Healthy Living in the North

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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