Yesterday I wrote about this year’s Hands-On Cook-Off contest where you could win up to $1,000 by submitting a video of you and at least one other person, creating some delicious food.

I also said I would provide you with a few tips to help showcase your kitchen skills, as well as how much fun you have cooking. Yes, you can edit your videos after you have made them and before you upload them to the website, but, by making use of these tips you will:

  • Minimize any mistakes that might ruin your food.
  • Avoid having to shoot too many retakes.
  • Ensure you include all of the elements the judges will be looking for.
  • Cut down on time you spend editing your masterpiece.

I have borrowed heavily from the Hands-On Cook-Off “Making A Video” page for this section so you can be sure these are relevant, but you should also visit the contest site for further inspiration and advice.

So, without further ado, here are my tips for creating a fabulous video submission.

  1. Plan what will happen. Decide what you are going to say and who is going to do what before you start recording your video. An excellent way to do this is to write yourself a mini script or timetable.
  2. Include the key elements. Be sure to include the essential bits in your video. The judges will want to hear about how you chose your recipe, what’s in it, how you do it, and things like that. They want to see you and your fellow chef(s) enjoying yourselves cooking together.
  3. Fill in the gaps. You will probably not be able to get everything into your video and keep it within the time limit. Remember even 1 second over is too long and will have your video disqualified by the Hands-On Cook-Off team. To work around this, you can use captions, a voice over or other similar tools to let the judges know what happened off camera.
  4. Prep It. Get all of your ingredients prepared and measured out before you start. In our kitchen we go as far as to line things up in the order we will use them, but not everyone is as utterly bonkers as we are, so you don’t have to go that far!
  5. Stay safe. Follow all of the standard food safety and preparation advice, as well as acting in a sensible and safe way in the kitchen. Being silly and having fun shouldn’t include doing anything that could hurt you or the other people in the kitchen.
  6. Share the limelight. Make sure that everyone who is taking part in the video has the chance to participate. The judges want to see you all having fun together; they are less excited to see one person do all of the talking and the work while someone else hovers at the side of the frame.
  7. Watch entries from previous years. If you are unsure what to include in your video, what to say, or want some inspiration, you can visit the Better Together website and watch some other entries. They have past years available so you can see what has previously done well, and this year’s entries so far. This is useful if you want to check that you are not making the same dish as a lot of other people.
  8. Be Original. Yes, feel free to look for inspiration and see what works well and what works less well, but do not copy someone else’s Hands-On Cook-Off video. The judges want to see the real you, and that will not happen if you try to recreate something by someone else. You are lovely, and the judges want to see that.
  9. Don’t Try To Advertise. You don’t have to go mad, running around the kitchen covering up every last brand name or logo with duct tape but you should make every effort to ensure that labels and logos are not identifiable. So no wearing a tee-shirt with the details of your mom’s company plastered across the front or lining up a stack of your favourite munchies in the background.
  10. Have Fun. Did I mention that the Hands-On Cook-Off judges want to see you enjoy yourself? The contest is all about tasty, nutritious food prepared and enjoyed together

Today I have not one, but two celebrity judge interviews for you. First up is Samantha Gutmanis, a North Vancouver food blogger and editor with three young daughters. She creates tasty, nutritious family meals and shares them via gorgeous photography at My Kitchen Love.

How long have you been blogging?

5 years this May … seems like forever and yet I’m still learning something new every day.

What got you into blogging about food?

My sister-in-law suggested it after I started cooking a lot and everyone would ask for the recipes. It started as a way to share the food my husband and I were eating and now I love having the creative outlet of making food and sharing it with family and friends. It’s always a great conversation started that can cross most boundaries and brings people together.

What is your biggest struggle when trying to balance all of the demands on your time and maintain a healthy diet?

Lunch is probably my biggest struggle. My 3 children are usually at school (with healthy lunches I pre-make for them) and I’m running around at full speed with errands, working, cleaning, etc. and lunch often slips by without too much thought. I try to lean on easy salads that eat like a meal, but having all the fresh ingredients in the house daily is kind of impossible.

Have your kids ever developed one of those typical kiddo, out of nowhere, irrational dislikes of a particular foodstuff?

Ummmm, yes. Are there kids out there who don’t? I try to roll with it as best as I can. With every meal, I’m usually found saying “don’t yuck my yum” and we have a rule that everyone has to take 2 full bites, chew it politely and then I can offer an easy alternative where I’m not making another full meal for one person. We all know everyone’s tastes evolve and change so why wouldn’t kids? It makes sense to me to have them try new foods or foods they even dislike at different opportunities so that they can possibly acquire a taste for it.

What’s your favorite thing to do on a rainy North Vancouver weekend?

We usually bundle up and go for a rainy walk to puddle jump, followed by lots of stories all cuddled up on the sofa. If it’s a special treat we’ll make a big bowl of popcorn and watch a movie together.

How do you involve your children with food selection, prep, and cooking?

I try to get my 5-year-old twins to help with reading the instructions, counting steps or items out, getting ingredients from the pantry, chopping (there are kids safe knives out there and if I’m directly supervising I will let them use a chef’s knife), whisking, stirring pots on the stove, buttering toasts, etc.

What’s your secret food vice?

Ice cream. I could eat it every day if my jeans would let me.

What is your family’s favorite meal to cook and eat together?

My youngest who is 3 will say muffins or scrambled eggs as she gets to help the most with those and my twins will say salad as they can now completely chop and make a Greek-style salad on their own. My favourite is when they make my morning coffee for me 😉

As you can see, Samantha is well qualified to judge a cooking video contest, which focuses on fun together in the kitchen. Her skills and experience are perfectly complemented by our second celebrity judge Anna Brisco.

A chef, dietitian, community kitchen facilitator, and cooking instructor Anna combines her love for food and nutrition with her passion for education and empowerment in her current role as nutrition educator for the Dairy Council of BC.

I asked Anna about the wider benefits of preparing and sharing our meals together, as well as picking her brains on how best to teach our kids about healthy diet and nutrition.

What are the benefits of sharing meals together?

There are so many! Firstly, it’s a great time to connect with others, to share the highs and lows of the day. Sharing a meal also creates opportunities to make food together – to pass food traditions on to the next generation and to creating new traditions together.

There’s a wealth of research supporting lifelong benefits for kids whose families regularly eat together, including healthier eating into adulthood, fewer behaviour problems, better grades, and lower risk of disordered eating and depression. Families that make a habit of cooking and eating together early on also enjoy improved dietary intake, including higher intakes of fruits and vegetables and lower intakes of fast food and takeout foods for youth in many types of family environments.

As a nutrition educator, what kinds of resources would you recommend for families who homeschool who want to explore the diet and nutrition side of their food choices?

There are lots of great options out there, and homeschooling gives even more opportunities to explore foods in the kitchen, garden, farm, and supermarket. The basis of good nutrition is eating a wide variety of foods and having a positive relationship with the eating experience, so education that focuses on exploring and learning to prepare foods has a lot of benefits.

I’m a little biased because I work there, but the BC Dairy nutrition education programs are evidence-based, curriculum-linked, tested in classrooms, and lots of fun. We have free lesson plans and articles to explore. I’d also recommend Agriculture in the Classroom foundation; their resources support learning about where foods come from and what we grow in BC. There are many more resources available at

Note that it’s really important to keep discussions at an age-appropriate level. For Kindergarten and grade 1, start with exploring different foods; at grade 2-3 students can categorize foods into groups and learn about balanced meals. By Grade 4 and up students can start to look for balance throughout the whole day, and set goals based on their analysis. After Grade 6, students will need less practice to feel confident in their skills.

How should parents deal with picky eaters?

It’s very normal for young children to have relatively narrow food preferences, and for preferred foods to change over time. Kids may not like many vegetables, and might have a large appetite one day and then eat very little the next day. If there is one thing a parent can do, it is to take the pressure off. Kids do best when they can decide what and how much to eat without interference.

So, what does pressure look like?

Pressure is when adults try to get children to eat certain types of foods, in certain amounts, or in a certain order. Even positive pressure, such as praising children for trying a new food, is not actually helpful in the long run. Instead, parents can focus on when and where meals and snacks are served and what foods are available to eat.

For more information on this topic, check out this interview with fellow dietitian Kristen Yarker on Better Together

What did you find most challenging when you took part in the Welfare Food Challenge?

It was a very challenging process because it is an unwinnable challenge. I shopped looking for nutritious deals, but midway through the week, I realized all the food I bought did not even have enough energy (calories) to keep my body going.

It’s not possible to eat well when relying on the current level of social assistance, and this is part of what keeps people in poverty. In fact, in 2018 Raise the Rates canceled the Welfare Food Challenge because there would have been just $6 left for a week of food.

What advice would you give low-income families who want to get the biggest nutritional bang for their buck, while still enjoying their food?

I love this question – that you included the enjoyment of food – because that really is the most important piece. The advice I would give is probably not what you would think. I know through my work that low-income families are incredibly resourceful at feeding their families, whether that’s planning, budgeting, shopping or cooking.

So, I’d say to start where you are in terms of what you are serving. Focus on what your family enjoys without catering to the pickiest eater. Having one or more source of protein, some sort of grain or starchy food, and trying for a vegetable or fruit is a helpful meal structure.

Having regular meals together, and getting everyone working together to make those meals happen is more important than what’s for dinner. It should never be up to just one person to organize and prepare meals. Then, when your family is wanting to try new foods or recipes, let the kids help with choosing foods and cooking. They are more likely to try something if they have made it themselves.

If you could only cook one meal, for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Definitely breakfast. You can eat anything for breakfast! Right now on weekends, we have been making a hash out of whatever vegetables are in the fridge, plus garlic and onions, maybe some leftover meat, and then topped with a fried egg. It’s always different and always delicious. Or, I will make pancakes. It’s hard to say which I prefer to make.

What is your family’s favorite meal to cook and eat together?

It’s so hard to pick a favourite, so here are two that stand out right now:

My partner has been reconnecting to her cultural roots by making dishes that she grew up eating in Indonesia. I’ve been learning too, and it has been so much fun to share the kitchen and these memories. Plus, Indonesian food is delicious!

I try to cook with my niece (8) and nephew (11) whenever I can. We recently made homemade pasta and that was amazing. We made a mess, laughed a bunch, and they were so proud to serve their parents their creation.

And Finally…

First of all, I’d like to say a HUGE thank you to both Samantha and Anna for taking the time to answer my questions and for sharing their valuable knowledge and experience with us.

I know that now, I not only have a new food blogger to cyber stalk follow online (sorry Samantha!), but that thanks to Anna, I have a ton of new homeschool resources to check out, and I feel an entire series of posts about low cost, high enjoyment, nutrition coming on!