Tag Archives: tricks

how-to-get-jar-stuck

6 Simple Ways to Open a Stubborn Stuck Jar Lid

It’s dinnertime: you’ve got a pot of spaghetti boiling on the stove and a pan of onions and ground beef simmering beside it. You grab a jar of tomato sauce from the pantry, but when you try to unscrew the lid, it feels awfully tight. Maybe it’s because your hands aren’t completely dry? You place the jar down, wipe your palms on a kitchen towel and try again. No luck. What are you supposed to do now?

Cancelling dinner plans due to a stuck jar lid might sound a little dramatic, but we’ve all had that thought after minutes of struggling to get a stubborn lid open. The truth is, jars can be hard to open for a variety of reasons and it’s not necessarily because you’re not strong enough. Here, we offer some tried and true tips on how to get that just-won’t-budge jar open, every single time.

Related: Your Ultimate Guide to Cooking and Baking Conversions

open jar pickles

Add Traction

Glass jars can be slippery, so something that could help is added traction. Try wrapping a small towel around the lid to twist it open. If the towel moves while you’re trying to open the lid, wet the towel with water and then wrap it around the lid. Rubber dish gloves and rubber bands also work well to create traction. Put on those gloves to grip the lid or try wrapping a thick rubber band around the lid before you give it a go.

Related: Here’s How to Organize Your Tupperware Drawer Once and for All

Break the Seal

New jars often have a tight vacuum seal and by breaking that seal, it takes less force to open the jar. Some people swear by the “baby bum” pat. Turn the jar on its side, then with the palm of one hand, give the bottom of the jar a few strong pats. You may hear a pop, which indicates the vacuum seal has been broken. Another method for breaking the vacuum seal is by targeting the lid. Use an object with some weight to it, such as the back of a heavy kitchen knife or a wooden rolling pin and give the sides of the lids a few taps, rotating the jar as you go. This might help break the seal, making it much easier to twist open the jar.

Run it Under Hot Water

You’ve tried adding some traction and breaking the vacuum seal, but the lid is still stuck. Now, you’ll want to try running the lid under hot water. Depending on the contents of the jar, you may want to be careful not to place the entire jar under hot water (after all, nobody likes warm pickles). Let the hot water run from the tap until it’s piping hot and then turn the jar on its side and carefully dip the lid under water. Rotate the jar so that all sides of the lid get wet. The hot water helps the metal expand, therefore loosening the lid and making it easier to unscrew.

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

tomato sauce jar

Tap the Lid

This method is more useful for jars that have already been open before. Perhaps there’s some food trapped around the rim of the jar, or a sticky sauce causing the lid to get stuck on the jar. Tapping the lid on top and around the edges, again using a heavier object such as the back of a chef’s knife or wooden rolling pin, can help dislodge the food, eventually loosening the jar.

Break out the Tools

Believe it or not, there are tools you can buy that are made specifically for opening jars. New technology enables these tools to grip, twist and open stubborn jar lids with the simple press of a button. You can purchase them at most kitchen stores and online. You may feel silly for using one, but it will undoubtedly save you time, pain and future frustration!

Related: The Top 5 Kitchen Utensils Every Home Cook Needs

Brute Force

Sometimes, it’s really a matter of strength. It’s tough to wrap your hands around jar lids depending on the size, and jars themselves can be awkward to hold in one hand. If you have another person around, ask them to hold the jar with both hands, then use both hands to twist the lid open. If you’re alone at home, opening the jar may simply require a few tries, with breaks in between to rest your hands. As a last resort, you might want to visit a neighbour’s home for assistance.

Photos courtesy of Getty Images

Published April 27, 2019, Updated January 24, 2021

crockpot-freezer-meals

How to Prep Slow Cooker Freezer Meals to Get Through the Week

Slow cooker freezer meals are a must for any family and for the budget-savvy home cook. Often referred to as “dump meals” or “dump bags”, what makes it easy, is that you thaw and simply dump the contents of your freezer bag into your Crockpot. Then you let it do its thing as you go about your day. And when it’s dinnertime: your delicious home-cooked meal is ready to devour. This style of cooking awards you some precious time back, and it also happens to be kind to your wallet. Win, win.

To make perfect Crockpot freezer meals, there are a few tips and tricks to getting it just right. You don’t want to end up with a stew that’s way too soupy or vegetables that are mushy and unappetizing. Here’s what you need to know!

Related: These Budget-Friendly Microwave Recipes Are Total Time-Savers

lentil-soup-crockpot-freezer

Get the Right Meal Prep Equipment

Before you start planning which meal to make, you need the right equipment: a slow cooker, freezer bags, a permanent marker and labels (although these aren’t entirely necessary). We recommend buying name-brand freezer bags that are sturdy. The ones that have the slide lock are the easiest.

Always Label Your Freezer Bag First

Once you’ve decided what you’re going to make, it’s important you label your freezer bags. Do not attempt to label once the food is in, not only will the bags be too hard to write on, but the marker often won’t work, or the label won’t stick because of the moisture released from the ingredients inside.

This surefire labelling method will help you remember what you froze, how long it’s been in your freezer and how to cook it. First label what the meal is, for example: “Chicken Tortilla Soup” or “Turkey Chili” and write down the date you made it. Then label it with ingredients that need to be added before cooking as well as cooking instructions. For example: add 1/2 cup broth before cooking, set on high for 6 hours.

Label it with instructions on how you’re going to serve the meal once it’s ready – so you know which ingredients you need to have on hand before slow-cooking. If it’s a chili, maybe you want to serve it with avocado, fresh cilantro and some grated cheese. If it’s a curry, you might want to serve with toasted coconuts, peanuts and fresh mint. Or if you’re making chicken tortilla soup, you will certainly need to have tortillas on hand to crisp up and top your bowl.

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

slow-cooker-prep

Time-Saving Tips for Freezer Meal Prep

Take your time chopping up all ingredients first and prepping the sauce or marinade before packing. It’s best if all prep work is done before for efficiency and for easy clean-up. Usually prepping for slow-cooked meals only takes 15-20 minutes.

Some savvy home-cooks like to make several different freezer meals at once, so they’ll prep four different recipes first, then pack all of the bags and freeze. This will usually take a whole day to do.

Some slow cooker recipes call for sautéing or blanching the veggies, or browning the meat beforehand. We’ve found these steps to be unnecessary. Just toss everything in, uncooked.

How to Pack Freezer Bags

To avoid big spills and messes in the kitchen, stand the bags upright to pack. You can buy special baggy rack holders online, or simply place the bag in a big bowl so it won’t fall over as you’re adding the ingredients.

No matter the meal, you can add the ingredients to the bag in any order. Some people prefer veggies and beans at the very bottom, sauces and marinades in the middle, and meat on top; but, once in the slow cooker, it will all meld together.

When closing up the bags, press them firmly to ensure all the air is released. Then lay the bag flat in the freezer (this allows for easy defrosting, and it doesn’t take up as much of your precious freezer space).

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

crockpot-freezer-packing

Do’s and Don’ts for Slow Cooker Freezer Meals

If you’re making a meat Crockpot meal and your chicken, turkey, lamb, pork or beef is already frozen, don’t defrost it before adding it to your bag. You never want to defrost raw meat and then freeze it again.

Slow-cooked meals tend to release a lot of liquid, especially if you’re cooking lots of veggies. You don’t need to add as much broth or water as you think; otherwise, you’ll end up with a soupy texture and diluted flavour.

Most dairy products need to be added to the slow cooker the day of cooking and shouldn’t be frozen, for example: milk, cream, sour cream and cheese.

If your recipe includes pasta, add it the day-of, don’t freeze beforehand. Pasta tends to get very, very mushy, so unless you’re making a baked ziti, add the pasta 15 minutes before cooking time is up.

Be careful with veggies that get too mushy, like broccoli, asparagus or leafy greens. Add those towards the end of the cook time to preserve some texture. If you don’t mind mushy veggies, then you can add them in with the rest of the ingredients.

Related: 10 Tasty Uses for Leftover Food Scraps to Reduce Food Waste

How to Thaw and Cook Crockpot Freezer Meals

Always thaw the freezer meal first before adding it to the slow cooker… this is important for food safety. You can defrost the freezer bag by placing it in the fridge the night before. The meals tend to store well in the freezer for 3-4 months.

Depending on how much time you have, most meals need to be cooked for 4 hours on high or 6-8 hours on low.

The Best Crockpot Freezer Meals to Make

The best meals to make in the slow-cooker are soups, stews, curries, chilis, daals, meatballs, ribs, brisket and roasts. We don’t recommend slow-cooked fish, seafood or pasta dishes.

There you have it: the ins and outs of making Crockpot freezer meals for any weeknight dinner!

Looking for some tasty slow cooker dishes to try? Start with our most popular slow cooker recipes.

Published September 1, 2018, Updated April 11, 2020

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

Ever wondered, ‘Can I freeze this?’ Or, do you find yourself with leftovers you can’t eat before its best before date? From meat to cheese to bananas to cakes and beyond, your food freezing questions are answered with this comprehensive guide. We’re here to help you reduce food waste, save money and time and make the most of this under-appreciated appliance.

how to freeze cheese

How to Freeze Cheese, Milk and Eggs

Of all the food groups, dairy is perhaps the one people have the most questions about. Can you freeze cheese? What about milk? Can you freeze whipping cream? The good news is that a lot of dairy can be frozen, as long as it’s properly packaged.

Butter: If you get a good deal on butter but couldn’t possibly use it up before its best before date, you can certainly stash it, still wrapped, in your freezer for up to 12 months. Flavoured and compound butters can also be frozen when tightly wrapped.

Cheese: Wrap hard cheeses (like cheddar, Parmesan) tightly in plastic and they’ll keep for up to 6 months. You can also shred hard cheese, freeze it, store it in an airtight container and use it from frozen. Soft cheeses like goat, ricotta or cream cheese won’t freeze well, as there’s too much moisture in them.

Eggs: Don’t try to freeze eggs in their shells – they’ll explode! Instead, crack them into muffin tins, lightly beat them with the tines of a fork, and freeze. Once frozen solid, pop the eggs out and place in freezer bag for up to 6 months.

Related: The Tastiest Ways to Eat Eggs for Dinner

Milk & Cream: Milk and cream can be frozen, but make sure they’re in a container with some room at the top as the liquid expands when frozen. Thaw in the fridge or in a large bowl of cold water. They may separate slightly once thawed, nevertheless, they’re perfectly safe to consume.

Yogurt: Yogurt can be frozen, but it might separate as it thaws, so it’s best to use yogurt from frozen in smoothies or baking as opposed to thawing it and eating it on its own. To freeze yogurt, spoon into ice cube trays; then, once it’s frozen solid, place the cubes in airtight zip-top bags and use as needed for up to 3 months.

Related: Our Best Healthy (And Tasty) Smoothie Recipes

How to Freeze Bread and Grains

Bread, Rolls and Buns: Slice fresh loaves you know you won’t be able to eat before they go stale, then place in a zip-top bag, being careful to remove all the air from the bag to avoid freezer burn. You can toast the slices directly from frozen. Keep whole rolls and burger buns in an airtight zip-top bag, defrosting at room temperature before slicing and warming. 

Grains: Cooked rice, whole grains and pasta will freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the fridge overnight before reheating, or enjoy cold in a grain salad.

Related: Easy and Tasty Ways to Use Leftover Rice

frozen-mixed-berries

How to Freeze Fruit (Like Bananas)

Well-packaged, many fruits can keep frozen 6 to 12 months. Apples and pears don’t freeze well from fresh, but applesauce, apple butter or pear puree (or any other fruit preserve) can be frozen, likewise blanched peeled and pitted peaches.

Bananas: Bananas can be frozen whole or chopped into small pieces and frozen flat in freezer bags for easy additions to smoothies. Thaw them to add to banana bread or muffins.

Related: Brilliant Ways to Use Overripe Bananas

Avocado: Avocado can be frozen, although you’re never going to be able to preserve the texture of a perfectly ripe avocado in the freezer. If you just want to use them in smoothies or guacamole, peel them and remove the pit, then wrap in plastic and place in an airtight container or freezer bag.

Berries: Berries freeze very well. Wash, dry and chop (if necessary)  strawberries, blueberries or raspberries and then place them flat in plastic freezer bags, making sure to remove all the air before sealing so you don’t get freezer burn. Great for baking, smoothies and spooning over yogurt.

Grapes: Frozen grapes make a delicious snack and healthy dessert straight from frozen, tasting like sweet sorbet. Take them off the vine, wash and dry, then add to a freezer bag or airtight container.

frozen-veggies-in-freezer-bags

How to Freeze Vegetables

Many vegetables are suitable to freeze for up to 6 months. Onions, garlic, peas (shucked) and corn (sliced off the cob) can be frozen raw, chopped or minced (in the case of onions and garlic) and stored in an airtight container or zip-top bag, but most vegetables benefit from a quick cooking before being frozen.

Related: The Most Delicious Ways to Use Freezer-Friendly Foods

How to prepare fresh vegetables for freezing: Blanch chopped vegetables by dropping in boiling water or steaming until tender-crisp, then shock with cold water. Pat dry, then freeze in serving-sized portions in airtight containers or freezer bags. This way, you can freeze veggies like zucchini, potatoes, spinach and carrots without tampering with their texture.

How to Freeze Meat and Fish

Meats and fish can be frozen for between 3 and 12 months, tightly wrapped in plastic, then placed in freezer bags so they don’t get freezer burn. Thaw overnight in the fridge.

Chicken or turkey parts: 6 months
Cooked ham: sliced and portioned, 2 months
Fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines): 3 months
Lean fish (tilapia, halibut): 3 months
Ground meats or poultry: 3 to 6 months
Lamb: 6 to 12 months
Pork: 4 to 6 months
Sausages: 2 to 3 months
Uncooked beef steaks: 6 to 12 months
Whole chicken or turkey: 12 months

How to Freeze Casseroles and Soups

Soups, broths, casseroles, chilis and stews can be frozen and will keep for about 3 months. Pour into plastic airtight containers (portioned, so you can grab a meal for however many people you need), leaving a little room at the top to allow for expansion in the freezer. Thaw overnight in the fridge or at room temperature, then heat on the stovetop or in the oven and eat.

Related: Warm Up with The Pioneer Woman’s Best Soups and Stews

chocolate-chip-cookie-dough

How to Freeze Baked Goods and Desserts

Don’t need to bake all that cookie dough? You can scoop them out and freeze directly on baking trays. Once frozen solid, place the portioned dough in ziplock bags, or wrap them tightly in plastic and just bake however many cookies you you need. They’ll be good in the freezer for up to 3 months. Baked cookies can last 6 to 8 months tightly wrapped in the freezer.

Here are some other desserts from Anna Olson you can make, bake (or not) and freeze.

Cakes (unfrosted): 3 months
Cheesecakes: 6 months
Fruit pies (unbaked): 3 months
Fruit pies (baked): 6 months
Muffins and quick breads: 12 months

Preparing and Packing Food for the Freezer

• Make sure all packaging is airtight to avoid freezer burn.

• Label all foods with the date you froze them.

• Portion your foods so you can easily select the right amount of food to thaw, without wasting.

• Leave room at the top of liquids (milk, soups) for expansion as they freeze.

• Keep your frozen food “fresh” with more of our top Tips to Prevent Freezer Burn.

9 Easy Weekly Meal Plan Ideas That Really Work

Between busy schedules and a family full of picky eaters,  the dinner struggle is real. Finding inspiration for quick, budget-friendly and (at least somewhat) healthy meals can challenge the best of home cooks, never mind those whose plates are already heaped pile-high.

That’s where meal planning becomes a lifesaver—if you can take the time to actually do it. If you don’t have the means to sit down weekly and plot out your favourite fare, we’ve got your back with this simple guide that will help you plan your meals and grocery list, too. These meal ideas and recipes (one for every night of the week, plus two bonus ideas to swap in and out) makes preparing a weekly meal plan  or menu easy while helping you to create dishes that are anything but routine.

How to Start Meal Planning? Try These No-Fail Meal Planning Ideas!

 

easy-pasta-pumpkin-sausageGet the recipe for Pasta with Pumpkin and Sausage

1. Start with Pasta

Pasta is an affordable universal favourite, so why not make it a weekly thing? Having a designated pasta night is genius because you can essentially pair any kind of pasta with whichever sauce, protein and veggie you feel like, and then you can do something completely different the following week.

Looking for some inspiration other than another plate of spaghetti and meatballs? Try these recipes instead:

Pasta with Pumpkin and Sausage

15-Minute Three-Cheese Spring Pasta with Peas

Sweet Potato and Zucchini Noodle Pasta with Garlic Scapes and Grilled Shrimp 

Anna Olson’s Beef Stroganoff

Ina Garten’s Bow Tie Pasta with Broccoli and Peas

korean-steakGet the recipe for Korean-Style Marinated Skirt Steak

2. You Can’t go Wrong with Protein and Veg 

A  barbecued, baked or even pan-fried cut of meat or fish always pairs well with some steamed or baked veggies. Switch up your marinades and cooking methods for even more variety, and then throw in some rice, lentils or potatoes for a complete meal.

Want some new ideas? Check out these simple-to-prepare recipes:

Giada De Laurentiis’ Ginger-Soy Chicken Wings

No-Mess Sheet Pan Chicken Fajitas

Pork Tenderloin with Chipotle-Maple Mop

Flank Steak with Chimichurri

Bobby Flay’s Korean-Style Marinated Skirt Steak

Baked Fish Packets

Anna Olson’s Horseradish Grill-Roasted Salmon

chourico-kale-soupGet the recipe for Portuguese Chourico and Kale Soup

3. Soup and Salads are Your Friends

There are so many hearty salads and filling soups out there these days that it’s easy to make either one a meal in itself. If the weather is nice, plan on eating an elevated salad one night of the week with some fancy ingredients to make it interesting. Or, for those weeks when you need something a little more comforting, plan on having a hot soup and some crusty baguette to go with it.

Get started with these recipes:

Immune-Boosting Bone Broth, Chicken and Vegetable Soup

The Pioneer Woman’s Cheesy Cauliflower Soup

Portuguese Chourico and Kale Soup

Asian Noodle Salad with Sweet Ginger Dressing

Marinated Artichoke Salad with Prosciutto and Parmesan

Grilled Turkey, Brie and Pecan Salad

Instapot-Pulled-Pork-recipeGet the recipe for Instant Pot Barbecue Pulled Pork Sandwich

4. Make Use of Your Slow Cooker or Instapot

Who doesn’t love a meal that you can throw together and then forget about until it’s ready? That’s the beauty of slow-cookers and Instapots—they do all of the heavy lifting for you. Figure out which night of the week will be your busiest, and then plan to use either tool to help pull dinner together in a breeze.

Need a new Crockpot or pressure cooker recipe? Check out any of these delicious dishes:

Instant Pot Barbecue Pulled Pork Sandwich

Instant Pot Chicken Adobo

Alton Brown’s Pressure Cooker Chili

Slow-Cooker Enchiladas Two Ways

Slow Cooker Swedish Meatballs

Slow Cooker Shrimp Boil

Spicy-Shrimp-Fried-RiceGet the recipe for Spicy Shrimp and Pineapple Fried Rice

5. Stock up on Easy-to-Assemble Ingredients

Having a well-stocked pantry is always key when it comes to throwing together last-minute dinners, or figuring out how to use up fresh ingredients that have been sitting in your fridge for a few extra days. Make sure to keep things like canned tuna, crab or chicken on hand, as well as lots of stock, tomato sauce and a few protein-filled grains and legumes.

Check out these simple ideas to elevate your basic pantry staples:

Crispy Tuna-Cake Sliders with Citrus Slaw

Stuffed Mozza Peppers

Classic Crab Cakes with Pea Puree

One-Pot Spaghetti with Fresh Tomato Sauce

Farmer’s Market Quinoa Salad

Spicy Shrimp and Pineapple Fried Rice

giadas-Lasagna-Rolls Get the recipe for Giada de Laurentiis’ Lasagna Rolls

6. Find Your Freezer Meals

Remember those freezer meals you made a few months ago that have been sitting in your freezer just waiting to be eaten ever since? Well, make use of them already, especially if you know you have an evening coming up where preparing dinner is just going to be another thing to worry about. And if you haven’t gotten on the freezer meal train just yet, you may want to think about starting. Whether it’s doubling up on your next pasta sauce or cobbling together a second lasagna or tray of enchiladas, there are plenty of freezer meals that you can make ahead of time to enjoy on those hectic nights when cooking is the last thing you want to be doing.

Turkey-Burger-Patty-Melts-recipeGet the recipe for Guy Fieri’s Turkey Burger Patty Melts

7. Have an Eat-With-Your-Hands Night

Whether it’s a burger, pizza or taco, it’s always fun to eat with your hands. That’s probably why these are the same fast-food items we tend to usually order throughout the week. If you want to save money, use better ingredients and still have a meal in a matter of minutes for a well-deserved Eat-With-Your-Hands night!

From pizza and tacos to sloppy joes and charcuterie boards, there are plenty of hands-on dishes to choose from here:

Bobby Flay’s Shredded Chicken and Tomatillo Tacos

Southwestern Sloppy Joes

Ina Garten’s Cheese and Bread Platter

Guy Fieri’s Turkey Burger Patty Melts

cauliflower-pot-pieGet the recipe for Vegan Shepherd’s Pie with Crispy Cauliflower Crust

8. Make One Night a Meatless Night

We’ve heard of Meatless Mondays, but really any night of the week is a good excuse to go meatless—especially when you incorporate foods like whole grains, quinoa and barley that fill the tummy and soul. Stir yourself up a creamy risotto, build a yummy Buddha bowl with all the things, or stuff an eggplant or squash with some whole grains and nuts. Keep it simple and hearty, and before long, you won’t even remember a time when you didn’t incorporate a meatless dish into your meal planning.

Check out these 20 easy vegan weeknight dinner recipes to get you started.

Leftover-Turkey-Chili-recipeeGet the recipe for Leftover Turkey Chili

9. Plan a Designated Leftover Night

Last but not least, it’s always a great idea to make one night an evening of no planning. That’s right, we’re talking leftovers. Once a week, throw whatever leftovers you have in the fridge on the table for everyone to enjoy, or reimagine them into a creative, brand new dish that requires very little effort.

Check out some of our favourite ways to use up leftovers here:

Leftover Steak and Potato Salad with Bold Tomato Dressing

Italian Chicken Pasta Salad

Sweet Arancini with Leftover Rice

Leftover Turkey Chili

Leftover Chili Mac and Cheese

Looking for more meal planning tips? Try these hacks that will help you plan like a pro.

Great Canadian Breakfast Sandwich

Here’s How to Cook Eggs Perfectly Every Time

Eggs are one of the most versatile foods with limitless possibilities. Whether you’re looking to master the omelette, dip toast soldiers into perfectly soft boiled eggs, make an egg salad with hard-cooked eggs or top your Benedict with a runny poached egg, we make it easy cook ’em just right. Just follow our ultimate egg cooking guide, which includes cooking methods and times, so that you always get the perfect results.

chunky-egg-salad

How to Make Perfect Hardboiled Eggs

To hard-cook your eggs, fill a pot with enough water to cover eggs by about 2 inches. Bring water to a boil. Once boiling, remove from heat, cover pot and leave them for 10 minutes. Remove eggs from hot water and place the eggs in an ice water bath.
Get the recipe for Egg Salad

How to Make a Soft Boiled Egg

Boil enough water to cover your eggs. Gently lower eggs into water with a spoon and boil for 6 minutes. Remove eggs from boiling water and place in an ice bath to stop cooking.
Get the recipe for Bobby Flay’s Bacon Cheddar Twists with Soft-Cooked Eggs

ina-gartens-Eggs-Benedict_

How to Poach an Egg Perfectly

Poaching eggs have a reputation of being a little intimidating to perfect. Fresh eggs poach much better than old eggs. Fill a saucepan 2/3 full with water and bring to a boil. Add 1 Tbsp of vinegar and lower heat to a simmer. Crack an egg into a small cup and gently tip it into the water. Cook for 4 minutes if you like a runny yolk, and 6 minutes if you like your yolk a bit firmer. Remove egg with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel to drain excess water.
Get the recipe for Eggs Benedict and Easy Hollandaise Sauce

How to Make Soft, Fluffy Scrambled Eggs

Whisk your eggs in a bowl so that the whites and yolks are fully combined. Heat a pat of butter in a non-stick pan over medium-low heat. Add your eggs into the pan and let cook for 1 minute undisturbed. Using a rubber spatula, push eggs around the pan to scramble. Continue to do this until any uncooked, liquid eggs make contact with the pan, about 2 minutes. Remove from pan immediately and serve.
Get the recipe for French-Style Scrambled Eggs

How to Make Hard Scrambled Eggs

These eggs are a less moist than soft scramble. To make them simply add 2 more minutes to the cook time for soft scrambled eggs.
Try these Great Eggs Sandwich Recipes

How to Make a Perfect Omelette

Whisk 2-3 eggs until completely combined. Heat a pat of butter in a non-stick pan over medium. Pour the eggs into the pan and move around the pan so that the surface is completely covered with egg. Using a spatula drag and push the eggs so that the uncooked eggs make contact with the surface of the pan. Cook until bottom is set and the top is moist about 1-2 minutes. Fold omelette in half and serve.
Learn how to make an Easy No-Flip Omelette

How to Make a Sunny Side Up Egg

Lightly coat the bottom of a frying pan with oil. Heat pan over medium and gently crack an egg into the pan. Cook until whites are opaque and yolk is still runny about 3 minutes.
Get the recipe for The Great Canadian Breakfast Sandwich

The Great Canadian Breakfast Sandwich

How to Make Eggs Over Easy

Follow the same instructions for sunny-side-up, but after 3 minutes of cook time flip the egg and continue to cook for another minute.

How to Cook Eggs Over Hard

Follow the same instructions for sunny-side-up, but after 3 minutes of cook time flip the egg and continue to cook for another 2 minutes.

Ready to get cracking? Try these Tasty Ways to Eat Eggs for Dinner.

ripe cherries bowl

How To Get Rid Of Fruit Flies In Your Kitchen Once and For All

It’s inevitable. No matter how clean you keep your kitchen, how many fly swatters you invest in or how many times you make sure your window screens are shut tight, at some point over the summer, you’re bound to deal with the pesky little gnats known as fruit flies.

Before you throw in the towel – or throw out the fruit – there are a few strategies and solutions for dealing with these annoyances right away. Here are our top tips and tricks for eradicating fruit flies in the kitchen, for good.

Related: Foods You Can Still Eat After the Expiry Date

Ripe cherries

Wash Produce Immediately 

What causes fruit flies?  While some of these bugs travel in through window cracks and screens, it’s most likely that they’ve come in with your actual fruit and vegetables. Most of the time they’re undetectable (they can grow from an egg to an adult in about the span of a week, and procreate rapidly), which means that washing all of your produce as soon as you get home from shopping is an important step in avoiding them all together.

Related: Foods You Should Be Washing But Probably Aren’t

Don’t Feed the Fruit Flies

While we know you’re not purposefully inviting these gnats to an all you can eat buffet in your kitchen, it is helpful to make sure that any food scraps and drippings are cleaned up straightaway, and that you avoid leaving out empty cans of beer or bottles of wine. Take out the garbage, compost and recycling every day, and be sure to eat fresh counter fruit in a timely manner so the unwelcome guests don’t have anything to feed on.

Related: Hearty Sheet Pan Dinners That Make Clean-Up a Breeze

Pump Up the Air Conditioning

Fruit flies thrive in warmer climates, which is why they come out to play during the summer months and why they die off come winter. Keeping your home at a cool, regulated temperature could potentially help to keep these pesky flies at bay.

red apples

How to Make Fruit Fly Catcher

Once you’ve got fruit flies, how do you actually get rid of them? They’re often too numerous to just swat out, and that just gets messy. This is where some of the brilliant DIY concoctions come in handy. Here are a few of our favourite, chemical-free solutions.

– Place a piece of cut-up fruit in a small bowl and cover it with plastic wrap. Poke a few holes in it with a toothpick. As the bowl fills up with flies, place it in the freezer to kill them off, dump it out and start again.

– Pour a 1/4 to 1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar in a mason jar and cover the top with plastic wrap, securing it with a rubber band. Poke a few holes in the jar with a toothpick so the flies can get in, but not out. Eventually, they will succumb to the liquid. If you’re out of apple cider vinegar, try leftover wine or beer, a mashed up banana or overripe fruit instead. Rather than using plastic wrap, make a cone out of a rolled up piece of paper, leaving a small opening, and place that in the mason jar with the point down.

– In a medium saucepan, simmer 1 pint milk with 1/4 lb raw sugar and 2 oz ground pepper for 10 minutes or so. Pour this mixture into shallow bowls with a drop or two of dish soap (this helps the flies stick to the mixture) and place around the house.

– Mix a few drops of lemongrass essential oil with hot water in a clean spray bottle. Spray windowsills and doorways (and any actual flies you see) to leave a gnat fighting, fresh scent around your house.

Hopefully, you’ll be fruit fly-free in no time. Happy hunting!

Looking for more kitchen tips? Try these 10 Time-Saving Kitchen Cleaning Hacks and How to Freeze Fruit, Cheese, Leftovers and More.

Alton Brown's Turkey with Stuffing

The Ultimate Guide to Turkey Cooking Times

The main event during the holidays is serving a perfectly juicy and succulent roast turkey to the ones you love. The last thing you want to do is serve an overcooked (or worse, undercooked) bird. Even if this ain’t your first gobbler, it’s good to have a cheat sheet on hand to ensure you’re on track for dinner time. Follow the chart below for a foolproof way to roast a perfect bird for your holiday feast.

Alton Brown's Turkey with Stuffing

How to Roast a Basic Turkey

Preheat the oven to 325°F. In a large roasting pan, place thawed turkey, breast side up and tent with a piece of aluminium foil. Bake turkey using the chart below. Remove foil during last hour of cook time. Cook until meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 170°F.

Size of Turkey Unstuffed Stuffed
10-12lbs 3 – 3 ¼ hours 3 ½–3 ¾ hours
12-16bs 3 ¼ – 3 ¾ hours 3 ¾ – 4 ¼ hours
16-20lbs 3 ¾ – 4 ¼ hours 4 ¼ – 4 ¾ hours
20-24lbs 4 ¼ – 4 ¾ hours 4 ¾ – 5 ¼ hours

 

Top Turkey Cooking Tips

1. If using a frozen bird, ensure it is fully defrosted if before roasting.
2. Take your bird out of the fridge while the oven preheats.
Juices will run clear when the turkey is done. Look at the juices running from the meat around the thigh bone.
3. If you are using a convection oven, your bird will cook in 25 per cent less time. Take 15 minutes off each hour on the recommended times above.
4. After the turkey is removed from the oven, let it rest for minimum 30 minutes. The juices need to resettle into the meat.

Looking for some delicious inspiration? Try Our Best Thanksgiving Turkey Recipes

Turkey Trouble? How to Fix Your Worst Holiday Cooking Disasters

Whether you’re a seasoned chef or new to the kitchen, preparing a holiday feast is not without its challenges. No matter how well you plan and prepare ahead of time, something is bound to go awry when it’s time to get cooking. From forgetting to thaw the turkey to over-mashing your potatoes till they’re gluey, we’re here to help you fix all those holiday dinner mishaps.

brined-herb-crusted-turkey-with-apple-cider-gravyGet the recipe for Brined Herb-Crusted Turkey with Apple Cider Gravy

How to Defrost a Turkey Quickly

Arguably the most important part of any holiday feast, the turkey is the literal centerpiece of your table. If you’ve forgotten to defrost your turkey ahead of time (most frozen birds will need a few days to thaw fully in the refrigerator) you’re not entirely out of luck. Thawing turkey is one of those things you need to do safely in order to prevent any foodborne illness, and a cold water bath can take this task from days-long to a matter of hours.

Place the turkey in a sterilized tub, large sink or bathtub filled with enough cold water to cover it. Do not remove the bird from its wrapper. Refill the sink or tub with cold water about every 30 minutes to help prevent bacteria growth. Using this method, a 15-pound bird should take about 7.5-hours to defrost. When your turkey has defrosted, remove it from the water and dry with paper towels.

How to Fix an Overcooked Turkey

If you forgot to set a timer or simply calculated the math wrong for cooking your bird, you could be serving a dry, overcooked turkey. There are a couple of solutions that can help save your meal, the easiest being to make a knock-your-socks-off gravy to smother any overcooked meat with. Alternatively, you can ladle a bit of broth over the bird or rub some butter on the dry spots to help bring moisture back into the meat.

How to Fix Lumpy Gravy

A great gravy should be smooth and creamy, with nary a detectable lump. But if your gravy is more lumpy bumpy than silky smooth, there’s actually a pretty simple fix. First, whisk that gravy like your life depends on it — this will help break up larger clumps and smooth everything out. Then, pour the gravy through a fine mesh strainer to separate any smaller clumps the whisk might have missed. If your gravy is still lumpy after trying both of these things, you can try placing it in a blender with a touch of broth and pureeing until smooth.

recipe-vegetarian-gravyGet the recipe for Vegetarian Gravy

How to Fix Burnt Gravy

A burnt sauce happens to even the most experienced cook, and can be solved with a bit of care. First, remove your pan from the heat immediately. Place the bottom of the pan in cool water to help prevent further burning of the gravy. Grab and fresh pan and gently start scooping up as much unburt gravy as possible. Some cooking experts swear that adding a raw, peeled potato to the gravy will help absorb any burnt flavours, or you can try adding 1 tsp of smooth peanut butter at a time to the gravy, whisking well and tasting until the burnt flavour is gone. A pinch of sugar is another way to rescue burnt gravy.

How to Fix Crumbly Cookie Dough

If your holiday cookies are falling apart, it’s likely because the flour hasn’t absorbed enough liquid to bind everything together. In order to fix crumbly cookies, try adding more liquid to the recipe in small increments — whether that’s additional water, melted butter, or an egg.

How to Fix Burnt Cookies

Unless you have time to bake an entirely new batch of cookies, it’s worth trying to save the ones you accidentally burnt. You can try using a fine grater, such as a microplane, to shave off the burnt bits, or a serrated knife to cut off larger burnt pieces.

apple-pie-sliceGet the recipe for Anna Olson’s Blue Ribbon Apple Pie

How to Fix Crumbly Pie Dough

Just like a crumbly cookie dough, crumbly pie crust needs more moisture added to it if you’re going to salvage it. Try sprinkling a few drops of water over your pie dough mixture before gently kneading or rolling until it is more pliable.

How to Fix A Hole in Your Pie Crust

Pie crusts are fragile things, and a hole can happen if you spread the dough too thin. Keep a few scraps of dough on hand in order to patch any holes with, then seal with a small amount of egg white and sugar before baking.

How to Fix Gluey, Over-Mashed Potatoes

Mash your potatoes too much or too vigorously and you’ll be left with an inedible gooey, gluey mess. Sadly, once this happens there isn’t much you can do to salvage them, aside from mixing in some properly mashed potatoes to help cut the gluey texture. However, you can turn your gluey mashed potatoes into a holiday gratin by spreading them in a thin layer across a baking dish, topping with butter, cheese, and breadcrumbs, and baking until the top is nice and crispy.

Looking for more holiday cooking help? Try these 10 Turkey Cooking Tips to Roast the Perfect Bird Every Time.

Cast Iron Skillet Cookie

How to Season Your Cast Iron Pans

Cast iron pans are a game-changing addition to any kitchen. In my opinion, there’s no better way to cook crispy hash browns, fry an egg or sear a burger than by using a cast iron pan. Cast iron Dutch ovens are essential for braising, stewing and even making bread. While there are many myths about cleaning and seasoning cast iron cookware, it is actually simple and easy to care for. Follow these tips that will help your cast iron last forever.

Cast Iron Skillet Cornbread

How to Season a Cast Iron Pan

When we say season, we’re not talking salt and pepper. Seasoning a cast iron pan means treating it with oil. A brand new cast iron pan might say “pre-seasoned” on it and but it’s best to season it yourself before using it. Start by preheating the oven to 325°F. Pour a few tablespoons of oil in the pan, and spread in and around the edge of the pan. Place a sheet of aluminum foil over the center rack in the oven. Place the cast iron pan upside down on the foil. It will catch any oil drips. Bake for 1 hour. Remove from oven and let cool.

How to Wash a Cast Iron Pan

Many people that will tell you that soap and water will destroy a cast iron pan. This isn’t true. Cast iron pans can get grimy just like other cookware and it’s okay to scrub your pan. Use the abrasive side of a sponge, and rinse your soap off with plenty of water. Dry your cast iron right away and re-season it to get back that beautiful oily lustre.

cast-iron-skillet-cookie

How to Care for a Cast Iron Pan

The best way to care for your cast iron cookware is by using it. The more you cook, sear and fry in it, the better seasoned it becomes. Cast iron is great for cornbread, brownies, fried chicken and steaks. The more use a cast iron pan gets, the more non-stick it becomes.

What to do About Rusty Cast Iron 

When cast iron is left wet or stored in a humid environment, it can start to get rusty. This is an easy problem to fix and even easier to prevent. Ensure that your cast iron cookware is completely dry after using it and store it in a dry place. Do not let it soak in the sink before you clean it or re-season it. It’s best to minimize the time between when you begin cleaning it and when you re-season it. If your pan does get a bit rusty or cruddy, scrub it away with dish soap and an abrasive sponge. Steel wool is also a good option. Once the rust is removed, dry your cookware and re-season it.

Seasoned and ready to get cooking?  Try one of these 14 Incredible Cast-Iron Skillet Recipes.

marinated-chicken-breast on a plate with salad

How to Cook Chicken Breasts Perfectly Every Time

Loaded with lean protein and low in calories and fat, boneless, skinless chicken breast have become synonymous with people looking to start or maintain a healthy diet. Baked in the oven, roasted with veggies, stuffed or slow cooked, there are countless chicken breast recipes to choose from. While the versatile protein has a magic ability to take on any flavour you apply to it, the lack of fat means it is easy to overcook, leaving you with dry, bland chicken. Not to worry, it doesn’t have to be that way!
Whether you are starting a healthier diet or simply looking to eat more chicken, learn how to cook chicken breast perfectly every time. These tips will add life and excitement to your baked chicken breasts and ensure maximum flavour.

sliced stuffed chicken breast on a plateGet the recipe for Rachael Ray’s Spinach and Mushroom Stuffed Chicken Breasts

Start with Quality Chicken Breast

The taste and texture of chicken starts with how it was raised. Chickens that are raised to free range on pastures are usually healthier and more nutritious. Look for organic chicken that has been humanely raised. The meat might be pricier, but the difference in flavour and texture is worth it.

Season Your Chicken Breast

Sprinkle salt on raw chicken before you even think about pre-heating the oven. This will ensure the meat has time to absorb the salt, flavouring the meat inside as well as out. The result is a more flavourful chicken breast than seasoning after it is cooked.

sliced chicken breast with salad and lemonGet the recipe for Marinated Chicken Breast

Marinate Your Chicken Breast

Chicken breasts are like sponges for flavour – so get creative! Place chicken in a freezer bag with the marinade of choice. Store it in the fridge for hours or overnight before cooking for maximum impact. Pesto makes an easy herby flavour-injection, or try yogurt with Indian inspired spices for a creamy texture.

Don’t Roast Chicken Alone

Chicken breasts are a blank slate for flavour, so consider roasting them with complementary vegetables and herbs. Aromatic vegetables, citrus and herbs help inject flavour into the meat and help give you a tasty side dish to serve alongside.

bowl of chicken phoGet the recipe for Anne Burrell’s Chicken Pho

Try Poaching Chicken for Maximum Moisture

If you are making chicken soup or stew, poaching is an easy way to cook chicken. Simmering it in water or broth will ensure your meat stays moist and helps add flavour to pot. Immerse chicken breasts in simmering stock for about 10 minutes, then shred or slice the chicken into your desired dish.

When in Doubt, Don’t Overcook

We’ve all been there, you’ve left your chicken breasts in the oven a few minutes too long and you’re left with dry, unpleasant meat. How do you know when chicken is done? An instant-read thermometer will help you know what temperature you should cook your chicken to, no more guessing! Inserted into the thickest part of the breast should read no higher than165°F when the chicken is done. Easy, peasy!

Let Your Chicken Rest

Once you’ve cooked your chicken to the perfect temperature, remove it from the oven and let it rest for about 10 minutes before you slice. This will allow time for the juices to redistribute throughout the meat and ensure maximum juiciness. Cut too soon and those juices will escape. Have patience.

Looking for chicken breast recipes?  Look no further than these Popular Chicken Breast Recipes You Need to Try.

How to Grill Any Cut Of Steak Perfectly

As soon as the nice weather begins, Canadians ditch cooking in the kitchen and fire up the barbecue. The aromas and flavours of meat and veggies fresh from the open fire are intoxicating. And, when it comes to steak, nothing beats a perfectly cooked, well-seasoned, juicy cut. But this is easier said than done. It can be difficult to know what to buy at the butcher, how different cuts of steak vary and the best way to cook them.

With the stakes so high (pardon the pun, but these cuts can be expensive!), we’re giving you the ultimate guide to choosing and grilling steak this summer and beyond.

grilled-steak-and-papaya-salad

BBQ Steak Basics

1. Let steak come to room temperature before grilling: About 30 minutes before grilling, take it out of the fridge. This will allow the meat to cook evenly.

2. Get the grill super-hot: You want to get good sear on your steak for the perfect finished crust. Heat your grill to at least 450ºF before cooking.

3. Season with a bit of oil and lots of salt: Brush steaks with a thin layer of high-temperature oil, like grape seed or refined avocado. Then, don’t just sprinkle salt on your steak, season with reckless abandon. A thick slab of meat needs more salt than you think. Use kosher or coarse salt on both sides and apply until you can see it on the surface of the meat.

4. Use a thermometer: Unless you’re a veteran grill master with tons of experience cooking steak, it’s difficult to tell how well cooked the meat is just by touching it. Quit guessing and take the internal temperature with an instant-read of meat thermometer. To avoid burning the exterior if a steak is very thick, remove it from direct heat and finish cooking on indirect heat until it has reached your desired internal temperature.

5. Rest the steak: Let your steak rest for at least 10 minutes on a warm plate before slicing. The meat needs time to recirculate its juices, and that can only be achieved through patience. Once you’ve come this far in cooking the perfect steak, it would be a shame to ruin it! Your steak will not get cold (this is where a warm plate comes in handy). When your time is up, slice against the grain for more tender slices.

Steak Doneness Temperatures

  • Rare: 120ºF to 130ºF
  • Medium Rare: 130ºF to 140ºF
  • Medium: 140ºF to 150ºF
  • Medium Well: 150ºF to 155ºF
  • Well Done: 160ºF +

With the basics mastered, it’s time to discuss some of the common cuts and how they differ.

The Best Cuts of Steak for Grilling

Ribeye (Rib-eye, Rib Eye) Steak: Sometimes called entrecote, it can be purchased with the bone intact or boneless. It’s a tender steak with plenty of delicious fat marbling. This cut has a big, beefy flavour and is supremely juicy. For this reason, ribeye is usually on the pricier side, making it perfect for special occasions.

Flank Steak and Skirt Steak: Both very affordable (though the popularity of flank steak has made it rise in price recently) and tasty steaks, but they require a bit more work than other cuts. Flank steak can be tough and chewy, however, marinating overnight and cooking only to medium-rare can help keep it tender. After marinating, grilling and resting, flank steak must be thinly sliced across the grain to remain tender. Skirt steak should be prepared the same way as flank steak: marinated, grilled to medium-rare, rested and sliced against the grain. Flank and skirt steaks are great for weeknights and entertaining large groups.

New York Strip Steak: This cut is also known as the strip steak, top sirloin, top loin and contre-filet. The meat has a finely-grained texture and rich, beefy flavour. Its medium fat content, decent marbling and tender texture (less so than ribeye, but this cut is also less expensive) make it an ideal steak for barbecuing.

Porterhouse Steak: This steak is also known as the T-bone, a bone-in steak that has two of the most prized cuts of beef in one tidy package. On one side, the tenderloin, and on the other, the ribeye. The tenderloin portion will generally cook a bit faster than the ribeye portion, but the bone helps to keep the meat juicy. The porterhouse is the perfect steak for high-heat barbecues and entertaining to impress.

Now that you’ve nailed barbecued steak 101, it’s time to fire up the grill and dive into a recipe. Grill guru Bobby Flay takes it from here with this summery Grilled Steak and Papaya Salad .

Strawberry Frozen

5 Tips to Prevent Freezer Burn

So you hit a great sale and stock your freezer up. But a few weeks or months later, you pull out your edibles and they’re covered in ice crystals. The sad phenomenon that causes unappealing, dried-out, discoloured food happens to the best of us. 

We have five useful tips to make sure you never feel the (freezer) burn again.

Frozen Strawberries

1. Wrap your freezer-bound fare twice, with as little air as possible. First wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, then in a freezer bag, squeezing out as much air as you can.

2. Keep your cold storage well organized. That way, you don’t have to keep the door open for five minutes every time you look for something, avoiding temperature fluctuations as much as possible. If you’re shopping for a new unit, keep in mind that self-defrosting models are worse for freezer burn.

3. Don’t put hot foods directly in the freezer; let them cool first. 

4. Keep your freezer full, but not too full. At about three-quarters capacity, the freezer is most efficient at maintaining its cool.  Pack it more, and the air won’t circulate properly.

5. Invest in a vacuum-sealer.  It sucks out all the air around the food before freezing, which makes a big difference in longevity.

Although colour, texture and taste all suffer when freezer burn strikes, it does not render the food inedible — it’s still perfectly safe. To rescue freezer-burnt provisions, try concealing it in flavourful mixed dishes with lots of liquid, like stews, a bolognese, or barbecue sauces.

Looking for more kitchen tips? Learn our top 20 Life-Changing Freezer Hacks.

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.

gluten-free-eating

8 Great Tips for Going Gluten Free

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

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

Vegetable-Pad-Thai

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

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

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

1. Get Tested

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

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

Balance Cookie

Anna Olson’s Balance Cookies are gluten-free.

2. Hone Your Elevator Speech

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

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

3. Stick to Naturally Gluten-Free Foods

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

4. Know Your Allies

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

Beet Risotto

Anna Olson’s Beet Risotto is gluten-free.

5. Eat These Cuisines 

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

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

6. Read Labels and Ask Questions

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

7. Experiment

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

8. Explore

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

Anna Olson’s Tips to Make Holiday Baking a Breeze

As Canada’s baking expert and adored television personality, Anna Olson has amassed an infinite amount of tips and tricks to keep her calm and organized in the kitchen.

Whether you’re a serious home baker or just preparing for your annual cookie swap, it’s always a challenge trying to whip up homemade treats during the busy holiday season. Here, the Bake with Anna Olson star shares some of her holiday traditions, along with her tried-and-true tips for holiday baking.

Scottish-Pan-Shortbread

On Her Turkey-Less Traditions
I do have some traditional things; when I grew up, my grandmother would always make cherry walnut icebox cookies. And my husband’s favourite holiday dessert is an Icelandic dessert called Vinarterta; a prune and cardamom shortbread torte. So for me, it’s not Christmas until those are made. But, I am a cookie monster. I love making holiday cookies — shortbreads are my favourite. There are so many different styles with those same four ingredients.

On Show-Stopping Desserts
To ensure success and to ensure that you’re spelling desserts front to back and not backwards (which is stressed), you want to budget time. It takes baking, chilling, cooling, setting time — those are the little steps that you don’t want to cheat on. For something like a croquembouche, make it work for you as a make-ahead (dessert). (Make and) freeze the profiteroles a week ahead, take them out to thaw, and make the pastry cream two days ahead. Then, you can assemble it the day you serve it, and set aside one hour.

Croquembouche

On The Right Ingredients
(Use) unsalted butter, not salted butter. It’s sweeter, fresher and you’re in control of the salt, because you don’t know how much salt is in salted butter. Salt also retains water, and when you melt butter in a pan, you get that white liquid that runs off called milk solids, [which is] essentially water. So you’re getting more butter in unsalted butter.

On Knowing Your Oven
Just because you set your oven to 350°F, doesn’t mean it’s actually at 350°F. Spend the $7 to $10 on an oven thermometre. That’s the best way to prevent a baking disaster, because that’s the point where you relinquish control. I do a lot of candy making and chocolate work at holiday time, so I have a really good thermometre and I’d say that’s indispensable.

Chocolate-Slice-Cookies

On Freezing Now, Baking Later
I find that when you freeze baked cookies, they never come out as good as they went in. They take up so much space, so you can just make all your (cookie) dough ahead of time. If it’s a slice-and-bake, say my Chocolate Slice Cookies, I’ll just label it: “Chocolate slice, 325°F, 1/4-inch thick, 12 minutes.” So when I pull it out (of the freezer), I don’t have to go back to the recipe — slice, bake, done.

Timing is Everything
My #1 tip: Timing. Taking time now that we have time. If you know you have between 7:30 a.m. and 9 a.m. on Saturday morning, then make that your time. Make your favourite coffee, put on your favourite playlist, and baking takes you into that place. We love our sweets at the holidays, but we love baking because it’s an extension of that sharing and giving, and you want to channel that — remind yourself that that’s what it’s about.

Looking for some festive dessert recipes? Check out Anna Olson’s Ultimate Holiday Treats.

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.

Get ready for the holidays by baking and freezing cookies and bars ahead of time.

Get ready for the holidays by baking and freezing cookies and bars ahead of time.
Anna Olson

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.

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

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.

Want to get started on this year’s cookie and bar stockpile? Try our  Top 101 Holiday Cookies and Squares.

Homemade Hot Sauce

Turn up the Heat with Homemade Hot Sauce

As the weather gets cooler, it’s time to crank up the heat in the kitchen. From the fiery flames of Caribbean pepper sauce to the thick red sauces found across Asia such as gochujang and sriracha, the world is truly your pepper. Here are the best ways to work with chiles, and a simple home-style Mexican hot sauce recipe to make your own sauce to suit your taste.

Finished-dish-LW

Heating Things Up
When it comes to chile peppers, it pays off to pay attention at the grocery store — similar looking peppers may have very different heat levels. A chile’s heat comes from its capsaicin concentration, and is measured on the Scoville scale, ranging from the mildly sweet bell pepper at zero, to over two million units for the searing ghost pepper (bhut jolokia) or the Carolina Reaper. The list of potential peppers around the world is lengthy, but some common peppers available in Canada include green jalapeños (in their smoked form, they become the ubiquitous chipotle), Thai bird peppers (tiny and extremely spicy), thin-skinned serrano chiles or milder green cubanelles. Habaneros and Scotch bonnets look very similar (they resemble rounded mini bell peppers) and, like many peppers, these cousins can increase in heat as they ripen from green to orange, red and yellow.

Chiles this spicy may be too hot to handle.

Chiles this spicy may be too hot to handle.
Leslie Wu

Safety First
When handling very hot chiles, it’s crucial to remember that the seeds, oils and residue can have adverse effects. Rubber gloves (or the thin medical kind sold in drugstores, which may be easier to navigate for those with smaller hands) are a wise precaution — avoid touching your eyes or face and keep your hands off of your phone until those gloves are removed. Remember that those oils can transfer as well, so use caution around children and pets. Work in a well-ventilated area with a range hood, and consider a mask, fan or open windows when roasting or frying chiles, as they may create vapors that can cause a burning sensation in your eyes and throat.

Filled with fear at the idea of a blazing, spicy sauce? Removing the seeds and the ribs (the white interior of the pepper) will go a long way in cutting the heat quotient, but keep a glass of milk or chocolate nearby when tasting this recipe in case your hot sauce is hotter than expected.

We’re going to start with a basic sauce adapted from a recipe from Chuck Hughes, and add flavours and textures as we go.

Home Style Hot Sauce

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total:  45 minutes
Makes: 5 cups

Ingredients:
12 Scotch bonnet peppers (substitute for habaneros or a mix of Scotch bonnet and cayenne peppers)
2 onions, peeled and halved
6 cloves garlic, peeled
1 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped
1 cup white wine vinegar
Salt
Olive oil
1 orange (optional)
1 tsp sugar (optional)
2 to 3 tsp avocado oil (optional)

With this many chiles, this sauce will definitely have a spicy kick.

With this many chiles, this sauce will definitely have a spicy kick.
Leslie Wu

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 400 °F. Remove seeds and ribs from chiles if desired (if leaving them whole, add a few punctures with a fork in each chile to avoid explosions in your oven). Lay chiles, onions and garlic on baking tray lined with parchment paper. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt. Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes or until vegetables have a nice char. Remove stems from the chiles.

Roast chiles until they get a nice char on them to ensure the best flavour.

Roast chiles until they get a nice char on them to ensure the best flavour.
Leslie Wu

2. Transfer the vegetables into receptacle of food processor, and reduce into a coarse purée with cilantro through intermittent pulses. Can substitute cilantro for another leafy green herb such as parsley or basil for a delicious addition. Add vinegar and season with salt to taste.

As a home style hot sauce, be sure to leave your puree chunky, not smooth.

As a home style hot sauce, be sure to leave your puree chunky, not smooth.
Leslie Wu

3. For those who like the sweeter things in life, a fruity kick can be added to this sauce by stirring in zest and juice of one medium-sized navel orange (or more traditionally, a couple of limes) and 1 tsp sugar to counter the heat. Pouring a dollop (2 to 3 tsp) of avocado oil adds a rich texture and glisten to finished sauce.

4. Pour into sterilized containers for your fridge to add some heat to your everyday life.

This hot sauce will make enough to share with friends and family.

This hot sauce will make enough to share with friends and family.
Leslie Wu

Enjoy the fruits of your labour with chicharrones (pork cracklings), served with homemade tortilla chips, spooned into salsa, enchiladas or queso for some extra heat, used in a marinade for chicken, or even to add a spicy kick as a dip for sliced pineapple.

Looking for more heat? Here’s 10 Canadian Hot Sauces You Need to Try.

How to Roast Vegetables Like a Pro

Now that we’re halfway through fall (how did that happen?), roasted vegetables of all shapes and sizes are back on the dinner table on a regular basis. Beautiful rainbow carrots, stark white, earthy parsnips, acorn squash, love-it-or-hate-it eggplant …the list goes on and on. To ensure each veg is cooked to perfection, you might want to think twice about chopping them up and tossing them in the same baking dish.

Here are a few simple tips and tricks to help you roast vegetables like a pro, and maybe even find a new appreciation for certain varieties that you weren’t so fond of before. I’m looking at you, Brussels sprouts!

how-to-roast-veggies

Tips and Tricks:

1. Roast like vegetables with like vegetables.
Yams and potatoes can be best friends in a baking dish, but something juicier, like zucchini or tomatoes tossed in? Not so much. A juicy vegetable will impose on the crispy, caramelized texture you’re looking for in starchy varieties, so keep ‘em separate.

2. Don’t overcrowd the pan.
Similar to the above, overcrowding vegetables on a roasting pan impedes their ability to caramelize. It’s not that you need to space out chunks of broccoli two inches from each other, but work in batches if needed. This mentality can also be applied when pan-searing mushrooms in butter Try it and taste the difference!

3. Working with large vegetables.
Roasting a halved butternut squash, whole heads of cauliflower or big russet potatoes should not be cooked at the same high temperatures as their chopped counterparts. Lower and slower is a better approach in these cases.

4. Make sure to use enough oil.
Dry vegetables typically result in not-so-great roasted veggies. Depending on what you’re doing with them once they’re cooked, it’s better to stick with a neutral-tasting oil like canola. This variety has a high smoke point than your standard olive oil.

5. A little sweetness goes a long way.
While coating vegetables with oil, I will often add a little something sweet like maple syrup or brown sugar to the mix. Not only does this add extra flavour, but it helps things caramelize nicely. This works especially well with ingredients like carrots, parsnips or Brussels sprouts.

6. The unusual roasters.
There are plenty of vegetables at the grocery store you might walk by time and time again, and never think of taking home to roast. I operate with the mentality that any vegetable can be roasted. Radishes taste completely different when roasted (sweet and juicy), kohlrabi, which is also delicious raw, turns out tasting like a turnip. One of my favourites is taking thick cuts of green cabbage and roasting it at a high temperature. Once charred, it develops an unbelievably delicious umami flavour. Out of this world!

General Roasting Temps and Times for Popular Veggies:

Small/Cubed Potatoes & Squash (1” or smaller): 450°F for 20 to 25 minutes
Whole Russet Potatoes & Large, Halved Squash: 375°F for 45 minutes to 1 hour
Chopped Broccoli, Cauliflower & Brussels Sprouts: 425°F for 30 to 45 minutes
Whole Broccoli Stems & Heads of Cauliflower: 350°F for 1 hour to 1 hour, 15 minutes (turn to high broil near end of roasting for better caramelization)
Whole Beets: 350°F for 50 minutes to 1 hour, depending on size
Carrots & Parsnips: 400°F for 20 to 25 minutes
Eggplant, Zucchini & Kohlrabi: 400°F for 15 to 20 minutes

Stick of Butter

4 Ways to Soften Butter Quickly for Baking

We’ve all been there. You plan to make your famous banana bread and you’re faced with rock-hard butter. The best way to soften butter is to set it out on the counter an hour before baking, allowing it to come to room temperature. But if you’re aching to get baking, you likely don’t have an hour to spare.

Many of our favourite baked goods start with warm, soft butter. It’s the key to perfectly moist cookies and cakes, making them light and fluffy. Starting with soft butter makes it easier to cream, which beats air into it thus giving it structure. Creaming it with sugar helps to hold air into the mixture, meaning maximum fluffiness for your cakes and cookies.

If you’re faced with the dreaded cold butter and are in a rush to begin baking, here are some easy ways to soften it while avoiding a melty mess.

Stick of Butter

Chop, Chop!
Run a knife under hot water for a few minutes and slice up your butter for faster warming time. The smaller pieces will warm faster than one big block. Arrange on a warm plate to speed up the process even more.

Just Beat It
Place your block-o-butter between two pieces of parchment paper or inside a freezer bag, and beat it with a rolling pin. This technique takes some muscle, but it will soften much faster flat, rather than as a solid stick.

Got You Covered
Warm up a bowl or cup and place it over top of your butter block. The gentle heat will speed-up warming time, without melting your block into a puddle.

Grate Expectations
Another way to get your butter to room temperature fast is to pop it in the freezer for a few minutes — bear with us — then use your trusty box grater to turn it into fine pieces, allowing them to warm up even faster.

Not sure what to bake? Anna Olson’s 50 Best Cookie Recipes is a delicious place to start.