Tuesday, 28 August 2018

A Gardener's Preserves

Backyard gardens can be a great way to yield fruit and vegetables that you have grown yourself. You get a feeling of joy and accomplishment from growing your own foods. Another added bonus, you can plant what your family eats in abundance, to save you some money and trips to the store. I found growing my own, is a fun way to try new heirloom varieties to spice up my eating routine.

For some of us, gardening can be an overwhelming thought. Feeling lost with having no idea where to start tends to lead many to not starting at all. Well, let me let you in on a secret... it's a failure-free zone. Sometimes you succeed at growing one item one year and the next years you don't. Maybe Mother Nature decides to throw in an early frost, well there goes your peppers! Maybe you find a tucked away spot to grow your zucchini but then nothing grows because it was too shaded. All you can do is learn from year to year. Yet it is not all frustrations, maybe you planted 8 tomato plants assuming 4 will likely die. Turns out they all love the spot and now you are overrun with tomatoes! That is a good problem to have. You make tones of friends with fresh produce! 

Gardens are great because they are always changing, you are always adapting and since the majority of vegetable plants are annuals, every year you get to start with a blank slate.

When you have success with the plot of produce you will notice that you go from having nothing ripe to basket loads. Yet how do you utilize all of that beautiful harvest without letting things go to waste?
This is where pickling, dehydrating, drying, freezing and canning comes into play.

Personally, this year has been my busiest year for preserving my crops. I feel like a squirrel. I am experimenting with new recipes and methods with the hope of enjoying my produce into the winter months. Some might be great, then I will make sure to save these recipes for next year and some might be mediocre. If you have fun doing it and get to reap the rewards of your hard efforts year round, there is no downside!

Now lets talk about ways to save some of your produce.


This age-old technique is a great way to preserve herbs, fruits and vegetables with a lot of purposes in your home. 

If you have a perennial herb (perennials come back every year) with a woody stem, such as rosemary, mint or thyme, you snip a stem of the herb, rinse and pat dry then bundle the herbs. You can use an elastic band or twine to bundle and hang the herbs upside down indoors. Make sure you check on your herb bundles because as they dry they will shrink and you will have to tighten the bundle.  Once dry you can leave them hanging from some home decor, or put them in an airtight container an enjoy some of your flavour intense herbs in the colder months cooking. 

This year I pulled out our dehydrator and dried a bunch of herb leaves (sage, basil, Thai basil, tarragon and cilantro) and started storing them in mason jars, this is what I will use for cooking once my plants outside start of die off. The dried herbs pack a flavour punch when you use them, Yes more so then the store bought dried herbs. 

A first for me this year is drying chamomile flowers, mint and lavender with the attempt of turning them into loose leaf teas! I figure being fresh it may not have to steep as long as older tea leaves and with a little-personalized tinkering, it might be really tasty. If not, I can always use them for baking or tossing them into espom salts for baths. Win, win in my eyes. 


In the spring, I went a little crazy seeding a heirloom tomatoe called Bumblebee Tomatoes, yes a big factor in buying them was the name, and as a result, I have a bunch of plants! These plants loved their location in the backyard and have provided me ample tomatoes. I like tomatoes but not enough to be able to eat them all before the next harvest is ready. So,  I have dehydrated them and then submerging them in olive oil to make my own sun-dried tomatoes. The goal is to make some sun-dried tomato pesto, from my tomatoes, as it seems to be our new favourite pizza sauce.  I now have a greater respect and understand about why sun-dried tomatoes are so pricey. It takes a fair amount of tomatoes halved, insides scooped out and dried for about 6-8 hours to yield a 125 ml mason jar! When I have enough dried and submerged in oil (I am giving them about a month) I would like to try this Pinterest recipe I found for Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto

I didn't stop there though. I also dehydrated some raspberries and blueberries to add them to baking, trail mix or oatmeal when the fruits are out of season. Other fruits that dehydrate really well are apples, peaches, pears and strawberries. 

If you do not have a dehydrator you can still have your own sun-dried tomatoes or dried fruits by using your oven (or BBQ) at low temperature (120-160 F) for approximately 8-12 hours. Depending on the thickness of the fruit sliced or the amount of water in the fruit will determine the amount of time needed. I would check it at the 6 or 8-hour mark and use your better judgement. 


Another great way to store your produce is with pickling. Some produce pickle so beautifully you should showcase it as home decor in the kitchen. 
You need a vinegar brine base to get started. Typically you can use any kind of vinegar you choose that goes with what you are pickling. You can use the white vinegar, apple cider vinegar, white wine, rice wine and the list goes on. You use about 3.5 cups vinegar to 2 cups water. This goes in a saucepan with some sugar, salt and spices (such as fennel, pink peppercorn, garlic, dill, or mustard seeds). Simmering the brine, until the salt and sugar have dissolved you can then pour it over your sliced produce which is waiting in the sanitized mason jars. Be creative with what you want to pickle and what brine recipe you want to use. Start with a brine recipe and then customize it. Some things you can pickle are carrots, hot peppers, onions, beets, corn, cucumbers and beans. 

Now you don't have to grow all of these things. Most of us do not have an abundance of land or the time to maintain it. Yet at the farmers market, the vegetables in season will be at a great price so stock up and keep some for daily meals and other squirrel away for winter. 


For the first time last year, I canned enough salsas and pasta sauces for myself and to give away as Christmas food hampers. It was a huge hit! People loved the homemade touch and the flavour of summer when we are knee deep in snow. Hint hint

This year I may have planted a few too many tomato plants, so we are doing it again!  I stuck with two of the recipes that were a hit last year  Fire Roasted Salsa and Arrabbiata Pasta Sauce. These will store well over winter (in a cool dark place) and act as great and tasty gift in the winter!

Fire Roasted Salsa

Truth be told,  canning can feel a little over whelming. You have an abundance of ingredients to chop, mix , dissolve and simmer. It makes your eyes bulge out when you are making over a dozen pasta sauces and trying to seal the jars. There is an easy fix to this. Make it a PARTY! By inviting friends or family over,  helps delegate some of the work and have fun doing so. Everyone is thrilled because they get the best take away of all, food!

If you decide ahead of time what is going to be made that day and divide up the ingredients for people to bring an item to two, or if each person brings the ingredients for their recipe the host can provide the cans and lids. The second option allows everyone to experiment with a recipe never tried before.


Another great way to save delicious seasonal produce is by freezing it. When I head to Niagara-on- the-Lake region this year, I pick up 3 baskets of peaches and blueberries. When you get them home rise the soft fruits, like raspberries, blueberries and strawberries and lay them on a baking sheet. Carefully place the baking sheet in the freezer for a few hours and then you can transfer the berries to a bag. These are great for baking, adding to smoothies or topper on nice cream. For the peaches I just washed and sliced. Tossing them in a bag to add to my smoothies in the morning.

I also did the freezing method for some of my Roma tomatoes when they were ripe but not enough to make a bulk pasta sauce recipe. You take the Roma whole and put it in a freezer safe bag. When you have enough and ready to use, simply run the tomato under warm water and the skin peels off. Then you are ready to sauce! So simple! 

Finally, a combination of freezing and canning is freezer jam. I had a bucket load of raspberries so I decided to make some jam. The process is similar to making jam for canning but you just tighten the lid and place it in the freezer rather than water bath to seal the can. I tried this for raspberry jam this year and it was a great success! 

Gardening is all about having fun and experimenting. No on knows exactly what will thrive and what won't, but it is a great feeling to go out and harvest some of your own produce. When you create something that starts so small into a luscious green space with edible items, it encourages you to eat more of what you grow and have an appreciation for what goes into farming fresh foods.  

Besides watching things grow, sometimes it feels like over night, I also found it was a great space to sit and clear my mind after a challenging day. Just watching the bees jump from flower to flower and admire all the labour of love you put into the space really helps clear your mind. There has been many studies looking at the correlation between gardening and a person's mental health. The articles are easy to find but if you want one example of a community garden in Toronto and how it helped in various ways the residents you can read up on it here  .

So, next time you are at the farmers market pick up an extra bag of produce and give preserving a try. 

If you are intrigued by some of the ideas here, I encourage you to start with some raised boxes or a few planters and see what you can grow. 

August 20 2018

June 3 2018

Feed the soul, get your hands dirty and never stop learning! 

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

I am sure by now you have heard all the rage around ditching plastic! Can we all get up and do a happy dance for a moment.

Many countries are now trying to ban or limit their usages of plastic bags  and one time use plastic  products, see links for news articles. We had the #plasticfreejuly which trended on social media and we now have more local vendors and shops carrying great long lasting sustainable products! This is a movement we, at The Coach House, are jumping right on into. There is always room for improvement in our own day to day lives to ensure we are doing what we can to ditch the nasty one time use plastics.  

The Coach House Therapeutic Centre

One of the newest products we started to carry at The Coach House are locally made fabric snack bags and bees wax food wraps. Personally, I have implemented these into my own life and I have to say 'It is so easy'! Just like plastic wrap, the beeswax wraps are mold-able and very versatile. You can cover a bowl of left over food, use it to bundle up that 1 inch sliver of cheese (you should have just eaten) or that 1/3 of a red onion you are saving for later. The bees wax doesn't transfer to the foods, you don't have to worry about harmful chemicals leeching into what you are eating and they are easily cleaned by washing them under cool water with dish soap and hung to dry. 

The starter pack (4 sizes) of beeswax wrap by Rhymes with Orange   and the snack packs can be purchased at The Coach House or specific sizing can be purchased through Jacki's etsy store!

For the DIYer out there, online has a bunch of how to resources on how to make your own beeswax wraps. You need fabric and some beeswax beads. Here is on link that had an easy how to video 

Another item we have available at the clinic are linen draw string bags. These little bags are great for packing dry foods, storing re use-able cutlery and napkins, or produce. You can pick them up at The Coach House for a few dollars. I find my produce, such as garden tomatoes or lettuce, stores well in these because they still allow the produce to breathe. 

Now that I have spiked your interest in making very easy and affordable changes to your habits. Lets dive into more great local shops where you can purchase more reusable items !


Gifted has a huge selection of products but we chose a few to showcase, you will just have to go in and see the rest for yourself. All the items in the above picture are in stock and come in many other beautiful patterns and colours! On the left we have an array of sizes of bowl/mason jar covers. They are handmade with cute designs or saying on them! The middle are the metal straws, silver and copper, and brush cleaner. Top right is S'well water bottles that keep your beverage hot for up to 12 hours and cold for up to 24 hours. Finally the bottom right we have an item to replace your paper towel. It can wipe up your messes and be rinsed off. Once it becomes well used it can be composted.

Our final Gifted show case item is a great staple to bring with you on your trip to the market or grocery store to avoid putting your produce in the plastic bags. These light weight mesh produce bags tuck easily into your purse or reusable grocery bag. A pack of 5 will cost you $15 and you will LOVE them! Get them while they are still in stock as they go quick. 

Metal straw in use from Gifted

Cocoon Apothecary

Speaking of reusable bags, I found that I would always leave home without my grocery bags because they were so bulky and I had them tucked away in the closet. But that has all changed now that I picked up these adorable and compact bags from Cocoon Apothecary These French Market bags will only cost you $5.00! I love them and feel very European market chic when I go shopping. It may sound crazy but you also become very conscious when shopping as you can't hide what you buy! I found installing hooks by my front door and hanging my French market bags and little linen bags were a great visual reminder that I needed to take these with me when I leave. 
Photo from Cocoon Apothecary with their French market bag

Side note; Did you know that once you finish with your skin care products from Cocoon Apothecary, they have a recycling program where you bring back the glass bottles for a refund!

snack pack of nuts and iced coffee to go

Mason Jars

These little guys are my best friends! You can pick a case of them up at Canadian Tire or Zehrs and their uses are endless.

I store some of my nuts, baking supplies, dried herb in them or use them for my to go smoothies, iced coffees (see image on the right with bamboo straw) or snacks to work (mini jar of mixed nuts).

dried herbs and tomatoes for storage

Stainless Steel

Though glass is an excellent storage solution, it has some limitations when it comes to portability- mainly that it can be heavy to carry around and breakable. One container won't be noticeable with added weight, but add a few for a full lunch and it can add pounds to your bags, especially kid lunch bags. You also have to be mindful when you are tossing around bags to make sure there is no breakage. Enter stainless steel! This is a great option when it comes to lunch containers that are going to be carried around.
There are a few brands that make different options from individual containers of various sizes and compartments (like Lunchbots found at Fenigo) to bento box styles like Planetbox. Planetbox has been our favourite, one reason being it's one piece- nothing for kids to lose! Planetbox can be found at Village Kids in Elora.

Larger Reusable Containers

These are very useful when you buy big bulk bags of rice or flour. I also like to have my smoothie additives (hemp hearts, chai seeds, flax seed, dates, shredded coconut etc) visible which helps me be creative when I am mixing together a new smoothie. If things are tucked away in my pantry, I seem to forget all about them! I picked up most of these snap lid containers from HomeSense, I prefer the snap latch lids rather than the screw tops but that is just a personal preference.

Shop around, be creative and do what works for you and your decor.

So now you have some of your gear, but not sure how to use it like a pro?!

Zero Waste Collective

A fantastic online resource is Zero Waste Collective. This site will continue to inspire you on making daily changes. If you are hunting for a specific reusable item and having trouble tracking them down, Zero Waste Collective has an online which is divided into subheadings like 'On The Go' or 'Kitchen Item's !

Our friend, Jenn, from The Eco Well has done some collaborative work with Zero Waste Collective and wrote some DIY blogs on their site!

To stay up to date just follow them on Instagram and Facebook for latest DIY releases and way to stay plastic free.

Zero Waste Bulk

When heading to Bulk Barn and, hopefully soon, Zero Waste Bulk bring your containers and they will weigh them empty, and then you head out shopping for your bulk goodies.  You have actually save a step because you don't have to pour the baggie of goodies in your container at home!

We just have to start making this a new habit, which is challenging at first, but worth it in the end.
Try carrying some of your own re-usable cutlery, straws and travel mugs when you are planning on getting a take out lunch or coffee. This can help tremendously.

It is time to change the way we shop and live. The world will thank you !

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

Foot Pain?

Orthotics must be the answer, right? Nuh uh!!! There is a paradigm shift leaning away from prescribing custom orthotic devices. Here’s the thing, orthotics may potentially be the solution, but they really should only be used like you would use a pair of crutches after a leg injury - temporarily!

Generally, we can classify feet as high arched, normal, or flat but, overall, it doesn’t make a difference when it comes to athletic performance. Look around at your teammates and notice all the different feet there are and which ones correlate to foot pain. Seems random, right? I know!

The best way to correct foot pain is to start with an assessment of the lower limb and low back. We need to know if the culprit is indeed the foot or if the foot is just the messenger. Many problems can originate at the hip or even the lumbopelvic junction, where the spine meets the pelvis. If there is a joint dysfunction somewhere along the kinetic chain (the back, leg and foot), foot pain will continue.

Changing one’s gait is an extremely challenging task but, over time and with a little grit, it can be done.

So, if you are experiencing foot pain, book an appointment with me and I’ll help get you back on your feet PAIN FREE! BOOK NOW

Dr. Mark Bird, BSc (Hon), MSc, Acu, DC