Nutritionists Share 10 Realistic Ways to Eat Healthier During the Holidays (Without Skipping Carbs!)

Eating healthy during the holidays can be a challenging feat: people believe they need to deprive themselves of their grandmother’s famous jam rolls or their uncle’s beloved stuffing in order to have a healthy holiday season – but, this couldn’t be further from the truth! As nutritionists, we have guided many clients on how to eat well throughout the holidays without feeling guilty, bloated or lethargic. No need to skip out on the sugary treats or specialty alcoholic drinks, because there is actually a way to have your cake (quite literally) and eat it too. Here are our 10 realistic ways to eat healthy during the holidays.

1. Don’t Starve Yourself Before a Meal
A big meal is approaching, so you eat less throughout the day to make “room” for all of the goodies to come – this is a big no-no! When you don’t eat, your blood sugar drops so low that you end up hangrily binging on the meal instead of deeply enjoying it. When you eat this way, you ignore your hunger and full signals, and end up eating too much without really tasting the meal in front of you. Usually what happens next is severe bloating and a food coma. The goal is to have balanced blood sugar throughout the day, so eat all of your meals and/or snacks as you normally do. That way when you get to the holiday meal, your body won’t be as hungry and you will eat serving sizes that are appropriate for you.

2. Start Small (You Can Always Go Back for Seconds!)
The famous casserole, pecan pie and gratin that you otherwise never get to eat are now staring you down – so you must fill your plate! Sound familiar? As nutritionists, we always recommend starting small. This doesn’t mean passing up on the foods that appeal to you most, it just means start with smaller servings. Remember, you can always go back for more. Usually, when you start with smaller servings, you give your body time to realize it’s full and you’ll no longer want to refill your plate. When you take so much food on your first go around, your eyes tell your brain that you must eat it all, even if you get full. So start off small and only go for seconds if you’re still hungry.

3. Go for the Veg
We strongly encourage everyone to eat lots of veggies, especially green ones, which deliver incredible minerals, vitamins and antioxidants to the body. During the holidays, load up your plate with vegetables, even if they’re smothered in maple syrup, heavy cream and bacon. Not only will this help fill you up with fibre (so you feel full faster) but it also provides your body with important nutrients to digest, eliminate and detoxify some foods your body may not be used to eating.

4. Chew Your Food and Eat Mindfully
Did you know that you’re actually supposed to chew your food about 30 times before you swallow so that your salivary enzymes have a chance to break it down? This really applies to your eating habits all year round, but it’s especially important during the holidays. When you chew your food, you tend to eat much slower, your body will better digest the meal, and your brain and body have time to properly communicate and let you know when you’re full. You also allow yourself to eat mindfully and consciously, aware of the amounts you’re eating and the incredible tastes and textures of the food being consumed.

5. Eat Digestive Enzyme Rich Foods
Enzymes help your body process the foods you eat so you’re able to digest well, and then in turn feel energized. Some foods are naturally packaged with important enzymes that aid digestion, and these foods should especially be eaten during the holidays. To avoid feeling bloated, gassy and lethargic, we highly recommend eating pineapples, papayas, lemons, kefir and sauerkraut. They all have natural digestive enzymes that help break down the food you eat. You may even want to try a digestive enzyme supplement. If you’re not sure which one to choose, consult a healthcare practitioner.

6. Don’t Give Into Peer Pressure
Picture this: you’re enjoying a holiday meal, and someone at the dinner table (either the host, your mother-in-law or whomever) is aggressively pushing you to eat more food or to down the very special dish they cooked. This is so common, and many people overeat just so someone else won’t feel bad.  If you don’t want to eat anymore – don’t do it! You can tell the person you’re simply too full, or even ask to take some home so that you can try it later.

7. Choose the Foods You Love First
Most holiday meals are just a smorgasbord of so much food! It’s so easy to fill your plate with everything the eye can see, even if it’s items you don’t actually want. Before letting it all go and grabbing everything in sight, choose the dishes you absolutely love. Usually what happens is when you eat the foods you love first, you don’t feel the need to go back for the other dishes that aren’t as appealing to you anyway. You also limit the chances of overeating and ending up bloated and gassy.


Get the recipe for this Healthy Holiday Grain Bowl With Wine-Baked Tofu and Miso-Mushroom Gravy

8. Drink Lots of Water
You need to drink between 6-8 glasses of water a day, and your need for water will most likely increase during the holidays as your alcohol and sugar intake skyrockets. This will ensure you avoid dehydration and will help your body process these new dietary additions. Drinking water will also aid your digestive system and help flush out toxins. Sometimes when you think you’re hungry, your body is actually just thirsty, so drinking lots of water will also help to eliminate overeating that tends to come with the holiday season.

9. Eat Guilt-Free
You stuff your face, eat lots of desserts, overdo it on the potatoes, have one too many cocktails… and then the guilt sets in: you start beating yourself up for eating so much and now feel sorry for yourself. We’ve all been there. Even if you do over-indulge, it’s important to take that guilt off the menu. If you eat in a state of gratitude, appreciation and love for the food and people around you, it won’t be that big of a deal that you overdid it. It happens, so move on and remember that tomorrow is a new day.


Get the recipe for these Three Easy No-Bake Vegan Chocolate Truffles

10. Find an Accountability Partner
As nutritionists, this is something we recommend for many of our clients, whether it’s during the holiday season or not. If you want to eat healthy, or at least eat in moderation when enjoying a holiday meal, it’s best to call on a friend or family member to be your accountability partner. They don’t need to control what you’re eating, but if you have someone around that has your back and wants to keep you in line with your health goals, you will most likely stick to eating well without overdoing it.

Potato Latke Eggs Benedict is Our New Brunch Favourite

Eggs Benedict is a weekend brunch recipe that will dirty more than a few dishes – but the results are well worth it. This version uses classic latkes as the base, instead of the more common English muffin, and skips the ham for rich smoked salmon. A buttery, bright and oh-so-easy Hollandaise, along with perfect poached eggs, completes this delicious Benny variation. The steps are plentiful, though very simple, so this recipe is absolutely doable for a special holiday breakfast or brunch with family and friends.

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Latke Eggs Benedict with Smoked Salmon

Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Makes: 4

Ingredients:

Easy Blender Hollandaise
2 egg yolks, egg whites reserved for latkes
2 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp water
200 g (about 1 cup) salted butter, melted, still warm
Kosher salt, to taste

Potato Latkes
2 lbs russet potatoes, peeled
1 small yellow onion, peeled
2 egg whites (reserved from hollandaise), whisked
3 Tbsp matzo meal or potato starch
2 tsp kosher salt
¼ tsp baking powder
High-temperature vegetable oil, for frying

Poached Eggs
1 Tbsp distilled white vinegar
8 large eggs

To Assemble
2 Tbsp fresh dill fronds or minced chives
400 g smoked salmon
Lemon wedges

Latkes-eggs-Benedict-ingredients

Directions:    

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, reduce to a simmer.
2. Preheat oven to 200ºF. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
3. Bring the smoked salmon out of the refrigerator to take the chill off.
4. In a medium bowl or blender, add egg yolks, lemon juice and water.
5. With an immersion (stick) blender or regular blender running, add melted butter in a slow, steady stream until mixture is thick and pale yellow. Taste and season with salt, if needed.
6. To keep warm, transfer mixture to a smaller bowl to fit into a large bowl, and fill a larger bowl with just-boiled water (do not allow any to get into the hollandaise). Stir the hollandaise a few times when you’re ready to serve. Alternatively, transfer hollandaise to a thermal container (just make sure it doesn’t smell like coffee!).
7. Using the finest shredding attachment on your food processor, process potatoes and onions (or grate both with a box grater). Transfer mixture to a fine mesh sieve, lined with cheesecloth, set over a large bowl. Squeeze cheesecloth to remove excess starch and water from the potatoes and onion. Then transfer potatoes and onion to a large bowl.

8. To the potatoes and onion mixture, stir in whisked egg whites, followed by matzo meal or potato starch, salt and baking powder.
9. Fill a large skillet with ½ inch of oil. Heat to medium-high. Do not allow oil to smoke. The potato mixture should sizzle immediately when added to the pan; if it doesn’t, wait until the oil comes up to temperature. Fun alternative: try adding the uncooked latke mixture to your waffle iron instead of a skillet, for a fuss-free, extra-crunchy base.
10. Working in batches, without crowding the pan, scoop ¼ cup of potato mixture into hot oil and carefully flatten with a spatula. Fry for 1 to 2 minutes per side, until golden brown and cooked through. Transfer to a prepared baking sheet and keep warm in the oven while you finish the latkes. If you have leftover latkes from another meal, just reheat in oven at 200ºF.
11. To simmering water, add vinegar. One at a time, working quickly, crack eggs into a small bowl and gently add to simmering water. Poach for 3 to 5 minutes, until whites are set but yolks are still runny. Remove from water using a slotted spoon and place on a warmed plate.
12. On plates, add stacks of latkes, and then top with slices of smoked salmon, poached eggs and spoonfuls of Hollandaise. Garnish with dill or chives and lemon wedges. Serve immediately.

Looking for more holiday brunch inspiration? Here are 30 Boxing Day brunch recipes.

chocolate-cherry

Double-Decker Chocolate Cherry Cookies are Twice the Fun

Why make one flavour of cookie when you make two?! Crafting two different cookie doughs might seem excessive, but when it comes to holiday cookies, the more the merrier! Here we paired a cinnamon-spiced chocolate snickerdoodle together with an almond cherry chip cookie for a festive flavour palette that is sure to impress. A drizzle of melted chocolate and holiday sprinkles make them cookie-exchange ready.

Chocolate-Cherry-Chip-Cookies-sprinkles

Double-Decker Chocolate Cherry Chip Cookie Recipe

Makes: 24 to 28 cookies
Bake Time: 10 to 12 minutes
Total Time: 60 minutes

Ingredients: 

Chocolate Snickerdoodle Dough:
1 cup + 3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp cream of tartar
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp cinnamon
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cherry Chip Dough:
½ cup + 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
¼ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
¼ cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp granulated sugar
¼ tsp vanilla extract
splash almond extract
1 egg yolk
1/3 cup chocolate chips
¼ cup dried cherries

Assembly:
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
Melted dark chocolate
Sprinkles

Chocolate-Cherry-Chip-Cookies-chocolate-drizzle

Directions: 
Chocolate Snickerdoodle Dough:
1. Place the flour, cocoa powder, cream of tartar, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a bowl. Whisk to combine and set aside.
2. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth. Add the sugar and mix until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla. Mix until combined. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl.
3. Add the dry ingredients in two additions, mixing on low speed until the dough comes together.
4. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator as you prepare the second dough.

Cherry Chip Dough:
1. Place the flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Whisk to combine and set aside.
2. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth. Add both sugars and mix until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the egg yolk, vanilla, and almond extract. Mix until combined. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl.
3. Add the dry ingredients in two additions, mixing on low speed until the dough comes together. Stir in the chocolate chips and dried cherries until combined.

Chocolate-Cherry-Chip-Cookies-plate

Assembly:
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
2. Place the ¼ cup granulated sugar and teaspoon of cinnamon in a bowl. Swirl to combine.
3. Scoop out 1 tablespoon-size balls of the chocolate snickerdoodle dough and roll into a ball. Place the ball in the cinnamon-sugar mixer and roll around until coated.
4. Place the coated dough ball on a lined baking sheet. Press the back of a tablespoon into the center of the dough ball to create a small indentation (like when creating thumb-print cookies).
5. Scoop out ½ teaspoon-size balls of the cherry chip dough and roll into a ball. Place the ball in the well of the chocolate snickerdoodle dough. Gently press both doughs down together until they are flush with each other.
6. Continue with the remaining dough, spacing the cookies at least 2 inches apart.
7. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the edges of the cookies are set. Cool the cookies on a wire rack before decorating.
8. To decorate, fill a piping bag, parchment cone, or zip-top bag with the melted chocolate. Snip the end to create a small opening, and drizzle chocolate over the cooled cookies. Add sprinkles before the chocolate dries.

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

Show-Stopping Christmas Cupcake Wreath

Want to turn heads at your next holiday party or create a flashy dessert table? Turn ordinary cupcakes into a show-stopping centrepiece by simply arranging them to form a wreath!

CupcakeWreath01

Adorn mini cupcakes with sugar paste holly leaves before gathering them to create a giant edible wreath. A few sprinkles and sugar pearls give this easy dessert a bit of extra flair. Guests may resist snagging a cupcake for fear they may mess up the design, but this hesitation will only last a second — they’re too delicious not to enjoy!

If you don’t have a holly leaf cutter, you may cut the fondant by hand, make icing leaves using a piping bag and leaf tip, or tint the buttercream green and decorate as desired.  Arrange the cupcakes on your serving area before you frost and decorate to help create a more cohesive design. Pipe the buttercream so they almost touch, and arrange the leaves so they overlap and join the cupcakes together. Enjoy!

Active Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Cook: 12 to 15 minutes
Total: 5 hours, 45 minutes (including setting/cooling time)
Serves: 45 mini cupcakes

Vanilla Spice Cupcakes:
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
12 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup whole milk

Holly Leaves:
3 to 4 oz green fondant
Holly leaf cutter
Paring knife
Foil or a brown paper bag

Vanilla Buttercream Icing:
3 large egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp cinnamon

Assembly:
Piping bag and piping tip
Assorted sprinkles (optional)
Festive bow (optional)
Round red candies or fondant balls

CupcakeWreath02

Directions:

Cupcakes:
1. Pre-heat oven to 350°F. Line a mini muffin tin with cupcake papers and set aside.
2. Whisk together the dry ingredients and set aside.
3. Using an electric mixer, combine the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until smooth. Add in the vanilla and mix until combined. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl.
4. With the mixer on low, gradually add in half of the dry ingredients. Slowly stream in the milk and mix until combined. Add in the remaining dry ingredients and mix until incorporated. Mix on medium for no more than about 30 seconds or until completely combined.
5. Evenly distribute the batter into the liners using a spoon, filling 2/3 of the way full.
6. Bake the cupcakes in the preheated over for 12 to 15 minutes. When done, they should be slightly golden on top and toothpick inserted into the centre should come out clean.
7. Cool cupcakes on a wire rack before frosting.

CupcakeWreath06

Vanilla Buttercream Icing:
1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, add the egg whites and sugar. Whisk briefly by hand until combined.
2. Fill a saucepan with a few inches of water and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Place the mixer bowl on top of the saucepan to create a double-boiler. Stirring intermittently, heat the egg mixture until it reaches 150°F to 160°F on a candy thermometre.
3. Once hot, carefully return the mixer bowl to the stand mixer. Fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg white mixture on high until stiff peaks, about 8 minutes. When done, the outside of the mixer bowl should return to room temperature.
4. Stop the mixer and swap the whisk for the paddle attachment. With the mixer on low, add in the vanilla, cinnamon, and butter, a couple Tbsp at a time. Once all of the butter has been added, turn the mixer up to medium-high and mix until smooth.
5. If the mixture looks curdled, just keep mixing until it is smooth (this could take up to about 5 minutes). If it appears soupy, place the mixer bowl in the fridge for 10 to 15 minutes, then mix until smooth.

CupcakeWreath04

Holly Leaves:
1. Crumple then flatten a piece of foil or a brown paper bag (cut to lay flat) and set aside.
2. Working with only a portion of the fondant at a time, roll it out to 1/4 to 1/8 of an inch thick. Use the holly leaf cutter to cut out the leaves. Using the back of a paring knife, score the leaves down the centre and diagonally on each side to create leaf impressions. Pinch the bottom of each leaf then let dry on the foil or paper bag for at least 4 hours or overnight. Repeat with the remaining fondant. You will need about 60 to 80 leaves to complete the design. The crumbled foil/paper bag will give the leaves a natural shape as they dry.

CupcakeWreath07

Assembly:
1. Arrange the cooled cupcakes into the shape of a wreath on a large serving dish or platter. Fill a piping bag fitted with a star tip with the buttercream. Pipe the frosting onto the tops of the cupcakes and sprinkle with sugar pearls, jimmies, or dragées, if desired.
2. Arrange the dried holly leaves on top of the cupcakes to form a wreath. Top with the red candies or fondant balls and bow to complete the design.

CupcakeWreath03
3. It’s easier to pipe the cupcakes and arrange the holly leaves after the cupcakes have already been placed in the wreath shape. If transporting, pipe and decorate each cupcake individually, then arrange into the wreath shape before serving.

Looking for more festive treats? Try Ina Garten’s Festive Holiday Desserts.

Three Easy No-Bake Vegan Chocolate Truffles to Please the Foodie in Your Life

Chocolate truffles are one of the easiest candies to make at home. There’s no candy thermometer or boiling sugar to contend with; and they come together with just a handful of pantry ingredients. This chocolate truffle recipe is vegan, with rich coconut milk and oil taking place of traditional heavy cream and butter. And because the holidays are about going all-out when it comes to sweets, three options are given for festive panache. The no-bake base gets glammed up with gingerbread, fruitcake and coconut flavours, delivering a texture and taste to please any giftee. For parties, hosting gifts or family get-togethers, this big-batch recipe makes enough to share.

Trio of No-Bake Vegan Chocolate Truffles

Prep time: 30 minutes
Chilling time: 7 hours
Makes: 80 (approximately 26 of each flavour)

Ingredients:

Vegan Chocolate Truffle Base:
600 g dairy-free semi-sweet or dark chocolate, finely chopped
6 Tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch, salt
2 cups coconut milk, well shaken (avoid light or reduced fat options)

Gingerbread Truffles:
⅓ Vegan Chocolate Truffle Base
⅓ cup crystallized ginger, finely chopped (plus some for garnish, if desired)
1 Tbsp molasses
⅛ tsp ground allspice
⅛ tsp ground cinnamon
⅛ tsp ground cloves
⅔ cup cocoa powder (for rolling)

Fruitcake Truffles:
⅓ Vegan Chocolate Truffle Base
⅓ cup dried fruit or raisins, chopped
2 tsp dark rum
1 tsp orange zest
¼ tsp almond extract
1 cup toasted walnuts, finely chopped (for rolling)
Note: omit walnuts and almond extract for nut-free recipe

Coconut Truffles:
⅓ Vegan Chocolate Truffle Base
1 ½ cups unsweetened desiccated coconut, cooled

Directions:
1. In a large bowl, add chocolate, coconut oil, vanilla extract and salt. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, heat coconut milk until steaming around the edges, just before a boil. Remove from heat and pour into chocolate mixture. Allow it to sit undisturbed for 5 minutes, then whisk well.

2. Divide truffle base between three medium bowls or pans. In one bowl containing ⅓ of the truffle base, add all the gingerbread truffle ingredients except for the cocoa powder for rolling. Stir well to combine. In the second bowl containing ⅓ of the truffle base, add all the fruitcake truffle ingredients except the walnuts and stir well to combine. In the third bowl containing the final ⅓ of the truffle base, add ½ cup of unsweetened desiccated coconut (leaving one cup for rolling) and then stir well to combine.
3. Label and refrigerate all three chocolate truffle bowls for at least 6 hours until firm (or up to 1 week if covered).
4. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and roll each truffle into a 1 to 2 tablespoon-sized ball and add to baking sheet.
5. For the gingerbread truffles, roll in cocoa powder and gently press in a piece of additional crystallized ginger if desired. For the fruitcake truffles, roll in chopped walnuts. For the coconut truffles, roll in the additional coconut.
6. Refrigerate truffles until firm (about 1 hour) before transferring to an airtight container. Store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 1 month. Serve chilled.

Looking for more dairy-free holiday sweets? Check out these 25 decadent holiday vegan desserts!

Iron-Chef-Lynn-Crawford-tile1

Why Iron Chef Canada’s Lynn Crawford Was Destined for Kitchen Stadium

Canada boasts a wide variety of chefs from coast-to-coast, but one name that always reigns supreme is chef Lynn Crawford. From her early days on Restaurant Makeover to her food travel series Pitchin’ In, (not to mention a plethora of guest-starring gigs on shows like Top Chef Canada in between), Crawford has become synonymous with showcasing Canadian cuisine, cultures, and ingredients.

Now the former Four Seasons chef and current Ruby Watchco owner is poised to continue that mission on Iron Chef Canada. We caught up with Crawford—who also happens to be the first Canadian female chef to have participated in the American series—to get her take on Canada’s tastiest ingredients, her inherent love of food, and what it takes to make it in Kitchen Stadium.

Iron-Chef-Lynn-Crawford-talking-to-judges

Where does your love of food stem from and did you always want to be a chef?

Oh, absolutely. I’ve always enjoyed cooking. Fond family memories have always been about everyone preparing our family supper and sharing our day with one another—that was really important. I just had a passion for food, I love it. I loved everything about it. Helping mom and dad in the kitchen and exploring. Each time we went out on a little adventure, a road trip, different restaurants that we’d go to, farmers markets, all that—I loved it.

When did you realize cooking could be your career?

Not until my university days when I handled a part-time job and I was surrounded by people that were attending the HAFA program at the University of Guelph and they were really shining a spotlight that there is a profession out there in cooking.

As a champion for locally-raised food, do you have a favourite ingredient right now?

Right now there are too many to talk about! Right now is all about the fall squash, pumpkin, pears, apples, sweet corn. The  most exciting time for any chef to be cooking is during the fall harvest.

Which Canadian chef is inspiring or exciting you right now?

There are so many incredibly talented chefs out there. Can you just pick some for me? There are just so many. That’s what’s so incredible about Canada, from coast-to-coast and in the middle we’re just surrounded by so many talented chefs. I’m inspired by so many. My dear friend Lisa Ahier from Tofino is landing here in Toronto to do an event with Michael Blackie who is another dear friend up in Ottawa. And then I’ve got Wayne Martin up in Winnipeg who is absolutely incredible. Ned Bell, his advocacy for sustainable seafood, what he does. Connie [DeSousa] and John [Jackson] at Charbar and Charcut. Dale McKay and what he’s doing. There are so many, it’s a long list. I’m just so grateful to have met so many and had so many opportunities to cook alongside [these chefs].

How did it feel to bring Iron Chef to Canada?

It was just a matter of time for the competition to come to Canada. The Iron Chef franchise, to be included in that is exceptionally special for all of us who are participating, both the iron chefs and the competitors. And to have Kitchen Stadium here in Canada, that’s brilliant. The high level of expertise and talent and commitment that goes into participating in a battle is unlike any competition that you’ll ever participate in or experience. For me, personally, the Canadian twist in it is how we are showcasing the Canadian talent, the Canadian ingredients, and the Canadian passion for excellence.

What was your preparation like for the competition?

I’ll never do it again! No, I’m kidding. It was hard. It was war. Lora [Lora Kirk], my wife was six months pregnant [at the time]. Michael Blackie flew in from Ottawa. We did all of our practice at home.

What did you learn from the Iron Chef America Stadium that you brought to Iron Chef Canada?

The kitchens are quite similar and just having had that opportunity to go down and battle in New York was surely beneficial. But that was a long time ago. And of course, every battle that you’re preparing for is very different. You don’t know who your competitor is, you don’t know what the secret ingredient is, and is your team ready for that day and for that battle? But I know more now than I did back then. That was many, many years ago.

What can we expect from the competition this season?

It’s going to be exceptionally entertaining and it’s going to really showcase Canada’s finest. It’s going to be really intense, it’s going to be absolutely incredible. A lot of creativity, a lot of talent, a lot of passion. It’s the original food competition show that really showcasing excellence. It was a thrill to participate now on both sides.

What did your time in Kitchen Stadium teach you?

You’re only as good as your last dish. I was striving for excellence. My excellence or my philosophy of what I do each and every day. I just want to give the very, very best to my guests. I’m lucky that I get to do what I do.

Are there any chefs—living or dead—that you would love to take on in Kitchen Stadium?

I kind of like the surprise element. Is there somebody that I would like to have a battle with? To cook with? You have the opportunity to cook with so many different chefs, but one-on-one? Wow. That’s a good question.

What’s your go-to staple tool in the Iron Chef Canada kitchen?

Nothing was really out of the ordinary. Your basic chef kit is really all you really need. You don’t have time for the gadgets. All a chef needs is a great peeler, a good set of chef knives, and away you go.

How did you feel about the secret ingredients?

There were no ingredients where I wondered how I would make five wonderful dishes. I was very happy with what was revealed on each day that I cooked.

What goes through your head when you hear the secret ingredient and how do you put your menu together?

It’s really spontaneous. When the ingredient is revealed, there are five dishes that you think about and there’s not a lot of time to think about what you want. So it’s really honouring the ingredient and making that the star of the dish. You have to be very quick about what it is that you’re going to prepare and if I were asked to do something with the ingredient again, I’m sure it would be really different.

If you could pick a secret ingredient, what would you choose?

It could really be anything. Right now looking around the kitchen, I’ve got lovely Cortland apples. We’ve got butternut squash we’ve got a lovely artisanal cheese. There’s a pumpkin. Beef tenderloin. Lobster. A beautiful chanterelle? Why not? Can we have all of them?

Did you have a dish that you cooked in the Kitchen Stadium that you’re most proud of?

How can I say it without giving away with giving it away? Listen, I would cook them all again—they were all delicious!

 

Minty Nanaimo Bars

Holly Jolly Peppermint Nanaimo Bars

Just in time for the holidays, we’ve taken the traditional Canadian treat and dressed it up with an extra festive twist. We’ve kept the Nanaimo bar‘s classic, with a chewy base and creamy custard filling, but added a splash of peppermint to the chocolate glaze. Who doesn’t love mint and chocolate together? A quick sprinkling of crushed peppermint candies fancies up this simple yet nostalgic treat — perfect for any holiday dessert buffet!

Peppermint Nanaimo Bars

Peppermint Nanaimo Bars

Cook Time:  30 minutes
Total Time:  80 minutes
Serves: 12

Ingredients:
Base:
3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1/2 cup walnuts, finely chopped
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup granulated sugar
6 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1 egg, lightly whisked
Pinch salt

Filling:
6 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
2 Tbsp custard powder
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 to 2 cups confectioner’s sugar
2 to 4 Tbsp milk

Topping:
4 oz semi-sweet chocolate
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp coconut oil
1/2 to 1 tsp  peppermint extract, or to taste
Crushed peppermint candies

Peppermint Nanaimo Bars

Directions:
1. Pre-heat oven to 350°F. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper and set aside.
2. In a mixing bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs, coconut, walnuts, cocoa, sugar and salt. Stir in melted butter and egg. Mix until evenly combined.
3. Dump the mixture into the prepared pan. Press/smooth into an even layer using an offset spatula or the back of a spoon.
4. Bake for 10 to 14 minutes, or until the top feels slightly firm. Allow to completely cool on a wire rack before adding the next layer.

Peppermint Nanaimo Bars

For the Filling:
1. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter until smooth. Gradually add in the remaining ingredients until incorporated. Turn the mixer up to medium and mix until smooth and creamy. Add a bit more milk and/or sugar as needed until the filling is a spreadable consistency.
2. Spread on top of cooled base with an offset spatula. Chill in refrigerator until slightly firm, about 20 minutes.

Peppermint Nanaimo Bars

For the Topping:
1. Once the custard base has chilled, place chocolate, butter and coconut oil in the top portion of a double-boil. Melt over simmering water and stir until smooth. Add peppermint extract to taste.
2. Spread melted chocolate over chilled custard layer. Sprinkle with crushed peppermint candies and refrigerate until chocolate sets.
3. Once set, run a thin knife around the edges of the pan and pull out the squares using the parchment paper. Slice into 12 even bars using a large, sharp knife. Enjoy!

Peppermint Nanaimo Bars

Looking for more tasty recipes? Try these 10 Tasty Nanaimo Bar Recipes.

We’ll be Making Slow Cooker Cabbage Rolls All Winter Long

Stuffed cabbage is an Eastern European favourite and depending on where you’re from there will be tons of variations on this comforting, classic recipe. Some swear by a sweet sauce, or insist on using raisins while others follow the sweet and sour tradition. Some stuff with pork and beef, while others keep it simple and vegetarian. No matter how you make them, this classic dish will always satisfy, but our recipe means you can make-ahead. Come home to a meal that’s been slowing cooking and will definitely warm you up in those colder months.

cabbage-rolls-cut-open

Slow Cooker Cabbage Rolls Recipe

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 4-8 hours
Servings: 6

Ingredients
1 large green cabbage head or 2 small

Sauce:
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 small onion, diced
28 oz can crushed tomatoes
½ tsp sea salt
Pinch of pepper

Filling:
½ cup uncooked brown rice
1 lb lean ground beef
1 yellow onion, diced
1 carrot, grated
½ bunch fresh parsley, chopped
1 tsp sea salt
Pinch of pepper

cabbage-rolls-how-to-roll

Directions
Cabbage:
1. Boil a pot of water and toss in a little sea salt. Prepare a large bowl or pot of cold water.
2. Turn your cabbage upside down, carefully slice around the core and pull it out. There may be some parts of the core still inside, do your best to cut them out so you have a hole in the bottom of the cabbage.
3. Once the water is boiling, place the cabbage down into the water with the core-end down. After about a minute, use your tongs and begin turning the cabbage in the water. Allow to boil for 5 minutes and then plunge the whole head of cabbage into the bowl of cold water or simply run it under cold water from your tap.
4. Once slightly cooled, gently remove 12 cabbage leaves, being careful not to break.

Sauce:
1. Heat a pot on medium heat and drizzle oil. Add the onions cool until translucent, about 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic and saute for 30 seconds.
2. Pour in the crushed tomatoes, sea salt and pepper. Cover and allow to simmer while you prepare the filling.

Filling:
1. Place all filling ingredients in a bowl and mix so everything is well combined.

cabbage-rolls-in-crockpot

Assembly:
1. Place about ¼ – ⅓ cup of filling into each cabbage roll. Fold in the sides and end of the leaf and then continue to roll until it’s closed. Repeat until all the leaves and filling have been used.
2. Place a little bit of sauce on the bottom of the slow cooker and then place the cabbage rolls in, seam side down.
3. Pour the rest of the sauce on top. Turn on low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours.

cabbage-rolls-served

Looking for more comforting recipes? Try our Must-Make Slow Cooker Recipes that will keep you full and happy all season long.

The Delicious Difference Between Potatoes Au Gratin and Dauphinoise

There’s something irresistible about a dish of creamy, bubbly potatoes. And while we enjoy scalloped potatoes as much as the next carb-lover, we can’t help but wonder if the mouthwatering layers of taters au gratin are really just dauphinoise potatoes in disguise. Gratin potatoes – Dauphinoise potatoes, they’re the same thing, right? Wrong.

ultimate-potatoes-gratinGet the recipe for Tyler Florence’s Ultimate Potatoes au Gratin

Gratin is a French word that means the crust that forms on top of a dish when you brown it in the oven or under the broiler. The term originally comes from the French word “gratter” (to scrape) which refers to the need to scrape the crunchy bits of cooked food off the bottom of a dish so as not to waste it. In the case of a potato dish, the crunchy topping is usually from breadcrumbs or cheese and nowadays, “au gratin” is often used to refer to a dish topped and broiled until crunchy. Potatoes au gratin are slices of pre-cooked (usually boiled) potato cooked in cream and topped with cheese which makes the gratin.

Gratin Dauphinoise, on the other hand, is a dish made of thinly-sliced (not pre-cooked) potatoes that cook in cream. Dauphinoise traditionally does not contain any cheese. The starches in the potato mix with the cream to thicken the creamy sauce which contrasts with the crispy topping that comes from finishing the dish in a hot oven or a broiler.

Whichever way you cook your crunchy-topped potatoes, with cheese or without, it’s the perfect dish to ease into the cooler weather – the side dish that goes with absolutely everything! Here are a few different variations on creamy and/ or cheesy potatoes that will see you through the winter!

Nancy-Cheesy-Potato-GratinGet the recipe for Cheesy Potato Gratin

Bertinelli-Root-Vegetable-GratinGet the recipe for Valerie’s Root Vegetable Gratin

Squash-and-Potato-GratinGet the recipe for Spaghetti Squash and Cheesy Potato au Gratin

Looking for more tasty sides? Try more of our Perfect Potato Side Dishes.

antipasto-cups-on-cutting-board

Salami Antipasto Cups are Your New Favourite Make-Ahead Appetizers

Parties, parties and more parties rule this time of year. From ugly sweater get-togethers to cookie swaps to annual potlucks, your calendar seems to fill up quickly in this season of celebration. With party-going comes the need for fun and flavourful appetizers you can toss together with ease, no matter the occasion.

These cute little salami antipasto cups are a perfect holiday party date. Each savoury cup is packed with delicious and fresh flavours that are guaranteed to make you a favoured guest. The best part? You can use virtually any and all kinds of salami, fresh herbs, cheese and veggies you have on hand for a delicious array of flavour combinations. Plus, you can make these bites in advance, and use a muffin tin to safely transport to your party.

stuffed-salami-antipasto-cups

Salami Antipasto Cups Recipe

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Makes: 24 cups

Ingredients:
24 slices round salami
½ cup  mozzarella cheese, torn or cubed
½ cup artichoke hearts, chopped
⅓ cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
10 basil leaves, torn
2 Tbsp roasted red peppers, chopped
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

salami-cup-ingredients

Directions:
1. Heat oven to 375F. Line 24 mini muffin tins with salami. Fill each cup with a 1-inch loose tinfoil ball. Bake 12 to 15 minutes until crispy. Let cool completely.

2. Toss together remaining ingredients. Spoon into cooled cups.

Looking for more tasty ideas? Try these Holiday Party Appetizers Your Guests Will Love.

Make This Healthy Vegan Grain Bowl (With Wine-Baked Tofu!) For Your Holiday Dinner Party

Classic holiday dishes lend themselves naturally to the grain bowl concept, offering a combination of contrasting yet complementary textures, tastes and colours for a celebratory meal-in-one. This bowl also happens to be vegan, with a red wine-baked tofu instead of turkey and a roasted garlic miso-mushroom gravy. Simply mashed sweet potatoes, green beans enlivened with lemon and fluffy quinoa round out this celebratory holiday bowl.

Serve this up family-style and have guests build their own bowls, or enjoy it as a weeknight or weekend winter dinner. Like all great bowls, the add-ons and combinations are flexible – try roasted brussels sprouts or steamed kale instead of green beans, pan-fried butternut squash or mashed Yukon gold potatoes instead of mashed sweet potatoes and roasted chickpeas instead of tofu. Of course, the true testament to this bowl’s holiday status: the leftovers are delicious!

Healthy Vegan Grain Bowl With Red Wine Glazed Tofu and Miso-Mushroom Gravy

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Marinating Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 45 minutes
Servings: 4

Ingredients:

Red Wine and Thyme Glazed Tofu:
1 (280 g) package extra-firm pressed tofu
½ cup red wine or cranberry juice
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp tamari or soy sauce
1 Tbsp maple syrup
½ tsp dried thyme

Mashed Sweet Potatoes:
4 medium sweet potatoes, well scrubbed
1 Tbsp coconut oil
¼ tsp salt
⅛ tsp ground black pepper



Roasted Garlic Miso-Mushroom Gravy:
1 whole head garlic, halved crosswise
2 Tbsp sweet white miso
2 Tbsp finely chopped dried porcini mushrooms
1 Tbsp tamari or soy sauce
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp red wine or cranberry juice
1 Tbsp spelt flour
1¼ cups water, plus more to thin if desired

Lemony Green Beans:
200 g green beans, trimmed
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp lemon zest

For Serving:
3–4 cups cooked quinoa or brown rice, warm
Lemon wedges
Chopped fresh parsley

Directions:

Red Wine and Thyme Glazed Tofu:
1. Slice tofu into ¼-inch slabs and then each slab diagonally into 2 triangles. In a large shallow dish, whisk to combine red wine or cranberry juice, vinegar, tamari or soy sauce, maple syrup and thyme. Add tofu in a single layer, cover, and marinade at room temperature for 1 hour. Meanwhile, prepare the other components.
2. When you’re ready to bake the tofu, preheat oven to 375ºF. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and add tofu in a single layer. Drizzle over marinade. Bake for 7 minutes, flip and bake for an additional 7 to 12 minutes, or until tofu is beginning to brown and dry around the edges and marinade is reduced. Reheat in the oven right before serving.

Mashed Sweet Potatoes and Roasted Garlic:
1. Preheat oven to 375ºF. Line a large baking sheet with parchment or foil and add sweet potatoes. Prick with a knife to allow steam to escape and pop in the oven for 35 to 50 minutes, until completely tender when pierced with a knife.
2. Roast the garlic for the gravy in a foil ball at the same time as you are cooking the sweet potatoes, until tender. Cool and reserve for gravy.
3. When potatoes are cool enough to handle but still warm so coconut oil will melt, peel sweet potatoes, discard skin and add sweet potato flesh to a large bowl along with coconut oil, salt and pepper. Mash with a fork until smooth. Reheat right before serving in a low oven or on the stovetop.

Roasted Garlic Miso-Mushroom Gravy:
1. Squeeze half of the roasted garlic (method above) in a medium saucepan – it’s okay if you get garlic papers in the pot as this will be strained at the end. To garlic, add miso, mushrooms, coconut oil, vinegar, red wine or cranberry juice, tamari or soy sauce and flour.
2. Whisking constantly, heat miso mixture over medium heat until coconut oil is melted and a thick, bubbling paste forms. Slowly whisk in water and cook, whisking constantly, until bubbling and thickened, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and rest for 2 minutes, then strain using a fine mesh sieve into a warmed gravy boat or small pouring jug. Discard used sieve components.



Lemony Green Beans:
Steam or blanch green beans until tender-crisp, about 5 minutes. Drain and add to a large bowl and toss with olive oil and lemon zest. Set aside until ready to serve.

Assembly:
To bowls, add a bed of quinoa, dollop of mashed sweet potatoes, side of green beans and fan of tofu. Pour over warm gravy, to taste, and finish with a sprinkle of parsley and squeeze of lemon. Serve immediately. Alternatively, lay everything out family-style and allow guests to build their own bowls.

Craving more wholesome easy-to-make recipes? Here are 15 Meal-Sized Salads You’ll Actually Crave, and 15 Sweet and Savoury Breakfast Bowls for Brighter Mornings.

Iron-Chef-Canada-battle-cauliflower-tile

Cauliflower May Just Be the Most Versatile Iron Chef Canada Ingredient To Date

Food fads come and go, but cauliflower and its magical powers seem to be one trendy ingredient that isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. And with good reason—it’s a low-calorie, high-vitamin veggie, one that can be transformed into a variety of mouth-watering dishes.

Look no further than Iron Chef Canada‘s Battle Cauliflower for proof. The Chairman tasked challenger (and former Top Chef Canada winner) René Rodriguez and Iron Chef Amanda Cohen with concocting five dishes featuring the cruciferous veggie, and boy, did they deliver. From cauliflower dumplings and arancino to a cauliflower “Funfetti” cake and pannacotta, these chefs proved that cauli-“power” is a very real thing.

In honour of the versatile ingredient, here’s everything you ever wanted to know about it.

Iron Chef Canada cauliflower reveal

When is cauliflower in season in Canada?

Luckily, cauliflower is available year-round, but it’s always at its best (and most inexpensive) come fall. That’s when you’ll see larger heads pop up on store shelves or lining the stalls at local farmer’s markets, where it’s just waiting to be transformed into a hearty soup, mash or roasted dish.

What does cauliflower taste like?

Cauliflower is one of those vegetables that just goes well with everything thanks to its mild flavour, as it tends to absorb the herbs and spices it’s seasoned with. But overall it’s slightly nutty with a bit of a bitter undertone, which means that while you can swap it in for a variety of carbs, you’ll usually still get a hint of cauliflower taste in your finished dish.

What do you eat cauliflower with?

This veggie is great as a snack, side dish, or main, and it can be paired with a variety of spices and ingredients that enhance its natural flavour. We’d say anything goes, but we’re particularly fond of pairing cauliflower with other fall ingredients like venison or pumpkin, as well as salty, savoury cheese.

What are the health benefits of eating cauliflower?

Cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower (and broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and kale), are basically a superfood. Cauliflower is low in calories and fat-free, and contains an abundance of vitamins, from folate and Vitamin C, to Vitamins E and K. It also contains omega-3 fatty acids, which help to regulate cholesterol and heart disease; it’s high in fibre; and it also contains sulforaphane, a compound that may be key to preventing cancer.

Need more reasons to munch on cauliflower? It’s also said to boost brain function, balance hormones, improve the appearance of skin and hair, and help your vision. All that on top of it being a great tool for weight loss. No wonder more and more people are cooking the veggie up.

The great cauliflower debate: cooked or raw?

It’s no secret that people can be pretty particular about how they consume their cauliflower. While some prefer the raw crunch that comes with biting into a floret (accompanying a cheesy dip or guacamole, maybe?) others prefer the milder flavour of it cooked.

While it’s always a good idea to incorporate more veggies into your diet no matter how they’re prepared, the hard-to-digest sugars in raw cruciferous vegetables can lead to gas and bloating for some folks. Meanwhile, people with a thyroid condition might want to heat up their cauliflower too, given that raw cruciferous veggies contain thyroid inhibitors, which may worsen the condition.

raw cauliflower

How to make cauliflower rice

Ricing cauliflower is super quick and easy—all you need is a food processor. Separate the florets and give them a quick wash, then pop them into the processor and pulsate until you achieve the texture of rice. Easy, peasy.

Don’t have a food processor? You can also grate the florets using a cheese grater.

Once you’ve got your “rice,” (which is about 25 calories per cup compared to 205 calories per cup for white rice), you can use it in a variety of dishes that call for regular rice, from cauliflower fried rice to sushi. Just keep an eye on your cooking time: in a hot dish cauliflower rice only needs five-to-eight minutes on the stovetop.

You can also freeze cauliflower rice once it’s been pulsated down, simply throw it into labelled freezer-safe bags and then pull it out when you’re in need of a quick, low-carb side dish.

cauliflower-fried-rice

Cauliflower pizza

Rice isn’t the only magical thing to come out of a head of cauliflower—you can make cauliflower-based pizza crust too. The trick to a successful crust is to ring out all of the water from the veggie as you go, but be warned that it’s not pizza crust. This is a thinner, healthier version, albeit one that’s improved with the addition of life’s two secret ingredients: tomato sauce and cheese.

 

Watch Iron Chef Canada Wednesdays at 10 PM E/P

beet-barlotto-in-a-pot

5 Comforting Barley Recipes For an Oh-So-Cozy Fall

Barley is far too often cast as a bland and boring grain – that is, until now. We’ve given this comforting fall grain it a makeover with five exciting recipes where barley is the star. The nutrient-rich grain has a firm texture and subtly nutty flavour, pairing well with savoury fall soups, stews and salads, but it can go beyond those recipe confines, too. From a magenta beet ‘barlotto’ to a sweet breakfast porridge and beyond, these recipes offer a glimpse into barley’s sassier side.

Beet Barley Risotto

Beet “Barlotto” (Barley Risotto)

Rice is swapped out for barley in this risotto-inspired meal made with earthy beets and Parmesan cheese.

Directions: In a medium saucepan, heat 1 L chicken or vegetable stock. Meanwhile, heat 2 Tbsp unsalted butter in a large high-sided skillet over medium. To butter, add 1 minced garlic clove and 1 finely chopped onion; cook until translucent, about 8 minutes. Add 1 cup pearl barley, 1 cup grated raw beet (about 2 small) and 1/2 tsp salt. Add 1/3 cup white wine and cook while stirring until barley has absorbed all of the liquid, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and begin adding stock, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring the entire time. Keep adding more stock, 1/2 cup at a time, when previous addition is almost fully absorbed. Continue to cook until barley is tender, but still has some bite to it, about 30 to 40 minutes. To finish, stir in 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese. Remove from heat and add to warmed serving plates or bowls. Garnish with fresh parsley and more Parmesan cheese, if desired. Serve. Serves 6.

Creamy Mushroom Barley Soup 

This hearty soup made with mushrooms and barley is a bowl of pure comfort.

Directions: In a small bowl, soak 1 oz. dried mushrooms of choice in 1 cup recently boiled water for 45 minutes. Drain, reserving soaking water and roughly chop rehydrated mushrooms. In a large pot over medium heat, melt 3 Tbsp unsalted butter. Sauté 170 g sliced fresh cremini mushrooms, 1 diced onion, 1 diced carrot and 2 diced ribs celery. Stir in 3/4 cup pearl barley and rehydrated chopped mushrooms. Add in reserved mushroom rehydrating liquid along with 7 cups chicken or vegetable stock. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until barley is tender. To finish, stir in 1/2 cup full-fat sour cream (low-fat varieties will curdle), ladle into bowls and garnish with fresh dill. Serves 6.

barley porridge

Sweet Barley Porridge

Oats aren’t the only grain the can make great porridge. Barley turns into a delicious, subtly sweet breakfast cereal packed with nutrition and comfort food appeal.

Directions: In a medium saucepan, combine 1 L unsweetened almond milk, 3/4 cup pearl barley, 1 tsp ground cinnamon and a pinch of salt. Heat over medium heat, stirring often until mixture comes to a boil. Immediately reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until barley is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed about 40 minutes. To finish, stir in 1/4 cup maple syrup and 1/4 cup golden raisins. Scoop porridge into bowls and serve warm topped with chopped nuts and additional milk. Serves 6.

Autumn Barley Salad

This fall-inspired salad is packed with sweet potatoes, apple, fennel and chewy barley. It’s as good for a weekday lunch as it is tucked next to baked salmon for dinner on the weekend.

Directions: In a large bowl, gently mix to combine 1 cup cooked pearl barley, 1 roasted and diced sweet potato (slightly under-roast and chill for a tidier dice), 1 diced apple, 1 cup shaved fennel and 1/3 cup chopped walnuts. Gently mix in 1 Tbsp ground cumin, 2 Tbsp olive oil and salt and pepper, to taste. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley and crumbled feta. Serve. Serves 4.

barley tabbouleh

Barley Tabbouleh

Barley replaces bulgur wheat in this refreshing twist on the Middle Eastern salad.

Directions: In a large bowl, mix 1 cup cooked pearl barley with 1 bunch finely chopped fresh parsley and 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh mint. To the barley and herbs, add 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes, 1/2 finely diced cucumber and 2 thinly sliced green onions. For the dressing, in a small bowl, whisk to combine 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, 2 Tbsp lemon juice and salt and pepper, taste. Add dressing to barley mixture, toss and serve. Serves 4.

Now that you’ve mastered barley, reinvigorate another blank canvas-grain with these fast and healthy quinoa recipes.

feature-image-gingerbread-cookie

These Chewy Gingerbread Eggnog Sandwich Cookies are a New Christmas Classic

Few flavours evoke the holiday season as well as spicy ginger cookies and creamy eggnog. For these soft, chewy and indulgent sandwich cookies, we combined these two beloved flavours to make one delectable treat. A perfect hostess gift or for your cookie exchange, they’ll even have Santa coming back for seconds!

cookies-cooling-and-filling

Chewy Ginger Eggnog Sandwich Cookie Recipe

Prep Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 1 hr 25 minutes
Makes: 16 sandwich cookies

Ingredients:
Cookies
2-¼ cups flour
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp cloves
¼ tsp salt
⅔ cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar, divided
1 egg
⅓ cup molasses

Icing
½ cup butter, softened
½ tsp vanilla
½ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp salt
2-¼ cups icing sugar
¼ cup eggnog

gingerbread-cookies-on-rack

Directions:
1. Heat oven to 350F. Line 3 rimmed baking sheets with parchment and set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking soda, cloves and salt.

3. In a large bowl, cream together butter and ¾ cup sugar with a hand mixer until lightened in colour and well combined, about 2 minutes. Add egg and mix to combine, scraping down sides of bowl. Add molasses and mix until well blended. Add flour mixture in two additions and mix until fully combined.

4. Place remaining sugar in a small bowl. Roll dough into generous tablespoon-sized balls and roll in sugar. Place on prepared sheets 2-inches apart and bake in batches until puffy and cracked on top, about 13 to 15 minutes. Cool for 3 minutes on sheets before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

5. For filling, beat together butter, vanilla, nutmeg and salt in a large bowl with a hand mixer on medium until combined. Decrease mixer speed to low and add icing sugar gradually until well combined. Gradually add eggnog and increase speed to high until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

6. Spoon icing into a piping bag fitted with a large round tip. Place 16 cookies upside-down and fill with a generous tablespoon of icing. Top with remaining cookies, pressing down lightly to adhere.

eggnog-gingerbread-sandwhich-cookies

Looking for more sweet inspiration? Try our Best Classic  Christmas Cookie Recipes.

Iron Chef Amanda Cohen

Iron Chef Canada’s Amanda Cohen on Being the First Vegetable Chef to Enter Kitchen Stadium

Long before plant-based eating was trendy, chef and restauranteur Amanda Cohen made a name for herself by celebrating her love of vegetables on a variety of beautiful, rainbow-coloured plates. As the owner of New York City’s Dirt Candy, the Canadian is a James Beard-nominee, has been recognized by the Michelin Guide for five years in a row, and was the first vegetarian chef to ever compete on Iron Chef America.

In anticipation of the drool-worthy dishes Cohen will concoct on Iron Chef Canada, we sat down with the ground-breaking chef to find out what inspires her, learn about her journey to the kitchen, and get a taste of what she’ll bring to Kitchen Stadium.

Where does your love of food stem from?

I mean, I just love food. I love to eat and I love flavour and… I love to eat! But I think mostly I really like sitting down to dinner and I like conversations with people and the celebratory parts of food more than anything.

What was your journey been like as a plant-based or “vegetable” chef?

Well, it definitely hasn’t been easy. I’m a pioneer in this world and it took a long time for people to accept that what I’m doing has value. It’s really only in the last couple of years that people have started to embrace… I don’t say “plant-based,” I’m a vegetable chef more than anything.

Could you describe the difference?

I celebrate vegetables. Plant-based celebrates a kind of lifestyle. I really don’t care what you eat on a daily basis. My food isn’t about health or politics, or the environment. It’s really about celebrating an under-celebrated food, which is vegetables.

Do you have a proudest moment in your career so far?

I run a restaurant in New York City, one of the hardest cities to run a restaurant in. Every day I’m pretty amazed and excited that I have the opportunity to still be open.

You released the very first graphic novel cookbook, Dirt Candy: A Cookbook. Can you tell us what inspired that?

When we decided we wanted to write a cookbook for the restaurant I realized I wanted to do something really unique and different. I don’t think most people cook from cookbooks anymore. They cook from the Internet and they read cookbooks more for the story of the restaurant. I wanted to do something that really represented the energy of the restaurant and the graphic novel is like the perfect pairing for that.

What’s your favourite dish to make and why?

My favourite dish is really whatever new dish we’re making at the restaurant. We’re always testing new dishes and seeing what we can put on the menu. Right now we’ve been working on a celery spaghetti and we’re pretty excited about it.

How do you do a celery spaghetti?

We dehydrate Chinese celery leaves and fold them into a regular pasta dough, so it’s a little bit green and it has a nice, bright, celery flavour. And then we have some very long, thin strips of celery that get tangled in that, so you’re eating celery and celery noodles. And then we have a celery pesto to go with it and a little bit of a cream cheese broth and some grilled grapes.

 

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New dish on the way! Fennel Tagine. Thanks @anitalonyc and @sillymonkeyface for the tiny appropriate dishes to serve it in.

A post shared by Dirt Candy (@dirtcandynyc) on

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

I love Lynn Crawford, a fellow Iron Chef. Her career has been amazing and everything she does is really inspiring.

What did your time in the Iron Chef America Kitchen Stadium teach you that you brought to the show?

Once you do it once, you learn a lot more about how to be in that kitchen. The thing no one told us is that we were really only making five portions. We cooked like we were making food for the restaurant and in the end, we had way too much food. There were little things like that that we walked away with.

How did you prepare for the competition this time around, now as an Iron Chef?

We did a lot of similar things as we did the first time around. We practised a lot, especially trying to become a team. Between my two sous-chefs and I, we wanted to be one unit. It was incredibly important to us that we always knew what we were doing and when. You really have to practice. You have one hour to get it right.

What can we expect from the competition this season?

You should expect a lot of excitement. Every day something surprising happened, on both sides. People really brought a level of food to the table that was astonishing. One of the hard things is that you don’t really get to taste the competitor’s food, but boy did I want to taste some of their dishes. They looked amazing and they sounded amazing.

Were you able to learn anything from the competitors?

It was really interesting because I have a very different style than most chefs, so I sort of work in a bubble. Watching what they came up with—with the same ingredients—was really interesting. It was nothing I would have ever come up with. I can’t wait to learn more about what they did because in the moment you don’t really pay that much attention. I’m fascinated to see what they managed to do with the ingredients. I know for sure there are techniques that are going to blow my mind.

What challenges or opportunities did you face as a plant-based chef?

It was all opportunities. The funny thing about this show is that it’s geared a little bit more towards what I do, which is to take one ingredient and celebrate it. That’s what we do in the restaurant, so for us let’s say we had carrots: we’re pretty used to taking a carrot and figuring out 25 things we can do with it. So the show is actually a perfect setup for me.

Iron Chef Amanda Cohen on Iron Chef Canada

Was there a mandate that you wouldn’t have to work with meat?

I said I wouldn’t work with meat, but certainly, the competitor could. I’m not afraid to go up against a challenger who uses meat, but that’s not my speciality, I’m not going to do that. I would lose. I wouldn’t know what to do!

Can you walk us through your process for creating an Iron Chef Canada menu?

As soon as we find out [the secret indredient] we try to figure out things we’ve done before or ideas that can be applied to it. We have a database of recipes that can be applied to all kinds of ingredients, and then we choose the recipes we think will work best and go from there.

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

That’s a tough one because it feels pretty cruel. Probably something like onions would be really hard. That’s what I’d give them because I’d like to see them make five different dishes with onions as a centrepiece but not overwhelm the judges with the taste of onion. It gets tricky.

What would you make with onions?

We have an onion pasta stuffed with grilled onions, we have onion salad. A chocolate onion tart. I’ve got a lot of onion ideas!

Watch Iron Chef Canada Wednesdays at 10 PM E/P

These Best-Ever Vegan Gingerbread Cookies Feature a Secret Ingredient

What makes our vegan gingerbread cookies the best ever? Well, our secret ingredient is love…just kidding, it’s the creamy and nutty taste of almond butter! Whether you’re a fan of a tough ginger cookie or a soft one, our recipe satisfies both by being crispy on the edges and soft and chewy in the middle, thanks to this star ingredient. You can also feel good knowing that you’re eating cookies that have fibre, good fats and a balance of spices that support the immune system. Whether you’re vegan or not, this cookie recipe is sure to satisfy your sugar cravings this holiday season.

Best-Ever Vegan Gingerbread Cookies

Prep time: 45 minutes
Cook time: 12 minutes
Makes: 24 cookies

Ingredients:
Cookie Dough
1 Tbsp ground flax or chia seeds
3 Tbsp warm water
¼ cup fancy molasses or unsulphured molasses
¼ cup coconut oil, softened
¼ cup almond butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 ½ cups spelt flour
⅓ cup coconut sugar
1 ½ tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp cloves
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp sea salt

Maple Icing
1 cup powdered sugar
2 Tbsp vegan butter
1 Tbsp almond milk
½ tsp maple syrup

Directions:

1. Make a vegan egg by placing 1 Tbsp of ground flax or chia seeds in a bowl with 3 Tbsp of warm water. Stir to combine, then let sit for 10 minutes until a gelatinous texture forms.
2. In a bowl, mix together all wet ingredients: the vegan egg, molasses, softened coconut oil, almond butter and vanilla extract.
3. In a separate bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients: spelt flour, coconut sugar, ground ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, baking soda and sea salt. Mix well so the spices are evenly dispersed. Then pour the dry ingredients into the wet mixture and begin mixing together with your spatula until a batter forms.
4. Form the dough into a ball (you can leave it in the bowl) and then chill it in the fridge for 25 minutes. This will make it easier to roll out and cut with a cookie cutter.
5. While it’s chilling, preheat the oven to 350°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
6. Once chilled, place the dough between two long sheets of parchment paper and use your rolling pin to roll it out. It should be about ¼ inch thick.
7. Using your cookie cutters, cut out 24 cookies. You can take the leftover scraps and either roll them into smaller cookies or flatten them out to be cut again.
8. Place the cookies on the baking sheet and bake in the oven for 12 minutes.
9. Take the cookies out of the oven and allow them to cool for 10 minutes before removing them from the baking sheet.
10. While the cookies are cooling, make the icing by mixing together the powdered sugar and vegan butter. Then stir in the almond milk and maple syrup until a thick texture forms. Pour the icing into a plastic Ziplock bag, squeeze out any air, then cut off a small corner of the bag to decorate.
11. You can decorate the cookies with icing, sprinkle a little cinnamon sugar on top or leave as is.

Want more gingerbread? Check out Anna Olson’s best gingerbread recipes!

Weird-Ingredients-on-Iron-Chef

The 10 Weirdest Secret Ingredients to Appear on Iron Chef So Far

We’ll admit it: sometimes it’s hard to tune into an episode of Iron Chef America without salivating all over ourselves. Watching masterful chefs whip up signature dishes that the judges then get to dig into… well, it’s jealousy-invoking, to say the least.

But then there are those times the Chairman reveals an ingredient so strange, unique, or downright weird that we’re almost afraid to hear him yell the words, “Allez cuisine!” On the heels of Iron Chef Canada heating up our TV screens, these are 10 of the weirdest ingredients that have ever appeared on the show.

Ostrich

When Angus Barn challenged Cat Cora to a good old-fashioned southern cook-off, little did he know he’d be serving up the exotic bird to the judges. In the end, he treated it like any other red meat to win over the panel’s hearts and taste buds.

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Snails

There’s escargot and then there’s the task of creating five snail-friendly dishes that aren’t trailing under slabs of melted butter and garlic. Sadly, the ingredient probably wasn’t what challenger Floyd Cardoz signed up for when he took on Bobby Flay and he couldn’t quite slug it out to beat the Iron Chef.

Offal

Chris Cosentino is known as a “nose-to-tail” Italian chef, which is why we can’t see him being too surprised at his secret ingredient being offal (the internal organs and entrails of a butchered animal). But as it turns out Iron Chef Michael Symon knows his way around a strange ingredient too, and he wound up besting Cosentino in the end.

Barracuda

Most of us expect our barracuda with gnarly teeth or in a song—not on a dinner plate. That’s why Spanish chef Seamus Mullen was probably thrown when he learned he’d be taking a bite out of the fish while going up against Cat Cora, which could explain his eventual defeat.

Tongue and Cheek

The powers that be must have been playing on the old “tongue in cheek” saying when they gave challenger Edward Lee and Iron Chef Jose Garces the task of creating dishes out of… well, tongue and cheek. It was Lee who had the last laugh when he walked away with the big W.

Hot Dogs

Roger Mooking is a dad with a pretty big creative flair in the kitchen. So we fully expected him to whop Michael Symon’s butt after the secret ingredient turned out to be hot dogs—a kids’ classic. Sadly, that was not the case for our crafty Canadian friend and Symon sent him packing.

Fruitcake

Most people can barely stomach the taste of fruitcake when it comes around on the holidays, let alone on five different dishes in the Kitchen Stadium. Yet concocting plates involving the festive fare was exactly what then-challenger Michael Symon signed up for when he took on Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto… and lost.

Canned Tuna

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Canned Tuna

Don’t get us wrong, we love a good old-fashioned tuna melt or tuna salad sandwich. But gourmet dishes made with the canned stuff? That’s a whole other story. Yet it’s a story French challenger Alain Allegretti and Bobby Flay attempted to tell in season 10, with Flay proving to be the winning narrator in the end.

Mortadella

We’d never thought of mortadella as anything other than a sandwich meat before it mysteriously showed up as a secret ingredient on the show. French challenger Judy Joo was probably expecting something a little classier when she took on Alex Guarnaschelli, which could explain her eventual loss.

Jerky

Dehydrated meat: great for long hikes, road trips… and as a secret ingredient in the Iron Chef kitchen? Apparently, challenger Stephen Kalt thought so, because when he took on Alex Guarnaschelli in a battle featuring jerky, he trekked off as the ultimate winner.

Watch Iron Chef Canada Wednesdays at 10 PM E/P

Pumpkin Fettuccine Alfredo

Still craving pumpkin everything this fall? I know I am. So I made a comforting meat-less pasta dish that you can throw together in no time. Consider this a fancy mac and cheese of sorts; creamy, cheesy, smooth…I’ll take one bowl of comfort, please!

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For this recipe, I use canned organic pumpkin purée to make it a quick weeknight meal. But if you have time to make your own pumpkin purée, I would recommend roasted a kabocha or butternut squash to really elevate the dish. Both are the perfect amount of sweet, and roast and purée beautifully. This dish is a great way to hold on to that fall feeling before winter arrives!

Pumpkin Fettuccine Alfredo

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Serves: 4

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Ingredients:
1 lb (454 g) fettuccine
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 ½ Tbsp unsalted butter
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 Tbsp flour
15 oz can organic pumpkin puree
1 cup table cream or half & half (10%-18%)
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp fresh black pepper
½ tsp fresh thyme
¾ cup grated parmesan cheese

Shaved parmesan
Thyme leaves
Fresh black pepper

Directions:

1. Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Cook the fettuccine until al dente, about 8-9 minutes depending on the brand.

2. Before straining, reserve 1 ½ cups of pasta water. Drain into a colander and run cold water over fettuccine until cool to the touch.

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3. In a large skillet over medium-low heat, add olive oil, butter and garlic cloves. Sauté garlic for about 2 minutes until fragrant.

4. Add the flour and cook for another 2-3 minutes until it begins to brown and smell nutty.

5. Transfer all of the contents from the skillet into a blender. Add pumpkin purée and table cream to the blender, and purée until smooth.

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6. Transfer the sauce back to the pan and place over medium-low heat.

7. Add the salt, pepper, thyme, and parmesan cheese to the sauce and cook until bubbling and thickened.

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8. Add the fettuccine and combine. If the sauce is too thick, thin it out with the pasta water (I added about ¾ cup). It will continue to thicken after turning off the heat, so it’s OK if it’s slightly thin. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

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9. Serve immediately. Plate the fettuccine and garnish with shaved parmesan, thyme leaves and lots of fresh black pepper.

Apple and brie roses holiday appetizer

Make These Beautiful Brie and Apple Cinnamon Rose Appetizers

These pretty little appetizers are as easy on the eyes as they are to eat. Tender apple and creamy Brie all wrapped up in a delectable crispy, buttery puff pastry cup with a cinnamon sugar swirl. These are sure to be a hit with your guests – and will make it onto your roster of simple and delicious appetizers for the holidays!

Brie and Apple Cinnamon Roses

Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 1 hour
Makes: 16

Ingredients:
½ cup brown sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
4 sheets (two 450 g packages) frozen puff pastry, thawed in refrigerator
1 egg, beaten
1 Granny Smith apple, very thinly sliced
400 g Brie cheese, thinly sliced

Directions:
1. Heat oven to 375°F. Spray two muffin tins with cooking spray (you’ll need 16 cups total).
2. Stir together brown sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl.
3. On a lightly floured surface, unroll one sheet of puff pastry (keep the other chilled). Cut into four 2½-inch wide strips. Egg wash ½-inch of one long end and one short end of each strip.
4. Place apple slices along the opposite long edge from the egg wash, extending slightly over the edge. Top with slices of Brie cheese. Sprinkle evenly with cinnamon sugar.
5. Starting at unwashed short side, roll dough, upwards. Press lightly to seal edge. Pinch bottom to seal and place into prepared tin. Egg wash the exposed pastry lightly. Repeat with remaining strips, sheets of pastry and ingredients.
6. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes until pastry is golden. Carefully remove pastries from tins immediately and place on wire cooking rack to cool 10 minutes before serving.

Love this recipe? Check out 10 more puff pastry holiday appetizer recipes.

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