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Thursday, September 21, 2017

Chocolate Chip Cookies (with less fat!)

Cookies typically have lots of butter (fat) but this recipe has 1/2 the about of butter and just as tasty.
Easy Chocolate Chip Recipe
Makes about 20

These cookies are tasty event though there is less butter (less fat) in them! I personally like to use dark chocolate chips but milk chocolate chips are great too. 

2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1 ¾ cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt 
½ cup butter, room temperature
1 cup brown sugar
½ cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl combine oats, flour, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, beat butter and both sugars until well blended. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Mix in dry ingredients. Then mix chocolate chips. Place balls of dough on baking sheet; flatten slightly and cook until golden brown about 12 minutes.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

How To Buy An Eggplant

Eggplants should be heavy for their size and have a bright green top.
How to choose the best eggplant
True or False?  Eggplants are a fruit ?

If you guessed fruit you are 100% right.  

Eggplants first appeared in China during the 5th century.  Although they are now eaten in countries world-wide they are prevalent in many Indian, Middle Eastern and Asian cuisine.

A common eggplant found in local grocery stores is fairly big, deep purple, plump and tear shaped.  However, there are many varieties and they come in various sizes: skinny, long, plump, and with colours that range from lavender, white, to deep, dark purple.  

When choosing eggplants look for ones that are heavy for their size and are smooth, firm and shiny with no blemishes.  Their tops should be a bright green colour.  

They become bitter as they age, so it’s best to buy them fresh and use them right away.  Young eggplants don’t need to be peeled, but the bigger ones do.  They will quickly discolour when peeled, so prep just before using.  

Eggplants are versatile.  They can be fried, roasted, grilled and stir-fried. 

When picking an eggplant look at the tops, they should be bright green.  Avoid blemished on the body.
Look for bright green tops when picking eggplants!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Five Simple Ways to Save Money on Your Grocery Bill

You can save money on groceries if you are a smart shopper.  Here are 5 ways to be a thrifty shopper.Have you noticed that the price of food is rising as fast as the housing prices in Vancouver? Well, okay, that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but you have to admit, food is not cheap.  When at the grocery store, I have to stop myself from gasping at the cashier when told my total and stop myself from accusing them of overcharging me. I typically smile (a fake smile), pay, and discreetly check the bill while walking away.  It is never wrong. 

We have to eat. And if we eat well this means lots of fresh whole foods and not much junk food (such as the high fat, high sugar yummy food that we shouldn’t, but do, eat).  Our bodies will work better, we will have more energy and think smarter…. in other words, we will be “healthier.”  However, the not-so-good for us food is typically cheaper (think fast food take-out) than the good-for-us food (think fresh fruit, vegetables, meat and cheese).   So what is the solution to this eat-healthy/eat-affordable food dilemma? 

We have to shop smarter.  We have to strategize and think of grocery shopping as a competitive sport where the goal is to eat and live well...without going into debt.

Here are 5 simple ways to help you save money on your grocery bill:

1.  Be ruthless in the produce department 

Choose what looks like the freshest fruit or vegetable in the pile.   It may require rearranging the food displays the produce folks work so hard to build.  You will have to be discreet.   Dig around, move things and find the best looking fruit or vegetable. Often they are at the back of the pile.  The produce staff  like to move the older stock to the front because we tend to grab the first ones we see. This is how they rotate their stock. 

When you find what looks like the ‘one,’ pick it up and inspect it carefully before you put it in your basket.  Avoid bruises, blemishes and signs of spoiling.  Take charge. If it looks slightly old, then keep hunting.  This way, you will purchase the freshest produce and it will keep longer, eliminate food waste and save you money. 

2.  Know your prices

If you know what you should pay for your food, then you will not be tricked into buying products that claim to be ‘on sale.’ For instance, I buy a type of coffee that always goes on sale. However, the ‘on sale’ price varies between stores. The one-pound bag can go as low as $13.00 a pound. So when I see it ‘on sale’ for $16.00 I know I’m being duped. If you know your prices (roughly, we can’t all be perfect) you can avoid being ripped off. This requires paying attention to prices when grocery shopping.

3.  Look for sale signs 

If you have the space in your home (and the extra money) it’s worth stocking up on the deals.  Sale items are often at the storefronts, at the end of the aisles or at the checkout counters.  However, you may have to hunt for them because they aren’t always obvious. Don’t be fooled by signs.  Some stores advertise certain food items with signs that are camouflaged as sale signs.  However, if you look closely, the signs are only advertising the product but not a sale.  Shopping can be as intriguing as a detective novel.

4.  Search for the discount bins

Stores typically have them tucked away in a corner.  You can find decent deals on hard goods, such as soaps, tea, cleaning solutions, etc. 

5.  Bring your magnifying glass

Read the ‘best before dates’ before you buy, especially on perishable items such as bread, milk and boxed lettuce.  Pick the package with the longest ‘best before date,’ which is usually at the back of the pile (you are at an advantage if you are tall or have long arms).  This way, your food will last longer and you will not be throwing out as much. You’ll save money in the long run and have more flexibility about when you eat your food.

There are many great ways to save money your on the grocery bill and these are just a few simple ideas.  It really boils down to shopping smarter. And remember, the cashiers do not purposely charge you too much for your groceries. Fresh whole food is not cheap.

Homemade Yummy Vanilla Pudding Recipe With Berry Topping

Vanilla Pudding Recipe with Berry Topping.  An easy pudding recipe to make from scratch with natural ingredients.  Yummy and kid friendly
Homemade Vanilla Pudding with Berry Topping

Have you ever made pudding from scratch?  It’s super easy and rather tasty.  Here is a kid-friendly recipe worth trying.  The berry topping is optional depending on how much time you have.  

Yummy Vanilla Pudding With Berry Topping

Makes 4 small servings
2 1/4 cups 2% milk
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Pinch of salt

In a medium size sauce pan whisk sugar with cornstarch and milk.  Turn up heat to medium high and stir until just about boiling, about 5 minutes.  In a separate bowl whisk 2 eggs and 1/4 cup milk.  Slowly whisk in the hot milk and cornstarch in a slow and steady stream, whisking constantly so you don’t get scrambled eggs.

Add mixture back to the pot and cook on medium heat, whisking until thick, about 5 minutes or so.  Add butter, vanilla and salt.  Stir, then transfer to a bowl.  Place parchment paper on top the surface of the pudding. Chill until ready to serve.  

Berry topping

3 cups fresh or frozen mixed berries
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Place fruit, sugar and lemon juice in a medium sized pan and cook over medium high heat for 5 minutes until fruit is warm and has a sauce-like consistency.  Server over yummy vanilla pudding. 

Friday, September 8, 2017

What Are Modified Milk Ingredients?

“And, it’s made with real liquid milk,” said the elderly woman in a chef’s hat and apron at the grocery store.  

She handed me a small, free sample of Monterey Jack cheese produced by a Canadian cheese company. 

 “And, it has no modified milk ingredients in it.” She added.

“Oh really?” I said. “And what exactly are modified milk ingredients?”  

“Oh, it’s kinda like a paste or a powder, but not liquid milk.” 

Hmmm….not exactly a scientific answer, but my curiosity was piqued so I headed out to discover exactly what modified milk ingredients were and if I should be eating them.

Have you noticed how more and more dairy product contain modified milk ingredients?  This article explains what modified milk ingredients are and if you should be eating them.
This package of cheese has "no modified milk ingredients"

What I Discovered

Liquid milk can be separated into different components such as casein, castanets, whey, powered milk, butter oil, milk protein isolates and milk protein concentrate.

 “Rather than list the ingredients separately, the manufacturer is able to use this generic description which also allows for changes to be made to the dairy formulation at a later date without having to re-do the label information on the packaging material. In this scenario the product has been "modified" by mechanical means.” - Canadian Dairy Commission

These components are then added back into products such as cheese, yogurt and ice cream as modified milk ingredients.  This way the product can be made cheaper with a longer shelf life and, I suspect, a compromised taste.  

What’s in Cheese?

If I were to make cheese at home I would use milk, a bacteria culture and rennet (a milk clotting enzyme).  I would not use modified milk ingredients. 

The cheese that I ended up buying from the lady at the grocery store did contain liquid milk and the ingredients was as follows:  fresh, pasteurized milk, bacterial culture, salt and microbial enzyme.

When I scoured the cheese aisle at the grocery store I noticed many products contained modified milk ingredients.  A fact I’d never realized until now. 

For instance, here are the ingredients listed on a block of light mozzarella cheese: pasteurized partly skimmed milk, modified milk ingredients, bacterial culture, salt, calcium chloride, microbial enzyme. Who knew? Did you?

What’s in Ice Cream?

 Again, if I were to make ice cream at home, I’d use cream, milk, egg yolk and sugar…and again, no modified milk ingredients.  However, when I pulled a carton of ice cream out of my freezer there was ‘modified milk ingredients’ and no mention of cream listed in the ingredients as follows:  fresh milk, sugar, milk ingredients, glucose solids, modified milk ingredients, water, honey, modified corn starch, guar gum, mono and diglycerides (soy), xanthan gum, polysorbate 80, carrageenan, natural & artificial flavours, lemon juice concentrate, natural colour, potassium sorbet. Whew!
So, I phoned up the company who makes the product, and I was told that milk ingredients is a broad term for any unaltered milk product that’s an ingredient in the ice cream which could include milk, cream or butter.  It’s all lumped together so you really don’t know how much cream is actually in ice CREAM.  They also told me the modified milk ingredients were chemically altered milk products produced in their factory  which again, could comprise a range of components.

The Taste

I now had the answer to what’s in modified milk ingredients.  It also explained my disappointment with the taste of ice cream.  When I was a kid, I would seek out bowls of ice cream and savour each creamy, cold spoonful of the velvety delight. 
It was so delicious my sneakiness was worth my mother’s wrath. She who was the keeper of all sweets.  Today, when I eat ice cream I still anticipate that same sensation. But I’m always disappointed.  The rich, creamy flavour has been replaced with milk ingredients, and modified milk ingredients and ice cream now tastes like nothing more than sugar and milk with little cream.

Bottom Line

So, knowing this, I’m going to read my food labels on all dairy products from now on and only buy products without modified milk ingredients. I’m also going to try and find the cream in the ice cream.  It may cost more, but it will be worth it. 

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Easy Moussaka Recipe

A great weeknight meal that the whole family will love
Moussaka, an easy weeknight dinner to prepare

Easy Moussaka Recipe

Easy dish to make that will freeze well. Grill extra eggplant and add to your sandwich for lunch the next day.  Serve with a big green salad
Serves 4

2 large eggplant, tops and bottoms removed, peeled and sliced lengthwise
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 28 fl oz can  diced tomatoes
1 small can (5.5 oz) tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 pound ground beef
1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1/4 cup butter
4 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups milk (heated)
1 egg
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425 F.  Place eggplant on a baking sheet and rub with olive oil on both sides.  Bake for 15 minutes until soft. 

Lower oven temperature to 350 F.  Lightly grease a 9 x 13 inch pan.

Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a medium-large pot over medium-high heat.  Sauté onions and garlic until soft, about 6-7 minutes. Add beef, turn up heat and sauté until no longer pink.  Drain off any excess fat.  Add tomatoes, tomato paste, oregano, and cinnamon.  Bring to a boil, then turn down heat and simmer 15 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  

In the 9 x 13 inch pan.  Place 1 layer of eggplant, then tomato/beef sauce, then Parmesan cheese.  Repeat layers.  

In a medium pot melt butter on low heat.  Add flour and cook 1 minute.  Slowly add heated milk and cook until thick.  Remove 1/4 cup white sauce to a small bowl.  Whisk in egg.  Add a little more white sauce, whisk.  Pour egg mixture back into original pot and stir to blend. Spoon white sauce on top of moussaka and bake 30 minutes. 

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This course will teach you how to be a healthy home cook.

Cooking Reboot Online Course

Our next Cooking Reboot course starts Monday September 11th, 2017.  Do you wish to cook healthy meals at home but can't get motivated?  Sign up and we'll guide you into your kitchen.  You will become a healthy home cook for life.  Find out more information at https://cookingreboot.com/

Friday, September 1, 2017

Smart Eating Tips When Working From Home

Helpful tips to learn how to eat smart when working from home so you are productive.
Remember to take breaks and eat when working from home!

Working from home has its perks: talking to clients in your PJ’s, setting your own hours, taking off mid-day to meet a friend and working without interruptions. 

But that ability to focus and work without interruptions can often result in missing breaks, and forgetting to eat. You get immersed in a task, the hours fly by, and suddenly your tummy growls making you realize you haven’t eaten all day.

This is when your productivity slumps, your concentration wanes and you find yourself continually re-reading information because you don’t understand it. 

Food is fuel. It gives us energy and helps us think smarter.  

So here are some tips to help keep you on track to eating right when working from home.

Start With Breakfast

You’ve probably heard this many times, but breakfast breaks the fast and sets you up for success for the rest of your day. 

We have many choices when it comes to breakfast. 


Save yourself time and portion out smoothie ingredients into ziplock bags ahead of time and freeze them.  This way you can pop a bag of ingredients into the blender and literally have an instant breakfast.  Add protein to your smoothie to sustain you longer.  This could be peanut butter, almonds, walnuts, hemp seed, or tofu. 


Cook a big batch in your slow cooker on Monday and enjoy it during the week by reheating in the microwave.  Add nuts or seeds to get the fibre you need to fill you up. 

What Else?

Some people just don’t like breakfast. It takes too long. You just don’t feel like eating that early. If this is you, then maybe grab a banana first thing and plan on eating a hardboiled egg or a bowl of cereal later.

Next is Lunch

Lunch is easy to forget when you’re working hard. However, if you don’t take a lunch break, you’re at risk of binge eating later when you realize you’re hungry. 

Sandwiches are super easy to make and can be prepared the night before or in the morning. Leftovers heated in the microwave are a no-brainer. Perhaps heating up some soup and eating cheese and crackers is your go-to meal. 

The key here is to take a lunch break. It’s easier to do if you set a time each day to stop work. It could be anywhere from 11 am to 2 pm. Set a goal and see if you can stick to it. 

Learn how to eat smart when working from home so your are productive
Keep Hydrated

Fill up a water bottle in the morning and keep it on your desk where you can see it.

You need to replenish the water you lose each day to stay hydrated. About 60 percent of your body weight is made up of water. Every system in your body relies on it.

Aim to drink 1.5 litres of water a day (roughly about 6 cups) plus 2 cups of other beverages, such as milk, juice and even coffee or tea.

Grab a Snack

When you find yourself hungry in the day, it’s a good excuse to get up, walk around, and grab a healthy snack.

Avoid junk food as a quick fix. You’ll just be looking for more an hour later. A better option is to grab some nuts like pistachios, almonds, or peanuts. Trail mix works or homemade granola bars. Other great options are fresh or dried fruit, veggies, hummus, cheese and crackers.

Take Breaks!

Set yourself up for success when working from home and remember to take breaks to eat. And yes, it’s okay to eat lunch in your PJ’s when you are working from home.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Life Span of Pasta Sauce

“I keep my pasta sauce in the refrigerator until it grows mould on it. Is this okay? How long should I keep pasta sauce?” asks my niece Meryl.

What is the life span of pizza sauce?  It depends on the brand name.  Prego, classico and Ragu are all different.
Life span of Pizza and Pasta Sauce

Great question, I’m always surprised when I learn the shelf life of food products. To find the answer go to the manufacturers website and look under their FAQ section. Sometimes they share this information, sometimes they don’t. If the answer is not posted, then I either phone them up on their toll-free number or I email them the question. I always get an answer.

I checked out three different pasta sauces and got three different answers:

1. Prego Pasta Sauce (a division of Campbell’s) – I phoned and was told that once opened, the sauce should not be kept for more than 14 days (2 weeks) in the refrigerator. If you purchase more than you need, they suggest you freeze the extra in plastic freezer bags. It will keep frozen for up to 6 months. 

2. Ragu – on their website it says their rich and meaty sauce will last for up to 7 days in the refrigerator and 3 months in plastic bags in the freezer. However, if it’s a cheese creation sauce, than only a few days in the refrigerator and do not freeze.

3. Classico – Maximum 3 – 5 days in the refrigerator and 2-3 months in plastic storage bags in the freezer.

Remember, once you open a jar of pasta sauce, write the date somewhere on the outside of the jar. This way, you don’t have to wait until the mould grows!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Strawberry Rhubarb With Cornmeal Biscuit Topping

The cornmeal biscuit topping is a nice twist to this recipe.  Rhubarb can be substituted for any mixed fruit.

½ cup sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 - 12 ounce baskets strawberries, hulled, halved
1 1/2 cups fresh rhubarb, cut into 1/2 inch slices

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
3 tablespoons chilled butter, diced
1/2 cup buttermilk

For Filling:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Mix sugar, flour and cinnamon in a large bowl.  Add strawberries and rhubarb.  Toss.  Transfer to a 13"x9" glass pan. 

For Topping:
Mix flour, sugar, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.  Add butter and rub in with fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal.  Add buttermilk, tossing with a fork until moist and clumps form.  Spoon evenly over filling.  Bake until top is golden, about 35 minutes.