How to Bring an Iron Chef Canada Curveball Ingredient Into Your Kitchen

Canadian cuisine is always at its best in fall thanks to the bountiful autumn harvest, but it isn’t really fall until pumpkins start popping up everywhere—from our lattes and doorsteps to our pies, soups, and table décor. The versatile orange vegetable is one popular gourd.

And as Iron Chef Susur Lee and challenger Nick Liu proved on the latest episode of Iron Chef Canada, pumpkin doesn’t have to be fresh in order to be delicious. The chefs were challenged with incorporating canned pumpkin into at least one of their dishes when The Chairman threw it at them as the week’s curveball ingredient, adding a bit of colour to the bitter greens battle.

Want to incorporate more pumpkin into your home dishes? Here’s everything you need to know about the canned stuff.

What is canned pumpkin?

Come fall, store shelves everywhere are lined with colourful cans of pumpkin. Basically, it’s a can of pumpkin that’s been roasted and pureed and is ready to throw into all of your favourite pumpkin recipes. The good news is that while fresh pumpkin comes and goes, the canned stuff is typically available year-round—it just happens to be more readily available and less expensive come autumn.

Is canned pumpkin and pumpkin puree the same thing?

Not always. When you think of pumpkin, it’s highly likely you conjure up images of the big old gourds we carve come Halloween. In reality, those carving pumpkins are edible, but they’re stringy and watery. Your best bet when it comes to cooking are “sugar pumpkins” or “pie pumpkins,” which have the meatier, sweeter flesh.

Given that intel, you’d think canned pumpkin would be canned sugar or pie pumpkins, but that’s not the case. Many manufacturers use something called a “Dickinson pumpkin,” which looks like a large, paler butternut squash. Food regulators define pumpkin as any veggie “prepared from golden-fleshed, sweet squash or mixtures of such squash and field pumpkin,” which means your can of pumpkin could actually contain a colourful variety of gourds within.

Can you eat canned pumpkin without cooking it?

Sure. Since canned pumpkin has been cooked and pureed before being canned, it’s technically fine to consume straight up with a spoon if that’s how you want to eat it. But with so many other great ways to use canned pumpkin, why would you want to?

What is the difference between canned pumpkin and pumpkin pie filling?

Canned pumpkin is exactly what it sounds like: pureed pumpkin squeezed into a can. Pumpkin pie filling, meanwhile, is pumpkin puree that has been seasoned with traditional pie flavours like cinnamon, cloves and ginger, and is sweetened to achieve that perfect pumpkin-pie taste. The former is good for all kinds of recipes and baking, while the latter is basically best for pumpkin pie and pumpkin-pie inspired treats.

What is the nutritional value of canned pumpkin?

Pure canned pumpkin is actually an excellent source of nutrients, including Vitamin E, Vitamin A, Vitamin C and Vitamin K. It’s also high in manganese and iron, and makes a terrific source of dietary fibre. Add in that it’s low in cholesterol, sodium and saturated fat, and canned pumpkin is the perfect thing to keep in your cupboard year-round.

Can I make my own canned pumpkin?

Although pressure cookers and tools like the InstantPot make home canning increasingly popular, it’s still not recommended to can your own pumpkin puree. Pumpkins are a low-acid food, which enables easy growth of the Clostridium botulinum bacteria—the bacteria that causes botulism. If you want to can pumpkin it’s better to can it cubed, or better yet simply freeze your puree in a freezer-safe bag for up to a year.

What are some canned pumpkin recipes?

When it comes to vegetables most of us agree that fresh is better. And if you’re planning on eating savoury, roasted squash with your meal, a freshly roasted pumpkin is certainly the way to go. If you’re using pumpkin puree in a recipe though, this gourd is a rare exception where it’s perfectly okay to use the canned variety instead and no one would know the difference. From pumpkin spice pancakes and pumpkin scones to curry pumpkin soup and pumpkin pasta, there is so, so much to do with one little can of pumpkin puree.

Happy harvesting!

Watch Iron Chef Canada Wednesdays at 10 PM E/P

How to Make the Perfect Croissant Croque Madame

This is going to be the fanciest ham and cheese sandwich you will ever have. Leave it to the French to take something so simple and humble and top it with tons of cheese and toast it until golden brown. And to top it off, let’s put a fried egg on it. Typically made on basic white bread, I’ve taken this dish even further and made it on a croissant. There’s one thing that will happen after having this: you’ll never be able to go back to a regular ham and cheese sandwich.


Croissant Croque Madame

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 6


4 Tbsp unsalted butter
¼ cup + 1 Tbsp all purpose flour
2 cups milk
½ tsp salt
Fresh black pepper
Pinch of nutmeg
½ cup grated Gruyére
¼ cup grated Parmesan

6 croissants
Grainy mustard or Dijon
400 g black forest ham
⅔ cup grated Gruyére
⅓ cup grated Parmesan
Fresh black pepper
6 fried eggs
Chopped chives, garnish
Maldon salt, garnish


1. Heat the butter over medium-low heat in a medium sized saucepot. Once the butter is completely melted and begins to bubble, add the flour and whisk until combined. Switch to a heat-proof rubber spatula and continue stirring until the mixture is a light golden colour and smells slightly nutty. Be sure to scrape all around the sides and bottom to ensure nothing is sticking or burning.

2. Whisking constantly, slowly pour the milk into the pot. Switch back to the rubber spatula and cook, constantly stirring and scraping the sides and bottom, until thick and bubbly. About 6-8 minutes.

3. Turn the heat off and stir in the salt, black pepper, nutmeg, Gruyére and Parmesan until cheese has melted. Set aside to cool.

Related: Creative Ways to Use Croissants, From French Toast to Bread Pudding

4. Pre-heat the oven to broil and set the rack in the middle of the oven. Slice the croissants open and spread a generous amount of mustard on each half. Lay the ham on the top halves of the croissants and top with the bottom halves. This will give the béchamel a nice flat surface to sit on. Transfer the sandwiches onto a sheet pan.

5. Top each sandwich with lots of béchamel spreading it to the edges of the croissant. This will prevent the edges of the croissant from burning in the oven. Combine the Gruyére and Parmesan and top each sandwich with the cheese. Season with salt and pepper.


6. Place sandwiches under broiler for 1 to 2 minutes, rotating pan halfway through, until cheese and béchamel are melted and bubbly.

7. Remove from the oven, plate each sandwich with a fried egg, garnish with chopped chives, fresh black pepper and Maldon salt.


Published November 5, 2015, Updated October 29, 2018


The Best Pumpkin Seed Granola to Make When Pumpkin Carving

Roasted pumpkin seeds are a delicious way to turn your Jack O’Lantern innards into a tasty treat. But this crunchy and flavourful pumpkin seed granola takes your favourite season snack one step further. Crunchy nuts and seeds are mixed with cinnamon and maple syrup, then baked with oats and coconut make a sweet and simple granola you’ll want to eat by the handful. Finish off by stirring in dried cranberries and a little cayenne for subtle heat. Eat for breakfast or save for snacking as you wait for trick-or-treaters.


Pumpkin Seed Granola Recipe

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 1hr 5 minutes (includes 20 minutes cooling)
Makes: 4-1/2 cups

1/4 cup maple syrup
3 Tbsp canola oil
2 Tbsp packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1-1/2 cups rolled oats
1 cup raw pumpkin seeds (cleaned and dried if removed from carving pumpkin)
1/2 cup shaved coconut
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup dried cranberries


1. Heat oven to 300°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together maple syrup, oil, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt and cayenne.
3. In a large bowl, combine oats, pumpkin seeds, coconut, pecans and sunflower seeds. Pour oil mixture over and stir to combine.
4. Spoon mixture onto prepared sheet and bake until golden, stirring halfway about 35 to 40 minutes.
5. Cool completely and stir in cranberries.


Looking for more roast pumpkin seed recipes? Try these Tasty Ways to Use Pumpkin Seeds.


The Only One-Bowl Brownie Recipe You Need (With a Secret Ingredient!)

The secret to moist, chewy, fudgey brownies? Mayonnaise!  Everyone’s favourite sandwich spread is the key to success when it comes to the perfect brownie. Also worth mentioning is that mayo replaces the need for any butter, which means far less saturated fat.

Anna Olson’s One Bowl Chocolate Brownies

Makes: 1 9-x-13-inch (3.5 L) pan


4 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
⅔ cup boiling water
2 cups sugar
⅔ cup mayonnaise
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup cocoa powder, sifted
½ tsp salt
1 cup chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Grease and line a 9-x-13-inch (3.5 L) baking pan with parchment paper.
2. Place the chopped chocolate in a large bowl and pour boiling water overtop. Let the chocolate mixture sit one minute, then whisk to melt.
3. Whisk in the sugar, then add the mayonnaise and then the eggs, one at a time. Stir in the vanilla.
4. With a wooden spoon or spatula, stir in the flour, cocoa powder and salt until evenly blended. Stir in the chocolate chips.
5. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake for about 30 minutes, until a tester inserted in the centre of the brownies comes out clean. Cool to room temperature.
6. Brownies slice best when chilled, but taste best at room temperature.
7. Once sliced, you can store the brownies in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

Want more baking recipes and tips? Find out how to fix your biggest baking fails here.

5 Genius Hacks to Transform Dry Pancake Mix

Dry pancake mix is a godsend. Just add water and voila! You have a perfect batter for fluffy, no-fuss pancakes. But pancake mix can come in handy for more than just breakfast. With a few extra ingredients, this pantry staple can be transformed into a variety of sweet and savoury dishes. Check out these 5 genius recipes that are perfect when your pantry is lacking baking staples, but you have a box of good old pancake mix.


Peanut Butter and Banana Protein Muffins

Mix 1/2 cup peanut butter, 2 mashed up ripe bananas, 1/2 cup Greek yogurt, 2 eggs and 1/2 cup sugar in a bowl. Add in 1 cup of pancake mix and stir until combined. Divide mixture into a lined muffin tin. Spoon a little extra peanut butter onto the centre of each muffin. Bake at 350F for about 12 minutes. Makes 8.

Beer Batter Chicken

Make the batter according to the instructions on the back of your box but instead of using water use a light beer like a pilsner or a lager. Cut chicken breast into 2-inch long and 1 inch thick pieces. Heat vegetable oil over medium-high in a pot so that its minimum 2 inches deep. Drip a little bit of batter into the oil to test the temperature. When the batter gets golden and crispy, your oil is ready. Dip the chicken into the beer batter and let any excess drip off. Fry chicken in the oil until golden and crispy, about 3 minutes. Place fried pieces on a paper towel lined plate. Work in small batches. This same batter method can be used for beer battered fish or vegetables.

Zucchini Fritters

Mix 1 cup of pancake mix with 1 small grated zucchini and a small grated onion. Season with a little salt. The mixture will have enough moisture to create a thick batter so you don’t need to add any water. Heat a non-stick pan over medium heat, adding a little cooking oil to coat. Make golf size portions with the mixture then flatten them into pancakes. Cook in the pan until golden and cooked through, about 3 minutes per side. Serve with Greek yogurt sprinkled with za’atar.


Easy Clafoutis

Mix 1 cup of pancake mix with 1 cup of 10% cream and 1 beaten egg. Grease a 9-inch tart pan. Arrange 1 1/2 cups of sliced strawberries (or other berries) into the pan. Pour batter over strawberries. Bake in a 350F oven until top is golden, about 45 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes. Garnish with sliced almonds and powdered sugar.

Simple Crepes

In a blender place 1 1/2 cups of milk, 2 eggs, 1 cup of pancake mix. Blend until even. Let the mixture rest for 1 hour (or for in the fridge until ready to use). Heat a non-stick pan over medium heat. Grease with enough butter to coat the pan. Pour about 1/4 cup of batter on the pan. working quickly, hold the handle of the pan and move the batter around to coat the surface of the pan. Cook until bubbles begin to appear on the surface of the crepe, about 1-2 minutes. Flip and cook for another 30 seconds. Repeat with remaining batter. Stuff crepes with whatever you like! Nutella and strawberries, whipped cream and fresh berries, stewed apples.

Love pancakes? Take your pancake mix and use it to shake up your Saturday morning with these Pancake Recipes That Will Make You Drool.

Why Maple Syrup is the Perfect Secret Ingredient to Kick Off Iron Chef Canada

What better way to kick off the inaugural season of Iron Chef Canada than with the most Canadian secret ingredient of all: maple syrup? Considering the sweet, sticky stuff is one of our country’s biggest exports (more than 40 million maple products left our borders in 2015), it was the perfect ingredient to showcase in the Canadian Kitchen Stadium during the premiere episode.

Ever since indigenous populations taught European settlers how to harvest maple trees, most of us have been saps for the golden stuff on a fresh stack of pancakes or woven into the fabric of our favourite breakfast meats like ham, sausage and bacon. But as Iron Chef Lynn Crawford and challenger Chef Marc Lepine proved, it’s also a great ingredient to smoke with, glaze with, marinade with, and even poach with.

In celebration of this sweet secret ingredient, here’s everything you ever wanted to know about maple syrup.


What is maple syrup?

This perfectly vegan sweetener is derived from the sap of maple trees and comes in two grades: Grade A and Processing Grade. The former is the stuff that winds up in our pantries, and it comes in four colour classes: golden, amber, dark and very dark. The earlier the sap is harvested the lighter the resulting syrup’s colour will be, but they’re all delicious—it’s really just a matter of personal preference.

When is maple syrup season?

In Canada, sap is gathered between March and April depending on the region. The best time to collect it is when the nights are still cold but the days warm up, creating pressure in the trees that push water down.

The maple syrup process

Each spring maple farmers tap trees with traditional buckets or more modern tubing, collecting usually no more than 1.5 litres from each tree (roughly one-tenth of the overall sugar) in order to sustain production and the tree’s overall health.

The sap is then sent to a storage tank before moving along to the sugar house, where it’s boiled down in order to evaporate the water content and reach a sugar concentration of 66 per cent. Traditionally, 40 litres of sap produces one litre of actual syrup.

What is maple sugar?

When the sap is further boiled down and almost all of its water content is evaporated, the result is crystallized, maple sugar. Producers sell maple sugar in large blocks, or it can be moulded into shapes for candy or even granulated and used in place of regular sugar for an extra maple kick.

If you’re subbing maple sugar into a recipe, use it the same way you would cane sugar. It’s sweeter than white sugar, so reduce your measurements accordingly. Meanwhile, maple sugar is also great when creamed with butter for cookies and cakes, as a topping on oatmeal, or as a hit of sweetness in a rub for meats.

What are some other maple products?

Maple butter, maple candy and maple cream are all popular sellers.

Where can you buy maple syrup?

Luckily in Canada, maple syrup is readily available: stock at grocery stores, farmers’ markets, speciality shops and even airports always lines the shelves. No wonder it’s such a popular item for Canadian politicians and diplomats to gift while abroad.

Maple syrup production in Canada and Quebec

In 2015 Canada produced 8,908 gallons of maple syrup from more than 10,000 maple farmers and more than 44 million taps, with exports estimated to be worth $360 million. In fact, we export nearly 80 per cent of the world’s total maple supply, with countries like Japan, Germany, France and the U.S. being our biggest customers. While Ontario, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia are all big maple syrup players, 90 per cent of our syrup comes from Quebec alone.

Does maple syrup have health benefits?

Maple syrup is certainly high in sugar, but it’s also better for you than refined sugar because it contains key nutrients like manganese, calcium and zinc. Overall 100 per cent natural maple syrup also contains fewer calories and a higher concentration of minerals than honey, and it has a glycemic index of 54 (sugar is 58 and honey weighs in at 57). It’s no wonder health products like maple water have been springing up on store shelves.

What is the Global Strategic Reserve?

Maple syrup is such a hot Canadian commodity that more than $100 million worth of the liquid gold currently sits in what some refer to as the “Fort Knox of maple syrup,” a.k.a. the Global Strategic Reserve. Three separate sites located in Quebec house the sweet, sweet, nectar. The supply is meant to help stabilize overall price and to build a stock that allows marketers to sell the product as an everyday alternative to sugar. Considering the global demand has been increasing five-to-six per cent per year since 2010, it’s a good backup to have.

A sticky, maple heist

A barrel of maple syrup can be worth more than 13 times the price of crude oil, which makes it a hot commodity for sticky-fingered bandits. One of the biggest incidents on record was in 2012 when workers at a holding warehouse in Quebec turned up an empty barrel during a routine inventory check. Further investigation uncovered dozens of barrels that had been secretly filled with water. In total, six million pounds (a whopping $18.7 million worth) of maple syrup was missing.

An official investigation launched by the Quebec Provincial Police uncovered a heist involving more than 25 people. Eventually, the leader, Richard Vallières, was found guilty of theft, fraud and trafficking of stolen goods after it was discovered he had been selling the syrup to a buyer from New Brunswick. Vallières was sentenced to eight years in prison and fined $9.4 million.

A Canadian hobby

While the production of maple syrup is certainly a hot industry, anyone with maple trees in their backyard can produce the stuff if they really want. Indeed, harvesting maple syrup has become something of a hobby for many outdoorsy Canadians. Where things get sticky is when small-batch producers and local farms attempt to sell the stuff on a higher level. Thanks to strict regulations involving wholesale markets and exports, some would-be sellers face specific maple syrup taxes and commissions.

Visiting the old maple sugar bush

If you were a kid growing up in Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick or Nova Scotia, chances are you’ve headed out to a maple sugar shack to witness the production of Canada’s liquid gold. It’s a quintessential Canadian outing (and a popular school field trip!)  in which visitors can learn about the overall production process, take wagon rides, eat some syrup-laden pancakes and sausages and of course, mow down on some sweet maple candy.

Cooking with maple syrup

Maple adds a distinct layer of flavour to many sweet and savoury dishes. If you’re subbing it in for white sugar, use 2/3 of a cup of maple for every cup of sugar and reduce the quantity of overall liquid in the recipe by one-fourth. Maple can also be used in place of other liquid sweeteners like honey, corn syrup and molasses in a one-to-one ratio, giving you a perfectly maple-inspired treat.

Watch Iron Chef Canada Wednesdays at 10 PM E/P

Gail Simmons and Chris Nuttall-Smith On Stepping into Kitchen Stadium and the Uniquely Canadian Vibes of Iron Chef Canada

Iron Chef Canada is all about spectacular Canadian food and host Gail Simmons and floor reporter Chris Nuttall-Smith bring the viewers that much closer to the incredible dishes created in Kitchen Stadium. As respective Top Chef and Top Chef Canada judges, the duo has plenty of experience tasting, critiquing and pontificating on plates from a wide array of culinary experts across the country.

They also happen to love their jobs, which is obvious when you sit down to chat with them about all things food. Here they break down what it’s really like entering Kitchen Stadium for the first time, how the Iron Chefs handled the intense pressure, and which Canadian restaurants they’re really digging right now.

How did it feel walking into the Kitchen Stadium for the first time?

Simmons: Awe-inspiring. I wasn’t mentally prepared for the grandeur of it. I’d never been in one otherwise, and it was beautiful. The lights are so dramatic.

Nuttall-Smith: There are huge spotlights coming down from everywhere!

Simmons: And it’s dark and moody…

Nuttall-Smith: The altars. The altars are where the secret ingredients are showcased in all their glory. They were amazing things to see and behold. These incredible ingredients everywhere. Spotlights. Smoke.

Simmons: Yeah it just feels so dramatic and magical.

Nuttall-Smith: It intimidates chefs, I think. Everyone that walks in is a little intimidated by it.

Simmons: If they’re not intimidated by us, they’re intimidated by Kitchen Stadium. [Laughs.] Your heart beats a little bit faster and that’s the beauty of it.

What was the energy like? Was there any trash-talking going on?

Simmons: There wasn’t trash-talking but there was definitely a lot of egging on, pun intended. This is the highest mountain of culinary accomplishments. You can’t help but get really pumped up and nervous—I mean we were nervous and we weren’t even competing. It’s great to see these incredible chefs just doing what they do best as they spur each other on. They actually sort of take the energy from the Stadium and it just lent itself to amazing work. You get really inspired by where you are.

Nuttall-Smith: It’s a high-wire act with knives and smoke and fire. That gets to the chefs and yeah there’s a little bit of trash-talking for sure but ultimately it doesn’t come down to you, it comes down to what you put on the plate. Every week the best food wins.

Simmons: The laser focus was unbelievable. We tried to rattle them—Chris is down there sticking his hands in things, The Chairman is giving them culinary curveballs.  Some of them are so focused on their craft and are so completely in this tunnel of what they have to do, and it is kind of a revelatory thing that they get it done after an hour. What they accomplish is unbelievable.

Nuttall-Smith: It’s amazing what they’re able to do. They will do a five-course meal and a cocktail.

Simmons: They know we’re booze hounds!

Who had the best trash-talk?

Nuttall-Smith: Let’s just say there was trash-talk from some of the chefs you might not expect at first, which was the best part. One chef, in particular, was asked about her craft and she was quite pointed about the advantages of what she does. It was a lot of fun.

What can Canadians expect from Iron Chef Canada?

Simmons: It’s the highest level of cooking from chefs in this country. Not only are Iron Chefs obviously accomplished, but the chefs that come here to challenge them every week are the best chefs running restaurants. I was just so amazed at the quality of their cooking and their innovation and the breadth of what they’re doing. I live in New York so I can’t help but think that I’ve kind of seen it all, but you come to Canada and you forget that the products here are so interesting and that there is a distinctly Canadian feel to the food. It’s intangible sometimes but it is so beautiful to see. The connection to nature and the connection to the outdoors, to the game meat, to the beautiful produce. For me, that was really interesting to watch.

Nuttall-Smith: I’m with Gail. She is so right.

Simmons: We almost take it for granted in Canada; you don’t see the difference until you leave. I grew up in Canada and I have now lived in the States almost as long as I’ve lived in Canada and it just made me really excited to be home.

What made the show uniquely Canadian to you?

Simmons: There are some chefs here that do things you just can’t do anywhere else in the world. Obviously, there are the products they have access to, but it’s the cooking traditions.

Nuttall-Smith: The cooking traditions—you see chefs make food that no one else is going to make anywhere else on the planet.

Simmons: Using meat, and protein, and vegetables, and wild berries, and leaves, and things that I had never seen before so that was a really unique experience and an amazing experience. I love how much I learned in the process and it definitely made me realize that I just can’t afford to be jaded.

Nuttall-Smith: It’s a constant debate, ‘What is Canadian food?’ that drives me a little bit crazy, but the answer is it’s all the food. In Canada if you’re a chef you cannot afford to just keep your head down and do your thing. You’re always looking around to see what these great chefs [are doing]. Like Susur Lee—he’s not just cooking the Asian food I think people expect of him, he is bringing in so many influences. You see Lynn Crawford, Hugh Acheson, Rob Feenie, Amanda Cohen, their competitors… they have super wide frames of reference and that is what makes it so Canadian. They are dipping into so many different ideas, and traditions, and ingredients, and cultures.

Simmons: The diversity is incredible. The diversity of our challengers’ backgrounds was so interesting. They’re all Canadian, they’re all proud to be Canadian, but their ancestry is from all over the world. So there’s everything from every corner of Asia to the indigenous people of this country and everything in between. References from Latin America and from Europe… you really get a sense of the mosaic of this country.

How did you guys tackle bringing the experience of the food to the audience at home?

Simmons: The million dollar question of working in food on television is why should viewers care if they can’t taste the food? So our job is to be the tasters for the audience. My gauge of if I’ve done a good job is if I make people hungry. Interestingly on this particular show, Chris and I aren’t tasting the food ourselves. We leave a lot of that work to the judges to explain how things taste. But we certainly dive into how everything looks and are explaining the process and the techniques and making it accessible to the viewers at home. It’s our job to really break that down and make it appealing and there’s just so much visual sensationalism in the kitchen. There’s so much to watch, so we need to catch it, we need to explain it, and that’s the only way to do it.

Nuttall-Smith: There were so many instances where the two of us were just generally surprised by the techniques, the ideas, and what showed up on the plates. So much of this was spectacular to witness and it’s really hard not to convey that when you’re in the middle of it. Our job is to call what we see.

Simmons: The clock is ticking the whole time too, so you’re under so much pressure as a chef cooking in the Kitchen Stadium and our question is always, ‘Are they going to make it?’ Because every time it comes down to the last five seconds.

Nuttall-Smith: Exactly. Until the bitter end, they’re always trying to do something spectacular. You see some of them come in and in the first 20 minutes of the clock they’re strolling around a little thinking, ‘I’ve got this’ and then the clock keeps ticking and then you see the stress. Or you might see them screw up a challenge, and it becomes incredibly intense very quickly.

What’s one Canadian restaurant you can’t get enough of right now?

Simmons: When we were here shooting I got to eat at a lot of good restaurants I was excited about. And [recently] I went to a really great and really interesting Thai restaurant that was serving food I thought was different than a lot of restaurants, it’s called Kiin. It was really great, it was really beautiful and lovely and nuanced and so I was really happy to eat there. But there’s so much good food in Canada.

Nuttall-Smith: This is so hard, it could be a tiny place like One2 Snacks that serves the most amazing Malaysian noodles. It could be a Tamil place that makes amazing lump rice, so like rice with anchovies, and eggplant, and all sorts of curries. It could be a fancy place like Edulis, which is Spanish and French but they use the most amazing Canadian ingredients. It’s so hard to choose. I think that’s what makes it so incredible and exciting. And these are just Toronto restaurants that I’m naming. The Vin Papillon in Montreal makes me absolutely crazy, it’s so good. Raymonds on the East Coast. There’s so much great eating on the West Coast. I hate being asked this because there’s so many I could never just live with eating at one restaurant.

Who do you want to see next in the Kitchen Stadium?

Nuttall-Smith: I want to see Riad Nasr, from Montreal. He’s an incredible chef, he’s at the top of the New York restaurant food game.

Simmons: He’s a Canadian hockey boy. He was the chef at Balthazar for 20 years and now he opened his own place called Frenchette.

Nuttall-Smith: I would be fascinated to see him. There are so many great Canadian chefs around the world as well though that are doing amazing things. Nobody outside of the intimate centre of the industry knows who they are but they’re doing things at the highest level. There’s a guy, David Zilber who just did a book on fermentation, at Noma in Denmark. Amazing, amazing chef.

Simmons: Also you were talking about Raymonds. Jeremy Charles, I would love to see him in Kitchen Stadium. He’s amazing.

Nuttall-Smith: He would be an amazing competitor.

Watch Iron Chef Canada Wednesdays at 10 PM E/P

Iron Chef Canada’s Rob Feenie Talks Potatoes, Canadian Cuisine and Besting Chef Morimoto

When it comes to Vancouver-based chefs, Rob Feenie certainly reigns supreme. The Burnaby native has been taking the culinary world by storm from a young age, opening the internationally celebrated Lumiere Tasting Bar when he was just 29 years old. In 2005 he became the first Canadian to ever win Iron Chef America when he bested Chef Masaharu Morimoto, and today he holds two Vancouver Gold Medal Plates awards, a Relais Gourmands label, and the Mobil Travel Guide four-star designation. And all this while concocting and creating the menu at the Cactus Club Café.

In anticipation of all the mouth-watering Asian, French and Italian dishes we expect to see from Feenie as one of the newly minted Iron Chefs on Iron Chef Canada, we caught up with the chef to get his take on Canadian cuisine, an unfortunate run-in with potatoes when he was younger, and his love of all things food.

Did you always want to be a chef?

No. I grew up in a large family in Burnaby and I was always interested in food, but like most Canadian kids I grew up in the hockey world. Being a chef wasn’t initially something I thought about but food was always a big part of my family.

Is that where your love of food began, with your family?

If you don’t include the fact that I almost burnt our house down when I was in Grade 7 while roasting potatoes, I guess we’re good with that. But yeah, I grew up in an Irish family and Sunday was a big night for us. My mom had a large family so I got an interest in cooking there. Then I was very fortunate to grow up with some Japanese neighbours of ours that were from Osaka. My love for Japanese food started at a young age. I definitely loved food but I wasn’t thinking about being a chef.

What happened with the potatoes?

I was getting ready for soccer practice and I put them on high and I left the oven on and I burnt my dad’s brand new kitchen. He had just redone it. I didn’t burn it down, but I smoked it out and burnt the new floor when I grabbed the pan and dropped it. I have never done that ever, ever again. I was only in Grade 7!

When did you realize that cooking could be your career?

I was very lucky because at the age of 16 I was an exchange student at the Rotary Club and I travelled to Sweden and I spent a year there. I had the opportunity to travel all through Europe  —Denmark, Belgium, France, Italy, Switzerland, Austria and Germany. I developed this taste for everything—stuff like mussels and cheese and Bratwurst and pasta. When I flew back at 17 years old my mom even said that’s when I started to really love food.

Can you tell us about opening your first restaurant in Vancouver?

It was scary. It was a very exciting time.  I had taken a break from cooking and Michel Jacob called my dad said, ‘Get him back down here, I see talent in him.’ A year later I opened my restaurant. It’s kind of ironic that I opened my restaurant after I was going through that time in my life; my dad was going to get me onto the fire department. But I took a real chance and Michel Jacob, who was my biggest mentor, pushed me towards getting it ready.  I was 29 years old so I was really scared. We opened and the first night we did 80 people, it was a Thursday. And then Friday we did 80 people. Saturday we did 120. It was a crazy and very exciting time in my life and something I’ll never forget.

What’s your favourite dish to make and why?

Everyone probably thinks I’ll say ravioli and they are something I really like to make, but I would have to say chicken. I love a basic roast chicken. Whenever I see chicken on the menu I order it. It’s something I’ve always enjoyed. My kids love it, they ask for it. I’ve done versions of it in the restaurant. I just enjoy really well-roasted chicken.

What’s your favourite local ingredient?

That’s an easy one because they’re just coming out this time of year. They’re called matsutake or pine mushrooms. I love all kinds of mushrooms but it’s one of my favourite ingredients and there are a lot of reasons why. Most importantly it reminds me of when I really started to love food and that’s when my Japanese neighbours cooked with them. They’ve stuck on my palate. They’re grown right here in B.C.

Can you name a Canadian chef who inspires or excites you?

There are several because this country is full of great chefs. Michel Jacob is my mentor and someone who inspires me locally. Pino Posteraro owns a restaurant called Cioppino’s and we’ve been friends for over 20 years and he inspires me. Then I look across the country and Normand Laprise in Montreal, Anthony Walsh, John Horne—one of the guys I competed with—even though he’s very young I’m proud of what he’s been doing. Marc Thuet doesn’t cook anymore but he makes some of the greatest bread and is someone I admire a lot. Marc is one of the guys I look up to most. He’s an incredible chef.

How did it feel to bring an iconic series to Canada? What do you think makes it uniquely Canadian?

I’m very proud to be Canadian. I’ve always believed whatever country you look at, what makes a chef great is the raw ingredients. What’s wonderful about Canada—Lynn Crawford has showcased this a lot on her shows—is that we have a lot of great product and a lot of great chefs. What I’m proud of is we get to showcase great products. Whether it’s dairy, whether it’s cheese, meat, fish, that is what this country has always had. Now we’ve got all these great chefs that can showcase it. So I believe we can compete with any chefs around the world, including some of the ones on the American series.

You’ve previously competed back in 2005—what did your time in the Iron Chef America stadium taking on chef Morimoto teach you that you brought to the show?

Wayne Harris, who was one of my sous-chefs at Lumiere, is one of my main chefs here.  I’ve been working with him for eight or nine years. He did the original Iron Chef America with me. I got to come back to do the show with Wayne. The great thing about having that relationship with Wayne is that we were able to go through our experiences there and talk about it. I remember we were in the second episode that filmed. Like any new show, the chef that was competing before didn’t finish all of his plates, he only finished two. So, we were unbelievably stressed. What I learned was it takes a lot of effort to do five dishes in one hour. The main focus going into Iron Chef Canada was to just make sure you plan your time accordingly to make sure you get the dishes right. When those cameras roll it really is a true hour. They don’t stop and re-roll. You’re either ready or you’re not.

How did you prepare for this competition as an Iron Chef?

It’s a tough one but in each of the shows, I didn’t know who the competitor was until I was on the floor. At the end of the day, you just have to know what you’re doing and stick to your plan. It’s about sticking to what you’re comfortable with and what you know.

Can you walk us through what happens when you find out the secret ingredient and your process for creating an Iron Chef Canada menu?

I panic. Most people, when they watch the show, they always think we’re capable of doing a lot of things, but what I try to do is to stick with the game plan of what we know. My repertoire is French, Japanese and Italian and then keeping it simple. As long as we stick with those three parameters I’m comfortable.

Is there any chef, living or not who you would love to take on in the Iron Chef Canada Kitchen Stadium?

Bobby Flay for sure. He is No. 1 on my list. I had a chance to meet him in New York while he was filming and I was in a battle with him not that long ago on one of his shows. I thought I won but I didn’t, so I would like to go up against him again. And then also just because we’re the same age, David Hawksworth. I’d like to take him down. Can I be any more honest than that?

If you could pick one secret ingredient for your fellow Iron Chefs, what would you choose?

Potatoes. There are a lot of great things you can do with potatoes. And not just potatoes, but potatoes, sweet potatoes and yams. There are a lot of really cool things you can do with them, especially the way people are eating these days.

What would you make?

There’s a dish in my first cookbook, I blanch a red potato in mushroom stock, but in the stock is a whole truffle. So the potatoes are porous and when you slowly cook the potato in the stock it tastes like a truffle. I’d do that and serve it with a very soft potato puree underneath and then shave more truffles on top of that.


Watch Iron Chef Canada Wednesdays at 10 PM E/P

This Slow Cooker Butternut Squash is Beyond Easy

Butternut squash is by far the most popular of the squash family, that’s probably because it’s fairly user-friendly, versatile and the perfect balance of sweetness and earthiness. This delicious carby vegetable is also packed with a spectrum of vitamins and minerals that all work to protect your body, especially in the colder months as cold and flu season move in.

Although butternut squash is becoming more commonplace, many people get overwhelmed or confused about how to prep it, use it or cook it. Do you peel it? How do you cut it safely so it doesn’t roll around or worse, so you don’t injure yourself? Should you keep the seeds? Here we give the easiest way to cook butternut squash – in your slow cooker!  Literally, your only job is to buy one, no need for a peeler or a knife. This slow cooker method, which can easily be done in an electric pressure cooker (like an Instant Pot), comes out perfectly tender and sweet, just the way it should be.


How to Cook Butternut Squash in Your Slow Cooker (or Instant Pot)

Prep Time: 1 minute
Cook Time: Slow cooker: 8 hours,  Pressure cooker: 35 minutes
Servings: 2-3

1 butternut squash, choose a size that will fit into your slow cooker or Instant Pot
2 Tbsp maple syrup
2 tsp cinnamon



Slow Cooker:
1. Place your squash in the slow cooker. Do your best to find one that fits right inside without needing to slice it.
2. Put the lid on, cook it on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours.

Instant Pot:
1. Pour 1 cup of water into the Instant Pot. Place the steam rack on the bottom and then put the butternut squash on top. Again, choose one that fits into the pot without needing to cut it. If you find one too large, slice it in half widthwise so you have two round circles and scoop out the seeds.
2. Lock the lid, turn the pressure release valve to sealed and cook on high pressure for 25 minutes. Turn the valve open to release steam for 10 minutes.


1. Allow the squash to cool slightly, then gently scoop out the seeds with a spoon. The squash will be so tender so this will be an easy job.
2. Cut the squash into large cubes and drizzle with maple syrup and cinnamon.
3. Now that you have a beautifully steamed squash you can also do whatever you want with it, make a mash, blend it with coconut milk into a soup, make it into a hummus, place cubes of it on top of a salad or eat it as is.

Looking for ideas? Try the Brilliant Ways to Eat Butternut Squash.


Make These Spooktacular Halloween Pretzels and Watch Them Disappear

Halloween is the time of year for sweet and salty treats and we’ve come up with some super fun recipes that transform pretzels into spooky and delicious Halloween party eats. On top of being easy to make, all the ingredients can be picked up at your grocery or bulk food store. Plus each of these adorable bites come together in minutes and are guaranteed to bring a smile to your face!


Pretzel Ghosts Recipe

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Makes: 24 treats

1 cup white chocolate molding wafers
24 small pretzel twists
½ cup dark chocolate molding wafers

1. Line 1 large baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Melt white chocolate wafers in a small heat-proof bowl over a small pot of gently simmering water. Dip each pretzel in chocolate and place on parchment sheet. Place in fridge to set for 10 minutes.
3. Melt dark chocolate wafers in a small heat-proof bowl set over a small pot of gently simmering water. Spoon chocolate into a pastry bag fitted with a writing tip.
4. Fill each opening in pretzels to create eyes and mouth.
5. Place in fridge to set, about 20 minutes.


Pretzel Cobwebs Recipe

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Makes: 12 treats

1 cup white chocolate molding wafers
72 pretzel sticks
Halloween candy quins or sprinkles

1. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Melt chocolate wafers in a small heat-proof bowl set over a small pot of gently simmering water. Spoon chocolate into a pastry bag fitted with a writing tip.
3. Dollop six dime-sized rounds of chocolate onto each prepared tray. Lay 6 pretzels in the centre so they touch the chocolate and radiate out. Dollop another circle of chocolate on centre. Working in a circular motion from the centre out draw web lines about a ¼-inch apart. Finish web design at edge of pretzels, repeating the circle three times to add strength to the web.
4. While chocolate is still wet, sprinkle edges and centre with candy quinns or sprinkles. Place in fridge to set, about 30 minutes.


Pretzel Spiders Recipe

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Makes: 12 treats

36 pretzel sticks
12 chocolate wafer sandwich cookies with double filling (such as Double Stuffed Oreos)
3/4 cup dark chocolate molding wafers
24 candy eyeballs

1. Line 1 large baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Break pretzels in half and stick three into each side of the cookie about ¼-inch apart to resemble legs.
3. Melt chocolate in a heat-proof bowl set over a small pot of gently simmering water. Spoon a quarter-sized dollop onto cookies, spreading to edge. While still wet, press candy eyeballs into chocolate.
4. Place in fridge to set, about 30 minutes.

Looking for more spooky recipes? Try our Zombie-Approved Recipes for your next Halloween party.


How to Make Fast Homemade Turkey Stock with Your Instant Pot

After a night of Thanksgiving cooking, cleaning and entertaining the last thing anyone wants to do is step back into the kitchen and embark on new cooking projects. You could spend hours simmering your turkey carcass to create stock, but with the help of an Instant Pot electric pressure cooker, you can transform it into a rich, delicious golden stock in less than 20 minutes. Use this golden liquid to make soups, risotto, or use as a braising liquid. It also freezes beautifully, so you can use it any time.


20-Minute Instant Pot Turkey Stock Recipe

1 turkey carcass
2 carrots, roughly chopped
2 celery sticks, roughly chopped
2 onions, halved with skin left on
1 bunch parsley

1. Pull any meat off the turkey carcass and reserve for another use. The bones don’t have to be completely clean. Place them in the Instant Pot with any leftover pan drippings or small leftover turkey bits.
2. Place carrots, celery, onion, and parsley into the pot.
3. Fill pot with water just to cover contents. Close lid and set to soup setting for 15 minutes.
4. When it is finished. Let the steam release from the valve.
5. Strain stock through a mesh sieve and discard bones and vegetables.
6. Season stock with salt and pepper.

I like to make this beautiful soup using the stock with leftover turkey meat, sautéed leeks, fresh peas and Parmesan cheese. Looking for more ideas for what to make with your turkey stock? Try these tasty recipes:


Turkey, Kale and Brown Rice Soup Recipe


Leftover Roast Turkey Pho Recipe


Bird to the Last drop Turkey Soup Recipe

Looking for more leftover ideas? Try these Tasty Ways to Use Your Thanksgiving Leftovers.


10 Great Canadian Restaurants Where You Can Dine for a Good Cause

This fall, indulge in some exquisite Canadian eats while supporting a worthy cause! If you’ve been dying to try Antonio Park’s paella, Nicole Gomes’ fried chicken or Chuck Hughes’ lobster poutine, this is your excuse. Not only can you savour a delicious, memorable meal, you’ll feed your soul by helping those in need.

On October 17, 2018, more than 75 restaurants in 19 Canadian cities are taking part in Restaurants for Change. An initiative of Community Food Centres Canada, a national non-profit organization, this annual event benefits healthy food programs in low-income communities across the country.

Visit the Restaurant for Change website to find a restaurant near you, and make those reservations for October 17th. Bring your appetite to one of these 10 tantalizing dining establishments, or one of the 75+ eateries participating from coast-to-coast.


Lavanderia (Montreal, QC)

This Westmount eatery from Chopped Canada judge Antonio Park taps into the South American flavours of his childhood. Serving elevated Argentinean cuisine, diners can feast on ceviche, grilled meats and even paella.


Chew (Winnipeg, MB)

Located in River Heights, Chew offers an intimate dining space where you can savour rustic fare such as crispy duck breast, potato gnocchi and bison. Chef Tyrone Welchinski recently took the reins in the kitchen, creating sumptuous shareable plates that showcase local farmers and producers.

Cluck N Cleaver (Calgary, AB)

Top Chef Canada: All-Stars winner Nicole Gomes and her sister, Francine, are chicken connoisseurs. Whether you prefer your poultry southern fried or rotisserie grilled, this Calgary hotspot’s sandwiches, poutines and meals are sure to satisfy.

Richmond Station (Toronto, ON)

A vibrant downtown Toronto restaurant from Top Chef Canada’s Season 2 champ, Carl Heinrich, Richmond Station focuses on serving up the finest seasonal offerings. Whether you opt for shareable dishes like beef tartare and rabbit & pork pate en croute, or go straight for mains like roasted black cod or Berkshire Pork, it will be a memorable meal.

Mallard Cottage (St. John’s, NL)

Not only will you enjoy a scrumptious meal inspired by the flavours of Newfoundland and Ireland, you’ll be dining in a Canadian National Historic Site located in picturesque Quidi Vidi Village. Chef Todd Perrin, a Top Chef Canada: All-Stars alumnus, celebrates the province’s wild game, seafood and produce in beautifully crafted dishes that feature cod cheeks, lobster, foraged mushrooms and more.


Burdock & Co. (Vancouver, BC)

The Canadian Pacific Northwest’s bounty is the star at this Mount Pleasant eatery. Chef Andrea Carlson carefully selects her ingredients from locally-sourced growers, foragers and farmers and prepares them in a way that allows them to shine. Heritage wheat spaghetti with a hearty pork ragu, buttermilk fried chicken, and house-milled sourdough bread are some of the culinary delights that await diners.

Garde Manger (Montreal, QC)

Located in Old Montreal near the Old Port, Executive chef Chuck Hughes (of Chuck and Danny’s Road Trip ) serves up indulgent eats like lobster poutine, razor clams, porchetta and more. The menu changes daily, so there’s always something new and exciting to try.

The Canteen on Portland (Dartmouth, NS)

Just steps from the Alderney Ferry Terminal in downtown Dartmouth, this warm, welcoming restaurant boasts a menu with dishes influenced by traditional Nova Scotian cuisine with some classic French and Italian flourishes. Owner and chef Renée Lavallée will treat you to unpretentious fare like herb-crusted haddock, seared scallops and beef brisket prepared with her secret ingredient — love.

Ruby Watchco (Toronto, ON)

This Leslieville restaurant from Chefs Lynn Crawford and Lora Kirk has been offering prix-fixe dinners made with seasonal Canadian ingredients since opening in 2010. With a menu that changes each day, you could be surprised with seared rainbow trout, grilled flank steak or BBQ chicken, along with inspired salads, artisanal cheeses and decadent desserts.

RGE RD (Edmonton, AB)

Canadian farm-to-table cuisine is an art at this Edmonton hotspot that places an emphasis on Western Canadian providers and flavours. Chef Blair Lebsack dishes up fresh local fare including Alberta beef, bison and pork with unique twists that will please adventurous diners.

These Paleo Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins are Grain (And Guilt) Free

Just because you’re paleo or grain-free doesn’t mean you should miss out on all of the spectacular baked goods the fall season has to offer.  Pumpkin muffins are classic, but they’re usually made with white flour and white sugar.  Replacing those ingredients with coconut flour and coconut sugar adds a great kick of fibre and a subtle sweet taste that marries well with the spiciness of the ginger and cinnamon. And who can resist a muffin that combines both pumpkin and chocolate? After all, a baked good that can transition from breakfast to dessert is one you want in your repertoire.

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Bake Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 14 muffins

Grain-Free Paleo Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

1/2 cup coconut flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp sea salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves

1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
2/3 cup coconut sugar
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
6 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup mini chocolate chips


1. Preheat the oven to 375°.
2. In a bowl, combine all dry ingredients, except for the chocolate chips.
3. Lightly melt the coconut oil and then whisk together all of the wet ingredients in a bowl.
4. Pour the wet mixture into the dry and stir well, so a smooth batter forms.
5. Using your spatula, fold the chocolate chips into the batter.
6. Line a muffin tin with liners or oil them with a little coconut oil and scoop the batter in.
7. Bake for 30 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Looking for more paleo-friendly recipes? Check out these 5 Eggless Paleo Breakfasts (Plus an Epic Grain-Free Granola)