Sunday, February 28, 2010


For years I have used a variety of kitchen knives, most costing around $10 or less apiece for the usual henckel's vegetable or paring knives.  For a carving or bread knife, I might purchase a knife in the $20 or $30 range.  Watching the food shows on the food network opened up our world to cooking pots, various dutch ovens, gadgets, graters, dishes and knives.  

Ree Drummond, who has one of my favorite blog sites - www.the, has blogged about her favorite knife.  It is a 'Santoku' knife by Wusthof.  She has said that this is the only knife she needs in her kitchen and it is the ultimate kitchen tool.  She has photos on her site showing her dicing and slicing a tomato, onion and other vegetables using this knife.  The knife and what it does is probably like having a Maserati car in your garage though it does cost much much less than this car.   

The Santoku knife is a Japanese style of cooking knife.  It chops, slices and dices.  It has hollows on the blade's side which prevents food from clinging.  I got to test drive a Santoku knife while visiting my sister-in-law and it is a pretty slick knife.   There are a number of companies who make a Santoku knife and probably the best made knife is by Wusthof, a German company.   In making a Wusthof knife, a single piece of high carbon 18/10 stainless steel is used.    

The DH asked me what I wanted for my recent birthday and I said a Santoku knife.  Specifically a Wusthof.  If I can get a Maserati in my kitchen, why not!  Forget the jewellery, clothes, fine china or shoes.  Having a good knife would be the ultimate.   This is the type of knife you store in a slot in a butcher block and not in a drawer where it will bang against other knives or cutlery.  It is also the kind of knife you hand wash after each use and not put in the dishwasher.   If you are looking for a wonderful kitchen tool, buy a Santoku knife, you will have no regrets.

Saturday, February 27, 2010


In an earlier posting I described the large kitchen processor I use for making bread and other things.   I have a bosch system and with the various attachments I can do many things including kneading bread, grating/slicing vegetables, grinding flour, rolling oats and other grains and mixing batter.  The mixing bowl that I use with the dough hook is large so generally when I make bread, it is four loaves.   The following recipe uses a mixture of white and whole wheat flour.  I use about half and half.  Besides adding ground flax seed to this recipe, I will add about ½ cup of sesame seeds or sunflower seeds.   You can make this recipe the old fashioned way, kneading by hand.   When I bought this kitchen system a number of years ago, the kitchen store owner introduced me to dough enhancer.  Dough enhancer includes ascorbic acid or Vitamin C.  Dough enhancer helps to hasten the rising process.  You can find recipes for making your own dough enhancer but I buy it.   



½ cup ground flaxseed
3 cups whole wheat flour
5 cups warm water
2 tbsp dough enhancer
2 tbsp oil
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp yeast
1 ½ tsp salt
10 – 12 cups whole wheat/white flour
4  - 9 inch loaf pans


Into your mixing bowl add the ground flaxseed and 3 cups of whole wheat flour.   Using the dough hook, mix for 30 seconds until the ground flaxseed is blended into the flour. 

Place the warm water, dough enhancer, oil and honey in the mixing bowl.   Using the pulse feature on the machine, mix until blended.  Add about 6 cups of flour and mix on the lowest speed until moist.

Add the yeast and salt.  Using the lowest speed, add the remainder of the flour until the sides of the bowl come clean.  Knead for 6 to 8 minutes.

Place a small amount of oil on the kitchen counter and on your hands and roll the dough out of the mixing bowl onto the counter.  Using oil helps prevent the dough sticking to your hands or counter.  Divide the dough into four equal loaves, hand knead each loaf a few times and place into loaf pans. 

Line the pans up on the counter, away from any draft air and cover with a sheet of plastic.  I use a clean kitchen garbage bag.  Then place over the plastic, a tea towel that covers the four loaf pans.  Depending on the size of your tea towel you may need two towels.   Allow the dough to rise for an hour or until the dough has risen above the pans.   I usually let the dough rise for an hour to an hour and a half.   Bake at 375 degrees F (or 350 if using a convection oven) for 32 to 35 minutes. 

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


I have been making this broccoli salad for a number of years.  It is one of my DH's favorite salads.  I tend to buy a big bag of broccoli florets at Costco and I am always looking for different ways to use broccoli.

Broccoli is touted by some people as a super food.  Broccoli contains phytonutrients which is said to have anti-cancer effects.  Broccoli is also a rich source of two antioxidants in the carotenoid family, lutein and zeaxanthin.  These compounds are found to be concentrated in the lens of your eyes.  A large study of 30,000 people found that those that ate broccoli more than twice a week had a 23 percent lower risk of developing cataracts than those who ate broccoli less than once a month (Dr. Joey Shulman).    Broccoli also has vitamins C and K and calcium.



3 -4 cups broccoli florets
½ cup red onion, chopped
¼ cup sunflower seeds or other nuts (almonds, walnuts or pecans), chopped
½ cup raisins
½ cup feta cheese, crumbled

½ cup low-fat plain yogurt
¼ cup light mayonnaise
2 tbsp sugar or splenda
1 tbsp lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste


In a large bowl combine the broccoli, onion, sunflower seeds or nuts, raisins and feta cheese.  In a separate container/bowl/large measuring cup, stir together all of the ingredients for the dressing.  Pour over the salad and toss to mix.  Cover and refrigerate.  It tastes better if left to chill for a few hours.  It will keep in the fridge for several days and makes great leftovers.  Makes 6 servings.

Adapted from Anne Lindsay “Lighthearted Everyday Cooking”

Sunday, February 21, 2010


As the owner of both a dog and two cats, there is the thought that crosses my mind at times on who is smarter – a dog or cat?   There are numerous life saving stories and antidotal incidents written about each species.  We hear about dogs sniffing out people buried under rubble and snow; tracking smells to locate people on the run or missing; protecting their human pack from a cougar attack; sniffing out hidden drugs or illegal food products at airports; and using their nose to detect cancer or other serious illness in the body of their owners.   There are also stories about cats waking up their owners because the house is on fire; warning their owners of intruders breaking into their home; and a cat named Oscar who lives in a nursing home in the U.S. who will curl up next to a resident who is going to die.   Oscar gives comfort to those who are going to pass away.

There is also the question of who is smarter -  cat or dog owners?  I just read about a research study done in 2007 by Dr. Jane Murray in the UK.  The study was undertaken to determine the number of cat and dog owners in the UK and identify the characteristics of their owners.  A number of characteristics of cat and dog owners were found including apartment versus house dwellers, rural versus urban, male versus female owners, age of owner, children present and whether the households had the likelihood of owning both dogs and cats.  The most interesting finding was that cat owners tended to have more education than dog owners.   Cat owners were more likely to have university degrees.   

So, are cat owners smarter than dog owners?  I won’t attempt to answer this question as I own both, my friends who just own dogs are all above average intelligence and I have met some cat owners who just don’t get it.  In thinking about cat and dog intelligence, I do think that cats consider themselves to be more intelligent than dogs.  For example there are the sayings “cats rule and dogs drool ” and “cats own you, you don't own them while you do own your dog”. 

One area of shown intelligence in my house is food selection and tastes of the dog and cats.

The dog is pretty easy in his selection of food, of course he is a lab and his stomach rules his life.  He will eat just about anything.  He eats the same dog kibble every day and never makes a fuss.

The cats on the other hand are fussy, particular and require a selection of different canned food.  It is like running a restaurant.  Some days they turn up their noses at a particular flavor or brand of food and send back their plate to the kitchen for something else.   I never know  - je ne sais quo.

I think the cats have things figured out and are more demanding – my cats are higher maintenance.  Are they smarter or more manipulative?


Thursday, February 18, 2010


I usually don't make a lot of soups using milk but there are some soups where including milk at the last stage of cooking gives it a smooth finish.   I made this recipe for the first time this past weekend and I have been having it for lunches.   I will definitely make this recipe again.  I like the texture of the soup, the flavours and also find it filling.  This is a kind of recipe that you could mix and match vegetables depending on what you had in your fridge.   For example, I used sweet potato but you could use white potato instead.   I used evaporated skim milk instead of regular skim or soya milk.   I didn't chop up the frozen tomatoes, they broke up during the cooking process.  Enjoy!



1 tbsp olive or canola oil
1 large onion, chopped
2-3 stalks celery, chopped
3-4 carrots, chopped
2 tbsp flour
6 -7 cups of bouillon
1 large sweet potato, chopped
4 cups of frozen niblets corn
1 ½ cups frozen peas
3-4 frozen or fresh tomatoes
1 bay leaf
½ tsp dried basil or thyme
1 ½ cups milk or evaporated milk
salt and pepper to taste
3-4 tsp fresh dill (if available) or 1/2 tsp dry


1.   Heat the oil in a large stock pot and sauté the onions, carrots and celery on medium heat for about 6 to 8 minutes.   If the vegetables are sticking add a little bit of water.  Stir in the flour and cook for about a minute.
2.   Add the bouillon liquid, sweet potato, corn, peas, tomatoes, bay leaf and basil.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Bring to a boil and then simmer for about half an hour or so until the vegetables are tender.
3.   Remove about 3 cups of vegetables from the pot and coarsely puree in a blender.  Return the puree to the soup pot.  Another option is to use a hand held blender right in the soup pot and puree directly. 
4.   Add the  milk and simmer for another 5 minutes.  Add the fresh dill.

Adapted from the Meal Lean i Yumm cookbook

Monday, February 15, 2010


Watching the Olympic Games currently being held in Vancouver got me thinking about dreams, goals and glory.  Some of these Olympians started their dreams well before they hit a double digit birthday and all of them have worked at their sport with a focus unlike no other.  Besides all of the training and preparation that they do for their particular sport, many of them are pursuing university degrees.  They are achievers.  They know their goals and understand the commitment it takes to get to the podium.

Watching Alexandre Bilodeau win the gold medal and Jennifer Heil win the silver medal in moguls and Kristina Groves win the bronze medal in the 3000 metre speed skating was exciting and thought provoking.  For the moguls, all of the work preparing for this moment is over after 23, 24 or 27 seconds (the time varies as men are faster racers than the women).   Achieving your dreams is measured in seconds.  Winning a medal depends on seconds.  Furthermore, the skill, nerve and sheer guts to hurtle down the mogul hill, take two jumps, fly through the air and come down properly on your skis and continue down to the finish line requires one to be a dare devil and have stead fast nerves.   I realize that the athletes doing these events didn't start off being able to do these difficult courses and it is years of culmination - you start off when young competing at novice events and over the course of years build up to tackling the advance courses.   The athletes competing at the Olympics are the best in their specialty.  In many ways this is no different than successful individuals who run corporations, head up government departments or operate their own businesses.  They learned their skills and business step by step over the course of years.  But success in sports is measured by degrees of difficulty and seconds and that is very different to the world that you and I operate in.

What is evident is the abuse and tears your body takes to be an athlete.  For those of you that run, play tennis, squash or curl, your knees tend to feel the effects.  Multiply that to the sports such as skiing and speed skating and it is clearly evident that your surgeon may be your next best friend.  One of the Canadian mogul skiers has had a number of surgeries done on his knees by his father who is a surgeon in Quebec City.  

It was clear watching these competitors the role that their teammates and family plays in achieving success.  For their teammates, even though they compete against each other, you could see the bond and supportive gestures made at the moguls and speed skating events while waiting for the particular individual results.  Starting prior to the Olympics there has been a lot of media on the family support and sacrifice made to support these athletics.  It is clear that every successful athlete has had emotional and financial support from his or her family.  I offer a few examples.  While flying home from a holiday in California I happened to sit beside Jay Morrison, a World Cup speed skater. For several reasons including surgery last summer, he didn't make the cut for the Olympics.  His younger brother Denny is competing at the Olympics.  I knew of some of the speed skaters from home so the ice was broken and we chatted for about two hours.   One topic that was discussed was his parents' commitment to the training, support and travelling to speed skating events when the two boys were at the junior level.  The dreams that these boys had in their youth while living in a smaller northern B.C. community were made into reality by their parents.   The second example is the win by Bilodeau.  In television clips prior to this competition and following his gold medal, he expressively talked about the support his family has given him and the inspiration that his disabled older brother has provided.  "Can't" is not in this gold winner's vocabulary.  Brian Williams interviewed the Bilodeau family Sunday night on CTV at its Olympic broadcasting site and his family was with Alexandre - his parents, brother and sister.  I haven't seen too many post medal interviews with the while family present and being interviewed.   The funny part of this interview was one of the other sports commentators (a former football player) brought out a bottle of champagne and glasses to toast this event.  It was quite humorous as this was live and not a taped event.

A closing comment needs to be made about glory.  Glory has a price and Nodar Kumaritashvili, the luger from Georgia who was killed during a training run, died in the pursuit of glory.  There is risk with all of these Olympic events, even curling as you can fall backwards, hit your head on the ice and badly injure yourself.    It is important to understand the glory and the risks and fulfilling your dreams as you only go around once.

Saturday, February 13, 2010


I have a few books by Dr. Joey Shulman, a nutritionist, based out of Toronto.  She also has a website - and you can subscribe to her free newsletter.   While watching the olympics on television, I have been reading her book "Healthy Sin Foods" and learned some interesting facts.  I thought I should share some of these nutritional food facts.

  1. If you want to know how much sugar is in a food item, there are 4 grams in 1 tsp of refined sugar.  If a product contains 16 grams of sugar per serving, that represents about 4 tsp of sugar.  The World Health Organization recommends that sugar should not account for more than 10 percent of an individual's daily caloric intake.  If you are consuming 2,000 calories a day, this would be 200 calories.  This recommendation does not include naturally occurring sugars found in fruit, vegetables and dairy products.   
  2. On the nutritional list of the food product you are eating, the manufacturer will lump together the naturally occurring and added sugars.   So  a cup of milk contains almost 3 tsp (12 grams) of sugar even though it doesn't have any sugar added to it.  Examples of sugar added to food includes: sucrose, fructose, maple syrup, molasses, dextrose, carob powder, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, dehydrated cane juice, glucose, honey, invert sugar, raw sugar, fruit juice concentrate, maltitol, sorbitol, isomalt and xylitol. 
  3. To reduce your sugar intake avoid soft drinks and fruit punches; eat cereal that has less than 1 to 2 tsp (4 to 8 grams) of sugar per serving; eliminate foods with sugar as the first or second ingredient; try to add only 1 tsp of sugar to your coffee; and watch how much flavoured yogurt you eat.  
  4. Not all breads are created equal and the best kind is to consume bread that is made with whole grain.  Whole grain contains the bran, germ and endosperm and whole grain bread will have a lower glycemic index.  Examples of whole grain include 100 percent whole grain bread, barley, brown rice, bulgur, oatmeal, popcorn, whole oats, whole rye, wild rice, quinoa, spelt, kamut and millet.  
  5. If a bread or wrap says it is made from sprouted grains, it means that the whole grain kernel has been sprouted which takes a certain amount of time to do, eg 24 to 48 hours.  The sprouting process predigests some of the starch in the grain and therefore lowers the glycemic index of the bread. These sprouts are used in the bread making process. 
  6. Bananas are starchier than other fruits and carrots have a higher sugar content than most other vegetables.   Some diets restrict or won't allow the consumption bananas or carrots.  Consuming bananas and carrots won't make you fat.  There are other culprits - portion size, refined sugars and flours, lack of activity and eating too much fast food.   
  7. Fat makes food taste good and lower fat foods or fat free food usually has sugar added to it to compensate for taste.  
I didn't elaborate at all on glycemic index or glycemic load.  There is a lot of information available on this and easily found on google.  In a future posting I could explain the background on these terms and how they are used.   Likely my biggest challenge in eating more healthy is dealing with those sugar cravings.   I am talking about that after supper craving for a square of good chocolate, the candy sampling that sometimes occurs during the day at work, and the weekly bowl of ice cream.   It is too hard and unrealistic to be perfect.  Treats during the week need to be accepted and acknowledged, the decision is the frequency and the amount.  

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


I recently read an interesting article about myths and realities of the mid-life years (Science Daily Jan 22, 2010).  The author of several recently published articles, Professor Carlo Strenger, has made a number of interesting observations.  About 40 years ago, Elliot Jacques coined the term "mid-life crisis".  At that time, the average lifespan was 70 years and 35 years was seen as the midpoint of your life.  People expected that their quality of life would decline after they reached that midpoint so they reacted to the fear of their own mortality and some did things out of character.

Professor Strenger has pointed out that your midlife years are the best time of life to flourish and grow.  Based on research, he feels that adult lives have second acts.   You take the lessons learned during the first half of your life and apply these to the second half of your life.

I think we can go further than that.  I think each decade of your life is a chapter and that you take what you learned during each decade and use those experiences to improve, make changes, grow or expand your horizons during the following ten years of our life.   Using the period of your twenties as an example, you have finished school, have your first full time job, may be purchasing your first home and car, getting married and having children.  You have made a lot of important decisions during your twenties.  These experiences and self awareness add to your knowledge bank of dealing with changes, unplanned situations and growth as a person.   I would venture to say that each decade you experience is better than the previous decade because of personal growth and ability to cope, change and succeed.

If we drill down deeper, what we need to do is celebrate our birthdays.  Growing up I enjoyed organizing my own birthday parties.  I would invite  my classmates and I still remember eating hotdogs and orange pop and my parents commenting on the pop spilled onto our dark beige living room carpet.   Why we need to celebrate our birthdays is because we have experienced another year of growth, we value our family and friends and pets and our life.

Sunday, February 7, 2010


Always on the lookout for new soup recipes, I came across a recipe on the internet site '' that uses white beans, spinach and couscous.  Since I had a small opened bag of spinach in the fridge that was soon going to have to be used or thrown out, I decided to adapt the recipe and add or change a number of the ingredients.  I always keep a few cans of different kinds of beans in the pantry so I don't need a lot of prep time to make the soup if I had to use dry beans which requires soaking and cooking.   You can add other vegetables to this recipe and make changes according to your preferences and what is in your fridge.

In recent years, spinach has been in the limelight because of its nutritional components and some call spinach a superfood.  Spinach is an excellent source of vitamins A, Bs and K, caroteniods (which help protect artery walls), many minerals and it also contains antioxidants and is rich in chlorophyll.  There are numerous recipes that use spinach that range from dips to soups to salads to pasta to eggs and so forth.


1 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 stalks celery, diced
3 carrots, chopped
6-7 cups chicken broth or water with 2 tsp chicken bouillon
1 large can cannellini or romano beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups shredded zucchini
1 bay leaf
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 cup couscous
2 cups packed fresh spinach
salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, celery and carrots; saute until tender, about 5 minutes.  Stir in the chicken broth, beans, couscous, zucchini, bay leaf and cumin. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low.  Cover, and simmer until vegetables are tender.  Add the spinach.  Season with salt and pepper.  Serves 8. 

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


Being a lifetime weight watcher’s member I have mastered the art of tracking what I eat and the exercise I do on a daily basis.   At times I have wondered whether this was on the verge of being obsessive.  I may not always track what I eat but I have tracked daily exercise for about 18 years.  This tracking of exercise became more of a process when I started to run in the mid 1990's.  Using the odometer in my vehicle, as GPS was not available, I measured running routes.  I also knew the routes mapped out by other runners so I was well prepared.  I even had official running journals where you could record daily distance ran, time that you ran, outside temperature, how you felt that day etc.   I had a big collection of these journals that I kept over a number of years.  Several years ago I realized that keeping 10 years worth of running journals was probably not needed and put them into the recycling box.   To this day, I still track the time I spend walking the dog and if I know the distance, I also note that.   With the introduction of GPS watches, I now had the opportunity to measure all kinds of walking distances.   This is simply gadget heaven.   I have an old GPS watch with the separate transmitter and I know that I should be upgrading to a single unit.  My fondness for gadgets is likely good material for another blog.

Over the years I have also collected pedometers.  I have several of them and the technology has improved with time.  Well this Christmas I received the latest in technology in pedometers from one of my girlfriends.

This baby measures overall steps, steps and time covered doing a good brisk walk, kcal burned, km covered and the current time of day.  It also retains memory of the last seven days.  I am in tracking heaven.  I generally wear the pedometer all day and my daily goal is to take 10,000 steps or more.  I know the number of steps from my desk at work to the bathroom and I have figured out that if I walk five times a day to the bathroom, I am close to covering ¼ of a mile.   What I like about a pedometer is that you can challenge yourself to do more the following day and if you know that you should be burning more kcal, you can measure it!

Am I obsessive?  I will leave that for you to ponder.