Healthy Living in the North

Foodie Friday: Give your comfort food a boost!

Plate of macaroni and cheese

Mac & cheese is easy to make from scratch and, with a few tweaks, you can amp up the nutrition and taste!

The snow has been falling and the days are getting shorter. Yes, winter has arrived in northern B.C.! These chilly evenings have me turning to soups, stews, and hearty comfort foods.

Comfort foods often get a bad rap when it comes to nutrition. We often think of comfort foods as being heavy, rich, and lacking in the vegetable department. But there isn’t any good reason they have to be this way. Most classic comfort foods can be easily modified to boost their nutrition and still be warm and satisfying enough for even the coldest winter night.

Mac & cheese is probably one of my favourite comfort food meals to make at home. Not only is it an easy dish to make from scratch, but with only a few little tweaks, you can amp up the nutrition and taste:

  • It’s easy enough to switch out regular macaroni for whole grain pasta to add some extra fibre to your meal.
  • Using an old or aged cheddar allows you to use less cheese while keeping that cheesy flavour.
  • And I always add some vegetables to my mac & cheese to make it a complete meal.

Some great vegetable choices include:

  • steamed cauliflower or broccoli
  • frozen peas or corn
  • sautéed mushrooms
  • puréed butternut squash
  • dark leafy greens, like spinach or kale

Here, I’ve used baby kale in my favourite mac & cheese recipe because it has a more mild flavour than regular kale and it requires less prep. If baby kale isn’t available, you can easily substitute chopped fresh, frozen, or canned kale instead.

Casserole dish with mac & cheese

Marianne’s recipe calls for kale, but cauliflower, broccoli, peas, corn, mushrooms, or squash are all great mac & cheese additions!

Oh Kale Yeah! Mac & Cheese

Recipe from Evergreen Eats

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • 3 cups whole grain pasta (such as macaroni, rotini, or penne)
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 4 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 cup shredded old cheddar (the older the better!)
  • 1 tbsp grainy mustard
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 4 cups of baby kale, packed
  • 1/2 cup herb and garlic croutons, crushed

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. Cook pasta per package directions, until al dente.
  3. While pasta is cooking, melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add flour, stir and cook for 1 minute, without browning.
  4. Lower the heat, and gradually whisk in milk. Stir until bubbles form around the edges, and sauce thickens. Do not boil.
  5. Stir in cheddar cheese, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste. Keep warm over low heat until pasta is cooked.
  6. Drain pasta, and add it to the cheese sauce, along with the baby kale. Stir until combined and kale has wilted slightly. Transfer to baking dish, and top with crushed croutons.
  7. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until top is crispy and golden brown.

Notes:

  • No croutons? No problem! You can use breadcrumbs, panko, or even crushed crackers or a few potato chips.
  • As the cheese, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce are all salty, taste your sauce before adding any extra salt – you might find you don’t need it!
Marianne Bloudoff

About Marianne Bloudoff

Born and raised in BC, Marianne moved from Vancouver to Prince George in January 2014. She is a Registered Dietitian with Northern Health's population health team. Her passion for food and nutrition lured her away from her previous career in Fisheries Management. Now, instead of counting fish, she finds herself educating people on their health benefits. In her spare time, Marianne can be found experimenting in the kitchen and writing about it on her food blog, as well as exploring everything northern B.C. has to offer.

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Foodie Friday: Lentils

Lentil health and nutrition infographic

Lentils, health, and nutrition

As the cold weather moves in, it’s so satisfying to warm up with a bowl of something hot. Chilies, soups, and stews are a staple for many families and can be a great source of nutrition if done right. By pairing the veggies of your choice with a source of protein and fibre, you can have a complete meal ready and on the table in no time at all!

In a past blog post, I spoke about my love for the Oh She Glows food blog. I recently made their Glowing Spiced Lentil Soup and was not disappointed!

This soup is a great example of a hearty, delicious, complete meal that contains no meat; in fact, it contains no animal products at all! Going “meatless” for one or two meals a week is a great way to challenge yourself and your family to explore new flavours and try new recipes. Reducing consumption of meat, red meat in particular, may also lower your risk of developing heart disease and certain cancers.

Lentils are one of my favourite meatless sources of protein. One serving (100g) of lentils contains the same amount of protein as one serving of steak (26g), but with only 1.5g of fat (the steak has 18g), 18g of fibre, and half of your daily recommendation of folate and iron! If you’re hooked on lentils after trying this Glowing Spiced Lentil Soup, head on over to lentils.ca for more recipes and lentil-related nutrition tips.

Red lentils

Lentils are a great meatless source of protein!

Glowing Spiced Lentil Soup

From: Oh She Glows

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups (280 g) diced onion (1 medium/large)
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 (15 oz/398 ml) can diced tomatoes, with juices
  • 1 (15 oz/398 ml) can full-fat coconut milk
  • 3/4 cup (140 g) uncooked red lentils, rinsed and drained
  • 3 1/2 cups (875 ml) low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt, or to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper, to taste (for a kick of heat!)
  • 1 (5 oz/140 g) package baby spinach
  • 2 tsp fresh lime juice, or more to taste

Instructions

  1. In a large pot, add the oil, onion, and garlic. Add a pinch of salt, stir, and sauté over medium heat for 4-5 minutes until the onion softens.
  2. Stir in the turmeric, cumin, cinnamon, and cardamom until combined. Continue cooking for about 1 minute, until fragrant.
  3. Add the diced tomatoes (with juices), entire can of coconut milk, red lentils, broth, salt, and plenty of pepper. Add red pepper flakes or cayenne, if desired, to taste. Stir to combine. Increase heat to high and bring to a low boil.
  4. Once it boils, reduce the heat to medium-high, and simmer, uncovered, for about 18 to 22 minutes, until the lentils are fluffy and tender.
  5. Turn off the heat and stir in the spinach until wilted. Add the lime juice to taste. Taste and add more salt and pepper, if desired. Ladle into bowls and serve with toasted bread and lime wedges.
Sarah Anstey

About Sarah Anstey

Born and raised in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Sarah moved to Prince George in 2013 to pursue her career as a Registered Dietitian. Since then, she has enjoyed developing her skills as a Clinical Dietitian with Northern Health, doing her part to help the people of northern B.C. live healthy and happy lives. Sarah looks at her move to Prince George as an opportunity to travel and explore a part of Canada that is new to her, taking in all that B.C. has to offer.

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Foodie Friday: Making vegetables the star of your supper

Roasted cauliflower with sauce and herbs on top

Cauliflower is covered in spices, roasted, and topped with sauce, cilantro, and pistachios in registered dietitian Erin’s recipe – making it the true star of dinner and a standalone vegetarian main dish, too!

Vegetables are often thought of last when planning a meal. Sometimes, they are dragged out of the depths of the freezer and cooked to death with no flavours added. With that approach, it’s no wonder many people don’t enjoy their vegetables! Well, I think it’s time to get creative and bring vegetables to the forefront at meal time!

Cauliflower is one of my favourite vegetables, among my other favourites in the Brassica family like cabbage, broccoli, and kale. For some, these can cause a bit of unwanted gas, but they have many health benefits to outweigh the cons like fibre to keep you regular and vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to prevent against certain types of cancer. For more health info on the Brassica family, check out Marianne’s blog post on brussels sprouts.

When the temperature starts to drop, I crave warm meals with warm spices like cinnamon and chili. This recipe draws on the warm flavours of Morocco, with a vibrant kick from lemon and cilantro. It can be served as a side (like I usually do) with toned-down lemony fish or chicken, or can be featured as a vegetarian main dish. This recipe is adapted from one I recently saw in the fall edition of the Ricardo magazine.

How can you get creative and make vegetables the star of your supper this week?

Moroccan whole roasted cauliflower

Ingredients

  • 1 head cauliflower, leaves removed. Keep the cauliflower whole.
  • 1 tbsp Moroccan spice blend (I buy this as a blend, but it usually has cumin, cinnamon, chili, ginger, coriander, and allspice if you want to make your own)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt to taste
  • ¼ cup tahini
  • ¼ cup hot water (may need more depending on how thick the tahini is)
  • 1 lemon, juice and zest
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • ½ cup pistachios, chopped
  • ¼ cup cilantro, chopped

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400C.
  2. In a large pot, steam the cauliflower until a knife inserts easily. When finished, place cauliflower on a parchment lined tray.
  3. Mix together the spice blend, olive oil, and salt. Pour evenly over cauliflower.
  4. Roast cauliflower until golden brown on top.
  5. While the cauliflower is roasting, mix together tahini, hot water, lemon juice and zest, and garlic. This should be a thick but pourable sauce. You may need to add more hot water if it is too thick.
  6. Drizzle tahini over cauliflower. Top with cilantro and pistachios.
  7. Cut into slices (like a cake) and serve!
Erin Branco

About Erin Branco

Erin is a dietitian with Northern Health's clinical nutrition team at UHNBC. Erin has a passion for growing and cooking food as well as teaching patients, clients and families about incorporating a balanced, wholesome diet into a healthy lifestyle. In her spare time, you can find her cooking up a storm, writing about food and nutrition, and growing vegetables at her community garden. During her dietetics internship, Erin explored the north from Fort St. John to Haida Gwaii, learning about clinical and public health dietetics with many adventures along the way.

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Foodie Friday: A quick and tasty fall meal (spinach & white bean soup)

Soup

A quick and healthy fall meal that makes for great lunch leftovers, too! Add spinach and white bean soup to your menu this week!

Looking for a quick and tasty meal to whip up this fall? This spinach and white bean soup is a personal favourite of mine simply because it is quick to prepare and makes for easy lunches throughout the week. Also, it’s delicious!

Kidney beans are a healthy and cost effective way to add extra protein into your diet. Just remember to rinse off canned beans under water first to remove the excess salt. Add in all the extra veggies and you are left with a fibre- and protein-packed meal that will leave you feeling full and satisfied.

This recipe calls for orzo, which is a small pasta similar in shape to rice. It can easily be substituted for any other small pasta (or quinoa) that you might have in your kitchen.

Spinach & white bean soup

Adapted from Damn Delicious

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup chopped fresh spinach (or 1/2 cup frozen)
  • 6 cups low sodium chicken stock
  • 1 can (15 oz) white kidney beans, drained & rinsed
  • 1 can (28 oz) diced tomatoes
  • ½ cup uncooked orzo pasta
  • 2 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 tsp dried basil
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onions, celery, and carrots and cook until soft (approximately 5 minutes). Add in garlic and stir one minute longer.
  2. Add in chicken stock, tomatoes, and herbs (thyme, basil, and bay leaves). Bring to a boil.
  3. Stir in orzo. Reduce heat and simmer until orzo is tender (approximately 10 minutes).
  4. Stir in kidney beans and spinach. Cook until spinach is wilted. Remove bay leaves before serving and add salt and pepper to taste.

Enjoy!

Destyni Atchison

About Destyni Atchison

Destyni is a Clinical Dietitian at Fort St. John Hospital and Peace Villa. She has been working with Northern Health for the past two years and also runs her own nutrition consulting business. In her spare time, she enjoys snowshoeing, hiking and developing new recipes for herself and her clients.

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Foodie Friday: Thanksgiving thoughts

Turkey, vegetables, and potatoes on a plate.

What does your family’s Thanksgiving dinner look like?

With the hustle and bustle of September behind us, it’s October and Thanksgiving has come and gone. The long weekend really got me thinking!

I have always loved this holiday because it is a time when my family is all together and it is the first break since the busy-ness of summer and back to school.

I also love this holiday because it is all about the food. Depending on your traditions, there may be roasted turkey or ham (both, for some), veggies from the garden including brussels sprouts sautéed with butter and chili peppers, green bean casserole, glazed carrots, mashed potatoes, my mother-in-law’s out of this world sweet potato dish, pumpkins and apples for pies, homemade breads, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and gravy.

Handwritten recipe cards

Family recipes are a big part of holiday meals!

For many of my clients, this menu provokes feelings of deprivation or angst as many of these foods are “not allowed” on whatever diet they may be following – Paleo diet followers load their plates with turkey and a side of lard (oh, and if there is bacon, load up); Ketogenic followers head for the ham, the cheese platter, a tossed green salad, and skip the rest.

Diets like these cause people unnecessary anxiety when they are faced with prohibited foods – do they forget about their diet and eat these foods and feel guilty later? Or do they sit sadly with their list of “allowed” foods and feel deprived? And who wouldn’t feel deprived at the table with everyone else loving my mother-in-law’s sweet potato dish and, later, my mother’s homemade apple pie? No one, that’s who!

To these folks, I suggest approaching Thanksgiving dinner and other holidays as an opportunity to practice trusting their body’s own internal cues of hunger, appetite, and fullness and let these cues guide them when it comes to choosing what and how much to eat. Then, they will leave the meal feeling comfortable and nourished rather than guilty and deprived.

Here is the famous sweet potato dish!

Sweet potato casserole

Beth’s mother-in-law’s “out of this world sweet potato dish.”

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

  • 4 cups mashed cooked sweet potatoes or yams
  • 2 tbsp cream or milk
  • 2 tbsp melted butter
  • ¼ tsp paprika
  • 1 beaten egg

Topping:

  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1 cup (approx.) pecan halves

Instructions

  1. Mix sweet potatoes, milk, melted butter, paprika, and beaten egg together and spread into greased baking dish.
  2. Make the topping by mixing butter and brown sugar in a pot over low heat until butter is just melted. Spread topping over sweet potato mixture and cover with pecan halves.
  3. Heat in oven at 350 F for 35 minutes.
Beth Evans

About Beth Evans

As a registered dietitian, Beth is dedicated to helping individuals, families and communities make the healthiest choices available to them, and enjoy eating well based on their unique realities and nutrition needs. Juggling work and a very busy family life, Beth is grateful for the time she spends with her family enjoying family meals, long walks and bike rides. She also loves the quiet times exploring in her garden, experimenting in the kitchen, and practicing yoga and meditation.

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Foodie Friday: Have you tried leeks?

Leeks on a cutting board

Have you tried leeks? They are a great addition to soups, casseroles, scrambled eggs, and more!

Two weeks ago, we marked the official arrival of fall! Yes, summer is over, but there is still a ton of delicious seasonal produce to be had. Some of my favourites are squash, pumpkins, carrots, apples, potatoes, and brussels sprouts.

One new food I’ve been experimenting with in my garden this year is the leek. Leeks grow really well in our rainy Terrace climate. Have you ever tried a leek? Leeks are the milder cousin of the onion and garlic and look like oversized green onions. They are found in most grocery stores but you can also grow them in your own backyard! The white and light green parts are typically what you use in recipes, but the dark green tops make a great stock.

Preparing & cleaning leeks

When I first got my leeks, I honestly had no idea how to prepare them! It turns out that leeks need to be cleaned properly, because dirt often gets trapped in between the layers. Here is a short and simple video on how to clean your leek. One trick is to rinse the leeks downward, which prevents dirt from washing back up into the leek.

Leeks are extremely nutritious, and, most importantly, they are super tasty!

Here are some ways to cook with leeks:

  • Include in your favourite stir-fry
  • Scrambled eggs with leeks
  • Add to any soup (leeks are a great addition!)
  • Add into mashed potatoes or potato salad
  • Add into casseroles or rice dishes
  • Stuff fish with leeks sautéed in butter or oil

Or, you can try this flavourful leek and potato soup to warm you up on those chilly fall days.

Soup in a bowl

A classic potato and leek soup is a great addition to your fall menu!

Classic Potato Leek Soup

Adapted from Dairy Goodness.

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 3 leeks, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
  • 2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
  • 3 large yellow-fleshed potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 2 cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth (I only had regular, so I just skipped adding any extra salt)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1.5 cups milk
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice

Instructions

  1. In a pot, melt butter or oil over medium heat.
  2. Add leeks, celery, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes or until leeks are tender.
  3. Add potatoes, broth, and 1 cup water. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and boil gently, covered, for 15 min or until potatoes are soft. Remove from heat.
  4. Stir in milk. Heat over medium heat, stirring often, just until steaming (do not let boil).
  5. Stir in lemon juice and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Emilia Moulechkova

About Emilia Moulechkova

As a Community Dietitian based in Terrace, Emilia supports 15 different aboriginal communities in the Nass Valley, Kitimaat Village and the Hazeltons. Emilia recently completed her dietetics internship with Northern Health as part of her dietetics training from the University of British Columbia. She is passionate about finding unique, client-centered approaches to supporting families in their current feeding efforts. In her free time, Emilia enjoys cooking, mountain biking and cross country skiing.

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Foodie Friday: Prince George carrots, B.C. apples, and the urge to bake this fall

Plate of muffins

Morning glory muffins can use local Prince George carrots and B.C. apples! What will you bake this fall?

Welcome to fall!

While the summer is full of excitement and adventure, I absolutely love this time of year here. It’s the Prince George I fell in love with! Almost exactly two years ago, I moved from Halifax. I was only supposed to be here for six months but, like many, I have fallen in love with the beauty of this area and all it has to offer. I love walking through the forests full of yellow leaves and the earthy smell of the moist ground. What’s your favourite part about this season?

Fall is the time of new beginnings for me and many others. After all of the summer adventures have subsided, fall is when the kids go back to school and everyone is back at work. For me, fall is the time to start new projects and endeavours as I usually tend to spend a bit more time indoors, until the snow flies!

The cooler temperatures provide a very welcome urge to bake, too! Luckily, there are plenty of local carrots and zucchini around from the summer harvest to incorporate into muffins, breads, and loaves to give a boost of vitamins and fibre to our homemade goodies.

Do you have some funky old apples sitting in your fridge? What about old bananas in your freezer? Throw these both into your baking for extra fiber, moisture, and sweetness.

Here is one of my favourite muffin recipes using local Prince George carrots and B.C. apples:

Morning glory muffins

Makes 12 large muffins (or 24 medium-sized muffins – adjust baking time as necessary)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/3 cup wheat germ
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 2 ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 2 cups shredded carrots
  • ½ cup raisins (or chopped dates)
  • ½ cup walnuts, chopped
  • ½ cup unsweetened flaked coconut
  • 1 apple, skin on, shredded
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • ½ cup very ripe bananas
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease 12 muffin cups, or line with paper liners.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together flour, wheat germ, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Stir in the carrot, raisins (or dates), nuts, coconut, and apple.
  3. In a separate bowl, beat together eggs, banana, oil, and vanilla. Stir egg mixture into the carrot/flour mixture, just until moistened. The batter will be thick!
  4. Scoop batter into prepared muffin cups.
  5. Bake in preheated oven for 18-20 minutes (12-15 minutes if making 24 medium muffins) or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.
  6. Enjoy and share with someone you love, in a beautiful space.
Lindsay Kraitberg

About Lindsay Kraitberg

Lindsay is a registered dietitian working regionally with the CBORD (a food and nutrition database used in food services) team as well as in complex care. Originally from Vancouver Island, she grew up in the small town of Duncan then lived in Halifax, Nova Scotia for four years before relocating to the north. Lindsay thoroughly enjoys her position with Northern Health as she works with many different health care teams and learns something new every day. When Lindsay isn't at work, you can find her snowboarding in the winter and hiking, biking or camping in the warmer weather.

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Foodie Friday: Beat the heat with homemade fruit pops!

Families in a park.

Looking to stay cool during your next summer picnic, event, or festival? Try making your own popsicles!

Much of northern B.C. has been enjoying some beautiful weather these past few weeks. I have been loving relaxing in the sun, reading a book or listening to music.

I recently attended the Edge of the World Music Festival on Haida Gwaii. It was a beautiful hot and sunny day with not a cloud in sight; a perfect day to lay out a blanket and chill out while listening to some great music.

I was overjoyed by the nice weather, but I quickly realized I would not be able to enjoy the music without something to keep me cool. Ice pops to the rescue!

When I was a kid, I remember my mom making homemade ice pops in plastic molds. At the festival, I was delighted to find someone selling homemade ice pops like the ones my mom used to make. It was just what I needed.

Since then, I purchased my own ice pop moulds and have started experimenting with different flavours. One of my favourites so far is this recipe for watermelon mint popsicles. They taste delicious and fresh and are a smart alternative to many store-bought ice pops that are high in sugar. A quick scan online shows that many popular ice pop brands have two to four teaspoons of added sugar per serving!

Watermelon slice

Sarah is a fan of watermelon-mint popsicles. What combinations will you try?

Watermelon mint popsicles

Recipe adapted from Zoku.

Don’t have moulds? Ice cube trays and cut pieces of firm straws can do the trick!

Ingredients

  • 12 oz (about 3½ cups) seeded, cubed fresh watermelon
  • ¼ cup cold water
  • 1 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 6-8 mint leaves
  • Sweetener of choice (optional – if your watermelon is sweet, you won’t need to add sweetener. If you want a sweeter base, simply add a little sweetener to taste.)

Instructions

  1. Make the watermelon base: In a blender, combine all ingredients and puree until smooth.
  2. Assemble popsicles: Insert sticks and pour the watermelon base until almost full. Let freeze completely, then remove the pops and enjoy.

If you enjoy these, start experimenting with different fruit combinations or try using various types of milk as the liquid base. One of my favourite flavour combinations is coconut milk and pineapple. Last year, Amy showed us her strawberry-coconut variety! What combinations will you try?

Sarah Anstey

About Sarah Anstey

Born and raised in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Sarah moved to Prince George in 2013 to pursue her career as a Registered Dietitian. Since then, she has enjoyed developing her skills as a Clinical Dietitian with Northern Health, doing her part to help the people of northern B.C. live healthy and happy lives. Sarah looks at her move to Prince George as an opportunity to travel and explore a part of Canada that is new to her, taking in all that B.C. has to offer.

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Foodie Friday: Make zoodles with your summer harvest!

It is the peak of summer! Now is the time when you have the best selection of fresh and vibrant fruit and vegetables in the grocery store, farmers market, or in your own gardens.

One vegetable that you likely have more of than you know what to do with is the almighty zucchini. Gardeners, like I aspire to be, who grow zucchini learn to become very creative with their bounty, or try to pawn off the squash on their friends and family. When I lived in Vancouver, I had a small garden plot as part of a community garden and I loved growing and cooking with zucchini. Just check out these beauties!

Zucchini and tomato

Zucchini plant
Zucchini is a good source of fibre which helps lower blood cholesterol, control blood sugar levels, and keeps you regular. Like all vegetables, zucchini is also a good source of vitamins and antioxidants. Specifically, zucchini contains carotenoids: lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta-carotene, which may reduce the risk of some cancers, heart disease, and eye disease through their protective effect in the body. In the recipe below, adding avocado to the pesto sauce adds an extra boost of antioxidants and fibre and also replaces some of the olive oil.

If you grow or buy zucchini, or are one of the lucky recipients of this delicious vegetable, below is a great way to use them and get at least two servings of vegetable in. Round out the meal with a grilled chicken breast and some crusty garlic bread.

Zucchini noodles with chicken breast

I’d love to get some new ideas of what to do with all the zucchini that is in its prime, so please leave a comment to share how you use it!

Creamy avocado basil pesto with zoodles (zucchini noodles)

Makes 4 servings.

Ingredients

  • 5 zucchini, large
  • 1 avocado, pit removed
  • 15 basil leaves, fresh
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper, ground
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 3 tbsp olive oil, extra virgin
  • ½ lemon, juiced
  • 2 tbsp parmesan cheese

Instructions

1. Julienne zucchini lengthwise by hand or with a mandolin. You can also use a vegetable noodle-making gadget to make long spiral noodles- or ZOODLES!

Zucchini noodles in a bowl

2. Place zucchini noodles in a colander with 3/4 tsp salt. Let sit for 30 minutes and drain liquid.

Bowl of zucchini noodles

3. In a blender or food processor, mix together avocado, basil, 1/4 tsp salt, pepper, garlic, 2 tbsp olive oil, and lemon until smooth.

4. In a sauté pan on medium heat, heat 1 tbsp olive oil and add zucchini noodles. Cook for 2 minutes. (You can also leave them cold for more crunch). Note: I chose not to cook the zucchini this time, which made life a lot easier in this heat wave we are having!

5. Add sauce and parmesan cheese to the pan and coat the zucchini noodles. Heat through.

Zucchini noodles with parmesan cheese

6. Serve and enjoy!

Zucchini noodles with pesto

Erin Branco

About Erin Branco

Erin is a dietitian with Northern Health's clinical nutrition team at UHNBC. Erin has a passion for growing and cooking food as well as teaching patients, clients and families about incorporating a balanced, wholesome diet into a healthy lifestyle. In her spare time, you can find her cooking up a storm, writing about food and nutrition, and growing vegetables at her community garden. During her dietetics internship, Erin explored the north from Fort St. John to Haida Gwaii, learning about clinical and public health dietetics with many adventures along the way.

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Foodie Friday: Eating foods you love!

Caesar salad in a bowl.

For registered dietitian Beth, the “good vs. bad” food debate is getting old! “A healthy diet is a diet that allows you to eat foods you love in amounts that are satisfying for you.” Love kale? Try it as part of your next Caesar salad.

As a registered dietitian, I talk about food a lot, whether it’s with my clients, friends, family, or even on occasion with random strangers. Time after time, the “good food vs. bad food” theme (“healthy vs. unhealthy”) arises. Usually people start the conversation with statements like this:

  • “I only eat gluten-free bread, that’s healthy right?” (Gee, I missed the memo on that one)
  • “I eat a banana with my yogurt at breakfast – that’s bad, right, because bananas have a lot of sugar?” (They do?)
  • “Sometimes we eat chips but I know that’s bad.” (Not if you enjoyed them!)
  • “I force myself to eat kale because I heard that it’s healthy, but I don’t like the taste of it.” (That does not sound like fun.)
  • “I don’t eat anything white.” (Oh, so no cauliflower or halibut for you?)

People, people! A healthy diet is a diet that allows you to eat foods you love in amounts that are satisfying for you!

Yes, kale is a healthy food, but what’s so special about it? Nothing, really. It’s just like any of the other leafy greens and, when eaten regularly and with a variety of other foods, it will give you some vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants that your body needs to keep well. And if you like the taste of kale and love eating it, all the better! I happen to enjoy eating kale, but if I didn’t, I can tell you how unhappy I would be if I had to eat it only because it’s “good for me.”

Eating is a lot easier than that! I choose when, what, and how much I eat based on what my body is telling me that I need for that particular time. I choose foods based on flavour, a variety of textures and tastes, and how hungry I feel. This means I include a wide range of foods that will meet my nutrition needs and satisfy my cravings. I do not choose what to eat based on the latest health trends or food fads and I certainly do not buy in to the good versus bad debate.

Speaking of kale, are any of you wondering what to do with all that kale you are getting out of your garden right now? Or, if you do not have a garden, then the kale your neighbours keep giving you?

Here is a list of ideas:

  • Steam it and serve it with a little olive oil and lemon juice sprinkled on top.
  • Substitute it in your favorite quiche or frittata recipe.
  • Make the all famous kale chips (a hit at my house).
  • Chop it up and add to your favourite summer pasta recipe.
  • Cook it up and freeze it for later to throw in a smoothie with frozen berries for a cool summer treat.
  • Mix it up with beans, some cooked quinoa, and roasted vegetables.
  • Add it to soups and stews.

Here’s a recipe that I adapted from the Oh She Glows Cookbook by Angela Liddon that adds an interesting twist to Caesar salad. It’s also a great way to use up some of that kale this time of year!

Caesar Salad

Ingredients

Dressing

  • ½ cup whole almonds
  • 1 whole head of garlic
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 4 tsp lemon juice
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Salad

  • One large bunch of kale, torn in to bite-sized pieces
  • One head of romaine, torn in to bite-sized pieces
  • Croutons (optional)

Instructions

  1. Soak the almonds in water for 12 hours or overnight. Drain and rinse.
  2. Cut off the top of the garlic head to expose the raw cloves. Cover in foil and bake in the oven at 425 F for 35-40 minutes, or until the cloves are soft and golden. Let cool.
  3. Squeeze garlic cloves out of their skins and into a food processor.
  4. Add the soaked almonds, oil, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, salt, and pepper and ¼ cup of water. Process until smooth.
  5. Place lettuce and kale in a large bowl and toss with the dressing. If you like a bit of a crunch, add some croutons.
Beth Evans

About Beth Evans

As a registered dietitian, Beth is dedicated to helping individuals, families and communities make the healthiest choices available to them, and enjoy eating well based on their unique realities and nutrition needs. Juggling work and a very busy family life, Beth is grateful for the time she spends with her family enjoying family meals, long walks and bike rides. She also loves the quiet times exploring in her garden, experimenting in the kitchen, and practicing yoga and meditation.

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