Category: Technique

A Holiday for Everyone

There’s something special about the meals associated with winter holidays. Something about a set and laden table, with the cold dark just outside the windows – it makes things feel particularly comfy, and wholesome, and welcoming.

And with that spirit in mind, we want to make sure that our holiday meals are open and accessible to everyone, not just folks who share our personal preferences for what to eat and drink. We try hard to accommodate different diets and lifestyles, so that everyone we love can come together and be thankful in joy and deliciousness:

First, there’s always our perfect roast turkey recipe and delicious cranberry sauce. In addition to that, and the many yummy veggie dishes, we always like to have at least one more hearty main dish that isn’t meat based. We love the sound of this vegan meatloaf, but in a pinch we might just grab one of the frozen Vegan Roasts we sell at the store.

Like a lot of other of people, we like to cook our stuffing outside the bird – this allows the bird to cook more quickly and evenly, makes sure the stuffing itself is cooked properly, and most importantly lets us make several different kids of stuffing, including ones for our friends who are vegan and paleo or keto.

Many of our favourite veggie dishes are already totally vegan-friendly, like our Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes with Shitaaki Miso Gravy, Roasted Maple Delicata Squash, and Mashed Sweet Potatoes; others can be made so with just one or two easy substitutions, like our Crispy Brussel Sprouts, made with nutritional yeast instead of Parmesan, and our beloved Grean Beans with Garlicky Pine Nuts, in which we just omit the butter.

For dessert, we like to serve a variety of fresh fruit, as well as our vegan-friendly Peach Sorbet; this year we’re planning on making a paleo-AND-keto friendly avocado ice cream!

As well as food, though, it’s always important to us that our place be really accessible and inviting – both physically and emotionally. That is very much an ongoing process, and it starts by asking some simple questions about what we can do to help our guests (including the ones we don’t know yet!) navigate our space with ease and comfort. While this article is more concerned with having a large dance-type party, the questions it asks and points it raises are a great starting point to help you throw parties for everyone. Which is the goal, really – because aren’t good times even better when they’re shared?  

Happy holidays!

What’s YOUR Turkey?

Image by Flickr user Joyocity

Food means so much to us, in part because it’s delicious and in part because it’s so intimately connected to memory. That said, it’s also where we do some of our most delicious experimentation! In the spirit of the holidays, we love a roast turkey, but we also wanted to know what the alternatives are (especially because we might have so many guests that we can’t cook all the turkeys in our oven) – so here’s a few cool different ways to cook a bird:

 

  1. The traditional oven-roasted bird.
  2. Spatch-cocked. We’ve never done this, but our amazing butcher at The Sweet Potato will always happily spatchcock a bird for anyone, so we’re strongly considering it.
  3. Smoked. You don’t need an official smoker for this, you can do it on any bbq big enough to hold the bird (even a propane grill!)
  4. Deep fried. I know that sounds pretty extreme, but I have family who do this every year – they just set up outside with a big pot on a propane burner (like this one), and basically just sit around, enjoying a seasonal beverage, until it’s done.
  5. Poached! It might sound funny, but it’s guaranteed juicy, nearly impossible to overcook, and it’s a tremendously convenient way cook a second-turkey without a second oven.

If you try any of these, or you have your own atypical bird-cooking technique, we’d love to hear about it!  Let us know in the comments, below!

The Next Most Important Meal of the Day

What rivals breakfast as the most important meal of the day? Ask any parent of school-aged kids and they’ll all answer “after school snack”. Yup, post-school pick up is prime hangry time. Those kids have been holding it together all day, working really hard, and that school bell can release a lot of tension. One way to help manage after-school energy dips is with a favourite nutrient-dense snack. Try these quick and fun ideas!

After School Snacks: The Tried and True

It doesn’t need to be IG-worthy or a pin from Pinterest. Some crackers, cubed cheese and fruit will be devoured in moments. Or if your kids want to go the sweet route, their fave yogurt, a dollop of jam, topped with granola and berries will feel like dessert before dinner.

Avocado Boats

Image via Super Healthy Kids. Full recipe here.

If you want to win silly points for almost no effort, smash some avocado, dress it however your kids will eat it, put it back in the rind, surround with waves of tortillas. Avocado Boat. Done.

 

After School Snacks: On the Go

Fruit and Veggie Loaves

The sweet Potato Toronto - Sweet Potato Kitchen's daily fresh-baked banana bread

Banana bread, zucchinni muffins, pumpkin chocolate loaf – this is the season to hide fruit and veg in delish baked goods. Packed with fibre and protein, baked goods are a great way to pack a nutritional punch on the go.  Don’t feel like baking? The Sweet Potato kitchen has freshly baked banana bread every day. And oh is it good. Like really, really, really good.

Energy Balls

The Sweet Potato Toronto, after school snack ideas - energy balls

Image via Amy Gorin Nutrition. Recipe for Almond Pistachio Cocoa Bites here.

Protein balls are all the rage right now and with good reason. These gooey little spheres pack a real nutritional punch and are super quick to whip up. With no-bake recipes that include ingredients like nut butters, oats, seeds, chocolate chips, cocoa powder, and dates they are pretty tasty to boot. Kids love ’em and they’re a super choice if you want to level blood sugars and fill tummies enough to get you through to dinner hour.

After School Snack: Frosty Treats

Remember last September here in Toronto when the summer weather finally arrived…in September? September and October are such transitional months here and it can be nice to have snacks on hand that mind the weather. 

Frozen grapes dipped in yogurt

The Sweet Potato Toronto after school snack ideas - frozen grapes dipped in yogurt

Image via Super Healthy Kids. Visit site for full instructions

Here’s a cool idea (literally), freeze grapes, then dip them in yogurt, then freeze them again to set. Easy-peasy, and an instant kid classic for sure.

Chocolate Covered Frozen Banana Bites

The Sweet Potato Toronto , after school snack ideas - thekitchn.com recipe for banana bites

Image via the kitchn. Full recipe here.

Not exactly a healthy balanced snack. But points for both wow and yum factor. Plus I’m pretty sure science agrees, chocolate’s got loads of health-promoting properties. 

Looking for more Back-to-School Ideas? Check out these posts!

Quick and Fun After-School Snack Ideas to Keep the Hangries at Bay

School Lunches Around the World

 

Make No Missed-Steak

These sweet steaks’ll have you coming back for second cuts… and second helpings!

As you gear up for your BBQ season grill-stravaganza, we implore you not to overlook cuts like flank, skirt and flat iron steak. Striploin and ribeye are nice, but second cuts are where it’s at for deep, bold beefy flavours, heavy marbling and melt-in-your-mouth tenderness. As our Master Butcher and Red Seal Chef James Tober says: “Second cuts are the first cuts of flavour.” Continue reading “Make No Missed-Steak”

Let’s Talk Turkey: To Brine or Not to Brine?

Let’s talk turkey.

 

Often the centrepiece of a big holiday meal, it’s kind of crucial. It’s also easy to overcook and/or underflavour. So what’s a cook to do? Brine the bird! Brining is your ticket to a moist, delicious turkey. Read on to learn the difference between wet and dry brining, and the pros and cons of each.

 

Option 1: Wet Brine

 

Advantages:

  • relatively easy
  • proven effective
  • relatively quick
  • communicates to nosy/snobby relatives that you’re working hard to make the best meal possible

 

Disadvantages:

  • requires a lot of space
  • cooling your large pot of brine outside in the city of trash pandas is risky business

 

Basically, wet brining (aka what almost everybody means when they talking about brining a bird) is the process of submerging the turkey in salted water for a few days. The bird stays moist and juicy during cooking, and is infused with the flavours of salt and whatever else you’ve added to the brine… and you don’t end up with a dry, bland turkey situation. In fact, for that extra turkey flavour, some people like to brine their turkey in turkey stock – so if you’re so inclined, you can pick up some fresh organic made in-house turkey stock and take things to the next level!

 

The trickiest part of a wet brine is finding a container big enough to contain the bird and the liquid, and then making sure you have enough room in your fridge for it. If you’ve got that sorted, you’re good to go!

 

  1. Place a cleaned (cleaned, dried, giblets removed) turkey into a pot big enough to hold it and 4 L of water.
  2. In another pot, warm 1 L of water and stir in 1 cup of kosher salt (or ¾ cup of table salt), until totally dissolved.
  3. When the water is cool enough to touch (you don’t want to scald the bird), pour it into the pot with the turkey. Add another 3 L of water, and any aromatics you want to include. We like to throw in a bunch of sage, black peppercorns, and a few bay leaves.
  4. Cover the pot (if the turkey is floating, weigh it down with a plate or something so it’s totally submerged), and leave it in the fridge for at least two and up to 24 hours.
  5. Remove the turkey from the brine, rinse it, and pat it dry.

 

Option 2: Dry Brine

 

Advantages:

  • a novel technique (impress your foodie friends)
  • takes up less space
  • doesn’t require any follow-up (is immediately ready to cook)

 

Disadvantages:

  • gives critical family something to pick on
  • involves leaving an uncovered raw turkey in your fridge for days – so if you have little kids who are old enough to open the fridge and grab things but not yet old enough to respect boundaries, you might have a problem

 

A dry brine is basically the same thing as a wet brine, only without the water! All you do is rub the salt and spices directly into the turkey, and then leave it in the fridge overnight or for up to three days.

 

  1. Clean and dry your bird. Remove the giblets.
  2. Mix together 3 tbsp salt, ¾ tbsp ground black pepper, and about another 1½ tsp dried spices (we like to go hard on sage and thyme, but you do you).
  3. Sprinkle 2 tsp of the salt mix into the cavity of the bird.
  4. If you’re feeling fancy, carefully lift the skin from the breast of the bird, and rub another 4 tsp of the salt mixture into the breasts (under the skin).
  5. Sprinkle the remaining salt mixture onto the skin of the bird, focusing on the breast and the legs.
  6. Place the turkey breast-side up on a baking sheet or roasting pan and leave it uncovered in the fridge for 12-72 hours.

 

After Brining:

 

Whichever technique you use, once you’re done with the brine you can cook your turkey as you usually would. Brining can often shorten cooking time (the salt helps to break down the muscle proteins, so the bird is less tough before it even goes into the oven), so we’d recommend checking for doneness (with a meat thermometer) about an hour earlier than you’d think.

 

In Conclusion:

 

These are both really good techniques, and I personally can’t wait until I have the opportunity to cook two turkeys simultaneously, so I can dry-brine one and wet-brine the other and decide for myself which is better.

 

Honestly though, one of the best things you can do is make sure you’re starting with a good, healthy animal. All of the turkeys we sell at The Sweet Potato are locally and humanely raised at Yorkshire Valley Farms, where they are pastured and raised without antibiotics or hormones (and eat GMO-Free feed). Combine a great organic bird with some good brining, and then serve it with some wild rice and quinoa stuffing, roasted brussels sprouts, and sweet potato pie and you’ve got yourself a recipe for success any way you brine it!