Wednesday, October 12, 2011

TEST DRIVE by Julia Aitken

We are delighted to introduce Julia Aitken to our blogging team. Julia will be our eyes and palate for new & interesting gadgets, ingredients or anything else culinary that captures our attention. Julia will pass on her observations in her witty, honest charming style. Keep coming back for more updates from Julia.

Julia started writing professionally around the age of eight when she fashioned a " magazine" in crayon, tied copies together with yarn and hawked them round the neighbours near her home in northwest England. Her mother made her give the money back. 

Undaunted, Julia stuck with writing. She’s been food editor of Homemaker’s, Elm Street and Canadian Family magazines, and has written three cookbooks (125 Best Entertaining Recipes is the latest). She’s currently food editor of My Advantage and Expressions magazines, writes regularly for Food & Drink, Prime Time and Diabetes Dialogue, and has forgiven her mother.

Here is Julia's first foray for us!


I don’t like cold-pressed canola oil—can’t stand the stuff—and, as Canadian crimes go, that’s up there with dissing on the CBC’s Stuart McLean. Happily my Canadian food cred’s been saved by four guys from Saskatchewan—three of them farmers, one a soil scientist—who four years ago started experimenting to see if camelina sativa, an edible grain used for bio-fuel, could be cold pressed to create a good-quality cooking oil. In February they launched Three Farmers Camelina Oil and, boy, is it good!

Tasted neat, the nutty, golden oil could almost be a walnut-hazelnut hybrid, but the flavour’s subtle enough not to overwhelm. Put through its paces, camelina worked well in stir-fries (it has a smoke point of 475°F/246°C), roasted vegetables and vinaigrettes. ($20 to $25/500 mL bottle; visit for retailers.)


Le Creuset’s Revolution silicone tools are as beautifully crafted as the famous hefty pots but don’t require you to engage the services of a personal trainer to help you lift them.
The five assorted spatulas and basting brush come in a choice of six jolly colours, including cherry, cobalt and flame, and have longer-than-most, ergonomic wooden handles that remove easily for cleaning (the silicone heads are dishwasher safe, the handles not). Best of all, the tools are heat-resistant up to 800°F (426°C) so won’t wimp out even in the hottest skillet. (From $16 each; visit for retailers.)

To make it into my snack stash, a chip must be a) crisp (natch), b) non-greasy, and c) sufficiently moreish so an entire bag can be consumed almost before I even realize I’ve opened it (which helps with any guilt).

Popchips tick all the boxes. They aren’t fried or baked but puffed under pressure (poor things) which lowers the fat content to about less than half of regular fried chips. But, let’s face it, we don’t choose chips to be healthy. I like them for their snappiness and authentic flavours. Choose from seven—all the usual suspects, plus very grown-up-tasting Salt & Pepper and Parmesan Garlic. ($1.25/23 g; visit for retailers.)

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