Kitchen Tip of the Week: Controlling Wasps

28 08 2009

Yellow Jacket

Wasps (the insects) are common around outdoor gatherings toward the end of summer.  It’s pretty much guaranteed if you’re eating or drinking on a patio in late August, wasps will soon join the party.  Unless you happen to be allergic to their stings, they’re basically harmless but they can be very annoying.  In fact, there were so many buzzing around me the other day when I was trying to read on my porch that I had to go back inside. 

I spoke to a pest control expert and he told me that business has been steady this year in Toronto.  We had a lengthy garbage strike earlier this summer and the wasp and insect population exploded with all of the garbage that sat around outside for weeks. Luckily there are a few ways to keep the pests under control:

Keep BBQs and Recycling/Garbage Bins Clean


Prevention goes a long way in controlling wasps.  If there is nothing to attract them, they’ll be less likely to come around.  Clean barbeque grills after use and discard any old food that falls through the grill. Keep outdoor garbage and recycling bins clean: rinse with a hose and use an environmentally friendly cleaner such as vinegar, baking soda or eco-friendly dishwashing soap (bleach is not recommended as it may contaminate the organic waste).  Many municipalities allow green bins to be lined with recyclable bags which helps keep spills and mess to a minimum.  

Dryer Sheets


I had heard that dryer sheets repel wasps but was skeptical.  So I purchased a box of Bounce sheets (I’m not endorsing a particular brand, it was just what was in stock) and headed outside with my book.  I placed a dryer sheet on my footstool and settled in to read for a half hour or so.  Not a single wasp came near me.  It’s hardly scientific proof but I’ll definitely be arming myself with a dryer sheet or two the next time I sit outside during wasp season.

Wasp Traps


Building a simple wasp trap from a used plastic bottle will capture some of the bugs and draw them away from people.  It costs nothing and takes minutes to put together.  Check out How to Make a Wasp Trap for step-by-step instructions with pictures. You can also purchase attractive glass traps that can be hung around your property.



If there is a wasp nest in a place where it could endanger people (particularly if someone is allergic), consult an exterminator about getting rid of it.  They can help you decide if the nest should be destroyed and safely deal with it if necessary.

Update: I have heard from a couple of people about putting up fake ‘wasp nests’ made of fabric to deter wasps.  Apparently they are territorial and won’t go near an area they believe has been claimed by other wasps.  It’s an environmentally friendly option because they don’t contain chemicals or kill the wasps.  A fruit store near my house has a number of them mounted near the outdoor displays to keep pests away from the fruit.  Check out for more information.

In addition to wasps, apparently it’s been a bad year for fruit flies as well.  Check out my tip from last summer, How to Get Rid of Fruit Flies, for some advice in getting rid of them.

There is a new Kitchen Tip of the Week posted each week.  You can also check out the archives for more helpful tips and tricks.

Crab and Avocado Stuffed Tomatoes

27 08 2009
Crab and Avocado Stuffed Tomatoes

Crab and Avocado Stuffed Tomatoes

Summer is winding down but there’s still time to host an outdoor party before the evenings turn chilly.  Miniature tomatoes stuffed with a little bit of avocado and crab salad are always a hit and are easy to put together.  This dish was inspired by a salad I had on my honeymoon in France.  We enjoyed a fantastic multi-course lunch one day while overlooking the Mediterranean – everything was local and seasonal, including rosé wine, fish, vegetables and a salad of tomatoes and crab.  I took this idea and turned it into small bites that can be eaten as hors d’oeuvres but you could always serve it as a first course if you’d prefer.  Just use larger tomatoes and adjust the number of servings accordingly.  You can substitute lobster meat for the crab if desired.  

Crab and Avocado Stuffed Tomatoes

Makes 12 hors d’oeuvres (recipe can easily be doubled)

  • 12 cocktail or large grape tomatoes (about the size of a ping pong ball)
  • 1-1/2 cups cooked crabmeat (approximately 6 oz.) or lobster meat
  • 2 Tablespoons Hellman’s or Best Foods style mayonnaise
  • 1 Tablespoon very finely diced red onion
  • 1 Tablespoon very finely diced celery
  • 1 Tablespoon finely diced red or yellow pepper
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped Italian (flat leaf) parsley
  • 1 teaspoon chopped chives, plus extra for garnish
  • 1 very ripe Haas avocado, skin and pit removed
  • 1 Tablespoon sour cream
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Using a sharp knife, cut a small sliver from the bottom of each tomato so it makes the bottom flat enough for them to stand upright without rolling over.
  2. Cut the top ¼ off the tomatoes. Scoop out the seeds and pulp and discard (be careful not to scoop right through the bottom of the tomato). Set tomatoes aside.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the crabmeat, mayonnaise, onion, celery, red pepper, parsley, chives, salt and pepper. Mix until thoroughly combined. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
  4. In a small bowl, combine avocado, sour cream and salt and mash with a fork until smooth.
  5. To assemble: Spoon a small scoop of avocado mixture into the bottom of each hollowed out tomato. Top with a spoonful of the crabmeat and garnish with chives.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

This recipe first appeared on Suite

Farmer’s Market Report – August 26th, 2009

26 08 2009


Ontario Peaches - August 2009

Ontario Peaches - August 2009

Before I talk about my recent market visit, I would like to address the terrible weather that has recently taken its toll on Ontario and Eastern Canada (tornadoes and a hurricane, respectively).  My thoughts are with everyone who has been affected by these disasters. The ‘Kitchen Tip of the Week‘ I coincidentally posted last week talks about how to tell if stuff in your fridge is ok after a power outage.  After the Ontario storms we lost our power three times so the information was timely for me as well.  I hope everyone stays safe and healthy during these trying times.


Meanwhile, the farmer’s markets continue to thrive and this past weekend was the best I’ve seen this summer.  The stands were overflowing with local bounty – corn, melons, peaches, peppers, blackberries, raspberries, zucchini, garlic,onions, blueberries… the list goes on and on.  The notable exception was tomatoes.  There was one stand with a few cherry tomatoes, some plum tomatoes and a few field varieties but it was pretty meager overall.  I’m beginning to think that we might not get many good tomatoes this year. We’ll see in the next couple of weeks.  In the meantime, if you’re looking for a delicious dish using cherry tomatoes, try my recipe for Roasted Cherry Tomato Pasta.  Roasting the tomatoes enhances their sweetness so even mediocre tomatoes will become rich and flavourful.  If you are lucky enough to find good tomatoes, try a classic Caprese Salad – it’s a summertime favourite that can’t be beat.




Muskmelons (also commonly called cantaloupe)

Muskmelons (commonly called cantaloupes)



There were all sorts of different melons at the market including bitter melon, yellow watermelons and muskmelons. One of the farmers was giving out samples of her watermelon and muskmelon so I asked if muskmelon is the same as a cantaloupe. She said that they’re similar but not the same.  I did some research and the answer is … somewhat confusing. Technically, cantaloupes aren’t grown in North America but most vendors label muskmelons as cantaloupes.  They look and taste very similar so they can be used interchangeably in recipes.  A classic way to serve muskmelon/cantaloupe is to wrap chunks of the melon with cured ham such as proscuitto or serrano.  The salty meat paired with the juicy sweet fruit is an irresistible combination.  It makes a great hors d’oeuvres for cocktail hour with a cocktail or glass of sparkling wine.


Melon wrapped with proscuitto makes a classic hors d'oeuvre

Melon wrapped with proscuitto makes a classic hors d'oeuvre

Other Fruit and Vegetables

Corn is king right now so take advantage of the brief season while you can. has over 200 recipes using corn or you can search the archives on this site for all corn recipes. Peaches are also at their peak – check out a new recipe using peach juice: Peach Sangria.  Another popular recipe from last summer is Peach Chutney – it pairs really well with chicken and pork.  

It always makes me a little sad to know that the tremendous abundance of local produce will be almost completely gone in a couple of months so we need to enjoy it while we can!

Until next week…


Peach Sangria

22 08 2009


Baskets of peaches at the St. Lawrence Market, Toronto

Baskets of peaches at the St. Lawrence Market, Toronto

Peaches are at their peak right now and I’m fortunate to live about an hour from the Niagara region, a major peach growing area.  The peaches I picked up early last week were a bit firm but flavourful and their taste and texture improved after leaving them on the counter for a day or two.  

This sparkling sangria is a fun and refreshing way to enjoy fresh peaches and their juice.  I call for peach schnapps, which I enjoyed in my early twenties but hadn’t given much thought to in recent years, thinking it was too sweet and juvenile. However, I find a little bit adds a nice peachy flavour without being overly cloying. For peach juice, you can either puree and strain some fresh peaches or use a good quality bottled juice.

Peach Sangria

Makes 4-1/2 cups of sangria

  • 1 750-ml bottle of inexpensive sparkling wine such as a cava or prosecco
  • 1/2 cup peach schnapps
  • 1 cup peach juice
  • 1 large ripe peach, pitted and diced
  • Ice cubes

In a large pitcher, pour in the sparkling wine.  Mix in the peach schnapps and peach juice and stir together.  Add ice cubes and the diced peach.  Use a spoon when pouring to control the peach pieces in each drink.



Ice cold peach sangria - the perfect refreshment on a hot August afternoon

Ice cold peach sangria - the perfect refreshment on a hot August afternoon

Kitchen Tip of the Week – Power Outages and Your Fridge

20 08 2009


A couple of weeks ago I awoke to a dark and silent house.  The power was out.  It turns out that a giant tree limb had fallen on the street behind my house, taking down the power lines with it.  It took most of the day but the power was restored and things went back to normal. However, sometimes power outages can last for much longer, as was the case six years ago when a massive outage affected much of northeast North America for a few days.  We’re also in the middle of  hurricane and tornado season and power outages are common during these storms.  

If you’re concerned about power outages and the contents of your fridge while you’re away, consider this tip: Place an ice cube in a ziplock bag and lay it flat in the freezer. Check on it when you return – if the ice cube is still intact, everything in the fridge and freezer should still be good.  If the ice cube has melted and re-frozen, the power was out for an extended period and the contents are not safe to eat and should be discarded.  

If the power is out for a relatively short time, refrigerated foods should still be safe for about 4 to 6 hours.  Do not open the fridge during this time, as it will let in warm air and increase the temperature.  If the power outage is going to last longer, add bags of ice to the fridge.  A refrigerator thermometer is good to have so you can ensure that the proper temperature is maintained in the fridge and freezer, particularly if you live in an area that is prone to a lot of blackouts.  A good guideline for safe food handling is: If in Doubt, Throw it Out.

For more information about food and water safety during power outages, visit: Food and Water Safety when the Power Goes Out.

There is a new Kitchen Tip of the Week posted each week.  You can also check out the archives for more helpful tips and tricks.

Roasted Cherry Tomato Pasta

19 08 2009


Mid-August is peak tomato season and usually markets are bursting with all shapes and sizes of the delicious fruit (yes, tomatoes are fruit).  However, this year many areas have been plagued with cold, wet weather and an unfortunate blight has taken a toll on vines in some regions.  The few local tomatoes I’ve tried have been tasteless and mealy but I’m hoping to find better specimens in coming weeks.  I have found that smaller cherry, grape and cocktail tomatoes have been sweeter and juicier than the field varieties I’ve tried.

If field tomatoes are poor in your area, why not make a delicious dish with cherry tomatoes?  They should be easy to find at most markets and roasting them concentrates their flavours, giving them a sweet and slightly charred flavour.  Turned into a simple sauce with fresh herbs, garlic and olive oil, it makes delicious vegetarian summer meal.  

Click here to get the recipe from a recent Suite article I wrote:  Roasted Cherry Tomato Pasta

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

Roasted Cherry Tomato Spaghetti

Roasted Cherry Tomato Spaghetti

Cherry Clafouti with Almonds

18 08 2009


Clafouti (sometimes spelled ‘clafoutis’) is a classic French dessert that is usually made with eggs, flour, sugar, cream and fruit.  Is easy to put together and is a great way to use seasonal fruit.  When baked, it is like a custardy pancake. Cherries are a very traditional addition but I’ve had them with other fruit as well, including a delicious pear version.  

Many clafouti recipes call for leaving the pits in the cherries as it’s believed they add more flavour (and it’s easier for the cook). However, I recommend pitting the cherries before adding them to the batter – it’s neater to eat and you don’t have to worry about someone breaking a tooth.  To efficiently pit cherries, I finally broke down and bought a cherry pitter:

A cherry pitter

A cherry pitter

I was hesitant to get one because it’s not something I use every day and the last thing I need is more clutter in my kitchen drawers. However, it makes pitting cherries so fast and easy, it was well worth the $20 or so it cost.  You can find similar cherry pitters at most kitchen stores.  They’re also great for pitting olives.  If you don’t have a pitter, you can cut the cherries in half and pry out the pits with the tip of a knife. It’s a bit messier but it will get the job done.

This recipe makes a relatively small amount of dessert (for about 4 people) so it can be doubled if serving a larger group.

Cherry Clafouti with Almonds

Makes 4 servings

  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup milk (or use 1 cup of half-and-half in place of the cream + milk)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 3 Tablespoons sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 8 oz. pitted sweet cherries (equals about 1-1/2 cups of cherries)
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  • Icing sugar for serving
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahreneheit.
  2. In a medium sauce pan, add cream, milk, vanilla extract and almond extract.  Stir to combine and bring to a gentle simmer, making sure not to boil the mixture.  Remove from heat.
  3. In a small bowl or glass measuring cup, add eggs, flour, sugar and salt.  Use a fork to vigorously mix everything together until it makes a smooth paste.  Add egg mixture to the warm milk.  Stir to combine well.
  4. Grease a small baking dish (with a 3 to 4 cup capacity) and pour in the batter.  Drop in the cherries and top with almond slices.
  5. Bake clafouti for 35 to 40 minutes or until the top has puffed and started to brown.  Spoon out servings and top with a sprinkling of icing sugar.  Accompany with a bit of lightly sweetened cream or vanilla ice cream if desired.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!


Cherry Clafouti with Almonds

Cherry Clafouti with Almonds