Monday, November 28, 2011

Sliced & Diced in AK's Kitchen: A Lesson in Accessibility

As promised, here is the continuation of my conversation on accessibility and safety in the kitchen. It's useful for those of us who need to make our kitchens more accessible for children, seniors or anyone with a visual impairment.


A couple of helpful links:
Canadian National Institute for the Blind
Eye Foods

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Next Big Kitchen Reno - Safety & Accessibility

When I planned my big kitchen reno three years ago, I thought I had covered all the bases. The big island, an efficient work triangle, lots of light. One aspect that had never entered into my planning was accessibility.

I had never considered how to make my kitchen wheelchair accessible, or accessible for someone with a visual impairment. These are questions many of us don't entertain.

Considering that every 12 minutes, someone in Canada begins to lose his vision, and that among seniors over 65, one in three will suffer a fall in their own home, accessibility needs to become part of our planning. The simple fact is, if you can't get around your kitchen safely and comfortably, you probably won't cook. If you don't cook, you probably don't feed yourself the most nutritious, economical meals.

Leona Emberson, of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, gave me some pointers on making my kitchen accessible and safe.

Here's one practical pointer for everyone, especially those of us with children. Do NOT leave your knife like this...

Instead, tuck the blade underneath the board, like so...

When fingers are fumbling around in the kitchen, they won't encounter a sharp blade.
Another tip for people with failing vision or who are very near-sighted is to use LARGE PRINT on index cards. Attach those index cards with a rubber band to the cans in your pantry. This makes identifying the contents very easy. After you open the can, keep the index card in a pile for your next grocery list.   

Contrast is another useful tool. Equip your kitchen with the two cutting boards; a black board for light coloured foods, and a white cutting board for meats and other dark foods. The high contrast will help you see what you're cutting.

I have started implementing these ideas and already, my kitchen is safer and more accessible.

I'll have my on-camera chat Leona available soon.

Monday, November 21, 2011

A Healthy Diet for Healthy Eyes

I once took them for granted. Neglected them. Over-used them. They did their job fine, without much attention or gratitude from me. Until the spring of 2009, when they didn't function properly. That's when I realised how much I depend on my eyes.

After a year and a half of a slow and steady recovery, my vision started to normalise. I now have a greater appreciation for my baby browns.

Every 12 minutes in Canada, one person will suffer from vision loss, according to the Canadian National Institute for the Blind. The leading cause of blindness is age-related macular degeneration. With our aging population, that means a growing number of us run that risk.

To give us a better understanding of eye health, I invited Leona Emberson into AK's Kitchen. Leona teaches people how to adapt their kitchens and lifestyles when they or their family members lose their vision.

Leona has lived all her life with a visual impairment.  She tells me that nutrition and lifestyle go a long way for maintaining healthy eyes. She advocates a healthy diet rich in vitamins E and C, as well as riboflavin and niacin. A while back, I shared a smoothie recipe that's packed with those nutrients. Here's another resource for foods that promote eye health.

If you or a loved one is experiencing vision loss, there are many resources to help you adjust to a new normal. The CNIB and the Hadley School for the Blind are a couple of starting points.

Next up, Leona gives us some pointers on how to equip your kitchen for low or no vision. Stay tuned.


Sunday, November 20, 2011

Cheap Greens, a Mother Lode of Nutrients

Hubby came home this afternoon with a bin full of produce. He had raided the discount section at Produce Depot. (I love my cheapskate.) One of his steals was a bag of baby bok choy.

All this and more for $2.99!
Bok choy is a Chinese cabbage that's low in calories and filled with beneficial nutrients and digestive enzymes. I usually stir fry the greens with minced garlic and a couple of drops of sesame oil. Tonight, we were cooking Italian, so I steamed the bok choy, then drizzled olive olive and balsamic vinegar over top.

Simple, frugal food with a mother load of nutrients. Best of all, I still have half a bag left for tomorrow.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Gingerbread cookies

I love it when I can add another tasty and healthful recipe to my roster. Thank you Leanne of Healthful Pursuits for coming up with these guilt-free, gluten free, dairy free gingerbread cookies.

My iPad photos don't do them justice.
I had to make one substitution to Leanne's original recipe. I didn't have canned pumpkin on hand, so I used six mashed dates instead. The results were still great.

These gingerbread snaps are definitely on my holiday baking list.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Memories of Vinegar & Chicken Adobo

When I smell vinegar, I think of my Lola. She used vinegar for just about everything - to wipe down the windows and the TV, to make dipping sauces for her eggrolls, to make marinades for her meats.

My grandma used half a jug of vinegar for her chicken adobo. Adobo is a traditional Filipino dish with chicken, pork or squid in a marinade of vinegar, soya sauce and garlic. The vinegar helps tenderize the meat and gives it a tangy flavour. Soya sauce, garlic, sugar and seasonings cut the tanginess.

The distinctive smell of adobo takes me back to my childhood. I picture my Lola standing by a boiling cauldron, with a wooden spoon in one hand, meat clever in the other.
My Lola, circa 1970s in Chicago, USA.
There are as many adobo recipes as there are Filipino cooks. Some cooks like their meat crisp and brown on the outside. This method involves frying. That's one step too many for me. Mine is the quick and easy, one-pot method.

This is a laid-back, forgiving recipe. If you find the taste too acidic, simply add more sugar or soya. If you prefer more zing, add more vinegar. It's best to marinade the meat for about 3 hours and simmer over medium low heat. As it's simmering, this is when you can tweak the taste.

Once the chicken is cooked, transfer it into another dish. Reduce the marinade to thicken.

Pour the punchy sauce over the chicken. My gang likes their adobo with rice, tomatoes and lots of sauce. I like to nibble on the whole garlic cloves that have been simmering in the salty, sweet vinegar.

AK's Chicken adobo with rice, tomatoes, squash and cauliflower
I spent my childhood enjoying the aromas and dishes my Lola created. Next week, on  November 17, she would have turned 103. 

AK's Chicken Adobo
6 chicken legs, skin removed
1 cup vinegar
1/4 cup soya sauce
1 Tablespoon sugar
2 Tablespoons ground black pepper
2 Tablespoons dried basil
1 whole head of garlic, cloves separated and skinned
3 bay leaves

Serves 6.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

One Year Older

Just over a year ago, I pecked out my first post on this little blog. It took me days before I could hit the "publish post" button.  I hadn't been able to use computer for a very long time, and my eyes and hands had to relearn an old skill.

As a veteran journalist, I could crank out stories on a tight deadline, my brain firing on all cylinders. I was in constant motion, always planning the next project or adventure. No longer. Even slow, simple movements were challenging.

My closest confidants knew that I was struggling with health issues and rehabilitation. They saw that cooking and baking were two things I could still do. My kitchen was becoming my refuge. My cousin, Mel, encouraged me to chronicle my journey. My friend, Anna, got me set up on Blogger.

That's how AK's Kitchen was born.

Rewind to the spring of 2009. I woke up one morning with a massive headache, tingling and swelling in my extremities. My eyes couldn't focus. I chalked it up to stress. I had a lot on the go, with the sale and purchase of a home, a trip abroad, three kids, work. On top of all that, I was recovering from a nasty stomach bug from a foul clam at a sushi buffet. ( The Centre for Disease Control lists some of the illnesses caused by foodborne microbes.)

I was on my way to work, still symptomatic for the third consecutive day. I nearly fell flat on my face because I couldn't see the ground below. I went to my doctor and she immediately ordered a battery of tests, saying "this is a serious neurological issue."

I was stunned. The notion that there could be something wrong with my brain slammed the brakes on everything. As far as the kids were concerned, mama had a big headache, and she needed to sleep A LOT.

Meantime, my head buzzed with questions. "If I need a wheelchair, we'll need to remodel our home. How will we afford it?" "What if I can't ever bike with the kids." "Who will help them with their French homework?" "What is wrong with me?"

After my doctors ruled out stroke, brain tumour, multiple sclerosis and lyme disease, I received a  diagnosis of a rare neurological illness. I was told that, in most cases, the prognosis is good. Recovery would take time and perseverance. I'd likely have residual effects and a new normal.

The new normal was a hard adjustment. Shuffling around the house, I'd often fall or bump into corners and doors. Watching part of my son's soccer game or reading a page in a newspaper left me bagged for days. When Sydney Crosby said that after his hockey concussions, simple activities like watching TV were too much for his swollen brain, I could relate.

Still, I was extremely grateful. This was my do-over. A chance to be more present for my family and conserve my energy for the people and activities that mattered most.

My occupational therapist gave me a series of exercises to build up my strength and coordination. Eventually, I was able to type again. Using a computer was a tough slog. My eyes had difficulty making sense of the screen and the keyboard. At times, my fingers wouldn't cooperate.

My initial blog posts were an extension of my therapy. I would test myself to see how accurately and for how long I could type, or how long I could view the screen without feeling woozy. Every time I completed a post and was able to hit the "publish post" key, I marked another step in my recovery.

Today, I am not yet able to ride a bike. But I can watch my children laugh and play. I am still adjusting to my new normal. I do things differently now, more slowly, more deliberately, more thoughtfully.

This is a significant anniversary for AK's Kitchen and for me. Thanks for being part of my journey.

This is how I plan to celebrate:

with a chocolate bacon bar from my friend Aviva and baby Ben.