All posts by Caitlin McCormack

Caitlin McCormack is a Toronto-based freelance lifestyle writer. When she's not in front of the computer whipping up words, you can find her wrangling her two rambunctious sons at the park, getting her hands dirty in her urban garden, or testing out new recipes. She loves to cook almost as much as she loves to eat.

Turkey Trouble? How to Fix Your Worst Holiday Cooking Disasters

Whether you’re a seasoned chef or new to the kitchen, preparing a holiday feast is not without its challenges. No matter how well you plan and prepare ahead of time, something is bound to go awry when it’s time to get cooking. From forgetting to thaw the turkey to over-mashing your potatoes till they’re gluey, we’re here to help you fix all those holiday dinner mishaps.

brined-herb-crusted-turkey-with-apple-cider-gravyGet the recipe for Brined Herb-Crusted Turkey with Apple Cider Gravy

How to Defrost a Turkey Quickly

Arguably the most important part of any holiday feast, the turkey is the literal centerpiece of your table. If you’ve forgotten to defrost your turkey ahead of time (most frozen birds will need a few days to thaw fully in the refrigerator) you’re not entirely out of luck. Thawing turkey is one of those things you need to do safely in order to prevent any foodborne illness, and a cold water bath can take this task from days-long to a matter of hours.

Place the turkey in a sterilized tub, large sink or bathtub filled with enough cold water to cover it. Do not remove the bird from its wrapper. Refill the sink or tub with cold water about every 30 minutes to help prevent bacteria growth. Using this method, a 15-pound bird should take about 7.5-hours to defrost. When your turkey has defrosted, remove it from the water and dry with paper towels.

How to Fix an Overcooked Turkey

If you forgot to set a timer or simply calculated the math wrong for cooking your bird, you could be serving a dry, overcooked turkey. There are a couple of solutions that can help save your meal, the easiest being to make a knock-your-socks-off gravy to smother any overcooked meat with. Alternatively, you can ladle a bit of broth over the bird or rub some butter on the dry spots to help bring moisture back into the meat.

How to Fix Lumpy Gravy

A great gravy should be smooth and creamy, with nary a detectable lump. But if your gravy is more lumpy bumpy than silky smooth, there’s actually a pretty simple fix. First, whisk that gravy like your life depends on it — this will help break up larger clumps and smooth everything out. Then, pour the gravy through a fine mesh strainer to separate any smaller clumps the whisk might have missed. If your gravy is still lumpy after trying both of these things, you can try placing it in a blender with a touch of broth and pureeing until smooth.

recipe-vegetarian-gravyGet the recipe for Vegetarian Gravy

How to Fix Burnt Gravy

A burnt sauce happens to even the most experienced cook, and can be solved with a bit of care. First, remove your pan from the heat immediately. Place the bottom of the pan in cool water to help prevent further burning of the gravy. Grab and fresh pan and gently start scooping up as much unburt gravy as possible. Some cooking experts swear that adding a raw, peeled potato to the gravy will help absorb any burnt flavours, or you can try adding 1 tsp of smooth peanut butter at a time to the gravy, whisking well and tasting until the burnt flavour is gone. A pinch of sugar is another way to rescue burnt gravy.

How to Fix Crumbly Cookie Dough

If your holiday cookies are falling apart, it’s likely because the flour hasn’t absorbed enough liquid to bind everything together. In order to fix crumbly cookies, try adding more liquid to the recipe in small increments — whether that’s additional water, melted butter, or an egg.

How to Fix Burnt Cookies

Unless you have time to bake an entirely new batch of cookies, it’s worth trying to save the ones you accidentally burnt. You can try using a fine grater, such as a microplane, to shave off the burnt bits, or a serrated knife to cut off larger burnt pieces.

apple-pie-sliceGet the recipe for Anna Olson’s Blue Ribbon Apple Pie

How to Fix Crumbly Pie Dough

Just like a crumbly cookie dough, crumbly pie crust needs more moisture added to it if you’re going to salvage it. Try sprinkling a few drops of water over your pie dough mixture before gently kneading or rolling until it is more pliable.

How to Fix A Hole in Your Pie Crust

Pie crusts are fragile things, and a hole can happen if you spread the dough too thin. Keep a few scraps of dough on hand in order to patch any holes with, then seal with a small amount of egg white and sugar before baking.

How to Fix Gluey, Over-Mashed Potatoes

Mash your potatoes too much or too vigorously and you’ll be left with an inedible gooey, gluey mess. Sadly, once this happens there isn’t much you can do to salvage them, aside from mixing in some properly mashed potatoes to help cut the gluey texture. However, you can turn your gluey mashed potatoes into a holiday gratin by spreading them in a thin layer across a baking dish, topping with butter, cheese, and breadcrumbs, and baking until the top is nice and crispy.

Looking for more holiday cooking help? Try these 10 Turkey Cooking Tips to Roast the Perfect Bird Every Time.

Here’s How Long You Can Eat Your Thanksgiving Leftovers

Once you’ve enjoyed a couple days of hot turkey sandwiches, and maybe made some turkey soup,  how long can you keep eating those Thanksgiving leftovers before it is time to toss? Here’s your ultimate guide for how long you can keep Thanksgiving leftovers like potatoes, turkey, stuffing, how to store them properly and how to know if they’ve gone bad.

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How Long Leftover Turkey Lasts

Leftover turkey needs to be stored in the fridge within two hours of cooking in order to minimize the chance of bacteria growth. The meat should be cut and deboned from the bird before being placed into shallow storage containers and cooled completely in the fridge. Once it’s cool, seal tightly and store in the refrigerator for two to four days. If you’re not sure if leftover turkey is safe to eat, check for a rotten egg smell or a slimy texture. If you notice either of these things, discard the meat immediately.

How Long You Can Keep Leftover Mashed Potatoes

Mashed potatoes should easily last three to five days in the fridge if stored correctly and within two hours of cooking. This means ensuring there isn’t any moisture buildup under the lid that could encourage the growth of bacteria. If your leftover mashed potatoes have an off smell or appearance, throw them out without tasting. Cooked potatoes can be frozen in an airtight container for up to one year.

Oven Baked Stuffing

How to Store Leftover Stuffing

Because stuffing is moist and slow to heat up and cool down, it provides an ideal place for bacteria to grow and is best consumed within two days of cooking. If you want to enjoy stuffing long after the main event, you can easily freeze it for up to four months and reheat when you’d like a festive side of comfort food.

How Long  You Can Keep Leftover Gravy

Gravy has a short shelf life at just three to four days, but like stuffing, it can be frozen for up to four to six months for increased enjoyment. In order to maintain food safety, gravy should be brought to a rolling boil before serving in order to properly kill any bacteria that may have started growing.

How Long You Can Keep Leftover Sweet Potatoes in the Fridge

Just like regular potatoes, leftover sweet potatoes are safe to eat for three to five days after your Thanksgiving meal, whether they’ve been baked, boiled, or cooked in a casserole. Again, refrigerate within two hours of cooking, and store your cooked sweet potatoes in shallow airtight containers or resealable plastic bags. They can also be frozen for up to a year, just be sure to sprinkle them first with a small amount of lemon juice in order to prevent discolouration. If they smell strange or are discoloured (some browning is fine and is just the result of oxidation) you’re best off tossing them.

How Long You Can Keep Leftover Cranberry Sauce

Homemade cranberry sauce should keep in the refrigerator for anywhere from 10-14 days, so long as it’s stored in a covered glass or plastic container. You can also pour the sauce into freezer-safe bags and freeze for use later in the year. If you’re using canned sauce and open the can only to discover brown or black bits inside, do not eat the sauce. If your homemade cranberry sauce has an off smell, flavour, or appearance, or you see any mould on top, toss it.

Blue-Ribbon-Apple-Pie-slice

How to Store Leftover Apple Pie

Pie made with fresh fruit, such as apples, usually only lasts a day or two in the fridge, so it’s best to gobble up any leftovers (or share with friends and family) as soon as you can. Un-cut apple pies can stay on the counter for about two days, so you should be good to make dessert ahead of time. You can tell your leftover apple pie has gone bad if the crust is soggy, which is a sign that it’s absorbed the moisture released by the fruit, or if it’s discoloured in any way.

How to Freeze Leftover Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin pie is generally safe for two to four days in the fridge, and should be covered loosely with aluminium foil or plastic wrap. Leftover pumpkin pie can last for about six to eight months in the freezer if stored properly. Store bought pies will keep for longer on the counter than homemade versions. Because pumpkin pie is an egg-based dessert, it is best eaten within an hour of cooking or being removed from the fridge, and can cause serious health issues if eaten after being left out for too long.

Have lots of leftovers? Try these great recipes for leftover turkey.

5 Tips to Help Your Kids Pack Their Own Lunches

If you’re tired of making lunches your kids won’t eat, getting them to build their own lunches can help streamline your morning routine and increase the odds their lunchbox comes home empty. From shopping for the right ingredients to choosing the right lunchbox, there are many strategies that can set your family up for lunchtime success.

Take Them Shopping

The first step in getting your kids to help pack their own lunch starts at the grocery store. Have your child make a list of their favourite lunch foods, and then let them navigate the grocery store with you for those items. Commit to trying one new item from the produce department each week and talk to them about what makes a balanced meal. Knowledge is power, and this is true for food and meal prepping.

Make Packing Fun

If you think packing lunches is a boring chore, chances are your little one will too. One way to shake this stereotype is to make packing lunches fun. Pick up some cute and colourful reusable containers and bags, pop on your little one’s favourite songs, and make an assembly line where you can all pitch in together packing their midday meal.

Use a Bento Box/Snack Box

One way to get your kids to pack and eat their lunch is to stop calling it lunch! For whatever reason, kids seem to balk at the concept of eating a proper meal, but fully embrace a snack situation. The snacks-as-a-meal trend is having its moment right now, with parents using everything from muffin tins to plastic craft boxes to hold a variety of tasty eats for their kiddos. Have your child fill Bento box compartments with foods they enjoy – such as crackers, dried fruit and add some cheese, a hardboiled egg, and cucumber or apple slices for a balanced meal. Don’t forget a dip or two like hummus or seed butter for even more kid-friendly fun.

Keep Items Accessible

If kids can’t reach it, they can’t pack it, so leave ample supplies of storage containers and food options where your kids can access them. Once they know where everything is, get them into the routine of putting their lunch together at the same time every day – before bed the night before or after breakfast on the day of are both good options.

Shake up Lunch with New Recipes

Another way to get kids excited about packing their own lunch is to try making a new recipe together. Research shows that children are more likely to eat food that they’ve taken a role in preparing, so let them practice their measuring and mixing skills with a kid-friendly recipe. A medley of sweet, dried strawberries, apples and yogurt-covered raisins are right at home with crunchy crackers, roasted pumpkin seeds and puffed rice cereal. Make a double batch, because this snack will be popular on the playground.