Tag Archives: kitchen tips

Flippy robot chef in fast food restaurant

Meet the World’s First Autonomous Robotic Kitchen Assistant

What if we told you that we know someone — rather something — who can work a grill and fryer perfectly for 100,000 hours straight? Its name is Flippy and it’s an AI assistant chef from Miso Robotics. The cost? $30,000 USD, plus a monthly fee of $1,500 USD/month.

Flippy robot chef in fast food restaurant

The robot addresses the problem of fulfilling late-night shifts that no one wants in a 24-hour restaurant. Also, due to the pandemic, there’s greater concern for food safety and hygiene. This is able to solution all of that, as the robot works with minimal human contact.

Related: Ways to Continue Supporting Your Favourite Local Restaurants

The robot chef — invented in 2016 — is controlled by AI to do more than just the repetitive task of being a burger flipper. Today it can keep track of cooking times and temperatures. It can place baskets in the fryer to make chicken wings, onion rings, hash browns and much more. As upgrades are made, this robot chef will be able to take on more complex tasks. The company has raised over $20 million, which shows there’s an appetite for this kind of technology.

Flippy robot chef in fast food restaurant

The robot is currently operating in Caliburger in Fort Myers, Florida. The restaurant chain has ordered more for each of their global locations. White Castle, the oldest fast-food chain in America, wanted in on this action as well. “We’re looking at Flippy as a tool that helps us increase speed of service and frees team members up to focus more on other areas we want to concentrate on, whether that’s order accuracy or how we’re handling delivery partner drivers and getting them what they need when they come through the door.” said White Castle’s vice president, Jamie Richardson. No word yet on whether the robot chef will be coming to Canada anytime soon.

Related: What is a Ghost Kitchen? (And Why They’re Thriving During COVID)

While this technology is impressive, there may be some concern that this will impact jobs in the fast-food industry. With so many unfilled restaurant jobs across North America and turnover rates at an all-time high, the introduction of robot chefs may be seen to some as a much-needed service. Also, while the robot is working the back of house, patrons will still have front-facing human customer service.

Photos courtesy of Miso Robotics

Flat lay of baking ingredients including sugar, butter

The Perfect Pastry Butter Hack, Plus 9 Golden Baking Rules to Always Follow

The weather is turning, the days are growing longer, and creativity is at an all-time high. And with so many fresh springtime ingredients ready to be transformed, who wouldn’t want to hop in the kitchen and put that extra creativity to good use? Whether you’re baking up some fresh cookies or homemade butter tarts to cheer up friends, following an easy chocolate cake recipe for a special occasion, or kneading a loaf of crusty bread to go with that seasonal salad for dinner, there are a few golden baking rules you’ll want to follow the next time you’re getting your batter on.

But First—The Perfect Pastry Butter Hack

Cubed butter in a bowl

Whether you’re a seasoned baker like those on The Big Bake or someone who’s just beginning to dabble in the world of all-butter pie crusts, short crust pastry, puff pastry and other offerings, getting your butter to that perfect consistency and temperature can make or break your bake. If you’re working on a pastry in which you need air pockets between the layers to rise up in order to create those fabulous flakes, freeze the amount of butter you need for your recipe beforehand. Then, rather than cubing or cutting it and pinching it into your flour, use your cheese grater to grate the butter directly in. The result is an easier dough to work with, since the grated butter is much more forgiving.

But wait—what if you actually need room temperature butter for your recipe, and your butter is in the fridge or freezer? You should still grate it. Doing so increases the surface area, allowing your beurre to warm up and soften quickly. In other words, a grater is the perfect tool to hack all kinds of buttery bakes. And now onto the other golden rules of baking…

Related: Brown Butter Recipes You Won’t Be Able to Resist

Always Read Over Your Entire Recipe Before You Start

Flat lay of cookbook and coffee

This rule applies to all kinds of cooking and baking, but to baking in particular where exact measurements are required and substitutions can throw off your whole game. Read over your recipe from start to finish so that you know exactly how much of each ingredient you need. But don’t just read over the ingredient list—have a good look at the method too. It can be easy to miss simple steps like resting time, sifted flour versus poured flour, or creaming your butter and sugar before mixing. With that last step for example, creaming your butter and sugar together beats air into the butter and helps the sugar to hold that air, giving your baked goods structure. If you just mix or pour butter and sugar in without adding that vital step, you could end up with a dense, flat product.

See More: Flour 101 – Your Guide to Baking

Remember the Quality of Your Ingredients Matters

Flat lay of baking ingredients including nuts, sugars and butter

When you’re shopping for a special recipe, the quality of ingredients will help dictate the quality of your final product. Sure, you can grab artificial vanilla extract, but will it taste the same as the real stuff? Of course not. The same can be said for the type of chocolate, nuts, maple syrup and honey you use—fresh, good quality ingredients will always transform your bake. Butter is another big one. In France, some of the world’s top pastry chefs only use butter that’s high in milk fat—at least 82 per cent. In Canada, our butter is typically only churned to 80 per cent milk fat, and that two per cent drop makes a world of difference. If you really want to create the flakiest of pastries and crispiest of cookies, grab Gay Lea’s new Bakers Gold butter, which is churned to an impressive, chef-grade, 84 per cent milk fat.

Never Overbeat Batter

A stand mixer or even the handheld variety can be a wrist saver for sure, but when you’re talking about mixing together ingredients for a bake there’s a slippery slope. More often than not recipes for baked goods always come with the disclaimer, “don’t overmix.” And for good reason. When you overmix cakes, cookies, muffins, bread or even pancakes you run the risk of injecting too much air into the batter and developing extra gluten. While some gluten is key when it comes to chewy baked goods, too much of it will just make your offerings gummy and dense. In other words, when a recipe says “mix until just combined,” take the step seriously and don’t walk away from a mixer that’s having a party in the mixing bowl.

Related: Harry Eastwood’s Healthy Baking Substitutes

Stop Confusing Wax Paper and Parchment Paper

Blueberry cookies on way paper with fresh flowers and ingredients

Hands up if you’ve charred a recipe or two by accidentally putting wax paper instead of parchment paper in the oven. Baking with wax paper is never really advisable. The stuff is water-resistant, which means it’s great to lay down for cool things when you don’t want them to stick, but it’s definitely not heat-resistant. A good rule of thumb is to remember that for anything cold, you want wax paper. And for anything hot you want parchment paper, which is typically safe in the oven up to 450°F. (But check your packaging.) If you have both and you keep confusing them however, maybe consider investing in a silicon mat or liners. Depending on the brand they’re great for all things hot and cold, and they wash up easily in your sink to cut down on waste, too.

Always Blind-Bake Pie Crusts

Blind baked pie crust with raw ingredients nearby on the table

No, you don’t need a blindfold to pull off the best pie crust of your life. Instead, all you need is a blind bake and some high quality butter, like the aforementioned high milk-fat butter that is Gay Lea’s new Bakers Gold butter. Blind baking means that you bake the crust in full before putting in any kind of filling, so that you know the crust is cooked all the way through. Otherwise you run the risk of adding filling to an uncooked crust and creating a soggy mess. What’s the other benefit of blind baking a pie crust with a butter that’s high in milk fat? Higher butterfat means less water and a softer texture, resulting in butter that easily melts into those pastry layers. There’s nothing like the flavourful, flaky crust that you get as a result. One bite can basically transport you back into your grandmother’s kitchen, where your mouth waters in anticipation of that freshly baked pie sitting in the windowsill.

See More: The Best Summer Pies and Tarts

Don’t Substitute Baking Powder for Baking Soda

…and vice versa. Although it’s easy to confuse baking powder with baking soda, they each do different things in the chemistry that is baking. Baking soda, AKA the one some people keep in the fridge to help deodorize all of those food smells, is sodium bicarbonate. In order for sodium bicarbonate to activate and help your baked goods rise, it needs an acid (brown sugar, lemon, vinegar, chocolate etc.) and a liquid. Baking powder, however, is baking soda that already has an acid (cream of tartar), and sometimes a bit of corn starch. In order to activate its equally awesome rising properties, all you need is a liquid.

Browning Butter is a Baking Superpower

Would you consider this one a rule, or a hack? Either way, nothing beats the deep, rich flavour of browned butter—especially in baking. Brown butter cookies, brown butter brownies… even a cake with brown butter frosting is enough to make you hungry. If you want to execute perfectly browned butter for use in your baked goods, slowly melt it in a pan over medium heat. You want even heat distribution so that the butter cooks evenly, but be sure to constantly stir it so that it doesn’t burn (brown butter can turn to burnt butter before you can say “browning burnt butter” three times fast). When the butter is a nice brown hue and the edges begin to sizzle and foam, you’re ready to remove it from the heat. All in all, the entire process should only take about 5-8 minutes, but it makes a huge difference in your final flavour profile.

Related: Anna Olson’s Guide to Buttercream Icing

Chill Your Cookie Dough Before Baking

Chocolate chip cookies baking on a baking sheet

If you’re going through all of that effort to make cookies from scratch, don’t you want to make the best possible batch? Of course you do! So if you aren’t already chilling your cookie dough before baking it, we have to ask, why not? As a general rule of thumb, once your dough has come together you should chill it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes so that the butter can harden again. That way the butter doesn’t disperse too quickly and flatten out the cookie. If you find it tough to work with chilled dough, scoop out your balls beforehand and then chill them on a baking sheet in the fridge. Or, flash-freeze them in the freezer, throw them into a freezer-friendly bag, and bake them up anytime you want fresh cookies.

Chilling cookie dough is a golden rule to be sure, but there are exceptions. If you’re going for a thin cookie that spreads out or you have a delicate dough like macron or madeleine, those are the instances where you’ll want to bake your cookies at room temperature instead.

Weigh Your Ingredients Whenever You Can

Recipes come in all kinds of measurements, but when it comes to baking, many of the pros prefer weighing their ingredients as opposed to counting cups and tablespoons. One reason is that a recipe is easier to half or double when you’re talking about weight over volume. But more importantly, there is less room for error when you’re using a kitchen scale versus the human eye. Baking is an exact science. And while there’s tons of room for creativity and innovation, the science at the base of those recipes remains the same. Whenever you have the opportunity to weigh your ingredients definitely do so, because the better you can get at precise ingredient measurements, the better those buttery baked goods will wind up tasting.

Watch The Big Bake Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT. Watch and stream all your favourite Food Network Canada shows through STACKTV with Amazon Prime Video Channels, or with the new Global TV app, live and on-demand when you sign-in with your cable subscription.

Photos courtesy of Unsplash.

Anna Olson Chocolate Recipes for Every Skill Level

Anna Olson’s Chocolate Recipes for Every Skill Level: Easy to Advanced

Has Great Chocolate Showdown inspired you to try out some new skills in your kitchen? Not all chocolate recipes are created equal, so we asked Canada’s most beloved baker and Great Chocolate Showdown host Anna Olson to help us break down which of her recipes would be best suited to your skills.

Whether you’re a newbie or a seasoned pro, here are Anna Olson’s best chocolate recipes for bakers of all levels.

Related: Expert Chocolate Techniques to Master Now

Easy Chocolate Recipes for Baking Beginners

If you’re not sure where to start your chocolate baking journey, look no further than this classic bake — cookies. “Chocolate chip cookies are a great basic because it gets you into the chocolate world,” recommended Anna.

Anna Olson's classic chocolate chip cookies cooling on a wooden trayGet the recipe for Anna Olson’s Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies

For a serious sweet tooth, fudgy brownies are another great option for new home bakers, and as a bonus, they use items you probably already have in your kitchen. “Brownies take minimal equipment. If you’ve got a pot, a pan, and a whisk, you can make brownies,” said Anna.

See More: Anna Olson’s Top Baking Tools

Anna Olson's fudge brownies studded with a pecanGet the recipe for Anna Olson’s Fudge Brownies

Intermediate Chocolate Recipes if You Have a Few Baking Skills Under Your Belt

For home bakers who have the basic chocolate skills down and want to give themselves a challenge, Anna provided some delightful options.

“You can get into fun things like chocolate crinkle cookies, a good, rich chocolate cake, a flourless chocolate torte, or vegan chocolate cupcakes with fudge frosting,” Anna shared.

Anna Olson's 6-layer chocolate fudge cake with one slice on a plateGet the recipe for Anna Olson’s Chocolate Fudge Cake

Advanced Chocolate Recipes for Baking Masters

If you’re ready to face the ultimate home baking challenge and show off your chocolate technique, Anna had a couple of ideas.

“I have a delicious chocolate mousse cake: chocolate cake, chocolate mousse, and it’s got a dark chocolate mirror glaze, which is really hot right now,” she divulged.

Related: Cynthia Stroud’s Expert Decorating Tips

A slice of Anna Olson's rich chocolate mousse cakeGet the recipe for Anna Olson’s Rich Chocolate Mousse Cake

“[My] chocolate souffle is another very challenging recipe,” she also shared. “It takes confidence, and you have to feel positive that you know how to get it just right.”

Anna Olson's chocolate souffle in a ramekinGet the recipe for Anna Olson’s Chocolate Souffles with Salted Caramel Sauce

Tune into Great Chocolate Showdown on Mondays at 10 p.m. ET/PT. Watch and stream all your favourite Food Network Canada shows through STACKTV with Amazon Prime Video Channels, or with the new Global TV app, live and on-demand when you sign-in with your cable subscription

5 Simple Olive Oil Pasta Sauces That Will Transform Your Dinner

While a high-quality bottle of olive oil can carry a hefty price tag, investing in a beautiful and pure variety will allow you to make quick and simple pastas that are not only delicious, but require minimal ingredients. Because a true olive oil demands less heat and cook time, it’s the ideal solution to whip up an impressive dinner. No matter where in the Mediterranean it was produced, choose an extra-virgin olive oil that carries fruity notes and has a peppery finish. Then, use it in one of these five satisfying sauces.

Five Olive-Oil Based Pasta Sauce Recipes:

 

1. Caramelized Mushroom Sauce

Cook ribbon cut pasta, such as tagliatelle, in a large pot of well-salted boiling water. Heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add chopped, mixed mushrooms to the dry pan and cook, stirring often, until the mushrooms have released their moisture and are golden-brown. Reduce heat to medium. Generously drizzle mushrooms with extra-virgin olive oil. Stir in a thinly sliced garlic clove and continue cooking until garlic is soft. Add pasta, then freshly chopped flat-leaf parsley. Toss until pasta is well coated.

wild mushroom fettucini pasta in white bowl on marble table

Get the recipe for Wild Mushroom Fettuccini with Spruce Tip Pesto

2. Fresh Breadcrumb Pasta

Cook long-cut pasta, such as bucatini, in a large pot of well-salted, boiling water. Heat a large frying pan over medium-high. Add fresh breadcrumbs and cook, stirring often, until lightly toasted. Transfer to a plate. Generously drizzle extra-virgin olive oil into same pan and set over medium heat. Add three thinly sliced shallots and cook, stirring often, until soft. Stir in roughly chopped green olives and fresh thyme leaves until warmed through. Add pasta and breadcrumbs. Toss until well coated.

3. Classic Parmesan Sauce

Cook short-cut pasta, such as penne, in a large pot of well-salted boiling water. Reserve a splash of cooking water. Heat a large frying pan over medium heat. Add a generous drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil, then two minced garlic cloves. Cook, stirring often, until garlic is soft. Add pasta, along with a large handful of grated Parmesan cheese and reserved cooking water, tossing until mixture is creamy. Season generously with freshly cracked black pepper.

spaghetti pasta in skillet dressed in tomato sauce, with cauliflower, Parmesan cheese, tomatoes, olives and torn basil.

Get the recipe for Vegetarian Cauliflower Puttanesca

4. Capers and Basil Pasta

Cook decorative-cut pasta, such as orecchiette, in a large pot of well-salted boiling water. Heat a large frying pan over medium-low. Add a generous drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil, then two finely chopped anchovies. Cook, stirring often, until fragrant. Stir in a handful of chopped, drained capers and continue cooking until slightly crisp. Add pasta, then freshly chopped basil. Toss until pasta is well coated.

Pasta salad in clear bowl with fusilli, cucumber, parsley and tomatoes.

Get the recipe for 15-Minute Gluten-Free Tabbouleh Pasta Salad

5. Sundried Tomato Pesto

Cook short-cut pasta, such as rigatoni, in a large pot of well-salted boiling water. Add oil-packed sundried tomatoes, drained, with toasted slivered almonds, one garlic clove and a handful of grated Parmesan to a food processor until finely chopped. With the motor running, slowly pour extra-virgin olive oil until mixture is smooth. Season with salt and freshly cracked pepper. Toss with pasta.

Looking for more delicious recipes? See here for our best-ever pasta recipes for easy dinners.

Published February 12, 2016, Updated April 2, 2021

Tea- and Orange-Brined Roasted Turkey

The Ultimate Guide to Turkey Cooking Times

The main event during the holidays often involves serving a perfectly juicy and succulent roast turkey to the ones you love. The last thing you want to do is present an overcooked (or worse, undercooked) bird. Even if this isn’t your first gobbler, it’s handy to have a cheat sheet on file to ensure you’re on track for dinner time. Follow the chart below for a foolproof way to roast the perfect turkey for your holiday feast every single time.

Related: The Best Leftover Turkey Recipe You’ll Ever Need (We Promise!)

Get the recipe for Tuscan Turkey Roulade

How to Roast a Basic Turkey

Preheat the oven to 325°F. In a large roasting pan, place thawed turkey, breast side up and tent with a piece of aluminum foil. Bake turkey using the chart below. Remove foil during last hour of cook time. Cook until meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 170°F.

Size of Turkey Unstuffed Stuffed
10-12lbs 3 – 3 ¼ hours 3 ½–3 ¾ hours
12-16bs 3 ¼ – 3 ¾ hours 3 ¾ – 4 ¼ hours
16-20lbs 3 ¾ – 4 ¼ hours 4 ¼ – 4 ¾ hours
20-24lbs 4 ¼ – 4 ¾ hours 4 ¾ – 5 ¼ hours


Related: How to Brine a Turkey and Why You Should Try It

turkey cut in half on a plate with green leaf garnish and orange slices

Get the recipe for Tea- and Orange-Brined Roasted Turkey

Top Turkey Cooking Tips

1. If using a frozen bird, ensure it’s fully defrosted before roasting.

2. Take your bird out of the fridge while the oven preheats. Juices will run clear when the turkey is done. Look at the juices running from the meat around the thigh bone.

3. If you’re using a convection oven, your bird will cook in 25 per cent less time. Take 15 minutes off each hour on the recommended times above.

4. After the turkey is removed from the oven, let it rest for minimum 30 minutes. The juices need to resettle into the meat.

Looking for more delicious inspiration? Here are the perfect side dishes to pair with your holiday turkey.

a hard-boiled egg cut in half on a while background with salt and pepper shaken on top

How to Make Perfect Hard-Boiled Eggs (Plus Three Easy Recipes!)

Eggs are a must-stock ingredient, whether you’re meal planning for breakfast, lunch or dinner. This humble, versatile food offers limitless possibilities — be it poached, fried, soft or hard. With that said, it can test even the most experienced chef’s patience when it comes to making the perfect hard-boiled egg. What’s the secret? Turns out, all you need are the four simple steps below.

Master the art of how to make hard-boiled eggs and then whip up these three egg-cellent recipes that’ll become household staples in no time. Get crackin’!

Related: The Best Way to Prepare Eggs Around the World, From France to Japan

perfect hard-boiled egg cut in half with pepper

How to Make Perfect Hard-Boiled Eggs

●  Fill a pot with enough water to cover eggs by about 2 inches.
●  Bring water to a boil.
●  Once boiled, remove from heat, cover pot and let them sit for 10 minutes.
●  Remove eggs from hot water and place in an ice water bath for a few minutes.

Spoiler alert: You can skip the stovetop option and try Instant Pot Hard-Boiled Eggs and Air Fryer Hard-Boiled Eggs instead.

Related: How to Cook Eggs Perfectly Every Single Time

Rabokki/Tteokbokki (Spicy Ramen and Rice Cake)

When we think of hard-boiled eggs, a comforting bowl of ramen is one of the first recipes that come to mind. After all, there’s nothing quite like a sliced egg perched on top of a steaming bowl of noodles, meat and vegetables to really satisfy our hunger pangs.

If you’re looking to elevate your ramen game, consider this hearty tteokbokki/rabokki recipe inspired by a classic Korean street food. For the uninitiated, tteokbokki is a spicy rice cake dish while rabokki refers to traditional ramen noodles. Pair the two together and you’re in for a treat — just don’t forget to top it all off with a hard-boiled or (or two).

Get the recipe for Rabokki/Tteokbokki (Spicy Ramen and Rice Cake)

Deviled Eggs

We love options as much as the next person, so the next time you’re craving a satisfying bite of deviled eggs, consider whipping up multiple batches. Think: pickles and capers, wasabi and ginger and sesame carrot for a spin of the classic recipe. You can thank us later.

Get the recipe for Valerie Bertinelli’s Deviled Eggs, 3 Ways

Classic Cobb Mason Jar Salad

Portable, make-ahead meals are the stuff dreams are made of — and this adorable mason jar salad is the perfect recipe to fill your belly with hearty chunks of cooked ham, crispy bacon, hard-boiled egg, tomato, avocado and crumbled blue cheese.

Get the recipe for Classic Cobb Mason Jar Salad

Want more how-tos? We give you the lowdown on how to make apple juice and grow fall vegetables.

Feature image courtesy of Pexels

Here’s How to Organize Your Tupperware Drawer Once and for All

Our Tupperware drawers used to stress us out. Seriously. Just opening them up and seeing the chaos that lurked inside was enough for us to toss leftover food away instead of packing it up — it was so wasteful, we know! The thought of spending more than 10 minutes in an archeological dig to find a matching top and bottom was too much of a feat. It’s like trying to find a matching pair of socks while sifting through an enormous pile of clothes in the dryer: it’s frustrating, it wastes time and there are far better things to be doing. So, we came up with a system that now has our Tupperware drawers looking glorious. Now we proudly package up leftovers anytime, looking at the orderly drawers with awe and admiration. This system will change your life. OK, maybe it won’t change your life, but it will change the function of your kitchen, which will inevitably make you calmer and a little bit happier.

Step 1: Empty it Out
Take a deep breath and open the drawer. Take every single item out of the drawer: all lids, all containers and any other random objects that might be stashed away in there. Make sure to look behind the drawer to see if any lids or containers have fallen back there. Have a clear space ready to transfer all the items onto, like a section of the countertop, the kitchen table or even a clean space on the floor. This is the messy part.

Step 2: Partner and Purge
Often times food storage container drawers will be filled with mismatched lids and containers that are just a waste of space. Start finding partners by stacking all of the same-sized container bottoms together. Push all the lids to the side and work on just the containers first. You will inevitably have singles of some containers or ones that are incredibly large or small, don’t stack these ones with the others, just place them to the side. Once you’re done, move onto stacking all lids that are the same shape and size and ensure they have a matching bottom container. Simply count the number of bottom containers and matching tops to see if the numbers add up.

Now, for the purge. If you have lids with no matching bottoms or bottoms with no matching lids, recycle those, unless you have another use for them. If you have containers that are stained, broken or just plain gross, recycle those too. If you find any other items that are not food storage related, find their appropriate home (that may very well be the garbage).

Step 3: Tame the Lids
In a food storage container drawer, often times it’s the lids that like to go rogue and crazy. It’s time to tame them by placing an elastic band around the stack of ones that are the same shape and size. Then organize them into storage containers that will fit into your drawer. You can find these online or at any kitchen store or dollar store. If your drawer doesn’t have room for the storage containers, you can lay the lids on top of their matching bottoms, but they must be contained with an elastic band.

Related: The Leftover Chicken Recipes You’ll Look Forward to Devouring

Step 4: Clean the Drawer
Before the organized containers can go in, give the drawer a good clean and wipe down. You don’t know what dust, crumbs or yuckiness have been living in there.

Step 5: In With the New
Start putting the stacks of container bottoms into the drawer. If some of the single ones are big, place them in first and stack similarly shaped ones inside of it. Do the same with smaller singles and stack those into similarly shaped larger ones. Make space for the storage containers of lids or place the matching lids on top of their partnered bottoms.

Step 6: Beam With Pride
You did it! You now have a chaos-free Tupperware drawer that is actually user friendly! Aren’t you excited for packing leftovers and snacks now? Your job is not done though — now it’s time to pass this article along to those who desperately need it, you know who they are.

Related: 35 Weeknight Meals That Taste Even Better As Leftovers

Step 7: Maintenance
This is the most important step of them all. Once all your food storage containers are washed and clean, you must put it back properly. Let us repeat. You must put it back properly! That means you don’t just toss it back in the drawer, you stack it where it needs to go. You don’t throw your cutlery all willy-nilly in a drawer, you spend time organizing it into sections. Similarly, you don’t throw your clothes in a drawer, you spend time folding it first. Take this same care and a bit of extra time with your Tupperware drawer. And if you are someone who just throws cutlery in a drawer — we need to talk. Happy organizing!

Ready to use up your leftovers? These fried mashed potato balls and this pasta frittata with salad will help you reinvent the wheel.

9 Easy Weekly Meal Plan Ideas That Really Work

Between busy schedules and a family full of picky eaters,  the dinner struggle is real. Finding inspiration for quick, budget-friendly and (at least somewhat) healthy meals can challenge the best of home cooks, never mind those whose plates are already heaped pile-high.

That’s where meal planning becomes a lifesaver—if you can take the time to actually do it. If you don’t have the means to sit down weekly and plot out your favourite fare, we’ve got your back with this simple guide that will help you plan your meals and grocery list, too. These meal ideas and recipes (one for every night of the week, plus two bonus ideas to swap in and out) makes preparing a weekly meal plan  or menu easy while helping you to create dishes that are anything but routine.

How to Start Meal Planning? Try These No-Fail Meal Planning Ideas!

easy-pasta-pumpkin-sausageGet the recipe for Pasta with Pumpkin and Sausage

1. Start with Pasta

Pasta is an affordable universal favourite, so why not make it a weekly thing? Having a designated pasta night is genius because you can essentially pair any kind of pasta with whichever sauce, protein and veggie you feel like, and then you can do something completely different the following week.

Looking for some inspiration other than another plate of spaghetti and meatballs? Try these recipes instead:

Pasta with Pumpkin and Sausage

15-Minute Three-Cheese Spring Pasta with Peas

Sweet Potato and Zucchini Noodle Pasta with Garlic Scapes and Grilled Shrimp 

Anna Olson’s Beef Stroganoff

Ina Garten’s Bow Tie Pasta with Broccoli and Peas

korean-steakGet the recipe for Korean-Style Marinated Skirt Steak

2. You Can’t go Wrong with Protein and Veg 

A  barbecued, baked or even pan-fried cut of meat or fish always pairs well with some steamed or baked veggies. Switch up your marinades and cooking methods for even more variety, and then throw in some rice, lentils or potatoes for a complete meal.

Want some new ideas? Check out these simple-to-prepare recipes:

30-Minute Kimchi Chicken Patties

No-Mess Sheet Pan Chicken Fajitas

Slow Cooker Pork Tenderloin With Veggies

The Best *Vegan* Steak Recipe Ever 

10-Minute Blackened Trout With Green Beans

Dill Salmon Burgers With Dairy-Free Tzatziki

chourico-kale-soupGet the recipe for Portuguese Chourico and Kale Soup

3. Soup and Salads are Your Friends

There are so many hearty salads and filling soups out there these days that it’s easy to make either one a meal in itself. If the weather is nice, plan on eating an elevated salad one night of the week with some fancy ingredients to make it interesting. Or, for those weeks when you need something a little more comforting, plan on having a hot soup and some crusty baguette to go with it.

Get started with these recipes:

Immune-Boosting Bone Broth, Chicken and Vegetable Soup

The Pioneer Woman’s Cheesy Cauliflower Soup

Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup

Marinated Artichoke Salad with Prosciutto and Parmesan

The Pioneer Woman’s Lighter Asian Noodle Salad

Instapot-Pulled-Pork-recipeGet the recipe for Instant Pot Barbecue Pulled Pork Sandwich

4. Make Use of Your Slow Cooker or Instant Pot

Who doesn’t love a meal that you can throw together and then forget about until it’s ready? That’s the beauty of slow cookers and Instant Pots—they do all of the heavy lifting for you. Figure out which night of the week will be your busiest, and then plan to use either tool to help pull dinner together in a breeze.

Need a new Crockpot or pressure cooker recipe? Check out any of these delicious dishes:

Instant Pot Barbecue Pulled Pork Sandwich

Instant Pot Chicken Adobo

Slow Cooker Vegetarian Sweet Potato and Black Bean Enchiladas

Slow Cooker Swedish Meatballs

The Pioneer Woman’s Slow Cooker White Chicken Chili

Get the recipe for Slow Cooker Sweet Potato and Black Bean Enchiladas

5. Stock up on Easy-to-Assemble Ingredients

Having a well-stocked pantry is always key when it comes to throwing together last-minute dinners, or figuring out how to use up fresh ingredients that have been sitting in your fridge for a few extra days. Make sure to keep things like canned tuna  and lots of stock, tomato sauce and a few protein-filled grains and legumes on hand.

Check out these simple ideas to elevate your basic pantry staples:

The Pioneer Woman’s Classic Tuna Melts

The Pioneer Woman’s Tuna Noodle Casserole

One Can of Chickpeas, Six Different Meals

10-Minute Spicy Sautéed Cauliflower and Chickpea Dish

One-Pot Spaghetti with Fresh Tomato Sauce

How to Make the Perfect Veggie Burger (Plus One Easy Recipe!)

Get the recipe for The Best Homemade Veggie Burger

6. Find Your Freezer Meals

Remember those meals you made a few months ago that have been sitting in your freezer just waiting to be eaten ever since? Well, make use of them already, especially if you know you have an evening coming up where preparing dinner is just going to be another thing to worry about. And if you haven’t gotten on the freezer meal train just yet, you may want to think about starting. Whether it’s doubling up on your next pasta sauce or cobbling together a second lasagna or tray of enchiladas, there are plenty of freezer meals that you can make ahead of time to enjoy on those hectic nights when cooking is the last thing you want to be doing.

Turkey-Burger-Patty-Melts-recipeGet the recipe for Guy Fieri’s Turkey Burger Patty Melts

7. Have an Eat-With-Your-Hands Night

Whether it’s a burger, pizza or taco, it’s always fun to eat with your hands. That’s probably why these are the same fast-food items we tend to usually order throughout the week. If you want to save money, use better ingredients and still have a meal in a matter of minutes for a well-deserved Eat-With-Your-Hands night!

From pizza and tacos to sloppy joes and charcuterie boards, there are plenty of hands-on dishes to choose from here:

The Pioneer Woman’s Sloppy Joes

Mushroom Lovers’ French Bread Pizzas

The Pioneer Woman’s Shrimp Tacos

Guy Fieri’s Turkey Burger Patty Melts

cauliflower-pot-pieGet the recipe for Vegan Shepherd’s Pie with Crispy Cauliflower Crust

8. Make One Night a Meatless Night

We’ve heard of Meatless Mondays, but really any night of the week is a good excuse to go meatless—especially when you incorporate foods like whole grains, quinoa and barley that fill the tummy and soul. Stir yourself up a creamy risotto, build a yummy Buddha bowl with all the things, or stuff an eggplant or squash with some whole grains and nuts. Keep it simple and hearty, and before long, you won’t even remember a time when you didn’t incorporate a meatless dish into your meal planning.

Check out these easy vegan recipes for beginners to get you started.

Leftover-Turkey-Chili-recipeeGet the recipe for Leftover Turkey Chili

9. Plan a Designated Leftover Night

Last but not least, it’s always a great idea to make one night an evening of no planning. That’s right, we’re talking leftovers. Once a week, throw whatever leftovers you have in the fridge on the table for everyone to enjoy, or reimagine them into a creative, brand new dish that requires very little effort.

Check out some of our favourite ways to use up leftovers here:

The Best Leftover Turkey Pizza 

Our Favourite Leftover Chicken Recipes

The Most Genius Ways to Use Leftover Rice

Weeknight Dinners That Taste Even Better as Leftovers

Looking for more meal planning tips? Try these hacks that will help you plan like a pro.

5 Ways to Fix Over-Salted Food

Salt can be your best friend in the kitchen. It brings forward and enhances flavours, taking a dish from drab to vibrant with just a pinch. But what do you do when you’ve lovingly tended and seasoned a dish and you realize that you’ve added way too much salt? The panic is real.

Firstly, take a deep breath and put down that box of salt! There are lots of ways to rescue over-salted food.

Related: These Healthy Salt Substitutes Are the Real Deal

Salt

Here are your best options for fixing over-salted food:

 

1. Make More of Your Recipe 

Let’s start with the most obvious: make more. If you have enough ingredients, double the recipe or make more by half, then mix it in with the salty batch a bit at a time until you’ve reached your desired flavour.

2. Bulk up Your Dish

Bulk up the dish with more of any quick-cooking main ingredients you have, such as vegetables from your crisper drawer. I’ll often add handfuls of greens to dishes with too much salt.

3. Add a Starch

Stir in some cooked (unsalted) rice, barley, quinoa, pasta or couscous. These salt-thirsty ingredients will absorb quite a bit from a sauce. Depending on the dish, simmer or bake it with a splash of liquid to meld the flavours and allow the grains to absorb the excess salt. If it’s a soup, curry or other saucy dish, you can add large chunks of potato to soak up excess salt, then discard once tender.

Related: Easy and Tasty Ways to Use Leftover Rice

4. Dilute Your Dish With Liquid

With this option, you just want to be careful not to dilute all the hard-earned flavours as well as the salt, so don’t reach straight for water. Opt instead for unsalted broth, some unsalted diced tomatoes, or a splash of cream or wine. Make sure you’re adding something that will add to the flavour and not dilute the dish.

Related: This is the Right Way to Freeze Fresh Veggies and Herbs

5. Last Step: Re-Season, But Not With Salt!

If you’ve mitigated the saltiness by adding liquids or other ingredients, you’ll likely need to bolster the other seasonings so you don’t end up with a perfectly salted but otherwise underwhelming dish. Ground spices and fresh herbs can be added directly, but things like garlic, onions, ginger and whole spices won’t be very tasty if added raw. Here’s the golden secret: borrow a fantastic cooking trick from India called a “tarka” — aromatics such as onions, spices and garlic are sautéed separately and added to the dish at the last minute. The method is like magic, adding a ton of flavour as a final step.

For more kitchen tips, these are the five utensils every home cook needs. Plus tips on how long leftovers last, and 10+ spices every kitchen needs.

How These Nutritionists Organize Their Fridge Will Change The Way You Grocery Shop

When you have an organized fridge, you’re immediately set up for success – not just to eat healthily, but to save money, cook more, eat consciously and order less takeout. As nutritionists and private chefs, we have seen many fridges in our day; the good, the bad and the ugly. We’ve seen it all: mouldy containers, expired condiments, weeknight leftovers, wilting produce that’s turning all shades of brown, and shelves covered in sticky goo from a spill that was never cleaned up. Are you nodding your head? Can you relate? This was us, we admit that we were those people with messy (and sometimes gross!) fridges, and we’ve managed to come out the other side to share our tips on how to live your best organized fridge life.

1. Do a Weekly Fridge Clean Out
Just as you take your garbage out once a week, do the same with your refrigerator. Make every Thursday fridge clean-out day. This is probably the most important tip we can offer, and although it’s a simple one, it’s not necessarily easy because it takes effort (about 10 minutes worth). We know when items accumulate in the fridge, they’re usually shoved to the back, then forgotten to expire and rot. This is how fridges become gross and crowded, which will deter you from opening it and buying new produce items. Then you’ll end up ordering take out, and you know those leftovers will sit in your fridge… for too long. Do you see the cycle? Just clean your fridge!

Read More: 10 Genius Ways to Make Your Food Last Longer 

2. Store Food Properly to Make it Last
One of the most common problems we hear from our clients is, “our produce always goes bad before we get a chance to use it.” This is not only a waste of money, but also a waste of food and effort from everyone involved in the process (think: farmers, food brokers, shippers, grocery stores, etc). Instead, store food properly. Keep veggies and heartier fruits like apples in the crisper drawers. Herbs and asparagus need to be kept in glasses of water like a bouquet of flowers. Leafy greens and broccoli should be stored in bags to prevent them from wilting. Delicate fruit like berries should be placed on the shelf. Don’t wash produce before putting it in the fridge, this will spoil it faster.

3. Invest in a Whiteboard (it costs $1.50)
Keep a whiteboard on the outside of your fridge that lists what you’ll be eating for the week and which groceries you need to buy. You will be an organizational champion if you do this. You clearly outline your meals so you know what you need to prep and when. You also know which ingredients you need to stock up on. Simply take a picture of the board with your phone and use it as your grocery list. We also organize the board in columns of produce, pantry and other. This will make shopping efficient because your list will already be organized by grocery store aisles/sections.

Read More: 10 Clever Ways to Double Your Fridge Space

4. Become a Prep Master
Take a few hours to prep and chop your produce. This step is annoying, we know, but so worth it. We find it best to do at night. Throw on a great Food Network show to keep you occupied as you chop and slice away. Cooking can sometimes to be a challenging feat, especially when you’re tired and busy, but think about how much easier it is when produce is already prepped. You can throw together a quick stir-fry or roasted veggie dish when cauliflower is already in florets, cabbage is already sliced and potatoes are already cubed.

5. Buy Premade Food
While we bet you enjoy cooking, we also know you’re busy with a life and things to do, so crafting an elaborate meal isn’t always an option. We recommend buying a few items that are premade to keep in your fridge like a cooked chicken, a box of mixed greens that’s ready-to-eat or store-bought soups, stews and chilis. This way you won’t reach for foods that you don’t actually want, and you can put meals together in minutes. We recently bought a cooked chicken, spiralized butternut squash noodles and Thai soup, then threw all these items together in a pot and had a warming, delicious meal with minimal effort.

Read More: Here’s How a Nutritionist Meal Preps Every Sunday

6. Place Ready-to-Eat Food at Eye Level
When you’re desperate for a snack or even meal, the easiest thing to do is visit the pantry and grab something carb-o-licious. But, you don’t really want to do that, do you? Have you ever binged on your kids’ goldfish crackers before? No, me neither, never. Put everything that’s already prepared (leftovers, cut up carrots, hummus, soups, grapes, etc) on the middle shelf, or the shelves that are directly at eye level. Grocery stores do this to entice you to buy certain brands, so do the same with your fridge. Keep them in transparent containers so you can see what’s inside.

7. Be a Minimalist
Do you really need a fridge that’s bursting at the seams? We’ve found that crowded fridges are just filled with accumulated mess. We don’t mean your fridge shouldn’t be stocked, but when you can barely even see what’s inside, that means it’s too full, and usually not with good, edible food. Also, the air cannot circulate around properly. Be a minimalist when it comes to stocking your fridge. Think about how much you really eat, what you really need, and when you will actually use the ingredients you’re buying. To be honest, we often have a close-to-empty fridge with only essentials in it to ensure we eat what we buy and don’t let excess food go to waste.

Read More: How Long Do Leftovers Last? We Break it Down

8. Store Raw Meat, Poultry and Seafood on the Bottom Shelf
This is a food safety measure that’s required by restaurants, and you should adopt it for your fridge at home. Store these items on the bottom shelf and put them in a container or on a tray. This ensures that if there is some spillage, it will not spoil any other items in the fridge. Imagine you kept your raw chicken on the top shelf and the juices accidentally drip down onto your berries, yogurt or lettuce. This cross contamination can make you really sick, so, keep these items low down. We also recommend pushing them to the back of the bottom shelf where the fridge tends to be the coldest.

9. Group Ingredients Based on Similarity
For instance, all of our fermented foods like sauerkraut, pickles, yogurt and miso are on the same shelf beside each other. All of our varieties of mustards and BBQ sauces are grouped together on the doors. So are our Asian style condiments like tamari, Thai curries, sesame oil and fish sauce and our nut/seed butters like peanut butter, almond butter and sunflower butter. This makes cooking more efficient so you don’t need to search the fridge to figure out where all the items are as you’re cooking. It also easily alerts you to when one of those items is running low or empty.

Read More: 4 Things You Didn’t Know About Expiry Dates

10. Store Flours, Nuts & Seeds in the Fridge
Many people will store these items in cupboards or in the pantry, but they’re actually better off in the fridge. Flours, nuts and seeds all have oils that can become sensitive to heat and spoil quickly, so keep these items in bags or containers in the fridge. A crisper drawer or any of the shelves will do the trick. Beware: these items can pick up smells from other ingredients in the fridge, so ensure they’re stored away tightly in their bags/containers.

4 Things You Didn’t Know About Expiry Dates

We’ve all been there, squinting at tiny writing on a milk carton wondering if it is still OK to add it to your morning cereal. Should you trust your nose, or stick to the best before date? The answer isn’t always clear.

Expiry dates might be the finite end of when you can safely consume food, but most of the foods we purchase are only stamped with a best before date, meaning it’s merely a suggested date to guarantee freshness and nutritional value. Here are some things you need to know about expiry dates so you can save money, and avoid tossing away food that’s still perfectly good to eat.

1. Only 5 types of products have actual expiry dates

In Canada, the only products to carry a true expiry date are: infant formula, nutritional supplements, meal replacements, formulated liquid diets and food formulated for low-energy diets sold by pharmacists. Not what most of us envision when it comes to filling up our grocery carts! All other food that stays fresh for 90 days or less are stamped with a best before date, which is just the industry’s way of guaranteeing it will taste as it should and be nutritionally accurate to its label.

milk-pour-over-cereal

2. The best before date only applies to unopened packages

While we usually rely on these dates the most when consuming already purchased foods at home, the best before date is no longer valid once a package is open, meaning the countdown to the last sip of milk isn’t as set in stone as it seems. Since food has a higher chance of being contaminated once the package is opened, the best before date is only an accurate gauge of freshness while you’re strolling the aisle of the grocery store.

hard-boiled-eggs

3. You can still consume food past the best before date

Just because it’s on or past the best before date doesn’t mean you have to throw it out. Milk and yogurt can be safely consumed for up to one week after their best before date. How long are eggs good for? You can test uncooked eggs to see if they are still good by placing them in a glass of water. If the egg floats, it has gone bad; if it sinks, it is good to eat. But make sure to use common sense when consuming any food past their stamped date. Always remember the saying: when in doubt, throw it out.

frozen-shrimp

4. There are still some foods to watch out for

Fresh fish, shellfish and most meat (even deli meats) have a smaller window of opportunity to consume after their best before date, so it’s best not to risk eating these items after that suggested time.

Food waste costs the economy billions of dollars a year, so why not be more mindful of what you’re tossing in the garbage can? It’ll keep extra money in your pocket while helping out the environment.

Want to learn more? Check out: 10 Foods You Can Eat After the Expiry Date.

Your Ultimate Guide to Freezing Food

Using your freezer to preserve make-ahead meals, desserts, snacks and more, can save you money, reduce food waste and turn you into a kitchen saviour on busy weeknights. But you can’t get ahead of the game if you don’t know what can freeze and for how it can be frozen.

Foods high in water, like melons and squash, don’t freeze well, rendering them granular upon defrosting. While others like chicken breasts, cookie dough and chili were seemingly made for the deep freeze. From vegetables and fruit to fully prepared dinners, you’ll want to keep our food freezing guide handy next time you’re in the mood to stockpile.

freezer temperature

Essential Freezing Tips:
– Label foods before freezing with the date and its contents.
– Make at least one meal per week to use up freezer foods.
– Prevent freezer burn by using freezer-friendly bags, not the oftentimes thin plastic the food comes in.
– If freezing soups, stews and other dishes that are high in liquids, remember that when frozen, food expands, so be sure to leave headspace on your container to avoid bursting.
– Keep freezer temperature at -18ºC (0ºF).
– Remove as much air as possible from containers and bags of food to avoid spoilage and freezer burn.
– Defrost your freezer according to manufacturer’s directions at least twice per year.
– When in doubt, throw it out!

Produce:
Vegetables: 6 to 12 months
Fruit: 6 to 12 months
Juices and juice concentrates: 6 to 12 months
Prepared smoothies: 1 month

Produce not to freeze: melons, citrus (juice can be frozen, no whole fruit or segments), apples, pears, lettuce, radishes, alfalfa sprouts, potatoes (unprepared, you can freeze mashed potatoes), eggplant, mashed pumpkin and squash

vegetables-frozen-blocks-beans-peas-broccoli-corn-assorted-spinach

Bread and Grains:
Baked bread: 3 months
Unbaked bread: 1 month
Pizza (homemade): 1 to 2 months
Cooked rice: 3 months
Cooked whole grains: 3 months
Cooked pasta: 3 months

Bread and grains not to freeze: cooked quinoa, uncooked grains, uncooked pasta, cereal, cooked and raw oatmeal

Meat and Poultry:
Beef (steaks): 6 to 12 months
Pork: 4 to 6 months
Lamb: 6 to 12 months
Chicken and Turkey (whole): 12 months
Chicken and Turkey (parts): 6 months
Ground meat and poultry: 3 to 6 months
Sausages: 2 to 3 months
Cooked meat and poultry: 3 months

Meat and Poultry not to freeze: deli meats

Seafood:
Fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines): 3 months
Lean fish (tilapia, halibut): 6 months
Cooked fish: 4 to 6 months
Shellfish: 3 months
Lobster: 12 months
Oysters: 2 to 3 months
Clams: 2 to 3 months
Mussels: 2 to 3 months

Seafood not to freeze: canned fish (in can, you can freeze canned fish outside of can in a separate container up to 3 months)

frozen food in freezer

Dairy and Eggs:
Milk: 3 to 6 months
Butter (unsalted, salted): 8 to 12 months
Margarine: 12 months
Eggs (out of shell): 1 month
Hard cheese: 6 months

Dairy and Eggs not to freeze: whole eggs in shell, hard boiled or cooked eggs, cottage cheese, yogurt, soft cheese (goat cheese, cream cheese), sour cream, buttermilk, kefir

Beverages:
Juices and juice concentrates: 6 to 12 months
Milk: 3 to 6 months
Prepared smoothies: 1 month

Beverages not to freeze: carbonated drinks, soda, beer, wine, coffee (beans and brewed), tea (leaves and brewed), anything in glass bottles

Prepared Meals and Miscellaneous:
Broth: 3 months
Soups: 3 months
Stews: 3 months
Chili: 3 months
Casseroles (without eggs, meat or fish): 2 months
Casseroles (with eggs, meat or fish): 1 month
Frozen TV dinners: 3 to 4 months

Miscellaneous not to freeze: mayonnaise, prepared deli salads (egg salad, tuna salad, macaroni salad), salad dressings

Desserts and Baked Goods:
Cookies (baked): 6 to 8 months
Cookie dough (unbaked): 3 months
Cake (frosted): 1 month
Cake (unfrosted): 3 months
Cheesecake: 6 to 8 months
Pie (unbaked, fruit): 2 to 4 months
Pie (baked, fruit): 6 to 8 months
Pie (baked, pumpkin, sweet potato, pecan): 1 to 2 months
Muffins and quick breads: 6 to 12 months

Desserts and Baked Goods not to freeze: custards, cream pies, pudding, prepared milkshakes

Want to get the most out of your freezer? Watch this video on how to prep food for freezing.

5 Tips for Getting Rid of Cooking Smells

Bacon, fish, onions and fries — all delicious and intoxicating while cooking, but the second the final bite has been swallowed, can quickly turn into stomach-churning odours that need to be nixed, stat. Here are five tips that will help eliminate those pungent cooking smells and ensure your kitchen stays fresh.

888_cooking-smells-in-kitchen

1. Turn it Up
Prevention is the best medicine and this holds true when it comes to fighting the battle of kitchen smells. The simple flip of your stove’s overhead fan will get the majority of smells out before they have time to get cozy. This is one small yet mighty step to ensure last night’s fish and chips aren’t lingering in the air while you sip your morning coffee.

2. Open the Windows
Don’t underestimate the power of fresh air to help eliminate gnarly cooking odours. If you’ve got a small fan, even better — switch it on and set it near the window to help push out the bad and filter in the fresh.

3. Light a Candle
A candle seems like the obvious quick fix, but when attempting to freshen up the kitchen post bacon-frying, it’s important to take a second look at the label. Competing smells can be tricky, so opt for a fresh scent like citrus or even linen. Covering up evidence of a Sunday morning brunch with strong, musky scents or other food smells can be overbearing and defeat the purpose altogether.

4. Simmer Some Spices
The power of cinnamon sticks, cloves and even star anise to get some serious stink out of your kitchen is quite powerful. To get your own inexpensive, DIY smell fixer, simmer a small pot of water or even apple cider on the stove and plop in a mix of the above spices. This concoction is especially intoxicating at this time of year, when warm, spicy scents wrap you up like a blanket when you come in from the crisp air.

5. Clean Up your Act
Cleaning up the dinner dishes right away is a chore many of us would rather save for later. But those grimy, oily pots and pans is a bad smell breeding ground. Cleaning up right away, or even filling pots and pans with hot, soapy water, will stop the smells from continuing to linger and make the eventual dinner clean up that much easier.

How to Properly Clean Out Your Fridge

Does your fridge smell a little suspect? Do you have multiple near-empty mustard jars, half-full relishes, and countless containers of salsa (mild, medium and extra spicy) vying for space with your daily essentials? Is your freezer playing host to baggies filled with meat so freezer-burned you can no longer identify it? If you answered yes to any of these questions, it’s time to clean out your fridge to make room for the good stuff.

cleaning-out-your-fridge

Getting Started

It’s a daunting task, but it must be done. Turn on some lively tunes and kick everyone out of the kitchen.. Have bags or bins for garbage, compost and recycling at the ready. Wear rubber gloves, and possibly a surgical mask.

Turn the temperature control down a few degrees since you’ll have the doors open a lot, and take everything out of the fridge. Everything. We mean it. If your fridge has a drip pan, remove it to clean.

Once all the food is out, remove shelves and racks, and wash them in hot soapy water. Wash all stationary pieces with a soapy cloth or sponge. Don’t use any strong cleaners — food-grade dish soap only. You don’t want to risk poisoning yourself or your family in the name of a clean fridge!

Replace that ancient box of baking soda (you should be changing it every three months) and while you’re at it, use a few tablespoons of the new baking soda and some water to create a paste that can be rubbed all over the inside of your fridge, then rinsed away with a damp cloth for extra odour control and rotten smell eradication.

What to Toss

In the fridge: Toss anything that’s passed its expiration date, but also keep in mind how long something has been open.

Follow these guidelines for food safety:

Ketchup: 6 months
BBQ Sauce: 4 months
Maple Syrup: 12 months
Salsa: 3 days (fresh), 1 month (commercially produced or
jarred)
Mustard: 12 months
Pickles: 1 to 2 weeks (homemade or barrel), 2 months
(commercially produced)
Jam and Jelly: 6 months
Mayonnaise: 2 months

If you have two types of mayonnaise, three types of ketchup and four barbecue sauces, don’t combine one type of condiment into a single bottle. Instead, pick the freshest one and throw away the rest.

When it comes to meats and cheeses, be ruthless. Anything that looks or smells bad has got to go. Also, start storing opened packages in airtight Tupperware containers, rather than closing them half-heatedly with clips and ties. Your food will last longer and your entire fridge will smell better. Plus, containers that can be stacked and labeled are easy to organize.

In the freezer: Follow the directions specific to your freezer for defrosting, if necessary. (Most modern freezers don’t need to be defrosted but will benefit from a good cleaning.)

Then ascribe to these rules when deciding what to keep and what to throw away:

Bacon or Sausage: 1 to 2 months
Ham, Hot Dogs or Cold Cuts: 2 to 3 months
Raw Roasts, Steaks or Chops: 4 to 12 months
Raw Ground Meat: 3 to 4 months
Cooked Meat: 2 to 3 months
Raw, Whole Poultry: 1 to 2 months
Raw Poultry Parts: 9 months
Cooked Poultry: 4 months
Raw, Wild Game: 8 to 12 months

Mangoes

Is This Fruit Ripe? Tricks to Buying the Sweetest Produce

Although it’s easy to spot which fruit is perfectly ripe at a roadside stand in the peak of summer (hello, juicy peaches and oh-so fragrant strawberries!), during the remaining months it can be challenging to figure out if the fruit you’re purchasing is truly at its peak.

While we have seemingly endless options available at the grocery store year-round, it’s not as simple to tell when some fruits are ripe. Here are some easy tips to make sure you are never disappointed when you crack into a beautiful piece of fruit.

orange

Citrus
Since citrus grows in a separate climate from ours, it’s easy to forget that there actually is a season when they’re at their best. Lucky for us, prime citrus season is in the dead of winter, just as we’re so desperately looking for those bright and sunny flavours.
Indulge in blood oranges, pomelos, grapefruit and Meyer lemons from December to March while they’re super sweet and juicy. Look for citrus with tight skin that doesn’t have a lot of give when pressed. If they’re too soft, they could be passed their prime. Always make sure to give them a good sniff. The ripest citrus will be bursting with the scent of their essential oils.

Pineapple

Pineapple
Choosing a ripe pineapple can seem a bit tricky, but they’re actually one of the easiest fruits to tell if they’re ripe — as long as you know what to look for. Counter intuitively, a pineapple can have some green throughout its body and still be perfectly ripe. So take a step back and look at its overall appearance. Its top leaves should be deeply green and not too wilted or browned. and its skin should be tight and only gives slightly when pressed. Most importantly, a fully ripe pineapple will always have super sweet scent, so pick it up by the top and smell the base. Its aroma should be fruity and delicious.

Melons
Unlike oranges and pineapples, not every variety of melon will give off a scent to gauge its ripeness, but luckily there are other simple ways to find out. Look for melons that have consistently even skin, free of any soft spots, bruising or cracks. Smooth melons, such as watermelon, should have a matte finish and lacy melons, such as cantaloupe, should be vibrant in colour underneath their rough, top layer. Regardless of the melon you’re buying, pick it up. It should feel heavy , then give it a gentle knock; a ripe melon will always sound hollow inside.

Mangoes

Mangoes
The best rule of thumb when it comes to purchasing a mango is pretty simple: a soft mango will always be a ripe one. Once you know this rule, it’s easier to look for indicators to make sure the mango isn’t overripe. The skin should be tight and plump, without any shrivelling or discolouration. Take the time to pick it up and smell it by the stem; it should smell sweet and fresh, not alcoholic or sour.

Avocado

Avocados
If you’re shopping on a Sunday and want to have an avocado towards the end of the week, it’s best to buy ones that are under-ripe so it has a few days to reach perfection. If you want to make a bowl of guacamole tonight, look for avocadoes that are so deeply green, they’re almost black and have a slight give when pressed. Be careful if doesn’t feel too soft, an overripe avocado will have a lot of give and feel squishy inside.

How to Cool Down Spicy Food

3 Ways to Cool Down Spicy Food

Sometimes chili peppers are unpredictable. Jalapeños can range from bell pepper sweet to inferno hot, with subtle variations depending on the climate where they were grown and the ripeness of the fruit when it was picked.

You can make a recipe, finding it perfect the first time and inedible the next. Or maybe you just have a heavy hand with the cayenne. In any case, what do you do when you’ve prepared a meal that’s painfully hot to eat?

How to Cool Too Spicy Food

1. Add Dairy.
Capsaicin, the molecule responsible for the burn, is fat-soluble, so water alone won’t wash it away. Your best bet is to incorporate a rich, creamy dairy product. Casein, a protein found in dairy, has a neutralizing effect on capsaicin, so doctor up your your curry with cream, your chili with sour cream, or offer a cooling cucumber-yogurt salad alongside too-spicy meats.

2. Try Texture.
Another trick, offered by the acclaimed food science writer Harold McGee, is to use a rough-textured food to distract your nerves with a different sensation. Try mixing your dish with rice or quinoa, or serving it alongside a particularly tongue-scratchy food, like dry crackers or toasted baguette.

3. Dilute it.
Lastly, you could follow an approach similar to fixing over-salted food. Dilute the spiciness by cooking more of the same dish and mixing the two batches.

Jennifer Pallian is a Vancouver-based food writer and photographer, who shares vibrant recipes on her blog Foodess.

11 Foods That Should Never Be Refrigerated

Call me weird, but I really hate putting away the groceries. There’s never any room in the fridge and I now know why. I’ve been putting foods I don’t need to refrigerate in my already-crowded fridge!

Have a look at the list below (I’m going home and taking out #3, #6, #7 and #9 immediately)!

honey-in-jar

1. Honey

No need to put honey in the fridge, it’ll just thicken and crystallize which is really annoying to scoop out but perfectly fine. Honey is all natural so it stays good almost indefinitely in the pantry. In fact, a 1000-year-old jar of honey will be as fresh as the day it was put into that jar.

2. Avocados

Avocados should not be refrigerated until they are ripe. Once ripe, you can put them in the fridge for a week. Best to keep avocados whole, not sliced, to avoid browning that occurs when the flesh is exposed to air. Also if you want them to ripen faster, put them on top of your fridge in a paper bag.

3. Hot sauce

I didn’t know this but you can keep it in the pantry for up to three years!

4. Coffee

The fridge (and the freezer) create condensation which affect the flavour of both ground coffee and coffee beans. It’ll also absorb odours in the fridge. My mom actually uses coffee grounds instead of baking soda for its odour-absorbing powers. Keep coffee in an airtight container in the pantry.

5. Onions

Avoid direct sunlight. Keep them in a cool, dry place but NOT next to your potatoes. When stored together, both deteriorate faster. Moisture in your fridge will turn onions soft and moldy–yuck.

6. Potatoes

Putting them in the fridge affects the flavour and texture (they become gritty) Store in the pantry in paper bags (plastic bags trap moisture and speed decay). Most varieties should last three weeks but not next to the onions (See #5).

7. Bread

Did you know refrigeration will dry your bread out quicker? It’ll also make it tough and less tasty. Unless it’s sliced bread you plan on using in the next few days, keep it in the freezer or the counter.

8. Tomatoes

Tomatoes lose all their flavour in the fridge because the cold stops the ripening process. It also messes with the texture and them mealy and mushy.

9. Melons

You really shouldn’t store any whole melon fruit in the fridge. Once it’s cut though, that’s another story. There’s research that shows refrigerating whole melons decreases the antioxidants – that’s the good stuff you want.

10. Garlic

Store them in a cool, dry and ventilated container to preserve their powerful flavour. Once the head has been broken open, use the cloves within 10 days.

11. Oils

Nut oils (like hazelnut oil or peanut oil) must be refrigerated, but for other types of oil keep them in the pantry. They become cloudy and harden when refrigerated. While this doesn’t do lasting damage, it’s a pain to wait for the oil to warm up before it flows properly again.

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