All posts by Laura Grande

Laura Grande is the assistant editor for Food Network Canada and HGTV Canada. She’s also a contributor for Slice and Complex Canada. Laura loves reading, writing, travelling and consuming all forms of pop culture — especially film, hockey and true crime podcasts.

Meet the Canadian Women Helping to Bring Gender Equality to the Wine World

It’s clear within minutes of our three-way phone chat that Emily Pearce and Jennifer Huether love talking about wine, from the terroir to the nitty-gritty details of winemaking. In a traditionally male-dominated industry, there’s something refreshing about hearing two women at the top of their game speak passionately about the grape. Not only do the Toronto-based entrepreneurs boast an encyclopedic knowledge on the subject, but they’ve also enjoyed massive success with Femmes du Vin — a  non-profit organization that launched less than five years ago.

“The story of Femmes du Vin is really about grassroots growth. It started in 2016 in my backyard in Toronto,” says founding president Pearce. “I got this idea to have a social event that was a safe space for women in the wine industry to come together to have a place to network, discuss successes and analyze challenges.”

What started as a small gathering has since transformed into the massively successful Harvest Seminars where speakers and attendees tune in from around the world to talk wine and culture.

For decades, women sommeliers or wine enthusiasts have been few and far between, with men dominating the conversation and top positions. Now, Pearce and Huether, master sommelier and  director of education at Femmes du Vin, are pushing for more inclusion of women in the wine world.

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

Emily Pearce

Tell us about the genesis and evolution of Femmes du Vin and why it’s needed in the wine industry today.

Emily Pearce: “Eventually, [the backyard event] outgrew me setting up a tent and making homemade sushi in my backyard. We had our first brick and mortar event [in 2019] and it continued to grow out of community demand to what it was [in 2020] — which was an amazing virtual event with speakers and attendees from across the world. It speaks to the hunger in our industry for these safe places in our community for women to connect. While there are still challenges women face — be it wage discrepancies that still exist or issues around discrimination or harassment — I really just wanted to create a place where women could build stronger networks.”

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

What were your earliest experiences in an industry dominated by men?

Jennifer Huether: “That’s a great question. Personally, I started out in the wine business about 22 years ago. I fell in love with wine, started taking some courses and became a sommelier. I can honestly say to you that, back then, I would look around and I could name maybe two other women sommeliers in Toronto — a massive, metropolitan city. And that certainly felt like the case wherever I went — whether I was flying to England for exams or on wine trips that were led by different countries, we [women] were always a very small minority in the group. At that time it was also a bit surprising for people to come across you, so they would unintentionally start mansplaining wine to you because they didn’t understand that you’d studied it or worked in it for several years.”

Related: Celebrating 10 Female Chefs That We Love, From Anna Olson to Molly Yeh

What shifts have you started to see since starting Femmes du Vin in 2016?

EP: “It’s two steps forward, one step back. I look at the top positions in our area [of Toronto] and we’re seeing a proliferation of women in top positions. But, on the other side, you see a continuation of discouraging things — whether that’s discrimination against women or perhaps harassment or other obstacles that still exist. I’ve worked very hard and I’m grateful for the positions I’ve held in the wine industry, but I’ve been on the other side of the table. I still think there are clear obstacles facing women. Having a family, for a woman in our industry, is tremendously challenging [for example].”

Jennifer Huether

How can Canadian wineries work toward including more women?

JH: “Some confidential conversations I’ve had with [female] winemakers said it was a really, really tough road for them. What they’ve done, sort of like what we’re doing, is create a bit of a community for each other where they’ll get together and chat and support each other.”

Related: Metis Herbalist and Educator Lori Snyder on Urban Foraging and Food Sovereignty

EP: “And what Femmes du Vin is doing is we’re working on a really exciting project with two wineries [The Grange from Prince Edward County and Benjamin Bridge from Nova Scotia] and we’re going to be doing a private label Femmes du Vin wine which is very exciting. We’re working with a local winemaking school to offer internships for women — hopefully BIPOC women — to work with head winemakers for these custom private labels for Femmes du Vin. It will provide them with professional one-on-one experience with head winemakers that they can actually put on their resumes to make them more professionally competitive when it comes to the market… It’s a small thing that might only help a handful of women each year, but we’re really excited to be able to leverage our network and work toward change. A portion of the proceeds from the sales of those wines will also be going into our scholarship fund for women in wine.”

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

What is your favourite wine?

JH: “Can we give you a wine region or a style? [laughs] For me, we’ve got to go to France and we’ve got to go to Burgundy. Then we have to go with white wine — a Chardonnay. They’re the most intriguing wines in the world.”

EP: “I would have to concur — a beautiful Chardonnay from Burgundy. Anything with the word Montrachet in it. It’s so expressive with its terroir [the natural environment where it’s produced] and it’s versatile with food. It’s something that is a treat — a desert island wine that is irresistible.”

Related: Top Pinot Gris Wines to Sip Right Now

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Feature photo courtesy of Unsplash; second and third photo courtesy of Emily Pearce and Jennifer Huether.

How to Make French Toast and Other Easy Big Breakfast Recipes

As the old adage reminds us, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. And while six in 10 Canadians report eating breakfast every day, it tends to be quick and easy go-to meals, leaving little time for variety and creativity. If you’re looking to up your culinary game in the coming months, why not start with breakfast classics? Think: French toast, oven-baked bacon and waffle platters that would put any charcuterie board to shame. Master the art of big breakfast recipes that’ll become household favourites in no time. You can thank us later!

Brioche French toast on plate

How to Make French Toast

There’s nothing better than the sweet scent of French toast cooking on the stovetop first thing in the morning. If you’ve never tried your hand at the breakfast staple, consider sticking with this tried-and-true classic recipe.

1. In a small bowl combine 1 tsp ground cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg and two Tbsp of sugar.

2. In a 10-inch or 12-inch skillet, melt 4 Tbsp of butter over medium heat. Whisk together cinnamon mixture, 4 eggs, ¼ cup milk and ½ tsp vanilla extract and pour into a shallow container such as a pie plate. Dip bread in egg mixture. Fry slices until golden brown, then flip to cook the other side. Serve with syrup.

Related: Overnight French Toast, Plus More Easy Breakfast Casserole Recipes

What to try something a little more challenging? How about an overnight gingerbread French toast bake (pictured below) for the perfect winter morning dish? Combine the egg mixture with gingerbread spices and cranberries for a hint of tartness.

Overnight French toast bake in pan

Get the recipe for Overnight Gingerbread French Toast Bake

How to Cook Bacon in the Oven

Is there anything better than the smell of bacon in the morning? Spoiler alert: the answer is no. Even better: this crispy and delicious one-ingredient recipe is ready in a snap.

1. Preheat oven to 400ºF.

2. Lay the bacon on a sheet pan and bake for 15 to 20 minutes until the bacon is really crispy. Dry on paper towels and serve. Voila!

10 pieces of bacon roasting on cookie sheet

Get the recipe for Ina Garten’s Roast Bacon

How to Make a Waffle Platter

Feeling ambitious? Impress your family with your culinary skills by whipping up a waffle platter for a hearty breakfast.

1. Plug in your waffle iron and mix dry ingredients (1 cup buckwheat flour, 1 Tbsp coconut sugar, 2 tsp baking powder and a pinch sea salt) into a bowl.

2. Mix the wet ingredients (1 egg, ¼ cup melted coconut oil
and 1 cup dairy-free milk) in a separate bowl.

3. Pour the dry into the wet and whisk until a batter comes together.

4. Once the waffle iron is hot, scoop about ⅓ cup batter onto the iron, close it and let it cook for about 3 minutes.

The beauty of this waffle platter is the plethora of toppings you have to work with. Think: fresh fruits, proteins (hard-boiled eggs, cheese, smoked salmon), pantry staples (dried fruits, seeds, nuts) and syrups or spreads (maple syrup, honey, peanut butter, tahini, yogurt).

Cutting board with waffles and fruit layered on top

Get the recipe for Gluten-Free Buckwheat Power Waffles

Want more how-tos? We give you the lowdown on how to make apple juice and the perfect hard-boiled eggs.

An overhead show of sliced marbled banana bread

Why We’re Drawn to Comfort Baking in Times of Stress, According to a Psychologist

If we could sum up our collective baking experience in 2020, it would boil down to two words: banana bread.

When the global pandemic first upended our everyday lives back in March, many of us turned to baking. It didn’t matter whether or not we were seasoned pros, we all seemed to crave the baked goods we cherished as kids. (Think: cookies, muffins, bread and pies). There was something comforting about the familiar smells and tastes — and it had many of us resorting to a form of culinary therapy in a time of uncertainty. You couldn’t scroll through your Instagram feed without coming across dozens of bread loaves conjured up by even the unlikeliest bakers in your friend group.

Get the recipe for Healthy Marbled Banana Bread

So, what gives? Why now, in the midst of the second wave of COVID-19,  have we once again turned to baking — albeit with a distinct holiday sparkle this time around. As it turns out, our desire to bake when the going gets tough actually has deep psychological roots that can be traced back to our childhood.

Dr. Brent Macdonald, of the Macdonald Psychology Group in Calgary, has more than 20 years of experience in the field — and is more than familiar with the various intricacies of the human brain when it comes to food associations.

Related: Our Fave Food Trends to Come Out of Quarantine, From Pancake Cereal to Bread Art

“[Baking or cooking] can remind you of the positive experience of sharing it with family, of being cared for and comforted as children — and that same emotional transference happens in adults,” he explains. “The smell, the taste, the texture, the experience of eating something that brought you pleasure as a child brings up all those positive emotions of comfort and warmth.”

As Macdonald notes, it’s no mere coincidence that we seek out these familiar foods in times of strife. For many, it’s a form of mindfulness — even if we don’t realize it. “We tend not to have [comfort food] when we’re doing well — we typically have it when we’re feeling stressed. That’s our medicine, in a sense,” he says. “The good thing about it is that it works — comfort food and comfort baking makes us feel better. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing — we shouldn’t feel shame or embarrassment that we have comfort foods we enjoy. It kind of gets a bad rap because of its association with sugars and carbohydrates — and fair enough. But once in awhile, treats are treats for a reason.”

Get the recipe for Fudgiest Sweet Potato Brownies

But given this whirlwind year where many have faced significant social and professional upheavals, Macdonald says it’s still important to take note of how consuming these baked goods makes you feel — aside from sentimental reminders of Grandma’s kitchen.

“Does [comfort baking] make you feel good and just feel good? Or does it make you feel good temporarily, masking some really unpleasant emotions that come back immediately once you stop eating? Because that’s an unhealthy pattern,” Macdonald says.

So, what’s the actual science behind this feel-good attachment we have to baking? Over the years, researchers have shown evidence that the act of baking triggers various parts of our brain, including the amygdala (the part of our brain where emotions are given meaning) and the hippocampal cortex (memory retrieval) which can ultimately help us reduce stress and anxiety. Therefore, a simple scent — vanilla or melted butter — can take us back to the relative safety and comfort of our childhood, thus inspiring in us the desire to recreate the recipes we indulged in during our “stress-free” younger years.

Get the recipe for Perfect Fermented Sourdough Bread

And with certain scents you can almost feel the power of those neuroreceptors firing off, Macdonald says. “We start to drool, to salivate, as our body prepares to ingest the food. It’s similar to people who have nicotine cravings. All of those things set off an anticipatory response that is waiting for that intake.”

So, with the holiday season upon us and no sign of COVID-19 abating before the end of this strange year, indulge in a little feel-good baking — whether you’re a novice or pro. After all, it’s one of the most budget-friendly therapeutic activities you can engage in — and the end result tastes delicious. Happy baking!

Try your hand at these classic Christmas cookies that will spread holiday cheer or these bountiful bread pudding recipes you’ll make over and over.

Canadians Now Ordering Food Online in Record Numbers, Survey Reveals

It’s been an unusual year, to say the least. From adjusting to our makeshift home offices to recalibrating our kitchen routines, our work-life balance has never looked more different. One of the biggest changes in 2020? The eating habits of Canadians.

This week, the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University in Halifax released their report on the impact of COVID-19 on the food industry and e-commerce. For the study, researchers surveyed 7,290 Canadians about their eating habits in the last six months.

Related: Meatball Fans Rejoice! IKEA Canada Restaurant Now Offers Takeout

The findings reveal that a total of 31.3 per cent of Canadians have used curbside pickup or home delivery services from grocery stores in recent months, while 28.6 per cent used an online service to get food delivered from a restaurant. Another 26.3 per cent specifically used a phone application to order food (think: UberEats and Skip the Dishes) with 12.8 per cent opting for make-it-yourself meal kits. In summary, 63.8 per cent of Canadians have ordered food online in some form in the preceding six months.

A quick breakdown of the most popular food types ordered by Canucks, according to the survey, reveals the following:

— fast food (33.1 per cent)
— fruits and vegetables (22 per cent)
— dairy products (21.5 per cent)
— baked goods (20.6 per cent)
— alcoholic beverages (8.7 per cent)

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

When asked the reasoning behind their scrumptious purchases, respondents revealed that convenience by and large was the most popular reason, coming in at 33.8 per cent. Second place were concerns about the virus and leaving the house at 13.8 per cent. For 6.9 per cent of Canadians, mandatory self-isolation was the driving factor behind ordering food online or via app.

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

Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, 29.6 per cent of Canadians averaged food orders (grocery or takeout) at least once a week. In the last six months, however, that percentage has skyrocketed to 45.4 per cent.

In conclusion, the Agri-Food Analytics Lab estimates that 4.2 million more Canadians are ordering food online at least once a week than the pre-pandemic average.

Other than takeout, wonder what we’ve all been purchasing since March? Spoiler alert: it’s not just toilet paper! Here’s what Canadians have been buying since COVID started, according to Statistics Canada.

Photos courtesy of Getty Images

IKEA meatballs on serving tray inside restaurant

Meatball Fans Rejoice! IKEA Canada Restaurant Now Offers Takeout

Raise your hand if you’ve ever experienced a sudden, overwhelming hankering for IKEA meatballs. (*waves both hands*) If this describes you to a T, we’ve got some great news for you: as of today – November 9 – IKEA Canada is offering restaurant takeout so you can gorge on those iconic Swedish meatballs (and some new budget-friendly family meals) from the comfort of your own home. We don’t know about you, but this is the type of feel-good foodie news we need more of in 2020.

IKEA meatballs on serving tray

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

Due to provincial COVID-19 restrictions, many IKEA locations across the nation have had to shutter their dine-in spaces, leaving bereft customers out of luck when it came to enjoying fan-favourites such as the veggie balls, butter chicken and the fish and chips duo.

Thankfully, the new takeout process is easy as 1-2-3: simply place your order at an IKEA kiosk in the designated bistro area and you’re all set to pick it up once it’s ready.

Related: We Tried Popeyes’ Famous Chicken Sandwich That Finally Came to Canada – Is it Worth the Hype?

IKEA has also introduced new affordable family meals, which includes a Swedish meatball family meal ($30) and a Swedish veggie ball family meal ($20). Each order contains 24 meatballs (or veggie balls) with a choice of two sides, plus additional sauces and a family-sized chocolate DAIM cake for dessert.

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

Takeout is now available at all IKEA Canada stores nationwide, including those which have temporarily closed dine-in areas due to provincial regulations.

Find more information on IKEA’s takeout policy here.

Photos courtesy of Getty Images.

a hard-boiled egg cut in half on a while background with salt and pepper shaken on top

How to Make Perfect Hard-Boiled Eggs (Plus Three Easy Recipes!)

Eggs are a must-stock ingredient, whether you’re meal planning for breakfast, lunch or dinner. This humble, versatile food offers limitless possibilities — be it poached, fried, soft or hard. With that said, it can test even the most experienced chef’s patience when it comes to making the perfect hard-boiled egg. What’s the secret? Turns out, all you need are the four simple steps below.

Master the art of how to make hard-boiled eggs and then whip up these three egg-cellent recipes that’ll become household staples in no time. Get crackin’!

Related: The Best Way to Prepare Eggs Around the World, From France to Japan

perfect hard-boiled egg cut in half with pepper

How to Make Perfect Hard-Boiled Eggs

●  Fill a pot with enough water to cover eggs by about 2 inches.
●  Bring water to a boil.
●  Once boiled, remove from heat, cover pot and let them sit for 10 minutes.
●  Remove eggs from hot water and place in an ice water bath for a few minutes.

Spoiler alert: You can skip the stovetop option and try Instant Pot Hard-Boiled Eggs and Air Fryer Hard-Boiled Eggs instead.

Related: How to Cook Eggs Perfectly Every Single Time

Rabokki/Tteokbokki (Spicy Ramen and Rice Cake)

When we think of hard-boiled eggs, a comforting bowl of ramen is one of the first recipes that come to mind. After all, there’s nothing quite like a sliced egg perched on top of a steaming bowl of noodles, meat and vegetables to really satisfy our hunger pangs.

If you’re looking to elevate your ramen game, consider this hearty tteokbokki/rabokki recipe inspired by a classic Korean street food. For the uninitiated, tteokbokki is a spicy rice cake dish while rabokki refers to traditional ramen noodles. Pair the two together and you’re in for a treat — just don’t forget to top it all off with a hard-boiled or (or two).

Get the recipe for Rabokki/Tteokbokki (Spicy Ramen and Rice Cake)

Deviled Eggs

We love options as much as the next person, so the next time you’re craving a satisfying bite of deviled eggs, consider whipping up multiple batches. Think: pickles and capers, wasabi and ginger and sesame carrot for a spin of the classic recipe. You can thank us later.

Get the recipe for Valerie Bertinelli’s Deviled Eggs, 3 Ways

Classic Cobb Mason Jar Salad

Portable, make-ahead meals are the stuff dreams are made of — and this adorable mason jar salad is the perfect recipe to fill your belly with hearty chunks of cooked ham, crispy bacon, hard-boiled egg, tomato, avocado and crumbled blue cheese.

Get the recipe for Classic Cobb Mason Jar Salad

Want more how-tos? We give you the lowdown on how to make apple juice and grow fall vegetables.

Feature image courtesy of Pexels

Metis Herbalist and Educator Lori Snyder on Urban Foraging and Food Sovereignty

If you seek to better understand urban foraging, in all its intricacies, Metis herbalist and educator Lori Snyder can show you the path.

But when it comes to urban foraging, what exactly is on the menu? Think: wild plants and weeds growing in the city or suburbs that you could easily come across while out for a stroll.

“We need to be mindful of creating foraging corridors in our cities,” Snyder explains. “How can we be put all this really fantastic food and medicine in our backyards, back alleys, schoolyards and on the edges of parks? We could be growing tons of food that would also benefit insects, birds and other creatures. You have to reconsider what is in your garden that you didn’t realize you could eat, like dandelions and horsetail — stuff we think of as weeds, but our ancestors ate.”

While Snyder points out that there are some potent plants that could do major damage if you’re unfamiliar with them, the majority of the edible and medicinal ones can be found in city parks and right outside our front doors — and each comes with its own unique flavour and texture that we should teach ourselves to acclimate to.

“We’re all about sweetness and the sugar and why is that?,” she muses. “It’s probably because we’re not cultivating enough sweetness in our life. Very gently I remind people that sugar is a colonized food — it actually has a horrible history involving slavery. So here we are eating this part of history that is really very dark. So now I educate my palate about different flavours that aren’t so common in our diet, but were common in our diet once because they’re the wild foods our ancestors ate.”

We recently chatted with Snyder about her urban foraging journey, the meaning of food sovereignty and the one woman who influenced her life’s work.

Related: The Dark Side of Trendy Superfoods (and What You Can Do to Help)

Tell us about the path that led to your journey as an herbalist and educator.

I was born and raised in Squamish, just outside of Vancouver. Where my parents built their house was the beginning of a housing development and behind our home was an incredible forest. We had all kinds of wild animals coming into our yard – like bears and stags. Our next door neighbours who bought the lot beside us were Danish and Irish. My sense of Mrs. [Maude] Bruun, because she was from Ireland, was that she didn’t know the plants that were growing here on this continent. What she would do is walk us kids up through the back trails and introduce us to the cottonwood tree, the salmonberry, the miner’s lettuce, the birch tree — all the incredible species and diversity of plants that grow in this part of the world.

When I do teachings I’m always sharing more pathways for people to discover. [The documentary] My Octopus Teacher shows us that the world around us is always in service of teaching us how to be as two-leggeds. What I’m seeing is that we have moved away from our true way of being on the planet. So I’m really grateful for Mrs. Bruun for imprinting that introduction. Once we start to learn to identify plants and other creatures, we get more curious and want to learn more about them. Once I get to know who they are [the plants], then it’s about ‘can I eat you or use you for medicine?’ Although I don’t like that word ‘use’ — it’s more ‘how can I get in relationship with you so that I can honour the gifts you bring.’

In Indigenous cultures, we didn’t have anything written — it was all oral. It was about using all of our senses so that we understood the world. I didn’t grow up knowing about my Metis history and ancestry. We could ask our own selves, how have I been colonized away from this deep relationship my ancestors have carried since the beginning of time? We’re talking about urban foraging — the reason that is starting to happen [more often now] is because we’re getting more curious [about the land we live on]. It’s either ego-centric or eco-centric. That’s what we’ve been – we’ve been so self-absorbed and distracted by entertainment that we haven’t even noticed someone has been cutting down the forest behind us.

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

What are some common cross-Canada plants that are edible and/or medicinal that many of us aren’t even aware of?

Stinging Nettles [pictured above] are an amazing plant. They are hard to find in Vancouver because we get rid of it — because people think it stings and it’s a weed. But when you take the time to learn about her you realize she’s a superfood. It’s got tons of vitamins and minerals — and it’s so delicious when you cook her, it’s unbelievable. You can get fibres made with her, you can harvest the seeds and it’s considered an adaptogen. It’s also great for the prostate gland and inflammation – and this is just a snapshot of what she can do. The other piece that is so important is that she’s a host plant for five different species of butterfly here in this region. When we don’t [take the time to] understand the native plants, we destroy their habitat.  [Stinging nettle] tastes earthy and woodsy. It’s such a unique flavour.

Saskatoon/Serviceberry we can find across the country. [They resemble blueberries and are both sweet and nutty like almonds in flavour. They’re also high in fibre, protein and antioxidants.]

Strawberries – oh my goodness, what an incredible medicine they are! They help regulate our menstruation — they’re good for cramping. What are us women taking? We’re taking pharmaceuticals which can be hugely detrimental to our health and can have side effects, but can also stay in the body because so many of them are fat-based. Plants are water-soluble, so they move through the body.

Purslane is [a green, leafy vegetable] like a succulent and it’s crunchy. It’s so good for the brain and, of course, there are a ton of vitamins and minerals.

Oxeye Daisy — her leaf is out of this world [delicious] and indescribable. To be able to add her to your salads [or desserts]  would be amazing. The weeds outside our door just offer so much.

Rosehips — now here’s a plant people could be looking for right now all across the continent. [pictured above] They’re abundant, go harvest them. They are beautiful and high in vitamin C, iron and zinc. There’s your coffee right there — a nice stimulus that is good for the heart and good for the muscles and repairing collagen. And she taste beautiful as tea, syrup, jelly or jam.

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

Can you speak to food sovereignty and its link to injustice in the food system?

Food sovereignty appears to me to be political in its design. When you kill off all the buffalo or chop down the forest you impact Indigenous communities’ ability to feed themselves. We are not children asking for handouts. We are strong, capable people who can feed ourselves as we have done prior to the arrival of a new order. We see this tactic again and again all over the planet. All people need to take back their responsibility in their relationship to the land which feeds and nourishes us. We might consider growing our own foods, sharing the bounty, saving the seeds, teaching our children this ancient art of growing food. Not only do we grow food, but we grow a living ecosystem around us that feeds all life. Let’s deal ourselves back into the web of life and drastically reduce our food footprint by transporting food all over the planet. We can do this — take the power back and have sovereignty again for all nations all over the planet.

I don’t want anyone having power over me. I want my autonomy. I want sovereignty in how I’m eating, I want sovereignty in the choices I make. I don’t want to be a consumer, I want to be a citizen. We are consuming because we think we’re not enough. We are the ones we have been waiting for. Let’s wake up, my friends.

Related: Vegetable Garden Planners to Help You Grow All Year Round

What is the biggest takeaway you hope people have from your work?

We’ve been colonized away from nature and for us to really cultivate our reverence and gratitude and know that we’re just part of the web, I have this responsibility. I’ve had people tell me they look at the plants everywhere they walk now… that they’re seeing the world differently now… and of course it sets them on a culinary exploration. It opens you up to all these amazing possibilities.

Want to learn more about plants and urban foraging? Lori Snyder recommends:

The book called Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer. The braiding of sweetgrass involves three strands — scientific knowledge, Indigenous ways of knowing and plant wisdom. [Kimmerer] refers to the plants and animals as our older brothers and sisters which, to me, makes complete sense because they were here before we ever arrived. If we look at Indigenous ways of knowing, so much of that comes from the land and the animals.

There’s also a beautiful book called The Wild Wisdom of Weeds: 13 Essential Plants for Human Survival by Katrina Blair. Wild weeds are essential for our human survival. I take so much [knowledge] from others that are sharing this important way of being.

This interview has been edited and condensed. 

Photo of Lori Snyder courtesy of Belinda White at Apple Star Photo; plant photos courtesy of Getty Images

All products featured on Food Network Canada are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy through links in this article, we may earn an affiliate commission.

How to Make Apple Juice and Other Questions About Fall’s Favourite Fruit

Move over, pumpkin – it’s time to talk about that other autumn classic: apples. Whether you’re looking to whip up a piping hot cider or want to get your bake on with a fresh batch you recently picked from the orchard, there’s a plethora of ways to incorporate apples into your everyday meals. One of the most important factors, however, involves proper preservation. (Say goodbye to the dreaded browning).  From cider recipes to apple-related hacks, we answer some of your biggest questions about everyone’s favourite fall fruit.

How to Make Apple Juice

If you’ve already had your fill of apple pie and apple dumplings in recent weeks, it’s time to satisfy your cravings with the season’s fruit favourite another way: homemade juice. (Psst, it’s also a lot easier to make than you’d think — and doesn’t involve a blender or juicer).

1. Wash, quarter and core the apples, making sure to remove all the seeds. Peeling isn’t necessary, it’s baker’s choice.

2. Add apples to a pot of water (just enough liquid to cover the fruit, otherwise your juice will turn out too watery). Boil the apples for 20-30 minutes, until soft.

3. Slowly pour contents from the pot into a mesh strainer with a bowl underneath, gently mashing the softened apples with the back of a large spoon or ladle. The juice will be filtered while the apple mush remains behind.

4. Once the juice is cooled, add sugar or cinnamon, depending on personal preference.

5. Keep refrigerated and enjoy within one week of making.

Related: The Pioneer Woman’s Irresistible Apple Desserts

How to Make Apple Cider

If you’ve been apple picking lately, grab the largest pot you own and get simmering! (Hot tip: if you like your cider sweet, opt for the Fuji, Gala or Red Delicious varieties, while those who prefer their cider tart should go with McIntosh, Granny Smith or Pink Lady apples).

1. To start, add quartered apples, one sliced orange, one piece of peeled ginger, one tablespoon of black peppercorns, two cinnamon sticks, two teaspoons of cloves and a half cup of brown sugar to an oversized pot.

2. Bring to a boil and reduce heat. Let it simmer for at least two hours. Alternatively, you can do this in your slow cooker for up to five hours. Although there are 15-minute variations for apple cider, more time in the pot or slow cooker will allow all the flavours blend together and will leave your kitchen smelling divine.

3. Strain apple mixture through a sieve, discard solid pieces and serve hot. Bonus: freshly made apple cider can last for up to two weeks in the fridge! Find more apple cider recipes to try this fall.

Want to try the “grown up” version? Get the recipe for Nancy Fuller’s Sparkling Apple Cider or if you’ve got extra time on your hands, try the Slow Cooker Hard Cider variation pictured above.

Related: Refrigerator Rules: How Long Do Leftovers Last?

How to Freeze Apples

If you’ve picked more than your usual amount of apples from the orchard this year, don’t let all that fine fall fruit go to waste. There’s a simple hack that will preserve your leftover apples for up to a year!

1. Peel and core apples, cutting them into thin eighths or bite-size chunks – baker’s choice.

2. Once all the slicing and dicing is done, give them a five-minute soak in a water and lemon juice mixture – the lemon will help prevent browning.

3. Once drained, arrange each piece on a baking sheet (to stop them from sticking together) and freeze overnight.

4. The next day, transfer the slices or chunks to an eco-friendly freezer bag or container labelled with the date. The beauty of this food hack is that you can freeze your apple slices for up to one year and it won’t dilute the taste!

Get the recipe for Hasselback Apples Topped With Coconut-Oat Streusel

Related: This Clever Trick Will Prevent Freezer Burn for Good (and Major Food Waste)

How to Keep Apples From Going Brown

Ah, the dreaded browning process. Think of how many apples it’s ruined over the years. Luckily, there’s more than one simple hack that’ll help you preserve fall’s most iconic fruit.

1. For same-day usage, soak sliced apples in lemon juice – the citric acid will help slow down the browning process leaving your apple pieces looking fresh and crisp for several more hours.

2. Out of citrus? Another option is to soak the apple slices in a bowl filled with one cup of cool water and ½ teaspoon of salt. Let them float for about 10 minutes before storing in an airtight container for up to a week. Worried about a salty aftertaste? Fear not! That leftover brine comes off with a simple tap rinse.

3. If you’re looking to pack or use an entire apple, slice it into quarters and then put it back together before wrapping a rubber band around it. The band will ensure your ready-to-eat slices aren’t exposed to the air.

Get the recipe for Bobby Flay’s Apple Pancake Bars With Brown Butter Crumble Topping

Related: 10 Brilliant Ways to Use Fruit That’s Going Bad

Don’t know the difference between butternut and acorn squash? Our ultimate squash guide breaks it down for you. You can also keep your green thumb happy this autumn by learning how to grow fall vegetables.

First two images courtesy of Unsplash.

A Haitian Chef Reveals the Secret Ingredient to His Toronto Restaurant’s Success (Even During COVID)

Like most great chefs, Marc-Elie Lissade jumped at the opportunity to fill a global food gap in a major metropolis. After leaving Haiti at age 11, Lissade spent some time living in the United States before setting down roots in Toronto in the hopes of opening his own restaurant. And that’s when, in December 2019, Boukan was born – a Haitian food joint offering French-Creole street fare.

“Street food works in Toronto because it’s open to many styles of cuisine,” he says. “And we don’t already have a lot of Haitian or Creole cuisine here.”

Related: The Very Best Ways to Devour Street Food Around the World

Lissade excels at Haitian comfort foods (think: deep fried and delicious). Boukan is a vibrant space packed with eye-popping colour located on Toronto’s Kingston Road. The walls, dedicated to the work of local artists and signatures left behind by satisfied customers, illustrate the importance of ancestral ties and community.

His passion for food comes from his close bond with his grandma, a bona fide chef in her own right. Growing up, it was she who taught him many of the homemade seasonings and recipes that make Boukan such a hot spot destination for foodies.

It’s hard to deny how Lissade’s attention to history, family meals and community have become the main ingredients to his restaurant’s success (FYI: he also has his own catering company called Black Apron Events and garnered the top award from 2018’s Taste of the Caribbean!).

A Place in History

Given his penchant for connecting with family through food, it comes as no surprise that Lissade turned to his ancestral roots when brainstorming a restaurant name – in particular, a groundbreaking moment in Haitian history.

The Haitian Revolution is widely considered one of the most significant moments in the history of the Atlantic World. It lasted for more than a decade, beginning in August 1791 before concluding in January 1804 with the self-liberated slaves exerting independence over French colonial rule in Saint-Domingue (now Haiti). The event bears the distinction of being the only slave uprising to result in a state led entirely by non-white rulers and former captives.

Prior to the revolution, enslaved Haitians would gather around a campfire (boukan) to shares stories, dance and enjoy food together. It’s that specific aspect – a community coming together – that ultimately inspired Lissade to take a page from his ancestors’ history book for the name of his restaurant. “After 1804, Haitians were [finally] able to celebrate,” he says. “For me, Boukan is our culture and it represents history and a place of celebration.”

Family Ties

If one were to map out Lissade’s career trajectory, from his catering company Black Apron Events to Boukan, it would start with his grandma. At only eight years old, Lissade was a chef in training, assisting his grandma with her catering company – running around grabbing the ingredients and cookware she needed. Even now, any reference to his grandma will take Lissade on a trip down memory lane.

“I remember every Saturday night we’d have fritay [pronounced free-tie, a general term for fried food] and griyo [deep fried pork]. We’d sit down and she’d tell us stories,” he recalls. “We always looked forward to that.” (Griyo also happens to be his favourite recipe to make with his grandma, which Boukan customers can find on the menu).

Every family has its own fiercely guarded kitchen secrets that are passed on through generations. When asked if there’s a specific tip or secret ingredient that his grandma taught him over the years, Lissade gives a reluctant laugh. “Yes. It’s really about the process of [prepping] the food,” he says. “She taught me to cook with three senses: smell, sight and texture. When you’re cooking, you’re always running around tasting different things, so your taste buds change. [Slowing down and paying attention to] those senses is what helped her become a better cook. Now, at 32, I understand why she was cooking that way.”

Related: 15 Easy Cooking Techniques Everyone Should Learn to Master

A Place to Gather

There’s a real sense of community woven into the very fabric of Boukan, from the rotating work by local artists featured on the walls to recipe-sharing with fellow chefs.

“I wanted the place to be open to everybody,” he explains. “We all get stronger through collaboration with others.” And that collaboration takes on many forms.

For starters, Lissade rotates the artwork featured in his restaurant roughly once a month to make room for new pieces and local talent. “I don’t want to go to a restaurant where the same artwork has been on the wall for 15, 20 years,” he says. “Yes, this is a restaurant, but it’s also an art gallery where I open it to all local artists in Toronto. People can purchase it and it is full commission to them. I don’t take money from it because I know how hard it can be – unless you’re a Picasso.”

Even the story behind one of Lissade’s favourite “secret ingredients” has a communal backstory. “I have a close friend who lives in Miami and she’s a Haitian chef,” he says, citing her influence on one of the most popular recipes he’s crafted for the menu. “When I was opening Boukan I thought it’d be a crazy idea to offer a vegan burger. We [Haitians] love meat, but I wanted to be different.”

The result was the wildly popular Burger Boukanye featuring a plant-based patty, pickled onions, vegan Creole mayo and, the secret ingredient, djon djon – a rare black mushroom only found in northern Haiti. “I’m not vegan, but I thought it was so good,” Lissade says of his collaboration with his friend. “The seasoning in it is the one I learned from my grandma, so you can’t find it anywhere else.”

Related: Iconic Southern Comfort Food, From Cornbread to Fried Chicken

As for the global pandemic that shuttered the vast majority of businesses around the world, there was no way to predict the fallout for a restaurant as young as Boukan. “I was very worried,” he says. “We’re not even a year old, so when COVID happened I didn’t know what to do. We weren’t eligible for help from the government because we’d only been open for a few weeks last year.”

Enter: the very community he’s sought to bring together through food. “Thank God for the support of the Haitian community and our neighbours – they supported us like there’s no tomorrow. If it wasn’t for them, I think we would have been closed by now.”

To learn more about Boukan Owner and Executive Chef Marc-Elie Lissade, tune into the @AmexCanada #ShopSmallStories Twitter episode here. The Twitter Original series was created in partnership with American Express Canada in support of their Shop Small program, a national movement, backed by a Cardmember offer, to encourage Canadians to get behind their local small businesses and help revive communities.

Photos courtesy of North Agency

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

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

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

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

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

Hello Fresh

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chefs Plate

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

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

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

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

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

Favourite Recipe: Beef and Black Bean Chili

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

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

GoodFood

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cook It

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

Average price per person: As low as $7.89.

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

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

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

Favourite Recipe: Curry-Spiced Chicken and Peach Salad

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

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

Final Verdict

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

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

Ren Navarro in a diner

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

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

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

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

Photo: Racheal McCaig

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ren Navarro in a diner

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

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

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

How can diversity help shape beer varieties and recipes?

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

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

What’s your favourite Canadian craft beer or brewery?

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

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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

How To Host a Top Chef Canada-Worthy Drag Brunch at Home

This week’s episode of Top Chef Canada turned the party with its seamless blend of drag artistry and culinary skills.

With the eighth season of the hit series well underway, the diverse cast of culinary warriors have embarked on plenty of intense challenges already. This week, however, the chefs were challenged to a fabulously unique Quickfire Challenge that focused on creating a scrumptious drag brunch – and it gave us life! Spoiler Alert: You’ll want to watch this week’s episode, Drag Brunch, before reading any further to avoid spoilers.

Related: Recap the Top Moments From Top Chef Canada

For the uninitiated, drag brunches are increasingly popular Sunday morning staples in most major cities – an entertaining way to enjoy your eggs and down some mimosas while taking in a live comedy and lip-sync performance extravaganza from a local queen. In light of recent circumstances, however, drag artists have taken the internet by storm, streaming live performances to their loyal fans. (All you need to do is Google your favourite queen or visit their Instagram page to check out their upcoming schedules.)

And so, with Toronto-based drag artists Baby Bel Bel and Miss Moco looking on, the chefs offered up plenty of opulent eats that left us drooling.

Dominique, Adrian and Jo came out on top with their cinnamon and orange zest-themed eats. With that team’s convincing win in mind, we’re sharing our recipes for a fancy drag brunch based on the winning team’s recipes – albeit easier and less time-consuming (we can’t all be top chefs, after all).

Related: What Famous Food Dish From Top Chef Canada Should You Make?

Dominique’s first course: Scotch Quail Egg with Radicchio Salad with Spiced Orange Vinaigrette

Try it Yourself: Scotch Egg

Don’t have quail eggs on hand to mirror Dominique’s dish? Fear not! There’s nothing wrong with a deliciously simple regular egg instead. Pair your homemade breaded Scotch Egg with a light salad if you’re feeling particularly peckish.

Try it Yourself: Brunch Frittata

Treat yourself to a low-key drag brunch by combining tomatoes, asparagus, herbs and goat cheese for a dish that’s ready in less than 30 minutes – leaving you plenty of time to queue up a drag queen performance to stream live.

Adrian’s second course: Allspice French Toast Orange Peel-Infused Fried Chicken with Scotch Bonnet, Rosehip and Ginger Syrup

Try it Yourself: Biscuit French Toast with Cinnamon-Orange Cane Syrup

If straight-up French Toast isn’t your jam, you can still stick to Adrian’s southern comfort food theme by crafting this mouth-watering biscuit-inspired version.

Try it Yourself: Fried Chicken with Wild Rice Waffles and Pink Peppercorn Sauce

Before you take in all those sickening death drops on your drag brunch livestream, curl up with some crispy fried chicken on homemade waffles that will leave you feeling full right up to dinner.

Jo’s third course: Carrot Cake Scone with Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting and Candied Walnuts

Try it Yourself: Waffled Carrot Cake

If you didn’t opt for waffles in the second course, there are still opportunities to save the best for last.  Elevate the average waffle with carrot cake-infused cream cheese frosting and roughly chopped pecans for a drag brunch that will satisfy your sweet tooth.

Try it Yourself: Bacon-Cranberry Scones with Citrus Basil Butter

If you’re not a fan of carrot cake, try these savoury scones you can enjoy with your second (or third) cup of coffee or tea.

Watch Top Chef Canada Mondays at 10ep and stream all your favourite Food Network Canada shows through STACKTV with Amazon Prime Video Channels, or with the new Global TV app, live and on-demand when you sign-in with your cable subscription.

Harry Eastwood’s Quick and Healthy Substitutes for Baking

Spring has sprung, and with it comes a plethora of bold and beautiful baked goods, recipes and seasonal veggies that brighten our spirits after a long, dreary winter. And, like many of us, The Big Bake judge Harry Eastwood is excited to change things up in the kitchen — and incorporate more healthy substitutes into her baking.

“Most of my favourite seasonal ingredients are linked to what’s out in the garden,” she says. “I get quite strong urges for things that are bright and fresh, like lemons.”

Watch: Sweet Substitutes from Joy Wilson

The British-born, Paris-based chef and cookbook author knows more than her fair share about baking hacks and substitutions — not to mention how to seamlessly weave together healthy substitutes and seasonal ingredients. “I’m done with [recipes] that are long and slow,” she says. “I crave foods that are a certain colour more than a certain flavour this time of year.”

Related: 20 Comforting Baking Projects That Deserve a Pat on the Back

So, as the talented teams on The Big Bake continue to wow us with their spring-inspired cake creations, we look to Harry for her easiest healthy baking substitutions for when you’re in a pinch.

Farewell to a Baking Staple

One of the easiest baking ingredients to swap out? Butter. Although that might be a little difficult to hear for those with a serious sweet tooth, the truth is that you won’t actually miss it all that much in your favourite baked goods. (We promise!) “You definitely don’t taste the butter in a sponge cake,” Harry points out as an example. “You taste the buttercream icing. [Butter is] the easiest thing you can lose without noticing so long as you replace it with a healthy fat, like ground nuts, because there needs to be a balancing act with what you put in.” If you’re doing some spring baking, consider replacing butter in our most crave-worthy carrot cake recipes in every form. Other healthy butter substitutes include applesauce, Greek yogurt, buttermilk and avocado.

Related: Anna Olson’s Quick Guide to Ingredient Substitutions

Make it Moist

If you’ve got a variety of veggies on hand and you’re looking to make an epic cake that has some real moisture to it, Harry suggests adding in some of those sweet seasonal veggies. Not only will your cake come out soft and spongy, but it’ll be a whole lot healthier to boot. “I think vegetable cake is so underrated just because it’s healthier,” she says. “But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t taste good! If you have a vegetable cake with buttercream icing on top, I defy you to tell the difference. The point of a vegetable cake is that people don’t know it’s a vegetable cake.” Psst, it also comes in handy if you’ve got a few picky eaters on your hands and are looking for novel ways to get them to eat their greens.

Harry’s Go-To Secret Ingredient

As for Harry’s all-time favourite healthy baking substitute, one need look no further than the nearest produce aisle. Surprisingly, it’s not avocado. “Zucchini is probably my favourite ingredient to add into cakes because it’s very easy to introduce without anybody having a clue,” she laughs. “If you’ve succeeded at [sneaking it in], then you’ve done a good job. You’ve nailed it.”

For more inspiration, try these Common Ingredient Substitutions That Will Bring Your Recipes to Life or enjoy these Underrated Spring Vegetables That Belong in Your Meal Rotation.

Tom Colicchio Answers Our Burning Questions About Top Chef All Stars: LA

We’re counting down the days until our favourite Top Chefs return to the small screen on Top Chef All Stars: LA. With a plethora of elite culinary masters facing off against each other, Top Chef judge Tom Colicchio has the difficult (albeit, delicious) task of trying all the dishes and, along with his fellow judges, selecting only one person to win the $250,000 jackpot.

Related: Ranking Food Network Canada’s Cooking Competition Shows, From Kind to Cutthroat 

Colicchio will be joined on Top Chef All Stars: LA by host Padma Lakshmi, fellow judge Gail Simmons and 15 returning chefs:

  • Eric Adjepong (Season 16: Kentucky)
  • Karen Akunowicz (Season 13: California)
  • Jennifer Carroll (Season 6: Las Vegas, Season 8: All Stars and Last Chance Kitchen Season 7)
  • Stephanie Cmar (Season 11: New Orleans)
  • Lisa Fernandes (Season 4: Chicago)
  • Kevin Gillespie (Season 6: Las Vegas)
  • Gregory Gourdet (Season 12: Boston)
  • Melissa King (Season 12: Boston)
  • Jamie Lynch (Season 14: Charleston)
  • Brian Malarkey (Season 3: Miami)
  • Nini Nguyen (Season 16: Kentucky)
  • Joe Sasto (Season 15: Colorado)
  • Angelo Sosa (Season 7: Washington D.C., and Season 8: All Stars)
  • Bryan Voltaggio (Season 6: Las Vegas)
  • Lee Anne Wong (Season 1: San Francisco and Last Chance Kitchen Season 7)

Ahead of the season premiere, we caught up with Tom Colicchio himself to get the scoop on the competition’s most explosive season yet.

FOOD NETWORK CANADA: How involved were you in the casting process for Top Chef All Stars LA?

TOM COLICCHIO: Not at all. (laughs) I’m not involved in choosing [the competing chefs] and I really don’t want to be. I try to be as impartial as possible. I don’t have a horse in the race here.

FNC: Who are you excited to see return to the show?

TC: I’m excited to see them all return, to tell you the truth. I think they’re all really strong. Since the show, Karen Akunowicz has won a [James] Beard Award [and] several chefs have been nominated for Beard Awards. I think the rivalry from season five between second-place finisher Brian Voltaggio and Kevin [Gillespie] should be interesting… But [we’ve] got a lot of chefs who’ve done some great things since they’ve been on the show. I’m just happy that we got a lot of participation from some really good chefs, and it made for a fantastic season.

FNC: Do you think there’s an advantage for chefs who competed on the most recent seasons of Top Chef?

TC: That’s one way of looking at it. But the other hand, someone who competed ten years ago has ten more years of experience under their belt. So that’s kind of hard to beat, too. Every season is different. Every challenge is different.

We find that halfway through a season, everything starts to look the same. [We] start seeing a lot of patterns in terms of flavour combinations and things. [But this time around], I think everyone kind of stood true to themselves. There’s not a lot of looking around, you know, where someone wins two [challenges] in a row and all of a sudden [a chef] tries something similar to that. [We’re looking for] good food. That’s it. It doesn’t matter if it’s rustic or what I call tweezer-ready. Good food is good food. Technique is good technique, [and] you can’t mask that. It really comes down to, ‘is it delicious or not?’ So I think this season, the chefs seemed a little more confident in their ability.

FNC: Are there any former Top Chef other contestants you’d like to see return in a future All Stars installments that haven’t come back yet?

TC: I’d love to see all the winners come back. That would be definitely pretty awesome. I think that might be hard to do, but you know, I’d love to get as many back as possible.

Watch Top Chef All Stars LA Thursday at 10 P.M. ET/PT on Food Network Canada. Stream Top Chef All Stars LA and all your favourite Food Network Canada shows through STACKTV with Amazon Prime Video Channels, or with the new Global TV app, live and on-demand when you sign-in with your cable subscription.

Black Garlic: What It Is, and Why You Need to Cook With It This Year

As Canadians get more adventurous in the kitchen, it’s only natural that they’d be on the lookout for the latest on-trend foods and dishes to try at home. And, with 2020 kicking into high gear, black garlic has continued its steady ascent as one of the most sought-after ingredients in North American cuisine. But if you’re left reeling at the thought of cooking with the inky, blackened cloves – or don’t entirely understand how to incorporate it into your favourite recipes – you’re definitely not alone.

Although not an entirely new concept (Japan, Thailand and South Korea have been extolling the virtues of black garlic for years) this versatile ingredient can be easily swapped in for traditional white garlic in most dishes.

Still not convinced? We break it all down for you – from the what to the how – and offer up some of our favourite garlicky Food Network Canada recipes as mouth-watering examples of where you can introduce this on-trend ingredient into your repertoire.

Related: 12 Hottest Food Trends We’ll Be Devouring in 2020

What is it?

In short, it’s your everyday run-of-the-mill white garlic – albeit gradually aged over a period of weeks. By gently heating entire bulbs in a humidity-controlled environment (think: rice cookers), you wind up with darkened, sticky cloves that quite frankly resemble garlic gone bad. Despite their slightly charred and off-putting appearance, the Maillard reaction (the chemical reaction between amino acids and sugars that lend browned/aged foods their unmistakable taste) actually deepens their flavours for an entirely different – and elevated – culinary experience.

Related: Mouth-Watering Recipes That Use 10 or More Cloves of Garlic


Get the recipe for Roger Mooking’s 30 Cloves of Garlic Sauce

What does it taste like?

For starters, it doesn’t taste much like traditional garlic. Once blackened, the cloves become earthy and syrupy-sweet in flavour, with additional hints of prunes, balsamic vinegar and black licorice. It’s also softer and has a molasses-like texture, making it easier to spread on crackers or crostini. Something for at-home chefs to consider: due to the loss of its original sharp taste, a larger volume of black garlic is required with any recipe in order to achieve higher taste levels.


Get the recipe for 8-Minute Garlic and Parmesan Pan-Fried Shrimp

How to use it

You can add black garlic to salad dressing or dip recipes, purée them with olive oil, create scrumptious pastes from scratch or rub onto fish or meat before popping your dish in the oven. If you purchase it in powdered form, you can also sprinkle it on pretty much anything your heart (and stomach) desires.

Related: Pinterest Predicts the Top 15 Food Trends for 2020


Learn how to make Everything Garlic Bread Knots

How to make it at home

We’ll be honest: it’s a long, drawn-out process, but if you have the time to spare, the results are well worth the wait. A relatively easy hack is to break out the rice cooker and use the “warm” setting to transform white garlic into black garlic over the span of roughly three to four weeks (or 40 days). You can also use your slow cooker.


Get the recipe for Anna Olson’s Garlic Parmesan Twists

Where to buy it

Although it might be a little difficult to track down in major grocery chains, specialty stores, like Whole Foods, often carry both whole heads of pre-humidified black garlic and the powdered variety.

Health benefits

Although it’s lower in allicin, the compound that gives traditional garlic many of its health-boosting properties, black garlic is still rich in amino acids and contains double the antioxidants as the white variety. It’s also a great source of vitamins C and D.

For more at-home cooking experiments, check out these 8 Realistic Ways to Stick to Healthy Habits and the 10 Best Foods (and 5 Worst) for Your Mental Health and Wellness.

The One Genius Kitchen Product You’ll be Gifting Everyone This Year (Plus More Ideas)

Ah, the joys of shopping during the holidays – scouring the big-box department stores and online shops for the latest and greatest items to gift your loved ones, only to wind up more confused than when you first started.

But there’s never been a better time to surprise an at-home chef or foodie with a gift, considering the current wealth of innovative gadgets that will elevate their food game to the next level.

For the friend or relative who knows their way around the kitchen (and has cooked you more than their fair share of scrumptious meals and party appetizers), there really isn’t a better way to demonstrate how much you appreciate their culinary skills than with the latest appliances that seamlessly marry technology with home cooking.

And if there’s one genius kitchen product that’s been generating all the hype as of late, it’s this one:

The Instant Marinator


Vacu Vin 1/3 Quart Instant Marinating Container, $39.99, Amazon.ca.

What is it?  An Instant Marinator boasts impressive technology that removes oxygen from the container (a vacuum pump extracts the air faster and opens up the pores of the meat to absorb the sauce). This ultimately speeds up the entire marinating process and tenderizes the meat in minutes. Bonus: considering the Instant Marinator comes in a variety of sizes, from half-quart containers (above) to tumbling canisters, there are plenty of options and price points to choose from, making it a refreshingly flexible budget-friendly option if you’re looking to save some cash.

Who needs it? The friend or relative who loves pairing homemade marinades with their favourite cuts of meats or veggies. Also ideal for those who want to save time in the kitchen (read: all of us!) and never think to marinate tomorrow’s dinner the night before.

Related: Marinating 101: How to Flavour Your Meat, Fish and Vegetables

Want more kitchen appliance ideas? Gift one of the handy gadgets below to a loved one, or simply treat yourself (because there’s nothing wrong with that!).

Sous Vide Precision Cooker


Chefman Sous Vide Precision Cooker, $124.99, Amazon.ca

What is it? A method of cooking that involves sealing food – from eggs to fish to meats – in a heat-stable plastic pouch and bathing in water, before cooking to perfection using precise temperature control (no under-cooking or overcooking here!). Fun fact: the term Sous Vide actually means “under vacuum” in French. It also happens to be a healthier way of cooking due to the enhanced flavour and little to no additional salts or fats. The vacuum sealing ensures essential vitamins and minerals don’t dissipate during the cooking process, so you can soak up all those nutrients as you eat. And now the process is easier with the Sous Vide Precision Cooker that heats  up the water that much faster. Bonus: since it’s Bluetooth and WIFI enabled, it connects to your phone or tablet.

Who needs it? The determined home chef who tends to overcook just about everything, or the nervous food preparer who doesn’t want to risk under-cooking or ruining a dish, especially when entertaining. It’ll transform anyone into a kitchen master, we swear.

Never attempted a sous vide dish? These En Sous Vide Baby Back Ribs and Sous Vide Steelhead Trout recipes are perfect for beginners.

Digital Glass Steamer


Cuisinart Digital Glass Steamer, $194, Amazon.ca.

What is it? Skip the stove-top steamer and opt for the modern digital variety that delivers steam from the top down. Because who doesn’t love a beautifully steamed dish – especially since it retains many of the foods original minerals and vitamins? The appliance boasts a dishwasher-safe glass surfaced pot large enough for family-sized portions of veggies, fish, chicken or rice. Foodies can also look forward to everything from specific food settings to a built-in timer.

Who needs it? The health-conscious home chef, or anyone looking to be inspired in the kitchen with an easy and good-for-you cooking solution. We’re all about it!

Related: 15 Bad Eating Habits Experts Recommend Ditching by 2020

Smoke-Less Indoor Grill

Philips Smoke-less Indoor BBQ Grill, $329.00, Amazon.ca.

What is it? Living in Canada means spending a significant chunk of the year curled under a blanket, waiting for the snow to melt. However, that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice the smoky taste of a summertime BBQ. Cheer everyone up this winter with a SmokeLess Indoor Grill featuring advanced infrared heat technology and minimal side spattering for evenly grilled food that will remind you of warmer days. The non-stick grid also provides those authentic, sought-after grill marks and the constant heat browns your meats without burning them. It’s also ideal for healthy, lean grilling with a grease tray that collects excess fats.

Who needs it? That friend or relative who lives for summer grilling and would love to keep the party going year-round.

For more holiday gift ideas, check out which top kitchen appliances our editors can’t live without.

Harry Eastwood’s Top 7 Baking Tips for a Marvelous Holiday

There are few things in this world that excite The Big Bake: Holiday judge Harry Eastwood more than baking during the holidays.

“I am an absolute, unabashed Christmas junkie all the way,” she says with a laugh. “I’ve even already started wrapping up some presents and putting them on the top shelf in my office.”

Famous for her unique approach to vegetable cakes (more on that in a minute), the British-born, Paris-based chef and cookbook author knows more than her fair share about holiday baking.

So, as the talented teams on The Big Bake: Holiday continue to wow us with their festive cake creations, we took the opportunity to catch up with Harry to learn more about her top tips for healthy holiday desserts – including cake baking tips for beginners.

Related: Our Top 100 Holiday Cookie and Square Recipes


Harry on the set of The Big Bake: Holiday episode Santa on Cakecation

Plan Ahead

Although it may seem fairly obvious to prep in advance, Harry points out that it’s often one of the easiest mistakes home bakers make – and one that can result in high levels of stress and burnt baked goods. “I’m a big proponent of planning,” she says, “and by planning what I really mean, if I’m cooking a cake on Friday my list of ingredients would be done at least a day or two beforehand so I have time to make sure that I have everything I need. It’s very depressing to start a cake and discover that you’ve got only half the amount of sugar you needed.” So, forget that Santa wishlist: the most important list you’ll need this holiday season is the one organizing all your must-have ingredients. Check!

Budget Your Time

Another cake baking tip for beginners is something that comes with practice – and a whole lot of patience. “Don’t hurry it,” Harry says about getting your bake on. “The thing about cakes, above anything else, is [the realization] that you’re not in charge. The ingredients and the cake are in charge and that won’t bend just because you have a dentist’s appointment. So, budget the time for it.”

Related: Harry Eastwood Takes You Through the History of Cakes

Divide and Conquer

There are two stages of baking, according to Harry: one is the actual baking of the cake and the other is the icing and adding any additional decorations. Remember: there’s no reason why you can’t ice and decorate your masterpiece the next day, so there’s no need to rush through the entire process in a couple hours. “It’s like writing a letter by hand, the joy is always in doing,” she says. “Racing to finish it is dangerous and it would be such a shame to lose the joy of [baking].”

Kitsch for the Holidays

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, so don’t be afraid to have a little fun and infuse some of your own personality into your creation. Adding a little colour and texture can easily elevate your cake to the next level, so embrace it! “I’m not afraid of kitsch,” Harry says. “I love making my own [cake] toppers. I love that candy cane stripe; it’s so easy to mix into cakes. You can smash them up and make patterns on top. Everything is an excuse for a story at this time of year, so go nuts on the decorations because it’s such a joyful wow-factor.”

Related: The Perfect Holiday Cookie, According to Your Zodiac Sign


Harry Eastwood on set with host Brad Smith and judge Eddie Jackson

Swap in Some Veggies

If you’ve got root vegetables on hand and you’re looking to make an epic sponge cake that has some real moisture to it, Harry suggests swapping out some of the more common ingredients for some of those sweet veggies. “I think vegetable cake is so underrated just because it’s healthier,” she says. “But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t taste good! If you have a vegetable cake with buttercream icing on top, I defy you to tell the difference.” Bonus: since the holidays are all about indulging in your favourite treats, you’ll appreciate having at least one healthy(ish) dessert. It also comes in handy if you’ve got a few picky eaters on your hands. “Zucchini is probably my favourite ingredient to add into cakes because it’s very easy to introduce without anybody having a clue,” Harry says with a laugh. “The point of a vegetable cake is that people don’t know it’s a vegetable cake so you need to do something which just effortlessly swaps it in. If you’ve succeeded at that, then you’ve done a good job. You’ve nailed it.”

Simple Substitutes

Bid adieu to butter this holiday season. “You definitely don’t taste the butter in a sponge cake, you taste the buttercream [icing],” Harry points out. “It’s the easiest ingredient you can lose without noticing so long as you replace it with a healthy fat, like ground nuts, because there needs to be a balancing act with what you put in.”

Related: Anna Olson’s Quick Guide to Ingredient Substitutions

Don’t Be Afraid to Experiment

You don’t have to wait until you’re a seasoned pro before you can start experimenting in the kitchen. “I’m a big fan of a recipe I wrote a little while ago which is for a sesame tahini white chocolate blondie,” Harry says. “That in itself is a show-stopper. I love offering something unusual around Christmastime.”

For more holiday fare, you can get your bake on with these 20 easy make-ahead Christmas cookies for your holiday bash and Anna Olson’s Ultimate Holiday Cookie Hacks.

Jillian Harris Opens Up About Her Granny’s Legacy in the Kitchen (Plus Holiday Tips & Recipes)

Jillian Harris knows a thing or two about crafting a well-balanced meal, which might come as somewhat of a surprise to devoted fans of HGTV Canada’s Love it or List it Vancouver star.  Although the vast majority of the pink-hued photos on the social media influencer’s Instagram account are dedicated to decor and design pieces (and her adorable kids!), Jillian also reveals that food has played a significant role in her life since childhood — thanks, in large part, to her beloved Granny and her family’s Ukrainian heritage.

“I really love wholesome, rich comfort food — the food that makes you want to have a glass of wine and curl up and go to sleep,” she says. “We grew up with meals full of pierogis and cabbage rolls.”

Jillian, who has since switched gears to a mostly plant-based diet in her adult years, recently joined forces with her cousin, dietitian Tori Wesszer, for their first cookbook that was released just in time for the holidays, Fraiche Food, Full Hearts: A Collection of Recipes for Every Day and Casual Celebrations. Given that this time of year is all about spending time with family, it’s fitting that their Granny’s passion for food and loved ones is all over this book.

“She was literally our best friend,” Jillian says of her grandmother, who was bestowed with the nickname Beet Roll Queen, and who passed away this July. Adds Tori, “We were just so sad that she didn’t see this [cookbook] come to fruition. She would have been thrilled to see her legacy and her love for connecting people and family.”

Fraiche Food, Full Hearts takes those same hearty, soothing recipes the cousins grew up with and gives them a healthier, more plant-based spin — although it warmly embraces all dietary needs. “It’s approachable for every family,” Jillian says of the cookbook. “[It gives you the chance] to lean into the whole plant-based diet, but we’ve made it flexible and convertible for everyone.”

So whether you’re expecting a handful of out-of-towners or a slew of extended family this holiday season, there are a few simple hosting hacks that Jillian and Tori suggest you try in order to have a stress-free, dietary-friendly holiday. (Don’t worry — you’ve got this!)

Related: 14 Things You Didn’t Know About Jillian Harris


Get the recipe for Jillian’s Almost Famous Stuffing

Plan Ahead

“Plan out your menu ahead of time, and buy our cookbook!” Jillian says with a laugh. Although this might seem a little obvious, it’s easy to lose track of our schedules during the chaotic holiday season. We always think we have more time than we actually do, but between work, family obligations and shopping for gifts, we’re suddenly left wondering what to whip up in the kitchen for the big day.

Jillian suggests planning early — as in, right now. Be sure to inquire about dietary requirements in advance. No one wants a “food surprise” after you’ve spent the better part of your day cooking the meal. Where possible, make some freezer-friendly recipes in advance for a stress-free holiday.

Related: 20 Holiday Staples You Should Make Ahead This Year


Get the recipe for Jillian and Tori’s Sunshine Muffins

Stay on Top of Dietary Needs

This one is a biggie for both Jillian and Tori — and it’s something that is easy to overlook. “You really want people to feel like [their dietary needs] are as important to you as it is to them,” Jillian says. “They want to know that you’re hearing them. I think it makes people feel really good.”

By way of example, Jillian shares her own awkward, albeit hilarious, common situation. “My parents still don’t quite get [why it’s important],” she says with a laugh. “If I go over and they have hamburger soup, then that’s what you’re getting. But there have been times when they’ll make an extra plate for me and I’m like, ‘thank you for that slice of toast and piece of orange.’ Basically, my dad just thinks my taste buds are messed up.”

Related: 15 Vegan Roast Alternatives for Meat-Free Guests


Get the recipe for Jillian and Tori’s Mushroom Wellington

Stay Calm, Be Flexible

Before your head starts swimming at the thought of creating multiple menus to satisfy those with gluten intolerance or a vegan diet, fear not! “Having recipes that can be flexed either way is important, and it doesn’t mean you have to make an entirely separate menu for people with special dietary needs,” says Tori.

Offer a small variety of side dishes — no one is expecting an entirely separate menu just for them. “Usually people who have special requests don’t expect to be able to eat everything,” Jillian says. “They just want one or two options.”

Another alternative? Host a potluck where guests can bring a wealth of food options that will keep everyone satisfied, and perhaps introduce others to new dietary options.

Related: Our Top 100 Holiday Cookie and Square Recipes

Excerpted from Fraiche Food, Full Hearts: A Collection of Recipes for Every Day and Casual Celebrations by Jillian Harris and Tori Wesszer. Copyright © 2019 by Jillian Harris and Tori Wesszer. Photography copyright © 2019by Janis Nicolay. Published by Penguin Canada, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

The Big Bake Halloween judges reveal their favourite Halloween memories

The Big Bake Stars Reveal Their Favourite Halloween Memories

There’s no denying that the talented competitors on The Big Bake: Halloween have been simultaneously wowing us with their masterful creations while also putting us in a spooky state of mind with their ghoulish cakes. So, while the bakers continue to think outside the box when it comes to concocting jaw-dropping and scrumptious cakes as they vie for the $10,000 prize, we took the opportunity to catch up with host Brad Smith and resident judges Harry Eastwood and Eddie Jackson to ask them about their favourite childhood Halloween experiences.

Related: 50 Killer Recipes for Your Halloween Party

What are your favourite food memories around Halloween?

Brad Smith: “I’m a candy-holic. It was all about going out and getting as much candy as I could. But my mom, who is [usually] one of the worst cooks ever, used to do this pumpkin cheesecake for Halloween every year and it was just the best thing ever.”

Harry Eastwood: “I have a really great story! I grew up in France and we definitely didn’t have Halloween. England barely has it, but France absolutely did not have it in the 1990s, which is when I was a kid growing up there. But my grandmother, who was a very old-fashioned English woman, loved ghost stories. So she used to throw her own Halloween parties for just my sister and me and a couple of our school friends. Basically, she would do things like peel grapes and put them in buckets and turn the lights off so we’d dive in with our hands. She’d say, ‘Oh, those are eyeballs!’ She also used to make cookies with ketchup on them [for blood]. It was fairly basic and definitely not sophisticated but it was a lot of fun.”

Eddie Jackson: “First and foremost, I think pumpkin. Any type of pumpkin reminds me of Halloween because me and my dad would carve [them together]. I remember growing up, we used to do a lot of old school treats, like candy apples and things like that.”

Related: 45 Perfect Pumpkin Desserts to Make Your Fall Menu Sweeter

Growing up, what was your favourite Halloween costume? 

Brad Smith: “You know what’s funny? I’m allergic to cats but my mom used to dress me up in the family’s go-to hand-me-down cat costume. I wore that for four straight years, even when I outgrew it. It was a black leotard with a tail.”

Harry Eastwood: “I was never keen on anything ghoulish or zombie-like. I actually get really creeped out by those things, Any excuse I got, I would turn up at parties in a Tinkerbell outfit – basically [I loved] anything that involved pink and bells that jangled when I walked. I was all up in that.”

Eddie Jackson: “Growing up, I would throw a bedsheet over my head and call myself Casper the ghost. That costume is probably the one that stands out.”

Eddie isn’t the only one who loves a good DIY Halloween costume. If your kids are stuck on ideas this year, try one of these last-minute budget-friendly Halloween costumes using everyday household items.

Forget Salt: I Cooked With 6 Trending Spices to See if They’re Actually Worth the Hype

When it comes to food trends these days, there’s a plethora of constantly evolving options to test out, whether you’re heading to your favourite local haunt or whipping up a meal at home.

From za’atar to sumac, spices are essential to many international cuisines – and bringing different blends to your own kitchen can lend a certain authenticity to your dishes and provide more inspiration (not to mention bragging rights if you nail a new recipe).

According to Forbes, the average American home kitchen in 1950 contained only 10 spices, seasonings and extracts on average. Today, that number is more than 40. Considering we’re neighbours, I would imagine that number rings true for Canadians as well.

It speaks volumes as to how far we’ve come in North America when it comes to branching out and trying new foods. Where once we might have expressed reluctance, we’re now at the stage where we’re looking for fresh, healthy and exciting ingredients to add to our favourite recipes, expanding both our horizons and our palates.

Related: 15 Anti-Inflammatory Herbs and Spices

For this experiment of sorts, I kept an open mind. I looked into some of the most popular spices being searched online with the intention of trying them all. Some, such as baharat and asafoetida, proved elusive and difficult to track down while others – *cough* saffron *cough* – would have put a significant dent in my wallet. In the end, I found a solid list of six spices to test out at home.

With the exception of turmeric,  I hadn’t tried any of these trending spices before. And, considering how much I love a meal that quite literally sets my mouth on fire, I didn’t want to leave a world of flavour untapped by missing out.

So, if you’re building a chef-worthy pantry of dried spices, start with these top trendsetters. Here’s why.

1. Shichimi Togarashi

Brief history: This popular Japanese spice medley dates back to the 17th century when it was originally produced as a tasty condiment by herbalists in what is now modern day Tokyo. It’s a seven-spice blend that typically contains ground red chili pepper, sansho powder, roasted orange peel, black sesame seeds, white sesame seeds, ground ginger and nori seaweed. Other variations may substitute certain ingredients for poppy and/or hemp seeds instead.

Health benefits: Clear some space in your spice cabinet because, in addition to its great taste, Shichimi Togarashi packs a hefty nutritional punch. Thanks to its salt-free blend of various ingredients, it contains both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, fibre, calcium, iron, zinc and vitamins A, C and E.

Common uses: Sprinkle this versatile condiment over steamed rice, vegetables, udon noodles, grilled meats and soups or use to season popcorn, crackers, dry rubs or salad dressing.

The dish I made: Rice Bowl with Shichimi Togarashi-Spiced Sesame Chili Oil

Taste: I love spice – it was one of my favourite things about eating my way through Thailand a few years back. So chalk up my complete surprise at the hotness level of Shichimi Togarashi to my arrogance. I dipped my index finger directly into the finely ground blend to better give me an idea of how much to include in the recipe. Granted, I may have ingested too much at once: it was HOT. Since it had more of a kick than anticipated, I opted for a recipe where it was mixed in with a few other ingredients to help temper the level of spice. I wanted something that allowed Shichimi Togarashi to be the star of the dish without overpowering everything else in the bowl. In the end, I chose wisely, because mixing the store-bought blend with minced garlic, finely chopped shallots, slivered roasted peanuts and freshly grated ginger made for one unexpectedly addictive chili oil dressing. When I’m really hungry (which is most of the time), I still find myself thinking about it.

Not sure which additional spices to add to your pantry? Try these must-have kitchen spices.

2. Sumac

Brief history: The vibrant reddish-purple sumac shrub (one of about 35 species of familial flowering plants) is native to the Middle East and parts of Africa, and boasts gorgeous deep red berries that are dried and ground up into a coarse powder. In the past, sumac was commonly used to treat a variety of physical ailments. While the jury is still out on whether it actually worked for medicinal purposes, sumac definitely has plenty of health benefits.

Health benefits: Sumac has a reputation as an antioxidant powerhouse, above even fellow champion spices like oregano and cinnamon. Thanks to its antioxidant properties, it can help prevent heart disease and treat osteoarthritis in addition to lowering blood sugar levels. Sumac, when juiced, is also high in vitamin C.

Common uses: Mixes well with other spice blends, dry rubs, marinades and sprinkled over salads. It pairs best with chicken, fish and vegetables. Thanks to its deep red hue, it also adds a beautiful pop of colour to any dish.

The dish I made: Sheet Pan Sumac Chicken Thighs with Roasted Potatoes and Broccoli

Taste: With its tangy, lemony flavour, I’m convinced sumac can pair nicely with just about any dish. I found it so surprisingly rich in lemon flavour, in fact, that I sprinkled it generously over both the chicken thighs and the roasted potato and broccoli side combo. It was like a mini citrus heaven. Less tart than an actual lemon, it’s a great substitute for those who have a citric acid intolerance like my husband. I can’t count the number of times I’ve tried a new spice or herb in a recipe only to find its flavour gets overpowered by other items on the plate. My next experiment will involve sprinkling sumac over fish to see if it really can provide the same great taste as lemon zest. If so, I’ll never have to worry about being out of lemons again.

Looking for a delicious sumac-flavoured side dish for your dinner main? Try this Grilled Corn on the Cob with Sumac Butter.

3. Za’atar

Brief history: Throughout history, housewives in the Middle East and North Africa concocted their own variations of za’atar. Therefore, much like Shichimi Togarashi, there can be a variety of blends to choose from. In fact, there are so many ways of mixing together all the herbs and spices that make up this popular condiment that a definitive origin mixture has proven illusive to historians and chefs alike. What we do know, however, is that it has been a staple in Arab cuisine since medieval times and only continues to increase in popularity worldwide.

Health benefits: Za’atar contains various properties that can help soothe inflammation, increase energy levels, clear the respiratory tract and can also be added to food as a preventative if you feel a head cold coming on – so keep it in stock during winter’s dreaded cold and flu season.

Common uses: It makes for great seasoning on meat and vegetables or sprinkled over hummus. Za’atar is often eaten with labneh (a drained yogurt that forms a tangy cream cheese) and is sometimes served with bread and olive oil for breakfast in Jordan, Palestine, Israel, Syria and Lebanon.

The dish I made: Za’atar Roasted Tomatoes

Taste: Funnily enough, sumac is usually the star of za’atar blends. Dried sumac often makes up a significant portion of the mixture, along with toasted sesame seeds, thyme, oregano, marjoram and salt. In reading up on it, I’ve come across references to it being called “slightly sour and nutty” in taste, which I didn’t find was the case in my experience. This could be attributed to the fact that there is no “right way” to make za’atar and, while I definitely found it to be nutty in taste (“woodsy” is what I said to my husband), I noticed a hint of lemon (albeit much more herbaceous in taste) which makes sense given the sumac connection.

Za’atar also pairs well with chickpeas, like in this Smoky Chickpeas on Grilled Toast with Poached Eggs and Za’atar recipe.

4. Moringa

Brief history: Earlier this year, I’d gotten into a conversation about moringa with the lovely lady I buy my loose leaf tea from here in Toronto, so I was thrilled to discover it’s trending upward in culinary culture as it gave me an excuse to introduce it in this experiment. Moringa oleifera, also known as a drumstick tree, is native to India, Pakistan and Nepal. It’s fragile leaves are the most popular part of the plant and can be eaten whole in salads or dried and ground up to drink as tea or used in soups, curries and sauces. According to some sources, in developing countries the leaf powder is sometimes used as soap for hand washing.

Health benefits: It’s time for kale and matcha to move over and make room for a new supergreen superstar. Moringa leaves contain significant amounts of vitamins B, C and K, as well as protein and other essential nutrients. Despite being caffeine-free, it’s nature’s natural energy booster. It’s even been likened to a “miracle tree.” According to a study from the US National Library of Medicine, moringa trees have proven to be remarkably drought-resistant, making them a “critical nutritional resource” in areas affected by climate change.

Common uses: Dried into tea leaves, or have the powder sprinkled into yogurts, juices and smoothies.

The dish I made: Moringa Tea

Taste: Although it smells like a peppery version of green tea, don’t let your nose fool you. Despite a slightly bitter taste on the first sip, it reminded me a lot of, well, salad. It’s like plucking the leaf off a tree and dropping it directly into your tea mug. My tea lady sings the praises of moringa, telling me that as a child growing up in India she would often eat the leaves as a midday mini-salad snack.

5. Harissa

Brief history: This Tunisian hot chili spice typically consists of roasted red peppers, serrano peppers, coriander seeds, garlic paste, saffron and olive oil – so it’s definitely only for those who like it hot. Harissa is sometimes referred to as “Tunisia’s main condiment” and it’s the North African country’s biggest export. It’s posited that chili peppers were first introduced to Tunisians during Spanish occupation in the 16th century, so it’s accurate to say the condiment has been a main cuisine staple in the area for ages.

Health benefits: It’s usually made with red chili peppers that are rich in vitamins E, C, K, B6, iron, magnesium and copper, which means it’s high in both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties as well as provides relief from symptoms of rheumatism, osteoarthritis and head colds. In addition, it has been known to boost metabolism.

Common uses:  Traditionally served alongside stews and couscous dishes, harissa can also lend its spicy taste to roasted veggies, salad dressing, dry rubs, hummus or sprinkled on eggs for a fiery breakfast.

The dish I made: Harissa Chicken with Roasted Chickpeas

Taste: Every bite is like fire and garlic, and I loved every minute of it, even as my tongue felt like a flame. Fully aware that this would be considered the spiciest spice on this list – Shichimi Togarashi paled in comparison – I was cautious with how much harissa I sprinkled over my chicken. I kept the roasted chickpeas harissa-free just to give my mouth a break in between bites. I’d recommend using it only if you’re craving a hot dish. But trust me when I say it’s worth the literal sweat that will pour off your brow.

Start enjoying some of harissa’s great health benefits with this Harissa-Marinated Chicken Skewers with Couscous recipe this weekend.

6. Turmeric

Brief history: Bold and beautiful, turmeric is a flowering plant from the ginger family whose roots are used for cooking purposes. A native to India and Southeast Asia, it’s a stunning addition to any dish thanks to its deep orange-yellow colouring. Although many begrudge its innate ability to stain just about anything in its path – farewell, Hudson’s Bay dish cloth – its rich flavour more than makes up for that ruined wooden spoon or your discoloured fingertips.

Health benefits: There are plenty of healthy positives to introducing more turmeric into your diet, although it bears mentioning that it’s the curcumin (the bright yellow chemical produced by the flowering plant) in the turmeric that does all the heavy lifting, and contains significant anti-inflammatory properties and is a rich source of many vitamins and minerals, including lowering the risk of heart disease, potentially helping prevent certain cancers and soothing arthritis pain.

Common uses: Toss it with roasted vegetables, sprinkle it over frittatas, add it to rice, use it in soups, sip it as a tea or blend it in a smoothie. The possibilities are endless, really.

The dish I made: Fast-Grilled Garlic Shrimp with Turmeric Rice

Taste: Despite the fact that it looks like ginger’s identical twin, turmeric tastes nothing like its relative. Its earthy-sweetness is far milder. Some have said they’ve noticed a bitter edge to turmeric, but I didn’t pick up on it even after dousing my rice in it.

Curious about trying it in a drink? Whip up this caffeine-free Turmeric Latte the next time you’re feeling thirsty.

And the winner is …

My biggest takeaway from this assignment is that even for someone like myself who enjoys a variety of spices, herbs and other flavours, I’ve merely scratched the surface as to what is available and how it can be incorporated into my weekly meal planning. If I had to choose a favourite from the six spices I recently tried, my pick would be Shichimi Togarashi for the mere fact that it blended so beautifully with the other ingredients that made up the sesame chili oil. I love a spice that you can clearly taste but doesn’t overpower all the other rich flavours in the dish.