4 Easy Winter Recipes for Your Next Dinner Party

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Chorizo & Chickpea Braised Chicken Thighs

Transport your guests to Spain with this flavor-packed stewed chicken recipe. Using Swanson Chicken Stock as your base, make a tomato and paprika bouillon in which the chicken will simmer. The addition of fresh red bell peppers and briny olives add texture, while bringing out more flavor as the dish sizzles. Serve over rice or couscous with a bold red wine.

Butternut Squash and Kale Breakfast Bake-Strata

Whether you’re getting people together for brunch or love breakfast for dinner like we do, this creamy veggie bake is nourishing any time of the day. Simply make a strata using eggs, Campbell’s Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup, roasted butternut squash, and kale. The addition of leeks, instead of onions, makes for a milder, slightly sweeter finish. Bake in a 9 x 13 baking dish and set out for your friends to feast.

Creamy White Chicken Pizza with Squash, Sausage, and Sage

When you’re craving pizza but need a little nutrition, too, this savory ‘za has the best of both worlds: vitamin- and potassium-rich squash and a creamy, cheesy finish. Roast the squash and brown the sausage, then top a store-bought pizza crust (opt for whole grain if you like) with Campbell’s Condensed Cream of Chicken Soup, squash, sausage, sage, thinly sliced red onion, and mozzarella cheese. Bake until bubbly, top with red pepper flakes, and your dinner party is officially started.

Tomato-Curry Chicken

This cozy, Indian-inspired hybrid is a cross between two traditional favorites: chicken tikka masala and chicken makhani, otherwise known as the saucy and delicious Indian butter chicken. Create your curry base with Campbell’s Condensed Chicken Soup and spices, add chicken, and let simmer to deepen the flavor coming from the fresh ginger and herbs. Dish out over rice to sop up the juices and top with colorful crunchy herbs and veggies like cilantro, sliced chilies, and red onion.

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It’s ‘just too easy’ for doctors to steal. That’s why opioids are vanishing by the fistful in B.C.’s Lower Mainland

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He just needed a little relief.

A decade ago, Michael was one of only three doctors on call in a remote community hospital in British Columbia. As a result, he had to be available pretty much all the time.

The vast majority of narcotics that have gone missing in recent years from Lower Mainland hospitals are attributed to three incidents in 2017 and 2018 at Vancouver General Hospital, where staff were found diverting opioids for years.
The vast majority of narcotics that have gone missing in recent years from Lower Mainland hospitals are attributed to three incidents in 2017 and 2018 at Vancouver General Hospital, where staff were found diverting opioids for years.  (Illustration by Perrin Grauer)

“It was a small hospital, but it wouldn’t take much to make you busy,” Michael explained.

“If just one person came in with a stab wound requiring a chest drain and a hemothorax, that would make you busy. … One suicide attempt requiring (a patient) to go on the ventilator, that means you’re busy all night because there’s not a lot of other staff to help.”

At the same time, Michael’s marriage was beginning to fracture. Feeling he had little support to lean on, he started looking for a reprieve from the stress.

“I started taking capsules of various opiates that patients had given me over years and I had them just lying in my office,” Michael said. “I used them to sometimes give out to patients if they couldn’t afford them.”

Read more: ‘I was an impaired nurse’: Three nurses who battled addiction welcome dramatic shift in approach to discipline and treatment

The drugs that were prescribed for patients but never taken — or drugs returned to him by family members of patients who died — should have been accounted for and destroyed with witnesses, as required by the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. Instead, they were “diverted,” the term used by the medical community to describe theft of narcotics for personal use.

“It was just too easy,” Michael said. “They were just sitting in the cupboard.”

The doctor’s real name is not being used to protect him from potential legal trouble. The Star verified his standing with the B.C. College of Physicians, which lists his medical licence as temporarily inactive; he is now in his second attempt at recovery.

“It started foolishly,” said Michael. “I promised myself I wouldn’t become addicted, but I did.”

Michael’s past shows how easy it can be for a medical professional to become addicted — but also how easy it is to steal controlled narcotics without getting caught. No one would miss a couple of pills, he thought, and he was right.

More than three years after a Vancouver General Hospital aid died of an overdose, resulting in government promises to crack down on the theft of narcotics from hospitals, Health Canada documents obtained by the Star show the problem of missing drugs persists across the Lower Mainland.

Between 2015 and April 2018, the Health Canada documents show hospitals in the region reported more than 7,800 units of various narcotics missing.

Answers are few and far between — prosecutions even more so.

Most disappearances, nearly 85 per cent of the incidents on record, were categorized as “unexplained.” Of the few cases labelled “pilferage,” or staff theft, not one has been reported to police. In fact, only four per cent of all the drug disappearances were ever reported to law enforcement.

The vast majority of the missing units — about 5,000 — are attributed to three incidents in 2017 and 2018 at Vancouver General Hospital, where staff were found to have been stealing opioids for years.

Much of the rest came from St. Paul’s Hospital, where 600 vials of hydromorphone were “lost in transit” in 2015, and the Pharmacy Distribution Centre, where about 900 missing hydromorphone tablets were recorded as a tabulation error in 2017.

The figures, encompassing a jumble of different drugs, obscure the scale of the losses. When converted into a rough measurement called “milligrams of morphine equivalent” — a benchmark used to assess potency when patients are prescribed multiple drugs at once — those five cases at Vancouver General, St. Paul’s Hospital and the Pharmacy Distribution Centre represent a loss of 71,137 milligrams of morphine. That’s equivalent to 15,800 Tylenol 3 tablets or enough morphine to knock out 49 horses.

As shocking as the numbers are, pain-management expert Dr. Owen Williamson says they likely represent only a sliver of all the drugs that actually go missing.

“They may be the tip of the iceberg,” said Williamson, president of the Pain Medicine Physicians of B.C. Society. “There are just so many ways people can divert that stuff.”

Health Canada records won’t reflect how much is actually going missing, he said, because of the way drugs are tracked. Most tracking systems assume that drugs dispensed for a particular patient are actually received by that patient. That isn’t always the case.

In operating rooms, Williamson explained, it can be easy for staff to draw more liquid narcotic than necessary, swap it into a second syringe and take it home. He’s also seen cases of staff at nursing homes dispensing used fentanyl patches to patients and keeping the fresh ones for themselves.

“Wherever you have opioids, you’ll have people who are inventive at diverting it,” he said.

Kerri O’Keefe was one of those people. The 36-year-old hospital aid died in August 2015 after injecting an anesthesia drug she stole from Vancouver General — the end of a long pattern of theft.

As reported in the Vancouver Sun, which covered the case, the Ministry of Health responded by directing health authorities across B.C. to improve the security and tracking of pharmaceuticals.

In 2017, the provincial government announced $5 million in additional funding for the B.C. Centre on Substance Use for research on addictions care. Part of that funding went toward new hospital training and monitoring programs for drugs at risk of theft.

It’s unclear what effect these changes may have had, as acts of pilferage are rarely recorded as such.

The Health Canada records contain more than 250 cases, accounting for all of the drugs known to be missing from B.C.’s Lower Mainland. Only 12 of those cases were officially reported as pilferage.

In one case, a Ridge Meadows Hospital nurse in Maple Ridge found a box of morphine vials that had its bottom cut open. The vials had been emptied, and the package was resealed and stashed on a shelf behind other similar packages. The official cause was “unexplained.”

At Chilliwack General Hospital, nursing staff found a vial of fentanyl with a needle hole in the rubber plug. Though this was considered a “potential diversion situation,” it was recorded as “unexplained.”

Surrey Memorial Hospital experienced “multiple losses” of hydromorphone, oxycodone and morphine from the in-patient medical unit over the course of 18 days. All “unexplained.”

Each Health Canada record includes a section detailing steps the hospital plans to take to prevent future losses. Some of the losses resulted in changes to security procedures, like requiring double signatures on paperwork, changing locks, installing security cameras or switching to more secure automated dispensing machines.

At Langley Memorial Hospital, for example, a nurse was removed from the workplace after admitting to repeatedly slicing open blister packs of hydromorphone, stealing the drugs and replacing the capsules with an unknown substance.

Between 2015 and April 2018, hospitals in the Lower Mainland reported more than 7,800 units of various narcotics went missing.
Between 2015 and April 2018, hospitals in the Lower Mainland reported more than 7,800 units of various narcotics went missing.  (Illustration by Perrin Grauer)

However, just as many of the records do not spell out significant changes to security practices. Often the plan is for staff to be more vigilant.

An opioid diversion expert who reviewed the documents says important precautions that could prevent these thefts aren’t being followed, in large part because the losses are being misclassified as “unexplained.”

“It’s insane,” says John Burke, president of the U.S.-based International Health Facility Diversion Association. “Almost all of these indicated diversion … It’s horrific, in my opinion.”

After a career in policing, including a decade running the Cincinnati Police Department’s Pharmaceutical Diversion Squad, Burke retired and founded Pharmaceutical Diversion Education Inc., which provides education and consulting work on drug diversion for hospitals, law enforcement and the pharmaceutical industry.

Shown a copy of the Health Canada data, Burke said it’s clear to him the majority of these cases are not accounting errors or simple discrepancies.

“Guess what? Somebody’s stealing,” Burke said.

“Somebody diverting in this scenario, this is a smorgasbord for them. They’re going to realize that as long as they don’t get caught in the act, they’re probably going to be OK.”

In a statement, Health Canada said it collects these reports from all pharmacies across the country, including from private businesses and public hospitals. The department “evaluates reports on an aggregate basis to identify trends and identify patterns of diversion.”

For example: “This could include an assessment of which products are being reported as lost or stolen, in what frequency, and if there are geographic differences in reported diversion.”

If Health Canada detects a worrying trend, it may work with hospitals to determine the root cause. It does not conduct investigations and leaves the decision to report to police to individual hospitals.

But Michael’s case, which took place outside the Lower Mainland, illustrates a problem with this approach. The narcotics he diverted would never show up in Health Canada data because they were never recorded as a loss.

“They would not have been reported missing because they would have already been dispensed to a patient,” Michael explained.

Burke said that, based on his research in the U.S., those doing the thieving are careful to cover their tracks.

Some hospital patients will be given prescriptions for painkillers on an as-needed basis, like with morphine, for example. If a patient is in pain, they can request another dose that a nurse can administer without needing to go back to a doctor for a new prescription.

“So a nurse could go in and document that they gave a patient a shot (of morphine) when they really didn’t,” Burke explained.

“Or they can do what we call splitting a shot — giving half to the patient and half to themselves … None of those are going to show up (in the data) because they’re going to make it look like everything is kosher.”

Michael said he wasn’t anywhere near that devious. He said he never lied to his colleagues about his opioid use; he just wasn’t upfront about it.

As he began to realize he was addicted, he considered confiding in his colleagues — but doing so would have required them to report him to the B.C. College of Physicians or be put in legal jeopardy for keeping his secret.

Eventually, keeping that secret himself became too much.

“I needed to get some help,” Michael said. “It was getting to the point where things were just … it didn’t feel good. I used to dream about it. I felt terribly guilty. I just needed that monkey off my back.”

In 2011, he turned himself in to the college, which he said immediately suspended his licence and launched an investigation into whether his patients’ care had been compromised.

Michael said his opioid use was relatively light — a capsule in the morning and again in the evening — and that the college’s investigation found his patients had never been put at risk. The college itself would not comment on Michael’s case nor its investigation, citing privacy concerns.

But aside from protecting his patients, Michael said the college also protected him from himself, insisting he get a lawyer and connecting him with addictions treatment and supports. He went on leave, got into recovery and began working the Narcotics Anonymous steps, all with the backing of the college.

Michael's story also shows how easy it can be for a medical professional to become addicted. Statistics Canada says opioid addiction has killed more than 9,000 Canadians in the past three years.
Michael’s story also shows how easy it can be for a medical professional to become addicted. Statistics Canada says opioid addiction has killed more than 9,000 Canadians in the past three years.  (Illustration by Perrin Grauer)

Michael said his case was never reported to the police.

Burke said that in the U.S. some hospitals actually have armed law-enforcement members as part of special opioid diversion teams. As he sees it, every instance of narcotics being stolen is a crime that should be reported to police.

But Michael questions that approach and the criminalization of addiction overall. Statistics Canada says opioid addiction has killed more than 9,000 Canadians in the past three years. For people like him, it is hard enough to come forward and seek treatment even without the threat of prosecution hanging above their heads.

The B.C. College of Physicians agrees.

“Most likely, if the college was made aware of a physician stealing narcotics for personal use, it would consider it a health matter rather than a disciplinary matter,” Susan Prins, director of communications, wrote in an emailed statement.

If a physician fails to comply with a treatment and monitoring plan laid out by the college, their status would remain “temporarily inactive,” Prins said. If they ultimately refused altogether, they would be considered for disciplinary charges and could ultimately lose their medical licence, though Prins said that has never happened in the history of the college.

“If the situation involves a theft, the decision to report to the police would be up to the victim of the theft, e.g. the clinic or health authority,” Prins wrote.

Records show that Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH), the health authority that reported the greatest losses, chose not to report any of the cases to the police — except one obvious smash-and-grab job not perpetrated by staff.

Stacy Sprague is the director of employee wellness for VCH. She said her organization takes roughly the same approach as the College of Physicians, preferring intervention over criminalization.

“We really do care about folks who are struggling with this,” Sprague said. “If people are diverting (narcotics), obviously there’s a lot going on there.”

Sprague said VCH uses a “health-care focused” program specially designed for working with people who are used to being caregivers, not someone in need of care.

That type of approach is what helped Michael. Recognizing it was OK to be both a doctor and a patient at the same time was difficult, he said, in part because society tends to put medical professionals on a pedestal.

“Anybody can fall victim to this,” he said. “There is no immunity. People who are addicted come from all walks of life. Physicians are the same as anybody else.”

Jesse Winter is an investigative reporter based in Vancouver. Follow him on Twitter: @jwints

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Easy Flatbread with Cauliflower and Tofu Recipe

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Heat 1 Tbsp. ghee in a large Dutch oven or pot over medium-high. Add cauliflower in a single layer and cook, undisturbed, until golden brown underneath, 4–5 minutes. Toss and continue to cook, tossing occasionally, until still crunchy but browned in spots, about 4 minutes longer. Add onion, garlic, and remaining 1 Tbsp. ghee. Cook, tossing occasionally, until vegetables are halfway to tenderness, 8–10 minutes longer. Season generously with salt and pepper, then add ginger and turmeric. Cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tofu, raisins, and 1 cup water. Bring to a simmer and cover. Cook, partially covered, until cauliflower is tender and liquid is reduced by about half, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

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Ontario wants to speed the sale of more than 200 surplus properties. But the process isn’t always easy

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Maybe you’re wondering if, with a few strategic renovations, an abandoned OPP detachment could be made over into the perfect summer getaway. Perhaps you envision a block of condos on the site of a decommissioned hospital.

Those are the type of publicly owned properties the Ontario government says it wants to sell. There are 243 on a list of buildings and land owned by Ontario taxpayers that are on a provincial surplus list.

The province says it wants to sell off 243 surplus properties to monetize public assets. One of those properties is a house at 567 Arlington Ave. However it’s not on the open market yet.
The province says it wants to sell off 243 surplus properties to monetize public assets. One of those properties is a house at 567 Arlington Ave. However it’s not on the open market yet.  (MOE DOIRON FOR THE TORONTO STAR)

The Progressive Conservative government announced this month that, as part of its mission to cut red tape, it was speeding up the sale of those properties to raise between $105 million and $135 million for the public purse over four years. The divestiture would also save about $9.5 million annually in maintaining unused property, said Government and Consumer Services Minister Bill Walker.

Toronto Star readers wanted to know which public assets were being sold and the asking prices. But getting that information has proved a lot more complicated than looking for a home on a website like Realtor.ca.

While Walker’s office provided the Star with a list of the 243 properties being readied for sale, that information wasn’t posted online. A spokesperson for the minister said the list was being translated and prepared for posting. That list includes properties that are in various stages of the sales process — some have been recently sold, others are under contract, others are undergoing due diligence and targeted for future sale, according to the minister’s office.

In many cases it is impossible to determine from the list what is actually on the property, if anything. One line is listed simply as, “Toronto — Tapscott Rd. and Passmore Ave.”

Read more:

Province wants to speed sale of 243 surplus properties

Toronto council approves using 11 surplus properties for affordable housing

For properties actually being marketed for sale, the government referred us to the Infrastructure Ontario website. As of Monday, it included 16 properties that had cleared the bureaucratic process to be marketed publicly.

Twelve of those listings included sale prices ranging from $5,000 for a quarter-acre in Hornepayne, Ont., north of Sault Ste. Marie, to $14.7 million for 43 acres of employment-zoned land near Burnhamthorpe Rd. and Hwy. 403 in Oakville — described as an “excellent opportunity for future development or investment.”

There were 30 surplus properties sold between April 1, 2017 and March 31, 2018, and 17 of them were listed on the open market through a real estate broker. The average selling time: 100 days.

The remaining 13 were sold directly by Infrastructure Ontario to other government entities and arm’s-length agencies, or they were “non-viable parcels” sold to the owners of abutting properties.

Even before a property is considered surplus, the government is continually monitoring its real estate portfolio “to identify highest and best use,” said John Cimino, senior vice-president of portfolio planning, development and transactions.

If it is declared surplus, the property is circulated through the provincial government. If no other ministry wants it, the real estate goes to the federal and municipal governments and other public-sector agencies for consideration. Each party gets 30 days — down from 180 — to consider whether they want the site.

If nobody is interested, the real estate is appraised and Infrastructure Ontario comes up with a marketing and listing strategy through its broker of record, CBRE. That’s when it shows up on the Infrastructure Ontario website.

“The true test of market value is allowing the property to be on the market for an exposure period,” Cimino said. Typically that is 30 days but it can be extended.

“We leave them on the market as long as is reasonable and then, like any other prudent owner would do, remove them from the market because they’ve become stale,” he said.

There are relatively few properties on the Infrastructure Ontario site because most are in still being circulated in the government and undergoing due diligence including an appraised value, Cimino said.

Not every listing gets snapped up. Some are challenging.

“There are properties we’ve had listed in some cases for a year or two years. They don’t sell. They are in remote areas of northern Ontario, they are landlocked, there’s some issue with them,” he said.

Sometimes remnants of land from a public project are just taken over by the municipality.

In other cases, some of the plots are large and might be attractive to a developer but often those locations also attract municipal interest.

“We need to be very cognizant of government priorities and initiatives like affordable housing, like long-term care,” Cimino said.

To get an idea of what is on the provincial list of 243 surplus properties, the Star asked about a handful of the 20 Toronto listings. None of them, as it turns out, is listed on the Infrastructure Ontario website for sale.

305 Bremner Ave.

One and a half acres of vacant land serving as a surface bus parking lot for Rogers Centre events under a parking management agreement. Infrastructure Ontario is currently conducting due diligence with the expectation it will be listed on the market in 2019.

George Appleton Way

A treelined area on the northeast corner of Keele St. and the off-ramp from Highway 401.
A treelined area on the northeast corner of Keele St. and the off-ramp from Highway 401.  (MOE DOIRON FOR THE TORONTO STAR)

Less than an acre of vacant, treed land on the northeast corner of Keele St. and Hwy. 401, north of the off-ramp. It is undevelopable land no longer needed by the Ministry of Transportation.

567 Arlington Ave. and 203 Ava Rd.

These houses sit south of Eglinton Ave., east of Oakwood Ave., and are part of land set aside for the former proposed Spadina Expressway Corridor. “They are high-demand residential lots with development potential in a desirable area,” according to the government. They will be listed on the open market.

Spadina Corridor Rear Residential Lands

Like Arlington and Ava, these 24 landlocked “remnants” were also reserved for the Spadina Expressway and make up less than an acre in total. They are owned by the province but under long-term lease to the city. The province says it is working with the city of Toronto to develop an approach by which the property can be sold.

West Donlands

A parking lot at 26 Eastern Ave., just one of the several blocks listed in the West Donlands by the province.
A parking lot at 26 Eastern Ave., just one of the several blocks listed in the West Donlands by the province.  (MOE DOIRON FOR THE TORONTO STAR)

There are several blocks listed in the West Donlands. The remaining provincially owned parcels in Corktown include a former warehouse on Trinity St. that was used as a paper mill; an irregularly shaped three-acre parcel being leased on Front St.; an acre at Front and Cherry Sts. that has been designated for long-term care and road widening; and 17 and 26 Eastern Ave., part of a strip of commercial and industrial buildings. Infrastructure Ontario says these properties are still being circulated in government to determine if there is interest in continued public use.

27 Grosvenor and 26 Grenville Sts.

A parking garage at 27 Grosvenor St.
A parking garage at 27 Grosvenor St.  (MOE DOIRON FOR THE TORONTO STAR)

The adjoining properties — a parking structure and a vacant, two-storey office — are sold conditionally to developers, Canadian Real Estate Investment Trust and Greenwin Inc., under a provincial affordable housing lands program. Infrastructure Ontario is still doing due diligence on the property.

Tess Kalinowski is a Toronto-based reporter covering real estate. Follow her on Twitter: @tesskalinowski

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These Braisey Chicken Legs in Coconut Milk Are Almost Too Easy to Make | Healthyish

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Like Coco Chanel removing one element of her outfit before stepping outside, sometimes you need to simplify a recipe before sending it into the world. When you’re developing, it’s easy to keep adding ingredients, but it’s much harder to take away. This braised chicken legs recipe gets rid of as many ingredients and techniques as possible without compromising on flavor. The secret to the simplicity lies in one crucial variable: Time spent in the oven.

An hour plus in the oven might sound like a long time for a weeknight but hear me out. Chicken legs are full of fat and connective tissue and benefit from long, slow cooking. In fact, I much prefer the braisey, shreddy texture they get when slowly cooked in liquid to the bouncy, cooked-but-still-not-fully-tender texture they have when part of a whole roasted chicken, where the cook time has to account for the danger of overcooking the breasts. So I took away as many barriers as I could and got this dish into the oven as quickly possible.

There is no searing or chopping. You frankly barely need a knife. The key is to just combine the coconut milk and curry paste (Maesri is our favorite brand) before adding the lemongrass (which is totally optional by the way), ginger (less optional), garlic (not optional). Then lay the seasoned chicken legs in the pan, turning them to coat them in the coconut milk, and get them in the oven.

As they roast, the luscious creaminess of the coconut milk and the chicken’s richness combine and reduce to create a dense, flavorful sauce that begs for rice or bread. Don’t be concerned if the coconut milk breaks and starts to look a bit oily; that may happen depending on the brand of milk you use, and honestly there is nothing more delicious in the world so well done, you.

Aside from spooning some of the juices over the chicken a couple times during baking, you’re free to go about your life while the chicken bakes. You will know it’s done when the leg joint flexes somewhat easily and the skin is nicely browned. Top it with cilantro, maybe a squeeze of lime and some toasted coconut chips (have you tried Dang brand coconut chips? They have earned that name IMHO). The best thing about this dish is that it tastes way more complicated than it actually is. If you don’t have an ingredient or forgot to add something don’t worry, Coco would be proud.

Easy, braisey, beautiful:

healthyish-curry-chicken-legs-horizontal.jpg

No searing, no chopping, one baking dish. And if you don’t have ginger, garlic, and lemongrass on hand, a combination of any two will be plenty to make this chicken over-the-top delicious in about an hour. You can find curry paste in the Asian aisle at most grocery stores or at an Asian market; we recommend any from Maesri.

SEE RECIPE

All products featured on Healthyish are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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21 Easy Cookie Recipes You’ll Make on Repeat

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There is a cookie craze online for this recipe from Alison Roman’s Dining Inread more about it here. Roman writes: “Less chocolate chip cookie, more brown sugar shortbread with chocolate chunks—they just might be the cookie you’ve been looking for. Made with lots of salted butter (it has a slightly different flavor and a deeper saltiness than using just salt), the dough has just enough flour to hold it together and the right amount of light brown sugar to suggest a chocolate chip cookie. If you find it tragically annoying to buy salted butter just for this recipe, you can use unsalted butter and add ¾ teaspoon kosher salt to the flour.”

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Canada Revenue Agency is tough on regular taxpayers but goes easy on those with offshore accounts, audit finds

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The tax man goes easy on wealthy Canadians with offshore bank accounts while being harsh on regular taxpayers, according to a damning report made public by the federal auditor general Tuesday.

Wealthy tax cheats are given more time to find receipts and they get their interest and penalties waived, even if they didn’t ask for it.

Meanwhile, if a salaried employee can’t find a receipt, it’s automatically disallowed and they’re reassessed, the report said.

“Most taxpayers are individuals with Canadian employment income. We found that the (Canada Revenue Agency) requested information from these taxpayers more quickly, and gave less time to respond, than it did with other taxpayers, such as international and large businesses, and taxpayers with offshore transactions,” said the report.

Auditor General Michael Ferguson highlighted a double standard that many Canadians have personally experienced, where the CRA aggressively pursues regular people for small amounts of tax owing, while offering amnesty and anonymity for those involved in sophisticated offshore tax schemes.

In the five years from 2013-2018, the CRA accepted voluntary disclosures from 140 people who were already being audited, and waived $17 million they owed in interest and penalties.

The voluntary disclosures program, which encourages tax cheats to come clean by pledging not to prosecute them and offering to waive some or all of their penalties, has since changed its rules to prevent those who are already being audited from taking part.

“Does the CRA have a culture of conveniently ignoring tax-evaders who have the means to hire a lawyer?” asked Green Party Leader Elizabeth May in reaction to the report. “The CRA needs to shift its Sheriff of Nottingham approach to tax-collection and have the rich pay their fair share rather than concentrate audits on hardworking Canadians because it’s easier to have them pay.”

In response to the report, Revenue Minister Diane Lebouthillier pledged to “ensure that our tax system is fair for everyone, throughout Canada.”

Ferguson’s team put together a list of eight recommendations that focused on the lack of consistency in how the CRA applies tax law. Consistency, the auditors pointed out, is enshrined in the Taxpayer Bill of Rights. They nevertheless found wide discrepancies in how people were treated by the CRA depending on their region and activities.

In one example cited, the CRA gave regular taxpayers 90 days to produce a receipt and automatically disallowed the deduction if it wasn’t provided in time.

But those with offshore transactions were given much more time to produce documents, and that timeframe “was sometimes extended for months or even years.”

“Sometimes, the agency did not obtain information at all, and the file was closed without any taxes assessed,” the report stated.

On average, the CRA took more than 18 months to complete audits that included offshore activity.

“The CRA continuously strives to apply the law consistently while taking taxpayers’ individual circumstances into account,” Lebouthillier said in a statement. “The agency will review its internal processes and procedures to ensure its compliance work follows sound and transparent processes.”

Since the Panama Papers were made public in 2016, the Liberal government under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has added more than $1 billion to the CRA’s budget to crack down on tax cheats, with a focus on those using complex offshore schemes.

In the last two years, the CRA says it has collected $21.5 billion in additional revenues from the stepped-up audits and other compliance activities.

But Ferguson’s report says those numbers are not only imprecise — based on estimates rather than actual revenue — they’re also overstated.

“The additional revenue the agency reported … did not reflect the taxes that it could not collect from taxpayers. This means that the impact on the government’s fiscal results was significantly less than what the agency estimated,” the report stated.

The auditors found the CRA reported at least $1.3 billion in additional revenue that was never collected.

“This previously reported additional revenue will never be collected because the assessments were overturned through the objection process,” the report said.

Lebouthillier agreed that reporting could be improved.

“I agree with the auditor general’s recommendations related to improving reporting and processes,” Lebouthillier said in a statement. “The CRA has already started to produce more strategic performance indicators, such as the tax gap estimates launched in 2016. The CRA will continue to build on this work with additional estimates to better report on our successes to Canadians.”

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Marco Chown Oved is a Toronto-based investigative reporter. Follow him on Twitter: @marcooved

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How to Make Easy Shortcut Puff Pastry at Home

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My job is to convince more home cooks out there to cook without fear. And while I have no problem confidently coaching you through how to poach an egg or make a soup, I have a secret: I’m terrified of dough. Much like dogs, dough can smell this fear, which is the likely reason why, after countless failed attempts at fluffy breads, flaky pies, and chewy pizzas, I’ve developed an extreme aversion to recipes that ask me to make dough.

But a few weeks ago, as I reached into the oven and pulled out the Glazed and Flaky Apple Tart I spent the better part of a day making, I was forever changed. Maple-and-vanilla roasted apples sat atop a puffy, flaky rectangle of Shortcut Puff Pastry that I, YES I, had made. I counted at least 11 distinct, flaky layers in the tart base. « LOOK AT MY LAYERS!!! » I would shout to anyone within earshot. The buttery-yet-light, flavorful pastry broke into a thousand little flaky shards with each bite. I was hooked.

Chicken Pot Pie

ALEX LAU

The flaky blanket on top is all the convincing I need to make more chicken pot pie.

Ever since that day, I’ve been itching to make and freeze another batch or two of Shortcut Puff Pastry so I can practice rolling and folding the butter-studded dough. (The roll-and-fold process is what encases all those pieces of butter between layers of dough—as the water in the butter evaporates in the oven, the dough separates into its many layers.) I’ve also become obsessed with searching this website for all the excuses I can find to use puff pastry: Chicken pot pie. Crispy cheese twists that would go very well with an icy martini. Little hand pies stuffed with spiced lamb and currants, because you can 100 percent use puff pastry anywhere you’d use regular pie crust. This insane carrot tart spread with a thick layer of ricotta. A Butternut Squash Tarte Tatin with a puff pastry base—another Thanksgiving contender.

You may be wondering how I, who can’t even tell when I’m working with dead yeast (did you know that yeast expires, because I didn’t), managed such a feat of butter-and-flour architecture. Well, Shortcut Puff Pastry is engineered to be many times easier than traditional puff pastry (which is one of the more time-consuming pastry projects you can commit to), and the difficulty-to-deliciousness ratio makes it entirely worth trying yourself rather than buying frozen puff pastry at the supermarket. All credit for this recipe goes to my guru in life and pastry, Claire Saffitz, who showed me the entire puff pastry process from start to finish.d me the entire puff pastry process from start to finish.

puff pastry fold

PHOTO BY MICHAEL GRAYDON + NIKOLE HERRIOTT, FOOD STYLING BY REBECCA JURKEVICH, PROP STYLING BY KALEN KAMINSKI

Claire demonstrates how to fold the pastry into thirds, right before rolling it out—again.

Watching Claire make her shortcut dough (which she developed to be much easier and faster than the “real” lamination method that professionals use to make croissants and such), the thing that struck me most was that she knew within seconds of feeling the dough between her fingers whether it was the correct consistency or not. The dough was a bit too crumbly at first, so in went an extra drizzle of water. “There we go,” she said as the clumps of dough started to come together in fist-sized balls. “That’s starting to feel familiar.” I watched her use long, confident rolls to coax the lumpy mass into a perfectly smooth rectangle.

But here’s the real thing Claire taught me in all this: Being a more confident baker doesn’t always mean being a slave to a recipe. Sometimes, you need to allow yourself to simply trust your instincts. Every time I used to embark on a dough project, I would painstakingly measure out each gram of flour and add exactly the amount of water called for, not a milliliter less or more, because PRECISION. Well, it turns out your dough doesn’t really give a crap about precision. Sometimes it’s just going to want more liquid, or flour. If it looks and feels dry as sand even though you measured your ingredients exactly, go ahead and add more water.

And if something goes still awry, the worst that happens is you’re left with a tray of less-than-perfect pastry that was meant to live out its days dipped in a bowl of ranch or smeared with Nutella for a standing-around-the-kitchen snack. And if that’s failure, I can live with it.

Get the recipe:

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This Easy Black Bean Soup Makes Its Own Delicious Broth—No Soaking Necessary

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There are two types of people in this world: People who love soup, and people who think they don’t like soup but just haven’t had good soup. As someone whose body composition is roughly 40 percent soup between the months of October and March, I’ve made it my mission to become Hot Flavor Water’s #1 evangelist. (I legit have a Highlight on my Instagram that is dedicated to soup, or as we call it around here, sööp. My commitment is REAL.) So when the editor of this website, Amiel Stanek, made the rounds looking for a volunteer to cook through this easy black bean soup recipe, I was like, Brø, I got this.

sooploops

As someone who remembers to soak dried beans approximately one out of every 7 times I want to eat said beans, this soup is massively appealing to me. Generally, you want to soak beans overnight because it cuts down on the cooking time (some also say it helps the beans cook more evenly). But it IS possible to cook beans straight from dried—it’ll just take them a bit longer to become tender. This might not be a 30-minute weeknight soup, but it is a great side project if you have three episodes of Maniac to burn through. The single greatest advantage to making a soup with dried beans is that, as they cook, they flavor the liquid they’re in—in this case, humble tap water—to create a rich and savory broth that’s a million times tastier than any canned stock. (By the way, if you ever hear us waxing poetic about « bean cooking liquid, » that rich broth is the stuff we’re talking about.)

Black Bean Soup with Chile-Lime Crema

Another thing that appeals to me about this soup: It’s crazy-cheap to make. You need nothing more than an onion, a carrot, some garlic, a splash of red wine vinegar, and the sauce from a can of chipotles in adobo to create a flavorful base for a pound of dried black beans. Doctor it up with some dried oregano and kosher salt and…that’s literally it. Done. All that’s left to do is to give the whole mixture a good stir every half-hour or so as the beans drink up all that smoky-spicy-garlicky broth for the next hour-and-a-half, becoming plump and creamy and ready for the epic shower of toppings to come.

Which brings me to my very favorite part of this whole meal-in-a-bowl affair: the toppings. Crispy, creamy, crunchy, cool, hot, spicy—I want them all to blanket the surface of my bowl so thickly you can’t even tell there’s soup underneath. You’ve got an hour and a half until those beans finish cooking, which is plenty of time to spend making your accoutrements all nice-like. Grab a lime and mix the zest and juice with a cup of Greek yogurt. Season the lime yogurt with kosher salt until it tastes vibrant and like it’s actually got salt in it. This will likely require more salt than you think it does, but those extra few pinches will make all the difference when you dollop this stuff into your bowl. The rest of your topping assembly is just that: assembly. Crush up some Fritos, tortilla chips, or corn nuts; slice a nice ripe avocado, because you’re the kind of person who doesn’t let your avocados die a slow brown death on your kitchen counter; dice some red onion, pick some cilantro, and cut up some lime wedges; or don’t! It’s your soup world!

One final note on soup and seasoning: The biggest complaint I hear from people who think they don’t like soup is that it doesn’t taste complex or flavorful enough when they make it at home. In 99 percent of cases, it’s because they’re not using enough salt, and aren’t seasoning as often as they should. The key to making soup that doesn’t taste like plain beans and oregano floating around in hot water is to season your food at every step of the cooking process. That means you want to season your onion/carrot/garlic mixture as it browns. You want to salt your soup when you’re first bringing it to a boil, and then taste it and season it again, if necessary, just before serving. Your lime-yogurt should pop with flavor. Every small step you take in the cooking process hugely affects the final outcome, and this, I think, is why I love making soup so much: Soup doesn’t allow you to shortcut your way to true flavor. It refuses to be duped or rushed; it’s done when it decides it’s done. (Soup is patient, soup is kind, or something.) If you don’t take the time to properly sweat your vegetables, or salt with care, well, the proof will always be in the broth. But that will never be the case with your broth—because you know better.

You’ll find that easy black bean soup recipe riiiiiiiiight here:

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Homemade Cold Brew Is Beyond Easy to Make—Here’s How

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The only thing better than a good recipe? When something’s so easy to make that you don’t even need one. Welcome to It’s That Simple, a column where our staffers talk you through the process of making the dishes and drinks that they can make with their eyes closed. This week: homemade cold brew.

There are some things New Yorkers can’t get enough of—no, this isn’t the intro to the next Sex and the City movie—and cold brew is one of them. We love it almost as much as we love complaining about the MTA. No matter the season, no matter how cold it is, you’ll still catch me and literally tens of thousands of other residents of the five boroughs power-walking the streets with cold coffee in hand. But the other thing about New York is that things are really expensive, and said iced coffee is no exception. But ya know what? You can have your cake, err, iced coffee, and eat it too. Because making homemade cold brew coffee that’s even better than the kind you get at your local coffee shop (that also doubles as a slam poetry venue) also happens to be about as easy as making iced tea—and is a hell of a lot cheaper.

Coffee-Flavored Belgian Waffles

Oh, you didn’t think cold brew was something you could make at home? Let’s just back up for one cold sec. Sure, when cold brew first hit the scene, it was shrouded in an air of fanciness and exclusivity, the kind of thing you could only get at coffeeshops that could also turn your latte foam into a whimsical flower. But think about it. Regular drip coffee is made when hot water and ground coffee beans come in contact with each other, and cold brew is just that—but with cold water. It’s that easy! It takes A LOT longer to brew coffee with cold water (like 12 hours instead of four minutes), but the only ingredient other than coffee and water is, well, time. Bonus: Because the water and beans are mingling for so long, the resulting beverage has a whoooooole lotta caffeine in it. Cool! Rad! Awesome! Ready to do this thing? Great. Andiamo!

First, I start with quality whole bean coffee, usually from Stumptown, but I also really like Reanimator in Philadelphia. I prefer to get small bags of beans, since I’m only ever making coffee for myself or my roommate, and I don’t want the coffee to sit around for too long before I get a chance to brew it.

My homemade cold brew-making ritual usually takes place on a Sunday evening. I scoop about a quarter cup of beans out of the bag and grind them. (This should be about 170g of ground coffee, if you’re really into that new Escali you just bought.) You want the grinds to be on the coarser side, more like what you want for a French press rather than espresso.

Basically gift guide 2017 Ipow Strainer

Photo by Chelsie Craig

A fine mesh strainer and some cheesecloth ensure you don’t end up with a gritty brew.

Then, I dump the ground coffee into a 32-ounce Mason jar and fill it the rest of the way with cold water. (Another thing New Yorkers love talking about: how GREAT the municipal tap water is!) I screw on the lid on, give the jar a couple of good shakes to make sure everything is combined, and then I park my concoction in the fridge overnight (or at least 12 hours) so it’s fresh and ready for me Monday morning.

Since eating coffee grinds isn’t really appealing, I strain the mixture the next day. I line a fine mesh sieve with cheesecloth and strain the mixture into a bowl or other large vessel, making sure to gather the edges of the cheesecloth together and squeeze the mess of grounds to ensure that every bit of caffeinated bean liquid is captured. Then, I’ll wash the Mason jar out and pour the cold brew concentrate back in the jar. Yeah, this is CONCENTRATE, as in it needs to be watered down. (You can always pour the concentrate into a larger jar or pitcher and dilute if you want.) I prefer the concentrate because it means that I can add lots of ice (the number of A trains without A/C is unreal) and a little bit of almond milk. This concentrate mixture will last me a week, and will save me about seven plastic cups, seven plastic lids, seven plastic straws, and at least $30 in coffee that I’m not buying on my way to work. And I will often sip it while reciting a Carrie Bradshaw monologue in my head.

You know what would go great with some homemade cold brew? Shakshuka:

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