Category Archives: Better For You

Non-Stick Pan

A disclaimer:
I am in no way compensated by any company, nor do I get products for free. I just want to pass along my experience with trying products that are healthier for you and/or for the environment.
This week I tried out the Paderno Eco Pan, which is marketed as a ceramic base non-stick frying pan.
As you probably already know, the old school Teflon non-stick pans are really quite bad for you as if you get even tiny scratches on the surface of the pan, bits of Teflon get into your food. Teflon does not get digested and most of us have a store of this man-made substance in our bodies. One of the ingredients of Teflon is likely a carcinogen so avoidance is prudent. Here’s a link to a brief article about this.
I love non-stick pans, so several years ago I invested hundreds of dollars into an Anolon pan which was supposed to be very scratch resistant and last a lifetime. Hah!
As you can see from the picture it is really scratched up despite my exclusive use of bamboo or silicone cooking implements. It makes me mad that it now has to go into our already overful landfills. I am really hoping that this Paderno pan lives up to its promises, although I highly doubt the 25-year warranty. For a trial recipe I made sautéed mushrooms and onions. Normally I would use a bit of fat, oil or butter, but for experimental purposes here, I have used none.
Sure enough, the pan did not stick whatsoever, but allowed the caramelisation of the mushrooms to occur.
So far, I love it! Will report back if I have any problems with it.

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my terribly scratched $200 Anolon pan. Ready for the landfill, sadly!

 

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my new $35 Paderno eco pan. (on sale at Home Hardware)

 

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shiny new pan!

 

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I’m going to saute some mushroom without using any fat

 

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I like to just wipe them clean with a paper towel, but you can wash them if you like

 

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slice them and put them into the pan over medium heat

 

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the water will start coming out of them

 

 

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add half a finely minced onion: slice into very thin strips from root to stem, leaving 1/4″ of stem end unsliced to hold it together.

 

 

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then slice crosswise and you will get a fine mince

 

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but the strips have to be very thin, about 1/16″, so use a sharp knife

 

 

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add to the mushrooms in the pan and continue cooking about another 5 minutes. You should start getting some deep caramelisation.

 

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deglaze the pan with 1 teaspoon vodka (optional, but intensifies the mushroom-ey flavour)

 

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Doesn’t stick at all! Add salt and pepper as desired.

 

 

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make sure to re-use the mushroom container – as a small paint container for instance

 

Allotment Heaven!

For the 2nd year in a row, Burlington Green, working together with the City of Burlington, has offered garden allotments to the public via a lottery process.
29 8’X12′ garden beds plus 2 raised, accessible beds were offered in this years’ lottery, and, luckily, my daughter was able to get one.
This is such a marvelous opportunity for people to be able to grow their own, local produce if they don’t have the space for a garden where they live. In early Spring the beds are all ready to go – soil turned over, beds clean and tidy. There are rain barrels for every couple of plots as well as a hose hooked up to City water. Thanks to donations from community partners there are garden tools, gloves and even hats available for the budding gardeners.
If you have the space to grow a garden you should definitely do so. There’s nothing quite like the freshness and tastiness of something you have just plucked out of the ground. It’s also a lot easier than you think.
All you need are a few packets of seed or some bedding plants. Thanks to the potential energy contained in the seeds, all you really need to do is either broadcast the seeds directly over the soil, if the seeds are small, or push them down into the soil about 1/8″ if the seeds are larger. Mother Nature, the Sun and some diligent watering will take care of the rest.
If using bedding plants, dig a small hole, add a tablespoon or so of compost and bury your plant into the hole, making sure to tamp the soil around the plant firmly, to try to minimize air holes (air is the enemy of roots!).
If you have broadcast lettuce seeds then you will need to thin out the plants every couple of days to make sure they don’t get overcrowded, otherwise they will just perish. This is such a good method for having fresh salad greens every day, at least until the weather gets very hot, when the lettuce plants will hurriedly flower (called bolting), after which you can’t eat the lettuce as it’s too bitter.
Even if you just experiment with a few packets of lettuce and spinach seeds and maybe a tomato plant or two, your health and well-being are bound to improve. You get outside every day, plus you get to eat the fruits of your labour – how good is that?

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Burlington Green garden allotments at Central Park. Growing like mad!

 

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this is what happens when you broadcast lettuce seeds: mega salad!

 

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Lamb’s Quarters (Chenopodium album). A weed which is actually quite tasty!

 

Junk food woes

20130528-205749.jpgMy life has been so busy in the last little while, with lots of driving and traveling and if I am on the road and unprepared with food brought from home I am sorely tempted, because I am hungry, to indulge in – let’s see….what tempts me? French fries!
So then I think “well, they’re just deep fried potatoes, what could be wrong with that?”
Here’s the problem: they have been so incredibly processed that they really don’t bear much resemblance to a potato at all. Peeled, coated with a sweet and salty brine loaded with artificial flavour enhancers, colour enhancers, anti-browning agents, stabilizers, preservatives and texturizers, they are then deep fried and frozen to be distributed to the fast food outlets. Then they are deep fried and salted once again before you purchase them to eat.
They’re so good when they’re freshly hot and crispy and usually get gobbled up in minutes. But have you ever let them get cold, even just for about 8 minutes? They become inedible, they’re so bad. And if you bring them home and try to reheat them in the microwave the next day, then you realize they’re not really food at all. In fact they don’t even resemble food in smell or taste or texture. This is because all those chemicals that are used to process the potatoes have a very limited time that they actually “work” after which they degrade into other chemical components. All these chemicals and their derivatives really take a toll on our bodies as our livers and kidneys try so hard to detoxify them.
Also, when you process, then freeze, then deep-fry what used to be food, you end up with a weird substance that, although it has calories so you won’t starve to death, has no nutritional value whatsoever, and, in fact, robs your body of valuable enzymes and vitamins as you’re trying hard to digest it.
So, my poor liver and digestive system, clogged with the by-products of the fast-food phenomenon, when I’m really not used to it. What to do?
Drink lots of water, be kind to myself, and try to eat better. In fact, as a result of feeling so “McCrappy”, I have gone on a no sugar kick, which means that of course I can’t have any more junk food ‘cos it’s loaded with sugar, and I feel SO much better! After only about a week!
Maybe you should try it too. Don’t, for goodness sake, be fooled by those TV ads that show vegetables exploding out of the wraps showing how good they are for you – they’re not, not at all. Even the miserable vegetables that are in there are also processed so they will last longer during shipping and in the restaurants. And don’t forget, even though they are supposed to be healthier, they are loaded with sugar and salt. It only takes a few minutes to prepare your own “healthy wrap” made with real chicken and real vegetables and wrapped up so it’s portable. I hear you: “dial your own extension!” and believe me, I plan to from now on, because it’s just not worth feeling “mccrappy”.

 

Are Air Fresheners Bad For You?

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Spring is in the air and so is the thought of Spring Cleaning and generally freshening up our indoor spaces, as well as the outdoor ones. One item that many people will use in the Winter to freshen up their spaces are air fresheners. Unfortunately they are quite hazardous, as they are full of some nasty chemicals, such as phthalates, which are used to make the scents last longer. Believe it or not, some fresheners labelled “all-natural” or “unscented” had the highest levels of phthalates!
The problem with phthalates are that they are part of a group of chemicals known as endocrine disruptors, which affect the hormones in your body and may, in time, lead to illness. Other endocrine disruptors are some pesticides like DDT and (now well known) BPA used as a plastic softener in water bottles as well as PCB’s and dioxin which are industrial chemicals. Endocrine disruptors affect our bodies by either binding with our own hormone receptors, or by blocking the binding of our natural hormones or by affecting the metabolism of our hormones. Either way, the end result is that our hormone levels become screwed up, leading to, among other symptoms – acne, hot flashes, headaches, PMS and mood swings. Phthalates themselves affect our reproductive systems and are especially hazardous for pregnant women and babies where they have been shown (in test mammals) to have anti-androgen activity which may cause feminization in boys.
So, why bother with air fresheners at all? The simplest thing to do is open the windows and allow fresh air to circulate. In areas with persistent odours, such as closets and areas where sports equipment is kept, try keeping an open box of baking soda to absorb odours. For a quick refresh, you can put a couple of drops of essential oil on a light bulb and switch it on for a couple of hours to add a pleasant, all-natural scent to the air. Do yourself and your family a favour and throw out those air fresheners!

Check out this article on phthalates in many commercial air fresheners.

 

Re-charge!

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Mudbath wallow in a hammock

To Re-charge: to revive or restore energy, stamina, enthusiasm, etc.
I have to say that it has been a long, hard winter so (immediately) after selling our home we booked a one-week vacation to Panama. We had never been there before and it hadn’t really been on our “must-see” list, but it was available last-minute at a good price so we thought we would try it. I was pleasantly surprised by the country of 3.5 million people. Unlike many vacation destinations, their economy has been growing by leaps and bounds since they became a republic. The entire country’s water system is filtered, so there is no problem eating raw fruit or vegetables or drinking the tap water. We had a truly relaxing time and I certainly managed to recharge my batteries. It is so important to do that once in a while and if you can get away to do so, then so much the better. I know that for me, if I am home there is never really a rest time, because there is always something to do, something that needs doing or something that comes up. Even if you don’t get to the chore, just the thought of it hangs around your neck like an albatross. If you can manage to get away I highly recommend that you do so, because you can then allow yourself to forget about all that “needs to be done” and……do nothing! Then you get to be a bit of a sloth. I know it sounds bad and self-indulgent but it is truly important to have a rest. Even if you can’t get away then try to do something completely different once in a while. Change up your schedule, give yourself a “Spa-Day” by doing a facial and pedicure, leave the baby at home with a caregiver and go into the countryside for a hike or just curl up with a good book and refuse to do a single chore!
In Panama we rented a car and went into the Anton valley, which is a gorgeous rain-foresty kind of valley. We went to the natural hot springs there and had a lovely mud bath followed by relaxing in a hammock while the mud dries and then bathing in the hot springs which are full of healing minerals. Heavenly! Cost? $2.25 per person! Unbelievable! (correct change only) My skin felt so wonderful afterwards. I also indulged in a therapeutic massage on the beach. With the ocean surf sounds and the breeze and my wonderful massage therapist who managed to get all the knots out of my shoulders for the first time in years, it just felt heavenly. Now I am all re-charged and ready to go!

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beach massage. Aaah, heavenly!

 

 

 

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Corotu tree at night time. Magical!

 

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A peacock just wandering around. They squawk really loudly!

 

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orchids grow abundantly in the tropical atmosphere

 

 

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An absolutely gargantuan Corotu tree (Enterolobium cyclocarpum)

 

 

Spring Cleaning

20130409-153149.jpgIt’s that time of year again – Spring! Time to open the windows to get some fresh air into your home. Time to de-clutter your home and clean everything so it sparkles. Time to wash the windows to let the sunshine in. And, just like Spring cleaning your home is a chance to throw out or recycle the old, unused or broken items that no longer serve you, Spring cleaning your body is a time to shake up your system. You might like to do a dietary cleanse, which consists of taking herbs in a tea or capsule which act to detoxify your organs of elimination – liver, kidneys and bowels. Some people like to do a juice fast which consists of only drinking fluids for a couple of days. This also acts to detoxify your entire digestive system. You might also consider this a time to let go of unhealthy habits which don’t serve you, and pick up some healthy ones instead: Farmer’s markets will be opening soon so how about really trying to purchase your fruit and vegetables locally this summer. Or support a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm. Or better yet, plant a vegetable garden – even if it’s just a large planter on a balcony. Take a cooking class at a health food store to learn how to cook fresh, healthy food instead of relying on processed ready-meals. Anything you do to make a positive change will help get you on the road to perfect health and vitality.

 

A Powerful Yoga Pose!

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In yesterday’s yoga class our teacher, Liz Cloudt, led us in a child’s pose with the forehead resting on your stacked hands or fists. Although it is a truly simple pose it happens to be a very powerful one as well because it stimulates the vagus nerve which is responsible for the parasympathetic nervous system and controls the functioning of our heart, lungs, digestive system and many of our glands. You can also slightly roll your forehead from side to side a bit and this helps any sinus troubles you may be having. Well, this certainly happened to me. Immediately after doing this pose my nose started running and this continued for a few hours, bringing blessed relief for a headache I’d had for a few days. I had no idea there was sinus involvement because I didn’t feel any sinus pressure or anything like that.
It’s astonishing how so many yoga poses really affect different parts of your body. It’s SO much more than just stretching, but far too many people dismiss it as just that. If they only knew!
Researchers at the Boston University School of Medicine reported findings recently which theorize that stimulating the vagus nerve by doing yoga, including practicing 3-stage deep breathing, can help restore stress-related nervous system imbalances. This helps a variety of ailments including anxiety, high blood pressure and cardiac disease. Vagal nerve stimulation has also been used in the treatment of tinnitus and even epilepsy! There happen to be low levels of a neurotransmitter called GABA in conditions such as anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic pain and epilepsy. Their results show that yoga, compared with walking, for instance, substantially increases GABA levels and decreases pain. This is due to the vagal nerve stimulation produced by many yoga poses (or asanas), including the child’s pose pictured above, with your forehead resting on stacked hands or fists.
Healthy vagal tone is indicated by a slight increase of heart rate when you inhale, and a decrease of heart rate when you exhale. Deep diaphragmatic breathing – with a long, slow exhale – is key to stimulating the vagus nerve and slowing heart rate and blood pressure, especially in times of stress. A healthy vagal tone is linked to physical and psychological well-being. A low vagal tone is linked to inflammation, negative moods, feelings of loneliness, and heart attacks.
Sometimes, however, if you’re feeling really stressed-out your vagus nerve can temporarily disengage altogether, producing a racing heart, sweaty palms, upset stomach, dry mouth and feelings of shakiness or wobbly knees. Many people have these feelings if they have to speak in public or before an important exam.
Now you know what to do if this happens to you sometimes – straight into a child’s pose with your forehead resting directly on your hand or fist, and deep slow breathing, concentrating on the exhale. But perhaps you should do this before you take the stage…..