Recipes, cooking tips add juice to the holiday feast

By Nina Winham

Nothing signals the holidays like the wafting aroma of favourite seasonal dishes – and the warmth and light of the kitchen and dining table.

They’re an invitation to slow down, enjoy good company, and share in the pleasure of a home-made meal.

If you’re the cook, it’s fun to experiment with new twists on old favourites. So this month, Connected asked chef Glenys Morgan of Fork & Spoon, for some ideas to liven up your holiday fare and save electricity at the same time. Read on for some recipes that will tantalize your taste buds and Power Smart your holiday table.

Leek and Tart Apple Dressing
Cranberries and Cointreau
Brine your turkey for moistness and flavour
Toaster Oven Potato Latkes
Perfectly cooked meats
More green cooking tips

Leek and Tart Apple Dressing

  • Use your crock pot or toaster oven to save energy

Stuffing a turkey is messy and takes time – plus, it adds to roasting time. Consider preparing dressing separately, with this great recipe.

“I like this recipe because people get tired of chopping onions,” says chef Glenys. For this, you just have to slice leeks and grate apples. Then you bake it as crispy or moist as you like. Baste it with pan juices from the turkey, or with cider, or wine, or vegetable stock, as you wish.”

Meanwhile, cooking in a crockpot or toaster oven  uses far less energy than cooking in your oven. Glenys suggests also using your crockpot for your Christmas pudding, and for reheating mashed potatoes you make a day in advance.

Make sure these small appliances are located away from cold drafts, to maximize their efficiency.

Cranberries and Cointreau

  • Save energy and boost nutrition with raw foods
  • Thaw frozen foods in the fridge

Serving some vegetables and fruits raw helps preserve nutrients in the foods, which can be destroyed during cooking. Since cranberries are loaded with vitamin C and antioxidants, try this delicious and healthful alternative.

“The great thing about this recipe  is that you don’t cook it at all,” says Glenys. “You just pulse it in the food processor a few times - but it seems just like a cooked cranberry sauce. Plus, it keeps for quite a while in the fridge.”

Use fresh or frozen cranberries. If using frozen, remember to pop them in the fridge a day in advance to thaw, instead of thawing in the microwave and using more energy. Thawing in the fridge keeps your fridge cool – helping it save energy too!

Brine your turkey for moistness and flavour

  • Reduce cooking time by 20%
  • Use your oven window – not door – for peeking

Magazine pictures always show the perfectly browned turkey, with perfectly moist meat. If your own culinary adventures rarely give the same result, trying brining your turkey – immersing it for 24 hours in a mixture of water, salt and sugar or juice.

“The salt in the water denatures the proteins in the turkey,” explains Glenys. “That allows the water to hydrate the turkey so it’s moister, and if the water is flavoured, then it flavours the meat at the same time – inside and out. On top of that, most people find that it takes about 20% less cooking time because it’s been tenderized. And if you add a bit of sugar, or use apple juice or maple syrup, you get that nice browned colour as well.”

(If you’re checking that lovely colour as it cooks, remember to turn on the oven light and look through the window. Opening the door for sneak peeks wastes energy and sends a rush of cold air onto your hot food.)

“Just be careful because there are a lot of bad brine recipes out there,” cautions Glenys. Her brining recipe uses one tablespoon of salt per cup of liquid. Give it a try – and cut your cooking time this year!

Toaster Oven Potato Latkes

  • When baking small batches, use your toaster oven
  • Turn off oven five minutes before cooking is done

Prepping for Hanukkah? Perhaps you’re planning a batch of traditional potato latkes. If you only need a small batch of any baked food, save energy by using your toaster oven, instead of heating up your full-sized oven. And remember you can turn off your oven five minutes before a recipe is done – the food will keep cooking, and you’ll save energy. These latkes are low-fat, since they’re baked, not fried.

 Perfectly cooked meats

  • Use a meat thermometer for  accurate cooking time

Many of us learned to cook poultry by following a chart giving “minutes of cooking time per pound.” Unfortunately, many charts are old, leaving us with dry, overcooked meat. Chef Glenys suggests a meat thermometer instead.

“It’s usually tradition, not science, that has informed the way we cook meat,” she says. “Most turkeys on the market these days are smaller than they were a generation ago. If they’re under 22 lbs, they’re usually hens, so the meat has a finer grain and they take less time to cook than we think. On top of that, our ovens are more efficient.”

A thermometer lets you check the meat – instead of the time.

“White meat cooks faster – so always gauge cooking time by the darkest meat, at the thighbone,” says Glenys. (Be careful the thermometer is not touching the bone.) “It’s done when it’s 178 degrees Fahrenheit. If you’re cooking only white meat, it’s done at 165 degrees. In a stuffed turkey, the stuffing also has to reach 165 degrees, since it’s got juices from the white meat basting it.”

“Then don’t forget to rest the turkey for ten minutes before carving. This distributes the juices, keeping the meat moist. It will actually seem hotter and the colour will appear better too. The juice should be clear – never cloudy. It’s okay if it’s a clear light pink – that’s the sign of a nice fresh bird.”

More green cooking tips

  • Fill your oven – do several jobs at once.

“I grew up on a farm, and our oven ran on propane,” says Glenys. “My mother always said, ‘Once I turn the oven on, it’s gotta be filled.’ She would do several batches of baking, roast off some yams, and cook a ham for dinner, to make the most of the fuel.”

The same is true for saving energy today.

  • Microwave your veggies

Microwave ovens use less energy than stovetop or oven cooking. And, microwaving in a small amount of water (cover with a plate or glass lid) preserves nutrients too.

  • Use a pressure cooker to save time and energy

By using steam pressure, food cooks at a higher temperature and reduces cooking time. Faster mashed potatoes!

  • When you gather at the table, remember to turn lights off in other rooms.

Flip the switch when you leave a room. Create a focus of warmth and light around your gathered guests while also saving energy.

Learn more about saving energy in the kitchen.

Happy Holidays!

Source: BC Hydro News