Canada Day is Coming… Are You Ready?

As I race to get things ready to attend a convention next week, things are getting hectic around here! We have three major blog mentions this week, the first of which was on Fresh Juice. They featured my Canada Day watermelon carving not only on their front page, but the #1 spot of the featured section! Woo! Fresh Juice is the new sister publication of Canadian Living… the magazine I was raised on and totally adore!

I’ll link to the other two blog entries as they are posted, but I’m feeling inspired by my debut appearance at Fresh Juice – let’s do a round up of Canadian recipes, in preparation for the upcoming holiday. I’ve already Canadian-ed up the front page of my blog, but only so many recipes can fit. Let me do better justice to that now. Not only are there some fabulous recipes here, it frees me up to pack! Win-Win!


Update: Our Blueberry Liqueur recipe was featured on The Huffington Post this morning.

Appetizers, Sides, etc

Honey Garlic Cooking Sauce
Honey Garlic Cooking Sauce
Poutine, The Way *I* do it!
Poutine, *MY* way!
Maple Leaf Watermelon Bowl
Maple Leaf Watermelon Bowl
Honey Dill Dipping Sauce
Honey Garlic Dipping Sauce

Main Dishes

The Best Shepherd's Pie
The Best Shepherd’s Pie
Gluten Free Tourtiere
Gluten Free Tourtiere
Gluten Free Cod au Gratin
Cod Au Gratin


Mocha Nanaimo Bars
Mocha Nanaimo Bars
Pumpkin Spice Nanaimo Bars
Pumpkin Spice Nanaimo Bars
Butter Tarts
Buttertarts (Gluten free version here)
Cherry Nanaimo Bars
Cherry Nanaimo Bars
Maple Walnut Baklava
Maple Walnut Baklava
With 2017 being Canada’s 150th birthday, it’s about time I wrote the Canadian cookbook I’ve been planning for YEARS.

“More than Poutine” will be a Canadian cookbook like no other – written by a Canadian living away, it includes both traditional homecooking recipes, as well as homemade versions of many of the snacks, sauces, convenience foods, and other food items that are hard to come by outside of Canada!

High quality gluten-free versions of most recipes will be included.

The Kickstarter for “More Than Poutine is live, here. Please consider backing, and sharing the campaign with your friends!

Honey Garlic Cooking Sauce Recipe

While I can usually reproduce a dish off taste alone – intuitively – sometimes it’s fun to have to reverse engineer something. A good example of this was my homemade wine slush mix. For that, I took clues from the ingredient list and nutritional information on the existing package, and used it as the base for my formulation. For instance, vitamin C amount per serving helped me ballpark the proper amount of citric acid to use, after figuring out a few conversions.

This sort of problem solving comes in handy for today’s blog.

The other day, one of my tweeps – a fellow Canadian – brought up honey garlic sauce. It’s a popular sauce back home, made by VH. Super cheap, available everywhere… SO not healthy, but SO tasty. Yum. It’s not available here, so I end up missing it.

Where my last taste of it was around 5 years ago, it makes it a bit harder for me to replicate on taste. Memories get fuzzy over time, and specific flavor profiles melt into general feelings about the taste. I could take a wild stab at it and come up with something that tastes great, but it may not be super close to the original. Without the source material on hand – or at least cataloged in RECENT memory – all I can do is “inspired by”.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that I can’t use science, math, and logic to ensure a good step in the right direction!

A quick search online turns up a few key bits of information: nutritional info, and the actual ingredients list. Between tidbits such as calories, sodium, and sugars per the specified serving size, knowing what the commercial version had in it – and in order of quantity – and a good memory of the appearance and approximate viscosity… I’ve got a good set of base parameters to start with!

Here’s the concrete information that I am starting with:

Per 85 ml (1/3 cup): 260 calories, 540 mg sodium, 64 g carb, 55 g sugars

Ingredients: Sugar, Water, Honey, Molasses, Dehydrated Garlic, Salt, Caramel, Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Corn Syrup, Glucose-Fructose, Citric Acid, Sodium Benzoate

So here’s how I break it down:

1. Figure out what each ingredient contributes to. This is not only in nutritional terms – say, carbs – but also function:

Sugar: Volume, carbs, sugars, flavor, viscosity
Water: Volume
Honey: Volume, carbs, sugars, flavor, viscosity
Molasses: Volume, carbs, sugars, flavor, viscosity, color, slightly to sodium
Garlic: Flavor
Salt: Flavor, sodium
Caramel: Color
Hydrolyzed Soy Protein: Emulsification / thickening
Corn Syrup: Carbs, sugars
Glucose-Fructose: This is what “high fructose corn syrup” is called in Canada. Carbs, sugars.
Citric Acid: Flavor
Sodium Benzoate: Preservative, to impede microorganisms

2. Knowing all of that, I need to narrow the ingredients down for home use.

What we’ll be keeping: Sugar, water, honey, molasses, garlic, salt

What we’ll be ditching:

– Caramel: It’s unneccesary
– Hydrolyzed soy protein: Not accessible for home use
– Corn syrup: Unneccesary – was used as cheap alternative to honey
– Glucose-Fructose: Comparable to honey in many technical ways, it’s used as a cheap way to “stretch” honey out in commercial use.
– Citric Acid: There are more accessible alternatives
– Sodium Benzoate

What functionality we need to replace:

– Hydrolyzed soy protein: Emulsificiation
– Citric acid: Flavor

3. Figure out the base of the recipe, volumetricly

Canadian food labelling law requires that all ingredients be listed in “descending order of proportion by weight”. Knowing that, I can look at the list and figure out where the cutoff would be for ingredients contributing significantly to the volume of the sauce.

Knowing from experience that there is a fair amount of garlic in the sauce, I would normally consider that the “final” ingredient in our initial problem solving. However, since it contributes only to flavor, I’m going to ignore it for now. That means that for the volumetric base of our recipe, we are focussing on sugar, water, honey, and molasses.

4. Figure out weights and measures

A quick search online reveals that 1 cup of sugar is generally understood to weigh 7 oz, or 200g. One cup of water weighs about 8.3 oz, or 237 grams. One cup of honey weighs about 12 oz, or 340 g.

For the sake of ease, I’ll convert the nutrition facts to reflect 1 cup of sauce: 780 calories, 1620 mg sodium, 192 g carb, 165 g sugars

Make some rough guesses as to quantities

I’ll be honest here – I once failed an algebra test. I’m not even talking an honorable fail, I mean an epic fail – I got 26% on it! It’s not that I don’t understand the problems, it’s that I couldn’t work the problems out on paper. To this day, I don’t get the whole tables thing – it’s easier to just work it out in my head. I can tell you how old Jenny is if she’s twice Bob’s age and 1/3 of what Doug’s age was 4 years ago, blah blah.. but don’t expect me to tell you how I figured it out!

While name/age is fairly straightforward and linear, figuring things out like ingredient proportions in this recipe is a bit more complex. Where a name will be linked to one quality (age), we have to figure out more of a matrix of qualities here – say, volume, sugar, and sodium. For something like this, I like to make a fairly good guesstimate on proportions, and work the math out to tweak it from there.

Knowing what I do from past experience with the sauce, I can tell you that the volume of molasses in the sauce is far less than the other three primary ingredients.

If we were to use equal quantities of sugar, honey, and water as a starting point, the nutritional info for one cup of it would be:

595 calories
158 g carbs
147 g sugars

Not bad, but off by a little. I suspect the proportions for the actual product would look a little more like:

1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
1/4 cup honey
2 Tbsp molasses

… which adds up to 1.3 cups. If I add up the calories, etc, and then divide down to find the per-cup information on this mixture, we have ROUGHLY:

570 cal
150g carbs
144g sugars

… which is close enough for me to get to the kitchen and start tinkering around. Well, after we figure out the sodium, anyway!

Looking at the sodium (1620mg per cup in the source material):

The base ingredients don’t contribute significantly to sodium content – about 13 mg total – so this will pretty much be coming straight from the salt we’ll be adding. The container of salt I’ll be using indicates that it contains 590 mg of sodium per 1/4 cup. Due to the commercial nature of the source material, I’ll be aiming low – 1/4 tsp, or 1180 mg – and will add extra salt only if needed.


As it turns out, I was pretty much bang-on for those proportions, and the recipe turned out amazing*!

On first taste, it hit my memory *just* right, and I was transported back to my apartment, circa my early 20s. To quick stir fry meals thrown together cheaply and easily, when I bothered to take the time. I was SO busy back then, I’d sew for 16+ hours in a day, skipping meals often. Convenience foods like these bottled sauces were go-to meals, as I had NO time to “properly” cook.

This is not high cuisine, and I have NO idea how it would fit on the American palate – us Canadians tend to have a ridiculous sweet tooth! Maybe there’s a reason it’s not available here? Who knows! For an Ex-pat Canadian, though… the nostalia that this food evokes brings it to “comfort food” levels, even as a condiment. Isn’t taste-memory a funny thing?

Now that you’ve read through all of that, let me present you with the SUPER simple recipe that resulted. This sauce is great as a stir fry sauce, or to cook meatballs or spare ribs in.. yum! For our first use of it, we simply browned some pork chops, added sliced peppers to the pan, and cooked it for a few minutes. Then we added about 3/4 cup of the sauce and let it cook a few more minutes, and served over rice. Fabulous!

Honey Garlic Cooking Sauce

Makes about 2 cups

1 cup sugar
2/3 cup water
1/2 cup honey
4 Tbsp molasses
1 tsp salt
1 tsp lemon juice
8-10 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
1 tsp corn starch

Combine sugar, 1/3 cup of water, honey, molasses salt, lemon juice, and garlic in a saucepan. Heat to a boil, stirring well to dissolve and combine ingredients. Once mixture boils, turn heat down and simmer for 5 minutes.

Whisk corn starch into remaining 1/3 cup of water, add to saucepan. Stir until well incorporated and mixture starts to thicken. Remove from heat.

At this point, you can use the sauce right away, or put it in the fridge for use within a couple of days. Strain out the garlic, or don’t – it’s up to you!

*… although, at $1-something a bottle, I suppose that bribing someone to mail me some could have been an option. Where’s the fun in that, though?

With 2017 being Canada’s 150th birthday, it’s about time I wrote the Canadian cookbook I’ve been planning for YEARS.

“More than Poutine” will be a Canadian cookbook like no other – written by a Canadian living away, it includes both traditional homecooking recipes, as well as homemade versions of many of the snacks, sauces, convenience foods, and other food items that are hard to come by outside of Canada!

High quality gluten-free versions of most recipes will be included.

The Kickstarter for “More Than Poutine is live, here. Please consider backing, and sharing the campaign with your friends!

Interested in Gluten-free cooking and baking? You’ll LOVE Beyond Flour: A Fresh Approach to Gluten-Free Cooking and Baking!

How many times have you come across a gluten-free recipe claiming to be “just as good as the normal version!”, only to wind up with weird textures, aftertastes, etc? Most gluten-free recipes are developed by taking a “normal” recipe, and swapping in a simulated “all purpose” gluten-free flour… whether store bought, or a homemade version. “Beyond Flour” takes a different approach: developing the recipe from scratch. Rather than swapping out the flour for an “all purpose” mix, I use various alternative flours as individual ingredients – skillfully blending flavours, textures, and other properties unique to each flour. Supporting ingredients and different techniques are also utilized to achieve the perfect end goal … not just a “reasonable facsimile”. Order your copy here.

Looking for even MORE fantastic gluten-free recipes? Beyond Flour now has a sequel: Beyond Flour 2: A Fresh Approach to Gluten-Free Cooking and Baking!

Imagine gluten-free foods that are as good – or better! – than their traditional, gluten-filled counterparts. Imagine no longer settling for foods with bizarre after-tastes, gummy consistency, and/or cardboard texture. Imagine graham crackers that taste just like the real thing. Crisp, flaky crackers…without the sandy texture. Hybrid tortillas that: look and act like flour tortillas, with the taste of fresh roasted corn! Imagine chewy, delicious cookies that *everyone* will want to eat! Imagine BAGELS. If you’ve cooked from “Beyond Flour”, you already know that these fantasies can be reality – it’s all in the development of the recipes. Order your copy here.

Clodhoppers Recipe: Cheap, Quick, Easy, ADDICTIVE Candy!

Here’s another one of those recipes that is so minimalist in both ingredients and preparation, I’m a little embarrassed to post it. Much like my Honey Dill Dipping Sauce Recipe, it may be simple and easy, but it’s a hometown memory for me.

I always enjoy exposing people to “new” ideas – even if only new to them!

Clodhoppers are a very well known candy back home in Canada. One Winnipegger wanted to market his grandmother’s candy, got together with a childhood friend of his, and got to work. Within a few years, the candy was selling all over Canada.

homemade clodhoppers candy

The candy is apparently no longer made in Winnipeg, having been sold to a company on the West Coast – and I’ve since become allergic to gluten, rendering these treats toxic to me – but I’ll never forget em. Super, super addictive stuff.

Was thinking of them, the other day. I’ve never seen them here in the USA, so I decided to create a homemade version for my husband. The proportions turned out beautifully!

Clodhoppers have only 3 simple ingredients – white chocolate, cashews, and graham crackers – and they whip up in no time. Have bowls of this out at holiday parties, or package them up for a hostess gift, stocking stuffer, or “Thank you” that your friends and family will love!


Wherein our Heroine Waxes Poetic on Canadian Living

Back in December, my husband and I took an 8 hour drive to my hometown of Winnipeg. It’s a trip we’ve made a good number of times since I moved to Minnesota for him, but this time was different.

All the previous times, we had driven up to visit my grandmother. She had still lived in the house she’d lived in my entire life. It was the house that I’d pretty much grown up in, having been raised by my grandparents for most of my childhood. My room had remained largely unchanged, along with the neighbourhood in general. It was nice to have that sense of familiarity to go back to, especially with living in a foreign country. (more…)

Butter Tarts

As I’d mentioned back in my Poutine recipe post, my coming out of the closet as an immigrant has had quite the positive effect on this blog. You now have my poutine recipe, a crazy original recipe for Pumpkin Spice Nanaimo Bars, as well as my original (was stil closeted at the time!) recipe post for Mocha Nanaimo Bars.

Well, today I’d like to introduce you to another delicacy from my homeland – Butter Tarts!

Yep, these are the goodies mentioned in Len’s “Steal my Sunshine” (in the radio version, anyway, not this video!). They’ve been around forever, and you can get them anywhere in Canada… Tim Horton’s.. gas stations.. even boxes of factory made ones, sort like Little Debbie stuff.

Because they’ve been around forever, there are about a million versions of it. Some use brown sugar, some use white… most use corn syrup, I use maple… you get the idea.

butter tarts recipe

Maple Butter Tarts

Pre made tart shells, pie crust, or 1 batch pastry crust (recipe follows)

1/2 – 1 cup raisins
1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
2 large eggs, whisked

Preheat oven to 375 F (190 C)

Prepare tart shells recipe, if using. If using pre made pie crust, roll cut out and prepare tart shells per directions in the tart shells recipe below.

Divide raisins among tart shells – I personally like to have a fair amount of raisins in my buttertarts, so I use 1 cup. (1/2 cup is probably closer to average!). Set aside.

Combine butter, brown sugar, and maple syrup in a medium saucepan. Beat until smooth. Add in eggs, beat once more until well combined.

Heat mixture on medium, stirring constantly. Bring mixture JUST to a boil, remove from heat. Carefully pour mixture into prepared tart shells.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, until filling has set and the pastry is lightly browned. Remove from oven and allow to cool. These are usually served at room temperature, but some prefer them chilled! Makes about 12 tarts.

Pastry Crust (Pate Brisee)

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp white sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, chilled
1/8 to 1/4 cup ice water

Combine flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor. Chop chilled butter into small cubes, add to flour mixture, and process 15-20 seconds, until it resembles fine gravel.

While running processor, stream 1/8 cup of ice water into the flour mixture, just until dough holds together when pinched. If necessary, add more water.

Dump dough out onto a work surface, gather into a disk shape. Wrap with plastic wrap, chill for 1 hour.

Lightly flour your work surface, roll chilled dough out pretty thin – 1/8″ to 1/4″, depending on your tastes – some prefer a thinner shell, some thicker. Cut 4″ rounds from the pastry – you’re aiming for 12.

Carefully transfer the pastry rounds to a muffin pan. I like to flatten the bottom against the tin, and work out from there, flattening the whole round to be flush with the muffin pan cavity – it holds the most filling! Feel free to get decorative about it – flattening the bottom of the dough against the muffin pan, gently ruffling the edges… it’s up to you! Chill the pan of prepared tart shells until ready to use.

With 2017 being Canada’s 150th birthday, it’s about time I wrote the Canadian cookbook I’ve been planning for YEARS.

“More than Poutine” will be a Canadian cookbook like no other – written by a Canadian living away, it includes both traditional homecooking recipes, as well as homemade versions of many of the snacks, sauces, convenience foods, and other food items that are hard to come by outside of Canada!

High quality gluten-free versions of most recipes will be included.

The Kickstarter for “More Than Poutine is live, here. Please consider backing, and sharing the campaign with your friends!

Poutine Recipe – The way *I* Do it!

Hey guys!

So, can I just say how great it feels to finally be out of the closet as an immigrant? Still feeling like a huge weight’s been lifted from my chest.

You guys will reap the benefits, by the way, and today’s a great example. Aside from having to dance around where I went to school, and making sure I didn’t let a stray “u” end up in “flavor”, I balked at the idea of publishing some of my wholeheartedly Canadian recipes. Let me tell you, I have some great ones that I’ve been dying to share.

Poutine is.. well, honestly it’s probably the nastiest thing ever. It’s a 2am-going-home-from-the-bar kinda food. There is nothing redeeming in nutrition OR appearance. It’s not haute cuisine in the slightest. It may just end up clogging your arteries on sight. Sometimes, I’m kinda embarrassed that it’s sort of looked at as our national dish in Canada.

Oh, but it can be soooo good!