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7 healthy ingredients to try this month

Louisa Clements | posted Thursday, Jan 21st, 2016

Woman grocery shopping in store

Looking to add a few new healthy ingredients to your pantry or fridge? There are plenty of unique items in your local health food stores and grocery aisles, but if you’re not sure what they are or what to do with them, it can be intimidating. Here are seven ingredients that add a nutritional boost to everyday meals.

1. Flaxseeds
Loaded with omega-3 fatty acids and fibre, flaxseeds are a simple ingredient to add a nutritional punch to oatmeal, smoothies or baked goods. Available in both brown and golden varieties, flax has a slightly sweet taste and a crunchy texture that becomes gritty when ground, start by trying golden flax as it has a milder flavour.

Did you know? When mixed with liquid, flaxseed meal can work as an egg replacer in muffins, cookies and pancakes. Use a 1:3 ratio, 1 tbsp of ground flaxseed to 3 tbsp of water.

Try it: Chocolate-walnut banana bread

Flax (Photo, iStock.)

2. Miso paste
Miso is a fermented-soy bean paste rich in B vitamins, manganese and zinc. Slightly salty in flavour, with a thick consistency, it is often used to add umami to soups, sauces, marinades and salad dressings. Note: Miso paste is high in sodium so use it sparingly.

Did you know? Miso paste is available in white, yellow and red varieties – lighter coloured miso has been fermented for a shorter amount of time meaning its milder in flavour.

Try it: Chicken miso noodle soup

1 tbsp Miso paste + 1 cup boiling water.

3. Kefir
Similar to yogurt, kefir is a fermented, cultured milk product that originates from Eastern Europe. With a tart and slightly sour taste, this drink can come either plain or flavoured. Packed with probiotic cultures and calcium, kefir can be enjoyed on its own or added to smoothies.

Did you know? Kefir contains tryptophan, the same amino acid that makes you drowsy after a big turkey dinner.

Try it: Making your own kefir at home.

4. Matcha powder
Matcha is a stone-ground powdered green tea rich in antioxidants. With a vibrant green colour, matcha adds earthy notes to dishes and has a slightly bitter taste. Matcha is often brewed as a tea or added to smoothies, but it’s also delicious in baked goods and desserts.

Did you know? Because matcha is ground tea leaves, it contains more caffeine than a cup of steeped tea.

Try it: Matcha ice cream

5. Turmeric
This bright yellow spice has a warm, bitter taste, and is often used in curries. Known for its anti-inflammatory properties, turmeric is a great addition to soups, stews and rice dishes. Note: because of its deep colour, turmeric has the ability to easily stain — wash any utensils, pots, pans or cutting boards immediately when cooking with turmeric.

Did you know? Turmeric is a plant related to ginger, but its ground spice form is typically found in stores.

Try it: Moroccan chicken stew

Turmeric

6. Tahini
Tahini is a creamy paste made from sesame seeds, which are high in antioxidants, protein and calcium. It has a nutty flavour and creamy, smooth texture — similar to natural peanut butter. Tahini is one of the main components of hummus, but is also makes delicious creamy salad dressings and sauces.

Did you know? Tahini is high in unsaturated fats and contains omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

Try it: Spiced tahini chicken with cucumber salad

Tahini

7. Nori
Nori is paper-like edible seaweed that is typically used in Japanese cuisine — especially to wrap sushi. It is high in vitamins A and C and has a crispy, light texture. Slightly sweet, it’s a great addition to Asian-style dishes or for an afternoon snack.

Did you know? While nori is high in protein (100g has about 57g of protein), the average sheet of nori is only about 3g.

Try it: Bibimbap

Sliced nori

Cubs sign former Blue Jays infielder Munenori Kawasaki

Sportsnet | posted Thursday, Jan 21st, 2016

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The Chicago Cubs have signed former Toronto Blue Jays infielder Munenori Kawasaki to a minor-league deal, reports Jon Morosi of Fox Sports.

Kawasaki, who spent parts of the last three seasons with the Blue Jays, was a fan favourite in Toronto known for his colourful personality and dugout antics.

The 34-year-old from Japan played in 23 games for the Blue Jays last season and hit .2The Chicago Cubs have signed former Toronto Blue Jays infielder Munenori Kawasaki to a minor-league deal, reports Jon Morosi of Fox Sports.14 (6-for-28). He was not included on the club’s post-season roster.

Kawasaki joins a Cubs team that’s made significant moves this off-season after being swept by the New York Mets in the National League Championship Series.

Chicago signed outfielder Jason Heyward, infielder Ben Zobrist and starting pitcher John Lackey, while also trading for right-hander Adam Warren.

New evidence points to giant 9th planet on solar system edge

Marcia Dunn, The Associated Press | posted Thursday, Jan 21st, 2016

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The solar system may have a ninth planet after all.

This one is 5,000 times bigger than outcast Pluto and billions of miles farther away, say scientists who presented “good evidence” for a long-hypothesized Planet X on Wednesday.

The gas giant is thought to be almost as big as its nearest planetary neighbour Neptune, quite possibly with rings and moons. It’s so distant that it would take a mind-blowing 10,000 to 20,000 years to circle the sun.

Planet 9, as the pair of California Institute of Technology researchers calls it, hasn’t been spotted yet. They base their prediction on mathematical and computer modeling, and anticipate its discovery via telescope within five years or less.

The two reported their research Wednesday in the Astronomical Journal because they want people to help them look for it.

“We could have stayed quiet and quietly spent the next five years searching the skies ourselves and hoping to find it. But I would rather somebody find it sooner, than me find it later,” astronomer Mike Brown told The Associated Press.

“I want to see it. I want to see what it looks like. I want to understand where it is, and I think this will help.”

Brown and planetary scientist Konstantin Batygin feel certain about their prediction, which at first seemed unbelievable to even them.

“For the first time in more than 150 years, there’s good evidence that the planetary census of the solar system is incomplete,” Batygin said, referring to Neptune’s discovery as Planet 8.

Once it’s detected, Brown insists there will be no Pluto-style planetary debate. Brown ought to know; he’s the so-called Pluto killer who helped lead the charge against Pluto’s planetary status in 2006. (Once Planet 9, Pluto is now officially considered a dwarf planet.)

“THIS is what we mean when we say the word ‘planet,’ ” Brown said.

Brown and Batygin believe it’s big — 10 times more massive than Earth — and unlike Pluto, dominates its cosmic neighbourhood. Pluto is a gravitational slave to Neptune, they pointed out.

Another scientist, Alan Stern, said he’s withholding judgment on the planet prediction. He is the principal scientist for NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, which buzzed Pluto last summer in the first-ever visit from Planet Earth. He still sees Pluto as a real planet — not a second-class dwarf.

“This kind of thing comes around every few years. To date, none of those predicts have been borne out by discoveries,” Stern said in an email Wednesday. “I’d be very happy if the Brown-Batygin were the exception to the rule, but we’ll have to wait and see. Prediction is not discovery.”

Brown and Batygin shaped their calculation on the fact that six objects in the icy Kuiper Belt, or Twilight Zone on the far reaches of the solar system, appear to have orbits influenced by only one thing: a real planet. The vast, mysterious Kuiper Belt is home to Pluto as well.

Brown actually discovered one of these six objects more than a decade ago, Sedna, a large minor planet.

“What we have found is a gravitational signature of Planet 9 lurking in the outskirts of the solar system,’ Batygin said. The actual discovery, he noted, will be “era-defining.”

Added Brown: “We have felt a great disturbance in the force.”

Scott Sheppard of the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington said Brown and Batygin’s effort takes his own findings to “the next level.” Two years ago, he and a colleague suggested a possible giant planet.

“I find this new work very exciting,” Sheppard said in an email. “It makes the distant Super-Earth planet in our solar system much more real. I would say the odds just went from 50 per cent to 75 per cent that this distant massive planet is real.”

Depending on where this Planet 9 is in its egg-shaped orbit, a space telescope may be needed to confirm its presence, the researchers said. Or good backyard telescopes may spot it, they noted, if the planet is relatively closer to us in its swing around the sun. It’s an estimated 20 billion to 100 billion miles away.

The Caltech researchers prefer calling it Planet 9, versus the historical term Planet X. The latter smacks of “aliens and the imminent destruction of the Earth,” according to Brown.

Who knows, there could even be a Planet 10 out there well beyond No. 9, but there aren’t enough data at this point to guess, Brown said.

The last real planet to be discovered in our solar system was Neptune in 1846. Pluto’s discovery came in 1930; humanity got to see the small icy world and its main moon Charon up close for the first time last July thanks to New Horizons.

The spacecraft, unfortunately, is in the opposite direction of Planet 9, according to the researchers, and thus unable to help in its detection.

Brown realizes skepticism will exist until the planet is actually observed. History is packed with mistaken planet-seekers, he said, and so “standing up and saying we’re right this time makes us almost look crazy — except I’m going to stand up and say we’re actually right this time.”

He couldn’t resist this jab on his @plutokiller Twitter account:

“OK, OK, I am now willing to admit: I DO believe that the solar system has nine planets.”

Platform barriers could be coming to Union Station: Metrolinx

CityNews | posted Wednesday, Jan 20th, 2016

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Barriers along the edge of the platform are just one of many steps Metrolinx is considering to make Union Station safer.

The transit body has already implemented “no standing” zones, ended platform storage and trimmed some platforms at the busy commuter hub.

All of the changes come in the wake of a passenger’s death last year, Metrolinx said Monday.

The Union Station Platform Action Plan, which was posted on the GO Transit website on Monday, includes 16 items as well as their status (Complete, Ongoing, In Progress, Not Started).

GO will “prop open” stairwell and other doors during fair weather, but close them when it’s cold or raining. That safety measure will always be ongoing, whereas upgrading car doors is in progress.

One of the measures, trimming some platforms, was specifically designed for those riders who aren’t obeying existing rules. Metrolinx said it is working to remove tripping hazards in areas where there are already “no standing” or “no walking rules.”

Many of the recommendations focus on ensuring commuters stay behind that yellow line. GO Transit said it is working to have a 24-inch-wide safety strip across all platform edges at all times. Where that’s not possible, the same area will be painted bright yellow.

Click here to read the full list of recommendations.

Sarah Palin endorses Trump for Republican nomination

Alexander Panetta, The Canadian Press | posted Wednesday, Jan 20th, 2016

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One of the most polarizing figures in American politics has helped obliterate any lingering chance that Donald Trump might recede to the background before the presidential nomination voting starts in two weeks.

The endorsement of the reality-TV-star-turned-politician by a politician-turned-reality-TV-star, Sarah Palin, was just one of several developments celebrated by the Trump camp Tuesday.

Trump not only won the support of the Tea party star. He also buttered up corn farmers in Iowa. He got what amounted to a de-facto endorsement from the governor of the earliest-voting state. He even got the backing of John Wayne’s daughter.

“I am greatly honored to receive Sarah’s endorsement,” Trump said in a statement, calling the ex-vice-presidential candidate’s support one of the most sought-after in the Republican race.

“She is a friend, and a high quality person whom I have great respect for. I am proud to have her support.”

The alliance of two such political celebrities all but ensures that Trump will continue to receive the bulk of attention heading into the Feb. 1 Iowa caucuses, drowning out the competition
including his chief rival, Sen. Ted Cruz.

At face value, the Iowa vote is relatively insignificant. It’s been far likelier in the past to pick a Republican nomination loser like Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum, than crown the eventual
winner. It awards a small number of convention delegates. But it would represent a huge burst of momentum for Trump. He’s already dominating polls in the second-voting state, New Hampshire.

A win in Iowa, followed by another in New Hampshire, would give him a huge advantage entering a series of southern primaries. He’s now beaten out his neck-and-neck Iowa rival, Cruz, for Palin’s affection.

While derided as a gaffe-prone dimwit by late-night comedians and the mainstream media, Palin has used her standing within the party to draw attention to conservative causes and candidates.

One of her former pet causes – ironically – was Cruz. She campaigned for the firebrand right-winger in his successful 2012 outsider bid for a senate seat.

Some of Cruz’s aides grumbled that she’d betrayed conservative principles by backing a celebrity Manhattanite whose political positions have shifted with the prevailing populist winds. But Cruz was gracious about it.

“I love (Palin),” the Canadian-born senator tweeted.

“Without her support, I wouldn’t be in the Senate. Regardless of what she does in 2016, I will always be a big fan.”

He was less laudatory of the Iowa governor Tuesday. Terry Branstad said he wanted to see Cruz defeated. The reason: The Texas conservative opposes federal support for ethanol fuel.

“Ted Cruz is ahead right now,” Branstad said, according to the  Des Moines Register.

“He’s heavily financed by Big Oil… (He) hasn’t supported renewable fuels, and I think it would be a big mistake for Iowa to support him.”

Cruz has cast his position as a courageous stand for free-market principles, against federal renewable-fuels standards that cost consumers and enrich Iowa farmers.

Trump is going all-in on ethanol. He called Tuesday for an increase in the minimum-ethanol content – which polls suggest is extremely popular in the state.

A conservative writer expressed exasperation that Palin would endorse a candidate with such anti-conservative policies. But Charles C. W. Cooke noted something he’d written a year ago
about Palin: that she was less like Ronald Reagan and more like Trump, less about conservative principles than about selling emotion and outrage.

“Fast-forward a year and she’s endorsing Donald Trump – who’s running around the country, rambling, not making a whole lot of sense, and selling outrage and emotion,” he told MSNBC. “I think they’re two peas in a pod.”

Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau Sings at Martin Luther King Day Event

Cormac Mac Sweeney | posted Tuesday, Jan 19th, 2016

Sophie

Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau helped honour the life of Martin Luther King today by singing an original song.

Gregoire-Trudeau, the wife of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, sang the short song after giving a speech at an event at Ottawa City Hall to mark Martin Luther King Day.

She told the crowd the song is titled “Smile Back at Me,” and she wrote it for her daughter Ella-Grace.

Gregoire-Trudeau received a standing ovation for her performance.

Also at the event was former prime minister Joe Clark, who received an award for his work to end apartheid in South Africa and for his efforts on Aboriginal justice issues here in Canada.

Goodwill CEO confirms GTA stores closed due to “cash flow crisis”

The Canadian Press | posted Tuesday, Jan 19th, 2016

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TORONTO – The CEO of Goodwill Industries of Toronto, Eastern, Central and Northern Ontario says the operation will remain closed until further notice.

Goodwill has closed 16 stores, 10 donation centres and two offices – affecting more than 430 workers – due to cash flow problems. It does not affect Goodwills in London, Sarnia, St. Catharines and Hamilton.

CEO Keiko Nakamura told a news conference on Monday that Goodwill is exploring options to deal with a “cash flow crisis.”

Nakamura says Goodwill had moved to cut costs by reducing overhead and also cut staff hours, describing it as a “very low margin operation” that was facing increasing competition.

A lawyer with the Canadian Airport Workers Union, which represents the workers, has said the workers were greeted with locked doors when they showed up for their shifts Sunday morning.

Nakamura says she has met with union leaders and has assured them that Goodwill is working with stakeholders and various levels of government to find a solution.

“In order to ensure that we were not asking staff to work at a time when we didn’t feel that we would be able to cover their costs, we had to close down the stores,” she said.

Nakamura said many people do not realize the amount of work required to process the donations that Goodwill receives.

It requires “mass amounts of staff labour” to produce and recycle and separate before donated items are recycled or go into the Goodwill stores, she said.

The non-profit group has operated for more than 80 years in Ontario providing affordable goods and helping people gain access to training and work.

Carry on, world: Twitter slowly resumes service after glitch

Youkyung Lee, The Associated Press | posted Tuesday, Jan 19th, 2016

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Twitter Inc. was only sporadically available to users on Tuesday, suffering technical problems that have lasted more than two hours.

The company, which has 320 million active users, tweeted that it is aware of the issue and is trying to fix it. The announcement was sent at 3:41 a.m. Eastern Time.

Users said the service was not accessible on desktop computers. Twitter’s blog posts, corporate info and most other pages on the Twitter.com website were also inaccessible, displaying the blue error screen.

Twitter’s mobile app was partially functioning for some users but its timeline updated new tweets sporadically. Its search function appeared disabled as some hashtags or keyword searches returned no results. Users’ profile pages appeared to be accessible from the mobile app.

Third party services, such as the TweetDeck service, also returned a blank page.

Twitter has suffered several service disruptions so far this year. On Monday, some users could not access Twitter on mobile and web for about 10 minutes. The service was disrupted on Friday for about 20 minutes.

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