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. ​

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​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 Healthy, On Location, Opinions & Commentaries

I gallivanted in West Lorne, Ontario and ended up there the whole day!

If you live anywhere in Ontario I bet you are thinking “Where?”, “Are you kidding?” or “You are lying!”

I began my trek at 9:30am by tweeting @ElginCounty where good foodie or farm places to go in between London and West Lorne. They responded with two farms that I still have yet to go to! It wasn’t because I didn’t want to, I had to let my dog out back home (my grandma would enjoy that saying -her big excuse to leave somewhere – but this time it was true!).

My purpose of going was to fill out paperwork for volunteering at a kids cooking class at West Elgin Community Health  Center. Conversations with Shelly led to my Twitter account, my tweet from the county, and low and behold another recommendation.

So off I went to Fit Workz.


It looked cheery and Shelly, who recommended it, was an amazing community person so I went in.

A hallway with many doors and openings made me peak into the first opening on the left. A small room had Steele working in it. I asked to come in and if they sold food. She welcomed me in. I took one look:


and even though it looks like not much – smaller menus can mean tried and true favourites with less waste.

I chatted with Steele who was attending university for nutrition and family studies after not choosing dietetics stream. (A post on that should be done one of these days!). She was lovely. I couldn’t decide so I picked both a salad with quinoa and the curry chickpea blend.  Not being big on smoothies I took Steeles favourite one for a spin too.

  

It was so nice to sit outside and eat but it went into my belly very quickly!



And yes the sign is right, a cute small stand of organic fresh fruits and veggies they have inside too!

So for three items it was $17 approximately. Not bad for quality stuff and a big green smoothie made right in front of me.  I’m not big on green smoothies in general. The cucumbers helped me out but throw a berry in it (I should have asked ) and it’d be perfect for my taste. Knowing most people though… It was fab for smoothie people.

But I wasn’t done … Walking back to the health Center (Fit Workz is super close and on Main St) I jumped into the car after posting on Facebook (www.facebook.com/nutritionbitescanada if you are looking) and started driving.

I was not 2 minutes before I saw something that had caught my eye on Twitter AND those tourist signs cities and towns put up. I drove past these buildings and yes, the awesome black flags flagged me down and in!


Welcome to one of the most unique spots I have ever been to! The Arts & Cookery Bank.

It’s a blend and connection of:

  • Two buildings – a bank and a barn.
  • Two times – the past and modern day.
  • Two types of communities – rural and big city.
  • Two types of purpose – Arts (photos, graphic design, architect) and Cooking (holy Batman I’m in love with the kitchen!)

So I walk in to see what this tweet that said something from farm to cookery and Rogers TV doing an episode there.

I walked in and above a beautiful wood and cushioned bench – the wall’s message explained it so well.

  Welcomed so warmly by a fabulous employee I was immediately asked if I wanted a full tour! YES PLEASE!

So first she took me into the huge barn turned into kitchen.  What you can’t see is the amazing Pony Stalls on the left with the original sliding barn doors – 3 of them!  Behind them is where student interns and many computers reside.  They are big on photography as an art.
  They were doing a planning session for their Food Fight coming up in July!  Saturday, July 18th it is open to the public 3-8pm for demonstrations, lots of goodies and awarding the best product made during the week of Food Fights.   Fellow OHEA member and P.H.Ec., Emily Richards (cookbook author), will be one of the guest judges. And Fresh Air Media, Andrew Campbell, will be speaking on the Saturday – he’s very well-spoke and a riot.  I met him at a Dietitians of Canada conference two years ago and we sat beside each other at a Canada Beef/Dairy Farmers informal dinner.  Great local farmer to be speaking.

This event is highly recommending you make your way down on Saturday, July 18th for this very well put together fundraiser (and for you it’s free!). For more info: http://theartsandcookerybank.com/page/food_fight


Ok so I need to continue the tour…. in between the barn and the bank is the entrance I originally walked into. It was recently built (did she say 2004?) to connect the two donated buildings.  And then you walk into The Vault.  On one side it says this:  Wow – I hope you read that to the bottom.  (Read again if you missed it.  Go ahead.  I will wait.)

The other side is what they were talking about – prints.  I love it – not hand prints but finger prints as in breaking into the bank!  Adorable.  Those who live in the community can do this.  Amazing.
  Remember, that wherever you live – especially if it is a big city – you might feel like you can’t be a part of your community.  Whether you think you affect your community or not, I challenge you to think – when was the last time you saw a neighbour helping a neighbour.  When was the last time you volunteered your time?  When was the last time you dragged their garbage and recycling cans in, just so they didn’t have to when they came home from work after you?  All those small things actually do help and are appreciated.

Be good.  Do good.

That will always leave a mark on your community for the better.  BE & DO!  It doesn’t work if you do nothing or don’t include good and positive.  We are afraid of going out of our way for neighbours and strangers.  When I have done things to help, or ask someone if they need something – they always look in shock.  Community is connections.  And sometimes it starts by smiling, opening a door and genuinely asking how they are or how you can help.

  
So into the bank we go.  A beautiful hanging dividers with photography art.  Around the room are all the historic families that contributed to West Lorne.  Imagine all the research it took.  I’m so happy someone preserved all those documents and photos.  Then, the art of the architecture and design.  Look at those ceilings!  Look at the windows.  And love the fireplace (how else would they warm the building?).

We went upstairs to what would be the Banker’s apartment.  That would be some good security if a person was always above the bank!  Upstairs has many resources to pick up and maps so you can pick different trails (driving mostly) to discover towns, history (quilt art trail) and southwestern ontario culinary day trips.  As well, there are meeting rooms, more computers for photo editing (upstairs is the Mac behind that wall).  I think they should have a Christmas historic bash with a live band and appetizer stations set up throughout the whole place.  That would be amazing party I would attend!

And that’s not all…

If you were watching my instagram (www.instagram.com/nutritionbites) or twitter (www.twitter.com/nutritionbites8) you will know that somehow I said yes to entering the Food Fight on the Wednesday night!  They still have openings for you to compete against other organizations and companies (think team building!).

  I will be representing ‘NSTEP – the charity I work with.  We teach nutrition and physical activity to children with the mission of eliminating childhood obesity and all the health concerns that go with it.  (More info on that or contacts please visit http://www.nstep.ca).  Unfortunately, my co-workers have other part time jobs and I’m still left without a partner.  My mom was my next go to, but she has bummed out her knee.  So still looking for a partner in crime for this event.  If not, I’m going to be on my own!  Ah well, I’ll still be trying and supporting a great cause AND getting messy in a kitchen – yes please!!!

So I’m inviting you to take a Sunday, or Saturday (July 18th) drive to West Lorne.  It was less than an hour from my Northwest London home.

Definitely hit up Fit Workz for lunchhttps://www.facebook.com/ginasfitness

Stop into The Arts & Cookery Bank for a historic, artistic and yummy destination. A high-end non-profit is a great blend of a museum, community centre and local art & food education centre. http://theartsandcookerybank.com/page/home

And next time I’m there, I’m going to take Elgin County’s advice and try out those farms: Great Lakes Farms & Empire Market.  If you go first, let me know how it is:  Comment below or tweet me at @nutritionbites8 .

Who can really love Canadian history, food, art and community and not stop in here?  Like Paul Brandt would sing, Small Town, Big Dreams.  And did they ever dream big and make it a reality!

Posted in Uncategorized

I’m a single mom and I cheated; here’s why I continue to…

Did I catch your attention? Ha ha! I knew I would.  ME? CHEAT? How could that be true my friends and family would say???!!!

Ok…. the truth is I cheated on my values of whole foods, four food groups, cook everything from scratch, and to minimize pre-packaged food and processed foods.

And I still do!

Why this confession you might be asking?

Because it’s the truth!  And I think that even though my professional life and personal life is almost one in the same based on values, I am a human living in the year 2014.  And honestly being a stay at home mom is just as difficult as being a single mom. Even when the kids are gone.  I am shocked that two years after separation (hmmmm interesting coming up on the anniversary in 4 days actually), I am still not always reaching my daily healthy living goals.

My values and daily goals towards holistic health (mind, body, soul) are just that.  Goals.  Sometimes I reach them, and other days I fail miserably.  Most days are somewhere on that continuum.

But really what I want in this confession is to tell you that even though I am a Professional Home Economist with a degree in Nutritional & Nutraceutical Sciences as well as re-certifying to be a Registered Dietitian, I can only do my best.  And sometimes it is this:

Single mom dinner / linner.
Single mom dinner / linner.

And even in my idea of confessing my “sin” I realize now I forgot to show the bag of pre-prepared shredded carrots that I had swiftly shoved back into my fridge (future post I’m going to do about my fridge!). So also please forgive me for not even getting the picture “right”.

But yes, three acute illnesses (none of them the flu or a virus by the way….yet… knock on wood!) in my family within 5 days sent my home into the “bare minimum”.  Have you ever had that — just hanging on for dear life and honestly just getting through the days.

So please notice the pre-cooked protein chicken (meant as a treat for my daughter’s lunch this week) and the pre-packaged lettuce field mix.  I did end up cutting up a cucumber and putting some in (guilt had set in) and I, with a bit of exhaustion, cut up the rest and put it into a lock’n’lock container (hoping that it would not turn to mush before I can get to it later).

The salad dressing (poured directly on top and then a pour from the EVOO bottle on top to make it improperly) and cheese (leftover – used it up after I took the pic) and ta dah!  GOOD ENOUGH!

In this world, we are all busy.  All of us – including us: the people that are supposed to be these more “perfect” people at doing it.

But really, I forgive myself for doing it. If you truly knew all the happenings in my life, you would too.  What do you expect of me – single mom, student, home owner (leaves today!), charity worker (managing the Ontario portion) teaching, volunteering at community kitchens and writing a local column, a basement flood recently, a broken car, a great dane and a crazy cat….. oh wait…. fun… yes please – I fit that in too as well as being a daughter who lives 2 hours away from her parents and tries her best to visit.

So list all of the things you do in a day…. but list all the good stuff.

So I looked at my meal and saw the good stuff:

Single mom dinner / linner.
Single mom dinner / linner.
  • I had a complete meal – veggies (dark green & orange is recommended EACH day!!), meat/protein (chicken), milk food group (cheese), and a healthy fat/oil – EVOO
  • I fed my recovering body
  • I tried my best
  • I stuck with my values
  • I took care of myself (many moms and dads don’t!)
  • I ate a real meal when my kids were gone (single adults – young or old can relate to this!) and no one to share a meal with
  • I gave myself a pat on the back instead of “should”ing on myself (say that out loud…. 😉
  • I used my personal life in my professional life to teach/lead/inspire (hopefully) even in a little way
  • I had fun having this idea and making an instant project
  • I promote and honor single parents

So with that, my “linner” (lunch/dinner in the afternoon) is done, the insurance construction crew is gone, and I am about to go run errands and attend an orientation meeting for another volunteer position 😉

But just so that we can be clear, the guilt can always set in…. and so I thought I’d leave you with the fact that balance is necessary – even in our judgement of each other and our own lives.  Whether you are the newest expert in nutrition and health, or the person who doesn’t know where to start.  The best thing is to keep trying your best and know NO ONE is perfect and everyone cheats!

Balance is everything…. so I finished my meal off with dessert: carrot muffins me and my daughter made this week for “family night”.

Homemade carrot muffins.
Homemade carrot muffins.

I think that was the “guilt” setting in…. 😉 Kidding – just proud of the times I can do it.  And it’s better because I was baking in the kitchen with my younger daughter.  That’s the life I want…. family in the kitchen – just loving the basics and enjoy the messiness of it all!

Signed without apologies,

The Nutrition “Cheater”