Monday, December 31, 2018

Christmas Food Traditions


Christmas traditions don't have to be the expected ones with family that some people look forward to and others dread each year.

For myself, I didn't grow up with Christmas traditions because we didn't celebrate Christmas or many other holidays either.  At Christmas time we just sat around the house and ate whatever there was and watched TV.  My family were never into the big holiday things but I kind of feel like I missed out on the magic and the creativity and the memories of the excitement of the things you only do during the Holiday times.

Since my parents have passed and I am estranged from my brother and don't celebrate holidays with any of my other remaining relatives my Holiday traditions are now spent with my friends.

I have a few different groups of friends so I do things differently with all of them.

For the past 3 years I have tried to organize a gift exchange and dinner with my Food Blogger friends.  This year was the most successful one yet.  With the weather being perfect and no snow storm to get in the way and a location that was central for everyone to get to, this year everyone I invited was able to make it out to the dinner.  Some were late but everyone was there to eat, drink and exchange fun gifts.  We met up at the Keg in North York because my friends come from Markham, Maple, Thornhill, downtown Toronto and the Scarborough Bluffs area.  It was a challenge to find a place that would be able to seat 7 of us and still be able to have it quiet enough to talk.  The Keg fit the bill for location and comfort.  Although it's a bit pricey and they had an even bigger party than ours so our food took a long time but we still had a great time catching up and doing our Secret/not so secret Santa exchange.

Another tradition that I spend with friends is actually hosted by one of my film festival friends who hosts an Open House at her home just before Christmas.  Some of my Tiff Entourage team meet up at her house and enjoy the usually Potluck kind of snacks while we mingle with her other friends.

And what I hope to be a new and long lasting tradition was started last year at my house with my friend Adam, his husband and at the time his 3 year old daughter and their friend also joined us for Ugly Sweater and Christmas cookie decorating.  His daughter has grown to love baking things and we thought it would be fun to decorate cookies.  This year some of his other friends wanted to join the party so we had to move it from my tiny apartment to his house and we invited a couple more of his friends and I invited my friend, her husband and her 3 year old son.


This time we added 2 Gingerbread Houses for decorating,  one bought by me was a traditional one and the other bought by Adam was a Hanukkah House which had blue and gold decorations.  It's a good thing we had 2 because we broke one of the pieces on my house so it wouldn't stay together.  Oh well.   We had lots to decorate.

I pre-made dough and some Ugly Sweater cookies.  We were going to have the kids and adults cut out cookies to bake but that didn't happen.  The kids were happily playing downstairs with lego and all kinds of other toys while the serious adult decorators proceeded to have an Ugly Sweater decorating contest.  Unfortunately I didn't win but we let the kids decide and there was a tie between 2 cookies.  I hope to make this a new annual tradition until the kids are sick of doing it and the adults don't have the energy to decorate cookies anymore.  It was a huge messy success and I hope it makes a lot of memories for the kids and the adults.

So you see you can choose whatever tradition you like and with whomever you wish to do it with.  It doesn't have to be opening presents with family on Christmas day or dreading the family dinner.

Create your own new traditions with the people you love doing the things you love to do with them.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Cooks the Books Competition

Taste Canada presented Cooks the Books Student Chef Battle
at Mildred's Temple Kitchen on October 18, 2018.


Part of the Taste Canada Awards is the Student Chef Battle that happens before the awards where students from 9 teams from various cooking schools battle against each other and our judged by some Food Industry pros. 

Assiniboine Community College – Brandon, Manitoba
Centennial College – Toronto, Ontario
Conestoga College – Kitchener, Ontario
Fanshawe College – London, Ontario
Liaison College of Culinary Arts – Kitchener, Ontario
Liaison College of Culinary Arts – Toronto, Ontario
Thistletown Collegiate High School – Toronto, Ontario

The Judges were: Cookbook authors Christine Tizzard and Dennis Prescott and recipe developers Annabelle Waugh and Jennifer Emilson

Although I wasn't a judge an didn't get a chance to taste any of the dishes they were impressive creations that can stand up to most of the best restaurants in Toronto.

The Winners were:

The Silver Medal was awarded to  Celina do Souto and Sydney Lutz from Conestoga College (Kitchener, Ontario) for their Braised Beef Cheeks with Roasted Squash & Maple Milk Foam recipe.  

The Gold Medal was awarded to Jessi Coulter & Kaitlin McCarthy from Assiniboine Community College (Brandon, Manitoba) for their Cast Iron Seared Hudson River Arctic Char with Smoked Maple Birch Glaze, on Heritage Grain recipe. 

Friday, November 16, 2018

Whole Life Expo 2018

Nov 9-11 Metro Toronto Convention Centre

This week I spent a Sunday afternoon wandering around the Metro Toronto Convention Centre checking out all of the booths and talks at the Whole Life Expo.

I have been to this show in the past and it's a great place to check out new things in Healthy living and listing to expert speakers like Doctors, nutritionists, Chiropractors and more.

 I sat in on a few talks like the one above with Dr. Levine who talked about many different health care issues and had tips on how to deal with certain conditions.  Dr. Levine runs the practice Vita Health a clinic with Chiropractors, physiotherapists and other health care practitioners. 

Another talk I sat in on talked about the benefits of magnetic jewellery and other products and they had a draw and gave away free bracelets to the attendees.  I got the pretty bracelet above.  Nice bonus for listening to an informative talk.

I have been to many shows and have seen many health care products so I was looking for things I haven't seen before.  The 3 products above are things that are new and pretty amazing.

The box of Mocha is my new favourite thing.  It's Mocha coffee packets that you just add water and it takes like your favourite coffee shop fancy coffee.  It tastes really good but it doesn't have the bad effects of drinking the regular coffees and has healthy Reishi mushroom as one of the ingredients.  It's PH balancing and for me I can skip the dairy and other coffee effects.  A box of 15 was $35.  I have been drinking them at work.  Great way to skip the coffee lineups.

I also bought the Flora Apple Cider vinegar with Elderberry.  Apple Cider vinegar is already a great healthy product but they have added antioxidant elderberry to it and additional a boost of flavour.  Great for salad dressings.

With a spin of a wheel I won the Peanut butter cup chocolate with no actual nuts.  I haven't tried it yet but this would be great for kids in schools since it's peanut free.

The booths were filled with Samples, information and deals.  I got my posture and alignment measured at the Vita Health booth and they had a special of a $50 for a full consultation so I decided to book a visit to their clinic because I was already planning on going to a Chiropractor this week so I visited their Yonge and St. Clair location and walked into the very serene space above and had a consult with one of their very nice young Chiropractors.  I will go back next week for the results of the different scans that they were able to do.  Trying to work on my health before the New Year's resolutions this year.

For more information about the products listed and a full vendor and speaker list please visit the Whole Life Expo website at

The festival is produced by Vitality magazine so you can find a lot of this information in their magazine as well.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Toronto Soup Festival at Fort York

I checked out a fun event recently at Fort York.  TORONTO SOUP FESTIVAL was an outdoor event with proceeds going to Second Harvest.  With a few soup vendors like Fidel Gastro's, Fat Rabbit, Ted Reader and Neruda there were a host of different types of soups.  I enjoyed the corn soup and Fidel Gastro's Leek and Potato soup.


There was also a Free to enter Farmer's market at the entrance that we stopped by on the way out.  I picked up an amazing loaf of sourdough bread that I ate every last crumb of.

I think my favourite thing to eat at the festival was Craig's Cookies though.  One was still warm and gooey.  Not soup but went so well after some warm bowls of soup.

A really cool thing they did was hand out spoons attached to lanyards that you could wear around your neck while leaving you hands free in between soups.

Fidel Gastro's Matt Basile

Fat Rabbit's Trevor Lui

Music by Corey Music

A popular place to hang out was around the fire pit. It rained for a bit so people left for cover but when it stopped they all flocked back to it.

There was fun entertainment for kids an adults with great music by Corey Music and a bouncy castle for the kids and games like Giant Chess and bricks to move around on the grass. 

A perfect place for a fun selfie was in front of the Huge Stock Pot that had steam coming out of it at different times.

It was the first year at the Fort York location.  It's a bit tough to get there but it worked out pretty well on the Saturday but not sure how it was on the chillier Sunday weather.

It's a bit pricey with a single ticket for $25 which includes the spoon and entrance and I think 2 tickets but there was a $45 price for a 4 pack which is a bit better.  Most items were between 3 to 5 tickets and each ticket was $1.   I don't know if they will do it at the same location next year but it's a fun event to hang out with a group of friends and family.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Taste Canada Award winners 2018

Taste Canada Awards / Les Lauréats des Saveurs du Canada ( has announced the winners of the country’s only national, bilingual food writing awards. 

 October is National Cookbook Month #Love Cookbooks #MoreThanRecipes


Date: Oct 29th, 2018
Location: Fairmont Royal York Hotel

At the gorgeous and opulent Royal York Hotel a group of food writers gathered to show their appreciation for great cookbook writing and fantastic food blogs.

This is a look at some of the winners. I kept it to the English category for space and my audience.  Photos below are just a few of the winners of the Taste Canada Awards.

A champion of cookbook authors and food bloggers, Taste Canada inspires readers to discover delicious recipes and diverse food stories written from a Canadian perspective. Taste Canada is a not-for-profit founded in 1998. More than just recipes, cookbooks and food blogs reveal Canada’s unique history, culture, and diversity.

“When we write about food, we are really writing about humanity and community; about love and death and biological imperatives; and about the powerful connections and similarities between us. Food writing has been as undervalued as the actual work of food preparation. Taste Canada is the only body in the country recognizing the importance of the work of food writers. Food stories are after all, the real stories of our lives,’ said Lindy Mechefske, author of Out of Old Ontario Kitchens, and Sir John's Table: The Culinary Life and Times of Canada's First Prime Minister (2016 Taste Canada Gold Award Winner for Culinary Narratives),

This year, 91 cookbooks and 50 food blogs entered the competition. A shortlist announced earlier in the year narrowed the competition to a maximum of 5 entries per category.

The 26 gold and silver award winners were revealed at the Taste Canada Awards Gala on October 29 at the Fairmont Royal York in Toronto, co-hosted by Shahir Massoud and Claire Tansey. The Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, Her Honor Elizabeth Dowdeswell delivered the welcoming and opening remarks. 

The Hall of Fame Awards were presented to The Galloping Gourmet, Graham Kerr (living) and Constance Hart (posthumous), the first Jewish person in Canada to write a cookbook. This award, sponsored by the Culinary Historians of Canada, goes to authors of a stellar culinary book or body of work that has had a lasting impact on Canadian cuisine.

The annual Gala brings together writers, publishers, chefs, restaurateurs, farmers, industry, media and cookbook fans to promote a vibrant national conversation about food and the art and culture of culinary writing.  

The evening started with a welcome reception by Summer Fresh, followed by the awards presentation, and then, aone-of-a-kind gastronomic celebration, presented by Good in Every Grain,featuring food by Fairmont Royal York Executive Chef j.W. Foster, as well as Ivana Raca (Ufficio), Matt Basile (Lisa Marie/Fidel Gastro’s), Ted Reader (Ted’s Famous BBQ), Trevor Lui and Hemant Bhagwani (Fat Rabbit), Charlotte Langley (Restaurants Canada), Brad Lomanto (Conestoga College), Brian McCourt and Benjamin Lillico (Ignite Restaurant Group), Daniel Stubbe (Cacao Barry), Dufflet Rosenberg (Dufflet),  Trevor Ritchie (Bocuse d’Or Team Canada), and Vanessa Yeung (Aphrodite Cooks). Wines were presented by the Niagara College Teaching Winery. 

In 2017, the total units sold in Canada for books in the “Cooking” subject category amounted to 1.4 million for a total value of $47.4 million, according to BookNet Canada's national sales tracking service for the print English-language trade market, BNC SalesData.

Award Categories (English and French Language)
  • General Cookbooks / Livres de Cuisine Générale
  • Single-Subject Cookbooks / Livres de Cuisine Sujet Unique
  • Regional/Cultural Cookbooks / Livres de Cuisine Régionale et Culturelle
  • Culinary Narratives / Narrations Culinaires
  • Health and Special Diet Cookbooks / Livres de Cuisine Santé et Diète Particulière
  • Food Blogs: General / Blogues culinaire
  • Food Blogs: Heath and Special Diet (English only) 
About Taste Canada A champion of Canadian cookbooks and food blogs, Taste Canada inspires and encourages readers at home and abroad to discover delicious recipes and diverse food stories written from a Canadian perspective. Taste Canada brings together Canadian food and beverage writers, publishers, chefs, restaurateurs, farmers, industry, post-secondary culinary colleges, media and cookbook fans, recognizing that food connects us all.  Since 1998, Taste Canada, a national, bilingual not-for-profit, has presented awards to the best Canadian food writers. Awards are presented each year at a Gala in Toronto. For more information, visit

Taste Canada Awards would like to thank our partners who support our mission to champion Canada’s culinary writers including the Alberta Canola Producers Commission, Summer Fresh, Fairmont Royal York, Good in Every Grain, Egg Farmers of Ontario, Mildred’s Temple Kitchen, Restaurants Canada, Toronto Star, Canada’s 100 Best, Eat Your Words and Education Awareness Partner, ThinkBeef.  For more information, visit,


English-Language Books
Culinary Narratives

Vij, Vikram. Vij. Penguin Canada, Toronto

Phillips, Rod. 9000 Years of Wine. Fitzhenry & Whiteside, Markham

General Cookbooks

Crawford, Lynn. Farm to Chef. Penguin Canada, Toronto

Wimbush-Bourque, Aimée. The Simple Bites Kitchen. Penguin Canada, Toronto

Regional/Cultural Cookbooks

Anderson, Lindsay and Dana VanVeller. Feast: Recipes and Stories from a Canadian Road Trip. Appetite by Random House, Vancouver

Butters, Rod. The Okanagan Table: The Art of Everyday Home Cooking. Figure 1, Vancouver

Single-Subject Cookbooks

Kohlman, Renée. All the Sweet Things: Baked Goods and Stories from the Kitchen of Sweetsugarbean. TouchWood Editions, Victoria

Gardner, Kristy. Cooking with Cocktails.Countryman Press, New York

Health and Special Diet Cookbooks

Podleski, Greta. Yum & Yummer: Ridiculously Tasty Recipes That'll Blow Your Mind, But Not Your Diet!Author/One Spoon Media Inc., Kitchener

Wright, Laura. The First Mess Cookbook. Penguin Canada, Toronto

English-Language Food Blogs

General Food Blogs

Rhubarb & Cod, Susan Keefe

The Lemon Apron, Jennifer Emilson

Health & Special Diet Blogs

Oh She Glows, Angela Liddon

Joyous Health, Joy McCarthy

I will post more about the Cooks the Books event on my next blog post.  Too much to get into one post but a little bit about it.

The winners of Cooks the Books, a cooking competition that invites Canadian culinary students from across the nation to compete for the title of Canada’s Best New Student Chefs, were also announced at the Gala. The Silver Medal was awarded to  Celina do Souto and Sydney Lutz from Conestoga College (Kitchener, Ontario) for their Braised Beef Cheeks with Roasted Squash & Maple Milk Foam recipe.  Jessi Coulter & Kaitlin McCarthy from Assiniboine Community College (Brandon, Manitoba) won the Gold Medal for their Cast Iron Seared Hudson River Arctic Char with Smoked Maple Birch Glaze, on Heritage Grain recipe written.  Cooks the Books – A Student Chef Battle was held at Mildred’s Temple Kitchen in Toronto on October 28.  This competition is presented in partnership with the Alberta Canola Producers Commission and sponsored by Summer Fresh, with Education Awareness Partner,

I have only included the English Canada Categories for the French Canadian winners please check out the Taste Canada Website