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.