Healthy Living in the North

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!

Amelia Gallant

About Amelia Gallant

Amelia is a Primary Care Dietitian living and working in Fort St. John. Born and raised near St. John's, Newfoundland, she made her cross-country journey to northern BC in 2017 and is delighted to see comforts of home in the kindness of the people she meets and their love of the outdoors - even in the long and snowy winters. Forever a foodie, Amelia's the one at your dinner table trying to snap the perfect picture, or trying to replicate the latest food trends in her kitchen. As a dietitian, she hopes to simplify the mixed nutrition messaging and help people re-learn to enjoy their eating experience while supporting their healthy living goals.

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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.

Rebecca Larson

About Rebecca Larson

Rebecca works in Vanderhoof and the surrounding communities as a dietitian. She was born in the north and returned after her schooling. Rebecca loves tobogganing with her daughter in the winter, gardening and camping in the summer and working on her parents cattle ranch in her spare time.

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Foodie Friday: Creating fast and efficient meals for big events

I recently went home to visit family – people who now live far apart from each other, in different corners of the country, and the globe! On this particular visit, my sister and her small children were returning from Singapore, so along with additional family, we were navigating some significant jet lag! Needless to say, we wanted to have hassle free, easy to prepare meals. Also, when you’re visiting family you haven’t seen in at least a year, who wants to spend all that time cooking?

Planning meals for large gatherings (such as family reunions or celebrations) can take a lot of work, and can be stressful! Fear not. Here are some tips that can make meal time faster and more efficient, so you can spend more time visiting.

Tips for preparing big meals:

  • Stick to familiar meals, and keep it simple: for big family gatherings, we often stick to meals we know best. That way, cooking is easy, and less risky! Keeping recipes flexible helps make cooking easier.
  • Meal plan: to prepare for meals the next day, my mom and I would take a moment to plan the night before. This helped us to stay organized and take stock of what we needed to prepare. You can meal plan as far ahead as you need to!
  • Prepare snacks ahead of time: to prepare for our family’s arrival, we made a few key foods ahead of time, including muffins, dipping sauces, and cut-up vegetables. This way, we had some snacks ready for people to munch.
  • Prepare parts or all of the meal ahead of time: it’s often helpful to prepare dishes ahead of time (e.g. lasagna). However, if this isn’t an option, preparing some meal components in advance can help with efficiency. We cook our spaghetti sauce ahead of time. That way, all we have to do is cook the noodles at dinner time, and we can spend the day visiting.
  • Assign tasks: Don’t be afraid to ask for help! Each day we assigned cooks (and dishwashers!) for different meals. My four year old nephew even helped out – he picked the basil for a pesto sauce I made, and helped put the ingredients in the blender (with supervision).
  • Serve foods buffet style: at meal time, food was placed on the kitchen table and everyone served themselves. This allowed everyone to choose from what was provided.
  • Plan for leftovers: consider sending guests home with extra food, freeze individual portions for future lunches, or incorporate leftovers into the next day’s meals.

I made the following recipe while home visiting. It was a hit! It incorporates summer vegetables, is quick to prepare, and is a definite crowd pleaser.

Bowl of lentil sauce.

The lentil and zucchini dish served with toasted bread and cheese. A quick and simple meal for large groups!

Lentil Sauce with Zucchini Noodles

Ingredients:

  • 1-2  large fresh tomatoes (or 1 15oz (475ml) can of diced tomatoes)
  • 1/4 cup hummus
  • 1/4 cup split red lentils
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast (optional, but delicious)
  • 2 tsp Italian seasoning (or any standard herbs you like: basil, thyme, oregano, parsley, etc.)
  • 2 large zucchini, spiralized (I use one fairly large zucchini or 2 small ones)*
  • Sprinkle with parmesan cheese (optional)

Note: If you don’t have a spiralizer (which I don’t), you can use a cheese or vegetable peeler to slice the zucchini thinly.

Instructions:

  1. If using fresh tomatoes, cut into chunks. If using canned, add with other ingredients as directed below.
  2. Boil the water in a pot. Add lentils and let simmer for 3 minutes. Add all other ingredients, except cheese. Let pot simmer until sauce is the desired thickness (if you like a thicker sauce, let it simmer a little longer).
  3. Remove sauce from burner and pour over the raw zucchini. Option: you can also cook the zucchini right in with the other ingredients if you prefer cooked zucchini.
  4. Sprinkle on parmesan cheese and enjoy!

This recipe can be served as a meal or as a side dish.

Little girl eating from spoon.

My niece Lilian taste testing. At meal time she enjoyed eating this dish with her fingers; exploring the different textures and colours.

What are some ways that you make large group meals efficiently and less time consuming?

For more zucchini recipes, check out:

For other tips on using leftovers, check out:

Laurel Burton

About Laurel Burton

Laurel works with Northern Health as a population health dietitian, with a focus on food security. She 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. Laurel is a recent graduate of the UBC dietetics program, where she completed her internship with Northern Health. She has experience working with groups across the lifecycle within BC and internationally to support evidence-informed nutrition practice for the aim of optimizing health. When she is not working, Laurel enjoys cooking, hiking and travelling. She is looking forward to exploring more of the North!

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Foodie Friday: Keeping cool in the kitchen

I love the long days of summer when I can be outside and enjoy life without wearing a heavy coat or big furry boots. Ahhhh, beautiful, warm, sunny days! Fast forward: It’s 1 o’clock in the morning and I can’t sleep because it’s just too hot! I’ve got the fan going but I still can’t get cool. Sweat, yes; sleep, no. Sound familiar?

To keep the heat out of my home I’ve learned to close up all the windows and pull the blinds and curtains. I’ve even put a big piece of cardboard in my bedroom window frame to block the sun. It doesn’t look beautiful, but it works! Unfortunately one thing that heats up my home, more than anything, is cooking a meal on the stove or in the oven. I mentioned this at work one day and someone suggested I try using the microwave; it doesn’t create as much heat when you cook. I had never cooked a whole meal using the microwave but the weather outside told me I’d better try something different! Already the temperature in my kitchen was 24.2 C; I’ve seen temperatures of up to 27 C after I’ve finished cooking supper. Would using the microwave keep things cooler? I experimented with the recipe below.

Note: this meal was cooked in a 1200 watt microwave. Depending on the strength of your microwave you’ll need to cook the food for a longer or shorter period of time.

Very important: use microwave safe bowls and lids that let steam escape during the cooking process.

plate of veggie fried rice.

Cooking with the microwave can help lower the temperature of your home during the hot summer months.

Microwave Veggie “Fried” Rice

Serves: two

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup long grain rice
  • 1 cup water
  • Pinch of salt and pepper
  • 1 cup of frozen vegetables
  • 2-4 eggs

Rice instructions:

  1. Place rice and water in a bowl that is about three times as big as the rice/water mixture. You want to make sure the water does not boil over and the rice can double in size.
  2. Cover and cook, for three minutes on high.
  3. Allow rice to sit in the microwave for two minutes and then cook again for three minutes on high.
  4. At the end, allow the rice to sit for five minutes in the microwave.

Vegetable instructions:

  1. Add 1 cup of frozen vegetables
  2. Cover and cook for two minutes on high.
  3. Let sit for five minutes.
  4. Repeat step 1 and 2 until the vegetables are cooked to your liking.
  5. Mix in 1 teaspoon margarine or butter at the end of the cooking time.

Egg instructions:

  1. Scramble together 2-4 eggs.
  2. Season with a pitch of salt and pepper.
  3. Place in bowl and grease the bowl with a little oil.
  4. Cover and cook for one to two minutes on 80% power level.
  5. Uncover the eggs and mix them so the cooked and uncooked parts are broken up.
  6. Cook for another 30-60 seconds on 80% power level.
  7. Eggs should be cooked but if they are not cook for another 30-60 seconds.

Variations

  • Instead of rice you can make pasta in the microwave as well. Use equal amounts of pasta and water and us similar cooking times as the rice.
  • Instead of rice you can have a dinner roll or toast.
  • Instead of eggs, open up a can of salmon, tuna, lentils, or black beans and add that (cold or hot) to the rice, vegetable mix.

Temperature in the kitchen after all that cooking? 24.5 C – not bad! All in all, I’m going to use the microwave more often, especially when the temperature outside heats up. Next, I’m going to try cooking meats. I’ll let you know how that goes when I write my next post.

close up veggie fried rice.

New to microwave cooking? Check out my tips below!

Here’s a few tips for microwave cooking:

  1. Cut food into small pieces. Shred raw carrots, minced onions, and cube potatoes. The smaller the piece of food the quicker it can cook.
  2. Cook in shorter time periods and stir the food in between. Microwaves cook unevenly. Foods in the outside edge of the microwave cook faster than foods in the middle so that can make some parts of the food very hot and other parts just warm. By stirring the food every few minutes that food will cook more evenly.
  3. Foods with skins like potatoes, sweet potatoes, and sausages may explode. Make holes in the skin with a fork so the steam has a place to go. For eggs, break the yolk, or scramble the egg. If the egg is whole, cover it with water so it poaches as it cooks.
  4. Cover the foods you’re cooking but always use microwave safe containers and let air/steam escape the cover. This keeps the food moist and the food can cook more evenly.
  5. Let the food stand for five to ten minutes after cooking. For example, rice, pasta, or potatoes will continue cooking when they sit in the steam of the microwave. This is good advice for casseroles, as well. Another good reason to let the dish stand for a few minutes is that the dishes get very hot in the microwave! Make sure you use oven mitts when you take the food out of the oven.

How do you keep your place cool in the summer? What you like to cook in your microwave?  Tell us in the comments below!

Judy April

About Judy April

Judy works in Dawson Creek as a dietitian. A true northerner, she grew up just 75 km away in Fort St. John. She still wonders why the winters are so long but seems to forget when the long summer days arrive and she can go out in her garden at 10 o’clock at night without a flashlight! She’s a person who loves variety in life and at the table!

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Foodie Friday: beat the heat! No-cook summer meals

I’m not originally from northern BC, but having grown up in St. John’s, Newfoundland, I can relate to long winters, short summers, and the month we’ve renamed “June-uary” back home. Since leaving the fog behind and moving to northeastern BC, I so appreciate seeing the sunshine all year round, especially late into the summer evenings!

One thing remains the same in my two homes: the temperatures eventually climb in those short months of summer and I often hear people say “it’s too hot to cook!” Pair the heat with busy summer schedules, and many of us may turn to fast food, restaurants, and delivery, in a pinch. These choices are usually high in calories, fat, and sodium, and low in nutrients which make them a poor choice on the regular. Their ease and convenience can be appealing, but there are lots of ways to get healthy meals on the table just as quickly – without even pre-heating the oven or turning on the stove! Salads, sandwiches, and “brinner” (breakfast for dinner), have been my go-to’s for no-cook healthy eating over the years, but my favorite is the snack plate!

snack foods on a board.

A snack plate is great for little fingers and can help increase intake for smaller appetites too. It’s also a great opportunity to use up leftovers or stragglers in the fridge.

 

No matter the time of year, I truly enjoy a “snack plate” style meal. It gives me vibes of sharing tapas with friends or noshing at a party, plus the varieties in textures and flavor are so satisfying! A snack plate is also great for little fingers and can help increase intake for smaller appetites too. The snack plate can be a great opportunity to use up leftovers or stragglers in the fridge to reduce waste. To make a healthy and delicious snack plate, here’s what I’d recommend:

  • Fresh chopped veggies and fruit always make an appearance – and should fill most of the plate. Take advantage of what’s local and seasonal right now, or pull some from your freezer and quickly steam in the microwave!
  • Protein like boiled eggs, hummus, pre-cooked shrimp or meats, marinated tofu, and/or reduced fat cheese. A grocery store rotisserie chicken goes a long way as well!
  • Whole grains in the form of crackers, sliced baguette, naan bread, or even air-popped popcorn.
  • In a snack plate it’s the dips and extras that bring it all together! Add in pickles or olives, roasted nuts, spicy mustards, veggie dips, chutneys or salsas, whatever you and your family loves! Try my quick pickle recipe below.

Quick-Pickled Mixed Veggies

Ingredients:

  • ¾ cup veggies of choice, sliced thin. I use red onion, radishes, and carrot ribbons (made with a vegetable peeler)
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • ½ cup boiling water (from the kettle)
  • ½ cup white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ½ tsp red chili flakes

Instructions:

  1. Dissolve the sugar and salt in the hot water and add vinegar, chili flakes, garlic and vegetables. Ensure the veggies are submerged.
  2. Cover and leave to sit at room temperature or in the fridge until the mixture is cool.
  3. Serve immediately or refrigerate up to three days.
Amelia Gallant

About Amelia Gallant

Amelia is a Primary Care Dietitian living and working in Fort St. John. Born and raised near St. John's, Newfoundland, she made her cross-country journey to northern BC in 2017 and is delighted to see comforts of home in the kindness of the people she meets and their love of the outdoors - even in the long and snowy winters. Forever a foodie, Amelia's the one at your dinner table trying to snap the perfect picture, or trying to replicate the latest food trends in her kitchen. As a dietitian, she hopes to simplify the mixed nutrition messaging and help people re-learn to enjoy their eating experience while supporting their healthy living goals.

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Foodie Friday: the smells of home

It’s officially summer in the north and the days are long. But where I live, the weather hasn’t exactly been warm, especially in the mornings! So, this calls for something warm for breakfast – like this baked oatmeal, which is a quick, but hearty, morning meal!

Bowl of oatmeal on counter.

Oatmeal in the morning is quick, nutritious, and delicious!

Oatmeal is one of those meals that makes me feel nostalgic. Oatmeal was a staple when I was little, as my mother wanted a breakfast that would ‘stick with me’ and keep me full until lunch.  To this day, I love the smell of cinnamon and apples; to me, it’s the smell of home. Oatmeal is a complex carbohydrate and with the milk and eggs in this recipe, it does have some protein. Enjoy!

Baked Oatmeal (makes approximately 30 servings)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 6 cups quick oats
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 1-2 apples, diced

Instructions:

  1. Mix together the oil, sugar, and eggs.
  2. Add in the oats, baking powder, salt, milk, cinnamon, and diced apples. Mix together well.
  3. Pour into a 9×13 baking dish.
  4. Bake at 350F for 45 minutes.
Rebecca Larson

About Rebecca Larson

Rebecca works in Vanderhoof and the surrounding communities as a dietitian. She was born in the north and returned after her schooling. Rebecca loves tobogganing with her daughter in the winter, gardening and camping in the summer and working on her parents cattle ranch in her spare time.

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From my family to yours: personalized no-bake energy balls!

Girl picking blackberriesFor Nutrition Month this year, we’re thinking about all of the ways we can make food with the family, and we’re celebrating how food can have the potential to fuel, create discovery, and bring us together!

Growing up in a family whose parents immigrated to Canada in the mid-90’s, we were quite traditional with our food habits. My parents valued eating together as a family and we were not permitted to start eating until every single person sat down at the dinner table. As a ritual in our household, my brother and I sat down and called each of the family members present to join us before every meal. This, my parents explained, taught us discipline and respect and would help build character. Our friend’s families on the other hand, either said grace or simply dove right into the food as soon as everyone sat down.

Meals allowed us to share the best parts of our day as well as our struggles. Not only was personal news shared but international news as well, since the children didn’t watch the news or read newspapers. These daily rituals helped reinforce values, mold our personalities, and allowed us to revisit some of the traditions my parents were taught in their youth; traditions like: how to hold a bowl, how to hold our chopsticks and present our food, how to speak during meals, and what to do when finished.

As we got older and committed to extracurricular activities and work, conflicting schedules made it harder to bring everyone together for dinner. Today, we cherish the times we get to sit down and enjoy a family meal, and all the other ways food brings us together.

Some examples of how food brings my family together:

  • Harvesting fruit trees and berry bushes: we have a cherry tree, a golden plum tree, goji berry bushes, and blueberry bushes in our backyard. This means there was always something easy to pick off a tree or bush and eat throughout most of the growing season.
  • Harvesting wild berry bushes: there are enormous blackberry bushes down the fire lane by our house. After work/school we would head home and my family would pull out a ladder, place it on a dolly, and walk it down the fire lane to pick wild blackberries. We got some interesting looks from unfamiliar faces driving by.
  • Meal prep on the weekends: some weekends we would make my mom’s famous Taiwanese beef stew. This involved a lot of prep and a long slow simmer to make sure the beef was melt-in-your-mouth tender.
  • Grocery shopping together: grocery store runs always happened after dinner to avoid the rush hour traffic. The end of the day is also a great time to go for marked down food. My brother and I would play games and see who could spot the marked down foods first.
  • Preparing snacks together: whether it’s cutting up veggie sticks, storing berries in little to-go containers for lunch, or making granola bites, one of us would attempt to toss whatever we were preparing at each other and the other one would try and catch it in their mouth. Tips: the trick is in a high toss so the catcher has time to react and to use something with a bit of weight (berries work better than popcorn).

One of my favourite snacks is No-Bake Energy Balls. They’re so versatile – you can mix and match ingredients and make easy substitutions.  To store in the winter, you can simply freeze/refrigerate them in a sealed container outside or in the garage. These energy balls are perfect for every season!

No-Bake Energy Balls

Recipe Adapted from: Wonder How To Food Hacks

Ratio guide (see examples of ingredients below):

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup assorted ingredients
  • ½ cup something nutty/sticky
  • 1/3 cup something liquid/sugary

No bake energy balls

Examples of ingredients:

Nutty/Sticky

  • Peanut butter
  • Sunflower seed butter
  • Almond butter
  • Cashew butter

Liquid Sweeteners

  • Regular syrup
  • Honey
  • Maple Syrup

Nutty/Crunchy/Seedy

  • Chopped almonds
  • Chopped walnuts
  • Chopped cashews
  • Chopped peanuts
  • Chia seeds
  • Ground flax seeds
  • Sunflower seeds

Sweet/Fruity

  • Mashed bananas
  • Dried cranberries
  • Dried raisins
  • Dried blueberries
  • Dried apricots
  • Shredded coconut

Sweet/ Chocolatey

  • White chocolate chips
  • Milk chocolate chips
  • Yogurt chips
  • M&M’s

Bitter

  • Dark chocolate chips*
  • Cocoa powder*
  • Ground coffee beans

*balance out bitterness with sweet foods!

Tangy/Citrusy

  • Lemon zest
  • Lime zest
  • Orange zest

Spices

  • Ground cinnamon
  • Ground nutmeg
  • Ground ginger

Ingredients of energy balls Instructions:

  1. Combine your ingredients.
  2. Stir and shape into balls (2 Tbsp or 2 inches in diameter) on to a baking sheet. No need for a food processor, just stir until all the ingredients are combined and can be formed into balls. If too wet, add more rolled oats. If too dry and crumbly, add more nutty/sticky ingredients or liquid sweetener.
  3. Refrigerate for 20-30 mins and enjoy! Store covered in the refrigerator for up to two weeks or freeze to keep them longer.

Check out two other recipes for energy balls from NH dietitians: see Rilla’s and Amy’s recipes.

What role does food play in bringing people together in your life? Is there a food you like to make with your family and friends? Share your ideas using #NutritionMonth on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram! Follow Northern Health or the Dietitians of Canada for more updates on how to unlock the potential of food!

Terry Lok

About Terry Lok

Terry is currently completing his dietetic internship with Northern Health. He re-located from the Lower Mainland to learn and explore in the gigantic outdoor playground that we call northern BC. Terry is passionate about a whole foods approach to preventive health and chronic disease management. You can find him skiing and hiking on the mountains, browsing for hours at the local grocery store or hosting potlucks around the local parks.

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Foodie Friday: Discovering BC Apples

This September, my partner and I visited an apple orchard in the Okanagan. From Honeycrips to Ambrosia, Granny Smith to Gala, we had so much fun sampling, comparing, and discovering all the different local apple varieties!

Fast forward two months, and winter is just arriving in northern BC. It’s the perfect time to enjoy fresh, crisp BC-grown apples from this year’s harvest, which wrapped up not too long ago!

apples BC apples explore BC

So many awesome kinds of apples to try!

Maybe you are searching for that perfectly sweet, crisp apple, or simply looking for a fun activity to do with the kids. Either way, have you considered doing your own apple taste test from the comforts of your own home?  All you need to do is pick out a few different varieties of apples from your local grocery store, and let your taste buds guide you. If you plan on trying this with kids, here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Ask kids to describe how the apple looks, feels, smells, sounds, and taste. What colour is the apple? Is it sweet or sour? Soft or crunchy?
  • Encourage them to explore further. Where do apples grow? What are your favourite ways to eat them?
  • Invite kids to taste each apple, if they like, without any pressure. Remember, seeing, touching, exploring, and sharing a snack together are all good learning – even if kids don’t eat a particular food!
  • Consider serving some slices with a peanut butter or yogurt based dip (or try Marianne’s maple peanut butter fruit dip) to amp up the nutrition. Bonus: kids will love dunking their fruit in a yummy dip!

If you’d like to try an apple taste test as part of a classroom-based activity, be sure to check out this “Taste the Difference” lesson plan.

Whether fresh or baked, there are so many delicious ways to enjoy apples this season. I love this cheddar-apple quesadilla recipe because it’s simple enough to make on a busy weeknight, yet fancy enough to impress guests. Kids can help too, by washing apples, grating cheese, and assembling the quesadillas.

Ingredients

  • 1 apple of your choice, thinly sliced
  • 4 whole-wheat flour tortillas
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, or other cheese of your choice
  • 1/2 tsp of dried thyme

    apple quesadilla

    These quesadillas are sure to impress.

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350F (180C).

  1. Sprinkle half the cheese over one half of tortilla.
  2. Place several apple slices on top of cheese, and sprinkle remaining cheese and dried thyme.
  3. Fold tortilla in half and bake for about 10 minutes or until the cheese melts.

Looking for more recipes featuring apples? Here are two of my favourites from the Northern Health Matters blog:

“As Easy as Pie” Fruit Crisp

Lindsay`s Morning Glory Muffins 

Do you have a favourite apple recipe? Share in the comments below!

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: Game On….the hunter’s twist on the classic Beef Bourguignon

Hunting season is upon us. If you asked me 10 years ago if I would be excited about a freezer full of game meat, my answer would have been a resounding “NO.”

I’m not generally a big fan of red meat and therefore my imagination regarding what to do with it was pretty limited (tacos or spaghetti anyone??). However my husband, an enthusiastic hunter, has managed to gradually increase my eagerness towards that freezer full of meat. For one thing, it’s a real cost saver not having to purchase meat at the supermarket. I estimate that I save anywhere from $500-700 per year, not to mention the health benefits. Game meat is far leaner than domesticated livestock and you don’t have to worry about hormones, steroid, or antibiotic use when harvesting your meat from the great outdoors. If you are passionate about eating local and organic, this is one way to do exactly that in the north all year round.

Beef Bourguignon or Beef Burgundy is a French stew of beef braised in red wine and beef broth and usually flavoured with herbs, garlic, pearl onions, and mushrooms. So far so good right?! For this twist on the classic I used elk because, well, I have it….lots of it. Wild game tends to be a lot drier due to the lower fat content so cooking it ‘low and slow’ can keep it from turning into an old boot.

This recipe is comfort food at its best, which is great timing as the weather turns colder. I serve mine over creamy mashed potatoes, but you could also substitute rice, quinoa, or spaghetti squash, or just serve with warm biscuits.

plate of stew on table with table settings

Wild game tends to be a lot drier due to the lower fat content so be sure to cook it ‘low and slow’.

 

Elk Burgundy

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds elk stew meat
  • 6 slices bacon, chopped
  • 2 cups dry red wine
  • 1 cup brandy
  • 2 ½ cups low sodium beef broth
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 Tbsp flour
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 cup pearl onions
  • 1 lb mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 450°
  2. Heat Dutch oven pot over medium-high heat and cook bacon until lightly browned.
  3. Remove and drain on a paper towel. Leave bacon drippings in the pot.
  4. Sear cubed meat in bacon drippings in two batches. Remove meat and set aside.
  5. Add chopped onion and garlic and sauté until translucent.
  6. Add meat back to Dutch oven with onions. Sprinkle flour over meat and stir to coat. Place in oven, uncovered for 5 minutes. Stir meat again and return to oven for 5 more minutes.
  7. Remove from oven and reduce oven temperature to 350° Add cooked bacon, wine, brandy, tomato paste, beef broth, the bay leaf and thyme into the meat mixture. Stir to combine. Put on lid and return to oven for 2-3 hours until meat is tender.
  8. One hour prior to serving, melt butter in skillet and sauté mushrooms until browned. Add mushrooms and the pearl onions to the meat mixture and return the covered Dutch oven to the onion for the remaining hour.
  9. Remove from the oven and season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove the bay leaf and thyme sprigs and serve.

Recipe adapted from: Nevada Foodies

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: the joys of the harvest

As the days get shorter and crisper, my thoughts turn to the kitchen more.  The ground has frozen where I live, I have pulled everything from my garden and now have a bounty of root vegetables to use.  Beets have been a favorite of mine since I was a child and I’m glad that my own children seem to love them, too.

bowl of harvard beets

Harvard-style beets are a favourite of my family.

Beets are a very versatile vegetable that are relatively easy to prepare. As my fellow dietitian colleague says, “you can’t beat beets!” They have an earthy sweet taste when roasted, or a lighter taste when boiled and chopped, or pickled or grated and added to a salad.  However, one of my favorite ways to eat beets is how my mom (and her mom) used to make them as harvard beets; my own children love them this way too.  How do you like to eat your beets?

Harvard Beets  

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups diced cooked beets (canned beets work too)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3 Tbsp corn starch
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 cup water or beet juice if using canned beets
  • 2 Tbsp vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp margarine or butter

Instructions:

  1. Mix the sugar, corn starch and salt in a sauce pan.
  2. Add in the vinegar and water (or beet juice) and bring to a boil.
  3. Stir in the margarine.
  4. Add in the beets and cook until warm.
Rebecca Larson

About Rebecca Larson

Rebecca works in Vanderhoof and the surrounding communities as a dietitian. She was born in the north and returned after her schooling. Rebecca loves tobogganing with her daughter in the winter, gardening and camping in the summer and working on her parents cattle ranch in her spare time.

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