Today is National Bagel Day

Fun Facts:

  • The word “bagel” comes from the Yiddish word “beygl”.
  • Bagels are always round with a hole in the centre.
  • It is thought that bagels originated in Poland in the early 1600s.
  • Bagels are closely connected to the Jewish community since it was the Polish and Russian immigrants that brought the Eastern European staple to North America.
  • The most popular bagel is plain; second is sesame seed.
  • Favourite bagel topping is cream cheese.

Making your own delicious bagels at home is totally worth it! Check out Rooks to Cooks’ recipe for Homemade Montreal Bagels. So Good with your favourite toppings …

Homemade Montreal Bagels

Note: True Montreal Bagels taste their best when just out of the oven…


  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 cup lukewarm water
  • 1 tbsp active dry yeast (quick rise)
  • ½ cup warm water
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp salt
  • About 4 cups all-purpose flour

For shaping and topping:

  • 3 tbsp honey
  • 1 cup seeds, such as, sesame or poppy


  1. In a medium bowl, dissolve the sugar in the 1 cup lukewarm water, then stir in the yeast.
  2. In another bowl, stir the warm water, egg, oil and salt; set aside.
  3. Add 1 cup of the flour to the yeast mixture and stir in.
  4. Add the egg/water mixture and 2 more cups of flour and stir, always in the same direction, until a smooth, moist dough forms.
  5. Add 1 more cup of flour and stir to blend it in; the dough will be quite stiff.
  6. Knead for 5-10 minutes on a lightly floured surface until smooth and elastic.
  7. Place dough into a clean, medium bowl and cover with plastic wrap.
  8. Let rise for 1 ½ to 2 hrs, or until soft and doubled in volume.
  9. Gently punch and let rise again for 1 to 1 ½ hours.
  10. Preheat oven to 450F.
  11. Cut dough into quarters and work with one piece at a time, leaving the others covered with plastic wrap.
  12. Cut each piece of dough into 8 equal pieces (1 ½ oz each).
  13. Roll each piece with your hands into a skinny rope, about 10 inches long; let this rest while you roll another one, then return to it afterwards because it may have shrunk.
  14. Begin to form a seam with the two dough ends: pinch overlapping dough ends together and place palm down onto work surface to encourage the seams to stick together.
  15. Place the bagel on a baking sheet and shape the remaining pieces of dough.
  16. Cover with a cotton cloth and let stand for 10 minutes.
  17. Meanwhile, bring 8 cups of water to boil in a large pot.
  18. Add honey and stir to dissolve; have a slotted spoon ready.
  19. Put seeds on a large plate.
  20. Gently slide 4 bagels into the boiling water.
  21. They will sink and then rise to the surface within 10 seconds.
  22. Use the back of the slotted spoon to gently press them down into the water occasionally and let boil for about 45 seconds.
  23. Remove with spoon, one by one, and lay on seeds.
  24. Repeat with the next four bagels.
  25. Place bagels on baking sheet lined with parchment paper with 1 inch between them.
  26. Bake for about 8 minutes, then turn over and bake for another 5-7 minutes or until golden brown.

For National Shortbread Day – January 6 – we have a recipe!

Fun Facts about Shortbread:

  • Traditionally, we see Shortbread in the form of large rounds, triangular wedges, and thick rectangles. Today’s modern shortbread is made in various cookie shapes as well.
  • The triangular wedges are also called petticoat tails because it is thought that they looked similar to a ladies’ garment called the petticoat – worn under dresses in the Victorian era.
  • A Scottish cookbook dated at 1736 contained the first shortbread recipe. Some early versions contained yeast, but by 1850 most recipes were using the ingredients and ratios that bakers still use today: butter, flour, sugar and cornstarch.
  • Shortbread was once baked and shared only on Christmas or on Hogmanay, the Scottish New Year’s Eve, but shortbread is now baked and enjoyed throughout the year!

Helen’s Famous Shortbread Recipe


  • 3 cups sifted all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 1 cup sifted icing sugar
  • 1 pound butter


  1. In mixer, cream butter, add sugar, until like whipped cream.
  2. Add flour and cornstarch (sifted together). Whip mixture until fluffy and until mixture breaks.
  3. Drop from spoon onto cookie sheet.
  4. Bake at 300 degrees F for approximately 20 minutes.

National Spaghetti Day January 4th: Try our Tomato Sauce Recipe


  • The word Spaghetti comes from the Italian word “spago” which means string or twine.
  • Packaged Spaghetti is 25 cm long.
  • Some of the components of spaghetti are: carbohydrates, protein, fat, magnesium and iron.
  • Spaghetti is a good source of carbohydrates; which provide nutrients and fuel for your body.
  • The pasta we make and eat today is much like that made by the ancient Italians.

Rooks to Cooks’ Signature Tomato Sauce Recipe

Yield: 6 servings


  • 2 x 28 oz cans of whole tomatoes
  • 1 whole onion, finely diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ bunch basil
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Brown sugar to taste


  1. In a heavy bottomed pot (large) heat oil over medium heat. When oil is hot, add in onions and sweat until clear.
  2. Stir in garlic and cook until clear.
  3. Using your hands, crush the tomatoes. Once crushed, add tomatoes to pot. Add bay leaves, and basil. Bring everything to a simmer. Cover pot and let cook for 30 minutes.
  4. Uncover pot and let reduce for 15 minutes.
  5. Add salt & pepper to taste, add sugar to taste if need be, and serve hot over spaghetti or your favourite pasta noodles.

Top 10 Holiday Recipe Countdown: Day 10 Recipe #1 Mashed Potatoes

Mashed Potatoes

Fun facts:

  • Choose higher starch potatoes (like Russets or Yukon golds) for the fluffiest, smoothest, and most flavor-packed mash. Waxy potatoes (such as red or white varieties) require more mashing to become creamy, which could lead to overmixing your potatoes resulting in a pasty/gluey consistency.
  • Start the boiling process of your potatoes using room temperature or cold water. This helps bring the internal temperature of the potatoes up with the water instead of cooking the potatoes from the outside in. This is critical in ensuring your potato is evenly cooked vs overcooked on the outside and undercooked in the inside.
  • For dairy-free mashed potatoes, simply substitute stock for milk and bacon fat for the butter. Your taste buds will be tingling!

Chef Shai’s Signature Mashed Potatoes

Yield: 4 servings


  • 4 medium russet potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 litre chicken stock
  • ½ cup – ¾ cup unsalted butter or ½ cup bacon fat, cubed
  • Salt & pepper to taste


  1. Add potatoes to a large pot. Cover with room temperature water and a sprinkle of salt. Bring potatoes to a boil and cook until soft.
  2. Meanwhile add the stock, rosemary sprigs and garlic to a medium saucepan. Bring stock to a simmer and reduce by ¾.
  3. Strain potatoes and mash using a whisk or potato masher. Add butter and strain in half the hot stock mixture. Season with salt and pepper and mix until smooth. Add more stock if need be.
  4. Serve potatoes immediately.

Top 10 Holiday Recipe Countdown: Day 9 Recipe #2 Holiday Gingerbread Loaf

Gingerbread Loaf 

Fun Facts:

  • Gingerbread loaf actually tastes better the second day. Letting the loaf rest in the fridge overnight helps the flavours intensify!
  • Ginger also has plenty of benefits. It’s an ancient root that’s been used for the treatment of numerous ailments, such as colds, nausea, arthritis, migraines and hypertension. A fine excuse to have a big slice of this gingerbread loaf!

Chef Shai’s Signature Gingerbread Loaf

Yield: 1 loaf


  • Loaf
    • 1 ½ cups all purpose flour
    • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
    • ½ tsp ground cloves
    • 2 ½ tsp ground ginger
    • 1 tsp salt
    • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
    • 1 cup granulated sugar
    • ½ orange zested
    • 1 egg, room temperature
    • 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
    • 1 tsp baking soda
  • Frosting
    • 6 oz cream cheese, softened
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • ½ orange zested
    • 2 cups icing sugar
    • Chopped candied ginger for garnish


For the loaf

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line one 7 inch x 5 inch loaf pan with parchment paper.
  2. Using an electric mixer and paddle attachment, mix together the sugar and orange zest until sugar becomes dampened and the aroma of orange is strong. Add in the butter and cream until fluffy. Add in the egg and mix until fully incorporated.
  3. Add the applesauce and baking soda to the creamed butter mixture. Mix until well combined.
  4. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cinnamon, cloves, ginger and salt. Add mixture to creamed butter and mix until Just combined.
  5. Scoop the batter into the prepared pan.
  6. Bake for 40 – 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.
  7. While loaf is baking, prepare the frosting: In a stand up mixer, beat the cream cheese until fluffy. Add the vanilla and orange zest. Slowly add the icing sugar and mix until completely smooth.
  8. Once the cake has cooled, evenly spread the frosting on top. Garnish with the chopped candied ginger.
  9. Refrigerate loaf until ready to serve. The loaf actually tastes better chilled for 24 hours.

Top 10 Holiday Recipe Countdown: Day 8 Recipe #3 Potato Latkes

Potato Latkes

Fun facts:

  1. A latke is a Jewish specialty consumed during Chanukah/Hanukkah (the festival of lights). A latke is a pancake made from potatoes that are fried in oil.
  2. In Yiddish, the word Latke was originally derived from the Ukrainian word for pancake, oladka.
  3. History: A band of Jewish dissidents refused to worship Greek gods and revolted against the Seleucid empire in order to celebrate their religion freely. To commemorate their victory and the rededication of their temple, they lit an oil-burning lamp. The story goes that while they only had enough oil to last one day, the lamp miraculously remained lit for eight days in what’s now known as the miracle of Hanukkah. Today, latkes are fried in oil as part of Hanukkah celebrations around the globe.

DAY 8 – Rooks to Cooks’ Top 10 Holiday Recipe Countdown

Chef Shai’s Signature Potato Latke Recipe

Yield: 8 Latkes


  • 2 Large russet potatoes, peeled
  • 2 medium cooking onions
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ cup bread crumbs or matzah meal
  • 1 Tbsp all purpose flour or potato starch
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • Vegetable oil for frying


  1. Using a cheese grater or food processor, shred your potatoes and onions into a large bowl. Mince your garlic and add it to the mixture.
  2. Using cheesecloth or a thin rag, squeeze all the water out of the potato mix. Once dry, put back into the bowl and add the egg, bread crumbs, flour, salt and pepper.
  3. In a large rondeau or frying pan, heat oil over medium – high heat. Oil temperature should be 360F.
  4. Divide potato mixture into 8 equal portions. Form a patty in your hands and carefully lay in the oil, repeat until pan is full. Fry until crisp and dark brown. Using a spatula, carefully flip the latke and fry second side.
  5. Remove latkes from the pan and let drain on a wire rack or paper towel.
  6. Serve hot with applesauce and sour cream.

Top 10 Holiday Recipe Countdown: Day 7 Recipe #4 Panettone


Fun Facts:

  • Panettone is sweet bread loaf with candied fruit, chocolate, raisins, and nuts. Originally from Milan, panettone is staple among many Italian households during the holiday season.  
  • A slice of panettone is commonly served with a flute of prosecco.
  • At its best, done this way, panettone combines the moistness of a cake with the texture of a particularly delicate bread. The outside has a slight crust; the interior is melt-in-your-mouth soft. Pull a piece apart, and the strands come apart like candyfloss. Candied fruits give each bite an extra pop.

DAY 7 – Rooks to Cooks’ Top 10 Holiday Recipe Countdown

Rooks to Cooks’ Panettone Recipe

Yield: 1 loaf


  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons yeast
  • 4 1/2 to 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 1/8 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 eggs room temperature
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1 1/2 cup raisins
  • 2 tablespoons butter (melted)
  • 1 egg for egg wash


  1. Heat the milk on low heat until it’s warm to the touch. Remove from heat. Stir in the yeast and 1 cup flour. Mix well and set aside, covered, for 15 to 20 minutes.
  2. In an electric mixer, using the paddle attachement cream together the butter, sugar and salt until well combined. Add the eggs and yolks, one at a time, until smooth and full incorporated. Add the vanilla, orange juice, and orange and lemon zest and beat until smooth. Add the yeast mixture and mix briefly.
  3. Switch to a dough hook and add the remaining flour, one cup at a time. Sprinkle in the raisins and mix until well combined.
  4. Dust a work surface well with flour. Scrap the dough onto the table. Using floured hands, shape the dough into a ball and place the dough inside a 6- to 7-inch diameter panettone mold, bread pan or coffee can.
  5. Brush the top of the dough with melted butter and then place it in a warm place to rise. Let the dough rise for 2 to 4 hours until it is almost doubled in size. Brush with a beaten egg.
  6. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Bake the panettone until it has risen, is golden brown and sounds slightly hollow when you tap on it gently, about 40 minutes.
  7. Remove from oven and let cool. Drizzle with glaze if desired.

Top 10 Holiday Recipe Countdown: Day 6 Recipe #5 Peppermint Hot Chocolate

Peppermint Hot Chocolate

Fun Facts:

  • The first chocolate drink is believed to have been created by the Mayans approximately  2,500-3,000 years ago.
  • The cocoa drink was an essential part of Aztec culture by 1400 AD, by which they referred to it as xocōlātl. The drink became popular in Europe after being introduced from Mexico in the New World and has undergone multiple changes since then.
  • Believe it or not, hot chocolate was even been used medicinally to treat ailments such as liver and stomach diseases! Even more reason to make yourself a cup of hot cocoa 😉

DAY 6 – Rooks to Cooks’ Top 10 Holiday Recipe Countdown

Rooks to Cooks’ Peppermint Hot Chocolate

Yield: 2 Servings


  • 2 Cups whole milk or non-dairy milk
  • 2 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • 5 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp peppermint extract
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Pinch salt


  1. Bring the milk and sugar to a scald (just before it boils) in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Remove from heat and whisk until sugar has dissolved.
  2. Pour chocolate into the hot milk and let sit for 1 minute. Whisk vigorously until the chocolate melts and the mixture is fully incorporated.
  3. Add peppermint extract, vanilla extract and salt. Whisk to combine.
  4. Serve hot with marshmallows or Whipped cream.

Top 10 Holiday Recipe Countdown: Day 5 Recipe #6 Maple Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Maple Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Fun facts:

  • Butternut squash and other varieties of squash are one of a very few options for in-season produce we can find in the winter.
  • Farmers will “cure” their harvest to extend their shelf life. Curing is simply storing the winter squash at a warm temperature with good air circulation for a period of time, usually 10 to 14 days. Curing squash allows some of the excess water to exit the fruit. By getting rid of this excess water the fruits respiration rate slows and the flesh becomes sweeter, which helps reduce chances of rot and enhances it’s long-term storage capabilities.
  • The older a squash is, the less water content in the flesh, the thicker its skin will become and the sweeter the flesh.

Day 5 – Rooks to Cooks’ Top 10 Holiday Recipes Countdown

Rooks to Cooks’ Maple Orange Roasted Butternut Squash Soup  

Yield: 8 servings


  • 1 small butternut squash, halved and de-seeded
  • 2 small onions, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 sprig sage, finely diced
  • 2 litres vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tsbp orange juice
  • ½ orange zested
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • Salt & pepper to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 375F.
  2. Line a sheet pan with parchment and place the squash flesh side up.
  3. In a small bowl whisk together the maple syrup, 2 Tbsp of the olive oil, orange juice, zest, cinnamon, nutmeg and a pinch of salt & pepper.
  4. Using a pastry brush, brush the mixture overtop of the squash.
  5. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast in the oven for 20 – 30 minutes, or until squash is browned and soft.
  6. In the meantime, heat the remaining oil in a medium pot. Sweat onions until clean. Scoop the roasted squash out and away from the skin. Add to pot and top with the stock. Bring contents to a simmer, cover, and let cool for 15 minutes. When squash and onions are soft, remove from heat.
  7. Add to a high velocity blender or using an immersion blender, puree until smooth. If need be, add additional stock to thin out.
  8. Season with salt, pepper, and maple syrup (optional) to taste.
  9. Serve hot with toasted pumpkin seeds and sour cream, if desired.

Top 10 Holiday Recipe Countdown: Day 4 Recipe #7 Citrus Stuffed Holiday Roast Turkey

Citrus Stuffed Holiday Turkey

Stuffed Holiday Turkey

Fun facts:

  • Have you ever wondered why you get sleepy after a turkey meal? Turkey contains the amino acid tryptophan, which forms the basis of brain chemicals that make people tired.
  • Tips for a successful roasted turkey:
    • Make sure your turkey is room temperature before you roast it.
    • Brine your turkey for a more flavourful and moist turkey.
    • Make your stuffing outside of the turkey vs inside for optimal cooking.
    • If possible, try and purchase a free range organic turkey for a better tasting bird.
    • Truss your turkey to help ensure your white and dark meat cooks at the same rate.

Day 4 – Top 10 Holiday Recipe Countdown

Chef Shai’s Signature Holiday Roast Turkey

Yield: 12 servings + Leftovers


  • 1 whole turkey (12 lbs) innards removed
  • 2 medium cooking onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 medium oranges, halved and sliced
  • 1 lemon, halved and sliced
  • 3 sprigs rosemary, rough chop
  • 3 sprigs thyme, rough chop
  • 3 sprigs sage, rough chop
  • 5 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • ¼ olive oil or butter
  • Salt & pepper
  • 2 cups chicken or turkey stock


  1. Preheat the oven to 400F.
  2. Toss together the onion, orange, lemon, rosemary, thyme, sage and garlic in a large bowl.
  3. Season the inside of the turkey with salt and pepper. Once seasoned, stuff the turkey with citrus and herb mixture. Make sure to fit it all in.
  4. Rub the outside of the turkey with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  5. Place the turkey breast side down in a roasting pan with a rack. Pour stock into the bottom of the pan. Roast the turkey for 15 – 20 minutes, or until the skin browns.
  6. Remove turkey from the oven and flip it breast side up, gently. Put the turkey back into the oven and roast for an additional 30 minutes, or until the skin is brown and crisp.
  7. Turn down the oven temperature to 325F and roast for an additional 1 ½ hours, OR until your meat thermometer reads 150F.
  8. Remove turkey from oven and cover with 3 large dish towels to rest and keep warm. The turkey will continue to cook and the temperature will continue to rise. Rest turkey for 45 minutes to an hour.
  9. Carve and serve. Reserve bones for making turkey stock!