This blog has moved

December 3, 2009

ATTENTION! This blog has moved.

To access the latest posts, please update your bookmarks to http://www.homemakers.com/blog/danasblog/ and your RSS readers to http://www.homemakers.com/blog/danasblog/feed.

You can also sign up for e-mail updates now.

Hope to see you at our new blog home!


Cool Yule, volume 2

December 2, 2009

Struggling with gift ideas for the cooks on your list? Here are two great ideas — one a bit extravagant and one less expensive -– that are sure to make the grade and not likely to be in their cupboards already:

‘I like you!” gift idea: Cupcake pens can be used to decorate all kinds of baked goods whether you’ve got artistic flair or two hands worth of thumbs.

“I love you!” gift idea: Yogurt makers aren’t just for people who wear sandals and socks (They used to be but things have changed now – I checked.) and this one is the Mac daddy of them all offering flexible timing options and the ability to make up to 8 flavours at a time! Seriously, 8 flavours.

If you’re an avid cook, what’s on your wish list this holiday season?


Topline Trends Tuesday: Is less more?

December 1, 2009

For a few decades, food product manufacturers had a lot a fun tossing all kinds of special ingredients into their products. People liked it. In fact, they bought crazy stuff like freeze-dried astronaut ice cream for their kids as a fun treat. It was good to be a food manufacturer with a chemistry set. And then, it wasn’t.

People finally decided that weird stuff in their food might do weird stuff to their bodies and they started to make it less fun to be a food chemical maker or one of the food producers hooked on chemicals.

In fact, recent research shows that:
• 63% of consumers want to recognize all ingredients on a label
• 34% want as few ingredients on a label as possible

The good news is that food companies are pretty resilient. Already a lot of them are putting away their chemistry sets and giving people what they want.

It’s true. Consider Haagen Dazs Five and Pillsbury Simply Cookies (available in the USA) and Back to Nature Nut Blends. Each is produced by a huge company (Nestle, General Mills and Kraft to be exact) and all of these products have ingredient labels where every ingredient is familiar. It’s so retro, it’s modern.

Would you pay more for a similar product that offered you less additives and manufacturing ingredients?

Love learning about food trends? Subscribe to my Topline Trends newsletter now to receive my 2010 Food Trends Predictions when they go live on December 15th.


Uh oh!

November 30, 2009

Photo: James Tse

According to a study by Ketchum that was reported in the February issue of Canadian Grocer magazine, 78% of Canadians would like to get their food from local farms or companies by 2020.  Regrettably, this isn’t likely since as Rebecca LeHuep, executive director of the  Ontario Culinary Tourism Alliance pointed out in the September issue of that same magazine, “by 2012, more than 60% of farmers and farm managers will be retiring. The average age of a farmer is about 57 and he doesn’t have a succession plan for his farm.” In an email correspondence Rebecca shares another grim stat that between 1991 and 2001 Ontario lost 135 of its farmers.

Beyond the fact that these stats reveal a disappointing gap between Canadian consumer aspirations and the reality of farming situation, LeHeup’s comments point out that we may be en route to becoming a society almost solely dependent on other countries for food.

Would you ever consider being a farmer?  Or, if you are a farmer, is it a career choice you’d make again?


Friday party trick: Pasta in a bag

November 27, 2009

Last week’s party trick was so much fun, that I think I’ll offer another!

I wish I could take full credit for this idea but truthfully, this picture appeared in Donna Hay magazine originally. When it was featured in her magazine, Donna’s team recommended popping cooked, lightly sauced pasta in a parchment pouch with raw seafood and then heating it gently to cook the shellfish and reheat the pasta.

I love this idea for entertaining since serving pasta to a crowd can be a rather steamy, messy affair that leaves the hostess’s hair either limp or frizzy. So, if you’re a pasta lover but don’t have perfectly bouncing and behaving locks but like to look good form company, this idea is for you!

Do you often serve pasta for company? If so, do you go for baked dishes like lasagna or brave the humidity and cook noodles in a vat of salted water?


If I had one dollar

November 26, 2009

Shredded Money Taco Too

I just love Twitter. I know it sounds lame and I used to scoff at it, but seriously, it’s turning into such a useful tool.

Just the other day, @jambutter tweeted about how many calories a US dollar could buy. I tweeted back and asked for source info and he passed on a note that the stats came from a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. This “research” took about 45 seconds.

I did a little further digging and I found this Time Magazine article that summarized the source data well but I’ve put it in my own format:

$1US = 1200 calories of potato chips
$1US = 875 calories of soda
$1US = 250 calories of vegetables
$1US = 170 calories of fresh fruit.

Now, the obvious point is that potato chips and soda drinks are more calorie dense than fruit and veggies so you get more calories for your dollar; however, they are not more nutrient dense and that means you eat more of them to feel satisfied.

To put these stats into perspective, I turned to my colleague professional home economist Amy Snider-Whitson who always has something to say about nutrition:

“This is why we have an epidemic of obesity and people suffering from chronic diseases that healthy diets could help to prevent (…and, no wonder people can’t grasp portion control when you buy a cheap snack and end up eating half a day’s calories!).

Unfortunately, the way we produce food today makes the nutritious choice often much more expensive. So, people choose calories over content. While many, many people consume too many calories on a daily basis, not one of us can say that we are getting too many essential nutrients. One consolation is that if we invest today in choosing nutrient dense foods, we might save health care dollars in the future.”

When you’re shopping, do you consciously plan how much of your budget is spent on nutrient dense foods? Or do the ‘chips’ (sorry, couldn’t resist the pun!) fall where they may?


Cool Yule

November 25, 2009

Christmas is one month away as of today. I’m stunned, to be honest. I really can’t believe that the year is almost over (life is moving so fast that I almost feel like it’s flashing before my eyes!)

Given the symmetry of the date, I’ve chosen today to launch my holiday gift guide series that I’m calling Cool Yule. Anyone can toss a bottle of wine in gift bag and make a gracious offering; however, giving gifts that are on trend and show off your good taste is so much better, don’t you think?

At about $300 I’ve chosen a high ticket item to kick off Cool Yule 2009; however, it’s just so perfect for the oenephile (that’s a wine lover, btw) on your list. This wine essence set features 40 aroma flasks that can be used to help train your nose and isolate the aromas in wine.

Besides being a great gift for a wine lover, it’s also fun to pull out at a wine tasting, so if you’re planning one during the holidays, it might make a good gift for yourself, too.

Smaller kits featuring 12 aromas commonly noted in white or red wine are also available at a considerably lower price.

Contact Browne & Co. in Canada for information on availability in your area.


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