July 18, 2016

11 Tips For Healthier Grilling


There’s something liberating about barbecue season. Enjoying a meal outside on a lovely summer evening always feels like the ultimate in relaxed eating. But not everything is rosy when it comes to using a backyard barbecue. Cooking over a flame is about the least healthy way to prepare food.


The less time your meat spends over a flame the better. This is why:

When meat is cooked at high temperatures, carcinogenic compounds can form in the fatty juices. Called HCAs, these compounds have been associated with higher rates of colorectal, stomach, lung, pancreatic, breast, and prostate cancers. Flare ups caused by dripping fat can coat your meat with another family of carcinogens, called PAHs.

Although this sounds a little scary, it doesn’t mean you need to stop grilling. There are some simple ways to reduce these unwelcome compounds and get the great barbecue flavour that you love.

Here are 11 tips to for healthier grilling:

  1. Choose smaller cuts of meat that cook more quickly or precook your meat a little bit. The less time your food spends over a flame the better.
  2. Grill more fish, lean chicken, vegetables and fruit. Fish and lean chicken cooks more quickly and at lower temperatures.
  3. Cook your meat over indirect heat so meat that can take a long time to cook doesn’t spend too long over a flame. With this method drippings don’t fall on flames so don’t create smoke.
  4. Take care to keep your meat from burning and if it does burn a little don’t eat the charred bits.
  5. Some herbs and spices can inhibit the formation of HCAs (some research has shown that rosemary can reduce HCAs by more than 60%) and marinades can be even more effective in reducing the amount of HCAs that form. Marinades with vinegar or lemon juice work best. Barbecue sauce can protect against HCAs and PAHs, although it can burn easily so should be brushed on during the last few minutes of cooking.
  6. Trim visible fat off your meat to reduce flare ups and keep a spray bottle of water handy to douse any flames.  
  7. Keep your grill racks clean so grit from last week’s barbecue doesn’t cause flare ups. Keep the bottom of your grill clean to minimize smoking fat. 
  8. If you like to grill with charcoal choose natural lump charcoal. Conventional briquettes are made with coal dust, sodium nitrate, sawdust or petroleum products. Burning them pollutes contaminates the food you’re grilling.
  9. Avoid processed meats like hot dogs and grill fresh meat, poultry and fish instead. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, eating even small amounts of sausage and hot dogs increase colorectal cancer risk. (The Institute recommends avoiding these foods, except for special occasions.)
  10. Choose ceramic coated or stainless steel grill baskets instead of Teflon coated grilling accessories since Teflon comes with its own set of worries when exposed to high temperatures and the non-stick coating can be easily scratched by metal barbecue tools.
  11. If you’re feeding a crowd avoid Styrofoam and plastic plates. Hot food can melt the Styrofoam and allows your food to absorb some of the chemicals. Choose paper plates instead (and put them in the compost) or better yet, buy reusable plates made from bamboo or other natural materials.


July 17, 2016

Homemade Cooked Mayonnaise is Better Than Store Bought

Creamy, thick and a little tangy, mom’s homemade cooked mayonnaise is a summer treat. The recipe makes a good-sized batch and it lasts at least a couple of weeks in the fridge. Once you make this recipe you might never go back to store bought mayonnaise again.

Creamy, thick and a little tangy, mom’s cooked mayonnaise is a summer treat. 

When my twin brother and I were three my eldest brother Geoffrey walked us through the woods to a cousin’s house to choose a kitten. We came home with Charlie and he had the temperament of a barn cat. He liked to jump out from under things and grab your ankles, disliked being petted and brought dead birds into the house. I suspect his tough edge came, at least in part, from being raised in a house with seven kids between the age of three and thirteen. Still, as kids we thought he was a very cool cat.

In Charlie’s long life there was only one person who could safely pick him up. It was Barry, a musician friend of my brothers who stayed with us during the music festival one year. Barry smelled strongly of Shower to Shower talcum powder and as he wandered around the house that week, with Charlie in his arms, we wondered if the cat was partially anaesthetised by the scent.

Creamy, thick and a little tangy, mom’s homemade cooked mayonnaise is a summer treat. The recipe makes a good-sized batch and it lasts at least a couple of weeks in the fridge. Once you make this recipe you might never go back to store bought mayonnaise again.

My aunt Nana despised cats and whenever she came for a visit Charlie would sleep in her suitcase. It went on for years and became a family joke. Nana got us all back one summer. She and my cousins were staying in our house while we were away and the night we arrived home there was a big tuft of fur pinned to the back door along with a note that read R.I.P. We all thought that was it for Charlie and we were more than a little miffed with Nana and her dark humour. But then Charlie came meowing around that corner and all was right in the world again.

A few summers later, when Charlie was fifteen, he stretched out under the day lilies and went to sleep. It was a very peaceful end to a long life.

Creamy, thick and a little tangy, mom’s homemade cooked mayonnaise is a summer treat. The recipe makes a good-sized batch and it lasts at least a couple of weeks in the fridge. Once you make this recipe you might never go back to store bought mayonnaise again.


Trying to segue from a cat story to a recipe is not an easy task so I’ll jump right into another summer memory: eating field-ripened tomatoes and cucumbers out of the garden daubed with mom’s homemade cooked mayonnaise.

Creamy, thick and a little tangy, mom’s cooked mayonnaise is a summer treat. The recipe makes a good-sized batch and it lasts at least a couple of weeks in the fridge. Once you make this recipe you might never go back to store bought mayonnaise again.

Creamy, thick and a little tangy, mom’s homemade cooked mayonnaise is a summer treat. The recipe makes a good-sized batch and it lasts at least a couple of weeks in the fridge. Once you make this recipe you might never go back to store bought mayonnaise again.


Be sure to use good quality cider vinegar like Boates, made from organic apples grown in the Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia. Look for it in the natural foods section at the grocery stores and in local markets.

Homemade Cooked Mayonnaise

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup cider vinegar
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 tsp. dry mustard
  • 2 Tbsp. flour
  • 1 ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 can Carnation evaporated milk
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. butter

Instructions:

  1. Beat eggs with a fork then whisk in sugar, dry mustard, and flour. 
  2. Whisk in vinegar and salt. 
  3. Pour into a double boiler and cook until thick, stirring from time to time. 
  4. Whisk in butter. Remove from heat and let cool for 20 minutes. 
  5. Slowly whisk in milk. Store in a glass jar in the fridge. 
  6. Will keep for at least 2 weeks.


July 6, 2016

Jumbo Trail Mix Cookies Recipe

Jumbo trail mix cookies are perfect for summer hikes, picnics and road trips. Made with stone ground flour and flavoured with orange zest.

These jumbo trail mix cookies are just right for summer hikes, picnics and road trips. 

As soon as school was over the summer I was eight we moved into an old home in Rothesay. The property had an old fashioned garage and suspended from its rafters was an enormous birch bark canoe. The canoe was too long for the garage so the owners had cut a hole in the back wall to let a foot or two poke through. The canoe stayed with us for the summer because nestled into its curved belly was a mother raccoon and her brood. No one wanted to disrupt them so they were left until they moved out.

How To Choose Safe & Effective Insect Repellent

I consider insect repellent a necessary evil. Back in the day when the only grief from mosquitos was itchy bites, more often than not I chose not to bother with the stuff. But today, with disease-carrying mosquitos and now tick concerns, protecting yourself from pests is a serious health issue.

The downside of DEET:
Most government resources recommend insect repellents that contain DEET to provide maximum protection from mosquitos and ticks. DEET has been proven to be effective against insects, and it is approved by Health Canada, but there is a body of research that shows the down side of the chemical.

DEET exposure can cause neurological harm in people who used it often (once a day for five days or more). Children are more at risk from the effects of any chemical especially those applied to the skin since it seeps into your body. (DEET is a member of the same chemical family as solvents used in paint removers).

It presents an impossible choice: avoid use DEET and run the risk of contracting a debilitating disease through an insect bite, or use DEET and possibly suffer some undetermined long-term toxic effects.
The promise of picaridin:
There is a new active ingredient that has proven very effective and less toxic that DEET. Called picaridin, It’s a synthetic compound that’s a derivative of compounds found in black pepper.

June 16, 2016

Whole Grain Washington Pie & Polka Dot Underwear

Whole Grain Washington Pie, a beautifully-textured sponge cake made with stone ground flour.

Whole Grain Washington Pie, a beautifully-textured sponge cake made with stone ground flour.

I have been waiting years to tell this story about my dad...
To set the scene you need to know that I have four brothers and by the time the younger two were in high school my dad was getting mildly frustrated by the fact that all of their underwear were getting mixed up in the wash. To solve the problem my mom bought dad polka dot underwear. Not confetti dot underwear. It was large purple and navy polka-dot-on-white underwear.

June 13, 2016

How To Find Safe & Effective Sunscreen

https://www.ewg.org/sunscreen/

Find the best sunscreen with the help of Environmental Working Group's Guide to Sunscreen.
Sometimes I find the yearly search for safe and effective sunscreen a little overwhelming. With dozens of brands, SPF levels, claims and application methods to choose from, I’d just stare at the drugstore shelf if it wasn’t for the Environmental Working Group (EWG) annual guide to sunscreen.

June 12, 2016

Whole Wheat Banana Flax Muffins A Wholesome Afterschool Snack.

Whole wheat banana flax muffins are a wholesome afterschool snack.

Whole wheat banana flax muffins are a wholesome afterschool snack.
When I was growing up, late spring was almost magical. Those afternoons that felt like summer days made us anxious to get swimming and with the longer days we’d play outside until we were called in for bed.
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