Vegan Antipasto Skewers Are the Creative Plant-Based Appetizer to Beat

Let’s be real: the heart of any party is the food. To keep your crowd happy, make sure the apps are flowing, which as it turns out, is a bit of an art form. For instance: appetizers should look “appetizing”, they should be finger-friendly, mess-free (preferably to avoid tzatziki stains on new holiday outfits) and should only require a few bites to consume.

That’s why vegan antipasto skewers make for the best holiday appetizer. They’re user-friendly, not to mention a beautiful addition to your holiday table. Plus, they’re a cinch to make. And since dietary restrictions are commonplace these days, it’s important to accommodate. These two dairy-free plant-based beauties are the perfect place to start.

Olive, Artichoke, Tomato & Balsamic Skewers

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 3-4

Ingredients:
Small wooden skewers (or toothpicks)
Artichokes, from a jar
Kalamata olives, pitted
Cherry tomatoes (extra points for multi-colour!)
Basil leaves
1-2 Tbsp balsamic reduction or syrup

Directions:
1. Remove the artichokes from the jar and cut them slightly so they’ll fit onto the skewers and are manageable to eat.

2. In any order, thread the ingredients above through the wooden skewers. We like to ribbon basil leaves between the ingredients to create more vibrant colour throughout and to get that punchy taste of raw basil with every bite.

3. Once all ingredients are on the skewers, take your balsamic reduction and lightly drizzle it over top. You can pour the balsamic on a spoon, hover about 10 inches above the skewers and drizzle away.

Eggplant, Tofu, Zucchini & Pesto Skewers

Prep Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes
Servings: 3-4

Ingredients:
1 eggplant, chopped into 1 ½ inch cubes
1 brick tofu, patted dry and chopped into 1 ½ inch cubes
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil or avocado oil
¼ tsp sea salt
Pinch of pepper
1 zucchini, peeled into ribbons
8 sundried tomatoes, cut into bite sized pieces
Small wooden skewers (or toothpicks)
2-3 Tbsp pesto

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.

2. Chop the eggplant and tofu into cubes, they should be around the same size.

3. Season both with oil, salt and pepper. Place them on separate baking sheets lined with parchment paper.

4. Roast the tofu for 15 minutes and the eggplant for 20-25 minutes. Both should be lightly crisp.

5. While the eggplant and tofu are roasting, peel the zucchini into thin ribbons and make your pesto, if you’re not buying it pre-made.

6. Once all veggies are prepped, begin threading them through the skewer in any order you desire.

7. Place them on a tray or plate and lightly dollop a few spoonfuls of pesto over areas of the skewers.

For more plant-based bites, try these five other creative meatless skewers and 20 party-perfect vegan appetizers.

The Epic Winter Salad That’ll Keep You on Track This Season (Ft. the Best Dressing Ever)

Who says winter lunches and dinners need to revolve around steaming stews, soups and roasts? Instead, try an epic winter salad that’s loaded with the season’s best produce. This fresh and colourful recipe is adaptable to any of your favourite cold weather add-ins: try cauliflower instead of Brussels sprouts, pomegranate seeds instead of dried cranberries, sliced chicken breast instead of chickpeas, crumble over feta to add richness and so much more. What you won’t want to change is the lip-smacking roasted garlic dressing with a hint of sweetness to tie it all together. 

The sturdiness of the vegetables used enable you to meal prep this on the weekend for a week of filling lunches or veg-forward dinners. Even if you’re cooking for one, make the entire recipe and reward yourself with something nourishing and delicious every day this week. 

Epic Kale Winter Salad

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Serves: 4 to 6 

Ingredients: 

Salad
300g Brussels sprouts, tough ends removed and halved lengthwise
250g (1 large) beet, peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes
3 Yukon gold or 2 peeled sweet potatoes, cut into ½-inch wedges or cubed
1 onion, peeled and cut into thin wedges
1 large or 2 regular cloves garlic, whole and unpeeled
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp dried thyme
¾ tsp kosher salt
6 cups kale, de-stemmed and torn or shredded into manageable pieces
1 (19 oz) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
⅓ cup toasted sunflower seeds
¼ cup dried cranberries or pomegranate seeds

Dressing
⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp water
1 Tbsp applesauce
1 tsp Dijon mustard
½ tsp kosher salt
Roasted garlic, from above 

Directions:

1. For the salad, preheat oven to 400ºF. Add Brussels sprouts, beet, potatoes, onions and garlic to separate areas (to prevent the beets from staining the other vegetables) of one large or two medium rimmed baking sheets and evenly divide over olive oil, thyme and salt, and then toss vegetables to coat. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until vegetables are tender. Squeeze the garlic out of its paper and smash to create a paste; reserve garlic paste for the dressing. 

2. For the dressing, in a medium glass jar to shake or bowl to whisk, combine all dressing ingredients, including the smashed garlic paste, from above. Shake or whisk until the mixture is smooth and creamy (it’s okay if there are some small bits of roasted garlic – it’s sweet and won’t be pungent like a chunk of raw garlic would). 

3. Toss a portion of the dressing with the kale to coat and add to large platter, or divide among 4 to 6 individual salad bowls. Toss a portion of the dressing with the chickpeas and add to the platter or divide amongst bowls. Add a section of each of the roasted vegetables and drizzle over remaining dressing. Sprinkle everything with sunflower seeds and cranberries, and serve warm, room temperature or chilled. Alternatively, instead of composing the salad, toss everything together before serving.

Entertaining this season? May we suggest this show-stopping healthy grain bowl for a crowd (featuring mashed sweet potato and wine-baked tofu!). You’ll also love these 15 vegan roast alternatives for meat-free guests.

Flour 101 holiday cookies

Flour 101: Your Guide to Mastering Holiday Baking

Although most home bakers are working on a smaller scale than the sky-high creations seen on The Big Bake, there’s still a lot of pressure around the holidays, especially when it comes to baking family favourites and traditional holiday treats. Set yourself up for baking success by choosing the right type of flour for a number of applications, from homemade cookies to gingerbread houses. This expert advice will cover some helpful tricks and recipes to help take the stress out of holiday baking. Please remember to have fun and make holiday baking a family event. Also, always ensure that safe food handling of flour is followed. Enjoy!

The Basics

In general, paying attention to the protein level in flour and applying it accordingly will give you the best results, as the higher the protein content, the more structure the final product will have. Hard winter wheat and hard spring wheat flour are primarily used for yeast leavened products like breads, pizzas and tortillas. You may see this flour called All-purpose, bread, pizza or no-time dough. Soft wheat flour is primarily used for sweet baked goods like cakes, cookies, muffins, cake donuts and biscuits and is often called pastry flour, cake flour or hi-ratio cake flour.

See more: Ardent Mills’ complete flour portfolio including definitions and best-used-for applications.

Cookies

A large batch of cookies is the perfect plan-ahead project to have stashed away for unexpected company, gifts, office cookie exchanges, or just enjoying in front of the fire (don’t forget to save some for Santa!). Typically for cookies where a tender touch is required such as the traditional Linzer cookie, softer varieties such as a cake or pastry flour are used to give a lighter, melt-in-your-mouth tender texture that still has enough structure to hold a filling like jam or icing.

For sturdier cookies,  like those used for constructing gingerbread houses (like this very Canadian gingerbread cabin) a lower protein hard wheat flour, like  All-purpose flour can be helpful.

Tip: Most cookies will freeze well, making them a true timesaver for the busy holidays. Make large batches early and freeze them in airtight containers to ice or decorate later. You can also prepare the cookie dough ahead of time and freeze, to quickly bake fresh, as needed.

Cakes

Both all-purpose flour and cake flour play a part in cake baking. To get Bundt cakes (such as this festive orange-cranberry version) to stand tall and withstand a filling of vibrant berries, all-purpose flour helps add heft. A bûche de noël (yule log), on the other hand, requires that the cake be soft enough to roll around a creamy filling without cracking, which is where cake flour shines.

When baking gluten-free cakes (like this gluten-free marble pound cake) there are many options in terms of gluten-free flour, including naturally gluten-free ancient-grains such as amaranth, millet, quinoa, sorghum and teff available from The Annex by Ardent Mills. Or you may consider using an organic flour to replace the conventional flour in the recipe. Ardent Mills has organic offerings under the brand Simply Milled by Ardent Mills™ in both all-purpose or pastry flour that are suitable for cakes. This will certainly appeal to the health-conscious members of your family to bake cakes made with organic flour, without having to adjust the entire recipe.

Tip: Be sure to cool cakes completely before adding frosting to avoid runny icing and peeling tops. Chill cakes and ensure frosting is firm before wrapping and freezing to avoid ruining decorations.

Holiday Pudding

Depending on which side of the pond you hail from, pudding can mean either a post-meal sweet, a cake-like sponge or a custardy creation. Steamed British-style puddings — such as the plum and figgy pudding made famous through Christmas carols — use trusty all-purpose flour and a bain-marie (water bath) to keep them moist throughout baking. Often referred to as “instant-blending” flour, granular flour can be used to thicken custards and other pudding-style confections, without creating lumps or the need for a roux.

Tip: Puddings are perfect to make ahead for the holidays. Try this luscious caramel and salted butter pudding, which uses a boil and chill setting method,  as an easy plating or topping option.

Breads

The smell of freshly baked bread wafting through the air makes any home feel cozy for the holidays. Bread flour packs a powerhouse of protein and plenty of stretchy gluten, making sure your loaf has a firm interior and crispy brown crust. Ciabatta bread takes advantage of this stickiness to produce an artisan bread with a chewy texture. Whole wheat, whole grain, rye and barley flours can also be used in bread baking, producing a loaf with a deep flavour and dense crumb.

For sweet breads, such as the perennial holiday favourite panettone, a lighter texture is preferred. All-purpose flour can be used to help the dough create the distinctive and desired dome-shaped structure.

Tip: Bake your festive creations ahead of time (be sure that you have a lot of room in the freezer) and defrost the bread in a low temperature oven for an easy savoury or sweet fruit-studded snack.

Pies

Perfect pie crust is an obsession for many bakers and with good reason — it is often viewed as both a science and an art. Although one of the many debates tends to be about whether to use lard, butter or shortening for the crust, the type of flour can also make a difference. Some recipes, such as this sugar pie, call for unbleached flour, according to the taste preferences of the baker. Pastry flour, which is often confused with cake flour, differs due to its slightly higher protein content. The added protein in this flour lends a bit more support for baked goods that need to have some structure while keeping the flaky texture, making it perfect for filled pies such as this mincemeat pie.

Tip: Prepare pie dough ahead of time and freeze in pre-portioned containers ready to thaw and roll out. The filling can also be prepared ahead of time to use later, or, depending on the pie, the crust can be blind baked, filled and frozen.

Safe food handling of flour

For safe food handling of flour, please make sure to follow these safety tips.

  • Do not eat any raw cookie dough, cake mix, batter, or any other raw dough or batter product that is supposed to be cooked or baked.
  • Bake products containing flour at proper temperatures and for specified times.
  • Wash hands, work surfaces, and utensils thoroughly after contact with flour and raw dough products.

Looking for more holiday baking ideas? Check out full episodes of The Big Bake.

The One Genius Kitchen Product You’ll be Gifting Everyone This Year (Plus More Ideas)

Ah, the joys of shopping during the holidays – scouring the big-box department stores and online shops for the latest and greatest items to gift your loved ones, only to wind up more confused than when you first started.

But there’s never been a better time to surprise an at-home chef or foodie with a gift, considering the current wealth of innovative gadgets that will elevate their food game to the next level.

For the friend or relative who knows their way around the kitchen (and has cooked you more than their fair share of scrumptious meals and party appetizers), there really isn’t a better way to demonstrate how much you appreciate their culinary skills than with the latest appliances that seamlessly marry technology with home cooking.

And if there’s one genius kitchen product that’s been generating all the hype as of late, it’s this one:

The Instant Marinator


Vacu Vin 1/3 Quart Instant Marinating Container, $39.99, Amazon.ca.

What is it?  An Instant Marinator boasts impressive technology that removes oxygen from the container (a vacuum pump extracts the air faster and opens up the pores of the meat to absorb the sauce). This ultimately speeds up the entire marinating process and tenderizes the meat in minutes. Bonus: considering the Instant Marinator comes in a variety of sizes, from half-quart containers (above) to tumbling canisters, there are plenty of options and price points to choose from, making it a refreshingly flexible budget-friendly option if you’re looking to save some cash.

Who needs it? The friend or relative who loves pairing homemade marinades with their favourite cuts of meats or veggies. Also ideal for those who want to save time in the kitchen (read: all of us!) and never think to marinate tomorrow’s dinner the night before.

Related: Marinating 101: How to Flavour Your Meat, Fish and Vegetables

Want more kitchen appliance ideas? Gift one of the handy gadgets below to a loved one, or simply treat yourself (because there’s nothing wrong with that!).

Sous Vide Precision Cooker


Chefman Sous Vide Precision Cooker, $124.99, Amazon.ca

What is it? A method of cooking that involves sealing food – from eggs to fish to meats – in a heat-stable plastic pouch and bathing in water, before cooking to perfection using precise temperature control (no under-cooking or overcooking here!). Fun fact: the term Sous Vide actually means “under vacuum” in French. It also happens to be a healthier way of cooking due to the enhanced flavour and little to no additional salts or fats. The vacuum sealing ensures essential vitamins and minerals don’t dissipate during the cooking process, so you can soak up all those nutrients as you eat. And now the process is easier with the Sous Vide Precision Cooker that heats  up the water that much faster. Bonus: since it’s Bluetooth and WIFI enabled, it connects to your phone or tablet.

Who needs it? The determined home chef who tends to overcook just about everything, or the nervous food preparer who doesn’t want to risk under-cooking or ruining a dish, especially when entertaining. It’ll transform anyone into a kitchen master, we swear.

Never attempted a sous vide dish? These En Sous Vide Baby Back Ribs and Sous Vide Steelhead Trout recipes are perfect for beginners.

Digital Glass Steamer


Cuisinart Digital Glass Steamer, $194, Amazon.ca.

What is it? Skip the stove-top steamer and opt for the modern digital variety that delivers steam from the top down. Because who doesn’t love a beautifully steamed dish – especially since it retains many of the foods original minerals and vitamins? The appliance boasts a dishwasher-safe glass surfaced pot large enough for family-sized portions of veggies, fish, chicken or rice. Foodies can also look forward to everything from specific food settings to a built-in timer.

Who needs it? The health-conscious home chef, or anyone looking to be inspired in the kitchen with an easy and good-for-you cooking solution. We’re all about it!

Related: 15 Bad Eating Habits Experts Recommend Ditching by 2020

Smoke-Less Indoor Grill

Philips Smoke-less Indoor BBQ Grill, $329.00, Amazon.ca.

What is it? Living in Canada means spending a significant chunk of the year curled under a blanket, waiting for the snow to melt. However, that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice the smoky taste of a summertime BBQ. Cheer everyone up this winter with a SmokeLess Indoor Grill featuring advanced infrared heat technology and minimal side spattering for evenly grilled food that will remind you of warmer days. The non-stick grid also provides those authentic, sought-after grill marks and the constant heat browns your meats without burning them. It’s also ideal for healthy, lean grilling with a grease tray that collects excess fats.

Who needs it? That friend or relative who lives for summer grilling and would love to keep the party going year-round.

For more holiday gift ideas, check out which top kitchen appliances our editors can’t live without.

Lazy One-Pan 30-Minute Chicken Parmigiana Your Weeknight Needs

Breaded chicken parmigiana is quickly regaining its nostalgic magic and has stirred up real excitement as a sexy date-night option. Whether you’re whipping up this easy and soul-satisfying dish for a family or planning for an intimate weeknight meal, the main course’s classic old-world Italian flavours and simplicity will quickly make its way into your dinner rotation.

One-Pan 30-Minute Chicken Parmigiana

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 4

Ingredients:

½ cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup panko or seasoned breadcrumbs
¾ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, divided
½ tsp each salt and pepper
2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, halved lengthwise and pounded to ¼-inch thickness (see tip) or 4 chicken cutlets
½ cup olive oil, divided
2 cups passata or Marinara sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
Pinch hot pepper flakes (optional)
⅓ cup basil leaves, divided (optional)
Half 340g mozzarella ball cut in 8 thin slices
Salt and pepper
300g spaghetti (optional)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Arrange three plates or pie plates on work surface. Fill one with flour and season with salt and pepper. Fill other plate with egg whisked with 2 tsp water and season with salt and pepper, and the last plate with panko and ½ cup of the Parmesan cheese.

2. Dip chicken cutlet into flour mixture, turning to coat; shake off excess. Dip into egg mixture, shaking off excess then into panko mixture, turning and pressing to coat. Place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and repeat with remaining chicken.

Tip: To make your chicken cutlets, arrange halved skinless, boneless chicken breasts between plastic wrap and pound to ¼-inch thickness with a mallet,  bottom of a small skillet or even a rolling pin.

3. Heat 2 Tbsp of the oil in large heat-proof skillet over medium heat; cook two pieces chicken, turning once, until browned, about four minutes. Transfer to baking sheet. Wipe skillet clean with paper towel and repeat with 2 Tbsp oil and remaining chicken pieces. Wipe skillet.

4. Heat remaining 2 Tbsp oil in skillet over medium heat; add garlic and hot pepper flakes and cook for 30 seconds. Add passata, ⅓ cup water, 6 basil leaves and cook for 2 minutes. Nestle in chicken pieces to fit and spoon some of the sauce over chicken. Sprinkle with remaining ¼ cup Parmesan and top with mozzarella.

Tip: Passata or tomato passata is uncooked strained tomatoes. Free from seeds and skin, it’s fresh and packed with pure tomato flavour and is an ideal solution for quick weeknight sauces, soups or stews.

5. Bake in oven until cheese is melted and bubbling and chicken is no longer pink inside, 6 to 8 minutes. Garnish with remaining basil (if desired).

Tip: Meanwhile, in saucepan of boiling salted water, cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain and return to pot. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper and serve with chicken if desired. Alternatively, you can enjoy on a toasted sub roll or Kaiser bun topped with hot pickled peppers.

Stomach still growling? We’ve rounded up 20 healthy one-pot dinners to make on a budget, cheap dinner ideas for two and our most popular chicken recipes ever.

Harry Eastwood’s Top 7 Baking Tips for a Marvelous Holiday

There are few things in this world that excite The Big Bake: Holiday judge Harry Eastwood more than baking during the holidays.

“I am an absolute, unabashed Christmas junkie all the way,” she says with a laugh. “I’ve even already started wrapping up some presents and putting them on the top shelf in my office.”

Famous for her unique approach to vegetable cakes (more on that in a minute), the British-born, Paris-based chef and cookbook author knows more than her fair share about holiday baking.

So, as the talented teams on The Big Bake: Holiday continue to wow us with their festive cake creations, we took the opportunity to catch up with Harry to learn more about her top tips for healthy holiday desserts – including cake baking tips for beginners.

Related: Our Top 100 Holiday Cookie and Square Recipes


Harry on the set of The Big Bake: Holiday episode Santa on Cakecation

Plan Ahead

Although it may seem fairly obvious to prep in advance, Harry points out that it’s often one of the easiest mistakes home bakers make – and one that can result in high levels of stress and burnt baked goods. “I’m a big proponent of planning,” she says, “and by planning what I really mean, if I’m cooking a cake on Friday my list of ingredients would be done at least a day or two beforehand so I have time to make sure that I have everything I need. It’s very depressing to start a cake and discover that you’ve got only half the amount of sugar you needed.” So, forget that Santa wishlist: the most important list you’ll need this holiday season is the one organizing all your must-have ingredients. Check!

Budget Your Time

Another cake baking tip for beginners is something that comes with practice – and a whole lot of patience. “Don’t hurry it,” Harry says about getting your bake on. “The thing about cakes, above anything else, is [the realization] that you’re not in charge. The ingredients and the cake are in charge and that won’t bend just because you have a dentist’s appointment. So, budget the time for it.”

Related: Harry Eastwood Takes You Through the History of Cakes

Divide and Conquer

There are two stages of baking, according to Harry: one is the actual baking of the cake and the other is the icing and adding any additional decorations. Remember: there’s no reason why you can’t ice and decorate your masterpiece the next day, so there’s no need to rush through the entire process in a couple hours. “It’s like writing a letter by hand, the joy is always in doing,” she says. “Racing to finish it is dangerous and it would be such a shame to lose the joy of [baking].”

Kitsch for the Holidays

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, so don’t be afraid to have a little fun and infuse some of your own personality into your creation. Adding a little colour and texture can easily elevate your cake to the next level, so embrace it! “I’m not afraid of kitsch,” Harry says. “I love making my own [cake] toppers. I love that candy cane stripe; it’s so easy to mix into cakes. You can smash them up and make patterns on top. Everything is an excuse for a story at this time of year, so go nuts on the decorations because it’s such a joyful wow-factor.”

Related: The Perfect Holiday Cookie, According to Your Zodiac Sign


Harry Eastwood on set with host Brad Smith and judge Eddie Jackson

Swap in Some Veggies

If you’ve got root vegetables on hand and you’re looking to make an epic sponge cake that has some real moisture to it, Harry suggests swapping out some of the more common ingredients for some of those sweet veggies. “I think vegetable cake is so underrated just because it’s healthier,” she says. “But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t taste good! If you have a vegetable cake with buttercream icing on top, I defy you to tell the difference.” Bonus: since the holidays are all about indulging in your favourite treats, you’ll appreciate having at least one healthy(ish) dessert. It also comes in handy if you’ve got a few picky eaters on your hands. “Zucchini is probably my favourite ingredient to add into cakes because it’s very easy to introduce without anybody having a clue,” Harry says with a laugh. “The point of a vegetable cake is that people don’t know it’s a vegetable cake so you need to do something which just effortlessly swaps it in. If you’ve succeeded at that, then you’ve done a good job. You’ve nailed it.”

Simple Substitutes

Bid adieu to butter this holiday season. “You definitely don’t taste the butter in a sponge cake, you taste the buttercream [icing],” Harry points out. “It’s the easiest ingredient you can lose without noticing so long as you replace it with a healthy fat, like ground nuts, because there needs to be a balancing act with what you put in.”

Related: Anna Olson’s Quick Guide to Ingredient Substitutions

Don’t Be Afraid to Experiment

You don’t have to wait until you’re a seasoned pro before you can start experimenting in the kitchen. “I’m a big fan of a recipe I wrote a little while ago which is for a sesame tahini white chocolate blondie,” Harry says. “That in itself is a show-stopper. I love offering something unusual around Christmastime.”

For more holiday fare, you can get your bake on with these 20 easy make-ahead Christmas cookies for your holiday bash and Anna Olson’s Ultimate Holiday Cookie Hacks.

An Overnight Gingerbread French Toast Bake for the Perfect Winter Morning

This comforting, fragrant French toast bake is the best way to wake up on Christmas morning. It can be prepared the night before and baked fresh the next day. Just a little bit easier than standing over a griddle and individually frying each slice of French toast! The egg mixture features traditional gingerbread spices (which scents the whole house as it bakes) and the cranberry adds a hint of tartness. For best results, use a day old loaf of bread as it soaks up the liquid better.

Overnight Gingerbread French Toast Bake

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Bake Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 60 minutes
Serves: 8

Ingredients:

1 loaf country bread, cut into 1/2 thick slices
8 large eggs, whisked
3 cups whole milk
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1 pinch black pepper
1 pinch fine salt
1/2 cup pecans, roughly chopped (optional)
1/2 cup cranberries, fresh or frozen
Powdered sugar, for serving
Maple syrup, for serving

Directions:

1. Grease a 9×12 baking dish. Arrange the slices of bread in two rows, overlapping each other.

2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, sugar, vanilla, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, cardamom, black pepper and salt.

3. Pour mixture evenly over the bread, gently pressing the slices down to soak up the liquid. Sprinkle with pecans and cranberries. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to bake.

4. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350°F. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes. If bread begins to brown too quickly, cover the top with foil and continue baking.

5. Serve warm with a dusting of powdered sugar and a drizzle of maple syrup.

We’ve got more easy, ultra-appetizing holiday brunch recipes to bookmark this year, from these 25 standout dishes that’ll feed a crowd to healthier recipes guests will still devour (especially after a night of indulging).

A Fondue Board is the Easy, Cheesy Way to Entertain for the Holidays

A new take on the holiday cheese board, but with fondue at the centre, this entertaining spread is surrounded by delicious dippers waiting to be dunked and devoured – all of which are customizable. Festive, warming and perfect for that après ski vibe we all strive for (even if you’ve been inside by the fire all day).

If you don’t have fondue forks, just cut your dippers a little larger so guests have an easier time dunking by hand or spooning the molten cheese onto their item (no one wants to be fishing out a tiny piece of bread from the fondue pot). Tip: to keep your fondue sans alcohol, replace the traditional white wine with stock or whole milk (directions for this below). 

Swiss Fondue Board

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Serves: 6 to 8 

Ingredients:

Serving Suggestions
Seedless grapes
Sliced apples or ripe pears
Sliced baguette (or cubed if you have fondue forks)
Crackers
Steamed potatoes
Raw or steamed broccoli florets
Sliced raw carrots
Cherry tomatoes
Cured or roasted cooked meats
Dried or fresh apricots, plums and figs 

Swiss Fondue
1 garlic clove, halved
1¼ cup dry white wine, stock or whole milk
1 tsp white wine vinegar (only add if using stock or whole milk)
14 oz (400g) Gruyere cheese, grated
7 oz (200g) Emmentaler cheese, grated
3.5 oz (100g) Gouda cheese, grated
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour or 1½ Tbsp cornstarch
Pinch, freshly grated nutmeg
Ground black pepper, to taste 

Directions:

1. Arrange all of the items you’ll be serving with your fondue on a wooden board, platter or on individual plates, leaving space in the centre for your fondue pot or serving bowl.

2. For the fondue, rub the bottom and sides of a medium saucepan with the halved garlic clove; save the remaining garlic for another recipe. Add wine, stock or milk and vinegar (if using stock or milk) to the saucepan and heat over medium until steaming. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, toss all three cheeses with flour or cornstarch, nutmeg and pepper, and add cheese mixture to the warmed liquid. Stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, cook until the cheese is melted and smooth, allowing to gently bubble for 30 seconds, which will cook the flour or cornstarch fully and thicken everything to the proper consistency. Remove from heat.

3. Transfer cheese fondue to a warmed fondue pot and holder with a tea light underneath to keep it warm, or a heat-proof ceramic serving bowl, and serve alongside your preferred dippers. If using a ceramic bowl without a tealight, warm briefly in a low oven to loosen again if the fondue has gotten too thick (this doesn’t happen too quickly, but will occur about 30 minutes after it’s off the stovetop), or transfer back to a pot and reheat for a minute or so on the stovetop.

For more holiday inspiration, whip up a few of these crowd-pleasing holiday potluck recipes, and trust us when we say: you’ll devour these eye-catching cheese ball bites (the ultimate make-ahead app!).

Anna Olson Buttercream Decorating Tips

Anna Olson’s Cake Decorating Ideas for Swiss, Italian and French Buttercream

If you are a fan of cake, then you must be in-the-know when it comes to buttercream since it is the most common frosting. But have you fully immersed yourself into all of the many styles of buttercream, and how to use them?

Cupcake buttercream (also known as American butterceam) is the simplest to make, and is best used to top its namesake: cupcakes. I’ve written a piece on cupcake fun – check it out here.

Swiss Buttercream

Swiss buttercream is the next level – it’s fluffy, yet satin texture balances butter and sugar wonderfully, and it is my all-time favourite buttercream for decorating cakes. It’s easy to make, it takes food colouring well, holds piping detail, and can sit out at room temperature for presentation. Essentially, egg whites and sugar are warmed together and then whipped (a Swiss meringue) and once cooled, butter is whipped in along with flavours and/or colours.

Check out this video as I make it step by step.

Italian Buttercream

Next is Italian buttercream, for the frosting fancier. If you are covering a cake that has a mousse or curd filling, or if you are assembling a tiered cake such as a wedding cake, then you will want this most stable (yet still fluffy and tasty) buttercream. Boiled sugar is poured into egg whites while they whip (an Italian meringue) and once cooled, the butter is worked in. Italian buttercream has all of the virtues of Swiss buttercream, but it sets up more firmly when refrigerated, and is very stable at room temperature, which is why it is ideal for wedding cakes.

French Buttercream

The last buttercream to mention is the least known: French Buttercream. Instead of being made with meringue, egg yolks are the base, making this buttercream rich and custard-like. It tends to have a softer set than Swiss and Italian buttercreams, so I like to keep my décor simpler, with less piping detail.

Pecan Torte with French Buttercream

Get the recipe for Pecan Torte with French Buttercream

Getting Creative with Buttercream

Using Swiss or Italian buttercream, décor is unlimited! Here are some ideas to get you started:

Rustic – Not into piping, but still want a polished look? You can mask (cover completely with frosting) your cake fully and then use the tip of your palette knife to “rough up” the sides as you spin the cake around on a wheel – just treat your palette knife like it’s a needle on a record and start at the base of the cake, moving your way up.

Anna Olson Rustic Buttercream

Ombré – By tinting buttercream in varied shades of the same colour, you can gradiate the colour from dark to light or vice versa as you pipe.

Chocolate Berry Cake with Italian Buttercream

Get the recipe for Chocolate Berry Cake with Ombre Italian Buttercream

Sheer – While a “naked” cake fully exposes the sides, the “half-naked” or sheer style of décor adds a little buttercream to add finesse but the layers can still be seen.

This sheet cake is actually inspired by my own wedding cake, which I made 20 years ago this month. Amazing how what is old becomes new again, even with cake décor trends!

Get the recipe for Chai Layer Cake with Maple Meringue Frosting

Buttercream Tips

A few final buttercream tips to get you on your way:

  •  All buttercreams should be used at room temperature, freshly whipped.
  • That said, you can make any buttercream ahead of time and chill or freeze it. Before using, let it come fully to room temperature and re-whip it to fluff it up.
  • Gel food colouring is best for buttercreams – a dab of colour on the end of a toothpick goes a long way, but remember that the colour intensifies as the frosting sits, so keep that in mind before you add more.

So jump into the kitchen and start playing…today is a perfect day to make and decorate a cake!

For even more baking tips, see her top tips for assembling and icing cakes and get inspired with 67 of Anna Olson’s best-ever cake recipes.

These Christmas Cookie Trees Are the Prettier (And Easier!) Version of a Gingerbread House

Stacked anywhere from four to 14 cookies high, these Christmas Gingerbread Trees are festive and fun. Their 3D shape allows them to stand tall on any dessert table, or could be used to decorate individual place settings at your holiday feast. Much quicker and way less complicated that assembling an entire gingerbread house, these cookie trees come together rather easily during this busy time of year. Featuring homemade gingerbread cookies, the festive treats taste just as good as they look, too!

Gingerbread Christmas Cookie Trees

Bake Time: 8 to 10 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours
Servings: 2 dozen, 4 to 5 cookies per tree (depending on size)

Ingredients:

Gingerbread Cookies
3 cups all-purpose flour
¼ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp cloves
6 Tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup brown sugar
1/3 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup molasses
1 to 2 Tbsp water

Royal Icing
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 ½ Tbsp meringue powder
3 Tbsp water, plus more to thin
1/2 Tbsp light corn syrup
¼ tsp vanilla extract or lemon juice (optional)

Directions:

Gingerbread Cookies
1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, salt and all of the spices together. Set aside.

2. In the bowl of a stand-mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the butter and brown sugar until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the corn syrup and molasses and mix until combined.

3. With the mixer on low, add the dry ingredients in two additions. Mix until combined. If the dough seems dry, add in the water and mix until the dough comes together to form a ball.

4. Gather the dough and form into a disk. Wrap the disk in plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.

5. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°F. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature until it is soft enough to roll out (5 to 10 minutes). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or non-stick baking mats. Set aside.

6. Dust a clean work surface lightly with flour. Roll out the dough until about ¼-inch thick and cut out with various sizes of star cookies cutters.

7. Baked the cookies for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the edges turn slightly golden. Repeat with the remaining dough.

8. Completely cool the cookies on a wire rack before decorating.

Royal Icing

1. Place the confectioners’ sugar and meringue powder in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Gently stir to combine. Add the water and mix on medium-low until combined. Turn the mixer up to medium-high and continue to mix until stiff peaks form, 5 to 8 minutes.

2. Add the corn syrup and vanilla or lemon (if using) and mix to combine. If the icing is still rather thick and clumps together, add more water (a teaspoon or two at a time), until the icing holds stiff peaks.

Assembly
1. Thin the royal icing with water until the desired consistency is reached (for piping, it should resemble the same consistency as toothpaste). Decorate the tops of the cookies, as desired.

2. While the icing is still wet, build the Christmas Gingerbread Trees by stacking the smaller stars on top of the larger stars. Use a dab of icing in-between cookies to secure as needed. Attach a small star to the tops of each tree.

For more holiday baking inspiration, these watercolour snowflake sugar cookies are here to dazzle, along with our top 100 holiday cookie and square recipes (bring on the sugar rush!).

This Winter Greens Mac & Cheese Recipe Will Make You Feel Healthy

When the cold weather strikes, macaroni and cheese is the ultimate comfort dish. This version takes advantage of the best winter greens the season has to offer. Any variety of nutrient-packed greens will work, such as chard, collards, rapini or kale. So go ahead and indulge in this cheesy, creamy pasta for dinner, while sneaking in a healthy serving of vegetables, too!

Winter Greens Mac & Cheese

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 60 minutes
Serves: 6-8

Ingredients:

1 lb macaroni noodles, cooked to al dente
2 Tbsp + 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 medium onion, diced
6 oz chopped winter greens, stems removed
Salt & cracked black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp whole-grain mustard
3 cups whole milk
1 bay leaf
1 large egg, whisked
2 cups grated extra-old white cheddar, plus more for topping
1 cup grated Gruyere cheese, plus more for topping
1 cup Panko breadcrumbs

Directions: 

1. In a large pot over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, garlic and onion. Cook until the onion begins to turn translucent, about 5 minutes.

2. Stir in the greens, seasoning generously with salt and pepper. Continue cooking until the greens begin to wilt and cook down, about 5 minutes. Transfer the greens to a bowl and set-aside until ready to use.

3. Preheat oven to 350°. In the same pot over medium heat, melt together the butter and flour. Whisking constantly, cook until a smooth roux forms, about 5 minutes.

4. Whisk in the mustard, followed by the milk and bay leaf. Simmer for 10 minutes, until mixture begins to thicken. Season with salt and pepper.

5. Discard bay leaf, temper in the egg and remove pot from heat. Let cool slightly before stirring in the cheeses.

6. Add the macaroni noodles and mix until evenly coated. If the pot is not oven safe, transfer mixture to a 9 by 12 baking dish.

7. In a small mixing bowl, toss together the remaining olive oil, breadcrumbs, salt and pepper.

8. Top macaroni with additional cheese and breadcrumbs. Bake for 30 minutes, until the filling is bubbly and golden brown. Serve immediately.

Get in your cozies and enjoy more comforting recipes with a good-for-you twist, from Georgian cheese bread with kale to spaghetti puttanesca (starring cauliflower) to a decadent butternut squash tartiflette.

Top 5 Kitchen Knives Every Home Cook Should Own

The most important investment you can make for you kitchen is a set of good-quality knives. While you might be put off by the fear of owning an overly sharp blade, it’s actually more dangerous to do your prep with a dull knife, as it forces you to use far more pressure and movement. A well-made knife will always do the work for you, making your prep safer and easier. But which type of knife is best for each job? Here are the best types of knives to prepare you for anything in the kitchen.

Related: Can I Freeze This? How to Freeze Fruit, Cheese, Leftovers and More

Chef’s Knife
A chef’s knife is the most crucial knife to have in your kitchen and if you invest in a higher quality brand, you’ll only ever need one. It’s multi-purpose with a curved edge, which allows it to easily rock back and fourth on a cutting board. Ranging anywhere between 6 to 12 inches long, chef’s knives traditionally have a heavier blade allowing that weight to do the tough work for you. When purchasing, you’ll want to choose one with a handle that feels secure and generally just feels right. Your knife should feel like an extension of your hand, so shop around until you find the perfect one.

chefs-knifeWüsthof Classic Chef’s Knife, Williams Sonoma

Paring Knife
Pairing knives are small with a simple blade that works best for quick jobs like slicing through vanilla beans, or intricate work like crosshatching chestnuts or segmenting citrus. Ranging in size from 2 ½ to 4 inches long, make sure you choose a knife that’s light in weight with a super sharp blade.

Related: The Top 5 Kitchen Utensils Every Home Cook Needs

paring-knifeWüsthof Classic Paring Knife, Williams Sonoma

Serrated Knife
While serrated knives are the no-brainer option when it comes to cutting any type of bread, they’re also the ideal choice for slicing layered cakes or cutting through soft fruit like tomatoes. Keep in mind their ridged teeth can never be sharpened, so you might have to invest in a few throughout your lifetime.

Related: Bread Baking for Beginners: How to Make the Perfect Sourdough Loaf

bread-knifeZwilling J.A. Henckels Pro Ultimate Bread Knife, Williams Sonoma

Boning Knife
Boning knifes have ultra flexible and tapered blades that are usually 5 to 6 inches long, making it easy to guide your way through certain meats. While not necessary in every household, you might want to consider owning one if you butcher whole chickens, fillet your own fish or butterfly chops.

boning-knifeZwilling J.A. Henckels Tradition Boning Knife, Kitchen Stuff Plus

Carving Knife
Carving knives are large, long and thin, with a blade that’s between 8 and 15 inches long. Its super slim shape makes it a breeze to carve meat with precision, giving you show-stopping slices of roasts, prime rib, turkey and ham perfect for entertaining.

Related: How to Carve the Perfect Turkey Like a Pro (We Break it Down)

carving-knifeWüsthof Classic Carving Knife Set, Williams Sonoma

Once you’ve invested in some great knives, the most important thing to remember is to always keep them sharp. If you cook every day, you should be sharpening your knives every week. When you feel like your blade is starting to dull, sharpen it yourself or take it in to get sharpened by a professional to keep its edge clean and long-lasting.

Make Your Home Hygge with Scandinavian Cardamom Buns

Cardamom buns are a Scandinavian specialty widely available in cafés and bakeries in Nordic regions like Sweden and Denmark. I think of them as a more twisted, texturally interesting, tender-to-the-tooth cinnamon bun with spicy floral notes and eye-catching beauty. The cardamom-spiked dough, filling and glaze bring hygge vibes and cozy winter appeal to your kitchen, perfect for fika (the Swedish coffee break), a lazy winter weekend or your holiday brunch spread.

The cardamom buns I enjoyed in Scandinavia use whole black cardamom seeds in the dough and filling, which I’ve found in some specialty food stores and online. The whole seeds add candy-like crunch and big, bold cardamom flavour, but they are harder to track down, so I’ve developed this recipe with ground cardamom. Just make sure your ground cardamom is as fresh as possible for the biggest bang for your buck. This recipe is all about the spice, and as fragrant as it may be raw, it does dissipate during baking — don’t be afraid of the large amount used in this recipe. 

Scandinavian Cardamom Buns

Prep Time: 25 minutes
Rise Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Bake Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 25 minutes
Makes: 15 to 20  

Ingredients: 

Dough
1 cup, plus 1 Tbsp whole milk, heated to 110°F
2 ¼ tsp active dry yeast
3 ¼ cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
⅓ cup dark or light brown sugar
1 Tbsp ground cardamom
Pinch, kosher salt
75 g salted butter, room temperature
Oil, for greasing bowl 

Filling
65 g salted butter, room temperature
⅓ cup dark or light brown sugar
1 Tbsp ground cardamom
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract 

Glaze and Sugar Sprinkle
¼ water
¼ cup light or dark brown sugar
1 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp to 1 Tbsp granulated sugar

Directions: 

Dough
1. Place warmed milk in a heat-proof bowl and sprinkle over yeast. Allow yeast to activate for 10 minutes while you prepare the dry ingredients.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, stir together flour, brown sugar, cardamom and salt. Fit mixer with the dough hook, turn on low and slowly add milk and yeast. With the mixture running, add pieces of the room-temperature butter until incorporated, and then turn to medium-low speed. Knead on medium-low speed for 5 minutes, until the dough is springy but still soft.

3. Transfer dough to a large oiled bowl, cover with a damp cloth and allow to proof in a warm area of your kitchen away from drafts for at least 1 hour, up to 1 hour 30 minutes.

Filling
1. Cream all filling ingredients in a medium bowl until combined. Set aside.

Assembly
1. Line 2 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. Sprinkle a clean surface with additional flour and turn out dough. Flour rolling pin and roll into a rough rectangle approximately 13 inches by 21 inches. Evenly spread over filling using an offset spatula all the way to the edges.

3. Using a ruler or by eye, cut into 15 to 20, ¾-inch- to 1-inch-wide strips, from long edge to long edge.

4. With the filling facing towards your fingers, wrap each dough strip around two to three fingers, three to four times, creating twists and small layers in the dough as you go for a taller bun, leaving a small strip to fold between your fingers and tuck in the bottom of the bun to secure. Repeat with remaining dough and spread formed buns evenly out on the prepared baking sheet, leaving room to expand.

5. Cover baking sheets with a clean damp kitchen towel, place away from drafts and allow to rise for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Baking and Glazing
1. Position oven racks to accommodate two baking sheets with good airflow. Preheat oven to 425ºF.

2. While buns are proofing, for the glaze, combine water, brown sugar and cardamom in a small saucepan over medium heat until brown sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Set aside.

3. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, rotating baking sheets halfway through, top to bottom and vice versa, until tops are golden brown and buns are bubbling in the centre. Do not over- or under-bake. Immediately after they come out of the oven, brush with all of the glaze and sprinkle with sugar. Allow to sit for at least 5 minutes, then enjoy warm or room temperature, storing loosely covered for up to 12 hours (see Notes for make-ahead option).

Notes:
1. The baked cardamom buns are best the day they are made, but can be frozen (once cool and the glaze is set) for up to 1 month. Defrost at room temperature or in a low oven.

2. Prepare the dough and filling the day before up until rolling (after the first proof; stopping before Assembly in directions). Cover each bowl tightly or transfer to airtight containers and refrigerate for up to 1 day. Bring to room temperature before rolling, filling and forming.

Stay cozy Scandinavian-style with more hygge recipes, and whip up a batch of these colourful Swedish Christmas cookies.

Anna Olson’s Ultimate Holiday Cookie Hacks

Plates and tins of shortbread, gingerbread and sugar cookies have long been a holiday tradition in households across the world, and for good reason. Holiday cookies are an indulgent classic, perfuming homes with comforting sugar and spice while satisfying the seasonal sweet tooth. Plus, they’re wonderful for gifting in jolly little jars or tins.


Click here for the chocolate snowflake cookies recipe from Anna Olson. 

But, between the shopping, wrapping, visiting and workplace parties, the holidays can sneak up on the best of us, leaving less time to bake than we’d like. That’s why we love these cookie hacks from master pastry chef Anna Olson, who always has her holiday baking under wraps! From decorated classics to spiced snickerdoodles, this cookie queen has you covered this season and beyond.

Watch Anna Olson’s Genius Ideas for Christmas Cookie Storage:

Plan Ahead, Bake Ahead
Being organized is the first step to creating an array of delightful treats that you and your loved ones can snack on, all season long. Get inspired by Santa and make a list of the recipes you want to enjoy this holiday season, then check it twice. As December can sometimes seem like a marathon, begin your baking as soon as that list is made.

Freeze Your Cookie Dough
If you’ve whipped up cookie dough but want to bake them off to gift or share later, store the unbaked dough in a zipper-top bag, and then pop it in the freezer until you’re ready to go. Anna recommends freezing the dough rather than the cookies themselves as it saves space and retains freshness (and we think that nothing smells better than freshly-baked cookies!). Check out her awesome tips for techniques, storing and labelling in the video above.

Bake A “Fresh” Batch Every Week  
Now that you have a few batches of frozen dough in the freezer, do as Anna would do and bake up a tray of cookies once a week leading up to Christmas. With this hack, you’ll always have fresh treats on hand for family, friends and impromptu holiday guests.

Make One (Killer!) Basic Recipe
Having a versatile cookie dough base to work from saves time and ingredients, while allowing you to have a selection of cookies to enjoy over the holidays. Take Anna Olson’s Ice Box Cookies, for example. The base recipe can be combined with different ingredients to concoct amazing flavour combinations that will tickle a variety of taste buds.

Watch Anna Take One Cookie Recipe and Make Three Different Cookies:

Host A Cookie Exchange
Even the most organized bakers and holiday planners out there can’t always complete their checklists on time. That’s why hosting a cookie exchange is another great option when it comes to securing a selection of goodies. Anna has some tried and true tips on how to host the actual exchange to ensure that it goes smoothly. But don’t stress! As long as the hot cocoa is flowing and there are a few baked goods to snack on during the actual party, we’d say you’re pretty much covered.

Watch Anna Share 9 Tips for Christmas Cookie Exchange Success:

Ready to get baking? Here are dozens of our favourite festive cookie recipes to share, exchange and hoard this holiday season.

Jillian Harris Opens Up About Her Granny’s Legacy in the Kitchen (Plus Holiday Tips & Recipes)

Jillian Harris knows a thing or two about crafting a well-balanced meal, which might come as somewhat of a surprise to devoted fans of HGTV Canada’s Love it or List it Vancouver star.  Although the vast majority of the pink-hued photos on the social media influencer’s Instagram account are dedicated to decor and design pieces (and her adorable kids!), Jillian also reveals that food has played a significant role in her life since childhood — thanks, in large part, to her beloved Granny and her family’s Ukrainian heritage.

“I really love wholesome, rich comfort food — the food that makes you want to have a glass of wine and curl up and go to sleep,” she says. “We grew up with meals full of pierogis and cabbage rolls.”

Jillian, who has since switched gears to a mostly plant-based diet in her adult years, recently joined forces with her cousin, dietitian Tori Wesszer, for their first cookbook that was released just in time for the holidays, Fraiche Food, Full Hearts: A Collection of Recipes for Every Day and Casual Celebrations. Given that this time of year is all about spending time with family, it’s fitting that their Granny’s passion for food and loved ones is all over this book.

“She was literally our best friend,” Jillian says of her grandmother, who was bestowed with the nickname Beet Roll Queen, and who passed away this July. Adds Tori, “We were just so sad that she didn’t see this [cookbook] come to fruition. She would have been thrilled to see her legacy and her love for connecting people and family.”

Fraiche Food, Full Hearts takes those same hearty, soothing recipes the cousins grew up with and gives them a healthier, more plant-based spin — although it warmly embraces all dietary needs. “It’s approachable for every family,” Jillian says of the cookbook. “[It gives you the chance] to lean into the whole plant-based diet, but we’ve made it flexible and convertible for everyone.”

So whether you’re expecting a handful of out-of-towners or a slew of extended family this holiday season, there are a few simple hosting hacks that Jillian and Tori suggest you try in order to have a stress-free, dietary-friendly holiday. (Don’t worry — you’ve got this!)

Related: 14 Things You Didn’t Know About Jillian Harris


Get the recipe for Jillian’s Almost Famous Stuffing

Plan Ahead

“Plan out your menu ahead of time, and buy our cookbook!” Jillian says with a laugh. Although this might seem a little obvious, it’s easy to lose track of our schedules during the chaotic holiday season. We always think we have more time than we actually do, but between work, family obligations and shopping for gifts, we’re suddenly left wondering what to whip up in the kitchen for the big day.

Jillian suggests planning early — as in, right now. Be sure to inquire about dietary requirements in advance. No one wants a “food surprise” after you’ve spent the better part of your day cooking the meal. Where possible, make some freezer-friendly recipes in advance for a stress-free holiday.

Related: 20 Holiday Staples You Should Make Ahead This Year


Get the recipe for Jillian and Tori’s Sunshine Muffins

Stay on Top of Dietary Needs

This one is a biggie for both Jillian and Tori — and it’s something that is easy to overlook. “You really want people to feel like [their dietary needs] are as important to you as it is to them,” Jillian says. “They want to know that you’re hearing them. I think it makes people feel really good.”

By way of example, Jillian shares her own awkward, albeit hilarious, common situation. “My parents still don’t quite get [why it’s important],” she says with a laugh. “If I go over and they have hamburger soup, then that’s what you’re getting. But there have been times when they’ll make an extra plate for me and I’m like, ‘thank you for that slice of toast and piece of orange.’ Basically, my dad just thinks my taste buds are messed up.”

Related: 15 Vegan Roast Alternatives for Meat-Free Guests


Get the recipe for Jillian and Tori’s Mushroom Wellington

Stay Calm, Be Flexible

Before your head starts swimming at the thought of creating multiple menus to satisfy those with gluten intolerance or a vegan diet, fear not! “Having recipes that can be flexed either way is important, and it doesn’t mean you have to make an entirely separate menu for people with special dietary needs,” says Tori.

Offer a small variety of side dishes — no one is expecting an entirely separate menu just for them. “Usually people who have special requests don’t expect to be able to eat everything,” Jillian says. “They just want one or two options.”

Another alternative? Host a potluck where guests can bring a wealth of food options that will keep everyone satisfied, and perhaps introduce others to new dietary options.

Related: Our Top 100 Holiday Cookie and Square Recipes

Excerpted from Fraiche Food, Full Hearts: A Collection of Recipes for Every Day and Casual Celebrations by Jillian Harris and Tori Wesszer. Copyright © 2019 by Jillian Harris and Tori Wesszer. Photography copyright © 2019by Janis Nicolay. Published by Penguin Canada, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

How to Make Glistening Watercolour Snowflake Sugar Cookies

Are you ready for the holiday season? We sure are, and these watercolour snowflake sugar cookies are bringing the shine and shimmer for a dose of festive magic. Whether served at a cookie exchange or dessert buffet, the elegant treat’s marble-like icing and glistening edges are unique, while still being incredibly delicious. The best part? Just like a snowflake, each cookie design is quite literally one-of-a-kind. To simplify the recipe you can also skip the glitter; the watercolour effect is sufficiently stunning on its own.

Watercolour Snowflake Sugar Cookies

Bake Time: 15 to 20 minutes
Total Time: 2 to 6 hours

Ingredients:

1 recipe sugar cookies – cut and baked into snowflakes
4 cups confectioners’ sugar
3 Tbsp meringue powder
6 Tbsp water, plus more to thin
1 Tbsp light corn syrup
½ tsp vanilla extract or lemon juice (optional)
gel food colouring
sanding sugar, sprinkles, or sugar pearls (optional)


Directions:

Icing
1. Place the confectioners’ sugar and meringue powder in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Gently stir to combine. Add the water and mix on medium-low until combined. Turn the mixer up to medium-high and continue to mix until stiff peaks form, 7 to 10 minutes.

2. Add the corn syrup and vanilla or lemon (if using) and mix to combine. If the icing is still rather thick and clumps together, add more water (a teaspoon or two at a time), until the icing holds stiff peaks. Use immediately, or cover by pressing a piece of plastic wrap directly to the surface of the icing.

Decorating
1. Split the icing in half. Place half in a mixing bowl and cover the remaining icing tightly with plastic wrap. Set aside.

2. Thin the icing in the mixing bowl with water, a tablespoon or two at a time. Mix the icing and water together until smooth and the icing becomes a consistency that is slightly thicker than honey. It should be fairly thin, but still thick enough to cling to the cookies. More water may be added as needed if the icing does not settle smoothly on the cookies.

3. Dip a toothpick (or the tip of a knife) into the gel food colouring, then swirl the colour on top of the thinned icing. You may mix multiple colours together, if desired.

4. Dip the entire top of a snowflake cookie into the surface of the icing. Give the cookie a small twist, then lift. Gently shake the cookie to allow some of the excess icing to fall back into the bowl. Turn the cookie right-side-up and place on a piece of parchment paper or wire cooling rack. Gently tap the bottom of the cookie to release any air bubbles and/or to help the icing settle. Allow the icing to completely dry, at least 4 hours.

5. Continue with the remaining cookies, adding more swirls of food colouring as needed. The more you dip and swirl, the more the colours will blend together.

6. To add the sprinkle border, thin reserved icing with water until it is the consistency of toothpaste. Place sanding sugar or sprinkles in a shallow bowl. Fill a piping bag (or a zip-top bag with the corner snipped off) with the icing and pipe around the edges of the dried watercolour cookies. Flip and dip the cookie upside down into the bowl of sprinkles. Gently press so that the sprinkles stick to the icing. Allow the cookies to dry right-side-up. Note that it is important for the watercolour icing to be completely dried first, or the sprinkles will stick to the surface of the cookie.

7. Once dried, store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week or so.

For more show-stopping holiday baking recipes, make these stunning stained glass sugar cookies or try your hand at these double-decker chocolate cherry snickerdoodles!

The Best Way to Cook with Wine This Season: Chorizo al Vino Tinto

Take a trip to Spain without leaving your kitchen with this simple, comforting dish that boasts bold flavours. Whether served as an accompaniment to other tapas or on its own as a companion to a lovely bottle of vino, this dish is sure to impress. It’s the perfect way to cook with red wine, as it showcases the depth and character of the fermented grapes. Try it tonight!

Chorizo al Vino Tinto

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Serves: 4 to 8

Ingredients:

3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 garlic cloves, 1 thinly sliced, 1 cut in half
2-4 cured chorizo sausages
2 cups dry Spanish red wine, such as Tempranillo
1 Tbsp chopped parsley
1 demi baguette, cut into ½-inch thick slices on a slight bias

Directions:

1. Heat 1 Tbsp oil in a small, non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 2 minutes.

2. Pierce each sausage a few times with a fork and add to pan along with wine; bring to a simmer.

3. Cover and cook for 20 minutes, flipping sausage halfway. Remove from heat and let stand covered for 5 minutes. This will infuse the sausages with flavour.

4. Remove sausages from pan and cut into ½-inch thick slices. Pour wine into a heat-proof bowl or measuring cup and set aside.

5. Return sausages to pan over medium-high and cook until browned on both sides, about 4 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and add reserved wine; cook until slightly reduced, about 5 minutes.

6. Meanwhile, position an oven rack 6-inches from top of oven and heat broiler to high. Place baguette slices on a rimmed baking sheet and brush both sides with remaining 2 Tbsp olive oil. Place in oven and broil until golden, 1-2 minutes per side, checking often.

7. Once toasted, rub with cut side of remaining garlic clove.

8. Remove sausages and wine sauce to a serving dish and sprinkle with parsley. Serve with toasted bread.

Here, we’ve rounded up 50 creative ways to cook with sausage for dinner, plus our coziest fall comfort food recipes.