Holiday Cookies: Recipe for apple-orange spice drops

These drop cookies may be fast and easy to make, but they deliver big, bold flavour just right for the holidays.

We take a basic brown sugar and butter-based drop cookie dough, then add tons of deliciousness with a blend of cloves, allspice, nutmeg and orange zest. We also tinker with the texture, adding the delightful chew of tender dried apples. Top it all off with an orange glaze and you have a cookie that begs for an eggnog accompaniment.

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APPLE-ORANGE SPICE DROPS

Start to finish: 30 minutes

Makes 4 dozen cookies

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon ground allspice

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 egg

Zest of 1 orange

2 tablespoons orange juice

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups chopped dried apple

3/4 cup toasted slivered almonds (optional)

For the glaze:

1 tablespoon orange juice

2/3 cup powdered sugar

Heat the oven to 400 F. Line a baking sheet with kitchen parchment.

In a medium bowl, use an electric mixer to beat together the butter, brown sugar, almond extract, vanilla extract, baking powder, salt, cloves, allspice and nutmeg until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg. Stir in the orange zest and orange juice, then the flour. Stir in the apples and the almonds, if using.

Working in batches, scoop tablespoon-sized balls of dough onto the prepared baking sheet, leaving 1 inch between cookies. Bake for 10 minutes, or until just pale golden brown on the bottoms. Allow to cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet before moving to a rack to cool completely. Allow the baking sheet to cool slightly between batches.

To make the glaze, whisk together the orange juice and powdered sugar. Use a spoon to drizzle the glaze over each cookie. Once the glaze sets, store the cookies in an airtight container at room temperature.

Nutrition information per cookie: 70 calories; 20 calories from fat (29 per cent of total calories); 2 g fat (1.5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 10 mg cholesterol; 12 g carbohydrate; 0 g fibre; 7 g sugar; 1 g protein; 40 mg sodium.

BY ALISON LADMAN, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Apple-orange Spice Drops
Photograph by: AP Photo , Matthew Mead

Holiday Cookies: Recipe for sweet-and-salty kitchen sink cookies

Holiday Cookies: Recipe for sweet-and-salty kitchen sink cookies

This is the cookie to make when you’re looking to clean out the cupboards. We’ve packed them with all manner of treats — and oddities — from rolled oats, peanuts and chocolate chips to chopped prunes, crushed potato chips and even coffee grounds (trust us on that last one). The more unusual the combination, the better the results.

But don’t feel you have to stop there. Got any other crackers, chips, nuts or dried fruit handy? Toss them in and let these cookies truly earn their kitchen sink name.

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SWEET-AND-SALTY KITCHEN SINK COOKIES

Start to finish: 30 minutes

Makes 4 1/2 dozen cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 egg

1 egg yolk

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 tablespoons previously brewed coffee grounds

2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup rolled oats

3/4 cup chopped prunes

1 cup crushed wavy potato chips

1 cup salted peanuts

1 cup chopped bittersweet chocolate

Heat the oven to 350 F. Line a large baking sheet with kitchen parchment.

In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat together the butter, both sugars, baking soda, baking powder and salt until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg, egg yolk, vanilla and coffee grounds. Stir in the flour, then stir in the oats, prunes, potato chips, peanuts and chocolate.

Working in batches, scoop 1 tablespoon-sized balls of dough onto the prepared baking sheet, leaving 2 inches between the cookies. Bake for 11 to 13 minutes, or until light golden brown. Allow the cookies to cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to a rack to cool completely. Allow the baking sheet to cool between batches. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Nutrition information per cookie: 120 calories; 60 calories from fat (50 per cent of total calories); 6 g fat (3 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 15 mg cholesterol; 14 g carbohydrate; 1 g fibre; 8 g sugar; 2 g protein; 75 mg sodium.

BY ALISON LADMAN, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Ice Cream Cone Caramel Date Bars
Photograph by: AP Photo, Matthew Mead

Ontario is about to scrap out-of-country emergency health care coverage

Travelling to the U.S.? Here’s what you need to know

The Star Vancouver

When Toronto resident Jill Wykes had a health scare over a racing heartbeat in Florida a few years back, the $3,000 hospital bill for a two-hour visit and three tests added insult to illness.

Fortunately, the seasoned snowbird had a comprehensive travel health insurance policy that paid the full tab.

But the incident, which turned out to be nothing serious, served as a reminder that medical emergencies can happen any time, anywhere.

Buying enough travel insurance to cover all eventualities becomes even more important for Ontario residents when the province scraps its out-of-country coverage of emergency health care expenses on Jan.1.

Until Dec. 31, OHIP will continue to pay up to $400 per day for emergency in-patient services and up to $50 per day for emergency outpatient and doctor services. Starting next year though, that coverage stops.

A new program will provide kidney dialysis patients with $210 toward each treatment — actual prices in the U.S. range from $300 to $750 — but travellers will be on the hook for everything else.

The province says it’s cancelling the existing “inefficient” program because of the $2.8-million cost of administering $9 million in emergency medical coverage abroad each year. OHIP’s reimbursements also tended to offset only a fraction of the actual expenses.

Without private insurance, travellers can face “catastrophically large bills” for medical care, warns Ministry of Health spokesperson David Jensen, who “strongly encourages” people to purchase adequate coverage.

Health care south of the border, in particular, costs an arm and a leg. On average, fees in the U.S. are double those of other developed countries, according to the International Travel Insurance Group.

The insurance provider cites an array of costs, including: ambulance, $500 and up; ER visit, $150 to $3,000; hospital stay, $5,000 per day; MRI, $1,000 to $5,000; X-ray, $150 to $3,000; hip fracture, $13,000 to $40,000.

The monetary ouch factor can be especially painful for snowbirds, who are flocking to warm spots like Florida, Arizona and Texas in growing numbers as baby boomers reach retirement age.

But a significant number of vacationers of all ages are putting their financial health at risk.

According to a recent survey by InsuranceHotline.com, 34 per cent of Canadian respondents said they were unlikely to buy travel insurance, often in the mistaken belief their province would cover them. And 40 per cent had unrealistic expectations of health care costs, thinking, for example, that emergency medical evacuation would be under $2,000. In reality, the service can cost tens of thousands of dollars.

Jill Wykes and her husband Pierre Lepage leave nothing to chance during winters in Sarasota, Fla., an annual trek since 2011 when she retired as a travel industry executive.

The couple, now in their 70s, purchase a multiple-trip plan with a 60-day top-up for their four-month sojourn, which includes driving there and back and flying home for two short visits. Her policy costs about $900 while his is $1,600, because he falls into an older age bracket. They’re each covered for up to $5 million.

Wykes, a blogger and editor of, snowbirdadvisor.ca, calls it “foolish” to travel anywhere without health insurance and advises against thinking “you would just drive or fly home if you were sick.” The financial fallout from an accident or sudden illness “can quickly rise into six figures” in the U.S., she adds.

Anne Marie Thomas of InsuranceHotline.com, which provides free quotes for all types of insurance, echoes Wykes’s advice.

“Now, more than ever, you need travel insurance because there will be zero coverage (as of Jan. 1),” she says.

There’s no one-size-fits-all policy and insurance can cover everything from trip cancellation or interruption to lost baggage and medical costs, Thomas explains, so it’s important to match your needs and situation. A sunseeker driving south, for instance, wouldn’t need trip cancellation.

SSQ Insurance continues with its digital healthcare strategy

SSQ Insurance partners with HALEO and MindBeacon Group in an effort to give its group insurance plan members access to digital cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). These partnerships stem from the insurer’s desire to find innovative ways to satisfy the needs of its customers, namely through the deployment of a digital healthcare strategy. Through this modern, online approach, SSQ Insurance is hoping to help its customers with mental health management, specifically through the prevention and early detection of sleep- and stress-related problems as well as mood and anxiety disorders.

“Through our agreements with HALEO and MindBeacon, SSQ Insurance plan members will have access to the latest CBT advances and obtain therapy that is adapted to their specific situation, whether for sleep disorders, anxiety, or depression. By taking preventive action in a timely manner, we can ultimately help control group insurance plan costs,” said Éric Trudel, Senior Vice-President of Strategy and Product Management, SSQ Insurance.

HALEO and BEACON each offer innovative cognitive behavioural therapies delivered online by qualified healthcare professionals. HALEO’s CBT focuses on sleep disorders whereas BEACON’s focuses on mild to moderate symptoms of anxiety and depression. In both cases, the insured determines the pace and platform on which the therapy is applied, making CBT a simple and accessible option.

Through these partnerships, SSQ Insurance proposes a variety of content on stress- and sleep-habit management in order to raise awareness about these problems and learn to recognize them. For those who feel concerned, they can also take a test to evaluate whether or not the HALEO or BEACON approach is right for them.

About SSQ Insurance
Founded in 1944, SSQ Insurance is a mutualist company that puts community at the heart of insurance. With assets under management of $12 billion, SSQ Insurance is one of the largest companies in the industry. Working for a community of over three million customers, SSQ Insurance employs over 2,000 people. Leader in group insurance, the company also sets itself apart through its expertise in individual life and health insurance, general insurance and the investment sector. For more information, please visit ssq.ca.

About HALEO


HALEO is an online sleep clinic with a mission to make evidence-based solutions accessible for people experiencing insomnia or poor sleep.  We provide professional, clinically-proven treatment that takes half the time and at half the cost of traditional Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, all without having to set foot in a clinic or join a long waiting list.  Our team of specialized therapists uses live videoconferencing, chat and an array of therapeutic tools integrated into our mobile sleep clinic app to help clients from across Canada overcome their sleep problems. For more information, please visit haleoclinic.com.

About MindBeacon Group
The MindBeacon Group is committed to providing evidence-based mental health therapy that is accessible whenever and wherever it is needed. With the goal of empowering individuals to live their best lives, MindBeacon Group brings ground-breaking innovation and current clinical best practice to the development and delivery of mental healthcare. Their clinical practice began with CBT Associates, a network of Greater Toronto Area-based clinics that provides in-person and virtual care to individuals across Ontario. In 2017, the BEACON™ digital platform was introduced as the first commercially-available clinician-guided iCBT service available across Canada. mindbeacon.com

SOURCE SSQ Insurance

 

National Cannabis Survey

Canadians aged 65 and older are less likely to consume cannabis than younger Canadians; among those who do, they are more likely to have purchased their cannabis exclusively from a legal source and generally more likely to consume for medical reasons.

New data from the National Cannabis Survey (NCS) continue to show generational differences across various cannabis-related behaviours post legalization.

The Cannabis Act (C-45) became law on October 17, 2018. To monitor cannabis consumption before and after the legislative change, Statistics Canada has been conducting the NCS every three months since February 2018. This release provides the latest information about cannabis use in Canada. Analyses of combined data from the second and third quarters of 2019, as well as the third quarter 2019 update, are available.

Seniors are the age group showing the most growth in cannabis usage

Cannabis use is less common among seniors than it is in other age groups (7%, compared with 10% at ages 45 to 64, 25% at ages 25 to 44, and 26% at ages 15 to 24). However, cannabis consumption among seniors has been accelerating at a much faster pace than it has among other age groups. For example, in 2012, less than 1% of seniors (about 40,000) reported using, contrasting sharply with estimates from 2019 indicating that more than 400,000 seniors have used cannabis in the past three months.

The increasing popularity of cannabis among older adults has also contributed to an increase in the average age of cannabis users, which has risen from 29.4 years in 2004 to 38.1 in 2019.

Chart 1  Chart 1: Percentage of cannabis users by age group, household population aged 15 years and older, Canada, second and third quarters combined 2019
Percentage of cannabis users by age group, household population aged 15 years and older, Canada, second and third quarters combined 2019

Chart 1: Percentage of cannabis users by age group, household population aged 15 years and older, Canada, second and third quarters combined 2019

More than one-quarter of seniors who use cannabis are new users

According to combined data collected during the second and third quarters of 2019, there are about 578,000 new cannabis users, that is, those who reported trying cannabis for the first time in the past three months. First-time use increases with age. While 10% of cannabis consumers aged 25 to 44 were new users in the second and third quarters of 2019, this was the case for more than one-quarter (27%) of cannabis consumers aged 65 and older.

Chart 2  Chart 2: Percentage of cannabis users reporting that they began using in the past 3 months, by age group, household population aged 15 years and older, Canada, second and third quarters combined 2019
Percentage of cannabis users reported that they began using in the past 3 months, by age group, household population aged 15 years and older, Canada, second and third quarters combined 2019

Chart 2: Percentage of cannabis users reporting that they began using in the past 3 months, by age group, household population aged 15 years and older, Canada, second and third quarters combined 2019

Seniors less likely to use cannabis daily or almost daily

Using cannabis frequently can lead to a pattern of problematic use or use disorder. According to the most recent data from 2019, seniors were less likely to report daily or almost daily use compared with persons under the age of 65.

Chart 3  Chart 3: Frequency of cannabis use by age group, household population aged 15 years and older, Canada, second and third quarters combined 2019
Frequency of cannabis use by age group, household population aged 15 years and older, Canada, second and third quarters combined 2019

Chart 3: Frequency of cannabis use by age group, household population aged 15 years and older, Canada, second and third quarters combined 2019

Seniors more likely to use cannabis for medical reasons

Canadians were asked to provide their main reason for using cannabis, that is, for non-medical use, for medical use (with or without a medical document), or for both medical and non-medical use.

Medical use was more common at older ages, while non-medical use predominated at younger ages. More than half (52%) of seniors aged 65 and older reported using cannabis exclusively for medical reasons, while the remaining seniors were evenly split between non-medical only (24%) and both medical and non-medical reasons (24%). In contrast, nearly 60% of youth aged 15 to 24 reported using cannabis exclusively for non-medical purposes and more than one-third (35%) reported consuming for both medical and non-medical reasons. Exclusive medical use among the youngest age group was rare, making the estimate too unreliable to be published.

Chart 4  Chart 4: Percentage of cannabis users reporting non-medical, medical and both medical and non-medical cannabis use, by age group, Canada, second and third quarters combined 2019
Percentage of cannabis users reporting non-medical, medical and both medical and non-medical cannabis use, by age group, Canada, second and third quarters combined 2019

Chart 4: Percentage of cannabis users reporting non-medical, medical and both medical and non-medical cannabis use, by age group, Canada, second and third quarters combined 2019

Seniors the most likely to obtain cannabis exclusively from legal sources

An estimated 28% of cannabis users (1.4 million Canadians) reported obtaining all of the cannabis they consumed from a legal source, with consumers aged 65 and older (41%) being the most likely to be using only legally-obtained cannabis, compared with about one-quarter of younger consumers (23% to 29%, depending on age).

Many consumers obtain cannabis from multiple sources. If all of the people who reported getting at least some of their cannabis from a legal source are combined, the percentage of cannabis consumers accessing cannabis legally nearly doubles to 53% or 2.6 million Canadians.

Obtaining cannabis from other sources was also common and tended to differ across generations. For example, seniors were less likely (23%) to report having obtained cannabis from an illegal supplier, whereas youth aged 15 to 24 (52%) and adults aged 25 to 44 (43%) or 45 to 64 (39%) were more likely to do so. Seniors (30%) were also generally less likely than younger consumers (41% to 46%, depending on age) to have obtained cannabis from (or to have shared it with) friends and family.

Growing cannabis, either themselves or by someone else, was a supply source for about 8% of consumers, and about 4% reported another (unspecified) source—with no differences by age.

Where Canadians obtain their cannabis continues to change

More cannabis users reported obtaining cannabis from legal sources in the second and third quarters of 2019 (53%) compared with corresponding estimates from the same period in 2018 (23%), when non-medical cannabis was not yet legal. The percentages of consumers reporting only obtaining cannabis legally also rose, to 28% from 10% one year earlier. Examples of legal sources of cannabis include authorized retailers and online licensed producers. In contrast, fewer users reported obtaining cannabis from illegal sources such as a dealer in 2019 (42%) than in 2018 (52%), or from friends and family (39% in 2019 versus 49% in 2018).

Third quarter 2019: More than five million Canadians report having used cannabis

From mid-August to mid-September, nearly 5.2 million or 17% of Canadians aged 15 and older reported using cannabis in the previous three months. This was unchanged from one year earlier (before legalization).

Despite stability in the national rates, cannabis use did increase in the third quarter of 2019 compared with the third quarter of 2018, in some age groups and regions, including seniors and among persons aged 25 to 44 years of age.

In the third quarter of 2019, 24% of residents of Newfoundland and Labrador, 24% of residents of New Brunswick, 26% of residents of Prince Edward Island and 33% of Nova Scotians reported using cannabis. These proportions were above the average for the rest of Canada (other provinces combined), ranging from 8 to 11 percentage points higher than estimates from the previous year. Meanwhile, use in Quebec (11%) remained lower than the national average.

Manulife’s insurance app rewards healthy lifestyles, but also raises ‘health surveillance’ concerns

Making 10 per cent of Canadians less sedentary by 2020 would increase the national GDP by $1.6 billion, according to a study

BY Nicholas Sokic | Financial Post 

Elevators at Manulife Canada’s Toronto headquarters are now adorned with signage that reads, “the stairs go the same way.” It’s part of Manulife’s efforts to change sedentary lifestyles, as it rolls out its life insurance app to its employees and the rest of the country in partnership with Discovery Health, the South Africa-based subsidiary of the financial services group Discovery Ltd.

The Vitality app tracks your health based on several personalized physical and mental personalized assessments. Users can reach bronze, silver, gold or platinum ranking based on their own fitness goals, and win discounts and gift certificates for hotels.com, Amazon, Cineplex and Tim Horton’s, among others.

Manulife launched Vitality in the U.S. four years ago under its John Hancock Financial division, and on an individual basis in Canada in 2017. The group benefits version was launched for Manulife employees in July, which reported 50 per cent participation in its first month.

The Toronto-based insurer has now opened the group benefits program to other companies during a staggered rollout, and already counts Walmart Canada and Scotiabank as customers.

The Vitality app is used in more than 20 countries with 10 million participants. Manulife signed a global pledge with other life insurance companies to make 100 million people more active by 2025.

“About a year ago we decided to launch it in the benefits business so that’s been about developing the platform for the employer market and testing it,” said Donna Carbell, the head of group benefits at Manulife Canada.

Participation in the program is entirely optional and there are no consequences for choosing not to participate, the company notes.

“Customers can select the method, type and amount of information they share,” according to Manulife. “The information is used to encourage customer engagement with the program and reward customers for participating in healthy activities.”

Despite privacy and other concerns, getting people to move around is an uncontroversial goal. During a presentation, Manulife’s chief executive officer Mike Doughty stated that four chronic conditions — respiratory, cardiovascular, cancer and diabetes — are responsible for 60 per cent of all deaths worldwide and 85 per cent of Manulife’s group benefits claims.

The highly personalized nature of the assessments in the app result in a radically different fitness experience for each user, even accounting for pregnancy, Carbell said.

“I may be a very sedentary person who has a chronic condition and it will create a different program for me so I will achieve a gold status with a very different exercise and fitness regime than a marathon runner will,” said Carbell.

Manulife cited a study from the Conference Board of Canada saying that making 10 per cent of Canadians less sedentary by 2020 would increase the national GDP by $1.6 billion and reduce national healthcare costs by $2.6 billion.

RAND Europe, an independent research institute, conducted a study last November surveying 400,000 people in South Africa, the U.S. and the U.K. and found that people using the Vitality app in conjunction with Apple Watch saw an equivalent of 4.8 extra days — an increase of 34 per cent — of physical activity on average each month.

Still, there are some obvious apprehensions in handing over the minutiae of your health information to a third-party.

“There’s always concerns about privacy,” said Carbell. “Any info an employee keys into the system, which might be my waist circumference or body mass index, all of that is housed with Vitality. We don’t even have access to that.”

Instead, the monthly report that employers receive would only contain demographic data such as how many employees are actively using the app.

“They could, theoretically, sell the information to third-parties without any consent on the part of the subject. But (totally voluntary) means nothing,” says Ann Cavoukian, the executive director of the Privacy by Design Centre of Excellence at Ryerson University. “Most people probably haven’t even looked at who the information is shared with, what that consent means.”

Toronto-based John Wunderlich of the self-named privacy and security firm also thinks the situation is not so cut and dry.

“I think it’s hard for me to see what the value offering is for both employer and insurance provider if it isn’t employee health surveillance.”

While employee consent is required, “the pendulum is swinging” on how rigorous that consent may be, Wunderlich says. For those that don’t want to participate, the impact could be anything from increased stress or pressure to perform in an unnatural fashion.

This hypothetical situation is not beyond the pale either. Last year, a statewide West Virginia teacher’s strike was partially brought on due to the Go365, a heartrate- and step-tracking app. A US$500 hike in a teacher’s annual insurance deductible was the punishment for failing to reach a certain amount of points. The program was later abandoned.

However, Manulife counters that it’s “committed to respecting and protecting” customers’ personal information.

“We have organizational, physical and technical safeguards in place to ensure the confidentiality, integrity and availability of the data entrusted to us,” the company said.

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