All posts by Devon Scoble

Ina and Jeffrey

Ina Garten and Jeffrey’s Love Story

Ina Rosenberg was only 20 when she married Jeffrey Garten, and as a new bride, was happy spending her days at home, cooking for the love of her life. But Jeffrey says that the day he came home and found her watching a sitcom at 11 in the morning, he suggested a change. “I just said to her, ‘You have to do something. You won’t be happy if you don’t.'”

Now Ina jokes that Jeffrey was the first feminist, and it’s true that since then, he’s supported her, whether she was whipping up gourmet meals on a camp stove in Europe, working as a nuclear policy analyst for President Jimmy Carter, or buying the first plank in the Barefoot Contessa empire; the small specialty food shop she opened in Westhampton Beach, New York in 1978.

Ina Garten and Jeffrey

Twenty years later, when she put her own money into the inaugural run of The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, Jeffrey was there, and nearly twenty years after that, he’s still there, cheering her on at every turn.

But Jeffrey downplays the inspirational role he plays in Ina’s life and stardom. “It was such a natural thing for her to do,” he told People magazine. “I certainly supported her, but it was really all her. I was so proud of her. Not everybody finds something that they’re so passionate about, but she clearly had.”

For her part, Ina has accepted that Jeffrey’s work has often taken him far away. In the 80s he was relocated to Tokyo, where Ina carefully arranged his living space to look exactly like their apartment in New York, so Jeffrey would feel at home, even when she was far away. And although many couples break under the strains of a long distance relationship, it hasn’t seemed to affect Ina and Jeffrey. “No matter where he is, I always know that there’s nothing more important than me in his life,” Ina told People. “We give each other enormous freedom to do what we want to do, but we’re still the anchor.”

Ina Garten and Jeffrey

It doesn’t hurt that Jeffrey “seems to like everything I make,” writes Ina in the introduction to her latest cookbook, Cooking for Jeffrey. “And that’s exactly why I love to cook!”

After nearly 50 years of marriage, these still-smitten lovebirds hardly need proof that theirs is a special kind of romance, but we still think it’s deliciously romantic that the couple have inspired a line of Valentine’s Day cards, cementing their status as a couple for the ages. So if you’re looking for a sweet nothing to whisper to your beloved foodie this year, you can’t wrong with the words on the card: You’re the Jeffrey to my Ina.

Catch new episodes of the Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics premiering March 5 at 12pm ET. Check back on the show site here to watch full episodes online plus get Ina’s recipes featured in the show.

super bowl menu roger mooking

Roger Mooking’s Ultimate Super Bowl Menu

Maybe you like football, maybe you don’t. But if a snack-centred event featuring classic comfort foods sounds like your idea of fun, then it’s time to add Super Bowl Sunday to your annual calendar of delicious events. Here, chef and Chopped Canada judge Roger Mooking shares his tips for hosting a superb Super Bowl Party.

888_Sweet-Potato-Wedges-with-Chipotle-Sauce

Pass the snacks
One of Chef Roger’s favourite Super Bowl memories was watching the 2016 game at his cousin’s place, while his cousin screamed and jumped around the TV. “The whole family knows he is a Broncos fanatic so we all went there to watch him,” he says. “It was one of the most hilarious things I did last year and will never forget it.” That energy is what makes the day, so don’t quash it by asking fanatics to sit down for dinner. “Finger foods and hand-held foods are always good because people tend to get excited, and want to nibble through the stress and excitement throughout the game,” says Roger.

Honey-Glazed Ham

Roger recommends:
Sweet Potato Wedges with Chipotle Sauce
Honey-Glazed Ham
Red Cabbage and Green Apple Slaw
Mini Apple Pie Pockets

Prepare for a thirsty crowd
A mix of alcoholic and non-alcoholic brews and caffeinated and non-caffeinated drinks, will allow guests of all ages to cater to their own energy and entertainment requirements. If you’re serving booze, Roger recommends taking everyone’s keys as they come in the door. “Call a cab if people get too tipsy or are too worked up to drive,” he says.

Ginger Beer

Roger recommends serving:
Chocolate Malted Milkshakes
Ice cold light beer with lime wedges
Ginger beer
Iced coffee with condensed milk

“Make a coffee, add ice and drizzle some sweetened condensed milk in it,” says Rogers. “Stir it all up just before you drink and there will be enough sugar and caffeine in there to turn the most docile sports fan into Mike Tyson backed into a corner.”

iced coffee

Game day plan
Stock up on side plates and serviettes, since guests will invariably go back for seconds (and thirds), and some of the tastiest game day treats the messiest. Avoid a post-season house slump by keeping a garbage nearby so it’s easy to tidy up during commercial breaks.

Looking for more Super Bowl ideas? Try Patricia Heaton’s Best Game Day Recipes.

gluten-free-eating

8 Great Tips for Going Gluten Free

In a column I once wrote for Food Network Canada, I used to sign off with a jokey bio: “Devon will eat anything except roasted silkworm and bananas.” To me, that was a punchy way of expressing my food philosophy — that eating is not just a physiological necessity, but an opportunity for adventure.

I’ve approached food like that my whole life, from my early days as the kid who breathlessly described her first sushi dinner to her disgusted small town classmates (it was the 80’s, and sushi was still weird in rural Ontario), to the grown-up who suffered multiple bouts of food poisoning in search of Asia’s best street food (mango sticky rice in Chiang Mai? Crispy kimchi pajeon in Seoul? I can’t decide.)

Vegetable-Pad-Thai

Anna Olson’s Vegetable Pad Thai is gluten-free.

So learning that I have a severe gluten intolerance has been a blow to my identity as a culinary adventurer. If you’re reading this today because you can’t eat it either, I feel for you. Yes, there are worst problems, but food restrictions are not fun, especially when that restriction covers so many delicious items and especially when you’re a die-hard foodie.

But I’m not going to stop exploring new culinary frontiers just because my eating passport is missing a few visas, and you shouldn’t either. Here’s what I’ve learned in my first year of gluten-free eating.

1. Get Tested

Testing for celiac disease requires a gluten-filled diet, since current tools measure inflammatory reactions, either in the blood or gut. If, like me, you stopped eating gluten before being tested, the only way to get accurate results is to start eating it again. In many cases that’s not medically advisable. When I tried reintroducing, my reaction was so severe my gastroenterologist advised me to stop. As he said, it doesn’t really matter whether I have celiac disease or Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS) — an emerging, though still poorly understood diagnosis — because for reactions like mine, the prescription is the same; no gluten.

If you’re celiac, tests will confirm that eating gluten is dangerous to your health and you can never eat it again. But, if you’re not, there’s a possibility you might have some latitude, for instance, you might be okay eating whole grains, like simple barley, but not more processed products, like pizza crust. Or maybe you have a wheat allergy, but can still tolerate grains like rye — it’s always best to check with a doctor to help find out.

Balance Cookie

Anna Olson’s Balance Cookies are gluten-free.

2. Hone Your Elevator Speech

Missing out on your favourite foods is hard, but it’s not the hardest part: social eating situations are. I hated losing my identity as a non-picky eater, and in the early days of my intolerance, I’d do anything to try and keep it. At restaurants, I’d inform servers that I couldn’t eat gluten, then qualify the warning with something that made me feel less difficult, like “but it’s not an anaphylactic thing, so I won’t die if you mess up.” Although true, that little qualifier meant staff didn’t take me seriously, and predictably, I got sick. Bottom line: celiac disease and NCGS are serious conditions with real health implications that deserve attention. These days I call ahead to let kitchen staff know about my restrictions. Sometimes I’m disappointed to discover restaurant staff are ill-informed and ill-prepared for my dietary needs, other times I’ve been pleasantly surprised, like when I recently learned my favourite Dutch-Indonesian restaurant cooks with gluten-free soy sauce.

I do the same thing ahead of parties, although with private events, I’ll offer to bring my own food if the host is unable or unsure how to accommodate. Bottom line: don’t be shy to voice your needs, and do be prepared to educate others on what a safe meal means for you.

3. Stick to Naturally Gluten-Free Foods

These days you can’t cruise a grocery store aisle without seeing an advertisement for a gluten-free product, but not all gluten-free foods are created the same. Most treats that aim to emulate their gluten-filled counterparts — think bread, cake mixes and pizza crusts — rely on super-refined flours and artificial stabilizers. They’re fine for the occasional treat, but the tastiest (and healthiest) gluten-free foods tend to be the ones that never needed gluten in the first place. Choose starches like corn tortillas, crunchy seed crackers, fluffy rice and quinoa or flavourful buckwheat pancakes. Enjoy the fact that meat, fish, legumes, cheese, fruits and vegetables are naturally gluten-free.

4. Know Your Allies

Start on a restricted diet and you’ll soon learn just how many people avoid select ingredients, whether they do so because of allergies, intolerance, or religious and ethical considerations. In my experience, your fellow restricted dieters are often the most accepting and helpful; the more niche their diet, the more helpful they’re likely to be. In other words, vegetarian restaurants are good, vegan, paleo or raw restaurants are better. I’ve discovered a whole new world of delicacies — like rich hemp seed ice cream — because they were produced with vigilance.

Beet Risotto

Anna Olson’s Beet Risotto is gluten-free.

5. Eat These Cuisines 

In areas where corn is a staple, like Latin America, much of the food will be naturally gluten-free. Plus, it’s hard to feel deprived when digging into a cheesy corn-tortilla nachos or a saucy arepa.

Same goes for India, where rice and lentils are prominent, or Ethiopian food with its teff-based injera. A word of caution: many Asian cuisines that seem gluten-free employ soy sauce, which is typically cultured with wheat. That said, Vietnamese pho, rice noodles and rice wraps are generally a solid bet, as is a much Thai food, which is often seasoned with fish sauce instead of soy. Surprisingly many Italian markets and restaurants offer solid choices, since awareness of celiac disease is quite high in that country. Cuisines that focus on simple preparations of meat, fish and vegetable, like Greek or Japanese food, often have tasty options.

6. Read Labels and Ask Questions

Just because you had a fabulous gluten-free injera at one Ethiopian restaurant doesn’t mean they don’t add wheat flour at another. Know the tricky ingredients — packaged soup stocks, sauces and spice mixes can contain unexpected gluten — and be prepared to educate friends, family and servers about them. Packaged ingredients can change, restaurant management can turn over, friends can forget, and cross contamination is real, so be vigilant. It never hurts to stash an emergency snack in your car or purse, just in case.

7. Experiment

Bakers beware: Although there are many gluten-free flour mixes, whether store-bought or homemade, each behaves differently, depending on its exact composition. In the beginning, it’s best to start with one, learn its properties and master a few recipes before moving on to the next blend and finding the one you like best. Be prepared to experience the frustrations and joys of learning to bake all over again. And don’t forget to search Foodnetwork.ca for gluten-free baking tips:  Anna Olson has some particularly drool-worthy recipes.

8. Explore

I’m still holding out for the day researchers develop a gluten-busting pill that works like Lactaid does for the lactose intolerant, but until that day comes (and there’s reason to believe it may be soon), I’m not going to stop exploring. In many ways, gluten-free eating has forced me into a new era of creative cookery, as I try to recreate favourite flavours and seek out new, safe, treats. Focus on what you can eat and as much as possible, try to emphasize discovery over deprivation. Happy eating!

Lynn Crawford

Lynn Crawford’s New Year’s Food Resolutions

At a recent lunch to celebrate the launch of Sunwing Café, Lynn Crawford’s new menu for the vacation airline, the chef was all smiles. Graciously, she greeted the assortment of journalists, food bloggers and fans assembled at her Toronto restaurant, Ruby Watchco.

As ebullient as always, you’d never know that at the time, Lynn Crawford had a three-week-old baby back at home, a newborn still in the parental demanding early days of life. Ask for the secret to her seemingly endless energy and the Chopped Canada judge doesn’t miss a beat: “Coffee.” But later, over the phone from her home in Toronto, she reveals another reason for her effusive smiles: Love.

“She’s beautiful,” says Chef Lynn about her daughter, Addie Pepper. “She’s absolutely perfect, and it’s amazing how a little one can change your life so much.”

Relative to her size, Chef Lynn’s newborn is playing a huge influence in the Food Network star’s life, impacting everything from her schedule to the foods and flavours she wants to try in 2017.

Foodie Resolution #1: Travel and Eat



“There’s a wonderful world of food out there, and Lora and I both being chefs, we really want to explore that world with Addie,” she says. “And as two chefs who love food as much as we do, a big part of it is certainly travelling.”

The family is planning a trip to Hawaii this spring, where Chef Lynn hopes to reconnect with the macadamia nut banana bread and fish tacos with pineapple caper salsa she enjoyed so much on her last trip to Maui.

She also hopes to revisit some of the tasty restaurants she’s explored on her own, and as a Great Canadian Cookbook host, like Tofino’s Wolf in the Fog,  Calgary’s Charbar and Quidi Vidi’s Mallard Cottage.

Foodie Resolution #2: Pitchin’ in at Home

Apples

Despite the vacation plans, babies have a way of keeping their parents housebound, and for Chef Lynn, that’s meant getting reacquainted with her home kitchen.

“I’ve done more cooking in the last three weeks being at home than I have in such a long time,” she says without complaint. “It’s a fine line, commenting on how to parent a child in the wonderful world of food,” she admits, but still, Chef Lynn is excited to introduce little Addie to healthful, homemade, seasonal whole foods. “I’ve got Addie in one arm and I’m going around the kitchen and I cut into this Macintosh apple and Addie smells it — it doesn’t register yet, but it’s nice to get her senses excited about food!”

Foodie resolution #3: Ordering in

Although Chef Lynn has been spending more time than ever in her home kitchen, she’s also excited about all the new apps that allow diners to order in, and thinks she might try a delivery of her favourite Vietnamese comfort food next year. “I love a really good pho,” she says.

How to Host a Feast of the Seven Fishes Like Matt Basile

Until he was well into his teens, restaurateur and cookbook author Matt Basile had never tasted a Christmas turkey. Instead, the Italian-Canadian creator of the Toronto street food company, Fidel Gastro, spent his childhood holidays dining on Southern-Italian specialties, like fresh grilled shrimp and fettucine Pomodoro.

Basile’s family never called their holiday meal a ‘Feast of the Seven Fishes,’ but as he points out, “Italians — especially southern Italians — don’t really look to name a food trend; they just eat the best quality food.” Even among the Italian and Italian-American families who call their holiday dinner by the idiosyncratic name, there are no set rules for what must be served, although, as the title implies, seafood is appreciated.

Here are Basile’s tips for hosting a memorable and delicious Italian-Christmas dinner.

garlic shrimp

Start with Love (and Frangelico)

“Lots of love and food,” were always on the menu at Basile’s Nonno’s house, where his family would gather for a festive feast, always served family-style. “It’s just how you ate,” he says. “It forced you to be patient and to look at the person across from you and make sure their plate was topped up before yours. It taught you to share a meal with the people you loved versus just consume one.”

Before the generous meal, there was “always enough to feed an army,” says Basile — his family served Frangelico aperitivos.

Add Seafood (and Pasta, and Steak)

Grilled shrimp, grilled sardines with lemon, and crab legs were regulars on the Basile family’s holiday menu, often served alongside fettuccine pomodoro and steak. But it’s the zuppa di pesci, a fragrant seafood soup, that really gets Basile in the Christmas spirit. “The most nostalgic of the dishes was the zuppa di pesci — tomato broth with incredibly soft potatoes and carrots with clams, cod, salmon and shrimp,” he says. “It would be something I would absolutely crave every year. A few years ago when my girlfriend and I opened our restaurant, we invited both our families and I made a massive 20 litre pot of it.”

tiramisu

Don’t Forget to Espresso Yourself!

The Basile family capped their holiday meals with Sambuca-laced espresso,  a nice alternative to dessert. But just in case you and your guests still have belly room, consider serving one of these Italian holiday favourites: panforte, a spiced chocolate cake, crisp pizzelle waffle cookies, creamy tiramisu, or a towering fruit-studded panettone.

Whatever menu you choose, remember Matt Basile’s advice: setting a festive mood is more important than serving any particular dish. “If you have to follow rules like it’s biblical, then you’re doing it wrong,” he says. “It should be fun, first and foremost.” Good times are not just for guests, either — as the host, it’s essential for you to participate. After all, says Basile, “the more fun you have, the more fun your guests will have!”

John Catucci on Where You Gotta Eat During the Holidays

You Gotta Eat Here host John Catucci has sampled food across Canada, so when he offers his suggestions for our nation’s best spots to grab a holiday meal, we just have one question: Where?

John is full of recommendations, so put on your stretchy pants and get your Santa bellies ready, Canada, because there’s plenty of homegrown deliciousness to enjoy this holiday season.

Scandilicious (Vancouver, BC)

Mother-daughter team Anita and Kristina offer a menu of traditional Norwegian family recipes at this Vancouver hotspot, including gluten-free options.  John’s favourite is the ‘Applepieffle,’ a liege waffle topped with spiced poached apples and a gingerbread cookie spread. “It took me a while to be able to say ‘applepieffle’ without getting tongue tied,” says John, but it was worth the effort. “Apple pie + waffle = SO GOOD!”

That Little Place by the Lights

That Little Place By The Lights (Huntsville, ON)

Lasagna is a must-try at this cottage country favourite. Chef Annie’s masterpiece features of layers of succulent homemade pasta, laced with her signature Bolognese sauce and stuffed with a cheese and béchamel filling. John says it’s the best lasagna you’ll ever taste.  “Please don’t tell my Zia Felicetta, or she won’t ever make me lasagna again.”

Saturday Dinette (Toronto, ON)

Grab a seat at the counter, enjoy the rocking tunes and tuck into chef Suzanne’s massive soy-braised beef ribs, served with a hearty walnut dip. Then get back out there and finish your shopping! “Suzanne is an incredible chef and an amazing woman,” says John. “When you walk into her place, she makes you feel like you’re part of the family.”

Yellow Belly Brewery

Yellowbelly Brewery (St. John’s, NFLD)

Can’t decide between cheese pizza and chicken Caesar salad? Then just order John’s favourite, the four-cheese and chicken Caesar pizza, and you won’t have to. “I love being able to pick up my salad, in case I need to go somewhere,” says John. “I’m not going anywhere, I’m just saying it’s a nice option.”

The Satay Brothers (Montreal, QC)

Add some Singaporean spice to your season with the street food favourites at this Montreal establishment. John especially loves the pork belly buns, two steamed buns stuffed with braised pork belly, hoisin sauce, fresh cucumber, and cilantro; they’re the perfect combination of soft and crunchy textures and sweet and salty flavours. “If you’ve never had a steamed bun, do it,” says John. “Chewy, soft clouds of deliciousness stuffed with the most succulent pork belly.  Leave one out for Santa.  I’m sure he’s getting tired of all those cookies”

Still hungry? Check out the You Gotta Eat Here! map for more delicious options.

Parents’ Top Tips for Packing Lunches That Kids Will Actually Eat

There are plenty of good reasons for wanting to pack a healthy, nutritious school lunch your kids will eat. Consider this: if fueling their minds isn’t inspiration enough, it’s inevitable that one of these days, someone is going to forget to clean their lunchbox, only to discover that come Sunday evening (or worse, Monday morning), the uneaten contents have sprouted new life.

parents-tips-on-packing-school-lunches

Save yourself the trouble with these keep-it-real tips for packing school lunches with ease from real parents.

Train Your Sous-Chef Early

These are the two most-commonly cited reasons for including kids in the lunch process: they learn useful life skills and strip themselves of the right to complain.

Food blogger Sandra Hickman Simmons highlights the positive side: “Make it a fun thing you do together at least occasionally,” she says. “When the child opens the lunch they will get an immediate smile on their face remembering how they cut their sandwiches with a cookie cutter, or played a counting game with the grapes while making the lunch with mom or dad.”

Bonus: when kids choose the foods that go into their own lunch boxes, they’re more likely to actually eat them. “If they pack it, they own it,” writes Family Cook Off host and mother of three, Trish Magwood. She suggests laying out rules, such as ‘each lunch must include a fruit and a protein,’ then letting the kids choose the items within your pre-set categories. Best of all, studies show that kids who participate in home cooking are more likely to choose healthy items.

Make a List

Family life can get so hectic that sometimes we even forget our own bright ideas. By keeping a running list of favoured lunch items, you’re creating a grocery list and packing day inspiration. “When lunch making time rolls around in the bleary-eyed morning, it’s easier to look at a list and pick stuff than try for creativity before the coffee sets in,” says Toronto mom Lana Rayman.

Involve your children in the listing process so the options are parent and kid-approved; if they can read, they can use the list you’ve created together to guide their choices and do lunch on their own.

Mix It Up

“I usually pack lots of little things cut up,” says Kitchener mother Julie Barker. She says her son, Jack, is more likely to eat his lunch if it’s all “mini.”

Cut-up portions aren’t just cute — they’re practical, too. Kids have limited time to eat their lunches, and bite-size bits are easier to manage. They also create space for a greater nutritional variety.

That said, don’t get too upset if even the best packed food rainbows are occasionally returned home. “My son needs variety,” says mom Dawn Hill. “And it’s always a surprise what he’s going to eat and what he suddenly “hates.” I’ve given up worrying about it.”

Remember: It’s Elementary School, Not Top Chef Canada

 Many of the parents we spoke to recommended cutting and arranging foods in cute shapes. It can be a fun way to bond with your kids while taking care of a necessary task. But crafting panda sushi and banana penguins isn’t for everyone.

Milton mom Lisa Weaver reminds parents to test out a lunchbox before buying, as some are easier to operate than others. “They don’t get a lot of time to eat,” she says, “and little hands need to know how to open latches and lids.”

Stay On Track

Above all, try not to stress. Yes, good nutrition is important, but dietitians frequently advise taking a weekly approach, rather than daily. If your kid is getting the right balance of fruits, veggies, proteins and fibre-rich complex carbs throughout the week, an indulgence here or there is totally fine.

When your kids inevitably do return with uneaten items, instead of asking why they didn’t eat a particular item, approach them with a neutral statement, like: “I see there’s still a lot of rice in here…” If you’re lucky, it might lead to a conversation about their current food interests, or their lunchtime social lives. Besides, at the end of the day, it’s just lunch.

Still hungry for fresh lunch ideas? Try these recipes: 16 Stress-Free Lunch Ideas

Brad Smith’s Dinner Date Dos and Don’ts

As a former Bachelor star, current Chopped Canada host Brad Smith knows a thing or two about dating. We caught up with Smith to learn some of his best tips for a deliciously simple and romantic date night, just in time for Valentine’s Day.

Brad Smith

Don’t Wait for V-Day
Valentine’s Day is just another day of the week,” says Brad. If your romance needs rekindling, celebrate it, but otherwise being thoughtful and caring with every date is the best approach.

Forget the Dark Corners — Love Needs Light
“Do go somewhere where you can hear [your date],” says Smith, preferably a spot that’s not too dark. And if you can, sit next to each other. “I always order a four person table and then tell them it’s only two people. That way we can both sit in the booth or both sit on the chairs.” This proximity helps establish a closer connection, Smith suggests.

Turn it Off to Turn Them On
Brad Smith reveals another advantage of sitting close is that’s it’s harder to reach for the date-killer lurking in your pocket — your phone.

Mac and Cheese

“Whether you make mac and cheese or fine dining, the important part is trying,” says Smith.

Trying is Sexy
If you want to impress your boo — on Valentine’s Day or any other — it’s all about effort. “You can make me macaroni and cheese and hot dogs and I’d like it as much as if you made me some fine dining,” explains Smith. “There’s nothing like coming home to the thought of someone doing something for you, regardless of what it is.”

Be Clear About Your Intentions
“In the industry I’m in, you either meet people you’ve known beforehand or you meet people at events and they’re kind of like your first date,” he says. “You don’t have to be like, ‘Oh, can we get a drink?’ because you just had a drink and talked for three hours at an event.” But in other professions, Smith admits a little candour goes a long way. Always establish that a date is a date, and not, say, a networking lunch or business coffee.

Tune-in on Saturdays at 9 E/P to catch Brad Smith on Chopped Canada.