Finding a Breakfast Cereal With No Added Sugar

Dorset museli, blue boxWhy is it so difficult to find a breakfast cereal without added sugar? Even your basic, unadorned bran flakes have added sugar in them! And not just a small amount. While I’m sure there are commercial brands of cereal without sugar or some alternative sweetener, I’m struggling to find many (if any) on local grocery store shelves.

I’m not against sugar per se. It belongs in desserts and candy. I like some ice cream or frozen yogurt for dessert at times. And I sometimes enjoy a few slices of candied ginger after dinner. I even enjoy ginger marmalade on toast on rare occasions. But I don’t want candy for breakfast, and that’s what most of the cereals I’ve looked at appear to be.

I want to be able to control the amount of sweetness in my meals, not have it dictated by a corporation. Sugar content, like salt, is too important to our health to have others decide it for me. I’m an obsessive label reader for both sugar and salt content in packaged food, and for good reason: there’s too much of both in too many products.

I wasn’t always a breakfast eater. In fact, for most of my life, I’ve skipped both breakfast and lunch. At most I might have a banana or a cup of yogurt in the morning. A big breakfast for me was a couple of pieces of toast and peanut butter. Most of the time, I just skipped it. I only really started eating breakfast regularly recently, after my surgery and radiation treatment. I found that I needed the fibre and the probiotics to help restore my gut health (radiation played havoc on my bowels). So I started to look for simple, sugarless breakfast cereal for my daily consumption.

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Musings on Making Pizza

The finished pizza

I have to admit that I like pizza a lot. Well, I guess most of us do. I like cheese, and I liked cooked cheese even more, and I like vegetables, so pizza is up there as a mealtime favourite. We don’t eat it frequently, perhaps once month or less often.

These days I make it myself: we don’t order it from a restaurant or pizzeria, although we’ve had it from them when we went out for dinner (back in the pre-pandemic days). Nothing against anyone else’s pizza, but I like the process of making it, so I seldom buy it pre-made.

A pre-mixed pizza dough kit.

Over the past five-and-some decades, I’ve had pizzas in many places I’ve travelled to, including cities famous for their versions of it, like New York and Chicago. I’ve had “authentic” Italian-style pizza at many restaurants, too, here and in other cities. I’ve even had frozen, grocery-store pizzas.

I’ve had it on various dough shells, on flatbreads, on naan, and on bagels. I’ve had it with homemade and store-bought doughs. 

I still think my own production is better than many, if not most I’ve encountered. It’s a relatively easy meal to prepare, and it usually lasts us two nights, so it’s also inexpensive. My method takes a little longer to prepare than some recipes suggest, but I think it’s worth the wait. It’s even better when I have the time to prepare the dough, but I’m going to describe another option here: buying a pre-made pizza shell.

Pre-made pizza shell, one of several brands available locally.

The best pizza is always made with fresh dough, but I’ll admit to a certain laziness: fresh dough takes time to prepare, rise, and roll. Since we often decide to have pizza while we’re shopping rather than planning it in advance, I seldom have the time to make my own dough, even though we tend to eat late (7-8 p.m. most nights). Instead, I opt to buy a pre-made pizza shell, preferably thin crust, at a local grocery store. You can also buy packaged dough mix, frozen dough, or ready-to-heat dough mixes. The prepared shells are adequate for me.

But simply because the crust is premade, doesn’t mean I treat the rest as an instant product. I put time and effort into every step along the way, and have worked out this method over many years of practice and experimentation. The proof of my success is that Susan likes my pizza, too.

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The Cancer Diaries, Part 26

Scene from New Amsterdam

Cancer changes everything — and nothing at all.
Rabbi Skillman

That’s a profound comment, coming from a TV character. The “rabbi” in question is a fictional patient in hospital, played by George Wyner in the TV series, New Amsterdam (Season 1 Episode 8). He is talking to the hospital’s medical director, Dr. Max Goodwin (played by Ryan Eggold).  Cancer — its diagnosis, treatment, and impact on people — plays a pivotal role in the series, and offers some food for thought for viewers. This episode stayed with me for quite some time.

Skillman suffers from terminal pancreatic cancer. It’s a nasty cancer with a mere 9% five-year survival rate.* Max wants Skillman to undergo a risky surgery. The oncologist, Dr. Sharpe (played by Freema Agyeman), recommends he go home and live the remaining year or so of his life in comfort there, with drugs to ease his deteriorating condition. Either way, Skillman doesn’t want to remain a patient in the hospital to die there.

Helen warns the rabbi, “There’s a 90% chance of dying during surgery.’ Max chimes in, saying, “Or a 10% chance that you’ll live.” Skillman looks bemused and says, “Not good odds.” He chooses to go home. But sometime during the episode, Skillman opts for the surgery. When Max asks him why, Skillman says, with a certain Stoic shrug, “Tomorrow I’ll be better or I’ll be dead, but I won’t be a patient.”

I suspect every patent diagnosed with cancer has to come to terms with similar decisions, whether it be surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, or a combination of them. I certainly did. You have to weigh whether the treatment offers a better chance of survival than the discomfort or disability it will cause. But for many cancers, there is no effective treatment, only palliative care. Or dying in hospital.
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Let’s Play “Spread the Virus!”

FacepalmsI see Collingwood Council wants the province to end the lockdown, but hasn’t said anything about improving public safety or accelerating the vaccinations if that happens. That suggests to me they are okay if the coronavirus spreads again, and strains our hospital’s already stretched capacity to deal with it. At least, that’s the message I got from the latest facepalm-worthy discussion and motion by council this week. As reported on CollingwoodToday:

Collingwood council is demanding an explanation from the province for the local lockdown and asking for the town to be returned to red zone (or lower) restrictions effective immediately. 
Council is also calling on business owners and residents in the town to start a letter-writing campaign calling on the province to lift the lockdown in Collingwood and allow local businesses to reopen.

I chuckled to read that a small town is “demanding” anything from the province. That’s like an angry toddler having a temper tantrum in a box store because their parents won’t buy them a big toy they see on the shelves.

Municipalities are not independent: they exist at the province’s whim and tolerance: they depend on the province for funding and authority. A more mature, more politically-astute council would have realized that you do not demand anything of the province: you ask. And politely. You maturely present facts, develop an argument based on logic and reason, make a report, dress it up with some pie charts, and you present it respectfully. You don’t whine and cry and demand.

Logic. Reason. Respect. Okay, I think I see the problem…

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Musings on Making Pasta, No. 5

Mafaldine pasta nnoodles dryingI was back at making pasta this week, trying a slightly different recipe, and working on honing my skills with the pasta machine. As well, I  was hoping to get my recently-acquired mafaldine cutter attachment operating correctly (you might recall reading about the problems I had with it clogging in the previous post on pasta making).

My usual mix for pasta dough is a ratio of about two-to-one tipo 00 flour to semolina. Thinking about that, I wondered if the gluten in the lower-protein tipo 00 flour was not working very well with the different, tougher, and less elastic gluten in the higher-protein semolina. I wanted the semolina for its texture and strength, but I’ve also found my dough sometimes resists rolling, and can break instead of laminating smoothly. Perhaps the mix was not appropriate and had too much semolina. But I thought to try the change of flour first.

I’ve also found that, because I roll a thin pasta noodle, the drying noodles frequently break at the limb of the drying rack. I wondered if the two different glutens were not bonding sufficiently to hold the noodle together (this might also be the result of the weight of the noodle pulling the dough too thinly across the limb; perhaps a shorter noodle might suffice?).

I decided to use unbleached all-purpose (AP) flour this time instead of tipo 00. Many of the recipes I’ve found online and in my pasta books recommend it, sometimes exclusively. I used it in my very first efforts at homemade pasta, but switched to tipo 00 shortly after, when I discovered a local source (I use unbleached AP flour for my bread, too). This time, I hoped the higher protein in the AP flour would provide more and stronger gluten to help the noodles stay intact.

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Berman’s Cowardly Comment

Cowardly lionLate last month, Collingwood council heard from the town’s inquiry legal team* justifying the cost of the Saunderson Vindictive Judicial Inquiry (aka the SVJI), which many residents feel was an exorbitant waste of our tax dollars. The Collingwood Connection reported that Councillor Berman engaged in a to-and-fro with Will McDowell (of Lenzcner Slaght**):

Coun. Steve Berman asked if the parties involved had been more forthcoming with information, would the cost have been less. McDowell said there were many opportunities for those involved to lay their cards on the table, but “they didn’t do that.
“I don’t think you and I are disagreeing with each other,” he said in response to Berman.

By not being “forthcoming,” is Berman slyly suggesting that witnesses lied while testifying under oath? If so, I wonder who put him up to it. This taints every witness with a patina of guilt. Apparently, he lacks the courage to be forthright enough to name whomever he believes was lying. 

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The Inquiry Cost $250,000 More? Were We Lied To?

Hidden costsFormer councillor Tim Fryer is back on the agenda this coming week, making another delegation to the Strategic Initiatives Standing Committee about the true costs of the judicial inquiry (aka the Saunderson Vindictive Judicial Inquiry, or SVJI). I admire Tim’s tenacity at trying to get the truth out to the public about this debacle. My respect for him has risen considerably since he’s been off council, but I wish he had been such a bulldog for the truth when he was at the table (I wrote about Fryer’s last appearance in front of the committee here).

At the very end of the agenda, you can read Tim’s letter, starting on page 161* and continuing through page 166. What’s most interesting is that he included a letter from the town to EPCOR, included on pages 163 and 164. That letter shows the town agreed to pay EPCOR’s legal costs over the SVJI of $250,000 or more. Yet those costs do not show up on the town’s most recent official accounting of the costs for the SVJI (read it here) **

For a council eager to censor “fact-check” residents’ comments and letters so they conform to the party line, it seems highly hypocritical to find that the town itself isn’t forthcoming about the facts. Yet we now learn that $250,000 was mysteriously left out of the calculations. As Fryer writes,

I figured if a $4 Walmart or $8 Tim Horton’s expense charge could be included then certainly something like the $250,000 or more of EPCOR’s legal expense coverage, as per the Side Letter Agreement terms established with council after the CJI was initiated, should be too.

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More Musings on Tea

Oolong teaBack in 1946, while England was still recovering from the deprivations of WWII and under rationing, the prolific George Orwell wrote his essay “A Nice Cup of Tea” with his eleven-step instructions for making what he considered the perfect cuppa.* But do they still stand today? Certainly, his notion of what makes a “strong” tea would be considered very strong by standards today.

As the BBC noted in an article that debunked many of Orwell’s notions about making tea almost 60 years later, “The great critic of Hitler and Stalin, was not above a bit of teatime Totalitarianism himself, it seems.” I personally think Orwell had his tongue in his cheek when he wrote it, but others take it more seriously.  Like other foods, tea invites passionate responses when someone’s tastes or techniques are challenged. Orwell recognized that his list would be controversial, writing, 

When I look through my own recipe for the perfect cup of tea, I find no fewer than eleven outstanding points. On perhaps two of them there would be pretty general agreement, but at least four others are acutely controversial. 

I recently read again Orwell’s piece on tea in the Everyman’s Library edition of Orwell’s Essays (a 1,300-page collection I am slowly, and somewhat meanderingly working my way through). So I thought I might revisit some thoughts on tea. It prompted me to re-assess the contents of my own tea cupboards, and to re-open some of my books on tea.

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Still Can’t Escape the B.S. (Brian Saunderson)

no more BSIt’s late February as I write this and still our mayor, Brian Saunderson, refuses to do the ethical, the moral, and the RIGHT thing for the town and resign his office while he openly hunts for another, out-of-town, better-paying job.*

It’s been more than a month since he admitted he doesn’t want to be our mayor and instead wants to be the riding’s next MPP. Seems to me he desperately wants to be somewhere else, getting more money and out of Collingwood as fast as he can. But he’s still, brazenly taking the mayor’s paycheque while he campaigns for another job. I don’t know how others feel about it, but it seems to me he’s trading ethics for base personal ambition at the taxpayers’ expense.

And you must be asking yourself what about all those high-and-mighty recommendations in his beloved judicial inquiry (aka the SVJI) that say council members should avoid apparent conflicts of interest? After all, the town spent many millions of our tax dollars to get them (instead of spending the money on fixing roads and sidewalks). Does he think those recommendations don’t apply to him while he campaigns to get out of his commitment to serve Collingwood? It appears blatant hypocrisy to simply ignore those recommendations when they prove inconvenient. And it surely discredits the report.

I’m told Saunderson’s campaign to be the next MPP has the endorsement of a local blogger** who was cited in a 2007 human rights complaint against Maclean’s magazine over alleged racism. The magazine was “accused of publishing eighteen Islamophobic articles between January 2005 and July 2007.” Although the BC Tribunal dismissed the case in 2008, in its ruling it stated that the “article at the source of the complaint contained historical, religious and factual inaccuracies, relied on common Muslim stereotypes and tried to ‘rally public opinion by exaggeration and causing the reader to fear Muslims.'”

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Musings on Making Bread and Chili, No. 1

Recent breadLongtime readers here know that before my surgery last summer, along with my pasta making I was an avid, if not always entirely competent, baker. I mostly made bread from “scratch” but sometimes for convenience used an electric bread maker. I made all sorts of bread in previous years, including soda (“quick”) breads, as well as the occasional scone, tea biscuit, and muffin.

I’ve always looked upon my baking (and cooking in general) as a sort of living chemistry experiment. I play with recipes, tweak them, explore different ingredients and processes. I have produced some spectacular loaves, a lot of adequate loaves, and a few bricks. I had a lot of fun, and a little bit of frustration, from my baking.*

In fact, I enjoy cooking in general because it is a creative art. Not that I’m an artist, but I have a reasonable level of competence in the kitchen, I’m willing to try new ideas and recipes, I enjoy experimenting with foods, flavours, textures, and developing my own recipes.

Most recent loafWell, I’m getting back into baking after all this time. My first loaf was in the bread machine: a “French bread” recipe tweaked as is my wont to make it more interesting. In this case, I added roughly two tablespoons of Fiorfiore’s “dry sourdough” mixture (purchased locally at Walmart) to the dry ingredients, plus a tablespoon of molasses (for colour and sweetness because I reduced the amount of sugar in the recipe), and substituted 1/2 cup of AP flour for whole wheat.  And I substituted a bit of 1% milk instead of the called-for water.

Overall, the result was good. Tall, nicely chewy crust, solid crumb. And the latter was important. Plus it tasted good. I think the addition of the sourdough mix really helped.

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