This Salsa Roja Is My Spicy, Smoky Dinner Security Blanket

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Welcome to Never Fail, a weekly column where we wax poetic about the recipes that never, ever let us down.

Welcome to Condiment Central, a.k.a. the top shelf of my fridge. Among the motley crew of jars labeled with masking tape there’s intensely garlicky toum, crunchy chile oil, zhug, pomegranate molasses, spicy tofu crumbles, dulce de leche, and, the container that’s always near-empty first, smoky salsa roja.

Smooth, sultry, and just the right balance of fiery, tangy, and sweet, it has the magical ability to turn a bag of tortilla chips into dinner. (Or, when I’m feeling a little more ambitious, morph into the best enchilada sauce.)

Rick Makes Double-Pork Carnitas

This salsa roja is delicious and it disappears fast, but that’s not a problem considering that the bulk of its flavor comes from three things I usually have in the kitchen: chipotles in adobo, tomato paste, and fire-roasted tomatoes, which are—believe it or not—cooked over an open flame before they’re canned to give them that charred edge. (If you don’t have fire-roasted tomatoes, do not—I repeat: do not!—attempt to flame-cook your own, Regular crushed tomatoes will do the trick, and you could add a pinch of smoked paprika to compensate.)

It also helps that the salsa takes all of fifteen minutes to make. You simply sauté onion and garlic, add the tomato paste and chipotles in adobo, cook them down so they’re darker, thicker, and richer in flavor, then add the canned tomatoes and simmer to concentrate their power. All that’s left to do is to transfer everything to a blender or food processor and blitz until smooth, then stir in apple cider vinegar (sharp!) and molasses (sweet!).

If you don’t have « robust-flavored (dark) molasses, » hope is not lost: I imagine that maple syrup, honey, or brown sugar would be strong contenders (one time I used tamarind paste, and it was delicious).

beer braised brisket

You could serve the salsa roja with beer-braised brisket, but I’m more likely to eat it with scrambled eggs.

Now, you—and all of my friends, family members, and whoever else stumbles in for dinner—might be wondering how practical it is to spend time making a sauce instead of making dinner. « Sarah, » you think, « what use is a fridge packed full of condiments, none of which constitute a real meal? » Well, I’d argue that smoky salsa roja makes all of the boring things I’m actually going to eat for dinner taste a hundred times more exciting. Fold salsa roja into soft scrambled eggs; use it as a dipping sauce for roasted sweet potatoes; slather it in a tortilla and top with seared shrimp and sliced avocado; mix it with yogurt, then toss with roasted potatoes; stir into sautéed chickpeas or braised white beans; or use it to coat tortilla chips and make yourself egg-topped chilaquiles. With a jar of salsa roja around, not even my saddest dinner is irredeemably doomed.

Of course there are a gazillion salsa roja recipes (« salsa roja, » after all, just means red sauce), with various fresh and dried and canned ingredients. But this is the one that comes together with what I already have lying around—no mealy, dead-of-winter tomatoes necessary. And besides, I once saw an embroidered pillow that said: When you find a salsa (or, I guess, a person) that you love, you don’t let it go.

Salsa, fiesta:

SALSA ROJA

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This Weighted Blanket Eased My Anxiety and Helped Me Sleep | Healthyish

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Earlier this year, I started wearing a Fitbit after I got one as a gift, and I learned a few things about myself right away. Like: I don’t burn as many calories in my favorite workout class as I thought. (Sigh.) I’m far too competitive when it comes to step challenges. (Sorry, not sorry.) And I am a very restless sleeper.

I’ve always kind of known this was true. I often struggle to fall asleep, I toss, I turn, and, according to my Fitbit, I wake up between six and seven times each night. I was already always searching for sleep-positive products, but, after seeing my Fitbit data, my quest intensified. Whether it be a meditation app on my iPhone or an essential oil diffuser on my nightstand, I probably own it. But of all my sleep-related purchases, my weighted blanket stands alone.

For those who have never heard of this cozy commodity, weighted blankets are exactly what they sound like—blankets with additional, evenly distributed weight. This extra weight (which typically ranges between 5 and 25 pounds) provides a firm but gentle squeeze to those snuggled underneath and subsequently calms the nervous system and eases body tension. Because of these therapeutic effects, weighted blankets have long been used by people with autism, but they’ve been gaining popularity with adults with sleep problems like me.

I started using a weighted blanket three months ago and since then, my overall sleep has significantly improved. I’m an overthinker, and my thoughts tend to speed up before bed. But after a few minutes underneath my blanket, my heart rate slows, my body relaxes, and I feel literally grounded. I definitely fall asleep faster than I would without it…as evidenced by the fact that I’ve watched significantly less Friends on Netflix in the past three months.

Using my weighted blanket also stops me from moving around in my sleep. While in the past I’ve been a chronic side-flipper, it’s now common for me to wake up in the same position that I fell asleep in. Of course, the immobilizing aspect of sleeping underneath an additional 15 pounds plays a role here, but I also don’t feel the need to move as much when I’m swaddled (and relaxed) underneath my blanket.

I bought my first weighted blanket on Amazon, but I was quickly converted to the Gravity Blanket, the brand my boyfriend bought. The Gravity Blanket is the holy grail of weighted blankets. It provides all the same benefits of an average blanket, but it’s softer, it stays cooler throughout the night, and its weight remains more evenly distributed. While the Gravity Blanket is more expensive than others, it’s my favorite of the weighted blankets that I’ve tried.

For the past three months, I have slept with the weighted blanket almost every night. I have also convinced three friends, three coworkers, and one family member to buy one for themselves. While the idea of being crushed by a 15-pound weight while you sleep does seem a bit counterintuitive at first, I can’t imagine going to bed without my weighted blanket. Now if only I could get one in a travel size…

Buy it: 25lb Gravity Blanket, $250 at Bed Bath and Beyond.

All products featured on Healthyish are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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‘Blanket ban’ on pot smoking for some workers could be challenged in court, union warns

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The legalization of recreational marijuana next week is reopening old wounds and sparking new battles between employers and employees in high-risk jobs that could wind up in the court system.

A recent decision by Air Canada to prohibit all employees in flight operations and aircraft maintenance from using cannabis at all times, both on duty and off duty, has raised eyebrows on both sides of the debate.

On Tuesday, rival WestJet Airlines said it, too, will ban recreational cannabis use for employees in « safety-sensitive » positions both on and off the job.

Trend all too common

Niki Lundquist, a lawyer with Unifor, a union that represents 315,000 Canadian workers, said the trend is all too common.

« In the past two weeks we’ve been inundated with amended drug and alcohol policies — and those policies actually purport to regulate off-duty conduct, so use of any kind, » she said.

« We see that as a very common feature suddenly, an absolute prohibition on cannabis use and that’s without regard to if it’s impairing, without regard to the legality of it — it’s just a blanket ban. »

Intrusion on ‘dignity and privacy’

She said the union is writing opinions on why such policies won’t stand scrutiny, as well as filing grievances.

It’s preparing to take employers to court if necessary to prove that Canadian law doesn’t allow such « intrusions on employees’ dignity and privacy, » she said.

Several large Canadian employers in industries ranging from mining to steel to transportation refused comment for this article on their drug policy updates.

But Kevin Neveu, CEO of Precision Drilling Corp., said he feels ready for legalization after his company « modernized » its employee policies.

« For example, in our operating rules, we used to require that our workers be drug and alcohol-free, » he said.

« We’ve amended the wording to say they must be free of ‘impairment,’ rather than isolating alcohol or drugs or legalized drugs or illegal drugs, so we’ve cleaned up the wording. »

Trained to watch for drug impairment

A key safety provision at Precision’s drilling sites is a morning fitness test, where managers must assess workers to make sure they are ready for the job. The managers are trained to watch for illness or excessive tiredness as well as drug or alcohol impairment, Neveu said.

If marijuana impairment is suspected, the employee can be sent for urine or blood testing. A positive test could lead to them being terminated.

Employee education starts during a three-day orientation for new Precision employees during which a drug and alcohol test is performed. If the employee tests positive, they are disqualified and must wait 90 days to apply again, Neveu said, adding about 15 per cent usually fail.

Handled on a case-by-case basis

Random drug testing is allowed in most of the U.S. states where Precision operates and is a useful tool to head off drug use problems, Neveu said, adding the company only uses that tool when it’s needed.

He added he’s disappointed that random drug testing isn’t allowed in Canada given the difficulty in identifying a worker who may be impaired by marijuana.

The company handles medical marijuana in the same way it handles any prescription drug, on a case-by-case basis that assesses whether the person can continue safely in each job based on how the drug is likely to affect him or her, he said.

Recreational and medical products banned

At heavy oil producer Canadian Natural Resources Ltd., both recreational and medical marijuana products are banned, spokesperson Julie Woo said.

Several studies published over the past year have shown that many employers in Canada aren’t ready for legalization. That’s still true, said Paula Allen, vice-president of research and integrative solutions for consultancy Morneau Shepell.

Many are on the sidelines waiting to see what happens, she said, adding the cost of inaction could be enormous for those firms.

‘You could be criminally liable’

« It’s the employer’s responsibility to make sure they’re managing risk, » she said. « If you’re negligent and you know there’s a problem … you could be criminally liable. »

Policies will evolve over the six to 18 months after the new pot laws are in place and workplace problems begin to appear, Allen said.

Key issues revolve around how testing is used to support an employer’s claim of impairment, she said, as users of cannabis can test positive for a long time after the impairing effects have worn off.

Lundquist agreed that testing is an unresolved issue.

« People are going to be disciplined and lose their jobs for off-duty conduct that has no impact on their ability to do their work. »

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