Ah, summer: it’s a wonderful time of year. Particularly in Winnipeg! After months of cold and snow and slush, we finally get a couple of nice months of warmer weather.
As Winnipeggers, we flock to the outdoors in the summer. There are so many festivals and outdoor events to choose between! But my favourite takes place this week: the Winnipeg Fringe Festival.
Since it’s summer and the Fringe is taking place, I’m spending most of my spare time this week enjoying the theatre and sitting on patios. It is fantastic.
Of course, that means that I have less time for blogging here – but sometimes, living healthy means stepping away from the computer!
What activities are you enjoying this summer? Do you love the theatre? Are you taking the time to lounge on patios? How will you spend your time away from the computer this week? Share!
Here are a few things to take into consideration when canning and preserving this summer:
Do you have the necessary equipment and supplementary ingredients and supplies?
First step: get your equipment and supplies! Stock up on all the necessities right at the beginning of the season. Purchase more jars than you think you’ll need, just in case (they aren’t going to go bad, so if you don’t end up using them all, you’ll have extras for next year!). Also keep in mind you might want a variety of different jars. 500-ml jars are an excellent size for most items, but it’s also a good idea to have some 1-litre jars and some 250-ml jars as well.
I highly recommend getting as much as you can possibly think of at the beginning of the season. It’s extremely frustrating to realize that you’ve run out of jars within three weeks of the canning and preserving season, or to start making pickles and then realize you don’t have enough pickling salt. Don’t forget to get labels, either! Label everything with the title of the jar’s contents and also the approximate date it was canned. You’ll appreciate having taken this step when giving preserved goods away as gifts and when you’re trying to choose a canned item to enjoy in the middle of winter.
Make this step easier for yourself by going through the recipes you think you’ll use and check what’s in season (and what you can expect to get in your CSA box or to pick up at the farmers’ market) so that you know what to prepare for. Don’t forget to get a water bath canner – that’s crucial! I’m also a big fan of my pressure canner, and it is necessary for canning low-acid foods.
Have you set aside the requisite time for canning and preserving?
Once you get on a roll, canning and preserving can be a very smooth process. But it still takes time! You need to prepare the ingredients to be canned (which sometimes involves a lot of chopping, slicing, and dicing), prepare the jars, fill the jars, and then boil the filled jars for a specific amount of time. And then you might need to also do several batches, depending on how many jars you are filling. Canning and preserving might take up a full afternoon or longer, so make sure that you have the time set aside to complete all of your canning and preserving.
If you plan to preserve food all summer long, I recommend planning one or two days each week as your “canning and preserving days.” If you know that every Thursday evening and Saturday morning you’ll be preserving food, you’ll be able to plan out when to pick up your ingredients and also ensure that the time is set aside so you can really focus on getting your preserving done.
Is your kitchen set up for canning and preserving?
Get as much as you can prepared before you start the canning process. Some recipes will require things to be moved around very quickly and you’ll have to be prepping ingredients as you’re boiling other things – it can get a little hectic until you get used to it! But if you always start the preserving process with a clean kitchen (counters wiped down, appliances moved away and out of sight, and dishes washed, dried, and put away), you’ll have a much more enjoyable experience.
This goes without saying, but as with any recipe, read the entire thing before getting started. You’ll want to place the cooked and filled jars on clean tea towels, so why not lay them out before you even start preserving? It will be one less thing to worry about once you have your jars all set to go.
Do you have a plan in place for the end results of your canning experience?
Think ahead about what foods your family will actually use, or what kinds of things you can give away as gifts, and preserve food accordingly. There’s no point in making big batches of dill pickles if no one in your house ever eats or even enjoys dill pickles (although I can’t imagine anyone not enjoying dill pickles!).
I would also recommend that if you’re trying out a new recipe, don’t make a huge batch of it to start with. Try it with just a few jars and then do a taste-test. If it’s a good recipe, that’s great! Go nuts and make a larger batch next time. But if it’s not something you love, you’ll be grateful that you didn’t spend an additional hour or two filling more jars that you won’t know what to do with.
What are you canning and preserving this year? What tips would you add here for things to think about when canning and preserving? Share in the comments section below!
‘Tis the season for canning and preserving! We received our first Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share last week, and that means that now is the time to get moving on preserving seasonal foods so that we can enjoy them year-round.
There are a few fundamental things that you need in order to can and preserve food, beyond just the food itself. You need jars (with lids and rims) and a water bath canner at the very least, but other important items also include a jar lifter, a magnet for lids, and potentially a pressure canner. And, of course, you need to know how to can and preserve properly. And for that, you need guides and recipes!
It’s important to follow instructions very carefully when it comes to canning and to use safe canning methods to ensure botulism and other serious issues don’t occur. I’m reluctant to use canning recipes from the Internet, and feel as though books are a better go-to (especially because they’re significantly more likely to use appropriate and safe methods!). This is probably only because I’m still a novice canner – I’m sure that as I can and preserve more often, I’ll get to really know the ins and outs of how to can and preserve safely, but for now I’m following the recipes exactly. And that means I need to have some trusty books to rely on!
Here are my top three favourite canning and preserving books:
Canning & Preserving with Ashley English: All You Need to Know to Make Jams, Jellies, Pickles, Chutneys & More.
This is a simple book which outlines the basic of canning and preserving. One of my favourite parts about it is that it provides minute details and a lot of great photographs featuring exactly what to do when you’re using a water bath canner. There are even instructions and photographs for cleaning the rims of your jars after you’ve put the food in there.
Canning & Preserving was the book that really paved the way for me when I started canning, and made me feel super comfortable with the process. It’s a great book for if you’re just starting out and want to know every detail for every step along the way!
This book doesn’t contain a huge amount of recipes, but the dill pickles, canned corn, and crushed tomatoes recipes are all fantastic. Recipes are easy to follow and everything is laid out in a very straightforward manner. This book is also a little less intimidating because there aren’t that many recipes. This is the perfect book for beginner canners.
Complete Book of Home Preserving: 400 delicious and creative recipes for today.
As the title suggests, there are an insane amount of recipes in this book! It’s pretty awesome. I’ve bookmarked dozens of recipes I want to try, and they have a lot of basic canning recipes (for canning dark leafy greens and a whole bunch of other plain vegetables, rather than pickled, for example).
If you want to can everything you can think of, and really have a proper store of homemade everything to last you until next year’s canning season, then this book is the one for you. However, it can be a little overwhelming when you’re just starting out. There are so many recipes to try! I didn’t make use of it a huge amount last year, but I expect I will be trying out a lot more recipes using the book this year.
Canning for a New Generation: bold, fresh flavors for the modern pantry.
My friend Carly gave me this book as a very early birthday present this year! This book divides the recipes into seasons, and has all kinds of very interesting and unique recipes (cumin and paprika pickled turnip, anyone?). What I also really like about the book is that it includes plenty of non-canning recipes, from cakes to cocktails, which use items that you have preserved as ingredients. It also talks about how to properly freeze foods and that sort of thing, so there is a lot of variety.
Even better, this book appears to only include water bath canning recipes – so if you’re scared of using a pressure canner, this book is perfect for you! There are also cute little gift tags to pull out at the back of the book, reminding readers that canned and preserved goods can be one of the best gifts to give.
What are some of your favourite canning books or ingredients to preserve? What are you most looking forward to this canning season? Is canning something you do every year? Share in the comments section below!
Walking has always been my transportation mode of choice. But in the summer when you want to get around without taking a huge chunk of time out of your day, cycling is an excellent alternative. You can get everywhere so much faster on a bike! It’s great…
The Perils of Cycling in Winnipeg
…Except, of course, for the many perils associated with biking around Winnipeg. From bike lanes that cars don’t pay attention to (or which mysteriously vanish after a few blocks) to the horrendous conditions of our roads to the ridiculous amount of bugs flying in your face to cars almost hitting you to getting sprayed from puddles and mud, biking can be a perilous excursion indeed!
My most recent gripe with cycling was when Mr Science and I biked a few blocks in a worm-infested area of the city last week, after Btk had been applied. This meant that we were cycling over what looked like mud, but which was probably (as Mr Science broke it to me afterward) a combination of mud and dead worms. Ewwwww. It also didn’t help that I evidently need better bike guards, because that mud mixture sprayed up all over my clothes *shudder* (showering and doing laundry has never felt quite so fantastic).
Don’t get me wrong – I adore biking. You can get around so fast, and it’s a really enjoyable activity. But there are certainly some things – such as the weather conditions and possible caterpillar control – to take into consideration prior to going for that bike ride.
About Caterpillar Control (Some Background on Btk)
In light of our most recent experience, Mr Science decided to write about the worms and Btk (being a science-y person, and all). Here is what he has to say on the subject:
Recently the city we live in announced that it was going to spray Btk (Bacillus thuringiensis var. kurstaki) in an attempt to control a span worm (AKA inch worm) infestation that is occurring this year. This led us to question, just what is Btk and what does it do?
First, a little background information on the span worm is in order. The span worm is a very common caterpillar from the Order Lepidoptera that has a characteristic way of walking where the upper body attaches to a substrate, followed by the movement of the lower body in close proximity with the upper body, which forms a characteristic ‘loop’ structure. These worms feed on leaves of host trees and can often be seen hanging from the trees on silk threads. The life cycle of the worm includes six instars (caterpillar life stages) prior to pupation (moth development).
Control of these caterpillar populations is a common practice that is often undertaken through the application of Btk. This is because Btk is an insecticide that affects only caterpillars of Lepidoptera and has no known effect on other insects, mammals, birds, or fish.
The way that Btk works is through application via spraying programs where the leaves that the caterpillars eat are coated with the biological pesticide. The caterpillars eat the leaves, ingesting the Btk where their alkaline (pH 7-14) digestive systems cause a crystalline protein (produced by the bacteria) to attach to the cells of the digestive system, leading to the disruption of normal cell function and eventual cell death. This essentially leads to perforation of the caterpillar’s digestive system, which then leads to digestive juices escaping the digestive tract, mixing with the blood and interfering with other organ systems, ultimately leading to the caterpillar’s death.
Btk seems to be an effective control of caterpillar populations if applied in the right conditions, and a major benefit of this pesticide is that it is easily degraded by rain and sun and so does not accumulate in the environment.
After the Btk situation, I am making a point of being very choosy regarding when I wear my new sparkly silver ballet flats on a bike ride – but mostly, I’m just embracing the fact that when it comes to cycling, there are some minor frustrations you might have to deal with, but it is totally worth the enjoyment (and the environmental-friendlieness!) of getting out on the road.
Are you a cyclist? What do you like best about cycling? What’s the cycling situation like in your city? Share your thoughts, ideas, and opinions in the comments section below!
Thank you to Mr Science for providing some insight on Btk and worms!
Mr Science and I have perfected the art of menu planning. We plan our dinners two weeks in advance and get all the necessary ingredients for our meals. We choose meals in which some ingredients can be used again, and we always mix it up to include some meals with meat and others that are vegan or vegetarian.
What we haven’t been very good at, however, is planning our breakfasts. For the longest time I would have a grapefruit or some toasted homemade whole wheat bread with homemade peanut butter and raw honey, and Mr Science would make himself a breakfast sandwich using our homemade bread plus a free-range egg, nitrate-free bacon, and a processed cheese slice.
Although these aren’t necessarily unhealthy meals, they certainly don’t provide much variety in nutrients. Moreover, grapefruit doesn’t provide a whole lot of energy to start the day, bread isn’t the best thing to have on a super regular basis, and processed cheese slices really shouldn’t be a breakfast staple.
So, keeping all of that in mind, we decided to put a little more effort into planning our breakfasts along with our dinners. We are making much more of an effort to change the types of things we eat for breakfast every day or every few days so as to get a variety of different nutrients. And we have made some great discoveries in the types of breakfasts that we enjoy!
Here are six of our favourite healthy and delicious breakfasts:
1) Oatmeal. We use organic oats from a local company and cook them on the stove with some local raw honey and organic cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger (and we like to add some skim milk powder to the water).
2) Smoothies. Okay, this one is mostly me – I’ve always enjoyed my green smoothies! Since getting the U-RAAW! custom-made smoothie mix, I’ve been using that with milk, fruit, and my homemade powdered dark leafy greens. It is so delicious.
3) Cereal. Mr Science and I had a bit of an obsession with unhealthy cereals for a while (*cough* Cap’n Crunch *cough*), but we have recently discovered a cereal that is even more delicious than Cap’n Crunch! I know; I was surprised too. Our new favourite is Nature’s Path Crunchy Vanilla cereal. It’s delicious and it has some wholesome goodness to it, too.
4) Free-range scrambled eggs, nitrate-free bacon, and homemade hashbrowns. We usually have this meal on Sunday mornings. It takes a long time for the potatoes to boil and then be turned into hashbrowns, but it is worth the wait! This is a great treat, and it is made healthier by using free-range eggs, nitrate-free bacon, and organic potatoes (as well as the fact that we only enjoy it once each week).
5) Fruit salad or blueberry spelt pancakes. Now that fruit is coming into season, we’ve started getting a variety of different fruits to make fruit salad (including apples, bananas, grapes, strawberries, and oranges). In the winter time, a nice replacement would be pancakes made with spelt flour instead of white flour, plus plenty of frozen blueberries added to the mix. Yum!
6) Organic fruit or whole wheat bread with homemade peanut butter. Although homemade peanut butter (made just by processing peanuts until they’re smooth) tastes odd the first few times you eat it, over time you will like it so much better than conventional peanut butter (which has all kinds of junk in it). Spread your homemade peanut butter over banana or apple slices, or occasionally over some homemade whole wheat or multigrain bread (or a sprouted grain wrap).
What are some of your favourite healthy and delicious breakfast foods? What do you typically eat for breakfast? Share in the comments section below!
I was delighted to be contacted recently by U-RAAW! about reviewing their products. U-RAAW! is a Canadian company offering customized organic, vegan, gluten-free, GMO-free, raw-food products. The custom products they offer include trail mix, cereal, energy bars, and smoothie mix. They also offer health foods: various dried fruits, nuts, and nutritional powders.
I had the opportunity to create my own customized product for each main category: one bag of cereal, one bag of trail mix, three energy bars, and one bag of smoothie mix.
The U-RAAW! website is fairly new, so there were a couple of small kinks to work out when I was creating my custom products, but that is only to be expected with any new website. The website itself is very aesthetically-pleasing and straight-forward to use – aside from the small kinks (which might already be fixed), it’s a very user-friendly site and it’s a lot of fun to mix and match all of the different ingredients! There are a lot of ingredients to choose from so that you can really make the products your own. You also get to name your customized product and the name appears on the package when you receive it, which I think is a really cute and fun touch.
The customized products that I created included:
- Picnic Trail Treat: organic hazelnuts, organic maple almonds, organic golden berries, organic pistachio nuts, organic apricots, and organic pecans.
- Super Spirulina Smoothie Mix: organic brown rice protein, organic spirulina, organic vanilla powder, organic acai, organic wheat grass, and organic bee pollen.
- Cacao Cherry Crunch Cereal: organic buckwheat hearts, organic mesa sunrise flakes, organic sesame seeds, organic tart cherries, organic cacao nibs.
- Cashew Crisp Bars: cashew butter, whey protein, clover honey, brown rice crisps, vanilla extract, bee pollen, cacao, maca.
So, how was everything?
With all of the products, the ingredients were fresh and full of flavour – big thumbs up! You can really tell that U-RAAW! uses quality ingredients in their products.
The smoothie mix was fantastic. When I opened the package the first time, it just smelled so good! I made a smoothie using 1 cup of 1% milk, 1 banana, 1/3 cup frozen blueberries, and 1 tbsp of the smoothie mix. There were really lovely vanilla undertones in the smoothie mix. The ingredients complemented each other nicely, and the nutrition facts on the mix were awesome. There is so much wholesome and delicious goodness packed into a spoonful of that smoothie mix.
The trail mix could have used a few more apricots, and the maple almonds weren’t super maple-y, but that also could be that I didn’t get a chance to try it until about 10 days after they arrived (I went out of the province within hours of receiving the products). The ingredients in the cereal were really great individually, but it was the combination of them – which was all on me, since I created the combo! – that just didn’t work. Mr Science and I both tried it with milk and there were just too many flavours going on. But as a dried cereal, like a trail mix, it works pretty well. I think I got too excited about all of the different ingredients and forgot to stop and consider what they would be like in a bowl with milk.
I loved the energy bars. They had a lovely cashew butter taste with just the right amount of subtle sweetness and a little crunch from the rice crisps. I think next time I would add some chocolate chips to the bar too. The package was a little tricky to get into and it had to be opened with scissors – but the packaging of all the products uses really good-quality materials, and I would so much rather the packaging be durable than it ripping!
The mother dear tried a cashew crisp bar and she was NOT a fan, but that, I think, is simply indicative of the awesomeness of customized products: I had made it for my personal tastes and it suited my taste just fine! Being able to create custom products means that you can be very cognizant about what flavours and ingredients you enjoy the most.
And the final verdict is…
I would definitely recommend U-RAAW! The products are high-quality and delicious, and you can design all of the products to exactly your liking. I also love the thoughtful touches that are put in, such as the cute graphics on the packaging. The business provides a lot of different ingredient options, and you can even purchase things separately, such as just baking ingredients or just superfoods. It’s perfect for if you want to design your own health foods and incorporate tasty raw ingredients into your meals!
Visit uraaw.ca to check out all of the options available and to design your own raw food products.
Disclaimer: this was a paid product review but all opinions and reviews written here are entirely my own.
A couple months ago, I wrote about my experiences with acupuncture. I’m still seeing my massage therapist / acupuncturist every 10 days or so, and it is really making a world of difference.
Since I’ve been getting acupuncture, I’ve had a lot of questions from people about what it’s like. If you are thinking about going for acupuncture, here are some things to know which will help to prepare you for your first session:
The needles don’t usually hurt.
Really! Most of them slide in and out without you feeling anything. Other times you can feel them but it’s not unpleasant. Acupuncture needles only “hurt” (generally a pinching sort of feeling) for specific points that are sensitive, which might only be one or two out of the couple dozen needles that your acupuncturist might put in you.
It’s okay to ask a lot of questions.
Western medicine and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) are very different! It might be confusing to understand how acupuncture works if you don’t have any background in TCM. That’s okay! Your acupuncturist should be able to answer most of your questions in a way that you can understand.
It’s also a good idea to ask plenty of questions outside of the “how does acupuncture work” area. If you’re feeling a little nervous, ask your acupuncturist at the beginning of the appointment to walk you through what the session will look like. Inquire about how long the needles stay in for, how many needles they usually put in, what kind of symptoms you might experience after your session, etc. The more you can educate yourself, the more comfortable you will feel.
The more information you can provide your acupuncturist, the better.
Just like your acupuncturist should provide you with plenty of information about acupuncture, you should provide your acupuncturist with plenty of information about your health history and complaints. Even if you don’t think that things are connected, they probably are. For example, having cold feet, anxiety, an eating disorder, and abdominal pain can all be connected! Tell your acupuncturist about every little detail you can think of and they will be able to give you much more precise treatment.
Acupuncture sessions might vary in length, but expect to be at the acupuncture office for at least a good hour.
I really recommend that you try not to make any plans within about three hours from the beginning of your session. If you’re getting massage therapy with your acupuncture, like me, you could be at the office for close to two hours in total (taking into account arriving a few minutes early to your appointment and your acupuncturist running a little late).
Sometimes your acupuncturist might put some needles in for just a few minutes. Other times, the needles might be left in for up to 40 minutes. Take all of that into account! The last thing you want is to be lying there on the table with needles in you, staring at the clock and getting stressed out because you’re cutting things close with other plans that you had made.
You might have different emotional and physical reactions from your sessions, depending on your health issues and the acupuncture points used.
This is another reason why it’s a good idea not to make plans too close after your acupuncture session finishes. Most of the time, I feel amazing and energized after acupuncture sessions. But there have been a couple times when they have made me very tired, and one time when I felt pretty awful after the treatment. This is your body reacting to the treatment. It’s nothing to be alarmed about, but it’s good to be aware of so you can prepare accordingly. If you provide your acupuncturist with enough information about your healthy history and your current issues, they should be able to give you the heads up if they think the treatment will make you feel sleepy (or any other reaction) afterwards.
Got questions about acupuncture? Have your own experiences or tips to share? Comment below!
If you’ve been following this blog since its inception six and a half years ago – or, let’s be honest, even if you’ve just been following it for the past six months – you’ll know that I have been a runner on and off countless times. Going back and forth between loving running and strongly disliking it (and everything in between) has at the very least given me the wonderful opportunity to understand some of the necessary components to help support the enjoyment and maintenance of running in my life.
These are the five steps that I’ve identified for how to become a runner that work for me - maybe they will be of use to you, too (or maybe you have your own process that you can share in the comments section below!):
1) Get into the right mental state.
As with many types of physical activity, running, I think, is more about your mental state than your physical ability. Most of us are much stronger and faster physically than we ever realize or tap into, so if we can get over our mental barriers, we can love running and keep it up that much more easily.
Deciding the day before that you will run the following morning, repeatedly giving yourself pep talks, and understanding why you want to run and what you love about it can all make a really big difference here.
2) Start slow.
Don’t overdo it or you will burn out! Depending on where you are at with your health, start by running around the block, running 1 km, or running 5 km. Don’t force yourself to go too fast or too far. Run for the enjoyment of it. Slowly build yourself up to go farther and faster over time, and your body and mind will thank you for it.
While you’re starting slow, play around to see what works best for you. Do you prefer to run in running shoes or Vibrams? With music or without? By yourself or in a group? Even figuring out things like the most comfortable clothing to wear and how to keep your hair from getting in your face (my personal biggest annoyance! I solve this problem by pulling my hair back in a ponytail and then wearing a hoorag over my head to prevent any flyaways from escaping) can be the difference between getting frustrated with running and enjoying it immensely.
3) Run frequently.
Three times each week with at least one rest day in between works best for me. If you let a few weeks go by without running (due to illness, travel, or anything else that might get in the way), get yourself back in a good mental state, perhaps go a little slower and at a shorter distance than you had been for the first couple days, and then keep on. And keep in mind that it’s better for your body if you go running shorter distances more frequently than one long run once a month.
4) Cross-train to keep things interesting and to reduce your chances of getting injured.
Yoga and swimming are my favourites. And both strength training and stretching can be extremely helpful when you are a runner! Try new things and utilize different muscles to prevent yourself from getting hurt or overusing particular muscles.
Along with cross-training is the idea of having goals in mind to work towards with your running. Mr Science and I like to increase our distance slowly every week or two, and that works for us. Other people, like the mother dear, like to run in half marathons as something to work toward (we’ll be cheering her on from the sidelines this Sunday!). Figure out what best inspires you to keep at it.
5) Get out there and RUN!
(I feel like you would appreciate the simplicity of this last step, Carla ;)). When it comes down to it, getting out there and running is really the big thing for becoming a runner. You don’t need a ton of fancy equipment and complicated techniques – your body will instinctively know how to do it.
What steps would you recommend? What are your biggest obstacles when it comes to running? What inspires you to keep running? Share in the comments section below!
Since I have one leg shorter than the other by nearly an inch, I am supposed to be careful about my shoe choices. But as it happens, I adore heels… and if I’m honest, I haven’t asked a shoemaker to add a build-up into my shoes in years. Oops.
So I was eager to try out Vionic Orthaheel sandals when I was offered the chance. They are sandals that have been designed to protect foot health, and they are recommended by the American Podiatric Medical Association.
There are a number of different types of sandals for both men and women using the Orthaheel technology listed on the Vionic website. The sandals that I received for a product review happen to be flip flops.
Normally, I’m not a flip flop wearer. I haven’t owned a pair of flip flops in years (I’m more of a ballet flat kind of girl). It was especially interesting, then, for me to test these ones out!
The first thing I noticed were that these flip flops are pretty darn cute. They are low profile, a nice shade of brown, and have a little bit of shine to them. The second thing I noticed was the dramatic arch in the sandal. And when I slipped the sandal on, I could feel that my feet were moved into a completely different position than they normally would be in sandals.
I tried bicycling in these sandals and I’ve also walked in them a few times. They’re tricky to get used to. The first time I wore them, they weren’t comfortable at all (I assume because of the enhanced contouring), but my feet like them much more now. And they are certainly summertime-appropriate!
Right now, Vionic is running a #SoleStory social media campaign to promote proper footwear. Traditional flip flops can really wreak havoc on your foot health, so they are looking to hear stories about how good-for-you footwear has had an impact on your life! You can learn more about their contest by clicking here.