Healthy Living in the North

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: Cooking with Mom

Loaf of strawberry bread

What does cooking a special meal mean to you? For dietitian Beth and her son, it includes cooking together on Mother’s Day. On the menu this year? Strawberry Bread!

This past weekend we celebrated Mother’s Day and I bet that a lot of you showed mom how much you love and appreciate her by sharing a meal with her. Or maybe you cooked up something special for her?

Many family traditions start with cooking a special meal for a celebration of some sort, whether it’s a holiday, birthday, wedding, or reunion. The foods in these meals conjure up memories of nurturing, love, and connection. A fond memory from my childhood is the aroma of apple pie baking in the oven. When I smelled the sweetness of the apples and cinnamon combined with the mouth-watering fragrance of the buttery pie crust, I knew we were having a celebration! The whole atmosphere of the house changed during this time. My mom would be a flurry of action in the kitchen while my siblings and I looked forward to the excitement of all the visitors and the tasty food. I learned to cook from my mom and she and I both are recipe collectors and cookbook hoarders. I love the time I spend preparing meals for special occasions. For me, cooking means nurturing loved ones, making happy memories and sharing delicious food.

What does cooking a special meal mean to you?

My son and I cook together on Mother’s Day, which is one of my favourite family traditions. This year, we made Strawberry Bread as part of Mother’s Day brunch for his Nana.

Here is the recipe, adapted from one of my favorite cookbooks: Simply in Season: Recipes that celebrate fresh, local foods in the spirit of more-with-less, by Mary Beth Linda and Cathleen Hockman-Wert.

Slices of strawberry breadStrawberry Bread

Ingredients

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ cup flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 ¼ cup mashed strawberries
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup oil (we used ½ cup unsweetened applesauce and topped up with oil)
  • 2 eggs

Instructions

  1. Combine dry ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.
  2. Mix strawberries, sugar, oil and eggs together.
  3. Stir dry ingredients into strawberry mixture until just combined.
  4. Pour batter into a greased bread pan.
  5. Bake for about an hour in the oven at 350 degrees.
  6. Enjoy!
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: Show your love this Valentine’s Day … with a pulse!

Brownies on a plate with pear and milk.

Add a little pulse to your diet this year! Toss chickpeas into a salad, add lentils to your soup, or try pureeing black beans into your new favourite brownie recipe!

The United Nations has declared 2016 as the International Year of the Pulse!

What is a pulse you ask?

A pulse is the edible seed of a plant in the legume family. The most common pulses are dried peas, beans, lentils and chick peas. Why should you eat them this Valentine’s Day (and on a regular basis)? Because they’re good for you! Now you are probably thinking that dietitians say that all the time, right?

Well, it’s true! They are good for you and you should also eat them because they taste great, they’re inexpensive, easy to use and they are jam-packed with fibre, protein and iron, among other lesser-known nutrients such as zinc, magnesium, potassium, vitamin B6, folate, and phosphorous.

The big deal about fibre these days (in this world of ultra-processed foods) is that most Canadians aren’t eating enough of it! Pulses have two types of fibre – the one that promotes healthy digestion and regularity and the other type that helps to lower cholesterol levels and keep blood sugars in check. All of this in a measly, little old bean!

Here are a few ideas that might help you to put a little pulse into your diet:

  • Toss chickpeas into a salad of greens and grains for a quick standalone meal.
  • Add lentils to your soup or casserole to amp up the protein.
  • Mash up some navy beans to use a dip for veggies for a fun snack.
  • Puree black beans or kidney beans into your favorite cake or brownie for a low fat, high fibre alternative.

For more recipes and ideas visit Pulse Canada.

Looking for an idea for your loved ones this Valentine’s Day? Try my recipe for Beany Brownies that will be sure to capture their hearts with its gentle sweetness and rich chocolate taste and, of course, the added pulse!

Beany Brownies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsalted black beans, thoroughly rinsed and drained
  • 2 tbsp of water
  • 2/3 cup flour (I use a combination of whole wheat, whole grain and white flours)
  • ½ cup cocoa powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 eggs
  • ¾ cup of sugar
  • 1 tsp of vanilla
  • ½ cup of your favorite fat (canola oil or melted butter, margarine, or coconut oil)
  • ¼ cup semisweet chocolate chips

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F and lightly grease a 9″ x 9″ square baking pan.
  2. Puree the black beans with 2 tbsp of water.
  3. In a separate bowl, stir together the dry ingredients.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar.
  5. Mix the vanilla and black beans into the egg mixture.
  6. Add your fat.
  7. Mix in the dry ingredients until blended.
  8. Pour mixture into prepared pan, sprinkle with chocolate chips.
  9. Bake for 20-25 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: Family Day weekend

Muffins on a table.

Research has shown that families who prepare and eat meals (or even snacks) together are healthier. This Family Day, try baking together!

It seems like only yesterday we welcomed a brand new year and now January is already gone!

With the hectic activity of our day-to-day lives, it sometimes feels as if life is gliding on by, like an ice skater on a frozen northern B.C. lake. Thankfully, a few years ago, the British Columbia government decided that we all could use a break in early February to rest, relax and have fun with family and friends. The aptly named “Family Day” statutory holiday is observed on the second Monday in February. This year, it falls on Monday, February 8.

You may already have some ideas about how to spend your day off. Maybe you’ll catch some extra zzz’s or take the family out to one of those frozen northern B.C. lakes for some skating, hockey or ice fishing. Whatever you decide, remember that one of the best ways to have fun with family and friends is with food!

Research has shown that families who prepare and eat meals (or even snacks) together are healthier; they have lower risk of depression, lower rates of obesity, and their children generally have higher self-esteem and better academic performance – to name just a few benefits. If you’re interested in learning more about the benefits of family meals, check out The Family Dinner Project. Get your whole family into the kitchen by asking your kids to wash vegetables, measure broth, set the table or (maybe for older kids) chop like a MasterChef!

This Family Day, plan to make and enjoy something delicious with your family and friends like these Carrot Coconut Pineapple Muffins. They’re perfect served warm out of the oven with a mug of hot tea or cocoa after a day spent gliding on a cold and frozen lake.

Recipe and photos by Marianne Bloudoff from her fabulous foodie blog: french fries to flax seeds.

Muffins in a muffin tin

Carrot coconut pineapple muffins are a great snack to prepare and enjoy as a family this long weekend! How will you spend this Family Day?

Carrot Coconut Pineapple Muffins

Makes 12.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup non-dairy milk (or dairy if you prefer)
  • 2 tbsp ground flax seeds
  • 1 ¾ cup whole wheat flour
  • ¾ cup shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 cup shredded carrot
  • 1 can (398 mL or 14 oz) crushed pineapple (including liquid)
  • ¼ cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease muffin pan or line with paper baking cups.
  2. Combine milk and flax seeds in a medium bowl and set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, combine flour, coconut, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix in shredded carrot, until all coated.
  4. Add pineapple, coconut oil and vanilla to milk/flax mixture and stir until combined.
  5. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix until just combined – lumps are okay!
  6. Divide the batter evenly in the muffin cups and bake for 22 – 25 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from tin and cool on a wire rack.

More tips and ideas for cooking as a family:

Carly Phinney

About Carly Phinney

Born in Vancouver, raised in the Okanagan, and a recent transplant to the North, Carly Phinney is a Clinical Dietitian at UHNBC. Carly’s interest in food started in the kitchen with her mother - watching her mother’s talent for just “throwing something together” from whatever was in fridge. She loves that, through food and nutrition, she is able to touch people’s lives and help them to make small but sustainable changes that can greatly improve their overall quality of life. Outside of work, you can find Carly in her kitchen baking up a storm or in the mountains hiking in the summer and skiing in the winter.

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Foodie Friday: Winter baking

Rural driveway lined with snow and frost

Warm baking tastes that much better on frosty winter days and cold nights! When you are baking, keep an eye out for sugar and fat content. Healthy baking options high in fibre and low in added sugar do exist! (Photo by Northern Health staff member Shellie O’Brien)

The winter weather has officially landed and with it, I find myself wanting to do more baking. On these cold wintery nights, there is nothing better than sitting down with a cup of tea and a warm baked good right out of the oven.

Unfortunately, many baked goods can be high in sugar and fat and low in fibre, which is why I make an effort to seek out healthier recipes for baked goods that are still as delicious as the originals!

This recipe is a great way to use up over-ripe bananas and makes a great snack or dessert option. It can also be part of a quick breakfast when paired with something like fruit and yogurt to create a balanced meal! These bars are high in fibre and low in added sugar, but what’s even better is that they come together in less than 30 minutes including prep and cook time!

Chocolate PB Chip Oat Bars (from the Real Life RD)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup sugar (original recipe calls for coconut palm sugar)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3 over-ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1/4 cup milk (original recipe calls for almond milk)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup chocolate chips or peanut butter chips

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. Line an 8” x 8” baking pan with greased parchment paper.
  3. Process your oats into a flour using a blender or food processor.
  4. Add your oat flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, and baking soda to a bowl. Add the mashed banana, milk, and vanilla and gently stir until almost completely mixed. Fold in your chocolate chips. Spread onto baking pan.
  5. Bake the bars for 18-20 minutes or until the center is set and cooked through.
  6. Remove the bars from the pan by lifting out the parchment paper. Let the bars cool completely before slicing into squares.
Rilla Reardon

About Rilla Reardon

Rilla is a Registered Dietitian working for Northern Health since 2013. Rilla moved to northern BC from the east coast to continue developing her skills as a dietitian in a clinical setting while enjoying all that the north has to offer. Outside of work, she can be found experimenting in the kitchen or navigating the trails around Prince George with her dog, Henry. Rilla channels her passion for nutrition into practice, inspiring others to nourish their bodies, minds and souls with delicious and healthy food!

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Foodie Friday: Go-to blogs for quick and healthy recipes

Granola bars that have been baked in a muffin tin

Food blogs can be a great source of delicious and healthy recipes. What are your favourite food blogs?

It seems that in recent years, cookbooks have become a thing of the past. I hate to admit that, sadly, some of my favourite cookbooks have become coffee table decorations or bookshelf treasures rather than go-to sources for mealtime. With food blogging becoming ever-so-popular, it has become a habit of mine to flip open my laptop when I’m craving creativity in the kitchen or needing a quick and healthy supper. There are thousands of food blogs out there, but to get you started I’ve listed three of my favourites here.

The Lean Green Bean

I first started visiting this blog when I was a part of the “Foodie Penpals” program, but I quickly learned The Lean Green Bean had more to offer. The author, a registered dietitian herself, creates recipes that are meant to be quick, easy, and healthy and that use ingredients that you most likely already have in your cupboards or freezer. Many recipes include frozen vegetables or canned or dried beans – ingredients that are both accessible and affordable. As a dietitian, these two qualities are very important to me. Maybe I’m a sucker for snacks, but I also especially like this blog for the creative breakfast bars. See these Apple Cinnamon Breakfast Bars for a make-ahead breakfast idea.

Chocolate Covered Katie

I find myself visiting this blog frequently. Not only because the main focus is on treats with a healthy twist, but because the author, like me, has chocolate on the brain at all times. Unfortunately I haven’t had the chance to explore the entire recipe collection, but I have a good reason: I visit this blog specifically for the single-serve desserts. Single ladies, you know what I’m talking about! Next time you have a sweet tooth, try one of these Single Lady Cookies. Chocolate craving? No problem! Check out this One Minute Chocolate Cake in a Mug or this Single Serving Mocha Chocolate Cake.

Oh She Glows

While I am not a vegetarian, a food culture of vegetarianism is on the rise and after three close friends became vegetarians (one vegan) I arrived at the Oh She Glows blog with a mission to find tasty vegan recipes made with familiar ingredients. The recipes you will find here are elegant vegetarian versions of classic dishes that are sure to please meat-eaters and vegetarians alike. I especially like this blog for the snack recipes. The author has dozens of recipes for muffins, granola bars, and healthy cookies that I have personally made staples to my day. For example, these Feel Good Hearty Granola Bars. Try mixing and matching the nuts and seeds to find your perfect fit – just keep the ratios consistent! Also, I use muffin tins when I make granola bars so I can skip the messy step of cutting when they come out of the oven.

Feel Good Hearty Granola Bars (from: Oh She Glows)

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups mashed ripe banana (about 3 medium/large bananas)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup dried cherries, chopped
  • 1/2 cup walnuts (or other nuts – pecans and hazelnuts work, too!), chopped
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/4 cup hulled hemp seeds (optional)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt, or to taste

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Lightly grease a large rectangular baking dish (approx. 8.5″ x 12.5″) and line with a piece of parchment paper so the bars are easier to lift out. I use muffin tins so that I don’t need to cut the bars later!
  2. In a large bowl, mash the banana until smooth. Stir in the vanilla.
  3. Place the rolled oats into a food processor (or blender on the lowest speed) and pulse until the oats are coarsely chopped (but still with lots of texture). Stir oats into the banana mixture.
  4. Chop the walnuts and cherries and stir these and the rest of the ingredients into the banana-oat mixture until thoroughly combined.
  5. Spoon mixture into prepared dish. Press down until compacted and smooth out with hands until even.
  6. Bake for 23-27 minutes until firm and lightly golden along the edge. If you used a muffin tin like me, place dish on a cooling rack for 10 minutes, carefully loosen and remove granola bars, and cool. If you are using a baking sheet, remove granola slab and place on a cooling rack for 10 minutes and then into the freezer for another 10 minutes. Slice into bars once they are cool.

I hope you enjoy these blogs as much as I do and take some time to discover your own favourites. Feel free to share your favourites in the comment section below!

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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