Posted in Couponing, Home Economics, Kid Friendly, Opinions & Commentaries, Product Testing

Product Review: Circle with Disney

Thanks to McCormick Spice company, I was gifted a $50 Amazon gift card for taking part in their online customer advisory surveys on Christmas morning! Bonus points for the perfect timing but I’m still partial to Epicure at this point.

I went on Amazon.ca after seeing a Facebook advertisement for Circle. I was super surprised at the genius in what it said it could offer: a simple plug-in and go device that can control the internet for every other device in your house.

I don’t think I’m alone in this battle: I am constantly nagging my kids (ages 11 and 14) to get off their electronics. Even though I limit their screen time, it seems like as soon as I allow it there is this turn. It’s like crack for kids. (Disclaimer: Not that I really know what crack is like!) This drug-like system that takes them away from this physical world and transforms them into comatose hybrids that look like my children. They then react quickly when I tell them to remove themselves from their alternate realities (how many tabs and screens can you have open at once – no wonder the internet is dragging!!!) It seems easier to let them have it than fight for their attention to real life (dinner, chores, homework, lessons, appointments etc.). Yet being the good mom that I am, I don’t back down from a challenge most times. I’m here to raise good people on planet Earth – not some Matrix they are not old enough to choose to be in at their every whim!

So being the frugal person who doesn’t drop dollars like it grows on trees (or falls like snow in Canada these days!), I went on to Circle’s website to really discover if I could entrust them with my money, internet and sanity.

Features

I was delighted to discover that not only can I limit the internet for each device, there were SO MANY problems that were solved with this little square box (love the irony of it being called Circle!).

Here’s what I thought were some super cool things Circle can do:

  • Everything is controlled by an app on my cell phone
  • Every device can be assigned to a specific family member or user (kids’ friends beware!)
  • Each user has their own “rules” that you can assign
  • Rules include limiting internet times per day and for bedtimes
  • Certain apps/websites (Facebook, YouTube, Minecraft, Netflix, Instagram, etc.) can have set limits per day – that means no binge watching Vampire Diaries all night kiddos
  • Limits can be different on weekdays and weekends
  • Ultimate pause button exists on the app & for each user – When I call for dinner, I will definitely get a quicker response!
  • Rewards can be granted such as extra time, later bedtimes, etc.
  • Chore apps can be linked to Circle to ensure that beds get made before electronics are allowed (I’m going to enroll in a few of these apps too – what a super great discovery!)

So I figured – what the hay! I have $50 in free “play money” & I have free Amazon Prime 2-day shipping, so for out of pocket $62.99 I was willing to gift myself some possible sanity. (Currently Circle retails for $129.99 Canadian but is on sale for $99.99 on Amazon.ca)
Set Up

It arrived in the guaranteed time and I quickly tore open the package. It was so cute and somehow in a Tiffany blue box. (Good play Disney, good play for those moms you target so well!).

The best thing is that it is literally a plug-and-play device. The installation was so simple and it walks you through everything on the app. It was the easiest thing – exactly what was promised. Within 3 minutes, Circle was working, app was installed and the basic setup had begun.

How many devices do you have in your household? Be a little patient as Circle will recognize them all (Apple or android, it doesn’t matter, plus printers and more I discovered!). The names they come at can be cryptic but that’s not Circle’s fault. I figured out the printer by looking at the manufacturer (Canon). Honestly I really didn’t have to do anything – this little square box had already won my heart for how much work and think-less process / system it has. Thank you on behalf of parents everywhere!

A bonus feature the actual device has is temporary backup power. Not for power outages, silly! If your kids are smart, they might think to pull the power cord in order to deactivate Circle and gain some extra screen time behind your back (oh because your kid is such an angel…..). Don’t tell them, but it sends a message to the app letting you know it happened. Ha ha! Good play Disney, good play! Win for the parents again.

As parents, we can get caught up in the internet too. So we can actually be a user and set limits (“rules”) for ourselves as well. Facebook/Pinterest/Instagram/etc. won’t suck us in for more than ____ hours a day if we set up limits in our user profile.

So as I sit with my morning coffee, I’m waiting for the bustle of my children to start. 8am on weekends is when Circle allows them the internet (they need their sleep!) and I expect my 14 year old won’t venture out of her bed until she hits her limit and gets upset that she doesn’t know how this episode of Riverside ended. Well, it’s her own darn fault… maybe looking at nail polish designs on Pinterest for 10 minutes beforehand wasn’t such a great idea now, was it?

I’m raising good people, and part of that is letting them discover within limits how to make choices for themselves. It’s kind of like teaching them the currency of time: you should budget accordingly so that you don’t end up with a zero bank balance before the end of the day (or pay period /month) wondering where it all got spent.

With Circle, I think my family will have definitely less arguments over screen time plus it will give my mind and voice a much needed nag-break. It’s a great tool to separate the rules, rule maker (um, parent) and the choices and self-control growing kids have themselves. Well done, Circle.

Please Note: No company sponsored this post. The money was spent by me and was an actual personal purchase.

Posted in Gluten Free, Healthy, Home Economics, Kid Friendly, Opinions & Commentaries, Product Testing

I’m officially… a Love Bug. 

Being a mom of two girls has had its challenges. In the beginning, I thought if they could wipe their bum and sleep through the night it would just be smooth sailing from there.

HA HA!

It’s ok. You can laugh at me too. Every stage with child rearing has its benefits & struggles.

Starting daycare or school is thought to be the ultimate in breaks. We get our life back, we get to go back to work, no extra daycare costs …. um, no!

Having another set of hands and feet other than our own is even more complicated when we can’t be with them constantly to take care of them.

That’s when I discovered Lovable Labels. I purchased a set for each of my daughters.

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(And one package has lasted until now!)

It was a Canadian company that made my life easier.  No more worrying about what wouldn’t be making it home that day (1 mitten, new indoor shoes, the expensive lunch thermos, etc.).  With Costco dressing many kids in durable snowsuits and backpacks, there’s bound to be a mix up of who’s is who’s.

Lovable Labels are made for a lifetime of use and stand up against the toughest kids.  They are:

  • Waterproof
  • Dishwasher Safe (Tested and true by this Professional Home Economist!)
  • Microwave Safe
  • UV Resistant
  • Peel & Stick (Except for the Iron-ons & non-label products)
  • Laundry Safe (Clothing labels only)
  • Bleach Safe

So I’ve been using these labels ever since. Well, mostly my kids’ stuff but there are tons of uses for adults too including work lunch containers (no missing leftovers from the lunch room fridge!), seniors in long-term care/nursing homes, sports (hockey, soccer, basketball, etc) equipment, students sharing dorm rooms/bathrooms etc.  Plus there are household labels (see my Top 5 list below!) that help homes stay organized inside (kitchen, office, crafts) and outside (recycling, compost & garbage bins!).

I even used them to do a fundraiser for the charity I work with, NSTEP, a few years back.

Recently I wanted to run a free promotion for my business, Nutrition Bites. As a Mompreneur, I have a home-based business but use expos to showcase as my temporary storefront. This season I was booked back to back at VegFest London and Whoa Mama! Marketplace. Many of my clients are parents & children. So what better way to advertise & market healthy eating to kids AND help out parents than to offer customized Lovable Labels to them as they walked by!!!?  I thought it was a very useful idea!

Here’s what my custom Nutrition Bites Lovable Labels looked like:


I attached them to a sheet explaining what they were & how to use them. You should have seen the kids light up! FREE stickers for their lunches? One girl took a few extras to share with her friends.

It was my little part to be marketing HEALTHY messages to kids and go up against the giants that unethically use millions of dollars trying to get low-density nutrition/foods into your kids all day long! (Can you tell I’m a bit passionate about health for kids & communities?!)

One of the best parts of ordering from Lovable Labels was their personalized touches:

A handwritten note to me!


After that I couldn’t help but be even more of a “Love Bug” unofficially of Lovable Labels.  Who takes the time to appreciate a customer’s orders?  This small, Canadian company sure does!

So I decided to support their company by registering to be an official Lovable Label Love Bug.  It was pretty easy, and within a few weeks my  Welcome Package arrived so I could share my love. All I do is be me: share my love of Lovable Labels with others.

What do you get?

  • Giveaways (FREE stuff for you!) – Seasons, themes, etc.
  • Cool ideas on how to use Lovable Labels from me, Sandra, aka Nutrition Bites

What I get?

  • Monthly Incentives & Free Products to review – No clue what these are yet but I plan on sharing them with my followers & Nutrition Bites customers somehow!  (Check out #1 on my Top 5 list below!)
  • Welcome Package to launch my love to you and the rest of the world – GIVEAWAY from me!
  • Content ideas for my blog, social media and home to get creative with Lovable Labels

So with all of the uses for Lovable Labels, I’m going to share with you MY list of the top 5 products I love.

Top 5 List of Lovable Label Products

From a Nutrition Consultant & Professional Home Economist

1. Lil’ Dose of Love Labels: Tutti Frutti

An extra little gift for being Customer of the Day (another sweet thing Lovable Labels does that I had no clue about – who doesn’t love FREE stuff and surprises!?) were these amazing labels.  Their website talks about giving kids positive messages in their lunches & backpacks but I thought – wow – exactly what I believe in – using FRUIT, not candy, to market to kids.  Plus the punny food humour is sure to make any kid-at-heart smile!


2. Allergy Alert Labels

Food allergies can be deadly for some.  Most are aware of this fact as schools, daycares and camps are trying to protect those that have severe allergies.  These labels help to remind others when you can’t be there, to not give your child certain allergens.  Allergy Alert Labels can also just be used for those wanting to have a certain lifestyle – like vegetarianism, veganism, gluten-free, etc.  And if your child has diabetes or other conditions that require a modified diet or lifestyle, the medical alert label will help you define that for others simple with a “peel & stick”.

3.  Canning LabelsPantry Labels 

Keeping healthy can start by being organized in your kitchen.  With personalized Canning Labels (which also help to make great gifts or for small farmers’ markets!) and an extensive pack of 88 Pantry Labels (almost ALL are very healthy staples to have in your home!), you’ll be sure to stock your home and others’ with healthy foods to nourish your bodies and busy lifestyle.

 

4.  Date It! Labels  & Write-On Labels  

These labels allow you to write & personalize AFTER you receive them in the mail.  Date It! Labels are perfect for food safety at home. Ever ask yourself (or someone else asks you), “When were those leftovers made?  Are they still good?”.  Well less work for you and this way you can customize with some Retro, Mayan, or Country styles without having to personalize before you actually make those pickles, roast or banana muffins.

5.  Outdoor Bin Labels 

As a person that has moved a lot in my life, these stickers were my gift to me (along with a local newspaper subscription) when I began my new life as a single mom.  No more chasing a black garbage can down the street to wonder if it was actually mine (Notice how almost everyone has the same one these days!).  No family name needed, just the address to keep your identity private but your bins easy to identify. It’s kind of like a “Return To” if found, during windy days.  And it looks way better than the spray-paint or sharpie method that’s bound to wear off during our harsh, Canadian winters!

 

fruit-starter

BONUS #6 – Don’t forget where Lovable Labels started – their personalized labels great for lunch & drink containers as well as clothes, shoes and bags.  I suggest their healthiest theme, Fruition, to (subconsciously) market fruits & veggies to your kids (and maybe you or your spouse!)

 

A LOVABLE GIVEAWAY FOR YOU!!!

I thought I’d start it of right by sharing the love right away with fellow bloggers & Nutrition Bites followers.


I’m giving away THREE different items from my Love Bug Welcome Package & my Nutrition Bites Promotion:

  • “Blogging is Bliss” & “I love Blogging” Labels/stickers
  • Lil’ Dose of Love Labels: Tutti Frutti (A sampler!)
  • My “personal”-ized favourites #NutritionBites Lovable Labels

Visit my Nutrition Bites Facebook Page to comment to win!

Find the blog post and follow the easy instructions! (Contest not in affiliation with Facebook in any way.  Open to age of majority in Canada. Contest deadline: December 18th, 2016 at 11:59pm.)

Stay tuned for more creative ways to use Lovable Labels and giveaways for my followers – YOU!

Follow me on Social Media:

Facebook:   NutritionBitesCanada

Instagram & Pinterest: @NutritionBites

Twitter:  @NutritionBites8

Blog (this is it!):   nutritionbites88.wordpress.com

Website:   www.nutritionbites.ca

Posted in Farm, Fruits, Healthy, Home Economics, Local, Opinions & Commentaries, Product Testing

Product Review: Starfrit Cherry Pitter

Cherries are in full season, but my “season” started months ago.  I undertook a project  with 20 Valley Harvest Farms.  I have been responsible for many things including designing unique recipes that highlight not only cherries, but whole food, local and Canadian ingredients (Professional Home Economists can be a great source for recipe writing!).

So with so many recipes to design, test and re-test I also indirectly tested out several ways to pit cherries for the average consumer.

I first tried home hacks and methods that required only household items.  You can read that post here: Cherry Pitting: Home Hacks on Trial. Even though I am against having too many appliances and gadgets in the kitchen, I went looking for a possible way to get through pitting tons of cherries so I could focus on the recipes (especially when a test completely fails and I need to re-do it fast!).

So I research and find the single, stainless steel cherry pitter.  One was at Bed, Bath & Beyond for $18.99.  I also found the Starfrit Cherry Pitter.  With the option of “6 cherries at once”, I was very interested.  It was plastic so I was a bit hesitant, but with the price tag of $14.99 at my local Canadian Tire, I considered it for 3 weeks.  (Now when you search during the season, a ton more pop up when searching online.)

After buying out of season cherries from Washington (USA), spending tons of money and losing lots of time for the other tasks I needed to complete for 20 Valley Harvest farm promotions, I bit the bullet and pulled out my wallet.

Did you know that the average recipe development cost charged to companies is about $350 PER RECIPE?! It’s not just the time, but the cost of ingredients, appliances and even energy – electricity for stoves, appliances – add to the cost of a recipe to be developed and tested.

Being frugal, I thought I’d attempt the Starfrit one since it was cheaper and the idea of doing 6 cherries at once compared to the traditional, one at a time, made me travel to Canadian Tire.  When I asked, the employee didn’t even know where to find it and she said they must not carry it.  I thanked her and noted her lack of confidence of an obviously, not well requested item.  So I kept searching the aisle for my solution to my “bloody” cherry hell (I mean problem….).  Well, low and behold, after searching inch by inch, there it was… quietly sitting there with no indication of how purposeful it really was.

So home I went, with a lighter wallet and a hope that this weird contraption was going to make my life easier.

So instead of just showing you photos of how it went, I thought I’d use my daughter to film a quick impromptu video of how the Starfrit Cherry Pitter works from beginning to end. ​

​​

​PHEc Tips to get the most out of this gadget:

  • The fresher the cherries, the more likely the pit will not stay attached to the tiny flap of skin.
  • Not just for pies, it’s a great way to make maraschino cherries for cocktails, garnishes and additions to salads.
  • A great tool if you are also going to dehydrate/dry these into cherraisins (I made up the word and pronounce it “sher-raisins” or “chair-raisins” – which do you prefer?).
  • Store with your canning gear and put away for the season, or with your colander for reminders when washing other fruits, berries and veggies.

Here’s what I think after testing out the Starfrit Cherry Pitter:

Pros

  • Easy to use – It has the same action as a stapler and a child can do it without help.
  • Dishwasher safe – It comes apart to clean all three parts and no handwashing required.
  • Quick – Less work and mess than home hacks, plus this type does 6 cherries at a time!
  • Easier than other pitters – For people that don’t have good hand and finger coordination (Ex: Persons with MS, arthritis, fibromyalgia, advanced or very young ages) – no balancing or strong grip required.
  • Compact – It stores flat with a small locking tab that keeps it flat for storage.
  • Encourages healthy eating – Mr R Ginger ate an entire bowl in 5 minutes when I offered him “some” since they were already pitted.  I’m sure children and everyone in the family will do the same (we never got a chance 😉 ).

Cons

  • Cost is more than home hacks or commercially prepared ones
  • Space – You’ll need to store it somewhere when not in use.

Final Thought:  Yes, I do recommend this item.

IMG_6374If you are picking cherries or making jam or pies, this is a great and healthy alternative to home hacks or commercially prepared with added sugar (10% for those buckets of pitted cherries seasonally available usually).  This became my go to for my recipe testing.  It has held up great under many dishwasher runs, two kids using it and the countless cherries sacrificed for 3 unique recipes designed by Nutrition Bites for 20 Valley Harvest Farms.

I’m not all for new gadgets, or spending money (frugal PHEc here!), but this saved me time and made it easier to enjoy cherries more this season.  I’m happy to have it in my home, and I know next year I will be ready to pull it out.  This cherry pitter is totally worth not looking like a red-handed, mass-murderer during cherry season when you are up for serving delicious pies, tarts, jams, salads and cakes quickly!

 

Note: All opinions are my own.  This was not sponsored by Starfrit and I have not received any compensation or free items to recommend this product.

Posted in Home Economics, Local, On Location, Ontario, Opinions & Commentaries, Recipes, Special Events

I went to a Food Fight and won!

I was invited to participate in the Arts & Cookery Bank’s Food Fight this summer when I poked my head into their amazing heritage and social enterprise site in West Lorne, ON. (See my previous post on the tour I received.)

IMG_0504It was really a push outside my box.  Not the black box that contained the secret ingredients.  The comfort zone I had remained in.  I was asked by Coupons for Hunger to compete in a salsa competition at the Covent Garden Market the previous year.  Being a single mom, I turned down the opportunity. I usually never back down from a challenge, but after a few years of not fitting myself into any specific niche or exact career in food and nutrition, I had less than optimal confidence at the time.   It was a regret I had – I could have taken the girls along (they love these sorts of things!

So, I said yes this time.  I truly believe that everything happens for a reason, and when given second chances – TAKE THEM!  Out of my shy box and into the black box I dove!

The experience was a whirlwind.  Days leading up to the anxiety increased: Would my product flop? Would my friend bail on me at the last minute?  Would I embarrass myself in front of the judges including Emily Richards, fellow P.H.Ec.?

But honestly the day came, and I was happy to just do it.  I was conquering my fears of failure and doing what I normally do: give it my best effort and have fun.  It’s not like I was doing brain surgery and someone’s life was at stake!  It was just food. And I love food, cooking and adventures! So what’s the worst that could happen? I was going to get messy and lose.  Ah well, I’ve had worse happen to me. And wasn’t West Lorne far away from London and Niagara – who would know? Except maybe my twitter followers because I tweeted it.  But who really follows me anyways? But if you are looking, you can follow me here 😉IMG_0693

So we got to the place around 6:40pm.  The first of that round of teams to arrive.  We grabbed a few pics to remember our experience.  We waited, and tried to figure out any hints.  We discussed options based on what we knew:

  • It was to focus on local ingredients but give it a new twist
  • It was to be part of the product development for a signature line of preserves for sustainability at the Arts & Cookery Bank (great idea, like YOU in London, ON)
  • It would possibly use what was in season (being near Lake Erie – I thought tomatoes, blueberries, honey)

7 pm came and we were allowed to enter the kitchen.

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But then we walked in, donned our aprons and each team was given a different black box – so no cheating off others’ ideas! We were allowed to use other ingredients around the Cookery Kitchen – onions, garlic, peppers, gooseberries, strawberries, fresh herbs, carrots, tomatoes.

I opened up the box and we had:

  1. Ground Tumeric
  2. Fresh Ginger
  3. Local Honey

I got so excited and my friend was less than impressed.  I used those ingredients all the time, her hardly ever!

We were also told we had to make an edible paste and 4 litres of the product!  What???!!! They told us they didn’t want a jam.  It had to spread using a knife, not a spoon.  Oh my!!!  This threw I think all three teams for a loop.  Oh and did I mention we had 3 hours to complete the entire task – ideas to product completed and in jars!? Glad I’m an energetic person that is a “planner” and very organized.

So we came up with a plan to do roasted peppers and make a chutney-like spread.  We asked the other teams if we could take all the 10-12 peppers in the basket. They were good with that and so away we went.

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Working as a team with a friend was different.  We both cook daily AND teach nutrition and cooking, but have never done it together!  And did I tell you that we are both Italian decent?  (Of course we were louder than the other groups and using our hands a lot more to talk 😉 Don’t pretend you weren’t thinking it! It’s true and we are culturally proud!)  She roasted the peppers on the gas grill and I began the recipe development.  I tried three tiny batches because we had super limited ingredients to make 4 litres – every piece of pepper was worth their weight in gold!  In turn we worked pretty good together, considering we have our own style and personality.

I’m a ginger lover (yes Mr. R. Ginger can attest to that in both ways 😉 ) and my friend is not.  So that meant that I had to reduce the ginger until she was not completely disagreeing with the amounts I added.  Other than that, I reduced the sweetness of honey as well – that natural sweetener really packs a punch!  Tumeric is a very easy spice to use and it’s difficult to really add way too much.  But it does stain everything yellow – so watch your apron, tea towels, finger nails and skin!

We struggled with making 4 litres and added more onions, carrots and gooseberries to the mix at times.  We used an immersion blender to blend some of the chopped roasted peppers to make a spread consistency and left some for a chunky “edible paste” – definitely not the norm.  The other two groups used the standard corn starch thickening method to try get their product to a consistency.  Hats off to the Sweets Bakery ladies who got gooseberries as a main ingredient.  They did make it LOOK good – like a bakery product with a kind of “whipped cream” topping!

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Looking a little exhausted but task completed!


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We didn’t want to change the taste so we committed to having less than 4 litres and keeping the taste better.  My idea for the product jars was to add carrot ribbons to be a part of a garnish of sorts (DYK: a “garnish” technically HAS to be edible) and make it even more visually appealing.  Topped that with parsley leaves and voila, our finished product:

Honey Ginger Roasted Pepper Spread

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We packaged them up and then found three other jars we were supposed to fill!  So we got a spoon out and started robbing Peter to pay Paul.  We made the timeline with a completed EDIBLE product!  Success!

Funny or interesting things that were part of our experience:

  • Blood, sweat and tears were put into this product development: She cut her finger (yes, even veterans do it!), we were sweating buckets and running around a lot, and I had to chop onions and cried a few tears
  • My carrot ribbons were taken as “scrap” and whisked away to be thrown out
  • We had a clean up crew that was fantastic – and now I realize why “chefs” are so lucky – they never clean up after themselves – Professional Home Economists, we do because who else it going to at home?  I was spoiled to get to use endless dishes! A big THANK YOU to those wonderful volunteers!

We had a great time doing it and all our hard work paid off:  we won the business category under my Nutrition Bites Consulting business!  We were not in attendance, but Grace made sure to hold on to our gift bags/prizes.  We received two cookbooks from the judges Jill Wilcox from Jill’s Table in London, ON and Emily Richards new cookbook coming out in the fall.  We also enjoyed Forrat’s chocolates and other kitchen stuff including an awesome heavy duty Foodland Ontario apron as well.  I’m sorry we missed out on the final event that Saturday, including Fresh Air Media’s Andrew Campbell, who is an educated young farmer in the area who is a great public speaker and media host.

The best part of the entire experience: I survived a personal and public challenge and am better for it.  And it had to do with food.  When can things ever go wrong from pushing your limits?  It definitely made me more confident in my abilities, even though deep down I know that I shouldn’t really be that hard on myself.  I learned to have faith in what I know is there, but the world might not know yet.

Hello World, I’m out of the box now and happy to face my next challenge!

The swag, the kitchen, the product and the home ec brains behind the winning product.
The swag, the kitchen, the product and the home ec brains behind the winning product.
Posted in Farm, Fruits, Healthy, Home Economics, Local, On Location, Ontario

Quality Frugal Food Tip: Want “Seconds” or “Thirds” in Fresh Fruit?

On my gourmet Southwestern Ontario trip this past weekend (one day to be a blog post, hopefully soon), we stopped at Delhaven Orchards in Blenheim, Ontario near Lake Erie. We were blessed with a $25 gift certificate, and honestly it was crazy how much fruit we had to buy to spend it!  (Farmers stands and markets are where it’s at for buying fresh produce for cheap!). 

So what did we buy?


An 11-litre peach basket filled with “seconds” apricots (for $12 – no taxes ever on fresh fruit and veggies by the way in Canada) plus a whole bunch of apples, some peaches and plums (they are fully in season in Ontario right now so fill up your baskets and cars!). In comparison, “firsts” apricots were $4 or so for a quart (the average one pound countainer for strawberries).

And what are seconds?
They are the fruit and veggies that don’t look “perfect” in our eyes – smaller, some marks, or even sometimes under-ripe or over-ripe.


There are high standards for canning companies – so usually the biggest ones go to the processing facilities because they can get bigger slices (but then pack it in cans and lots of added sugar and “syrup” – always buy fresh if you can, or packed in water only).  There is usually NOT bugs inside, and they can be SO much cheaper than “firsts”.   Thirds exist too, but many are discarded or in a case like apples – might be made into a cidre or something that uses the fruit or vegetable but it is processed to a point so it doesn’t look physically like the same thing.  It could still be a natural product, just perhaps not the full, whole food/fruit/veggie.

Watch this little video I made:


(Also found on my YouTube Channel)

So don’t forget to look for deals everywhere but don’t judge a fruit just by the outside. Even peaches don’t have to be red to be the sweetest and juiciest. That depends on each variety, just like apples!

So enjoy seconds and thirds just like you would silver or bronze. Working hard for your money doesn’t mean you have to have the gold standard – you might just be paying for looks, not taste or nutrition.

PS – Those eating solely organic know that imperfect and sometimes downright ugly still tastes good. Nature is not always perfect to us, but that’s because how we view things. Literally sometimes.

Posted in Home Economics, Local, On Location, Ontario, Recipes, Special Events

It’s official – I’m a Black Box Food Challenge Winner!

So, a previous post on The Arts & Cookery Bank in West Lorne, ON did tell of the Food Fight Challenge that I was asked to enter.  I’m proud to say that my home ec teacher friend, Tiz, and I won the business category (yes for my Nutrition Bites Consulting business).  I’ll bring you through the whole process and my experience (good and bad – always honest here!) in another post.  But I thought I’d share a picture until I have time to finish my Black Box Experience post.

Our finished product was a Honey Ginger Roasted Pepper Spread.

The swag, the kitchen, the product and the home ec brains behind the winning product.
The swag, the kitchen, the product and the home ec brains behind the winning product.

I believe they are planning this event to be an annual thing – so sign us up for Food Fight 2016!  We have a title to defend!

Posted in Healthy, Home Economics, Opinions & Commentaries, Recipes

My Worst “Client” – First Episode (Juicing) in a Continuing Series

Welcome to my crazy blogging idea.  I am introducing Nutrition Bites: “My Worst Client” series.  Follow along with the frustrating and REAL struggles people have with their health, sifting through the myths of “what’s healthy?” and using my partner in crime as the basis for these examples.

I am using “Mr. R. Ginger” as my example of how frustrating behaviour change can be to me – the nutrition educator who is educated in the field as well as bio-medical sciences and home economics – yet the realistic problems our lives truly gives us to stay healthy and balancing it with family, time and the rest of a holistic life.

So it won’t be pretty, there might be some tears and definitely some laughs out of this series. It will expose the true life of a nutri-foodie, and how no one is perfect.  I’m learning from Mr. Ginger some of the best things – practical solutions with those we love and meeting in the middle at health and happiness.  I hope he has a sense of humour and no access to internet …………. kidding.  

Join us on the journey of the messiness of mixing two views on health, food and, what else, nutrition!

Let’s be clear.  I do not “juice”.  I might “jam” but I do not really find the appeal to juicing.  I hate extra machines cluttering up my kitchen.  I hate the extra cleaning of things that aren’t necessary.  And I just am lazy – if I want juice, I’d rather have it in the whole food or once in a while buy a carton.

So walk in my “worst client” – Mr. R. Ginger – my boyfriend and partner-in-crime.

Getting used to another adult in my life has been interesting and a bit challenging.  One thing is that we have different types of days: I’m the mom at home with a part time job, he’s doing shift work 6 days a week with hours of overtime.  This results in he is about convenience and I am about from scratch.  Don’t get me wrong – he loves (and can cook) healthy food but has no time for it.

Sound familiar?  Yep – everyone seems to be having this complaint – busy lives and no time to put personal health first.

One thing we definitely disagree on is juicing.  He has been juicing for years (I gathered this info through assumption only). He says it gives him lots of energy and it is a healthier option than caffeine.  I say whole foods are better (he doesn’t seem to disagree with that directly) and that he’s losing all that fiber (he juices carrots, ginger and lemon together – seems that is his only recipe) and other healthy components in the “waste”.  He doesn’t care.  AHHHHHHH! Frustration sets in with this nutrition-trained mother and educator.

So true love means that you actually love all parts of that person – even the parts that you don’t understand (or agree with).  It’s not a deal breaker in a relationship but for my career passion for wellness set me into “let’s change his mind” on this.  It turns out – I might have changed mine!  (Keep reading all you science people – I will show you the other side and explain.)

Waste not, Want not.

So I decided to take all that awesome fiber and do something with it.  I figure all these people are juicing and wasting all this good stuff – but old pioneer would do something with the “waste”.  (Science and history question: Do you know what gelatin is made of at times?  I can tell you it’s not always a vegan source. )  My solution was to make my little one’s favourite carrot muffin recipe and tweak it.

Having spent endless years in a kitchen and having food science classes, I just did my weird concoctions of liquid versus dry and trying to make it as healthy and yummy as possible.  I couldn’t believe that my first try turned out amazing (that doesn’t usually happen in a test kitchen…. just saying…. so it’s something to be super pumped about!).

So Mr. R. Ginger juices a 3 lb bag of carrots, 1/4 of a lemon and about a 1.5 inch piece of fresh ginger. (There are two reasons I picked that name!).

Juicing carrots, ginger and lemon.
Juicing carrots, ginger and lemon.

And this is what is left when I’m done juicing for him (remember he works shift work, and I’m a team player! Namaste = The spirit in me honours the spirit in you.).

Carrot Juicing waste Carrot juice &

Who would want to throw that out, or even keep putting this in my composter sometimes 3 times a week?!  NO WAY!

Resourceful and frugal Sandra to the rescue.  Save the fiber!!!!*

The original carrot cake recipe is from one of my favourite cookbooks, The Essential Baking Cookbook by Bay Books.  On page 57 is a Carrot Cake recipe.  We use it for muffins as well.  It is scrumptious and begged for her First Communion cake (instead of store bought!) by my little one who is 8.  But what I realized was is that this recipe was not going to stand up to the dry leftovers from the juicing machine. So here comes Professional Home Economist and recipe developer extraordinaire – Sandra Venneri aka Nutrition Bites.

Here is MY original recipe. It is notably different from the recipe I used for the cake.  So it was a starting point, and then my creativity took over:  I made carrot fibre muffins from Mr. Ginger’s juicing “waste”*. Perfect for a take-along to a BBQ potluck or family picnic!

“Morning Glory” Carrot Ginger Fibre Muffins

(AKA – Juicing-Waste Carrot, Ginger & Lemon High-Fibre Muffins)

Ingredients:

Dry

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp cinnamon (or 1 tsp cinnamon plus 1 tsp of poudre douce)
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp of nutmeg (optional)

Wet

  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup of brown sugar (optional if using molasses!)
  • 1/3 cup of molasses (alternative is 1/3 cup of golden corn syrup)
  • 1/2 cup of apple juice
  • 104 ml (or 1 single serve cup) of apple sauce, unsweetened
  • 4 eggs

Plus

  • 2 1/2 cups of carrot juice leftovers
  • 1/2 cup of nuts and/or seeds (pecans, walnuts, hemp hearts, chia seeds, etc) (optional)

(Note: approximately 2-3 lbs of carrots, 2 inch piece of fresh ginger & 1/4 of a lemon makes 500 mL of juice and 3-5 cups of “waste” or fresh fibre)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 315 F or 160 C
  2. Spray or wipe muffin trays with extra oil (or use muffin liners).
  3. Combine all the dry ingredients in one bowl and make a well in the center.
  4. Combine all the wet ingredients in a second bowl and blend well.  Then add to the dry ingredients and mix together.
  5. Add carrot juice “waste”/fibre to the batter.  Add nuts and/or seeds if desired.
  6. Fill muffin tins 3/4 full and bake for 22-25 minutes.  Check first at 20 minutes for done-ness with a toothpick.  If it comes out completely clean – they are done!

Servings: 24 small muffins

Notes:

  • So I have tried variations.  And sometimes they do not come out perfect.  This is more due to the lack of moisture – so it can get a little tricky (and sticky) when the balance of liquid vs. dry ingredients isn’t perfect due to different juicers and the amount of liquid needing to be replaced in this recipe.  Tinker with the amount of apple juice used if this is ever an issue and you think you need more liquid.
  • Molasses use can allow for reduction or elimination of the brown sugar.  Using molasses instead of corn syrup will definitely add to the flavour but it can be an acquired taste.  My older daughter wasn’t too pleased with this variation, yet my younger one prefers this one because she actually found it sweeter and I didn’t use ANY brown sugar!

The Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting that is in the cookbook is a great pairing for but I tweaked it for my taste buds as well as to reduce waste and be more health conscious for serving sizes:

Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting 

Ingredients:

  • 4 oz (or half a brick 125 g) of softened, cream cheese
  • 2 oz (or 60g) of softened butter
  • 1 1/2 cup of icing sugar
  • 1 tsp of vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp of lemon juice
  • zest of one lemon (optional).

Instructions:

  1. Cream cheese and butter together.
  2. Add icing sugar to butter and cream cheese.  Blend well.
  3. Add vanilla, lemon juice and zest and mix together.

A while ago, I posted an Instagram of the regular recipe with the Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting here:

Carrot Muffins with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting – Instagram @Nutritionbites

IMG_0057

So here is the result (of just the muffins minus the frosting):

IMG_0580
Carrot Juicing Muffins made with molasses.
Carrot Juicing Muffins made with corn syrup.
Carrot Juicing Muffins made with corn syrup.  This time I used a gifted Betty Crocker brownie “oven” instead of turning up the heat and oven during the summer.  It works well!
And here is some of the conclusions I came to after this (ongoing) experience,

  • Juicing is something that many educated people are doing
  • There is a lot of waste in juicing, that in my nutrition and frugal ways, is not good
  • So much fibre is lost by not eating whole foods
  • There is noted benefits of feeling “energy” by juicing but I would highly suggest this comes from not the vitamins and minerals (do you feel that way if you just took a multi-vitamin?) but from the quick boost of natural sugars in the juice/liquid that are absorbed quicker into our bodies when it’s not within the whole carrot/food.
    • Yet I wonder about the studies of juicing and insulin spikes after consuming these types of juices?
  • There is a way to use the “waste” or fiber that is lost in juicing to keep it in your diet – my muffin recipe!*
    • These are high in fibre so it’s a great alternative to high fibre additives like bran in bran muffins.  (Bran is one of three parts of whole wheat – bran (fibre), germ (vitamins) and endosperm (energy/carbohydrates, white/all-purpose flour))
  • Some people will hold on to their beliefs and habits even after several chats with an educated source
  • Minds can compromise and people can adapt (I call that a practice of mindfulness perhaps) to their family members.  This requires creativity and willingness to not pick on the little things that really don’t matter. It takes the bigger person to do so (um, that’s me in this case!)
  • Professionals that have to coach and help people with behaviour change/modification should be sensitive to know that success is not measured on a piece of paper – it’s measured in happiness based on the client’s goals (as long as they are not doing harm of course!).  They are the expert in their lives – so we can show statistics and science-based evidence, but if they do not want to change, or do not see it that way – perhaps the best thing to do is be empathetic and see how they want things to go, and help them on their path (not the path you saw for them or hope for them).
  • Oh, and for one last #nutritionbites comment: Mr. R. Ginger, the client, noted “lots of fibre” the muffins had after devouring a ton of them. Hint, hint.. and kind of a “ha ha, proof is in the pudding/muffin ;)” as well!. So maybe, just maybe, I might have to lead the horse to water (or fibre).  Just like those who will eat what is put in front of them (which is most people), I think Mr Ginger should be thankful for my brains, beauty and heart 😉 “A way to a man’s heart (and health) is through his stomach”….. and sometimes, in the hands of his wonderful, nutri-foodie partner in crime! 

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Next topics in the Worst “Client” series include:

  • “Cantaloupe loses too many nutrients if you do not eat it right after it is cut!”
  • Binge eating the same meals for weeks, then cold turkey changes!
  • Shift work makes it difficult to stay healthy
  • “I’d really love to learn more about mindfulness but yoga isn’t my thing” – an experiment of possible change

Thanks for reading!  Don’t forget to like, share and comment – I will respond!  And let me know how your recipe turns out!

(Using molasses was inspired by a contest by Crosby’s Molasses, so don’t forget to get creative in YOUR kitchen too with tried and true ingredients.)

*Update: New research and food companies now support my idea about using carrot waste. Here’s the link! http://www.fooddive.com/news/carrot-byproduct-may-be-the-next-big-fiber/424215/

Another article from a Harvard blog supporting my thoughts: higher intake of calories, sugar spikes & not feeling full with juicing. http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/fresh-juice-drinks-healthy-seem-2016072910044