Tag Archives: kitchen tips

Black Garlic: What It is and Why You Need to Cook With It This Year

As Canadians get more adventurous in the kitchen, it’s only natural that they’d be on the lookout for the latest on-trend foods and dishes to try at home. And, with 2020 kicking into high gear, black garlic has continued its steady ascent as one of the most sought-after ingredients in North American cuisine. But if you’re left reeling at the thought of cooking with the inky, blackened cloves – or don’t entirely understand how to incorporate it into your favourite recipes – you’re definitely not alone.

Although not an entirely new concept (Japan, Thailand and South Korea have been extolling the virtues of black garlic for years) this versatile ingredient can be easily swapped in for traditional white garlic in most dishes.

Still not convinced? We break it all down for you – from the what to the how – and offer up some of our favourite garlicky Food Network Canada recipes as mouth-watering examples of where you can introduce this on-trend ingredient into your repertoire.

Related: 12 Hottest Food Trends We’ll Be Devouring in 2020

What is It?

In short, it’s your everyday run-of-the-mill white garlic – albeit gradually aged over a period of weeks. By gently heating entire bulbs in a humidity-controlled environment (think: rice cookers), you wind up with darkened, sticky cloves that quite frankly resemble garlic gone bad. Despite their slightly charred and off-putting appearance, the Maillard reaction (the chemical reaction between amino acids and sugars that lend browned/aged foods their unmistakable taste) actually deepens their flavours for an entirely different – and elevated – culinary experience.



Get the recipe for Roger Mooking’s 30 Cloves of Garlic Sauce

What Does it Taste Like?

For starters, it doesn’t taste much like traditional garlic. Once blackened, the cloves become earthy and syrupy-sweet in flavour, with additional hints of prunes, balsamic vinegar and black licorice. It’s also softer and has a molasses-like texture, making it easier to spread on crackers or crostini. Something for at-home chefs to consider: due to the loss of its original sharp taste, a larger volume of black garlic is required with any recipe in order to achieve higher taste levels.

How to Use It

You can add black garlic to salad dressing or dip recipes, purée them with olive oil, create scrumptious pastes from scratch or rub onto fish or meat before popping your dish in the oven. If you purchase it in powdered form, you can also sprinkle it on pretty much anything your heart (and stomach) desires.

Related: Pinterest Predicts the Top 15 Food Trends for 2020



Get the recipe for Everything Garlic Bread Knots

How to Make It at Home

We’ll be honest: it’s a long, drawn-out process, but if you have the time to spare, the results are well worth the wait. A relatively easy hack is to break out the rice cooker and use the “warm” setting to transform white garlic into black garlic over the span of roughly three to four weeks (or 40 days). You can also use your slow cooker.



Get the recipe for Anna Olson’s Garlic Parmesan Twists

Where to Buy It

Although it might be a little difficult to track down in major grocery chains, specialty stores, like Whole Foods, often carry both whole heads of pre-humidified black garlic and the powdered variety.

Health Benefits

Although it’s lower in allicin, the compound that gives traditional garlic many of its health-boosting properties, black garlic is still rich in amino acids and contains double the antioxidants as the white variety. It’s also a great source of vitamins C and D.

Black garlic photo courtesy of Getty Images

Need-to-Know Tips for Freezing Cookies and Bars

During the holiday season, that overworked oven has a lot to do, like churning out batch after batch of Christmas cookies. Instead of freezing dough and stressing on the big day, get the hard work out of the way now and enjoy the baked fruits of your labour all season long. Follow these simple steps for bars and cookies and you’ll never get (freezer) burned again.

Choose Wisely
To set yourself up for success, it’s best to stick to sturdy cookies and bars — no architectural spun sugar flights of fancy here. A big batch of classic chocolate chip, shortbread or even gluten-free cookies will keep you stocked for future cookie exchanges. Bars, on the other hand, are generally pretty low maintenance to begin with, and often feature a solid shortbread crust, so you’ve got more options to let your imagination run wild.

Contain Your Excitement
Whether using a serviceable plastic container or a sparkly snowflake cookie tin, the key to storing cookies and bars is keeping them air tight. Even a plain resealable freezer bag (or two, to double-bag) is fine, as long as you get the air out first — oxygen is your enemy when trying to avoid freezer burn or staleness. Fill containers to the top, and use a straw to suck out the air from bagged cookies to avoid crushing your creations.

Related: Classic Christmas Cookie Recipes That’ll Spread Holiday Cheer

Give Yourself Space
On bake day, make sure you have enough room on your counters or tables to cool your baked goods properly — before the first batch even hits the oven. Ensuring cookies and bars are sufficiently cool avoids taxing your freezer, and prevents soggy, broken pieces.

Flat Out
If your freezer is packed, a little shuffling before bake day to give yourself a nice, flat surface for freeze your cookies will make your life much easier. If you’re using freezer bags or soft-sided containers, don’t just toss your creations carelessly into the freezer. Try chilling the cookies or bars first on a baking sheet in the freezer, then transfer them to their final packaging.

Vanilla Bean Spritz Shortbread

Get the recipe for Anna Olson’s Vanilla Bean Spritz Shortbread

Pretty Portions
Think about how you’ll be bestowing your baked goods on friends and family, and portion accordingly. Have a friend who can’t stand pecans but is nuts about shortbread? Assemble their package before it goes into the freezer, rather than trying to sort cookies and find a gift tin on the day you see them. Thinking of having guest-ready assortments handy for your open house? A little planning means you’ll have a perfect plate ready to pull out of the freezer when guests arrive.

Line ‘Em Up
Parchment paper, wax paper or aluminum foil are all good choices to layer in between cookies or bars to prevent them from sticking when storing. Give yourself a two-inch overhang on each side of the container it easier when lifting cookies or bars out.

Thawing Out
All the hard work is done — now, all that’s left is the taste test. If you can’t wait to thaw your creations, slip them frozen into a preheated 300°F oven for a few minutes to reheat. Otherwise, you can thaw them out easily: although, depending on the ingredients, cookies and bars may have varying thaw points, a general rule of thumb is six to eight hours, to overnight on the counter, covered lightly. Watch out for cookie thieves, though…you may come down in the morning to an empty plate and an innocent looking, crumb-covered family.

Published November 10, 2016, Updated November 27, 2019

Top 5 Kitchen Knives Every Home Cook Should Own

The most important investment you can make for you kitchen is a set of good-quality knives. While you might be put off by the fear of owning an overly sharp blade, it’s actually more dangerous to do your prep with a dull knife, as it forces you to use far more pressure and movement. A well-made knife will always do the work for you, making your prep safer and easier. But which type of knife is best for each job? Here are the best types of knives to prepare you for anything in the kitchen.

Related: Can I Freeze This? How to Freeze Fruit, Cheese, Leftovers and More

Chef’s Knife

A chef’s knife is the most crucial knife to have in your kitchen and if you invest in a higher quality brand, you’ll only ever need one. It’s multi-purpose with a curved edge, which allows it to easily rock back and fourth on a cutting board. Ranging anywhere between 6 to 12 inches long, chef’s knives traditionally have a heavier blade allowing that weight to do the tough work for you. When purchasing, you’ll want to choose one with a handle that feels secure and generally just feels right. Your knife should feel like an extension of your hand, so shop around until you find the perfect one.

chefs-knife

Wüsthof Classic Chef’s Knife, Williams Sonoma, $120.

Paring Knife

Pairing knives are small with a simple blade that works best for quick jobs like slicing through vanilla beans, or intricate work like crosshatching chestnuts or segmenting citrus. Ranging in size from 2 ½ to 4 inches long, make sure you choose a knife that’s light in weight with a super sharp blade.

Related: The Top 5 Kitchen Utensils Every Home Cook Needs

paring-knife

Wüsthof Classic Paring Knife, Williams Sonoma, $50.

Serrated Knife

While serrated knives are the no-brainer option when it comes to cutting any type of bread, they’re also the ideal choice for slicing layered cakes or cutting through soft fruit like tomatoes. Keep in mind their ridged teeth can never be sharpened, so you might have to invest in a few throughout your lifetime.

Related: Bread Baking for Beginners: How to Make the Perfect Sourdough Loaf

Boning Knife

Boning knifes have ultra flexible and tapered blades that are usually 5 to 6 inches long, making it easy to guide your way through certain meats. While not necessary in every household, you might want to consider owning one if you butcher whole chickens, fillet your own fish or butterfly chops.

Carving Knife

Carving knives are large, long and thin, with a blade that’s between 8 and 15 inches long. Its super slim shape makes it a breeze to carve meat with precision, giving you show-stopping slices of roasts, prime rib, turkey and ham perfect for entertaining.

Related: How to Carve the Perfect Turkey Like a Pro (We Break It Down)

Once you’ve invested in some great knives, the most important thing to remember is to always keep them sharp. If you cook every day, you should be sharpening your knives every week. When you feel like your blade is starting to dull, sharpen it yourself or take it in to get sharpened by a professional to keep its edge clean and long-lasting.

brine turkey

How to Brine a Turkey and Why You Should Try It

If you’ve ever had unbelievably flavourful and juicy chicken at a restaurant, chances are it was brined before it was served to you. You can get that same tender result at home by brining your Thanksgiving turkey before roasting it. Besides adding flavour through aromatics like garlic and bay leaves, brining helps meat retain moisture through the cooking process, resulting in unbelievably tender turkey and lots of compliments to the chef. Whether it’s a wet or dry brine, it’s a real easy technique that is good to have in your repertoire. Here’s how to make both wet and dry turkey brines, along with some pros and cons for the two methods.

Turkey brine

Wet Brining

Pro: Soaking your bird in a saltwater solution allows you to easily infuse it with different flavours, such as bay leaves, citrus peels, whole peppercorns or onions. Just strain them after the brining is complete.

Con: Wet brining can be a bulky process. Because there is a lot of liquid involved, this method requires a large container to hold the turkey and the brine, which can mean rearranging your refrigerator ahead of the big day.

Con: For extra crispy skin, you need to remove the turkey from the brine and return to the fridge uncovered for several more hours to dry. With the dry brine, you can just roast straight away for golden, crispy results.

Simple Wet Brine for Turkey

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 12 hours

Ingredients:

1 L water
1 cup sea salt
3 garlic cloves, peeled
2 bay leaves
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 cinnamon stick
1 sprig fresh rosemary
Peel of 1 lemon
3 L cold water
1 tall, large pot or container
1 large turkey, gizzards and neck removed from cavity

Directions:

1. Place 1 litre of water and all aromatics in a medium pot. Turn the stove to medium heat and stir until the salt has completely dissolved.

2. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes while aromatics infuse. Combine with remaining water.

3. Place turkey in the pot and add saltwater mixture. Cover with lid or plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for approximately 12 hours or overnight.

Related: Tasty Ways to Use All That Leftover Turkey

4. When ready to roast, strain saltwater from the pot and discard any remaining aromatics.

5. Rinse turkey in cold water, including inside the cavity, to remove excess brine.

6. Place turkey on a clean towel or sheets of paper towel and pat dry.

7. Roast as desired.

Dry Brine

Pro: With no added liquid and just a medley of salt and spices rubbed directly on the bird you give the salt an opportunity to draw moisture from the bird. Once the salt dissolves,  the moisture is reabsorbed, salt in tow, tenderizing the meat and maintaining its flavour without watering it down.
Pro: Since there is no extra liquid used, roasting will yield a beautifully brown and crispy skin.

Con: The dry rub isn’t for those who hate getting hands-on with meat. You need to make sure this salt rub is rubbed in evenly for it to fully work its magic.

Simple Dry Brine for Turkey

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 8 to 12 hours

Ingredients:

2 sprigs fresh rosemary
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 garlic cloves
1 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme
1 tsp black peppercorns
½ cup sea salt
2 Tbsp cane sugar
1 large turkey, gizzards and neck removed from cavity

Directions:

1. Place the first 5 ingredients in a food processor and pulse several times until a chunky paste forms.

2. Add salt and sugar and continue to pulse until a grainy paste forms.

3. Pat turkey dry with paper towel and then liberally rub the salt mixture all over the skin and inside of the cavity.

Related: Turkey Cooking Tips to Roast the Perfect Bird Every Time

4. Place in refrigerator and let sit for 8 to 12 hours.

5. Remove from refrigerator and rinse in cold water to remove the rub.

6. Place turkey on a clean towel or sheets of paper towel and pat dry.

7. Roast as desired.

Looking for more Thanksgiving recipes? Try these make-ahead recipes for a stress-free Thanksgiving feast.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Published September 29, 2017, Updated October 1, 2019

Leftovers in plastic container in fridge

The Best Ways to Reheat (and Reuse) Leftovers

Wouldn’t the world be an amazing place if we had time to cook a delicious family meal every single night of the week? It certainly would. But since many of us have evening commitments and strict daytime work schedules, dinnertime (and prep) always seems to be cut short. Leftovers are a natural result of busy lives and they don’t always have to be ho-hum after a quick nuke in the microwave. Here are six popular homemade dishes and how to revive them into tasty next-day dishes.

Pasta

Have you ever noticed that pasta is a lot more firm once it’s been sitting for a while? The extra sauce that was sitting on your pasta dish gets absorbed by the leftover noodles. To get the flexibility and sauciness back in a pasta, heat about ¼ cup of tomato sauce, heavy cream or chicken broth, let it come to a simmer then add leftover pasta from the fridge, stir and allow to heat through. Top with a little Parmesan if you have it because, well, it always goes with pasta.

Leftovers in plastic container in fridge

Pizza

Sure, a microwave does (sort of) do the trick with day-old pizza. The result may be decent enough with hot toppings and revived cheese, but it gives the crust an almost soggy, spongy texture. For freshly-made pizza flavor, preheat your oven to a low broil, place two pieces of pizza into a cast iron skillet and let cook in the oven. The cast iron does an amazing job or crisping up the crust, while the low broil gets the cheese bubbly again. For more than an individual serving, use a large pizza stone for the same effect.

Chicken and Fish

To be completely honest, it’s nearly impossible to get the same juicy, tender qualities from cooked poultry and most types of fish the next day. For best results, heat up your protein in a moderately hot oven (about 375°F) in a small baking dish. Add a few spoonfuls of water or stock, cover with tinfoil and bake until warmed through. Giving leftover meats like this a quick chop make them easy additions to simple noodle or cream-based soups.

Related: Sunday Dinners That Promise Leftovers Throughout the Week

Pork and Steak

Much like chicken and fish, big cuts of pork and beef are hard to bring back to life after sitting in the fridge overnight. That being said, there are still ways to make them these leftovers taste pretty delicious. First, let the meat come to room temperature, then slice it into pieces (somewhere between ¼ to ½” thick). This is a much better way to reheat because cooking a larger piece of meat (like tenderloin or roast) will result in an overcooked exterior and too well-done interior. Heat a spoonful or two of butter in a large pan on medium heat, add the sliced meat and let it cook, stirring frequently until warmed through.

Rice

You can easily reheat leftover rice in the microwave in a covered container, but that will generally give you a slightly overcooked, mushy texture. Instead, preheat your oven to 350°F and evenly spread cold rice into a medium-sized baking dish. Loosely cover with tin foil, poking a few holes to allow the steam to escape and let it bake for approximately 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, stir gently with a fork and let bake, uncovered, for 5 more minutes.

Vegetables

This is quite a broad category, so right off the bat, the more tender vegetables like beans, snow peas, asparagus and wilted greens (spinach, Swiss chard, etc.) don’t lend themselves well to reheating after a first cook. If you have leftover corn (if it’s on the cob, cut off the kernels), peas or any sort of legume (chickpeas, beans, lentils), you can give them new life with a quick fry in a large pan with some broth and spices. Root vegetables like butternut squash, yams, potatoes and beets benefit well from a quick re-roast in the oven. Preheat oven to 350°F, lay them out on a baking sheet and let them roast for 12 to 15 minutes. Once removed from the oven, dress them lightly with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Published September 26, 2016, Updated September 1, 2019

Honey in a jar on countertop

5 Natural Sweeteners to Replace White Sugar

If you are like most people, your summer is a time for indulging in ice cream, fruit tarts, cakes, cookies and lots and lots of sugary desserts — full of white sugar. Although white sugar is delicious and makes everything much, much sweeter, it has been touted as a “poison” by some and has been compared to alcohol, cigarettes and crack in terms of an addictive substance. Before we get into better sugar alternatives, here are some reasons why we should limit our white sugar intake.

Honey in a jar on countertop

– It has no nutritional value. Beyond being very sweet, white sugar is known as an empty calorie, it does not contain any nutrients beyond being a carbohydrate. Since it is so refined, containing no nutrients, it actually robs the body of stored vitamins and minerals.

– It suppresses the immune system. Only 1 teaspoon of white sugar can suppress white blood cell function for up to 5 hours! The white blood cells are the body’s main defenders against foreign invaders.

– It interferes with Vitamin C. Vitamin C is needed in the body to boost immunity, build healthy skin and prevent cancer. Sugar interferes with Vitamin C’s function by compromising its transport throughout the body.

Related: Heavenly Honey Desserts

– It feeds candida, yeast, parasites and unwanted bacteria. This causes poor digestion, decreased immune function, gas, bloating, constipation and toxins.

– It spikes blood sugar. Refined, white sugar raises blood sugar really high leading to intense crashes affecting energy levels and hormones.

Now that you know why white sugar needs to go, let’s move on to what sweeteners you can replace it with!

1. Coconut Sugar
This has become popular in the last few years. Coconut sugar is made from the sap of the flower of the coconut palm tree. Water is evaporated from the sap to make coconut sugar, which looks very similarly to brown sugar. Coconut sugar has a lower glycemic index, meaning it will not raise blood sugar the way white sugar does. It contains nutrients such as zinc, iron, B vitamins and inulin, a fibre that feeds probiotics. Coconut sugar is sweet and can be used 1:1 ratio with white sugar.

2. Honey
Honey looks like liquid gold, it has natural antimicrobial, antibacterial and antioxidant properties. The healthfulness of honey depends on the quality and if it is raw or not. Processing honey removes many of the phytonutrients that are still present in raw honey. Raw honey contains enzymes, minerals and vitamins, already making it more nutritious than white sugar. However, honey is very sweet and will raise blood sugar significantly so it’s best to use in minimal amounts.

3. Maple Syrup
Maple syrup is Canada’s homegrown sweetener. It is made from the liquid sap and then boiled until the water is evaporated and it becomes a sticky, thick syrup. Maple syrup is rich in manganese and zinc, which are antioxidants that prevent cell damage. Maple syrup is high on the glycemic index, meaning it spikes blood sugar, however, it is more healthful than refined, white sugar.

Related: Sweet and Savoury Maple Syrup Recipes

4. Molasses
Molasses is actually the liquid byproduct of refining sugar. It’s a thick, viscous sweetener that pairs well with ginger. Molasses contains iron, copper, calcium, potassium, magnesium, manganese, selenium and vitamin B6 – so it is quite rich in minerals.

5. Stevia (Green)
Stevia is the best alternative to white sugar, however, many people are put off by the taste. It is very, very, very sweet so you only need to use small amounts. Unrefined stevia is calorie free and will not raise blood sugar at all! You can actually grow stevia in your backyard, which will make it hyper-local. If you are purchasing stevia you want to opt for the green powder or crushed stevia leaves. White stevia is processed, so I would recommend avoiding that one.

You don’t have to give up eating sweets in an effort to avoid white sugar. As with most things in life, the key is moderation. Even though these sweeteners are healthier than white sugar, some will still raise blood sugar levels very high. If you are committed to doing a real sugar detox, you will want to avoid all sweeteners, even wholesome ones and stick to natural sweets like green apples and berries.

Photo courtesy of Unsplash

Published July 8, 2015, Updated July 16, 2019

Do You Really Need an Instant Pot? What You Need to Know Before You Buy

The Instant Pot is a time-saving, multi-purpose, customizable cooking machine that’s transforming meal-time and building a cult-like following.

But if you’ve received this trendy tool as a gift or you’re thinking of buying on, there are a few things you need to know first. From models to meals, to why they’re so darn popular, our Instant Pot review is your guide to the appliance everyone’s talking about.

instant-pot-pork-recipeGet the recipe for Instant Pot Barbecue Pulled Pork Sandwiches

What is an Instant Pot, Anyway?

Like your slow cooker, Instant Pots house an inner pot warmed by an electric element. But the Instant Pot is more than a slow cooker, it’s a multi-cooker. It replaces up to seven common kitchen appliances, like a pressure cooker, rice cooker and yogurt maker, and speeds the cooking process so you can simmer, braise, slow cook, steam, and warm faster. And according to some, you can make wine in it too.

Related: Best Instant Pot Recipes for Quick and Easy Dinners

How to Choose an Instant Pot Model

If you aren’t sure which one to buy, Instant Pot model comparison can be a bit overwhelming. That’s because you can select from eight different models within five distinct product series ranging in size (six to eight quarts), and features (from 6-in-1 to 10-in-1).

Beginner (and busy) meal makers can take advantage of the 10 Smart Built-in Programs found in the Lux Series models, while intermediate cooks can play with the 14 programs in the Duo and Duo Plus models. True Instant Pot enthusiasts can wield the Bluetooth enabled, Ultra model and its whopping 16 programs to expand their repertoire to include yogurt, cake, eggs, and even sterilized baby bottles.

Be sure to consider how you cook now. Are you a big batch cooker, or are you more prone to making smaller meals for a family of two? Go through some of your favourite recipes and consider which ones could be made faster or better in an Instant Pot. Do you make a lot of braises, stews, grains, yogurt, legumes already? This will help you decide the model and size best fit for your cooking habits.

If you are in the market to replace your ageing slow cooker, this might be a good option, as it can be used in a variety of ways.

Related: The 30-Minute Instant Pot Curry a Nutritionist Makes Every Week

5-Ingredient Instant Pot Mac and CheeseGet the recipe for 5-Ingredient Instant Pot Mac and Cheese

The Pros and Cons of Buying an Instant Pot

Pros
1. Faster Cooking with Pressure

What drives the Instant Pot’s popularity—apart from its ability to make great food—is that it provides users with the most sacred resource of all: Time. Yes, meal prep and warming the machine are required, but the dishwasher-safe Instant Pot dutifully (and silently) cooks two to six times faster than conventional methods. That means you can cook braises like pulled pork, tender stew and roast beef in under an hour, making them weeknight accessible.

2. It Makes Great Rice

When it comes to taste and texture, the machine’s evenly distributed heat and steaming process ensures vegetables keep their colour, and that grains emerge fluffy and soft.

3. The Sauté Function Brings the Flavour

Like your Dutch oven, you can sauté meats, onions or bloom spices right in the Instant Pot. So go ahead and sear that pork tenderloin, then deglaze with wine or stock, pop the lid on and pressure cook it right in the same pot. The result is tender meat without losing any of that beautiful flavour caused by browning right in the pot.

4. There are Tons of Great Instant Pot Recipes

The Instant Pot also delivers variety. Between the app, cookbooks, and innumerable blogs, novel recipes are just a click away. Easy dishes like an Instant Pot whole chicken are great for weeknights while time-saving staples like Instant Pot beef stew or our 5-Ingredient Instant Pot Mac and Cheese are ready in a snap. What’s more, the Intelligent Programming and Save Customized Cooking settings on the LUX and DUO models memorize your preferred settings and learn to cook your meal exactly the way you like it every time.

If you are already making your own yogurt weekly, or are looking for a way to make faster curry, the Instant Pot might be your dream machine.

Instant Pot Chicken AdoboGet the recipe for Instant Pot Chicken Adobo

Cons
1. You Need Counter Space

Fast though it may be, Instant Pots can eat up much needed counter space so be sure it will get enough use to justify its prime real estate next to the toaster or the coffee maker.

2. There’s a Learning Curve

This may be the Swiss army knife of kitchen appliances but mastering the extensive features, double-digit programs, and hefty instruction manual can be time-consuming. Compared to the ease of turning the knob on your trusty Crock Pot, the learning curve can be steep. Also, dealing with high pressure makes some people nervous and you want to feel confident that you’ve sealed it correctly before bringing it to full pressure.
But there is good news: Instant Pot’s website is home to a mountain of getting started and troubleshooting videos, FAQs, and even live support.

3. It May Not be as Fast as You Think

On the practical side, not everything is cooked faster in the Instant Pot. By the time the machine gets up to pressure, cooks, then depressurizes, you could have boiled those potatoes on the stove. Keep in mind how much braising, rice and yogurt-making you do regularity to determine if this will indeed be a timesaver for you and your family. Also, because the pressure and slow cooker functions seal in the steam, you’ll need to give yourself extra time to bubble or boil off extra liquid, so your stews are the right consistency.

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.

Two Ways to Roast Peppers Perfectly (Every Time!)

Roasted peppers have a wonderfully sweet, caramelized flavour that makes for a tasty accompaniment to many dishes. They’re rich in vitamin C and packed with antioxidants and we’ve got two easy ways to cook the colourful capsicum.

Green, Yellow, Orange or Red?

All bell peppers come from the same plant, with each colour representing the different points of maturity. Green peppers are basically unripe, lack sweetness and can have a subtle bitter taste at times. This is why green peppers are cheaper to buy than red peppers and are a despised ingredient among many chefs. Orange, yellow and red peppers are matured green peppers and have a much fruitier, pleasant taste, though most argue that red peppers are the sweetest.

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Using a Gas Stove

If your house has been blessed with a gas stove, you also lucked out on the fastest and least messy way of roasting peppers. Simply turn on the burner and place one or two whole peppers directly on the flame. Using a pair of tongs, rotate the peppers to ensure all sides are blackened. The more charred the peppers, the easier they’ll be to peel later.

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Using an Electric Stove (or Toaster Oven)

Unlike most vegetables where you simply roast them at 375°F, bell peppers are best cooked using the broil setting. Broiling is like using an upside-down BBQ; the heat comes from above and will char the surface of the food, which is what you want when cooking peppers.

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Give your whole peppers a very light coating of oil and then place them on a lined baking sheet (it gets messy when the peppers’ juices start leaking out). Set the oven to a high broil and place the pan of peppers inside. You’ll see the skin start to bubble and then blacken. Flip the peppers every so often to ensure they get an even char on all sides. This should take anywhere between 40 minutes to 1 hour.

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Cleaning the Peppers

Once the peppers are completely blackened, place them in a large bowl or pot and cover with plastic wrap for 15 minutes to steam. This steaming process loosens up the skin to make the peeling process easier. When they’re done steaming, slice open the peppers (be warned, there will be lots of juices spilling out) and clean out the seeds, ribs, and stems. The charred skin should slip off easily. Do not rinse the peppers under running water in an attempt to make the skin flake off easier, as the water will simply wash away the pepper’s sweet juices. Slice the peppers to desired thickness.

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Store the peppers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to two weeks. Use them for sandwiches, salads, an addition to your homemade hummus or in the following recipe for roasted red pepper soup, which pairs superbly with a grilled cheese sandwich on a chilly afternoon.

Roasted Red Pepper Soup

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 4

Ingredients:

2 pats of butter
1 cup chopped white onion
1 cup chopped potato
3 cloves garlic, minced
6 medium-sized red bell peppers, roasted, cleaned and diced
4 cups no-salt added chicken broth
1 cup heavy cream, whole milk, or coconut milk
Salt, pepper, and chilli flakes to taste

Related: The Pioneer Woman’s Best Soups and Stews

Directions:

1. In a soup pot over medium heat, melt the butter and sauté the onions until they begin to sweat and turn translucent. Add the potatoes and garlic and continue to cook for five minutes. Add the peppers, broth and cream/milk. Stir, cover and bring down to a simmer for 20 minutes.

2. Using a blender, blend everything until it reaches a creamy and smooth consistency.

3. Season with salt, pepper and (optional) chili flakes to taste.

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4. Serve immediately or let cool completely to room temperature before storing in airtight containers in the fridge for up to three days.

Published November 18, 2015, Updated January 2, 2019

How to Make the Perfect the Omelet (It’s Oh-So Easy!)

The omelet is a basic dish every home cook — especially broke students — should be able to master. Eggs are inexpensive and an excellent source of protein and takes minutes to cook. Omelets are also perfect for any leftover scraps you have in the fridge whether it’s that last cube of cheese, broccoli floret or the lone slice of ham. We’ve been conditioned to only eat eggs during brunch, but omelets make for quick and easy (and budget-friendly) dinners. When I first got into cooking, my omelets would always run into one of two problems: the omelet tore and fell apart when I tried to fold it in half or I added too many toppings and the whole thing became more of a weird egg stir-fry. Here are some tips to avoid those problems.

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The Perfect Omelet

Ingredients:

3 large eggs
1 Tbsp oil or small pat of butter
3 toppings of choice (peppers, mushrooms, ham, onions, tomatoes, etc.), ⅓ cup each
Salt and pepper, to taste

Step 1: Have Your Mise en Place Ready

A ‘mise en place’ is a French term for having everything in its place. As you can see, I diced the onions and mushrooms, grated the cheese, beat the eggs, poured out the oil and had my seasonings ready. You don’t want to be still chopping mushrooms while the eggs are cooking away (in addition to risking burning the eggs, once they cook up and solidify the mushrooms won’t stick to the omelet).

As for how much of everything to use, a general guideline is to use three large eggs and then up to three toppings at ⅓ cup each or ½ cup if you’re only using two toppings. Loading your omelet with too much stuff would result in the egg ripping and becoming more of a scramble.

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Step 2: Get the Oil Hot Enough

Put the skillet over medium heat for about a minute. Then pour in the oil or butter and wait again till the butter melts (and starts foaming) and the oil becomes shiny and coats the pan.

If the oil is still cold when you pour the egg in, you get this gross-looking oily egg mixture where the oil floats on top of the egg, which defeats the purpose of the oil making the egg not stick to the pan.

Step 3: Cook the Tougher Fixin’s First

First sauté the toppings that require more cooking time than the eggs such as bell peppers, mushrooms, onions, bacon and broccoli. I’ve had many hotel omelets when I’d bite into the eggs and taste raw mushrooms in the centre. Don’t do that.

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Step 4: Pour in the Eggs

Spread the sautéed toppings evenly across the skillet. Gently pour the beaten eggs into the hot skillet, making sure that it envelops all the toppings and there aren’t any gaps in the omelet.

Related: Creative Ways to Cook Eggs

Step 5: Be Patient

Don’t poke the omelet with the spatula just yet. Let the omelet cook and solidify for about 30 seconds so that it won’t fall apart when you fold it.

Gently nudge the edges of the omelet towards the centre with a spatula, making sure the eggs aren’t stuck to the pan. You can tilt the pan and give it a light swirl with the wrist to allow the uncooked eggs from the middle of the pan to flow to the edges. The centre of the omelet should still be a bit runny.

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Step 6: Add the Delicate Stuff

Sprinkle in the toppings that don’t require as much cooking time such as finely grated cheese, herbs, or chopped tomatoes.

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Step 7: Fold 

This is the critical part. Try to get as much of the spatula under one half of the omelet before you do a quick flip (it’s all in the wrist). You also can use your other hand to tilt the pan towards the spatula.

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Step 8: Shimmy 

Gently slide the folded omelet on to a plate. Garnish with additional herbs or cheese if you like. Serve immediately.

Omelet_Step8

Published September 29, 2014, Updated September 11, 2018

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How to Make the Best Birthday Cake

Birthday cakes carry some of the fondest memories. Sweet, colourful frosting,  the warm glow of birthday candles and making a wish when you blow them out. What’s most important when baking a birthday cake from scratch is to feel the spirit of the occasion. You’re baking this cake for someone you care about, to celebrate them and mark their special day with a shared sweet treat. From choosing the perfect birthday cake recipe to icing tips and tricks, this guide will help you make a memorable and yummy birthday cake.

How to Select a Birthday Cake Recipe

Which Flavour of Cake to Make?

Chocolate and vanilla cake are the most common types of birthdays because they tend to be crowd pleasers. Birthday cakes are for sharing, after all! Lemon and carrot cake follow close behind these top two cake flavours. And if you happen to be baking a cake for my birthday, then consider this Luscious Lemon Coconut Cake, it’s my all-time favourite!

Here are my favourite recipes for the most popular birthday cake flavours.

Chocolate Cake:  Anna Olson’s Classic Devil’s Food Cake


Vanilla Cake: Anna Olson’s Classic Vanilla Birthday Cake With Caramel Pastry Cream

Lemon Cake: Anna Olson’s Lemon Swiss Buttercream Hatbox Cake

Carrot Cake: Anna Olson’s Carrot Cake With Cream Cheese Frosting

How Big of a Cake to Make

While an 8-inch or 9-inch round cake might be typical, it’s popular right now to make cakes that are taller with a smaller diameter. You can take a recipe for a two-layer, 8 or 9-inch cake and spread the batter evenly in an 11-x-17-inch sheet pan. This will likely take less time to bake, so set the timer 10-15 minutes sooner, but check the doneness the same way. Then use a large round cutter or a template you can trace to cut smaller rounds and make a 4 or 5-layer cake that will sit wonderfully tall.

The Right Ingredients

Stick to the ingredients called for to make the cake. If the recipe calls for cake and pastry flour, it is because using it will result in a tender cake with a fine and delicate crumb structure, because the flour has a lower protein content than all-purpose. Dutch process cocoa powder has some acidity removed so it will react to the baking powder or soda differently than regular cocoa. Buttermilk really makes a cake moist and nicely balanced.

Make-Ahead Cake Tip

Cake layers can be baked well ahead of time and frozen and then thawed on the counter when ready to assemble. Do not refrigerate unfrosted cake or it will dry out.

Related: Birthday Cake Recipes That Will Make You a Dessert Person

Birthday Cake Frosting Tips

There are countless types of frostings to choose from, and my above recipes feature common types: chocolate, basic buttercream, Swiss buttercream and cream cheese. Here are a few quick tips that apply to all  frostings:

1. Work with frosting at room temperature. To be smooth and spreadable, frosting needs to be at room temperature. If it’s a warm day, your butter may be softer than room temperature, so pop the frosting in the fridge until it holds it’s shape when you spoon or spread it.

2. Food colouring gel works easily and smoothly into frostings. Just add a little at a time with a toothpick, mixing well before adding more. The colour will intensify the longer it sits, so favour less at first. Also, the colour will fade if exposed to sunlight, so keep that in mind when you display your cake.

Related: Expert Food Photography Tips to Show Off Your Baked Goods

3. Buttercream or cream cheese frosting benefits from whipping on high speed to build in structure and a fluffy texture. If you want a fudgy frosting for your chocolate cake, like Devil’s Food Cake, then avoid whipping the frosting.

Make-Ahead Frosting Tip

All of the above frostings can be made ahead and then chilled or frozen to be used later. Thaw the frostings on the counter (do not microwave) and then re-whip them to fluff them up before using.

How to Fill a Layer Cake

If adding a pastry cream or a fruit filling to your birthday cake, you need to prevent it from seeping out the sides.  To do this, spoon some of the frosting into a piping bag and pipe a “dam” around the outside edge of the cake, then spoon and spread the filling before topping with the next cake layer.

How to Mask a Cake

Covering the cake smoothly takes a little patience and practice. A fully masked cake has the frosting on the top and sides while a “naked” cake has the sides exposed (no frosting or just a sheer layer). A few hints on masking:

1. More is More! Dollop or spread generous amounts of frosting when first applying. It is easier to scrape away excess frosting than to add more (at the risks of pulling up crumbs).

2. Top, Then Sides: Spread a level layer of frosting onto the top of the filled cake, pushing it right over the edges. This makes it easier to frost the sides and have the edges meet easily and straight.

3. Smooth, Smooth, Smooth! Use an offset palette knife to keep smoothing the top and sides of the cake until it is smooth and seamless.

Birthday Cake Decorating Ideas

– Any sprinkles, cookies or candies should be applied before chilling the cake
– Ribbon can be used, but place a strip of parchment under the actual ribbon, so that grease marks from the buttercream do not appear.
– Practice any piping detail on a plate or sheet of parchment before starting on your cake, but …
– Remember that all piping mistakes are erasable.  Simply scrape off and start again.
– The same goes for writing “Happy Birthday” in chocolate. Practice on a plate first.
– Fresh fruits and flowers are a lovely way to finish a cake. Be sure that flowers are non-toxic and that fruits are washed and air-dried before applying.

Mint on kitchen countertop

Top 5 Foods That Prevent Bloating

Summer is the time to indulge; steak, ice cream, cookies, burgers, pizza — the list goes on! Not only is it everyone’s favourite eating season, but it’s also the time when our tummies start to ache. Luckily there are some foods to help with bloating and prevent that post-meal slump.

1. Ginger
Ginger is your belly’s new best friend. Slice it up and throw it in some hot water, toss it into an iced beverage or simply chew on a piece. Ginger is a potent anti-inflammatory and has been used for centuries as a digestive aid helping to alleviate gas, bloating, nausea and indigestion. Next time you start to feel the bloat coming on, grab some ginger and melt that digestion tension away.

2. Mint
Mint is a classic summer herb. Although it is often used to make summer-time mojitos, this fresh garden herb has medicinal properties. Mint actually has muscle-relaxing abilities and can reduce indigestion and belly spasms. The best use of mint to prevent bloating is to steep it in tea. Unfortunately, drinking it with alcohol may actually exacerbate your stomach pain, so try to decrease your intake those delicious minty drinks.

Mint on kitchen countertop

3. Fennel Seed
Similar to ginger, fennel or anise seed has been used for many, many years to prevent digestive issues like bloating. In India, many people actually chew on fennel seeds after a rich meal to aid digestion. Fennel seed will also freshen up your breath, while eliminating stomach cramping, gas and bloating.

Related: Curative, Immune-Boosting Foods, Featuring Vitamin C to Magnesium

4. Lemon
When your tummy needs aid, make lemonade! Adding ginger, mint or even lavender to lemonade will help to enhance your digestive ability and prevent bloating and pain. Lemons actually stimulate digestive juices in your body, enhancing your body’s ability to digest nutrients. Don’t feel like making this sweet summer drink? Squeeze one quarter of a lemon in a glass of water and drink up!

5. Parsley
Parsley is the most commonly used herb in cooking. It is also a diuretic (helps to increase the loss of water and salt from the body) and excellent for helping to prevent and overcome gas and bloating. Steeping parsley with your tea is the best way to eliminate bloating and reduce excess water weight. For an added bonus, it will also freshen up your breath.

Photo courtesy of Unsplash

Published July 23, 2015, Updated July 3, 2018

Top 10 Organic Fruits and Vegetables You Need to be Eating

We all know we need to be eating organic but there are several reasons we don’t. One of the main ones being cost and that for some it’s inaccessible. Choosing organic means we’re selecting items that are free of pesticides and harmful chemicals that have been linked to cancer and hormonal disruption. While many of us may not be able to eat organic all the time, the Environmental Working Group put out a list that highlights the different types of produce that with the highest pesticide concentrations. This allows us, as shoppers, to make selective and informed decisions to go organic when we need to. With the promise of fresh fruits and vegetables as the weather warms up, we thought we should have another look at the list of these top 10 organic fruits and veggies that we all need to be eating. Have you made the organic switch?

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1. Apples
They say an apple a day keeps the doctor away…well, maybe not if it’s a conventional apple. Apples are number one on the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” list, meaning they’re the most heavily sprayed with pesticides. According to the analysis, 99 percent of apple samples, after washing, tested positive for at least one pesticide residue. The pesticides sprayed on apples, such as Syngenta‘s Paraquat have been associated with developing Parkinson’s disease and is banned in the EU. Other pesticides such as Chlorpyrifos can damage the nervous system. Organic apples won’t break the bank so it’s definitely a good idea to make the switch to organic as soon as you can.

2. Strawberries
Strawberries are a beloved fruit and since they’re so delicate and soft, they’re often prone to fungi attack. For this reason, farmers usually spray fungicide on them. Forty-five other pesticide residues are also found on strawberries and some have been researched to be carcinogenic, hormone disruptive, neurotoxic and toxic to honey bees. Strawberries are one of summertime’s most refreshing fruit and organic strawberries can also be quite pricey. If you can’t find fresh organic strawberries, look for cheaper organic frozen ones.

Related: Healthy Foods That Are Actually Worth the Splurge

3. Celery
Many people think that celery doesn’t do much in the nutrition department but it does pack quite a fibrous punch, and it’s a phytonutrient superstar. Celery made its way onto the Dirty Dozen list because it contains 64 pesticide residues, 27 of them being hormone disruptors. Choosing organic celery is definitely a good idea and can be found relatively inexpensive.

4. Cherry Tomatoes
These bite-size tomatoes are excellent sources of lycopene, which is known to protect against osteoporosis and prostate cancer. Cherry tomatoes are another item found on the Dirty Dozen list for having 69 different pesticide residues. The majority of these pesticides are suspected to be hormone disruptors, neurotoxins and toxic to reproductive health. According to the Environmental Working Group, a single cherry tomato contains 13 different pesticides on it.

5. Cucumbers
Cucumbers are one of the most widely eaten fruits (yes, fruits!). According to the USDA Pesticide Data Program, cucumbers contain 86 different pesticides. Many of these pesticides are known carcinogens and many of them are also incredibly harmful to the environment. Conventional cucumbers are also covered by a synthetic wax to protect the fruit during shipping. The wax is made up of chemical contaminants so if you’re opting for non-organic cucumbers, remember to remove the skin. To avoid the pesticide residues and the synthetic waxes completely, go organic.

6. White Potatoes
White potatoes are a staple in many North American households – many of us grew up eating the classic meat and potatoes dinner. White potatoes are often demonized for being incredibly starchy and lacking much nutrition. They do, however, contain quite a bit of fibre. These tubers have also made their way onto the Dirty Dozen list; this is because they contain 35 pesticide residues many of them suspected for being hormone disruptors. According to the Environmental Working Group, the average potato contained more pesticides by weight than any other produce item. These are not to be mistaken with sweet potatoes, which are actually on the “Clean Fifteen” list. This list is comprised of fifteen fruits and vegetables with the lowest concentrations of pesticides.

Related: Here’s How to Save Money on Your Next Grocery Bill

7. Spinach
Spinach is a versatile leafy green that is one of the healthiest vegetables containing vitamin A, vitamin K and iron. However, it’s also highly sprayed. It lands at number seven on the Dirty Dozen list, meaning it doesn’t contain as many pesticides as produce higher up on the list, but it still has harmful pesticide residues. Spinach contains 54 pesticide residues and many of them are neurotoxic and toxic to honeybees. The pesticide permethrin, used on spinach, is an insect repellent and is found to be carcinogenic, hormone disruptive and toxic to honey bees.

8. Imported Snap Peas
Imported snap peas have made their way onto the Dirty Dozen list. Snap peas are a good source of vitamin C and fibre, both helping to support the immune system. Snap peas contain 78 pesticide residues, making it one of the highest on this list. Most of these are suspected endocrine disruptors, which control hormones within the body. Hormones are like messengers that send out important functional messages all around the body. If hormones are disrupted by synthetic chemicals like pesticides, that means that messages will not be sent and received properly leading to irregular body functions. Similar to cherry tomatoes, a single snap pea contains about 13 different pesticides.

9. Grapes
Grapes can be sweet, tart, soft or crunchy, but mostly they’re just delicious. Unfortunately, they are quite high on the Dirty Dozen list. Most fruit is heavily sprayed with pesticides since its quite sweet, making it harder to protect from insects and fungi. Grapes contain 56 different pesticide residues. The main pesticide used has harmful environmental affects. It’s a powerful insecticide that kills honey bees and other important pollinators.

10. Kale
Everyone’s beloved leafy vegetable has found a place on the Dirty Dozen list. Kale is nature’s superfood – it’s high in fibre, it protects against cancer, arthritis, heart disease and diabetes, yet it’s one of the most heavily sprayed crops. According to the Environmental Working Group, kale has been found to be contaminated with insecticides that are toxic to the human nervous system. Kale contains about 55 pesticide residues. Organic kale is not hard to find and is only about $1-$1.50 more than conventional kale, so it’s absolutely worth making the switch.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Published April 13, 2015, Updated May 2, 2018

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.

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.

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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.

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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.

Photos courtesy of Getty Images

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Your Stress-Free Thanksgiving Dinner Checklist

The first time I cooked a traditional Thanksgiving meal from scratch, I can say for a fact that I used every single cooking vessel — pots, pans, roasters and Dutch ovens — in my reasonably well-equipped kitchen. Although I had lists upon lists and every step mapped out well beforehand, it still took three days of intensive cooking and resulted in my exhausted-self, muttering in an exasperated tone, “How the heck do people do this every year?” Experience has shown me the value of starting well ahead — a month or more, ideally. If this seems excessive, think of it as trading a frenzied few days for an hour here and there, resulting in a relaxing Thanksgiving. Here is a foolproof way to space out your Thanksgiving feast and make sure everything is on time, right up to the moment guests take their seats.

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Thanksgiving Menu (Serves 8)

Greek Mezze Platter
Mulled Cider
Perfect Roast Turkey (10 to 12 lbs.)
Cauliflower Gratin
Spinach Gratin
Stuffing
Dinner Rolls
Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Apple Pie
Vegan Strawberry Cheesecake Bites

One Month To Go

Order Your Turkey From the Butcher
You definitely don’t want to be the recipient of last-minute turkey on the big day, when selection is sparse and crowds are full. Ordering ahead — especially if you’re asking the butcher to do something more involved such as spatchcocking or you have a specifically sized bird in mind — will give you time to discuss your menu and get some cooking tips.

A general rule of thumb is a half pound to one pound of meat per person, but you want to err on the side of being lavish — leftovers are one of the best parts of Thanksgiving. For a foolproof turkey measure, the Turkey Farmers of Canada offers an online turkey calculator that will tell you the size of turkey you should buy, depending on the number of guests.

Sit Down and Plan Your Menu 
Right down to drinks and appetizers! Decide on how many people you’re looking to invite and send out invitations with an RSVP time of next week. If your friends and family are notorious for bringing unexpected guests, budget space and food accordingly. Be practical: do you have enough seating and table room for everyone to comfortably eat?

Clean out Freezer Space
This is the time to start using those meals you’ve put aside for a busy day or ditch that crystallized ice cream — you’re going to need that room in the weeks ahead.

Three Weeks To Go

Finalize Your Menu
Now’s your opportunity to whittle down your menu from all the things you optimistically wanted to make. Be ruthless in your planning — do you really need eight appetizers and five desserts for a party of eight? (The answer is no).

Make Two Shopping Lists
Read all your recipes carefully and make two shopping lists: one for non-perishables (you’ll be buying those this week) and one for perishables to be purchased closer to the big day.

Go Shopping
Beat the crowds and head out to the grocery store to stock up on your long-storing items in bulk: store-made or canned/boxed stock for gravies and soups, flour and sugar for baking, cocktail napkins, and juices and pop for drinks. Also, think about buying ingredient staples, such as garlic, onions, apples, potatoes, carrots or parsnips, which all keep well and will save you from an overloaded cart later on. Buy ingredients for stuffing, cranberry sauce and gravy to make next week. Consider purchasing wine and mixes for winter cocktails, such as a festive mulled cider.

Take Inventory
Open your cupboards and review your platters and serving dishes that can go from freezer or fridge to table and assign them to each dish: appetizers, turkey, stuffing, sauces, vegetables, dinner rolls, mashed potatoes, and desserts. Have a spare handy in case you misjudge the volume.

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Two Weeks To Go

Make Your Pie and Cheesecake Bites
Store them in the freezer on pretty plates that you can place on the table.

Time to Think Savoury Thoughts
Make-ahead gravy will take a last-minute item off your plate on the big day and let you focus on other things. Using roasted chicken wings builds a flavour base, so all you have to do is add the drippings when you’ve cooked your turkey and you’re all set. Cover and store in the freezer. Cranberry sauce is easy to make ahead, as well. Store it in a small microwavable dish that can go straight from the freezer to the table to save a plating step.

Get ahead of the game by making stuffing and storing it in the freezer and oven-safe dishes to make reheating a snap. Instead of one big container, consider making two portions to avoid having to pass big platters around the table (and upping the potential of using a toaster oven to reheat it on the big day, freeing up precious oven space).

Now’s also the time to par-bake dinner rolls to store in freezer bags (make sure to get out all the excess air) and whip up some make-ahead mashed potatoes to store in the freezer in oven-ready dishware.

One Week To Go

Grocery Shopping Round Two
Back to the grocery store with your second list of perishables, including vegetables such as cauliflower and spinach, dairy such as butter, milk and eggs, coffee and tea and any ingredients you need for appetizers. Consider some pots of fresh herbs for garnishes and aromatic table decorations.

Time for a Kitchen Inspection
Clean out space in the refrigerator for leftovers, and give it a quick wipe down so that new food doesn’t absorb the odours of last week’s takeout. Check your oven, toaster oven, stovetop and range hood to ensure they are clean and ready to go. Pop out greasy filters to give them a soak so that your fans work effectively. Locate your fire extinguisher (better safe than sorry), warming trays or chafing dishes and check that you have enough power outlets to run everything — a power failure is the last thing you need.

Check your Dishware and Cutlery Situations
Do you have enough matching plates, forks, spoons and sharp knives, coffee cups, and wine and water glasses? Locate your cloth napkins and tablecloths, and wash them if necessary.

Related: Turkey Cooking Tips to Roast the Perfect Bird Every Time

Three Days To Go

Pick up Your Fresh or Frozen Turkey
If it’s frozen, now is the time to start defrosting it in the refrigerator (for a 10 lb bird, Turkey Farmers of Canada recommends two days and two hours of defrosting time in the fridge).

Two Days To Go

Veggie Time
Make your veggie side dishes in table-ready serving ware, cover them securely and store in the fridge.

One Day Before

Get Your Gear Ready
Assemble serving platters for the turkey and rolls, as well as serving implements for each dish. Check how many trivets you have for warm dishes going to the table to preserve your tablecloths. Put together your smaller items, such as corkscrews, pie servers, gravy boats, ladles, electric carving knife, strainers and hand blenders for last-minute gravy adjustments, etc., to have on hand so that you’re not searching for them at the last minute. If you don’t use your coffeemaker or espresso machine regularly, pull it out of storage. Assemble appetizer and dessert plates with cocktail napkins.

Set the Table
Cover the whole table with another tablecloth or bed sheet to keep it dust-free, and watch out on removal so you don’t end up performing an inadvertent, unsuccessful, magic trick.

Prepare and Truss the Turkey
And store it uncovered in the roasting pan in the refrigerator to let the skin dry out for crispness.

Related: Delicious Uses For Leftover Mashed Potatoes

Gather Your Garnishes
A bit of watercress or other greens is a pleasing contrast to the turkey. Put butter into serving dishes, cover, and store in the refrigerator. Assemble your appetizer platters and store, covered, in the refrigerator. Chill white wine, juice and soda. Print out the game plan below so you can check items off as you go.

The Big Day

Treat yourself and sleep in! You’ve earned it, and you’ll need the energy as the day goes on. Make sure to have some lunch, so you’re not starving as the day goes on. Look over your lists and recipes again. Take the apple pie out of the freezer to defrost.

1 PM: Carefully remove the cover from the table setting and add any last-minute touches (the pots of herbs for an informal centrepiece, candles, fresh flowers, etc.).

2 PM: Pull turkey out of the fridge to bring to room temperature.

3 PM: Turn on the oven to 350 ° F to preheat. Add aromatics such as onions and apples, if desired, to the cavity of the turkey.

3:30 PM: Put the turkey into the oven.

4 PM: Open or decant wine. Put mulled cider on the stovetop to simmer.

5 PM: Bring your appetizer platters out of the fridge to serve, adjusting any seasonings or last-minute garnishes. Bring the mashed potatoes, stuffing and vegetables out of the fridge to bring to room temperature.

6 PM: Guests arrive. Serve appetizer platter, wine and mulled cider. Take the turkey out of the oven and cover with foil to rest. Pour off juices to add to gravy (reserve a 1/4 cup) and put on stovetop to heat. Put mashed potatoes, stuffing and vegetables into the oven. Carve the turkey. Take reserved juices and pour on top of the slices to keep them moist and plate them on your prepared platter with watercress.

6:45 PM: Take out potatoes, stuffing and vegetables and put them on the table. Put dinner rolls in the oven to finish baking and melt butter on a low heat on the stovetop to brush over. Call everyone to start getting ready to eat. Pour wine and drinks. Bring the rolls and turkey to the table.

7 PM: Dinnertime! Turn the oven off. Put pie in the oven to warm for dessert and bring out the cheesecake bites. Turn on the coffeemaker.

8:30 PM: Serve desserts and coffee and tea.

10 PM: Relax… the dishes can wait until tomorrow.

perfect bbq chicken tips

8 Tips for Making the Best Barbecued Chicken Ever

Chicken is one of this most popular items to grill during BBQ season. When done right, it’s juicy and flavourful, but when done wrong, well… you know. Don’t let obvious mistakes come between you and a delicious chicken dinner. Follow the tips below and get perfectly barbecued chicken every time.

Lemon and Herb Marinated Grilled Chicken Thighs

Get the recipe for Lemon and Herb Marinated Grilled Chicken Thighs

1. Not All Cuts Are Created Equal
Different parts of the chicken cook at different times, making it harder to cook different pieces at once. A good tip to keep in mind is that bone-in chicken cooks slower than boneless and thicker cuts take longer than thin. Whole birds, like summertime favourite, beer can chicken, take the longest. Know your cuts so you can ensure you time it right, and avoid hangry barbecue guests.

2. Don’t Cook Cold Chicken
While it’s important to keep chicken in the fridge for marinating, don’t take it straight from the cold and slap it on the grill. Allow chicken to come to room temperature before you start cooking. This will allow for even cooking throughout.

3. Start With a Good Sear
Searing meat gives beautiful grill marks and adds that mouthwatering barbecue char to chicken. The key to a good sear is dry meat and a hot grill. First, pat the chicken skin with paper towel to take out as much moisture as possible. A super-hot grill allows the chicken to get a good sear and is less likely to stick. If you have thicker cuts, like a bone-in chicken breast, sear on both sides then move to indirect heat until cooked through. Clean and oil the grates before cooking is key to prevent meat sticking and tearing. Chicken is quite delicate. It would be a shame if you lost the beautiful skin to the grill, or tore your meat.

Related: Best BBQ Chicken Marinades

4. Closed for Business
Resist the urge to open the lid over and over to check on your chicken. The barbecue retains heat when the lid is closed and helps cook chicken evenly. The more you open, the more heat will escape.

5. Marinate or Season Ahead
Chicken is like a sponge that absorbs whatever flavours you throw at it. Properly season with salt when the chicken is raw and give it time to absorb the seasoning. Experiment with different marinades and brines. Chicken can be marinated for as little as 30 minutes and up to overnight.

Grilled Chicken Breasts with Spicy Peach Glaze

Get the recipe for Bobby Flay’s Grilled Chicken Breasts with Spicy Peach Glaze

6. Get Saucy at the End
Many BBQ sauces have a high sugar content, especially those sweet, sticky ones. If they’re applied to the chicken too early, they’ll burn on the grill. If you’re looking for the sauce to caramelize onto the chicken, apply 10 minutes before cooking is complete. Add more liberally once it has been taken off the grill.

7. Use a Thermometer
It’s difficult to tell when chicken is cooked by looking or touching it. Use a meat thermometer to avoid the guessing game and get the most accurate results. Chicken should reach a temperature of 160°F when taken off the grill and will continue to rise to 165°F off the grill.

8. Let it Rest
If you cut it right away, you’ll lose all those lovely juices and flavours you’ve locked in! Allow grilled chicken to rest for 10-15 minutes after it has been cooked so that the juices can redistribute throughout the meat, resulting in perfectly juicy chicken breast every time.

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.