Happy 2015!

I can’t even express how thrilled I am that the holidays are over. This year it was a whirl wind. Our family hosted several get togethers this year in our new home and while it was fantastic to be able to finally show this place off, our grocery bills have been through the roof, our house is upside down and our routine has been totally off. It was like a little gift to myself to see the kids off to school today. I am really enjoying the quiet and am glad to get back to get back on track with the healthy meal planning!

I’m not big into resolutions but this year I do have a few things I’d like to set some intentions for. Firstly, I’d like to try and get running again. Key word here is try. The last time I declared myself a runner I promptly injured my hip in such a way that has given me intermittent low back/hip pain for the last 2.5 years on my right side. Now that things seem to be on the upswing with that, I’d like to give it another go. My intent is not to force myself to run any great distance or speed too quickly. Ultimately I just want to be able to do it without pain. Even if that means my ‘running’ more closely resembles a waddle for now.

The second thing I’d like to do is figure out my plans for the future. Those close to me know that I am still bitching and whining about what the hell I actually want to do with my life career wise. I love photography, and it will always be a part of my life in some form. But I can’t shake the feeling that I am meant to do something different with my time. The issue is that I can’t seem to commit. There are always lots of ideas floating around out there but nothing I’ve felt that I could throw my whole self into 100%. So this year I really want start zeroing in on some life plans and finally start taking the steps to accomplish it this year.

Most of all my plan this year is to just be kinder to myself. This will probably be the hardest challenge of all. Nick and I took on a lot of incredibly heavy things at a very young age. Marriage, his job that has sometimes demanded more of him than I am willing to give, my own business, one international adoption and one domestic older child adoption – all within about a 5-6 year time span. And while I wouldn’t change any aspect of my family or life for anything, I also recognize that the situations we have found ourselves in over the past several years have sometimes been so challenging that I’ve put my own mental, emotional and physical health on the back burner just to make it through the day. So I’d like 2015 to be the year that I allow myself to live life a little less urgently. To continue on a path of self discovery but not in such a way that I feel like shit if I’m not accomplishing huge, wonderful, meaningful things all the damn time.
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Bring on 2015! ūüôā

Maple Wood Smoked Turkey with a Sweet and Savoury Dry Rub

For the past year or so¬†I’ve really wanted a smoker but it’s only recently that we’ve had the space for one. After buying a few turkeys for our freezer during¬†a post-Thanksgiving sale, and now finally having the space, we figured that now is as good a time as any to finally buy one and use it to cook these bad mamma jammas.

The smoker we bought¬†is just your basic, entry-level propane smoker from Lowes. Wood chips of your choice go in one of the bottom compartments and water in the other with lots of racks for smoking several things at once. We paid around $180 for it knowing that our experience may go one of two ways: Either the novelty would wear off quickly or we would absolutely love it and want to SMOKE ALL THE THINGS. So far so good on the loving it part. This may mean an upgrade to something fancier and larger at some point down the road. But for now, we’re loving this one and really enjoying experimenting with various meats, sauces and rubs!

Maple Smoked Turkey and Rub recipe - A Soulful Appetite

For it’s inaugural run we decided to invite some friends over and smoke two of our turkeys. These birds¬†were fairly small – around 9-ish pounds each if I recall – but perfect for 4 adults and two kids with leftovers. They were also the perfect size in that they didn’t take forever to smoke. About 6 hours total with the heat hovering at around 250 degrees fahrenheit. Here’s¬†how we did it in our incredibly¬†amateur smoking experience. I apologize for the lack of photos – especially in the initial stages! With company coming, I didn’t think to take photos until we were ready to smoke! If we decide to do this again soon, and if I remember, I will try to take a few more and add them to this post.

Maple Wood Smoked Turkey

You will need:

– A fresh or thawed Turkey (one, or however many you plan to smoke)

– Mustard. A few tablespoons worth.

– Olive oil. For coating your cooking pan.

– Rub of your choice. (See below for my recipe)

– Water. For inside the smoker.¬†Refer to your smoker’s manual for quantity.

– Wood Chips. We used a sweet maple wood variety. Refer to your smoker’s manual for quantity.

Step One: Preparing the turkey.

Rinse your turkey and remove the neck etc. and place into a well oiled disposable aluminum baking pan. You may choose to stuff your turkey at this point. I have not personally tried¬†smoking turkey with actual bread stuffing so I’m not sure how that might work out. Instead we chose to stuff ours with chunks of MacInosh apples and sweet onion. This turned out to be an excellent idea that not only added some subtle flavour but really helped to keep¬†things moist throughout the long, slow cooking process. You may also choose to tie up your turkey with kitchen twine at this point, just to keep the limbs together and everything securely inside. Once in the pan and stuffed, give your turkey a generous rub down with¬†ordinary yellow mustard, followed by a generous sprinkle of the rub of your choice (keep reading for my rub recipe!). Mustard not only adds flavour but also acts as a glue for keeping your rub on.

Step Two: Smoking your turkey.

If you have completed all of the above, you are ready to put your turkey into the smoker! It’s really a pretty simply process from here on out. Simply adjust your racks to accommodate the size of the bird, place it in and close the door. Be sure you’ve added the recommended amount of wood chips and water as per your smoker’s instructions. Then fire it up!

Once things have heated up, simply let it smoke. For us, low and slow was the goal and since this smoker isn’t insulated, we really didn’t have much choice in that regard. It didn’t take long, however, for the temperature to start hovering around 250 degrees fahrenheit and as long as we kept feeding it chips and water, it remained fairly steady.

Maple Smoked Turkey Recipe

At around the half way point our curiosity got the better of us so we opened it up to have a look and OMG LOOK AT THIS JUICY DELICIOUSNESS! At this point we also decided to start monitoring the temperature using a meat thermometer to see where we were at.

Maple Smoked Turkey :: A Soulful Appetite

 

By about the six hour point, our turkeys were done! Trust me when I say that these were gobbled up in no time flat. Both our family and our dinner guests agree that it was the most delicious, flavourful turkey any of us have ever had. The skin was perfectly crispy on the outside and the inside was incredibly juicy, tender with the most amazing smoky flavour. Absolute perfection. After trying this I can safely say that this is how we’ll be cooking turkey from now on. No more oven-cooked birds on Thanksgiving for us!

Maple Smoked Turkey with a Sweet and Savoury Rub :: A Soulful Appetite

Tip: Do not…I repeat, DO NOT, throw away your smoked turkey carcass when you are finished. This stuff makes the most incredible smoky broth you have ever had IN YOUR LIFE. Boil it up and freeze it in small quantities to drink when you are feeling under the weather or make a soup with it. That’s what we did. Add in a few spices, your choice of veggies, left over turkey meat and a couple of handfuls of quinoa and you will have a life-changing turkey soup. Trust me on this.

 

Sweet and Savoury Rub

This is my basic rub recipe. I have used this rub on pork ribs, chicken and turkey with excellent results. You may wish to double or triple this recipe and store it in an air-tight container as it’s a nice, basic rub to have on hand. Feel free to also adjust the spice quantities to your taste!

– 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed

Р1/4 cup garlic salt or finely gound sea salt

– 3 tbsp smoked paprika

– 1 tbsp onion powder

– 1 tsp ground black pepper

– 1 tsp cumin

– 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

– Any dried herbs you wish (ie. rosemary, thyme)

Mix all ingredients well and enjoy on your favourite barbecued or smoked pork or poultry!

Sweet and Savoury Rub recipe :: A Soulful Appetite

The Studio (so far)!

Once upon a time, this hobbiest food photographer had to use her living room coffee table as her ‘studio’ for food photography. Yes, 2 feet away from the glow of my kids watching TV. And yes,¬†I often shot with one hand on the camera and the other hand swatting away two hungry pugs. But at the time it was all I had. Our little townhouse was not ideal in many ways.¬†But we made due.

I always dreamed of having a space I could use solely for food photography but assumed it was never in the cards. Truthfully, the whole idea was very indulgent. I even felt selfish wishing for it. Ottawa is an expensive city to live in. I knew we would eventually ‘move on up’ but figured we’d only ever be able to afford to buy something comfortable. Never a place with EXTRA space. But here it is. My¬†formal-living-room-turned-studio. I have a big beautiful window that lets in all kinds of glorious natural light. Gleaming hard wood floors, enough wall space for my growing prop collection and eventually a funky sofa or something. It’s a work in progress decor wise, but it’s mine.

The amount of gratitude I feel to call this place home is immeasurable. This studio was just icing on the cake in an otherwise fantastic situation.

Food Photography Studio