All posts by Dan Clapson

Dan Clapson is a food writer and critic based out of Calgary. He loves creating new recipes at home and travels across Canada regularly, simultaneously eating everything imaginable.

A Saskatoon Musician’s Easy Saskatoon Berry Jam Recipe

There is an especially fun dynamic between the two women standing in the kitchen. Musicians Alexis Normand and Allyson Reigh are two-thirds of the popular Western Canadian band, Rosie and The Riveters. The trio is made up of equally talented singers, instrumentalists and songwriters.

Being a triple threat is a feat in and of itself, of course, but being able to cook on top of that trio of skills would make Normand the quadruple threat of the talented bunch.

“She’s always cooking while we’re on tour, it doesn’t matter what city we’re playing in,” says Normand’s bandmate, Reigh as she measures sugar for the Saskatoon berry jam they’re about to make. “She’s one amazing cook.”

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It’s clear that Normand is the foodie of the group. Growing up in Saskatoon, her grandmother was an avid cook and passed down a love of the kitchen to her mother, which she has also come to embrace whether she’s at home or on the road.

Her speciality? Making big batches of Saskatoon berry jam that she cans, labels and brings on tour. Family, friends and fans alike have come to love the edible keepsake that pays homage to her prairie roots.

“It’s a really hot item, people love it,” says Normand as she adds the Saskatoon berries to the pot. “It’s funny, though, because they aren’t as ‘Saskatchewan’ as you would think. I learned that after travelling across the country, that you can find Saskatoon berries in abundance [in B.C. and Alberta too], but there, they’re called Saskatoons. That’s where I’m from and making this jam this is a family tradition!”

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Like most jam recipes, Normand’s family recipe for Saskatoon berry jam only calls for a few ingredients: berries (fresh or frozen, though frozen is the most easily obtained year-round), sugar and a bit of water. You can feel free to add some lemon zest or a few drops of vanilla if you’d like, but good quality Saskatoons don’t need much to make a lasting impression.

“There’s always something to be said about giving someone an item that’s homemade. It’s someone’s time that they’re gifting you, really. That’s the really nice thing about it,” she says.

One big misconception about making jam at home is that you need to make a dozen jars and can them. Normand does make big batches before she goes on tour, but her small-batch recipe is just as good, and easily lasts a couple of weeks in the fridge.

“Nothing about this process is hard, but when I was younger I was under the impression that it was challenging. I think people just need to try it once,” says Normand. “You cook down the ingredients, you put it in jars, cool it down and it tastes delicious! It doesn’t get any better or easier than that, does it?”

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Simple Saskatoon Berry Jam Recipe

Makes: 3 Cups
Total Time: 25 Minutes

Ingredients:
4 cups Saskatoon berries (fresh or frozen)
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
¼ tsp grated lemon zest (optional)
¼ tsp vanilla extract (optional)

Directions:
1. Place ingredients in a medium pot and bring to a simmer on medium-high heat.
2. Reduce to medium heat and let cook, uncovered, for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Transfer to a heat-safe container and allow to cool to room temperature.
4. Cover and place in refrigerator to use as desired. Will keep for up to 2 weeks refrigerated.

Make the most of Saskatoon season with these Sweet and Savoury Saskatoon Berry Recipes.

brine turkey

How to Brine a Turkey and Why You Should Try It

If you’ve ever had unbelievably flavourful and juicy chicken at a restaurant, chances are it was brined before it was served to you. You can get that same tender result at home by brining your Thanksgiving turkey before roasting it. Besides adding flavour through aromatics like garlic and bay leaves, brining helps meat retain moisture through the cooking process, resulting in unbelievably tender turkey, and lots of compliments to the chef.

Whether it’s a wet or dry brine, it’s an incredibly easy technique that is good to have in your repertoire. Here’s how to make both wet and dry turkey brines, along with some pros and cons for the two methods.

Turkey brine

Wet Brining

Pro: Soaking your bird in a saltwater solution allows you to easily infusing it with different flavours, such as bay leaves, citrus peels, whole peppercorns or onions. Just, strain them after the brining is complete.

Con: Wet brining can be a bulky process. Because there is a lot of liquid involved, this method requires a large container to hold the turkey and the brine, which can mean rearranging your refrigerator ahead of the big day.
Con: For extra crispy skin, you need to remove the turkey from the brine and return to the fridge uncovered for several more hours to dry. With the dry brine, you can just roast straight away for golden, crispy results.

Simple Wet Brine for Turkey
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 12 hours

Ingredients:
1 L water
1 cup sea salt
3 garlic cloves, peeled
2 bay leaves
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 cinnamon stick
1 sprig fresh rosemary
Peel of 1 lemon
3 L cold water
1 tall, large pot or container
1 large turkey, gizzards and neck removed from cavity

Directions
1. Place 1 litre of water and all aromatics in a medium pot. Turn the stove to medium heat and stir until the salt has completely dissolved.
2. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes while aromatics infuse. Combine with remaining water.
3. Place turkey in the pot and add saltwater mixture. Cover with lid or plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for approximately 12 hours or overnight.
4. >When ready to roast, strain saltwater from the pot and discard any remaining aromatics.
5. Rinse turkey in cold water, including inside the cavity, to remove excess brine.
6. Place turkey on a clean towel or sheets of paper towel and pat dry.
7. Roast as desired.

Dry Brine
Pro: With no added liquid and just a medley of salt and spices rubbed directly on the bird you give the salt an opportunity to draw moisture from the bird. Once the salt dissolves,  the moisture is reabsorbed, salt in tow, tenderizing the meat and maintaining its flavour without watering it down.
Pro: Since there is no extra liquid used, roasting will yield a beautifully brown and crispy skin.

Con: The dry rub isn’t for those who hate getting hands-on with meat. You need to make sure this salt rub is rubbed in evenly for it to fully work its magic.

Simple Dry Brine for Turkey
Prep time: 5 minutes
Total time: 8 to 12 hours

Ingredients:
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 garlic cloves
1 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme
1 tsp black peppercorns
½ cup sea salt
2 Tbsp cane sugar
1 large turkey, gizzards and neck removed from cavity

Directions:
1. Place the first 5 ingredients in a food processor and pulse several times until a chunky paste forms.
2. Add salt and sugar and continue to pulse until a grainy paste forms.
3. Pat turkey dry with paper towel and then liberally rub the salt mixture all over the skin and inside of the cavity.
4. Place in refrigerator and let sit for 8 to 12 hours.
5. Remove from refrigerator and rinse in cold water to remove the rub.
6. Place turkey on a clean towel or sheets of paper towel and pat dry.
7. Roast as desired.

Looking for more Thanksgiving recipes? Try these 20 Make-Ahead Recipes for a Stress-Free Thanksgiving Feast.

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A Classic Green Goddess Dressing That Goes On Everything

Salad dressings don’t usually get their start on the stage, except for the classic Green Goddess, that is. Created in 1923 at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco, this verdant dressing was made to celebrate a stage production of the same name. Unbeknownst to the creator at the time, the simple blend of mayonnaise, fresh herbs and anchovies would become a staple in North America throughout the 20th century. Let’s just say that if Green Goddess didn’t pave the way, ranch dressing wouldn’t be as prominent on the grocery store shelves as it is today.

The best part of this particular salad dressing, aside from its amazing deity-provoking name, is its remarkable versatility. Its first calling may be to tenderly coat cool spinach leaves, crispy iceberg wedges or tender butter lettuce, but try serving it alongside grilled chicken, steaks and pork, or with roasted potatoes and cauliflower. The list of uses runs longer than the dressing’s history.

Without further ado, here’s how to make the famous Green Goddess dressing at home, and our favourite salad to serve it with.

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Classic Green Goddess Dressing

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Makes: 1½ cups

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Ingredients:
¼ cup fresh tarragon leaves
¼ cup fresh chervil leaves
¼ cup fresh chives, roughly chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
5 anchovy fillets
Juice of 1 lemon (about ¼ cup)
⅔ cup mayonnaise
⅔ cup sour cream
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 tsp salt

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Directions:
1. In a food processor or blender, add tarragon, chervil, chives, garlic, anchovies and lemon juice. Blend until a thick paste forms. Pulse in remaining ingredients and blend until full combined and pastel green in colour. Store airtight in refrigerator up to days.

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Roast Chicken, Almond and Currant Salad with Green Goddess Dressing

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Cool Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Serves: 4 to 5

Ingredients:
Roast Chicken:
4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
1 cup raw almonds
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground black pepper, to taste

Currants:
⅔ cup water
⅓ cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup dried currants 

Salad:
6 cups shredded iceberg lettuce
6 celery stalks, thinly sliced
2 avocados, pitted and flesh cubed
16 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup crumbled blue cheese
Classic Green Goddess Dressing, as needed (recipe above)

Directions:
Roast Chicken:
1. Preheat oven to 400ºF. Add chicken to a baking dish and roast until skin is crispy and interior is cooked through, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate to cool. Once chicken is cool, remove skin and separate meat from bones into bite-sized pieces. Discard skin and bones or save for use in another recipe. Reserve meat.

2. Place almonds into same baking dish (containing chicken drippings), season with salt and pepper and return to 400ºF oven. Roast almonds for 10 minutes, or until fragrant and beginning to brown. Transfer almonds to a paper towel-lined plate to absorb excess fat. Once cool, roughly chop almonds. Reserve almonds.

Currants:
1. Add currants to a medium heatproof bowl. In a small saucepan, bring water and vinegar to a simmer and pour over currant. Let sit for 10 minutes, strain and reserve currants.

Salad and Assembly:
1. In a large bowl, add lettuce, celery, avocado, tomatoes, cheese, chicken and currants. Add Green Goddess dressing to coat lettuce mixture and gently toss. Transfer salad to a serving platter, top with almonds and serve.

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Green Goddess 101

Dressing Herbs
Many Green Goddess recipes call for parsley instead of, or in addition to, chervil. Although chervil looks similar to parsley, the taste and texture of the fresh herbs are quite different. Chervil has a more subdued, fresher taste compared to that of parsley, and boasts somewhat of a licorice flavour, similar to fennel. Find chervil at specialty grocers, farmers’ markets or your own backyard.

Basil is another tender, summery herb that can be added to a Green Goddess dressing. A touch of mint is nice, too, but rosemary, thyme, sage and oregano have distinct flavours that will easily overpower the more delicate herbs.

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Dressing Add-Ins
Ripe avocado adds creaminess to a Green Goddess dressing, typically in lieu of mayonnaise, sour cream or yogurt, and is an especially ideal substitute when egg or dairy allergies or are involved, or those following a vegan diet.

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For more ways to jazz up your greens, check out our best homemade salad dressing recipes.

semifreddo

How to Make Semifreddo, Italy’s Dreamy No-Churn Ice Cream

If you’ve yet to make ice cream’s cooler Italian cousin, semifreddo (roughly translated from Italian to mean “half cold”), before, now is the time to whip up a batch. Not only is this dessert delicious with its dreamy, frozen mousse-like texture, it’s easy to make (no ice cream maker required!) and even easier to customize.

Traditionally poured into a loaf pan, frozen and then served sliced like an ice cream cake all grown up, you can also portion the semifreddo mixture into individual bowls, or even simply freeze a batch in a large container and scoop it out, ice cream-style. Starting with a simple vanilla base, the world is your oyster when it comes to flavours you can swirl into the mix.

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Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Chill Time: 5 hours
Total Time: 5 hours 30 minutes
Serves: 6 to 8

Ingredients:
5 large eggs, yolks and whites separated
1¼ cups granulated sugar, divided
2¼ cups heavy cream (35%), divided
1 tsp vanilla extract

Directions:

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1. In a large heat-safe bowl, whisk to combine egg yolks, 1 cup of sugar,  ¼ cup of cream and vanilla.

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2. Fill a medium saucepan with approximately 2-inches of water and bring to a simmer. Place bowl containing yolk mixture on top and whisk regularly for 6 to 7 minutes, until thickened. Check consistency by dipping the back of a spoon in mixture and run your finger through it; the mixture should form a clean line. If it’s still too runny, continue to cook for another minute or so. Once thickened, remove from heat and let cool, about 1 hour.

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3. Line a standard loaf tin or small baking pan with plastic wrap, leaving overhang.
4. Using a stand mixer, whip egg whites on high speed until frothy. Continue to whip on high speed while slowly adding ¼ cup remaining sugar. Stop whipping once stiff, glossy peaks form. Transfer whipped egg white mixture to a large mixing bowl.

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5. In the same stand mixer bowl, whip remaining 2 cups cream to stiff peaks. Transfer whipped cream to whipped egg white mixture.

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6. Pour cooked and cooled egg yolk mixture into the bowl of the egg white mixture and whipped cream, and fold with a spatula until all three components are combined. Pour mixture into prepared pan, cover top with overhanging plastic wrap and place in the freezer to set, about 4 hours.

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7. To serve, remove from pan, unwrap plastic and slice into thick slabs. Or use a scoop and serve mounded in bowls.

Peanut Butter and Banana Semifreddo

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Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Chill Time: 5 hours
Total Time: 5 hours 30 minutes
Serves: 6 to 8

Ingredients:
1 recipe plain semifreddo, prepared prior to freezing (steps 1 through 6, above)
1 cup chunky natural peanut butter (no sugar added)
¼ cup heavy cream (35%)
2 bananas, peeled and thinly sliced or mashed

Directions:
1. In a small saucepan over low heat, melt peanut butter. Transfer peanut butter to a small bowl and stir to combine with cream and bananas.

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3. Line a standard loaf tin or small baking pan with plastic wrap, leaving overhang. Working in alternating layers, pouring one-third of the semifreddo followed by dollops of one-third of the peanut butter mixture; repeat with remaining semifreddo and peanut butter mixture. Cover top with plastic wrap and place in the freezer to set, about 4 hours.
4. To serve, remove from pan, unwrap plastic and slice into thick slabs. Or use a scoop and serve mounded in bowls.

More Semifreddo Flavour Options:

– Salted caramel and diced green apple
– Honey-roasted apricots and dark chocolate shavings
– Macerated berries and mint
– Sautéed plums and crushed hazelnuts
– Lemon zest and crumbled shortbread
– Cocoa powder and chopped roasted almonds

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Don’t touch that oven! Here are even more no-bake desserts to satisfy your sweet tooth.

Taste Testing the Calgary Stampede with Top Chef Canada: All-Stars Champ Nicole Gomes

The sky’s the limit when it comes to what can be served on the Calgary Stampede.

Every year, the Stampede releases a list of new and noteworthy – or jaw-dropping, depending on how you look at it – midway foods to try. This has ranged from unorthodox edibles like pizza topped with fried mealworms and crickets, red velvet chicken strips, a corn dog containing a dill pickle-wrapped hot dog and ice-cold dulce de leche mini doughnut popsicles.

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This year, there are 40 different new items to try on the Calgary Stampede grounds. Since that’s too much for two people to eat in one outing, Top Chef Canada: All-Stars winner Nicole Gomes and I tried 10 of the most interesting creations while helping judge the annual “Best new midway food” competition.

Here’s what Nicole, an award-winning chef, thought of the wild midway offerings at The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth.

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Funnel Cake Poutine, from Next Generation Concession
“This is the best thing ever,” says Nicole and it’s hard to disagree – especially as it was awarded “Best new savoury food on the midway” at this year’s Stampede. The deep-fried dough that’s usually topped with sweet powdered sugar gets a savoury twist with fresh cheese curds and beef gravy. One bite and Nicole’s chef mind is spinning with ideas for more fair funnel cake creations. “You could add some chicken, white gravy and bacon or make a beef taco salad-funnel cake hybrid. Ah, so many great things you could do with a funnel cake base!”

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The Raindrop Cake, from Sweet Tooth
This unusual jiggly “dessert” made of water and agar-agar (a vegan equivalent to gelatin) rose to fame in New York last year. Since then, it has popped up in countries like England, Japan and now Canada. “Just not my cup of tea. It just tastes, um, Jell-o-ish, but tasteless,” says Nicole, trying to describe the translucent creation.

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Mini Donut Chata, from Family Squeezed
It’s hard to decipher from its name, but this epic drink-meets-dessert draws its inspiration from the Latin American drink horchata. The iced beverage is a mix of rice milk, cinnamon and vanilla and it’s surprisingly refreshing. But the garnishes – whipped cream, toffee crumble and the food vendor’s famous mini-doughnut popsicle dipped in butterscotch – takes this drink over the top. In a good way. “I love this popsicle! It is such a clever spin on a mini doughnut,” says Nicole. “The drink it comes with, though, is really, really big, but it would be an easy thing to share.” Nicole’s enthusiasm was shared by the Stampede, which awarded this concoction “Best new sweet food on the midway” for 2017.

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The Texas Waffle,  from Waffles & Chix
Since Nicole owns the popular fried chicken spot, Cluck ‘n’ Cleaver, it takes a lot to impress the chef. “This is a cute idea, but it needs something more,” Nicole says after taking a few forkfuls of lightly battered chicken sitting on top of a Texas-shaped waffle that’s been filled with sliced jalapenos and aged cheddar. While tasty, this one is not ideal for walking and eating. “You’ll need to grab a fork and a knife and find a seat to really enjoy it.”

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Deep-fried Lemonade, from Family Squeezed
Just when you think everything in the world has been deep-fried, someone thinks of just one more thing to dip into the fryer. This year, the unofficial “strangest item to deep-fry” award has to go to Family Squeezed’s deep-fried lemonade. But, as Nicole discovered, it’s not quite what you’d expect. “I was sort of expecting to get a burst of frozen lemonade inside, kind of like when you bite into deep-fried ice cream, but this is more like a little doughnut,” the chef says.

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The Flaming Cheeto, from Fresh Roasted Corn on the Cob
After taking a big bite, Nicole thought this mayo and Spicy Cheeto covered corn was much sweeter and less spicy than expected. This “flaming” addition to the midway is supposed to be a spin on Mexican street food, but ends up being a miss. “The Cheetos are so finely ground, they get mushy really quickly,” says Nicole. “They would have been better off coating it with something crispier.”

Waffle Taco, from Steve-O’s “Deep Fried” Public House
When it comes to the flavour, Nicole approves of the crispy sweet waffle shell and ice cream. “Ice cream options like this at the Calgary Stampede are good for people that like to mix and match, since you can choose different toppings like berries, sprinkles, chocolate sauce and more,” she says, but admits that it can be a mess to eat. “I just hate when you have to walk around with sticky hands,” says Nicole after biting into a taco-shaped waffle cone filled with ice cream and whipped cream.

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Cereal Monster Sandwiches, from Monster Cones
Whether you’re a kid or a kid at heart, this spin on a traditional ice cream sandwich – featuring two scoops of your choice of ice cream sandwiched between rainbow cereal marshmallow squares – is worth sinking your teeth into, says Nicole. “If I wanted something that was just cold and sweet, this is what I would go for,” she says. It’s not for the faint of heart or appetite, though, because of its giant portion. “The size does sort of intimidate me. It’s huge,” Nicole says and laughs. “It would be a great thing for kids. This is another thing you would have to go find a place to sit to eat.”

macn cheese hot dog calgary stampede

Double Bacon Mac ‘n’ Cheese Hotdog, from Super Foot-long Hotdog
Enjoying at least one hotdog while spending a day at the Calgary Stampede is a given, but finding a dog that truly rises above mediocre can be hard to find. Nicole seems torn about this particular new midway offering that’s a foot-long dog wrapped in bacon and then topped with a few spoonfuls of bacon mac ‘n’ cheese. “You can tell that the hotdog is good quality,” she says.  “I’d say just stick with their regular foot-long dog and skip the mac ‘n’ cheese.”

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Mr. Crab, by Happy Fish
Sushi may not be the first thing a person gravitates toward while strolling down a midway lane full of doughnuts, hot dogs and cotton candy, but this Top Chef Canada champion doesn’t want anyone missing out on this fulfilling sushi taco.  “This dish is fun. This is what Stampede food should be all about,” says Nicole while holding a crispy-fried nori taco filled with rice, imitation crab meat, tempura-fried soft shell crab that’s been topped with avocado and unagi and mango sauces. “It’s interesting, it’s tasty, it has great textures – I really love soft shell crab too – and it’s really easy to eat while you’re walking around!”

13 Cooking Tips You Learn from Working in a Restaurant

Whether you just started cooking at home or have been working in a professional kitchen for years, there are always new techniques a to learn while cooking your way through life. Here, we explore some great insights (and a few hacks) from various seasoned Canadian chefs that are guaranteed to help you up your game in the home kitchen.

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1. Taste Your Food as You Go

While cooking, taste your food! Honestly, even in professional kitchens this is a frequent tip (i.e. expectation). Far too many home cooks will follow a recipe or create a dish without ever tasting throughout the process and, quite often, are not happy with the end result. It can be blamed on a poor recipe, yes, but even a poor recipe can end up great if you’re tasting as you go, and tweaking ingredient levels and seasoning throughout the process.

2. Buy Quality Spices From a Reliable Source

If you’re buying and using dry or preserved spices, find a supplier that sells a lot and cares about freshness, says Jason Bangerter, Executive Chef of Langdon Hall in Cambridge, Ont.  He suggests only buying what you need because dry spices go stale quickly in your cupboard. The less you have stored the better. Use a pepper mill and grind fresh as needed!

3. Don’t be Afraid to Use Salt

Salt! The biggest thing a young cook can do either at home or in a professional kitchen, is to learn how to use salt. Properly seasoned and properly cooked food is a skill in and of itself.

4. Hack for Making a Big Batch of Guacamole

Use a wire meshed rack (like one you’d use to rest meats or cool cookies on) to push/smash avocados through for diced avocados in a hurry! “I love using this trick for a perfect guacamole, especially if you’re making large batches,” says Ned Bell, Executive Chef of Ocean Wise/Vancouver Aquarium.

5. Don’t Your Beans (Who Knew?)

The most impressive cooking tip that Adam Donnelly has learned in the last few years is to NOT soak beans overnight. The Chef/Owner of Segovia Tapas Bar in Winnipeg suggests to cook them dry, bring them up to a boil and let them slowly simmer away with aromatics for 4-5 hours. “They make the most creamy, rich beans naturally,” he says. “There’s no need to add butter to make them creamy.”

6. You Can Roast Meats First, Then Sear Them.

The reverse sear is a favourite trick of Eraj Jayawickreme, Executive Chef of Fairmont Palliser in Calgary. The “reverse sear” means to cook proteins like roasts or thick-cut steaks by arranging meat on a wire rack, placing it in a low oven — between 200°F and 275°F — and cooking it until it’s about 10°F to 15°F below your desired serving temperature. (Always use a meat thermometre.) Then sear it off in a smoking hot skillet, or grill, let rest for five minutes or so and enjoy!

7. Never Cook Meat and Fish Cold

When cooking proteins (fish, meat, chicken, etc.),  let the product come to room temperature before applying heat, says Faizal Kassam, Chef/Owner of Terroir Kitchen in Vancouver. Not only will you render a more even cuisson, but it will take less time to cook. Also, when cooking steaks at different temperatures (rare, med-rare, etc.), take the steak off at a level prior to your desired temperature and let it rest for 7-8 minutes. The residual heat will carry the protein to your desired temp.

8. Always Dry Ingredients Before You Grill Them

“I think one of the best cooking tips I have to give from my experience in the kitchen would be that you should always pat dry your meats or fish before cooking them,” says Sean Cutler, Chef de Cuisine of Oxbow in Calgary. “When they’re dry, you’ll get a much better sear, or grill marks if you’re cooking on a barbecue,” he says.

9. Boil Seafood the East Coast Way (Even if You’re Not Out East)

Top Chef Canada All Stars competitor, Jesse Vergen suggests that when cooking lobster, crab, periwinkles, etc., add a real east coast accent to your simple seafood boil by using a salt level in the water that matches the Atlantic Ocean. For every litre of water, add 3.5 grams of salt. “That’s the perfectly seasoned water for an authentic “I’m having a beach boil!” kind of party!,” says the Chef/Owner of Saint John Ale House. If you want to get even more authentic, use a strip of konbu, a type of dried kelp.

10. Don’t Limit “Seasoning” to Salt and Pepper

One of the most valuable things I’ve learned in the kitchen is how to properly season a dish,” says Dan McGee, Executive Chef of Au Comptoir in Vancouver. Don’t stop with salt and pepper, add different acids like citrus, vinegars, pickled vegetables and fruit. Even herbs have the ability to add flavour and freshness while cutting through the richness of a dish.

11. Always Have the Basics Handy

Top Chef Canada alum Shelley Robinson knows a thing or two about having a solid pantry. She suggests keeping your fridge and pantry stocked with things like lemons, kosher salt, EVOO, bacon, garlic, good pasta, canned Italian tomatoes, flour and eggs. ” You can make a lot of magic happen with simple ingredients when you have a stocked pantry,” says the executive chef.

12. Make Sure Your Main Kitchen Knife gets the TLC it Deserves

Even if you have a whole range of specialty knives, you’ll use just one or two for over 90% of kitchen work. Keep it sharp and don’t let it bang around in the knife drawer. If you don’t have a sharpening stone or someone to do it for you, use an unglazed ceramic dish bottom to brush your blade across to fine tune the edge.

13. Establish Relationships with Local Purveyors

Build a great relationship with at least one small retailer who’s your “go-to” for a favourite item, says  Michael Olson, Chef Instructor at Niagara Community College (and Anna Olson’s other half.) “I’m close with a local butcher and take their advice, and know I can count on them for getting great steaks or pork chops at a moment’s notice,” says Olson.  If you’re into cheese, Olson suggests sharing pictures with them to show what you’ve done with their products. “They love it!,” says Olson.  “I also take in home-baked treats from a certain pastry chef that I happen to know to stay in their good books.”

Watch this video on What Makes a You Gotta Eat Here! restaurant.

Chef’s Secret to Making the Fluffiest Pancakes Ever

A weekend breakfast staple, pancakes — hotcakes, flapjacks or whatever you like to call them — just might be the ultimate morning comfort food. As simple as they can be, it’s always refreshing to get some ideas from an expert on how to make them even better.

Yellow Door Bistro is a chef-driven European restaurant located inside Calgary’s Hotel Arts. There they cook up delicious fare from morning to night, but the restaurant is most renowned for its imaginative brunch creations. The most famous are the gourmet pancakes that start with the same base recipe, but change each month to incorporate new flavours and garnishes.

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The secret to their perfectly light and fluffy pancakes, you ask? Executive chef, Quinn Staple takes a very unique approach to the batter preparation that’s similar to how one would prepare a soufflé. Eggs are an integral part of a classic pancake recipe, but Staple’s version separates the yolks and the whites. The simple act of whipping the whites on their own before being folded into the batter, makes for lighter, fluffier pancakes. Genius!

To get that soufflé-like height for your pancakes at home, Staple recommends using metal ring molds and brushing the inside with butter or oil. This will help the pancakes rise high. This step may take a few extra minutes, but trust the chef; it’s well worth it in the long run. Try it out for yourselves this weekend!

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Soufflé Coconut Pancakes with Pineapple and Caramel Sauce

Ingredients:

Pancake Batter:
1/2 cup egg yolks
1/4 cup melted butter
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 cup egg whites

Caramel Sauce:
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 lb. butter, cubed
1/4 cup 35 % cream

Directions:

Pancake Batter:
1. Mix egg yolk, butter and coconut milk together. In a separate bowl mix sugar, flour, baking powder and salt together. Mix wet ingredients into dry.

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2. Use a whisk to whip egg whites until they turn white and form soft peaks (you can use a stand mixer for this stage as well).
3. Once the egg whites are incorporated, gently fold into batter.

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Note: Batter will keep in the fridge overnight, but for best results (i.e. for the fluffiest pancakes) use right away.

To Cook:
1. Grease ring molds and large pan with canola oil. Heat pan on medium-high heat.

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2. Place molds into pan, add two healthy spoonfuls of batter into each and allow to cook until batter has risen noticeably and bubbles have formed around its edges, approximately 3-4 minutes.

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3. Carefully remove the mold using tongs and gently flip pancakes over, reduce to medium heat and allow to cook for another 4 minutes.
Note: If not using ring molds, just portion batter into pan and once bubbles appear on the edges of the pancakes flip them and cook for another 2-3 minutes.

Caramel Sauce:
1. Melt brown sugar and cream together and simmer for 5 minutes.
2. Remove from the heat and carefully and slowly whisk in the diced butter until emulsified.
3. Allow to cool before serving.

To Serve:
Once the pancakes are cooked stack as many pancakes are desired on a plate, top with caramel sauce, chopped pineapple, whipped cream and toasted coconut. Enjoy!

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Optional Garnishes:

Coconut Chantilly:
2 cups 35% cream
1/4 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup icing sugar

1. Whisk all ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer until soft peaks are formed.

Semi Dried Vanilla Pineapple:
1/4 pineapple cut into small wedges
1/2 scraped vanilla bean

1. Toss pineapple wedges with vanilla seeds and spread evenly on a parchment lined tray. Dry overnight in an oven with no heat. Next day reserve in an airtight container.

Watch this video to learn all about the delicious history of pancakes

How to Make the Most of Your Easter Leftovers

When it comes to Easter, most of us are either going to roast a big, beautifully glazed ham or some succulent lamb. Rabbit is also a possibility (for those of us with a strange sense of humour, like myself), but let’s stick with the common denominator: a satisfying Easter ham dinner with all of the fixings.

As delicious as reheated leftovers can be the day after a big holiday meal, it’s a lot more fun to get creative with whatever traces of yesterday’s feast you have lingering in your fridge. It’s probably safe to assume you’ve got plenty of sliced ham, mashed potatoes, a mix of roasted root vegetables (i.e. carrots, squash or parsnips) and some greens, too. Now let’s see what you can do with them!

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Grilled Cheese Sandwiches: There are few things you can’t do when assembling a grilled cheese sandwich. Slices of ham, some roasted vegetables and a mild cheese like provolone, along with some honey mustard, make for an delicious, gooey sandwich, especially for kids.

Soups: The humble potato makes a great thickener for soups. Combine leftover mashed potatoes with some chicken stock, then puree until you’ve got a smooth consistency. Give your leftover meat and vegetables a quick chop, add them to the pot along with desired spices, and once they’re heated through (10 minutes or so), you’ve got a big batch of soup on your hands.

Casseroles: Layered leftovers can give the illusion of a brand new dish, while it’s basically the same as reheating them (shh, it will be our secret!). Try layering your roasted vegetables, followed by ham (pour on some leftover glaze or gravy if you’ve got it) and a layer of mashed potatoes, then bake until golden brown on top. Dinner is served!

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Last, but not least, try taking your Easter dinner odds and ends, and transforming them into this dinner-worthy quiche that actually uses mashed potatoes and cheese to make a gluten-free crust.

Who knew leftovers could be so impressive? You did, of course!

Easter Dinner Leftovers Casserole

Cook and Prep Time: 50 minutes
Serves: 4-5

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Ingredients:

Mashed Potato Crust:
4 cups leftover mashed potatoes (room temperature)
2 cups finely grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 Tbsp canola oil
9 inch cast iron skillet

Quiche Filling:
2/3 cup leftover ham roast, diced
1/2 cup leftover roasted carrots, diced
1/2 cup leftover braised kale, finely sliced
1/3 cup half and half cream
4 large eggs
1 Tbsp grainy mustard
1 tsp maple syrup (optional, only suggested if the leftover ham was not glazed)
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper

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Directions:

Mashed Potato Crust:
1. Preheat oven to 400°F
2. Place potatoes and cheese in a medium bowl and mix well to combine.
3. Brush skillet with canola oil thoroughly, covering bottom of pan and sides.
4. Gently press the potato mixture into the skillet until it’s a fairly even thickness throughout the pan and sides.
5. Bake in oven until it starts to turn golden brown, approximately 18-20 minutes. (Note: potato “crust” will fluff up slightly while baking, don’t worry about that.)
6. Remove, reduce oven heat to 375°F and let cool for a few minutes before adding filling.

Quiche Filling:
1. Place all ingredients in a medium bowl and stir well with a spoon to combine.

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2. Pour egg mixture into pre-baked potato crust and return skillet to oven.

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3. Cook for 25 minutes or until a toothpick placed in the centre of quiche comes out clean.

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4. If serving right away, allow to cool slightly before slicing. Will keep in the fridge for up to four days.

Looking for more post-holiday dinner ideas? Here are 20 delicious ways to reinvent your Easter leftovers.

How to Make Your Own Dumplings for Chinese New Year

Born and raised in Richmond, BC, Chef Nicole Gomes has been celebrating Chinese New Year ever since she can remember. The west coast city, just a stone’s throw from Vancouver, is known across North America for its dynamic Chinese food scene and famous night market brimming with all sorts of delicious eats.

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The Top Chef Canada alum has been calling Calgary home for over 16 years, where she runs a high-end catering company (Nicole Gourmet) and the uber-popular fried chicken eatery, Cluck ‘N’ Cleaver. But with strong family ties in Richmond, she always heads back west to celebrate the holiday with her family.

“Most of my memories about Chinese New Year just revolve around spending time with my family,” says Gomes, smiling. “Well, spending time with family and then eating and eating and eating. There’s always so much food!”

So when it comes to Chinese New Year cooking, Nicole Gomes is something of an expert. Here are some top tips she has picked up over the years, plus how to make perfect Chinese dumplings.

 

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The Perfect Dumplings for Chinese New Year

While Gomes says food has always been central to her upbringing, one of her most fond food memories is spending weekend afternoons learning to make dumplings (jiaozi) with her grandmother and younger sister.

“We would make dumplings all of the time with my grandma. Hundreds and hundreds of them,” says Gomes. “That is one of the best things about dumplings. You can make a huge batch, freeze them and eat them when you want.”

After years of making dough, rolling, filling and pinching, Gomes has become quite the dumpling expert, practically making them with her eyes closed. Though the filling can be flexible, Gomes’ favourite filling is a classic one made with ground pork and Shanghai bok choy.

If you’re celebrating the Lunar New Year at home this year, you should definitely have some dumplings on the table — so why not make some that are chef-approved?

Nicole Gomes’ Homemade Pork Dumplings

Prep and Cook Time: 1 hour
Makes: 30 dumplings

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Ingredients:

Pork and Bok Choy Filling:
2 heads Shanghai bok choy (halved, thinly sliced and blanched)
1 pound ground pork
2 Tbsp oyster sauce
2 Tbsp light soy sauce
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 tsp cane sugar
2 Tbsp Chinese rice cooking wine
1 Tbsp sesame oil
Canola oil (for testing filling)

Dumpling Dough:
2 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup boiling water

Dipping Sauce:
1/3 cup black vinegar (available at Asian grocers)
2 Tbsp garlic chili paste
Crushed chili flakes (for garnish)

Tip: Always cook off a bit of your filling in a pan and taste it first before filling your dumplings. Add more seasoning if needed. You don’t want to fill a whole bunch of dumplings only to find out they don’t taste as good as they could!

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Directions:

Pork and Bok Choy Filling :
Place all ingredients in a bowl and stir until combined.

Dumpling Dough:
1. Mix flour and water together in a medium bowl and knead until smooth.
2. Split dough into six equal logs, roll to 3/4-inch thickness (approximately) and cut into 5 pieces per log for a total of 30 dumplings.

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3. Roll out into rounds and fill with approximately prepared pork and bok choy filling.

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4. To seal, lightly dab water around the edge of one half of the dumplings. Bring sides together and gently pinch along seam to seal.

Dipping Sauce:
Place black vinegar, garlic chili paste and chili flakes in a small bowl and stir to combine.

Cooking:
1. Pour 1 1/2 Tbsp canola oil in a large pan to evenly coat and turn to medium-high heat. Place dumplings into pan and cook until bottoms start to brown, about 2-3 minutes.

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2. Next, pour in 1 1/2 cups water, cover with lid and let steam for 6-8 minutes or until water is absorbed.

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3. Remove lid to allow any remaining water to evaporate. Dumpling should be tender on top and golden brown on the bottom.
4. Transfer from pan to serving dish and let cool slightly before serving.

Tips for a Great Chinese New Year:

It’s a numbers game
The number eight is regarded as the luckiest number. That’s a good baseline to work with when you’re preparing dinner. Eight dishes can easily feed a big group of family or friends. On the other end, stay away from four in any shape or form (i.e. guests or dishes). Its pronunciation is the same as the word for death, so it’s considered very bad luck.

The longer the noodle you’re cooking with, the better
Noodles represent longevity in life. You will always see them on the table at Chinese New Year, but in a lot of different forms, like stir-fried or steamed with vegetables and soy-based sauces. Never cut the noodles — it is bad luck!

You don’t need to cook everything yourself
Popular dishes like suckling pig, barbecue pork and peking-style chicken or duck aren’t ideal for a home cook to make, especially if it’s their first time. Most Canadian cities have great Chinatown neighbourhoods with Chinese barbecue restaurants. Order these from a good quality spot and spend your time in the kitchen making delicious side dishes.

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Not every dish has to be hot
Many dishes in Chinese culture are served cold; a lot of people forget about that. Marinating soft tofu in a soy garlic sauce overnight in the fridge, for example, is really delicious and doesn’t take much prep at all.

Plan for some surf and turf
It isn’t a Chinese New Year dinner without lobster. Whole lobster is usually served because of its resemblance to a dragon (a creature that is synonymous with Chinese culture). It is usually paired with chicken. The presentation of a whole chicken represents family and prosperity.

What you should be drinking
Simple drinks are served along with Lunar New Year celebrations. Red and white wine to sip on throughout dinner, and finishing off with cognac when dessert comes around is perfect.

Always accept an invitation to someone’s New Year dinner, if possible
It is a real honour to be invited to someone’s Chinese New Year celebration, and one big plus is then you don’t have to worry about any of the cooking or the dishes afterwards.

Check out these 15 mouth-watering dumpling recipes for Chinese New Year.

 

8 Comforting Soup Spots Across Canada

Soup is notorious for filling one’s belly, warming the soul and curing a cold — but it’s also known as a simple, oftentimes cheap and hearty lunch (or dinner). Here are eight great spots in Canada that are cooking up delicious one-pot wonders.

Souper Duper Soup

Photo Credit: Souper Duper Soup

Ambrosia (Calgary, AB) 
Located right beside a Buddhist Monastery in downtown Calgary, this vegetarian Chinese eatery does an impressive job of creating unique and satisfying dishes. Go for the pickled cabbage soup for a hearty lunch or the robust and warming preserved Chinese radish soup.

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Photo Credit: Baba’s Homestyle Perogies

Baba’s Homestyle Perogies (Saskatoon, SK)
With a huge Ukrainian population in Saskatchewan, it should come as no surprise that you can find a lot of perogies and borscht around town. Baba’s (the Ukrainian term for grandmother) is located in a more industrial area of town, but worth checking out for a big bowl of this rich, salty and sweet beet soup.

Lunch Bell Bistro (Winnipeg, MB)
With quality, local ingredients and a recipe that is the embodiment of beauty in simplicity, one can never be let down by a classic chicken noodle soup. Tender chunks of Manitoba chicken, thinly sliced carrots and tender egg noodles float in an almost-clear broth that can make your shivers disappear after only a few sips.

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Photo Credit: Marché Soupson

Marché Soupson (Montreal, QC)
Open Monday to Friday, Marché Soupson’s offerings change daily. These beautiful pots of soup can range from anything like corn chowder to red lentil with toasted spices, and are mostly vegetarian or vegan; they opt for cashew cream to add that rich, velvety texture.

Soup ‘n Such Café Inc. (Toronto, ON)
Stay warm on a blustery winter day in Toronto with one of the signature soups from this little café. Turkey vegetable is a go-to. For vegan options that are equally filling, you can rely on cauliflower and red pepper, or vegetable lentil soups.

Souper Duper Soup

Photo Credit: Souper Duper Soup

Souper Duper Soup (Dartmouth, NS)
There is a long list of fun soups on the menu here, like Greek Lemon Rice, and Cheeseburger and Chicken Enchilada. But no soup stands out more than the Donair; as Halifax and Dartmouth’s (unofficially) official food, this flavourful dish features beef, tomatoes, onions and donair spice.

Stock up Café (Vancouver, BC)
With a great array of pre-made soups to take home and heat up, Stock Up also has your basic stocks and a few daily specials like butter chicken or tomato bisque to eat on the go. There’s always something at this quaint little spot that your taste buds will agree with.

Stock up Café (left) and Ravi Soups (right)

Photo Credit: Stock up Café (left) and Ravi Soups (right)

Ravi Soups (Toronto, ON)
There’s a handful of little cafés to pop into for a bite in downtown Toronto. But when it’s extra chilly outside, one of Ravi Kanagarajah’s three eateries is sure to be a short walk from the office. The popular curried apricot and lentil soup with lime crème fraiche proves that Ravi isn’t just ladling out your basic out-of-a-box soups.

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How to Make a Stunning Seafood Tower

The holidays are a time of year when we indulge, and there’s just something ultra festive about a vibrant, chilled seafood tower.

Typically looked at in awe while dining at a contemporary seafood restaurant, you might be surprised to realize that making a tower chock-full of delicious ocean bounty is quite easy to do at home. All it takes is a little preparation and final assembly right before your holiday party guests arrive.

Just follow these simple tips and everyone will be impressed!

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Buy good quality, sustainable seafood
When you’re serving friends and family a big smattering of seafood, you want it be as fresh and delicious as possible. While some grocers offer fresh shellfish at their seafood counters, you’re better off going to a local fishmonger like The Fish Counter (Vancouver), Billingsgate MKT (Calgary), Hooked (Toronto) or Fisherman’s Market (Halifax).

Prepare seafood same-day, if possible
Shellfish like mussels, clams and oysters, can be purchased a day or two ahead, and live safely in your refrigerator until you’re ready to prep them. The latter two can be cooked and chilled hours before eating, but set aside a few minutes to shuck the oysters right before assembling the tower.

Chill tower tiers before serving
Got a fridge full to the brim with holiday dishes and bottles of wine? Well, one of the handy things about our Canadian winters is the fact that our back deck or balcony can double as a large freezer (or fridge if you’re closer to the west coast). Giving the tower layers an hour or so to get cool will help keep the ice from melting too quickly while you’re assembling.

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Have the right tools handy
While you can remove all of the lobster meat beforehand, guests like a little hands-on activity at a party, so make sure to have the necessary seafood picks and seafood crackers (nut crackers work well in lieu) for people to use. Napkins too!

Don’t have a tower? 
Although the tiered presentation definitely adds a “wow” factor to the table, using a couple large serving trays and laying out the myriad of shellfish over ice, studded with lemon wedges and ramekins of sauce is pretty appetizing, too.

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How to Make a Seafood Tower

Total Time: 1 hour
Serves: 6

Ingredients:

Tower:
Crushed ice (enough for each tower level, approximately 10 cups)
1 lb fresh mussels (steamed and chilled)
1 lb fresh manila clams (steamed and chilled)
12 freshly shucked Malpeque oysters
24 large cooked prawns
1 2lb cooked lobster (claws, arms and tail separated)
2/3 cup seafood sauce
1 lemon (halved and cut into thin wedges)

Spicy Lemon Aioli:
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 Tbsp sambal oelek
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
1/4 tsp ground black pepper

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Directions:
1. Evenly distribute crushed ice onto each of the 3 tower tiers.
2. On the bottom tier, lay out all of the clams, 1/2 of the mussels and 1/2 of the oysters.
3. On the perimetre of the second tier, alternate 1 oyster with 4 prawns. Work your way around the tier. Take lobster claws, arms and tail and place around the centre of the tier.

Seafood Tower

4. Fill any empty space on the second tier with remaining mussels.
5. On the top tier, place ramekins of sauce and fill remaining space with lemon wedges.

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Spicy Lemon Aioli:
1. Place all ingredients in a small bowl and stir to combine. Keep in refrigerator until ready to serve with seafood.

Ready? Learn How to Shuck an Oyster Like  a Pro.

Super Cheesy Pull-Apart Garlic Bread

Warm, toasty, buttery garlic bread is always welcome alongside a plate of pasta or a hearty bowl of soup. But what if we told you it could be made even better?

Enter: gooey, cheesy pull-apart garlic loaf. Consider it garlic bread’s wilder, much cooler cousin, this crowd-pleasing, pull-apart version only takes a few more minutes to prepare, and is infinitely more delicious.

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Total Time: 45 minutes
Serves: 5-6

Ingredients:
1 whole loaf French bread (or 6 large French bread rolls)
1 cup salted butter (cubed)
4 cloves garlic
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
2 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan

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Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
2. Place butter in a small pan and melt on medium-heat. Once melted, reduce to low, add garlic cloves and herbs, and let sit for 10 minutes so flavours infuse.
3. Remove aromatics and transfer 3/4 cup to small bowl and 1/4 of a cup to another. Set aside.

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4. Using a bread knife, slice the loaf (or loaves) on the bias in approximately 1” slices, stopping just before the base of the loaf. Rotate the loaf 180 degrees and slice again on the bias. You should end up with small squares of bread that are all still attached to the base.
5. Take the 3/4 cup of garlic thyme butter and use a small spoon to drizzle into all of the crevices of the bread. If needed, use fingers to gently separate the squares before drizzling butter.

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6. Once everything is buttered, take the shredded mozzarella and tuck small portions of it into the spaces between the cubes of bread. (Note: you can use less cheese if you want, but the more cheese you use, the gooey it will be.)
7. Wrap loaf in the tinfoil and let bake in the oven until the cheese is melted and the garlic butter has become very fragrant, approximately 16-18 minutes.
8. Remove from oven, turn to low broil and unwrap loaf. Combine remaining melted butter with Parmesan cheese, stir to combine and then brush liberally all over the exterior of the loaf (or loaves).
9. Return to oven and bake until top is golden brown and crispy, about 5-7 minutes.
10. Remove from oven and let cool slightly before serving.

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5 Ways to Jazz Up Basic Potato Soup

At its simplest, potato soup is pretty humdrum — but the neutral flavour of potatoes means a big basic batch is soup-er easy to jazz-up.

Here’s how you can take a big batch of potato soup and turn it into a 5 tasty dishes. Bonus: potato soup freezes impeccably well, too!

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Basic Potato Soup Recipe

Total Time: 30 minutes
Serves: 6

Ingredients:
1 tsp canola oil
1 yellow onion (diced)
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
6 red potatoes (peeled and 1” cubed)
4 cups water
4 cups vegetable broth
2/3 cup heavy cream (or cashew milk)
Salt and pepper (to taste)

Directions:
1. Heat oil in a large pot on medium-high heat. Add onion and cook until softened, about 6 to 8 minutes.
2. Next, add butter to the pot and continue to cook, stirring regularly until onions begin to turn golden, about 10 minutes.
3. Add diced potatoes, water and broth, and bring to a boil. Reduce to medium heat and let simmer until potatoes are fork tender, about 10 to 12 minutes.
4. Remove from heat and let contents of pot cool slightly.
5. Transfer to a blender or use an immersion blender to puree soup until smooth. Stir in the cream and season to taste.

5 Ways to Spice up a Basic Potato Soup:

Loaded Baked Potato
Stir in chopped (cooked) bacon, sliced green onions and shredded cheddar. Once ingredients are warmed through and cheese is melted, pour into bowls and top with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle with more cheese.

Pesto Chicken
Bring soup to a simmer and add 2 Tbsp. of good quality pesto (or make your own), leftover roast chicken meat and some white wine or lemon juice. Stir and let cook for 5 minutes. Top with fresh basil and grated Parmesan.

Bangers and Mash
Thinly slice 2 cooked sausages (head to a local butcher for something top notch), toss into a pan along with 1 tsp of Worcestershire sauce, 2 cups of frozen peas and thinly sliced yellow onion. Let cook on medium heat for about 10 minutes. Portion soup into bowls, and top with onion, pea and sausage mixture.

Thai Curry Vegetable
Add about 1 Tbsp of red Thai curry paste (less if you can’t handle heat), a few splashes of fish sauce, rice wine vinegar and chopped vegetables (like Chinese broccoli, carrots and cauliflower) to the soup. Once the vegetables are cooked, season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve.

Blue Cheese and Pear
This may be for slightly more adventurous palates, but trust me on this one! Crumble your favourite blue cheese into the pot of potato soup along with some diced pear and a 1/4 cup of port. Stir until cheese has incorporated into soup. Ladle into bowls and drizzle with honey before serving.

Thicken cream based soups, like this seafood chowder.

Thicken cream based soups, like this seafood chowder.

Other Ways to Use it:

Thicken any Cream-Based Soup
Traditionally, soups are thickened with a roux — a combination of butter and flour — but since so many people have gluten sensitivities these days, adding a few cups of simple, starchy potato soup will thicken things up in no time.

In Pot Pie Fillings
Similar to above, fillings for most pot pies call for flour to help hold all of the ingredients together. Pour enough potato soup over top of filling ingredients, and stir until evenly coated.

The Ultimate Vegan Cooking Cheat Sheet

When it comes to the holiday season, you want everyone to feel like they’re in on the fun; asking grandma to boogie down to a festive tune, putting reindeer antlers on your dog and, most importantly, making sure all of your friends and family enjoy delicious food and drink.

“We vegans appreciate any dish that you have taken the time to make for us, it is better than not getting invited to the holiday party at all,” jokes Halifax chef Lauren Marshall. “I love going to a friend’s house over the holidays and being able to eat all the vegetable side dishes and smothering them all with mushroom gravy. Hold the turkey!”

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As the only vegan chef to compete on the hit series, Top Chef Canada, it goes without saying Marshall has got some serious chops when it comes to cooking for special diets. Here, the Halifax chef shares some fantastic tips and pantry staples to help you confidently cook some indulgent vegan dishes everyone can enjoy this holiday season.

Don’t be intimidated when cooking for vegan guests:
Remember that we’re just happy if you include us in on your dinner party — nobody likes to feel left out. If there are a few options you’ve taken the time to cook for us, we will feel satisfied!

Know which vegan milk to use:
Every dairy milk substitute has its place depending on the recipe. I believe that a homemade nut or seed milk always tastes better, and only takes seconds to make.

Coconut milk: Great for Indian curries instead of regular cream and also a great substitute in buttercream icing recipes.
Soy milk: Fantastic as a replacement for cream-based sauces as the flavour is quite mild.
Nut milk (almond, cashew, etc.): Ideal for morning cereals or smoothies, as the flavours pair well with the strong taste of granola or greens.

Shopping for quality tofu at the grocery store:
Find a product that is 100 per cent GMO free and organic. Also, see if you can find a local product. On the East Coast, you can find a locally made tofu by Acadiana Soy Products that’s organic and GMO free.

Serving a group with several dietary restrictions:
Only a few of my close friends are vegan, so it’s natural that I end up cooking for a mix of diets. In these cases, I love to serve tacos. I set up a table and create a buffet with fresh salsa, slow cooked chipotle beans, roasted portobello mushrooms, guacamole, smoked tempeh, cilantro cashew cream and shaved lettuce. Ask your meat-eating friends to bring sides like pulled pork or roast chicken and shredded cheese, and then everybody is happy!

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Lauren Marshall’s Vegan Gravy

The ultimate vegan comfort food:
It’s so easy to make vegan mac and cheese. For a delicious “cheese” sauce, just roast some butternut squash, garlic and onions, and blend with nut milk, cashews and nutritional yeast until creamy. Season with salt and pepper, then mix the sauce with cooked pasta. Even meat eaters will be impressed!

How to veganize holiday classics:
During the holidays, just replace regular butter for coconut oil and a bit of nutritional yeast in your roasted vegetables, or try making a vegetable-based gravy with cashews instead of using the standard turkey drippings.

How to veganize holiday baking:
These days, with the influx of vegan egg and butter substitutes available at grocery stores, it’s easy to convert everyday recipes to vegan ones. Instead of regular pie crust, pulse dates and ground almonds in a food processor, and slowly add coconut oil until it all comes together. It only takes minutes and bakes off well.

Great ingredients for easy vegan cooking:

Ground flax and good quality vinegar: This makes a great substitution for eggs when baking.
Agar agar: This is a vegan thickener, comparable to gelatin. It can work to firm up jams and other preserves. It also works for custards and curds.
Nutritional yeast: This has a really cheesy flavour, so try it anywhere you’d normally have shaved Parmesan and it’s especially great when tossed with freshly made popcorn instead of butter.
Tempeh (fermented soybean cakes): I always have some in my freezer, It’s my mainstay “meat” substitute because of its hearty texture.
Nuts/seeds, grains and legumes: Pumpkin seeds are great to throw into a smoothie in the morning. I love buckwheat for a protein boost, especially in baking bread or biscuits and I love lentils. Making a traditional Indian dahl with lentils is really easy and very filling.

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Lauren Marshall’s Lavender Blueberry Grunt

Lavender Blueberry Grunt Recipe

Total Time: 45 minutes
Serves: 6-8

Ingredients:
1/4 cup olive oil, plus 1 Tbsp for pan
3/4 cup maple syrup
5 cups frozen wild blueberries
3 cups large flaked dried unsweetened coconut
1 1/4 cup whole spelt flour, divided
1 Tbsp lavender
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup almond meal
2 Tbsp ground flax seeds, preferable golden flax
1/4 cup water
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp unfiltered apple cider vinegar
1/4 tsp sea salt

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Spread 1 Tbsp olive oil over the bottom of the cast iron pan.
3. Arrange blueberries on the bottom of the pan. Set aside.
4. Add coconut to food processor and add a handful of the spelt flour. Blend until coarsely ground and set aside. Sift remaining spelt flour, baking powder, baking soda and lavender into a medium bowl. Add almond meal and ground coconut, stir to combine and set aside.
5. In another bowl, whisk together flax seeds and water. Add maple syrup, oil, vanilla, vinegar and salt, and whisk again. Pour into dry mixture and stir until just combined.
6. Scoop out round biscuit-like shapes onto the frozen blueberries. Place on baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Looking for more delicious ideas? 25 Vegan Desserts Even Non-Vegans Will Love.

Tonka Beans: What They Are and How to Use Them

You may have seen these wrinkly little beans at your local spice shop, or tasted their distinctive warm flavour at a restaurant. If you’ve ever wondered which spice makes this distinctive aroma, something like a mix of cinnamon, vanilla, almond and cloves, you’re not alone.

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A wonderful alternative to ingredients like vanilla, cinnamon, almond extract or nutmeg, tonka beans are popping up on restaurant menus and slowly working their way into home cooks’ pantries. In Winnipeg, for example, you can sip it in an infused coffee cocktail at Clementine, or head over to Calgary for a scoop of tonka bean and cherry ice cream at Made By Marcus.

My first encounter with the tonka bean was at Silk Road Spice Merchant, a local spice shop in Calgary. A friend grabbed a small jar filled with stout, wrinkled black beans and said, “smell this.” The distinct aroma was unforgettable, but difficult to put into words. Part almond, part vanilla, a little cinnamon and maybe a hint of something fruity, like cherry. Whatever it was, it was intoxicating.

A little digging will tell you these beans are actually the seeds of flowers on gigantic trees (cumaru) that grow in Central and South America. Prior to its debut in the food world, the bean was used in tobacco and perfume production (and still are in some countries) because of its one-of-a-kind aroma. They’re also illegal in the United States, so consider yourself lucky to be an eager home cook in Canada!

The possibilities are endless with tonka beans, but here are few ideas to get you started.

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Simple Syrup: Use equal parts water and sugar, heat in a pot with one tonka bean until sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat, and let steep and strain into a bottle. Use in cocktails or in morning coffee.

Whipped Cream: Prior to whipping cream, place one tonka bean in a container with cream and let sit in fridge for at least six hours to infuse flavour.

Pumpkin or Apple Pie: The beans can also be grated the same way you would grate fresh nutmeg. Skip the pumpkin spice blend for once (blasphemy, I know) and use about a teaspoon or two of tonka bean for a new, delicious flavour.

Squash Soup: People seem to shy away from using ingredients typically associated with dessert (i.e. cinnamon, cloves, etc.) in savoury applications. Much like pumpkin pie filling loves its aromatic spices, a roast squash soup loves the same. Either drop a bean straight into the pot for 30 minutes or so to infuse its flavour, or ladle soup into a bowl and grate the bean on top using a microplane.

Caramel Sauce: Making homemade caramel sauce is really easy, so once you’ve made a batch and it has cooled down a bit, add a bean and let the magic happen.

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Tonka Bean Caramel Sauce

Cook Time: 15 minutes
Makes: 2 cups

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream, room temperature
1 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tonka bean

Directions:
1. Working in batches, sprinkle a thin layer of sugar in a large pot and place it over medium-high heat.
2. Once the layer of sugar turns to transparent beads, sprinkle a little more sugar on top. After repeating this several times, you’ll see that the sugar becoming more and more fluid.
3. Once you’ve melted enough sugar to cover the bottom of the pot, slowly add the rest of the sugar to the pan and as it heats, it will start to become darker in colour. You’ll be looking for a dark brown. (Note: this will happen progressively faster, so work quickly and do not walk away.)
4. Next, pour the heavy cream into the pan while stirring. The mixture will bubble up slightly. Once it goes back down, remove from heat and add in the butter. Stir until incorporated and add tonka bean.
5. Once cool, remove tonka bean and store in desired container or jar to use are desired.

How to Roast Vegetables Like a Pro

Now that we’re halfway through fall (how did that happen?), roasted vegetables of all shapes and sizes are back on the dinner table on a regular basis. Beautiful rainbow carrots, stark white, earthy parsnips, acorn squash, love-it-or-hate-it eggplant …the list goes on and on. To ensure each veg is cooked to perfection, you might want to think twice about chopping them up and tossing them in the same baking dish.

Here are a few simple tips and tricks to help you roast vegetables like a pro, and maybe even find a new appreciation for certain varieties that you weren’t so fond of before. I’m looking at you, Brussels sprouts!

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Tips and Tricks:

1. Roast like vegetables with like vegetables.
Yams and potatoes can be best friends in a baking dish, but something juicier, like zucchini or tomatoes tossed in? Not so much. A juicy vegetable will impose on the crispy, caramelized texture you’re looking for in starchy varieties, so keep ‘em separate.

2. Don’t overcrowd the pan.
Similar to the above, overcrowding vegetables on a roasting pan impedes their ability to caramelize. It’s not that you need to space out chunks of broccoli two inches from each other, but work in batches if needed. This mentality can also be applied when pan-searing mushrooms in butter Try it and taste the difference!

3. Working with large vegetables.
Roasting a halved butternut squash, whole heads of cauliflower or big russet potatoes should not be cooked at the same high temperatures as their chopped counterparts. Lower and slower is a better approach in these cases.

4. Make sure to use enough oil.
Dry vegetables typically result in not-so-great roasted veggies. Depending on what you’re doing with them once they’re cooked, it’s better to stick with a neutral-tasting oil like canola. This variety has a high smoke point than your standard olive oil.

5. A little sweetness goes a long way.
While coating vegetables with oil, I will often add a little something sweet like maple syrup or brown sugar to the mix. Not only does this add extra flavour, but it helps things caramelize nicely. This works especially well with ingredients like carrots, parsnips or Brussels sprouts.

6. The unusual roasters.
There are plenty of vegetables at the grocery store you might walk by time and time again, and never think of taking home to roast. I operate with the mentality that any vegetable can be roasted. Radishes taste completely different when roasted (sweet and juicy), kohlrabi, which is also delicious raw, turns out tasting like a turnip. One of my favourites is taking thick cuts of green cabbage and roasting it at a high temperature. Once charred, it develops an unbelievably delicious umami flavour. Out of this world!

General Roasting Temps and Times for Popular Veggies:

Small/Cubed Potatoes & Squash (1” or smaller): 450°F for 20 to 25 minutes
Whole Russet Potatoes & Large, Halved Squash: 375°F for 45 minutes to 1 hour
Chopped Broccoli, Cauliflower & Brussels Sprouts: 425°F for 30 to 45 minutes
Whole Broccoli Stems & Heads of Cauliflower: 350°F for 1 hour to 1 hour, 15 minutes (turn to high broil near end of roasting for better caramelization)
Whole Beets: 350°F for 50 minutes to 1 hour, depending on size
Carrots & Parsnips: 400°F for 20 to 25 minutes
Eggplant, Zucchini & Kohlrabi: 400°F for 15 to 20 minutes

The Best Ways to Reheat (and Reuse) Leftovers

Wouldn’t the world be an amazing place if we had time to cook a delicious family meal every single night of the week? It certainly would. But since many of us have evening commitments and strict daytime work schedules, dinnertime (and prep) always seems to be cut short.

Leftovers are a natural result of busy lives, and they don’t always have to be ho-hum after a quick nuke in the microwave. Here are six popular homemade dishes and how to make the revive them into tasty next-day dishes.

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Pasta
Have you ever noticed that pasta is a lot more firm once it’s been sitting for a while? The extra sauce that was sitting on your pasta dish gets absorbed by the leftover noodles.

To get the flexibility and sauciness back in a pasta, heat about 1/4 cup of tomato sauce, heavy cream or chicken broth, let it come to a simmer then add leftover pasta from the fridge, stir and allow to heat through. Top with a little Parmesan cheese if you have it because, well, it never seems out of place on pasta.

Pizza
Sure, a microwave does (sort of) do the trick with day-old pizza. The result may be decent enough with hot toppings and revived cheese, but it gives the crust an almost soggy, spongy texture.

For freshly-made pizza flavor, preheat your oven to a low broil, place two pieces of pizza into a cast iron skillet and let cook in the oven. The cast iron does an amazing job or crisping up the crust, while the low broil gets the cheese bubbly again. For more than an individual serving, use a large pizza stone for the same effect.

Chicken and Fish
To be completely honest, it’s nearly impossible to get the same juicy, tender qualities from cooked poultry and most types of fish the next day. For best results, heat up your protein in a moderately hot oven (about 375°F) in a small baking dish. Add a few spoonfuls of water or stock, cover with tinfoil and bake until warmed through. Giving leftover meats like this a quick chop make them easy additions to simple noodle or cream-based soups.

Pork and Steak
Much like chicken and fish, big cuts of pork and beef are hard to bring back to life after sitting in the fridge overnight. That being said, there are still ways to make them taste pretty delicious.

First, let the meat come to room temperature, then slice it into pieces (somewhere between 1/4 to 1/2” thick). This is a much better way to reheat because cooking a larger piece of meat (like the  tenderloin or roast) will result in an overcooked exterior and too-well-done interior. Heat a spoonful or two of butter in a large pan on medium heat, add the sliced meat and let it cook, stirring frequently until warmed through.

Rice
You can easily reheat rice in the microwave in a covered container, but that will generally give you a slightly overcooked, mushy texture. Instead, preheat your oven to 350°F, and evenly spread cold rice into a medium-sized baking dish. Loosely cover with tin foil, poking a few holes to allow the steam to escape, and let it bake for approximately 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, stir gently with a fork and let bake, uncovered, for 5 more minutes. Hurray for non-mushy rice!

Vegetables
This is quite a broad category, so right off the bat, the more tender vegetables like beans, snow peas, asparagus and wilted greens (spinach, Swiss chard, etc.) don’t lend themselves well to reheating after a first cook.

If you have leftover corn (if it’s on the cob, cut off the kernels), peas or any sort of legume (chickpeas, beans, lentils), you can give them new life with a quick fry in a large pan with some broth and spices.

Root vegetables like butternut squash, yams, potatoes and beets benefit well from a quick re-roast in the oven. Preheat oven to 350°F, lay them out on a baking sheet and let them roast for 12 to 15 minutes. Once removed from the oven, dress them lightly with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

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Recipe: Best-Ever Twice Roasted Baby Potatoes
When it comes to special occasions and holidays, it’s always good to know what to do with leftover potatoes. This application basically transforms baby potatoes into a different dish altogether, so feel free trick your dinner guests!

Directions:
1. Pre-heat oven to 425°F.
2. Remove the leftover baby potatoes from fridge and let them come to room temperature.
3. Use a large spoon to flatten them to about 1/4” thick, and spread them out on a large baking sheet.
4. Drizzle with canola oil and season liberally with salt and pepper. Roast until golden and crispy, about 18 to 20 minutes.
5. Serve a scrumptious side dish or top these crispy, little smashed potato cakes the same way you would a crostini.

How to Make Your Own Pumpkin Spice Blend at Home

‘Tis the season for pumpkin spice-ing just about everything edible. Well, maybe not everything, but fall is the perfect time for those warming spices like cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg to really shine, all of which are involved in the spice blend that goes into the popular PSL.

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Making your own pumpkin spice blend is simple. In fact, it’s so easy you might even be embarrassed that you’ve never done it before. And those pumpkin spiced drinks that you pay extra for at the café? Well, you can do that at home, too. Here’s how!

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Pumpkin Spice Blend

One of the best things about making your own pumpkin spice at home is that fact that you can cater to your tastes. Not fond of cloves? Add less of them. Think that cardamom might be an interesting addition? Try it out! This is just a guideline, so feel free to make it your own!

Prep Time: 2 minutes
Makes: 1/2 cup pumpkin spice blend

Ingredients:
3 1/2 Tbsp ground cinnamon
1 Tbsp ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

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Directions:
1. Place all ingredients in a small container. Stir, cover and store in a cool, dry place.
2. Use as desired.

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How To Use It

Fruit pies: This spice blend needs a new name. With the word “pumpkin,” it implies it’s only good for one thing: pumpkin pie. Fruit fillings, made primarily of apples, pears, plums or peaches, are perfectly suited for this spice mix as well. I’d recommend using 1 teaspoon per 2 cups of filling.

Overnight oatmeal or hot porridge: Oatmeal and porridge can always use a little sprucing up, so why not use this blend add some coziness to your morning meal.

Squash soup or beef stew: While we tend to think of the ingredients in pumpkin spice as sweet, for many cultures around the world, it’s quite the opposite. Adding some of this spice blend to a pureed squash soup or tomato-based beef stew adds a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ to savoury dishes. Consider it your secret ingredient!

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Variation: Pumpkin Spice Simple Syrup

Use this easy-to-make simple syrup in your morning coffee, or mixed into whipped cream for extra autumn flavour on top of your pumpkin or apple pie.

Total Time: 25 minutes
Makes: 2 1/2 cups pumpkin spice simple syrup

Ingredients:
2 cups water
2 cups cane sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
2 whole allspice
2 whole cloves
1 1-inch piece fresh ginger root
1 piece nutmeg

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Directions:
1. Place all ingredients in a medium pan and bring to a simmer on medium-high heat.
2. Once sugar has dissolved, reduce to low heat and let steep on stove for 20 minutes.
3. Strain mixture through fine mesh strainer into a heat-safe container or Mason jar and discard aromatics.
4. Store in fridge to use as desired. Will keep in the fridge for up to one month.

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Looking for more ways to use your pumpkin spice? Try these 33 Perfect Pumpkin Spice Recipes.

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9 Awesome Beer Halls Across Canada

We’re in the last stretch of summer, so it’s time to soak up all that sun and spend some of that carefree time at a beer hall or two.

The beer hall experience is actually appealing to many demographics — beer halls in Canada are typically family friendly during the day, quite sizeable (200+ seats) and offer a large selection of craft brews (perfect for beer nerds), among other things. But they’re also perfect for those of us who like our Friday night dinners to segue into a prolonged evening of sipping on pints and, perhaps, a little rowdiness.

Try one of these nine beer halls across Canada that offer a good mix of beer, food and fun.

Barley Brothers (Winnipeg, MB)

If there’s one thing Winnipeg needs to improve on (and I’m a huge Winnipeg fan, trust me), it’s more places that offer a good selection of Canadian microbrews. With two locations, Brothers fills a bit of that void with 70+ beers on tap. The atmosphere falls more in the sports game watching category, but most of us need a place to do that so hey, we might as well be drinking a pint of Canadian-made beer at the same time.

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Bar Stillwell via Facebook

Bar Stillwell (Halifax, NS)

Stillwell’s downtown location doesn’t technically match the exact definition of a traditional beer hall, but they definitely put emphasis on having a great array of Canadian craft beer. The ocean-side beer garden right on the dock is German-influenced, with long plank tables, pretzels, beer (naturally) and lots of well-made sausages.

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Craft Beer Market

Craft Beer Market (Calgary, Edmonton, AB, Vancouver, BC, Ottawa, Toronto, ON)

You’ll have a hard time finding a beer hall in Canada as big and as well-stocked as these brew-focused establishments. The food ranges from sliders and flatbreads to a gigantic “50 napkin” burger and a whole lot more. With over 100 beers on tap, chances are you’ll find something here that’s exactly what you’ve been hoping for.

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Central Bierhaus

Central Bierhaus (Ottawa, ON)

Plenty of exposed brick, industrial lighting and communal tables help give Central its casual and alluring vibe that draws in crowds for after work drinks, celebrations and everything in-between. The menu offers a nice mix of German food like schnitzel, pretzels, bratwurst and even a sausage platter.

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Congress Beer House via Facebook

Congress Beer House (Saskatoon, SK)

A lively spot on the weekends, Congress is a fun place to go on Friday or Saturday nights to enjoy a few pints of craft beer and some live music or DJs. During the week, it’s much calmer inside, so if you’re interested in sipping on microbrews a bit more seriously, that’s the ideal time to go.

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Das Bier via Facebook

Das Bier (Montreal, QC)

Montreal is a city that’s all about indulging, especially when it comes to food. But finding a place where you can get your fill of pints and sausages is surprisingly uncommon. Luckily, the recently opened Das Bier has got you covered with plenty of pretzels, juicy sausages and more than enough beer to keep your thirst quenched.

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National Beer Hall via Flickr

National Beer Halls (Calgary, AB)

This local chain of beer halls has four locations, and is known for its impressive and always rotating selection of craft beer, with fantastic happy hour specials between 3 and 6 pm. Finding a true pint at a mere $5 is like finding in a needle in a haystack. So, for me, National’s window of value is like a little piece of heaven.

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Wurst via Facebook

Wurst (Calgary, AB)

When Wurst opened its doors just over 4 years ago, it aimed for a split concept, offering a more contemporary German-inspired dining experience on the main floor and a rowdy beer hall on the lower level, which includes a polka band on peak nights. Fun rarely stays underground, so it wasn’t long until the beer hall vibe crept upstairs, making for two levels of enjoyment. Rowdy nights aside, it’s also a great place to go for brunch on the weekends and 100% family friendly.

Since it’s really hard to ignore a good pun, I assure you that you’ll have anything, but the “wurst” time at this beer hall.

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WVRST via Instagram

WVRST (Toronto, ON)

Leave it to Toronto to take the German beer hall concept and twist it ever so slightly to scenester-chic levels. The bright red accent wall and strings of lights hanging from the ceiling make the long plank tables feel nice and inviting. In terms of food, WVRST’s pride and joy is sausage and when it comes to dinner, forget the schnitzel and spaetzle because they’ve got 22 different house-made sausages to choose from (there are three vegetarian/vegan options as well). Finish off with some soft serve ice cream because after a few pints, you won’t feel the need to ask yourself why a German-style beer hall serves ice cream.

12 Great Greasy Spoons to Try Across Canada

Some places may not love the term “greasy spoon,” but to me, using that expression isn’t always a bad thing. As much as we all love our plates of confit this, and sous-vide that, at the end of the day, sometimes you just want a greasy burger or a simple sandwich loaded with deli cuts and a proportionate amount of mustard.

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Blackfoot Truckstop Diner/Facebook

That, my friends, is where these satisfying and delicious greasy spoons come in.

Blackfoot Truckstop Diner (Calgary, AB)

Normally I wouldn’t put a restaurant on a list after it was mentioned only a couple of weeks ago, but for Calgary, Blackfoot fits the bill too perfectly for being both a great late-night food spot (open 24 hours), as well as a top notch greasy spoon.

Try the grilled hamburger steak drowned in gravy, with a healthy portion of poutine on the side — you will love (and hate) yourself for it.

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Broadway Cafe/Facebook

Broadway Cafe (Saskatoon, SK)

Anywhere that proudly proclaims they serve Campbells’ soup has clearly read the definition of greasy spoon in the dictionary. Keep things classic at this Saskatoon institution with a grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup for dipping. Don’t forget the milkshakes either — I mean, how else could you wash all of that cheesy goodness down? And, with most menu prices not exceeding the $10 mark, your wallet will feel just as content as you do after sitting down for a diner-style meal here.

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Spoons Diner/Facebook

The Commodore (Edmonton, AB)

In business for 73 years and counting, this casual downtown eatery on Jasper Avenue just might be the longest-running restaurant in the city’s history. Commodore is still owned by the original family that opened its doors back in 1942, passed down through the generations. Talk about a family business!

The food may be simple and the interior no-frills, but you’ll definitely soak up a little bit of Edmonton history anytime you visit this joint.

Cosmos Snack Bar (Montreal, QC)

French toast, crispy bacon, tall breakfast sandwiches with a sunny side egg, sliced in half and dripping down your hands as you pick it up… There’s not much to complain about at one of Montreal’s go-to greasy spoons. For a city that embraces foie gras so much, I’m almost a little surprised you can’t find it served diner-style here.

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Dangerous Dan’s Diner/Facebook

Dangerous Dan’s Diner (Toronto, ON)

If a gigantic burger topped with cheddar, bacon and a fried egg sounds good to you, then Dangerous Dan’s demands your presence. The Queen Street East diner is definitely a hot spot for many Torontonians, and Dan’s delicious deep-fried perogies alone are a good enough reason to check it out.

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Galaxie Diner/Facebook

Galaxie Diner (Calgary, AB)

Calgarians looking for a hangover cure are always willing to brave long line-ups (and cold weather, come November) to get a seat inside this little restaurant that dishes out eggs by the hundreds and hashbrowns by the ton (my estimation), every day of the week. The “Calgary Sandwich” is Galaxie’s popular spin on a Denver and is loaded with everything from eggs, sausage and bacon, to peppers, onions, mushrooms and possibly a kitchen sink too!

Park Cafe (Saskatoon, SK)

What’s a guy gotta do to find some decent shock food in Saskatoon? Well, he has to go to Park Cafe. If you’re unsure what shock food is, just picture some of the more crazy items that Guy Fieri consumes on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives and that pretty much sums it up. The “Death by Cheese Sandwich” is not for the faint of heart and is as greasy as it gets. Basically, it’s a nice, thick grilled cheese sandwich that’s battered, breaded and deep-fried. Everything in moderation, my friends.

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Save On Meats/Facebook

Save On Meats (Vancouver, BC)

Lumping Save On Meats into a line-up of greasy spoons may not be the most accurate thing to do. Sure, they cook up simple, comforting dishes like patty melts and Salisbury steaks, but beneath their simple offerings, this restaurant is so much more. The diner is community focused through-and-through, offering a token program where people (you and me) can purchase meals for $2.25 and hand them out to less fortunate individuals that you might encounter in an area of town that is slowly being restored.

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Spoons Diner/Facebook

Spoons Diner (Victoria, BC)

Whether you’re craving an early morning bite, quick lunch or simple dinner, Spoons is here for you. Pancakes, eggs Benny, clubhouse sandwiches… Whatever diner dish you’re craving, you’ll probably find it on the menu.

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The Templeton/Facebook

The Templeton (Vancouver, BC)

Located on Granville Street in the heart of Vancouver, this old diner is charmingly worn and slightly rough-around-the-edges, not unlike the street you find it on. If reasonably priced BLT sandwiches or mini Kellogg’s cereal box breakfasts are your jam, this is the place for you.

The Westcliffe (Halifax, NS)

When Halifax-based food writer Kathy Jollimore told me you can get a cheeseburger and fries for under $5 at this east coast eatery, I almost didn’t believe her. Turns out, almost everything on the menu is $5 or less. Since we’re all the way out on the east coast, you can also find fried clams and fish and chips for one heck of a deal too.

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Zak’s Diner/Facebook

Zak’s Diner (Ottawa, ON)

Ottawa’s ByWard Market has no shortage of shops, restaurants and bars, but when the sun goes down and the street crowds dwindle, whose neon sign shines brightest? Zak’s. Established the same year as Lindsay Lohan (1986, obviously), this 24-hour diner keeps things nice and greasy around the clock with menu items like chili cheese dogs, deep-fried macaroni and so much more.