Archive for April, 2009

Colcannon is often served with a pat of melted butter pooled in the centre.

Colcannon is often served with a pat of melted butter pooled in the centre.

It’s the end of week two and Judy is on track to spend $150, or less, this month for food. I’m amazed. She’s bringing our budget back in line after a pothole forced the purchase of a new tire and alloy rim. Judy is robbing the food budget to pay for the emergency car repair.

To completely balance our books she will have to guide us through two $150 months, but not consecutive months. During the intervening weeks, she will not allow herself to build up a huge war chest of a pantry. In fact, her goal is to be under our usual grocery budget during the intervening period as well.

Budget Spent
$75.00 $72.04

For dinner last night we had slices of beef from the roast bought on sale last Friday. With the beef we had some cauliflower, also bought on sale, and some colcannon an Irish potato-based dish.

Which brings us to today’s inexpensive recipe: colcannon. Colcannon is often served with grilled sausage but we served it with roast beef slices with horseradish on the side.


6 oz. milk (Whole milk is best but I used 1%.)
6 tbsp. of unsalted butter
1 large carrot, peeled, diced
2 large bay leaves

2 large shallots, peeled and diced
6 green onions, chopped and with lot of the greens included
1/2 head of cabbage, under 1 lb. of cabbage, cored and coarsely chopped

2 lb. russet potatoes, peeled and diced into 1/2-inch cubes

Cook the potatoes in a large pot of boiling water until tender. About 15 minutes.

While the potatoes are cooking, take a medium sauce pan and combine milk, 2 tbsp. of butter, diced carrots, and 2 bay leaves in the pan and bring to a  simmer. If you do not have a true simmer element, set aside but with a lid to retain the heat. Do not boil.

Next, melt 2 tbsp. of butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the diced shallots, after a minute add half the chopped green onions, saute until the vegetables begin to turn translucent and soften, less than five minutes. Add the chopped cabbage, 2 more tbsp. of butter, and stir until tender but with hint of resistance. Cover and set aside.

The potatoes should now be done. Drain and return to the pot; mash with a hand masher, add just enough milk for moist, fluffy mashed potatoes. Only add milk, retain carrots and discard bay leaves.

Now, fold the cabbage mixture into mashed potatoes. Add the carrots. If the potatoes are moist enough, do not add the remaining milk. Use your own judgement.

Transfer to a warmed bowl, sprinkle with the remaining green onions, and serve.

More traditional recipes also use  kale but I had no money in the budget for kale. I like the addition of carrots for colour and, of course, for flavour. Leaks are often used rather than shallots but I had shallots in the house but not leaks.

For three other takes on colcannon, check out these recipes from the BBC, one version by Kevin Dundon and another by Hugh Fearn-Whittingstall and still a third by Antony Worrall Thompson.

I have found the BBC site great for lots and lots of reasons. If you find a recipe you like, remember to click the print friendly icon.



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Dual flush HET toilets are green.

Dual flush HET toilets are green.

On our visit to Europe some years ago my wife and I were impressed with the continental bathrooms. O.K., we liked the art and architecture, too, but the bathrooms were memorable.

The toilets invariably offered two flush modes: one for liquid waste and a second, larger flush, for solid material. The showers had low-flow heads and were often in the corner of a fully-tiled bathroom. There were no glass enclosures to become soap-scum stained and no shower curtains to harbour mould. You were expected use your head and aim the low-flow handheld shower away from the centre of the bathroom. This simple act prevented water from spraying wildly into the room. Of course, there was always a large drain in the tiled floor.

When we redid our bathroom recently, I tried to imitate the green Europeans. I won my battle over the toilet, it’s dual flush, and all the water fixtures are low-flow but I had to accept a shower door and a bathtub. My wife is a traditionalist, bathrooms must have bathtubs; the plumber agreed. The plumber also nixed the idea of a shower without an enclosure and his simple glass wall approach wowed my wife.

Before deciding on a dual flush toilet I did some research. According to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, CMHC, in most homes toilets account for 30 percent of the total indoor water usage.

I learned that CMHC partnered in the study “Maximum Performance Testing of Popular Water-Efficient Toilet Models (MaP)”. This study, using a soybean paste product, has tested about 730 different toilet models and published the findings.

Based on the MaP findings and ready availability, we chose the American Standard Dual Flush HET FloWise toilet. HET stands for high efficiency toilet. This ultra-low water use toilet requires only 6 litres or 1.6 U.S. gallons of water for a full flush. The more frequently used liquid waste flush requires only half of that – 3 litres or .8 U.S. gallons of water.

The FlowWise model we chose has a right height design better for seniors an elongated bowl and slow close seat. It performed very well in the MaP tests. Where rebates encouraging water saving are offered, this model will qualify. In Ontario, at the moment, there is a $100 rebate available. Ask your plumber about rebates and you begin saving immediately.

We went with a low-flow Moen commercial handheld showerhead. With a flow rate of 1.6 U.S. gallons per minute this unit uses 30 percent less water than the industry standard. And energy costs are also reduced because of  the resulting drop in hot water demand. All the voting is not in but I must confess there has been one complaint. (I can live with that.)

Our other choice for reduced water use plumbing fixtures was the Lahar Collection from Delta. These are water smart certified and quite beautiful.

If these changes cut our water usage as I much as I hope, we will try to take advantage of the government rebate programs and update the plumbing fixtures and toilet in our ensuite bathroom.

(Addendum: We just got our water bill and it is down 20.5% compared to the same period last year. I would not chalk up all the savings to our new plumbing but the new shower, dual flush toilet, and water smart fixtures have definitely played a role in cutting our water consumption.)

Hope this information has been of value,
Rockin’ On

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Week One Ends in Success

Budget Spent
$37.50 $35.49

Week one is over and my wife did it! I’m amazed. Her grocery bill for the week came in under budget by $2.01. Even better, I can report we ate well.

The lady knows how to shop. She knows prices and recognizes the sales worth chasing. Luckily, we live in a community surrounded by competing grocery chains. She goes through the food flyers the moment they arrive, and early Friday morning she sends me on a loop picking up bargains.

This week we got a boneless, outside round, beef roast three and a half pounds for $6.92. I’m not sure what she’ll do with it but I bet it involves the slow cooker. She’ll get five days of meals from this roast, I’m sure.

Some of the other sale items I picked up were: broccoli at 99 cents, potatoes and onions at $1.50 for five pound bags, and 24 Astro Yogourt for $6.49. I blew some big money on lasagna noodles and ricotta cheese, $5.98, but the baked lasagna will last us for days. She wasn’t happy with the expense but I got my way by promising to do the cooking.

A turkey pie made from the turkey soup leftovers.

A turkey pie made from the turkey soup leftovers.

A simple, healthy and inexpensive lunch.

A simple, healthy and inexpensive lunch.

A central trick to stretching a food budget is making sure everything is used. No waste is allowed. The soup, left, was made from turkey remaining from our Easter dinner and the pie, right, was made from leftovers from the soup. Both meals were quite good.

Please, check back next week to see how Judy is doing. Cheers, Rockinon.

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Do you have a good picture from London, Ont.? Share it!

Are you from the London, Ont., area? Do you enjoy photography? Well, share your work on londondailyphoto1.

You say you don’t have a good camera. No problem. Honest. All the pictures above were taken with a five-year-old Canon SD10 point and shoot. It has a fixed, somewhat-wide angle lens, no telephoto on this little thing, and the file size is only 4 MB.

A Canon SD10 will fit into the watch pocket of a pair of jean.

A retired newspaper shooter and former photography teacher, I post photography advice along with almost daily photos. Interested in sending a photo? Send pictures, photography questions, or suggestions to London Daily Photo.

A Canon SD10 fits into the watch pocket of a pair of jean.

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Both green and black teas were found to reduce the risk of stroke.

Both green and black teas were found to reduce the risk of stroke.

This sounds too good to be true, and maybe it is. After all, the following UCLA study of tea was funded by The Unilever Lipton Institute of Tea. That said, the results were credible enough to rate publication in the online edition of Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association, mention in the University of California, Berkeley, Wellness Letter, and to be presented at the American Heart Association’s annual International Stroke Conference in San Diego.

What were the findings? Answer: Drinking three or more cups of green or black tea a day can significantly reduce the risk of stroke. Drink up and lower your odds of suffering a stroke. The more you drink, the greater the benefit.

Lead author Lenore Arab, a professor of medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine reported, ” . . . the risk of a stroke was reduced by 21 percent. It didn’t matter if it was green or black tea.”

The bottom line is that a randomized clinical trial is now needed to confirm these findings. But, if you needed an excuse to visit the Tea Haus in the Covent Garden Market or Everything Tea at 353 Talbot St., both in London, Ontario, hey, now you’ve got one. Enjoy!

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Please note there have been two good comments added to my previous post on new urbanism.

One comment contained a link to a New York Times article on shrinking cities. Planned shrinkage “is moving from an idea to a fact,” said Karina Pallagst, director of the Shrinking Cities in a Global Perspective Program at the University of California, Berkeley. For confirmation, look no farther than the communities of Indianapolis and Little Rock.

Other cities, like Flint, Michigan, do not have a choice. Community leaders in Flint are talking about demolishing entire blocks and even whole neighbourhoods. (Read the article in the NY Times.)


The other comment was a recommendation of Last Harvest, a book by Witold Rybczynski, an architect and professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Design. The London, Ontario, library system has three copies. (I borrowed one.) The title, Last Harvest, refers to the last cash crop a farmer harvests from his land: the cash reaped from the sale of the land to a developer.


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It took only 17 hours after posting a blog mentioning the CBC for the corporation to hit my blog.

It took only 17 hours after posting a blog mentioning the CBC for the corporation to hit my blog.

First off, this is NOT a “big brother is watching” fear story. The fact that corporations identify themselves when hitting a blog is good. They are not being secretive.

That said: Post a piece on Loblaws and within hours their name will appear as a party hitting your blog, hitting the very piece that mentions them.

I’ll tag this with the names of three of the businesses that have hit my blog and maybe one of them will contact me and let me know the reason for their interest.

In fact, I’d be happy to hear from anyone with an explanation.


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