Tag Archives: drinks

cold-brew-feature-image

How to Make The Best Cold Brew Coffee

On sweltering summer days, cold brew is a refreshing alternative to your hot morning coffee. The cool, satisfying summer drink is easier to make than you think.

In simplest terms, cold brew is made by soaking coffee grounds in water at room temperature or cooler for a long period of time. The resulting beverage is less acidic on the palate than your typical cup, but it also packs a punch. Because it requires more grounds than hot coffee, cold brew has the added benefit of more caffeine.

cold-brew-coffee

There are lots of cold brewing gadgets out there, but this recipe will show you an easy way to improvise at home with equipment you likely already have. After 18 hours, you’ll end up with a potent cold brew concentrate that can be diluted and enjoyed with ice, sparkling water or your milk of choice.

So, grab your favourite freshly roasted coffee beans, and give this simple cold brew method a try.

Cold-brew-dilute

Active Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 18 hours, 30 minutes
Serves: 8

Ingredients:
100 g or roughly 1 cup coarsely ground coffee
800 mL or 3 1/2 cups filtered water
1L Mason jar
Fine mesh bag  or nut milk bag
Paper coffee filter
Strainer or funnel

Directions:

Cold brew

1. Place nut milk bag inside a mason jar and fill with ground coffee. Add filtered water. Give your soaked grounds a stir. Cover the mason jar with a cloth and place it in the fridge to brew for 18 hours.

Cold brew step 2
2. After 18 hours, take your brew out of the fridge and carefully remove the mesh bag filled with coffee grounds. Tip: Used coffee grounds make great compost.

cold-brew-filter
3. Pour your cloudy brew through a pre-soaked paper filter (pre-soaking removes paper-y taste). If you don’t have pour-over coffee equipment, a strainer or funnel lined with a paper filter will do.

cold-brew-milk
4. You now have a crystal clear cold brew concentrate. Dilute with ice and water or add milk and sweetener to taste. Store your cold brew coffee in the refrigerator to enjoy for up to a week.

Irish Coffee

The Boozy History of Irish Coffee

What do flying boats and Irish coffee have in common? Everything, and more.

I should know: my family tree has a direct bloodline to Joe Sheridan, the legendary chef who invented this classic Irish cocktail. Nutty and caramely, it’s a rich, hot blend of dark coffee, fiery whiskey, brown sugar and a swirl of thick whipped cream. An Emerald Isle favourite for over 70 years, this quintessential Irish beverage has unorthodox beginnings.

Tracing the roots of Irish coffee requires venturing to Foynes, a tiny town on Ireland’s west coast that was once the epicentre for the aviation world. During World War II, Pan Am’s famed flying boats (a.k.a. clippers) transported a range of people, from celebrities such as Ernest Hemingway and John F. Kennedy, to refugees (children fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe). It’s here that commercial air travel was born — as well as Irish coffee.

Irish Coffee

One wintery night in 1943, a clipper departed from Foynes to North America, but the flight didn’t get far. After battling bad weather conditions for several hours, the captain decided to return to Ireland. As the weary passengers offloaded into the airport’s restaurant, Chef Joe Sheridan decided to prepare a special treat to spread some cheer. He brewed dark, bitter coffee, and to each cup added a shot of Irish whiskey, a little brown sugar and whipped cream on top. As the perked-up passengers slurped up the steamy drink, one asked, “Is it Brazilian coffee?”

“No,” Sheridan said. “That was Irish coffee!”

With those four words, a classic Irish drink was born. However, it took almost a decade before the toasty tipple traveled worldwide. In 1951, Stanton Delaplane, a travel journalist for the San Francisco Chronicle, took his first sip and was instantly hooked. Back home, Delaplane raved about the newfangled Irish coffee drink to Jack Koeppler, owner of the Buena Vista Café. The duo tried to re-create Sheridan’s recipe, stirring and sipping all night, but the taste was off and the cream collapsed on the surface.

Enjoy Sheridan's original recipe for Irish coffee at the Foynes Maritime Museum

Enjoy Sheridan’s original recipe for Irish coffee at the Foynes Maritime Museum.

After a slew of taste tests and a “research” trip to Ireland, the two men finally cracked the code: the tricky cream only floated when aged and frothed to a precise thickness. Regardless, they decided to poach another key ingredient: Chef Sheridan himself. In 1953, Joe Sheridan immigrated to the United States and started working at the Buena Vista Café.

Chef Sheridan’s original recipe is still served at the Buena Vista Café in San Francisco and the Foynes Maritime Museum, where there’s a small exhibit dedicated to the drink. Of course, virtually all bars and restaurants in Ireland have this boozy beverage on their menu, though flavours may vary.

However, there’s no need to travel across the pond for a mouthful of this hot cocktail. Just gather all the ingredients in your kitchen and follow these instructions. If you’re really looking to impress guests, pair the drink with a plate of Irish Coffee Pie or Anna Olson’s Irish Creamy Fudge.

valerie's irish coffee

Once you’ve mastered the recipe, get playful and try this decadent recipe for Valerie Bertinelli’s Irish Coffee, made with espresso and topped with Lemon-Vanilla Whipped Cream. Or, delight guests with Irish coffee with a Canadian twist, spiked with Canadian whisky, a drizzle of maple syrup, and maple-laced whipped cream.

For a fancy after-dinner nightcap, make a batch of Nancy Fuller’s Dressed Up Irish Coffee, sprinkled with shaved dark chocolate, it’s almost a dessert in a glass. The options are endless.

This St. Patrick’s Day, I’ll be celebrating my bloodline to booze legend, Chef Joe Sheridan, by raising a glass of Irish coffee. From my family, to coffee and whiskey lovers everywhere, I say: you’re welcome and Sláinte!

3 Fun and Festive Cranberry Cocktails

It wouldn’t be the holidays without bright, tart cranberries, and the same goes for cocktails. Celebrate the season in style with these three fruity drinks fit for any holiday party.

From a fizzy champagne cocktail featuring a homemade spiced cranberry orange simple syrup, to vanilla vodka-spiked cranberry mule, to the cinnamon infused cran-apple white wine sangria, we’ve got a drink to suit everyone’s taste this season.

festive-cranberry-cocktails

Holiday Fizz

Prep Time: 2 hours, 10 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours, 15 minutes
Serves: 6

Ingredients:

For the Spiced Cranberry Orange Simple Syrup
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
2 tsp orange zest
1 whole star anise
1 whole cinnamon stick

For the Drinks
12 fresh cranberries
6 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 orange, thinly sliced
1 bottle Canadian sparkling wine or champagne, chilled
1 recipe Spiced Cranberry Orange Simple Syrup, from above, chilled

Directions:

Spiced Cranberry Orange Simple Syrup
1. In a medium saucepan, bring all simple syrup ingredients to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook, stirring often, until sugar has dissolved and cranberries have started to pop, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat, strain into a glass jar; discard solids. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or until chilled. Store simple syrup in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Assembly
1. Skewer 2 cranberries on each rosemary sprig. Set aside.
2. In each of 6 cocktail or wine glasses, add a few slices of orange, 1 Tbsp prepared simple syrup and 1/2 cup sparkling wine or champagne. Serve chilled.

Vanilla-Cran Mule

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes
Serves: 4

Ingredients:
2 cups ice
1/2 cup vanilla vodka
1/2 cup ginger ale
1 Tbsp cranberry juice
12 fresh or frozen cranberries (no need to defrost if using frozen)
1 lime cut into thin rounds, to garnish
Evergreen twigs, to garnish

Directions:
1. In a cocktail shaker or pitcher, per mule, gently stir 1/4 cup vodka, 1/2 cup ginger ale and 1 Tbsp cranberry juice.
2. Add 1/2 cup ice, 3 cranberries and a couple lime slices to each glass (use traditional copper mule mugs or regular cocktail glasses).
3. Pour prepared cocktail into each ice-filled glass. Garnish with evergreen twigs. Serve.

Cran-Apple Sangria

Total Time: 4 hours, 10 minutes
Serves: 6

Ingredients:
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries (no need to defrost if using frozen)
1 gala apple, cored and thinly sliced
1 cup apple cider or apple juice
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 cup brandy
1 bottle white wine

Directions:
1. In a large pitcher or punch bowl, stir together cranberries, apple slices, apple cider, cinnamon, brandy and white wine. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.
2. Pour or ladle sangria into glasses, being sure to include the wine-soaked apples and cranberries. Serve chilled.

Alternative Ways to Make Coffee Shop Drinks at Home

Making your favourite coffee shop drinks at home is a great way to satisfy those in-between cafe trips. And if you’re searching for dairy milk alternatives in coffee shops due to allergies, intolerances or just to explore a range of new flavours, you may have a hard time finding exactly what you want. Here, we break down the best lactose-free milks and the popular café beverages they pair best with.

almond-milk

Lactose-Free Milks

Nut Milk: Popularly made with almonds, but trendy new varieties such as hazelnut and macadamia are equally available. Homemade nut milk is simple, but won’t be as stable when heating for beverage recipes. Look for nut milk fresh or in shelf-stable tetra packs in your local grocery store. Many cafés and even some larger chain coffee shops are now beginning to carry nut milks as a second dairy-free option along with soy milk.

Soy Milk: One of the first lactose-free, dairy-free milks to sweep the café seen, soy milk is thick, creamy and sweet. Choose unsweetened, plain varieties (or you’re getting a ton of added sugar) when purchasing for homemade coffee shop drinks. Soy milk has the most protein of all non-dairy milks, but many people avoid it due to its high amounts of phytoestrogens, which can disrupt hormone balance in both women and men.

Coconut Milk: Coconut milk is popular with larger coffee shop chains as a soy alternative because it’s not actually a nut, but a fruit. Creamy, sweet and floral, coconut milk (usually the thin beverage is used as opposed to thick canned types) compliments everything from espresso to chocolate, and heats well without curdling.

Rice Milk: Offering little in the way of nutrition, rice milk is usually purchased by those who are seeking something slightly creamy, but are allergic to nut, soy, dairy and coconut milks. Very thin, it’s not the best non-dairy milk to use for coffee shop beverages, but will still give a “milky” appearance. Other grain milks appearing on the market include oat milk and quinoa milk, which have more nutrients and a touch more creaminess (though they are more expensive).

Lactose-Free Milk: This milk is an animal product (dairy) that has had the lactose taken out of it. If you have lactose intolerance but still love the taste of dairy milk, choose this for your coffee when out and at home. Some baristas say that this milk tastes a touch sweeter than regular dairy variety. If you’re concerned about sugar, go for whole milk varieties because when it comes to dairy, the higher the milk fat percentage, the lower the sugar/carbohydrate content.

888_coffee-shop-drinks-at-home

Coffee Shop Drinks and Lactose-Free Milk Pairings

The flavours of alternative milks go wonderfully with coffee, lending sweet, nutty notes to your drinks. Here are some ideas to get your started in the flavour department.

Drink: Latte
Best With: almond milk, coconut milk beverage, soy milk or lactose-free milk.
Try this recipe for Allison Day’s Classic Pumpkin Spice Latte

Drink: Americano (Hot or Iced)
Best With: thick canned coconut milk.

Drink: Frappuccino
Best With: thick canned coconut milk.
Try this recipe for a Light Frappuccino

Drink: Macchiato
Best With: thick canned coconut milk or soy milk.

Drink: Chai Latte
Best With: coconut milk beverage, almond milk, rice milk, lactose-free milk.
Try this recipe for Bal Arneson’s Chai Latte

Drink: Cortado
Best With: soy milk, macadamia nut milk, lactose-free milk.

Drink: Cold Brew Coffee
Best With: thick canned coconut milk, soy milk.
Try this recipe for Ashley Tomlinson’s Cold Brew Coffee

Drink: Flat White
Best with: almond milk, hazelnut milk or soy milk.

Drink: Hot Chocolate
Best With: hazelnut milk (for a “nutella” flavour), almond milk, macadamia nut milk, soy milk, or thick canned coconut milk (for extra-rich hot chocolate).
Try this recipe for Mexican Hot Chocolate

Drink: Cappuccino
Best With: almond milk, oat milk, soy milk, macadamia nut milk.

How to Make Blushing Cherry-Berry Sangria

Gorgeous red fruit gives this bubbly sangria a mild blush, delivering a pop of flavour and colour to any budget-friendly bottle of sparkling wine.

Chock-full of strawberries, raspberries and cherries, and hit with muddled fresh mint, this fun and fruity cocktail is sure to become your go-to summertime sipper.

blushing-bubbly-sangria-recipe

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Standing Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Serves: 6 to 8

Ingredients:
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
1/2 lemon, zest
1 lemon, juiced
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup water
3 cups ice cubes
1 bottle (750 ml) dry sparkling wine, chilled
1 1/2 cups each frozen sliced strawberries and raspberries
1 cup frozen pitted sweet cherries

blushing-bubbly-sangria-recipe2

Directions:
1. In large pitcher, combine mint, lemon zest, lemon juice, sugar, and water. Stir, bruising mint slightly, with wooden spoon.
2. Let stand for 15 minutes.
3. Top with ice and sparkling wine; stir to combine. Stir in raspberries, strawberries and cherries.
4. Pour into chilled glasses to serve.

Looking for more cocktail recipes? Check out: 30 Cocktails to Keep You Cool This Summer.

How to Make the Perfect Caesar Every Time

FN_RReardin_1Aug

For Canadians, caesars are like hockey games, Tim Hortons, or even, dare I say, denim-on-denim. It defines us, unites us, and just makes us who we are. It’s the signature drink on most patios, a staple on every menu and the one bevvie we always seem to be in the mood for.

They can however, be a tad difficult to make. Opt for tomato juice instead of Clamato, or too much Worcestershire and not enough hot sauce, and it’s all too easy for your caesar to become an undrinkable disaster.

I’m speaking from experience here.

And so, since it’s pretty much our obligation as citizens of this home and native land to master the art of creating the perfect caesar, I’ve put together a little how-to guide to help you (read: me) get it right every time.

So, what do you do? Start by mixing the ingredients. But before you start pouring, please note that the order of ingredients does matter.

Start with a rimmed glass, fill it with ice, add the Worcestershire, followed by Clamato juice, hot sauce, vodka, and then season with salt and pepper. An easy way to remember the order of ingredients is to start with the cheaper ones and work your way up.

When it comes to the garnish, here’s your time to be creative. Go the conventional route with a long piece of celery, or grab a skewer and make a combo with pickles and olives. But if you’re really looking to earn some extra hostess points, add a piece of bacon, or better yet, a juicy slider burger. Because you know, why not?

No matter what garnish you decide to use, I love finishing off the cocktail with a fun straw, like this red and white stripe version from Party City ($5).

And there you have it: an easy, fail-proof recipe for Canada’s number one cocktail.

How to Pack a Cooler Like a Pro

People who claim that travelling is more about the journey than the destination have one thing in common: they’re not hangry. Enjoy your travels with fewer stops using these tips for packing the perfect road trip cooler — the one that helps you stave off snack attacks so you can enjoy a delicious trip.

Watermelon Lemonade

Tip: Freeze water bottles and juice boxes for drinks that double as ice packs.

Once the frozen drinks thaw a little, you’ll have refreshing treats worth their weight in cooling energy. For maximum savings and nutrition, pack reusable water bottles with your favourite smoothie recipe and freeze it the night before your trip.

Whether you pack store-bought drinks or make your own lemonade, juice or smoothies, be sure to leave a few unfrozen — ideally grouped to one side of the cooler — so your car crew can hydrate whenever they need.

Frozen treats can work as snacks, too. Toss your favourite frozen fruits into a container full of yogurt for a quick and refreshing dairy treat that will keep all day in the cooler.

Get the recipe for Watermelon Lemonade.

cooler

Tip: Pack frozen drinks and heavy freezer packs on the bottom, and toss a few light frozen gel packs on the top.

Pack your cooler like this: heavy stuff on the bottom, sturdily packaged items like jars and plastic containers in the middle, and anything that shouldn’t be squished or bruised (bread, sandwiches, fruits and veggies) on top. Toss a few light gel packs on top of it all, and maintain the cooler’s temperature by opening it as little as possible.

Foods that bruise easily fare best at the top, but more importantly, you’ll have the healthiest option at first reach whenever you search the cooler for a quick snack.

888_stacked-salad-nicoise

 Tip: Jarred salads are perfectly portable and make delicious travel meals.

You’ll likely want to pull over to enjoy your salads safely, but layered mason jar salads rival the flavours at any roadside fast food chain or gas station diner. Whatever you put in your jars, pack the dressing first, then add in order of weight, with the heaviest ingredients at the bottom: pasta or grains first, then proteins, then chopped veggies and lettuces or sprouts. Shake to mix when you’re ready to eat.

Get the recipe for Stacked Salad Niçoise.

anna-olson-granola-bars

Tip: Keep your cooler within reach during the drive.

As long as you’ve got a passenger capable of reaching in to dole out treats, you can fend off hanger without having to stop. If you’ve got little ones in the back with the cooler, and don’t trust them to keep it closed, consider putting them in charge of a secondary bag filled with non-perishables treats like granola bars, crackers, energy balls and sturdier, whole fruits like bananas and apples.

Get the recipe for Anna Olson’s Granola Bars.

Tip: Don’t forget utensils and napkins. 

Hand sanitizer, wet wipes or a wet washcloth packed in a plastic baggie will ensure clean hands before and after meals. Keep these items in or near the cooler and store utensils in a separate bag. If you’re including a knife or scissors in your kit, wrap them in a tea towel and secure with elastic bands to prevent unwanted pokings.

Looking for car snack ideas? Try one of our 18 Best Foods to Pack for a Road Trip.

6 Cool Canadian Urban Wineries

Spending a weekend in wine country stirs romantic images of long drives, lush vineyards, and bed and breakfasts. Although we’ll never grow tired of swirling wine in the rural regions that grow the grapes, it couldn’t hurt to have them closer to home.

Enter: the urban winery. More and more vintners are setting up shop in the city, bringing the wine production process downtown. By outsourcing and importing grapes from the finest vineyards across the globe, wine producers are able to set up the fermenting, crushing and aging process at facilities far from the fields. These urban wineries are popping up all over the United States, and the trend is starting to spread in Canada.

From virtual vineyard tours and workshops, to delicious tastings and food pairings, wine aficionados can visit these wineries and have an authentic winery experience, without leaving the city. Check out these six wineries in Canadian cities that are making a splash in the wonderful world of wine.

Macedo Winery (Toronto, ON)
With grapes taken off vines from Italy, Portugal, Argentina and Canada, Macedo Winery produces their Evolution Wines. This family-run winery in the heart of Toronto is dedicated to sharing their vast knowledge in helping you find the perfect wine.

Courtesy of Noble Grape

Courtesy of Noble Grape

Noble Grape (Dartmouth, NS)
With seven locations across Nova Scotia and one in New Brunswick, Noble Grape is an “in-store winery” that allows customers to create their very own blend. Customers choose their ingredients and add the yeast to start the fermentation process, and Noble Grape takes it from there. In four to eight weeks, you can be sipping on your very own personalized wine.

Courtesy of Pacific Breeze Winery

Courtesy of Pacific Breeze Winery

Pacific Breeze Winery (New Westminster, BC)
From grape to bottle, hand-crafted and small lot wines are produced at this “Garagiste” (Garage Winery). The first of its kind in Canada, Pacific Breeze Winery has won over 50 international awards. Try one of their wines made with carefully selected grapes from British Columbia, Washington and California, without having to endure the long commute to wine country.

Sandhill Wines (Kelowna, BC)
Located in downtown Kelowna, Sandhill Wines offers virtual vineyard tours, a wine lounge and a Small Lots barrel cellar. Visitors can sit in on educational seminars, followed by a toast at the Tasting Bar. Head winemaker Howard Soon has won multiple awards for his wines, all of which are made with the best grapes from the Okanagan.

Courtesy of Vancouver Urban Winery

Courtesy of Vancouver Urban Winery

Vancouver Urban Winery (Vancouver, BC)
Vancouver Urban Winery is a unique culinary and wine experience. In addition to producing their own wines under their namesake, they also have a wine-on-tap program where visitors can try 36 different varieties, most of which are from British Columbia. The rustic-chic winery also hosts a variety of wine education programs such as their Sunday School, where flights of wine are served blind.

Versay (Montréal, QC)
Founded four years ago by Jean-François Bieler, Versay is the only urban winery in Québec. They believe that good wine doesn’t need to involve a bottle or cork, selling wine in kegs and serves it on tap. This eco-conscious winery is all about minimizing their carbon footprint. Each keg eliminates the need for 26 glass bottles, not to mention the possibility of breakage when shipping. Who wouldn’t want wine on tap?

Marvellous Mother’s Day Menu

If ever there was a day to treat the most important woman in your life, it’s Mother’s Day. If you’re lucky enough to celebrate with Mom, treat her to an indulgent meal she’ll remember all year long. Say ‘thank you’ for all her love and hard work with a heavenly menu that starts with bubbly cocktails, and ends with ooey-gooey chocolate lava cakes. After all, she deserves it.

Champagne Cocktail

Champagne Cocktails

If ever there was a person deserving of a champagne toast, it’s Mom. Pop the bubbly and start the meal with a batch of these light and refreshing cocktails.

Blini with Smoked Salmon

Blini with Smoked Salmon

Similar to crêpes, these light and thin little pancakes make the perfect base for a one-bite appetizer. They take a few extra minutes to make from scratch, but one bite of the smoked salmon and crème fraiche, and Mom will appreciate your extra effort.

Strawberry Arugula Salad

Strawberry Arugula Salad with Walnuts and Goat Cheese

Mom will adore this sweet, light salad that’s quick to prepare and packs tons of perfectly balanced flavour. Fresh, luscious strawberries give sweet contrast to the crunchy walnuts, sharp goat cheese and bitter arugula. Top with a simple olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette to really bring out the strawberries’ flavour. 

Mothership Sunday Roast Lamb

Mothership Sunday Roast Lamb

Jamie Oliver’s lamb is unlike any other. The bone-in shoulder is smothered with a fragrant marinade of fresh garlic, rosemary and olive oil, then surrounded by onions and cooked low and slow. The result is tender, sweet lamb that falls off the bone that’s served with fresh spring potatoes and delectable gravy.

Butter Tart Cheesecake

The Best Butter Tart Cheesecake

If you’re looking to score major points with Mom, the ultimate butter tart cheesecake will surely spoil her. The sweet and salty dessert is covered in maple caramel sauce, and sprinkled with lots of toasted pecans. Feel free to add raisins if your Mom likes her butter tarts nut-free.

Luscious Lava Cake

Luscious Lava Cakes

It wouldn’t be Mother’s Day without chocolate, and these decadent cakes pack a double dose of chocolatey goodness. The molten chocolate insides are made of truffles, and the entire dessert is served with a luscious blueberry compote. Be sure to make extra so Mom has one or two to take home and enjoy later.

Looking for more delicious ways to honour Mom? Try our 50 Best Brunch Recipes for Mother’s Day.

How to Throw a Carnival-Themed Party with HGTV Star Tiffany Pratt

Carnivals are all about eating delicious treats, having fun and enjoying marvellous spectacles. With all that emphasis on good times and that cheerful bright palette, they make the perfect family-friendly theme for a summer party.

We talked to Home To Win star and stylist extraordinaire Tiffany Pratt to get her tips on how to create a dazzling carnival-themed party.

Courtesy Tiffany Pratt. Photo by Tara McMullen.

Courtesy Tiffany Pratt. Photo by Tara McMullen.

Mix it up.

Tiffany’s signature style is colourful and whimsical. The aesthetic is not only perfect for a carnival theme, but is also easy to make your own. By mixing items you already own with new pieces, and avoiding the stress of being perfectly matchy-matchy, setting a stunning table is simple. “My personal philosophy is to use as much as you’ve got,” says Tiffany. She suggests repurposing leftover streamers from past parties, and mixing paper plates with regular cutlery. “The idea is to pull everything out that you’ve got; with a carnival you can use anything, because anything goes!” Once you’ve assembled the décor and serving ware you already own, you can start seeking extras: paper bags for loot bags or canvas to paint your own big top. “But the main event is to scour the house, use what you’ve got and have fun mixing patterns and colours,” says Tiffany.

Serve sweet and colourful treats.

“I think popcorn is the first thing that comes to my mind for this kind of party,” says Tiffany, “especially dazzled up popcorn.” She suggests decorating paper bags and filling them with colourful or caramel popcorn. She’s also a big fan of handheld edibles, like finger sandwiches and sliders. Candy is a must for a carnival party; for a refreshing beverage, Tiffany suggests serving root beer floats. For grownups who’d like a little more carnival spirit in their drink, sangria and other colourful punches keep the libations on-theme. Tiffany suggests umbrellas or swizzle sticks for added festivity.

Courtesy Tiffany Pratt. Photo by Tara McMullen.

Courtesy Tiffany Pratt. Photo by Tara McMullen.

Style a “smorgasbord of fun.”

“To create a table that looks like something you want to photograph, levels are really important,” says Tiffany. Think cake plates, stacks of cool dishes, and anything else that can be used to create height. “Not only are the plates, and the food, and the cups and the cutlery all centred in a really cool, artistic way, but you have them all away around the table to actually eat,” she says. “If it looks like a smorgasbord of fun in the centre, it invites people to grab and eat and play.” Style your table with levels; by mixing up colours and patterns, food and drinks, cutlery and plates, you invite entertainment factor, says Tiffany.  “People aren’t afraid to take apart the table and enjoy things, whereas if it looks so perfect, they’re like, ‘Oh my god, I don’t want to touch it, it looks so good!’”

Don’t stress.

Remember: good style is equal parts functional and fashionable, says Tiffany. Invoking fun and creating curiosity is just as important as remembering to put out forks. At the end of the day, it’s about the people. Yes, a beautiful setting can encourage a festive mood, but don’t stress about it.

Finally, don’t underestimate the power of a thoughtful gesture; putting out containers for guests to bring home leftovers, and including adults in the loot bags are small gestures with huge impact.

Courtesy Tiffany Pratt. Photo by Tara McMullen.

Courtesy Tiffany Pratt. Photo by Tara McMullen.

Flowers, flowers, flowers.

Don’t have streamers or festive décor you can repurpose for your carnival party? No matter what the theme, “lots of flowers make things look so beautiful and festive,” says Tiffany.

Follow Tiffany Pratt on Instagram @thetiffanypratt and watch Home to Win Sundays at 10pm on HGTV. Better yet, sign up to see if you have what it takes to win your very own HGTV dream home!

Fizzy, Fermented Kombucha 101

Perspective is everything when it comes to kombucha, a fizzy fermented tea and ancient drink that is trendy (again).

Is it a cure-all, a probiotic health elixir that combats digestive issues? Is it an expensive and over-hyped panacea? Is it – a drink that’s fermented by adding a slimy symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast to sweetened tea – just a little bit weird?

SCOBY

The SCOBY, a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast, is responsible for fermenting the kombucha. Image courtesy The Big Book of Kombucha © Hannah Crum and Alex LaGory, 2016. Photographs © Matt Armendariz. Used with permission of Storey Publishing.

You’ll have to decide for yourself, but one thing is for sure: kombucha is delicious, and despite the high cost of buying it in health food stores, it’s cheap and easy to make at home.

Kombucha is created by adding a culture, called a SCOBY, to caffeinated, unflavoured, sweetened tea. As the SCOBY eats the sugar, the tea becomes tart and fizzy — the longer it’s left to ferment, the tarter and fizzier it becomes, eventually turning into vinegar. Once the initial fermentation is complete — in anywhere from five to 14 days — the kombucha can be enjoyed as is, or flavoured with fruit and herbs, and fermented a second time for a naturally fizzy, flavoured drink.

flavoured kombucha

Kombucha can be flavoured with fruits and herbs. Image courtesy The Big Book of Kombucha © Hannah Crum and Alex LaGory, 2016. Photographs © Matt Armendariz. Used with permission of Storey Publishing.
From The Big Book of Kombucha © Hannah Crum and Alex LaGory, 2016. Photographs © Matt Armendariz. Used with permission of Storey Publishing.

All you need are clean glass jars, sugar, plain green, white or black tea, and a SCOBY, and you can easily be making this bubbly, trendy brew at home. The easiest way to grow a SCOBY is to order one online or get one from a friend. Each new batch of kombucha will produce a new SCOBY, so one is all you need to get started. SCOBYs can sometimes be grown from a bottle of store-bought kombucha, although this method is less consistent.

Image courtesy The Big Book of Kombucha © Hannah Crum and Alex LaGory, 2016. Photographs © Matt Armendariz. Used with permission of Storey Publishing.

Image courtesy The Big Book of Kombucha © Hannah Crum and Alex LaGory, 2016. Photographs © Matt Armendariz. Used with permission of Storey Publishing.

If you’ve never tried kombucha before, it’s a good idea to sample a few varieties first. Kombucha is infinitely customizable, and knowing how you like yours is the starting point for delicious flavour experiments.

Kombucha can be brewed in large continuous batches for an everlasting supply (continuous method) or in smaller batches (batch method). Although the supply list and method can seem a bit daunting for first-time fermenters, it’s actually quite simple once you get into the swing of things.

Ready to try brewing your own kombucha? We’ve got you covered:
How to Batch Brew Kombucha
How to Brew Continuous Kombucha

Raspberry Cordial

Raspberry Cordial Inspired by Anne of Green Gables

A trip to Prince Edward Island wouldn’t be complete without enjoying a raspberry cordial and a tour of Green Gables, the inspirational house behind L.M. Montgomery’s famous tales of a red haired orphan named Anne.

As the much-loved children’s story goes, Anne of Green Gables accidentally serves her friend what she believed to be this fruity cordial, only to discover that she accidentally got her friend drunk on red currant wine.

This literary-inspired blushing beverage is sweet, tart and best served chilled with sliced lemon and fresh mint.

Raspberry Cordial

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 12-24 hours
Makes: 7 cups

Ingredients:
2 bags (each 400 g) frozen raspberries, about 5 1/2 cups
6 cups water
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

Directions:
1. Place raspberries in large heatproof bowl.
2. Bring water and sugar to boil in a small saucepan until sugar dissolves. Pour sugar water over raspberries. Cool to room temperature.
3. Cover and refrigerate for 12 hours or up to 24 hours.
4. Strain into bowl. Reserve raspberries for another use.
5. Stir in lemon juice.
6. Serve chilled. Refrigerate for up to 3 weeks.

Tip: You can press the raspberries to extract more juice, however, it will cause the cordial to be cloudy.

Top up your glass with sparkling water for a raspberry spritzer!

Why Sap Water is the New Drink Craze

Coconut water had its moment, but now it’s time to add some new, plant-extracted thirst-quenchers to the mix: birch water and maple water. Unlike coconut, birch and maple water provide a much smaller environmental impact, with some companies making them right here in Canada. And both birch and maple water are far lower in sugar than coconut water — something the tropical drink is often scrutinized for. Before you tap into this health trend, here are some nutrition facts and faults to see if there’s a clear winner.

888_birch-and-maple-water-new

Health Benefits of Birch Water

Birch water, also known as birch sap, is derived from tapping birch trees to release their liquid. Over the winter, birch trees store a great deal of nutrition, which is released in their sap (or water) once mild, springtime temperatures begin to thaw the frost.

Birch trees are commonly found in Canada, Russia and Scandinavia— and the water has been used as an energy tonic centuries prior to it becoming the health food we know today. As the spring thawing commences, the birch water in Canada begins to run, so now is the time to get your fix.

Related: Sensational Canadian Cocktails

The sugar produced by birch trees, xylitol, is used as a natural, low-calorie sweetener in chewing gum and other candies. This is what is naturally sweetens birch water, satisfying your sweet tooth without being overwhelming. Because xylitol is low in calories, birch water is a much less caloric drink option than many other natural waters on the market. With only two to three grams of sugar per cup, it beats maple water in this regard. Minerals found in birch water appear in trace amounts, though it does deliver several phytochemicals (plant nutrients) and amino acids that may be beneficial to your health.

What Does Birch Water Taste Like?

With a gentle, sweet taste (when purchased “pure”), many find birch water a refreshing, crisper-tasting option to plain water.

Where to Buy Birch Water

In Canada, birch water can be purchased directly from the company producing it (online or in-person). A leader in the Canadian birch water producers is 52º North, located in British Columbia. 52º North has flavoured birch waters, but a natural option without flavouring (and added sugar) should be your go-to for the most nutritious option. Due to the delicate, seasonal nature of birch water’s extraction, it’s a pretty pricy beverage.

Related: Sweet Maple Recipes to Celebrate Syrup Season

Health Benefits of Maple Water

Like birch, maple water is the liquid that’s extracted when a maple tree is tapped. Boiling this liquid down results in something we’re all familiar with: maple syrup. Maple water is far more sustainable than other natural waters, with a minimal environmental footprint (if consumed where it’s produced — like Canada, for instance).

As maple trees store nutrition over the winter during their sleepy hibernation, the sap that results from the springtime thaw is loaded with nutrition, but in small amounts. Maple water is higher in bioactive compounds than birch water, but is slightly higher in sugar, with three to five grams per cup. And, maple water has a richer electrolyte profile, making it a lower-sugar sports recovery drink option if you’re exercising for extended amounts of time, or recovering from the flu.

According to Canadian maple water company SEVA, maple water contains 46 bioactive nutrients, including minerals, amino acids and organic acids. Maple water contains abscisic acid (ABA), a plant hormone that may help plants adapt to stress. In humans, ABA may help to balance blood sugar. As this is a fairly new, buzzed-about product, more studies need to be done before it’s established as a cure-all.

What Does Maple Water Taste Like?

Maple water has a soft, maple flavour and delicate sweetness. It’s crisp, clean and refreshing. Many find maple water far more palatable than coconut water, both in taste and texture.

Where to Buy Maple Water

Unlike birch water, maple water is becoming far more common in the everyday grocery store. Look for it in the natural food aisle, right next to the coconut water. Online retailers are also getting in on the trend, with giants like Amazon carrying this trendy new drink.

How to Drink Birch Water and Maple Water

Beyond sipping it straight from the carton, birch and maple waters can be used to make coffee, tea, smoothies or cocktails. You can also try cooking oatmeal or other grains in the waters for a fun twist. As minerals aren’t destroyed by heat, warming the water won’t kill its nutritional properties.

Related: Recipes That Pair Maple and Bacon Perfectly

The Healthier Choice: Birch Water or Maple Water?

Both birch and maple waters will provide trace amounts of nutrition, but like all beverages, it’s best to limit your intake due to their sugar content. Additionally, natural waters and juices are devoid of fibre, so they won’t fill you up. However, they’re both far better for the environment compared to coconut water, as birch and maple waters can be harvested sustainably. This means the trees can provide a source of income to companies and farmers without deforestation.

Both beverages remain a lower-sugar, sustainable alternative to coconut water, which is reason enough to give them a try. So, next time you break a sweat, see which option you like best. Enjoying either birch or maple water in moderation won’t hurt — but the verdict is still up in the air on whether they really help.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

ice wine

Canadian Icewine: From Bitter Cold to Liquid Gold

Canadians aren’t ones to brag, but when it comes to icewine, we’ve got the world beat. Icewine, like Canada itself, is the sweetness born of warm summers, cold winters and rich agricultural traditions. It’s no wonder we come out on top in quality and quantity.

ice wine

With notes of honey, caramel and fresh fruit, icewine is a fragrant treat. However, typical Canadian humility may be interfering with the homegrown appreciation of our internationally coveted export.

“When you’re talking about something sweet, people get scared,” says Marco Celio, sommelier and general manager of Toronto’s Ovest. “Generally they want something a little bit more powerful, dry and bitter. But if you know how to pair it, I think icewine is one of the most enjoyable drinks you can have from grapes.”

Ovest sommelier Marco Celio

Legend has it that the first batch of icewine, produced in 18th century Germany, was a lucky accident. Unseasonably cold weather had frozen grapes on the vine before they could be harvested. Struggling to make the best of things, the German vintners pressed the grapes. To their surprise, the resulting wine was so delicious they purposefully let future grapes freeze whenever conditions allowed.

Luckily for Canadian icewine enthusiasts, conditions in Ontario’s Niagara region and British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley almost always allow. Warm summers and cold – but not too cold – winters are the ripe conditions that make Canadian icewines the most consistently delicious.

Ironically, that consistency requires flexibility. True icewine can only be made from grapes frozen on the vine, which are typically handpicked at night to maintain proper temperature.  Harvesters wait for the call, and when conditions are optimal, bundle up and get picking for results that are true north and sweet.

Serving

True to its name, icewine is typically served chilled. Celio recommends refrigerating your bottle a few hours before pouring into a standard, wide-mouth glass. “The beauty of icewine is that it’s something that really has to be enjoyed from the nose,” he says, “So you don’t want to use a small glass. You want a nice open glass where there is perfect ventilation and all the aroma can come out.”

Tasting

When including icewine in a tasting, Celio suggests letting it warm a bit, to better release its unique fragrance. Then enjoy it exactly as you would any other wine. “You want to see the colour, because you’re going to have different icewine with white grapes and dark grapes,” says Celio. “You want to understand the nose, because the nose is very different than what you’re tasting – usually it’s much sweeter than what you get on your mouth.” Finally, be sure to serve it alongside complimentary nibbles. “Icewine is something that needs to have a friend,” says Celio.

Pairing

Pairing icewine requires care, but modern sommeliers are challenging the idea that it’s only fit to serve with dessert. In addition to dark, bitter chocolate and chocolate hazelnut-based desserts, Celio suggests serving icewine with cheese, particularly strong blues for a playful contrast. If you do serve it with dessert, be sure to choose a treat that’s less sweet than the wine itself, to avoid overpowering the food.

Cocktailing

Marco Celio is a wine purist, and while he wouldn’t personally dilute icewine’s special flavour with other spirits, he concedes that others might like mixing it with aperol or bitters.

Storing

Keep opened bottles of icewine in the fridge. The less frequently they’re opened, the longer they’ll last, says Celio. Regardless, the flavours in most bottles will start changing in about five to six days. If you can’t finish the bottle on the first go, grab some wide glasses and a few friends and enjoy a second round of sweet times.

Brad Smith’s Dinner Date Dos and Don’ts

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

Brad Smith

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

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

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

Mac and Cheese

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

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

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

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

ClassicCanadianCaesar

A Classic Caesar to Enjoy Any Time of Year

By Nancy Wu

Some use oysters, prawns, bacon or onion rings to garnish theirs, but I prefer a classic Canadian Caesar. No, it is not a Bloody Mary. It is delicious. It is genuinely Canadian. It is all about the clam juice – the slightly spicy saltiness that defines a Caesar. As a born and bred Vancouverite, the smell just pulls at my heartstrings. It reminds me of the summer: long barbecues on the beach, fishing on Vancouver Island and hiking the local trails.

The Caesar is my cocktail of choice. I particularly crave this whenever I’m away on vacation simply because it reminds me of home. But when I order it, I often just get blank stares. “So what’s in a Caesar?” people ask. This classic Caesar is made with tomato juice, Worcestershire sauce, horseradish, spices and, of course, clam juice!

Classic Canadian Caesar, Courtesy of Nancy Wu, Nomss.com, Port Coquitlam, B.C.

The clam juice makes all the difference in this tasty cocktail.

ClassicCanadianCaesar

Prep time: 10 mins
Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients
Caesar glass rimmer
1 lime (cut into 5 wedges)
4-8 oz (120-240 mL) vodka
3 cups (approx 725 mL) Caesar mix
2 tbsp (30 mL) lime juice
1 tbsp (15 mL) Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp (15 mL) prepared horseradish
ice (optional)
pepper to taste
fresh sage leaves
4 bamboo skewers

Directions
1. Cover small flat plate with Caesar rimmer.
2. Use 1 lime wedge to wet rim of each glass. Coat rims with Caesar rimmer.
3. Divide vodka among glasses.
4. Pour Caesar mix, lime juice, Worcestershire sauce and horseradish into large pitcher and stir.
5. Top vodka with Caesar mix and stir.
6. Add ice if desired.
7. Top with fresh pepper. Thread 1 sage leaf and 1 lime wedge onto each skewer; use to garnish drinks.

Note:
Use 10 or 12 oz. (325 or 375 mL) glasses or mason jars for that ultra-Canadian look.

Nomss
Nancy is a finance professional by trade and the editor-in-chief of nomss.com, a Vancouver food blog focused on food journalism, lifestyle, travel, branding and social media. Nancy is passionate about invoking vivid imagery, descriptive experiences and public relations. She is digitally savvy and energetic about content marketing, strategic goodwill, digital relationships and food photography.

Spooky Apple Cider Punch

In my search for Halloween party ideas, I came across this great recipe from the homemaker of all homemakers, Martha Stewart. Inspired, I decided to whip up my own mix of ingredients, to go along with the shrunken apple heads. This punch is super easy and would also be great alcoholic, substituting the soda for champagne, or adding some spiced rum or bourbon to the mix!

Spooky-Apple-Cider-Punch-2880-1024x683

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 2 minutes
Serves: 4-8

Ingredients:
4 cups apple cider
2 cups sprite (or other sparkling soda)
1 cup cranberry juice
2 sticks of cinnamon
2-4 apples (2 for a small punch bowl, 4 for a wider punch bowl)
2 whole cloves per apple (optional)

Spooky-Apple-Cider-Punch-2861-683x1024

Directions:
1. Start by preheating your oven to 250°F.
2. While oven is preheating, peel the skin off all of your apples and slice them in half, removing the core with a melon baller. Cut faces using the round side (I used the smaller side of my melon baller, along with a paring knife to cut out the faces).
3. Once sliced in half, and given a face, place the apple on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.
4. Bake for about 2 hours until apples have shrunk a bit, and become wrinkly. Push a clove into each eye socket of your apple.
5. Mix ingredients for punch together, place your apples into the bowl, along with the cinnamon sticks.
6. Serve and enjoy!

Healthy Vanilla Latte Smoothie

This delicious and nutritious smoothie really does taste like an ice-cold vanilla latte! Plus, it’s got one shot of espresso for that occasional caffeine boost you might need mid-day or mid-week.

888_vanilla-latte-smoothie2

Ingredients:
1 cup non-dairy milk
2 pitted medjool dates
1 Tbsp black chia seeds
1 Tbsp raw cacao nibs
1 Tbsp raw almond butter
1 tsp raw vanilla powder (or pure vanilla extract)
1 espresso shot, cooled
1 Tbsp maple syrup (optional)
2 cups ice cubes

Directions:
– In a Vitamix or high-powered blender combine and blend all ingredients until smooth.

888_vanilla-latte-smoothie

See more from hot for food on their YouTube channel.

Easy and Nutritious Green Mango Smoothie

Here’s an easy smoothie that will take you to the tropics without having to leave the comfort of your kitchen. It’s got the powerful flavours of mango and banana combined with protein packed hemp hearts and nutrient rich spinach.
Green Mango Smoothie

Makes: 2 cups

Ingredients:

1 cup frozen mango chunks
½ banana
1 cup baby spinach leaves
2 Tbsp hemp hearts
1 Tbsp coconut oil
1 cup coconut water

Directions:

1. Blend all the ingredients in a high-speed blender until smooth.

See more from hot for food on their YouTube channel.

Made Easy: Spiced Peach Punch

One of the best parts of summer here in Ontario is peach season, which runs from late July to late September when farmers markets and produce aisles overflow with gorgeous baskets of plump and vibrant pink peaches. You can tell if a peach is ready to eat by holding it up to your nose and smelling its juicy aroma. And when it’s ripe you better eat them fast because they tend to turn within three or four days (they’ll last another day in the fridge, but bring them back to room temperature before eating).

Typically when home cooks have an excess of peaches (since you’re more likely to buy a basket of 10 than just one) they turn to making preserves or pies, but try making this easy and quick spiced peach puree drink that can be served hot or cold as we transition to fall. Consider this as the gateway drink before you full switch to pumpkin spice lattes.

Spiced Peach Punch

peach drink

Ingredients:
8 ripe peaches
2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1 cup whole milk

Directions:

  1. Remove the pit from the peaches and chop them into smaller pieces. Don’t bother removing the skins. In a blender, puree the peaches and the milk until smooth.
  2. In a pot over medium-low heat, pour in the peach mixture and add in the spices. Let simmer for 15 minutes.
  3. Yields 3 to 3 1/2 cups of peach puree, depending on how juicy the peaches are.
  4. Serve hot in a mug like an apple cider, or pour some over oatmeal. Alternatively, chill in the fridge for a spicy, pick-me-up breakfast smoothie or serve it as a chilled appetizer soup with fresh mint leaves as garnish.

734863_10151322355189438_2070375187_n Karon Liu is a freelance food writer based in Toronto who is slightly lactose intolerant but will otherwise eat and cook anything.

Related: