All posts by Bessie McDonald-Gussack

Bessie McDonald-Gussack is a Toronto based recipe developer and writer who absolutely lives for food and has always been interested in cooking, baking, food trends, restaurants and of course, eating. After having worked in the baking industry, Kraft Foods and interning in the test kitchens of Chatelaine and Canadian Living magazines, Bessie decided to go solo, working as a freelance recipe developer and culinary consultant. She’s created hundreds of recipes from the savoury to the sweet and all delicious combos in-between.
trail-mix-in-a-bowl

Snacking Just Got a Little More Canadian with Butter Tart Trail Mix

Cottage canoe rides, road trips, relaxed barbecues and outdoor summer concerts all have one thing in common: they’re better with snacks! We’ve come up with a healthy staple trail mix that takes less than 5 minutes to make, along with a few fun Canadian twists to tickle your fancy and tantalize those taste buds, no matter where the summer takes you. Get out there and hike, paddle, cruise, grill and sway to your heart’s content – we’ll bring the snacks

four-trail-mixes

Basic Canadian Trail Mix Recipe

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes
Makes: 3½ cups

Ingredients:

1 cup roasted salted or unsalted almonds
1 cup roasted salted or unsalted cashews
½ cup roasted salted or unsalted sunflower seeds
½ cup roasted salted or unsalted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
½ cup dried cherries

Directions:

1. Mix together almonds, cashews, sunflower seeds, pepitas and cherries. Serve. Store airtight at room temperature, up to 1 month.  

nanaimo-bar-trail-mix

Take all your favourite flavours of Nanaimo bars into the woods with you by making some chocolatey trail mix. Not a fan of coconut? Our original trail mix is simply satisfying.

Nanaimo Bar Trail Mix Recipe

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes
Makes: 4 cups

Ingredients:

1 cup roasted  walnuts halves
1 cup toasted, shaved coconut
¾ cup dark chocolate chunks
½ cup roasted salted or unsalted cashews
¼ cup roasted salted or unsalted sunflower seeds
¼ cup roasted salted or unsalted pepitas
¼ cup dried cherries   

Directions:

1. Mix together walnuts, coconut, chocolate, cashews, sunflower seeds, pepitas and cherries. Serve. Store airtight at room temperature, up to 1 month.  

butter-tart-trail-mix

The choice is yours: candied pecans or candied bacon? There’s no wrong answer! Both our tasty butter tart trail mix and sweet and savoury bacon mix are satisfying.

Butter Tart Trail Mix Recipes

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Cooling Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Makes: 3½ cups

Ingredients:

¼ cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp water
2 tsp salted or unsalted butter
1 cup pecans
1 cup roasted salted or unsalted cashews
½ cup roasted salted or unsalted sunflower seeds
½ cup roasted salted or unsalted pepitas
½ cup raisins

Directions:

1. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment and set aside.

2. Melt brown sugar, water and butter in a large, non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add pecans and cook, stirring occasionally until the mixture foams and the pan starts to look dry, about 5 minutes. Spoon onto prepared sheet and cool completely, about 10 minutes.

3. Mix together candied pecans, cashews, sunflower seeds, pepitas and raisins. Serve. Store airtight at room temperature, up to 1 month. 

Candied Bacon Trail Mix Recipe

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Cooling Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Makes: 4 cups

Ingredients:

6 strips bacon
⅓ cup brown sugar
1 cup roasted salted or unsalted almonds
1 cup roasted salted or unsalted cashews
½ cup roasted salted or unsalted sunflower seeds
½ cup roasted salted or unsalted pepitas
½ cup dried cherries   

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Fit a rimmed baking sheet with a cooling rack. Spray rack with cooking spray. Set aside.

2. Place bacon in a shallow dish and sprinkle with brown sugar, turn to coat, pressing sugar onto bacon to adhere. Place on prepared cooling rack on baking sheet and bake 20 to 25 min, or until golden and crispy. Set aside to cool. Once cooled, crumble or roughly chop.

3. Mix together almonds, cashews, sunflower seeds, pepitas, cherries and bacon. Serve immediately.

More bites this way with our Best Road Trip Snacks made for traffic jams and car singalongs.

chicken-marinade

5 Make-Ahead Chicken Marinades You Can Freeze Now and BBQ Later

One of the very best things about summer eating is the effortless cooking. And a smart way to make summer cooking simple while keeping it interesting is to marinate chicken and pop it in the freezer. When you’re ready to eat, just defrost the package of your choice and toss it on the grill. To get you started, we’re giving you 5 unique, quick-to-prepare marinade options for a freezer full of winning chicken dinners. 

How to Marinade and Freeze Chicken for the BBQ

The following marinades are great with chicken breasts, thighs, drumsticks and wings. All you need to do is whisk or blend the ingredients listed together, toss them with 1 lb of your favourite chicken directly in an airtight zipper bag, seal and store in the freezer for up to two months. Set in the fridge the night before to defrost and voila: a tasty, weekend-worthy barbecue is possible on even the most hectic weeknight!

Greek Chicken Marinade Recipe

Inspired by fresh Greek flavours, this chicken marinade comes packed with flavour, and is best served with tender veggies, grains or potatoes and a generous sprinkling of crumbled feta.

Whisk to combine ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil with 2 Tbsp each chopped fresh oregano, sun-dried tomatoes and lemon juice, 4 cloves minced garlic and salt and ground black pepper to taste.

Sesame-Orange Chicken Marinade Recipe

Sweet with a bit of heat is all it takes to make this irresistible, Asian-inspired marinade. Whisk to combine 3 Tbsp orange juice, 2 Tbsp vegetable oil, 1 Tbsp sesame oil, 1 Tbsp soy sauce, 1 Tbsp brown sugar, 3 cloves minced garlic, ¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes and ground black pepper to taste.

grilled-chicken-marinade

Green Goddess Chicken Marinade Recipe

A super-easy, garden herb marinade that brings tons of fresh, summery flavour. In a blender or food processor, blend ½ cup each chopped fresh parsley and chopped fresh cilantro leaves (with their tender stems), 4 chopped green onions, ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, 2 Tbsp lemon juice, 2 cloves garlic and salt and ground black pepper to taste.

Sticky BBQ Chicken  Marinade Recipe

So sweet and sticky, you’ll have trouble not licking your fingers! Whisk to combine 3 Tbsp maple syrup, 2 Tbsp vegetable oil, 1 Tbsp tomato paste, 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar, 2 tsp hot sauce, 2 cloves minced garlic and salt and ground black pepper to taste.

Honey-Sriracha Chicken Marinade Recipe

The ubiquitous hot pepper sauce strikes again with a homemade chicken marinade made for the BBQ. Stir together 2 Tbsp each Sriracha hot sauce, honey and vegetable oil with 1 tsp garlic powder and salt and ground black pepper to taste.

Every BBQ needs an ice-cold beverage, so here are a handful of fruit-filled sangria recipes to take on that role.

Jalapeno Popper Dip Recipe copy

Jalapeño Popper Dip is Your Favourite New Make-Ahead Appetizer

Everything you love in a jalapeño popper is whirred into a cheesy, party-perfect dip. Spicy jalapeños, crispy bacon, cream cheese and a crunchy topping come together for a delicious, ultra-indulgent dip. Serve this up with veggies and tortilla chips at your next party for a crowd-pleasing riff on the new-classic appetizer.

Jalapeno Popper Dip

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes
Serves: 8 to 10

Ingredients: 
6 strips bacon
2 (250 g) pkgs cream cheese, softened
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
4 jalapeños, seeded and finely diced
3 green onions, minced
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
Sliced veggies or tortilla chips for serving

Dip prechop

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350ºF.

2. In a large skillet over medium heat, cook bacon, turning occasionally, until crispy, about 10 min. Remove bacon to a paper-towel lined plate and reserve 2 Tbsp bacon grease in a medium heat-safe bowl. Once bacon is cool, chop or crumble into pieces.
3. In a large bowl, mix cream cheese until smooth. Gradually mix in mayonnaise until fully combined. To cream cheese and mayonnaise, add Cheddar, jalapenos, green onions and bacon pieces and mix to combine. Spread cream cheese mixture evenly into a 9-inch round ovenproof dish.

Jalapeno Popper Dip Recipe

4. Stir panko into reserved bacon grease and sprinkle over cream cheese mixture. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until bubbling at the sides. Serve warm with tortilla chips or veggies for dipping.

Make-Ahead: You can make this dip ahead of time (without the panko topping, and prior to baking) and store covered in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Warm refrigerated bacon renderings in the microwave until liquefied and stir in panko. Sprinkle cream cheese mixture with panko mixture and bake, adding 5 minutes to the cooking time (40 to 45 minutes instead of 35 to 40 minutes).

Nothing gets a crowd going like a good dip, so here are over 25 party-perfect options to dive into.

giant latke cake

A Crispy, Potato Latke Cake for a Hanukkah Crowd

A fresh and delicious take on traditional latkes, this pan-fried stack of potato pancakes is made for a Hanukkah crowd. While we love crispy, salty, bite-sized latkes, this larger version is just as delicious and impressive when layered with a sweet and savoury filling of smoked fishpomegranate seeds, shaved apple, fresh fennel and sour cream.  Or customize with your favourite toppings and fillings,  such as apple sauce, sour cream or goat cheese and chives. Sliced and served family style, this beautiful golden stack means less time standing at the stove and more time enjoying your company.

giant latke cake

Latke Cake

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Serves: 8 to 10

Ingredients:
3 lbs (about 4 large) russet potatoes, peeled, grated
2 medium onions, grated
1½ tsp salt, divided
½ cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten
¾ tsp ground black pepper, divided
1 cup vegetable oil, for frying
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 large fennel bulb, cored and thinly sliced, fronds reserved
1 apple, cored and thinly sliced
1 cup (about 100g) flaked smoked trout or salmon or whitefish
½ cup pomegranate seeds
⅓ cup chopped fresh parsley
1¼ cups sour cream

Directions:
1. Heat oven to 200ºF. Line a rimmed baking sheet with a wire cooling rack.

giant latke cake

2. In a large bowl, stir to combine potatoes, onions and 3/4 tsp salt. Transfer to a cheesecloth- or kitchen towel-lined colander. Let sit for 10 minutes in sink or nested in large bowl. After 10 minutes, tightly twist cheesecloth or kitchen towel and squeeze firmly to remove as much moisture as possible. Discard liquid.
3. Add potato mixture to the same large bowl and stir in flour, eggs, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper.

giant latke cake

4. Heat 1/4 cup oil in large non-stick skillet over medium-high. Add 1/4 latke mixture to pan, spreading to a make a thin, 7- to 8-inch in diameter circle. Fry until deep golden on the first side, about 4 minutes, then flip fry for about 4 minutes longer, until deep golden on the second side. Remove to a plate lined with paper towel to absorb oil for 1 minute, then transfer to prepared baking sheet and place in oven to keep warm. Repeat with remaining oil and latke mixture to make 4 latkes. Keep latkes warm in the oven while you prepare the toppings.

giant latke cake

5. For the salad, in a large bowl, whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, mustard, remaining 1/4 tsp salt and remaining 1/4 tsp pepper. Add fennel, apple, fish, pomegranate arils and parsley, tossing to combine. Set aside 1/2 cup of mixture for the final topping.

giant latke cake

6. In a medium bowl, stir sour cream with reserved fennel fronds.
7. To assemble, dollop cake stand or serving platter with 1 Tbsp sour cream mixture and then top with one latke. Top latke with 1/3 cup sour cream mixture, spreading to the edge, and then top with 1/3 of the salad mixture. Repeat layers finishing with the final latke. For the final topping, top with reserved 1/2 cup salad and a dollop of sour cream mixture. Serve immediately.

After a slice or two of latke cake, satisfy your sweet tooth with some deep fried Hanukkah desserts.

buttertart crack candy

Saltine Cracker Toffee Gets a Maple Butter Tart Twist

Butter tarts rank with as one of the most classic and loved Canadian treats. The gooey filling and pecan crunchiness inside flaky pastry is hard to beat. These sweet, buttery flavours, combined with saltine crackers and creamy chocolate make an addictive, utterly delicious treat that’s perfect for holiday candy making and gifting. Give this sticky, sweet, crackly treat a try with dark chocolate and chopped almonds for a different take, or white chocolate and trail mix – the possibilities are endless. Deceptively easy to toss together, this will be your most-requested holiday treat, year-after-year.

butter tart crack candy

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Cool Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 40 minutes
Serves: 24

Ingredients:
48 saltine crackers
1-1/3 cup butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups milk or dark chocolate chips
1-1/2 cups chopped toasted pecans

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 400ºF. Line bottom of a 17×11-inch rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and arrange crackers in one layer on sheet (you may need to break some to fit), set aside.

Crack prebake

2. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine butter, brown sugar, maple syrup and salt, stirring occasionally until the mixture comes to a boil. Boil for 8 minutes without stirring. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Carefully pour mixture immediately over crackers (it does need to completely cover the crackers as the mixture will spread in the oven).

Crack choc chip

3. Bake until butter and sugar mixture has spread over crackers and bubbling, about 6 minutes. Remove from oven (rearrange crackers using a butter knife quickly if they shift at all during baking) and immediately sprinkle chocolate chips evening; let stand 3 minutes, allowing chocolate to melt. Using an offset spatula or the back of a spoon, spread chocolate evenly over cracker mixture and sprinkle with pecans. Cool for 20 minutes at room temperature before transferring to the refrigerator to chill for at least 45 minutes, or until completely chilled through.
4. Once mixture has cooled completely, break into rustic pieces. Serve. Store covered at room temperature.

For another easy candy recipe to add to your holiday cookie tin, try this festive Canadiana-themed chocolate bark.

Pumpkin swirl brownies

Pumpkin Pie Swirl Brownies Are The Best Of Both Worlds

If you love brownies and pumpkin pie (and who doesn’t?), this recipe is one to try. It’s two classic desserts, fudgy brownies and spiced pumpkin pie, combined into one decadent treat. Such simple luxuries blended together make for a surprising combo that’s hard to beat, especially when it’s pumpkin spice time. Add to that a gorgeous swirled finish, and you won’t believe that something so pretty could be so easy!

pumpkin brownies

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Bake Time: 50 minutes
Cool Time: 3 hours
Total Time: 4 hours 5 minutes
Makes: 24 brownies

Ingredients:
2-1/2 cups granulated white sugar
1-1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly, more for pan
5 large eggs
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1-1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup pure pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Spray a 13×9-inch baking pan with cooking spray or grease with a little extra butter and line with parchment paper.
2. In a large bowl, mix to combine sugar, butter, eggs and vanilla. Stir in flour, salt and baking powder. Transfer 1-1/4 cups of the batter to a medium bowl and to this stir in pumpkin puree, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg until fully combined. To remaining batter in the large bowl, mix in cocoa until fully combined; reserve 2/3 cup cocoa batter and place in a small bowl.

Brownie batters

3. Spread all but reserved 2/3 cup cocoa batter into the prepared pan. Next, spread the entire amount of pumpkin batter evenly onto the cocoa batter. Overtop of batters, dot with reserved 2/3 cup chocolate batter. Use the tip of a paring knife or skewer to drag and swirl cocoa batter dots into the pumpkin and cocoa batter bases below, creating a marbled look.

Brownies unbaked swirl

4. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool completely in pan before cutting into 24 squares. Serve. Freeze brownies for up to 2 months, or refrigerate for up to 1 week. To up the decadence upon serving, top a scoop of vanilla ice cream with cubes of the chilled pumpkin swirl brownies.

Brownie baked uncut

If you can’t get enough of these chocolate-meets-pumpkin pie Franken-treats, you’ll love our chocolate pumpkin Nanaimo bars, too.