sephardic challah bread on a linen tablecloth

This Sephardic-Style Spiced Challah is the Perfect Addition to Your Rosh Hashanah Spread

For most Canadians, challah is best known as a wonderfully fluffy, eggy, yeasty and sweet braided bread appreciated by Jews and non-Jews alike. Whether it’s enjoyed for Shabbat and Jewish holidays or as the base of custardy French toasts and decadent deli sandwiches, this golden Ashkenazi loaf has origins in Central and Eastern Europe and is popular for good reason. But there are other delightful challah traditions, including lighter, more savoury loaves favoured among Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews of North African and Middle Eastern ancestry.

Unlike the multi-stranded braided challahs, these loaves are commonly coiled into festive (and far easier) “crowns,” which, during Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year), take on special meaning to symbolize the continuity of life. The flavours of these loaves are also wildly different. My Moroccan grandmother’s challah was always laced with whole spices such as cumin and caraway seeds that were mixed into the smooth and airy crumb. It was the perfect pairing for a table full of spicy, saucy and tangy cooked salads and tagines. This challah recipe takes me back to everything I loved about my grandmother’s cooking and being in her kitchen.

Note: This recipe can easily be made vegan with a couple simple swaps, outlined below.

sephardic challah bread on a linen tablecloth

Sephardic-Style Challah with Whole Seeds and Spices

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Rest Time: 3-4 hours
Bake Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 4-5 hours
Servings: One large round loaf or two small loaves

Ingredients:
For the dough
1 Tbsp sesame seeds
1 Tbsp cumin or nigella seeds
1 Tbsp of caraway, coriander or anise seeds
4 cups all-purpose flour, spooned and levelled, plus extra for dusting
1½ envelopes (12 grams) instant yeast
1 egg (optional), at room temperature
2 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp salt
6 Tbsp canola or sunflower oil, plus extra for oiling hands and baking sheet
¾-1 cup warm water

For the egg wash and topping (optional)
Cornmeal for dusting baking sheet
1 egg, plus 1 Tbsp water
Salt to taste
Sesame or poppy seeds, for sprinkling

Ingredients for sephardic challah on a white countertop

Directions:

1. For the dough, in a skillet over medium heat, toast sesame seeds,  cumin, caraway or other seeds until fragrant (and before they start to pop), about 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside to cool.

Related: Pomegranate Ginger Chicken For a Sweet and Fruitful Rosh Hashanah

Seeds and herbs toasting for sephardic challah

2. Combine all of the dough ingredients (including the seeds), then mix and knead for about 10 minutes by hand, stand mixer (with dough hook) or bread maker until smooth, soft and supple. If using egg, add ¾ cup of warm water first.

Option: For a vegan “water challah” without egg, use 1 cup of water. If the dough is too stiff, add more warm water, one tablespoon at a time, as needed. If it’s too sticky, add a little more flour.

3. Let the dough rise in a tightly covered bowl for roughly 2 hours until puffy and about doubled in size.

Dough for sephardic challah in a mixing bowl

4. Sprinkle cornmeal on a lightly-oiled baking sheet.

5. With oiled hands, gently deflate the dough and transfer it to a lightly greased work surface.

Related: Irresistible Dulce de Leche Rugelach

6. To make one large loaf, roll the dough into a 40- to 50-inch-long rope. (If you don’t have enough work space, roll it one half at a time, bending the rope in the middle.) If the dough isn’t stretching easily, let it rest covered for 5 to 10 minutes, then continue rolling. For two smaller loaves, aim for 25-inch ropes.

7. Let the rope(s) rest for 5 minutes. Form the rope into a coil, starting from one end. Tuck the second end under the finished coil.

Two coils of dough for sephardic challah on a white countertop

8. Place the coil(s) on the prepared baking sheet(s), one loaf per pan.

9. To make the egg wash topping, mix the reserved egg with 1 Tbsp water and a pinch of salt.

Option: For a vegan “water challah” version, skip this step or substitute egg wash with maple syrup or aquafaba (without water).

10. Brush dough coil(s) with a first layer of egg wash. Cover coil(s) with a large inverted bowl. Let stand for 60 to 90 minutes, until very puffy.

10. Near the end of the rising time, place a rack in the middle of your oven and preheat to 400°F.

11. Brush a second layer of egg wash onto dough coil(s) (this extra step will make the loaf beautifully shiny) and sprinkle generously with sesame or poppy seeds.

Dough for sephardic challah sprinkled with sesame seeds on a baking sheet

12. Place baking sheet in center of preheated oven (for two small loaves, place the baking sheets side by side or one at a time) and bake for 30 minutes or until the loaf is a rich, golden colour and the bottom is crispy. To check doneness, a digital thermometer poked into the centre of the loaf should read 190°F. Transfer to a rack to cool before serving or slicing.

Related: An Easy, Tender Brisket Recipe That is Sure to Impress

A golden loaf of sephardic challah on a linen tea towel

Love Claire’s challah? Be sure to try her upside-down apple cake for a gorgeous Rosh Hashanah dessert.

Thyme Aperol Spritz

Travel Back in ‘Thyme’ With This Seasonal Twist on a Classic Aperol Spritz

Thyme Aperol Spritz

Thyme-Infused Aperol Spritz

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings:  1

Related: Savour the Best of the Season With This Strawberry Rhubarb Gin Spritzer

This That’s the Spirit Aperol spritz is a classic summer cocktail. It’s light, refreshing and truly tastes like summertime in Italy. Take this cocktail up a notch by incorporating a little thyme-infused simple syrup. The thyme really complements the orange and herbal notes in the Aperol tying this cocktail together. Perfect for a hot summer day (or eve), this spritz is one you’ll want to keep making again and again! Cheers. 

Related: Savour the Best of the Season With This Strawberry Rhubarb Gin Spritzer

Ingredients:

Thyme simple syrup (makes 0.5 oz)
½ cup sugar
½ cup water
3-4 fresh thyme sprigs

3 oz Prosecco D.O.C
2 oz Aperol
0.5 oz Thyme simple syrup
Splash of soda
Garnish: Orange wedge and fresh thyme sprigs

Related: This Blood Orange Negroni is the Perfect Summer Cocktail

Directions:

Thyme-Infused Simple Syrup

  1. Add ½ cup sugar and water to a small saucepan over medium heat. 
  2. Stir until sugar is dissolved. 
  3. Remove from heat and add 3-4 sprigs of fresh thyme. Let steep for 10-15 minutes, depending on how strong you want the thyme flavour to be. 

Related: This Earl Grey Mar(tea)ni is the Cocktail You Need

Thyme Aperol Spritz

Cocktail 

  1. Fill a white wine glass with ice. 
  2. Pour 3 parts of Prosecco D.O.C, followed by 2 parts of Aperol and 0.5 oz. thyme-infused simple syrup. 
  3. Top with a splash of soda and stir. 
  4. Garnish with an orange wedge and fresh thyme sprigs. 

Like Abhi’s summer cocktail? Try his refreshing Brazilian Lemonade Margarita

 

three rolled hotdog omelettes on parchment paper

Hot Dogs for Breakfast? Yes Please! You Need to Try This Japanese-Inspired Rolled Hot Dog Omelette

Inspired by both Japanese rolled egg omelettes (tamagoyaki) and trendy Korean rice dogs, this Hot Dog Rolled Omelette recipe is a fun, reimagined version of a classic breakfast omelette . My daughters say this recipe is like wrapping a hot dog in three cozy layers of eggy blanket, which is pretty accurate. Be sure to serve with a squiggle of your favourite sauce(s) such as Japanese mayo, ketchup, mustard, hot sauce or tonkatsu sauce for the full effect.

A square or rectangular omelette pan is normally used for rolled omelettes, and can be purchased online or at Japanese kitchenware stores. However, a small round egg pan can be made to work as well. You can also create a similar look by folding in the two side flaps of each egg layer to form straight edges first, before proceeding to roll. Online how-to videos are a great resource for visual guidance.three rolled hotdog omelettes on parchment paper

Rolled Hot Dog Omelettes

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

Ingredients:

For the omelettes
8 large eggs
2 Tbsp water
¼ tsp salt
1 scallion, chopped
½ red bell pepper, diced
¼ cup corn kernels
4 small hot dogs
Neutral oil, for frying

Optional sauces for serving:
Japanese mayonnaise
Ketchup
Mustard
Hot sauce
Tonkatsu sauce

mise en place for rolled hotdog omelettes

Directions:

1. Whisk eggs, water and salt together. Stir in scallions, bell peppers and corn kernels.

Related: Here’s How to Cook Eggs Perfectly Every Time

eggs, scallions and peppers being mixed together in a ceramic bowl

2. Heat pan over medium heat. Set out a small dish of oil and fold a half-piece of paper towel into a 2” x 1” rectangle to be used for oiling the pan.

3. Using tongs or chopsticks, dip folded paper towel into oil and brush it onto the pan to very lightly grease. Pan fry hot dogs until warmed through and slightly browned. Set aside. Reduce heat to medium-low and let pan cool off a little.

scrambled eggs, peppers and scallions in an oiled square pan

4. Brush pan again with oil. Pour a thin layer of egg mixture into the pan, swirling to coat evenly. In my 6” x 7” pan, I use 3-4 Tbsp of egg mixture per layer. When the top is still slightly runny but the bottom is cooked enough to roll, place a hot dog about an inch from the far end of the pan and. Using two utensils (e.g. spatulas, tongs, chopsticks) start rolling the egg over and around the hotdog towards you.

A hotdog placed over omelette mixture in a square pan, ready to be rolled

5. Once the hot dog is fully rolled, push it back to the far end. Brush oil onto the pan and pour a second thin layer of egg mixture in. Swirl to cover the entire area of the pan not occupied by the rolled up hot dog. Adjust heat between low and medium as needed so the egg doesn’t cook too quickly. Again, cook the egg mixture to the point that it still looks runny on the top but the bottom has cooked enough to allow rolling. Roll hot dog towards you again, pulling the second egg layer over and around as you roll.

Related: Your Kiddos Will Not Stop Asking You to Cook This Hot Dog Fried Rice Recipe

a rolled hotdog omelette in a pan

6. Repeat step 5 one more time with a third egg layer. Once rolled, cook the finished hot dog omelette about five seconds more to ensure it is cooked through.

7. Optional step: roll the warm omelette inside a parchment and/or bamboo mat and very gently shape with hands into a uniformly-rounded tube. Allow it to cool a few minutes before unwrapping.

a hotdog omelette being rolled up in parchment paper and a bamboo mat

8. Serve hot dog rolled omelettes with your choice of sauces.

Like Sonia’s hot dog rolled omelette recipe? Try her Japanese fruit sandos next!

Vendors selling produce at a booth in the Afro-Caribbean Farmers' Market in Toronto

An Afro-Caribbean Farmers’ Market is Helping Revitalize a Toronto Neighbourhood

Farmers’ markets have become a draw in cities across Canada, offering fresh, locally grown produce, baked goods and other artisan products, but the price points make them cost-prohibitive for those on a fixed income. Toronto’s newest market is changing its surrounding community for the better, breaking down barriers and making it a welcoming place for all.

The Afro-Caribbean Farmers Market is located in the Little Jamaica-Afro Caribbean Cultural District at Eglinton West and Oakwood. Anyone familiar with the area knows that it has been a sea of construction for close to a decade because of the construction of the Eglinton Crosstown light rail line. Shops were shuttering even before the pandemic, and it’s only gotten worse since.

We spoke with Lori Beazer, Market Manager for the Afro-Caribbean Farmers Market, about its origins and how it’s already making a difference by injecting life back into the neighbourhood and reminding the city that this important cultural hub is still open for business.

The Afro-Caribbean Farmers Market in the York-Eglinton West neighbourhood of Toronto, Canada

The market first ran as a pilot project in 2017 in a different area of the city, but it didn’t have a home until a chance encounter between Beazer and Toronto City Councillor, Josh Matlow. “I bumped into Councillor Matlow in 2020, introduced myself and pitched the market,” Beazer told us. “He loved it, so we started working on it.”

Related: Food Activist and Dietitian Rosie Mensah Looks at Nutrition Through a Social Justice Lens

Fast forward to the market’s July 2021 launch in partnership with Councillor Matlow and the York-Eglinton BIA, where it found a home in Reggae Lane and the adjacent parking lot on Eglinton West. “Here we are, a year later, and it’s been well-received. Its success shows what the area was craving for so long,” said Beazer.

Visitors to this unique market can shop for clean, culturally appropriate fruits and vegetables from the Caribbean and continental African countries along with clean produce grown by local urban farmers, baked goods, fresh juices, sauces and other artisan products. “We use the word clean instead of organic because this produce is clean of any pesticides, and is grown using diatomaceous earth,” Beazer explained. “The market features clean foods that are locally grown by people that look like them. And I think for them, that’s important.”

Vendors selling homemade condiments at the Afro-Caribbean Farmers' Market in Toronto, Canada

Until this point, many farmers’ markets across the city exude a sense of exclusivity and elitism, but this is where the Afro-Caribbean Farmer’s Market is breaking the mold. “In having conversations with many of our vendors, they’ve felt a sense of racism when shopping at or even vending at other farmers’ markets,” Beazer disclosed. “We have created a platform where they’re not only able to sell their products, they’re selling out.”

Related: The World’s Biggest Rooftop Farm is in Canada — and Growing Fast

They’ve even gone as far as providing a program for those facing food insecurity called Callaloo Cash, making this farmers’ market accessible to more people, especially those in the neighbourhood. From the earliest stages of planning, the program was always going to be an important facet of this market, according to Beazer.

“I understand this area and a good majority of our population of the African diaspora rarely go to farmers’ markets because they can’t afford it. But we have urban Black farmers who need a space to sell their wares. They’re not travelling a long distance and can get to the site using less mileage and expense, which lowers the cost of their produce. Having the Callaloo Cash subsidy program allows people from the community to walk out of the market with bags of food that they paid little or nothing for. They can go home with all of these wonderful things that they know are local and clean.”

Related: Allison Gibson Talks Launching Food Businesses and Reclaiming the Term “Ethnic Food”

Since the July launch, the market is quickly becoming a destination for people in the neighbourhood. “It has become important to the community,” Beazer shared. “They’re grateful to have something to do on a Sunday in this area. They can invite family to their homes and go to the market together for coconut water and sugar cane, or some jerk chicken with rice and peas.”

Vendors selling produce at a booth in the Afro-Caribbean Farmers' Market in Toronto

A market does so much more than provide food and a sense of community. Farmers’ Markets Ontario, the organization that represents over 180 markets across the province, has researched and proven that real estate values increase in neighbourhoods following the launch of a farmers’ market, something that Beazer has already witnessed in the area. “The community members, homeowners, and business owners have already seen the benefits of the farmers’ market being mentioned in their postal code. And that’s incredible.”

She continued, “The community wants the market here because they see the benefits. The stores see the benefits and open if they’re not typically open on a Sunday. The foot traffic has been close to a thousand people every Sunday since it started, many of who wouldn’t have normally visited Eglinton West. Our vendors sell out of their products, which has never happened to them at other farmers’ markets in the city. It’s a great place to be with a fantastic vibe.”

Related: How Food Injustice Inspired This 23-Year-Old to Start Her Own Farm, Plus Her Advice for You

Despite support from Councillor Matlow and Ontario MPP Jill Andrew, the Toronto Parking Authority, which owns the lot where the market takes place, hasn’t been supportive according to Beazer. “Every farmers’ market has its challenges and we have ours. This market is dealing with some really ugly things because of this space that we’re in. The Toronto Parking Authority is not doing what they need to do for the space. They’re disrespecting the vendors by not keeping the lot clean for us.”

In fact, Beazer has taken on the site clean-up since the first day of the market and tearfully described the human waste that she faces each week when she arrives. “Every Sunday at 8AM, I head to the market site with anxiety because I don’t know what I’m going to find. Without fail, I have to clean it up myself before the vendors arrive.”

An assortment of freshly baked bread for sale at the Afro-Caribbean Farmers' Market in Toronto, Canada

Ideally, Beazer wants this market to happen annually, and as part of that, she would love to see this space returned to the community. She envisions it as a hub for art shows, yoga classes, movie nights, children’s activities and so much more beyond the farmers’ market. “This project was really supposed to help change the attitudes of people that live in the area that haven’t come to Eglinton West for 15 years because they were afraid. By bringing food and culture to this neighbourhood through the Afro-Caribbean Farmers’ Market, we can start to change that footprint.”

Related: Vegan West African Peanut Lentil Stew: The Comfort Food You Need

Beazer also believes that there is magic in this space, especially in the Reggae Lane mural created by artist Adrian Hayles. “When the sun comes out and hits the mural, it comes to life. The talk of the community is that the elders from the mural that have transitioned join us at the market.” She added, “Hayles is creating another mural on the opposite side. Should the market happen again next year, the whole space will be filled with beautiful art.”

The Afro-Caribbean Farmers’ Market runs every Sunday from 11AM to 3PM until October 3 in Reggae Lane and the Green P Carpark at 1531 Eglinton Avenue West in Toronto.

American singer Meghan Trainor and Acclaimed Chef Marcus Samuelsson smile for the camera in front of a banner that reads Top Chef Family Style

4 Hot New Releases to Binge on Amazon Prime This September

Cooler temps, fall colours and craving comfy foods: Seasons are changing and so is the great content on Food Network.

From your top shows with a twist (think, “Top Chef but make it family”) to Halloween on Food Network (ghastly cake creations and frightful eliminations!),  we won’t be judgy if you binge on these shows playing on your device with StackTV on Amazon Prime.

Top Chef Family Style

When to Watch: New series premieres September 16 at 9 PM ET/PT


This new reality-based cooking competition is hosted by Grammy Award-winning global superstar Meghan Trainor with acclaimed chef, James Beard Award winner and best-selling cookbook author Marcus Samuelsson serving as Head Judge. It takes family ties and blends in high stakes, jaw-dropping talent and heart-warming humour that families across generations can enjoy. Talented young chefs – each teamed up with an adult partner of their choice –are competing to win the grand prize including $50,000.

Related: Memorable First Bites from Top Chef Canada

Halloween Baking Championship

When to Watch: New season premieres September 13 at 9 PM ET/PT

Judges Stephanie Boswell, Zac Young and Carla Hall and Judge John Henson, looking at the camera on the set of Halloween Baking Championship.

Camp Devil’s Food Lake is the backdrop for Season 11 of this wildly popular baking competition. The inspiration? 1980s slasher films. So get ready to see creepy-crawly desserts to deadly delicious cupcakes being whipped up, as the bakers try and prove their skills to a panel of costumed judges in order to land the $25,000 prize (and the title of Halloween Baking Champion)!

Related: Meet the Season 6 Competitors

Halloween Wars

When to Watch: New season begins on September 19 at 9 PM ET/PT

Zak Bagans sits in a chair on the set of Halloween Wars

Paranormal investigator Zack Bagan has seen a lot of supernatural things in his 15-years on the job. As the new host for the season, he shares some of those experiences with eight expert teams.  Taking inspiration from his collection of dangerous and mysterious artifacts from his Haunted Museum in Las Vegas, he will challenge the teams of sugar decorators, cake bakers and pumpkin carvers to create spooky AND tasty creations, eventually earning the coveted $25,000 prize.

Related: Meet the Halloween Wars Season 10 Competitors

The Big Bake: Halloween

When to Watch: Series premiere September 27 at 8 PM ET/ 5 PM PT

The Big Bake: Halloween is back with a bang for Season 2. The team of bakers need to think big and bold, blowing up their designs to gigantic proportions – keeping their spirits aligned with everything Halloween, of course. In the end, the most ambitious, eye-popping and delicious cake will go home with a $10,000 prize.

Watch 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.

Ina Garten's skillet kitchen in a cast iron pan with lemon slices

Ina Garten’s Skillet-Roasted Lemon Chicken is a Game Changer for Weeknight Meals

Roast chicken isn’t just for Sunday dinners any more thanks to this easy recipe from The Barefoot Contessa. Using a cast-iron pan, nestle an herb-marinated, butterflied chicken on a bed of lemon slices, onion and garlic and roast at a high temperature. In just under an hour, you’ll have perfectly tender chicken with golden, crispy skin. With a little help from Ina Garten, you’ll be channelling your inner chef in no time at all!

Related: Ina Garten’s Quick Recipes Using Store-Bought Ingredients

Ina Garten’s Skillet-Roasted Lemon Chicken

Total Time: 1 hour 25 minutes (includes resting time)
Serves:
3

Ingredients:
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1 tsp whole fennel seeds
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
⅓ cup good olive oil
1 lemon, halved and sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 yellow onion, halved and sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 (4-lb) chicken, backbone removed and butterflied
½ cup dry white wine, such as Pinot Grigio
Juice of 1 lemon

Related: Ina Garten’s Best Chicken Recipes: From Roast Chicken to Pot Pie

Cast iron pan with skillet cooked grilled chicken

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 450°F.

2. Place the thyme, fennel seeds, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper in a mini food processor and process until ground. Pour the olive oil into a small glass measuring cup, stir in the herb mixture, and set aside.

3. Distribute the lemon slices in a 12-inch cast iron skillet and distribute the onion and garlic on top. Place the chicken, skin side down, on top of the onion and brush with about half the oil and herb mixture. Turn the chicken skin side up, pat it dry with paper towels (very important!), and brush it all over with the rest of the oil and herb mixture.

4. Roast the chicken for 30 minutes. Pour the wine into the pan (not on the chicken!) and roast for another 10 to 15 minutes, until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast registers 155 to 160°F.

5. Remove the chicken from the oven, sprinkle it with the lemon juice, cover the skillet tightly with aluminum foil, and allow to rest for 10 to 15 minutes. Cut the chicken in quarters or eighths, sprinkle with salt, and serve hot with the pan juices, cooked lemon, and onion.

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

Bone-in chicken bread with lemon and side of greens

For more kitchen inspiration from The Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics, check out the 15 Cooking Techniques That Ina Garten Wants You to Know.

Watch Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics and stream Live and On Demand on the new Global TV App, and on STACKTV. Food Network Canada is also available through all major TV service providers.

comeback snacks founder emily o'brien beside bags of her popcorn

This Popcorn Shop is Destigmatizing the Ex-Con Label, One Kernel at a Time

Almost every job application form asks one simple question: “Do you have a criminal record?” For many people, it’s easy to breeze by it without a second thought. But for an ex-convict, it can feel like an impossible employment barrier to overcome.

comeback snacks founder emily o'brien beside bags of her popcorn
Comeback Snacks founder Emily O’Brien

After being sentenced to four years in prison for attempted drug smuggling, Comeback Snacks founder Emily O’Brien knows this firsthand. “If you’re an employer and you have two candidates, you’re probably going to go with the person who doesn’t have a criminal record just because it seems like a safer bet, without knowing anything about the other person.“

Which is why O’Brien decided to do something about it by starting her own business helping ex-convicts like herself: “I knew I couldn’t let my sentence determine the rest of my life in a negative way,” she explains. Food felt like a natural path to pursue: “When I was in prison I noticed the ways food brought people together. It made people laugh and forget where they were. It also allowed people to talk about their anxieties about reentering the workforce. They were terrified of being misunderstood and stigmatized and having no one believe in them. I wanted to change that narrative for myself and for others.”

Related: How Food Injustice Inspired This 23-Year-Old to Start Her Own Farm, Plus Her Advice for You

5 bags of comeback snacks popcorn on a marble countertop
Comeback Snacks Popcorn, $6/bag, well.ca

And so, over many bowls of popcorn (a prison-approved snack), the idea for Comeback Snacks was born: “We would make different popcorn recipes, my favourite was Kraft Dinner cheese, I called it Jailhouse Cheese. I would buy Kraft Dinner from the canteen and put the cheese powder on the popcorn,” says O’Brien. “Some people would put mixtures of spices, some people would use a blend of cinnamon and Splenda from their morning coffee. It was really interesting to see how creative a lot of people were.” In many ways, popcorn provided the blank canvas O’Brien needed to map out her future: “I knew this would be the vector to my new way of life and my way of helping others to reenter the work force by proving that we are capable of so much more.”

That kernel of an idea turned into the thriving business that Comeback Snacks is now. With the help of friends and family on the outside, Emily mapped out her business while in prison and went full speed ahead once she was released, developing many of her flavours while living in a halfway house. Today, with five sweet gourmet flavours on their roster (think: Lemon Meringue and Salted Chocolate Caramel) and a staff of 5 employees (all of whom have criminal backgrounds), Comeback Snacks popcorn is in over 200 stores and ships across Canada. Each employee also earns above minimum wage: “Financial struggles are often a leading cause of why someone could become incarcerated,” says O’Brien. “When you come out and you have no credit or job and you’re trying to get an apartment, it can be really hard to build that foundation. We’re trying to help with that.”

Related: Joshna Maharaj on Tackling Food Security, Inclusion in Canada’s Hospitality Industry + More

In addition to hiring staff with criminal records, part of Comeback Snacks’ mandate is also to work with organizations that align with their values through fundraisers and popcorn donations, including the Yonge St. Mission, the Elizabeth Fry Society and even the SPCA: “Animals need a second chance too!” says O’Brien with a laugh.

 

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Comeback Snacks also recently opened their first bricks and mortar location in Hamilton, Ontario called Comeback Commissary. “Instead of it just being a store with popcorn it’s an educational experience for people to come and learn about the prison system and break some of the stigmas they may have,” says O’Brien. “I have a storytelling wall with my old uniform, pictures and other documents that explain the institutional challenges that limit people and make their reentry into society very difficult.” The shop also plans to serve as a community hub in its off hours: “We’re going to host AA and NA meetings. A lot of people that have worked with us struggle with that, and it’s important that they have a safe space they can use.”

As for what’s next? Comeback Snacks has partnered with snack food powerhouse the Neal Brothers to manufacture their popcorn on an even larger scale and produce new savoury flavours, including Lemon Pepper Dill and Emily’s own version of the Jailhouse Cheese flavour that started it all: “Instead of it being Kraft Dinner cheese it’s composed of three real Canadian cheddar cheeses.” Breaking stigmas has never been more delicious.

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

Photos courtesy of Martyna Domurad

halloumi burgers with a side of rainbow coleslaw

Eat the Rainbow with These Halloumi Burgers and Colourful Veggie Slaw

If you’re looking for the perfect vegetarian burger, this is it. Halloumi cheese has won the hearts of many because of its salty nature and high melting point, making it the perfect choice for grilling and frying. Pairing it with a fresh, colourful slaw that’s loaded with vibrant herbs brings out a symphony of complex flavours and textures. While you can certainly season the halloumi burgers any way you like, we chose to add a Middle Eastern spin with the sumac sauce and quick drizzle of pomegranate molasses at the end. If that’s not your thing, try replacing the sumac with oregano and the pomegranate molasses with a squeeze of lemon. Although there are a few moving parts to this recipe, it comes together very quickly, making it an ideal weeknight meal.

halloumi burgers with a side of rainbow coleslaw

Rainbow Veggie Halloumi Burgers

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 2-4

Ingredients:
Rainbow Veggie Slaw:
½ cup shredded purple cabbage
½ cup shredded green cabbage
1 carrot, ribboned
⅓ cup cilantro and mint leaves, roughly ripped a part
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
½ lemon, squeezed
1 tsp sumac (optional)
Pinch of salt and pepper

Sumac Sauce:
⅓ cup Greek yogurt or labneh
½ tsp sumac
½ clove garlic, minced

Halloumi Burgers:
1 brick halloumi cheese, sliced into 4 equal pieces
2-4 burger buns

Garnish:
Drizzle of pomegranate molasses
A few sprigs mint and cilantro leaves

Ingredients for halloumi burgers with rainbow veggie slaw

Directions:
1. For the rainbow veggie slaw, toss cabbage and carrot together with the cilantro, mint, oil, lemon, sumac, salt and pepper. Set aside.

Related: This Grilled Halloumi Salad Will Be Your Go-To Summer BBQ Side

rainbow veggie slaw in a large bowl

2. For the sumac sauce, whisk the Greek yogurt or labneh together with the sumac and garlic. Set aside.

Related: This Grilled Halloumi Salad Will Be Your Go-To Summer BBQ Side

Creamy sumac sauce in a large white bowl

 

3. For the halloumi, heat an oiled grill on medium-high.

4. Slice the halloumi in half down the center, and then halve it again to create 4 pieces.

5. Place it on the hot grill for 2-3 minutes per side, until crisp grill marks form.

6. Place the buns on the grill for a few minutes to lightly toast.

Related: Grilled Za’atar Carrots with Halloumi & Mint

Rainbow veggie halloumi burgers being prepared on a white plate

7. To assemble, spread the sumac sauce on the bottom of the buns, top with a small handful of the rainbow cabbage slaw, place 1-2 pieces of grilled halloumi on top, drizzle a small amount of pomegranate molasses, and finish with a few sprigs of fresh mint and cilantro.

8. Serve immediately with remaining slaw on the side of the halloumi burger.

For more vegetarian dinner ideas from Tamara and Sarah, try their vegan antipasto skewers or spicy sautéed cauliflower and chickpeas.

sweet corn arepas on a grey plate

Make the Most of Corn Season with These Sweet Corn Arepas

Sweet corn arepas, or chocolo arepas, are sweet and cheesy. I lean toward adding both queso fresco and Manchego cheese to the dough for a more interesting taste, rather than mozzarella. But I leave it up to you… The key is to get your griddle very hot so that a nice crusty outer layer forms. In my desire to make this a full meal — breakfast for dinner, that is—I toss together a tomato and avocado salad to cut through the richness.

sweet corn arepas on a grey plate

Sweet Corn Arepas

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Rest Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Servings: 4

Ingredients:

Arepas
1 cup sweet yellow corn kernels
1 cup pre-cooked yellow cornmeal or Masa Arepa
3 tablespoons sugar
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup quesito or fresh ricotta cheese
½ cup grated Manchego or Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons butter, melted, plus 2 tablespoons
¾ cup 2% milk

Raw Tomato & Avocado Salad
2 cups ripe cherry tomatoes, halved crosswise
2 Hass avocados, pitted, peeled, and cubed
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Flaky salt and freshly ground black pepper

To serve
4 ounces quesito or queso fresco, crumbled
½ cup cilantro leaves

Directions:

1. Grind the corn in a food processor until the kernels break apart and the mixture is smooth. Transfer the ground corn to a large bowl and add the cornmeal, sugar, flour, baking powder, salt, the ricotta cheese, and Manchego cheese. Using a wooden spoon, mix the ingredients to combine. Add the 3 tablespoons butter and the milk and stir until the mixture comes together. Do not overmix. In the beginning, your mixture will look like a very loose pancake batter. Don’t fret, the cornmeal will take a few minutes to absorb
the liquid and achieve a better consistency. Allow the dough to rest for 10 to 15 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, prepare the raw tomato and avocado salad: In a medium bowl, combine the tomatoes and avocados. Add the lemon juice and olive oil and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

4. Preheat a large cast-iron skillet or griddle over medium-high heat. Melt the 2 tablespoons butter until bubbles form. Measure ½ cup of the batter and pour into the pan — pancake style. You can fry the arepas 2 at a time or more, depending on the size of your skillet. Do not crowd the skillet. Cook the arepas until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes per side. You may need to turn down the heat as you go so that the pan doesn’t get too hot from batch to batch. Place the finished arepas on the baking sheet and keep warm in the oven. Repeat with the remaining batter.

5. To serve, plate each arepa and top with a spoonful of the tomato and avocado salad, the crumbled quesito, and cilantro leaves

From the book COLOMBIANA by Mariana Velásquez Villegas. Copyright © 2021 by Mariana Velásquez Villegas. Published by Harper Wave, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. Reprinted by permission. Photos by Gentl & Hyer.

COLOMBIANA: A Rediscovery of Recipes and Rituals from the Soul of Colombia, Amazon, $40.

All products featured on Food Network Canada are independently selected by our editors. For more products handpicked by our editorial team, visit Food Network Canada’s Amazon storefront. However, when you buy through links in this article or on our storefront, we earn an affiliate commission.

Host Duff Goldman at Charm City Cakes with his arms folder and a smile on his face

The Evolution of Duff Goldman: From Ace of Cakes to Buddy vs. Duff

Duff Goldman became a household name with Ace of Cakes but soon, the success of the Food Network series inspired other cake shows and the landscape became sweetly saturated. Thankfully that was just beginning for this chef, who is also a bit of a rock star — he plays bass in the Elvis cover band Foie Grock, after all.

From emerging as the face of Charm City Cakes, to cookbooks, a handful of shows on Food Network Canada, and a very full personal life, it’s safe to say that Duff’s (dessert) plate is full. Let’s go back and see how it all began, shall we?

Watch Buddy vs. Duff Sunday at 9 PM 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.

The Name of the Game

 

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Jeffrey Adam Goldman was born in Detroit in 1974 before his family moved to Missouri. His nickname came from his older brother, Willie, who was unable to pronounce “Jeffrey.” Instead, “Duffy” became his new permanent nickname. Thank goodness. Not sure we could handle a Jeff and a Geof (Geoffrey Manthorne, Duff’s right hand man).

Easy as Cake

 

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Duff’s been working in kitchens since he was 14. His first job was at a bagel store at the mall and eventually he became a fry cook at McDonald’s. In college, he applied to work as a cook at the Charleston, one of Baltimore’s finest restaurants, but head chef Cindy Wolf told him he lacked experience. She did, however, offer him a position making cornbread and biscuits. That was the turning point in his career.

Fine Art

 

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Let’s not forget that Duff went to culinary school. Post-university (he has degrees in philosophy and history from the University of Maryland), Duff attended the Culinary Institute of America. It was there that he discovered his serious cake-making skills. He then worked at The French Laundry, run by renowned chef, restaurateur and cookbook author Thomas Keller. Under Keller’s leadership, Duff realized food and art could become one beautiful thing.

Business as Usual

 

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Duff first launched his cake business in 2000, out of his Mount Vernon, Virginia apartment. There, he would make one cake a week, but as time went by his confections were becoming more in demand. Two years later he opened Charm City Cakes — this time out of a studio in Baltimore. By 2003, Duff sold $130,000 worth of cakes, nearly three times what he sold in his first year.

Show Time

 

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Ace of Cakes was born in 2006. The show focused on the daily operations of Charm City Cakes as Duff and his equally fun and quirky staff went about their daily routines, constructing cakes using a variety of traditional and unconventional tools (like belt sanders, blowtorches and power saws). The show ran for 10 seasons over five years, coming to an end in 2011.

No Slowing Down

 

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Ace of Cakes may have ended but that didn’t mean things were less busy for Duff. On the contrary, he opened his second bakery, this time in Los Angeles, which has the same Baltimore charm just in sunnier conditions. And more famous people.

Memory Lane

 

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Some of the more memorable events Charm City Cakes has represented over the years were the premieres of Kung-Fu PandaHairspray and a couple of the Harry Potter movies, not to mention the times he was commissioned to make replicas of Radio City Music Hall, Wrigley Field, and the Hubble Space Telescope.

Love and Marriage

 

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Duff and his then girlfriend Johnna Colbry dated for three years before they got married on Jan. 21, 2019. Naturally, there were three cakes at the ceremony: an underwater-themed creation that hung from the ceiling, a traditional white wedding cake for Johnna and a meat cake for Duff. That last concoction was memorable thanks to its bottom meatball tier, secondary meatloaf tier, lamb shawarma for the third tier, and scrapple on top. The frosting was mashed potatoes, bacon roses adorned the “icing,” and gravy cascaded from the chocolate fountain. Obviously.

Lights, Camera, so Much Action

 

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Ace of Cakes may have taken up a lot of Duff’s precious baking time, but after a few years’ hiatus, the baker and chef returned to the small screen in 2014 with Kids Baking Championship. He quickly followed that up with Holiday Baking ChampionshipSpring Baking Championship and Duff Takes the Cake.

Putting Pen to Paper

 

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Duff has always been willing to share the secrets to his success, which he does in cookbook form. The personality released his third title in Fall 2020, Super Good Baking For Kids. Previously he had also released  Ace of Cakes: Inside the World of Charm City Cakes and Duff Bakes: Think and Bake Like a Pro at Home.

Growing His Family

 

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Duff’s third book may have been inspired by the fact that he was about to become a dad himself. In February 2021 Duff and Johnna welcomed baby girl Josephine to the world. “We made a family! I have a whole little family!” he wrote on social media at the time. “I keep telling Josephine about all the wonderful things she’s gonna get to try like pizza and candy and swimming and concerts and riding a bike.”

Merching Out

 

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In addition to growing his business and his family, Duff has also gotten into the merchandising game. On his official site, he hocks plenty of branded t-shirts, beanies and baking accessories, allowing fans to bring a little of Duff into their own kitchens, too.

His Latest TV Adventure

 

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Duff’s latest competition, Buddy vs. Duff, is now in its third season. Duff took the crown in Season 1 thanks to his seriously charming yet complex cakes, but Buddy Valastro rebounded in a big way to take home the win in Season 2. This season, everything will be on the line for these legendary cake artists, who hope to prove once and for all that they are the reigning cake champ.

Watch Buddy vs. Duff Sunday at 9 PM 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.

Posted by Denette Wilford. Last Updated on August 22 by Amber Dowling.

Placing Strawberries into a Freezer Bag

5 Tips to Prevent Freezer Burn

So you hit a great sale and stock your freezer up. But a few weeks or months later, you pull out your edibles and they’re covered in ice crystals. The sad phenomenon that causes unappealing, dried-out, discoloured food happens to the best of us. 

We have five useful tips to make sure you never feel the (freezer) burn again.

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

Frozen Strawberries

1. Wrap your freezer-bound fare twice, with as little air as possible. First wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, then in a freezer bag, squeezing out as much air as you can.

2. Keep your cold storage well organized. That way, you don’t have to keep the door open for five minutes every time you look for something, avoiding temperature fluctuations as much as possible. If you’re shopping for a new unit, keep in mind that self-defrosting models are worse for freezer burn.

Related: This is the Right Way to Freeze Vegetables and Fresh Herbs

3. Don’t put hot foods directly in the freezer; let them cool first. 

4. Keep your freezer full, but not too full. At about three-quarters capacity, the freezer is most efficient at maintaining its cool. 

5. Invest in a vacuum-sealer.  It sucks out all the air around the food before freezing, which makes a big difference in longevity.

Related: 35 Easy Freezer Meals You Can Make Ahead (And Devour Later)

Although colour, texture and taste all suffer when freezer burn strikes, it does not render the food inedible — it’s still perfectly safe. To rescue freezer-burnt provisions, try concealing it in flavourful mixed dishes with lots of liquid, like stews, a bolognese, or barbecue sauces.

Looking for more kitchen tips? Learn our top 20 Life-Changing Freezer Hacks.

a bowl of spicy shrimp and mango salsa

You’re Just 15 Minutes Away From Spicy Shrimp Mango Salsa

For sunny backyard brunches and late summer evenings where you’re craving something delicious, tropical, and quick, this Spicy Shrimp Mango Salsa is just the ticket. With sweet chunks of mango, juicy pink shrimp and a generous squeeze of lime that ties it all together in under 15 minutes, you’ll want to eat this salsa with everything. And the best part is, you can!

a bowl of spicy shrimp and mango salsa

Spicy Shrimp Mango Salsa

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Servings: Yields 4

Ingredients:

1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 tsp sea salt or pink Himalayan salt
½ tsp ground black pepper
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
Juice from 1 lime, divided
1½ cups diced mango chunks
¾ cup red bell pepper, diced
½ cup white onion, diced
1 jalapeno, sliced
¼ cup chopped cilantro
Salt to taste

mise en place for spicy shrimp and mangosalsa

Directions:

1. In a medium bowl, season shrimp with salt and pepper, then heat a large skillet over medium-high heat with olive oil.

2. Add in the shrimp and cook for 4 minutes, about 2 minutes per side. Once you flip the shrimp, add in garlic and cook for the remaining 2 minutes until the shrimp is pink.

Related: Delicious Dinners That Start with Frozen Shrimp

3. Remove from heat and squeeze in ½ of lime juice, then set the shrimp aside and keep warm.

A bowl of spicy mango salsa beside a plate of cooked shrimp

4. In a large bowl, combine mango chunks, remaining lime juice, red bell pepper, onion, jalapeno, cilantro and sea salt. Toss until combined.

5. Serve on its own, with cauliflower rice, as a taco, or with grilled fish.

Spicy shrimp mango salsa served three ways: with fish, over cauliflower rice and in a taco

Like Valerie’s shrimp salsa? Try her sriracha-honey oven-fried chicken or sweet chili chicken wings.

This Creamy Green Hummus is Made for Avocado Lovers

Combining edamame and green peas along with ripe avocado, this take on hummus is bright, fresh, and creamy!

Avo-Mame Hummus

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Blend Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 6

Ingredients:

1½ cups frozen shelled edamame, thawed (see note)
1 cup frozen green peas, thawed (see note)
1 cup cubed ripe avocado
¼-⅓ cup fresh lemon or lime juice
1 medium clove garlic (use more if desired)
1¼-1½ teaspoons sea salt
½ teaspoon ground cumin
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Few ice cubes for blending
Handful fresh basil or cilantro leaves (optional)
½ teaspoon grated lemon or lime zest

Directions:

1. In a high-speed blender (see note), combine the edamame, peas, avocado, lemon juice (starting with ¼ cup), garlic, salt (starting with 1 ¼ teaspoons), cumin, black pepper, and 2–3 ice cubes (as needed to get the puree moving, but not too much to thin out).

Related: Best Ways to Ripen Avocados

2. Puree until smooth, stopping to scrape down the blender as needed.

3. Taste and season with extra salt or lemon juice if desired. If using fresh herbs, pulse them in now, then pulse in the zest.

Related: Bright and Beautiful Beet Hummus

4. Serve or refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 2–3 days (see note).

Edamame/Green Pea Note: To thaw, put the edamame and peas in separate bowls and cover with boiling water. Do them separately, since edamame will need to soak longer (or require draining and a second soak), whereas green peas will thaw in just a minute when covered with boiling water. Drain well.

Blender Note: This hummus works best blended in a high-speed blender, because it will better pulverize the skins on the green peas. You can use a food processor for this recipe, though the hummus will not be as smooth and you may notice the flecks of green peas.

Refrigeration Note: Since this dip has a fair amount of avocado, it will oxidize some, and so the dip is best when eaten freshly made. However, you can keep it for a few days in the refrigerator in an airtight container. I prefer to use a deeper, narrower jar or container, to lessen the oxidizing. After refrigerating, you can scrape off the surface layer of the dip where it has discolored and serve the fresher layer of the dip.

Excerpted from Dreena’s Kind Kitchen: 100 Whole-Foods Vegan Recipes to Enjoy Every Day by Dreena Burton. Copyright © 2021 by Dreena Burton. Published by BenBella Books, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

Dreena’s Kind Kitchen: 100 Whole-Foods Vegan Recipes to Enjoy, Amazon, $32

All products featured on Food Network Canada are independently selected by our editors. For more products handpicked by our editorial team, visit Food Network Canada’s Amazon storefront. However, when you buy through links in this article or on our storefront, we earn an affiliate commission.

Anna Olson poses smiling with her hat box birthday cake

Here’s the Cake Anna Olson Bakes for Her Birthday – and Why You Should, Too!

Everybody loves birthday cake! And why not? A birthday cake means there is a celebration, and someone is being honoured, and best of all if that person is you!

My birthday is May 8th, falling very near or sometimes right on Mother’s Day, so there are now two reasons to bake a cake.  The question is: what type of cake to make?  You’ve seen me make every possible type of cake, but are you curious which are my favourites?  Here are a few things about me and my love of cake, and some guiding tips that I follow:

Related: Magical Birthday Cupcake Recipes

Cake vs. Cupcake

Cupcakes were always my choice growing up, and ballerinas were my “thing”. My Mom had a set of plastic ballerina figurines that she would top each cupcake with for years.

Remember regular layer cake batters don’t always adapt well to cupcakes.  Often wet batters will stick to the paper liners on cupcakes instead of peeling away easily.  If you want a cupcake, choose a cupcake recipe.

Related: Anna Olson’s Best Chocolate Recipes

A chocolate cupcake topped with swirled chocolate and vanilla icingGet the recipe: Chocolate Spice Cupcake with Chocolate “Swirl” Frosting

Tip: When baking cake layers, whether round or square, use cake pans with sides that are a straight 90° from the bottom.  Some cake pans have angled sides (for the only reason that they nest well for shipping) but when layers are assembled, the cake won’t have straight sides, and the angle is noticeable when the cake is sliced. I’ve designed my Anna Olson Kitchen cake pans specifically with this in mind.

Choosing Your Birthday Cake Flavour

I love the classically named cakes, with their defined flavour & filling combinations:

Black forest cake sliced open revealing delicious layers of chocolate cake and cherry filling
Black Forest Cake – chocolate cake, cherry filling and whipped cream frosting

Beautiful Dobos Tort decorated with caramelized sugar Dobos Torte – thin layers of nut sponge with chocolate buttercream and a caramelized sugar “fan” on top

Slices of opera tart cakeOpera Torte – sponge, ganache and mocha buttercream

I also like watching cake flavour and decor trends, including “naked” cakes, confetti cakes, and I am going through a serious waffle cake phase right now.

I don’t repeat birthday cakes – I change it up every year, and I rarely choose a chocolate cake.

See More: Anna Olson’s Healthier Dessert Recipes

When to Bake Your Birthday Cake

Because I’d like to be a guest at my own birthday party, I plan on baking the cake layers two days ahead (or baking and freezing further ahead) and making the fillings and frosting the day before, and assembling then.

Tip: Cake layers are less crumbly and easier to slice when baked a day before frosting them.

Anna Olson poses smiling with her hat box birthday cake

Tip: Unfrosted cake layers should not be refrigerated (it would dry the cake out. If baking a day ahead, wrap them well and leave them on the counter.  Once assembled, the frosting seals in the moisture, so it can be chilled and stay fresh.

Related: Anna Olson’s Guide for Working With Buttercream

How Long Will Your Cake Sit Out?

If the weather is nice (and you went to a deal of effort), you’ll want to show off the cake and let it sit out at room temperature (out of direct sunlight).

Tip: Frosting and fondants that have food colouring added fade when exposed to direct sunlight. Take care where the cake is placed for display, and adding a little glycerin (available where you buy cake decorating supplies) to your frosting or fondant will help preserve the colour.

So you need to choose fillings and frosting that suit:

Out for under 30 minutes: mousse fillings and whipped cream frostings are fine.

Out for 30-90 minutes: Curd fillings, fruit fillings, cream cheese frostings and chocolate ganache can handle sitting out for longer.

Out for 90+ minutes: Swiss buttercream cakes, fondant-covered cakes, and cupcakes can sit out longer.  Italian buttercream is the most stable frosting, which is why it is a favourite choice of pastry chefs for wedding cakes.

Anna’s Birthday Cake

So now that we’ve talked about all types of cakes, what is my choice for a birthday cake?  And the winner is:

Beautifully decorates lemon buttercream hatbox cake with buttercream bow
Get the recipe: Lemon Swiss Buttercream Hatbox Cake

Lemon cakes are ideal in spring, and I’m also thinking about Mother’s Day – I’ll be celebrating with my Mom then, and she loves a good lemon cake as well.  The silkiness of the Swiss buttercream is sweet, smooth and stable, but is not overly rich or cloying.  I’m not certain that I’ll replicate this hatbox style – I may go for piping spring flowers on top to suit the season.  Now that the Anna Olson Kitchen line carries a box of 100 reusable & recyclable disposable piping bags, and a piping tip set, there are no limits to my decor stylings.

Slice of Anna Olson's lemon swiss buttercream birthday cake

And if you are baking a birthday cake for yourself or someone else, remember that delicious memories are made in the kitchen – enjoy the time spent baking as much as the time spent eating!

The Anna Olson Kitchen collection of 48 items of bakeware, baking tools and décor tools are available exclusively at The Hudson’s Bay Company and  www.thebay.com

Chinese vegetables on white plate with chopsticks

The Best Ways to Shop, Prepare and Cook Chinese Greens

From the satisfying crunch of a sturdy stalk of gai lan (often called Chinese broccoli or flowering kale) to the delicate and yielding tenderness of dau miu (snow pea leaves or shoots), there’s a veritable cornucopia of Chinese greens out there for you to explore. Let’s take a look at a few common varieties that you’ll find in your local market or large-scale grocery store, and some tips and tricks to try them stir-fried, steamed, braised or even roasted.

green Chinese vegetables on white plate with Chinese lettering
Unsplash

Buying and storing

When buying Chinese vegetables, look for fresh green colour, without any yellowing or browning in the stem or leaves. Feel the leaves — they should be relatively clean and not slimy (a sure sign that the vegetable is doomed for the garbage sooner rather than later). 

green leafy pea shoots
Pexels

Some supermarkets mist their vegetables to keep them fresh longer, so if the vegetable is super wet, place it upside down in your cart to drain as you shop (not on top of your other groceries!). Prop it on the counter to drain some more when you  get home, and place a paper towel in the bag to absorb excess moisture before placing it in the vegetable crisper.

Prepping

When washing greens, the easiest way is to place them in a clean sink full of cold water and let them soak to get out the dirt and sand. Scoop the vegetables off the top as they float, rinse and repeat until there’s no more sediment on the bottom of the sink, ideally two or three times. Drain them in a colander until dry.

Bok choy in red colander on kitchen counter
Unsplash

For vegetables with a firm stalk, such as gai lan or choy sum (flowering greens), trim the bottom of the stalk off, and remove leaves with browning tips. Some cooks also cut off the flowering yellow parts, although this is more for aesthetics, as these parts are edible.

For bulbous vegetables such as white stemmed bok choy, which is technically a cabbage, and its variations (baby bok choy and the green hued Shanghai offshoot), you can trim the bottom end off to cook individual leaves, or slice through the vegetable vertically so that the leaves remain together while cooking.

Bok Choy leaves in a bowl
Pexels

For leafy vegetables, such as dau miu, trim the ends of the shoots and the curly tendrils, which can be tough. Chinese cabbage (either the yellow, rounded Napa or flatter, green Taiwanese version) can be treated much like lettuce, taking out the bottom core and either keeping the leaves whole or slicing or shredding into smaller pieces.

Cooking

Based on highly regional ingredients and preparation, Chinese recipes for vegetables can vary widely. Just as there are countless types of green vegetables used by cooks throughout China, there are specific methods of cooking that highlight the vegetable in its own way.

Stir-fried or seared simply with garlic, ginger and other aromatics, most greens take well to this treatment. With gai lan, Chinese cabbage, dau miu and even iceberg lettuce (often served cooked), cooking on high heat quickly allows the greens to retain their colour and slight crunch. When preparing vegetables for stir-frying or searing, you can cut them to bite sized pieces or leave them whole for a more dramatic preparation (quickly seared Chinese cabbage looks particularly pretty on a plate).

Chinese vegetables on white plate with chopsticks
Pexels

Adding a little liquid to the cooking process results in steamed greens that are mid-way between the softness of braising and the crisp of a stir-fry. This method works best with greens that have a little structure to them, such as gai lan or halved bok choy. Finish it off with a drizzle of oyster sauce and few drops of roasted sesame oil for a savoury interplay with the slight sweetness of the greens.

Cooking greens in slightly more water or broth reveals the delicate textures of braised greens, often cooked in conjunction with small pieces of meat or tofu. Again, sturdier greens hold up better to the longer cooking process here.

braised Chinese vegetables, tofu and mushrooms in white covered bowl on plate.
Unsplash

Get the Recipe: Braised Baby Bok Choy.

A relatively low-key way to incorporate many of these greens into a prepared dish is to simply add them to soup, either as a garnish at the table or as part of a communal hotpot, where raw vegetables and meat are cooked in broth by diners.

Get the Recipe: Chinese Hot Pot.

If you want to eschew the stovetop completely, some greens can be served raw or pickled (gai choy, or mustard greens, are particularly nice prepared this way). Chinese cabbage or other more delicate options are often used by cooks around the globe for alternative preparations including slaws, salads or wraps.

Although it’s somewhat less traditional, roasting or grilling stalk or bulb based greens can produce charred edges with a slightly bitter counterpoint. The sheet pan method, using parchment paper for easy cleanup, gives similar results.

fish and green vegetables on parchment paper sheet pan.
Learn about roasting in a sheet pan with this Easy Summer Supper.

Once you’ve mastered these techniques, there are many more greens and methods to explore. Try adding a bunch of a new-to-you ingredients to your cart the next time you’re in the produce section, and customize them to your favourite flavours and tastes.

*Note: All vegetable names in this article are English phonetic translations of the Cantonese terms and may vary in terms of spelling, depending on the recipe, producer or grocer.

Smiling Chef Nazaree in an orange apron and floral blouse

5 Steps to a Better School Lunch With Junior Chef Showdown Winner Nazaree

Kids will be back in school  before you know it, so now would be  a good time to start brainstorming about your family’s September routine. Why not make this the year that you start incorporating kids into the lunch planning process? After all, learning how to make school lunches is a great way to encourage kids of all ages to become more comfortable and confident in the kitchen.

With this in mind, we turned to one of Canada’s most talented young chefs and this season’s Junior Chef Showdown winner, Nazaree, to give us some of her tips and tricks for packing better school lunches. 

Related: The Winning Dish From Junior Chef Showdown Will Become a Family-Favourite Meal in No Time

A boy eating lunch while watching his mom slice a cantaloupe

1. Get Kids Involved

Inspire kids to get excited about eating lunch at school by offering them a variety of options, making different recipes or taking them grocery shopping. As most parents can agree, just because their child likes a particular type of food or recipe at home does not always mean they’ll enjoy eating it at school. 

“I love eating pizza, but not if it’s cold,” Nazaree says, explaining that her microwave in the cafeteria isn’t always the best. “Instead, I like to bring a pizza-inspired sandwich to school,” to which she adds marinara sauce, shredded cheese and her favourite pizza toppings.

A sandwich in a child's bento box with cherries and carrots and celery

Related: Kitchen Skills Parents Should Teach Their Kids By Age 10

2. Pack Better Sandwiches 

There are many reasons why people love packing sandwiches for lunch: they’re portable, budget-friendly and the variety of ingredients that you can pack inside are endless. But there’s one aspect about sandwiches in your lunch box that’s hard to love they can get soggy quickly.

“Soggy sandwiches are worse than soggy pizzas,” Nazaree says with a laugh. Keep lunch box sandwiches from getting too soggy by packing the ingredients in individual containers and assembling the sandwich once it’s time to eat, she says. 

Another way to keep lunchbox sandwiches interesting is by rotating from your go-to sliced bread to bagels, pitas or baguettes. Kids with a more adventurous palate can taste test different cheeses or experiment with various sandwich toppings like mustards and dressings. If you or your little one isn’t a fan of sandwiches, check out these portable lunch ideas.Mango salad with tomatoes and onions

3. Switch Things Up

Busy families know that it’s all too easy to get into a rut when packing lunches for school. Add more excitement to your lunchbox by thinking how different ingredients can be incorporated into multiple meals and snacks. “I love bringing sliced mangoes to school,” Nazaree says. But to add more variety to her lunchbox, she eats them plain some days and uses them in her fruit salad on others. 

School age girl filling up reuseable water bottle

4. Buy Proper Supplies  

Stocking up on proper lunch supplies like reusable snack containers, thermal food jars and reusable water bottles makes packing lunches for school much easier. 

For many students, bento boxes are the must-have accessory in the cafeteria table. “Bento boxes are really popular for kids in the first or second grade,” she explains. For middle school students like herself, Nazaree recommends using bento boxes for more exciting lunches like build-your-own tacos. 

Apple Pie granola bars

5. Bring Shareable Snacks 

After many students experienced virtual learning during the past year or so, eating lunch together in person will feel even more special for kids that are returning to in-person learning. Nazaree says that nut-free desserts like donuts or ice cream sandwiches are always a big hit, if parents want to bring in treats for special occasions such as birthdays.

“My friends and I like to swap juice boxes, and we always like to share cookies and chips,” she adds.  So the next time you’re packing a special snack like homemade granola bars, ask kids if they want to pack a few extras to share with their friends at the lunch table. 

Watch Junior Chef Showdown 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.

peanut butter pie with a slice about to be served

This Healthy No-Bake Peanut Butter Cup Pie is The Perfect Combo of Sweet and Salty

If you enjoy peanut butter cups, you’ll absolutely love this decadent and creamy pie. The best part? The recipe is super easy to make and doesn’t require any baking, so it’s perfect for those hot summer days. But instead of a traditional peanut butter pie, we’ve swapped in some healthier ingredients, like maple syrup instead of refined sugar and coconut milk instead of cream cheese, to make a dairy-free and refined sugar-free version. Using walnuts and dates to form the crust creates a subtly sweet and crumbly alternative that’s gluten- and grain-free. You’ll love the tasty indulgent combo of salty peanut butter and rich dark chocolate. Most of all, you can truly enjoy this no-bake pie knowing it’s made from good-for-you ingredients.

Healthy No-Bake Peanut Butter Cup Pie about to be served

Healthy No-Bake Peanut Butter Cup Pie

Prep Time: 3 hours
Servings: 8

Ingredients:

Crust:
1 ½ cups walnuts
¼ cup dates
¼ cup cacao powder or cocoa powder
2 Tbsp coconut oil
⅛ tsp sea salt

Filling:
1 ½ cups peanut butter
1 ½ cups full-fat coconut milk
¼ cup maple syrup
¼ tsp sea salt

Chocolate Topping:
½ of a 70% dark chocolate bar (40 grams)
1 Tbsp coconut oil

Ingredients for Healthy No-Bake Peanut Butter Cup Pie in a food processor

Directions:
1. You’ll make the crust first. If the dates are dried out or a bit tough, it’s best to soak them in a bowl with warm water to soften, around 5 minutes. Drain the dates out of the water. Then combine the walnuts, dates, cacao powder, coconut oil and sea salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse for a minute or two until the mixture is crumbly and begins to stick together.
2. Grease a 9-inch pie dish with coconut oil. Then press the crumbled crust mixture flat across the bottom of the pie dish with your fingers so that it’s evenly spread out.

Ground crust ingredients for Healthy No-Bake Peanut Butter Cup Pie in a pie dish

3. After rinsing out the food processor bowl, make the filling. Add the peanut butter, coconut milk, maple syrup and sea salt to the bowl and pulse several times to combine. The mixture will be thick and creamy.
4. Pour the filling over top of the crust and use a spatula to spread out evenly.
5. Place the pie into the refrigerator to chill for at least 2 hours. You can also chill the pie overnight and finish the rest of the steps the next day.

A creamy No-Bake Peanut Butter Cup Pie in a glass serving dish

6. Set up a double boiler to make the chocolate topping: Add around 1 cup of water to a small pot, and place a small stainless steel bowl over top. Place the chocolate bar and coconut oil in the bowl. Heat on the stove top, stirring the mixture as the chocolate melts. Once the chocolate is fully melted and a smooth mixture, remove from the heat.
7. Take the chilled pie out of the fridge and use a spoon to drizzle the chocolate mixture over top.
8. Place the pie back in the fridge so that the chocolate topping solidifies. This will only take about 5 minutes.
9. Slice the pie and serve! It is best served chilled. Make sure to store leftovers in the fridge.

A finished Healthy No-Bake Peanut Butter Cup Pie in a glass serving dish

Love all things peanut butter? Try these Chocolate Peanut Butter Whoopie Pies next.

Host Buddy Valastro talks to his team on the new season of Buddy vs. Duff.

The Evolution of Buddy Valastro: From Cake Boss to Buddy vs. Duff

Buddy Valastro has come a long way in a short time, from son of a baker to boss of all things baked. And while his personality has made for perfect television, Buddy still does what he does best: bakes elaborate and mouthwatering cakes that are treats for the mouth and the eyes. But while cakes may be his day job (thanks to Carlo’s Bakery), family is everything for the husband and father of four. His two cookbooks are all about famiglia and the fourth generation baker keeps those traditions going in his shops. Let’s take a walk down memory lane and explore the evolution of Buddy Valastro.

Watch Buddy vs. Duff Sunday at 10 PM 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.

 Jersey Boy

 

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A post shared by Buddy Valastro (@buddyvalastro)

Buddy was born in Hoboken, N.J. in 1977. The baby of the Valastro clan (he has four older sisters) began working at his family’s business, Carlo’s Bakery, at age 11, alongside his father, Buddy Sr. He took baking courses in high school, but the gene was already baked in his blood. Nothing was going to stop him from creating cakes and other amazing confections.

Shop Talk

 

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Buddy’s dad passed away in 1994 when Buddy was 17. The son not only took over the shop but also succeeded his Pops as the new cake boss — literally.

Buddy’s Television Debut

 

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The shop has made a name for itself by producing some of the most extravagant and grandiose cakes. Buddy made his first appearance on the Food Network in 2007, when he guest-mentored the “Battle of the Brides” episode of Food Network Challenge. But with his personality, it wouldn’t be the last we saw of him on-screen. In fact, it was just a taste.

Star Power

 

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Carlo’s Bakery is known for creating cakes for any occasion that are devoured by celebrities (from Britney, to Gigi, to Beyoncé, to Big Bird) and ordinary Joes alike.

The Big Time

 

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In 2009, his series – the aptly named Cake Boss – premiered on TLC and ran for eight seasons. It spawned several spinoffs including Next Great BakerKitchen BossBakers vs. Fakers and Buddy’s Family Vacation, which featured Buddy, wife Lisa and their four kids — Sofia, Buddy Jr., Marco and Carlo — as they embarked on an RV road trip across America in search of delicious eats and fun-filled adventures.

Sweet Street

 

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Carlo’s Bakery was actually founded by Italian pastry chef Carlo Guastaferro in 1910 before he sold it to Buddy’s father in 1964. In 2010, in honour of the bakery’s 100th anniversary, Hoboken renamed the corner of where the shop sits (Washington and Newark Streets) to Carlo’s Bakery Way.

A Tough Personal Loss

 

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In 2017 Buddy suffered a huge personal blow when the family lost their matriarch, Mary Valastro. The 69-year-old had been diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, and she put up a good fight. “She is no longer suffering and I hope she’s dancing to ‘I Will Survive’ with my dad right now,” Buddy shared on social media at the time.

A Rivalry Was Born 

 

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The brilliant idea of pitting Buddy against Ace of Cakes’ Duff Goldman was an epic baking battle that couldn’t be denied. They may be baking royalty but their styles are very different as Buddy’s cakes tend to be huge and filled with all kinds of personality, while Duff’s are meticulously detailed. In any case, Buddy vs. Duff was born, and one thing was clear: Buddy didn’t like it when he lost to Duff—he didn’t like it one little bit.

Host With the Most

 

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Buddy may have been licking those frosted-filled wounds following the first season of Buddy vs. Duff, but he was too busy to dwell on the loss for long. The 43-year-old couldn’t be a more perfect host for the series Bake You Rich, which saw four bakers competing to become a household name. Each episode’s victor found their winning creation available to order at Carlo’s Bakery. Now that’s sweet!

Ace of Cupcakes

Buddy broke his own Guinness World Record in October 2019 when he appeared on Live! With Kelly and Ryan and iced even more cupcakes in one minute than he did earlier in the year.

Buddy vs. Duff: Take Two

 

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Duff may have taken Season 1 of Buddy vs. Duff but Buddy had something to prove in the show’s second season. He and his team mounted an epic comeback with some of the biggest cake creations we’ve ever seen, evening out the score between these two bakers by taking home the win.

A Tragic Accident

 

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Buddy’s victory was short-lived when, in September 2020, he mangled his hand in a gruesome freak accident while bowling with his family. The bowling pinsetter malfunctioned, and a metal rod impaled his hand. The ace baker then underwent five reconstructive surgeries and physical therapy, and today he says he feels back to 90-95 per cent.

Ready for Round 3

 

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With Buddy and Duff tied at one win apiece, there’s a lot on the line as we head into Buddy vs. Duff Season 3. This time around the challenges are tougher than ever, but both personalities seem ready to prove that they have what it takes to outdo the other. And as far as we’re concerned, we can’t wait to see how it all plays out.

Watch Buddy vs. Duff Sunday at 9 PM 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.

Posted by Denette Wilford. Last Updated on August 9 by Amber Dowling.

Steak Salad with Onions and Cilantro Chimichurri and grilled onions

How to Grill Any Cut Of Steak Perfectly

When it comes to steak, nothing beats a perfectly cooked, well-seasoned, juicy cut. But this is easier said than done. It can be difficult to know what tools to use, what to buy at the butcher, how different cuts of steak vary and the best way to cook them.

With the stakes so high (pardon the pun, but these cuts can be expensive!), we’re giving you the ultimate guide to choosing and grilling steak this summer and beyond.

Mise en place for Steak Salad with Onions and Cilantro Chimichurri

BBQ Steak Basics

1. Let steak come to room temperature before grilling: About 30 minutes before grilling, take it out of the fridge. This will allow the meat to cook evenly.

2. Get the grill super-hot: You want to get good sear on your steak for the perfect finished crust. Heat your grill to at least 450ºF before cooking.

3. Season with a bit of oil and lots of salt: Brush steaks with a thin layer of high-temperature oil, like grape seed or refined avocado. Then, don’t just sprinkle salt on your steak, season with reckless abandon. A thick slab of meat needs more salt than you think. Use kosher or coarse salt on both sides and apply until you can see it on the surface of the meat.

4. Use a thermometer: Unless you’re a veteran grill master with tons of experience cooking steak, it’s difficult to tell how well cooked the meat is just by touching it. Quit guessing and take the internal temperature with an instant-read of meat thermometer. To avoid burning the exterior if a steak is very thick, remove it from direct heat and finish cooking on indirect heat until it has reached your desired internal temperature.

5. Rest the steak: Let your steak rest for at least 10 minutes on a warm plate before slicing. The meat needs time to recirculate its juices, and that can only be achieved through patience. Once you’ve come this far in cooking the perfect steak, it would be a shame to ruin it! Your steak will not get cold (this is where a warm plate comes in handy). When your time is up, slice against the grain for more tender slices.

Steak Salad with Onions and Cilantro Chimichurri and grilled onions

Steak Doneness Temperatures

  • Rare: 120ºF to 130ºF
  • Medium Rare: 130ºF to 140ºF
  • Medium: 140ºF to 150ºF
  • Medium Well: 150ºF to 155ºF
  • Well Done: 160ºF +

With the basics mastered, it’s time to discuss some of the common cuts and how they differ.

The Best Cuts of Steak for Grilling

Ribeye (Rib-eye, Rib Eye) Steak: Sometimes called entrecote, it can be purchased with the bone intact or boneless. It’s a tender steak with plenty of delicious fat marbling. This cut has a big, beefy flavour and is supremely juicy. For this reason, ribeye is usually on the pricier side, making it perfect for special occasions.

Flank Steak and Skirt Steak: Both very affordable (though the popularity of flank steak has made it rise in price recently) and tasty steaks, but they require a bit more work than other cuts. Flank steak can be tough and chewy, however, marinating overnight and cooking only to medium-rare can help keep it tender. After marinating, grilling and resting, flank steak must be thinly sliced across the grain to remain tender. Skirt steak should be prepared the same way as flank steak: marinated, grilled to medium-rare, rested and sliced against the grain. Flank and skirt steaks are great for weeknights and entertaining large groups.

New York Strip Steak: This cut is also known as the strip steak, top sirloin, top loin and contre-filet. The meat has a finely-grained texture and rich, beefy flavour. Its medium fat content, decent marbling and tender texture (less so than ribeye, but this cut is also less expensive) make it an ideal steak for barbecuing.

Porterhouse Steak: This steak is also known as the T-bone, a bone-in steak that has two of the most prized cuts of beef in one tidy package. On one side, the tenderloin, and on the other, the ribeye. The tenderloin portion will generally cook a bit faster than the ribeye portion, but the bone helps to keep the meat juicy. The porterhouse is the perfect steak for high-heat barbecues and entertaining to impress.

Now that you’ve nailed barbecued steak 101, it’s time to fire up the grill and dive into a recipe. Try this Steak Salad with Onions and Cilantro Chimichurri for a majorly satisfying meal.

Food podcaster Dan Ahdoot standing in front of a wall of dishes during the show Raid the Fridge

3 Hot New Releases to Binge on Amazon Prime This Fall

Summer winding down doesn’t have to be a reason to fret- not when there are this many exciting new shows to look forward to watching with STACKTV on Amazon Prime.  

From a new celebrity-studded competition (hello former White House staff member, Kal Penn) to a delightful competition powered by everyone’s favourite frozen sweet treat, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

See More:  You Won’t Believe These Foods Are Dairy-Free

Money Hungry

When to Watch: Series premiere August 31 at 9 PM ET/PT

Kal Penn hosts the new show Money Hungry, Season 1.

Cookbook authors, amateur home cooks, restaurant critics and talented chefs put their taste buds to the ultimate test in this five-episode series hosted by Kal Penn. Money Hungry contestants showcase their palates and culinary knowledge to identify ingredients in three rounds of intense tastings, as they fight for a chance to win a whopping $50,000.

Ben and Jerry’s: Clash of the Cones

When to Watch: Special series premiere August 30 at 9 PM ET/PT

Judges standing in front of a photo wall for the new show Ben and Jerry’s The Cold Wars, Season 1.

Six ice cream masters get a once in a lifetime opportunity in Ben and Jerry’s: Clash of the Cones to create a Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavour of their own, capturing the essence of a celebrity or pop culture icon. Celebrity inspirations include hip-hop icon and actor Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, actor Kevin Bacon and famed bakers,  Duff Goldman and Buddy Valastro.

See More: 26 Tasty Ways to Use Up Leftover Ice Cream

Raid the Fridge

When to Watch: Series premiere September 1 at 10 PM ET/PT

Host Dan Adhoot stands in front of a display for the show Ben and Jerry’s The Cold Wars, Season 1.

Hosted by food podcaster Dan Ahdoot, Raid the Fridge is exactly what this new series’ name suggests: Four top-notch chefs pinned against one and another to come up with some exciting and creative dishes when faced with mystery fridges before them.  Unknown ingredients? No problem, as they all vie to win the coveted prize which is a fridge full of $10,000.

Related: Food Network Canada Announces the Return of Six Favourites, Plus a Mouth-Watering New Series

Watch 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.

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