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!

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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?


Arils. My new food word

November 23, 2009

pomegranate

One of the things I love best about being in a food-focused profession is that there’s always something new to learn. But new food terms – unless they’re from other cultures – aren’t that plentiful at this point in my career.

And, even if I don’t know a particular term, chances that Amy or Sabrina will know it are very high. So, last week when I encountered the word arils for the first time, I was super surprised when it was new to my two smarty pants colleagues as well.

So, what the heck is an aril? Aril (arilles, en francais) is the name for the juicy, garnet-coloured, flesh-covered seeds inside a pomegranate.

Now, be honest, did you know the word ‘arils’ before reading this post?


Topline Trends Tuesday: Crystals, cow horns and moon beams – biodynamics defined

October 27, 2009

Even if they can’t recite technical definitions of words such as organic and all-natural, most people have a strong sense of what these terms mean. However, when it comes to biodynamics, I doubt there are very many Canadians who can confidently spout a definition.

Yet, some people believe that biodynamics is the next big thing. So, to help all of us (until I started researching this post, biodynamics confused me, too) here are the essential things you need to know about biodynamics. Seariously, keep reading and you’ll easily carry on a cocktail party conversation about biodyamics! (Your grateful hosts are welcome to send me thank you cards if they like. Email me for my address.)

Biodynamics:
1. is a specific method of organic farming.
2. strives to be a unified approach to agriculture that relates the ecology of the earth to the movement of the cosmos.
3. looks upon the soil and the farm as living organisms that are holistically linked and interdependent.
4. regards the maintenance and feeding of soil life as a basic necessity that will preserve soil quality for generations.
5. uses an astronomical sowing and planting calendar.

Still having trouble envisioning how biodynamics can impact your life? Check out these real-life biodynamic food and beverage products:
Southbrook Farm’s Biodynamic Wine
Zhena’s Biodynamic Tea
Australian William’s River Beef and lamb

Want to take your level of biodynamic knowledge to the moon? Check out the Demeter website or watch the video posted above.

Have you ever bought a biodynamic product? If not, will you now that you know more about this farming system? Or, is this just some crazy idea whipped up by pot-smoke addled hippies?


Topline Trends Tuesday: Help!

October 20, 2009

imageTwo weeks ago when I was getting ready to send out a notice to my food trend newsletter subscribers that the Autumn of issue of Topline Trends was posted, I discovered that the company that handled my subscriber list was no longer in business. Vanished. Vamoosed. Gone.

To be honest I was heart broken. Topline Trends has been building its readership for over 10 years and to lose contact with all of those loyal readers was a blow. I really didn’t know what to do. Sometimes life gives you lemons and you just don’t have a good lemonade recipe at hand. Then it hits you: you can always ask others for help. What’s the worst that can happen?  People can say ‘no’ but so what?

That’s where you come in:  Hoi En Tang, my  technical guruess, has already been a tremendous help by rising to the occasion to create a new subscription system. What you can do now is to please follow this link, read the autumn issue and sign up to be notified when each quarterly installment is ready for viewing. You could even tell a few friends about it. Or not. I get that you’re busy.

Regardless, thanks for reading today and thanks for any help you can offer!

During these difficult economic times have you lost any of your favourite or trusted suppliers?


Grilling glossary

July 29, 2009

grilling glossary

Label me lazy or christen me clever, but today’s post recycles some of my past links so that you (and truthfully me, too) have a glossary of all my grilling and barbecuing recipes and tips:

Buying and using grills and barbecues
Budget grilling
Grill master quiz
How to buy a grill
Lighting briquette
Winter grilling guide

Smoking and smokers
How to use cedar smoking sheets
How to use smoking briquettes
Matching meats with woods
How to turn your grill into a smoker

Cooking on the grill
Best rib recipe (2008)
Perfectly sticky gooey ribs (2009)
Burgers: basic and beyond
How to grill a steak
Chimichurri steak
Gourmet brie burger & cheeseburger tips

Grill safety
How to calibrate an instant read thermometer
How to use an instant read thermometer

Do you have a great grilling tip or a fabulous, hot-off-the-coals recipe you’d like to share? If so, please post it below. Links are welcome!


Topline Trends Tuesday: Preserving: jam, jelly and pickles

June 30, 2009

preserving

I’m posting about an hour early today. It’s not that I’m an early bird looking for a worm or that I’m more organized than usual. No, I’ve got camp induced insomnia. My son left yesterday for camp and, although I looked forward to the peace and quiet of the house being an adult sanctuary, the truth is, it’s just not the same without his smelly boy bones cluttering the place up. 1 day down; 27 to go.

Fortunately, I have my work to divert me and that means that you get Today’s Topline Trends Tuesday an hour or so earlier than usual!

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Although it’s not a new way to spend time in the kitchen, preserving is back! In fact, it’s difficult to find a publication that doesn’t have a story or feature about making jam or jelly right now. Specifically, I noted articles in the New York Times, the June issue of Eating Well, the May issue of Waitrose Food Illustrated and the June issue of Sainsbury’s. And in cyberspace, ChezPim has been making (and selling!) marmalade all winter while Jessie presented these quick, fresh pickles in her blog.

While the current crop of preserving articles focus on fruity concoctions, I’m pretty confident that pickling and other canning methods will turn up in the late summer and early autumn issues of many national and international magazines, too.I just hope no one gets to Luke Despatie before I do ‘cause I want to pick his brain and post his pickling tips for you guys here. (Luke’s stand out pickles came in second at his local fall fair, which makes me very curious about the winning pickles; I just can’t imagine any better than Luke’s!) And, of course, my long time friend and colleague Jennifer Mackenzie’s new book The Complete Book of Pickling, is going to be at my elbow all season long, too.

What about you? Are you a committed canner? Newly canning curious? Or, do you prefer to buy your jams, jellies, pickles and condiments fully made and ready to enjoy? I confess that when I was a kid, I loved helping my mom strain jelly but as an adult, I rarely make jam or other preserves since there are so many wonderful ones on store shelves.