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I was really excited to have the opportunity to speak with Dana McCauley last week. Dana is a former Food Network judge, food trend expert and the creative force behind Food Trends TV on YouTube.

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The interview was part of the annual Lay's Do Us a Flavour contest. This year, the contest featured internationally-inspired flavours, which gave Canadians the chance to vote for their favourite ones in store. The winners were: Canadian Bacon Poutine, Thai Sweet Chili and Cheese and Onion (from the UK), all of which reflect the latest food trends and Canadian palettes.

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I was lucky enough to "taste test" all three flavours at home and let me tell you something, each one is totally unique and really delish. My fave was the Thai Sweet Chili!! YUM.

Getting back to the interview, I asked Dana the following questions:

Me: What are the most important ingredients that every home cook or chef must have?

Dana: Butter, extra virgin olive oil, whole peppercorns, kosher salt, onions and garlic.

Just as a side note, I totally agree with her suggestions. I mean, what in the world would Jeffery do, If Ina Garten didn't have butter at her fingertips? Come on people, you know as I well as I do that butter makes the world a better place right?

Dana also made a valid point of suggesting that processed ground pepper just doesn't cut it. Freshly ground is the way to go. We also talked a bit about new oils to try as a change for EVOO. I recently received a whole box of goodies from a company called Chosen Foods. They sent me an array of avocado oils to try and I must say, it's amazing to use in the majority of my recipes.

Okay, next questions:

Me: Do you often cook with or without a recipe or measured ingredients?

Dana: As a trained chef, I often cook without measured ingredients, it's part of the creative process of recipe development. However, I always measure or weigh ingredients for baking.

Me: What are some of your favourite fall recipe ingredients?

Dana: Anything but pumpkin spice! (Dana felt that this combo has been overused and are typically the norm at this time of the year but boring). I like using sweet potatoes, cranberries and pears for fall inspired dishes.

Me: What do you think were the biggest food trends for 2016?

Dana: Not too much different from 2015. Regional Canadian fare is amongst the top trends plus a blend of multicultural foods such as Thai, Vietnamese and Japanese are always on board as favourites.

Me: What do you think the next big trend and flavour will be for the coming year?

Dana: Definitely leaning towards Korean inspired flavours and dishes.

Me: What social media foods/recipes are getting the most attention?

Dana: Hmmm....hard to pick just one specific food or recipe. I lean towards searching the top hashtags or keywords that would bring me to trending foods in the media.

Well, thank you Dana! She was truly a delight to chat with and I'm so fortunate to have been given the chance to get her take on what's going to be on trend in the coming year.

Also, a big thanks to Lay's for sending me those winning chips! I chose the Cheese and Onion flavour to top one of my favourite all time -best ever -out of this world casserole dishes. Those chips really took this recipe to the next level. I don't think I will ever use plain flavoured ones again. It would be comparable to turning towards pumpkin spice.

By the way, I used to make this all the time for my boys while they were growing up. No wonder it took them so long to leave home!

Comfort food is always on trend around here. Enjoy!



1 box penne pasta (14.5 oz) 1 box or bag frozen spinach (10 oz) (you can substitute fresh as well) 1 bbq chicken, cut into bite size chunks (store bought or homemade) 1 tetra box (10.75 oz) organic cream of mushroom soup 1 cup milk 2 cups of rose sauce ((recipe) 1 cup shredded cheese (any combo will do, I used white & yellow cheddar) ½ bag of potato chips, roughly crushed (I used Lay's Cheese & Onion) ¼ cup of butter cut into small pieces.

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In a large saucepan, boil water for pasta. Cook pasta together with spinach until pasta is done. Drain, and set aside. Mix remaining ingredients in a large bowl (except for the potato chips & butter, this is your topping) Place pasta and spinach in the bowl with the blended ingredients and stir. Place in a well greased casserole dish (I like to spray mine with avocado oil) and top with chips and dot with butter. I used a large oval ceramic dish but a 9 x13 dish is fine. Bake at 350F for 40 minutes, or until casserole is beautifully bubbly and brown. Serve warm.

See you next week!

RecipesSeri KertznerComment