Salads That You’ll Want to Eat

One of the sad facts of healthy eating is that yes, those of us who follow this lifestyle tend to eat a lot of salad. All too often people try to shame us with taunts of “you don’t win friends with salad!” or “yuck, rabbit food!” but no longer! Here are some great suggestions to up your salad game and make it feel like a luxury decadence instead of a healthy chore:

  • Have you ever tried Haloumi? It’s a firm, salty cheese and makes a great protein addition to a salad. Cube it and sear it in some olive oil (it won’t melt) them toss with cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, herbs like dill or cilantro and a hummus lemon dressing
  • Speaking of herbs, are you including them in your salads? Fresh, delicate ones like basil, dill, and cilantro work best, and bring a lot of flavour with no guilt
  • How about upping the nutrients with some unexpected fruit in a savoury salad? Cherries, peaches, strawberries, pears, and apples are all great choices to start with. Be sure to follow the seasons where you are to get the freshest (and most nutritious) ones.
  • Olive oil is a perfect, heart healthy way to start off a homemade dressing, but consider adding other oils too for flavour. Walnut, almond, and sesame oil are all readily available at most large grocery stores and can really add a new dimension to your dressing
  • Do you have a favourite comfort food? Why not try re-imaging it as a salad? Fajitas are an easy choice, but why not a chicken cordon bleu? You can grill the chicken, dice some lean ham, sprinkle a little grated swiss and make a punchy Dijon dressing to get all the flavour of the classic dish, but with the addition of as many greens as you can handle

What to Do for Dinner When the Weather Won’t Make up its Mind.

 

Summer’s finally here! ish. Ok, so there’s been more rain and less sunshine than we were all hoping for this year, making it harder to get our grill on and forcing us back to craving those carb and fat heavy winter comfort foods. Here are some ways you can combine the best of both world’s and combat this unco-operative season:

Soups:

These are a great choice because you get the comforting and restorative warmth of a soup and the option of adding some of the first fresh produce of summer. Use asparagus and peas as creamed soups without the cream, or as additions to a classic minestrone.  Bonus: if it does warm up, you can always make a classic Gazpacho (consider a white Gazpacho for an even more refreshing meal).

Sandwiches:

You can pair them with one of the soups from above, or on their own for a tasty and portable meal. Consider radish and avocado for something both rich and crisp, or add a big handful of fresh herbs or greens to mix it up with your favourite classic: a BLT with arugula or a bunch of basil with a tuna melt can revamp the old standby for the new season. Bonus: there’s no need to turn on the stove!

Pastas:

For comfort food, almost nothing beats a big bowl of noodles, but how to convert the winter fav into something that’s not too heavy for a mild, sunny day? Instead of a rich, slow cooked sauce like Bolognese, toss the cooked pasta with a bit of fresh tomatoes, pesto, and parmesan. Or add basil, bocconcini, and balsamic to the tomatoes and pasta for a caprese style meal. You’ll still get the carbs and cheese that make a cold day bearable, but the pops of freshness will remind you that spring (and summer) is on the way! Bonus: pasta salads make great additions to picnics and bbqs, just be sure to stay away from mayo based dressings, not only do they add unnecessary calories: they can also go bad if left out in the sun too long

 

Should Libraries Change with the Times?

The short answer to this is obviously yes, shouldn’t everything? Progress is a good thing, moving forward is better than backwards. Arguably, the shift of libraries to open communities’ centres of learning and open access is a good thing. And it is. But…isn’t there something that is lost by democratizing knowledge as much as we have? By making things available to everyone, do we not then need to sink to the lowest common denominator? This is becoming an especially egregious problem nowadays because with the increasing prevalence of ‘special snowflake syndrome’ , the idea that everyone’s opinion is valid and that every possible handicap (real or perceived) needs to be aggressively accommodated is bringing us all down. How much teaching can actually be happening in a space where there are constant interruptions and endless ‘needs’ that must be taken care of? How much scholarly independence can there be if taxpayers deem themselves customers and begin to treat the staff like members of the service class (who, don’t get me wrong, should not be referred to as such, nor treated with anything less than kindness and respect). Why can’t we have nice things anymore? Why is it so wrong to want a quit space filled with books and meant for reading. Does everything need bells and whistles? Have we lost our ability to reflect in silence. If libraries are a reflection of the community, then what does it say about us if ours are no longer places dedicated to learning and the history thereof? Progress is good, and important, but we don’t need to bury and improve everything from the past, sometimes, the original was the best. Libraries have been around for thousands of years, but if we keep going the way we are, they might not exist for much longer, or, if they do, they might not have any books.

Bean There Done That

Thanks to a certain song about their magical properties, beans continue to get a bad rap, and that needs to change! Not only are they are great source of non-animal protein, they’re also very easy on the budget. When people think beans, their minds mostly go to either chili or baked beans, which are great, but if those are your only two recipes, then it’s easy to forget about including them more often in your meal rotation. Here are a few suggestions to make them more exciting:

  • creamy white beans: this works best if you’ve got dried beans and a lot of time on your hands, but the efffort is actually minimal (as is the case with pretty much any bean recipe to be honest). Simply put a 1:4 ratio of beans to water in a pot, along with some rosemary or thyme or both, a few peeled, whole garlic cloves and an onion that is peeled and cut in half length wise. Simmer the beans for a few hours (how long this takes will depend on the age and size of the bean) and season with salt and pepper once they reach the desired level of creamy-ness.
  • Versitile Black Beans: follow the basic instructions from above, omit the herbs, but include an orange that has been cut in half. If you’re feeling spicy, throw in some diced  jalapeno or chipotle peppers.
  • Comforting Split Peas: maybe not technically a bean, but legume is close enough, and you follow the same method, so I’m counting it. This time, in addition to the garlic and onion, add some dice carrot and celery. Feel free to toss in whatever hearty herbs you like, and some dried mustard will add a nice subtle kick. Spilt peas tend to cook faster than beans, so keep a closer eye on it.

All three of these can be un-veganized by adding either a smoked ham hock during cooking or some  cooked bacon/other pork at the start, before you add the beans and water to the pot. They are all great on their own, but try experimenting by serving them with different grains, breads or veggies. You can even purree them for dips or spreads!

Jam it Up!

Once upon a time, before Facebook and hipsters, the humble mason jar was an important tool used to preserve the bountiful summer harvest; partly for it’s general deliciousness, but mainly because it was cost effect. Since most people in rural areas didn’t have the money or access to large grocery stores, preserving was very necessary. We’ve already covered the art of pickling here, now it’s time to go over the basics of jamming!

  • Get all your tools ready: you will need to process the jars as you would with making pickles, so follow the instructions from that post. Any cutting boards, a ladle for filling the jars, knives and ingredients should be at the ready before you get started
  • Prep your fruit. This means any peeling, pitting or chopping. Depending on the texture you’re looking for, you can do anything from a fine mince to a rough chop to leaving the fruit whole and just smashing them a bit with a potato masher once the start to soften in the pot
  • Most jam recipes need a 1:1 ration of fruit to sugar to succeed. While this may seem excessive, remember that you’ll be consuming the jam in moderation, and that sugar plays a key role in both preserving and setting the jam to the right consistency
  • While you shouldn’t play around with the amount of sugar, feel free to experiment with things like spices, citrus zest, herbs or other flavour enhancers to make the jam your own. You can even play around with different combinations of fruits (peach raspberry? Cherry-blueberry? the options are endless)

Since making jams and jellies tends to be more of a science than an art, it’s important to research difference recipes and follow the instructions accurately to ensure proper consistency (though how you choose to influence the flavour shouldn’t affect that). Jamming is also a fantastic way to feel truly connected to your food and if you have children, a nice way to get them involved and teach them to appreciate the amount of labour that goes into crafting something that they would otherwise think takes no more work than plucking it off a store shelf.

How to Stay Healthy When You’re Camping

What could be better than packing up a tent and sleeping, then heading out to the great outdoors? Getting closer to nature is a wonderful way to reconnect with nature and reset, despite the lack of showers, camping can be a very cleansing experience and if you’re from a large city, spending time away from the noise and light pollution will do you a world of good. Unfortunately, because of space constraints and a lack of electricity, it can be easy when camping to load up on carbs and sugar, which can undo all those good feelings. Here are some tips you can use to make sure your next wilderness adventure is as healthy as possible:

  • Think ahead and make frozen meals like chili (be sure to use lots of beans, and a lean protein like turkey). Pack it in individual tupperware or freezer bags and heat over a camp stove or fire-bonus: they can replace ice in your cooler
  • For snacking, use the frozen trick again and freeze batches of grapes. Also, Focus on things like pretezels, nuts, or popcorn (and make sure they’re all low sodium) instead of greasy chips or sugary dried fruits. Fill containers with carrot and celery sticks for easy snacking, but stay away from things like apple or pears that will brown and be unappetizing
  • Be sure to drink lots of water, pack more than you think you’ll need in case there’s not a reliable water source and be sure to freeze some and use them to keep your food cool
  • S’mores are a camping must, and I would never say don’t have them, but try to boost the health factor by adding fresh fruit like bananas or strawberries, and be sure to use dark chocolate. Also consdier shopping around for a healthier cookie base than the traditional graham cracker, there are lots of tasty whole grain or gluten free options if you’re willing to spend a little time huntin

Will. It. Pickle?

In this age of both convenience and artisan revival, it’s easy to pick up any number of crunchy, acidic additions, but how much more impressive (and healthy!) to make your own? The best part is, it’s super easy and infinitely customizable, just follow these simple guidelines and get pickling!

  • While you can pickle just about any fruit or vegetable, keep in mind how the texture will be affected by pickling; the heat and acid of pickling will soften the pickle subject up, so if it’s soft already, it could become mushy (in which case, you may be better off making a relish or chutney, which will have a lot of the same flavour profiles, but will better suit the texture)
  • Think carefully about the natural acidity or sourness of the pickle subject: if something is already tart (like rhubarb) you’ll want to add extra sugar (or sugar substitute like maple syrup or honey) to balance it out
  • Don’t forget to season! A little salt will go a long way, and helps keep things preserved without chemicals. And there’s no reason to stop at salt, why not add other spices too? A cinnamon stick or star anise, as well as classic pickling spices like coriander, juniper, and dill seed are all great choices
  • Decide how long you want the pickles to last, if this is a quick pickle to be used soon, you can utilize the fridge method (explained below) if you’d like to keep them longer and store them in some kind of root cellar situation, then you’ll have to take more care by sterilizing the jars and lids in boiling water, and sealing them by placing the filled and lidded jars in a pot of boiling water (or a pressure cooker) for about 15 minutes until you can be sure that any bacteria is eliminated. This method is called processing and means you can keep the sealed jars at room temperature for several months
  • Once you’re ready to pickle, start by adding a teaspoon or so of salt to the jar, as well as any spices you’d like, then cram the jar as full as you can with your pickle pick, cut into whatever size you’d like to enjoy them at (eg: you can slice, cube or julienne, the smaller or thinner the size, the softer the pickle)
  • When your jars are full, bring equal parts water and vinegar to a boil. White vinegar is the most popular choice, but apple cider and champagne vinegars are good choices too. Remember, the vinegar choice will influence the pickle flavour. Balsamic vinegars are not recommended because of their strong colour and flavour, expense, and slightly thicker texture
  • CAREFULLY fill the jars with the hot water/vinegar, stopping about a centimeter below the rim. Seal the jars right away, once cooled, they can be refrigerated, or you can proceed with the processing method. Pickles with be ready to eat in a few days, but try to wait a week to really let the flavours develop

***Fridge pickles are just that, pickles you keep in the fridge! The only real difference is that since you haven’t processed

How to Bring Some Healthy Choices to Your Next Picnic or BBQ

Summer’s finally in full swing, and with it comes backyard bbqs and picnic potlucks galore.  As much as well all love great food, it can get pretty tricky to keep things healthy when those tables are loaded down with heavy sides and sugary sauces. Here are a few recipes ideas to make sure that there are some healthy and tasty options, so you don’t feel too guily about those ribs and icecream sandwiches!

Beans and Rice:

Rice and legumes together make a complete protein, so any vegetarians will be very happy to see this option. Bonus points for this dish: you can up the fibre with brown rice, the flavour by using a wide variety of spices (which also make s the dish infinitly costumizable), and the nutrients by adding as many diced fruits veggies as you can handle.

Watermelon and Cucumer Salad:

Easy and breezy, this is a great cool down option, and more grown up than sitting on a stoop and seeing how far you can spit the seeds. Start with chunks of watermelon  and cucumber, and than add salt and pepper (trust me on this!) as well as your favourit herbs (basil, cilantro and mint all work well. Don’t forget a hit of acid (metaphorically of course) lime juice and balsamic vinegar are great choices, just make sure the acid you choose pairs well with the herb you picked (lime goes with cilantro and mint, but keep the balsamic with the basil). Finish with a qulaity olive oil and you’re all set!

Sweet Potato Salad

A long time favourit at bbqs and picnics, traditional potato salad tends to be loaded down with heavy mayo dressing, with aside from being less than ideal health-wise, also contains eggs, which when left at the wrong tempurature for too long, could cause serious illness! Avoid these pitfalls by replacing the starchy white pototoes with roasted sweet potatoes or yams and dressing them with a punchy mustard based vinegrette and some thinly sliced red onions.

 

The Essential After-Beach Hair and Skin Care Routine

after beach hair and skin care routine
Following this after-beach hair and skin care routine will help you make the most of your summer.

The combination of summer heat, humidity, and UV rays can do a number on your hair and skin. Follow this after-beach routine to keep your hair and skin strong and supple all summer long.

1. Take a Cool Shower or Bath

Do this even if you don’t have a sunburn. The water doesn’t need to be ice-cold, but it should be a few notches down from your typical shower temperature. Your body works hard to keep cool after extended periods in the sun, and hot water won’t do it any favours.

2. Wash Up

Give yourself a full-body scrub as soon as you get home from the beach. All that sweat, sand and sunscreen can really clog your pores. To avoid oily skin and unpleasant breakouts, scrub yourself with a gentle washcloth or body brush ASAP.

3. Use Gentle Soaps and Moisturizers

It’s good to use a moisturizing product after you’ve been at the beach, as your skin is likely dehydrated from being in the salt and sun all day. A light oil moisturizers will help to restore that summer glow to your skin.

However, you should avoid products that could irritate your sun-kissed skin, including:

  • Retinol
  • Retinol A
  • Petroleum
  • Benzocaine
  • Lidocaine

It’s important to never use citrus essential oils on your skin after spending time in the sun, as they can scar and leave permanent damage.

4. Use a Moisturizing Shampoo and Conditioner

You know how your hair is always tangled after a beach day? Your hair loses moisture from being out in the sun. According to Gina Capano of Luxe Bar, overexposure to salt water also contributes to dehydrated hair.

Use a mild, moisturizing shampoo and conditioner, scrubbing well to remove any sand or sunscreen that got caught in your hair. If your hair is feeling especially brittle and damaged, try using a conditioning hair mask.

5. Treat Sunburns Immediately

By now, you know the importance of protecting your skin from the sun. But everyone makes mistakes, and sometimes, all the sunscreen in the world isn’t enough to keep you from getting burned. If you’re seeing red after your beach trip, apply an aloe vera treatment immediately after your cool shower. Reapply whenever you’re feeling dry and sore.

According to Web MD, you should see a doctor following a sunburn if:

  • You have signs of needing more fluids (sunken eyes, dry mouth, dark urine)
  • You have signs of infection (swelling, warmth, red streaks, pus)
  • You have a fever

Get Out and Enjoy the Sun!

There are many positive health effects of hitting the beach. You can get a great big dose of Vitamin D while you’re soaking up the physical and mental benefits of full-body exercises, like swimming, surfing, and beach volleyball. But it only takes one bad experience to put a damper on your fun, so be sure to follow these tips as you make the most of your summer.

 

Peas Please

Peas are a great source of fibre and vegetable based protein, and since they’re one of the first fresh local produce of the season here, I always feel as though I should like them more than I do. Sadly, since childhood I have shied away from these bright green spheres of goodness, well, no more! If you or somebody you love has an aversion to peas, here’s a way to work them into meals that will get them (or you) converted in no time: purees! Now, it may seem like I’m trying to get you to eat baby food, and nobody wants that, no the kind of puree I’m talking about is much fancier and grown up than anything that came out of a tiny jar (though seriously, how cute are those jars?). Try boiling freshly shelled peas for a few minutes then blanching (ie dunking) them in a bowl full of ice water. Add them to a blender or food processor with one or more of the following, chaning the amount of liquid to dertermine how thick you’d like the puree to be!

  • arugla-makes it slightly spicy and extra bright green
  • spinich-the more super food the better
  • garlic scapes-a great way to make a healthy and creamy sauce for pasta
  • mint-a classic herb pairing
  • tarragon-an update on the classic
  • basil-for when you want italian without the garlic breathe

To all of these, you can thin the puree with leftover water from boiling the peas, or from heavey cream-depending on how decandent you feel like being. Try throwing in a bit of parmesean or lemon zest to add some zip, and always remember to season with salt and pepper to taste before serving.

How to Save Money While on Vacation

Everyone looks forward to a vacation and often sacrifices quite a bit during the year saving for them. Trips provide a chance to get away from our daily routine and responsibilities, and it can be very tempting to go a little crazy. You’ve earned this, right? Well, yes, those long hours you put in at the office or doing overtime at your second job allowed you to spend a week in Hawaii. However, it is entirely possible to enjoy a vacation and not end up with a debt that takes months to clear.

Here are a few tips:

  • Make lunch your big meal of the day. Lunch menus are often cheaper than the evening ones, so why not make noontime your main feast of the day? The only drawback is that you might feel a bit sleepy in the afternoon.
  • Use public transportation. No offense to taxi drivers, but some of them in tourist spots actively take advantage of holiday goers who don’t know their way around or how much the local currency is actually worth. If your destination has a well-organized and safe public transit system, take that instead.
  • Exchange rates. Speaking of cash, exchange rates can vary wildly. Places that blatantly advertise their services with tourists in mind often have rather poor rates; you can actually do better just using an ATM. Do your research before you leave.
  • Accommodation. Yes, it’s great to stay in a Disney World hotel, but it’s probably going to cost you a lot more than picking a hotel just a few miles away.
  • Duty free shops. Souvenirs are great, but they can really set you back a lot of money. Don’t feel bad about using the duty free shop at the airport for some of your purchases.
  • Use local stores for basic things. Room service and stores on hotel grounds are convenient, but you definitely pay a premium for that convenience. If you have easy access to nearby stores, shop with the locals and pay less.

Should You Go “Wild”?

There is a large segment of the population that needs (or thinks they need) self-help books. Maybe they lack relationships with friends, family or other community members (like teachers or religious figures) where they can receive advice that they trust and would actually follow, or maybe they don’t feel comfortable confiding in the people in their life that could help. For whatever reason, they seek outside guidance. However, it’s not very cool to confess to reading a self-help book, is it? It looks lame and desperate if you tell people you’re making life decisions based on something a stranger wrote and published fore money. Enter the trend of people using memoirs as self-help. Instead of working through their problems in a way that works for their specific situation, they read about what someone else did, and basically steal their idea and try to recreate those life experiences in the hope that they will obtain a similar outcome (whether this is a better understanding of their own life or their own book deal is unknown). They think they are being deep by drawing inspiration from a memoir instead of something more explicitly intended to improve your life, but really, this co-opting of someone else’s story is playacting at best, and the actions of someone who wants to have some kind of cool, sexy problem when really, they’re mostly bored and uncreative. Like many things that appeal to people who don’t want to think too hard, we can blame Oprah for starting this trend by promoting Eat, Pray, Love. The most recent embodiment of this trend is Cheryl Strayed’s memoir of hiking the Pacific Crest Trial in the early 1990s, “Wild.” The much-maligned Gilmore Girls revival did a pretty good job of skewering this type of person, but I’m not sure they went far enough. I think it’s a damn shame that there are people who, instead of appreciating the beautiful writing and unique voice of someone tackling a personal crisis with grit and grace, pressing through physical and emotional challenges to emerge a fuller person more at peace (though not completely healed), decide that they can do it too, and go about replicating her journey expecting the same clarity and kudos at the end. The bottom line is, no, you should not go “Wild” you should forge your own path and find your own answers. By all means, be inspired and be thankful to be made a part of the author’s world, however briefly and however small a part of it they choose to share, but don’t try to follow it step by step and make it your own. It’s someone’s life, not a blueprint for your own.

Tips for Health