I am SOOOO please to announce the release of my very first Christmas ebook, Surviving The Holidays! I have been working on this for years you could say, as the resident Christmas meal preparer; well, ever since my grandmother relinquished her title.
I have compiled my best recipes and tips for a deliciously healthy Christmas; with over 17 pages, it’s definitely got you covered!
And in the same spirit, I wanted to share another holiday survival tip- MAKE A PLAN. Say it with me, Make. A. PLAN. Or suffer the consequences. Not to be dramatic, but it’s no fun slaving away in the kitchen while your guests enjoy the meal, simply because you didn’t have a plan of attack.
BUT fear not, The Surviving The Holidays Ebook also comes complete with a preparation timeline, so the christmas chef in your life can relax and enjoy the day too.
American Thanksgiving or Pre Christmas as I like to call it, is around the corner; and in the coming weeks I will be sharing how you can survive the holidays, but today let’s talk turkey.
Hopefully, by now, you have some ideas on the type of dishes you will be serving or bringing to your Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner; and in the coming weeks on this website and in The Vitality Kitchen Weekly Newsletter, I will be giving you tips on creating the most perfectly juicy turkey; but today we’re going to talk about making your turkey taste DELICIOUS.
The Main Event
Now, turkey is a given and almost always finds itself on the holiday menu, so the only tip we’ll give you in regards to the bird is this; do your best to source a local and/or organic turkey, they taste better and are better for you! Also, DON’T thaw your turkey on the counter top, salmonella is not something you will likely live down.
Flavour and Herb Combinations
In all honestly, you can season your turkey with any kind of spices, sauces, and herbs, and it will still come out pretty tasty-if it’s cooked correctly.
But just in case, here are few seasoning ideas to get you started.
Combine 2 tbsp paprika, 1 tbsp coriander, 2 tsp cumin, 2 tsp dried thyme leaves and 1 tsp cayenne in a bowl, and sprinkle generously over turkey. Season with salt and pepper.
Roll 1 lemon on counter, putting a little pressure on it to loosen juices.
Pierce with a skewer about 10 times.
Place in cavity along with 1 small onion, a couple of garlic cloves and a bundle of fresh herbs like parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.
Combine ½ cup unsalted butter, 2 tbsp parsley, 1 tbsp sage, 1 tbsp thyme and 2 tsp fresh rosemary in a bowl, and mash with a fork until herbs are fully incorporated.
Use your fingers to gently separate (but don’t fully remove) the skin from the meat in a pocket over both sides of the breast, and spoon about 3 tbsp herb mixture into each, squishing the skin to distribute it evenly.
Work about 1 tbsp of herb butter under the skin on each of the legs.
The turkey is always the showstopper on the holiday, make the most of your holiday by jazzing up your turkey this holiday season.
Have you ever watched the show “Come Dine with Me”? Where regular home cooks battle it out with other contestants to host the best dinner party. I cringe and often scream at my television wondering why people eschew the importance of a prep list; I also wonder out loud, why people choose to make items they have never made before, in a pressured situation? Christmas is like the every man’s “Come Dine with Me”, so before we proceed, let me reiterate, DO NOT attempt dishes you or someone in your family has never made; who needs the stress?!
The following is my timeline for my Christmas dinner prep; I understand that your meal may look very different from mine; so use this as a guide!
Ideally all your groceries have been purchased, and this is the day to get yourself organized. Gather everything you need to make Christmas dinner come together; for example, I wash all the dishes and pull out any roasters, baking pans etc. that I’ll need on Christmas day.
I also make all the dessert components on this day. Dessert is often able to be frozen and thawed with ease. On the 22nd, I bake my cakes and cookies and any adornments they require; in addition to making my cranberry sauce. NOTE unless you are really confident with dessert, skip the fussy stuff. Trust me on this one.
If your turkey is frozen, you want to thaw it in the refrigerator today.
Set the table. It seems early, but again, it’s just one less thing to have to do. I stale my bread and cook my quinoa for stuffing on the 23rd; in addition to weighing out spices and seasoning. I do this because it eliminates the amount of stuff on the counter when I’m cooking Christmas dinner; I’m very sensitive to kitchen mess.
The 24th is the day when things start to pick up. I get an early start on the 24th because I always have a family gathering in the evening. One year, I imbibed slightly too much on the 23rd and got a very late start on the 24th- I paid when making Christmas dinner the next day.
Today is a HUGE prep day. I peel my carrots, peel and cube my celery root and potato(storing them in water until Christmas day); I suggest you prepare all your vegetables today- minus the actual cooking of course. The morning of the 24th, I place my thawed turkey in brine; but I want to note, in Edmonton a garage is cool enough for me to store my brining turkey until Christmas day, 0C-4C is the ideal refrigeration range; be sure that wherever you’re brining your turkey that you adhere to refrigeration temperatures.
Don’t forget to thaw your desserts!
Right when I wake up, before opening gifts, I take the turkey out of the brine, rub it liberally with organic butter, season, stuff with rosemary, orange, onions and garlic; and then wrap with parchment paper (parchment paper turkey).
Then it’s time to open presents and pop bubbly; I’m generally all set up so I can relax and enjoy the lazy pace of Christmas morning!
4 hours before guests are set to arrive, I ice my cakes, and get my dessert finished and plated; if they aren’t temperature sensitive, I put them on the buffet. Once I finish the desserts, I start on my stuffing; with generally around the 3 hours left.
Once the stuffing is baking, I get my celery root and potato boiling- which takes about 20 minutes. While this is happening, I season my carrots, get them spread out onto a roasting sheet and set aside until there’s 30 minutes until guest arrive; I do the same for the Brussels sprouts!
By this time, the stuffing is finished. I am lucky to have a warming drawer at my disposal, so I put 2 generous globs of organic butter (it’s Christmas dinner after all) on the stuffing, cover it and keep it in the warmer. If you do not have a warming drawer, simply add butter, cover, and before serving, fire it in an oven to warm through; the butter will keep it moist.
After the potatoes and celery root are finished boiling, I drain them and while they are still hot, I mix them with my coconut oil reduction until they are smooth and effortlessly creamy. I do the same process of butter and cover.
By this time, the turkey is ready to rest before carving, click HERE to find out how to know your turkey is done; once the turkey is out of the oven, and there is about an hour until guests arrive, I place my carrots and Brussels sprouts into the oven to cook.
In the meantime, I heat the cranberry sauce on the stove top.
When the turkey is being carved, and guests are arriving, I pour myself a drink because the hard part is over!
Once the turkey is carved, it’s time to feast, I always put the side dishes on the buffet first, and when everyone is salivating about the imminent feast, that’s when we WOW them with the bird. Then we break bread over a lovingly prepared Christmas dinner, enjoying a beautiful evening with family and friends.
I hope this guide helps you navigate the waters of Christmas dinner preparation. The key to remember is BE PREPARED, and stick to what you know; it’s your day to enjoy too!
I wish you all the happiest of holidays and a tasty and stress free Christmas dinner; thank you so much for reading, liking, sharing and being so supportive to the Vitality Kitchen in 2013. I wish you health and abundant wealth in 2014!
The Christmas feast is a week or so away; and I want to talk about the bird.
The very first Christmas where I took over the turkey, I didn’t cook the turkey properly; it was pink inside, but crispy and deceivingly done looking on the outside. Nevertheless, we ate around the pink parts and fired the turkey in the oven the next day for leftovers; to say I was embarrassed, as a culinary arts student, is a gross understatement. I vowed to conquer the turkey; because I REALLY wanted the “oohs” and “ahhs’ as I set it down on the holiday table. After getting off to a puttering start, I can now affirm, loudly, that I know when the turkey is done.
In recounting this tale to many people, I came to understand that this “bird doneness” business strikes fear through the hearts of many Christmas meal makers; so today I want to share with you the Top 3 Ways to Know When the Turkey Is Done.
The Plate Test
This many seem old school, true it’s an oldie but it’s a goody. Hold your bird over a white plate, if the juices are running clear, you’re laughing; however, if there is even a whisper of red or pink, that birdie needs some more time. This method has NEVER failed me.
Cute names aside, this is also a time tested doneness tip that I’ve used on whole chickens as well. Take a large meat fork, and pierce it deeply into the thickest part of the bird, in the meatiest part of the thigh. This is where the turkey cooks the slowest and is also one of the thickest. Pull the fork out after 15 seconds, and place on your lip; if the fork is too hot to leave on your lip, chances are the bird is finished! As a note, if you take the drumstick of the bird are able to easily pull it away from the bone, this is also a very good sign that your turkey is ready to rest.
Technology for the Win
You may have asked why I’ve yet to mention the meat thermometer, it’s simply because I’ve saved the best for last; although, I stand behind the aforementioned tips, who can argue with the accuracy of a meat thermometer. When a meat thermometer is in good working order, this is hands down the best method to test the doneness of turkey; look for a temperature of 165F-180F.
TIP Always wash your meat thermometer by hand; the high heat temperature of a dishwasher throws off the calibration of the thermometer.
Ok, so now you have 3 effective ways to test the doneness of your turkey. Be sure to note that your average holiday turkey needs to rest for at least 30-45 minutes before it should be carved; otherwise all those carefully crafted juices will be lost to the gravy.
Yesterday was Halloween, and for the first time in as long as I can remember, I didn’t dress up. The usual excitement over all the fanfare of Halloween just wasn’t there for me this year; with planning the new Vitality Kitchen taking up whatever is left of my creative energy at the end of the day, I couldn’t find it in me to wrangle my Halloween spirit. But as the day began and photographic evidence of the holiday began to pop up everywhere, I kinda wished I had made the effort- but all was not lost; I had a pumpkin in the fridge and damn it I was going to make a delicious soup to wash down my Halloween FOMO (fear of missing out).
Aside from its obvious festive nature, pumpkin boasts many health benefits. Pumpkin is a foremost source of healthy carbohydrates, magnesium and the antioxidant carotenoids (found in most orange coloured veggies ie. carrots); and unlike summer squash, pumpkin and other winter gourds are hearty and robust and store very well for months at a time.
Pumpkins for a Healthy Pitter Patter
For the ladies out there who wish to hear the pitter patter of little feet, pumpkin has got your number! Pumpkin contains heaps of folate, which help guard against birth defects, especially those in the neural tube.
Two for One
Pumpkin is one of those amazing ingredients that keeps on giving; not only is the flesh and skin of the pumpkin life giving and delicious, but the seeds are too, containing healthy fats, protein and fibre, which have been used traditionally to treat prostate and urinary problems. Now in order to get the best from your pumpkin feast, please buy organic; pumpkin and most other winter squash, absorb heavy metals from the soil and these metals get into our system. So unless you want a side of pesticides with your soup, go organic!
This pumpkin soup came together in minutes and as the aroma of the soup began to fill the air, it started to feel like Halloween. Instead of the traditional cream thickened soups, which are SCARY to me, I thickened this soup with cashews, but any nut will do; and to add a level of texture and depth of flavour, I sauteed some mushrooms and toasted some pumpkin seeds to take this soup to the next level.
A day late and DAMNED delicious, Pumpkin Soup with Shiitake Mushrooms.
1 sm pumpkin, peeled, deseeded and cut into cubes
2 medium onions, roughly chopped
2 sm yams, peeled and cubed
1/4 cup cashews (sub almonds, pecans, walnuts, pumpkin seeds)
1/2 tsp cumin, salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg, pepper
5 cup vegetable broth
1/2 tbsp coconut oil
1 lb shiitake mushrooms
3 tbsp pumpkin seeds
1 tbsp Italian parsley, chopped
1 tbsp organic butter
1/2 tsp salt
In a large pot, heat the coconut oil on medium heat; add the onions and cook, stirring consistently, for 15 minutes or until onions are fragrant and transparent and the caramelization has begun to occur. Add the pumpkin, yams, cashews, cumin, nutmeg, salt and pepper; cook for 7 minutes, stirring consistently. Add the stock and bring to a boil, then simmer for 25 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a dry saute pan on medium high heat, toast the pumpkin seeds; shake the pan throughout to ensure the seeds do not burn; remove from heat and cool. In the same pan, melt the butter and cook the shiitake mushrooms for 7 minutes; sprinkle with parsley, remove from heat and set aside.
Once the pumpkin and yams are tender, remove from heat and with a hand blender buzz until smooth. To serve, garnish with pumpkin seeds and shiitake mushrooms.
Certified holistic nutritionist, professional chef, entrepreneur and host of The Vitality Guide for Women Podcast.
Welcome To The Vitality Guide for Women!
Hi, I'm BIANCA, professional chef, holistic nutritionist, entrepreneur and host of The Vitality Guide for Women Podcast.
My intention with the website and podcast The Vitality Guide for Women is to guide you to your healthiest you in the real world; because we all want to live well while still having a life.