Category Archives: Rita Smith’s Cooking Videos

Cauliflower Crust Pizza: Keto-friendly and Gluten-Free

Here it is – my made-in-Ontario suggestion for pizza lovers who are cutting back on carbs, or can’t eat gluten. This has become  a winter staple: it’s nice and cozy to heat the oven and warm the house baking a pizza in January or February.

But cauliflower are in season, plentiful and cheap in summer when it’s too hot to bake if you don’t have to. July and August are the perfect time to buy and boil beautiful local cauliflower in bulk, and freeze crust portions in pre-measured amounts to have on hand all year long. I went through 40 packages last year!!

NOTE: This video is 30 minutes long – the first 12 minutes are the bulk cooking instructions. If you just want to skip to the instructions once you have boiled and mashed the cauliflower, jump to the 12 minute mark.

Proportions used in the recipe are:

  • Two cups of boiled cauliflower
  • One cup shredded Mozzarella cheese
  • One egg
  • Sprinkle salt
  • Optional: a spoonful of Pesto

This amount of “dough” will make crust for two 10-inch pizzas.


Rita’s Excellent Keto Adventure

Over the past 6 years, I allowed myself to slide from half-marathon condition to almost 200 pounds. I never could have imaged it would happen so fast! I did not weigh this much in any of my 3 pregnancies. I was short of breath all the time; climbing a flight of stairs was a giant effort.
This is one of my favourite “after” photos – at an event with Jax the Wonder Drug-Sniffing Dog in September 2018, after 7 months on the Keto Diet.
There are A LOT of videos on YouTube that can get you started on Keto; I’ve watched hours and hours of them. Some are so complex you almost need a degree in biochemistry to stay awake for them; others are extremely short and simple.  I will post a few of the most helpful ones that I’ve found below. Before I do that, I’ll give you my short summary of “The Keto Experience.” 
  1. I was never hungry, and have never felt in any way deprived, on the Keto diet. 
  2. Our grain-based diet is a horrible, harmful lie. 
  3. A high fat, low carbohydrate diet seems counter-intuitive and maybe for some people, it is. However, for myself and several others in my family (diabetes runs in my family) have found ENORMOUS success on this diet – including all measurable blood metrics including cholesteral, tri-glycerides, HDL and LDL.
  4. Once you get your mind around the idea of “no white” (no rice, pasta, bread or potatoes) everything else is pretty easy. 
  5. Tons of green vegetables are a lot more palatable when you can flavour with fats (fry in bacon fat, top with butter or toss with salad dressing). You’ll come to enjoy it! 
  6. You are probably already eating all the protein you need; once you start paying close attention to protein (as I did) it was not hard to make sure I got enough. 
  7. For several months, I tried to keep my daily carb intake below 20 grams. This took effort and A LOT OF LABEL READING! You’ll be shocked at all the places you find carbs, which will surprise you. (Even in sugar-free gum? C’MON……) 
  8. You will need to give up virtually every fruit except berries. Fortunately you can get those all year (fresh in summer, frozen in winter) so you’ll be OK. Apples, oranges, melon and grapes are out, full stop. 
  9. Juice, pop, beer, wine, Gatorade….all forms of liquid sugar will be GONE from your diet. On the bright side, water from the tap is a lot cheaper! Herbal teas (hot or cold) are also flavourful and inexpensive. Coffee is still good! And you get to put real cream in it. 
  10. When I lost 60 pounds and reached my goal, I looked around for something to add to my diet to maintain my weight and settled on seeds: roast melon seeds (which feel crunchy and salty, like chips) and Chia seeds in my breakfast shakes. This seems to be working. 
Here are two of my favourite videos to get you started:  And here are my best, most useful recipes. Some I videoed years ago; others I have developed just recently specific to a Keto Diet. For fun, I’ll start with delicious Sugar-Free Chocolate, so that you can see there are LOTS of great things to eat while losing weight on this diet. I’ll update this post with new recipes in the weeks ahead. Good luck! Sugar-free chocolate – a hands-down favourite recipe! This is low carb but NOT low calorie (the recipe is half butter. And it tastes like it!) Eat it as a treat, not a meal, and you’ll be fine on your Keto diet. Fruity Fluff – thick, rich, tangy with strained 6% fat yogurt and frozen berries. Better than ice cream! Chia Puddings and Shakes – use one of nature’s “superfoods” to add fiber & omega 3s to your diet. Shiritake Noodles – put your favourite pasta sauce on this! Tomato sauce, meat sauce, clams, creamy or cheesy sauces, everything you love works on these low calorie, low carb noodles. The Smithopoulos Greek Dinner – every item on this menu is a perfect Keto food (just skip the rice or pita bread). The video for Tzatziki also details how to strain yogurt with cheesecloth, which you will want to do for the Fruity Fluff recipe above. Opa!! (Oh also – one of the few videos in which you can see me before my weight loss.) Perfect Eggs – Hard boiled or soft boiled Did you know that the USDA has removed cholesterol from its list of dietary substances of concern? Eggs have ALWAYS been good for you; and if you are on a Keto diet now, eggs are virtually the perfect food. Eat the whole egg, yolk and all. How to fry an egg – on a Keto diet you are not only allowed but ENCOURAGED to fry your eggs in a bit of butter. You can also eat bacon and eggs. Mussels – are almost pure protein and so easy to prepare (they do not need to be pried apart like oysters). I dip my steamed mussels in soy sauce and wasabi mustard and eat with pickled ginger like a rice-free sushi/sashimi experience. Pho – replace the rice noodles with Shiritake noodles. With that small change, Pho is a perfect Keto dish! Vitamin Supplements on a Keto Diet I figure it’s less a matter of what you take (you can always switch products anytime) as a matter of finding a system/process/routine that works for you, which is what I was able to develop over a period of a few months. I really HATED the handfuls of vitamins and avoided taking them whenever possible; I actually enjoy the supplement beverages, made ahead of time and chilled in the fridge. Find out what YOU like, and what you WILL do – Keto Slaw – this really helps when you are trying to eat 8 cups of green vegetables per day. While most squash (and carrots) are “out” on a low-carb diet, high-fiber, low-net carb Spaghetti Squash is fine to eat and very nutritious. You can use it as a replacement for spaghetti with your favourite pasta sauces, or as a replacement for high-carb squash in your favourite squash recipes – a double win! I have found the biggest challenge people face using Spaghetti Squash for the first time is that they tend to under-cook it. In order to get the long, stringy strands you want for your recipes, the squash needs to be thoroughly baked – easily 90 minutes or more at 350 degrees for an average size squash. Here’s a video I made some time ago to help you figure out the basics:
New Year’s Day seems as good a time as any to ask, “Is there alcohol on a Keto diet?” Generally speaking, no. I gave up all forms of alcohol when I went on Keto, which I think helped a lot. The reasons eliminating alcohol helped a lot are so complex (your liver naturally processes alcohol before carbs….) that it’s just simpler to skip alcohol. If you go on Keto AND skip alcohol as part of your 2019 program, you’ll have a massive weight loss advantage. This video is helpful and reasonable:
Roast vegetables are a real mainstay on a Keto diet! I ate two ziploc bags today while on the road….you can add cauliflower, broccoli, onions, celery, red green or orange peppers – the variations are endless! It’s a bit of a trick to cut the pieces to sizes which allow everything to cook to roughly the same doneness. You don’t want anything to be too soggy if you plan to eat them out of a bag, but they are also great for stir-fries, pasta sauces and just as hot vegetables with dinner.
Here is the biggest reaons I felt compelled to commit to recovering my health and getting back into shape: the birth of Adeline Grace in November 2017, and then Ada Nightengale in September 2018.

Ada is so beautful and happy! I can’t wait to meet her. It’s hard to be a Gramma from across the ocean.

Sweet Garlic Dill Pickles


These are the hands-down Smith Family Favourite.

You can use fresh dill and fresh garlic if you have access to those ingredients; or, as I often do, use dried dill and prepared garlic (quicker and simpler!)

Click here for the video of my process.

Please note – this is not a “how to can” video. I’ll do a separate one of those later. There are great instructions on Bernardin’s website.


Ontario has suffered a Basil blight for 4 years! It appears as though 2016 may be the first time we can make and freeze Pesto since 2012. YAYYYY!!!!!!!!!

Pesto pasta, Pesto pizza, Pesto potatoes (with green beans and slivered almonds!) Pesto potato salad…there are SO many fabulous dishes which need only a little dash of Pesto to make them magical.

So it has been really awful that Ontario has endured a “Basil blight” for almost 4 years now. I kept buying plants, only to watch them wither and die in front of my eyes: spotty leaves, brown patches, wilting stems. Even professional growers told me: “No one can grow Basil. A blight is killing the plants.”

Well, somebody figured out something – we must have a more resistant strain of plants this year – because for the first time in 4 years, Basil is growing like gangbusters!

I can’t believe I was able to harvest enough leaves to make a triple batch of Pesto on only June 19th! By August, my freezer will be stuffed full, I promise.

Click here for the video.

Here is the base recipe I use, from the Joy of Cooking. As you will see watching the video, mostly I work by taste and I switch out pine nuts for ground almonds, which are cheaper and more flavourful.

Go for the gusto! Plant lots of Basil!

Mangia, mangia!

Pesto, from “The Joy of Cooking”

2 cups loosely packed Basil leaves

1/3 cup pine nuts (I use ground almonds, or sometimes, walnuts)

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (I find this to be about 2x as much oil as you need)

Salt and pepper to taste


Aunt Rita’s Salsa recipe – and process – you CAN do it!

Everyone who lives in Ontario is blessed with the kind of plenty and bounty of which billions of other human beings can only dream…every minute I spend cooking, canning and freezing is a kind of worship for me. I am so grateful to God that I am privileged to live here, in safety, security, and prosperity. We live in the land of Milk and Honey; I hope I always appreciate it and do it justice.

Click HERE for the video link

I love it when anything I cook makes people happy,  but probably the most memorable compliment I ever received was from Sean Burke, a beloved family friend whose father was in the hospital after heart surgery.

“Every night when we got home from the hospital, we stayed up and talked and ate chips with Rita’s salsa and it made me wonder: why does her salsa taste so much better than other salsas? What does she do that makes it taste so different?”

He sent this question in an email to my brother. I was happy to write him back with my recipe and my process, but mainly I had to point out: it takes time. A really good batch of my salsa takes 3 days.

The Hedemark Family is so grateful to the Burke Family for all the generosity they have shown us over the years. One Christmas when Sean’s dad was in the hospital, I passed by their house to drop off a case of the salsa his family loved so much; it seemed the very smallest thing that I could do for them.

Here, for the first time, I have actually done a video of my salsa process. Many people will not have the time or the equipment or the patience that it takes to do this kind of job. However, whenever anybody asks me why my salsa is so different – this is the reason. I cook it for 3 days. Usually it works out that I can get it started on Friday, let it bubble away Friday night and Saturday, then pay closest attention as it begins to darken and carmelize on Sunday morning and jar it and process it on Sunday afternoon.

While it seems like a long, slow process, in fact the actual work involved is minimal: chopping vegetables at the start which is about 15 minutes’ work. Stirring it throughout – that’s fun, not work. And at the end, getting it into hot jars and processing for 15 minutes: not a huge task.



Make your own Chipotle: smokey, spicy, sweet!


Here is a quick video to show you how you can make your own Chipotle.

It’s a very practical thing to do during the summer when peppers are plentiful and cheap, and you’re going to be outside barbecuing anyway…why not just toss a pile of hot peppers on the grill to blister and sear while you’re out there? You can easily make enough Chipotle in one afternoon to freeze or can for a whole year. A little Chipotle goes a very long way!

Here are the basic  proportions for Chipotle Puree, from “Chevy’s and Rio Bravo’s FreshMex Cookbook.” My proportions vary widely from this – I add more garlic and more vinegar than they call for, and I use fresh (not dried) peppers which I blister myself, but here’s a basic to get you started:

6 cups water

4 ounces Chipotle peppers, stems removed

2 tablespoons garlic

1 cup tomato paste

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

2 teaspoons salt

1/4 cup olive oil

I will post videos for Sweet Chipotle Salad Dressing and Chipotle Aiolo as soon as I can…oh, yes, and Cranberry-Chipotle Jelly, my kids’ favourite.



BBQ Ribs: tender, delicious, fun!!

Mmmmmm….crispy outside, tender inside.

For some reason, BBQ ribs seem to be one meal you never eat alone…whenever I cook ribs, I am cooking for a crowd.

Here is my best recipe and best process. From ‘way back in my restaurant days, I have been a big believer in pre-cooked ribs. The last step, slathering them with your favourite BBQ sauce (I like Sweet Baby Ray’s) is the most fun and easy to do even with a whole yard full of company. Because the ribs are pre-cooked, you don’t need to worry about food safety and fully-cooked pork.

Aqua Negra Marinade

2 cups pineapple juice

1 cup soy sauce

1/3 cup lime juice

1.5 tablespoon cumin

1.5 tablespoon chopped garlic