We Tested 4 Popular Canadian Meal Delivery Kits. Here’s How They Compared

I have a confession to make: When it comes to cooking, I have a love/hate relationship with the entire process. In theory, I love the idea of whipping up a home-cooked meal – the gathering of fresh ingredients, discovering new recipes and enjoying the scrumptious finished product. More often than not, however, it’s an often harried battle wherein my husband and I arrive home late from work and we’re just looking for the shortest, fastest route to getting food on the table.

Many of my friends swear by meal delivery services, referring to them as complete game-changers that ultimately expanded their recipe repertoires and drastically cut down the amount of time spent sweating over the stovetop. Perhaps this was the solution I was looking for, even if only on weeknights when time was short and my patience was thin.

If you’re wondering what I’m talking about, meal delivery kits are essentially boxes of raw ingredients with easy-to-follow recipes that typically feed up to four people. You don’t have to be home to receive the box; they can be left on your doorstep or at your condo’s front desk, since they’re stocked with reusable ice packs. Each recipe and its wealth of ingredients are individually packaged in their own brown paper bags and come with printed card stock with all the relevant directions and health information. In an effort to reduce the food waste that accumulates from the typical family meal, these services provide their ingredients in pre-measured amounts – although it often results in a lot of packaging. (Note: pantry staples, such as olive oil, salt and pepper, are not included.)

So, I decided to give it a shot, testing out four of the major Canadian companies that provide fresh meal ideas and ingredients to thousands of hungry fans across the country. Here’s how it went.

Hello Fresh

Availability: A 95 per cent delivery reach in Canada, including Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia, Newfoundland and the Maritimes.

Average price per person: As low as $10.31/serving.

Packaging: With its paper-based packaging, the boxes are made from 100 per cent recyclable and biodegradable cardboard. Even the insulation and ice packs are made of sustainable cardboard and recyclable plastic, respectively. Hello Fresh has also eliminated single-use packaging for any produce with its own natural skin or peel (for example, potatoes, garlic and limes).

Dietary Variety: A diverse selection of recipes that will satisfy both vegetarians and carnivores. In addition, you can customize your Meal Preferences online or via the app by clicking on such options as No Beef Meals, No Fish Meals, No Pork Meals, etc. They’re also the first meal kit service in Canada to partner with Beyond Meat, which was only recently announced this summer.

Convenience: The average meal takes approximately 30 minutes, including prep time, and when ordering online or via the app you can choose from options such as quick family-friendly meals to vegetarian dishes.

Favourite Recipe: One-Pot Mexican Quinoa and Black Beans with Cilantro-Lime Crema

Overall Experience: Each meal comes with a detailed, one-page summary that includes total cooking time, ingredients and thorough instructions that are clear and easy to follow. Although the finished product never looked quite as good as advertised (which is on me: I was never good at plating meals), I don’t have any complaints in the taste department. I was genuinely surprised by how flavourful and tender the dishes were. Although the meals are certainly quick and easy to prep, one thing I discovered was that I was often left with a stack of dirty dishes, as some of the recipes required multiple pots, pans and other kitchen utensils. Incidentally, my favourite meal wound up being a one-pot dish, which made clean-up a breeze. The One-Pot Mexican Quinoa and Black Beans with Cilantro-Lime Crema (say that three times fast!) was so delicious that I could have polished off a second bowl in one sitting. The recipe also did something I previously never thought impossible: It made me fall in love with sour cream. I’d debated whether I should even add the dollop of cilantro-lime crema to the dish, but I wanted to try the recipe in all its glory and I’m so glad I did. This dish was such a hit with both myself and my husband that I’ve actually made it a second time already.

Best For:
● Offering Beyond Meat options
● Customizing your Meal Preferences

Chefs Plate

Availability: Currently delivers in Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Quebec, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, with plans to expand.

Average price per person: As low as $8.99/serving.

Packaging: All packing is 100 per cent recyclable and can be easily broken down once all the ingredients and ice packs are removed from the box. Many of the containers used to house Chefs Plate‘s ingredients are also ideal for leftovers, so don’t be in such a hurry to dispose of them.

Dietary Variety: Each recipe includes a detailed description of ingredients and instructions in a handy booklet with chef’s notes, portion sizes and caloric intake. Chefs Plate also offers gluten-free and dairy-free options, although they aren’t available every week. You can edit your Taste Preferences profile online or via the app to default to recipes that don’t include meat or fish, for example.

Convenience: For those with hectic work weeks, the fact that Chefs Plate is currently the only meal delivery service that offers an option for 15-minute meals will be vastly appealing to many.

Favourite Recipe: Beef and Black Bean Chili

Overall Experience: Similar to its sister company, Hello Fresh, I found the instructions easy to follow thanks to a clear and concise booklet containing the week’s recipes and ingredient list. I appreciated that the simple and flavourful Beef and Black Bean Chili meal (my favourite of the bunch) provided a handy lunch option made from the leftovers, including the additional provision of six soft shell tacos that helps transform the recipe from beef chili to beef taquitos. I particularly enjoyed the seasoning that came with the meal and appreciated that it listed all the spice blends on the packaging so I knew what it contained. Similar to the other meal kit delivery services, however, I found that there were more dishes to wash afterward than was the norm in our household (although, when cooking for myself and my husband, I typically opt for one-pot or sheet pan meals because I hate washing dishes). I appreciated the wide selection of meals to choose from and was surprised by how fresh the ingredients were when I reached into their bags.

Best For:
● Offering dairy-free and gluten-free options
● Providing 15-minute meal selections for hectic weeknights

GoodFood

Availability: Currently delivers in Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia and the Maritimes.

Average price per person: As low as $5.85/serving.

Packaging: The GoodFood cardboard boxes, insulation liners, bags, bottles and baskets are all 100 per cent recyclable. Tip: Use the ice packs to keep food cool during a family picnic. My freezer is now fully stocked with them.

Dietary Variety: Choose your weekly meals from a variety of categories such as Clean15 (low-carb) and Vegetarian.

Convenience: The average meal takes approximately 30 minutes to whip up, while those looking to incorporate more smoothies in their daily routine will be thrilled to discover that GoodFood offers fresh ready-to-blend Breakfast Smoothies (starting at $4.99/each) that can easily be stored in the freezer.

Smoothies: Initially, when I learned that GoodFood had recently introduced a series of ready-to-blend smoothies, I scoffed a little. Who can’t chop a few fruits and veggies and toss them into a blender? Little did I know how much easier mornings could be when all I had to do was reach into the freezer, dump the contents of the smoothie into the blender, add a little milk and hit the Power button. In addition, each delivery comes with easy-to-clean reusable straws. Members can choose from 16 original recipes chock-full of superfood chunks and farm-frozen fruits and veggies. I also appreciated that GoodFood included ingredients I typically wouldn’t have on hand at home (acai, hemp, maca, goji, etc.), making for an even sweeter smoothie experience. My husband, in particular, was obsessed with them – he wasn’t much of a smoothie drinker before this experience so I can thank GoodFood for his newfound love.

Favourite Recipe: Butter-Poached Lobster Fra Diavolo over Fresh Fettuccine with Pine Nut-Basil Gremolata

Overall Experience: This rich, buttery pasta dish was just the type of carb overload I needed on the night I decided to prep it. I was expecting a flimsy lobster portion given how pricey the shellfish can be, so I was pleasantly surprised to find that the meaty chunks were as plentiful as they were flavourful. I also appreciated that the Fra Diavolo spice blend had a list of its ingredients. Again, clean-up was a bit more chaotic than I’d like, but nothing quite beats the feeling of being able to simply reach into your fridge for one of those brown paper bags with everything you could possibly need for a well-balanced meal.

Best For:
● Those who want to incorporate more smoothies in their diet
● Introducing more Clean15 (low-carb) meals to your routine

Cook It

Availability: This Montreal-based company is currently only available in Quebec and Ontario but it’s looking to expand. All packaging and instructions come in both French and English.

Average price per person: As low as $7.89.

Packaging: All the ingredients come inside a chilled, 100 per cent recyclable and reusable cardboard box. Of all the companies I tested, Cook It had the most manageable box in terms of size (the majority are pretty bulky and I don’t quite have the wingspan to carry them comfortably) and was the easiest to break down and discard.

Dietary Variety: Members can choose from a diverse selection of meat and vegetarian options.

Convenience: There are a couple of unique features here. Unlike the other meal delivery services I tested, Cook It offers a Pantry section on their website where customers can order local products to add to their box, such as smoothies, milk or granola bars – which is ideal if you’re looking to get in a little grocery shopping as well. They also offer a Ready-to-Eat selection each week that allows you to select from cooked meals that are ready to go once you’ve popped them in the oven or microwave for five minutes.

Favourite Recipe: Curry-Spiced Chicken and Peach Salad

Overall Experience: These were probably the simplest recipes of all the meal delivery kits I tried, both in terms of easy-to-follow instructions and minimal ingredients. The Curry-Spiced Chicken and Peach Salad was a lot easier to prep than I first anticipated and it was savoury and refreshing simultaneously. In fact, all the meals were consistently delicious, including the ready-to-eat beef lasagna that I just needed to heat up in the microwave. I’m leery of pre-cooked packaged meals because I tend to associate it with awful plane food, but the lasagna tasted homemade – my husband, who arrived home late that night, didn’t even realize it wasn’t freshly-prepped. (Airlines might want to consider hiring Cook It to prep their in-flight meals.) In addition, because the recipes I received were so low-maintenance, it also meant the least amount of clean-up afterward, compared to the other companies.

Best For:
● Offering a Pantry section and a selection of ready-to-eat meals
● The most manageable boxes in terms of size and break-down

Final Verdict

There are plenty of pros when it comes to trying out a meal delivery service. It’s ideal for people short on time, who hate meal planning or dread making regular trips to the grocery store. An added bonus is that it truly does help cut down on food waste as everything is so expertly measured out in advance that nothing gets left behind. I loved being able to reach into my fridge each night, pull out a brown paper bag and know that everything I could possibly need for my meal was all in one place.

At the same time, things start to add up and it’s likely going to be more costly overall to rely on meal delivery kits (unless you’re not planning on doing it every single week). Also, be prepared for more of a clean-up than you might be accustomed to and lots (and lots!) of boxes and recyclable materials to take out to your bins.

Forget Takeout and Make This Easy Chinese Stir-Fried Eggplant for Dinner Tonight

This umami-rich vegetarian dish gets tons of flavour from light soy sauce, Shaoxing wine (the key to authentic Chinese cooking), ginger and a healthy sum of garlic for an easy-to-prepare dinner rivalling any takeout. Though mastering the cookery of eggplant can be tricky, we’ve unlocked the mystery with a simple soaking and salting technique for the right texture and overall balanced flavour. Added bonus: this vegetarian dish will be ready in just over 30 minutes.

Chinese Stir-Fried Eggplant

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Servings: 2 to 4

Ingredients:

3 Chinese eggplants (they are slightly smaller and shorter than Japanese eggplants and can be purchased in Asian markets)
1 tsp kosher salt
2 Tbsp light soy sauce or regular soy sauce
2 Tbsp water
1 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 Tbsp Shaoxing wine
5 ½ tsp cornstarch, divided
1 ¼ tsp dark soy sauce or light soy sauce
3 Tbsp peanut oil or vegetable oil, divided
2 tsp minced ginger
4 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 dried chilies (optional)
Green onions for garnish

Directions:

1. Halve eggplant lengthwise and then cut into 2-inch pieces. Transfer to a large bowl and fill with enough water to cover; sprinkle with salt and swish around to dissolve salt. Cover with plate to keep eggplant submerged for at least 15 minutes. Drain and pat dry. Transfer to a large bowl.

2. Make the sauce by stirring together the light soy, water, sugar, wine, 4 tsp of cornstarch and dark soy sauce until smooth. Set aside.

Tip: Shaoxing wine is a fermented rice wine used to add depth of flavour and complexity to marinating meat, to add flavour to stir-fries, sauces and braises in Chinese cooking.

Related: These 25 Simple Stir-Fry Recipes Will Convince You to Cook More

3. Sprinkle remaining cornstarch over eggplant and toss to coat. Heat 2 ½ Tbsp of the oil in a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat until very hot. Add eggplant in one layer and cook until dark brown, 6 to 8 minutes, flipping after halfway. Move to a large plate.

4. Add remaining oil to pan and add ginger, garlic and dried chilies (if using), stirring for 10 seconds. Return eggplant to pan and stir quickly until warmed, about 30 seconds. Stir in sauce and bring to a boil. Cook until sauce thickens and coats eggplant, 1 to 2 minutes.

5. To serve, scrape eggplant mixture onto platter and sprinkle with green onions if desired.

Tip: For a non-vegetarian version, marinate ½ cup ground pork with 1 Tbsp Shaoxing wine, 2 tsp minced ginger and garlic and 1 tsp light soy sauce. Stir into pan at the beginning of step 4 and cook until browned. Push to one side of the pan and continue with recipe, adding the oil, ginger, garlic and chilies.

Like Soo’s stir-fried eggplant? Try her pork banh mi burgers, gochujang cauliflower popcorn or asparagus and mushroom udon.

Ren Navarro in a diner

Ren Navarro on Diversity in the Beer Industry – and How Companies Can Improve

Ren Navarro loves beer. If you ask her to pin down one favourite, she can’t – there’s simply too many to choose from for a connoisseur such as herself. “That’s like seeing someone with multiple kids and asking them, ‘which is your favourite child?’,” she says with a laugh.

Like many people who enjoy a cold pint, the Kitchener, Ont. native prefers her beer options diverse – in flavour, appearance, aroma and mouthfeel. But she’s also at the forefront of change in the industry, pushing for more inclusion of diverse people in places where it’s lacking – mainly representation in breweries and in advertising. In an effort to kick start a larger national conversation, Navarro created Beer.Diversity. Launched in 2018, the company addresses the “lack of diversity in the Canadian beer industry” head-on while offering ways for the community to work together to make it more inclusive and approachable for people of colour, those in the LGBTQ+ community and beyond.

After a career as a sales rep for a renowned brewery, Navarro identified a sizeable gap in the industry and sought to fill it with people from a variety of backgrounds. She first co-founded the Toronto-based Society of Beer-Drinking Ladies (SOBDL), which was a smashing success, welcoming all female-identifying people who wanted to bond over brewskies (fun fact: it’s now the largest women-focused beer group in North America) before setting her sights on Beer.Diversity. We chatted with Navarro about her time working in the industry, the gradual changes in representation and how diversity of flavours can help the Canadian beer industry.

Photo: Racheal McCaig

Tell us a bit about your decision to place periods between “beer” and “diversity.”

“I talk about beer. Period. I talk about diversity. Period. I talk about the diversity in beer – all the different styles – and I talk about the diversity of beer, including all people and backgrounds [that are involved]. The name was dreamt up about two-and-a-half years ago, although the company is branching out – it’s not just beer anymore, but it’s too late to change the name and I have no idea what I’d change it to.” [laughs]

You’re on the frontline of change in this industry. What shifts have you seen so far with breweries regarding diversity – both the successes and challenges?

“I’ve been in the beer [industry] for seven-and-a-half years, which is why I’m so passionate about it. I don’t think you can be in beer for that long and be ‘meh’ about it. [When] I started there weren’t a lot of people who looked like me – there weren’t a lot of women, in general. Now we’re seeing more diversity – not just in terms of women or people of colour, but also those from different backgrounds such as Indigenous brewers, people with disabilities and older folks. I think we still have a far way to go, though, because it’s still only a small handful. You think about all the beer consumers and what they look like – we need to reflect that more within in the industry itself.”

Related: 10 Facts That Will Shock You About Racial Injustice in Canada 

How can Canadian breweries work towards the type of diversity you’re promoting and where do we go from here?

“I think it’s about education. We need to get to the point where we can show that it’s open to everyone. Representation always matters. Stop being so scared. There is this fear of the unknown or fear of being perceived as being fake. The more people you can welcome in, the better it’s going to do. Baby steps, but it’s happening.”

Ren Navarro in a diner

What changes are you seeing with representation for the LGBTQ+ community?

“There’s definitely more partnerships and community outreach – and it’s not just about Pride Month saying we should talk about this group of people. It’s become more about working together for a common goal. For a brewery, engaging more people means they will make more money, but it’s also about highlighting groups that don’t get the spotlight on a regular basis. Working with an LGBTQ+ community is win-win for everyone involved because people who didn’t think that they were welcome within the beer community learn that they are – and [in turn they] learn that they’ve got certain skills that are invaluable to the brewery [workforce].”

Related: LGBTQ+ Terms You Keep Hearing – and What They Mean

How can diversity help shape beer varieties and recipes?

“It happens when you start looking outside of the ‘norm.’ Think about all those fun beers that come out in the summer, like guava or pineapple-passion fruit. These are fruits that are known to certain groups. I’ve seen a passion fruit tree, but a lot of people haven’t. For me, that’s about being part of a Caribbean background – it’s about the acknowledgement that there are other flavours. It’s bridging that gap because a group of people that may not have thought they were welcome within the beer community are seeing things that they know as a regular, everyday [item]. I think seeing the diversity – and seeing that breweries are willing to make changes – leads to the inclusion of [even] more people.”

Related: What is Food Insecurity? FoodShare’s Paul Taylor Explains (Plus, What Canadians Can Do About It)

What’s your favourite Canadian craft beer or brewery?

“That’s like the hardest question ever. [laughs] Oh man, I love a lot of beer. I really love the things that Left Field are doing; they’re in Toronto. Muddy York, who is also in Toronto and Dominion City Brewing, which is in Ottawa – I think all three of them make fantastic beers, but they are also community-driven. For me, a lot of it is about ‘what does the brewery do [about diversity]’? You can make the best beer, but if you don’t interact with the community, it doesn’t matter. I know you asked which one is my favourite beer, but I’ll say all three of those.” [laughs]

This interview has been edited and condensed.

First photo courtesy of Racheal McCaig; second photo courtesy of Chris Thiessen/Toque Ltd.

The Ultimate Dessert Mashup: Caramel Apple Cheesecake Meets Chinese Fried Wontons

Wontons are not just for dumplings: they make delicious, crispy fried desserts too. These caramel apple cheesecake dessert wontons are my cheat version when you just don’t feel like baking an entire cheesecake. They’re filled with a rich caramel, tart Granny Smith apples and yummy cream cheese filling. Bet you can’t have just one!

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Fried Wontons

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Rest Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour, 5 minutes
Servings: 30 pieces

Ingredients:

Caramel Apple Filling
1 cup granulated sugar
6 Tbsp unsalted butter
½ cup heavy cream
Pinch salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 ½ cups (about 1-2)  Granny Smith apples, diced

Cream Cheese Filling
4 oz cream cheese, softened
3 Tbsp icing sugar
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp vanilla extract

Other
1 package of store-bought wontons
1 egg, for sealing
Vegetable oil, for frying

Topping
½ cup granulated sugar
¾ tsp ground cinnamon

Directions:

1. First, you’ll make the caramel sauce. In a heavy bottom sauce pan on medium heat, add the sugar. Heat the sugar, stirring constantly until it begins to dissolve. The sugar will begin to clump together, continue to stir and cook on medium until it’s completely liquid. Carefully stir in the butter, one Tbsp at a time until completely melted. Slowly pour in the heavy cream, the mixture will begin to bubble, continue to stir until the cream is well incorporated. Remove from stove, add the vanilla extract, salt, diced apples and cool completely. Refrigerate until you need to use.

2. In a small bowl, mix together everything for the cream cheese filling until smooth: cream cheese, icing sugar, cinnamon and vanilla.

3. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Related: 32 Chinese Takeout Dishes You Can Master at Home

4. Take a wonton wrapper, add about 1 tsp of the cold caramel apple filling in the centre and about ½ tsp of the cream cheese filling. Dip your index finger in the egg wash (one beaten egg) and run it along the outer edges of the wrapper, fold it over and press to seal.

5. Place the filled wontons in the freezer for at least 30 minutes before frying.

6. In a deep saucepan, heat the vegetable oil to 360°F. In a bowl, mix together the cinnamon and sugar. Fry the wontons 3-4 at a time for about 2 minutes until lightly golden brown. Place on a paper towel to drain any extra oil and toss in the cinnamon sugar while still hot. Enjoy warm with a drizzle of the remaining caramel sauce.

Love Sabrina’s baking? Check out her no-bake key lime pie icebox cakecheesecake pastry pockets and easy peach plum cobbler.

John Catucci

The Dining Out King at Home: Catching Up With John Catucci

We all know and love John Catucci as the guy who introduces us to all of the best restos and on-the-road grub. But even he has been hanging out at home more as a result of the current pandemic, chatting up fans on his Instagram account, reconnecting with his family, and re-watching basically every Marvel movie ever made. However, now that Big Food Bucket List is returning for a delicious new season, we thought it was the perfect time to pick the host’s brain on all of the fun (and yummy!) things he’s been getting up to lately.

He’s really perfected that green thumb

Because John is always on the road testing out all of that delicious food, he hasn’t ever really been able to enjoy a summer at home—not in a long while anyhow. This year that changed, and so John took the opportunity to finally start his very own veggie garden. To do that he teamed up with The Good Seed, and together they came up with a plan to grow all of the host’s favourites in garden boxes in his backyard.

“This is really the first summer I’ve been home to really tend to it and watch it and to learn from it. It’s pretty amazing. I have more than four different types of tomatoes growing, zucchini, cucumbers, and I harvested a whole bunch of carrots,” he says, noting that earlier in the season he had leafy greens and garlic too. “It’s been quite amazing being able to kind of go out there in the morning, water it, take a look at it. It’s really helped with my mental health for sure. It’s been so beneficial.”

Related: See Recipes From Big Food Bucket List

His backyard is now his own little oasis

Considering how much time John has been spending in his backyard, you can’t blame the guy for wanting to spruce up the space a little bit, right? To elevate his backyard game John invested in some string lights (he got savvy with some YouTube tutorials to hang them), and he painted the railing a pretty blue colour… one that he may have accidentally stolen from a neighbour.

“I realized it was the exact same blue colour that my neighbor down the street used,” he laughs. “It must have filtered into my subconscious. So then when I saw her I was like, ‘I hope you don’t mind but we kind of stole your idea…’”

See More: Summer Favourites From Big Food Bucket List You Can Enjoy on Patios Now

That baking craze is real in his household


Remember those people who hoarded flour and yeast at the beginning of quarantine? Yeah, John admits that he was totally one of those guys. Like gardening, he says that baking gives him a sense of accomplishment because he’s creating something with his hands that can then feed his family. In fact, he says that after making quarantine bread and even cinnamon rolls, he thinks he may have been a baker in another life.

“I was eating my feelings for sure,” he jokes. “There was a lot of bread. A lot of bread. There’s something about being able to see it from start to finish… I really got obsessed with it, trying to figure out the perfect amount of kneading… there were days and like, all day I would be doing it. There’s just something magical about baking your own bread.”

He’s been perfecting some classics

When it comes to downright comfort food, John admits that he’s prone to snacking on anything with Nutella, and he still loves sipping on a good Negroni. (No, he has not seen the controversial but mesmerizing Stanley Tucci tutorial just yet.) However, in terms of his go-to meal it’s got to be pasta, pasta, and more pasta. While he hasn’t started making his own noodles, he has definitely been working on perfecting his own sauce during these stay-at-home months.

“It was all carbs, all the time. I was really kind of perfecting a really delicious tomato sauce—tomatoes that I had jarred last summer and we still had,” he says. “It was that whole idea of cooking it low and slow for hours and hours. Just the way the flavours developed and would come together… there were times where I really impressed myself, it was really good!”

Related: Pasta 101: How to Pair Pasta Shapes With Sauces

He also continues supporting local restaurants

 

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Beautiful afternoon @gallucci_winery for @rose.interbartolo birthday lunch. #pizza #prosciutto #afogatto #ontario #stouffville

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As much as John enjoyed being able to take a summer at home and to partake in some great home-cooked meals, he and his family also made a huge effort to continue supporting restaurants in his neighbourhood so that they could hopefully stay afloat during these difficult times.

“I definitely cooked more but we also made a conscious effort to order in. The amount of restaurants that have had to close down during all this has just been so sad. I wanted to show up for the restaurants that were still open, that were still doing takeout, making sure that they were able to stay open,” he explains.

“A lot of people did that. They did what they could to help their restaurants in their neighbourhoods and in their communities. It’s not just a place where you go to eat, it’s a community hub,” he adds. “It’s a place that draws people to your neighbourhood. When the restaurant goes, the neighbourhood goes. I’m so happy to know restaurants are able to open up again—we should still show them love as much as we can.”

See More: Can’t Dine Out? These 20 Restaurants Are Offering Date-Night Delivery

Working out has been a mind-saver

 

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Everything is bigger in Texas. Even the treadmills! #houston #workout #sweaty #italian

A post shared by John Catucci (@johncatucci) on

John has always been conscious to add exercise to his daily routine, especially since he eats and talks about food for a living. With all of the comfort food to tuck into these past few months though, and with nowhere to really go, John has had to up his at-home workouts too. Luckily his trainer put together plans (including all the burpees) that helped John stay healthy—not just physically, but mentally too.

“That was another lifesaver, that really helped with my mental health, with my stress and with my anxiety,” he reveals. “And now when I don’t do it for a while I can feel all those anxious feelings coming up. It’s pretty wild. Working out, the baking, the gardening… that’s been the holy trinity for me!”

Watch Big Food Bucket List September 12 at 8 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. ET/PT and stream all your favourite Food Network Canada shows through STACKTV with Amazon Prime Video Channels, or with the new Global TV app, live and on-demand when you sign-in with your cable subscription.

Chef-Nick-Liu-Profile

From Competitor to Judge: Nick Liu Returns to Food Network Canada On Wall of Chefs

Although those in the restaurant industry know that it can be cyclical in trends and fortunes, Wall of Chefs judge Nick Liu has definitely come full circle. Years ago, when he first dreamed up plans for what would become Toronto’s Dailo restaurant, Nick ran up against difficulties with procuring a space in the city’s hot real estate market. Undaunted, he started a series of pop-ups to promote his dream and his food, and eventually parlayed those temporary events into a full-time space on bustling College St. “Doing the popups gave me the ability to shift and move and really come up with a bunch of ideas really quickly,” Nick told Food Network Canada in a recent interview. Once the bricks and mortar restaurant opened, it quickly gained popularity and top 10 list mentions and expanded to include an outpost in the trendy collective known as Assembly Chef’s Hall.

Then, the pandemic hit, and like so many of his peers, Nick was faced with a mandatory shutdown of his restaurant as social distancing became the norm. After three months, he revived the pop-up strategy that had served him well before, offering the Spot Prawn Betel Leaf, Hakka Wontons and Big Mac Baos that had won him a loyal customer base.

Photo courtesy of Chef Nick Liu

See More: Meet the Home Cooks Competing on Wall of Chefs

Part of Nick’s ability to pivot comes from the wide array of influences drawn from his own life, including a father hailing from Kolkata and a mother born in the South African city of Port Elizabeth. The Hakka cuisine of his Chinese Canadian childhood are flavours that Nick grew up with (one of his earliest cooking memories is making dumplings at his grandparents’ house — an ingenious way to keep boisterous Nick and his brother occupied) and would form the basis of the New Asian style of cooking he would develop throughout his career. Trained at Toronto’s George Brown College, Nick worked in some of the city’s most recognizable kitchens: at French landmark Scaramouche, under David Lee at Splendido, and taking the lead at Niagara Street Cafe as executive chef. During that time, he also traveled and experienced as many cooking elements as he could — Tetsuya’s, St. John’s, cheesemaking in Bath or winemaking in Italy — Nick wanted to try it all. “Every place I’ve ever visited, I’d find my way into someone’s kitchen, like a family I met in Turkey who I met at their restaurant,” he says. “All these cultures, when you have these connections with food, want to invite you into their family.”

Now that he’s back home at Dailo, Nick has definitely learned some lessons about adaptability to the unfamiliar — and he’s sharing those lessons with the home cooks on Wall of Chefs  (he’s also no stranger to the competitive television world, having taken on Susur Lee as a contestant on Iron Chef Canada, Battle Bitter Greens). As a judge, Nick has seen contestants crumble under the pressure, often self-induced. “I think that the home chefs get into their own heads,” he says. “People start scrambling and changing their recipes and plating to make it a little bit more restaurant-worthy.”

Related: 15 Chef-Approved Tips to Avoid Kitchen Disasters

The top piece of advice he offers to anyone looking to win his approval as a judge (and top marks at the pass) is to keep from overcomplicating a dish. “I tend to gravitate towards simpler things. I don’t like too many things on a plate,” he says. “I’m looking for technique and balance of flavour, which are the most important things for me. And I really like when people try and get creative, but also pare that creativity down with confidence that they’re serving a great dish.”

Wall of Chefs returns September 1 at 10 PM ET/PT. Stream all your favourite Food Network Canada shows through STACKTV with Amazon Prime Video Channels, or with the new Global TV app, live and on-demand when you sign-in with your cable subscription.

How to Make Your Own Butter and Buttermilk (Plus a Cornbread Recipe!)

I’m sure many of you have made your own cornbread from scratch, but have you ever made this tasty dish using homemade buttermilk and homemade butter? Two commonly store-bought items are so simple to make at home. Yes, if you’re wondering how to make butter and how to make buttermilk, it’s as easy as two ingredients each. Once you’re done whipping those up, use them in this simple one-bowl cornbread recipe. It’s a great base to stir in any extra flavours you want, like spices, bacon, jalapenos and cheese!

Homemade Buttermilk

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp lemon juice or white vinegar
1 cup whole milk

Directions:

1. Add vinegar to a measuring cup and pour in milk. Stir and let rest for 5 minutes.

Homemade Butter

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Ingredients:

1 ½ cups heavy whipping cream
Salt, to taste

Directions:

1. In a stand mixer, add the whipping cream. Starting on low speed and increasing to medium, whisk cream until the mixture breaks, about 5 minutes. Once the mixture has solidified, pour off the liquid and transfer butter to a mixing bowl. Rinse with ice water and squeeze to remove any additional liquid. Season with salt.

Related: Which Pie Are You, According to Your Zodiac Sign?

Simple Cornbread

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Bake Time: 20 to 25 minutes
Total Time: 30 to 35 minutes

Ingredients:

½ cup unsalted butter, melted
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 ½ cups buttermilk
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole-grain medium-grind cornmeal
2 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp cracked black pepper

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9-inch cast iron skillet with butter.

2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the butter, sugar, buttermilk and eggs until well blended. Add in the flour, cornmeal, baking soda, salt and pepper. Stir until ingredients come together.

3. Transfer to skillet and bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool slightly before slicing and serving!

Like Marcella’s butter, buttermilk and cornbread? Try her cinnamon streusel muffins and s’mores butter tarts.

Charred Okra, Tomato and Steak Salad: The Perfect Late-Summer Recipe

Okra is an amazing vegetable, but when you boil or sauté it, the little green veggie gets slimy. Our workaround? We love tossing okra on the grill and giving it a good char! Here we’ve paired it with tomatoes and hanger steak, as well as a zippy hit of lime, for the perfect late-summer salad recipe. Bonus: the whole dish comes together in under 30 minutes. Plus, did we mention there’s steak?!

Charred Okra, Tomato and Hanger Steak Salad

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 2

Ingredients:

1 hanger steak, 300g
1 tsp canola oil, divided
¼ tsp fine sea salt
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp fish sauce
2 tsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp lime juice
250g okra
1 pint cherry tomatoes

Directions:

1. Preheat BBQ to medium-high (about 400°F). Pat steak dry, brush with ½ tsp of oil then season with salt and pepper.

2. Oil grill. Grill steaks until medium-rare, about 4 minutes per side (or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of steak register 120°F). Transfer to a plate and tent with foil. Set aside for 10 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, combine fish sauce, soy sauce and lime juice in a medium bowl and set aside.

Related: Pork Banh Mi Burgers With Grilled Pineapple Will Be Your Go-To Summer Recipe

4. Then slice okra in half lengthwise and toss with remaining ½ tsp of oil in a large bowl. Immediately transfer to the grill cut-side down (if you take too much time getting it on the grill, the okra will become slimy). Grill until tender and charred, about 2-3 minutes per side. Remove from grill and transfer to bowl with fish sauce-mixture.

5. Add tomatoes to grill. Cook, turning occasionally, until soft and blistered, about 5 minutes. If you are concerned the tomatoes will fall through the grates, you can preheat a cast iron on the barbecue and cook tomatoes in pan. Remove and transfer to bowl with okra.

6. Cut steak, against the grain, into ½-inch thick slices. Transfer to a serving platter or individual plates. Arrange the okra and tomatoes around the steak. Spoon dressing on top.

Like this recipe? Try these crunchy salad ideas for when you’re running low on greens.

You’ll Devour This Peach Plum Cobbler as Quickly as It Takes to Make It

As the end of summer nears and the weather begins to cool, all I want are warm, comforting desserts. This simple cobbler combines both juicy peaches and sweet and sour plums, topped with a buttery and crisp topping. The best part: this late-summer dessert only takes just over an hour to whip together. PS — don’t forget the ice cream!

Peach Plum Cobbler

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Bake Time: 45 – 50 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes
Servings: 6 to 8

Ingredients:

Base
4 cups sliced peaches, skin on
4 cups sliced plums, skin on
½ cup brown sugar
¼ cup cornstarch
¾ tsp cinnamon
Pinch salt
1 Tbsp vanilla extract

Topping
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup + 1 Tbsp granulated sugar, divided
1 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold and cubed
1 cup heavy cream

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Slice the peaches and plums and place in a large bowl. Toss with brown sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, salt and vanilla extract. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the topping ingredients: flour, ¼ cup sugar, baking powder and salt. Using a pastry cutter or your fingers, rub the butter into the flour until about pea-sized. Create a well in the centre, pour in the heavy cream and with a fork, work the dough until it comes together, it will be slightly wet.

Related: 50 Sweet and Savoury Peach Recipes for Summer

3. Transfer the peach plum mixture to an 8-inch square baking dish. Put the topping dough all over top. Sprinkle the top with remaining 1 Tbsp granulated sugar.

4. Bake in the oven for 45-50 minutes until the mixture is bubbling and the topping is golden brown in colour. Enjoy with a big scoop of ice cream!

Love Sabrina’s baking? Check out her no-bake key lime pie icebox cake, cheesecake pastry pockets and white chocolate funfetti cookies.

This Fiery Korean Gochujang Cauliflower Popcorn is Comfort Food at Its Finest

Gochujang, the fermented Korean hot pepper paste, has gained popularity by way of recipes featuring grilled proteins, like chicken, beef and pork. However, this recipe brings you that umami bite of sweet and spicy flavour with a veggie spin: lightly battered cauliflower popcorn bites. No hard and fast rules apply here, serve this on game night, as an appetizer or side dish.

Korean Gochujang Cauliflower Popcorn

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Servings: 4 to 6

Ingredients:

2 tsp vegetable oil (plus more for frying)
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup gochujang (Korean hot pepper paste)
3 Tbsp ketchup
2 Tbsp white vinegar or cider vinegar
2 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp water
1 cup all-purpose flour
⅓ cup potato starch or cornstarch
¼ cup rice flour
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp baking soda
¾ cup water (approx.)
2 eggs, whisked
1 small head cauliflower, cut into small florets (8 cups)
1 tsp toasted sesame seeds (optional)
Greek yogurt or sour cream for dipping (optional)

Tip: Rice flour and potato starch are common ingredients in a Korean pantry, the combination will lighten and aerate the batter. Look for them in an Asian market or bulk store.

Tip: Gochujang is a fermented Korean hot pepper paste; and while shelf-stable when you purchase it, please refrigerate after opening.

Directions:

1. Heat enough oil in your largest and widest pot to reach 1-inch high over medium to medium-high heat until a deep-fry thermometer reaches 350°F. Don’t have a deep-fry thermometer? Either add a cube of bread to test the oil (it should fry quickly to golden) or dip end of a wooden spoon to see if bubbles start forming.

2. Meanwhile, make the sauce. Heat 2 tsp oil in a small saucepan. Add garlic and cook, stirring for 30 seconds. Stir in gochujang, ketchup, vinegar, honey and water and simmer for 1 minute; set aside.

Related: Eddie Jackson’s Gochujang Short Ribs Are Your New All-Star Dish

3. Whisk flour, potato starch, rice flour, salt and baking soda. Whisk in water and eggs, to make a slightly thickened batter. Add all the cauliflower, stirring to coat; the batter should be just thick enough to coat, while easily dripping off the floret. Add more water if needed.

4. Carefully drop lightly battered cauliflower into the hot oil using a fork, one at a time to achieve popcorn-sized bites (dropping them in groups will create lumps and will not produce a crispy batter).

Tip: Cauliflower is made up of a ton of water and continues to steam when cooked and needs to be fried twice. The first fry steams, while the second fry will lighten and crisp the combination of potato starch and rice flour.

5. Fry, with a spider or slotted spoon, turning until golden and crispy, 2-3 minutes. Drain on a wire rack set over a baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining cauliflower. Once everything had been fried, fry again until browned and crispy, 3-4 minutes and drain on a rack.

Related: This Korean Sweet and Sour Seaweed Salad is the Perfect BBQ Side Dish

6. Rewarm the sauce until loosened. Transfer half of the cauliflower in a large bowl and drizzle with enough sauce to just lightly coat, tossing quickly. Transfer to a serving plate and repeat with the remaining cauliflower and gochujang sauce mixture. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve with sour cream or Greek yogurt if desired.

Tip: Serve at room temperature and avoid reheating in the oven; it will steam and soften the cauliflower.

Like Soo’s fiery gochujang cauliflower popcorn? Try her pork banh mi burgers or asparagus and mushroom udon.

This Easy Ethiopian Mushroom Stir-Fry Will Be Your New Fave Weeknight Meal

Tibs are a quick, easy and delicious Ethiopian-style stir-fry traditionally made with beef or lamb. Mushroom tibs are one of my favourite ways to make a tasty plant-based alternative to this popular dish. It is super flavourful and perfect for a quick lunch or weeknight dinner. Tibs are typically served with injera (a spongy fermented Ethiopian flatbread), but can also be enjoyed with rice, fonio or quinoa.

Vegetarian Mushroom Tibs Recipe

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 2 to 4

Ingredients:
450 grams mushrooms
1 tomato
1 yellow onion
1 ½ bell peppers (different colours)
1 jalapeno
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 ½ Tbsp berbere (Ethiopian spice blend)
1 tsp ground korarima (Ethiopian Black cardamom) (optional)
1 sprig rosemary
Salt, to taste

Directions:
1. Begin by prepping all of the vegetables. Clean mushrooms thoroughly and remove the stem (save stems for another dish). Slice mushrooms evenly and set aside.

2. Dice tomatoes, thinly slice the onion and bell peppers and set aside. Remove the seeds from the jalapeno and thinly slice.

3. To a hot pan, add the sliced mushrooms. Cook down on medium-high until it reduces in volume. Drain the excess liquid and remove the mushrooms. Set both the liquid and mushrooms aside for later.

4. Now add oil to the heated pan and sauté the onions.

5. Once the onions begin to become translucent, add the berbere spice and stir. Pour back in a few spoons of the liquid from the mushrooms as needed.

Related: 20 Easy Plant-Based Recipes for Beginners That Will Make You Drool

6. Add the minced garlic to the pan, stir and add the diced tomatoes. Next add bell peppers and stir.

7. Add the mushrooms, jalapenos, korarima spice, rosemary and stir.

8. Garnish with rosemary or thinly sliced jalapeno (in Ethiopian cooking, jalapenos are both an ingredient and garnish!). Serve with fresh injera, rice, quinoa or fonio. Enjoy!

Tip: Tibs are all about your personal preference. If you’d like this dish to be a bit less saucy, add half of the tomato instead. Many berbere spice blends have salt within the mix, so be sure to taste your stir-fry as you go and salt to taste.

Like Eden’s mushroom tibs recipe? Try her vegan sloppy Joe sliders or teff breakfast bowl.

Great Chocolate Showdown Season 2 Casting

Casting Call: Apply Now for Great Chocolate Showdown

CALLING ALL CHOCOLATE-LOVING HOME BAKERS

Great Chocolate Showdown is back for another season! In this ooey-gooey, decadent chocolate dessert competition series from Food Network Canada, 10 home bakers go head-to-head in the indulgent world of chocolate, vying for the grand prize in a range of creative chocolate-based challenges!

Cynthia Stroud, Anna Olson and Steven Hodge of Great Chocolate Showdown

Related: Watch the Entire First Season of Great Chocolate Showdown

In order to survive the competition from week-to-week and avoid elimination, the chocoholic dessert-makers must dazzle our panel of world-renowned chocolatiers and expert food expert judges with their delicious, inventive creations.

See More: Anna Olson’s Chocolate Recipes for Every Skill Level

In the end, only one competitor makes it all the way to the end and is crowned the ultimate Great Chocolate Showdown champion!

CLICK HERE TO APPLY

For more casting opportunities, check out the Food Network Canada casting page.

 

These Oven-Baked Zucchini and Corn Fritters Are the Perfect Dinner Side Dish

Got too much summer zucchini and corn? Don’t quite know what to do with it? This recipe combines two of summer’s greatest hits and uses the oven to bake crispy vegetable fritters without all the hassle of deep frying. Lots of corn fritter recipes use only corn, but by adding grated zucchini, you’ll add a different texture (and a pop of colour!). The fritter is perfect on its own, served with a little sour cream and some pesto for the ultimate light summer meal. However, they’re also a great side dish, served with roast chicken or as an accompaniment to a summer BBQ. These will be on repeat in the summer and can just as easily be made in winter using frozen corn.

Oven-Baked Zucchini and Corn Fritters

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 60 minutes
Servings: 16 fritters

Ingredients:

2 medium zucchini, washed and grated (approx. 2 cups grated)
1 ½ cups corn kernels (from 3 small cobs or thawed and drained if frozen)
¼ cup panko breadcrumbs
1 cup shredded cheese (use something sharp, like Cheddar)
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp flaky sea salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
Pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
Sour cream and pesto to serve

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 375˚F. Line two baking trays with parchment paper. Place a few layers of paper towel on your countertop.

2. Squeeze the water out of the grated zucchini with a cheesecloth or tea towel. Place the squeezed zucchini on the paper towel in a single layer. Place a few more paper towels on top and gently pat dry.

3. Once dry, place the zucchini in a large bowl with the corn kernels, breadcrumbs, cheese, eggs, salt, pepper and optional red pepper flakes and mix well to combine, using a wooden spoon or your hands.

Related: 50+ Zucchini Recipes You’ll Absolutely Love

4. Using a 3-Tbsp cookie scoop and packing the mixture in tightly, scoop out mounds of the mixture and place them about 1 inch apart on the baking trays. If you don’t have a cookie scoop this size, use a ¼ measuring cup filled ¾ full of the mixture. If you notice lots of liquid in your mixture, make sure to drain it before you place on the tray.

5. Bake for 15 minutes, then use an offset spatula to carefully flip the fritters flattening them slightly as you do. Be careful, they are a bit fragile still!

6. Bake a further 10 to 15 minutes, until the fritters are crispy and golden on both sides. Serve with sour cream and pesto. Enjoy!

Like Mardi’s fritters? We also love her cheesy, comforting butternut squash tartiflette and mixed berry galettes for a sweet treat.

The-Pioneer-Woman-16-Minute-Honey-Garlic-Shrimp-Skewers

16 Minutes Until Dinner With The Pioneer Woman’s Honey-Garlic Shrimp Skewers

This sweet and garlicky skillet recipe is one of Ree Drummond’s all-time favourite 16-minute meals, and it’s easy to see why! The Pioneer Woman often enjoys this simple dish as a quick option when dining solo as it’s packed with flavour and zero-fuss.

Ree starts with a sticky-sweet glaze made of sriracha sauce, honey and crushed garlic and cooks up the shrimp in minutes. She serves it on a bed of wilted garlic spinach with a sprinkle of fresh parsley for a bright finish.

Related: The Pioneer Woman’s Best 16-Minute Meals

The Pioneer Woman's 16-Minute Honey-Garlic Shrimp Skewers

Honey-Garlic Shrimp Skewers

Active Time: 16 minutes
Total Time: 16 minutes
Serves:
2 servings

Ingredients:

Shrimp
1/2 cup honey
2 Tbsp sriracha
1 tsp crushed red pepper
3 cloves garlic, grated
1 lime, zested and juiced
2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
20 shrimp (16-20 count), peeled and deveined
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Spinach
2 Tbsp olive oil
12 oz baby spinach
2 cloves garlic, grated
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Special equipment:
4 metal skewers

Ree Drummond with honey-garlic shrimp skewers and glass of white wint

Directions:

1. Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat and a large skillet over medium heat.

2. For the shrimp: In a small bowl, mix together the honey, sriracha, crushed red pepper, garlic, lime zest and juice and 1 Tbsp of the parsley. Set the glaze aside.

3. Thread the shrimp onto 4 metal skewers, 5 shrimp per skewer. Season both sides with salt and pepper. Place on the grill pan and cook for 2 minutes. Flip the shrimp, brush the top with the glaze and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Flip the glazed side down, brush the top with the glaze and cook for an additional minute. Flip, glaze and cook until the shrimp are cooked through, up to an additional minute per side. Remove from the grill and drizzle with any remaining glaze.

Related: The Pioneer Woman’s Best Seafood Recipes

4. For the spinach: Meanwhile, heat the oil in the skillet and add the spinach and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and cook until wilted, about 1 minute.

5. Make a bed with the spinach on a serving platter. Top with the shrimp skewers and garnish with the remaining parsley.

The Pioneer Woman's 16-Minute Honey-Garlic Shrimp Skewers

Want more recipes from The Pioneer Woman? Ree’s got your cravings covered with her 30 best Tex-Mex recipes.

These Chinese Coconut Buns Come Together With Ingredients You Already Have on Hand

Coconut buns are a Chinese bakery classic for a reason. They’re buttery, soft and fluffy — and loaded with a delicious coconut filling. These Chinese sweet buns are easy to make, come together with just a few pantry ingredients and are every bit as delicious as they look. Enjoy them for breakfast, dessert or an afternoon treat!

Chinese Coconut Buns

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Rest Time: 2 hours
Bake Time: 15-17 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours, 45 minutes
Servings: 10 buns

Ingredients:

Buns
3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp instant yeast
¼ cup granulated sugar
3 Tbsp whole milk powder
½ tsp salt
1 large egg
200ml warm water
¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

Filling
1 ¼ cup sweetened shredded coconut
3 tsp cornstarch
3 tsp whole milk powder
3 Tbsp granulated sugar
Pinch salt
3 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract

Egg Wash
1 egg
1 Tbsp milk

Directions:

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, with the hook attachment, add the flour, yeast, sugar, milk powder, salt, egg and warm water. Work the mixture on medium for about 5 minutes until the dough comes together. Turn the mixer to medium-low, add the softened butter one Tbsp at a time, until the butter is fully incorporated. Knead for another 5-8 minutes until the dough is soft and elastic.

2. Form the dough into a smooth round ball, cover with a damp tea towel and let proof for 1 hour.

Related: 20 Fall Desserts That Can Totally Double as Breakfast

3. For the coconut filling, mix together the shredded coconut, cornstarch, milk powder, sugar, salt, melted butter, egg yolk and vanilla. Set aside.

4. Divide the dough into 10 equal portions (about 85 grams each) and roll into a smooth ball. Cover and rest for 15 minutes.

5. Grab one ball (keep the rest of the dough covered to prevent drying out) and roll out the ball into a 4-inch oval with a rolling pin. Place about 1 Tbsp of the coconut filling in the centre, grab the ends and pinch them together to close the seams.

6. Place the seam side down, and roll out to form a long oval. With a knife, score the surface with 4-5 long strokes, twist the ends in opposite directions and pinch the ends together. Alternatively, once the dough is filled with coconut, pinch to close the seams and roll it into a round ball.

7. Place on parchment-lined cookie sheets and cover with a damp towel. Let proof for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

8. Preheat oven to 325°F. Whisk together the egg and milk for the egg wash. Brush the tops of buns with the egg wash.

9. Bake for 15-17 minutes until lightly golden brown, rotating the trays half way. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Love Sabrina’s baking? Check out her no-bake key lime pie icebox cake, cheesecake pastry pockets or white chocolate funfetti cookies.

This Korean Sweet and Sour Seaweed Salad is the Perfect BBQ Side Dish

Naturally briny, yet subtly sweet, miyeok (seaweed) is a Korean pantry staple used in soups and salads for that perfect umami taste. Miyeok muchim (seaweed salad) is often served with other banchan (Korean side dishes) — however, BBQ fare is the quintessential accompaniment to the vinegary, crunchy and cold flavours of the sea. Pair this sweet and sour seaweed salad (say that three times fast!) with any grilled protein or with noodles and leafy greens.

Korean Sweet and Sour Seaweed Salad

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Chill Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 4 to 6

Ingredients:

1 ¾ cups dried seaweed
¼ cup distilled white vinegar
4 tsp sugar or honey
½ onion, thinly sliced
2 tsp sesame oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp soy sauce
¼ tsp sea salt or Kosher salt
1 Tbsp sesame seeds
1 mini cucumber, thinly sliced
¼ English cucumber, julienned (use a Japanese mandoline if you can!)
1 tsp toasted sesame seeds
¼ tsp Korean hot pepper flakes (optional)

Tip: Look for large, clear packages of dried seaweed in Korean/Asian grocery store or order online. In its raw form, it’s dried, almost black and turns green after soaking or blanching in boiling water.

Directions:

1. Place dried seaweed in a large bowl and cover with cold water until fully expanded and supple (about 20 minutes). Drain and rinse twice, swishing it around to remove the salt used in the drying process.

2. While the seaweed is blooming in the cold water, make the vinaigrette. In a large bowl, stir the vinegar and sugar until dissolved. Stir in the onion and let it pickle for 5 minutes before adding the sesame oil, garlic, soy sauce, sea salt and sesame seeds.

3. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the seaweed and blanch for 30 seconds; drain and cover in cold, running water until cooled. Drain and squeeze excess water with both hands. Roughly chop the seaweed and let stand in a colander or sieve.

Related: 14 Tasty Korean Recipes to Make Tonight

4. Add the cucumbers and seaweed to the vinaigrette mixture. Cover and refrigerate until cold. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and Korean hot pepper flakes before serving.

Tip: You can cover and refrigerate for up to 4 days. If you’re planning ahead, toss in the cucumbers a few hours before serving. The cucumbers and seaweed will continue to release water, so toss and taste the salad, adding more vinegar or a pinch of sugar if needed.

Like Soo’s seaweed salad recipe? Try your hand at her pork banh mi burgers or restaurant-worthy Chinese scallion pancakes.

What It’s Honestly Like Dining out Right Now ⁠— and What I’ll Never Take for Granted Again

Remember eating out? You know, that thing you do at a restaurant? (Remember restaurants?!). After about five months of social distancing, I certainly didn’t. Sure, we’d ordered in a few times and picked up from a couple of our favourite local haunts to try and support small businesses, but sitting down at an actual restaurant, ordering food off the menu and having a date night or lunch out with my friends had become a foreign concept. So when most of Ontario entered Stage 3, my husband and I decided to do what we’d seen other brave souls do in Stage 2 and we hit up a patio for lunch (without the kids!). And truthfully, it was all kinds of weird and glorious. In other words, it’s what we’re all calling the new normal.

Pre-Patio Anxiety

I will no longer take for granted: deciding to go out for dinner without an entire attack plan in my head.

Do you know anyone who needs to know everything about a situation before entering it or else they’re crippled with anxiety? Oh hi there, that’s me. When we decided to finally venture out for a meal, I put a call out to friends and family on social media to see who had actually dined out recently and what it was really like. I was genuinely shocked at how many people I knew had gone out not just once or twice, but three, four, even five times. Although everyone’s experiences had differed, almost everyone stuck to the patio. And everyone I spoke with seemed to agree that they felt totally fine. Before, I used to just want to scour the menu ahead of time to see what I might be interested in eating, but now I want to know what kind of precautions people are taking, how strictly the rules seem to be enforced and whether people are actually wearing those masks.

Related: From Homemade Bread to Pickles, 20 Recipes to Master While Indoors

To Mask or Not to Mask

I will no longer take for granted: NOT having to remember to pack a mask in my purse along with my keys, phone and wallet.

Let’s be clear, my husband and I are following the recommendation to wear a mask — we’re just rule followers like that. But that doesn’t mean we like wearing them. So while we already knew we wouldn’t have to wear a mask on the patio where we chose to eat, we couldn’t figure out if we should wear them in the parking lot or on our walk up to the restaurant. They were seating people outside, so ultimately we decided we didn’t need to wear them, but we brought them in case we needed to go inside and use the washrooms. Honestly, even that quick walk from the car to the patio without a mask felt super weird and it immediately made me apprehensive.

Related: Here’s How to Make Your Own DIY Cloth Face Masks at Home

Safety Protocols

I will no longer take for granted: the anonymity of eating out.

The spaced out tables weren’t the only immediate differences I noticed. At this point the restaurant was also seating inside, but we didn’t feel great about that option and remained outdoors. Still, there were stickers on the floor to indicate the six-foot rule and we had to fill out a card with our contact information for contact tracing. Everything was on paper and we were asked to share menus, which was fine by me. I also noticed the employees constantly spraying and wiping things down, which made me feel a bit more at ease. Speaking of the employees, they were all wearing masks, but it was kind of weird to be in the vicinity of so many other people who weren’t — including pedestrians on the sidewalk right beside us.

The Vibe

I will no longer take for granted: random chats with strangers.

Real talk: being on a patio just after a rainfall with the sun peeking out from behind the clouds was all kinds of glorious. But I really wish I could have enjoyed it more. We’re the type of people who love visiting patios all summer long — and on one hand, the experience felt overdue. On the other, there were 20 or so other people having lunch, which I didn’t anticipate for a Tuesday in the suburbs. (When did being close to other people start freaking me out so much?!). I wasn’t the only one who felt that way though, clearly. Some people like my husband were just dandy to waltz on in and plop down at a seat. Others looked around cautiously and tried to pick the table furthest away from others. Of course, considering everyone was six feet apart, anywhere would have technically been just fine.

The Menu

I will no longer take for granted: all-you-can-eat buffets and menus the size of the table.

The place we chose to eat at had only opened in June, so I was happy that they were able to still open. That said it was a bar-tapas style resto, so the menu was pretty limited and a bit pricey. From my anecdotal research, I kind of think this is the case everywhere — even McDonald’s has eliminated things from their menu over the past few months. In the end we each ordered a drink and then decided to split some truffle fries, mussels, mushroom toasts and crispy chicken tacos. Hey, when you’re going out for the first time in half a year, you might as well do it up right, especially when it’s in the name of research. And yes, we finished it all, thank you very much.

The Service

I will no longer take for granted: everyone who works their tail off at these places.

While some of the people I spoke with ahead of our jaunt warned me that our experience might feel rushed or even distant, I didn’t really have that experience. Our server was really nice and chatty when we wanted to talk and ask questions, despite the fact that she was clearly super busy. She cleared plates as we finished them and came to check on us, which again some people had said isn’t the case right now as servers don’t usually clear the table until the visit is over.

One thing that did bother me was the fact that our server kept putting her mask below her nose. To be fair, it was hot, she was clearly working her butt off and I can only imagine how difficult it must be to wear a mask under those kinds of circumstances. Did it make me uncomfortable? Well, yes. What’s the point of the mask in that case? But I didn’t say anything and I made the decision not to name the restaurant in this piece because everyone’s human. We’re all getting used to this and the girl clearly needed some air.

At the end of the day, I think it’s important to recognize that you can’t always see whether everyone is adhering to the standards, so if you’re going to go to a restaurant, you just have to be prepared to take that risk. The same way you have to hope that no one spits in your food or washes their hands before touching your meal, I guess.

Related: Famous Recipes We’re Making at Home, From McDs Hash Browns to IKEA Meatballs

The Verdict

I will no longer take for granted: eating out, period.

Full disclosure: my husband and I did this lunch thing on the first day that our kids’ daycare opened back up. My anxiety was already riding high from dropping them off earlier that morning and so I may have been affected by certain things more than I typically would be. That said, by the time we finished eating and had paid the bill, I almost felt… human again. I had genuinely forgotten what it was like to order food and eat it without having to worry about any of the cooking or cleaning up.

To be able to just sit for an hour with my partner uninterrupted and without distractions to really catch up and even talk about some of the big feelings we’ve been having during this whole situation turned out to be a needed break for both of us. And even though I felt like I needed a nap after that generous meal (and yes, a glass of wine), it reminded me that we’ve all been going through a lot this year. So even though going to a restaurant isn’t exactly the same experience that it used to be, it’s still a way to add a bit of normalcy back into what has been an extremely abnormal year. Will I be going back next week? Probably not. But the next time things start to feel overwhelming, as far as I’m concerned, an hour on the patio may be exactly what the mental health doctor ordered.

Can’t dine out? These 20 Toronto restaurants are offering date night meal delivery right now.

Patio photography courtesy of Getty Images; food photo courtesy of Amber Dowling

These No-Bake Chocolate Layered Oat Bars Are Sinfully Healthy

If there is ever a reason to eat chocolate for breakfast, now is the time. These healthy oatmeal bars will be your new favourite dessert, snack and morning meal. There’s a bottom layer of oat shortbread cookie, topped with smooth chocolate and almond butter and finished with oat cookie crumbs. You can give them your own spin by swapping out almond butter for peanut butter, tahini or your favourite nut/seed butter. And you can use flavoured chocolate like coffee, salted caramel or toasted almond to give even more depth and flavour. Who says your next sweet treat needs to be unhealthy or even require the use of the oven?! You can thank us later.

No-Bake Chocolate Layered Oat Bars

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Freeze Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours and 15 minutes
Servings: 8 bars

Ingredients:

Oat Layer
½ cup coconut oil or butter
¾ cup almond butter
⅓ cup coconut sugar
1 ½ cups rolled oats
½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1 Tbsp cocoa powder or raw cacao powder
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
¼ tsp sea salt

Chocolate Layer
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips or 150 gram chocolate bar
¼ cup almond butter or peanut butter

Directions:

1. Place a pot over medium-low heat. Add in the coconut oil and almond butter and as they soften and gently melt, pour in the coconut sugar and mix.

2. Toss in the rolled oats, shredded coconut, cocoa powder, vanilla and sea salt, turn heat to low and stir well to fully combine. After 3 minutes remove from the heat.

Related: 65 Vegan Desserts Even Non-Vegans Will Love

3. Combine the chocolate and almond butter in a double boiler and stir until melted and creamy.

4. Lightly oil an 8 x 8 inch pan and place parchment paper in it. Ensure the parchment comes up slightly over the sides so that once the bars are done, they pull out easily.

5. Take ¾ of the oat mixture and press it down into the pan. Use your hands and/or the back of a measuring cup to push it down into a nice even layer.

6. Then pour most of the chocolate mixture over the oat layer and cascade the rest of the oat mixture on top, no need to press in, just crumble over.

7. Then drizzle over the remaining chocolate with the back of a spoon. You can also top with shredded coconut, toasted almonds and/or chocolate chips.

8. Place in the fridge for 2 hours until solidified. Gently pull them out of the pan and slice into bars. Store any leftovers in the fridge.

Like Tamara and Sarah’s creation? Try their epic waffle platter or their vegan brownies (where they test five vegan egg substitutes!).

Ina Garten’s Greek Salad is a Classic Dinner Recipe For a Reason

You’ve probably made more than your fair share of meal-sized salads over the years, but leave it to Ina Garten to perfect the craft of salad-making. That’s right: forget everything you thought you knew about whipping up a classic Mediterranean salad and recreate this must-try Greek variation from The Barefoot Contessa.

Crunchy cucumbers, ripe tomatoes, plump olives and creamy feta cheese pair beautifully with Ina’s mouth-watering homemade vinaigrette made up of garlic, Dijon mustard, oregano, olive oil and red wine vinegar. We guarantee you’ll make this simple show-stopper on repeat. Bon appetit!

Related: Ina Garten’s Easiest Weeknight Dinner Recipes to Try This Week

Ina Garten’s Greek Salad

Total Time: 50 minutes
Yields: 6 servings

Ingredients:
1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 red bell pepper, large-diced
1 yellow bell pepper, large-diced
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 red onion, sliced in half-rounds
1/2 lb feta cheese, 1/2-inch diced (not crumbled)
1/2 cup Kalamata olives, pitted

Related: These Caesar Salad Recipes Will Be the Star of Your Dinner Plate

For the vinaigrette:
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 cup good red wine vinegar
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup good olive oil

Related: Any Hour is Cocktail Hour With Ina Garten’s Classic Cosmopolitan

Directions:

1. Place the cucumber, peppers, tomatoes and red onion in a large bowl.

2. For the vinaigrette, whisk together the garlic, oregano, mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Still whisking, slowly add the olive oil to make an emulsion. Pour the vinaigrette over the vegetables. Add the feta and olives and toss lightly. Set aside for 30 minutes to allow the flavors to blend. Serve at room temperature.

Watch Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics and stream all your favourite Food Network Canada shows through STACKTV with Amazon Prime Video Channels, or with the new Global TV app, live and on-demand when you sign-in with your cable subscription.

These No-Churn Rose-Pistachio Ice Cream Sandwiches Need Just 8 Ingredients

There are times for ice cream made with a custard base that’s cooked over the stove and churned in an ice cream maker, but there are also times for a simple no-churn ice cream that comes together with few ingredients and tools. In this recipe, a simple no-churn rose ice cream studded with raspberries and pistachios is sandwiched between two cookies of your choice. I like using less-sweet and simpler cookies like speculoos cookies or sugar cookies to sandwich the ice cream.

No-Churn Rose-Pistachio Ice Cream Sandwiches

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Rest Time: 4 hours
Total Time: 4 hours, 20 minutes
Servings: 10 to 12 ice cream sandwiches

Ingredients:

9 oz (266 ml) sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
½ tsp culinary-grade rose water
¼ tsp salt
2 cups (480 ml) heavy cream
1 ½ cups (160 g) fresh raspberries, divided
½ cup (60 g) roasted pistachios, coarsely chopped
20 to 24 cookies of choice

Directions:

1. Line a 9 x 13–inch (23 x 33–cm) baking pan with parchment paper, leaving some parchment paper hanging over both sides. Set the baking pan aside.

2. In a large bowl, combine the condensed milk, vanilla, rose water, and salt. Set the milk mixture aside.

Related: 20 Easy Baking Recipes for Kids (All Less Than 10 Ingredients!)

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whisk the heavy cream on high speed for 2 to 3 minutes, until medium-stiff peaks form.

4. Fold about 1 cup (60 g) of the whipped cream into the condensed milk mixture to lighten the milk mixture. Then fold in the remaining whipped cream.

5. In a small bowl, mash ¾ cup (80 g) of the raspberries with a fork. Fold the mashed raspberries and their juices, the remaining ¾ cup (80 g) of raspberries and the pistachios into the ice cream mixture.

Related: This No-Bake S’mores Cheesecake Was Made for Summer

6. Transfer the ice cream mixture into the prepared baking pan and cover the pan tightly with plastic wrap. Freeze the ice cream for 4 to 5 hours (or preferably overnight) until it is firm.

7. Lift the ice cream from the baking pan and use a large knife or cookie cutter to cut out 10 to 12 portions roughly the same size as the cookies you are using.

8. To assemble the ice cream cookies, top a cookie with the ice cream, then place another cookie on top. Serve immediately.


Reprinted with permission from Blooms and Baking by Amy Ho, Page Street Publishing Co. 2020. Photo credit: Amy Ho

Love Amy’s beautiful baking creations? Try your hand at her Nanaimo bar popsicles or sweet honeycomb cake.

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