1. Skip to navigation
  2. Skip to content
  3. Skip to sidebar

Blogs

10 ways to make holiday baking easier

Kristen Eppich | posted Thursday, Dec 18th, 2014

Holiday baking is wonderful. The nostalgia, the aroma, the sugar – it brings back memories and allows us to indulge in some of our favourite recipes. But who’s kidding who, the best thing about holiday baking is having it done – so we can enjoy the wares minus the mess and time.

Here are 10 quick tips to make your holiday baking a little friendlier, and relieve you of at least one sticky measuring spoon this season. Happy baking.

  1. Keep two sets of measuring spoons on hand. One for wet ingredients, one for dry.
  2. Measuring something sticky like molasses or honey? Lightly spray your measuring cup or spoon with cooking spray and it will slide right out.
  3. Eggs to cold? If your recipe calls for room temperature eggs, drop them (in their shell) into very warm water and let them sit for 5 minutes. Use immediately (do not return these to the fridge).
  4. Leave your butter out the night before. Defrosting butter in the microwave changes the composition of the butter and it won’t react the same way as naturally room temperature butter.
  5. Always bake on parchment paper. It saves cookies from sticking and time on clean-up.
  6. Making icebox cookies that need to be rolled and chilled? Cut the inner tube of a roll of paper towels in half lengthwise and rest the wrapped cylinders of dough inside. It will help them keep their round shape while the firm up in the fridge.
  7. If you want to shape cookies in advance, but bake off later in batches, freeze first on a tray. Once frozen, stack in an airtight container and keep frozen. Bake cookies from frozen.
  8. Buy disposable piping bags to make life easier for you and your kids when it comes to decorating sugar cookies. This allows you to have multiple colours on the go, and they can be rinsed out and reused.
  9. Use gel food colourings to tint icing. Gel colourings have less liquid so they don’t dilute your icing and they also have a more intense colour (so add sparingly).
  10. Know some basic substitutions such as these to save time running to and from the grocery store:
  • 1 cup cake flour = 3/4 cup + 2 tbsp all-purpose flour + 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • Rice flour, potato flour and cornstarch can all be used interchangeably.
  • Buttermilk can be made by adding 1 tbsp lemon juice to 1 cup milk. Let sit for a few minutes until it curdles, then proceed.
  • Spelt flour can replace all-purpose flour 1:1

How to budget for the holidays

Bruce Sellery | posted Tuesday, Dec 9th, 2014

Dear Bruce

I overspend at Christmas every single year. How much should I budget for the holidays?
— Julia Graham, Burnaby, B.C.

Dear Julia,

Every family’s holiday budget is different. What you want to spend over the holidays, and what you have in terms of disposable income and pre-existing debt, are unique to you. I’ve found that the amount of your holiday budget matters less than just sticking to it — simply being conscious of your spending makes an enormous difference. That said, create a budget that’s as inclusive as possible: gifts, of course, plus food and liquor if you’re entertaining, gas if you’ll be driving to visit far-flung family members, donations to charity, tickets to holiday shows and maybe even some money to pay for a new outfit if you absolutely need one for the big holiday party. Total it, then decide what you could add or subtract to get to a number you’re comfortable with. Plan ahead to ensure you’ll have that amount in your bank account when the bills arrive in the new year. If you know you’ll be carrying debt, figure out how you’re going to pay it off well before the next holiday season rolls around. And, unless you put yourself on your gift-giving list, watch out for the “one for you, one for me” pitfall, no matter how tempting the sale is.

Dear Bruce

I backed our van into a lamp post a few months back and had to put $8,000 on my credit card for repairs. What is the best plan to pay off the debt quickly and avoid high-cost interest charges?
— Vivienne West, Calgary

Dear Vivienne,

Sorry about your van — but good for you for getting on top of this after a few months, instead of a few years. I would start with a reality check: Create a chart that lists each lender, outstanding amount, interest rate, due date and minimum payment for all your debts, then total it (see chart below). Next, choose a payment approach. Mathematically, your best option is to pay off the highest-rate card first, and pay just the minimum on the others. But some people choose the “debt snowball” method, which is to pay off the card with the lowest balance first to give them a feeling of accomplishment. Next, you need to devise a plan for how you will cut spending and/or increase income to eliminate the debt. Be specific: Are you going to transfer the balance to a lower-rate line of credit, cut eating out for three months or work extra shifts on weekends? Will those things do the trick by the deadline you set? Write the plan down on paper, then share it with at least one other person to give yourself some accountability. Best of luck.

Calculate your total debt

 

Dear Bruce

I want to switch my current no-frills credit card to one that rewards me with each purchase, especially since the holiday-spending season is here. I plan to pay off my purchases entirely each month. Which rewards card offers the best value?

— Anna Fraser, Halifax

Dear Anna,

My five-year-old, Abby, loves the bunny stamp she gets at gymnastics — a nice little reward for a great class. If you pay off your credit card in full every month, you deserve a reward too. MoneySense magazine has a simple online credit-card selector tool to help you find the one that’s best for you. First, the tool will ask you a few questions, like whether you would rather have cash back on your purchases, retail rewards at a particular chain or travel points. Then it’ll ask how much you spend every month on things like groceries, restaurants, clothing and gas. Finally, from your answers, it will generate a list of cards for you to choose from (based on an exhaustive analysis of each rewards program). Before you make a selection, do a gut check. For example, if you don’t fly the airline or shop at the store associated with the card, take it off the list. You will then be left with a curated list of cards best suited to your lifestyle. But remember, rewards credit cards, like gymnastics, can be dangerous, so take the proper precautions to reduce your risk of getting hurt.

How to soften hard brown sugar

Chatelaine | posted Tuesday, Nov 25th, 2014

Even in the Chatelaine Kitchen, accidents happen. On one fateful day of testing recipes, I reached for the brown sugar only to realize that it had not been properly sealed and was now a giant, solid rock of sugar. The silver lining? In a test kitchen, accidents such as these are experiments waiting to happen. So one of the associate food editors and I put our noggins together to see if we could rehydrate this tin of dried-out brown sugar.

After a few rounds without success, we figured out a solution that worked. (And definitely a tip worth sharing!)

Here’s what to do:

1. Put your solid lump of dried brown sugar in a microwave-safe bowl.

2. Lay two pieces of paper towel on top of each other. Fold them in half, and then in half again. You should end up with a square of 8 layers.

3. Wet the paper towel square under a gently running tap until it is completely wet through, but not soaked (dripping wet is too wet).

4. Lay the wet paper towel over the lump of brown sugar so it is fully covered. Microwave for 45 seconds on med-low heat. Remove from microwave, flip over and repeat. Remove from microwave and use a fork to scrape off the softened brown sugar that will be on the outer edges.

5. Repeat this whole process until you end up with re-hydrated brown sugar.

Note: The size of your brown sugar determines how many times you’ll have to heat it. The minimum will be approximately five to six times. In our kitchen test (see images below) we had to reheat it ten times.

Check out how we revived our rock hard brown sugar:

Brown sugar step 1

Step 1

brown sugar step 2

Step 4

brown sugar step 3

Step 5

Recipes with brown sugar: So if you’re looking to make our delicious sticky caramel buns or our brown sugar shortbread cookies, no worries if your brown sugar is dried out…now you can fix it!

What you need to know about this year’s flu shot

Diana Duong | posted Tuesday, Oct 28th, 2014

To get or not to get the flu shot — that is the annual question. This year we asked Dr. Robin Williams, Ontario’s Associate Chief Medical Officer of Health, to address many common questions and concerns.

How is the flu shot different this year?

“The virus is very smart, it migrates and shifts and changes,” said Dr. Williams. ”Sometimes it does a big shift, sometimes it just does a little shift. The world experts gather at the World Health Organization in Geneva every year and look at what they’ve isolated in the previous season, both in the Northern and Southern hemisphere, to try to determine what the best match of the subsets of the virus and the bugs are, and what’s the best match to put in the vaccine.”

This year, researchers have landed on three components, making it a trivalent vaccine. At its best, this year’s vaccine is 90 percent efficient. According to Dr. Williams, it’s usually somewhere between 70 and 90 percent. “You don’t know until you start to see what bug it is we get, and have we got a good match.” But even if it’s “only 70 percent effective,” Dr. Williams says, this protection is much better than nothing. And she adds that the percentage only represents its protective efficacy, and has nothing to do with risk.

Who should get the flu shot? Who shouldn’t?

Infants over six months old can start getting the flu shot, says Dr. Williams, adding that they need two doses if it’s their first time getting vaccinated. The same applies to anyone who hasn’t had a shot since July 2010. This is the H1N1 (swine flu)-containing vaccine. After that, it’s just a single dose. Pregnant women should also get the flu shot. The only people who should not get the flu shot are infants under six months old, anyone with an anaphylaxis allergy to any of the ingredients in the vaccine, or anyone who has developed the rare one-in-a-million Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS) within six weeks of a previous influenza immunization should avoid influenza immunization in the future.

Hold off on the flu shot if you have a moderate to severe illness with fever, wait until your symptoms subside. People with a cold, but no fever, can get the flu shot. If you have a neurological disorder that is developing, hold off until the disease is stable.

Does the flu shot give me the flu?

“I can say with factual clarity that you do not get influenza from this vaccine, it does not give you influenza,” said Dr. Williams.

There are many factors for why people have personal anecdotes about feeling sick after getting the flu shot. “You might have been incubating influenza before we gave you the shot, that’s not to say it didn’t fully protect you – although we do know that if you get influenza in the environment you’re in after you’ve had the shot, it’s more likely not to be as serious an illness.”

Dr. Williams says some people might mistake their illness for the flu. “There’s a whole variety of other viruses that we follow every morning on rounds, coronavirus, rhinovirus, others that can give you illness, and it wouldn’t have been the influenza.”

How do you address concerns about formaldehyde, aluminum, mercury, Alzheimer’s?

Some components of a vaccine have raised concerns because it is perceived as dangerous; however, these ingredients or preservatives are tested and known to be harmless and already naturally found in our bodies or in nature. The mercury found in vaccines, for example, is not the poisonous methylmercury many mistake it for, but the natural ethylmercury, called thimerosal, which  is an additive and keeps vaccines safe and clean, preventing any bacteria or fungi growth. The mercury used in vaccines is harmless and not worth any concern, according to Dr. Williams.

That said, even thimerosal has been removed from some vaccines. “Thimerosal has been removed not because of science, but because of perception,” says Dr. Williams. ”It’s an ethylmercury, not the methylmercury, which is the one that has been associated with Minamata disease and Alzheimer’s.

“It’s been removed where it could be removed, since it keeps the vaccines safe from being contaminated. The multi-dose flu vaccine does contain thimerosal. If people feel strongly, though, there’s a vaccine available, it’s a single dose, without thimerosal. But I want to clarify that this kind of mercury that’s in it, keeps vaccines clean and sterile and allows it to be stored. The ethylmercury is removed very quickly from the body, so I’m not concerned about thimerosal. It has been removed because of perception. We want to go with what parents are comfortable. It’s absolutely safe.”

Formaldehyde, another concern to some patients, is found not only in the flu vaccine but also the diphtheria, tetanus, and polio vaccines. It inactivates the toxins from the weakened virus in vaccines. Commonly associated with preserving dead bodies, formaldehyde has a scary reputation, but we are constantly exposed to it, says Dr. Williams. Formaldehyde is made inside our own bodies, as part of single carbon metabolism; it’s used to make DNA and the building blocks of amino acids. There is a quantity of formaldehyde in our bodies much greater than any small amount found in vaccines, so it is also not a concern.

According to Dr. Williams, aluminum, another additive, has also caused unnecessary concern. As aluminum is found in much larger quantities in baby formula, flour, dairy products, and our daily ingestion than in a vaccine, it is nowhere near being dangerous as well.

Isn’t it better to boost your immunity naturally?

Many believe that whatever is natural is better for you, and that “naturally” building your immune system with vitamins is preferable to a vaccine. But Dr. Williams says there is no better or alternative way to fight the flu than the vaccine.

“I do think a healthy lifestyle is important: physical fitness, washing your hands, a healthy diet, and appropriate vitamins,” said Dr. Williams. “You stay within the speed limit, wear your seatbelt, don’t drink and drive, those are all healthy things all of us should do, and I believe getting vaccines is part of that.”

Flu season generally lasts from November to April, but flu shots are available now as it takes a while for your body to build its immunity.

Drew Barrymore shares her secret to positivity

Dominique Lamberton | posted Wednesday, Oct 22nd, 2014

There’s such a fixation in Hollywood on looking young forever. What are your views on aging?

You’ve just gotta let it happen, and not fight it. I feel bad for people who are struggling with it because there’s just no winning that battle. I think laugh lines are the sexiest thing on the planet — and freckles and gap teeth and wrinkles. Heavy coverage, foundation, Botox — it’s like putting layers on top of this amazing experience, which is so much prettier to me.

You’ve been in the spotlight your whole life. Do you ever get tired of always having to be “on”?

I’ve had a very bizarre life in that way. I feel like Norm from Cheers — everyone recognizes me wherever I go. The only time it sucks is when you’re having a fight with someone, or you’re having a stressed-out moment, or your kids are acting out and you’re going, “Oh my God, everybody’s staring at me, this is awful.” I feel a little raw sometimes, but it’s all worth it.

When are you happiest?

When everything is in balance in my life. If it’s a good morning and I’ve gotten to really spend time with the kids [daughters Olive, 2, and Frankie, 6 months] so they’re happy, and my husband is feeling good, and I’m balancing it all in my house — that’s when I don’t have that worried frown on my face.

I heard you’re learning to cook. What are your go-to dishes?

Pastas and soups. One-pot, one-bowl things. I’ve learned to bake some really great fish dishes — I don’t know how to use a grill, though. But who the hell is grilling at night? It’s nine at night, I’m exhausted, the kids finally went to bed — there’s no grilling tonight. Throw it in a glass dish with some simple seasoning and dinner’s ready. Or better yet, this takeout menu looks amazing, and it will be here in 30 minutes.

What’s your favourite way to stay fit?

A good yoga class will give you a frickin’ glow like nothing else in the world — you need a quarter of the makeup after one. I’m not Miss Exercise Queen; I’m an eat-what-you-want-and-enjoy-life kind of girl, but there’s something to sweating and stretching a little bit.

When you have only 30 seconds to put your face on, what do you prioritize?

That’s me every day! For me, concealer is everything. I feel like I could find berries on a bush to give me some colour, and I could light a wine cork on fire, turn it into charcoal and create a smoky eye, but concealer I cannot find out in the world or nature. Getting that coverage, and a nicer, cleaner canvas, always puts me in a less self-conscious mood. I can do it all with concealer and lipstick.

What prompted you to create your makeup line, Flower?

I’m a girl who dances in my closet — it’s mostly sweatpants in my life, but I think we all need to remember that we’re women and do it up every once in a while. We all want this wonderful glamour, but it should be an attainable glamour. It’s not fantasy scenarios, it’s you. It’s just the best version of you, the happiest version of you, the most empowered version of you — and makeup can do that. It makes us feel good about ourselves.

You’ve been criticized for saying women can’t have it all. What’s your take on work-life balance?

I appreciate why people get so mad when I say that, but I think it’s actually that you can’t do it all. You can have it all, but you can’t do it all. I constantly feel torn up inside. Every time I feel like I’m doing something well at work, it’s time away from my kids. And all the time I spend with my kids — and I’m really giving them most of my time now — I feel like my work is suffering. I’ve definitely had to stop doing certain things in my career. If I did everything, I wouldn’t be with my family enough. You start to prioritize and eliminate. It feels like you’re making sacrifices, and it’s hard, but ultimately being with the people you love has to be the highest priority because it’s going to be the most fulfilling.

You have so many things on the go — from the makeup line to your production company — how do you keep up with it all?

I’m an overachiever in every area, and I expect so much from myself. Most important are my kids, but then I demand so much of myself from my work. I have an ethic where I don’t think that things just come out of hoping or expecting, especially expecting.

You always come across as such a positive, upbeat person. What’s your secret?

It’s other people. I can’t believe how much power there is in people’s exchanges. Everyone is so fast-paced and curt and they’ve got to get to their stuff, but when you just stop and you’re courteous and friendly and your energy shifts from one person to another, you walk away going, “Okay, great! Thank you! Da da da!” Those are my highs throughout the day — positive exchanges with other human beings.

Have you travelled much in Canada?

Yes! I love Toronto; what a constantly evolving place. And Montreal is such a chic, amazing city. I’ve worked in Saskatchewan. I’ve spent a lot of time in Vancouver. I’ve always wanted to be dropped off in Banff and left to my own devices. I really want to go to Nova Scotia. You guys have the best nature; I would love to go explore it all.

See Drew’s favourite Flower products.

Photo, Sara Jaye Weiss.

Page 4 of 6« First...23456