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Ontario, Canada
I am a wife, mother and grandma who enjoys the many aspects of homemaking. A variety of interests and hobbies combined with travel keep me active. They reflect the importance of family, friends, home and good food.
Cook ingredients that you are used to cooking by other techniques, such as fish, chicken, or hamburgers. In other words be comfortable with the ingredients you are using.
--Bobby Flay

For Your Information

Please watch this area for important information like updates, food recalls, polls, contests, coupons, and freebies.
  • [March 19, 2020] - Effective Mar 17, this blog will no longer accept advertising. The reason is very simple. If I like a product, I will promote it without compensation. If I don't like a product, I will have no problem saying so.
  • [March 17, 2020] - A return to blogging! Stay tuned for new tips, resources and all things food related.
  • [February 1, 2016] - An interesting report on why you should always choose organic tea verses non-organic: Toxic Tea (pdf format)
  • Sticky Post - Warning: 4ever Recap reusable canning lids. The reports are growing daily of these lids losing their seal during storage. Some have lost their entire season's worth of canning to these seal failures! [Update: 4ever Recap appears to be out of business.]

Popular Posts

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Baked Salmon with Buttered Caper Sauce

Food like fashion follow trends.  Currently there is a trend towards healthy eating with a strong emphasis on anti-oxidants.  Anti-oxidants reduce or eliminate the damaging effects of free radicals in the body and the best source for anti-oxidants is your food.  The superfood for 2015 is capers!

Capers are the unripened flower buds of Capparis spinosa, a prickly, perennial bush indigenous to the Mediterranean.  The dark green buds are sun-dried then packed in vinegar brine.  Their tangy, briny, pickly flavour is best balanced against smooth, buttery or velvety flavours and textures.  My favourite way to enjoy capers is with cream cheese and smoked salmon on a bagel. 

salmon with buttered caper sauce
Capers are only 2 calories each (23 cal per 100 g).  They are rich in antioxidants (rutin, quercetin) , phytonutrients and vitamins.  Research suggests that quercetin has anti-bacterial, anti-carcinogenic, analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties.  They may reduce risk for cancer, help with circulation, may lower blood pressure and reduce rheumatic pain. 

Capers are salty due to the brine.  This can be reduced by rinsing the capers in water before using if desired.  Capers pair beautifully with salmon as pictured in this simple buttered caper sauce we recently enjoyed.

Method:  Melt about 2 tbsp butter in fry pan.  Stir in 2 -3 tbsp chopped red onion, and cook until just translucent.  Stir in 1 - 2 tbsp rinsed capers. Warm through.  Spoon over baked salmon filets as desired.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Goodbye Keurig, Hello Bunn

Like many people we embraced the concept of a single cup coffee brewer.  A single cup brewer can save a significant amount of money.  We bought our first single cup coffee brewer, a Melitta One:One that took special coffee pods.  At that time, the only place we could buy the pods was Zellers and Sobey's but then Zeller's discontinued them.  We found Sanka pods at Meijer's in the US so were still able to use the Melitta when Sobey's closed.  Finally, we bought a Keurig Special Edition (B60) to replace the Melitta.  The selling feature of the Keurig was we could use our own coffee rather than relying on the environmentally unfriendly K-cups.  In fact, I was so impressed with Keurig that we bought a mini for the office, and another larger unit for our vacation home.  All was well until, the only four year old Keurig B60 started acting up!

During our brief three weeks home in the fall between our two longer stays at our vacation home, the Keurig would say it was brewing but nothing happened.  I cleaned it and all seemed fine.  We arrived home in the early morning of December 22 after being on the road for eighteen and a half hours.  With only four hours sleep, I needed coffee!  The Keurig failed but after a lot of opening, shutting, and restarting I finally got it working.  From there it worked sporadically.  I went online and found a site with instructions how to fix.  I cleaned the Keurig with vinegar then cleaned it again, then cleaned the heads with the special K-cup cleaner then cleaned again only to be rewarded with half cups of coffee if and when it would brew.  I repeated including adding in the spanking.  The problems persisted.

In the meantime my temper was rising.  I checked the new Keurig 2.0 ready to buy on the spot only to see it will only take Keurig licensed K-cups and not allow you to brew your own coffee.  This renders the Keurig 2.0 completely useless if you should move to an area where Keurig licensed K-cups are unavailable or Keurig goes out of business.  The one that does allow you to use your own coffee has almost zero features and looks cheap.  We were visiting our kids in January where we used their Bunn My Café MCU marveling at how good the coffee was.  We came home where I cussed at the Keurig a few more times before ordering a Bunn My Café MCU. 

I ordered the Bunn My Café MCU through on Wednesday and it arrived the following Friday so I was quite impressed.  The total price with shipping and taxes was $231.65.  Consider though that when I looked at the Keurig 2.0 it was $189.99 plus taxes $24.69 for a total of $214.68 and it wouldn't brew the coffee of my choice.

The Bunn My Café MCU is a four in one brewer that uses ground coffee or loose leaf tea,  K-cups (or similar), soft pods or tea bags and hot water.  There are four drawers designed for each specific usage (bottom left).  There is an internal water storage tank but water you need to add water each time you use it.  This is not a huge change for me since I always poured water into the external water reservoir of the Keurig with each use.

The Bunn has a slightly smaller footprint than the Keurig (bottom right).  There is no on or off button, simply brew with optional pulse for stronger coffee and tea.  There is no clock on auto-off.  The Bunn brews at 200°F which is 8°F higher than the Keurig.  The higher temperature does give a better tasting coffee, full flavoured without bitterness.  After 6 hours idle, the Bunn temperature drops to 140°F and enters sleep mode after 26 hours.

Bunn My Cafe Single Cup Brewer MCU set up ready to use
The worst part of setting up the Bunn My Café MCU was waiting for it to warm a bit after being in a cold shipping van.  I felt it best not to plug it in immediately especially since it has been bitterly cold.  So I drooled over the Bunn in anticipation while drinking the last cup of coffee I would make with the Keurig.  Once the Bunn had warmed a bit, I plugged it in and primed it.  I washed all of the drawers.  My reward was a hot, deliciously brewed cup of coffee!

A final word on Keurig:  I was a happy Keurig user until my brewer that was only four years old stopped brewing properly.  The funny thing is, one of my friend's had her Keurig quit the same week except she could not even coax a final cup of coffee from it.  Keurig's selling feature was being able to use your own coffee meaning you did not have to contribute to the landfill.  They took that feature away with the Keurig 2.0 at a time when there is growing pressure as to the damage the K-cups are doing to the environment because they are not recyclable plus their failing brewers will end up in the landfill as well.  To me, that is not good business.  Keurig has lost my business!

Normally I have one kitchen catcher garbage bag per week if that.  That is for the entire house not just the kitchen.  Even though we  use the My K-cup filter on a regular basis we do use the K-cups for company and entertaining.  Last week, almost a quarter of the kitchen catcher was used K-cups!  It quickly became apparent that we have become part of the problem by using the K-cups.  I'll use up what K-cups I have but won't be restocking Keurig licensed K-cups.  I may possible still stock a couple of the soft bottom pods that were working in the old Keurig but not the Keurig 2.0.  These cups have only a small plastic ring that can be re-purposed.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Herbed Garlic Rice Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

We have had a rather busy and exciting February thus far!  We have been focusing on eating meals prepared from our pantry and freezer overstock for home prepared meals.  Despite eating out on average of three times a week, we are still making a bit of headway in paring down the overstock.  We also dramatically reduced buying any groceries other than fresh produce for the month.  I bought some gourmet teas and macadamia nuts too, but other than that only produce.  It helps that it has been extremely cold so I really don't feel like going out to shop and even considered cancelling a couple of social events because it has been so cold!

rice stuffed portobello mushrooms
We aim for 5 to 7 servings of fresh fruits and vegetables daily in addition to any frozen or home canned fruits and vegetables.  I was looking for something a bit different during my last trip to the grocery store and settled on portobello mushrooms.  Portobello mushrooms are simply grown brown crimini mushrooms with a diameter of 4 to 6 inches.  Their deep flavour with firm texture lends themselves nicely as a meat substitute.  We often enjoy portobello mushrooms grilled or sliced and sautéed, as well as stuffed.  The caps are large enough to hold a nice portion of the desired stuffing to create a filling, delicious entrées.  Portobello mushrooms are fat-free, low in calories, and a rich source of selenium, copper and niacin.

I cooked long grain rice then stirred in about a quarter cup of Kraft Herb & Garlic Shredded Cheese and finely chopped broccoli.  I cleaned the mushroom caps and placed top-side down on a Silpat lined baking sheet.  I brushed about a tablespoon of home canned pizza sauce in each mushroom cap.  Then, I spooned the rice filling into each cap mounding nicely.  I sprinkled lightly with fresh grated Parmesan cheese and baked at 350°F until the mushroom caps were cooked (about 40 minutes).  A fresh garden salad with citrus vinaigrette completed the meal.  

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Yellow Kitchen Syndrome

I am a firm believer in using food to heal the body.  I'm am fighting arthritis much the same way I do with other health problems, using foods that heal, avoiding foods that harm and exercise.  Two foods that are currently being used to treat arthritis are NEM (natural egg membrane) and curcumin (turmeric extract).  NEM takes about 7 days to notice a reduction in pain.  I specifically use Curcumin C3 Complex (1,160 mg/serving) in addition to turmeric. 

ground tumericTurmeric is the ribosome of a perennial plant in the ginger family native to South Asia growing in temperatures of 20 to 30°C.  It is considered the Indian saffron, a cheaper alternative to regular saffron.  Turmeric it's commonly dried and powdered then used as a spice and curries as well as a dye for foods like mustard.   Turmeric will stain just about anything it comes into contact with, hence the yellow kitchen syndrome.

Turmeric is not only used for its culinary properties but also it's medicinal properties.  It can be made into a paste then used on the skin to reduce hyperpigmentation.   There has been a lot of interest in turmeric specifically the active ingredient, curcumin.   Turmeric is antioxidant.   Antioxidants help protect cells in the body by fighting free radicals to help fight against aging and prevent cancer.  Turmeric also reduces inflammation so eases joint pain.

The recommended dosage of turmeric is one 300 mg capsule at each meal, two or three times a day for a maximum dosage of 1 to 3 g per day . If taking a standardized form of curcumin,  the recommended dosage is 1200 to 1800 mg of per day.  Turmeric does have some negative side effects it may cause nausea if taken on an empty stomach.   It lowers blood sugar so may be a problem for those who are diabetic.  Turmeric lowers blood pressure and thins the blood.

As with many herbs and spices that are used for medicinal purposes the issue becomes a bio-availability.   That means even though you take the recommended dosage your body cannot necessarily use it in that form without a bit of help.   Bio-availability of turmeric is increased by adding piperine, the active ingredient in black pepper.   Bio-availability can be further increased by heating either the turmeric or curcumin. 
BCAA Turmeric Ginger Smoothie
The most common way to use turmeric is in curries but it is not practical for me to eat curry every day.  Since I already take curcumin, I turned to turmeric to boost the amount of curcumin I get eat day.  Turmeric is considerably less expensive and readily available.  The curcumin I take is mail order so there is always that concern of keeping enough on hand and having a substitute just in case.

I generally have a whey protein smoothie mid-morning.  This was the perfect target for turmeric.  I used  a BCAA (branch chain amino acids) 100% whey protein powder, cottage cheese, unsweetened almond milk, 1 tsp turmeric. 1 tsp fresh ginger and a dash of black pepper to make a yummy smoothie.  Turmeric is pungent so the flavour dominated the smoothie but not in an unpleasant way.  One teaspoon of turmeric is 3 g, a good booster for the curcumin.  I liked this combination enough that I've made it a few times now.  It comes in at 235 calories and 33 g protein per 12 oz serving.

Golden Milk
As luck would have it, I was on Facebook when several posts came through my timeline talking about the wonders of Turmermic Tea aka Ancient Golden Milk.  There were many variations some containing coconut milk, others containing other spices like cinnamon and cayenne pepper, and all sweetened with sugar, honey or maple syrup.  I decided to keep my version simple.

Golden Milk 
recipe by Garden Gnome

1 c unsweetened almond milk
2 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp stevia

Warm almond milk slightly.   Mix the dry ingredients in a small bowl then pour just enough warmed milk in to make a thin slurry.  Pour the slurry into the remaining milk and mix well.  Continue heating until mixture comes to a low boil.  Remove from heat.  Pour into mug and enjoy.

I was concerned that the turmeric would be overpowering in this hot beverage but surprisingly it isn't.  I actually prefer the Golden Milk to the smoothie.  It has a warm, pleasant flavour.  I have been enjoying one of these hot drinks in the afternoon.  My arthritis pain has lessened.  The visible signs (redness, swelling) especially in my hands is significantly reduced.  This one is a keeper and it's only 53 calories!

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Baked Chicken with Tomatoes and Mushrooms

One of my goals with using up the pantry and freezer surplus is creating minimal left-overs.  This differs from my normal cooking where I intentionally cook extra for planned left-overs for the freezer.  Despite this, there has been a few left overs just enough to use up the following day for lunch or as a side dish for dinner.  On the whole, I have been rather pleased as small pockets of space appear in both the pantry and freezers but there is a long ways to go!

baked chicken with tomatoes and mushrooms
I thawed two chicken legs with backs attached. I browned the chicken legs in a little olive oil then placed them in a baking dish and topped with a jar of home canned tomato pieces that I added about a teaspoon of Italian seasoning.  I baked the chicken covered at 350°F until the chicken was cooked (about 40 minutes).  I sautéed sliced white mushrooms to top the chicken. I served the chicken with left-over seafood pasta noodles and left-over  Greek salad (not pictured). 

It was an easy, tasty meal using what was on hand and while it doesn't seem like much, two more items were used up from the pantry and freezers.  Just as in any type of decluttering, baby steps can make a huge difference when done consistently.  And so the pantry and freezer decluttering continues...

Monday, February 02, 2015

Seafood Pasta

We spent Saturday preparing for our Superbowl party on Sunday.   Sam's Club was the perfect place to pick up a large container of sour cream, shredded cheese, pork loin, rolls, buns, veggie tray and cream cheese.   This weather is really playing havoc with my arthritis so my husband suggested a couple of short cuts like the veggie tray.  It was a much appreciated lovely gesture!  After shopping, it was time to make the pulled pork and chili while my husband set-up the games room.  I used one of my pressure cookers for the pulled pork so all that would be needed the following day was warming in the slow cooker.  We finally sat down for a breather.  My husband checked the weather forecast which quickly became cause for concern!  By 6 AM game day, the snow had started and it continued causing our number of guests to drop from twenty to nine.  Luckily we had tracking the weather so put out less food to begin with then adjust from there but we are still left with extra food.  Despite the weather, a good time was had by all!

seafood pasta
It has been very much cooking on the fly here with the main focus on using up some of the pantry and freezer surplus.  This has triggered a bit of fun in the kitchen!  Last week, I wasn't feeling overly creative so pasta it was.  Pasta is one of those staples that goes with just about anything.  I toyed around using up a jar of home canned meat sauce but felt like something a bit lighter.  Seafood is one of my favourites for eating light. 

I settled on making a brown butter sauce.  Then I added jumbo shrimp and scallops.  Both are tasty, low calorie sources for protein.  The dish was almost ready when my husband suggested adding in a little Kraft Herb & Garlic shredded cheese.  This cheese has a nice flavour with a creamy texture when melted.  The end result was an tasty seafood pasta.  There was enough of noodles left over for the following night's side dish that warmed nicely and still had a lovely seafood flavour.