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Treat Yo’ Pets!

Posted by on 3:49 pm in Featured appliance, Workshop Sneak Peeks | 0 comments

Treat Yo’ Pets!

Among the Kitchen Library team are almost as many pets as people, so when we were asked by the Toronto Public Libraries if we could put together a workshop on homemade pet treats, I jumped at the chance! We’ll be hosting this program twice in the coming months: on June 9 from 2-3pm at the Wychwood Library, and again on September 8 from 4-5pm at the Northern District Library. Today, I’ve got just a quick teaser, so to learn more, get some recipes and tips, and share ideas, you’ll have to come see us! Why Make My Own Pet Treats? Just like with food for your babies, homemade pet treats are often healthier with fewer preservatives and give you more control over what goes into your pet’s diet. Because most of our pets are smaller than adult humans, preservatives like added sodium and sugar can have a greater impact on our pets than we might imagine, and in addition to standard differences in food needs among pets, some breeds and individual animals will have more specific needs than others. Making your own means you decide! An additional bonus to this is that if you are working hard on a training process, you can make adjustments to ensure your pet isn’t receiving too much of an ingredient they should only receive in small amounts, or that you have easy access to a high-value treat to help with more challenging tasks.  Types of Treats There are two major categories of homemade pet treats: Single-ingredient treats like liver or other meat treats that may be dried, dehydrated, or baked. Mixed treats, which come out more like cookies. The first category of treats are often the simplest and healthiest, but can be more expensive whether homemade or store-bought. The second category are less expensive, but working out the mix of ingredients can be trickier. Always talk to your pet’s veterinarian before introducing a new food category, as some pets may be more sensitive to grains, sugars, veggies, or protein than others, especially if their diet usually doesn’t include them. Tools for Making Homemade Pet Treats The recipes (with samples!) you’ll find at our homemade pet treat workshop take advantage of several tools from the Kitchen Library collection, including: Our meat-friendly dehydrator, for drying liver and chicken treats as well as apple, banana, and sweet potato chips, which my dogs adore above all things, A powerful food processor, for making whole-grain flours from rice and oatmeal, A stand mixer for combining sticky ingredients,  A pastry tip kit for making various shapes out of mixed ingredients, and A mandolin, for making thin slices of fruits and veggies prior to dehydrating. We hope to see you at our workshops in June and September, and hope we can give you some ideas to treat yo’...

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Free (canning) pot!

Posted by on 2:50 pm in Featured appliance | 0 comments

 Ta da! After searching high and low in the city, we finally found this beauty to lend FOR FREE from our Regent Park location.  Why a canning pot? Like knitting, canning is an artform that’s been making a comeback lately. Canning enables people to eat healthy all year long, which we love. But learning to can — jams, jellies, pickled veggies, and other preserves — puts you in charge of the ingredients going into your food at a fraction of the cost you’d buy these same items at the grocery store. And if canning isn’t your jam (see what we did there?), this pot can be used for big batch cooking — soups, stews, sauces, etc. How can I borrow this item for free?  Come on in to CSI Regent Park (585 Dundas St. E, 3rd floor) on Thursdays 12pm-7pm. All we need is your contact info and the pot is all yours for 7 days. Easy peasy! Happing...

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Things we need

Posted by on 10:19 am in Sharing economy | 0 comments

As someone who hates clutter and shopping, I consider myself a minimalist. Which works well in the teeny tiny apartment I share with my fiancé, dog, and cat. These minimalist values, of course have been absorbed into The Kitchen Library’s mission and it guides our decision-making process as an organization. However from time-to-time we need certain items but purchasing these things just doesn’t jive with our values (or our teeny tiny budget). So we’re crossing all of our fingers and our toes and hoping someone out there can help make these three wishes come true: 1.  A tablet. I’ve discovered that paying via Paypal is a pain in the butt for new members and there’s this cool gadget called Square that would let people pay for memberships using their credit cards. Unfortunately Square only works with these devices and these devices certainly don’t work with our budget. If you have an extra one kicking around, email me: dayna@thekitchenlibrary.ca. 2. A canning pot. In order to accommodate all income levels at our 2nd location in Regent Park, I want to offer an appliance people can borrow for free. Why a canning pot? Well, they’re large and take up a lot of space, they can be used for big batch cooking, and if you don’t know how to can you can learn a new skill using it. If you have a canning pot you’re willing to donate, just drop it off during any of our open hours after the holidays. 3. An illustrator. We would love to illustrate the “How It Works” page to make it easy to understand and accessible to people who aren’t fluent in English. This is actually something I wish we had the budget to pay for because we want to support creative professionals and their businesses. If you’re an illustrator interested in donating your time and skill to The Kitchen Library please reach out to...

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Sneak Peek: Meal Planning Tips & Tricks

Posted by on 4:00 pm in Workshop Sneak Peeks | 0 comments

Are you just starting to cook for yourself and struggling with building your meal plans? The Kitchen Library has a workshop for that! For those of you who haven’t yet made it to one of our meal planning workshops at a branch of the Toronto Public Library, this list of tips & tricks for meal planning might just help you get started until you get a chance to join us! Meal Planning Tips & Tricks (Adapted from our Meal Planning workshops, originally drafted by board member Olivia Scobie) Theme Nights: setting up a rotation of theme nights can help you narrow down your choices, as well as letting you create variations on a theme as you get to know the basics of a recipe. Ideas include: taco nights, homemade pizza nights, soup and salad nights, pasta nights, “meatless Mondays,” and so on. This not only takes some of the thinking out of your planning, but creating variations can also be a fun family activity! Prep Ahead: Set aside some time each week to get your groceries ready-to-go. Wash and chop your fruits and veggies for snacks, portion ingredients and bulk items into smaller containers, and make sure your frozen items are portioned so you can thaw only what you need! Setting aside sections of your fridge, freezer, and/or pantry specifically for already-prepped items helps you make sure you have what you need as the week progresses. Remember, Out of Sight, Out of Mind: It can be tempting to fill your fridge to bursting when items are available or on sale, but having the fridge so full you can’t see what you have can lead to waste. If you do keep a full fridge, it can help to keep a list of what’s inside on a dry-erase board nearby, so you don’t forget the things that you can’t see!  Use What You Have: When making your meal plans and grocery lists, start by checking your fridge, freezer, and pantry for ingredients that need to be used up. To help you follow this rule, remember First In, First Out when you’re putting away groceries. Make sure you pull older items toward the front and put newer items at the back. This will ensure that you use items closer to their expiration dates first! The Freezer is Your Friend: You’ve probably heard of freezer meals (which are a topic for another workshop entirely!) but did you know that most fruits and veggies can be chopped and frozen in portions that make them easier to grab-and-go later? Pre-portioning chopped fruits like strawberries, bananas, mangoes, etc for smoothies is a great way to incorporate more fruit into your diet (and several non-fruit add-ins like spinach and kale actually freeze very well!). Onions, peppers, and other veggies can be chopped ahead of time and separated into the measurements you use most often, which does the double duty of keeping them from spoiling as quickly and making meal preparation simpler! Interested in learning more? For more tips, tricks, tools, sparks to help your brainstorming sessions, and starter menu ideas, heck with your neighbourhood library branch and see whether they have any upcoming workshops with us, and if not, have your librarian get in touch with us about setting something...

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Don’t Wait Until It’s Perfect: Diving into Cooking in an Understocked Kitchen

Posted by on 4:35 pm in Home | 0 comments

I spend a fair bit of time talking to people who are either setting up their first kitchens or trying to break into homemade cooking after years of unfamiliarity or outright avoidance. It’s not unusual that I find them hesitating to get started because they don’t yet have a stand mixer, or they haven’t managed to collect a full set of knives or pans, or their stoves are small, or…they otherwise just generally don’t feel equipped. If you’re nodding along with those sentiments as you’re reading, know this: unless you’re in a really serious kitchen situation where you don’t have a stove at all, or it doesn’t work (which I know happens!), you’re probably more ready than you realize. I admit I’ve gotten myself into the same kind of rut, where all the things I thought I wanted to try seemed to require more equipment, space, or time than I had available. Add to that the fact that some popular recipe writers have a habit of assuming everyone has access to particular equipment and not providing alternative instructions, and it can be a real barrier. That said, with years of experience in the kitchen behind me, I know that there are relatively few recipes that you just can’t follow because you don’t have the right stuff. I don’t mean they’ll never turn up; they will, now and then. You’ll need a pot size you just don’t have and can’t figure out how to reduce, or you’ll need a particular shape of baking pan that’s just a fundamental for the chemical processes that need to happen, or you’ll stumble onto a recipe that requires a pot safe for both the stovetop and the oven. Overall, though, those things are really pretty rare in everyday meals. One of my most used kitchen tricks, especially when I’m trying something new, is to try to think like a pioneer. It’s a little cheesy, I know, but given the fact that most of the recipes I use are designed to be home cook-friendly, usually with traditional roots, it’s often a good tactic. I pause, take a breath, and think to myself, how might this have been done in a time where most kitchens had one knife, one pot, and one skillet that doubled as a baking pan? What do I have that I could use instead of a dedicated tool for this purpose? It’s a little bit simplistic (and, I recognize, not entirely historically accurate), but as a thought exercise to unblock myself, it usually does the trick. It’s said, “well, if we line this Pyrex dish with foil or parchment, it’ll probably be alright.” It’s worked around first not having any electric mixer at all and then only having a single-speed hand mixer (and often remind friends that I recommend hand-mixing every recipe at least once, as it gives you more control and a better feel for what’s happening). A similar tactic has helped me learn to work with flavor categories to find substitutes when I didn’t have the exact spice called for in a recipe. All this is to say that you don’t need a lot of things to get your kitchen going. A few mixing bowls of various sizes are probably a must, and one sharp (and sharpenable) chef’s knife can...

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Appliance spotlight: Actifry

Posted by on 8:00 am in Featured appliance | 0 comments

By Anna Carey Do you have a weakness for fried food? You’re not alone! Unfortunately, I’ve always found the mess and oil from using a deep fryer at home too much for me, but the Actifry might be just the solution we’ve been looking for. With as little as a single tablespoon of oil, the Actifry turns out everything from crispy, delicious French fries to healthy root vegetable chips, sausages, shawarma, and even homemade granola! Thanks to rotation and an evenly-distributed 338F temperature, meals, sides, and treats will be evenly cooked just the way you want them, without ever needing to be submerged in hot oil or fat. And many non-fried recipes that require a good deal of stirring and even heat to turn out properly can benefit from the rotation and circulating air in the Actifry. As a bonus, it doesn’t need to be preheated, so it can save some energy and help avoid heating up your kitchen for many of the foods you might usually make on the stovetop or in the oven. Among the nice things about the Actifry is that it allows you to use most types of oil or fat, in small amounts, and therefore allows for a wider variety of flavors than traditional frying. You can get creative: duck fat potato wedges or coconut oil stir fry are equally possible, as you need only a teaspoon or two of fats to evenly coat your ingredients. Actifry lovers have thriving communities sharing recipes on the TFAL website, Facebook, and Pinterest, and there are hundreds of ideas from all kinds of cuisines. The biggest issue Actifry lovers have is that it is bulky and takes up space, and is tough to fit into a small kitchen. Luckily, you can borrow one from The Kitchen...

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Appliance spotlight: Slow cooker

Posted by on 10:24 am in Featured appliance | 0 comments

By Anna Carey The slow-cooker is well-known as a fantastic way to have an easy, hot meal ready as soon as you arrive home from your daily routine, but this kitchen superhero also has a bit of a reputation for turning out a particular kind of food. Our parents’ slow cooker recipes were often based around large cuts of meat and soup preparations, ready to deliver to potluck dinners, and these ideas have been common since the first CrockPots came onto the market in the early 1970s. Those of us who prefer more complex flavors, fresh ingredients, and varied cuisine options have often been a bit critical of slow cookers for this reason. Recently, though, there’s been a resurgence of interest in slow cookers for the convenience they offer to those who struggle to find time to put together hot, nutritious meals for themselves or their families at the end of long days, and I for one have been pulled in! Along with this renewed interest, a new round of recipes have emerged, and if you’ve been out of the slow-cooker loop for the last few years, some of them might surprise you. For example, did you know you can make both desserts and bread in your slow cooker? As the temperatures rise, the idea of turning on the oven might not be especially appealing, and the slow cooker can help. From apple crumble to chocolate cake, the slow cooker can sub in for your oven when you just can’t stand the idea of heating up your home. And while you won’t get a crusty, brown artisan loaf from your slow cooker due to the lower temperature, there are some really excellent no-knead recipes for soft sandwich bread that turn out beautifully in slow cookers of all sizes. Slow cookers are also great for a wide variety of meals that require long, slow cooking to turn out flavorful, tender meat. Pulled pork or shredded chicken tacos make a quick weeknight meal when all you need to do is prep your toppings before serving. Similarly, many Indian dishes benefit from the slow cooker’s long, low-temperature cooking method. If you’ve never tried a slow cooker, haven’t had a chance to try one out lately, or just don’t have the space for one, The Kitchen Library has you...

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Sugar-Free: Done and done

Posted by on 12:29 pm in Health | 0 comments

I did it! One whole month of no sugar (including fruit, artificial sugars, maple syrup/agave, etc.). And I’m so glad I did this. I admit, the first two weeks were rough but the last two were a breeze and nothing felt out of the ordinary except for all the benefits I started noticing. Benefits I’ve noticed: Clearer skin Less stomach bloat Lower grocery bill Cleaner apartment (because I cleaned to distract myself from cravings) What I learned: 1. I didn’t think I had any willpower when it came to food. It turns out, I do.  2. I love fruit. I was practically skipping around the veggie and fruit section of the grocery store last night. 3. I don’t actually love all the other junk food I’d gotten into the habit of eating. Except… 4. I actually do love gummy bears, but I certainly plan to eat them in moderation going forward. 5. Drinking a cup of tea at night instead of snacking has been probably the nicest, coziest habit I’ve acquired (I love Chocolatey Chai tea for this!) What I plan to eat (aka. what foods I missed the most): 1. All the fruit. 2. Wine (that counts as a food group to me) 3. Homemade muffins (I just could not find a recipe without sugar! They all had honey, maple syrup or agave in them so I had to...

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Appliance spotlight: Vitamix

Posted by on 8:00 am in Featured appliance | 0 comments

 Oh it’s not just a blender. It’s a Vitamix. It’s like a celebrity among appliances.  It can blend a freaking iPhone into a soup! If I sound like a huge fangirl about this, it’s because I am. In late 2013 we applied for a grant through the Carrot Cache to buy some new appliances to add to our inventory, and we got it! So we sent a survey to all of our members asking them what appliance they wanted and this majestic blender was #1. This blending beauty not only makes beautifully smooth smoothies, but it can blend fast enough to make soup. Plus it can also be used as a food processor (so that’s one less appliance you need to carry home with you from the library!). I’ve made everything from smoothies to peanut butter in this bad boy. And it came with a HUGE binder of recipes, which you can also borrow, of course. Not convinced? Swing by the library and try it out for...

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Sugar-Free: Home Stretch

Posted by on 11:09 am in Health | 0 comments

One more week to go! I must have been way more addicted to sugar than I thought because everyone warned me that the first couple of days would be rough, but those “couple of days” lasted the first 2 weeks of this no sugar challenge! And then suddenly *poof*, no more night time cravings (ahem and tantrums). Instead I’ve started to crave things like grapes, mangoes, dates, and oranges (oh my gosh, I want all the oranges right now). Will I continue when the month is over? Yes and no. I definitely plan to eat all the fruit I was eating before with a few treats every so often....

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