Healthy Living in the North

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Curried Cauliflower-Kale Soup

The final product: Curried Cauliflower Kale Soup.

My husband and I recently enjoyed this savoury soup after a chilly day of outdoor activities. I love it because it’s a great way for us to get a healthy serving of veggies – plus, there’s just something so comforting about a hot bowl of soup!

It’s also dairy-free, and if you use vegetable broth, the soup can be vegan. For meat-eaters, adding shrimp, fish, or chicken is an option. And because you can make it in advance, I’ve found it also works well for potlucks.

If you use the curry powder recommended below, the flavour will be relatively gentle. I prefer offering a milder curry unless I’m 100% sure that everyone likes it hot. Those who want to spice things up can always add a dollop of hot sauce.

Modified from a recipe at Savory Lotus
Makes 4-5 large servings, 6-8 small ones

The ingredients for Curried Cauliflower Kale Soup.

Ingredients

For the soup:

  • 3 Tbsp Madras curry powder (I like Sun Brand)
  • 1 tsp ground cumin seeds
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 small head cauliflower, blended or processed into a rice-like texture (detailed instructions below) – a total of 3-4 cups “riced”
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and diced
  • A 2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • 4-5 cups broth (bone broth or vegetable broth). If using bone broth, I recommend chicken or turkey – beef would overpower the flavours in this dish
  • 2 or 3 large leaves of kale, ribs removed, leaves torn into 2 or 3 large pieces each
  • 1 cup full fat coconut milk. I prefer brands made of only coconut extract and water – no guar gum or carrageenan — but this is just a personal preference. If your coconut milk has guar gum or carrageenan, the recipe will still be fine.
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • Salt to taste

For the garnish:

In the well-known vegetarian cookbook My New Roots, author Sarah Britton advises that almost any dish can be improved by the addition of three things: minced fresh herbs, grated citrus peel (lemon, lime, or orange), and toasted nuts or seeds. I’ve taken that advice to heart here; to garnish, you’ll need:

  • About a ¼ cup minced chives
  • Grated peel of ½ a lemon
  • ¼ cup toasted pumpkin seeds or toasted almond slices
Nutrition Facts table for Curried Cauliflower Kale Soup.

Method

  1. Peel and chop the onion, garlic, and carrot and set aside, keeping them separate – you’ll need them at different points in the recipe.
  2. Stir the curry powder, ground cumin, and pepper together in a small bowl and set aside.
  3. Wash the cauliflower and discard the woody stem. Chop the florets into large chunks, then pulse in small batches in a blender or food processor until you achieve a rice-like texture. Repeat until all the cauliflower is riced.
  4. Grate the ginger and set aside.
  5. Heat the coconut oil in a large pot over low-medium heat.
  6. Add the onion and cook slowly, stirring often, until it’s translucent and just starting to brown. This will take 10 – 15 mins.
  7. Add the garlic and spices and cook for 30 seconds to “bloom” the curry powder. Stir constantly – burnt garlic will harm the flavour.
  8. Add the riced cauliflower, chopped carrots, and grated ginger. Stir well to coat them with the spice-onion-garlic mixture.
  9. Add the 3 cups broth and stir well.
  10. Bring to a boil, then simmer until the carrots and cauliflower are tender, about 10 minutes.
  11. Add the kale (don’t chop it), cover the pot again, and simmer for about 7 more minutes until it’s cooked – you may need to push the kale leaves down into the soup. Leaving the kale unchopped makes it easier to scoop out for the next step.
  12. Scoop out the cooked kale leaves, plus about 1/3 of the remaining soup, and pulse briefly a few times in the blender or food processor until the kale leaves are chopped into small pieces (but not pureed).
  13. Add the mixture back into your soup pot and stir.
  14. Add the coconut milk and lemon juice and stir well.
  15. Simmer for 5 minutes to blend the flavours, then add salt to taste.
  16. Just before serving, stir in the lemon peel and sprinkle with the chives and toasted nuts or seeds.
  17. Have hot sauce available for anyone who likes a bolder flavour.
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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!

 

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

Soup

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

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

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

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

Spinach & white bean soup

Adapted from Damn Delicious

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

Enjoy!

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Foodie Friday: Lentil Soup

food; healthy eating; nutrition

Batch soups make delicious meals – and can cost only pennies a serving!

As a single mom, I understand the value of a dollar and how expensive food has become. However, I don’t let this stand in the way of preparing and serving healthy food. With a little effort, I manage to stay on budget while not sacrificing nutrition and flavor. Here are a few tips I find helpful:

  • Read the flyers to find out what’s on sale. Make sure you know if it really is a good deal or just regular price.
  • Plan your meals ahead of time, so you only buy what you need.
  • Try a vegetarian meal, like the recipe below, once a week as meat is often one of the most expensive grocery items.
  • Buy foods that are in season; they are usually cheaper and tastier!
  • Make a grocery list and bring it to the store with you, to prevent impulse buying.
  • Buy only what you need. If you are a small family, the huge bag of potatoes really isn’t a deal if you throw out half.

Try this family favourite: my 4-year-old daughter loves this thick smooth soup with crackers or a biscuit. This soup is budget friendly with a per pot cost of about $2.24 or per serving cost of $0.22.

Food Fact: Lentils come in red, green and brown; they are easy to use as they don’t require pre-soaking. Lentils are an excellent source of fibre and a good source of protein, magnesium, potassium and folate.

Lentil Soup
(Makes 10 1-cup servings)

  • 2 cups dry lentils
  • 10 cups of water
  • 1 ½ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 whole cloves
  • dash cayenne
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1 large onion
  • ¾ cup celery
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • ¼ cup butter or non-hydrogenated margarine

In a large pot combine lentils, water, salt, pepper, bay leaf, cloves and cayenne. Bring to a simmer. Cut up carrot, onion and celery into small pieces. Combine the vegetables, with the garlic and butter/margarine in a small pan and cook for 10 minutes; add to lentils. Simmer everything for 2 hours. Discard the bay leaf and cloves. Put soup through a blender or use a hand blender to puree. Enjoy!

For more ideas, the Dietitians of Canada has some great budget-friendly cooking tips.

What are some of your great and affordable meal ideas?

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Northern Table: Canada’s food guide and plant-based proteins

A cauliflower and bean taco is shown.

The new Canada’s food guide suggests eating more plant-based proteins (like this cauliflower-bean taco), and less meat.

There’s been a lot of buzz about plant-based proteins lately! The new Canada’s food guide encourages Canadians to enjoy a variety of foods, and to choose proteins that come from plants more often. This includes foods such as:

  • Beans
  • Chickpeas
  • Lentils
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Peanuts
  • Products made from these foods, like hummus, tofu, nut butters, and fortified soy beverages

In a previous blog post, Amelia Gallant shared some great tips and recipes, and discussed the benefits of eating more plant-based proteins. She also pointed out that plant-based eating means different things to different people, and that it doesn’t mean having to forgo all meat or dairy products. For most people, taking small steps to include more of these foods will be a more enjoyable and sustainable approach.

What might this might look like in real life? I asked a few Northern Health colleagues to share what eating plant-based proteins means for them. Here’s what they had to say:

Partial or full substitutes for meat

“For our family, it means adding lentils with our rice in the rice cooker (only split lentils, otherwise it won’t cook in time!), using tofu in saucy dishes, and adding beans and lentils in soups, stews, or pasta to partially or fully substitute for meat. We’ve found that by using plant-based proteins, you can have meat more for flavouring rather than bulk, which helps expenses and the environment.” – Scott Christie, Environmental Health Officer

Not what I grew up with

“I’ve started to use more beans – black bean brownies, mashed black beans with ground meats to add volume, black eyed peas in stews. Most of these were not served when I was growing up in southern Ontario. I remember … meat and potatoes kind of meals.” – Valerie Preston, Regional Administration Support

Not just for vegetarians

“I’m certainly not a vegetarian, but I do enjoy plant-based proteins and serve them for my daughters as well. I started doing this originally for economic reasons, but found that I enjoy the taste and texture differences. I particularly enjoy hummus, natural peanut butter, tofu, chickpea and lentil soups, chia seeds, and hemp hearts.” – Nathan Hoffart, Speech Language Pathologist

An opportunity to try new things

“For me, it means tasty opportunities to be creative and try new things, as well as enjoy some old favourites. One of our current favourites is roasted cauliflower and lentil tacos. We also like modifying family favourites (e.g., lentil shepherd’s pie), making small modifications (e.g., red lentils to spaghetti sauce, beans or nuts on top of salad), and enjoying old favourites (e.g., peanut butter smeared on apple slices, baked beans, pea soup, etc.)” – Flo Sheppard, Registered Dietitian

Learning as a family

“For my family, it involves meal planning and finding inspiration in cookbooks and websites, and asking others for recipe ideas. I like to involve my two children in different ways … as I find this increases the chance that they will try and enjoy a variety of plant-based foods.” – Dana Vigneault, Regional Nursing Lead, Injury Prevention

What strikes me most about these quotes is that people value plant-based proteins for much more than just their nutritional benefits. We heard:

  • Taste
  • Texture
  • Environmental impact
  • Budget
  • The opportunity to try new things and teach new skills

Now, it’s your turn! Tell us what eating plant-based proteins means to you?

For more blog posts that explore the new Canada’s Food guide, see:

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Healthy eating: the pressure is on

Tagine in an Instant Pot.
Chickpea and chicken tagine in the Instant Pot.

You’ve likely heard the expression “knowing and doing are two different things.” I think this is especially true when it comes to healthy eating. Most people have a good sense of what healthy eating is – and it’s recently been simplified with the new Canada’s Food Guide. The challenge is how to actually practice healthy eating in your life.

While there may be a few potential barriers to healthy eating, the one I relate to the most is lack of time. Recently, I was sharing dinner with a group of work colleagues and the conversation turned to balancing work commitments with getting a meal on the table. A common strategy emerged – the trendy Instant Pot, which is an electric pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, yogurt maker, and so much more, in one appliance. As a relatively new and slightly reluctant owner of this kitchen tool, I appreciated hearing and sharing tips on how the Instant Pot can simplify mealtime.

Here are five benefits to using the Instant Pot, from a variety of Northern Health staff:

Eggs and an Instant Pot.
Pressure cook a dozen eggs in the shell for 3-4 minutes to get easy-to-peel, soft boiled eggs.

One pot cooking = less clean up

The Instant Pot allows you to do multiple types of cooking in the same pot. For example, you can brown beef, pork, or chicken before adding vegetables to make a stew. Just remember to deglaze the pot by adding a little liquid to remove any meat bits stuck on the pan. This helps avoid getting the dreaded “BURN” message! Depending on your timeline, you can choose to slow cook or pressure cook your stew.
-Adele Bachand, Regional Manager, Healthy Settings

Put all your ingredients in the pot and forget it = no watched pot

I like that I can put all the ingredients for Moroccan soup in the Instant Pot, set the timer, and leave it. While it’s cooking, I take my dog for a walk around the neighbourhood. By the time we get back, I have a tasty bowl of soup waiting for me.
-Sabrina Dosanjh-Gantner, Regional Manager, Healthy Living & Chronic Disease Prevention

Cook once and eat twice = time saved

Pressure cook a dozen eggs in the shell for 3- 4 minutes to get easy-to-peel, soft boiled eggs. These make a great addition to breakfast, as a portable snack or lunch, or deviled eggs for your next work potluck.
-Emilia Moulechkova, Population Health Dietitian / Regional Lead – School Age Nutrition

Soup in an Instant Pot.
Mexican chicken soup.

Pressure cooking = soup broth in a fraction of the time

Normally turning a chicken carcass into broth requires a few hours of simmering. In the Instant Pot, it takes about 30 minutes of pressure cooking to yield a tasty broth, which you can transform into soup or use in other recipes. Best of all, you don’t get the moist chicken smell throughout your house!
-Rhoda Viray, Regional Manager, Public Health Practice

No need to soak dried beans before cooking = time and money saved

Since it only takes 35 minutes on the pressure function to cook dried chickpeas to tender, it’s easier to include plant-based proteins in my menu planning. I often cook a big batch of chickpeas on the weekend – these become hummus, a chicken and chickpea tagine (also cooked in the Instant Pot), or a chickpea and sweet potato soup (also cooked in the Instant Pot). I also appreciate that I’m reducing the number of cans I add to the recycle bin.
-Flo Sheppard, Chief Population Health Dietitian

Looking for more ideas? Check out Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram for online communities dedicated to Instant Pot support and tips! Do you have an Instant Pot? If so, what’s your favourite way to use it? If not, consider entering Northern Health’s Nutrition Month contest for a chance to win one!

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Our People: Spotlight on Cheryl Dussault

Cheryl Dussault sitting at her desk.

Congratulations to Cheryl Dussault for 30 years of service at Northern Health! Cheryl is a nurse practitioner in Prince George. She works at the CNC Health and Wellness Centre and for UNBC Health Services, two clinics that provide primary health care to students.

Why did you choose your career?

As far as I can remember, I wanted to be a nurse. I come from a family of nurses and that’s what I had my mind set on. I came to Prince George from a small community to do the nursing diploma at the College of New Caledonia. I thrive on providing patient care and working in that kind of environment. Eventually, I wanted to further my education and becoming a nurse practitioner allowed me to do that and stay closely connected to patient care. I graduated as a nurse practitioner in 2015 from the program at UNBC.

How did you end up at NH?

There are different opportunities at Northern Health as a nurse. My plan was to return to my hometown when I graduated from the nursing program, but I realized I liked working in the hospital in Prince George. I wanted to get more experience, and 30 years later, here I am. The community definitely grew on me.

What would you say to anyone wanting to get into your kind of career?

If you enjoy being challenged, becoming a nurse practitioner is for you! It was quite a shift for me after being a nurse in the hospital for the majority of my career. Being a nurse practitioner, I have more autonomy and it’s very rewarding. I feel part of a larger community and still get to be part of patient care improvements. I like that I see people now to try to prevent them from going to the hospital. At the clinics at CNC and UNBC, we see a lot of students from other communities that don’t have a family doctor or nurse practitioner in town, and we deal with a lot of international students. They bring a different set of challenges because of language barriers and being from different cultures.

What do you like about living in Prince George?

I like that there’s a variety of services available and that it’s a very welcoming community. When I moved here for my schooling, I was overwhelmed by how nice people are here. There are also lots of resources for people raising a family. It’s large enough so you have what you need, but also close to bigger cities.

What’s your favourite thing to do outside work?

I’m very family oriented, I have two young grandsons. And I like to help at the local soup kitchen.

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Foodie Friday: Pumpkin-more than just a spooky decoration

woman holding pumpkins.

Carving pumpkins are less flavourful than their smaller relatives, but the seeds are edible and extremely delicious when roasted!

It’s that time of year again – when kids are getting their Halloween costumes ready, and pumpkins are being carved. I recently learned that the tradition of carving pumpkins began in Ireland, as a way to ward off evil spirits. Interesting, right? To this day, pumpkin carving is still a fun way to spend time with family or friends, to be creative, and to celebrate the fall season.

But pumpkins are much more than a fun Halloween activity. As a dietitian, at this time of year I often get asked, “Aside from carving and eating it in pie, what can you actually make with pumpkin?”

Pumpkin, like many of its cousins, is an edible squash, like butternut or acorn squash. It comes from the same family as cucumbers, zucchini, and watermelon. For some reason though, pumpkins seem to be less well known for their versatility as a food. While we see pumpkin flavoured things everywhere these days: in coffee, granola bars, and yogurt, it’s not often featured in main dishes.

Ways to eat pumpkin:

  • You can eat pumpkin in many of the same ways as other squash: add it to soups, stews, pasta dishes, sauces, oatmeal, pancakes, baked goods, or your favourite snacks. Pumpkin even works in stir-fry.
  • You can buy canned pumpkin puree in the store – this is a convenient way to have pumpkin around, and you can store it for a long time. You can also make your own pumpkin puree

Row of carved pumpkins.

This week Laurel learned that carving watermelons is just as effective as carving pumpkins – and the flesh is a tasty treat while you carve!

Tips on types:

There’s a difference between edible and ornamental pumpkins:

Ornamental

  • Large carving pumpkins: not nearly as flavourful as their smaller cousins. They’re watery and stringy. You can still roast and eat the seeds – highly recommended!
  • Huge show pumpkins: these are really cool, if you’ve ever seen one at a fair, but they’re not edible.

Edible

  • Sugar pumpkins: they’re a few pounds (~2-3lb) and have a rich, sweet flavour.
  • Miniature pumpkins: provide a lovely centre piece at a fall themed table. You can also eat them. They become bitter as they age, so if you’re using as a centre piece, eat within a few weeks.

Benefits of pumpkin:

  • They’re a great source of fibre, potassium, and vitamin C, as well as vitamin A, which is important for vision and a strong immune system.
  • Working with pumpkins can be a fun activity for kids: choosing one, roasting the seeds, or helping to make a tasty recipe!

Don’t forget about the seeds!

  • You can roast them: Add your favourite spices or just with a little oil and salt (a fun activity for kids).
  • Add to salads, cereals, trail mix (for a great on-the-go snack), yogurt, and baked goods, or eat a handful as a snack.
  • Pumpkin seeds are a great source of protein, fibre, iron, zinc and magnesium.

Pumpkin oatmeal.

Pumpkin oatmeal: a cozy breakfast. Any toppings of your choice can work.

Pumpkin oatmeal

Prep time: 5-10 minutes             Cook time: ~15 minutes           Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of quick cooking oatmeal
  • 4 cups of water, or 2 cups water & 2 cups of milk (if you’d like a creamier oatmeal)
  • 1 (14 ounce) can of pumpkin puree, or 1 ¾ cup of roasted sugar pumpkin
  • ½ tsp. cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp. ground cloves
  • 2 tbsps. maple syrup or honey

Instructions:

  1. Combine water, oatmeal and bring to a boil. Add the pumpkin puree and spices.
  2. Cook as instructed on your oatmeal package (should take around 7 -10 minutes for the oatmeal to cook). Stir often.
  3. Add maple syrup, stir, and serve.

Optional: sprinkle with pumpkin seeds, coconut shavings, or any topping you like.

This Halloween, when you’re picking a carving pumpkin from your local Farmers’ Market or grocery store, grab a sugar pumpkin and try it for your next meal!

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Foodie Friday: To-fu or not To-fu – Smart ways to adopt plant-based eating

Plant-based eating has become one of the largest food and health trends of the past few years, which, as a dietitian, I’m delighted to see. Aside from being delicious, plant-based protein choices are typically lower in saturated fats, higher in fibre, and can be more sustainable for the environment. You can’t deny the health benefits of vegetarian or vegan eating when it’s done properly, because there are many benefits!

However, that doesn’t mean that we need to adopt a strict new lifestyle to reap the rewards. It’s up to you what kind of commitment you want to make. Many of us probably wouldn’t fare well on a strictly vegan diet (me included!), but we could make small steps to better our health, and the planet’s. Most of us eat 21 meals each week – is there opportunity for you to make one or two more of those meals meatless?

Plate of tofu and veggies.

Looking to include more meatless ingredients in your meal rotation? Tofu could be that quick-and-easy staple your family is looking for!

If meatless eating is a new ballgame for you, it doesn’t need to be a complicated affair; try simple items like vegetarian chili, tofu stir fry, lentil soup, homemade black bean burgers, or falafel. You could also be more adventurous and include things like TVP (textured vegetable protein), seitan (made from the protein gluten), or tempeh (a fermented soy product). I don’t usually recommend the “fake meat” products which are highly processed, usually pack a dose of sodium (and are expensive). As always, fill your plates with delicious vegetables and whole grains to make these meals as satisfying as possible.

Tofu, in particular, is one of those foods that people decidedly dislike before they’ve had a chance to try it. I get it, it’s bland, spongy, and there are so many types – it can be intimidating to make for the first time. With the right techniques, like pressing out the excess moisture, and using a delicious marinade, it just might be that quick-and-easy staple your family is looking for!

Amelia’s Tofu “Un-Recipe”

Ingredients:

  • 1 block extra firm tofu (454 g)
  • 2 Tbsp cornstarch

Marinade (or use another favorite marinade recipe):

  • 1 tsp oil of choice (sesame, canola, olive)
  • 2 Tbsp cup low-sodium vegetable or chicken stock (or use water if none on hand)
  • 1 Tbsp reduced-sodium soy sauce (or use extra stock for lower sodium)
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar (or honey, molasses, maple syrup)
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced (or a hefty pinch of garlic powder)
  • 1 tsp grated ginger (or a pinch of ground ginger)
  • Optional: Hot sauce, to taste. (Or use black or cayenne pepper for lower sodium)

Instructions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C), prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper or with lightly oiling. Tofu can also be cooked by pan frying over medium heat or even bbq-ing, 5-8 minutes per side, if that suits you better. Tofu can also be eaten raw; uncooked marinated tofu is a yummy addition to a green or pasta salad.
  2. Open tofu package and drain excess water, dry the surface of the tofu with a clean towel. Slice the tofu widthwise in 1cm (3/4 inch) slices. Slice each slice into 2 triangles.
  3. Lay the triangles between two clean, dry kitchen towels and press firmly to remove any excess moisture, removing moisture allows the tofu to soak up delicious flavour!
  4. Mix marinade ingredients in a dish and add tofu, ensuring all pieces are covered, and let sit at least 20 minutes, turning halfway through to coat. During this time you can chop veggies and start to prepare your side dishes.
  5. After 15 minutes, drain excess liquid (if any) and add cornstarch, tossing to coat evenly.
  6. Arrange on a baking sheet and bake 40 minutes, flipping tofu after 20 minutes.

My favorite way to enjoy baked tofu is dipped in a spicy peanut sauce and served alongside some colorful veggies and roasted potato chunks.

Have you tried incorporating vegetarian mealtimes in your household? Let us know in the comments what it’s like for you to eat off the “meaten” path!

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Foodie Friday: back to school lunches

It’s now the first week of school. Where did the summer go?!  If you are like me and a parent of school-aged kids, you are now struggling to get back into the school routine and this includes packed lunches. Sometimes we just need some suggestions and creativity to find lunch solutions that keep our children engaged.

Back to school blocks.

Your child is going to need something nutritious to eat to get them through the school day.

One of the best things that happened this last year was my children’s school instituted a play first lunch, where the kids play outside and then eat their lunch. This has resulted in my daughter eating more of her lunch as she isn’t in such a rush to get outside and play. If you’re interested in this concept you can find more information here.

However, no matter how the lunch time is structured, your child is going to need something nutritious to eat to get them through the rest of the school day. Looking for ideas? Try Lise’s Master Fruit Muffin Recipe, for some more lunch ideas check out HealthLink BC. Overall, remember that variety is key. Rarely would anyone want to eat the exact same food day after day; your child is unlikely to want the same lunch every day. Aim for at least three out of the four food groups and don’t forget the ice pack. Here are a few ideas:

  • Sandwich, wrap, roti or pita stuffed with meat, cheese, egg, tuna, peanut butter*, jam, vegetables and/or hummus.
  • Chili, stew, perogies, soup, samosas, pasta salad
  • Waffles, pancakes or muffins
  • Cereal and milk
  • Quiche, scrambled or hard-boiled eggs
  • Crackers or tortilla and cheese
  • Yogurt and granola
  • Kebabs (meat, cheese, vegetable)

*Note: due to allergies, some schools do not allow peanut butter.  Alternatives such as Wowbutter may be allowed.

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