Tag Archives: Holidays

Baked brie with nuts and dried fruit

This Baked Brie With Nuts and Dried Fruit is the Perfect Holiday Appetizer (or Easy Dinner Idea!)

With five minutes of prep time, this incredibly easy appetizer is a favourite around the holidays — or any day for that matter. You don’t even need to splurge on a fancy Brie, a budget choice is just as delicious with every sweet and savoury bite. And while this holiday recipe calls for walnuts or hazelnuts, as well as cranberries or cherries, feel free to add in whatever nuts and dried fruit you prefer. Almond and pecans are always tasty, alongside apricots or figs. You can also swap out the herbs for a strip of orange or lemon zest too.

Baked brie with nuts and dried fruit

Baked Brie With Nuts and Dried Fruit

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 4

Ingredients:

200 g double cream Brie
3 Tbsp packed brown sugar
3 Tbsp maple syrup
1 Tbsp butter
2 sprigs thyme or rosemary
½ cup toasted walnuts or hazelnuts
¼ cup dried cranberries or dried cherries

Baked brie with nuts and dried fruit ingredients on table

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Place the Brie in a small oven-safe skillet or a parchment paper-lined baking tray. Score the top with a paring knife for the cheese to quickly warm. Bake until softened and slightly puffed all around about 15 minutes.

Related: Best Edible Gifts Under $20 That’ll Make Anyone’s Holiday Sweeter

2. While the Brie is in the oven, make the topping: combine the brown sugar, maple syrup, butter and thyme in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a low boil; cook, stirring until brown sugar is dissolved, about 1 minute. Stir in nuts and dried cranberries.

Making baked brie with nuts and dried fruit

3. Immediately top warm Brie with hot pecan cranberry mixture and serve with crackers and fresh fruit if desired.

Tip: If using a heat-safe small skillet or ceramic dish, the Brie will stay warm for up to 15 minutes. It can also be reheated in the microwave until warm, about 30 seconds. If you’re a fan of toasted nuts, feel free to toast them before adding to the brown sugar mixture. Do so over medium heat, stirring until lightly browned, 3-5 minutes.

Serving of baked brie with nuts and dried fruit

Like Soo’s baked Brie recipe? Try her Chinese scallion pancakes or pan-fried pork chops with roast cabbage wedges.

Gingerbread doughnuts on white plate

These Gingerbread Doughnuts With a Cinnamon Glaze Can Be Made in Under 30 Minutes

I love nothing more than a quick, easy dessert you can whip together in under 30 minutes. And these Baking Therapy gingerbread doughnuts are just the ticket. They will be sure to get you in the festive spirit, as they have all the flavours and spices of a classic gingerbread cookie — but in doughnut form! All you need are a few essential tools you probably already have in your kitchen and these doughnut pans. Topped with a cinnamon glaze for a hint of sweetness, because let’s be real: who doesn’t love a glazed doughnut?

Gingerbread donuts on white plate

Gingerbread Doughnuts With a Cinnamon Glaze

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Bake Time: 8 to 10 minutes
Total Time: 23 to 25 minutes
Servings: 16 doughnuts

Ingredients:

Doughnuts
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 ¼ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
¾ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
⅛ tsp ground cloves
⅛ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp salt
½ cup brown sugar
¼ cup grapeseed oil or any neutral oil
½ cup buttermilk
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 Tbsp molasses

Cinnamon Glaze
1 ¼ cups icing sugar
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
⅛ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp vanilla extract
5-6 Tbsp heavy cream

Equipment:
Non-Stick 6-Cavity Doughnut Baking Pans, Amazon, $65.

Gingerbread doughnuts ingredients on kitchen counter

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease 2 doughnut pans with oil or butter. Set aside. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg and salt. Whisk in the brown sugar until evenly distributed.

2. In a measuring cup, measure out the grapeseed oil and buttermilk. Whisk in the egg, vanilla extract and and molasses.

Related: Party-Worthy Doughnut Recipes

3. Create a well in the centre of the dry mix and pour in the wet ingredients. With a spatula, stir the ingredients together until just combined, don’t over-mix. Transfer the batter to a piping bag or simply spoon the mixture into the doughnut pan until just below the fill line.

doughnut batter in doughnut pan

4. Bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes until a toothpick, when inserted, comes out clean. While the doughnuts are still hot, invert the pan and gently tap on the counter to remove the doughnuts. Let cool completely on a wire rack.

doughnuts cooling on wire rack

5. For the cinnamon glaze, in a small bowl, whisk together the icing sugar, cinnamon, ginger and vanilla extract. Begin with 4 Tbsp of heavy cream, whisking until well combined. Add 1 Tbsp at a time until the mixture has reached your desired consistency for dipping.

6. Dip the doughnuts, one at a time, into the glaze until the tops are fully coated. Add holiday sprinkles if you’re feeling festive!

doughnuts being dipped in cinnamon glaze

doughnuts with glaze in doughnut pan

Like Sabrina’s doughnut recipe? Try her chocolate eggnog sandwich cookies,  sticky toffee pudding and pumpkin pie squares with candied pecans.

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Glass of milk next to pile of chocolate eggnog sandwich cookies

These Chocolate Eggnog Sandwich Cookies Will Surely Get You in the Holiday Spirit

I can’t help but get excited when I start to see the store aisles fully stocked with sweet eggnog, as it signals the most magical time of year! And what better way to get in the holiday spirit than whipping up a batch of these Baking Therapy chocolate eggnog sandwich cookies? They’re chocolatey, soft and filled with a creamy eggnog frosting. Put on your favourite holiday playlist and get baking.

Glass of milk and stack of chocolate eggnog sandwich cookies

Chocolate Eggnog Sandwich Cookies

Prep Time: 25 minutes
Bake Time: 8 to 10 minutes
Total Time: 33 to 35 minutes
Servings: 15 cookies

Ingredients:

Chocolate Cookies
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup cocoa powder
¼ tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
1 ½ sticks butter, room temperature
1 ½ cups dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk

Eggnog Filling
1 ½ sticks butter, room temperature
2 cups icing sugar
3 Tbsp eggnog
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla extract

Ingredients for chocolate eggnog sandwich cookies on kitchen counter

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and brown sugar for about 1 minute. Add the egg and egg yolk, one at a time, and beat together until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Related: 20 Best Edible Gifts Under $20 That’ll Make Anyone’s Holiday Sweeter

3. Add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined, scrape down the bowl again and mix for another 10 seconds. Using a 1-inch cookie scoop, scoop balls on the lined cookie sheet. Round out the cookie balls by rolling them between the palms of your hands. Place in the freezer for 15 minutes to chill.

Chocolate eggnog sandwich cookie dough rolled into balls on baking sheet

4. Place the cookies 2 inches apart and bake for 8-10 minutes until the cookies have spread and tops begin to crack. Let cool on sheet for 2-3 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Chocolate cookies cooling on baking tray

5. While the cookies are cooling, whip up the frosting: in the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whisk the butter until airy, about 2 minutes. On low speed, gradually add the icing sugar. Add the eggnog, nutmeg and vanilla extract and whisk on high for 1 minute until light and fluffy.

6. Transfer filling to a piping bag with a star or round tip. Pipe the filling on the bottoms of half the cookies, place another cookie on top to create sandwiches.

Glass of milk next to a pile of chocolate eggnog sandwich cookies on wire cooling rack

Like Sabrina’s chocolate eggnog sandwich cookies? Try her sticky toffee pudding and pumpkin pie squares with candied pecans.

Triple Gingerbread Bundt Cake on dark blue cake platter drizzled with brown butter glaze

Anna Olson’s Triple Gingerbread Bundt Cake Will Give You All the Holiday Feels

Gingerbread comes in more forms than just cookies! With a triple dose of ginger, this bundt cake recipe from Anna Olson will fill your house with a sweet and warming scent that screams holiday-time. Enjoy the recipe from Anna’s newest cookbook, Baking Day With Anna Olson.

Anna Olson's triple gingerbread bundt cake on a blue cake stand with a brown butter glaze dripping temptingly down

Buy Baking Day with Anna Olson, Amazon, $31

Triple Gingerbread Bundt Cake With Brown Butter Glaze

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour and 20 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour and 40 minutes
Yields: 16 to 20 (Makes one 10 cup/2.5 L Bundt cake)

This decadent cake is meant to feed a crowd, and it is perfect for autumn baking when you want to fill the house with the smell of wonderful spices. The “triple” in the title refers to fresh, ground and candied ginger, which means the ginger flavour is woven throughout the cake.

Related: Anna Olson’s Best Cookie Recipes

Ingredients:

Cake
1 ½ cups (300 g) packed dark brown sugar
1 cup (250 ml) buttermilk
½ cup (130 g) fancy molasses
4 large eggs
2 Tbsp (12 g) finely grated fresh ginger
2 ½ cups (375 g)  all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp (6 g) ground ginger
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp ground nutmeg
½ tsp fine salt
1  cup (225 g) unsalted butter, melted (still warm is OK)
¼ cup (40 g) chopped candied ginger

Brown Butter Glaze
6 Tbsp (90 g) unsalted butter
1 cup (130 g) icing sugar
2 Tbsp (30 ml) 1% or 2% milk

Directions:

1. For the cake, preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C). Grease a  10-cup (2.5 L) Bundt pan and dust it with flour, tapping out any excess.

2. In a large bowl, whisk the brown sugar, buttermilk, molasses, eggs and fresh ginger until smooth. In a separate bowl, sift the flour, ground ginger, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg and salt. Add the dry ingredients all at once to the batter and whisk until smooth. Whisk in the melted butter and then the candied ginger. Pour the batter into the pan and bake for about 75 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean.

Anna Olson in a light blue and white striped shirt and light blue apron smiling on the cover of Baking Day With Anna Olson

Related: Anna Olson’s Best Gingerbread Recipes to Bake This Winter

3. Cool the cake in its pan on a cooling rack for about 20 minutes and then turn it out onto the rack to cool completely before glazing.

4. For the glaze, melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until it froths and then subsides and the liquid turns a golden brown, about 4 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and strain the butter through a fine-mesh sieve. Let it cool for 5 minutes and then whisk in the icing sugar and milk until smooth. Pour over the cake, letting the glaze slowly drip down.

5. Let the glaze set for an hour before serving or for 3 hours before covering to serve later. The cake will keep, well wrapped, at room temperature for up to 3 days.

For more of Anna Olson’s delicious dessert recipes, check out her ultimate holiday desserts or Anna Olson’s best-ever cake recipes.

This Vegan Eggnog Recipe is So Good It’ll Impress All the Non-Vegans Too

Because it isn’t the holiday season without a cup of boozy eggnog, I’m serving up a vegan twist on this staple winter drink. This version is not only dairy free, it’s gluten- and egg-free too! The eggnog gets its delicious creaminess from canned coconut milk (don’t use the boxed variety) — and is naturally sweetened with maple syrup. Serve this warm on a snowy day or chilled over ice, whichever you prefer. For a kid-friendly option, just omit the bourbon or rum. Cheers!

Ingredients:

2 14-oz cans full-fat coconut milk
1 ½ cups unsweetened almond milk
½ cup pure maple syrup
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 pinch fine salt
½ cup bourbon or spiced rum
Coconut whip, for serving

Related: 20 Vegan Holiday Entrées You’ve Never Tried Before

Vegan eggnog ingredients

Directions:

1. In a saucepan over low heat, add the coconut milk, almond milk, maple syrup, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla and salt. Whisk until combined. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.

Vegan eggnog in pot

2. Remove from heat and pour mixture through a fine mesh strainer to ensure it is smooth. Stir in bourbon.

Related: 12 Must-Try Fall Cocktails to Give Thanks for This Autumn

3. Serve warm with a dollop of coconut whip and a pinch of nutmeg. To serve chilled, transfer mixture to a glass serving pitcher and refrigerate until ready to serve. When ready to serve, fill a glass with ice, add eggnog, a dollop of coconut whip and a pinch of nutmeg.

Vegan eggnog in two glasses

Like Marcella’s vegan eggnog? Try your hand at her winter greens mac and cheese or her sausage, apple and sage-stuffed acorn squash recipe!

Cranberry bliss bars on cooling rack

Whip up Those Popular Coffee Shop Cranberry Bliss Bars in Less Than 1 Hour

You know those popular coffee shop cranberry bliss bars that come out every holiday season? Buttery shortbread dotted with dried cranberries, topped with a sweet cream cheese icing — and sometimes are just a little too sweet? Well, these Baking Therapy cranberry bars are inspired by those, but even better! This soft and buttery pistachio shortbread is topped with fresh, tart, in-season cranberries that are bursting with flavour. Finished with a sweet and addictive white chocolate, cream cheese icing. Need I say more?

Cranberry bliss bars on cooling rack

Cranberry Bliss Bars

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Bake Time: 35 to 40 minutes
Total Time: 50 to 55 minutes
Servings: 12 bars

Ingredients:

Shortbread
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
½ cup icing sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup crushed pistachios
¼ cup cornstarch
¼ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp lemon zest

Filling
2 cups fresh cranberries
½ cup granulated sugar
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp vanilla extract

Icing
⅓ cup (60g) white chocolate, chopped
¼ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
4 oz cream cheese, room temperature
¾ cup icing sugar
3 Tbsp milk

Cranberry bliss bar ingredients on kitchen counter

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line and grease 9×9 square pan. Set aside.

2. First, whip up the shortbread. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the flour, pistachios, cornstarch, baking powder, salt and lemon zest. Beat on low until just combined, texture will be crumbly. Reserve 1 cup of mixture for the crumble, press remaining dough firmly into bottom of pan.

Cranberry bliss bars base

3. Now for the filling: in a medium bowl, toss together cranberries, sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice, lemon zest and vanilla extract. Evenly distribute the cranberries onto the cookie layer. Top with the reserved cookie dough and pack down firmly.

Cranberry bliss bars cranberry layer

4. Bake in oven for 35 to 40 minutes until the top is golden brown. Let cool completely in the pan before slicing.

Cranberry bliss bars cooling on rack

5. For the icing: place the chopped white chocolate or chips in a small bowl and microwave in 30-second intervals until melted, stirring often. Set aside to cool slightly.

Related: 12 Coffee and Hot Chocolate Recipes to Warm Your Belly This Fall

6. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, cream together the butter and cream cheese. Gradually add in the icing sugar and whisk on high to combine. Add the melted white chocolate and milk and whisk on high for another 30 seconds. Transfer to a piping bag and drizzle over top.

Piping bag icing top of cranberry bliss bars

Like Sabrina’s cranberry bliss bars? Try her sticky toffee pudding and pumpkin pie squares with candied pecans.

The Perfect Fall Dessert: Healthy Low Sugar Persimmon Creme Brulee

This unique twist on the traditional creme brulee is an egg-free and sugar-conscious alternative that fits right into your fall dessert menu. Not only is it healthier — it mostly relies on a ripe persimmon for that creamy butterscotch-like sweetness — there’s no baking required. This dessert is a fun and fancy way to utilize persimmons during the fall season, especially since they are only around for a short time.

persimmon creme brulee

Persimmon Creme Brulee

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Rest Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours, 35 minutes
Servings: 4

Ingredients:

1 medium very ripe persimmon, chopped
1 cup half and half creamer
⅓ cup + 4 Tbsp golden monk fruit sugar, divided
⅓ cup cornstarch
½ cup water
¼ tsp sea salt
¼ tsp ground cinnamon

Creme brulee ingredients

Directions:

1. Place the persimmon, creamer, ⅓ cup monk fruit sugar, cornstarch, water, sea salt and cinnamon in a blender. Blend on high speed until smooth. Pour the puree into a medium saucepan over medium heat and whisk until it thickens like a smooth custard and has no lumps. This should take about 25 minutes.

Persimmon creme brulee ingredients in blender

2. Divide the mixture between four ramekins that are 4 oz each. Refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight until solid.

Persimmon creme brulee ingredients divided into ramekins

3. When ready, let the creme sit at room temperature for 2 minutes. Top each ramekin with 1 Tbsp of monk fruit sugar, making sure the entire surface is equally coated. Melt the sugar with a brulee torch until golden brown or slightly darker if you prefer. You will get a golden brown-orange colour, since this is not a regular creme brulee.

Related: 17 Low-Sugar Dessert Recipes to Get You Through the Holiday Season

4. Let sit for 5 minutes until the sugar has crystallized. Garnish with persimmon slices and serve.

Like Valerie’s low-sugar creme brulee? Try her easy paleo butternut squash or 30-minute low-carb zesty lamb burgers.

Hasselback apple with scoop of vanilla ice cream and drizzling of toffee sauce

You’ve Got to Try These Delicious Hasselback Apples Topped With Coconut-Oat Streusel

Apples are such a versatile fruit with so many variations and endless ways to prepare them. These Baking Therapy Hasselback apples feature sweet honey crisp apples (my fave!) that are sliced open like a fan and topped with a delicious coconut-oat streusel. Serve with a drizzle of toffee sauce and a heaping scoop of vanilla ice cream. Perfect for any get together this fall season. Bet you’ve never had apples like this before!

Hasselback apples on white plate

Hasselback Apples With Coconut-Oat Streusel

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Bake Time: 32 minutes
Total Time: 47 minutes
Servings: 6

Ingredients:

Apples
3 Honeycrisp or Pink Lady apples
2 Tbsp butter, melted
2 Tbsp brown sugar
½ tsp cinnamon

Topping
3 Tbsp butter, room temperature
3 Tbsp brown sugar
¼ cup oats
2 Tbsp flour
2 Tbsp shredded coconut
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp vanilla extract
Pinch of salt

Hasseback apple ingredients: apples, brown sugar, cinnamon, etc.

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

2. Peel the apples, cut in half lengthwise and with a melon baller, scoop out the core. Place the apples core side down and cut thin vertical slices all the way around, making sure not to cut all the way through.

Peeled and cut apples laying on pan

3. Mix together the butter, brown sugar and cinnamon and brush on the tops of the apples. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes until softened.

4. Meanwhile, prepare the streusel topping. In a bowl, combine butter, brown sugar, oats, flour, coconut, cinnamon, vanilla extract and salt. With a fork, work the mixture together until it forms a crumble.

Related: The Pioneer Woman’s Irresistible Apple Desserts

5. Remove the apples from the oven. If there is a lot of liquid in the pan, strain and top the apple with streusel, making sure to get it between the apple slices. Bake at 425°F uncovered for 10-12 minutes until the streusel is bubbly and golden brown.

6. Enjoy with a drizzle of toffee sauce and vanilla ice cream.

Hasselback apples on baking pan

Like Sabrina’s baking? Check out her ginger molasses cookies, sticky toffee pudding and pumpkin pie squares with candied pecans.

These Curried Brussels Sprouts Are the Fall Side Dish You Need Right Now

Fall is all about making roasted veggies — and Brussels sprouts should be high up on that list. Their small size and nutty taste make them perfect for roasting. The key is to get the edges crispy and caramelized by roasting them cut side down at a high temperature. And don’t even think about removing the small leaves that fall off — those become so crunchy and make the best Brussels sprouts chips. In this recipe, we use a delicious curry spice mix to take them to next level. All you need to do is cut the Brussels sprouts, toss them in the spice mix and roast them on a sheet pan. The perfect side dish for any meal!

Curried Brussels Sprouts

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Serves: 4-6

Ingredients:

1 lb Brussels sprouts
3 large garlic cloves
1 ½ tsp curry powder
¼ tsp chilli powder (more to taste)
½ tsp paprika
1 tsp salt
3 Tbsp olive oil
Lemon wedges (optional)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Wash the Brussels sprouts well and pat dry using a paper towel. Trim the ends and cut in half lengthwise. It’s fine if some of the outer leaves fall off, keep them to roast on the pan.

2. Peel the garlic and crush it using a garlic press. Mix together the curry powder, chilli powder, paprika, salt, olive oil and crushed garlic.

3. Toss the Brussels sprouts with the marinade ensuring they are well coated. Turn the Brussels sprouts cut side down on a sheet pan and space them out evenly (do not overcrowd!).

4. Bake for approximately 25 minutes or until the bottom is golden brown. Serve as a side with lemon wedges.

Looking for more fall recipes? Try this vegan pumpkin soup or this easy paleo butternut squash tart.

This Upside-Down Apple Cake is a Must-Make Rosh Hashanah Dessert

This flavourful glazed apple cake recipe is a mashup of two of my favourite fall desserts: a simple and delicious honey apple cake that I grew up eating on the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah and a show-stopping upside-down salted caramel apple cake that has become a more recent indulgence. I’ll be serving it for dessert at our Jewish New Year dinner, as well as Thanksgiving, because it’s one of those crowd-pleasing autumn cakes that has something for everyone, from the tender and nutty crumb to the sticky, sweet and salty topping. It’s also made almost entirely in a good old cast-iron skillet, which has become my new go-to for everything from barbecuing to baking.

Upside-Down Apple Cake With Honey and Salted Caramel

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 30 to 40 minutes
Total Time: 60 to 70  minutes
Servings: 8

Ingredients:

Topping
2 Tbsp + ½ cup unsalted butter, divided
4 small or 3 large baking apples such as Gala or Pink Lady, peeled, halved and cores neatly scooped out with a teaspoon or melon baller
⅔ cup dark brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
⅛ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
¼ tsp kosher salt
1 tsp vanilla extract

Cake
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup almond flour, toasted
1 tsp ground cinnamon
⅛ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 ¼ tsp baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
¼ cup light brown sugar
⅓ cup light-coloured honey
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup whole milk plain Greek yogurt (4% or 5%), room temperature
Flaked sea salt to finish (optional)

Directions:

1. Set the rack in the centre of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Spread almond flour on a parchment- or silicone-lined baking sheet and toast for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring once or twice, until golden. Set aside to cool. Keep the oven on.

2. Meanwhile, heat a 10-inch cast-iron skillet (or other oven-safe pan) over medium heat. Cast-iron takes longer to heat up than other pans, so leave it on for a good 5 minutes before you start cooking for even heat distribution. Add 2 Tbsp butter to coat and arrange apple halves with cut sides down. Cook apples until cut sides are evenly golden brown. (Don’t stir). This can take 5 to 10 minutes or a bit longer, depending on the type of apples you’re using, so keep a close eye on them and rotate as needed. Turn apples over and cook for about 5 more minutes, until slightly tender and juices start to release. Transfer apples to a plate with cut sides up.

3. To make the caramel sauce, add ½ cup butter to the skillet on low heat. When it starts to bubble, stir in brown sugar. Keep stirring until smooth and thickened for about 2 minutes. (If it’s separating, add one or two spoonfuls of very hot water). Remove from heat and stir in cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and vanilla. Let cool for 1 minute. Arrange apples, cut sides down, on top of the caramel sauce, spacing evenly.

4. For the cake: whisk together flour, toasted almond flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.

5. Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, beat butter, brown sugar and honey together on high speed until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. On medium speed, add the eggs one at a time, then the vanilla, beating well after each addition. On low speed, beat in half of the flour mixture, then the yogurt, until combined. Beat in remaining flour mixture until incorporated and no flour pockets remain. Do not over-mix.

Related: Transform Those Overripe Bananas Into This Impressive Upside-Down Cake

6. Spoon batter over apples and caramel in skillet, smoothing evenly.

7. Bake until it is evenly browned and the middle springs back when pressed lightly, about 30 to 40 minutes. Let the apple cake cool in the skillet for 10 to 15 minutes, then run a small knife or offset spatula around the edges to loosen and flip over onto a cooling rack or dish. (If any apples stick to the skillet, gently scrape them off and press them back into the top of the cake).

Related: Pomegranate Ginger Chicken for a Sweet and Fruitful Rosh Hashanah

8. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt flakes and serve warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream and mint tea. Store covered at room temperature for up to 2 days or up to 1 week in the refrigerator.

Love Claire’s upside-down apple cake? For a main, whip up her vegetarian mujadara dish or seven-vegetable Moroccan couscous.

We’re Falling for This Sausage, Apple and Sage-Stuffed Acorn Squash Recipe

As the fall approaches and the summer heat comes to an end, the hearty comfort food cravings strike! This recipe is as cozy as it gets and hits all the fall must-haves: roasted acorn squash stuffed with sweet apple and a spicy sausage filling. Loaded with flavour, it is perfect for a small Thanksgiving gathering side dish, but easy enough for a weeknight supper. If you aren’t a fan of spice, simply substitute the sausage with a mild Italian or honey garlic variety.

Sausage, Apple and Sage-Stuffed Acorn Squash

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Total Time: 60 minutes
Servings: 4 to 6

Ingredients:

2 medium or 3 small acorn squashes, halved and seeded
4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, diced
½ pound ground spicy Italian sausage
1 tsp dried sage
½ tsp dried thyme
1 apple, diced
1 cup panko bread crumbs (unseasoned)
½ cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place the squash halves on a baking sheet, flesh side up. Drizzle with 2 Tbsp of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Roast for 30 minutes, until tender.

2. As the squash roasts, prepare the filling. In a skillet over medium heat, add the remaining olive oil, garlic, onion and celery. Cook until the onions begin to turn translucent, about 5 minutes.

3. Add the sausage, sage and thyme. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until the sausage is browned and cooked throughout, about 5 minutes.

Related: The Ultimate Squash Guide: All the Varieties and Their Best Uses

4. Stir in the apple, bread crumbs and parmesan. Remove from heat and set aside until ready to use.

5. Once squash is ready, evenly divide the mixture amongst the roasted squash halves. Place back in the oven & bake for an additional 20 minutes. Enjoy!

Like Marcella’s acorn squash recipe? Try her winter greens mac and cheese or make-ahead French toast bake.

Make-Ahead Baked Stuffing Recipe That Will Satisfy Every Time

I learned from a very young age that it’s not a proper turkey dinner without bread stuffing on the table. Forget the cranberry sauce and you might be forgiven. Do roasted potatoes instead of mashed and my dad would probably thank you (he never liked mashed anyway). But don’t make stuffing and you’ll suffer the sad, empty eyes of everyone around the table. After all, what exactly is the point of a turkey dinner without stuffing?

When I made my first turkey dinner, I learned pretty quickly that the turkey cavity is just not big enough for the amount of cubed bread, diced veggies and spices that can be consumed in one sitting. I saw the empty eyes that year. I have been making stuffing outside the bird with my own recipe ever since.

Related: The Tastiest Ways to Use All That Leftover Turkey 

This moist, delicious stuffing can be made ahead of time to free up oven space for that great big side dish – the turkey. The best part is that doing the stuffing outside the bird means I can make a whole lot of it. That way my holiday table is always surrounded by people with satisfied bellies and happy eyes.

Written by Amy Bronee

Simple Oven-Baked Stuffing Recipe

Courtesy of Amy Bronee, familyfeedbag.com, Victoria BC

Make this stuffing the day before Thanksgiving to save yourself some precious time – and sanity!

OvenBakedStuffing_888embed

Prep time: 20 minutes
Bake time: 40 minutes
Yields: 8-10 servings

Ingredients
1/2 cup (125 mL) butter
2 cups (500 mL) diced yellow onions
1 1/2 cups (375 mL) diced carrots
1 1/2 cups (375 mL) diced celery
2 Tbsp (30 mL) poultry seasoning
2 tsp (10 mL) dried rosemary (or 2 tbsp/30 mL chopped fresh rosemary)
1 tsp (5 mL) salt
1/4 tsp (1 mL) black pepper
18 cups (4.5 L) white or brown sandwich bread, cubed (no need to dry it out first)
1 1/2 cups (375 mL) chicken or turkey stock

Related: Make-Ahead Thanksgiving Recipes, From Turkey to Stuffing

Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180° C).
2. Melt butter in large soup pot or stock pot over medium-high heat. Add onions, carrots and celery and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until beginning to soften.
3. Stir in poultry seasoning, rosemary, salt and pepper. Continue cooking 2 minutes more. Remove from heat.
4. In two batches, add bread cubes to pot, stirring to evenly distribute seasonings and veggies. Pour in stock and stir. Transfer to large baking dish, such as lasagna pan. Cover with foil.
5. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 10 minutes. Serve immediately or, if making ahead, cool, cover and refrigerate. Reheat before serving.

Related: Repurpose Leftover Stale Bread With These Comforting Recipes

Family Feedbag
Amy Bronee is the writer and photographer behind the award-winning home cooking blog FamilyFeedbag.com. Amy has earned several awards and recognitions, including a Jamie Oliver blog of the month award, and being named one of Canada’s “Top 40 Foodies Under 40” by Western Living magazine. Amy’s first cookbook, The Canning Kitchen: 101 Simple Small Batch Recipes, was published by Penguin Canada in June.

cheeseball bites

Cheese Ball Bites Are the Ultimate Make-Ahead Party Appetizer

Your favourite party-perfect appetizer made mini! A simply adorable starter for the holiday season, these mini cheese balls are easy to put together and can be rolled in a variety of delicious ingredients. Serve with fresh bread for spreading, and you’re set for festive entertaining. No time? Make your gathering even easier by preparing and rolling the cheese ball bites (without coatings) up to two days ahead (wrap and refrigerate). When guests arrive, roll in your desired coatings, then dive right in.

Mini Cheese Ball Bites

Mini Cheese Ball Bites

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Makes: 24

Mini Cheese Ball Bites

Ingredients:

Cheese Ball Bites
1-½ cups shredded Cheddar cheese
1 brick (250g) cream cheese, softened
2 green onions, minced
1 tsp paprika
⅛ tsp cayenne pepper

Coating
3 Tbsp chopped, toasted walnuts
3 Tbsp chopped dried cranberries
3 Tbsp chopped crispy fried onions
3 Tbsp minced chives
3 Tbsp (3 strips) cooked, crumbled bacon
3 Tbsp roasted sunflower seeds

Serving
Sliced fresh baguette
Crostini
Crackers

Directions:

Cheese Ball Bites
In a large bowl, stir together cheddar cheese, cream cheese, green onions, paprika and cayenne pepper. Form mixture into 24, 1 Tbsp balls (tip: dampen hands with a little water if mixture is sticking).

Mini Cheese Ball Bites

Coating
Roll 4 balls into walnuts, pressing lightly to adhere, and place on a serving platter. Repeat with remaining balls and coatings (4 balls per 3 Tbsp of topping).

Mini Cheese Ball Bites

Serving
Serve finished cheese ball bites with fresh baguette, crostini or crackers.

You can also try these 25-minute everything bagel smoked sausage rolls, along with our best last-minute party appetizers that are beyond easy.

Your New Favourite Shortbread: Petits-Beurre (French Butter Cookies)

If you’ve travelled in France, you might be familiar with the ubiquitous Petit-beurre cookie. It has been around since 1886, when it was invented by Louis-Lefèvre Utile in Nantes. The cookies are still imprinted with his initials (LU) and are the best-known product of all the Lefèvre Utile range. This recipe is the closest I can get to my store-bought favourites.

Butter Cookies (Petits-Beurre)

Active Time: 45 minutes
Chilling Time: 1-3 hours
Bake Time: 11- 13 minutes
Servings: 50 cookies (approx.)

Ingredients:

1 ½ cups (225 g) all-purpose flour
½ cup (100 g) granulated sugar
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp fine sea salt
½ cup (113 g) cold salted butter, cut into small cubes
¼ cup (60 mL) heavy (35%) cream

Read: 20 Delicious French-Canadian Dishes to Make at Home

Directions:

1. Place the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse a few times to combine.

2. Add the cubed butter and pulse until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.

3. Add the cream and continue to pulse until the dough comes together. The dough will be fairly soft.

4. Gather the dough into a ball, divide in half and form each half into a disk. If you don’t want to use it immediately, you can wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and keep it in the fridge for up to 3 days. Roll each disk between two sheets of parchment paper until it’s 1/4 inch (6 mm) thick. Keeping the dough flat and between the two sheets of parchment, place it in the fridge for 1 to 3 hours.

Read: These Classic French Dishes Are the Definition of Comfort Food

5. Preheat the oven to 350˚F (175˚C). Line two large baking trays with parchment paper. Remove one of the rolled-out pieces of dough from the fridge and allow it to sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes.

6. Cut out cookies using a rectangular cookie cutter that measures 2 1/2 x 2 inches (6 x 5 cm). Place the cookies on the parchment-lined baking trays. They will not spread, so you can place them fairly close together—just make sure they are not touching.

7. Repeat with the second sheet of dough.

8. Place one tray in the top third of the oven and the other in the bottom third of the oven, and bake for 11 to 13 minutes, switching the trays from the top to bottom rack and turning them from front to back halfway through the bake, until the cookies are golden around the edges but still pale in the centre.

9. Remove the cookies from the oven and, using an offset spatula, immediately place them on wire racks and allow to cool completely. You can store these in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

For more irresistible baked goods, check out these 20 make-ahead options for your holiday bash, Anna Olson’s very best cookie recipes, or our most popular cookies of all-time.

Excerpted from In the French Kitchen with Kids by Mardi Michels. Copyright © 2018 Mardi Michels. Published by Appetite by Random House®, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

Anna-Olson-Holiday-Dessert-Hacks

Transform Festive Desserts with Anna Olson’s Top Holiday Hacks

With the holiday season fast approaching, it’s time to shine in the dessert department. In addition to the usual festive fare, why not dress things up for the holidays with Anna Olson’s sweet and easy hacks? Just follow these fun, fresh and flavourful ideas to make good use of your holiday ingredients, and take your Christmas baking to the next level.

How to Eggnog Anything

A mix of eggs, cream, sugar and booze, eggnog is the quintessential holiday drink. With a little ground nutmeg and rum extract, it’s easy to infuse this drink’s festive flavour into desserts, too. Anna shows that just a dash of rum (or rum extract) and ground nutmeg give buttercream frosting an unmistakable “eggnog” flavour. Swirl the sweet spread onto her Flourless Mini Vanilla Cupcakes and sprinkle nutmeg on top to complete the look. Or, for a decadent sweet treat, stir nutmeg and rum extract into Anna Olson’s Chocolate Truffles. If cookies are more your style, infuse the eggnog flavours into Anna Olson’s Vanilla Icebox Cookies by adding rum extract and ground nutmeg to the recipe, then, after baking, pipe frosting between two icebox cookies.

If you just can’t get enough eggnog this season, try your hand at these 15 Delicious Ways to Enjoy Eggnog.

Edible Peppermint Candy Platter

Instead of the plastic or glass trays, serve treats on an edible peppermint candy platter. Anna Olson demonstrates how to make a serving plate out of standard candies in this impressive holiday hack. If you’re making cookies, bake up a peppermint plate so you’ll have a unique and portable option for holiday parties and potlucks.

Adorable Rudolph Cookies

Shake up the holiday cookie table with these show-stopping sweets! Start with Anna’s Icing Sugar Cookies and learn how to transform them into adorable and easy decorated treats. A little royal icing and perfectly placed pretzels will help create delicious and adorable desserts. Those new to decorating will love how easy and achievable these sweets are.

Leftover Candy Canes

Got a stocking full of candy canes? There’s a recipe for that. Before you toss them, break out the food processor and pulse those broken bits into a fine candy cane crumb. This will serve as the base for tons of recipes. For a simple dessert, add crunchy candy cane bits inside and out of Anna Olson’s Vanilla Icebox Cookies. Another way to refresh your holiday treats with candy cane crumbs is to roll filled Chocolate Peanut Butter Whoopie Pies into candy cane dust. If you’re looking for a festive sipper, double-up on the peppermint with this Slow Cooker Peppermint Hot Chocolate, lining the mug’s edge with candy cane bits (brush the edge with a bit of warm water to encourage sticking).

For even more recipes with the traditional holiday candy, try these 15 Tasty Recipes That Use Leftover Candy Canes.

seafood tower

How to Make a Stunning Seafood Tower

The holidays are a time of year when we indulge — and there’s just something ultra festive about a vibrant, chilled seafood tower. Typically looked at in awe while dining at a contemporary seafood restaurant, you might be surprised to realize that making a tower chock-full of delicious ocean bounty is quite easy to do at home. All it takes is a little preparation and final assembly right before your holiday party guests arrive. Just follow these simple tips and everyone will be impressed!

seafood tower

Buy Good Quality, Sustainable Seafood

When you’re serving friends and family a big smattering of seafood, you want it be as fresh and delicious as possible. While some grocers offer fresh shellfish at their seafood counters, you’re better off going to a local fishmonger.

Prepare Seafood Same-Day, if Possible

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

Chill Tower Tiers Before Serving

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

seafood tower

Have the Right Tools Handy

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

Don’t Have a Tower?

Although the tiered presentation definitely adds a “wow” factor to the table, using a couple large serving trays and laying out the myriad of shellfish over ice, studded with lemon wedges and ramekins of sauce is pretty appetizing, too.

seafood tower

How to Make a Seafood Tower

Total Time: 1 hour
Serves: 6

Ingredients:

Tower
Crushed ice (enough for each tower level, approximately 10 cups)
1 lb fresh mussels (steamed and chilled)
1 lb fresh manila clams (steamed and chilled)
12 freshly shucked oysters
24 large cooked prawns
1-2 lbs cooked lobster (claws, arms and tail separated)
⅔ cup seafood sauce
1 lemon (halved and cut into thin wedges)

Spicy Lemon Aioli
½ cup mayonnaise
2 Tbsp sambal oelek
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
¼ tsp ground black pepper

seafood tower

Directions:

1. Evenly distribute crushed ice onto each of the 3 tower tiers.

2. On the bottom tier, lay out all of the clams, ½ of the mussels and ½ of the oysters.

3. On the outside of the second tier, alternate 1 oyster with 4 prawns. Work your way around the tier. Take lobster claws, arms and tail and place around the centre of the tier.

Seafood Tower

4. Fill any empty space on the second tier with remaining mussels.

5. On the top tier, place ramekins of sauce and fill remaining space with lemon wedges.

Related: Tasty Lobster Recipes Anyone Can Make

6. Place all ingredients for the spicy lemon aioli in a small bowl and stir to combine. Keep in refrigerator until ready to serve with seafood.

spicy lemon aioli

Published December 19, 2016, Updated December 1, 2019

Need-to-Know Tips for Freezing Cookies and Bars

During the holiday season, that overworked oven has a lot to do, like churning out batch after batch of Christmas cookies. Instead of freezing dough and stressing on the big day, get the hard work out of the way now and enjoy the baked fruits of your labour all season long. Follow these simple steps for bars and cookies and you’ll never get (freezer) burned again.

Choose Wisely
To set yourself up for success, it’s best to stick to sturdy cookies and bars — no architectural spun sugar flights of fancy here. A big batch of classic chocolate chip, shortbread or even gluten-free cookies will keep you stocked for future cookie exchanges. Bars, on the other hand, are generally pretty low maintenance to begin with, and often feature a solid shortbread crust, so you’ve got more options to let your imagination run wild.

Contain Your Excitement
Whether using a serviceable plastic container or a sparkly snowflake cookie tin, the key to storing cookies and bars is keeping them air tight. Even a plain resealable freezer bag (or two, to double-bag) is fine, as long as you get the air out first — oxygen is your enemy when trying to avoid freezer burn or staleness. Fill containers to the top, and use a straw to suck out the air from bagged cookies to avoid crushing your creations.

Related: Classic Christmas Cookie Recipes That’ll Spread Holiday Cheer

Give Yourself Space
On bake day, make sure you have enough room on your counters or tables to cool your baked goods properly — before the first batch even hits the oven. Ensuring cookies and bars are sufficiently cool avoids taxing your freezer, and prevents soggy, broken pieces.

Flat Out
If your freezer is packed, a little shuffling before bake day to give yourself a nice, flat surface for freeze your cookies will make your life much easier. If you’re using freezer bags or soft-sided containers, don’t just toss your creations carelessly into the freezer. Try chilling the cookies or bars first on a baking sheet in the freezer, then transfer them to their final packaging.

Vanilla Bean Spritz Shortbread

Get the recipe for Anna Olson’s Vanilla Bean Spritz Shortbread

Pretty Portions
Think about how you’ll be bestowing your baked goods on friends and family, and portion accordingly. Have a friend who can’t stand pecans but is nuts about shortbread? Assemble their package before it goes into the freezer, rather than trying to sort cookies and find a gift tin on the day you see them. Thinking of having guest-ready assortments handy for your open house? A little planning means you’ll have a perfect plate ready to pull out of the freezer when guests arrive.

Line ‘Em Up
Parchment paper, wax paper or aluminum foil are all good choices to layer in between cookies or bars to prevent them from sticking when storing. Give yourself a two-inch overhang on each side of the container it easier when lifting cookies or bars out.

Thawing Out
All the hard work is done — now, all that’s left is the taste test. If you can’t wait to thaw your creations, slip them frozen into a preheated 300°F oven for a few minutes to reheat. Otherwise, you can thaw them out easily: although, depending on the ingredients, cookies and bars may have varying thaw points, a general rule of thumb is six to eight hours, to overnight on the counter, covered lightly. Watch out for cookie thieves, though…you may come down in the morning to an empty plate and an innocent looking, crumb-covered family.

Published November 10, 2016, Updated November 27, 2019

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.

An Overnight Gingerbread French Toast Bake for the Perfect Winter Morning

This comforting, fragrant French toast bake is the best way to wake up on Christmas morning. It can be prepared the night before and baked fresh the next day. Just a little bit easier than standing over a griddle and individually frying each slice of French toast! The egg mixture features traditional gingerbread spices (which scents the whole house as it bakes) and the cranberry adds a hint of tartness. For best results, use a day old loaf of bread as it soaks up the liquid better.

Overnight Gingerbread French Toast Bake

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Bake Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 60 minutes
Serves: 8

Ingredients:

1 loaf country bread, cut into 1/2 thick slices
8 large eggs, whisked
3 cups whole milk
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1 pinch black pepper
1 pinch fine salt
1/2 cup pecans, roughly chopped (optional)
1/2 cup cranberries, fresh or frozen
Powdered sugar, for serving
Maple syrup, for serving

Directions:

1. Grease a 9×12 baking dish. Arrange the slices of bread in two rows, overlapping each other.

2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, sugar, vanilla, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, cardamom, black pepper and salt.

3. Pour mixture evenly over the bread, gently pressing the slices down to soak up the liquid. Sprinkle with pecans and cranberries. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to bake.

4. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350°F. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes. If bread begins to brown too quickly, cover the top with foil and continue baking.

5. Serve warm with a dusting of powdered sugar and a drizzle of maple syrup.

We’ve got more easy, ultra-appetizing holiday brunch recipes to bookmark this year, from these 25 standout dishes that’ll feed a crowd to healthier recipes guests will still devour (especially after a night of indulging).