Healthy Living in the North

Foodie Friday: flexible recipes make cooking easier

If I asked you the following questions, what would your answers be?

  • Do you value being able to cook meals for you and your family?
  • Do you try to buy and cook the best possible food for your family?
  • Do you struggle sometimes to match your expectations of a family meal with what ends up getting served at your table?
trifle ingredients on the table

One way I make cooking easier is that I use “ish” recipes. “Ish” recipes are basic recipes that can handle a lot of playing around with ingredients and still turn out tasty!

There’s a pretty good chance you replied “yes” to all. As a dietitian I have chatted with many families over the years and consistently through their stories and questions, I have heard them express both their enthusiasm for and challenges with getting food on the table. As the main cook in my family, I too would answer “yes”.

Many things can get in the way of getting home-cooked food on the table. One way I make cooking easier is that I use “ish” recipes. What do I mean by this? “Ish” recipes are basic recipes that can handle a lot of playing around with ingredients and still turn out tasty! These recipes let me use what I have on hand, substitute foods that my family likes, and simplify the process of following a recipe. Some of my favourite “ish” recipes include:

In this blog post, I’d like to share a recipe I’ve made so many times and in so many ways that I know it by heart: trifle! What is trifle? Trifle is a dessert I grew up with and has its roots in England. My family’s trifle was served at all holidays and special events, and consisted of a glass bowl lined with slices of jelly roll cake and filled with layers of Jell-O, Bird’s Custard, and canned fruit cocktail. I’ve made a few adaptations to the recipe but trifle is still my go-to dessert. I love that it is so easy to make, flexible in terms of what and how much of the various ingredients you use, and can be made ahead. My trifle typically changes throughout the year:

  • Summer: angel food or lemon pound cake, custard and berries and/or peaches
  • Fall: gingerbread or carrot cake, custard and pears
  • Winter: chocolate cake, chocolate custard and home canned cherries
  • Spring: white cake, custard or lemon curd, canned mandarin oranges and frozen berries

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do!

trifle on a table with spoon

I hope you enjoy this Trifle recipe as much as I do!

Flo’s Flexible Trifle

Ingredients:

  • 3-4 cups cubed cake
  • 3-4 cups fruit (cut in small pieces if large berries, peaches, bananas, etc. and you can used canned fruit like mandarin oranges, peaches, pears, plums, cherries, etc.)
  • 1 can evaporated milk (original recipe used 1 ¼ cups of cream)
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 3 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 ¼ cup vanilla Greek yogurt (I use full-fat yogurt >5% as the original recipe called for whipped cream)
  • ¼ cup sliced almonds

Instructions:

  1. Cube cake and set aside.
  2. Heat, but do not boil, the evaporated milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat. While the milk is heating, beat the egg yolks with the sugar until pale yellow and smooth. Pour the hot milk into the egg yolks and beat vigorously. Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook, over low heat, stirring until thick enough to coat the back of a metal spoon. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  3. Prepare fruit so that it is in bite-sized pieces.
  4. Placed almonds on a baking sheet and toast in a 400 F oven for about 10 minutes until golden.
  5. Assemble ingredients: layer cake cubes, fruit, custard in a glass bowl, ending with a custard layer. Smooth the vanilla yogurt over the entire top. Add toasted almonds. Chill for 2 hours before serving. Makes 8 generous servings.
Flo Sheppard

About Flo Sheppard

Flo has a dual role with Northern Health—she is the NW population health team lead and a regional population health dietitian with a lead in 0 – 6 nutrition. In the latter role, she is passionate about the value of supporting children to develop eating competence through regular family meals and planned snacks. Working full-time and managing a busy home life of extracurricular and volunteer activities can challenge Flo's commitment and practice of family meals but flexibility, conviction, planning and creativity help!

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Foodie Friday: garden harvest time

We’re a week into September which means fall is around the corner! I love the changing of one season to another, but I enjoy fall the most of all the four seasons. I love the fresh, crisp air that comes with the cooler temperatures, and watching the foliage change from green to yellow to orange. I love browsing the craft/artisan fairs on weekends while sipping on hot lattes or apple cider. I look forward to pulling out all my scarves and getting to wear cozy layers once again. I’m excited already… can you tell??

Another perk to fall is getting to harvest (and eat!) the produce from the garden. I don’t have a greenhouse, so I only plant after the last frost each year and often can’t enjoy a lot of my vegetables until late August/early September. And despite having a degree in agriculture, I’m actually kind of terrible at growing plants. This year, I was more diligent with watering, fertilizing, and weeding and it’s paid off. We’ve ended up with some beautiful vegetables like rainbow carrots, zucchini, cabbage, beans, tomatoes, and beets (that are nearly half the size of my 3-year old’s head!).

Garden harvest time this year meant lots of cabbage thanks to this early varietal!

This year, I planted an early variety of cabbage that I bought at my local greenhouse, Hunniford Gardens, and we had huge heads of cabbage ready in July. Needless to say, we’ve been eating a lot of cabbage around here for the past six weeks, making my Ukrainian ancestors very happy. I’ve also found myself coming back to the recipe I’m sharing today: refrigerator coleslaw- my go-to recipe for cabbage. I don’t know the original source, as it’s a hand written recipe from my Great Aunt, but I think many versions exist out there. It’s great for feeding a crowd and keeps for at least a week in the fridge. Whether you’ve grown your own cabbage or not this year, I encourage you to give it a try!

Refrigerator coleslaw (Source: My Great Aunt via my Mother)

Ingredients:

  • 1 kg shredded cabbage (about 1 small head)
  • 5-6 large carrots, shredded
  • 1 ½ cups of celery, chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • ½ cup white sugar

Dressing:

  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 2/3 cup white vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • ½ teaspoon celery seeds

Instructions:

  1. Mix together in bowl and sprinkle with sugar. Let stand while making the dressing.
  2. Bring dressing ingredients to a boil. Pour over vegetable mixture. Mix well. Store in refrigerator.
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: Waste not, want not! A simple guide to making the most of your garden harvest

Do you have more carrot tops than you know what to do with? Try using them in a tasty pesto (see recipe below)!

This will be my fourth year to reap the benefits of a backyard garden and I feel like I’m really starting to get the hang of things out there! This year I’ve noticed myself becoming somewhat fixated on the amount of garden waste I have (which also makes me wonder if I’m slowly turning into my mother!). In past years I just tossed my surplus into the compost pile without a second thought, but this year I find myself wondering if there is a way to salvage some of that waste from the heap. As my garden output kicks into high gear, I’m going to need a plan to help me minimize the waste this year; I hope it will help you reduce yours as well.

Step 1: Identify a surplus

I don’t know about the rest of you gardeners out there, but I’m drowning in carrot tops and beet greens. How I never knew that carrot tops were edible (and tasty) is beyond me, so I set out to use some of those up.

There are a few ways you can deal with a surplus, depending on what you’ve got. Did you plant more green beans than you can reasonably eat? Are your strawberries taking over your fridge shelves? Was your yield of tomatoes far beyond your expectations? The first step to reducing your waste is identifying what you’ve got.

Step 2: Come up with a plan

Is there any question the internet can’t answer?! Once you know what you want to use up, a good google search should yield you a number of solutions to deal with your surplus. One solution I loved and will definitely do next year, is succession planting. I can’t eat two rows of radishes all at once, so next year I’m going to plant a second row two weeks later. Here are some suggestions that you can use now:

  • Blanche and freeze vegetables such as peas, green beans, and beets.
  • Shred zucchini and freeze for muffins and breads.
  • Make a tomato sauce or try your hand at sundried tomatoes.
  • Use up herbs or carrot greens in a pesto (see recipe below!).
  • Thinly slice greens (beet greens, kale, etc.) and toss into salads or freeze for smoothies.
  • Can, pickle, or preserve fruits or vegetables.

Step 3: Tackle!

One of the most challenging parts of this equation is finding the extra time to spend in the kitchen. Make sure your plan fits into your time budget – if you’ve only got 30 minutes you probably don’t want to tackle pickling beets, but might be able to whip up a quick pesto with a food processor. Consider getting a group of friends together for a ‘canning’ or ‘freezing’ party to make the work go quicker.

grilled shrimp and pesto

Try this pesto drizzled over grilled shrimp or use it to dress up a salad or sandwich!

Step 4: Enjoy the fruits (or vegetables) of your labour.

I’ve included the recipe I used for a carrot top pesto; it’s adapted from the Food Network. I drizzled it over some grilled shrimp but it would also be great mixed into a salad dressing or as a sandwich topping or even plopped on to a nice bowl of soup.

Carrot Top Pesto

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup packed carrot leaves
  • ½ cup packed parsley leaves
  • ¼ cup roasted cashews or pine nuts
  • 1 clove garlic
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup parmesan cheese
  • Kosher salt, to taste

Instructions:

  • Pulse the carrot leaves, parsley leaves, nuts and garlic in a food processor until coarsely chopped.
  • Slowly pour the olive oil in with the machine running to form a paste.
  • Pulse in the parmesan and kosher salt.
  • Store in an airtight container for 1-2 weeks, or in the freezer for up to 6 months.
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: It’s Time to Celebrate!

This Foodie Friday, I want to take the time to celebrate. August is always a time of celebration in my life, since my birthday happens this month – tomorrow in fact!

August is a time of celebration for me-including my birthday!

We won’t talk about how many of those birthdays I’ve had to date – let’s just say there have been more than a few. August is also a great time to celebrate all of the local food in season here in BC. From cherries to Saskatoon berries, corn to zucchini, there is a huge variety of vegetables and fruits to suit everyone’s tastes. But this August, I also want to celebrate something a little different. Today is my  15th Foodie Friday post on the Northern Health blog, and it is also my final post as I move on to a new chapter in my life.

Foodie Friday has been an amazing series to contribute to on the Northern Health Blog. I love sharing my passion for food and cooking, and this has been a great way to reach out and share those recipes and stories. Taking a look back at my previous posts, I’ve definitely shared some of my favourite go-to recipes, including:

Just looking back on all of those makes me a little hungry. Hopefully I’ve been able to inspire you to get creating in your own kitchen, by either making one of the recipes I’ve shared, or recreating a family favourite you had forgotten about.

I did realize one thing looking back on my Foodie Friday posts – I’ve never shared a dessert recipe! Which seems crazy, because my love of cooking all started with baking and making desserts for family holiday meals. So I think it’s only fitting that this celebration post be a dessert recipe – that just so happens to use some seasonal produce that you might not expect. Happy cooking everyone!

brownies on counter

This chocolaty brownie recipe uses some seasonal produce you might not expect!

Fudgy Double Chocolate Zucchini Brownies

Makes one 8” by 12” baking pan (24 brownies)

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 cups shredded zucchini (no need to peel)
  • 1 1/2 cup chocolate chips, divided
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
brownies and knife on counter

Cool. Cut. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8” by 12” baking pan with parchment paper. Set aside.
  2. In a stand mixer, beat the eggs until fluffy and pale yellow.
  3. Add in the sugar, applesauce, and vanilla. Mix on low speed until combined.
  4. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Add gradually to the wet mixture, using low speed, so you don’t have flour flying everywhere. Once combined, remove from stand mixer.
  5. Stir in zucchini, 1 cup chocolate chips, and walnuts (if using) into the batter until combined. Spread into prepared baking dish, making sure to get the batter into the corners. Sprinkle with remaining ½ cup chocolate chips.
  6. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes. The shorter time will give you a more fudgy consistency. Cool on a wire rack. Cut into squares and enjoy!

Note: If you don’t have a stand mixer, you could also using a hand mixer or just a good ol’ wooden spoon and elbow grease!

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: Brighten up your plate with local fruits and veggies!

I’m always amazed at the selection of local fruits and vegetables in our grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and gardens throughout the summer months!

Enjoying BC-grown produce is a great way to add variety and brighten up your plate with vibrant colours and fresh flavours. It can also be fun to explore some not-so-familiar (yet equally delicious) local produce. To learn more about the benefits of eating local, check out Marianne’s fantastic post: Enjoy BC’s bounty this summer.

lambs quarter wild spinach

Have you tried lamb’s quarters or wild spinach before?

One way that I’ve been able to put more local foods on my plate is by joining a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)  program in Terrace. This program allows community members to purchase a “share” of local produce from farmers before they plant their crops. Despite having a shorter growing season in northern BC, last week’s share included potatoes, strawberries, lettuce, mint tea, homemade pear jam, and a bag of lamb’s quarters* (*keep reading!).

I had quite the chuckle when I discovered that “lamb’s quarters” was in fact a vegetable – it’s a bag of mysterious dark leafy greens! According to my online search, lamb’s quarters is also known as goosefoot or wild spinach. It tastes similar to spinach, and can be enjoyed raw, steamed, or sautéed.

One of my favourite ways to eat spinach is as a creamy dip, so I decided to substitute lamb’s quarters in my signature spinach dip recipe. If you don’t have lamb’s quarters, no worries!  You can simply use fresh, frozen, or canned spinach.

spinach dip

Wild spinach puts the wild in this classic dip!

 (Wild) Spinach Dip

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups of spinach or lamb’s quarters, washed
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup of yogurt, plain
  • 1 tsp of garlic powder or 1 clove crushed garlic
  • 1 tsp Worchestershire sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • ¼ cup parmesan or mozzarella cheese, grated (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the washed lamb’s quarters or spinach and cook until completely wilted.
  2. Let cool slightly and squeeze out as much liquid as possible.
  3. Finely chop the lamb’s quarters or spinach.
  4. In a small bowl, combine the lamb’s quarters or spinach with the rest of the ingredients.

Serving suggestions:

  • Enjoy right away, or chill for 1 hour before serving to let the flavours combine.
  • I like to serve this dip with crackers, corn chips or bread, and veggies of my choice.

If you are looking to take advantage of more local produce this summer, here are a few of my favourite Foodie Friday recipes featuring local ingredients:

Do you have a favourite locally inspired 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: You DO win friends with salad

All right, so for anyone who grew up in the ‘90s, I’m sure you remember that Simpsons episode where Lisa becomes a vegetarian and then her dad Homer, brother Bart, and mother Marge all chant “You don’t win friends with salad” around her over and over again. Now I know what you are all thinking: it’s Foodie Friday and Lindsay is writing a blog post about salad, come on!

Well, it’s true. I am writing about salad. But let me put your mind at ease – it’s not just any salad. This salad is what I like to call my SOS salad and in my opinion, you can definitely win friends (and fill hungry tummies) with this!

The SOS salad can be used as a meal rather than just a side dish. How can you win friends with this salad? First and foremost, it’s really tasty. It’s also filling, quick to make, and last but not least, nutritionally balanced. I personally like to make a huge batch of this salad to have on hand for lunches or dinners so that I can spend more time biking, hiking, and visiting with loved ones.

We have all heard that vegetables and fruits are important. Why? They are full of vitamins, minerals, and fibre (both soluble and insoluble). A high intake of vegetables and fruits can help lower blood pressure as well as your risk of heart disease and stroke. They can also protect against some types of cancer. Of course, there are many barriers to accessing fresh vegetables and fruit including income, geographic location, affordability, availability, and perhaps a need for increased food skills with preparation. Luckily, fresh, frozen, canned, and dried fruits and vegetables all offer health benefits, so if accessing fresh vegetables and fruit is difficult, there are other options.

Now for this awesome salad! I will provide a list of different ingredients but please feel free to omit, substitute, or add anything that you see fit. You can definitely be creative with this.

Lindsay’s SOS Salad

Ingredients: (choose whatever you’d like)salad

  • 4 cups brown rice, cooked and cooled (you can use up leftover rice from the night before!)
  • ½ head of red lettuce, torn into bite sized pieces
  • ½ cucumber, chopped
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • ¼ medium red onion, finely diced
  • 2 carrots, shredded
  • 1 medium beet, shredded
  • ½ zucchini, diced
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • ¾ cup nuts, chopped (walnuts, pecans, almonds, use whatever you’d like)
  • 1 avocado, diced (for topping)
  • ¾ cup feta cheese, crumbled (for topping)

Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette

  • 1 cup olive oil
  • ½ cup balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • Black pepper, to taste

Instructions:

  1. Toast your nuts: Add chopped nuts to a small frying pan on medium heat and stir constantly until fragrant and golden brown, about 10 minutes. Once they are done, remove from pan and set aside on a separate plate or bowl to cool.
  2. Add your cooked and cooled brown rice to a large bowl. Add your lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, onion, zucchini, shredded carrots and beets, and chickpeas.
  3. Top with toasted nuts, avocado, and feta cheese. Toss!
  4. Prepare the dressing. Add all ingredients to a jar, cover, and shake vigorously until mixed.
  5. Divide salad into bowls or containers for your lunch, add dressing to your liking, and enjoy!
Lindsay Kraitberg

About Lindsay Kraitberg

Lindsay is a registered dietitian working regionally with the CBORD (a food and nutrition database used in food services) team as well as in complex care. Originally from Vancouver Island, she grew up in the small town of Duncan then lived in Halifax, Nova Scotia for four years before relocating to the north. Lindsay thoroughly enjoys her position with Northern Health as she works with many different health care teams and learns something new every day. When Lindsay isn't at work, you can find her snowboarding in the winter and hiking, biking or camping in the warmer weather.

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Foodie Friday: Dealing with food hypersensitivities 

Many people avoid a food due to a food hypersensitivity (this includes both food allergies and food intolerances). I am one of those people and maybe you are too!  It can be very frustrating to feel ill after eating. The pain, exhaustion, and physical toll of a reaction can lead to sick days at work and missed social events. Here are a few strategies to help you stay ahead of your food hypersensitivity:

  1. Read every food label: Get in the habit of reading labels three times—once at the grocery store, once when you’re putting the food away at home, and then when you use the food. Remember, companies can change their ingredients at any time, so don’t assume a food that was safe last week is still safe this week.
  2. Plan ahead: Having a food hypersensitivity can mean that you need to cook from scratch more often; processed foods tend to include the most common food hypersensitivities. Cook double portions and freeze leftovers so you have quick meals available when time or energy is wanting.
  3. Ask a lot of questions: Don’t be shy—when you eat out, phone ahead to see if the restaurant can accommodate food allergies and intolerances. When you’re at the restaurant, keep asking questions about how the food is prepared. Is there a possibility that your food has been cross-contaminated in the preparation area? For example, if you order french fries, were they deep fried in the same oil as the breaded fish? If you’re intolerant to wheat or gluten you’ll react when you eat the french fries.
  4. Become informed: This is likely the most important aspect of living well with a food hypersensitivity. Check out these resources:
    • Food Allergy Canada: this website contains important information especially for those with anaphylactic reactions to food.
    • Health Canada: You’ll find handouts on the 10 most common food allergies: eggs, milk, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat and other cereal grains containing gluten, seafood, sulphites, sesame, and mustard. Did you know that casein is a part of milk, and those with egg sensitivities need to avoid albumin? These handouts help you learn the many different names of common food hypersensitivities.
    • Health Link Allergy Dietitian: Did you know that you can call 8-1-1 or email HealthLinkBC to connect with an allergy dietitian? You could also ask your family doctor for a referral to a local dietitian. A dietitian will have access to more helpful resources and be able to get answers to your questions.

What if I can’t figure out my food hypersensitivity?

There are no definitive tests to diagnosis food allergies or food intolerances. The best way to figure out food hypersensitivities is to eliminate the suspect food or foods for a period of 4-6 weeks to see if symptoms improve. This is a difficult task: it involves keeping detailed food records, and a symptom diary to track possible food reactions. There are many people who can’t figure out which foods are bothering them and they spend years avoiding more and more foods. Food is part of life, celebration, and enjoyment; when we can’t freely eat most foods, life can become very stressful and isolating. If this is you, consider reaching out to gain support and learn how to add foods back into your diet. As allergy dietitian Wendy Busse says, “We sometimes have to move beyond the search for a cure or perfect diet.”

Today’s recipe is a happy combination of sweet, chocolaty flavours which avoid the top 10 food allergens. Enjoy!

Thumbprint cookies (adapted from Food Allergy Recipe Box)

chocolate thumbprint cookies

These chocolaty cookies have an ingredient list free from the top 10 food allergens.

Yield:  35-40 cookies

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350C
  2. Combine No nut butter, vanilla, applesauce, and sugar in a microwave safe bowl and heat in microwave for 30–40 seconds until mixture is creamy and soft.
  3. In a second bowl combine dry ingredients: rice flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir with a fork until all ingredients are well mixed.
  4. Slowly add dry ingredients to the wet mixture. Mix with a fork or your hands until you can form a cookie dough and no dry flour remains.  If mixture is still dry mix in 1–3 tablespoons of water.
  5. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or lightly grease with oil. Roll dough into tablespoon sized balls and place on cookie sheet.
  6. Finally, place a chocolate chip on top of each cookie and bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes.

Note: The approximate cost is $6.50 for the whole recipe.  Special flour, No nut butter, and allergen-free chocolate are pricey, but still less expensive than store-bought allergen-free cookies.

Judy April

About Judy April

Judy works in Dawson Creek at the Dawson Creek and District Hospital as a dietitian. A true northerner, she grew up just 75 km away in Fort St. John. Judy loves gardening herbs because of the great aroma they bring to her home and the meals cooked there. She even brings the herbs indoors to flourish on her windowsills in the winter.

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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!

 

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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