Healthy Living in the North

Foodie Friday: More than Just a Pot of Soup

As kids, my sister and I spent many a summer day at my grandparents’ house in East Vancouver. We did all sorts of fun things – I remember lots of cards games with grandma, walks to the corner store and grocery shopping trips (turns out I’ve always loved grocery shopping), and helping out in my grandpa’s small but impressive backyard garden (he even had two rows of corn!). Sometimes my two cousins would also be there, which meant endless hours of make believe games, and our annual trip to the PNE for a day filled with rides (and a little cotton candy). But I think my best memories from those summer days came from time spent in the kitchen.

little girl sitting on grandpa's lap

Sitting on my Grandpa Bloudoff’s lap as a child.

My Grandma and Grandpa Bloudoff were of Doukhobor heritage, and this was reflected in many of the delicious foods they would make with us when we visited. We would set up assembly lines to stuff and pinch together homemade perogies, or help mix up the fruit filling for our favourite Russian fruit tarts. But one of my absolute favourite dishes was the borscht my grandparents made. As a kid, I can’t tell you why I loved it – it was just a vegetable soup. It was one of my favourite things to eat when I was at their house and I was so happy when we were sent home with jars of soup to eat later.

Fast forward to my early 20’s, when I decided I wanted to learn how to make this borscht. I had realized their borscht was different – it was tomato based, and didn’t include beets like many other borscht recipes I had seen. I needed to know their secrets! My grandpa didn’t have a recipe written down, so I convinced him we needed to spend an afternoon together where he cooked and I documented all of the ingredients and steps involved. Not only did I learn the recipe, but we also had the opportunity to reconnect as adults- all because of a pot of soup.

Both of my grandparents have since passed, and I’m so grateful to be able to look back on moments like these. Food really is that great connector of culture, relationships, and family. Now when I dig into a big bowl of my grandpa’s borscht, it not only fills my belly with hearty nourishment, but it fills me with family memories and makes me smile.

Grandpa’s Doukhobor Borscht (recipe from EvergreenEats.com)

bowl of borscht

One of my favourite dishes growing up was the borscht my grandparents made.

Makes 10 – 12 servings

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups water
  • 3 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 3 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 cup green peas (fresh, frozen, or canned)
  • 796 mL (28 oz) can diced tomatoes
  • 2 large onions, diced
  • 1 small head cabbage, shredded or thinly sliced
  • 6 tbsp butter, divided
  • 1/3 – 1/2 cup fresh dill
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • sour cream or heavy cream, for serving (optional)

Directions:

  1. In a large soup pot or Dutch oven, cover the potatoes with the water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, and cook until just tender.
  2. Transfer the cooked potatoes to a large bowl with a slotted spoon, leaving the cooking water in the pot. Mash the potatoes with 2 tbsp butter and 1/3 of the canned tomatoes.
  3. Turn the heat on the pot up to medium-high. Add the celery, carrots, peas, 1/2 the onions, 1/2 the cabbage, 1/2 the potato/tomato mixture, and 1/2 of the remaining tomatoes to the pot. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer.
  4. Heat a skillet over medium heat. Melt 2 tbsp of butter then add the remaining onions. Cook for approximately 5 minutes until translucent (do not brown them). Add the remaining potato/tomato mixture and remaining tomatoes. Cook another 5 min then add to the pot.
  5. Heat the remaining 2 tbsp of butter in the skillet, and add the remaining cabbage. Cook until soft, but do not brown, approximately 10 min. Add to the pot.
  6. Add fresh dill to the soup, season with salt & pepper to taste. Allow to simmer for 5 more minutes. Ladle into bowls and serve with a dollop of sour cream or drizzle of heavy cream if desired.

Notes: If you have other veggies hanging around your fridge or freezer, throw them in. Green beans, peppers, spinach…maybe even some beets!

 

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: Celebrating Dads in the Kitchen

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

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

dad cooking with kids in kitchen

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

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

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

 

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

Shells with Grilled Chicken and Mozzarellapasta dish

Ingredients:

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

Instructions:

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

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

Carmen Maddigan

About Carmen Maddigan

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

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Foodie Friday: Living out your healthy cultural traditions

Culture is so important for health and wellness. It shapes how we define health and wellness and how we practice it.

As a society, health and wellness seem to be narrowly defined by weight. Health is much more than the physical parameter of weight, which is influenced by unrealistic beauty standards in Canada – it includes mental and emotional health. Sadly, when someone doesn’t fit the standard around weight, they may be treated in ways that harm their mental health. We need to stop blaming or shaming people for their weight or health issues. Most people who are overweight have tried very hard, often unsuccessfully, to lose weight—after all 95% of diets fail within 2 years. We are all built differently: healthy bodies exist in a variety of shapes and sizes. People of all sizes should be accepted and treated with respect. Our goal should therefore be supporting a healthy body image for all. I truly believe health is the responsibility of our society and communities. It’s about making the healthy choice the easy choice.

The holistic role of culture

Cultural traditions shared with me by my Indigenous colleagues are great examples of the holistic role culture plays in healthy eating, physical activity, healthy minds, and healthy relationships. Engaging in these activities supports individuals, families, and communities to be healthy in all aspects of their lives. Here are some activities that can be enjoyed in the summer months and, coupled with food preservation, can extend the health benefits throughout the year:

  • Berry picking with your friends and family
  • Salmon fishing
  • Gathering traditional plants and medicines
  • Seaweed gathering
  • Clam digging
  • Gathering herring
  • Hunting
  • Gardening

Here is what some of my colleagues shared:

“My family celebrates food and berry harvesting and preservation from the oolichan, the salmon, moose and bear.”

Lloyd McDames, the Aboriginal Patient Liaison in Terrace who is from the Kitselas First Nation

“As a whole, our community of ?Esdilagh First Nation comes together every year to a culture camp.  Our Chilcotin traditional healers come from neighbouring communities to our members. We have been bringing awareness to the community members about the traditional medicines and living off the land. The culture camp brings us together as a way of connecting to our community members so that we can all learn together as one and start living in a healthier way.”

-Thelma Stump, the Health and Wellness Manager for ?Esdilagh First Nation

Angie Combs, the Aboriginal Patient Liaison at Wrinch Memorial Hospital, picks Is (soapberries in Gitxsan). She said,

“I gather the berries in mid-June when they are green. I enjoy being active outdoors and find berry picking peaceful. It makes me happy because I know I will be preserving them and serving them in the middle of the winter for my friends and family. I look forward to the fun and laughter of when my family gathers to enjoy a bowl of freshly whipped Is.”

soapberry ice cream, woman preparing ice cream

Angie Combs whips up Yal Is for the residents at Wrinch Memorial Hospital.

Here is her recipe for Yal Is:

Yal Is (soapberry ice cream in Gitxsan) 

(serves 6- 8 people)

Ingredients:

  • 1 pint canned green soapberries (canned in water)
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1 very ripe banana
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar (or to taste)

Method:

  1. Put canned soapberries in a sieve. Crush berries.
  2. Strain through sieve to remove seeds, collecting the juice in a stainless steel or glass bowl.
  3. Add the water to the juice. Beat until frothy with electric beater.
  4. Add banana and continue to beat. Add sugar and continue to beat until stiff like stiff egg whites.
  5. Serve immediately and enjoy.

Note: the soapberries lose their volume quickly after mixing; however, all you need to do is mix it again with the beater until it forms firm peaks. Some berries used to be mixed by hand and some people still do this.

Want to learn more? Here are a couple of academic papers about Indigenous culture, body image, and traditional physical activity:

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: Build your own quick and tasty wraps (and enjoy more time outdoors!)

The sun is shining, the temperatures are rising, and it finally feels like summer is just around the corner! The longer days mean that there is plenty of time to enjoy an outdoor adventure after work, or a BBQ with friends and family.

For me, a new puppy at home has made life that much more exciting (and busy)! Many of my evenings are spent romping in our backyard. In true puppy form, our little Arlo adores ripping up moss, jumping in our strawberry patch, and digging in the dirt. Our poor little strawberry plants!

Dog in strawberry patch with person watching while eating a wrap.

Arlo the puppy enjoys digging up strawberries while dietitian Emilia gets to enjoy her wrap.

I’ve also noticed that more time playing outside means less time spent in the kitchen. Luckily, I know that eating well does not need to be fancy or complicated. Takes wraps, for example! They are one of my favourite on-the-go meals and I’ve been enjoying them a lot lately. With so many combinations to choose from, this super quick and easy meal is sure to be a family favourite.

To get started, try building your own wrap by mixing and matching items from the following categories:

  • Wrap: tortilla, pita, or roti (a type of flatbread popular in India). Choose whole wheat wraps for added fibre and nutrition.
  • Protein: canned or cooked fish, eggs, chicken, turkey, pork, or beef (I like using leftover hamburger patties or roast chicken), shrimp, hummus, beans, or tofu.
  • Toppings: lettuce, spinach (I often buy the ready-to-eat bags), shredded carrots, avocado, sliced red peppers, cucumber, tomatoes, onions, apple, or pineapple.
  • Cheese (optional): cheddar, mozzarella, feta, cottage cheese, or another favourite.
  • Condiments: mayo, mustard, pesto, salsa, hot sauce, etc.

Here are just a few of my favourite wrap/pita combos:

  • Jarred or smoked fish, lettuce, cucumber, and mayo
  • Hardboiled egg, chopped green onion, tomato, and mayo
  • Black beans or leftover ground meat, cheddar cheese, and red pepper with salsa and Greek yogurt
  • Chicken or turkey, sliced apples, cheese, spinach, and honey mustard
Wraps

Dilly salmon wraps are one of hundreds of wrap combinations that you can try! Just mix and match from Emilia’s list!

Dilly Salmon Wraps

Ingredients

Wraps

  • 1 cup salmon (jarred, canned, or leftover salmon fillet)
  • 4 large whole wheat tortilla wraps
  • Veggies of your choice (I used lettuce and red peppers)
  • Cheese of your choice (optional)

Dilly Sauce

  • ½ cup Greek yogurt
  • 2 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • ½ tsp dry or 1 tsp fresh dill

Instructions

  1. Mix the Greek yogurt, mayo, lemon juice, and dill.
  2. Combine salmon with dilly sauce and mix well (you will probably have leftover sauce — it makes a great veggie dip, too!)
  3. Spoon salmon mixture onto each wrap and top with veggies and cheese of your choice.
  4. Fold in sides and roll tortilla up tightly.

You can serve this meal family-style: just prepare all the toppings and let kids (and adults) choose their own veggies and condiments. What fun!

More tasty and nutritious grab-and-go meal and snack ideas:

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: Fiddleheads, a springtime treat

little boy picking fiddleheads

Fiddleheads are the tightly coiled fronds of a (delicious!) young fern

Besides the singing birds and the extra vitamin D from the sunshine, my favourite part of spring is the increased variety of locally produced fruit and vegetables that start to pop up in the grocery stores and farmers markets. By this time of year, I am aching for variety and freshness that can often only be found by buying local. To my excitement, the outdoor farmers market season has started in my community with the Prince George Farmers’ Market expanding outdoors at its downtown location as of late April. I love spending my Saturday mornings grabbing a coffee to-go and browsing the market for delicious produce, meat, eggs, and bread – yum. When does your local market open for the season?

When I was at the market in Prince George last Saturday, I noticed vendors selling bags of fiddleheads. Have you come across these where you live? A friend of mine from Vancouver first introduced me to fiddleheads several years ago and I’ve never looked back. I promptly bought two bags on Saturday and ate them later that day for dinner.

So, what is a fiddlehead?

Fiddleheads are the tightly coiled fronds of a young fern. The safest and most delicious fiddleheads come from the ostrich fern. They grow in moist, shaded areas and are only available for a few weeks in the spring. To identify the ostrich fern fiddleheads, look for ones that are growing in a crown (or cluster) low to the ground, have a deep U-shaped groove on the inside of the stem, and brown, papery scales, which should be removed before eating. Check out this video for more information on identifying and harvesting fiddleheads safely.

Using Internet Explorer? Open the video in YouTube.

What do I do with fiddleheads?

wild filddlehead

Have you come across fiddleheads in your community?

Eat them! Fiddleheads are delicious and taste a lot like asparagus. They are a good source of vitamins A and C as well as omega-3 fatty acids.

They need to be properly washed and cooked before consuming as raw fiddleheads can make you ill. To prepare fiddleheads, wash them well in several rounds of cold water and ensure the brown scales are removed (the ones I got from the market were already cleaned). Then, either boil for 15 minutes or steam for 10-12 minutes before sautéing them for an easy side dish.

Easy sautéed fiddleheads

Serves: 2-4

Ingredients:

  • 454 g-1 lb fiddleheads
  • 2-3 tbsp butter or extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. Prepare fiddleheads: Rinse several times with cold water and remove any brown scales that remain. Cover with plenty of water and boil for 15 minutes (or steam for 10-12 minutes).
  2. Heat butter or olive oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and stir.
  3. Sautee fiddleheads for 4-5 minutes until heated through.
  4. Season with salt and pepper.
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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Foodie Friday: Building Your Pantry Survival Kit

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

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

fresh herbs, kitchen, pantry ingredients

A pantry survival kit helps avoid hunger disaster!

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

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

Bow Tie Pasta with Fire-Roasted Tomatoes and Basil 

Ingredients:

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

Instructions:

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

About Carmen Maddigan

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

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Foodie Friday: 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: 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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Love your lentils!

Between the busyness of internship and a limited student budget, I’m always on the hunt for simple and affordable recipes. I often find that I turn to lentils since they can be used in so many recipes – both in addition to meat or as a meat substitute.

Why lentils?

Lentils come in a wide variety of colours including green, red, orange, yellow, brown, and black. They are mild in flavour, ranging from sweet to earthy. This variety allows them to be used in many dishes. Dry lentils store well in a cupboard or pantry, so you can buy them in bulk.

Lentils are great because they are a hearty and cheap source of protein, fibre, folate, and iron.

Speaking of iron, it is important to have good sources of iron in our diets every day. In our bodies, iron carries oxygen through the blood. Not getting enough can leave you feeling tired and cranky.

How your body uses iron

  • Iron from meat, fish, and poultry is easily absorbed.
  • Iron from other sources (eggs, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, and tofu) is not as easily absorbed, but pairing these foods with foods rich in vitamin C helps the body absorb more of the iron.
  • If you don’t eat much (or any) meat, it is important to regularly eat a variety of plant-based sources of iron, such as lentils.

Basic lentil cooking

I find it helps to have a simple recipe for cooking lentils. That way, I can cook a big batch and add them to different meals. Cooked lentils can be refrigerated for 3-5 days. They also freeze well.

Cooking time for lentils ranges from 20-45 minutes, depending on the type. Check the lentil package for specific instructions, but the general process is:

  • Add lentils and water (use a 2:1 ratio; so for 1 cup of lentils, add 2 cups of water). Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until soft.
  • Remove from heat and strain

How to use lentils

Lentil soup in a bowl

Lentils are great because they are versatile, hearty, and a cheap source of protein, fibre, folate, and iron! Try them in Laurel’s simple lentil soup!

Laurel’s simple lentil soup

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 28 ounce can whole tomatoes, with juices
  • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into ½ inch pieces
  • 1 bunch kale, thick stems removed and leaves cut into small strips
  • ¾ cup red lentils (uncooked)
  • 1 tablespoon thyme
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • Dash of soy sauce
  • Dash of chili flakes
  • Grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Instructions

  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to soften, 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and tomatoes. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.
  2. Add 6 cups water and bring to a boil. Stir in the sweet potatoes, kale, lentils, and thyme. Simmer until the lentils are tender, 25 to 30 minutes. Add salt, pepper, soy sauce, and chili flakes to taste.
  3. Spoon into bowls. If desired, top with the Parmesan cheese.

(Northern Health Dietitians love lentil soup. For more recipes, see here and here and here)

Laurel Burton

About Laurel Burton

Laurel is a dietetic intern with Northern Health. She wanted her internship to be a rich learning experience, but also an adventure, so she decided to move to beautiful northern B.C. to learn and explore. Laurel is a big proponent of taking a multi-dimensional approach to health and she is interested in the social determinants of health and how they affect overall well-being, both at the individual and population level. When she’s not working, you can find her cooking, swimming, hiking, or camping.

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