Tips for prepping & cooking your Thanksgiving turkey

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Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate the harvest and, a time to reflect on all that we have to be thankful for, and for many of us, a time to gather with family and friends to share a meal. While we may all have different traditions as to what should be on the Thanksgiving menu, many tables will feature a roasted whole turkey at the centre. Here are some tips to help you successfully prepare and cook your Thanksgiving turkey.

THAWING

If your turkey is frozen, leave the turkey in the original package and choose one of the following methods to thaw your turkey. Do not thaw turkey at room temperature.

REFRIGERATOR METHOD

This method is preferred, as it keeps the turkey meat cold until it is completely defrosted. Leave turkey in original plastic wrapper. Place turkey in refrigerator on a tray with sides (this is helpful to catch any liquid that escapes during defrosting). Allow 5 hours per pound (10 hours/kg) defrosting time.

COLD WATER METHOD

Cover the turkey completely with cold water (the sink is a good place for this). Change water at least every hour – we recommend refreshing water every 30 minutes. Allow 1 hour per pound (2 hours/kg) defrosting time. Turkey should be cooked as soon as it is thawed and held in the fresh state for the minimum time possible to discourage bacterial growth.

CLEANING

• Wash hands thoroughly in hot soapy water before handling raw meat
• Remove plastic wrap from thawed turkey
• Remove neck and giblets from body cavity
• Rinse turkey well inside and out with cold water (optional)
• Thoroughly pat dry with paper towels
• Do not let raw meat juices touch ready-to-eat foods, either in the refrigerator or during preparation
• Do not put cooked foods on the same plate that held raw product
• Wash and sanitize any utensils, dishes or surfaces used for cutting turkey
• Keep cutting board and utensils in good repair as they can harbour bacteria inside cracks and crevices

COOKING

There are different points of view on the best way to cook a whole turkey. To brine or not to brine (click here for brining tips)? To flip or not to flip? One of the most common methods is to place the turkey, breast side up, on a rack in a roasting pan. Tent loosely with aluminum foil. Roast in 325ºF (160ºC) oven until thermometer inserted into thickest part of thigh registers 180ºF (82ºC) for a stuffed turkey or 170ºF (77ºC) for an unstuffed turkey. For golden skin, remove foil tent for last hour of roasting.

You can find a helpful guide to cooking times depending on the size of your turkey on the Turkey Farmers of Ontario website.

When turkey is done, transfer to warm platter. Tent with foil and let stand for 20 to 30 minutes. This allows time for juices at the surface of the bird to distribute evenly throughout the meat. Remove all stuffing from cavity. Carve turkey. Enjoy!

Visit http://makesitsuper.ca/ for more tips and tasty recipe ideas from the Turkey Farmers of Ontario.

Tips for packing healthy school lunches

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It’s that time of year…time to head back to school! We recognize that settling back into routine can be a challenge, but it’s also a fun opportunity to try new things and recommit to good habits. One of those both fun and challenging activities is packing school lunches. How do you keep things interesting? How can you encourage picky eaters to try new flavours? We turned to the nutrition experts at EatRight Ontario to get tips and tricks for packing lunches that are healthy and balanced. Here is what they recommend…

Ideas for packing a balanced, healthy lunch:

Step one: Think food groups. Aim to have at least three of the four food group represented in your child’s lunch. Check out Canada’s Food Guide if you would like to review the food groups.
Step two: Think outside the sandwich! Get creative when choosing items for your child’s lunch. Try changing something as simple as the type of grain. For example, using pita, flatbread, tortilla, or cereal instead of bread can make lunch more interesting for your little eater.

Ideas to keep lunch interesting and to encourage picky eaters to try new flavours:

Your child’s tastes may change from one day to the next. Try new foods regularly and don’t be afraid to try them more than once. You may have to offer new foods many times before your children learn to like them!

Children experience food using taste, touch and sight. Keep them interested with lunches that include a variety of shapes, colours and textures.

  • Cut sandwiches into triangles or diamonds. Use cookie cutters to make fun shapes.
  • Change the bread – try different kinds of grains (rye, pumpernickel, flax) as well as the type of bread like whole grain tortillas, bagels and pitas.
  • Offer various types of cheese (mozzarella, cheddar, Jack, Swiss) in different forms (cubes, strings, slices and balls).
  • Switch up the veggies and fruit. Give your kids something different to experience with each bite. Group foods according to: type (citrus, tropical.); color (green, red, orange, yellow, purple); shape (balls, strips, chunks, whole); or texture (soft, juicy, crunchy)
  • Kids love to dip. Use cottage cheese, hummus, yogurt, or guacamole as healthy dips.

Tips on packing lunches and snacks that are safe to eat:

Keep these food safety tips in mind when packing your child’s school lunch and snacks.

  • As with any meal, always wash your hands first.
  • Prepare your child’s lunch on a clean surface using clean utensils.
  • Wash all fruit and vegetables thoroughly (even if labeled “pre-washed”) before cutting them or placing them into your child’s lunch bag.
  • Do not reuse perishable foods (meat, fish, poultry and milk products) that come home uneaten from your child’s lunch.
  • Keep lunches in the fridge until your child is leaving for school.
  • Use an insulated lunch bag with a small ice pack for foods that need to stay cool. A frozen juice box or bottle of water can also help keep foods cold.
  • Put foods that need to stay hot in a thermos. A thermos is also good for smoothies and milk.
  • Be sure to keep reusable containers clean by washing well with warm soapy water.

For more tips on packing healthy lunches, visit the EatRight Ontario website.
Looking for menu inspiration? Download this sample weekly menu plan.