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5 common grilling mistakes (and how to avoid them)

Chatelaine | posted Thursday, Jul 16th, 2015

Even if you’re a master of the grill, after a winter spent away from the barbecue, you may find your skills are a little rusty. And if you’re a grilling novice, these tips are a great place to start. It’s the perfect time to get acquainted with your barbecue; avoiding these common mistakes will result in a delicious summer filled with effortless eats.

Here are five common grilling mistakes, a few simple tips for avoiding them:.

1. Using the wrong grilling method.
There are two ways to grill: direct heat and indirect heat. The direct heat method cooks foods that are placed directly on the heated grates. This is the commonly used when you want a good char on your vegetables, like when grilling asparagus or green onions, or for when you want a golden crust on your meat, like burgers andsteaks. With indirect grilling you create a heated zone on one side of the barbecue and use residual heat to cook food evenly – this method works perfect for grilled pizza.

Direct heat: Cheesy sliders with red onion marmalade.

Indirect heat: Grilled margherita pizza.

How do you know which method to use? Go for the indirect method when cooking foods that require more than 25 minutes of grilling, for cuts of meat over 2 inches in thickness or for highly delicate foods that can burn or scorch quickly.

2. Overcooking meat, poultry and fish.
It can be difficult to precisely control the level of heat on a barbecue, which can lead to dry, overcooked food. The best way to avoid this is to use an instant-read thermometer to check doneness. Fish can be a little trickier; a great tip is to grill fish at five minutes per 1/2-inch of thickness.

3. Food sticking to the grates.
There are a few steps you can take to prevent food from sticking to the grates. Start by cleaning the grates before each use and follow-up by brushing them with cooking oil (this will season the grates and allow food to release). Be sure to preheat the grill for at least ten minutes before grilling and allow the food to cook long enough to form a sear before flipping.

4. Vegetables falling through the grates.
Grilling adds a unique smokiness and complex flavour to vegetables. They cook quickly, but depending on their size, they are notorious for falling through the grates. Try using a veggie basket, or a favourite trick of the Chatelaine Kitchen is to create veggie packets out of aluminum foil like in our warm potato salad.

 5. Over-marinating the meat.

Marinating is one of the easiest ways to add a ton of flavour to meats and vegetables. Unfortunately, it is also easy to over-marinate leading to tough meat. Marinating times are impacted by the cut and size of the meat, but here are a few to keep in mind:

Flank, skirt and brisket: These tougher cuts should be marinated at least two hours, but can withstand up to 12 hours (keep in mind that brisket can be marinated for up to 24 hours).

Steak and chops: These cuts of meat benefit from a shorter marinating time as they will become tough if left in the marinade too long. Thirty minutes to four hours is plenty of time to soak up flavour. Try a shorter marinating time with our tandoori lamb chops.

Chicken: If you’re tight on time, 20 minutes will make a difference to chicken, but try to marinate for two hours or overnight for optimal flavour. For an easy weeknight dinner, try this citrus grilled chicken.

Fish: The acidity will start to cook the fish, so marinate for 15 minutes and no longer than an hour. No time to marinate? Try this cedar-plank salmon recipe – the flavouring is brushed on just before cooking.

12 best sunscreens for every skin type and adventure

Chatelaine | posted Tuesday, Jul 7th, 2015

10 mistakes to avoid when decorating a small bedroom

Alexandra Gater | posted Thursday, Jun 18th, 2015

Mistake 1: Ignoring the corners.

Use the corners of your bedroom to create more storage. A corner hanging bar such as the one below can be used for sweaters or blankets.

Bedroomcorner

Mistake 2: Buying furniture that doesn’t have a dual purpose.

Invest in a bed that has storage underneath or a desk that folds against the wall to maximize space effectively. This simple and practical storage bed frame is from West Elm.

SmallBed

See more common mistakes here

How to be a better grocery shopper

Diana Duong | posted Tuesday, May 12th, 2015

Learn how to pick the freshest produce and the most fibre-rich grains  —  not to mention the best deals and the shortest lines.

Pick perfect produce

Choose fruit that feels plump and heavy for its size. The skin should be firm and smooth with no tears, soft spots or bruises. Store fruit away from veggies (some fruit produces a gas that can make vegetables spoil).

Know your grains

Whole-grain products give you the benefits of both bran and germ, which are packed with vitamins and minerals. Whole wheat products, on the other hand, have had some of the bran and germ removed, although you still get more fibre from whole wheat than you do from white bread.

Get smarter about calcium

Keep an eye on milk fat (MF) in the dairy aisle. Angela Dufour, a registered dietitian in Bedford, N.S., recommends milk or yogurt with no more than 2 percent MF and cheese with less than 20 per cent. “You’ll save calories and still get the same amount of calcium.” When baking, buy buttermilk — it contains less fat than 2 per cent milk and provides the same texture.

Buy better beans

Dried beans should be uniform, smooth and shiny (when rinsing, pick out any that are discoloured, shrivelled or broken). Canned and dried are equally nutritious, but canned beans contain extra sodium. Rinsing canned chickpeas, lentils and beans for 30 seconds has been shown to reduce the sodium by 40 percent.

Shop strategically

Check flyers to see when the sale week begins and shop closer to the start date, when stock is plentiful. The best time to shop to avoid long lines is weeknights after 8 p.m., when the after-work rush is over and some meats, baked goods and produce with a short shelf life are marked down.

Be adventurous

Shop by the season and live by the flyer, says Dufour. “Instead of stocking up on bananas, why not try the pomegranates on sale? Try a new fruit or veggie each month to add different staples to your diet.”

How to start running: A step-by-step guide for beginners

James S. Fell | posted Thursday, Apr 16th, 2015

Running is the king of both convenience and calorie-burning, but it takes planning, patience and persistence to become a regular runner. I tried and failed at least four times before I finally got it to stick. I’ve been a regular runner for over six years now, and I think it might hold this time. Here are my tried and tested running tips:

1. Pick a “go” day. Give yourself a couple of weeks to get everything prepared, but have a day that is specifically marked on your calendar as the day you start running. Start getting excited about this new you who is a dedicated runner.

2. Find a friend. Or a family member. This isn’t critical, but having someone who is of similar abilities who is going to join you on becoming a runner can be a powerful motivator. They don’t have to join you for every run.

3. Get tuned up. Researcher James Annesi reported in a 2001 article in the Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science that for aerobic training in general “music significantly improved positive affect. The elevated emotion was considered important for new exercisers during the initial months of attempting to adapt to the demands of a regular program.” Additionally, runners were surveyed and “a preference for music while training was indicated by 87 percent of the sample. Many participants interviewed retrospectively noted a reduction in perceived exertion while running at any pace with music.”

4. Get professional help, part 1. Don’t go to a regular sporting goods store, but instead choose a store that focuses just on running and get help picking proper shoes, socks, shorts, pants, gloves, hats – all the weather-specific gear you need to start running. It won’t be cheap, but with the exception of the shoes, most of it will last a long time. I’ve put about 5,000km on my Nike running tights and they’re still in good shape.

5. Get professional help, part 2. Many running stores have clinics you can sign up for that have training groups targeted to beginners. These have the benefit of having lots of educational information about the activity, having like-minded people in the group, being regularly scheduled so that you know when you’re supposed to be running.

6. We are Borg. Resistance is futile. OK, you may need to be a Star Trek geek to get that, but there is a lot of cool running technology out there you may want to consider trying. Gadgets and apps that can track your distance, pace, heart rate and probably some other stuff I don’t know about because the only technology I use is an iPod Shuffle.

7. Go day: Start slow. Exactly how far and how fast you go will depend on things like your age, weight, injuries, and previous training. One word of caution: you may have a good cardiovascular system if you spend lots of time on an elliptical trainer, but you still won’t be used to the impact of running. You will likely have the ability to run much further but shouldn’t. Go too far, and the next day you’ll hurt from the eyebrows down.

So, what I’m going to offer is some basic advice that can apply to a broad group of people, but should be altered based on your specific circumstances. It is designed to minimize pain and chance of injury, and ease you into what is admittedly a very difficult behaviour to adopt. Note that you won’t burn many calories in the beginning.

For “go” day, run 1km. That’s it. Walk part of it if you have to. Do this twice in your first week.

Week 2: Run twice this week at 1.5km each time.

Week 3: Run twice this week at 2km each time.

Week 4: Run three times at 2km each time.

Week 5: Run three times at 2.5km each time

Week 6: Run three times at 3km each time

Week 7: Schedule a 5km race for week 10. Run three times at 4km each time.

Week 8: Run three times at 4.5 km each time.

Week 9: Run three times at 5km each time.

Week 10: Keep running, and kick some serious butt in that race.

(For a beginner-to-5km daily training guide, try this program.)

Tips to keep progressing

Nine weeks to get up to 5km three times a week isn’t that fast, but it’s getting you there. You may need to go slower, or you might be able to handle faster. Be mindful of your body in terms of pain as well as personal enjoyment. Don’t burn out, but don’t get bored either. You have an important role to play in designing a program based on your unique needs.

And you want to keep pushing your limits. Running 15km a week is only the beginning. Sure, you’ll burn some calories doing this and it will be good for your fitness, but a better weekly distance is more like 30km. That’s getting into workout warrior territory. That’s when you’re really starting to blast through fat stores and get some serious health benefits. Of course, if you keep adapting yourself slowly you can continue beyond that. I rarely go fewer than 40km in a week, and am usually above 50. I know people who run a lot more than this. If you take the time to slowly push both your distance and your speed in increments, you can reach serious mileage without hurting yourself.

This may sound daunting, but if you follow through, in time you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner. Runners are a special breed. We’re a special breed of awesome. Join the awesome.

James S. Fell is a certified strength and conditioning specialist in Calgary, AB. Visit www.bodyforwife.com or email him at james@bodyforwife.com

Six quick cleaning tips to get your home spotless, fast

Chatelaine | posted Thursday, Apr 2nd, 2015

1. Halt dirt at the source
Rule number one: don’t wear shoes in the house and you’ll exponentially reduce the filth. Set up an area near the front door and line up your kicks with plenty of room for guests’ shoes so they get the idea.

2. Mix your own cleaner
Use an all-purpose cleaner — you can whip up an all-natural version yourself using baking soda, lemon juice and vinegar — and assemble a “cleaning kit” for fast fixes. Include lots of spare rags and a toothbrush for tight spots. Tackle shiny surfaces with your cleaner to make them sparkle (scummy faucets are a turnoff) then wipe down mirrors with wet newspaper for streak-free gleam.

3. Bust dust
Re-usable electrostatic cloths attract dust like a magnet — buy them in bulk and attach them to dry mops in lieu of those pricey disposable cleaning sheets. For an even cheaper solution old dryer sheets also do the trick. Don’t forget to run a cloth over lightbulbs; they will burn brighter and last longer. Dust before hitting the floors with a vacuum cleaner or mop to catch the debris you just unsettled.

4. Rest easy
Always make your bed (it makes getting into it so much nicer). A fluffed duvet can hide a multitude of sins like crumpled sheets. Efficiency expert Donna Smallin, author of the One-Minute Cleaner, advises to keep an extra set of sheets on the box spring for quick changes.

5. Water works
Clean the shower while you’re still in it. Let your conditioning hair mask soak in while you wipe tiles down. Hint: Shampoo and liquid soaps prevent water marks from building up. Use your dishwasher for more than dirty pots and pans. The high heat will disinfect cleaning items like dish brushes and old toothbrushes.

6. Soak it
Don’t scrub what you can soak. Soak a paper towel with a mixture of 2 tbsp baking soda and 4 cups of boiling water. Place over spills in the fridge, close the door and in 20 minutes food residue will be easy to clean up. Donna Smallin’s handy hint for cleaning the microwave: Add some lemon slices to a cup of water and nuke for five minutes. Food and grime will effortlessly wipe away.

8 things to get rid of at home (you’ll never know they’re gone!)

Chatelaine | posted Tuesday, Mar 17th, 2015

1. Old Newspapers
That old pile you’ve been hanging on to for keepsake has lost all significance, and would be much more useful as an added source of flames in the fireplace. Want to read an old article? Look it up online – – it’s probably there.

2. Fridge Pin-ups
Last week’s grocery list, a printed recipe you tried last month, and an interesting article you found last year can all be taken down now. If you haven’t given it second thought in over 6 months, it’s time to clean up that fridge décor.

3. Ancient Electronics
Remote controls, flip-phone chargers, cords, monitors, and more. You’ve since upgraded and might think you’re being organized by leaving them in a box in the basement. You’re really just inviting extra, unwanted clutter. Electronics don’t need to be dumped in the trash…they can be recycled! Take 20 minutes of research to find an organization that works for you. Here’s one to get you started.

4. Outdated office supplies
Since moving over to laptop work, you’ve significantly cut down on traditional office supplies. That hasn’t changed the fact that pens, markers, highlighters and old (used) notebooks are still sprawled all over your house, dusting away. In fact, you could probably find at least 25 dried up pens lying around the house right now if you tried.

5. Old Mugs
Past jobs, gifts, and flash sales have left you with an over abundance of coffee and tea mugs that are now being crammed into every drawer, shelf, and crevice of your kitchen. Which ones are our go-to’s? Keep those. Toss the rest.

6. Bedding and beyond
If your linens are still comprised of old duvets from sleepover camp, college dorms, twin bedding that no longer has a twin bed, or some version of all of these…you know the drill.

7. Tupperware Plastic
Tupperware tends to build up in the kitchen like it’s nobody’s business. Rule of thumb: invest in a fresh supply every couple of years. As for the old ones? No need to be hanging out in a drawer for fun. Image:

8. Expired Food
Need we expand? Get rid of it!

This March on Chatelaine.com we’re launching the Clutter Cure Challenge. Sign up to the Chatelaine newsletter for updates. 

Six tips to help you stay on top of your email

Chatelaine | posted Thursday, Mar 12th, 2015

1. Separate business and pleasure
I have three different email accounts: Work, personal Gmail for friends and a third I share with my husband (it’s where we keep our family calendar to manage appointments and travel plans). Without having different inboxes I’d find it hard to keep track of who I’ve responded to and who I haven’t.

2. Try face time
If an email thread becomes too long, includes too many people or is delivering bad news, it’s probably not the right medium. This is the moment to get up from your desk or pick up the phone and actually have a conversation.

3. Weed out the clutter
I get over 100 emails a day so I have to have a system. When my inbox is full of unread messages, the first thing I do is delete or archive the ones I don’t need to read — I can usually tell from the subject line. The second step is to prioritize (star or label) the most important ones, then deal with them.

4. Email etiquette
Emails should be short and punchy, not essays. I often use bullets, or I bold key messages to make it clear what the purpose of the email is. Also, I don’t care how short it is — that’s no excuse for sloppy grammar, spelling, salutations or language.

5. Stop the deluge!
I regularly take a few moments to unsubscribe from unwanted emails. Simple, I know, but it really makes a difference. I’ve also found that the less email I send the less I receive.

6. Schedule screen time
Every Friday I sit down with my assistant to look at the week ahead and prioritize my time. Then we slot in blocks of work time. I use it to catch up on my emails. When I’m with my family I make sure I spend real time with my children instead of being distracted by my phone. The same goes for my team. We’ve developed a culture of not sending work-related emails on weekends unless it’s incredibly urgent.

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