Healthy Living in the North

Foodie Friday: Dinner from Down Under

I love creating the many family recipes I grew up with on a regular basis, but I also love experiencing the tried and true recipes from other people’s families. It’s fun to learn about the flavour combinations and food traditions they enjoy, and then find ways to incorporate them into my own cooking repertoire. Bonus points when they are simple to make and use common ingredients!

Way back when I finished university, I picked up and moved to Australia for 6 months, where I lived with a local family. Eating in Australia wasn’t too much of a culture shock, but I did have to learn some of the lingo. While I was there, I learned what a sausage sizzle was, the proper way to eat Vegemite, how to perfectly cube a mango, and that “tasty cheese” is in fact just a medium cheddar cheese. I made sure to share some culinary tidbits with them as well – like the fact that peanut butter is delicious with jam (turns out many Australians don’t eat peanut butter with sweet things).madarin, chicken

As a temporary member of my host family, I enjoyed family dinners with them. One of my favourites that they made often was a simple chicken stir-fry with carrots and celery topped with almonds and mandarin oranges. I don’t know that it was particularly Australian, but that doesn’t matter. I loved the bright, fresh flavours, and it was a real crowd pleaser. I watched my “Aussie mum” make it so many times that I took the reins making it for the family on a few occasions. While I’ve done a little adapting from the original recipe, it is something I still continue to make and enjoy to this day!

Mandarin Orange & Almond Chicken Stir-fry

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 can (11 oz or 312 g) mandarin oranges packed in juice, drained and juice reserved
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp white vinegar
  • 2 tbsp corn starch
  • 2 tsp chicken bouillon
  • 1 – 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 3/4 cup blanched whole almonds
  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
  • 3 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 4 celery stalks, thinly sliced
  • sesame seeds, for garnish

Instructions:

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the reserved orange juice, soy sauce, vinegar, corn starch, bouillon, sugar, and sesame oil. Set aside.
  2. Heat a large skillet or wok over medium heat. Add the almonds and toast until golden brown. Remove from pan and set aside.
  3. Turn the heat up to medium high. Add the oil to the pan, then add the onion and garlic. Stir fry for 1-2 minutes. Add the chicken, and stir fry for 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add carrots and celery to the pan, and continue to stir fry for 2-5 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are cooked but crisp. Add the almonds back to pan.
  5. Turn the heat down to medium low. Add the sauce mixture, and cook until thickened.
  6. Serve over rice, quinoa, or noodles, topped with the mandarin orange slices and sesame seeds.

Note: Don’t add the mandarin oranges until serving, otherwise they will fall apart in the stir-fry!

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: garden planning starts in your kitchen!

Now that the sun is shining and the snow is almost gone here in Prince George, the weather leaves me dreaming about my future backyard garden.

My largest passion in life is connecting people with real food, and growing your own food is a great way to build this relationship. Growing your own food can be a therapeutic, humbling, and nourishing experience that is also, of course, chock-full of lessons to be learned throughout the season.

community garden, raised beds

Community gardens are a great way to venture into gardening. They can be a great source of pride and local vegetables!

When I lived in Vancouver, I had an opportunity to join a community garden in my neighbourhood with a 4×11 ft raised bed. This was the biggest garden I had ever had, as I was used to balcony gardening- with a few vegetable fails. I stuffed my new garden plot with everything I could imagine and it was my pride and joy over the growing season. I learned consistency of watering (surprise!), weeding, and harvesting were all key in keeping a healthy, beautiful garden space.

Now that we have our own home, top priority this spring is to build garden boxes to continue on with my gardening aspirations. I plan to have 2 large raised beds – this time with some added fruit trees and bushes, and to cater to our northern climate when planting. For tips on growing a garden in our northern climate, check out this blog post!

Now, what to plant?

If you are a seasoned northern gardener, this may be a silly question, but being new to the north or being an entirely new gardener, this could be a daunting question!

Kale is a hardy, easy-to-grow, and nutritious addition to your garden.

Ask yourself: What do I like to eat? What would I like to try cooking with?

Vegetable gardening starts in the kitchen! Try planting things that you enjoy to eat and you may be more motivated to take care of your plants throughout the season and to enjoy the harvest. One of my favourite vegetables to plant is kale because it is easy to grow, holds up against harsh weather, and can be eaten raw or cooked.

Today’s recipe is made with Portuguese kale- it resembles collard greens with large, smooth, and oval leaves that have a perfect chewiness in this salad. For more ideas on what to do with the kale you may plant this year, check out this blog post!

Sesame Kale Salad

kale salad

Portuguese kale makes for the perfect chewiness.

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch kale, sliced thinly
  • 1 red pepper, sliced thinly
  • 1 carrot, sliced thinly
  • ¼ cup cilantro, chopped
  • ¼ cup green onion, sliced thinly
  • ½ cup cashews, roasted
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 T canola or olive oil
  • 1 T apple cider or rice wine vinegar
  • ½ tsp soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 tsp honey

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl, add kale, red pepper, carrot, cilantro, and green onions.
  2. In a small jar, combine sesame oil, oil, vinegar, soy sauce, and honey. Shake to combine.
  3. Toss salad with enough dressing to coat the vegetables lightly. You will have left over dressing that can be kept in the fridge to use.
  4. Top with crunchy cashews and serve!

I’m sure the years to come will be full of trial and error. I’d love to hear your northern garden success stories!

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: “As Easy as Pie” Fruit Crisp

What an exciting month! Not only did we welcome spring, but dietitians across the north helped us celebrate Nutrition Month by sharing lots of great healthy eating tips and recipes. I have been inspired to eat more mindfully, pack a lunch to work, and even try a new Foodie Friday recipe from the blog!

In honour of the last day of Nutrition Month, I wanted to share one of my favourite dessert recipes.

I love homemade pie, but it can be a chore to make, even for the most experienced baker. The saying “as easy as pie” surely speaks to the experience of eating pie, not baking it! Enter fruit crisp. Fruit crisp has everything I want in a pie and more: warm, gooey fruit filling; a hint of cinnamon; and a crisp oat topping with the benefit of whole grains. It’s comfort food in every way.

Unlike pie, this fruit crisp recipe is quick and easy. It took me under ten minutes to make and most of the prep involved chopping fruit. Using pre-cut fruit or berries would speed it up even more! If you are a rookie baker like me, you will also be happy to know that this recipe is virtually fool-proof. This means you don’t need to worry about carefully measuring out ingredients, mixing (but not over-mixing), rolling (but not too much)! It’s one of those recipes that you can confidently just throw together.

So how does fruit crisp stack up nutritionally? Well, when you make your own desserts, you are more likely to use real foods from Canada’s Food Guide. Fruit, dairy, nuts, and whole grains can all be featured in a variety of different ways. Think homemade chocolate pudding with slices of banana, fruit muffins made with whole-wheat flour, and hearty oatmeal cookies with applesauce, dried fruit, and nuts. Plus, baking is fun and can be a great way to spend quality family time together! For more delicious and nutritious recipes, consider checking out the dessert section at Cookspiration.com.

For this particular crisp, I used apples and frozen mixed berries, but pears, peaches, rhubarb, strawberries, blueberries, or any other type of berry would work well, too. It’s an easy way to use up fruit from the freezer in the winter and spring, or to showcase seasonal fruit in the summer and fall.

fruit crisp, bowl

This fruit crisp is quick and “as easy as pie” to make.

“As Easy as Pie” Fruit Crisp

Adapted from Cookspiration.com

Ingredients:

For the filling:

  • 7 cups fruit (I used apples and frozen mixed berries)
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 2 tsp cinnamon

For the topping:

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • ½ cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ cup soft margarine or butter

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350F (180C).

  1. In a large bowl, combine fruit, sugar, flour, and cinnamon until coated.
  2. In a small bowl, combine sugar, flour, and cinnamon. Add to fruit and toss to mix.
  3. For the topping, combine rolled oats, sugar, and cinnamon. With 2 knives, cut in margarine or butter until mixture is crumbly.
  4. Sprinkle oat mixture over fruit.
  5. Bake for 55 minutes until mixture is bubbly (or you can microwave at 100% power for 15 minutes)

Serve hot or cold. Leftovers make a quick and tasty snack the next day!

Emilia Moulechkova

About Emilia Moulechkova

Originally from the Lower Mainland, Emilia started her career with Northern Health as a dietetic intern in 2013. Since then, she has worked in a variety of roles as a Registered Dietitian with the population health team. In her current role, she supports schools across the north in their efforts to promote healthy eating. Emilia is passionate about food’s role in bringing people and communities together, and all the ways it can support physical, mental, and social health. Her overall philosophy on healthy eating can be summarized by this Ellyn Satter quote: “When the joy goes out of eating, nutrition suffers.” In her spare time, she loves exploring the beautiful northern outdoors by foot, skis, bike, or canoe!

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Foodie Friday: You, too, can enjoy healthy, home-cooked meals during the work week!

Being both a mom and a dietitian, cooking nutritious meals for my family is definitely at the top of my priority list. But it’s not always easy. During the work week, I find it especially difficult to find enough time to prepare and cook healthy, well-balanced meals. Did I mention I live 30 minutes out of town and have to pick up a toddler on the way home? Or that by the time we get home, my son and I are usually starving, tired, and often hangry*? (*See definition below).

Slow cooker recipes are a fantastic, convenient way to bring nutritious homemade meals to your family dinner table.

I’m only a couple years into this whole working-mom-juggling business, but along the way, I have picked up some tricks that help my family put together yummy meals that include at least 3 out of 4 food groups most nights of the week.

Here are some tips I’d like to share:

  • Plan out your protein options for the week. I have found that taking stock of the proteins in my freezer/fridge and having a general idea of what I will make each night takes away a lot of stress. Proteins like beef, pork, moose, chicken, and turkey take 2-3 days to thaw in the fridge (depending on the cut) and require a bit of forward-thinking. Fish and seafood thaw much quicker, usually in a day or less. Eggs are always my go-to if I don’t have anything thawed and ready to go.
  • Prep vegetables on the weekend (or on your days off if you work weekends). Chop up a variety of your favorite vegetables, place in them in a container or bag, and store in the fridge. Now they’re ready to throw into your recipe or eat raw. Our favorite vegetables include bell peppers, carrots, broccoli, cucumbers and spinach (bought pre-washed, no prep required). I usually chop up onions, too, because I cook with them a lot.
  • Keep an assortment of frozen vegetables on hand. Especially in the winter, I make sure to have a variety of vegetables in the freezer. Frozen vegetables are just as nutritious as fresh ones and can be steamed or microwaved in 5-10 minutes. Season with olive oil plus lemon pepper (or other herbs) and voila!
  • Invest in a slow cooker. If you haven’t yet discovered or purchased a slow cooker, I highly encourage you to consider it. I like to toss whatever it is I’m making into the slow cooker insert the night before, store it in the fridge overnight, then just plop it into the cooking vessel and turn it on before I leave for work. I also use it to cook just the protein portion of our meal, like a whole chicken and then add vegetables and a side dish separately. Or I use the protein for making soups and stews (see recipe below for one of my favorite slow cooker stews).
  • Plan for leftovers. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of leftovers. But I have to admit that having them at least one night out of the week makes good sense. I also like freezing individual portions of leftovers to pull out for last minute/emergency purposes.
  • Keep it simple. Life is hard enough – let’s keep cooking during the work week simple, colourful, and fun.

I personally feel that if we are eating homemade food most of (and not necessarily all of) the time, then we’re on the right track. Not only will your wallet thank you for cutting down on take out and eating out, but you’ll be setting a great example for your loved ones.

Have some tips to add to my list? Please share by commenting below!

Recipe: Slow Cooker Sausage, Bean and Pasta Stew

Adapted from the Food Network

Servings: 6-8

Ingredients:

  • 1 onion, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 3-4 carrots, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 8 oz dried white beans, such as cannellini, rinsed and picked over OR one 28-oz can of white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 6 to 8 sprigs fresh thyme, tied with a piece of kitchen twine
  • 454 g (1 lb) of your favorite sausage (4-6 links)
  • One 14.5-oz can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth or stock
  • One 4 oz chunk Parmesan rind (optional) plus grated Parmesan, for serving
  • 1/2 cup ditalini pasta (or other small pasta such as orzo)
  • 2-3 large handfuls of spinach
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Crusty bread, for serving

Instructions:

  1. Spread the onions over the bottom of a 6- to 7-quart slow cooker and top with the carrots, garlic, white beans, thyme bundle, and sausage links. Mix the diced tomatoes with the broth and 3 cups water and pour over the sausages. Add the Parmesan rind if using.
  2. Cook on high for 4 to 5 hours or on low for 7 to 8 hours. Uncover the slow cooker, remove and discard the thyme bundle and Parmesan rind and transfer the sausage links to a cutting board. Stir the pasta into the stew and continue to cook, covered, until the pasta is cooked through, about 20 minutes.
  3. Turn off the heat. Cut the sausages into bite-sized pieces and stir into the stew along with the spinach, parsley, and vinegar. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with grated Parmesan on the side for sprinkling on top and crusty bread for soaking up the broth.

Tamara’s notes: I do step #1 the night before by placing the ingredients in the insert portion of the slow cooker and keeping it in the fridge overnight. Before I leave for work in the morning, I put the insert into the cooking vessel and turn it on.

*Hangry is defined as “being irritable or angry as a result of hunger”. It’s a real thing.

Tamara Grafton

About Tamara Grafton

Tamara is a registered dietitian currently working with the clinical nutrition team at UHNBC and in long term care facilities in Prince George. Originally from a small city in Saskatchewan, she now lives the rural life on a ranch with her husband and young son. She has a passion for nutrition education, healthy eating and cooking. In her downtime, she enjoys reading food blogs, keeping active, and trying out new recipes on her family and friends

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Celebrating Foodie Friday: One dietitian’s quest to try new recipes and celebrate her northern B.C. colleagues

ingredients, lentil soup

My kitchen was stocked and ready to make Sarah’s lentil soup.

TGIF! Not only is the weekend around the corner, but every Friday on the Northern Health Matters blog comes with amazing food photos and delicious recipes from my fellow northern B.C. dietitians. If you’ve been to the blog before, then you know what I’m talking about: Foodie Friday!

Foodie Friday is now a weekly feature on the Northern Health Matters blog. Since the series started in March 2014, over 20 Northern Health dietitians and dietetic interns have served up 89 delicious, inspiring, and informative #FoodieFriday posts! Foodie Friday authors share healthy eating tips and delicious recipes that put the tips into action. And who can forget their amazing photos!

I was recently looking through a number of the posts and was struck by the wonderful array of recipes and accompanying photos. Looking at them literally made me hungry – my stomach rumbled! More importantly – I was inspired!

My thought process then went something like this:

  • “I certainly should get around to making some of these delicious looking recipes…”
  • “That looks yummy! And that’s neat! Oh, and that’s an interesting idea. Maybe I could make a bunch of these recipes…”
  • “Hey, March is Nutrition Month… I could challenge myself to do a whole month of Foodie Friday recipes!!!”

    Broccoli salad never looked so good!

So, where did that thought process take me?

Today, my personal recipe challenge is well underway. I picked 10 recipes to start with, made a grocery list, went shopping, and stocked my fridge and pantry. I am particularly excited about using some ingredients that I have rarely used (e.g., leeks, orzo) and dishes that I have rarely made (e.g., burgers, homemade mac ’n’ cheese, broccoli salad – can you tell I grew up in an immigrant family?).

What can I share with you so far?

  • Armed with a list of recipes to tackle, I am so much more inspired to cook! This challenge has already reinforced for me the benefits of menu planning for healthy eating.
  • I’ve tried some things that are totally new to me, like baked oatmeal, which, as promised, is delicious and super versatile. It has already made an appearance at breakfast, lunch, and as a snack after work.
  • My lunches are fantastic these days! Yay to leftovers!
  • I like the idea of making recipes that are my dietitian colleagues’ favourites, like Sarah’s lentil soup, Beth’s Caesar salad, or Lindsay’s morning glory muffins. Food truly does connect us!
  • Adding cocoa powder to a smoothie is a fantastic idea – why didn’t I think of that before?

    Lindsay’s morning glory muffins were a success!

While I have many new recipes ahead of me yet, I am already happy to have taken on this recipe challenge. Dietitians often encourage folks to try new recipes (although usually in a more moderate way, like one every week or so, not a month-long quest!), and I am certainly reaping many benefits.

How about you? What has your experience been with new recipes? Have you ever done a recipe challenge? How was it?

Lise Luppens

About Lise Luppens

Lise started her career as a dietitian with Northern Health in 2004 when she moved to Terrace "for a year." More than 10 years later, she is now part of the regional population health registered dietitian team and she continues to love living, working and playing in B.C.'s northwest. Lise enjoys playing outside with her husband and friends and you might find her skiing, biking or kiting. She’s passionate about local food, keeps a garden, enjoys local community-supported agriculture (CSA) and farmers market goodies, and carries out food preservation projects.

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Foodie Friday: Celebrating Pack Your Lunch Day!

Did you pack your lunch today? You are in good company – today, March 10th, is National Pack Your Lunch Day! We all look forward to our lunch break – a time to rest and get refreshed for the rest of the day ahead of us. But how often do you spend most of your break time starving, waiting in line to purchase food because you didn’t have time to pack a lunch?

Find more delicious and nutritious recipes like this on Cookspiration.com!

Let’s weigh the pros and cons of packing a healthy lunch (for work or for travel!):

Pros:

  • Healthier: more likely to meet nutrient needs with less fat, sugar, and sodium
  • Less costly and less time spent waiting for food
  • Able to sit and enjoy your meal for 20 minutes and can still have 10 minutes to go on a refreshing walk before it’s time to go back to work

Cons: 

  • Takes planning and time to prep your lunch
  • May not have the right containers or enough variety of food at home
  • Bored of packing the same lunch all the time

Packing a lunch does not have to be a daunting task, but it does take planning! If I can get a head start on packing lunches the day before, then the morning, and day, runs much smoother.

I usually pack 2-3 snacks such as yogurt, homemade muffin, and a fruit. I’ll also pack a healthy balanced meal that includes at least 3 food groups. The easiest choice for me is to pack leftovers from dinner the night before or I may grab something like:

  • A homemade soup (like something I might have frozen a couple months ago) with 3-4 rye crisp breads and 2 tbsp natural peanut butter or sliced cheese
  • Mixed green salad with leftover salmon fillet or a small can of salmon/tuna with chopped peppers, cucumbers and sprinkled with pumpkin seeds and whole grain toast and peanut butter.

In celebration of Nutrition Month, I have decided to share one the featured recipes on CookspirationSpiced Yogurt Chicken Tikka. Making this for dinner means I can enjoy leftovers for lunch.

This recipe provides four food groups in one meal. The recipe is also:

  • High in protein
  • High in vegetables including nutritious red peppers, tomatoes, and green vegetables
  • Has anti-inflammatory properties thanks to the spices

Adding one can of chick peas will help increase the high soluble fibre content in addition to the brown rice! With recipes like this, every day can easily be National Pack Your Lunch Day!

Editor’s note: Cookspiration was created by the Dietitians of Canada to inspire everyone to cook any time, day or night! Recipe ideas are served up to suit your mood and what you’re doing based on the time and day. Check out the website or the app!

Melanie Chapple

About Melanie Chapple

Melanie works as a clinical dietitian in Primary health care in Fort St. John. After completing her dietetic internship in Vancouver, she fulfilled her desire to move up north in 2006 because of the rich opportunity to gain experience working in all practice settings as a full-time dietitian. Melanie has a passion for food and nutrition, specifically baking, eating healthy snacks and sharing recipes with her clients and coworkers. In her spare time, you may see Melanie cycling through the Peace region, walking, or pulling her kids on a sled during the six months of snow.

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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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Foodie Friday: Cozy up to your freezer

I love to watch cooking shows on TV. It’s a source of entertainment and culinary inspiration for me. But there is one thing that irks me every time I hear it on those shows – when a chef speaks negatively about cooking with frozen food.

I agree that fresh foods are awesome to cook with. But the reality is most of us don’t have access to all the fresh foods we want all the time. When it comes to healthy eating, frozen is not a 4 letter word (literally and figuratively)!

I think my freezer is actually one of my most used kitchen appliances, following closely behind my fridge and stove. It definitely helps me get healthy and delicious meals on the table in my house at least a few times a week!

cherry smoothie in glass

A combination of BC cherries and chocolate is sure to please your taste buds!

There are 3 ways I like to put my freezer to use:

  1. Vegetables and fruits: I always have a selection of frozen vegetables and fruits in my freezer, so that even if I don’t get to the grocery store, I can make sure to get some produce into my meals. Frozen veggies and fruits are just as nutritious as fresh, are available year round, and have already been washes/chopped/peeled making them super convenient!
  2. Preserving the harvest: Maybe you have a backyard garden, bulk buy at the farmer’s market, go berry picking every summer, or hunt your own game. If you want to enjoy those foods throughout the year you’ll need a way of storing them. Freezing them is a great way to go!
  3. Batch cooking: From soups to casseroles, pizza dough to muffins, I always have some extra ready-to-eat snacks and meals in my freezer. Batch cooking doesn’t take much more effort than cooking a meal for my family of 2, so it’s a no-brainer! These are lifesavers on busy days where I get home late from work and the last thing I want to do is cook.

Because I always have frozen fruits waiting for me in the freezer, I know I can always make a quick breakfast smoothie on my way out the door. Here’s one of my favourites, featuring BC cherries and a hint of chocolate.

Cherry Bomb Smoothie

Serves 1 as a meal or 2 as a snack.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup frozen, pitted cherries
  • 1 cup milk (dairy or non-dairy beverage)
  • ½ cup plain yogurt
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • Splash of vanilla extract (optional)

Instructions

  1. Add all ingredients to your blender. Whiz away until it’s completely blended and smooth. Enjoy!
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: Supporting culturally safe environments with traditional First Nations foods

As a member of the Aboriginal Health team at Northern Health, it’s really important to me to support culturally safe health care environments. When health care settings are inclusive of Indigenous cultures and traditions, they become more culturally safe for Indigenous people. That is why I was excited to learn how Northern Health staff are making traditional First Nations foods available to patients and residents!

Cook with Hugwiljum (fish soup)

Offering traditional First Nations foods in health care environments is an important step in creating an inclusive, welcoming, and culturally safe health system for Indigenous peoples.

In Hazelton, cooks Anita Lattie and Armin Wesley are excited to make traditional First Nations foods available to residents and patients at Wrinch Memorial Hospital. Both Armin and Anita are Gitxsan; Anita is from Gitanmaax and Armin is from Sik-E-Dakh.

“When patients and residents see foods they are familiar with, they enjoy it more,” said Anita about the response to the menu additions.

“I have been waiting for this,” said a resident about the Hugwiljum fish soup and bannock he was eating for lunch.

The process of adding new foods to the Northern Health menu repertoire involves putting the recipe in a consistent format, testing it with ten people, and then submitting it for approval and further testing. Support services coordinator Deana Hawkins explained to me that once the recipes are approved, they are added to the core menu across Northern Health so other sites can also serve them.

In the northwest, Mills Memorial Hospital, Terraceview Lodge, and Kitimat General Hospital now offer the Hugwiljum fish soup and bannock. Anita has just finished testing a salmon patty recipe to send for approval this week. “All the staff in the Wrinch Memorial kitchen are Aboriginal and it makes us feel good about our jobs to be able to do this,” said Armin. According to BC Stats, in Hazelton, 56.5% of the urban population is Aboriginal.

In Prince Rupert, dietitian Arlene Carlson works with Elders at the Gitmaxmak’ay Nisga’a Society and Friendship House to organize traditional feasts twice a year for residents of Acropolis Manor, the local long term care facility. The feasts include locally prepared, seasonal foods such as fish chowder, moose soup, and kelp on roe. Local First Nations cultural entertainment is a highlight of the feasts. “These feasts are really popular with First Nations and non-First Nations residents alike,” said Arlene. This work has helped create a policy within our organization of bringing in food for social functions and cultural events. Other policies are in place to support families to bring in food for their loved ones in long term care.

On Haida Gwaii, traditional foods are offered in both hospitals. In the south, the Haida Gwaii Hospital and Health Centre – Xaayda Gwaay Ngaaysdll Naay serves local fish regularly on the menu and the Meals on Wheels program brings traditional food to Elders in the hospital on a weekly basis. In Masset, Northern Haida Gwaii Hospital & Health Centre residents are offered a special occasion meal once per month. Meals feature local and traditional ingredients such as fish, clams, deer, and locally grown vegetables. On Haida Gwaii, Shelly Crack and Tessie Harris are part of a national movement to incorporate sustainable food into the health care system; including more traditional foods.

Cultural safety is a priority for Northern Health. In July 2015, all BC Health Authority CEOs signed a declaration demonstrating their commitment to advancing cultural humility and cultural safety with their organizations. The goal of cultural safety is for all people to feel respected and safe when they interact with the health system. Culturally safe health services are free of racism and discrimination. People are supported to draw strengths from their identity, culture, and community. One of the features of a culturally safe health system is ensuring physical environments reflect local Indigenous communities and cultures.

Offering traditional First Nations foods in health care environments is an important step in creating an inclusive, welcoming and culturally safe health system for Indigenous peoples.

Hugwiljum (fish soup)

Makes 4-5 portions

Ingredients

  • 2 cups potatoes
  • 1 medium onion (diced)
  • 3 salmon loins
  • 1 tbsp curry
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 litre water

Instructions

  1. Bring all ingredients to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are tender and salmon cooked.

 

Victoria Carter

About Victoria Carter

Victoria works in Northern Health's Aboriginal health program as the lead for engagement and integration. She is an adopted member of the Nisga’a nation and was given the name “Nox Aama Goot” which means “mother of good heart.” In her work she sees herself as an ally working together with Aboriginal people across the north to improve access to quality health care. She keeps herself well by honouring the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual aspects of her life through spending time with her friends and family, being in nature and working on her own personal growth.

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Foodie Friday: Celebrating love with a cozy weekend breakfast

Breakfast has to be my favourite meal of the day. During the week, it’s always something quick, and usually something off of Marianne’s grab-and-go breakfast list. I was on a baked oatmeal kick for a while, too, and Carly’s Berry Banana Baked Oatmeal really hit the spot.

Weekends are when I really take advantage of my leisure time and whip up something special. My hubby is often at the gym in the morning and I sleep in, so I fly solo for breakfast. Even though I don’t love cooking for one, I still make an effort to make something interesting that will satisfy my breakfast cravings and show my body that I cherish it as well. If you know me, you know that I usually don’t get going until about 11 or 12 on the weekend. I don’t usually have breakfast in bed, but you’ll often find me cuddled up by the fire in a cozy blanket when I’m having breakfast and a hot cup of coffee enjoying “me time”.

eggs in tomato sauce, cutlery, toast

Enjoy this cozy weekend breakfast in bed- or not!

When my hubby is home, spending the morning together is endearing, and it’s sometimes nice to have breakfast in bed, if not cuddled up on the couch together. This is especially true for special occasions like Valentine’s Day or our wedding anniversary when we have an opportunity to show our love for each other. This year, Valentine’s Day isn’t on a weekend, but our anniversary is, so we’ll be cozying up for a weekend breakfast. We will also be welcoming a new addition to the family this summer so there will be a lot of love going around this year!

I have a few go-to weekend breakfasts in my repertoire that I cook for myself, plus or minus my hubby:

  • Oatmeal pancakes with warmed up berries
  • Whole grain cinnamon French toast
  • Almond Belgian waffles (made with my new waffle iron that I gifted myself this Christmas)

This time around, I’ll probably go for something that packs a protein and veggie punch to nourish my growing belly as well as shows my love for my husband (did I mention he’s a protein fanatic?). I tried a similar dish to the one below at a restaurant in Vancouver, and I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind since. I never thought I would like tomatoes with my eggs, but this is definitely a winning combo in my books. When I make it, it’s always a little different depending on what I have in my fridge and pantry – adding things like spinach, peppers, chickpeas, potatoes, pesto, balsamic vinegar, etc.. Use the recipe below as a base and add to it whatever you love.

I served my eggs with one of my favourite breads from Lac La Hache Bakery- the Sunflower Medium Rye.

Enjoy it in bed – or not!

Eggs in Tomato Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes
  • Pinch thyme, dried or fresh
  • Pinch red pepper flakes
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 T feta cheese or your favourite cheese

Directions:

  1. In a frying pan on medium heat, sauté garlic and onion in olive oil until translucent.
  2. Add diced tomatoes, thyme, and red pepper flakes. Add salt to taste. Simmer for 5-10 minutes to let flavours marry.
  3. Add the potatoes into the sauce.
  4. Crack the eggs onto the sauce.
  5. Cover the pan with a lid and cook until whites of the eggs are cooked. This is how I like my eggs- leaving the yolks still runny.
  6. Top with feta cheese and serve with toast or your favourite breakfast bread.

Note: You can also use leftover tomato sauce from the night before or pre-made sauce to speed up the cooking time.

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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