Healthy Living in the North

Foodie Friday: Waste not, want not! A simple guide to making the most of your garden harvest

Do you have more carrot tops than you know what to do with? Try using them in a tasty pesto (see recipe below)!

This will be my fourth year to reap the benefits of a backyard garden and I feel like I’m really starting to get the hang of things out there! This year I’ve noticed myself becoming somewhat fixated on the amount of garden waste I have (which also makes me wonder if I’m slowly turning into my mother!). In past years I just tossed my surplus into the compost pile without a second thought, but this year I find myself wondering if there is a way to salvage some of that waste from the heap. As my garden output kicks into high gear, I’m going to need a plan to help me minimize the waste this year; I hope it will help you reduce yours as well.

Step 1: Identify a surplus

I don’t know about the rest of you gardeners out there, but I’m drowning in carrot tops and beet greens. How I never knew that carrot tops were edible (and tasty) is beyond me, so I set out to use some of those up.

There are a few ways you can deal with a surplus, depending on what you’ve got. Did you plant more green beans than you can reasonably eat? Are your strawberries taking over your fridge shelves? Was your yield of tomatoes far beyond your expectations? The first step to reducing your waste is identifying what you’ve got.

Step 2: Come up with a plan

Is there any question the internet can’t answer?! Once you know what you want to use up, a good google search should yield you a number of solutions to deal with your surplus. One solution I loved and will definitely do next year, is succession planting. I can’t eat two rows of radishes all at once, so next year I’m going to plant a second row two weeks later. Here are some suggestions that you can use now:

  • Blanche and freeze vegetables such as peas, green beans, and beets.
  • Shred zucchini and freeze for muffins and breads.
  • Make a tomato sauce or try your hand at sundried tomatoes.
  • Use up herbs or carrot greens in a pesto (see recipe below!).
  • Thinly slice greens (beet greens, kale, etc.) and toss into salads or freeze for smoothies.
  • Can, pickle, or preserve fruits or vegetables.

Step 3: Tackle!

One of the most challenging parts of this equation is finding the extra time to spend in the kitchen. Make sure your plan fits into your time budget – if you’ve only got 30 minutes you probably don’t want to tackle pickling beets, but might be able to whip up a quick pesto with a food processor. Consider getting a group of friends together for a ‘canning’ or ‘freezing’ party to make the work go quicker.

grilled shrimp and pesto

Try this pesto drizzled over grilled shrimp or use it to dress up a salad or sandwich!

Step 4: Enjoy the fruits (or vegetables) of your labour.

I’ve included the recipe I used for a carrot top pesto; it’s adapted from the Food Network. I drizzled it over some grilled shrimp but it would also be great mixed into a salad dressing or as a sandwich topping or even plopped on to a nice bowl of soup.

Carrot Top Pesto

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup packed carrot leaves
  • ½ cup packed parsley leaves
  • ¼ cup roasted cashews or pine nuts
  • 1 clove garlic
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup parmesan cheese
  • Kosher salt, to taste

Instructions:

  • Pulse the carrot leaves, parsley leaves, nuts and garlic in a food processor until coarsely chopped.
  • Slowly pour the olive oil in with the machine running to form a paste.
  • Pulse in the parmesan and kosher salt.
  • Store in an airtight container for 1-2 weeks, or in the freezer for up to 6 months.
Carmen Maddigan

About Carmen Maddigan

Born and raised in Fort St John, Carmen returned home in 2007, after completing her internship in Prince George. She has since, filled a variety of different roles as a dietitian for Northern Health and currently works at Fort St John Hospital providing outpatient nutrition counselling. In her spare time, Carmen can be found testing out a variety of healthy and tasty meal ideas. She also enjoys running, camping, and playing outside in the sun or snow with her family.

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Foodie Friday: Celebrating Dads in the Kitchen

With Father’s Day coming up this weekend, I got thinking about the things that I appreciate about my husband (and dad to my two daughters).  One of the things I love is that he’s not shy to get in the kitchen and get his hands a little dirty.  I’m no stranger to dads in the kitchen, considering I grew up with a single dad who kept the home cooked meals coming most days of the week.  However, I do recognize that cooking remains a woman dominated arena in our society.

Most of the meal prep in my house does still fall on the shoulders of yours truly, mostly because my work day ends earlier so it just makes sense.  This time of year though I notice a real shift in that balance as the barbeque and smoker re-emerge from the storage shed (what is it with boys and fire?!).

dad cooking with kids in kitchen

Cooking with dad is a whole different experience than cooking with mom!

Cooking with dad is a whole new experience for my girls then cooking with mom.  For one thing, he is way better at harnessing their “kid power”, and is generally more playful while cooking then I am.  This makes work in the kitchen feel like anything but!  He tends to give them more autonomy with the knife and other kitchen tools (ack!) which I know gives them a lot of confidence in their abilities in the kitchen and other areas.  And last, but certainly not least, whether he realizes it or not, he promotes a more free and flexible attitude about cooking, as illustrated by this frequently overheard dialogue: Daughter says, “Mom says that’s too much butter” or “Mom says we have to do it like this”, which is always followed by Dad saying, “Well Mom isn’t in here right now is she!” which is followed by copious amounts of mischievous giggling.

To all the dads out there getting dirty in the kitchen, I salute you!  Happy Father’s Day!

 

Below is a recipe my husband and kids like to make together.  It is adapted from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Meals.

Shells with Grilled Chicken and Mozzarellapasta dish

Ingredients:

  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 pound (450g) of chicken breast cutlets
  • 8oz (or 225g) pasta shells
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 tub of mini bocconcini, halved (or large bocconcini cut into 1/4” pieces)
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons butter or margarine

Instructions:

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta. Meanwhile, heat grill to medium and lightly oil grates.  Season chicken with salt and pepper.  Grill until cooked through, 2-3 minutes per side.  Remove from grill and cut into thin strips.
  2. Cook pasta until al dente, according to package instructions. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water; drain pasta and return to pot.  Add chicken, tomatoes, bocconcini, parsley, parmesan, and butter.  Toss to combine.  Add reserved pasta water a little at a time to create a sauce that coats shells (you may not need all the water).  Serve with a little more parmesan if desired.

Note: You can substitute the pasta shells for whole wheat pasta and/or add a side salad to increase the fiber of this meal.

Carmen Maddigan

About Carmen Maddigan

Born and raised in Fort St John, Carmen returned home in 2007, after completing her internship in Prince George. She has since, filled a variety of different roles as a dietitian for Northern Health and currently works at Fort St John Hospital providing outpatient nutrition counselling. In her spare time, Carmen can be found testing out a variety of healthy and tasty meal ideas. She also enjoys running, camping, and playing outside in the sun or snow with her family.

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Foodie Friday: Building Your Pantry Survival Kit

The idea of a “pantry survival kit” might sound a little overboard – after all, I’m not talking about traditional emergency preparedness or doomsday scenarios! I’m simply referring to everyday life where lately, I feel like I’m barely keeping my head above water on the home front. My family seems to have a lot of extracurricular commitments when spring hits and I’m sure a lot of you feel the same way with many sports winding down and others ramping up – or maybe you’ve found yourself in the midst of final exams or peak work season. Whatever your extra time commitments may be, keeping a home-cooked meal at the top of your priority list might feel like a struggle.

When life gets busy, it gets even harder to plan ahead for healthy meals throughout the week. You may find yourself arriving at home only to find the fridge shelves emptier than your stomach! This can be the trigger for a quick drive to the nearest fast food joint or a speed dial takeout order. And this is where a pantry survival kit comes in. What is a pantry survival kit? It’s a recipe (or two) in your arsenal that can be cooked from pantry items exclusively! With this kit in mind (and in your pantry), you can have dinner on the table way before the pizza guy comes knocking.

fresh herbs, kitchen, pantry ingredients

A pantry survival kit helps avoid hunger disaster!

The benefits of a home-cooked meal are numerous: you’re more likely to consume higher amounts of fiber, heart healthy fats, and essential vitamins and minerals, as well as less sodium and trans fat. If you are feeding a family, cooking and eating together at home will help your children develop healthier eating habits as they grow into adulthood. You’re likely to save a few bucks as well and for the next month, cooking and eating together could even net you a cash prize through the  Hands-on Cook-off contest!

So, what’s the secret to building a pantry survival kit?  It all starts with a good recipe that appeals to you. Then, all you need to do is keep the pantry stocked with those ingredients. I’ve included one of my favourite pantry recipes below. I like this one because my whole family enjoys it and it’s quick enough to get on the table in about 25 minutes, especially with my kids helping to open cans, chop basil, set the table, etc…  The only “fresh” ingredients in this recipe are the garlic (which has a pretty decent shelf life) and the basil. I try to keep a few potted herbs growing on my window to brighten up my pantry meals but you could also substitute for dried basil.

Bow Tie Pasta with Fire-Roasted Tomatoes and Basil 

Ingredients:

  • 4 cloves of garlic, 1 minced and 3 thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, plus 1 tbsp for the pan
  • 3/4 lb of bow tie noodles
  • 2 14 oz cans of fire roasted tomatoes
  • 1 14 oz can of navy beans (or other white bean of your choice), drained and rinsed
  • 3/4 cup thinly sliced basil leaves
  • Salt and pepper to taste (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Bring a large pot of salted (optional) water to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions.
  2. Meanwhile, mix the sliced garlic with the 3-4 tbsp of olive oil and set aside.
  3. Heat the tbsp of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the minced garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and beans and bring to a light simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low. Continue to simmer until some of the liquid has evaporated and it is slightly thickened, 10-15 minutes. Remove the pan from heat and stir in the basil. Season with salt and pepper, if desired.
  4. Serve the sauce over bowtie noodles and drizzle with the garlic infused olive oil.
Carmen Maddigan

About Carmen Maddigan

Born and raised in Fort St John, Carmen returned home in 2007, after completing her internship in Prince George. She has since, filled a variety of different roles as a dietitian for Northern Health and currently works at Fort St John Hospital providing outpatient nutrition counselling. In her spare time, Carmen can be found testing out a variety of healthy and tasty meal ideas. She also enjoys running, camping, and playing outside in the sun or snow with her family.

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Foodie Friday: break the cycle with mindful eating

So we’ve turned the corner into another Nutrition Month, an exciting time for all of us dietitians to amp up the spotlight on healthy eating.

This year’s theme is “Taking the Fight out of Food.” In my professional life, I meet a lot of people who are in the grips of a long-term feud with food! They feel as though they’ve “tried every diet under the sun” but can’t seem to get their eating under control. In my experience, this kind of thinking about health and especially body weight make people an easy mark for fad diets, which unfortunately don’t work! There is an ever-growing body of evidence demonstrating that people rarely maintain the weight lost on these diets and quite frequently regain more than they lost in the first place. So how can you put this food fight to bed?

Start by accepting your body how it is. Right now. Easier said than done, but it is really hard to do something good for your body (like eat well or exercise) when you’re constantly hating it.

Next, get the facts about how to stop the never-ending cycle of eat-repent-repeat! “Intuitive” or “mindful” eating can help you break this cycle and teach you how to tune into your own body’s cues of what and how much to eat. When you label foods as “good” or “bad”, as most fad diets often do, you may subconsciously start wanting the “no” foods more and the “yes” foods less. If you can successfully put all foods on an even playing field, you can start enjoying all foods without guilt and end that perpetual food fight!

I’ve been known to seek out a little something sweet after a meal and one of my go-to indulgences is homemade ice cream. It’s really quick to make with the right tool (and is sure to impress your guests!). The flavour combinations are endless and you can always find one to match your mood or meal theme. One of my favourites is coconut lime.  Give it a try, and make sure to sit down and enjoy it mindfully!

ice cream, coconut

Treat yourself by trying out (and mindfully eating!) this delicious homemade ice cream recipe.

Coconut Lime Ice Cream (in automatic ice cream maker. Don’t have one? See note below.)

Ingredients

Recipe adapted from  All Recipes

  • 1 can (14oz) unsweetened coconut milk
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 cup half and half cream
  • 2 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon lime zest
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 mango, peeled and sliced (optional)
  • ¼ cup toasted shredded coconut (optional)

Directions

  1. Whisk coconut milk, sugar, half-and-half, lime juice, lime zest and salt together in a large bowl until sugar is fully dissolved. Transfer mixture into an automatic ice maker, and freeze according to manufactures directions.
  2. If you would like hard ice cream consistency, you will need to transfer ice cream into an air tight container and freeze for at least 3 hours or overnight.
  3. Scoop ice cream into bowls and garnish with mango and toasted coconut, if desired.

Editor’s note: Carmen’s recipe looked delicious to me but I don’t have an ice cream maker. I did some searching and found this option for folks without ice cream makers. I’m excited to try this process!

Carmen Maddigan

About Carmen Maddigan

Born and raised in Fort St John, Carmen returned home in 2007, after completing her internship in Prince George. She has since, filled a variety of different roles as a dietitian for Northern Health and currently works at Fort St John Hospital providing outpatient nutrition counselling. In her spare time, Carmen can be found testing out a variety of healthy and tasty meal ideas. She also enjoys running, camping, and playing outside in the sun or snow with her family.

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