt that I was happy and confident with what I did and that it wasn’t the worst dish of the day. The second time, for Restaurant Wars, I was the team captain (chosen by Matt) and you can’t do that to people—in whatever reality you’re in. You’re the team leader, you’re the captain, you go down with the ship. You don’t throw your teammates or coworkers under the bus because you have this immunity card. That’s not a real thing. Karma is a real thing and that will get you. You just don’t treat people like that.

Was it a no-brainer when you did use it?

It was the last time I could use it, so why not use it as a strategy to send two people home and ironically save the two people that went to the final? Unfortunately, I had to send home two great chefs. Being in the situation, not knowing about Matt, it wasn’t my thought to use it as a strategic advantage against him; I wanted to save myself and my partner.

What does it mean for you to bring this win back to Newfoundland?

It’s huge. Being the only chef on the show from the Atlantic provinces, winning by making the actual food I do and ingredients that are only available to serve in Newfoundland is huge, it’s major. Newfoundland is still pretty young but it’s also old in a sense where we know our heritage and where we came from. The ingredients I use and food I make is food I grew up with. I grew up hunting with my dad, I grew up berry picking with my grandmother and now it’s come full circle. It’s simple food. It’s local and fresh and organic and beautiful.

What has Jeremy Charles thought of the win?

He thinks it’s great. It’s great for me, for Newfoundland, for the island, for the food we make.

How will you use your winnings?

I have no idea. I haven’t thought that far ahead. I should. I’m sure I’d save some and I’d love to take a holiday. That probably won’t happen in the middle of summer. Realistically I don’t know. Everything is about timing. Right place, time, people. I’d love to open a restaurant but it’s all about timing. We’re not going to rush into anything.

Top Chef Canada Season 6 Episode 8 Recap

It’s hard to believe we’re already here: the very last episode of Top Chef Canada season six. It’s been a pretty shocking season to say the least, what with contestants returning to the game only to quit (oh, Nathan), frontrunners being sent home in a pretty dramatic fashion and some of the coolest and most innovative plates we’ve ever seen put out on this show.

That basically made it anyone’s game heading into Sunday night.

Jinhee, Mark, Ross and JP remain out off 11 who began this journey

The episode opened with a brief reminder of this year’s Top 4: Jinhee, whose Korean-inspired plates had Mark referring to her as the “silent assassin;” Mark, whose foams and bold flavours made him an early target; Ross, whose real-world experience in the kitchen rivaled any classically trained chef’s; and JP, whose French training is something to be reckoned with. I don’t think I’ve ever been this torn about who I wanted to win.

Learning From Your Mistakes

It seems the judges felt the same way. And so for the very last Quickfire challenge of the season (which also happened to be a double elimination), Mark McEwan, Eden Grinshpan and Janet Zuccarini were all on hand to taste the food. The task? To take a dish that put the chefs on the bottom and transform it into a winning plate. Talk about the past coming back to haunt you. None of the chefs were particularly pumped about the task, but they knew it was time to pull out all the stops if they wanted a spot in that final dinner service.

Jinhee’s birch shrub and lemongrass-marinated duck with coconut red curry and frozen foie gras

Jinhee never really came in the bottom in terms of the Elimination Challenges, but as we saw during the food trend Quickfire in episode three, “frozen” and “coconut” were not her forte. So she recreated her dish by plating a coconut red curry and injecting it with frozen foie gras in a move that McEwan deemed genius. The plate’s only downfall? The curry tasted a little too much like something the chef had previously served the judges.

JP’s ravioli in brodo: chicken and chicken liver stuffed ravioli in clarified broth

For his part, JP had an epic fail in the Canadian farmer Elimination Challenge in episode two, despite his cool concept of what came first, the chicken or the egg. So he tried to recreate his Ravioli in Brodo by improving on the pasta’s texture and making the stuffing itself tastier. Unfortunately, he still missed the mark and the pasta was slightly too thick for the judges’ liking, which meant he was clearly on the bottom.

Mark’s roasted lamb saddle with bread emulsion, blistered tomatoes and apricot relish

Meanwhile, Mark had failed to impress during the more recent pizza Elimination Challenge in episode six, so it was back to the dough for him. In an hour he whipped up a Roasted Lamb Saddle with Bread Emulsion, Blistered Tomatoes & Apricot Relish that impressed the judges so much they seemed giddy. It’s not often you get to eat a deconstructed pizza at that level, I suppose. Give this guy all the points for creativity.

Ross’s lobster bisque with butter-poached lobster, roasted corn and confit fennel

That left Ross, who was asked to recreate the lobster bisque he served up during the hockey Elimination Challenge, and this time he made sure to crush those lobster bones even harder to get the brilliant red colour (not to mention flavour) you want in a bisque. It was the ultimate redemption for East Coasters everywhere when the judges said he nailed it.

By the time the judges were ready to decide, it was obvious JP was going to be sent knives packing and that Mark was going to move on, but it seemed like a toss-up between Jinhee and Ross. Maybe they just wanted to see an East versus West coast showdown, or perhaps they were less impressed with Jinhee’s curry than they let on. But the judges deemed Ross and Mark as the two finalists, which meant Jinhee had to say farewell to her brothers.

Goodbye, Jinhee. I’d still love to grab that glass of wine with you.

The Final Dinner

Mark and Ross listen to the judges before beginning preparation on the final challenge

It was poetic, in a way, that Ross and Mark should cook together at the very end. They made for a pretty cool team in the hockey challenge, and it was because of Ross’s immunity that they were both left standing at the end. I guess Matthew was right after all when he predicted that Ross was one of the top competitors.

But that’s the past, and we had a challenge to get to in the present: show the judges your personality on a plate. I’m always super jealous of these judges for getting to try so many yummy things during the competition, but the tasting menu in the finale always makes me the most jealous of all. It’s like they’re sampling so much fare they don’t know what to do with themselves when I’m sure all of us at home would love a bite… or two.

This year, not only were Mark and Ross going to be whipping up a feast in the kitchen, but the judges asked season three winner Matthew Stowe and Ross’s boss Jeremy Charles to come out and help the guys as their respective sous-chefs. That’s a whole lot of star power taking over the kitchen at the OMNI King Edward Hotel.

Matthew Stowe (left) will assist Mark and Jeremy Charles (right) will help Ross

Right away both chefs realized how important their overall story would be in terms of impressing the judges with their food. For Ross, he wanted to showcase his Newfoundland heritage with simple ingredients that spoke for themselves. Meanwhile, Mark wanted to pay homage to his own Filipino roots, and in particular to his mother who left home when he was one to come to Canada. He didn’t get to even meet her until he was eight, when he followed her to our home and native land. Now that’s how you make it personal.

Ross’s Menu

Anyhow, let’s start with Ross’s offerings, shall we? He literally put heart on a plate with his amuse bouche, which was a trio of moose heart tartare, whelk skewer and cod chitlin with capelin gold leaf. “We eats it all in Newfoundland,” he and Jeremy joked as they assembled the bites.

Amuse bouche: moose heart tartare, whelk skewer and cod chitlin with capelin gold leaf

For an appetizer, Ross then moved on to a sea urchin and diver scallop offering that Janet said showed a lot of restraint—something that’s sometimes harder to do in a competition like this than to go all-out.

Appetizer: sea urchin and torn diver scallop with dashi and dried seaweed

But what really seemed to be best-sellers for the judges were Ross’ cod, and his wild hare and partridge entrees. When Ross poured sauce from that flower vessel they were falling all over themselves at how cute it was. It’s no wonder Ross was chuckling to himself in the kitchen afterwards—that has got to feel pretty damned good at this point in the finale, no? All that was left was an equally innovative dessert, which was a roasted parsnip concoction that was just sweet enough to satisfy the judges.

First entrée: skin on pan-roasted cod with onion soubise, charred onions, leek and sea urchin beurre blanc

Second entrée: wild hare and partridge with partridge heart, artichoke purée, winter chanterelles and glazed beet

Dessert: roasted parsnip cream with parsnip chip, whisky-compressed apples and creeping snowberries

“This would be your worst seller but your best experience,” McEwan declared of the dish.

Mark’s Menu

Then there was Mark, who went for a totally different style (only two foams!) but was equally impressive in his offerings. He absolutely wowed the judges with his amuse bouche, a kusshi oyster with lightly smoked crème fraiche and pickled shallots to bring it all together. Every single one of the judges’ faces lit up when they popped that thing in their mouths, proving that this was going to be one competitive final dinner service.

Amuse bouche: kusshi oyster with dill oil, smoked crème fraîche and pickled shallots

“I can’t handle what he just gave us,” Eden said.

“Oh my God you’ve got places to go,” Chris Nuttall-Smith raved.

The highs kept on coming with Mark’s deconstructed burger appetizer, which was a beef tartare with all the elements of his favourite burger, like charcoal mayo, toasted bread and tomato bacon jam. “It’s just like eating a burger,” Eden declared.

Appetizer: beef tartare with charcoal mayonnaise, tomato bacon jam, iceberg lettuce and toasted bread

Personally, I was curious how McEwan—the burger king—would respond to the dish, because isn’t that the real challenge when you serve up a burger? Turns out he wasn’t just impressed with the food, he said it also brought back memories of him eating burgers in the backyard. Chalk one up for Mark, folks.

First entrée: cured tuna with truffle soy, cilantro relish, crispy nori, salted cucumber and shaved white truffles

Where Mark stumbled was with his mains. Janet was critical of his tuna and “make it rain” white truffle shavings, claiming the flavours melded together a little too much. The other judges disagreed and said the flavours actually worked together quite well, but then again they didn’t exactly rave about the dish either. As for Mark’s second, the duck entrée? That was just all-right too and maybe even a little dry, according to the judges. Considering that dish looked like the simplest one Mark has put out to date, I have to say I was a little disappointed in it watching from home, too.

Second entrée: seared duck and scallop with rose petal xo, bbq jus and fried rice

That left Mark’s dessert, which was an elevated take on Halo-Halo and another Filipino classic. It managed to put Mark back in the judges’ good graces again, with Mijune Pak even declaring that Mark should open his own Filipino restaurant.

Dessert: Halo-halo with coconut sorbet, pandan syrup, coconut and grassroot jelly, toasted coconut and crushed iced tea

Well, yes—that’s the idea, and why this guy entered the competition to begin with. He’s been pretty clear about needing that cash to get out of the catering business and to open his own brick and mortar spot.

Canada’s Next Top Chef Is…

With the eating aspect out of the way, and considering how well received both menus were, I still thought it was really anyone’s game. McEwan himself declared that this was the toughest showdown ever, proving even further how conflicted everyone was. And while the chefs were supposed to be judged on this one service alone, I imagine you can’t help but be influenced by past performances too. Mark was steadily at the top this whole time, while Ross stumbled through the first half of the season. That has to factor in, no?

Perhaps, but in the end, it was the Newfoundland chef who impressed the most, and Ross got to hear those magic words: “You are Canada’s Top Chef.” He quickly fell to his knees (as one does in that kind of a situation), realizing that his life had just forever changed.

Cue the biggest smile we’ve seen from the stone-faced chef all season long.

“This is a life-changing event for me because I believed in the food I was cooking,” he said. “I never second-guessed myself… it paid off. This is for so many people. It’s for my wife, for my son and myself… it’s for everyone on that little island on the East Coast that kind of gets forgotten about.”

“I was surprised it took Ross so long to get going because I knew he was a much better cook than what he was showing us,” McEwan said. “He’s kind of a shy individual, it just took him longer to get out of his skin and actually do it. And when he did, he was really creative. The finale meal was unbelievable. He was the clear winner and we said, ‘We’re not looking back on the rearview mirror. We’re not analyzing.’ He won the day.”

As for Mark? It seems like he’s destined to always be the bridesmaid and never the bride. At least in this season of Top Chef Canada.

“So close!” he said to cameras afterwards with his chin up. “I know I’m a good cook and that’s why I am feeling like this is just the beginning… I can’t wait for the next step.”

“Mark is brilliant with making incredible flavours in tiny little dishes. You have one bite of his and there’s more flavour a lot of the time in that single bite that you’ll find in an entire meal from other chefs,” Chris Nuttall-Smith said. “He’s going to land extremely well… He’s learning and waiting to see where can he go that will make a real impact. I have absolutely no worries that he is going to wind up doing something huge.”

And just like that, another season of Top Chef Canada was in the books. Bubbly for everyone, y’all, because what a season it’s been.


5 Make-Ahead Chicken Marinades You Can Freeze Now and BBQ Later

One of the very best things about summer eating is the effortless cooking. And a smart way to make summer cooking simple while keeping it interesting is to marinate chicken and pop it in the freezer. When you’re ready to eat, just defrost the package of your choice and toss it on the grill. To get you started, we’re giving you 5 unique, quick-to-prepare marinade options for a freezer full of winning chicken dinners. 

How to Marinade and Freeze Chicken for the BBQ

The following marinades are great with chicken breasts, thighs, drumsticks and wings. All you need to do is whisk or blend the ingredients listed together, toss them with 1 lb of your favourite chicken directly in an airtight zipper bag, seal and store in the freezer for up to two months. Set in the fridge the night before to defrost and voila: a tasty, weekend-worthy barbecue is possible on even the most hectic weeknight!

Greek Chicken Marinade Recipe

Inspired by fresh Greek flavours, this chicken marinade comes packed with flavour, and is best served with tender veggies, grains or potatoes and a generous sprinkling of crumbled feta.

Whisk to combine ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil with 2 Tbsp each chopped fresh oregano, sun-dried tomatoes and lemon juice, 4 cloves minced garlic and salt and ground black pepper to taste.

Sesame-Orange Chicken Marinade Recipe

Sweet with a bit of heat is all it takes to make this irresistible, Asian-inspired marinade. Whisk to combine 3 Tbsp orange juice, 2 Tbsp vegetable oil, 1 Tbsp sesame oil, 1 Tbsp soy sauce, 1 Tbsp brown sugar, 3 cloves minced garlic, ¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes and ground black pepper to taste.


Green Goddess Chicken Marinade Recipe

A super-easy, garden herb marinade that brings tons of fresh, summery flavour. In a blender or food processor, blend ½ cup each chopped fresh parsley and chopped fresh cilantro leaves (with their tender stems), 4 chopped green onions, ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, 2 Tbsp lemon juice, 2 cloves garlic and salt and ground black pepper to taste.

Sticky BBQ Chicken  Marinade Recipe

So sweet and sticky, you’ll have trouble not licking your fingers! Whisk to combine 3 Tbsp maple syrup, 2 Tbsp vegetable oil, 1 Tbsp tomato paste, 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar, 2 tsp hot sauce, 2 cloves minced garlic and salt and ground black pepper to taste.

Honey-Sriracha Chicken Marinade Recipe

The ubiquitous hot pepper sauce strikes again with a homemade chicken marinade made for the BBQ. Stir together 2 Tbsp each Sriracha hot sauce, honey and vegetable oil with 1 tsp garlic powder and salt and ground black pepper to taste.

Every BBQ needs an ice-cold beverage, so here are a handful of fruit-filled sangria recipes to take on that role.

Top Chef Canada Season 6 Episode 7 Recap

In order to appreciate how far you’ve come, sometimes you have to look back to the past. That seemed to be exactly what the remaining chefs were doing heading into Sunday night’s penultimate episode of Top Chef Canada; with Darren eliminated that meant things were really going to heat up for the Top 5 and they knew it. Each one of them reflected as much to the cameras as they pondered what winning this thing would actually do for them, especially Jinhee, as she reminded us all what a win would mean to her.

The remaining five chefs; only four will move onto the final episode

But there’s a time for reflection and there’s a time for action, and with a Quickfire to get to there wasn’t much time for reflection. Not when Eden Grinshpan and guest judge Amanda Cohen (of New York City’s Dirt Candy restaurant) were ready to sample some special French fare.

Amanda Cohen joins Eden Grinshpan to judge the Quickfire Challenge

But Make it Vegan

When you think of French cuisine what comes to mind? For me it’s creamy, buttery goodness, rich, meaty textures, and of course robust flavours (why do you think it pairs so perfectly with wine?). What French cuisine is not as well known for is its plant-based goodness. But with a vegan master like Cohen ready to judge the challenge, of course that was the Top Chef Canada twist of the week.

Obviously, none of these carnivores were impressed at the thought of turning things like tartare and coq au vin into delightful vegan plates. Ross basically called it an oxymoron when he was asked to create a vegan foie gras parfait, while Jinhee’s face at being tasked with a vegan beef bourguignon was pretty much the entire reason to tune into the show. In fact, only Mark seemed excited about the prospect of a plant-based dish, because it’s something he does all the time through his catering company.

The challenge left Jinhee almost speechless

One thing that everyone seemed to be able to agree on is that after having gone through a competition like this and surviving each dish together, this fab five felt more like a family than ever before. Jinhee even began referring to the other guys as her “brothers,” solidifying how they all felt about one another. In a world of cut-throat competition shows, it’s nice to see one in which the contestants genuinely seem to have one another’s backs, isn’t it?

Mark’s Vegan Coquilles St. Jacques: seared potato, potato skin jus, chive oil, white wine onion foam and torn bread

Anyhow, the level of innovation was pretty freaking spectacular. As someone who totally subscribes to eating more of a plant-based diet on the regular, I’m a total trend-follower in that regard. But that doesn’t mean I make good vegan food—usually, my creations are watery dishes with lots of beans and disappointed faces at the dinner table from Hubby and Toddler. So every single one of the dishes these chefs put out really impressed me. I thought it was pretty cool how Mark used seared potatoes to look like scallops, while Ross’s mushroom custard sounded ridiculously delicious. JP managed to piece together a really cool “tartare” of plum and beets that I’d kill to try, and Jinhee’s mushroom concoction turned out to be pretty fancy looking too.

JP’s Vegan Steak Tartare: marinated plum & beet tartare with horseradish tarragon aioli and charred bread

Jinhee’s Vegan Beef Bourguignon: roasted lobster mushrooms, maitake mushrooms, carrots, potato confit in mushroom stock

But while all of those dishes were fine and fancy, it was good old Nate, who once again went into this thing with little confidence, who managed to come out on top with a rustic offering of “Champignons Au Vin.” The flavours completely impressed Amanda Cohen—who declared that all of the chefs nailed this thing, by the way—and Nathan finally landed the big W after being in the Quickfire bottom every week since his return.

Nathan’s Vegan Coq Au Vin: roasted maitake mushrooms with portobello and porcini mushrooms and root vegetables

Sorry Mark, your own streak of making it to the top but never winning continues.

“Boom, I’m on top! It’s great… I was aiming for the middle,” Nathan told the cameras afterwards.

Bottle of Red or Bottle of White?

Unfortunately for Nate, he didn’t have long to celebrate, not with an Elimination Challenge to get through. And what an Elimination Challenge it was—not only would the winner get an all-expense paid trip to Napa Valley, but he or she would also secure themselves a spot in the finale. You could feel the tension mounting.

Top Chef Canada: All-Stars’ Dustin Gallagher

So how do you get a group of tense chefs to relax? By bringing in Top Chef Canada: All-Stars runner-up Dustin Gallagher, of course. He waltzed into the kitchen with that signature smile as a guest-judge for the big challenge: to create a canope that pairs with a Beringer wine. Dusty won this same challenge last year, so he was able to give the chefs some sage words of advice: keep it simple. Easy words when you’re also trying to impress a boatload of judges with just one fancy little bite, if you ask me.

Even though Nathan had the advantage of selecting which wine he’d pair with his dish (pinot, because that’s what he “drinks the most of”), you could tell he still wasn’t really on his game. Anyhow, Nathan decided to prepare a chicken and foie gras canape, but even before he was putting it out he was asking Ross whether he should add more parsley. Don’t get me wrong, I love that these guys are willing to help each other out, but at this point in the game Nate should be confident in his own skills. He’s there for a reason.

Mark’s Kilawin: ahi tuna with XO sauce, cilantro jus, apple kombu relish, crispy nori and smoked oil

Mark was certainly confident, in a mad scientist meets Top Chef Canada kind of way. It really looked like things could go either way for him at McEwan Foods, when he spent so much time waiting in line at the seafood counter that he barely paid attention to the rest of the things he threw in his cart. As a result, for the first time that I can remember in the show’s history, a contestant was over the limit at the checkout and had to actually put some stuff back. See that? Those numbers aren’t just an empty threat.

Ross’s scallop crudo with grilled pear, apple, thyme jelly, cucumber foam and smoked scallop roe

Actually, huge kudos to the entire editing team in general on this episode because I would have bet it all on Mark going home. Between the disaster at the grocery store and then Mark McEwan’s advice that the chef needed to add a little more punch to his tuna dish because it wouldn’t stand out against the wine pairing, it looked like Mark’s risks wouldn’t pay off. So it was a huge surprise when he was named the night’s overall winner (Dustin declared his dish even made the wine taste even better), landing himself a trip to Napa and an immediate spot in next week’s finale. Also on top was Jinhee, whose red wine and pork pairing was unexpected and delicious, according to the judges. In fact, Mijune Pak called the sauce she served it with “MSG 2.0.” In a complimentary sort way. Meanwhile, Ross took a page from Mark and served up a cucumber foam with his scallop crudo, resulting in McEwan declaring that Ross has finally found his sea legs. It’s about time, if you ask me. I’ve been curious what Matt saw in him as his hardest competitor.

It’s genuine happiness (and relief!) when Jinhee, Mark and Ross found out they’re going to the finale

Oh. Nathan.

That left Nate and his chicken meat log, and JP, with his basic duck magret, in the bottom fighting for their lives. Or at least I thought they’d be fighting for their lives; as it turns out Nathan was just plain old ready to fall on his sword.

Before the judges could really dig in and criticize either dish, Nathan asked to speak.

“I would like to disqualify myself from this competition,” he said to the shocked faces over at the judges’ table. “I know I’ve struggled, and it’s not just cooking. It’s mentally. There’s been a lot of things that I’ve put up that I’d never, ever put up. Even when I’ve won I haven’t been happy or satisfied with my dish.”

Talk about a shocker, huh? Okay so maybe not a complete shocker, given that Nathan clearly has been struggling, but why would he just opt out before the finale? Especially since I’m pretty sure someone like Felix or Ivana would have killed to be in his spot.

Nathan voluntarily withdraws from the competition; JP can’t believe what he’s hearing

Even JP seemed upset by the decision, noting that he didn’t feel like he had earned a spot in the Top 4. McEwan was quick to reassure him, but I understand his feeling like he’d won by default. Let’s just hope he moves on and proves himself next week when the real prize is officially on the line.

“Nathan put so much heart [into it], he doesn’t know where to stop,” Mijune said afterwards. “You end up just getting something that’s super confusing as your end product and that’s not what you’re about or what you wanted to present… If Nathan worked at finding his voice and what to listen to from others and [to strike] that balance between what people are telling you to do and what you actually want to do, that is something that he would benefit from hugely.”

Sadly, it obviously won’t be on a reality show where we can all see it.

“I do apologize for doing this but at the same time it wasn’t making me feel good in my own self,” Nathan said following his elimination. “To me, that was more important than any money could possibly offer me. I just couldn’t go on. I feel happy even though there’s a lot of people around me that are very sad. This was me, this is my choice and it was my time to just sort of move on.”

What. A. Game.

And just like that, we’re almost at the end. The Top 4 return one more time next week for the final showdown. At this point, it feels like anyone’s game.

butter tarts on white plate

Butter Tart Spots to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth

Butter tarts are a uniquely Canadian dessert with a history as rich as the country itself. If you’ve never experienced the glory of these treats, they’re delightful pastries filled with a sticky, sweet, buttery filling. Raisins or pecans are popular additions to the filling while some bakers get creative with fruit, candy or other unique variations. Invented in Ontario, the province is also home to award-winning tarts and even has a festival that has transformed the dessert into a full-day experience. If you’re on a quest for butter tart bliss, here are Ontario’s top spots to indulge in this tasty treat.

Ontario’s Best Butter Tart Festival (Midland, ON)

The ultimate destination for butter tart buffs, Ontario’s Best Butter Tart Festival takes place in Midland every year. With more than 60 vendors and over 150,000 tarts for sale, it’s the perfect place for the entire family to try baked goods from across the province. Home to Ontario’s Best Butter Tart competition, bakers enter their finest classic and contemporary creations, and a panel of expert judges selects the best of the best! Another highlight of the day is the Butter Tart Trot, which includes a family-friendly fun run, as well as a 5K, 10K and half marathon.

Maple Key Tart Co. (Locations in Toronto and Northumberland County, ON)

Rachel Smith and Jean Parker, hosts of Food Network Canada’s The Baker Sisters, have been baking tarts since childhood when they helped their mother with her butter tart business. After they became mothers themselves, they co-founded their boutique butter tart company, taking their mother’s award-winning recipe and making a few tasty tweaks. Their rustic, handcrafted tarts are made with locally-milled flour and vegetable shortening and are available in four varieties: classic, raisin, pecan and maple walnut.

The Maid’s Cottage (Newmarket, ON)

Three-time winners at Ontario’s Best Butter Tart Festival, sisters Pam and Debbie got a young start helping their mother, Jackie, sell tarts and other baked goods on their front lawn. As word spread about Jackie’s baking, she opened their first shop on Main Street in Newmarket and expanded to a larger location nearby a year later. Jackie sadly passed in 2003, but Pam and Debbie have continued the tradition, making their famous butter tarts from a secret family recipe.

The perfect buttertart ❤️ #buttertartfestival #themaidscottage

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Bitten on Locke (Hamilton, ON)

Rebecca and Erica at Bitten conquered the cupcake game before venturing into butter tarts. They researched a number of recipes from cookbooks, friends and family to come up with a base for their tarts and spent many delicious months adjusting it until they landed on their current formula. Their traditional flaky pastry is made with lard and includes one secret ingredient that really sets them apart. While their cupcakes venture on the wild side, this duo considers themselves butter tart purists, offering only plain, raisin or pecan tarts.

Nana B’s Bakery (Merrickville, ON)

Owner Anne Barr created the award-winning maple rhubarb apple butter tart that took first place in the Pro All-Ontario Ingredient category at last year’s Ontario’s Best Butter Tart Festival. Anne’s tarts are proudly made with ingredients sourced locally, in Eastern Ontario, and while her bakery is popular with locals, it is also a destination for day-trippers, boaters and cyclists alike. Nana B’s is committed to helping keep the environment beautiful, reducing and recycling as much as possible, and sends its used vegetable oil to a local garage for biodiesel conversion.

The Sweet Oven (Barrie, ON)

This Barrie Bakery owned by Becky Howard and her family is known right across the country for their handcrafted tarts. Each tart is made from scratch from the highest quality ingredients and baked on site. With more than 20 flavours to choose from, there is something to please every palate. They have the classics like pecan and raisin, but chocolate chip, peanut butter, English toffee and their signature tart raspberry are other popular picks.

Carla’s Cookie Box (Toronto, ON)

Carla’s love of baking started as a kid while making traditional Italian cookies with her mom. As an adult, she started her butter tart journey at the request of her son after sifting through recipes from friends. None were quite right, so she experimented until she landed on her own recipe. Her handcrafted tarts are made in small batches, sometimes with help from her husband and kids, using the freshest maple syrup, flour, eggs and butter from Ontario farms and businesses. In addition to traditional fillings, she dabbles in fun flavours like nutella swirl and pina colada.

In honour of #TeamCanada and how proud they’ve already made us #pyeongchang2018

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Doo Doo’s Bakery (Bailieboro, ON)

It was a bittersweet beginning for Diane Rogers’ butter tarts. Newly widowed and raising a teen and a toddler; she started her late-night baking sessions while the kids were sleeping. A self-taught baker, she developed her signature pastry by experimenting with an old recipe. Her soft, hand-rolled pastry is made in small batches with the finest ingredients. The light, flaky tarts have a jelly-like filling that’s not overly sweet with a good filling-to-crust ratio. Diane’s best ideas still come at night, so that’s her favourite time to prepare for a competition or event.

Betty’s Pies and Tarts (Cobourg, ON)

Over 40 years ago, Betty sold homemade baked goods from a converted garage, using a butter tart recipe handed down from a bakery she worked at. Betty retired in 2001 and sold the business to Nancy Coady, who first moved it to Port Hope and then to its location on Highway 2. Current owner Ali Jiggins worked at Betty’s through high school, and after university, bought the bakery from Nancy. Ali still uses Betty’s award-winning recipe with a few tweaks. They have a slightly heavy crust with a runnier filling and comes in unique flavours like PB&J and raspberry-coconut.

Want to make your own tasty treats? Try this s’mores butter tart recipe.

A Royal Wedding Inspired Tea Party Menu

Take a cue from the House of Windsor and hail Britannia with this very proper wedding inspired royal tea. Steeped in tradition with a hint of a modern twist, our afternoon tea for eight is fit for both the Queen Mum and the next-gen royals in line for the crown. We’ll walk you through the perfectly-mannered steps of serving a bountiful feast of sandwiches, biscuits, desserts and, of course, tea, that will delight any anglophile in your life.

Despite seeming decidedly lowbrow next to high tea, its imperial sounding cousin, afternoon tea, stems from the habits of the Duchess of Bedford in the early 19th century. Small sandwiches, scones and other bite-sized treats became popular amongst the rich and famous, while high tea remained a substantial meal meant to sustain the working class at the end of the day.


Tea Sandwiches

Traditional tea sandwiches are dainty delicacies, made with thinly sliced bread and vegetables and meant to be consumed in one or two bites. In your own kitchen, a mandoline or vegetable peeler can be used to make almost translucent shavings for fillings, while a rolling pin helps to flatten the bread. When it comes to fillings, think beyond plain cucumber and try to offer a variety of savoury and sweet to suit all tastes. Simplify your life by pressing a versatile bread such as brioche into double duty for both types of fillings — the slight sweetness will make a good pairing for most teatime toppings. For a playful take on tea sandwiches, transform the flavours of Bloody Mary cocktails such as pimento olives and anchovy paste into a small snack, or take tuna salad from the lunchbox to the parlour with fancy open-faced tuna and white bean treats.

Get the recipe for: Brioche Tea Sandwiches,  Bloody Mary Tea Sandwiches,  Open-faced Tuna Tea Sandwiches.


Scones with Jam, Cream and More 

Given the brouhaha over the correct order of cream and jam layering, Brits take their scones seriously. Avoid controversy by letting guests slather their own scone with Devonshire cream, lemon herb chèvre or a honey and orange flavoured homemade butter. Offering gluten-free and vegetarian versions is a nice touch for dietary-restricted guests. When baking scones, use a light touch to avoid overworking the dough and ending up with tough scones.

Get the recipe for: Lemon Berry Scones With Lemon Glaze and Devonshire Cream,  Gluten-free Sweet Potato Scones, Lemon Cranberry Scones

Watch Anna Olson teach you how to make flavoured homemade butter and other homemade treats, then get a step-by-step recipe for Honey and Orange Butter and Herb Butter.


Biscuits and Cakes 

Dust off your tiered cake stands and silver trays — or fashion a sleeker version with plates balanced on overturned bowls — to serve these prettily portioned treats. Think small and bite-sized to keep a sense of modest British restraint, but offer a variety so you and your guests don’t feel deprived. Our menu contrasts the checkerboard pattern of a traditional Battenberg cake with the gooey lusciousness of savoury cream cheese profiteroles and Southern charm of a butter pecan crumpets.

Get the recipe for: Battenberg Cake, Savoury Cream Cheese Profiteroles, Butter Pecan Crumpets


A comforting pot of tea is often filled with a well-known blend such as Earl Grey, and steeped in ritual. Niceties such as warming the teapot first with boiling water, swaddling the teapot in a cozy and debating the milk in first or last question are all traditions you can bring across the pond for your afternoon tea. For variety, why not take it a step further by offering your guests some different flavours and temperatures in their cuppa? Mint tea is a soothing herbal digestif with a beautiful aroma and colour, while lemon lavender iced tea offers a refreshing floral note for your senses. For those who want to be a bit naughty like Winston Churchill, who reportedly used to hide strong spirits in his teapot during Prohibition, a white tea and rum cocktail with honey lime syrup will fit the bill. Serve up your tea in your best china, or for a more modern take, mix and match in Chinese, Japanese, Russian or Moroccan teacups for a splash of colour and pattern. Be sure to select china or glassware that can withstand hot liquid, and place saucers or doilies strategically to avoid spillage.

Get the recipe for: Moroccan Mint Tea, Lemon Lavender Iced Tea, White Tea and Rum Cocktail With Honey Lime Syrup

So this season, whether you are hosting William, Kate, Harry or Meghan (or a party of aristocratically-minded friends and family), raise a cup to celebrate the ritual of afternoon tea. Just remember to keep those pinkie fingers down — Miss Manners dispelled the habit as a needless affectation once the cup handle was invented.

Toronto Taste Chef Challenge

Enter for a Chance to Win VIP Passes to Toronto Taste

Toronto Taste, the city’s renowned culinary fundraiser, returns June 3rd for another enticing evening in support of Second Harvest. We’re thrilled to be giving away a VIP prize pack to one Food Network Canada fan!

Mark McEwan at Toronto Taste 2017

Set at Corus Quay, located on Toronto’s scenic waterfront, this year’s event features delectable dishes and delightful drinks from over 60 restaurants and 30 beverage purveyors. You’ll also have an opportunity to meet some of your favourite Food Network Canada stars including Mark McEwan, Michael Smith, and Top Chef Canada contestants Elia Herrera, Ivana Raca and Carl Heinrich.

Toronto Taste 2017

The evening is filled with exquisite eats, auctions and entertainment, including the action-packed annual Chef Challenge, co-hosted by Noah Cappe. Food Network Canada and Global News will also be hosting a lounge where guests can sit back and savour the entire experience.

Since 1991, Toronto Taste has raised over $13 million to support Second Harvest’s food rescue program. Every ticket sold enables Second Harvest to provide meals for adults, children and seniors in need. Last year, the event raised a record-breaking $925,000 — enough to rescue and deliver 1.8 million nutritious meals across the city.

For more information and to purchase tickets for Toronto Taste on June 3rd visit torontotaste.ca.

We’re giving away one (1) VIP prize pack to Toronto Taste (including 2 VIP tickets, an overnight stay at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel, and a $50 Uber gift card).

To enter, comment below and tell us, “Who is your favourite Food Network Canada Chef?” For your chance to win, you must comment by 11:59 p.m. EDT on May 22, 2018.

No purchase necessary. Limit one (1) entry per person per day. One (1) Prize available to be won. Approximate retail value of Prize CDN$1,200.00. Must be a legal resident of the province of Ontario who is age of majority or older at time of entry.  Contest runs from May 18, 2018 to May 22, 2018. Entries must be received by 11:59 p.m. EDT on May 22, 2018. Skill testing question must be correctly answered to claim Prize. Odds of being selected depend on number of eligible entries received. For full set of rules visit here.


tofu skewers on a slate plate

These Are the 5 Best Meatless BBQ Skewers You’ll Ever Eat

Standard grilled vegetable skewers grow old pretty quick. That’s why we’ve developed five creative, crowd-pleasing vegan versions worthy of any backyard BBQ. We promise they’ll satisfy even the most discerning palates.

1. Candied Maple Balsamic Brussels Sprout Skewers with Red Onion

Brussels sprouts aren’t your typical BBQ fare, but you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how incredibly flavourful and gorgeous they are. Think of them as vegetable lollipops that have been caramelized in sweet maple and balsamic. You can also feel good knowing that you’re eating one of the most nutritious veggies out there. Cue the cravings!

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Servings: 3-4

brussels sprouts skewers on a slate plate

1 lb brussels sprouts, halved
1/2 red onion, sliced into 1-inch squares
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp maple syrup
1 Tbsp dijon mustard
1/4 tsp sea salt

Drizzle of maple syrup
Squeeze of lemon juice
Chopped fresh parsley

prep for brussels sprouts skewers being prepped on a cutting board

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, toss in the brussels sprouts for 1 minute until tender. Remove them, rinse under cold water and pat dry with a towel.
2. Place the brussels sprouts in a bowl with red onion and the rest of the ingredients, toss so the veggies are well coated in the marinade.
3. Arrange the sprouts onto the skewers with red onion in between them – there should be about 4 brussels sprouts per skewer. If using wooden skewers, soak them first. 

brussels sprouts and red onions in a light marinade

4. Pour any remaining marinade left in the bowl over the skewers.
5. Place the skewers onto your BBQ or grill that’s set to medium heat. Cover and grill for about 5 minutes per side, until a nice browning forms.
6. Brush with a little extra maple syrup, a squeeze of lemon juice, fresh parsley and enjoy.

2. Tofu Peanut Satay and Cucumber Skewers Topped with Toasty Peanuts and Fresh Mint

Peanuts, tofu and coconut are a classic combination, and when paired with crisp cucumber ribbons and fresh mint, you get an unbelievably refreshing summertime dish. The satay sauce is creamy, sweet, zesty and salty – we recommend generously drizzling it all over your skewers.

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 10 to 15 minutes
Servings: 4

tofu skewers on a slate plate

1 block firm tofu, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 English cucumber, peeled into long thin ribbons

Tofu Marinade:
1 Tbsp peanut butter
3 Tbsp tamari (or soy sauce)
2 Tbsp sesame oil
2 Tbsp maple syrup
1 clove garlic, minced

Satay Sauce:
1/4 cup coconut milk
3 Tbsp peanut butter
1 Tbsp lime juice
2 tsp tamari (or soy sauce)
2 tsp maple syrup
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 tsp ginger, minced
Pinch of red pepper flakes or dash of hot sauce (optional)
Pinch of sea salt

1/2 cup toasted peanuts, roughly chopped
1 cup mint leaves, roughly chopped

mise en place for tofu skewers

1. Make the marinade in a bowl and let the tofu sit in it for 10-15 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, wash off the cucumber well. Use a vegetable peeler to peel long, thin ribbons, going from top to bottom. You should have 16 long cucumber ribbons. You will have leftover cucumber, so slice it into sticks to snack on.
3. Stir together the ingredients for the satay sauce until smooth.
4. Thread the marinated tofu onto skewers. If you’re using wooden skewers,  make sure you soak them first.
5. Place your skewers onto your BBQ or grill that’s set to medium heat and lightly oil with about 2-3 teaspoons of coconut oil. Grill the tofu for 3-4 minutes per side until you see a nice browning.

A closeup of tofu skewers

6. Once cooked, carefully remove the tofu from the skewers, except for one tofu cube. Then begin threading on the cucumber ribbons, interchanging between tofu and cucumber. You’ll need to fold the cucumber back and forth several times so that it’s easy to thread onto the skewer.
Top with chopped peanuts, satay drizzle and mint leaves. You can also dip each skewer into the satay sauce.

3. Coconut Crusted Tempeh Skewers with Mango Salsa

Tempeh is often a mysterious ingredient, and many people aren’t quite sure how to cook it. This is the perfect recipe if you’re new to the tempeh game – or if you’ve been eating it for years. The coconut provides a nice crisp coating and the mango salsa adds a refreshing, sweet and zesty component.

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 3-4

coconut tempeh skewers on a blue plate

1 brick of tempeh, sliced into 1-inch cubes

Tempeh Marinade:
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1/4 cup coconut milk
1 1/4 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/2 tsp sea salt

Mango Salsa:
1 mango, cubed
1 green onion, sliced thinly
1 cup diced tomatoes
1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 lime, juiced
Pinch of sea salt
Pinch of pepper

1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro

prep for coconut tempeh skewers

1. Melt the coconut oil and whisk together with coconut milk.
2. In a separate dish, like a wide bowl or pie plate, combine the shredded coconut, sesame seeds and sea salt.
3. Slice the tempeh into cubes, dip them in the coconut liquid mixture and then into the coconut coating, place them on a plate.

tempeh blocks being breaded

4. Repeat until all cubes are well coated. Work quickly so the coconut oil doesn’t harden, then thread the tempeh onto skewers. If you’re using wooden skewers, make sure you soak them first.
5. Heat your grill or BBQ to medium and oil well with coconut oil.
6. Place the tempeh on your grill for 2 to 3 minutes per side, don’t cover the grill. The coconut coating on the tempeh will burn if it’s left on the grill too long, so don’t overdo it.
7. Meanwhile, combine the salsa ingredients together.
8. Garnish the tempeh skewers with fresh cilantro and serve with mango salsa on the side.

4. Sticky Cauliflower “Wing” Skewers with Sesame Seeds

This is a really creative and delicious way to eat more cauliflower: a versatile and superfood vegetable that’s rich in antioxidants. Although there’s a bit of prep work before these skewers hit the grill, the sticky, sweet and spicy result is worth every minute. While we offer a simple BBQ sauce recipe, you can always swap for store-bought.

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Servings: 3-4

cauliflower skewers on a light blue plate

1 small head of cauliflower, chopped in large sized florets (approx. 4 cups)

Cauliflower Marinade:
1 cup spelt or all purpose gluten-free flour
1 cup dairy-free milk
1/4 tsp sea salt
Pinch of pepper

BBQ Sauce:
1 cup crushed tomatoes
2 Tbsp molasses
4 tsp tamari
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
2 tsp smoked paprika
1-2 tsp hot sauce (add to your preference)
1 tsp garlic powder
Pinch sea salt

2 green onions, sliced
Handful fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
1/4 cup sesame seeds

mise en place for cauliflower skewers

1. Preheat the oven to 400ºF and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Chop the cauliflower into large florets.
3. Combine the flour, milk, sea salt and pepper in a bowl, whisk until smooth and thick.
4. Coat each cauliflower floret into the flour mixture and place on the baking sheets – don’t overcrowd them. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes until crisp on the outside.

breaded cauliflower skewers on a parchment lined baking tray

5. Meanwhile, make the BBQ sauce by combining all of the ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring it to a simmer and let cook for 15 minutes, stirring every so often, until it thickens.
6. Let the cauliflower cool, then drizzle the BBQ sauce over and sprinkle sesame seeds on top. Save some sauce to be served on the side of the skewers.
7. Place 3 to 4 cauliflower florets on a skewer. If you’re using wooden skewers, make sure you soak them first.
8. Heat your grill to medium and oil it well. Place the cauliflower on the grill for 3 to 4 minutes per side, no need to cover.
9. Remove from the grill and top with chopped green onions and cilantro. Sprinkle some extra sesame seeds over top. Serve extra BBQ sauce on the side.

5. Pineapple, Banana, Strawberry Skewers with Salted Chocolate Drizzle

Grilled fruit is the perfect summertime dessert. We love the combination of caramelized bananas, jam-like strawberries and sweet pineapple, but feel free to use your favourite fruit or better yet, whatever is in season.

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 4 servings

fruit skewers topped with coconut on a light blue plate

2 cups pineapple, peeled and cut into 1 1/2 -inch cubes
2 bananas, sliced into 1 1/2-inch thick circles
8 strawberries
2 tsp coconut oil
1/3 cup dark chocolate chips
2 tsp coconut oil
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup toasted unsweetened shredded coconut

mise en place for fruit skewers

1. Thread the pineapple cubes, banana circles and whole strawberries onto your skewers. If you’re using wooden skewers, soak them first.
2. Turn the grill to medium and rub the fruit with coconut oil to prevent them from sticking.
3. Place the fruit skewers on the grill and cook for 2 minutes per side, uncovered.
4. Remove the fruit from the grill and place on a plate.

chocolate and coconut oil over a double boiler

5. Make the salted chocolate drizzle by heating the chocolate chips, coconut oil and sea salt in a double boiler. Continue to stir the chocolate until it becomes creamy, then drizzle it right over the fruit.
6. If you don’t drizzle it all over top, serve on the side for extra dipping.
7. Sprinkle toasted shredded coconut on top, and voila!

Craving more warm-weather recipes? Check out these 10 Vegan BBQ Recipes That Pack a Flavour Punch.

Avocado toast with eggs and tomatoes on white plate

How to Become a Morning Person (and What Your Diet Has to Do With It)

Anyone who (willingly) wakes up at 5AM every morning is something of a superhuman. Or at the very least, the early riser we all strive to one day become. Marlie Cohen, a Toronto-based certified personal trainer, holistic health coach and the face behind lifestyle blog Kale & Krunches, is that person. But just like mastering a gruelling spin class – becoming a morning person takes dedication. Read on for the fitness expert’s top 10 tips to make waking up early easier than you ever thought possible.

1. Morning Movement

“My morning routine starts with some form of meditation or movement to get the blood flowing,” says Marlie, whether taking a few deep breaths and stretching at home or stepping out for an early 6AM workout. She also makes a habit of journaling every morning – jotting down three things she’s grateful for as a form of positive affirmation to start the day.

2. Better Breakfast

Whether you’re hungry right when you wake up, or not until after your AM workout, always nourish your body with a wholesome morning meal. For Marlie, that means eggs, avocado and toast for breakfast – the perfect combination of carbs, fat and protein. This balance of macronutrients will increase energy levels and ensure you’re satiated until lunch.

Get the recipe for Avocado Toast With Poached Eggs

3. Drink Water First Thing

Before you do anything else, drink a glass of water once out of bed. “You’re super dehydrated when you wake up,” says Marlie. “Drinking water gets the metabolism going and hydrates your muscles to prepare for the day ahead.” Make sure you drink enough H2O throughout the day, too. Marlie advises drinking two to three litres per day, depending on how active you are and how much you sweat.

4. Coffee 2.0

Fact: brewing a fresh cuppa Joe at home makes early wake-ups slightly less daunting. But instead of loading it with cream and sugar, Marlie (pictured below) adds a secret superfood ingredient to her Nespresso coffee: cinnamon. “Not only does it taste really good, it helps control insulin resistance in the body and stabilizes blood sugar,” she says. Cinnamon can also aid in curbing sugar cravings throughout the day and releases caffeine into the body at a slower pace.

5. Stop Drinking Water

We’ve all been there: abruptly waking from a deep sleep thanks to a full bladder. The solution? Don’t drink water after supper. “During dinner, have a few glasses, but I would probably stop after that,” says Marlie. This will prevent being disturbed and waking up throughout the night.

6. Eat Foods High in Magnesium

“Magnesium naturally calms the body and controls your cortisol levels and stress hormones,” she says. Reach for foods high in the mineral, such as whole grains, spinach, green leafy vegetables, almonds and quinoa. Marlie’s favourite magnesium-rich meal is salmon (also high in the nutrient) with quinoa and a sautéed green vegetable like spinach or broccoli.

Get the recipe for Lynn Crawford’s Roast Salmon With Grapefruit and Quinoa Salad

7. Know When to Stop Eating

While some experts say to stop eating around 7PM, Marlie has a different theory: “It depends on your schedule,” she says, pointing to the fact that she often won’t finish teaching until nine at night. In other words, what you eat is more important than when you eat it. “Sugary or carb cravings at night are probably a signal from your body that you’re thirsty, didn’t eat enough throughout the day or you’re tired,” she says. “Nighttime snack cravings are really our body saying it’s time to go to bed.”

8. Opt for Natural Sleep Remedies

If finding your Zen proves difficult at night, turn to the power of essential oils: “I have a lavender spray that I’ll use on my pillows, and will also use the oil on the soles of my feet,” she says.

9. Have a Regular Wake-Up Time

“I think people might overlook the benefits of having a regular wake-up time,” says Marie. Even if your schedule changes day-to-day, she recommends setting your alarm for the same time each morning to establish a consistent daily practice and stabilize our circadian rhythm.

10. Ditch Your Phone

Perhaps the most important tip of all – keep technology out of the bedroom. “I always put my phone in a different room, so when my alarm goes off, it forces me out of bed,” she says. This also means you won’t be glued to your phone before switching off the lights, ultimately leading to a sweet, sound slumber.

Photo of Marlie Cohen courtesy of Marlie Cohen; photo of essential oils courtesy of Getty Images

How to Spice Up Your Fried Chicken — Plus Tips for Frying at Home

In the kitchen, it’s often the classics that elude us, as we search for the ultimate chocolate chip cookie, mac and cheese or in the case of the Top Chef Canada chefs, fried chicken. For their latest Quickfire Challenge in Episode 6, the chefs were tasked with creating fried chicken with a twist. Seemingly straightforward, fried chicken can often fall flat on flavour and texture, turning out bland and greasy if not approached with a skilled hand. These chefs were in for a bigger challenge than they thought.

While a classic, buttermilk fried chicken recipe was presented by one of the chefs, the rest of the chefs chose to use their fried chicken and side as a blank canvas for big flavour. A seven-spice take on chicken and waffles garnered praise with its double-crunch factor from fried chicken skin (like a potato chip). And a Southern BBQ-style fried chicken plate brought the heat with a hot oil pour-over. But it was Chef Jinhee Lee’s nod to her mom’s fried chicken that reigned over the rest: an anchovy glazed fried chicken.

But don’t be intimidated by the chef’s impressive dishes. Fried chicken can be easy, crowd-pleasing and well worth the effort. Have a go at home in your own kitchen with these pro tips and recipes that will guarantee success.

Why You Should Marinade Your Chicken Before Frying

Not only will fried chicken be more flavourful when marinated, it will be juicier as well. Buttermilk is traditionally used for this as it’s slightly acidic and salty, which keeps the chicken moist and tender – even the white meat. If you don’t have buttermilk, plain yogurt, kefir, even pickle juice will produce a similar effect. Typically, you’ll want your chicken to marinade for at least a couple of hours, but the chefs didn’t have time for this in their 40-minute Quickfire Challenge.

Get the recipe for Skillet-Fried Buttermilk Fried Chicken

This recipe for fried chicken is a brilliant example of what a slightly acidic, salty and tenderizing marinade can do for your homemade fried chicken.

How to Layer Flavour When Frying Chicken

A marinade is the best way to ensure a juicy outcome, but it’s also a great place to begin building flavour. Add a dry rub of your choice, like a Cajun or BBQ mix to the chicken before letting it hang out in the marinade. Or, skip a step and add your spice mix right in the marinade. The more flavour you impart at this point, the more dynamic the final result will be. One of the chefs built their chicken around a seven-spice blend, which created an exceptional result. Now is the time when you want to go big with spices and seasonings– chicken can take it and much of those tastes will dissipate in the heat.

Fried Chicken with Dill Salt Recipe from Guy Fieri

Get the recipe for Fried Chicken With Dill Salt

This recipe is like a dill pickle chip in fried chicken form, infusing the marinade with dill pickle juice and a finishing salt with fresh dill. A three-layer process ensures a bold end result.

Transform Fried Chicken With the Help of the Spice Cabinet

The chefs used the herb and spice pantry in the Top Chef Canada kitchen to help their fried chicken and sides stand out, and you can do the same. Open your spice cupboard and explore a range of add-ins to jazz up your fried chicken rub, marinade, flour and dip. Almost anything goes.

Chili Powder or BBQ Spice Mix: Add zip to the rub, marinade and flour coating.
Curry Powder: Infuse the flour coating for a gorgeous yellow tint and earthy taste.
Harissa: Stir into the marinade and mix up with orange juice and honey for a sweet and spicy drizzle.
Herbes de Provence: Mix into the flour coating for a hint of freshness.
Lemon Pepper: Mix with flaky salt for a vibrant finishing touch.
Ras El Hanout: Mix the North African spice blend into your rub and coating.
Sriracha: Stir into mayo with lime juice for a fiery sauce.
Sumac: Swirl into buttermilk with lemon juice before marinating.
Za’atar: Add to your flour mix for a pop of flavour.
Pesto: Stir into mayo and yogurt for an herby dip.

Tips for Deep-Frying Chicken at Home

Having everything laid out and ready to go (your mise en place) will not only make things run more smoothly when frying, but it’s also safer and cleaner.

Frying Vessel: If you don’t have a deep fryer, deep-fry in a Dutch oven, deep cast-iron skillet (traditional) or enamel-coated cast iron pot for the best heat control. Deeper pots will reduce splattering.

Thermometer: Keep a deep-frying or candy thermometer in the pot while frying to monitor the temperature. As the chicken goes in, the temperature drops, and you need that sweet spot temperature for crispy, juicy, never-greasy chicken.

Cooling Rack: Set a wire cooling rack over a large rimmed baking sheet and transfer your chicken there when it’s done frying. Chicken can be kept warm in a low oven as you work through the batch this way, and, it reduces a soggy underside, so every corner of the chicken is crispy.

Oil: Choose an oil with a very high smoke point – this is not the place for the fruity extra-virgin olive oil you make salad dressing with. Shortening, lard and peanut oil are the best oils to fry your chicken in and are relatively inexpensive for the large quantity needed.

Contrasting Flavours Make Fried Chicken Delicious

Every chef offered a contrasting side or sauce for their fried chicken dish. The apple, fennel and corn slaw, as well as the compressed cucumber salad, were well received by the Top Chef Canada judges. Something acidic, like lemon or pickles (as one of the contestants chose), helps to cut through the rich fried chicken for a balanced dish. You can achieve this by keeping it simple with a lemon wedge or sweet-and-sour pickle served on the side, or whip up a tangy sauce for dunking, which is yet another place to spice things up.

Spicy Fried Chicken with Waffles

Get the recipe for Bobby Flay’s Fried Chicken and Wild Rice Waffles With Pink Peppercorn Sauce

This recipe speaks to the concept of contrasts perfectly, mixing sweet, heat and sour elements to tease out every ounce of flavour in your perfect fried chicken.

Top Chef Canada Season 6 Episode 6 Recap

You don’t get to be one of the Top Chefs in Canada without learning a few basics along the way, so in that vein the latest episode of Top Chef Canada was all about bringing the chefs back to the beginning—fried chicken and classic pizza beginnings, that is.

This episode picked up following last week’s shocking double elimination, in which Jesse and Matthew were sent packing. The elimination proved that anyone could go home anytime for one bad plate, but while the remaining chefs seemed shocked at Matt’s departure, it also gave the Top 6 a little more spring to their steps. Mark flat-out admitted that Matt being gone gave him a better chance in this thing, while Darren told cameras the game has changed.

Every one of the chefs was excited to see last year’s Top Chef Canada winner

Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner

That didn’t mean the remaining chefs could just phone it in though. With no more immunity on the table and a Quickfire to get out of the way, Eden Grinshpan introduced the next task: to recreate a Top Chef Canada version of a classic fried chicken, complete with one side dish. Cue saliva glands around the country, folks, because who doesn’t love a piece of perfectly fried chicken? Well, vegetarians and vegans, obviously. But apparently also Jinhee, who made as much known to the cameras after the challenge was announced. I really love how that woman doesn’t hold back.

Eden Grinshpan and Nicole Gomes on Top Chef Canada
Welcome back, Top Chef Canada: All-Stars winner Nicole Gomes! 

To judge the dishes (and to potentially inspire the chefs as they head into the home stretch), Eden welcomed Top Chef Canada: All-Stars winner Nicole Gomes back into the kitchen. Since her time of making it rain in the Monogram Kitchen, she’s gone on to open Cluck N Cleaver alongside her sister Francine, and if you’re ever in Calgary I hear there’s no better place to eat fried (or rotisserie) chicken.

I forgot how much I love watching Nicole and hearing her candid remarks, which she brought back in full while judging the Quickfire Challenge. She and Eden were kind of the dream team, with Eden noshing on the chefs’ offerings using her fingers and doing her version of the chicken dance, and Nicole joking about wearing her stretchy pants. I smell a chicken-loving spinoff, folks.

Anyhow, it was clear right away that some chefs nailed this thing while others were just destined to run around like a chicken with their heads cut off (sorry, I had to). JP had a good base with a basic buttermilk batter, but he burnt it and wasn’t fooling anyone with his dusting to hide the fact. He knew it too, which was probably why he was so angry at the whole situation. Meanwhile, Nicole declared Nathan’s batter to be thin and his double-fried chicken dry, which will probably lead the chef to reconsider the way he does it in his restaurant in the near future. Poor Nathan. And I here I thought he might finally be done double-guessing himself.

Mark’s Seven-Spice Buttermilk Fried Chicken with Waffle Emulsion, Charred Shishito Peppers and Corn Salad

Not all of the dishes were bad though. Mark zigged with his waffle emulsion while almost everyone else zagged with some sort of a slaw for a side. Nicole also declared his chicken to be perfectly breaded. While Mark certainly impressed, it was fried-chicken-hater Jinhee who surprisingly came out on top. Her chicken with an anchovy glaze was a homage to her mother, who never approved of her being a chef. Jinhee revealed to cameras that she hid her job from her mom for six whole years and that to this day her mom still hasn’t tasted her food in her restaurant. That made the win a nice full circle, as it potentially proved to her mother that she does have the chops to make it in her chosen profession. Now if only there were an Elimination Challenge advantage or a cash prize to go with her win. Sadly, Jinhee only walked away with Quickfire bragging rights.

Jinhee’s Fried Chicken with Anchovy Glaze and Mango, Carrots and Compressed Cucumber

It’s Not Delivery…It’s Top Chef Canada

But even those were short-lived, because next up was the Elimination Challenge, and one of the top six was about to be sent home. Cue the ominous music, y’all. The task at hand? To create a memorable, Top Chef Canada calibre pizza with an international flair, and then to pair that pizza with two complementary sides. Did I mention the taskmasters behind-the-scenes were a little fast-food obsessed this week? It made me pretty damned hungry because that kind of food I do have access to at my fingertips.

Related: Go behind the scenes to learn how challenges are created

To find out which country the chefs would be representing on their pizza, the six had to select cardboard pizza boxes. Once again Jinhee, whose face said it all when she picked India, was clearly not pleased with her selection and revealed she’d only ever made a couple of curries in her life. Does anyone else get the feeling that girl doesn’t play much poker during her time off?

A blessing and a curse: picking Italy for the pizza challenge

Meanwhile, JP seemed equally scared to have picked Italy. While you’d think the country would be the perfect inspiration for a pizza, this week’s guest judge, Evan Funke of L.A.’s Felix is basically renowned for his Italian food. So not only was JP facing the pressure of cooking for an Italian food master, but he knew Italian pizza would probably be judged a little more harshly by all of the judges, especially Janet Zuccarini who is a  AVPN certified Pizzaiola.

Related: Janet Zuccarini and Evan Funke’s Felix Trattoria Up Nominated for Best New Restaurant

Conversely, Darren, a.k.a. the “Swedish Chef,” really didn’t seem to hesitate at picking Sweden for inspiration—not when he had his pickled-fish-loving grandfather to inspire him. I guess that’s why he decided to top his pizza with a series of seafood selections, namely prawns and anchovies. Throw a few chanterelle mushrooms on there and his pizza was complete, along with his Swedish meatball (obviously) and pickled mackerel sides. Maybe Darren never actually watched The Muppets to realize what a terrible chef The Swedish Chef really is, but unless you’re a hardcore lover of “slime on slime” (as Mijune Pak described the pizza), you’re probably not going to be lining up for a slice of that unique concoction anytime soon… no matter where you live. The fact that Darren kept the bones in his pickled mackerel side for extra crunch really, really didn’t go over well with the judges either.

Darren and JP present their pizzas to the judges

The self-proclaimed youngin’ wasn’t the only one who faltered though. Mark has been on a bit of a tear this season while trying to win some extra cash so that he doesn’t go broke, but his Turkey-inspired spiced lamb “flatbread” pizza was so flat and dry the judges were masticating it. They were definitely not going back for seconds on that one either. As for JP and his Italian pizza? That was a  pass for the judges too thanks to the overly complicated way he approached it. Apparently, you a white pizza with potatoes and artichokes can fall flat by not seasoning the crust or adding enough olive oil, and then topping it with an arugula salad. I mean, obviously I can only see and dream about what that would have tasted like, but to be perfectly honest I would have been down to nosh on that. But that’s why I’m not a judge.

Winner, Winner, Pizza Pie Dinner

Actually, the judges (and Eden, who downed her ‘za using her hands like a regular person) didn’t have a lot of positive comments about most of the pizzas this week, proving that the classic dish is actually a lot harder to make than you’d think. Jinhee tried hard with her curry pizza and integrated paneer cheese, but the judges declared that it lacked flavour. JP’s Italian pizza also lacked flavour and the judges didn’t feel his meal represented Italy at all. Mark McEwan declared that Mark’s pizza wasn’t crispy.  Ross, whose German Speck, Onion, Mushroom & Gruyere Pizza (and potato salad and sweet fried rye bread) managed to capture their imaginations, making him the night’s big winner and $5,000 richer.

Ross’s German Inspired Pizza with Speck, Mushroom, and Gruyere

Experience Does Matter

Sadly, that meant Darren and his young blood was the one to say arrivederci this week. The guy had everything to prove as the youngest chef this season, and while he did really well by landing in the top six it looks like he won’t be ultimately slaying that dragon and saving the princess anytime soon. I’m definitely going to miss his one-liners, video game references, and his overall antics in the kitchen.

Darren’s last time at judges’ table

“What I lacked wasn’t talent, it wasn’t passion… it was experience,” he told cameras afterwards, with tears in his eyes. “You don’t have to win to conquer something. That’s what experience is, it’s learning from your mistakes.”

Well way to conquer my heart, Darren. Okay guys, let’s add Darren to our list of Top Chef Canada: All-Stars season two contenders, shall we?

“He’s a very, very capable young chef. He’s at the developmental stage where when he’s outside the element of the restaurant, he maybe didn’t have enough to bring to the table to create his own, new story that day,” Mark McEwan said. “He had his moments. I just think he needs a couple more years to really work on his base knowledge so that he has those instinctive skills and a repertoire to fall back on. That would give him better choices under pressure.”

Speaking of pressure, next week the chefs are tackling another food trend: veganism. Is anyone else excited to see how Jinhee’s face feels about that one? Personally, I can’t hardly wait.

Sugar and Spice is Everything Nice: How to Make Desserts With Fragrant Spices

You may be familiar with your spice cabinet when it comes to savoury cooking, making curries, soups, burgers and salads with a confident hand. But desserts, from classic cookies to show-stopping sweet centrepieces can also benefit tremendously from a smack of fragrant spices you may not have usually considered. It was Top Chef Canada’s competitors that inspired us, as they were put to the test in the fifth episode’s Quickfire Challenge, being asked to create desserts with an eyebrow-raising twist using blindly chosen herbs and spices from the McCormick spice rack. The winning dish – Jalapeño and Sriracha Beignets, Burnt Orange Jalapeño Ice Cream and Caramelized Banana with Bone Marrow Caramel – wowed judges, rousing us to perhaps be a bit more adventurous in our dessert making at home.

Matt’s Jalapeño and Sriracha Beignets, Burnt Orange Jalapeño Ice Cream and Caramelized Banana with Bone Marrow Caramel

Of course, it doesn’t have to be as extravagant as this winning Top Chef Canada creation to be just as delicious. Here’s how you can infuse your desserts with unexpected flavours when baking at home.

How to Add Spices to Desserts

Spices taste best when they’re bloomed or expressed by exposing them to fat, liquid, heat or a combination. If you’re making bread, dough or truffles, steep spices in milk to draw out their full potential. For cooked puddings, like rice pudding, add the spices halfway through the cooking time to infuse your recipe without overpowering it. For cookies, cakes and frostings add your spices when creaming or melting butter or oil instead of with the dry ingredients; you’ll get more bang for your buck and a richer, rounder spice flavour as the fat coaxes out the fragrant oils of the spices.

Add Heat to Your Sweets

Like this week’s Top Chef Canada Quickfire Challenge winner, dessert makers around the world frequently introduce a sizzling kick to desserts with dried hot peppers. Take Mexico, for instance: their chocolate desserts are often pepped up with chili, adding depth to ignite and excite the palate. A stunning example of this is shown in Helloflavour.ca’s recipe for Flourless Chocolate Chili Cake, combining cayenne, cocoa, sugar, eggs, and dark chocolate. It has just a touch of bite, but not too much that it’s overwhelming, and it’s easy to accomplish at home. Click here to get the Helloflavour.ca recipe.

The Dessert Spice Cabinet

You know vanilla bean, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves, but there are other ways to spice up your sweets with flavours like star anise, thyme, and black pepper. What’s more, you can use the same black pepper or thyme in dinner as you do dessert, keeping things simple.

Valerie Bertinelli’s Black Pepper Walnut Biscotti

Black Pepper: Black pepper can elevate desserts, adding a gentle warmth and earthy quality to citrusy sweets. A Top Chef Canada competitor paired black peppercorns with sage, making a mango black pepper curd with sage candies, matching sweet and earthy flavours with aplomb. For something a bit more home cook friendly, try black pepper in crusts for lemon meringue pie and grapefruit curd tarts. Or, whip it into cookies, like this recipe from Valerie Bertinelli for Black Pepper Walnut Biscotti.

Valerie Bertinelli’s Mexican Hot Chocolate Layer Cake

Chipotle: For desserts with a real kick and exceptional fortitude, add smoky chipotle chili pepper powder. The spice is outstanding in dark chocolate desserts, like in this recipe for Mexican Hot Chocolate Layer Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting, but would also work in strawberry shortcake, grilled pineapple sundaes and tiramisu.

Giada De Laurentiis’s Parma-Style Carrot Cake

Fennel Seeds: Fennel seeds make appearances in many Italian and Indian desserts, offering a gentle and welcome anise tang that’s both naturally sweet and digestion promoting, especially after a large meal. This structurally impressive recipe from Giada De Laurentiis for Parma-Style Carrot Cake includes fennel seeds, pine nuts and mascarpone cheese for a comforting Italian dessert.


Anna Olson’s Chocolate Spice Cupcake with Chocolate Swirl

Five-Spice Powder: With warming notes of star anise, cloves, cinnamon, fennel and Szechwan peppercorns, Chinese five-spice transitions seamlessly into the realm of desserts. Use it to imbue heavy cream when making truffles, switch up homemade masala chai, roast with rhubarb to top a pavlova or add it to cake batters for a stylish twist. This Chocolate Spice Cupcake with Chocolate “Swirl” Frosting recipe incorporates five-spice in a moist and tender cake base.

Ayesha Curry’s
Easy Saffron Crème Brûlée

Saffron: Impart earthy elegance to your desserts and make them jump off the plate with saffron. In Scandinavia, sweet St. Lucia buns are infused with saffron and dotted with dried fruit during the holidays. In Middle Eastern cuisine, saffron is added to rice pudding, custards, doughnuts, ice cream and cookies. Here, it’s given the French treatment in this 4-ingredient recipe for Easy Saffron Crème Brûlée, proving that crowd-wooing desserts don’t need to take all day.

Sponsored by McCormick. For more great dessert recipes go to helloflavour.ca.

Top Chef Canada Season 6 Episode 5 Recap

I wonder what was going through Nathan’s head as he reentered the Top Chef Canada locker room on Sunday and found his things exactly where he left them after he was eliminated in episode two. The judges had no choice but to send him home the first time around thanks to his complete lack of confidence, but earning himself a second chance in this thing should surely bolster his mettle a little, no?

Related: Watch Nathan’s Exit Interview After Episode 2 Elimination

It certainly seemed like Nathan was ready to face a new day as he put his jacket back on and sported that big, signature grin, but then again so were the other remaining chefs. Maybe it was just me, but with Restaurant Wars out of the way, everyone seemed to stride back into that Monogram Kitchen with purpose this week. It was almost like they were ready to spice things up with their newfound confidence.

The remaining chefs await the next Quickfire challenge

Let’s Start With Dessert

In that case, it was a good thing the Quickfire challenge happened to feature a whole whack of spices from McCormick. Eden Grinshpan revealed the spicy task was to blindly pick two seasonings and then create a Top Chef Canada calibre dish showcasing them. The bittersweet twist? That dish had to be a dessert. You could physically see the chefs’ spirits crumbling; if this season has taught me anything it’s that most chefs would rather eat their own arm than make a dessert. And creating a dessert out of spices was just preposterous.

Mark says what every other chef is thinking

However, if you want to prove you’re the best of the best, you’ve got to be able to do dishes of all different types, so these guys trudged along as best they could for Eden and this week’s guest judge, Brandon Olson of CXBO Chocolates fame. (It didn’t hurt that $5,000 from McCormick was on the line for the winner.) Brandon came decked out in his awesome banana button-down shirt to explain the importance of innovation when it comes to sweets, and how any regular old dish just won’t do in this kitchen.

Don’t try this at home

So, once again the chefs scrambled over one another to get to their stations first, gathering at the fridge and completely emptying the liquid nitrogen in their bids to make frozen treats. Some of them, like Mark, really went for it. Although he pulled the unlikely combo of rosemary and ancho chile pepper, he managed to impress Brandon with his Apricot Ancho Chile Purée with Rosemary Ice Cream, Shortbread Crumb & Fried Crickets. In fact, Brandon asked Mark if he had any pastry training, that’s how good it supposedly was. Me? I’m still getting over Ivana serving up fried crickets two episodes ago. I don’t care how high-protein or trendy crickets are, at the end of the day they’re still fried bugs to me.

Ross’s equally unlikely combo of turmeric and cilantro seemed impossible to work with (has anyone in the history of cooking ever purposefully used them together?!) but his Turmeric Shortbread with Cilantro Cream, White Chocolate, Sea Buckthorn Turmeric Sauce, Mango and Pear was tasty and elegant. It’s hard to make the most of the strong yellow tint of turmeric, but somehow Ross managed to pull together a modern plate that Brandon said “brought it home without being overbearing.”

Matt’s Hat Trick

Matt’s sriracha beignets, burnt orange jalapeno ice cream and caramelized banana with bone marrow caramel

But once again the night’s winner was Matthew, despite the fact that Brandon actually choked from the heat of his jalapeno and sriracha pairing. He whipped up Sriracha Beignets, Burnt Orange Jalapeno Ice Cream and Caramelized Banana With Bone Marrow Caramel, pulling full inspiration from Brandon’s shirt. Did you know that bone marrow could make for an excellent dessert? Yeah, me neither but there you have it. In this competition, anything goes, and Matthew proved yet again that he’s a huge frontrunner in this thing; this was his third win in a row. He’s certainly won more money than any other current competitor, at this rate, and I can’t help but pull for him given that he’s got a pregnant wife at home. Well, that and he’s got everything to prove, considering he’s more of a corporate chef than the others in this competition thanks to his gig at MLSE.

As for the other competitors, once again Jesse and Nathan found themselves in the bottom. Jesse’s Chinese five-spice and smoked paprika dessert was entirely too smoky for Brandon, whereas Nathan’s celery seed and ginger doughnuts were doughy and undercooked. Not a great start to his grand re-entrance, but as he said, “keep on trucking.”

Toot, toot. Hopefully that means he’ll finally stop over-thinking things?

Chefs Hit the Ice

Some of the chefs’ skating skills were a little less impressive than their cooking skills

Anyhow, with the Quickfire complete, it was time to move on to the most nerve-racking part of the evening: the Elimination Challenge. As we’ve seen in the past four episodes these things are always stressful, but this week was particularly brutal because not one, but two chefs were going to go home. I suppose that’s the Top Chef Canada gods balancing the scales after allowing Nathan back in; we’ve got an episode number to stick to, people.

It wasn’t all doom and gloom though. How can it be when the chefs were asked to celebrate Canada’s national pastime by teaming up to create post-game meals for the players, parents and coaches of a kids’ league hockey team? Plus, the chefs had lots of inspiration thanks to the four signature Canadian proteins they were to implement in their dishes: Ontario pork, Atlantic lobster, Alberta beef or Pacific Coast salmon.

Jinhee’s pork and tiger prawn dumplings with chili peach mango chutney

Nathan’s soy-braised pork belly with fried rice and Saskatoon berries

For me, it was fun to see some of these teams being forced to work together. Jinhee was obviously not happy to have selected pork alongside nervous Nathan, but the guy handled her obvious concern in stride and in the end #TeamSweetheart (sorry Jinhee but that name is sticking) ended up working really well together. I’d eat Jinhee’s dumplings anytime (not just after a hockey game) and I could practically taste Nathan’s pork belly from the TV screen. Maybe we shouldn’t count Nate out just yet, after all, working with Jinhee he really seemed to come into his own.

Teamwork is dream work: Jinhee shows Nathan how to pinch dumplings

Meanwhile, it was equally fun to see this season’s jokesters, JP and Darren, team up and take their beef dishes in a different direction by invoking home-cooked comfort foods. Although I was unsure how a beef bourguignon would play in a hockey rink, JP nailed it with perfectly cooked beef and a savoury broth, and Darren’s overindulgent meatloaf sandwiches had Mark McEwan singing his praises. That three-cheese sauce on the homemade bread must have met McEwan’s “high performance” cheese standards, which these chefs are still joking about. Personally, I thought it was just cool to see that chefs can have fun in the kitchen together and still come out on top.

Given how different those two menus were, the judges must have been in a tough position. I thought it could have gone either way based on the comments, but I guess when Mijune Pak dances in happiness while eating your pork belly, you’re probably going to be the winner. Sure enough, Jinhee and Nathan came out on top, giving Nathan the ultimate reassurance that he deserves to be in this competition after all. Now if only he could work with Jinhee every day. Maybe we could pitch a #TeamSweetheart web series?

#TeamSweetheart celebrates with an awkward hug

With the winning dishes determined, the judges then set their sights on the night’s worst offerings. Matthew, who has been on a huge winning streak, managed to impress with his Bibimbap salmon, but his partner Jesse really didn’t think through his own salmon tartare. The dish felt out of place in the hockey arena (to be fair when does salmon anything feel right at a rink?), but he also loaded it up with so much salmon roe that it was completely over-salted. Even Matthew, who was so sure of himself heading into the challenge that he was swigging beer while prepping (hey, what goes better with hockey than beer?) agreed when pressed that it wasn’t something he’d put on one of his MLSE menus. Poor Matthew… why did the judges have to put him on the spot like that? Obviously, he was trying his best to stick up for his teammate.

“He had a harder time putting ingredients together in a meaningful way,” said McEwan of Jesse’s performance in general. “Some [of the ingredients] he used were very creative, but it didn’t necessarily work for me.”

Then there was Ross and Mark, another completely unlikely match. It came out in the episode that all of the other chefs make fun of Mark for doing foams and using gadgets in the kitchen, which would explain why no one has been taking him seriously as a contender in this thing so far. But the dude continued to do his own thing with a poached lobster potato salad with charred garlic foam that positively lit up Chris Nuttall-Smith’s face when he tried it, proving that the haters gonna hate but taste reigns supreme. Unfortunately for them Ross’s lobster bisque just didn’t do it for the judges though, and that landed the duo in the bottom.

Ross’s lobster bisque was pretty but lacked substance

The Most Shocking Elimination Ever?

That meant both teams landed in the bottom, where they defended each other’s choices in the face of elimination. And while I really wasn’t sure which way the judges would swing on this one, Ross—who refused to use his immunity the last two weeks after finding himself on the bottom—finally used it to save himself and Mark from elimination. And why wouldn’t he? This was the last challenge he was allowed to use it so he had everything to lose.

But what using that immunity meant was that Jesse and Matthew had to pack their knives and leave, which felt totally unfair given Matthew’s performance. I really, really thought he was going to take this thing all the way to the end considering how many challenges he’d already won. I honestly thought the judges might take Ross’s immunity back and send him and Jesse packing instead. Aren’t they allowed to bend the rules in situations like this?

“I didn’t see this coming, I was on a bit of a roll,” Matthew said to the cameras afterwards, confirming everything that was running through my head.

“Hopefully I didn’t make two new enemies,” Ross added. “Having this immunity was a very sharp, double-edged knife. Unfortunately it sent home two great chefs, but fortunately, I’m still here.”

That’s all fine and dandy, I suppose, but you’ll have to forgive me if I start mounting the campaign for Matthew’s return in the next All-Stars season, should it come to fruition. As it turns out I wasn’t the only one upset about his elimination. Janet Zuccarini, who wasn’t present for the challenge, was also shocked to hear that he was eliminated when she returned to judge her next Elimination Challenge.

“I actually thought that Matthew could almost do no wrong. And he was on the top with almost every challenge,” she said. “It was just a shock to learn… He understands what people want, but he also had this amazing ability to make the dishes super unique and have these twists, which I think is what you need to do when you’re in a competition like Top Chef Canada.”

Matt surprised head judge Mark McEwan with his skills and ability to thrive in the competition. “He cooked more like a hands-on restaurant chef than a corporate chef,” said McEwan. “Kudos to him for being able to manage both those angles because neither one is easy.”

Like I said, #MatthewForAllStars, y’all. But before then, we have a competition to get back to when the show returns next week. Judging from the previews there’s a pizza party in store, so let’s all bring our appetites.

Watch Matt and Jesse in their exit interview after elimination:


How to cook rice on stove

How to Cook a Perfect Pot of Rice on the Stove

Confession time: Years ago, I received a rice cooker as a gift that I’ve used guiltily only when the gift-giver in question comes for dinner. The rest of the time — whether I’m cooking rice to accompany a hurried weekday dinner or as the base for a leisurely simmered-all-day weekend cooking project — I turn to a trusty pot and a stovetop burner. Want to learn how to cook rice with a no-fuss, no-mess method? Look no further than this recipe that will turn out a pot of fluffy, perfect rice every time.

The perfect pot of rice is easier than you think.

The perfect pot of rice is easier than you think.

The Right Equipment to Cook Rice

I find up to two cups of uncooked rice will be just fine in a medium-sized saucepan, while anything more is best prepared in a larger pot. Similar to pasta, you’ll be using a boiling liquid as a cooking medium, so make sure you have enough room for bubbles to rise without boiling over. A lid with an adjustable steam vent is nice, but not crucial — you can always prop the lid open with a wooden spoon or pair of chopsticks. The flat wooden paddle found in Chinese or Japanese supermarkets is made specifically for this purpose (and the ones with a straight edge are perfect for stirring the bottom of the pot).

How to Cook Jasmine Rice: A Basic Method

There are as many methods of cooking rice as there are cultures that use it, so keep in mind this is the way that works for me, but it’s not the only one by far: pilafs and pilaus, risottos and biryanis all use different techniques for speciality dishes.

1. Pour your rice into a pot. (Up to one and a half to two small coffee mugs will adequately feed two people). Rinse the rice in cold running water, drain the excess water, then repeat this twice or until the water in the pot is clear when you agitate the rice.
2. Add enough liquid to cover the rice by about an inch. Use a ratio of 2:1.
3. Cover the pot, place it on a burner set to medium-high and bring the water to a boil.
4. Once the liquid boils, lift the lid and give the rice a thorough stir, making sure you get the areas at the bottom. Turn the heat down to low (just above minimum). Keep cooking the rice on low for about 20 to 25 minutes, until the rice is tender, and has lost that wet look.
5. Fluff the rice with the paddle.

This method creates light grains of rice across the top of the pot and a crisped rice crust along the bottom and sides. You can stir those crunchy bits — prized among some cultures — into the rest of the rice for textural variation, or toast and enjoy it later for a snack.

You can vary this basic method to a wide range of rice options:

How to Cook Sushi Rice

I prefer the pleasant fluffiness and slightly sticky texture of short-grain sushi rice, pairing it with everything from spicy stir-fries to a silken stew. Use the above method, reducing the water to a 1:1 ratio. When the rice is cooked, add a tablespoon of seasoned rice vinegar (add two tablespoons if you will be using the rice to make sushi) and a sprinkle of furikaki flakes (a Japanese rice seasoning mix that can consist of sesame seeds, seaweed, dried egg or bonito and other crunchy goodness) to taste.

How to Cook Basmati Rice

For those looking for a little more structure in their grains, long-grain varieties such as basmati, are delicate and slightly perfumed options that retain their slender shape when cooking. Using the method above, reduce the water to a 1:1.5 rice/liquid ratio. Some basmati rice recipes will benefit from a short soaking period for softer rice — a purely optional step.

How to Cook Brown Rice

Brown rice, which can be either short or long grain, adds fibre and whole grain goodness to your diet. Although brown rice generally takes longer than white rice to cook (typically, an additional 15 minutes or more), the simmering time can be minimized with a brief toasting in butter first, which emphasizes the grain’s natural nuttiness. Before beginning the method above, melt four tablespoons of butter or margarine in a  pot on medium-high heat, then stir in the brown rice. Toast for a couple of minutes while stirring, then add the liquid and proceed with the method above.

Rice Flavour Variations

If you’re pairing rice with other dishes, using water is fine. Add creaminess with some coconut milk, use chicken broth to give it a little pep (the concept behind recently trendy Hainanese chicken rice) or use some mushroom stock if you’d like a little umami heartiness.

There it is; simple rice in about 30 minutes, without needing to pull out specialized equipment and without too much fuss. For more ideas on how to cook rice, check out our 16 Best Rice Recipes for Dinner and Dessert.

Top 10 Organic Fruits and Vegetables You Need to be Eating

We all know we need to be eating organic but there are several reasons we don’t. One of the main ones being cost and that for some it’s inaccessible. Choosing organic means we’re selecting items that are free of pesticides and harmful chemicals that have been linked to cancer and hormonal disruption. While many of us may not be able to eat organic all the time, the Environmental Working Group put out a list that highlights the different types of produce that with the highest pesticide concentrations. This allows us, as shoppers, to make selective and informed decisions to go organic when we need to. With the promise of fresh fruits and vegetables as the weather warms up, we thought we should have another look at the list of these top 10 organic fruits and veggies that we all need to be eating. Have you made the organic switch?


1. Apples
They say an apple a day keeps the doctor away…well, maybe not if it’s a conventional apple. Apples are number one on the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” list, meaning they’re the most heavily sprayed with pesticides. According to the analysis, 99 percent of apple samples, after washing, tested positive for at least one pesticide residue. The pesticides sprayed on apples, such as Syngenta‘s Paraquat have been associated with developing Parkinson’s disease and is banned in the EU. Other pesticides such as Chlorpyrifos can damage the nervous system. Organic apples won’t break the bank so it’s definitely a good idea to make the switch to organic as soon as you can.

2. Strawberries
Strawberries are a beloved fruit and since they’re so delicate and soft, they’re often prone to fungi attack. For this reason, farmers usually spray fungicide on them. Forty-five other pesticide residues are also found on strawberries and some have been researched to be carcinogenic, hormone disruptive, neurotoxic and toxic to honey bees. Strawberries are one of summertime’s most refreshing fruit and organic strawberries can also be quite pricey. If you can’t find fresh organic strawberries, look for cheaper organic frozen ones.

Related: Healthy Foods That Are Actually Worth the Splurge

3. Celery
Many people think that celery doesn’t do much in the nutrition department but it does pack quite a fibrous punch, and it’s a phytonutrient superstar. Celery made its way onto the Dirty Dozen list because it contains 64 pesticide residues, 27 of them being hormone disruptors. Choosing organic celery is definitely a good idea and can be found relatively inexpensive.

4. Cherry Tomatoes
These bite-size tomatoes are excellent sources of lycopene, which is known to protect against osteoporosis and prostate cancer. Cherry tomatoes are another item found on the Dirty Dozen list for having 69 different pesticide residues. The majority of these pesticides are suspected to be hormone disruptors, neurotoxins and toxic to reproductive health. According to the Environmental Working Group, a single cherry tomato contains 13 different pesticides on it.

5. Cucumbers
Cucumbers are one of the most widely eaten fruits (yes, fruits!). According to the USDA Pesticide Data Program, cucumbers contain 86 different pesticides. Many of these pesticides are known carcinogens and many of them are also incredibly harmful to the environment. Conventional cucumbers are also covered by a synthetic wax to protect the fruit during shipping. The wax is made up of chemical contaminants so if you’re opting for non-organic cucumbers, remember to remove the skin. To avoid the pesticide residues and the synthetic waxes completely, go organic.

6. White Potatoes
White potatoes are a staple in many North American households – many of us grew up eating the classic meat and potatoes dinner. White potatoes are often demonized for being incredibly starchy and lacking much nutrition. They do, however, contain quite a bit of fibre. These tubers have also made their way onto the Dirty Dozen list; this is because they contain 35 pesticide residues many of them suspected for being hormone disruptors. According to the Environmental Working Group, the average potato contained more pesticides by weight than any other produce item. These are not to be mistaken with sweet potatoes, which are actually on the “Clean Fifteen” list. This list is comprised of fifteen fruits and vegetables with the lowest concentrations of pesticides.

Related: Here’s How to Save Money on Your Next Grocery Bill

7. Spinach
Spinach is a versatile leafy green that is one of the healthiest vegetables containing vitamin A, vitamin K and iron. However, it’s also highly sprayed. It lands at number seven on the Dirty Dozen list, meaning it doesn’t contain as many pesticides as produce higher up on the list, but it still has harmful pesticide residues. Spinach contains 54 pesticide residues and many of them are neurotoxic and toxic to honeybees. The pesticide permethrin, used on spinach, is an insect repellent and is found to be carcinogenic, hormone disruptive and toxic to honey bees.

8. Imported Snap Peas
Imported snap peas have made their way onto the Dirty Dozen list. Snap peas are a good source of vitamin C and fibre, both helping to support the immune system. Snap peas contain 78 pesticide residues, making it one of the highest on this list. Most of these are suspected endocrine disruptors, which control hormones within the body. Hormones are like messengers that send out important functional messages all around the body. If hormones are disrupted by synthetic chemicals like pesticides, that means that messages will not be sent and received properly leading to irregular body functions. Similar to cherry tomatoes, a single snap pea contains about 13 different pesticides.

9. Grapes
Grapes can be sweet, tart, soft or crunchy, but mostly they’re just delicious. Unfortunately, they are quite high on the Dirty Dozen list. Most fruit is heavily sprayed with pesticides since its quite sweet, making it harder to protect from insects and fungi. Grapes contain 56 different pesticide residues. The main pesticide used has harmful environmental affects. It’s a powerful insecticide that kills honey bees and other important pollinators.

10. Kale
Everyone’s beloved leafy vegetable has found a place on the Dirty Dozen list. Kale is nature’s superfood – it’s high in fibre, it protects against cancer, arthritis, heart disease and diabetes, yet it’s one of the most heavily sprayed crops. According to the Environmental Working Group, kale has been found to be contaminated with insecticides that are toxic to the human nervous system. Kale contains about 55 pesticide residues. Organic kale is not hard to find and is only about $1-$1.50 more than conventional kale, so it’s absolutely worth making the switch.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Published April 13, 2015, Updated May 2, 2018