Tag Archives: Jane@WPL

Let’s Do Lunch


“Lunch is for wimps.” Gordon Gecko in the 1987 film Wall Street

According to the blog Sad Desk Lunch over 62 % of American office workers eat their lunch in the same spot they work every day. Social scientists have termed this “desktop dining”.  I admit to sending an email while munching a sandwich. However I vow to up my game by trading my tired brown bag for an Indian tiffin or napkin wrapped Japanese bento box to tote a portable picnic.

If you share my lunch box blues, here are some cook books that will spark your imagination to prepare lunches to help you power through your work or school day:

portablefeast    The Portable Feast provides brilliant solutions whether you’re planning a picnic in the park or eating “al desko”. Here are secrets to packing salads so they stay crisp by layering in a jar to be tossed together later. Great containers tailored for transporting the make and take meal are also highlighted from the latest in collapsible boxes to Korean covered stainless steel rice bowls

whatareyoudoingforlunch   What Are You Doing For Lunch? outlines the benefits of brown bagging from improving your health to enjoying convenience and flexibility. Includes a sample menu of 20 days of lunches.



lunchtogo    Cooking Light Lunch to Go Whether you are a busy parent, student or worker bee stop spending money in the cafeteria or fast food outlet and start preparing your own healthy economical and tasty lunches. Recipes for 80 simple, satisfying and time saving dishes are included.



bestlunchboxeverBest Lunch Box Ever Filling a lunch box is booby trapped with challenges like keeping some foods hot and others cold, preventing sandwiches from going mushy and fruit from bruising and taking into account fussy kids and food allergies. This information from a dietitian will help you tackle packing lunches every day.


So take your lunch break up a notch. Get away from your desk, use a cloth napkin and real china, read a book or listen to music and congratulate yourself on all the money you’re saving. If you estimate $5 multiplied by 20 lunches per month you will save $1200 per year. Now where you will spend all that lunch money?


The 7 Books in My Beach Bag

beach bag

With a surfeit of titles but never enough time, I am on the hunt for the crème de la crème books to accompany me on my all too brief vacation at the beach.

The Guardian recently examined the term  “beach read” which connotes escapist frothy fare primarily attached to books that lack any “really weighty themes or social significance”  but rather should be “enjoyable and easy with brisk pace and simple diction.” Beach reads usually include best sellers of the James Patterson/Nora Roberts ilk which are readily found in the mass market paperback spinner at your local supermarket. Serious writers don’t usually fall into this genre but literary blogs and magazines have included many novelists of note in their 2016 “must read” summer lists.

Herewith is my curated list of the best of the best books to pack along with my sun screen and thermos of G&T.

modernlovers Modern Lovers by Emma Straub. This is the book that “everyone will be reading” and appears on almost all summer reading lists including CBCbooks.ca. Friends and former college bandmates Elizabeth and Andrew and Zoe have watched one another marry, buy real estate, and start businesses and families, all while trying to hold on to the identities of their youth. But nothing ages them like having to suddenly pass the torch (of sexuality, independence, and the ineffable alchemy of cool) to their own offspring.

sweetbitterSweetbitter by Stephanie Danler.  Vogue calls it a coming of age story that follows Tass, a transplant from the middle-of-nowhere who finds work at a fancy French restaurant. The New Yorker magazine pays it homage in its “Briefly Noted” column. Danler deftly  captures the unique power of hierarchy in the restaurant world, the role of drug and alcohol abuse and the sense of borrowed grandeur that pervades the serving scene.

Barkskins Barkskins by Annie Proulx caught the attention of Publishers Weekly. Richly evocative and at times brutally stark, Proulx’s epic novel spans 300 years beginning in New France in 1693.




girlsclineEW’s list of “best fiction of 2016 so far” includes The Girls by Emma Cline.  The summer of 1969 comes electrically alive in Cline’s tale of an impressionable California teen drawn into a Manson-like cult—though the setting is ultimately secondary to her story’s searing emotional intelligence.



summerbeforeThe Summer before the War by Helen Simonsen. The Washington Post recommends this novel that begins in pre-World War 1 England for Anglophiles mourning the end of Downton Abbey.




nestThe Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney is one of Oprah-endorsed “beach reads that sizzle.” A reckless eldest brother drains the trust fund meant for himself and his three adult siblings, forcing them, with the prospect of a midlife bailout gone, to finally confront hard truths in this closely observed, charming novel.



homegoingAccording to the Huffington PostHomegoing by Yaa Gyasi is a “Summer 2016 Book you won’t want to miss.” Gyasi maps out the wide-reaching aftermath of the African slave trade, following two branches of a family tree — one daughter married to a British colonizer in Ghana, the other, unbeknownst to her sister, sold into slavery in America — over the course of several generations.


What are you reading on your vacation or, sigh, commute to work ?



Fermentation 101: A Cook Book Club Update

Fermentation is a process that dates back more than 6,000 years, when it was likely used by our ancestors to make alcoholic beverages and preserve food. Fermented foods are enjoying a renaissance.  Examples include making alcohol from fruits and grains, kombucha from tea and sugar, kimchi from vegetables, yogurt or kefir from milk, and sauerkraut from cabbage.

fermentationfort garry

Danielle Nykoluk promoted the benefits of fermented  foods at a recent Taste Buds Cook Book Club meeting at the Fort Gary  Library. Danielle is a founder of The Real Food Revival which offers traditional food skill-based workshops for folks who want more choice and control over their health and the health of the environment. She demonstrated how to make the health-supporting elixirs kombucha (a fermented tea) and kefir (a tangy drink made from fruit of milk) or a fraction of the cost at the grocery store.

What is fermentation? In a nutshell it is the use of beneficial bacteria and yeast to preserve food and beverages. In scientific terms, yeast, moulds, or bacteria convert sugar and other carbohydrates to acids, gases, or alcohol.

Not only does fermentation preserve foods and enhance flavour, fermented foods are good for digestion. Eating these foods actually improves the balance of good versus bad bacteria in the gut. Numerous studies have documented the benefits of eating pre- and pro- biotic foods, which help to improve digestion and regular bowel function, enhance the immune system, ease anxiety and alleviate allergies.

For more recipes and instructions on how to make your own homemade fermented foods such as bread, cheese, yogurt, beer, pickles and other foods, check out these books:


The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Katz

An in depth exploration of essential concepts and processes from around the world by a leading expert in the field.


Ferment Your Vegetables

A fun and flavourful guide to making your own pickles, kimchi, kraut and more.



Fermented Foods for Health 

Use the power of probiotic foods to improve your digestion, strengthen your immunity and prevent illness


Join the growing movement of home fermenters and get great taste and good health with probiotic foods.


Going Vegetarian- A Cook Book Club Update


Aside from devouring a raw bison liver in his Oscar winning performance in The Revenant, Leonardo Di Caprio is an avowed vegetarian. Di Caprio helped to launch the 2015 Netflix film Cowspiracy, a condemnation of animal agriculture as a  major contributor to global warming through production of methane gas, inefficient use of water, habitat loss and pollution from pesticide use. By avoiding meat, consumers also refuse to support an industry that raises animals in crowded pens, denies them  fresh air and sunlight and  then trucks them to inhumane slaughterhouses.

Besides reducing one’s carbon footprint and promoting animal welfare, there are some other feel good reasons for adopting a vegetarian diet. Health benefits include weight loss, lowered cholesterol and blood pressure and reduction of the incidence of diabetes and heart disease.

The key to a responsible vegetarian diet is to include a wide variety as no one food source is complete. For sound advice on kick starting your plant based diet consult Dietitians of Canada or Toronto Association of Vegetarians to ensure you include enough protein, Vitamin B12 and other nutrients in your diet.

Other tips include:

  • Incorporate “Meatless Mondays” into your week
  • If you can’t give up one animal product, give up all the others
  • Try substitutions – bean burritos instead of beef, marinara sauce instead of bolognese, veggie burgers instead of hamburgers
  • Eat out at ethnic restaurants which often have vegetarian options on the menu such as Thai, Indian, Chinese or  Mexican

Check out one of the many vegetarian cookbooks Winnipeg Public Library  has to offer. Here are some of the recipes tested by members of Fort Garry Library’s  Taste Buds Cook Book Club who made a foray into the world of plant based foods.

lentil-a-roni   Carla’s Lentil-a-roni from Isa Does It

chuckitin    Melinda’s Chuck It In Chef’s Salad from
At My Table: Vegetarian Feasts for Family and Friends

veglunchbowl2 Anne’s Vegetable Bowl from Mason Jar Salads

With a little effort it is easy to eat well, help to save the planet and embrace compassion for animal welfare.

Give peas a chance,



Full of Beans

 “Red beans and ricely yours.” Louis Armstrong loved red beans and rice so much he signed his personal letters thus.


The lowly bean was raised to super food status when the United Nations declared 2016 The International Year of Pulses. Beans, peas, lentils and chickpeas are the key to eradicating world hunger and addressing chronic health conditions such as heart disease, obesity and diabetes. Not only do pulses improve our overall health, they are also economical. According to The Bean Institute the average cost per serving of lentils is 8 cents as opposed to $1.14 for lean ground beef.

Pulses have the lowest carbon footprint of any protein source. Reduced reliance on meat consumption results in decreased greenhouse gas emissions and water usage. The water footprint required to produce a kilogram of beef is 18 times higher than the water required for a kilogram of pulses. Growing pulses improves soil health and reduces the need for fertilizer.

A  study by Dr. Peter Zahradka, a lead investigator into the health benefits of pulses, will look at a reduced risk of diabetes and heart disease as well as a reduced risk of diabetes due to the promotion of healthy blood sugar levels, reduced cholesterol and blood pressure through the consumption of pulses.


The gluten free humble legume is high in fibre, low in fat and packed with nutrients like folate, potassium  and iron. Typically Manitobans eat less than one third of cup of pulses per week. A healthy benchmark is ½ cup a day. Check out these cook books at WPL or look for more recipes online through  www.manitobapulse.ca.

veganbeansVegan Beans from Around the World – Adventurous recipes for the most delicious nutritious and flavourful bean dishes ever.




spillingbeans  Spilling the Beans- cooking and baking with beans everyday




The “Bean Team” from Manitoba Pulse and Soybean Growers will make a guest appearance at the Fort Garry Library on Tuesday February 2 at 6:30 pm to talk about the benefits of  beans and other pulses and to demonstrate some recipes. Call 204 986 4918 to register for this free event.

And join the Pulse Pledge, a global movement to commit to eating nutritious, affordable pulses once a week for 10 weeks.

“Red beans and ricely yours,” Jane


It’s Freezing! A Cook Book Club Update

This gallery contains 8 photos.

It’s that time of year when the piano recital is back to back with the hockey game, Aunty Paula and Uncle Joe need to be picked up from the airport and your boss wants that project done “yesterday”. What’s for supper?! … Continue reading

Food Fights and Diet Wars

“Food is an important part of a balanced diet”- Fran Liebowitz

Nutrition fads declaring the latest weight loss or magic cure-all diet dominate the media. The internet too spreads its share of less than accurate information. It all adds up to dietary confusion.

Most of what we thought we knew about nutritional evils turns out to be wrong. Every five years the United States updates its Dietary Guidelines and recently dropped its recommendation to restrict cholesterol. Scientific evidence shows only a weak link between dietary cholesterol & cholesterol levels in the blood. Eggs and shrimp are now back on the menu.

bigfatThe Big Fat Surprise explores the science behind why butter, meat, and cheese were once vilified and why they now belong in a healthy diet.

vitamaniaVitamania suggests that vitamin supplements are not the health enhancers we might wish. The reason is synergy,  the way in which substances work together. Vitamin C in a capsule, for example, may not act in the same way as it does when its surrounded by an apple’s other compounds.  Synthetically produced vitamins may actually cause more harm than good.

fedupAll studies agree that we’d  benefit from less sugar. Fed Up is a 2014 documentary that explores the fact that for the first time in history more people die of obesity than starvation. The food industry is at the heart of the problem. The U.S.  government issued regulations to lower the fat content in food. To make food more palatable, the industry added sugar. Now almost 80% of processed food has added sugar. As a result, obesity, heart disease, and diabetes rates are soaring.

What diets should one follow to ensure proper nutrition? Taste Buds Cookbook Club wanted to find out. Here are some cook books that were awarded the Taste Buds “seal of approval”:

detox3Beet Avocado and Arugula Salad from Clean Slate which emphasizes eating clean, whole, unprocessed food as part of a primarily plant-based diet.


3 Berry Cobbler from Super Foods is a delicious way to eat a variety of berries. Berries may slow memory decline, reduce heart attack risk and provide anti-aging benefits.

Chicken Soup with KaleChicken Soup with Kale from Kale, Glorious Kale.  A superfood that packs a punch, kale has high levels of Vitamin A, lutein, calcium and antioxidants including Omega 3 as well as 9 essential amino acids.


White Bean, Kalamata and Basil Hummus from Eat Less Salt by the American Heart Association helps you to recognize “hidden salt”, include more  low sodium meals and stock your pantry wisely.

captain'scurry Captain’s Curry from 163 Best Paleo Slow Cooker Recipes which encourages us to eat like our ancient ancestors.  The pros of this diet include more fiber, protein and omega 3. The danger is the lack of  grains, legumes and dairy.

The Tastebuds concluded that a one size fits all diet probably doesn’t work for most people. Incorporate what makes sense for you and ignore the rest. The current dietary recommendations to control sodium, enjoy low fat dairy and dairy substitutes, choose more nuts, fish, legumes and lentils and eat less meat will help to reduce your risk of disease and even increase your longevity.

Bon Appetit!


Stop Buying Stuff!

“We need to remember that the work of our time is bigger than climate change. We need to be setting our sights higher and deeper. What we’re really talking about, if we’re honest with ourselves, is transforming everything about the way we live on this planet.” Rebecca Tarbotton, Executive Director of the Rainforest Action Network from 1973-2012.

It’s Spring – the time of year when I get the urge to purge. I go through every closet and make keep, toss, and donate piles and wonder how I accumulated so much stuff. neverstoptothinkThere are 2 schools of thought on this subject. One is the “more is more” espoused in Never Stop to Think… Do I Have a Place for This? by Mary Randolph Carter, a self-confessed magpie. But the junk she picks up at flea markets and antique shops and artfully arranges is so darn charming.

stylesimplicityHome décor eye candy is cleverly displayed in Style and Simplicity which argues that there is a place for carefully curated ephemera to help us  “live each moment as beautifully as we possibly can.”

prettythingsAt the other end is of the spectrum is A Bunch of Pretty Things I Did Not Buy, a graphic memoir by Sarah Lazarovich. She  illustrates and catalogues items that she coveted but refused to buy based on the shopper’s philosophy, “Buy clothes. Not too many. Mostly quality.”, as well as a “Buyerarchy of Needs”.

life-changingTime magazine recently examined “The Joy of Less” and claims that 75% of garages in America are so full that homeowners can’t park their cars inside. A whole subculture of experts have mushroomed around this acquisitiveness – self storage rental, downsizing and organizing consultants, and junk removal companies. A wildly successful book by Marie Kondo called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up responds to this urge to purge. According to Time her name has now “become a verb: To Kondo your sock drawer.”

thischangeseverythingThese thoughts  intrigue me especially after reading This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein, an investigation into the climate change crisis precipitated by capitalism. Klein urges us to “consume less – right away” and  look at “changing how much energy we actually use: how often we drive, how often we fly, whether our food has to be flown to get to us, whether the goods we buy are built to last, how large our homes are.”

what'smineisyoursThe time has come to investigate new approaches to acquisition such as co-ops and the share economy as exemplified in What’s Mine is Yours. The new minimalism is explored in Everything that Remains.

Is there a happy medium between austere minimalism and overconsumption? Start by considering small steps to limit purchases. Why not have a swap party as a way to socialize with friends, make a change, and save the planet? Everything from clothing to toy and book swaps will help you feel lighter and end up with something new to you for zero dollars. And don’t forget – your local library is the best place to borrow rather than buy resources such as  books, magazines, DVDs, and videogames.


Operation Tender Trap


Without Valentine’s Day, February would be …well, January.  Jim Gaffigan

Can you feel the temperature rising as the countdown to Valentine’s Day begins? As a special agent for the Federal Bureau of Love your mission is to show your partner and/or family how much you really care. With less than 2 weeks to prepare an ambush you need some ammunition for your love arsenal.

Did you know that preparing food for someone is a significant act of love? Why not cook up an intimate dinner for your dearly beloved(s)?

Showcase your talents by fashioning a festive setting. Candles, flowers and wine are the usual suspects but you need to sell your artistic side and create a “tablescape”.  Decide on a pink and red theme. Borrow vintage floral patterned plates or scout thrift stores for mismatchedto make the table setting less fussy and more fun.

Enlist your children, nieces and nephews (because it’s their special day too) and construct homemade hearts to scatter over the table. Find lots of ideas for making delightful cards, love tokens and more lovely things for friends and family in:


Valentine Things to Make and Do  




Proclaim your passion with a perfect menu that says “Je t’adore”. Consult some of the following cookbooks:


Valentine Treats: Recipes and Crafts for the Whole Family



celebrate     Celebrate! by Sheila Lukins





Handmade  Gatherings by Ashley English




Set the mood and stock up your CD player with sexy standards from crooners such as Sinatra or modern troubadours like Buble.







Search Naxos music database for “Valentine Classics” or Hoopla for streaming music by hot new artist Sam Smith . Beware because this may lead to dancing, what George Bernard Shaw called the  “perpendicular expression of a horizontal desire.”

But can a heartwarming meal, bouquet of flowers or even a kiss convey the depth of your devotion? Cap it all off with the power of words and compose a sonnet dedicated to your heartthrob. Or recite a sure fire love poem from Love Poetry Out Loud 


Give in to the schmaltz. Resistance is futile.


Cookbook Love and Hate

gillmorIn their quest to explore the library’s vast cook book collection, The Taste Buds Cook Book Club held an open meeting at Fort Garry Library with special guest speaker Alison Gillmor. Alison tests recipes in her small but well used galley kitchen for her weekly Winnipeg Free Press column Recipe Swap.  She spoke from the perspective of an enthusiastic but (in her words) occasionally incompetent home cook on the topic of “Cookbook Love and Hate” and investigated what makes a really good cookbook and what separates flash-in-the-pan trends from tried and trusted cookbook classics.

While she rarely buys cook books her collection consists of inherited or gifted titles, some swag and some purchased from the sale bins at Home Sense. Due to a lack of space she ruthlessly culls on a regular basis. Books that do make the cut are well designed with glossy photographs because we “eat with our eyes first.”

Here are a few books that have earned a spot on Alison’s shelf:

feastFeast: Food That Celebrates Life by Nigella Lawson

Gillmor is a fan of Nigella’s unctuous, sensuous, earthy approach which conveys her emotional connection with food. Lawson shares what is primal and timeless about feasting. “I am not someone who believes that life is sacred, but I know it is very precious,” she writes in the last chapter about funeral feasts which include comfort food like meatloaf and “heavenly potatoes” to remind the bereaved “that life goes on, that living is important.”

pedantIn The Pedant in the Kitchen Julian Barnes asks “Why should a word in a recipe be less important than a word in a novel?”  Annoyed by vagueness in trendy cookbooks, he wonders what is a “a wineglass full,”  “a glug,” “a drizzle,” “a knob”?  Barnes goes on to chastise a certain young English cook (ahem) for his woolly instructions and general bashing about in the kitchen. While not a cook book, it does give helpful kitchen hints along with witty food writing.

masteringAlison inherited Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child  from her mother and keeps it  for sentimental reasons. Other than “grown up, sophisticated” dishes like beef bourguignon, chocolate almond cake and coq au vin she rarely cooks from it. She fondly remembers her mother’s hostess book which chronicled menus and guest lists, a useful practice that should be revived.

bittmanHow to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman is the “hip Joy of Cooking.” While not inspirational (there are no illustrations to make your mouth water) it is a reliable, trusted, go-to reference for making the perfect omelet or pot roast.


bitterBitter: A Taste of the World’s Most Dangerous Flavor by Jennifer McLagan investigates that complex, sophisticated and adult taste. McLagan has previously researched other misunderstood food groups like Odd Bits which explores nose-to tail cookery and Bones, a reaction to the boneless skinless chicken breast.

As for Alison’s own Recipe Swap column, some of the most asked for recipes include Belgian Bakery meat pies and tortes, Tea Cozy gingerbread, and Tec Voc  butter tarts. While not much of a gadget user, Alison does have a fondness for her ice cream maker, kitchen scale and cast iron frying pans.

In honor of the Queen of “12 Days of Christmas Cookies” the evening culminated with a tea party and sampling of the Taste Buds’ Christmas Cookies. But that is “food” for a future column!