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farm boy thanksgiving dinner 2021

We Tried 4 Canadian Thanksgiving Meal Kits, Here’s How They Really Turned Out

Whether you’re getting together with extended family or having an intimate dinner for two, the thought of making a complete Thanksgiving feast can be daunting even for the most seasoned home cooks.

Thankfully,  there are solid meal kit options on the market that can take the planning, shopping, and stress out of the equation so that you can focus on cooking (or heating up) something impressive and delicious. To help guide your Thanksgiving meal planning, we tried four of the most popular Thanksgiving meal kits on the market. Read on for our comprehensive thoughts, and see how the meal kits actually turned out compared to the pictures.

Related: We Tested 4 Popular Canadian Meal Delivery Kits. Here’s How They Compared

chef's plate thanksgiving dinner

Left: Chefs Plate’s Thanksgiving Turkey & Mushroom Sauce with Maple-Bacon Brussel Sprouts. Right: Our attempt at the meal.

Chefs Plate: Thanksgiving Turkey & Thyme Mushroom Sauce with Maple-Bacon Brussels Sprouts

Perfect For: An Intimate Dinner For Two

Price: $9.99 per serving (minimum order of two servings)

Availability: Order Canada-wide via chefsplate.com by October 7th for delivery from October 8th-15th.

Why it’s great: Roasting a whole turkey for two people just doesn’t make sense. For an intimate Thanksgiving feast, the turkey dinner for two option from Chef’s Plate is the perfect solution. With gourmet touches like truffle salt mashed potatoes and maple-bacon Brussels sprouts, this turkey dinner can double as a luxurious date night meal. Bonus: this kit is available to order for 2-16 people, so you can order it even if you’re having a larger gathering.

How it compares: Despite having Thanksgiving touches like turkey and mashed potatoes, this meal kit tasted decidedly less Thanksgiving-y than the other kits (likely because of the mushroom gravy and lack of classic flavours like cranberry sauce and stuffing). Still, it’s a delicious meal that feels subtly festive, and the maple-bacon Brussels sprouts were a real standout.

Related: The Ultimate Guide to Turkey Cooking Times

hello fresh thanksgiving box

Left: Hello Fresh’s Thanksgiving Box. Right: Our attempt at the meal.

Hello Fresh: The Thanksgiving Box

Perfect For: A Crowd-Pleasing Turkey Dinner with All the Fixings

Price: $23.33 per person (boxes starting at $139.99)

Availability: Order Canada-wide via hellofresh.com by September 29th for delivery on October 7th.

Why it’s great: Hosting a crowd? Hello Fresh has you covered with their Thanksgiving Box that comes in two serving sizes to feed 6 or 10 people. If you’re looking for a complete turkey dinner with all the fixings, this is it! The kit includes ingredients for sage-roasted rolled turkey with gravy, roasted butternut squash with maple syrup drizzle, garlic-infused mashed potatoes, green beans with butter and almonds, dinner rolls with herb garlic butter, cranberry sauce with orange zest, and a dessert of graham cracker crust pumpkin pie with whipped cream.

The comprehensive instructions guide perfectly times out your cooking process, so you know exactly when to simmer that cranberry sauce mash those potatoes, all while your turkey roasts in the oven. If it’s your first time making Thanksgiving dinner or you simply do not have the energy to put together a menu and buy all the ingredients (we don’t blame you!) but still want to cook something special, this is the kit for you.

How it compares: This is by far the most labour-intensive meal kit, but it really pays off with a whopping eight dishes including dessert (and nine if you add on the vegetarian main of Mushroom and Leek Stuffed Squash). While some of the sides are more simple (like the buttered green beans) compared to the sides in the other kits, it still makes for an exceptionally satisfying complete turkey dinner experience.

Left: Goodfood’s Chicken Thighs, Brown Butter and Spiced Cranberry Sauce. Right: Our attempt at the meal.

Goodfood: Chicken Thighs, Brown Butter and Spiced Cranberry Sauce with Roasted Broccoli, Onion and Squash Mash

Perfect For: The Last-Minute Get-Together

Price: $9.98 per serving (minimum order of two servings)

Availability: Order Canada-wide via makegoodfood.ca by 12 pm EST for same day delivery in select markets by 8 pm EST from October 4th-10th.

Why it’s great: So you forgot to pick up Thanksgiving dinner fixings? No problem! Goodfood’s Thanksgiving dinner kit can be ordered for same day delivery (yes, really!) in select markets including Toronto and Vancouver so you can decide to host in the morning and have an impressive meal on the table that same evening. While this is the only kit that doesn’t offer turkey, it still satisfies those traditional Thanksgiving flavour cravings with its cranberry sauce and squash mash.

How it compares: This kit was by far the easiest to cook, coming together (as advertised) in just 30 minutes. The combination of colours between the squash, red onion and broccoli was also especially stunning and made for a really enticing plate.

Related: These Pumpkin Pie Squares With Candied Pecans is the Fall Dessert You’ve Been Craving

farm boy thanksgiving dinner

Farm Boy Thanksgiving Turkey Indulgence Dinner for Two. Right: Our plating of the meal.

Farm Boy: Thanksgiving Turkey Indulgence Dinner For Two

Perfect For: The Hands-Off Chef

Price: $79.99

Availability: Order within Ontario via farmboy.ca, by October 3rd for in-store pick up from October 8th-10th.

Why it’s great: If cooking isn’t your thing but you’re still craving the smell of roasted turkey with stuffing wafting through your home, the Farm Boy Thanksgiving Dinner is your best bet. A complete Thanksgiving meal that you can heat up in 30 minutes is a pretty wonderful experience, and this meal kit features Ontario turkey with savoury turkey gravy, cranberry ginger sauce, cranberry apple sausage stuffing, chive mashed potatoes, honey roasted carrots, maple bacon Brussels sprouts and a buttery Cranberry Pecan Tart for dessert. Farm Boy also offers their Thanksgiving Dinner in larger formats for 6-8 people priced at $169.99.

How it compares: Unsurprisingly, this prepared meal comes with the highest price tag per serving, an important factor to keep in mind. That said, the price tag is reflected in the presentation and organization: each dish comes individually packaged and beautifully arranged with straightforward heating instructions. While you can certainly remove the turkey, stuffing, mash and veggies from the packaging, we opted to keep them in the packaging because it was already so nicely plated.  Bonus: Farm Boy is extra generous with the servings of stuffing. And the dessert, a Cranberry Pecan Tart, is drizzled with dark chocolate and is simply divine

Availability: Farm Boy Indulgence Dinner for Two, farmboy.ca, $79.99. Order within Ontario by October 3rd for in-store pick up on October 8th, 9th or 10th.

Craving more Thanksgiving inspiration? See our best Crowd-Pleasing Recipes for a Holiday Potluck. 

the best new farm boy products for fall 2021

The 7 Best New Farm Boy Products to Try This Fall

If you’re anything like us, you’re already completely obsessed with Farm Boy – also known as Canada’s answer to Trader Joe’s. While we’d be remiss to write this article without shouting out our all-time Farm Boy favourites (the lemon-garlic dressing, chocolate almonds, and spicy kale edamame dip to name a few!), it’s time to say hello to Farm Boy’s latest crop of game-changing products. Here are our top picks for fall:

farm boy cream soda caramel corn

Farm Boy Cream Soda Flavoured Caramel Corn, $3.99/280g

Cream Soda Flavoured Caramel Corn

Caramel popcorn and cream soda is the unexpected snack mashup you need in your life. With notes of banana swirled into the pink cream soda drizzle, it lends the classic sweet snack a welcome note of nostalgia. Who needs to choose between popcorn, soda pop and candy when you can have all three?!

farm boy truffle pepperoni sticks

Farm Boy Truffle Pepperoni Sticks, $8.99/150g

Truffle Pepperoni Sticks

Truffle lovers, rejoice! These truffle pepperettes contain real summer truffle (none of the synthetic stuff!) and have a rich umami flavour that would be right at home on a luxe charcuterie board beside a thick chunk of brie and some herb-studded crackers. While we’re certainly fans of this truffley creation, they aren’t for the faint of heart – opt for the equally delicious Olive Pepperettes if you plan on sharing with kiddos or the truffle-averse.

farm boy tostadas

Farm Boy Tostadas, $3.49/350g

Tostadas

Looking to switch up your Taco Tuesday routine? These certified gluten-free tostadas are the answer, and contain just four simple ingredients: yellow corn flour, water, sunflower oil and salt. Supremely sturdy with just the right amount of crunch, you can pile them high with your favourite taco toppings. Bonus: we have a feeling they’d make for an *excellent* addition to at-home version of a Crunchwrap Supreme.

farm boy tomatillo and jalapeno salsa

Farm Boy Tomatillo and Jalapeno Fire Roasted Salsa, $4.99/300ml

Tomatillo and Jalapeno Fire Roasted Salsa

You’d never guess that this sophisticated salsa comes from a jar. With an inviting deep green colour and complex smoky flavour palate, this is not your average salsa! Keep this alongside a bag of corn chips in the pantry to serve when unexpected guests arrive and they’ll be impressed by your gourmet hosting abilities.

Organic Cucumber Melon Sparkling Water

Farm Boy Organic Cucumber Melon Sparkling Water, $1.49/1L

Organic Cucumber Melon Sparkling Water

Farm Boy’s organic sparkling waters are always an instant add-to-cart (we’ve been known to buy five cases of the Orange Vanilla at a time), so we were delighted to get our hands on their latest flavour. It tastes like a fizzy sparkling hybrid of cantaloupe and watermelon, and we’re officially hooked.

farm boy seafood paella kit

Farm Boy Seafood Paella Kit, $6.99/255g

Paella Kit

ICYMI: Paella is trending right now, and you don’t have to be a pro chef to make it at home! Farm Boy makes it easy with this straightforward kit that contains traditional ingredients like olive oil, bomba rice, and delicate saffron for quick prep, all you have to do is add in your favourite seafood and veggies.

farm boy fruit and vegetable wash

Farm Boy Fruit and Vegetable Wash, $4.99/496ml

Fruit and Vegetable Wash

While there’s nothing wrong with washing your fruits and veggies  the old fashioned way, this all-natural, fragrance-free alternative helps the process of removing pesticides, and eliminating bacteria without the soak time. Just spray and rinse!

Vendors selling produce at a booth in the Afro-Caribbean Farmers' Market in Toronto

An Afro-Caribbean Farmers’ Market is Helping Revitalize a Toronto Neighbourhood

Farmers’ markets have become a draw in cities across Canada, offering fresh, locally grown produce, baked goods and other artisan products, but the price points make them cost-prohibitive for those on a fixed income. Toronto’s newest market is changing its surrounding community for the better, breaking down barriers and making it a welcoming place for all.

The Afro-Caribbean Farmers Market is located in the Little Jamaica-Afro Caribbean Cultural District at Eglinton West and Oakwood. Anyone familiar with the area knows that it has been a sea of construction for close to a decade because of the construction of the Eglinton Crosstown light rail line. Shops were shuttering even before the pandemic, and it’s only gotten worse since.

We spoke with Lori Beazer, Market Manager for the Afro-Caribbean Farmers Market, about its origins and how it’s already making a difference by injecting life back into the neighbourhood and reminding the city that this important cultural hub is still open for business.

The Afro-Caribbean Farmers Market in the York-Eglinton West neighbourhood of Toronto, Canada

The market first ran as a pilot project in 2017 in a different area of the city, but it didn’t have a home until a chance encounter between Beazer and Toronto City Councillor, Josh Matlow. “I bumped into Councillor Matlow in 2020, introduced myself and pitched the market,” Beazer told us. “He loved it, so we started working on it.”

Related: Food Activist and Dietitian Rosie Mensah Looks at Nutrition Through a Social Justice Lens

Fast forward to the market’s July 2021 launch in partnership with Councillor Matlow and the York-Eglinton BIA, where it found a home in Reggae Lane and the adjacent parking lot on Eglinton West. “Here we are, a year later, and it’s been well-received. Its success shows what the area was craving for so long,” said Beazer.

Visitors to this unique market can shop for clean, culturally appropriate fruits and vegetables from the Caribbean and continental African countries along with clean produce grown by local urban farmers, baked goods, fresh juices, sauces and other artisan products. “We use the word clean instead of organic because this produce is clean of any pesticides, and is grown using diatomaceous earth,” Beazer explained. “The market features clean foods that are locally grown by people that look like them. And I think for them, that’s important.”

Vendors selling homemade condiments at the Afro-Caribbean Farmers' Market in Toronto, Canada

Until this point, many farmers’ markets across the city exude a sense of exclusivity and elitism, but this is where the Afro-Caribbean Farmer’s Market is breaking the mold. “In having conversations with many of our vendors, they’ve felt a sense of racism when shopping at or even vending at other farmers’ markets,” Beazer disclosed. “We have created a platform where they’re not only able to sell their products, they’re selling out.”

Related: The World’s Biggest Rooftop Farm is in Canada — and Growing Fast

They’ve even gone as far as providing a program for those facing food insecurity called Callaloo Cash, making this farmers’ market accessible to more people, especially those in the neighbourhood. From the earliest stages of planning, the program was always going to be an important facet of this market, according to Beazer.

“I understand this area and a good majority of our population of the African diaspora rarely go to farmers’ markets because they can’t afford it. But we have urban Black farmers who need a space to sell their wares. They’re not travelling a long distance and can get to the site using less mileage and expense, which lowers the cost of their produce. Having the Callaloo Cash subsidy program allows people from the community to walk out of the market with bags of food that they paid little or nothing for. They can go home with all of these wonderful things that they know are local and clean.”

Related: Allison Gibson Talks Launching Food Businesses and Reclaiming the Term “Ethnic Food”

Since the July launch, the market is quickly becoming a destination for people in the neighbourhood. “It has become important to the community,” Beazer shared. “They’re grateful to have something to do on a Sunday in this area. They can invite family to their homes and go to the market together for coconut water and sugar cane, or some jerk chicken with rice and peas.”

Vendors selling produce at a booth in the Afro-Caribbean Farmers' Market in Toronto

A market does so much more than provide food and a sense of community. Farmers’ Markets Ontario, the organization that represents over 180 markets across the province, has researched and proven that real estate values increase in neighbourhoods following the launch of a farmers’ market, something that Beazer has already witnessed in the area. “The community members, homeowners, and business owners have already seen the benefits of the farmers’ market being mentioned in their postal code. And that’s incredible.”

She continued, “The community wants the market here because they see the benefits. The stores see the benefits and open if they’re not typically open on a Sunday. The foot traffic has been close to a thousand people every Sunday since it started, many of who wouldn’t have normally visited Eglinton West. Our vendors sell out of their products, which has never happened to them at other farmers’ markets in the city. It’s a great place to be with a fantastic vibe.”

Related: How Food Injustice Inspired This 23-Year-Old to Start Her Own Farm, Plus Her Advice for You

Despite support from Councillor Matlow and Ontario MPP Jill Andrew, the Toronto Parking Authority, which owns the lot where the market takes place, hasn’t been supportive according to Beazer. “Every farmers’ market has its challenges and we have ours. This market is dealing with some really ugly things because of this space that we’re in. The Toronto Parking Authority is not doing what they need to do for the space. They’re disrespecting the vendors by not keeping the lot clean for us.”

In fact, Beazer has taken on the site clean-up since the first day of the market and tearfully described the human waste that she faces each week when she arrives. “Every Sunday at 8AM, I head to the market site with anxiety because I don’t know what I’m going to find. Without fail, I have to clean it up myself before the vendors arrive.”

An assortment of freshly baked bread for sale at the Afro-Caribbean Farmers' Market in Toronto, Canada

Ideally, Beazer wants this market to happen annually, and as part of that, she would love to see this space returned to the community. She envisions it as a hub for art shows, yoga classes, movie nights, children’s activities and so much more beyond the farmers’ market. “This project was really supposed to help change the attitudes of people that live in the area that haven’t come to Eglinton West for 15 years because they were afraid. By bringing food and culture to this neighbourhood through the Afro-Caribbean Farmers’ Market, we can start to change that footprint.”

Related: Vegan West African Peanut Lentil Stew: The Comfort Food You Need

Beazer also believes that there is magic in this space, especially in the Reggae Lane mural created by artist Adrian Hayles. “When the sun comes out and hits the mural, it comes to life. The talk of the community is that the elders from the mural that have transitioned join us at the market.” She added, “Hayles is creating another mural on the opposite side. Should the market happen again next year, the whole space will be filled with beautiful art.”

The Afro-Caribbean Farmers’ Market runs every Sunday from 11AM to 3PM until October 3 in Reggae Lane and the Green P Carpark at 1531 Eglinton Avenue West in Toronto.

Neopolitan Baked Alaska Snowball is seen cracked open, with various chocolates and chocolate-covered strawberries seen inside

We Tried Mijune Pak’s New Chocolate Creations Just in Time for the Holidays

Foodie, Top Chef Canada judge, all-around champion for restaurants during the year that has been 2020… is there anything Mijune Pak can’t do? Well as it turns out the Vancouver personality hasn’t just been brightening up people’s lives with her virtual Instagram cooking classes and delightful new animated emojis these past few months. She’s also been helping fans relive their childhood memories with a new line of gourmet chocolates that are just as pretty as they are delicious.

Related: Get Mijune Pak’s recipe for a Canadian Pie-in-a-Jar

Mijune Chocolate is a collaboration between Pak and award-winning chocolatier Christophe Bonzon. The limited-edition line of bars and snowballs was inspired by her childhood memories, which is how she wound up with concoctions like Maple Syrup French Toast and Neapolitan Baked Alaska Snowballs. Fans were so pumped to try the goodies come the Oct. 20 launch date that they even crashed the pre-order website.

Luckily we got our hands on some of the festive edibles—which are available to ship across Canada—and we had a few thoughts…

Neapolitan Baked Alaska Snowballs, $18.95

Related: 20 Holiday Gifts Perfect for the Food Lover in Your Life

First impression
You know when something is just too pretty to eat? That’s probably why we had to stash our snowball in the fridge for a few days before we finally broke down and smashed it. Not only was the packaging gorgeous, but the ball itself really did look like some kind of a magical, edible snowball that had been hugged by a fairy. The brilliant pink-and-white boule was finished with snow-like ridges and a sprinkling of chocolate crumble, basically putting this season’s trendy hot chocolate bombs to shame.   

Taste
Where do you even start when you’re presented with a flurry of flavours inside one magic ball? One that you get to crack open with more enthusiasm than a Kinder Surprise Egg? Outside the snowball is made up of creamy, layered milk chocolate, vanilla bean and white chocolate, which is basically a grown-up, sexier version of the childhood favourite, if you ask us. Then inside you’ve got a ton of fun Neapolitan crisps, dark-chocolate-covered marshmallows, and two freeze-dried strawberries that are coated in either ruby pink chocolate or dark chocolate. It’s enough to send your taste buds into overdrive, but in that indulgent, the-holidays-are-here kind of way.

See More: Baked Alaskas Are Making a Comeback – and These Chocolate Hazelnut Treats Are Proof

Inspirations
Mijune was inspired to create these brilliant snowballs from her childhood memories of eating Neapolitan ice cream. And like us, she always ate the chocolate and vanilla, but left the strawberry for someone more unsuspecting. This adult version has all the creamy flavours you remember eating as a kid, but without the brain freeze. Oh, and as for those strawberries? When wrapped in a crispy feuilletine, you kind of wish there were more than just two.

Lasting thoughts
If you can get your hands on one of these rare treats (note to Mijune and Christophe—produce more, please) they make a delightful and fun gift. The only problem is that you’re far more likely to want to keep it for yourself than give it out, especially if you’re stuck at your house for the holidays and are really craving that nostalgic taste of home.

Maple Syrup French Toast, $11.95

First impression
Like the snowball, this French Toast bar comes in an understated-but-pretty package that is also elegant thanks to the gender-neutral gold embellishments. Inside, the bar is also unabashedly Canadian thanks to a swanky Maple Leaf adorning it. Ours was broken in one spot by the time we opened it, however we really loved that the bar was perforated in unexpected diagonal lines, making it so much more elegant than traditional chocolate square bars.

Related: 10 Unexpected Chocolate Flavour Pairings That Are a Perfect Match

Taste
Most people are either a fan of maple or they aren’t. And even those who fall into the former camp have to admit that too much of the treat is overkill—it is kind of sweet, after all. Enter this special French Toast chocolate bar, which tones down the sweetness by pairing the maple with a crumbly, toast-like cookie that feels just a bit rough on your tongue. It’s a fun play on texture and flavour that we didn’t even know could exist in a chocolate bar, and we’d be lying if we said we haven’t been craving more ever since licking the last little bit off our plate.

Inspirations
So many of us grew up eating pancakes, waffles and French toast on a lazy Sunday morning, so you can’t help but feel a little nostalgic when you take that first bite into this bar. As soon as it hits your tongue you’re automatically transported back to the days when you would slather butter and maple syrup over a stack and dive in unabashedly. Just thinking about it now makes us want to whip up some French toast this weekend… 

Lasting thoughts
Whether you want something sweet to go with your tea, or you’re putting together a dessert board with all of your favourite things, the Maple Syrup French Toast bar is one sweet addition. It also makes an impressive gift or stocking stuffer, especially for any Canadians out there who find themselves missing home this holiday season.

Overall thoughts
As far as we’re concerned the only downside to the Maple Syrup French Toast and Neapolitan Baked Alaska Snowballs is that they’re limited-edition runs. We’re sure Mijune and Christophe had a blast acting like Christmas elves and collaborating with these sweet treats, but now that they’ve proven to be every bit as spectacular in practice as they are in theory, here’s hoping for even more sweet, sweet collaborations between these two in the near future.

5 Must-Have Kitchen Essentials to Buy Before Black Friday Ends

These days, everyone is a home cook as we spend more time than ever whipping up delicious dinners and mastering satisfying lunches. In fact, our kitchen utensils and kitchen accessories have never been more in-demand. But with Black Friday deals upon us, now is the time to finally invest in those chef-inspired kitchen essentials you’ve been eyeing. There’s a wide world of options designed to elevate any dish, but here are the top five essentials that all home chefs need in their kitchens to cook like a true pro.

Instant Pot

All chefs know that “low and slow” is the name of the game when it comes to maxing out on flavour, but busy home cooks don’t always have time for that. Enter this programmable pressure and multi cooker, which churns out quick dinners without sacrificing complex flavours. There’s an array of Instant Pot recipes out there to choose from, from Instant Pot spaghetti and pot roast to Instant Pot chili, chicken and everything in between. These machines typically go on sale come Black Friday, and investing in one means you’ll always be able to plan high-quality meals without investing any extra cooking or prep time.

Related: Our Very Best Instant Pot Recipes for Quick and Easy Dinners

Instant pot filled with rice and veggies

Quality Knives

Ask any chef and they will tell you the most important tool in a kitchen is a decent knife. Good, sharp knives reduce accidents and offer more control, so investing in quality knives is a must for any home cook – no matter your skill level. With quality knives, you’ll be chopping ingredients for your hearty winter stew or easy weeknight dinner in no time. You’re sure to find plenty of Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals on various sets of quality kitchen knives.

knife block on kitchen countertop

Cast-Iron Skillet and/or Pot

Nothing against regular cookware, but if you want a reliable skillet, pan or pot, then cast-iron cookware is truly the way to go. Cast iron distributes heat evenly, and the metal stays hot even after you take it off the cooking surface, which means you no longer have to worry about wonky hot spots or keeping your food warm once you take it off the burner or out of the oven. Sure, iron skillets and other cast-iron products are a bit more costly than other cookware, but that’s why Black Friday exists! Plus, if you season yours properly and take good care of it, it should basically last you a lifetime.

Related: Here’s How to Season Your Cast-Iron Pans Like a Pro

Seven burgers being cooked in cast iron pan

Dutch Oven

When you’re spending a lot of time making a dish, like when you’re braising or stewing up something, a Dutch oven pot is your best friend. But it’s also so much more than that. It’s a catch-all for your weeknight pasta, the perfect vessel for Dutch oven bread, the unifier of soups and the best place to brown meat, period. Because it’s so heavy, it retains and distributes heat evenly — and if you invest in a good cast-iron one, it should last you a lifetime. The best part? If you want to whip up some Dutch oven recipes, you don’t even need to drop serious coin, now that Black Friday deals are here.

Related: The Best Winter Recipes You Can Make in a Dutch Oven

Whole chicken and veggies in Instant Pot

Microplane Grater or Zester

When’s the last time you used your cheese grater as a lemon zester? Or struggled to grate fresh spices, like nutmeg, with the same thing you just used to make nachos? A microplane is the perfect tool for zesting fresh citrus in salads and marinades, for easily shredding hard Asiago or Parmesan over fresh pasta or chicken parm or for curating perfect ribbons of garlic, ginger, chocolate or other toppings and aromatics. Add in the fact that they’re easy to store and reasonably priced to begin with — and you can tuck one away in your utensil drawer for a steal this Black Friday.

Related: Deliciously Bright Citrus Recipes for Cold Winter Days

Cranberries in white bowl with zester tool and oranges next to it


Suzanne Barr photo and feature image courtesy of Kilne Cookware; other photos courtesy of Getty Images

Building a Zero-Waste Kitchen is Easier Than You Think. Here’s How!

Whether you want to be more eco-friendly, save some cash or you simply like having a little organization in your life, there are plenty of reasons to move towards a waste-free kitchen. The good news: even if it sounds a little overwhelming at first, it’s a whole lot simpler to achieve than you’d think. Here’s how to make it happen.

10 Easy Steps to Creating a No-Waste Kitchen 

1. Invest in reusable containers, wraps and bags

One of the easiest ways to eliminate extra waste is to ditch the plastic wrap, single-use containers and plastic bags in favour of reusable containers, Mason jars and beeswax wraps. And, if you’re already taking tote bags or baskets with you to do your shopping, consider upping your game with produce-friendly mesh bags. It’s a pain-free start to making some pretty big changes, and it also sets you up for better long-term food storage and less waste at the grocery store.

2. Buy in bulk and buy whole

For basic goods that you use often, like oats, flour, beans and grains, head to the bulk food store and fill up your own containers. You’ll save money and even potentially extend the shelf life of some of those products by storing them in glass jars. Meanwhile, when it comes to meat, select whole chicken and fish rather than pre-cut trays, and in the produce aisle, don’t fall victim to pre-packed greens, cut beans, or other “handy” items that have already been prepared for you. When you take full items home, you can portion and use them how you wish, plus you can use the leftovers to whip up a nifty vegetable, fish or chicken stock.

Get the recipe for Lentil Mushroom Meatballs

3. Use a meal plan

Is there anything more dangerous than doing your grocery shopping while hungry? That’s when you tend to fill the cart with wants, rather than needs. Fill up before you shop, but also make sure to put together a meal plan and a grocery list first. That way you can avoid overbuying and tossing food that goes bad before you have a chance to use it. Plus, you’re more likely to stick to healthy choices when you plan ahead. Double win.

Related: 10 Ways You’re Destroying the Planet From the Comfort of Your Own Home

4. Make things from scratch

We’ve covered stocks, but there’s a whole world of basic condiments you can also whip up with things you already have in the fridge or pantry. There are tons of recipes for everyday salad dressings out there, mayo is pretty simple to throw together, while ketchup, mustard and barbecue sauce always taste better when they’re made in-house.

Related: 18 Freezer-Friendly Vegan Dinner Ideas to Prep This Week

5. Regrow your vegetable scraps

If your veggie scraps aren’t worth transforming into a stock, why not give them a whole new life by planting them and starting your own veggie garden? If you’ve never done this before, it’s actually shocking how many things you can plant and regrow in the kitchen, while eliminating how much waste you produce. Green onion roots turn into new shoots, pepper seeds will grow into the real deal, and even celery bases get a second life if you plant them. If you’re just starting to explore your green thumb or you need some more inspiration, here are vegetables you can regrow in your kitchen.

6. Get creative with food scraps and compost when necessary

If you don’t compost, now is a good time to start — it’s a smarter alternative to recycling, and if your city doesn’t have a program already in place, then it’s something you can easily start doing at home. Meanwhile, reconsider the food scraps you may currently be tossing into the bin. Broccoli stems make for a delicious slaw, veggie pulp from a juicer can be tossed into a pasta sauce, and carrot tops transform into a surprisingly delicious pesto.

7. Find a second use for your leftovers

Don’t just get creative with your food scraps — get creative with your leftovers before they go bad and you’re forced to toss them. While meal planning definitely helps eliminate unexpected leftovers, if you find yourself with extra food, don’t be discouraged. Your freezer is always your friend in terms of extending an item’s shelf life, or get inspired with some of our ideas for leftover chicken, leftover steak or leftover rice.

Related: 10 Tasty Uses for Leftover Food Scraps to Reduce Food Waste

8. Ditch the coffee pods and tea bags

Coffee pods may be convenient and easy-to-use, but they’re also expensive and they create so much unnecessary waste. If you insist on a single-pod machine, invest in a reusable filter that gives you the further benefit of adjusting the amount of coffee per serving to individual tastes. And when it comes to tea, buy a diffuser and stock the pantry with loose-leaf tea to avoid extra staples, strings, and plastic-coated tea bags being tossed into the rubbish bin.

9. Clean your kitchen the smart way

As you’re ditching disposable kitchen-storage products, consider eliminating unnecessary one-time-use cleaning items like paper towels and sponges, too. Dish towels and clothes can be thrown into the laundry and used over and over again, which might feel like more work, but it also saves you more money in the long-run. And when it comes to cleaning products, consider making your own. A solution of vinegar, baking soda and water will clean most household items.

Related: 12 Ways You Can Organize Your Kitchen Like Marie Kondo

10. Think quality, not quantity

If you get excited by new tools and gadgets, we feel you — it’s always fun to try out a new toy in the kitchen. But, if the goal is to create a waste-free kitchen then sometimes it’s better to ask yourself if you really need an item, or if it just sounds like a cool thing to have. Cast-iron pans will produce quality food for a longer period of time than a Teflon-coated one, for example, while most pressure cookers also double as a slow cooker these days. Garlic presses are handy, but sometimes it’s quicker to just mince a clove or two yourself. Take stock of needs versus wants, and then begin living your best minimalist life from there.

Related: 17 Kitchen Gadgets That’ll Be Extinct by 2025

If you’re looking to take your zero-waste kitchen one step further, find out where to take your used appliances and cabinets (by province) or check out the best zero-waste restaurants and food stores across Canada.

First photo courtesy of Unsplash

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.

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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

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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.

How to Shop For The Perfect Thanksgiving Turkey

Everyone knows the best part of Thanksgiving is the turkey — it’s the magnificent centrepiece that the rest of the meal is planned around. Without the turkey, loading up your plate with stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and gravy (especially the gravy) just doesn’t seem right. Because the turkey is so vital, you should select your bird with care, and there are many things to consider when making your purchase.

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Fresh vs. Frozen

While neither fresh nor frozen is technically better than the other, there are several differences to consider. Frozen turkeys will have a sweeter taste than a fresh turkey’s gamey flavour,
they are cheaper than most fresh birds and are often more convenient. A frozen bird can be kept in your freezer for up to a year, while a fresh turkey should be purchased only a day or two before your holiday feast and stored in a very cold location. However, defrosting a frozen turkey takes a few days and must be done properly to prevent bacterial growth. (A note: pre-stuffed turkeys can also pose a risk for bacteria, so stuff your own!) Always look for Grade A meat, whether you opt for fresh or frozen.

When choosing a frozen bird, take a look at the shape of the turkey — a plump, round shape is typically best. This means there is lots of tender meat on the bones. A flatter, larger turkey may indicate a bony body, which can mean dry or tough meat. Inspect carefully; avoid freezer burn and ice crystals, and make sure there are no tears in the packaging. Don’t forget to look at the label and choose the freshest turkey possible!

If you opt for a fresh turkey, grocery stores and butchers are can provide decent poultry, but you can also make the trip to a farm. The advantage here is that you can actually ask questions about the turkey; how it was raised and its age. These factors will determine the freshness and taste of the meat. A younger turkey, for example, will be more tender than an older bird.

Organic

What exactly does organic mean? This means the turkey has been fed real grains, without pesticides and with no added growth hormones or antibiotics (which is what makes a turkey plump).
You will get a more natural taste, but pay a higher price for it. Although, around the holidays, most grocery stores have great sales on poultry, so shop around for a good deal. A truly organic turkey will be labeled with “no hormones” or “no antibiotics.”.

Free-Range

Free-range animals are given space to move around outdoors rather than being cooped up in the close quarters of a barn. Having some room for mobility and exercise actually helps to create
leaner and better textured meat. Plus, they are often ingesting natural foods (like grass and flowers) from their environment, which gives them more of a pure taste. Be warned, however, that not all
free-range poultry is necessarily organic. Read labels carefully.

Weight

It may sound crazy when you say you are cooking 20 pounds of meat, but for a big family meal, that is entirely normal. To make sure there is enough to go around (and some for leftover sandwiches, of course), purchase approximately 1.5 pounds per dinner guest. Cooking a large turkey takes several hours, so you may want to purchase two medium-sized birds to eliminate some cooking time.

Alternatives

Sometimes, a giant turkey just isn’t the right fit for your Thanksgiving meal, so here are a few alternatives:

Turkey Breast: If you’re hosting a more intimate dinner, several pounds of meat won’t be required. Opt for a turkey breast, which is white meat only.

Mock Turkey: Often referred to as “tofurkey,” this is vegetarian-friendly option involves no turkey whatsoever. It is usually in loaf form, made from tofu or a wheat protein.

Turkey Roll: These can be tricky to make, but are very easy to buy. It involves cutting the breast from the turkey in one whole piece, flattening it, stuffing it with filling and then rolling it. Fresh turkey rolls are available around the holidays, co check your local farmer or butcher.

For lots of delicious recipes for the holiday bird, check out Our Best Thanksgiving Turkey Recipes

 

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.

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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.