Kitchen Tips

Top 3 Ways to Know When the Turkey Is Done

turkey doneness

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.

Hot Lips
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.

Sweet Corn Salsa with Olives


These days you can find me in the kitchen creating for my Vitality Juices cleansing programs; while the juices change only with seasons, my cleansing meal plans change weekly. I have been having a blast making soups, smoothie and salads that show people that healthy food IS delicious.

Last week as I was brainstorming for this week’s meal plans, I decided to harness my recent obsession with olives and make a salsa. As an aside, I am currently having a moment with olives; and here’s why.

Olives- The Perfect Fruit
Olives are a power packed little fruit, as it’s a source of many life giving compounds; and if ancestral living is your bag, olives are an ancient food, dating back to 3000BC, in regions of the Mediterranean. However, these briney baubles, in their natural state, are far from appetizing, as they contain bitter compounds that must be removed by either soaking or curing. Unfortunately, with modern times, the ancient fermentation process that produces a beautiful food, has become too slow.

Olives That Nona Would Approve Of
The traditional and very slow fermentation process is caused by the action of the yeast and bacteria, and as with most fermented products, a product brimming with healthy compounds and beneficial active cultures is created; and in this “fast and faster” world we live in, olives are more likely to be treated with lye to remove the bitterness, then they are packed, salted and canned. When buying olives look for the terms “brine-cured”, “water-cured”, “oil cured”; you’re best to buy olives from Italian or Greek grocers- the legitimately owned by a nona kind- they are certain to have high quality olives.

Magic and Creativity
I’ve made tapenades and spreads of all kinds with olives, but my corn obsession has hit a fever pitch; I bought heaps of corn when they we’re a dollar each at the market and I’ve been using it everywhere- including in salsa!

Sauteing corn bring out it’s inherent sweetness, which is balanced to perfection by the addition of salty olives; and then to complete the trifecta, a touch of red chili flakes for some heat.

I once heard someone say “cooking good food is a combination of magic and creativity”, one bite of sweet corn and olive salsa and I think you’ll agree!

Sweet Corn and Olive Salsa

1 cob of corn
1 1/2 tbsp mint leaves
1 clove garlic
1 1/2 tsp goat’s milk butter
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 cup kalamata olives packed in oil, pitted and chopped

Remove the kernels from the cob of corn, and set the kernels aside. In a saute pan on medium heat, melt the butter; add the garlic and cook stirring vigourously for 1 minute, add the corn kernels and season with salt, pepper, pepper flakes.Cook for an additional minute and add the olives; cook for 2 minutes and remove from heat. Stir in mint leaves and serve the salsa warm or cold.


The Paleo Diet Approved Cauliflower Rice

paleo diet cauliflower rice

Paleo, Paleolithic, Caveman or Ancestor, whatever you call it, the diet our ancestors have consumed throughout evolution is once again gaining popularity. This morning I paid a visit to CTV Morning Live Edmonton and shared a recipe for cauliflower rice; a real rice mimicking recipe that falls within the confines of the paleo diet.


Paleo Basics:

Avoid Grains, Legumes and Sugar
500 years ago, before the advent of agriculture, the consumption of grains, and legumes simply wasn’t possible, so you won’t find them on a paleo plate. And we all know the perils of sugar consumption, and paleo diet rules prohibit the consumption of sugar, because back in the day sugar was a rare luxury and not a daily indulgence; this includes, honey, coconut sugar and maple syrup, no matter how organic/local. Stevia is a leaf that is super sweet and serves as a substitute for sugar that is paleo approved!

Stick To High Quality Meats
Since your plate is largely animal protein, the source is extra important. Processed meat is NOT what you want to consume EVER, especially if you are paleo; what the animal eats, you eat. Grass fed, pasture raised or organic meat and chicken, in addition to wild fish is the type of animal protein you want to consume.

Cool It On The Fruit
Although you are allowed fruit, on the paleo diet you want to limit your fruit intake and focus primarily on berries (blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, blueberries) which generally boast a less sugar than other fruit.

You know I love good fats, and the paleo diet indulges me! Coconut oil, grass fed/ organic butte, ghee, lard, tallow,avocado, olives/ olive oil etc. are all fair game- go wild and see you hair, skin and nails improve!

As with any diet, this may not be right for you; if you are eating a paleo diet and find yourself just not feeling “right”, try something else- I say this to vegetarians and vegans as well.


Cilantro Infused Cauliflower Rice

I believe that when we give up certain foods, in order to ease the transition, it’s essential to find ways to satisfy cravings; and having grown up in North America, most of us are conditioned to have rice, pasta, potatoes and the like on our plates, so eating paleo can prove challenging. Enter Cauliflower rice!

Cauliflower, chopped finely and sauteed in coconut oil and butter, mimics the rice of our youth! And it takes so nicely to customization.

Cilantro Infused Cauliflower Rice
A “rice” dish that our ancestors would approve of, the perfectly Paleo, cilantro infused cauliflower rice.

•    a small head of organic cauliflower, chopped coarsely
•    2 tablespoons of butter
•    1-2 tablespoons of coconut oil
•    1 tbsp chopped cilantro
•    1 tsp salt
•    1/4 tsp pepper

In a sauce pan on medium high heat, melt the butter and coconut oil. Pat the cauliflower pieces with a clean cloth, to ensure they are dry. Add the cauliflower and saute for 5-7 minutes; once the cauliflower begins to caramelize, cook for an additional 1 minute. Remove from heat, stir in cilantro; serve hot with stews and curries, or serve cold in salads.

Store in airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.


For the full transcript of my Paleo Kitchen Cooking Class, sign up for the Color Me Healthy Newsletter!

Dehydrate Food without a Dehydrator

dehydrate food

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Dehydrating food is something that I have recently become interested; I like the idea of keeping my food nutrient dense, but still getting some heat on it- must be the chef in me. But, alas, I have no desire to loosen my purse strings and buy a dehydrator; with a Norwalk juicer on its way and a blendtec blender and omega juicer on my countertop, you could say my gadgetry fund is all but tapped out. But if you’re like me, wanting to explore the world of dehydration without breaking the bank, well then this post is for you!

When it comes to temperature of effective dehydration there are varying opinions but I have found that the consensus generally hovers around 105-118 degrees; while some prefer 105 to make sure your food never gets too hot, having taken many a course on food borne illness I find such a low temperature encourages fermentation and potential bacteria growth.
There are many factors at play in the dehydration process; current air humidity, how your dehydrator works (if using one), what kind of dehydrator you’re using (oven or countertop unit), and even how thick you spread your mixture. Suggested times for dehydrating should be used as a guide; like with cooking, use your eyes to watch your food as it dehydrates and your sense of touch to discern whether your food is ready or not.

Helpful Tips:
-I have found rotating trays to be a optional, however, it does make a difference. The top and the back are generally the quickest to dry; but don’t let this new endeavour tie you to your kitchen.
-Pick the freshest food to dehydrate. Staring with spoiled food can get you in a whole heap of digestive trouble read: diarrhea.
-Be sure not to over dehydrate; food will get hard and dry- not fun. However, some recipes call for food to be completely dry such as crackers.

Dehydrate Food without a Food Your Oven
One of the best modern amenities is the oven, and most of us have one; so this is the first thing to try when you want to experiment with making dehydrated foods. You won’t end up with a 100% raw product in the end, but I’m cool with it, if you are!
Start your oven on the lowest possible setting and put the food you want to dehydrate in a non-stick oven-ready pan or container; open the oven door, place the tray with the food in and leave the oven door open. I recommend you use a fan to keep the air flowing and prevent condensation.

When using an oven versus a dehydrator the timing will vary; with an oven you will “dehydrate” for as little as half the recommended time.
1. First be sure your oven can achieve a temperature lower than 200 degrees, most ovens have a “Warm” setting.
2. You need to leave the oven door propped open to allow moisture and water vapors to leave during the dehydration process.
3. You may place a fan next to the oven to increase the air flow and temperature control.
You’ve got to prep the food you want to dehydrate; wash, sort, pare, peel, and make sure all the tissue, including inner tissue is exposed to the air. Some fruits require you to “pre-treat” them in order to preserve color, flavor, and nutritional value. The easiest method I found is mix 3 tablespoons of lemon juice with water. Dip your fruits in the solution from 30-60 seconds and that’s it.

Be careful of sizes, you want to make sure things are sliced evenly and thinly; or else the tips could finish much sooner than the middle. This caused burnt tips and moist centers.

Meats and Fish: 145°F and above
Fruits and Vegetables: 130°F to 140°F
Herbs and flowers: 100°F to 110°F

The lower the air temperature inside the dehydrator or oven, the longer the drying time. Raising the temperature in the unit will increase the amount of water removed from the food and decrease the length of time it will take to dry. The temperature should be high enough to draw the moisture from the food but not high enough to cook it. Temperatures that are too low may cause food to spoil; temperatures that are too high may cause the surface area of the food to harden and prevent moisture from escaping.

BioSnacky 10 Day Sprouting Challenge~ The Beginning

I love the idea of sprouting, in fact I sprout my nuts and seeds prior to make them into milk; but as far as sprouting beans and other things, I have never gotten around to it.

Sprouting in a mason jar, although a noble feat, just never appealed to me; so when I was invited to apply to be a part of the Bio-Snacky Sprouting Challenge, where in which I would get my very own counter top sprouter, I was chuffed! The ability to effortlessly sprout in my own kitchen was extremely desirable to me.

So why on earth am I so excited to sprout?

Well, the sprouting process increases enzyme activity by over 50% and increases the vitamin capacity by 3-4 times; this is huge when we are talking about getting the most bang for our nutritional buck. When we sprout we introduce raw, living foods into our bodies that are able to nourish us at a cellular level. That is, of course, the cliff notes version!

The bio snacky original seed sprouter, is a compact little machine that makes growing sprouts and herbs at home easy and fun- because when is easy not fun?! And the compartmentalized system enables us to sprout 3 different kinds of seeds at once. Best part, it’s dishwasher safe! Easy, fun and convenient- I like!

Today I started sprouting, and I am so excited to share my results with you; I am looking so forward to sharing some delicious recipes that feature my homemade sprouts.

You can follow all the fun and see what other sprouters are up to by:

  • Following the hashtag #bioSnackySprouts
  • Follow myself on Twitter @VitalityGuide and also @AVogel_ca
  • And be sure to join all the sprouting enthusiasts on July 2nd for our wrap up Twitter party- it’s going to be BIG!

I also want to touch on store bought conventional sprouts. In recent years, sprouts of all kinds have been infected with salmonella- yes, you read that right, salmonella; so sprouting at home has become even more desirable. As a caveat, my dear readers, I bid you to know where your sprouts come from and/or cook them to ensure that the disease is killed.

With that said, let’s get sprouting!