All posts by Michelle Lucas Larving

Michelle Lucas Larving is a pastry chef turned freelance food stylist, recipe developer and writer with a love for foraging, farms and Copenhagen, where she lived for three years. To learn more about her, follow her on Instagram @michellelucaslarving and Twitter @mlucaslarving.

5 Simple Olive Oil Pasta Sauces That Will Transform Your Dinner

While a high-quality bottle of olive oil can carry a hefty price tag, investing in a beautiful and pure variety will allow you to make quick and simple pastas that are not only delicious, but require minimal ingredients. Because a true olive oil demands less heat and cook time, it’s the ideal solution to whip up an impressive dinner. No matter where in the Mediterranean it was produced, choose an extra-virgin olive oil that carries fruity notes and has a peppery finish. Then, use it in one of these five satisfying sauces.

Five Olive-Oil Based Pasta Sauce Recipes:

 

1. Caramelized Mushroom Sauce

Cook ribbon cut pasta, such as tagliatelle, in a large pot of well-salted boiling water. Heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add chopped, mixed mushrooms to the dry pan and cook, stirring often, until the mushrooms have released their moisture and are golden-brown. Reduce heat to medium. Generously drizzle mushrooms with extra-virgin olive oil. Stir in a thinly sliced garlic clove and continue cooking until garlic is soft. Add pasta, then freshly chopped flat-leaf parsley. Toss until pasta is well coated.

wild mushroom fettucini pasta in white bowl on marble table

Get the recipe for Wild Mushroom Fettuccini with Spruce Tip Pesto

2. Fresh Breadcrumb Pasta

Cook long-cut pasta, such as bucatini, in a large pot of well-salted, boiling water. Heat a large frying pan over medium-high. Add fresh breadcrumbs and cook, stirring often, until lightly toasted. Transfer to a plate. Generously drizzle extra-virgin olive oil into same pan and set over medium heat. Add three thinly sliced shallots and cook, stirring often, until soft. Stir in roughly chopped green olives and fresh thyme leaves until warmed through. Add pasta and breadcrumbs. Toss until well coated.

3. Classic Parmesan Sauce

Cook short-cut pasta, such as penne, in a large pot of well-salted boiling water. Reserve a splash of cooking water. Heat a large frying pan over medium heat. Add a generous drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil, then two minced garlic cloves. Cook, stirring often, until garlic is soft. Add pasta, along with a large handful of grated Parmesan cheese and reserved cooking water, tossing until mixture is creamy. Season generously with freshly cracked black pepper.

spaghetti pasta in skillet dressed in tomato sauce, with cauliflower, Parmesan cheese, tomatoes, olives and torn basil.

Get the recipe for Vegetarian Cauliflower Puttanesca

4. Capers and Basil Pasta

Cook decorative-cut pasta, such as orecchiette, in a large pot of well-salted boiling water. Heat a large frying pan over medium-low. Add a generous drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil, then two finely chopped anchovies. Cook, stirring often, until fragrant. Stir in a handful of chopped, drained capers and continue cooking until slightly crisp. Add pasta, then freshly chopped basil. Toss until pasta is well coated.

Pasta salad in clear bowl with fusilli, cucumber, parsley and tomatoes.

Get the recipe for 15-Minute Gluten-Free Tabbouleh Pasta Salad

5. Sundried Tomato Pesto

Cook short-cut pasta, such as rigatoni, in a large pot of well-salted boiling water. Add oil-packed sundried tomatoes, drained, with toasted slivered almonds, one garlic clove and a handful of grated Parmesan to a food processor until finely chopped. With the motor running, slowly pour extra-virgin olive oil until mixture is smooth. Season with salt and freshly cracked pepper. Toss with pasta.

Looking for more delicious recipes? See here for our best-ever pasta recipes for easy dinners.

Published February 12, 2016, Updated April 2, 2021

Top 5 Kitchen Knives Every Home Cook Should Own

The most important investment you can make for you kitchen is a set of good-quality knives. While you might be put off by the fear of owning an overly sharp blade, it’s actually more dangerous to do your prep with a dull knife, as it forces you to use far more pressure and movement. A well-made knife will always do the work for you, making your prep safer and easier. But which type of knife is best for each job? Here are the best types of knives to prepare you for anything in the kitchen.

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

Chef’s Knife

A chef’s knife is the most crucial knife to have in your kitchen and if you invest in a higher quality brand, you’ll only ever need one. It’s multi-purpose with a curved edge, which allows it to easily rock back and fourth on a cutting board. Ranging anywhere between 6 to 12 inches long, chef’s knives traditionally have a heavier blade allowing that weight to do the tough work for you. When purchasing, you’ll want to choose one with a handle that feels secure and generally just feels right. Your knife should feel like an extension of your hand, so shop around until you find the perfect one.

chefs-knife

Wüsthof Classic Chef’s Knife, Williams Sonoma, $120.

Paring Knife

Pairing knives are small with a simple blade that works best for quick jobs like slicing through vanilla beans, or intricate work like crosshatching chestnuts or segmenting citrus. Ranging in size from 2 ½ to 4 inches long, make sure you choose a knife that’s light in weight with a super sharp blade.

Related: The Top 5 Kitchen Utensils Every Home Cook Needs

paring-knife

Wüsthof Classic Paring Knife, Williams Sonoma, $50.

Serrated Knife

While serrated knives are the no-brainer option when it comes to cutting any type of bread, they’re also the ideal choice for slicing layered cakes or cutting through soft fruit like tomatoes. Keep in mind their ridged teeth can never be sharpened, so you might have to invest in a few throughout your lifetime.

Related: Bread Baking for Beginners: How to Make the Perfect Sourdough Loaf

Boning Knife

Boning knifes have ultra flexible and tapered blades that are usually 5 to 6 inches long, making it easy to guide your way through certain meats. While not necessary in every household, you might want to consider owning one if you butcher whole chickens, fillet your own fish or butterfly chops.

Carving Knife

Carving knives are large, long and thin, with a blade that’s between 8 and 15 inches long. Its super slim shape makes it a breeze to carve meat with precision, giving you show-stopping slices of roasts, prime rib, turkey and ham perfect for entertaining.

Related: How to Carve the Perfect Turkey Like a Pro (We Break It Down)

Once you’ve invested in some great knives, the most important thing to remember is to always keep them sharp. If you cook every day, you should be sharpening your knives every week. When you feel like your blade is starting to dull, sharpen it yourself or take it in to get sharpened by a professional to keep its edge clean and long-lasting.

4 Things You Didn’t Know About Expiry Dates

We’ve all been there, squinting at tiny writing on a milk carton wondering if it is still OK to add it to your morning cereal. Should you trust your nose, or stick to the best before date? The answer isn’t always clear. Expiry dates might be the finite end of when you can safely consume food, but most of the foods we purchase are only stamped with a best before date, meaning it’s merely a suggested date to guarantee freshness and nutritional value. Here are some things you need to know about expiry dates so you can save money, and avoid tossing away food that’s still perfectly good to eat.

1. Only 5 Types of Products Have Actual Expiry Dates

In Canada, the only products to carry a true expiry date are: infant formula, nutritional supplements, meal replacements, formulated liquid diets and food formulated for low-energy diets sold by pharmacists. Not what most of us envision when it comes to filling up our grocery carts! All other food that stays fresh for 90 days or less are stamped with a best before date, which is just the industry’s way of guaranteeing it will taste as it should and be nutritionally accurate to its label.

2. The Best Before Date Only Applies to Unopened Packages

While we usually rely on these dates the most when consuming already purchased foods at home, the best before date is no longer valid once a package is open, meaning the countdown to the last sip of milk isn’t as set in stone as it seems. Since food has a higher chance of being contaminated once the package is opened, the best before date is only an accurate gauge of freshness while you’re strolling the aisle of the grocery store.

milk-pour-over-cereal

3. You Can Still Consume Food Past the Best Before Date

Just because it’s on or past the best before date doesn’t mean you have to throw it out. Milk and yogurt can be safely consumed for up to one week after their best before date. How long are eggs good for? You can test uncooked eggs to see if they are still good by placing them in a glass of water. If the egg floats, it has gone bad; if it sinks, it is good to eat. But make sure to use common sense when consuming any food past their stamped date. Always remember the saying: when in doubt, throw it out.

hard-boiled-eggs

4. There Are Still Some Foods to Watch out For

Fresh fish, shellfish and most meat (even deli meats) have a smaller window of opportunity to consume after their best before date, so it’s best not to risk eating these items after that suggested time.

Food waste costs the economy billions of dollars a year, so why not be more mindful of what you’re tossing in the garbage can? It’ll keep extra money in your pocket while helping out the environment.

Photos courtesy of Getty Images

5 Clever Ways to Use Store-Bought Pizza Dough

A good batch of pizza dough can go so much further than being just the base for a super cheesy pie. Whether made from scratch or  store bought, this basic yeast dough is incredibly versatile, perfect for carrying a wide range of flavours. Not only is it super easy to work with, it also bakes up easily!

So pick up some dough and try one of these 5 clever new ways to use it.

Monkey Bread

Monkey Bread
Lightly butter a 9×5-inch loaf pan. Pour 1/3 cup melted unsalted butter in a medium bowl. Combine 1/2 cup packed brown sugar with 2 tsp cinnamon in a separate medium bowl. Roll 450 g pizza dough into 1-inch balls. Dip each ball into butter, then sugar mixture until well coated. Arrange balls in a staggered fashion in prepared loaf pan. Gently press down to flatten slightly. Cover with a damp kitchen towel and let stand until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake monkey bread in centre of oven until golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer to a rack and let stand, 10 minutes, then turn out onto a plate.

Stir 1/2 cup icing sugar with 2 tsp milk in a small bowl until smooth. Drizzle over monkey bread. Serve warm.

Garlic Sticks
Roll out 450 g pizza dough into a 1/4-inch thick rectangle. Cut into 1-inch-thick strips. Arrange on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake in centre of oven until almost golden. Brush sticks with melted garlic butter, then sprinkle evenly with grated mozzarella or Parmesan. Continue baking until cheese is melted and sticks are golden brown.

Focaccia
Roll out 450 grams pizza dough until 1/4-inch-thick. Arrange on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Drizzle generously with olive oil, then top with thinly sliced red onion, chopped fresh rosemary and flaked sea salt. Bake in the centre of oven until golden brown.

Beignets
Roll out 450 g pizza dough until 1/8-inch thick. Cut into 2-inch squares. Fry in canola oil over medium heat until puffed and golden. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate. Dust generously with icing sugar or toss with granulated sugar.

Stromboli
Roll out 450 g pizza dough into an 1/8-inch thick rectangle. Top with tomato sauce, sliced prosciutto, grated fontina cheese and sautéed spinach, leaving a 1-inch border. Brush border with eggwash. Fold over all edges, then roll the long end upwards to form a log, pinching all edges to seal well. Arrange on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake in the centre of oven until golden brown. Cut into thick slices before serving.

Olive Oil

How to Choose the Right Cooking Oil

Now more than ever, grocery aisles are brimming with choices of seemingly endless types of oil. And while it’s sometimes easy to know which options aren’t for daily use — toasted walnut oil, for instance — there are still a lot of basics to sort through. So which oils should hold a place in your pantry? This guide will help you decide which types you need.

Olive Oil

Olive Oil
This classic Mediterranean staple has gained popularity all around the globe over the past couple of decades thanks to its nutritional values and beautifully rich flavour. Because it’s high in ever-so-healthy monounsaturated fats, it’s praised as one of the most beneficial oils to incorporate into your diet. Unfortunately, olive oil won’t do the trick for all of your cooking needs. Whether you’re choosing virgin or extra-virgin as your household staple, all olive oil will deteriorate and have an off-putting taste if cooked at a high temperature, leaving it best to use for light sautéing, poaching at a low heat or simply in salad dressings or emulsions.

Sunflower Oil
Although you can purchase nutty cold-pressed sunflower oil that can be used in place of olive oil, the most common type of sunflower oil available is a light and refined variety that’s neutral in flavour and can take on high heat. The downside is that this refining process removes some of its healthy nutrients. If you’re looking for an all-purpose oil to get any job done, sunflower oil will always do the trick. Not only is this oil perfect for frying, roasting or searing, it can also be used as a neutral fat in baked goods or aioli.

Coconut Oil
High in saturated fat, coconut oil was once thought as being extremely unhealthy to consume, however it’s had a new wave of popularity thanks to its versatility (especially in vegan cooking) and being claimed as a new superfood. Firm at room temperature and liquid when melted, coconut oil can be used as you would butter. However, unlike butter, it can also tolerate a higher heat, making it a great choice to cook with. Choose virgin coconut oil as it has a subtle and nutty coconut flavour, and the best nutritional properties compared to refined varieties.

Butter

Butter
Butter arguably has the most appealing taste that keeps you coming back for more. Because of its milk fats, it tends to burn easily and should never be used for cooking over a high heat (those fats, however, brown beautifully in a slow and controlled burn when making brown butter). Butter is best used when you’re looking to give a boost of flavour, whether it’s for a pasta sauce, glazing vegetables or a final baste on a steak or roast chicken. Thanks to its creamy texture at room temperature, it’s the ultimate fat to use for cakes, cookies and frosting.

Lard
While lard lost some of its popularity after vegetable shortening came to the market, it made a huge comeback among chefs and bakers of all generations for its full, rich flavour and ability to make the flakiest pie crusts. Lard is always rendered from pork fat, not making it suitable for everyone to use, but if you’re not looking for a health conscious choice, this all-purpose fat is great for high-heat cooking such as stir-frying and deep-frying as well as most baking.

Peanut Oil
Peanut oil has a neutral flavour and has a very high smoke point, which makes it the go-to choice for stir frying or deep frying. Because this oil is commonly refined, most of the peanut allergens are removed during the process leaving it safe for a large majority of people who have peanut allergies. You’ll see it as the common choice at chip trucks, so give it a try next time you’re craving some fries or a battered piece of fish.

Learn how to make your own salad dressings with our 40 homemade recipes.

Food Safety: The Shelf Life of Meats and Seafood

Nothing makes weeknight dinners easier than having a fridge fully stocked with a variety of delicious possibilities. Purchasing meats and seafood on sale can save you a lot of money in the long term. But before you fill your cart full of groceries, read this simple guide on safety practices for keeping eggs, poultry, beef and more.

open-fridge-meat-shelf-life

Eggs
Whole eggs are one of the top contenders when it comes to having a long shelf life. They will keep safely in the fridge for a full 5 weeks. Over time, eggs take in air, which pushes the white away from the shell making it extremely easy to peel — a bonus for deviled egg lovers!

Liquid, pasteurized eggs may seem more convenient, but they have a shorter shelf life. Once opened, they need to be used within 3 days. Regardless of the type of egg you purchase, they should never be stored in the freezer.

Beef
When you buy fresh, ground beef, you don’t have long to cook it, as it has to be consumed within 2 days of purchasing. Other cuts of beef, such as steaks or roasts, are a bit more forgiving; they can be kept in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Freeze it: To extend the shelf life, freeze any type of beef in a tightly sealed container. Ground beef can be used within 4 months, and all other cuts can be kept for up to 12 months.

Cook it: From a rich Bolognese to a saucy stew, if you like to make big-batch meals with beef, they can be cooked and safely stored in the fridge for 3 to 4 days, and the freezer for up to 3 months. Just make sure to transfer any hot food into small, shallow containers to ensure it cools quickly, which prevents bacteria from growing.

Pork
It’s hard to grocery shop without picking up a package of the ever-beloved bacon and luckily, you have a full week to safely consume it. Fresh sausage and ground pork are also delicious options, however, they should both be cooked within 2 days of purchasing. Other cuts of pork, such as chops, can be consumed within 5 days.

Freeze it: Freeze any pork in a tightly sealed container. Bacon will keep for up to a month, fresh sausages and pork for up to 2 months and other cuts for up to 6 months.

Cook it: Cooked pork of any kind can be safely stored in the fridge for 3 to 4 days and the freezer for up to 3 months.

Poultry
Poultry is a great staple for delicious and affordable meals. From chicken to turkey and quail, all fresh poultry should be consumed within 2 days of purchasing.

Freeze it: Freeze any poultry in a tightly sealed container. Individual cuts, such as breasts or thighs, can be used within 9 months and whole poultry, such as chicken, can be kept for an entire year.

Cook it: Cooked poultry can be safely stored in the fridge for 4 days and the freezer for up to 4 months.

Lunch Meats
Your sandwich meats should be consumed within 4 days of purchasing. If you’re looking for something that will last the full week, try buying cured meats, such as summer sausage, which can be kept in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.

Freeze it: Freeze any lunch meats in a tightly sealed container for up to 2 months.

Seafood
Whether it’s trout, haddock, spot prawns or lobster, all fresh fish and shellfish should be consumed within 2 days of purchasing. However, smoked fish has a longer shelf life and can be kept for up to 14 days.

Freeze it: Freeze any fish or shellfish in a tightly sealed container. Fatty fish, such as mackerel, along with any shellfish or smoked fish will keep for up to 2 months and leaner fish, such as sole, will keep for up to 6 months.

Cook it: All cooked fish can be safely stored in the fridge for up to 4 days and the freezer for 4 to 6 months.

*Note: Always remember you can never re-freeze any food that has previously been frozen, regardless of the type of meat or seafood.

Mangoes

Is This Fruit Ripe? Tricks to Buying the Sweetest Produce

Although it’s easy to spot which fruit is perfectly ripe at a roadside stand in the peak of summer (hello, juicy peaches and oh-so fragrant strawberries!), during the remaining months it can be challenging to figure out if the fruit you’re purchasing is truly at its peak.

While we have seemingly endless options available at the grocery store year-round, it’s not as simple to tell when some fruits are ripe. Here are some easy tips to make sure you are never disappointed when you crack into a beautiful piece of fruit.

orange

Citrus
Since citrus grows in a separate climate from ours, it’s easy to forget that there actually is a season when they’re at their best. Lucky for us, prime citrus season is in the dead of winter, just as we’re so desperately looking for those bright and sunny flavours.
Indulge in blood oranges, pomelos, grapefruit and Meyer lemons from December to March while they’re super sweet and juicy. Look for citrus with tight skin that doesn’t have a lot of give when pressed. If they’re too soft, they could be passed their prime. Always make sure to give them a good sniff. The ripest citrus will be bursting with the scent of their essential oils.

Pineapple

Pineapple
Choosing a ripe pineapple can seem a bit tricky, but they’re actually one of the easiest fruits to tell if they’re ripe — as long as you know what to look for. Counter intuitively, a pineapple can have some green throughout its body and still be perfectly ripe. So take a step back and look at its overall appearance. Its top leaves should be deeply green and not too wilted or browned. and its skin should be tight and only gives slightly when pressed. Most importantly, a fully ripe pineapple will always have super sweet scent, so pick it up by the top and smell the base. Its aroma should be fruity and delicious.

Melons
Unlike oranges and pineapples, not every variety of melon will give off a scent to gauge its ripeness, but luckily there are other simple ways to find out. Look for melons that have consistently even skin, free of any soft spots, bruising or cracks. Smooth melons, such as watermelon, should have a matte finish and lacy melons, such as cantaloupe, should be vibrant in colour underneath their rough, top layer. Regardless of the melon you’re buying, pick it up. It should feel heavy , then give it a gentle knock; a ripe melon will always sound hollow inside.

Mangoes

Mangoes
The best rule of thumb when it comes to purchasing a mango is pretty simple: a soft mango will always be a ripe one. Once you know this rule, it’s easier to look for indicators to make sure the mango isn’t overripe. The skin should be tight and plump, without any shrivelling or discolouration. Take the time to pick it up and smell it by the stem; it should smell sweet and fresh, not alcoholic or sour.

Avocado

Avocados
If you’re shopping on a Sunday and want to have an avocado towards the end of the week, it’s best to buy ones that are under-ripe so it has a few days to reach perfection. If you want to make a bowl of guacamole tonight, look for avocadoes that are so deeply green, they’re almost black and have a slight give when pressed. Be careful if doesn’t feel too soft, an overripe avocado will have a lot of give and feel squishy inside.

5 clever ways to use frozen puff pastry

5 Clever Ways to Use Frozen Puff Pastry

Store-bought puff pastry is the ultimate freezer staple to have on hand to whip up quick and impressive treats in a pinch. And now that it’s sold in pre-rolled sheets, you don’t need flour or a rolling pin to get baking.

From savoury snacks to guest-worthy treats, puff pastry can do it all! So try one of these 5 clever ways to use it next time guests drop by.

Savoury Tarts

Thin Mint and Dark Chocolate Pastries
Arrange racks in top and bottom thirds of oven. Preheat to 400F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment.

Beat 1 egg with 1 Tbsp water in a small bowl until combined. Slice 9 thin dark chocolate mints, such as After Eight, diagonally in half. Unroll 450-g pkg thawed puff pastry sheets. Using a 2 ½-in. round cookie cutter, cut out 9 rounds per sheet. Arrange rounds on baking sheets.

Brush each round evenly with egg wash, then arrange 1 piece chocolate mint on one half of each round. Fold other half over chocolate mint, pressing edges down to seal well. Brush tops with remaining egg wash.

Bake in top and bottom thirds of oven, switching halfway through, until golden and puffed, 20 min. Dust generously with icing sugar before serving.

Mini Cinnamon Rolls
Brush thawed puff pastry sheets generously with melted butter. Sprinkle evenly with granulated sugar and cinnamon. Roll tightly from the bottom to the top to form a log. Freeze until slightly firm. Slice each log into 1-inch rounds. Arrange on a parchment-lined baking sheet, cut-side down, and bake, following package directions, until golden and puffed. Drizzle with a glaze or top with cream cheese frosting.

Buttery Cheese Straws
Brush thawed puff pastry sheets with egg wash. Sprinkle with coarsely grated cheese, such as Gruyère or Parmesan, gently pressing down to adhere. Cut into ¾-inch strips, then twist both ends in the opposite direction to form a straw. Arrange on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake, following package directions, until golden and puffed.

Cheaters Gingerbread Men
Using a small gingerbread man cookie cutter, cut out men from thawed puff pastry sheets. Arrange on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake, following package directions, until golden and puffed. Whisk icing sugar with a touch of milk and ground ginger to make a glaze. Drizzle over cooled gingerbread men and let stand until dry to the touch.

Savoury Tarts
Brush thawed puff pastry sheets with egg wash. Sprinkle evenly with cheese, such as sliced mozzarella or crumbled goats cheese, then top with vegetables, such as caramelized onions, sautéed mushrooms or spinach. Sprinkle with fresh herbs. Fold over edges, creating a 1-in. border. Brush border with additional egg wash. Arrange on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake, according to package directions, until puffed and golden.