Thai Curry Chicken Pot Pie is Your New Favourite Winter Comfort Food

Thai green curry is wildly popular for a reason. It’s rich and delicious with just the right amount of spiciness. But here, instead of its classic rice pairing, we’ve created a comfort food mashup that marries palate-awakening Thai green curry with classic chicken pot pie. The result is anything but ordinary. Whether you whip this up as a vacation from all your holiday feasts or you bookmark this new dish for the new year, we promise you won’t be disappointed.

Recipe Notes:
– Spicy food fans can add fresh Thai chili to taste when blending the peas and herbs
– Make this recipe vegan by replacing the chicken with the same amount of extra-firm tofu, chicken broth with vegetable broth and all-butter puff pastry with a dairy-free version

Thai Curry Chicken Pot Pie Recipe

Prep Time: 35 minutes
Cooling Time: 2 hours
Cook Time: 55 minutes
Serves: 5 to 6

Ingredients:
Thai Green Curry:
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into large pieces
2 cups chicken broth
1 (14 oz) can coconut milk
1 cup frozen peas, room temperature
½ cup loosely packed fresh mint
½ cup loosely packed fresh cilantro, plus more for serving
2 Tbsp coconut flour
2 Tbsp Thai green curry paste
1 Tbsp fresh ginger, grated
1 lime, zested and juiced (about 3 Tbsp of juice), plus more lime slices for serving
1½ Tbsp fish sauce
1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
To taste, fine grain salt

Crust:
1 sheet all-butter puff pastry, rolled to 1/4-inch thickness
1 Tbsp milk of choice or beaten egg
1 tsp black or white sesame seeds
Pinch, flaky sea salt

Directions:
1. In a large pot, add chicken, sweet potatoes and broth. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook over very low heat until chicken is cooked through and sweet potatoes are tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. Do not boil or the chicken will be tough. The sweet potatoes may fall apart and become very tender; this is normal. Stir in coconut milk. Remove 1 cup of the liquid only and place in a medium bowl or blender.
2. To the medium bowl or blender, add peas, mint, cilantro, coconut flour, curry paste, ginger, lime zest and juice, fish sauce and sesame oil. Puree mixture with an immersion blender or blend on high in your blender until smooth and creamy. Stir pea mixture into chicken mixture, taste and adjust seasoning with salt if needed. Add to a medium cast-iron skillet or other deep oven-safe dish.

3. Cool mixture completely (this is important so that the mixture can thicken with the coconut flour and so the puff pastry won’t turn greasy and melt before it goes in the oven). Cooling will take about 2 hours. You can also cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Make sure the mixture is almost room temperature before baking. Alternatively, you can increase the bake time 5 to 10 minutes if the mixture is cold.

4. Preheat oven to 375ºF.
5. Once the curry base is cooled, fit the puff pastry on top, tucking under the sides to fit your pan or baking dish. Using a sharp paring knife, gently slice a few steam slits in the top. Brush pastry with milk or egg and sprinkle with sesame seeds and flaky salt.
6. Bake for 40 to 55 minutes, until mixture is bubbling and crust is browned and puffed. Garnish with additional cilantro and lime wedges.

Craving more curry? Here are 22 warm and comforting winter curries.

cream-cheese-stuffed-chicken

Your Cheesy Stuffed Chicken Breast Needs Creamy Cajun Sauce

With winter in full swing, it’s important to have a few heartwarming, rich and comforting dishes in your dinner line-up. This recipe for Cheesy Spinach-Stuffed Chicken Breast with Creamy Cajun Sauce is the ultimate dinner indulgence. Packed with just the right amount of cheese, cream and Cajun spice, it’s bound to become a family favourite. The Cajun spice blend which is the star of this recipe,  features paprika, garlic powder, thyme and many more fragrant spices. To save time, I used a favourite store-bought spice blend but you can add your own special touch by making a Cajun spice blend of your own.

stuffed-chicken-covered-in-cajun-cream-sauce

Cheesy Spinach-Stuffed Chicken Breast with Creamy Cajun Sauce

Ingredients:
2 large chicken breasts
2 Tbsp cajun seasoning

Filling:
3 Tbsp of cream cheese
2 Tbsp of shredded mozzarella cheese
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
¾ cup of chopped spinach
Sauce:
2/3 cup of chicken broth
3 Tbsps cajun seasonings
1 ½ cup of cream
¼  white onion finely chopped

stuffed-chicken-ingredients

Directions:
1. Cut chicken breast in half lengthwise, without cutting all the way through. Open the chicken breast up and place wax paper on top (the wax paper will act as a barrier). Use a rolling pin or another round hard object to pound the chicken breast into a thin, even layer.
2. Remove the wax paper and season both sides of the chicken breast with Cajun seasoning and set aside.
3. Chop spinach into thin pieces and place into a bowl, then finely chop 1 clove of garlic and add it to a bowl of cream cheese. Mix mozzarella cheese and spinach with cream cheese until everything is evenly distributed.

spinach-cheese-stuffing-in-bowl

4. Spread the cream cheese mixture inside the chicken, being careful not to over-stuff.
5. Preheat oven to 350°F. Add oil to a hot pan placed on medium heat. Add the stuffed chicken breasts to hot pan and sear each side. Once the chicken breast has a nice brown crust on each side, remove it and place on a baking sheet. Reserve pan and drippings for later.
6. Bake the stuffed chicken breasts in the oven for 25 minutes or until it has cooked all the way through.
7. Return to the pan and add a bit more oil to the pan drippings if necessary, then add onion. Cook onions until translucent. Add chicken broth and bring the mixture to a simmer then add cream slowly, stirring as you add. Once the mixture has thickened, remove from heat.
8. Serve with the stuffed chicken breast and garnish with parsley.

stuffed-chicken-breast-with-sauce

Looking for more recipes? Try these Must-Try Chicken Breast Recipes.

Make-Ahead Baked Stuffing

By Amy Bronee

I learned from a very young age that it’s not a proper turkey dinner without bread stuffing on the table. Forget the cranberry sauce and you might be forgiven. Do roasted potatoes instead of mashed and my dad would probably thank you (he never liked mashed anyway). But don’t make stuffing and you’ll suffer the sad, empty eyes of everyone around the table. After all, what exactly is the point of a turkey dinner without stuffing?

When I made my first turkey dinner, I learned pretty quickly that the turkey cavity is just not big enough for the amount of cubed bread, diced veggies and spices that can be consumed in one sitting. I saw the empty eyes that year. I have been making stuffing outside the bird with my own recipe ever since.

This moist, delicious stuffing can be made ahead of time to free up oven space for that great big side dish – the turkey. The best part is that doing the stuffing outside the bird means I can make a whole lot of it. That way my holiday table is always surrounded by people with satisfied bellies and happy eyes.

Simple Oven-Baked Stuffing

Courtesy of Amy Bronee, familyfeedbag.com, Victoria

Make this stuffing the day before Thanksgiving to save yourself some precious time – and sanity!

OvenBakedStuffing_888embed

Prep time: 20 minutes
Bake time: 40 minutes
Yields: 8-10 servings

Ingredients
1/2 cup (125 mL) butter
2 cups (500 mL) diced yellow onions
1 1/2 cups (375 mL) diced carrots
1 1/2 cups (375 mL) diced celery
2 tbsp (30 mL) poultry seasoning
2 tsp (10 mL) dried rosemary (or 2 tbsp/30 mL chopped fresh rosemary)
1 tsp (5 mL) salt
1/4 tsp (1 mL) black pepper
18 cups (4.5 L) white or brown sandwich bread, cubed (no need to dry it out first)
1 1/2 cups (375 mL) chicken or turkey stock

Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180° C).
2. Melt butter in large soup pot or stock pot over medium-high heat. Add onions, carrots and celery and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until beginning to soften.
3. Stir in poultry seasoning, rosemary, salt and pepper. Continue cooking 2 minutes more. Remove from heat.
4. In two batches, add bread cubes to pot, stirring to evenly distribute seasonings and veggies. Pour in stock and stir. Transfer to large baking dish, such as lasagna pan. Cover with foil.
5. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 10 minutes. Serve immediately or, if making ahead, cool, cover and refrigerate. Reheat before serving.

Jump to print, save or share this Oven-Baked Stuffing recipe.

Do you have a delicious dish to share with the rest of Canada? Submit your recipe for a chance to be featured on Great Canadian Cookbook and Food Network Canada!

Family Feedbag
Amy Bronee is the writer and photographer behind the award-winning home cooking blog FamilyFeedbag.com. Amy has earned several awards and recognitions, including a Jamie Oliver blog of the month award, and being named one of Canada’s “Top 40 Foodies Under 40” by Western Living magazine. Amy’s first cookbook, The Canning Kitchen: 101 Simple Small Batch Recipes, was published by Penguin Canada in June.

Alton Brown's Turkey with Stuffing

The Ultimate Guide to Turkey Cooking Times

The main event during the holidays is serving a perfectly juicy and succulent roast turkey to the ones you love. The last thing you want to do is serve an overcooked (or worse, undercooked) bird. Even if this ain’t your first gobbler, it’s good to have a cheat sheet on hand to ensure you’re on track for dinner time. Follow the chart below for a foolproof way to roast a perfect bird for your holiday feast.

Alton Brown's Turkey with Stuffing

How to Roast a Basic Turkey

Preheat the oven to 325°F. In a large roasting pan, place thawed turkey, breast side up and tent with a piece of aluminium foil. Bake turkey using the chart below. Remove foil during last hour of cook time. Cook until meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 170°F.

Size of Turkey Unstuffed Stuffed
10-12lbs 3 – 3 ¼ hours 3 ½–3 ¾ hours
12-16bs 3 ¼ – 3 ¾ hours 3 ¾ – 4 ¼ hours
16-20lbs 3 ¾ – 4 ¼ hours 4 ¼ – 4 ¾ hours
20-24lbs 4 ¼ – 4 ¾ hours 4 ¾ – 5 ¼ hours

 

Top Turkey Cooking Tips

1. If using a frozen bird, ensure it is fully defrosted if before roasting.
2. Take your bird out of the fridge while the oven preheats.
Juices will run clear when the turkey is done. Look at the juices running from the meat around the thigh bone.
3. If you are using a convection oven, your bird will cook in 25 per cent less time. Take 15 minutes off each hour on the recommended times above.
4. After the turkey is removed from the oven, let it rest for minimum 30 minutes. The juices need to resettle into the meat.

Looking for some delicious inspiration? Try Our Best Thanksgiving Turkey Recipes

460x307-Hugh-Acheson

Iron Chef Canada’s Hugh Acheson Dishes on the First Season

Hugh Acheson may have been born and raised in Ottawa, but over the years he’s become known for his unique flavours that turn traditional Southern food into something unique and unexpected. As the owner of five restaurants in Georgia (including the critically acclaimed Five & Ten), Acheson proves you don’t need formal training in order to create and inspire — a lesson he continues dishing out as a guest judge on Top Chef.

In anticipation of the creative concoctions Acheson will conceptualize as an Iron Chef in the Iron Chef Canada Kitchen Stadium, we caught up with the chef to get his take on the self-taught scene, judging versus competing, and his laid-back approach on the road to reigning supreme.

Hugh-Acheson-Iron-Chef-battle

Did you always want to be a chef? How did you go about teaching yourself?

I’m kind of the black sheep of an academic family. I didn’t do well in school — I went to Concordia University for a couple of years and dropped out. But since the age of 15, I’d always been cooking in restaurants and it just seemed like a good skill set to have. And as a sort of journeyman task, it just ended up being the thing I had the most interest in.

Eventually, I started working in really good restaurants and I got taught by a number of amazing chefs along the way. And maybe you learn in some places that are not so good as well, right?

Where does your love of food stem from?

I had a very mixed upbringing when it came to school. It wasn’t really a culinary-driven household. I was mostly raised by a single father with three older sisters and he’s an economist so we ate a lot of fish sticks and burnt rice. But there was also a later reverence for food, simple stuff. Local Portuguese bread and really good grilled steaks. The one thing you realized with food and finding a career in food is that if you’re enamoured with it and it becomes your endless topic then it’s always going to be a constantly good thing.

What has been your proudest accomplishment in your career to date?

It’s probably the fact that I lead and employ hundreds of people and I try to do it with empathy and compassion and good leadership.

In your book A New Turn in the South, you talk about moving from Ottawa to Georgia and embracing Southern food. Have you re-embraced Canadian food or ingredients at all during this experience?

I don’t think I ever abandoned the idea of Canadian ingredients or Canadian food. Obviously, I cook from the community in which I live primarily and I just now happen to live in Georgia. There’s an overflowing bounty of ingredients here but I still have a real reverence for the products I grew up with in Canada, whether it be local lamb from the Gatineau or cheeses or fiddleheads. All sorts of local produce in the Montreal and Ottawa area.

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

David McMillan at Joe Beef and all the Joe Beef restaurants, and Marc-Olivier Frappier who works with him at Le Vin Papillon. The way they run restaurants and the idea and philosophy behind their food is such an epitome of Quebec and Montreal and punk rocky method of getting it done themselves, but authentically enjoying every movement of it.

How did you prepare for the competition?

I think a lot of other people we came up against did a lot more preparation than we did. We mapped out some possible ideas of menu structures and skillsets and styles that we’d be doing and quickly tried to plug the ingredient into that format. But some people really prepare a lot for it and time themselves… and that ain’t me.

Iron Chef Hugh Acheson with judges

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

We always have a couple of basic dishes we can play on and then include the ingredient in. There are three of us and we all know our fortes and our strengths. It’s a little challenging, but we work together a lot and we talk about process and flavour affinities and styles and they all are fully versed in that. It seems like a trial to get a menu together really quickly, but it’s actually pretty easy. We always have a plan for everything.

Did any of the secret ingredients or curveballs throw you for a loop?

It was hard to figure out whether you wanted to get that curveball ingredient in everything or just in one dish where it made sense. I don’t know if I ever quite figured that out. I was really proud of all the food we prepared. We did technically-driven food. Sometimes you look at everything and say, ‘Wow—we did all that in an hour? That’s crazy.’

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

Cabbage. To most people, it’s very limiting, what they would be able to process, and I have a lot of ideas. I feel really good about my cabbage skills. So like a charred cabbage soup, or simple cabbage rolls with finely minced salmon and caviar in them and served with a little vermouth cream. Or cabbage turned into crackers with a quick dehydration and then filled with beef tartare. Oh, there are a lot of cabbage ideas — I can’t give them all away!

What can we expect from the competitors this season?

It just shows the amazing strength of the Canadian chef community. There were some really amazing skillsets shown. You can expect to see a lot of really good food. Even though it’s an hour some amazing food is prepared given the time construct.

As a seasoned chef, were you able to learn anything from the competitors?

Afterwards, it was always a good indication if I looked over at their station at the end, how clean and organized they were. I remember one battle, the other person’s station was impeccably clean and organized, and that kind of guts you. I was like, ‘Oh no. I’m such a mess over here.’ But during it, it’s really hard not to just stare at your own cutting board and run around the kitchen. You’re pretty much naval-gazing and focused on your own product and communicating with your own team.

You competed on Top Chef Masters back in 2010, and we’ve seen you as a guest judge on Top Chef. How did it feel to be competing rather than being behind the judging table?

Iron Chef is kind of like a really long Quickfire in terms of assembling ingredients and getting things together and planning your mode of attack and what you’re going to do and lining things up. Meanwhile, you have to get one dish out really quickly… there’s definitely a comparison but it’s more about the pureness of cooking and getting it done and sweating over a stove. It’s definitely pressure-filled but there’s no drama. It’s all about the food.

Judging is really easy — we’re all judges now in some way, shape or form. We criticize everything around us and everybody does that so it’s kind of nice to just cook.

Is there a chef, living or past who you would love to take on in the Iron Chef Canada Kitchen Stadium?

I have a lot of respect for people like David Chang in New York. David McMillan from Joe Beef would be fun. But I’m into the camaraderie and the challenge of being in the kitchen as opposed to, do I really want to feud with someone over cooking?

Watch Iron Chef Canada Wednesdays at 10 PM E/P

Turkey Trouble? How to Fix Your Worst Holiday Cooking Disasters

Whether you’re a seasoned chef or new to the kitchen, preparing a holiday feast is not without its challenges. No matter how well you plan and prepare ahead of time, something is bound to go awry when it’s time to get cooking. From forgetting to thaw the turkey to over-mashing your potatoes till they’re gluey, we’re here to help you fix all those holiday dinner mishaps.

brined-herb-crusted-turkey-with-apple-cider-gravyGet the recipe for Brined Herb-Crusted Turkey with Apple Cider Gravy

How to Defrost a Turkey Quickly

Arguably the most important part of any holiday feast, the turkey is the literal centerpiece of your table. If you’ve forgotten to defrost your turkey ahead of time (most frozen birds will need a few days to thaw fully in the refrigerator) you’re not entirely out of luck. Thawing turkey is one of those things you need to do safely in order to prevent any foodborne illness, and a cold water bath can take this task from days-long to a matter of hours.

Place the turkey in a sterilized tub, large sink or bathtub filled with enough cold water to cover it. Do not remove the bird from its wrapper. Refill the sink or tub with cold water about every 30 minutes to help prevent bacteria growth. Using this method, a 15-pound bird should take about 7.5-hours to defrost. When your turkey has defrosted, remove it from the water and dry with paper towels.

How to Fix an Overcooked Turkey

If you forgot to set a timer or simply calculated the math wrong for cooking your bird, you could be serving a dry, overcooked turkey. There are a couple of solutions that can help save your meal, the easiest being to make a knock-your-socks-off gravy to smother any overcooked meat with. Alternatively, you can ladle a bit of broth over the bird or rub some butter on the dry spots to help bring moisture back into the meat.

How to Fix Lumpy Gravy

A great gravy should be smooth and creamy, with nary a detectable lump. But if your gravy is more lumpy bumpy than silky smooth, there’s actually a pretty simple fix. First, whisk that gravy like your life depends on it — this will help break up larger clumps and smooth everything out. Then, pour the gravy through a fine mesh strainer to separate any smaller clumps the whisk might have missed. If your gravy is still lumpy after trying both of these things, you can try placing it in a blender with a touch of broth and pureeing until smooth.

recipe-vegetarian-gravyGet the recipe for Vegetarian Gravy

How to Fix Burnt Gravy

A burnt sauce happens to even the most experienced cook, and can be solved with a bit of care. First, remove your pan from the heat immediately. Place the bottom of the pan in cool water to help prevent further burning of the gravy. Grab and fresh pan and gently start scooping up as much unburt gravy as possible. Some cooking experts swear that adding a raw, peeled potato to the gravy will help absorb any burnt flavours, or you can try adding 1 tsp of smooth peanut butter at a time to the gravy, whisking well and tasting until the burnt flavour is gone. A pinch of sugar is another way to rescue burnt gravy.

How to Fix Crumbly Cookie Dough

If your holiday cookies are falling apart, it’s likely because the flour hasn’t absorbed enough liquid to bind everything together. In order to fix crumbly cookies, try adding more liquid to the recipe in small increments — whether that’s additional water, melted butter, or an egg.

How to Fix Burnt Cookies

Unless you have time to bake an entirely new batch of cookies, it’s worth trying to save the ones you accidentally burnt. You can try using a fine grater, such as a microplane, to shave off the burnt bits, or a serrated knife to cut off larger burnt pieces.

apple-pie-sliceGet the recipe for Anna Olson’s Blue Ribbon Apple Pie

How to Fix Crumbly Pie Dough

Just like a crumbly cookie dough, crumbly pie crust needs more moisture added to it if you’re going to salvage it. Try sprinkling a few drops of water over your pie dough mixture before gently kneading or rolling until it is more pliable.

How to Fix A Hole in Your Pie Crust

Pie crusts are fragile things, and a hole can happen if you spread the dough too thin. Keep a few scraps of dough on hand in order to patch any holes with, then seal with a small amount of egg white and sugar before baking.

How to Fix Gluey, Over-Mashed Potatoes

Mash your potatoes too much or too vigorously and you’ll be left with an inedible gooey, gluey mess. Sadly, once this happens there isn’t much you can do to salvage them, aside from mixing in some properly mashed potatoes to help cut the gluey texture. However, you can turn your gluey mashed potatoes into a holiday gratin by spreading them in a thin layer across a baking dish, topping with butter, cheese, and breadcrumbs, and baking until the top is nice and crispy.

Looking for more holiday cooking help? Try these 10 Turkey Cooking Tips to Roast the Perfect Bird Every Time.

grilled-cheese-stacked

This French Onion Grilled Cheese is Made for Chilly Saturday Afternoons

When the temperatures start to dip, there’s nothing more comforting than a warm bowl of soup accompanied by a grilled cheese sandwich. One of my favourite soups in the cold weather is French Onion because it combines both of those elements in one bowl. Here, we’re flipping that soup on its head and combining a grilled cheese with rich, decadent caramelized onions for the ultimate winter comfort food.

french-onion-layered-grilled-cheese

French Onion Grilled Cheese Sandwich Recipe

Serves: 2

Ingredients:
For the Onions:
2 medium onions, halved and thinly sliced
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup beef or mushroom broth
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp light brown sugar

For the Sandwich:
6 thin slices bread
4 Tbsp salted or unsalted butter
6 slices Swiss cheese

Directions:
Onions:
1. Heat the butter and oil a heavy skillet over medium-low heat.
2. Add the onions and cook for around 15 minutes, until the onions start to turn golden, stirring occasionally.
3. Add the broth, scraping any brown bits off the bottom of the skillet and cook for a couple of minutes until most of the liquid evaporates.
4. Sprinkle sugar and the balsamic vinegar over top, and stir to coat the onions.
5. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, over low-medium heat for approximately 10 minutes until all the onions are dark and caramelized.
6. Set aside and cool (refrigerate if necessary) until you are ready to use them.

onions-on-grilled-cheese

Sandwich:
1. Pre-heat the broiler to high and line a baking tray with parchment paper.
2. Toast two of the slices of bread (these will be your middle slices) in a toaster.
3. Butter the remaining four pieces of bread.
4. Heat a skillet (preferably one with a ridged base so you’ll get “grill” marks on the bread) over medium-high heat.
5. Place the slices of bread butter-side down (you might have to do this in batches depending on the size of your skillet) and cook until the bread is golden. Remove from the heat.
6. Place all the bread (making sure you know which slices are the top and bottom slices – with the grill marks) on the baking tray and top with one slice of cheese each.
7. Broil until the cheese is bubbling and melted.
8. Spread the caramelized onions on the cheese on each “top” and “bottom” slice of bread.
9. Now construct your sandwich – place the extra slice of bread in between top and bottom slices and close the sandwich.
10. Serve with lots of napkins and maybe a knife and fork!

french-onion-grilled-cheese

Looking for more cheesy goodness? Try Our Cheesiest Recipes Ever.

Vegan Shortbread Cookies That Party Goers Will Happily Devour

Rich and melt-in-your-mouth shortbread cookies are a holiday classic loved by all ages. Vegans and those who avoid dairy can still enjoy the butteriest time of year with this cookie recipe using store-bought vegan butter. Look for a variety with a touch of coconut oil in the mix for the richest flavour and most tender texture.

Vegan Shortbread Cookies

A dusting of icing sugar or drizzle of melted chocolate to finish will make these cookies pop on a platter, though for shortbread purists, they’re just as nice without the flourish. Whether you decorate or not, a pot of tea to pair alongside your vegan shortbreads is non-negotiable.

Prep Time: 25 minutes
Bake Time: 12 minutes
Total Time: 37 minutes
Makes: 12 cookies

Ingredients:
1/2 cup (125 g) vegan stick butter (not spread or margarine), room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp icing sugar, plus more for dusting
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
pinch, salt
1 1/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour or light spelt flour

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (skip for non-stick baking sheets).
2. In a large bowl, cream vegan butter until smooth. Add sugars, vanilla and salt, and then continue to cream the mixture until fully combined, whipping a bit of air into the mix as you go. Slowly stir in flour until fully combined.

Vegan Shortbread Cookie Dough

3. Using your hands, gather dough into a ball and set aside to rest for 10 minutes. Or, wrap dough tightly and freeze for up to 2 months; defrost in the refrigerator overnight before using.

Vegan Shortbread Cookie Pressed Dough

4. Roll into 12 balls and place on prepared baking sheet, spacing 1- to 2-inches apart. Using the tines of a fork, gently flatten the top of each cookie. Alternatively, use a cookie press to make decorative spritz cookies.
5. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until just beginning to brown on the bottom and puffed. Cool for 5 minutes on baking sheet, then carefully transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.
6. Once cookies are cool, dust with icing sugar. Serve.

Baked Vegan Shortbread Cookies

Impress guests further with these 25 Decadent Vegan Holiday Desserts.

Classic hot chocolate

5 Ways to Spice Up Santa’s Hot Chocolate This Holiday Season

We know that during the holiday season, your to-do list can seem longer than Santa’s. So, when you find time to cuddle up on the couch with a hot chocolate, ditch the powder and treat yourself to a decadent and delicious hot chocolate fit for the man in red himself.  Whether you want to stick with the classic or try something new, we’ve got you covered with five variations below.

Classic Hot Chocolate Recipe

Prep time: 10 minutes
Serves: 1

Ingredients:
1 Tbsp cocoa powder
2 tsp granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
1 cup whole milk
1 Tbsp 35% cream
1/4 cup good quality milk chocolate, finely chopped

Directions:

  1. Whisk cocoa powder, sugar and salt in a small bowl. Set aside. Heat milk and cream in a small pot set over medium heat. Bring to a gentle simmer, then whisk in dry mixture. Add chocolate. Whisk until smooth.

Mexican Hot Chocolate

Whisk dry ingredients from above, alongside 1/4 teaspoon of ground canela or cinnamon and a pinch of chili powder (preferably ancho). Set aside. Heat milk, cream and 1/8 teaspoon of vanilla extract in a small pot set over medium heat. Bring to a gentle simmer, then whisk in dry mixture. Add chocolate. Whisk until smooth.

Dairy-Free Chocolate-Covered Almond

Whisk dry ingredients from above, however mix in 1 tablespoon of sugar and not 2 teaspoons. Set aside. Heat 1 cup of almond milk in a small pot set over medium heat. Bring to a gentle simmer, then whisk in dry mixture. Add 1/4 cup finely chopped dark chocolate and 1 tablespoon of smooth almond butter. Whisk until smooth.

Dark Chocolate Mint

Whisk dry ingredients from above, however mix in 1 tablespoon of sugar and not 2 teaspoons. Set aside. Heat milk, cream and 1/4 teaspoon of peppermint extract in a small pot set over medium heat. Bring to a gentle simmer, then whisk in dry mixture. Add 1/4 cup finely chopped dark chocolate. Whisk until smooth.

Caramel and White Chocolate

Heat milk and cream in a small pot set over medium heat. Bring to a gentle simmer, then whisk in 1/2 teaspoon of corn starch. Cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Add 1/4 cup finely chopped white chocolate and 1 tablespoon of Dulce de Leche. Whisk until smooth.

Pumpkin Spice

Whisk 1 teaspoon of sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of corn starch and 1/2 teaspoon of pumpkin spice in a small bowl. Set aside. Heat milk and cream in a small pot set over medium heat. Bring to a gentle simmer, then whisk in dry mixture. Cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Add 1/4 cup finely chopped white chocolate. Whisk until smooth.

Don’t want to make your own hot chocolate? Order a cup of hot cocoa at one of these 10 cozy hot chocolate spots.

Gingerbread Bundt Cake

A Stunning, Make-Ahead Gingerbread Bundt Cake with Eggnog Glaze

When it comes time to celebrate, we know that you’ll love this show-stopping Christmas dessert. As we head into a season full of guests, gatherings and last-minute dinner parties, you’ll definitely need an easy, back-pocket dessert recipe that can be dressed up in an instant – and this gingerbread cake does the trick! An eggnog glaze compliments the festive season while not overpowering the gingerbread spices in the cake. And for a final flourish, add a trim of rosemary, glittery cranberries and fresh flowers, or just let the simple beauty of this intricate Bundt cake shine on its own. Not only does this gingerbread spice cake perfume the entire kitchen, it stays extremely moist for several days, so it’s perfect for baking in advance.

Gingerbread Bundt Cake

Gingerbread Bundt Cake with Eggnog Glaze

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Bake Time: 60 minutes
Cool Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours
Serves: 10 to 14

Ingredients:
Gingerbread Bundt Cake
2-3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp ground dried ginger
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
1-1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger
1/4 cup canola oil
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup fancy molasses
1/4 cup honey
1 cup buttermilk

Eggnog Glaze
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1-1/2 cups icing (confectioner’s) sugar
2 to 3 Tbsp store-bought eggnog
1/2 tsp vanilla extract or bourbon
pinch, ground nutmeg

Assembly
Sugared cranberries, optional
Fresh rosemary sprigs, optional
Fresh flowers, optional

Gingerbread Bundt Cake

Directions:
Gingerbread Bundt Cake
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 10-cup capacity Bundt pan with butter and coat with a thin layer of flour. Set aside.
2. For the dry ingredients, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, dried ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Set aside.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a large bowl and hand mixer), add the butter and mix on medium speed for a couple of minutes until smooth. Add the sugar and fresh ginger. Mix on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 2 to 4 minutes.
4. With the mixer on low, add in the oil, then the eggs one at a time. Add the vanilla, molasses and honey and mix until combined. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl.
5. With the mixer on low, add half of the reserved dry ingredients and mix until incorporated. Next, stream in the buttermilk and mix until combined. Finally, add the remaining dry ingredients. Mix on medium speed no more than 30 seconds after the last streaks of flour are combined, or until smooth.
6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Tap the bottom of the pan on the countertop a couple times to release any air pockets. Bake for 55 to 65 minutes, or until a long wooden skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. If the batter begins to rise too high, place a baking sheet in the bottom of the pan to catch any drips.
7. Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack for 15 to 20 minutes. Gently slide a flexible rubber spatula around the rim of the cake, but resist sliding it too far down or it may damage the sides of the cake. Place a large cutting board or cooling rack on top of the cake. Using oven mitts, hold the cake pan and cutting board together. Carefully invert everything and remove the pan. Cool completely. Do not allow the cake to completely cool in the pan or it may get stuck. Meanwhile, make the glaze.

Eggnog Glaze
1. In a mixing bowl, stir together the cream cheese and butter with a wooden spoon until well combined. Gradually stir in the icing sugar and mix until incorporated.

Gingerbread Bundt Cake

2. Add the eggnog, vanilla and nutmeg, and then stir until smooth. The glaze should be rather thick but still able to drip slowly off of a spoon; add more eggnog, as needed, until it does.

Gingerbread Bundt Cake

Assembly
1. Spoon the glaze over the cooled cake. Decorate with sugared cranberries, rosemary, fresh flowers or as desired. Slice and serve.

Keep the holiday baking momentum going strong with these incredible cookie recipes from Anna Olson.

Anna Olson Assembling Cakes

Anna Olson’s Top Tips for Assembling and Icing Cakes

Dreamed of being a cake boss? From simple coffee cakes to elaborately layered tortes, it’s all within the realm of “yes, you can!” if you master the recipe and technique. When baking at home, follow Anna Olson’s step-by-step methods to creating beautiful and delicious cakes dressed to impress.

Stacking Cake Layers

Don’t be intimidated: it only takes three simple tools to successfully stack two cakes on top of each another. Plus, Anna’s easy instructions make it a cinch.

As Anna says, grab your measuring tape, wooden doweling, and a serrated knife, and give it a go at home.

How to Fill a Cake

For filling a cake, think beyond the usual frosting-cake combination: spoon lemon curd, strawberries stirred with jam, chocolate mousse, or whatever you fancy between the cake layers. Follow Anna’s step-by-step instructions and your cake will slice perfectly without squishing or sliding.

To recap, the steps are to create a stabilizing “dam” – a ring of buttercream frosting around the edges and a secret slicing ring in the centre – and then spoon filling into the gap and pop on the next layer. Repeat until you’ve got a towering masterpiece ready to be decorated.

Masking a Layer Cake

Once you learn the icing essentials, “masking” or frosting a cake is a snap.

Remember these essential tips from Anna when masking your cake:

  1. Start by using more frosting than you need
  2. Always mask at the top of the cake first, and then move onto the sides
  3. Always connect the next addition of frosting to the first
  4. When polishing the cake, start with the sides and finish with the top
  5. Use a bowl scraper to achieve clean edges on your cake
  6. Chill the cake for 30 minutes before decorating

Covering a Cake with Fondant

Why not fancify your baked creation with a little fondant? Working with this edible icing, used to sculpt or decorate cake, is easier than you think.

Remember, the key steps are:

  1. Ice the cake.
  2. Roll the fondant into a thin but stable layer.
  3. Using the rolling pin, drape the fondant over the cake.
  4. Gently press out any air bubbles.
  5. Trim the edges.
  6. With the palm of your hand, rub the fondant until it feels satiny.

Looking for more cake inspiration? Check out Anna Olson’s Best-Ever Cake Recipes.

How to Make a Classic Manhattan Cocktail

With the holiday season in full swing, thoughts are turning to what to serve at festive parties. What better cocktail than a classic Manhattan – easy to make (and customize according to how sweet or dry your guests like it)?

perfect-manhattan-cocktail-recipe

It’s said the Manhattan was created in New York in the late 1800s. According to some, Sir Winston Churchill’s mother was throwing a party at The Manhattan Club in honour of Samuel J. Tilden (a presidential candidate at the time) and a guest was making a cocktail from rye whisky and sweet vermouth which was so popular the club made it theirs (many say this story, although entertaining, can’t possibly be true as Churchill’s mother would have been in Europe and pregnant at the time). Others believe the cocktail was invented in the 1860s by a bartender named Black who worked at a bar on Broadway. No matter who invented it, it’s become a classic all over the world and you’ve probably got all the ingredients in your liquor cabinet already.

cocktail-manhattan-in-glass

The Classic Manhattan Cocktail Recipe

Ingredients:
2 oz rye whisky or bourbon
1 oz sweet vermouth (You can use ½ oz sweet and ½ oz dry vermouth)
A dash of bitters (Angostura)
Cocktail or Maraschino cherry for garnish
Ice

Directions:
1. Place the ice in a mixing glass, add the bitters.
2. Pour over the whisky and vermouth then slowly stir the drink until chilled.
3. Place the cherry in the bottom of a chilled serving glass, add more ice then slowly pour the cocktail over the ice.

Looking for more drink ideas? Try these Sensational Canadian Cocktails.

The Best Slow Cooker Chicken Breast Recipe has a Tasty Moroccan Twist

Do you feel like chicken tonight? We hope so, because we have the best slow cooker chicken recipe to share. Chicken for dinner is a staple in most households, including our own.  And, although there are many, many ways to cook chicken, often times it can end up dry and unappetizing. No one wants to sit down to a meal with an ill-seasoned, rubbery chicken breast staring back up at them. Here we’re going to teach you the ins and outs of juicy slow cooker chicken breasts that are perfect for salads, meal prepping for the week ahead or even for dinner tonight.

slow-cooker-chicken-breast

Go Skinless

Remove the skin from the chicken breasts before placing in the slow cooker. When cooked too long the skin will become rubbery and dry – think shoe leather. If you are planning to shred the chicken at all, this is a step you must follow.

No Need to Sear

Although searing adds major flavour, if your plan is to use the chicken shredded for chicken salad or tacos, there is no need to sear the breasts. Skip the step and save yourself time.

Set it to High

Chicken breasts don’t have very much connective tissues or fat, so cooking them for hours and hours in the slow cooker won’t get you the result you want. Really tough cuts of meat, with lots of connective tissue are perfect for slow cooking because they break down over time and become oh-so tender. When slow cooking chicken breasts, set to high for 2-2.5 hours, you don’t need to go beyond that. Of course, you can use your meat thermometer to check when the chicken is fully cooked on the inside when it reads 165°F.

Make it Easy and Saucy

The whole idea behind the slow cooker is to make things easy. If you have any sauces or marinades on hand like salsa, tomato sauce, pesto or BBQ sauce you can easily toss them in with the chicken breasts and voila you’re done. Remember to season the chicken breasts separately with salt and pepper before you start cooking to enhance flavours.

chicken-breast-in-slow-cooker

Go Light on Liquids

Chicken breasts will release quite a bit of liquid as they cook so go easy on adding liquids like broth or sauces.  You don’t want the chicken to be drowning.

Prep Ahead

Slow cooking chicken on a Sunday (or any day) is a great way to have your protein ready to go for lunches and dinners all week. You can make what we like to call “blank slate” chicken, which is chicken breasts seasoned with salt and pepper and slow cooked with broth. You then have tender chicken breasts that can be sliced, shredded or cubed and used for any dish like salads, tacos, pastas, sandwiches, wraps, and quinoa or rice pilafs. Simply add a marinade or sauce on top after and you’ve got yourself a meal.

Moroccan Slow Cooker Chicken is one of our go-to recipes when we want a nourishing and delicious slow cooked meal that can be warming in the winter and refreshing in the summer. Add rice, quinoa or cauliflower rice for a hearty dish or place it on top of a slaw or enjoy as is.

slow-cooker-chicken-breast-on-cutting-board

Moroccan Slow Cooker Chicken Recipe

Ingredients:
1 lb. chicken breasts (3 to 4 chicken breasts)
1 tsp coriander
½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp onion powder
½ tsp sea salt
Pinch of black pepper
¼ cup chicken stock
¼ cup pitted green olives, sliced
¼ cup currants
½ lemon, sliced into thin discs

Directions:
1. Mix the spices, except for the salt and pepper, together in a small bowl.
2. Season the chicken breasts with sea salt and pepper.
3. Place the chicken breasts in the bottom of the slow cooker so that they are flat and not overlapping and pour in the broth.
4. Sprinkle the spice mixture evenly over top of the chicken breasts.
5. Add the chopped olives and currants to the slow cooker, they can be spread over top of the chicken breasts and alongside.
6. Place thin slices of lemon over top of the chicken breasts.
7. Cook on high for 2.5 hours.
8. The chicken breasts will be tender. Carefully transfer out of the slow cooker and onto a cutting board. You can slice the chicken into pieces with a knife or shred the chicken with your hands, whichever you prefer.

Looking for more great recipes? Try these Popular Chicken Breast Recipes.

Iron-Chef-Susur-Lee-tile

Why Iron Chef Canada’s Susur Lee Loves a Little Friendly Competition

Iron Chef Susur Lee has long been an icon in the culinary world, helming Lee, Luckee, Lee Kitchen and Kid Lee in Toronto and TungLok in Singapore.  That’s on top of serving as a celebrity judge on Chopped Canada and Masterchef Asia. With 45 years of culinary experience under his belt,  a healthy love of competition, combined with his obvious passion for food, Lee is a perfect choice to step into Kitchen Stadium as an Iron Chef.

We caught up with Iron Chef Susur Lee to chat about falling in love with food as a young boy in Hong Kong, cooking with family and the surprising secret ingredient he wants to see in Kitchen Stadium next season.

Iron-Chef-Canada-Susur-Lee

Did you always want to be a chef?

No, actually as a kid I wanted to be a Kung Fu master! I studied with a Kung Fu master for years from the time I was a small boy until a teenager. Cooking and kung fu have similar philosophies about mentality and discipline. Being a chef is kind of like being a kung fu master though, it requires agility and thinking on your feet!

Where does your love of food stem from?

I fell in love with food as a young kid, when I’d walk through the markets of Hong Kong.  Hong Kong is a food city, and southern Cantonese is one of the most important cuisines in the southern part of China. I was really intrigued by all of the smells. My mum wasn’t a great cook so she’d give me a little bit of money and I’d buy myself little bites of food on my way home from school. From the open windows of our home, we could smell the street vendors down on the street, I think this is where I fell in love with food but also developed a deep interest in learning more about food.

How did you realize that cooking could be your career?

I really started in the kitchen as a way to make some money. Hong Kong has always had more restaurants than any city in the world. I started washing woks because I enjoyed the liveliness of the kitchen. I had the drive to move up and I had a deep desire to learn. The hotel kitchens of Hong Kong were very intense. To learn, you had to be observant. No one was taking you under their wing so-to-speak. That’s why I really value my young cooks who want to learn—it’s important to be a strong leader.

How did coming to Canada influence your culinary career?

Canada is such a multicultural place. I felt at home almost immediately. Back home I was exposed to classic French cooking but as a young cook, I didn’t get to travel much. Before coming to Canada my wife at the time and I took a year to travel. We went to France, Italy,  the Middle East, and India. When we arrived in Toronto, it was so multicultural, I almost didn’t need to travel. I worked in kitchens with Jamaicans, Trinidadians, Thai, Irish. I really got a global education here. It gave me a hunger to travel even more and really immerse myself in other cultures.

What was it like opening your first restaurant?

Exhausting! I really did everything. I was going to the market every day and I had a new baby. My family and I lived above the restaurant so it was really, truly a 24/7 job. But at the end of the day, it gave me joy and I knew I was building a life for my family.

What’s your favourite dish to make? 

Honestly, I love cooking Asian food. It really brings me home. That said, whatever my kids ask me to make I always love, usually because we’ll work together in the kitchen to make it. It means the dish is all that more pleasurable to eat.

Do you have a favourite local ingredient?

I always say garlic is my favorite, but really anything grown in Ontario during its peak season. We grow such great produce here.

You were the second Canadian to enter Kitchen Stadium in 2006, and now you’re breaking ground as one of the Canadian Iron Chefs. Is it a full circle moment for you?

It kind of is, but I don’t really think of it that way. Every day I feel honoured to be able to do what I love and sometimes I get to do that on national TV! I was grateful to be asked as one of the Canadian Iron Chefs. Iit validates how hard I’ve worked.

How does Iron Chef Canada showcase uniquely Canadian cuisine?

I think Canada deserves it’s own food shows, we are a unique country with so many talented people cooking in so many different ways. The secret ingredients and the curve balls are what make it Canadian but you really see it in the dishes that are produced as well. They’re not distinctly Canadian but they have flavours from all around the world… which I think is very Canadian in itself.

How did you prepare for the competition?

I basically lived in the kitchen for a few weeks and cooked with my sous chefs. We’ve worked together for over 10 years but we haven’t cooked together in a while. Jonas (Lee) and Bryan (Kid Lee) and I just experimented, tested and got comfortable with each other again. We brought Kitchen Stadium to us!

Iron-Chef-Canada-Susur-Lee-with-Jonas-Lee-and-Bryan-Kid-Lee

What can we expect from the competitors this season?

I am sure they are all accomplished in their own way and they all love to cook. The competition will be tough—I’m really eager to see all of them compete!

 How did it feel to be competing again rather than being behind the judging table?

Well, I did compete in the Chopped judges’ episode, where the judges had a choice to judge their peers or compete and I chose to compete. That really gave me that rush again and I loved it! I love being in the heat of the kitchen so I was thrilled when I was approached to be an Iron Chef. I still work in my restaurant kitchen but it just doesn’t compare to the pressure of a competition like Iron Chef Canada. I’ve worked as a chef for 45 years now and I’m still learning and getting opportunities to put my knowledge to use. It’s such a rush!

You’re known for your fusion food. Do you think your culinary style gave you an advantage over the competition?

Perhaps because I am very versatile. I have always felt that  “fusion” is a name given to me by others that I didn’t really even like at first, but I accept it now. I am a chef first and my style is just me. I am extremely technical and that’s very French, I am extremely creative and that is Chinese.

How do you create an Iron Chef Canada menu once you’ve found out the secret ingredient?

You have to think very quickly. Having cooked for 45 years myself and 15 with my two sous chefs, we have a lot of tricks in our bag. We began by discussing how the ingredients can fit into what we know. You can’t “re-invent” the wheel on live TV.

Did any of the secret ingredients throw you for a loop?

The curve balls were actually what threw me for a loop the most. With the time constraints, the menu already planned out and the unfamiliarity of the kitchen, it’s a challenge, that’s for sure!

If you could pick one secret ingredient for your fellow iron chefs, what would you choose?

I was recently in Thailand and ate quite a few insects—so maybe insects! They say it’s the food of the future so why not introduce it to the world on the big stage!

Iron Chef Anna Olson

Meet Canada’s Newest Iron Chef, Anna Olson and Enter to Win Her New Cookbook

A brand new Iron Chef has been announced for the holidays and it’s Canada’s baking sweetheart, Anna Olson. We sat down with Anna to talk everything from how she felt about competing for the first time to her favourite cookie this holiday season.

Iron Chef Anna Olson

Read on for the full interview with Iron Chef Anna Olson and don’t forget to enter our draw to win one of five signed copies of Anna’s new holiday cookbook, Set for the Holidays. It’s chock-full of delicious recipes that will have your holiday entertaining sorted, from delicious comforting appetizers like Lobster Mac ‘n’ Cheese Squares, to sweet Canadian classics like Signature Butter Tart Squares. And of course, don’t forget the cookies for Santa, like Breton Sea Salt Shortbreads and Carrot Cake Sandwich Cookies,

Can you tell us about how you fell in love with food?

My love of food happened gradually out of love for spending time with my grandmother in the kitchen. She was the avid baker. For her, it was the passion for cooking, but most especially baking to share.  I think over the years when I look at what I love about baking most is that sense of sharing that comes with it. So it all started there, even though it took me a while to come about it professionally.

How did you begin to transition that into your career?

For a lot of people, baking is a stress reliever. When I was in university and early in my career in banking, it was my way to relieve stress at the end of the day. And I really did have what I call my ‘muffin epiphany’ where after a very stressful day I found myself up at two in the morning making banana muffins just to relax. And it was at that moment the light went off and I said, “Okay, I need to cook”.

Within three months I quit and went to cooking school. It was a need. I needed to make cooking and baking my full-time occupation. Originally, I didn’t plan on working in restaurants. I thought that recipe development for a company would be the way I went. But I actually got hooked on the adrenaline of working in restaurants.

How do you feel Canadian cuisine has influenced you— because you have a very strong identity as a Canadian chef and baker.

When I found myself living in the Niagara Region, I was drawn to the type of cuisine with four distinct menus based on four distinct seasons with produce that came from close by. In Canada, we embrace that, whether it’s cooking with the seafood of the East Coast, the produce and dairy we have in Ontario, Quebec beef, or the fish on the West Coast. That is Canadian cuisine and we don’t need to rely on a dish or a specific menu to call it Canadian. You can cook globally so long as you shop locally. And that too, I think is very Canadian, bringing the global influence.

How did it feel to compete on Iron Chef Canada?

When the opportunity came to be an Iron Chef, I thought long and hard about it. I was petrified. Can I do this? Can I stand up against a challenger and can I deliver a five-course menu [that is] all baking in an hour? And even though this is an all baking episode, the rules are still exactly the same as if it was a traditional Iron Chef [challenge].

I decided one of my life philosophies is you never regret the things you try and fail. And I thought if I say no to this, I’ll always wonder ‘what if?’ So I just jumped right in.

Anna Olson Battle Nuts

So once you did decide you were going for it, how did you start to prepare?

There is really only so much you can do because you have to wait until the [secret] ingredient is revealed. But knowing that you have to prepare a certain amount of dishes, I had to look at techniques. People know me from Bake where I really focus on the technique behind something. So I knew I needed to find recipes that could draw on that and [we] could mix, bake, set, and cook within an hour, which can be a challenge.

What I didn’t want the judges to do was walk away with sugar shock, [that] they didn’t have a great experience because I didn’t give them a balanced menu. That was already in my head. So when the ingredients [are] revealed, you simply apply it.

How did you go about showcasing Canadian flavours in your Iron Chef Canada menu?

I feel showcasing Canadian flavours and preparations is just inherent to my style, so I didn’t feel like I had to reach or be something different than [what] I was. I think that would have created a challenge that I didn’t need. We do what we know and we do what we love. Just like a home cook preparing Christmas dinner, if you make something you’ve never made, it’s going to go sideways. The home cook at holiday time is kind of their own Iron Chef!

What’s your favourite holiday food event—from cookie swaps to brunch to the big Christmas dinner?

The Christmas Day brunch is my favourite meal. I love how it’s relaxed and casual, but still elegant. We do the big ham and lots of side salads.  I’ll do things like a raspberry Danish pastry wreath and scones with fruit to start the meal, but then you still get to have dessert. Brunch is done is [by] 2 or 3 p.m. and the kitchen is cleaned up and you still have the rest of the day to snack. And the best is that little leftover ham sandwich or turkey sandwich later on in the evening.

Anna Olson's Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

What’s your ‘it’ cookie of the season?

I do have a collection of three cookies from my latest cookbook called Crinkles and Twinkles. So I do a Chocolate Crinkle,  a Gingerbread Crinkle, and a Lemon Twinkle. They’re rolled in granulated sugar and sparkles. Those, together on a plate, look lovely because they all relate, but they each have their own flavour.

The other cookie that I like to make every year is a Vinarterta Linzer cookie.  It’s a mix of tradition and reinvention. I’ve adopted what is a really quite difficult and time intensive [recipe] to make into a simpler cookie. It’s very much a Canadian prairie recipe. When Icelanders emigrated [to Canada]  they treasured and kept onto these heritage recipes. That’s a big part of Canadian cooking too. We cherish our cultural heritage and hold onto these recipes, but also share them with each other.

That is, to me, what a cookie exchange should be. You can always assign people to make you make the shortbread or make the chocolate cookie, but everyone should be invited to make one that’s part of their family tradition.

*This interview has been edited and condensed.

Watch Anna Olson on Iron Chef Canada: Battle Nutcracker ‘Sweet’ on December 12 at 10 p.m. ET/PT

gluhwein-in-cup

How to Make Traditional German Glühwein

Glü-what? Glühwein is a spiced red wine that’s traditionally served at Christmas markets in Germany and Austria. Translated roughly as “glowing wine” which refers to the temperature the wine is heated to, this holiday drink is meant to warm you up as you make your way around the market stalls, chatting and shopping and will ensure you won’t get cold.

Mulled wine, as we call it in English, is actually really simple to make and even better, it’s easy to make large batches which makes it perfect for entertaining over the holidays.

Making mulled wine is simple but it does involve a little bit more than just heating the wine – it’s a delicate balance of spices (cinnamon, star anise, cloves), citrus fruits, alcohol and sugar. Play around with the ratios to see what you like best. Mull your wine early to fill your house with the wonderful smells of the season to greet your guests as they arrive. Keep the pot on very low heat through the party and keep an eye on it – you’ll surely need to make more at some point!

cup-of-gluhwein

Glühwein Recipe

Makes: Approximately 2L (enough for 12-24 depending on if you are serving tasting portions or full serves)

Ingredients:
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cinnamon stick
8 cloves
2 clementines or small oranges
peel and juice of 1 lemon (approx. 1/4 – 1/3 cup)
peel and juice of 2 clementines or small oranges (approx. 1/2 – 3/4 cup)
2 x 750 mL bottles fruity red wine
1/2 cup port
1/2 cup Grand Marnier or Cointreau
1/2 cup brandy
clementine or orange slices, for garnish
cinnamon sticks, for garnish

cup-of-holiday-german-gluhwein

Directions:
1. Place the sugar and cinnamon stick in a large (2 litre) pot.
2. Stick 4 cloves into each whole clementine and place them in the pot with the sugar.
3. Add the lemon and clementine peel and juice (you should have around 3/4 – 1 cup juice in total) to the pot.
4. Pour in just enough wine to cover the clementines and heat over medium heat until it boils. Simmer for around 5 minutes.
5. Add the rest of the wine, the port, the Grand Marnier (or Cointreau) and brandy and stir well. Heat for around 15 minutes on low-medium heat. Do not allow the wine to boil.
6. Serve hot with a slice of orange or clementine and perhaps a dash of cinnamon or cinnamon stick as garnish.

Looking for more seasonal drinks? Try these 10 Tasty Mulled Wine Recipes.

baked-brie-rolls

Baked Brie Becomes a Show-Stopping Appetizer with Pull-Apart Bread Rolls

Store-bought pizza dough makes this show-stopping appetizer come together in a matter of minutes. A wheel of Brie is already a crowd-pleaser, but it is transformed into a truly sensational holiday dish when baked with fresh buns and served warm from the oven. Serve in the cast iron pan at the table so guests can tear off pieces of bread and dig in to the gooey, melty cheese.

BakedBrie3

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Makes: 8 servings

Ingredients:
600g pizza dough
170g Brie wheel
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
Pinch each salt and pepper
Jam (cranberry, fig or lingonberry)
Fresh figs and rosemary sprig (to garnish)

BakeBrie1

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Divide dough into 75g pieces. Roll each into a tight ball; set aside.
2. Using sharp knife, remove top rind of Brie. Place Brie, cut side-up, in centre of cast iron pan. Arrange pizza dough rolls around cheese.
3. In small bowl, combine melted butter, rosemary, salt and pepper. Brush butter mixture over pizza rolls.

BakedBrie2
4. Bake in 400°F oven until top of pizza rolls start to turn golden, about 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 375°F; bake until pizza rolls are golden, hard on the outside and sound hollow when tapped, about 15 minutes.
5. Spoon a little jam over Brie; top with fresh figs and garnish with rosemary sprig.

Looking for more inspiration?  Try Our Cheesiest Appetizers Ever.

This Sticky Toffee Pudding Bundt Cake is a Thing of Beauty

A take on the classic Christmas pudding, this sticky date Bundt cake is sure to be a crowd pleaser this holiday season. Drizzled with a toffee caramel sauce, it is elegant enough to be served for Christmas but simple enough to be enjoyed over coffee.

christmas-sticky-toffee-bundt

Christmas Sticky Toffee Pudding Recipe

Prep Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Bake Time: 1 hour
Makes: 1 (12-cup) Bundt cake

Ingredients:
Toffee Sauce:
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
½ cup unsalted butter
1 Tbsp molasses
2/3 cup heavy cream
½ tsp salt

Cake:
2 ½ cups dates, chopped and pitted
1 ¾ cups boiling water
2 tsp baking soda
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 ¼ cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
3 large eggs
3 Tbsp molasses
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp salt

sticky-toffee-bundt-cake

Directions:
Toffee Sauce:
1. Combine brown sugar, butter and molasses in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer 5 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from heat, and stir in heavy cream and salt. Let cool completely.
Tip: When adding heavy cream you can also add a splash of spiced rum or whiskey to toffee sauce, if desired.

Cake:
1. For the cake, preheat oven to 325°F. Spray a 12-cup Bundt pan with nonstick spray.
2. In a large bowl, combine dates, boiling water and baking soda. Cover and let stand 1 hour. In a blender, puree mixture until smooth, about 1 minute.
3. Cream butter and brown sugar with a mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating just until combined. Stir in molasses.
4. Whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger and salt. Add to butter mixture alternating with pureed date mixture, starting and ending with the flour mixture until incorporated. Pour into prepared pan.
5. Bake 1 hour, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
6. Let cool in pan 10 minutes. Invert onto cooling rack. Brush exterior of cake with toffee sauce and cool completely. Drizzle remaining sauce over cooled cake.

Looking for more inspiration? Try our Show-Stopping Holiday Desserts.

Pom-Pom-Wreath-Cake-cut

The Prettiest Pom-Pom Wreath Cake to Dress up Your Christmas Table

A flirty, festive cake for the holidays that’s sure to be the star of the dessert table! Starting with a spiced gingerbread cake with creamy eggnog frosting, this show-stopper comes together easily and just in time for your holiday celebration. A splash of colour and a few piping tips turn simple icing into a festive wreath around the top of the cake. Feel free use the colours of your choice to match your party décor!

Pom-Pom-Wreath-Cake-wholejpg

Gingerbread Pom-Pom Wreath Cake Recipe

Bake Time: 22 to 26 minutes
Total Time: 90 to 120 minutes
Serves: 12 to 16

Ingredients:
Gingerbread Cake:
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 ¼ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
3 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp all-spice
¾ cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup brown sugar
2 tsp finely grated ginger
4 large eggs
3 Tbsp grapeseed or canola oil
¾ cup molasses
1 cup buttermilk

Eggnog Frosting:
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
5 to 6 cups confectioners’ sugar
3 Tbsp eggnog
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg

Vanilla Decorating Icing:
¾ cup unsalted butter, softened
3 to 4 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 Tbsp heavy cream or milk
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
Gel food colouring

Pom-Pom-Wreath-Cake-slice

Directions:
Gingerbread Cake:
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F degrees. Grease and flour three 8-inch round cake pans and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, and all-spice. Set aside.
3. Using an electric mixer (hand or stand), beat the butter on medium speed until smooth. Add the granulated sugar, brown sugar, and ginger and continue to mix for 2 to 4 minutes or until light and fluffy. With the mixer on medium-low, add in the eggs, one at a time, until incorporated. Add in the oil and molasses and mix until smooth. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
4. Add in half of the dry ingredients and mix on low until combined. Stream in the buttermilk and mix until it is absorbed into the mixture. Add in the remaining dry ingredients and mix on low until combined. Mix on medium for no longer than 30-seconds or until smooth.
5. Evenly distribute the batter into the prepared pans. Bake for 22 to 26 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 10 to 20 minutes before removing the cakes from their pans. Allow to cool completely before filling and frosting.

Pom-Pom-Wreath-icing

Eggnog Frosting:
1. Using an electric mixer (stand or hand), beat the butter until smooth. Add the cream cheese and continue to mix until combined. With the mixer on low, gradually add in 5 cups of the sugar and the remaining ingredients. Once incorporated, turn the mixer up to medium-high and beat until fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. If the mixture is too soft to spread, add in the additional amount of sugar until the desired consistency.

Vanilla Decorating Icing:
1. Using an electric mixer (stand or hand), beat the butter until smooth. With the mixer on low, gradually add in 3 cups of the sugar and the remaining ingredients. Once incorporated, turn the mixer up to medium-high and beat until fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. If the mixture is too soft to pipe, add in the additional amount of sugar until the desired consistency.

Pom-Pom-Wreath-piping

To Assemble:
1. Place one layer of cake on a cake board or serving plate. Dollop on about 1 cup of the eggnog frosting and spread until smooth. Top with the next layer of cake and repeat. Crumb coat the cake in a thin layer of eggnog frosting and chill in the refrigerator for 15 minutes. Once chilled, continue to smoothly frost the cake with the remaining frosting.
2. To decorate the cake, divided the vanilla decorating icing into three bowls. Tint the frosting with gel food colouring. For depth, pipe a ring of icing around the top edge of the cake using a piping bag fitted with a medium round tip. Fill three piping bags fitted with star tips (various or those of the same size) with the tinted icing. Pipe “pom-poms” around the top of the cake to create a wreath. Starting with the large piping tip, angle the pom-poms on top and on the sides of the ring of icing. Fill in the gaps and layer on colour and texture with the remaining icing. To pipe, apply pressure to the piping bag until a small bulb of icing forms, stop the pressure, and then pull the bag away from the cake. Add tiny sugar pearl sprinkles, if desired.

PomPom-Wreath

Looking for more inspiration? Try our Show-Stopping Holiday Desserts.