Tag Archives: fish

The Great Vitamin D Debate (feat. Seafood Chowder)

1 Feb

Vitamin D has been in and out of the news over the past few years, but it really made waves this week thanks to an attention-grabbing campaign by the Yukon government. If you haven’t seen the ads, learn more here.


Vitamin D is well-known for its role in bone strength, but also plays an important function in keeping our immune system healthy. There is growing evidence that vitamin D may also reduce cardiovascular risk, improve insulin sensitivity, and lower the risk of diseases such as multiple sclerosis and some cancers.

Much of the world can obtain adequate vitamin D from the sun. UVB rays from the sun convert a vitamin D precursor on the skin to a form called vitamin D3, which is then transported to your liver and kidneys to be converted into active vitamin D. Sounds easy, right? Not so fast. If you live north of the 37th parallel (e.g. San Francisco), it’s virtually impossible to meet your vitamin D needs year-round from the sun. And since Vitamin D is found naturally in very few foods, obtaining adequate amounts from the diet is challenging. In fact, it’s the only nutrient that Canada’s Food Guide recommends obtaining in supplement form for adults over the age of 50. Kind of a big deal since the food guide always promotes food first.

So how much vitamin D do we really need? In 2010, the Institute of Medicine (IOM; a trusted organization that sets dietary targets for vitamins and minerals) updated their vitamin D recommendations to 600 IU per day for children and adults aged 9 to 70 years. Several years later, research groups from Alberta and California independently reported on statistical errors in the IOM analysis and suggested that the current vitamin D recommendations are too low to promote health. The US researchers stated in a 2015 press-release that the current IOM recommendations for vitamin D are “only about one-tenth those needed to cut incidence of diseases related to vitamin D deficiency.” Health Canada currently recommends that adults over the age of 50 take a daily supplement containing 400 IU, while Osteoporosis Canada advises healthy adults between ages 19 and 50 to take 400-1000 IU daily (with those over 50 years and younger adults at high risk of osteoporosis needing 800-2000 IU daily).

If you’re still confused, the good news is that vitamin D is relatively safe. The Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) for Vitamin D ranges from 2500 IU for children, to 4000 IU for adults over 70 years. Not convinced that you need a supplement?  Try to get more vitamin D from your diet by regularly consuming cow’s milk (or fortified plant beverages) and fatty fish such as salmon, trout, tuna, or sardines. Even still, it can be challenging to get enough unless you eat fatty fish daily (3 ounces of salmon contains 300 IU) and several glasses of milk (1 cup contains only 100 IU).

An easy fish chowder, like this Maritime seafood chowder, can help you meet your vitamin D needs (tip: use salmon to optimize your vitamin D intake). It’s the perfect meal if you’re short on time and looking to pump up your bone health!

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Classic Maritime Seafood Chowder
(from Dairy Farmers of Canada)

1 tbsp butter, margarine, or oil
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 tsp dried dill or dried thyme (use 1 tbsp fresh if you have it)
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 large Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and diced (I leave the skin on)
2 cups water or fish stock
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups milk
2 cups chopped raw skinless fish fillets or cooked seafood (shrimp, lobster, scallops, crab, clams, oysters) or a combination
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

Optional: Add up to 1-1/2 cups chopped carrots, red bell pepper or corn kernels with the onion for extra colour and nutrition.

  1. In a large pot, melt butter over medium heat; sauté celery, onion, bay leaf, dill, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper for about 5 min or until onions start to brown. Stir in potatoes; sauté for 2 min.
  2. Increase heat to medium-high; stir in water and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to medium and boil for about 5 min or until potatoes are almost tender.
  3. Whisk flour into milk and stir into pot; bring to a simmer, stirring often. Stir in fish or seafood; simmer, stirring often for 5 min or until fish is opaque and flakes easily with a fork or seafood is hot. Discard bay leaf. Stir in lemon juice and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Makes 4 to 6 servings. Per serving: 266 calories, 5 g fat, 38 g carbohydrate, 4.1 g fibre, 19 g protein, 290 mg sodium.

100-Mile Meal: Mediterranean-Inspired Fish

18 Sep

My local food box has been good to me this year.  Each week there seems to be a few standard items (salad greens, kale or swiss chard, onions) along with a handful of more exotic ingredients (a basil plant, coronation grapes, candy cane beets).  Having a fridge full of veggies that I otherwise wouldn’t purchase without a recipe in mind is a refreshing change from the norm.  It forces me to step outside of my comfort zone and get a little bit creative in the kitchen.



Dinner last Thursday was inspired by my most recent food box.  We received a few plum tomatoes that were starting to bruise (read: needed to be used ASAP) and my basil plant from last month had been staring at me longingly all week.  The Italian classic ‘Bruschetta’ immediately came to mind.  If it works on bread, certainly a mild fish will act as a good canvas, right?


The bruschetta-topping was delicate and mild enough in flavour to not overpower the fish.  Best of all, it was EASY as pie (by the way, who came up with that saying? Martha Stewart? Unless you’re Martha, pie is not easy to make).  So simple that I wrote a Haiku poem about it:

Loads of Tomatoes,
Garlic, Olive Oil, Basil.
Plop on fish and bake.

Okay, so poetry is not my strong suite.  This Mediterranean-inspired fish was paired with Ontario-grown patty pan squash sauteed with an Ontario red onion (both from my food box).  The rice and fish weren’t local, but Shh– nobody needs to know!


Bruschetta-Topped Fish
(a Lisa original)

400 g white fish (e.g. basa or tilapia)
3 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons minced fresh basil
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. In a medium bowl, combine tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, and 2 tablespoons of basil.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Place fish on a lightly oiled baking sheet.  Top with tomato mixture and bake for 12-15 minutes, or until fish flakes and is opaque throughout.  Top with remaining 1 tablespoon basil before serving.

Makes 4 servings.  Per serving: 140 kcal, 5.2 g fat, 20 g protein.

Newfoundland Cod Fish Cakes

24 Apr

Last fall, my aunt packed up her belongings and trekked out to Newfoundland to take up a one-year teaching position at Memorial University.  She recently returned home, but the holidays were the first time I’d seen her since she moved out east.  Always an incredibly thoughtful and generous person, she brought back little pieces of Newfoundland for each of her family members.

Stunning Newfoundland photo #1, courtesy of my Aunt

Stunning Newfoundland photo #1, courtesy of my aunt

Stunning Newfoundland photo #2, courtesy of my Aunt

Stunning Newfoundland photo #2, courtesy of my aunt

My gift—surprise, surprise! – revolved around cooking.  My aunt knows me well. I received two recipe books featuring Newfie and Atlantic cuisine along with savory, an herb commonly used in Atlantic cooking.  The first word that came to my mind while flipping through the cookbooks was ‘comfort.’  Lots of stews, casseroles, and baked goods.  Amongst the homey, high-calorie, or downright bizarre recipes (Caribou Ringalls, anyone?), a picture of cod cakes caught my eye.


The recipe naturally called for salt cod, but a variation using fresh or frozen fish was listed.  The cakes were easy to prepare: poach fish fillets in salted water, flake, and add to a mash of potatoes, parsnip, onion, and egg.  The batter was on the soft side, so a delicate hand was needed when flipping the cakes within the fry pan. The end result was a cake with a mashed potato texture and just a hint of fish flavour.  A great dish for those who want to eat more fish but dislike the taste or texture.

These cod cakes take care of both your protein and starch, so all you need is a couple of colourful vegetables or a salad for a complete meal.  We paired ours with Brussels sprouts and beets, but the options are limitless.


Fish Cakes
(from Traditional Recipes of Atlantic Canada)

1 pound cod or haddock fillets*
2 small onions, chopped
6-8 potatoes, cooked and mashed (3 cups)
2-3 parsnips, cooked
1 tablespoon butter or margarine
½ tsp to 1 tablespoon savory (or parsley, or sage)
1 egg, well beaten
¼ cup flour (or 1 cup fine breadcrumbs)

  1. Poach fish in 1 cup salted, simmering water for 5 to 10 minutes. Drain well and flake into small pieces.
  2. Cook onions in ¼ cup water, covered, until tender and soft. Remove lid and set aside.
  3. Mash together fish, potatoes, parsnips, and butter.  Add onions and water in which they were cooked. Season with savory, salt and pepper to taste. Add beaten egg and mix well. Chill until cool and firm.
  4. Form into 3-inch round patties and coat lightly with flour (or fine breadcrumbs).
  5. Coat a non-stick pan with cooking spray and set over medium-high heat.  Fry fish cakes 3 minutes on each side, turning once, until crisp and golden.

*If you have access to salt cod, substitute poached fresh or frozen cod for 1 pound salt cod. Cover with cold water overnight for 6-8 hours, simmer in fresh water for 5-10 minutes, then drain, remove bones, and flake the fish.

Makes 6 fish cakes. Per cake: 300 kcal, 47 g CHO, 5 g fibre, 4 g fat (0.3 g saturated), 19 g protein

Easy Weeknight Spicy Cajun Fish Soup

9 Mar

A certain four letter word has been sitting on my To-Do list for over a month now.  No, my cookbooks have not been sitting idle.  My belly has been very full.  My camera has seen the light of day.  But alas, I have not had the time or energy to BLOG my most recent culinary adventures with you.  That’s about to change…



Although I’ve been spending some time in the kitchen, cooking has largely taken a backseat to convenience meals (e.g. awfully bland and boring frozen lasagna– so shameful) and breakfast-for-dinner.  Part of it is poor planning, most of it is laziness.  Even dietitians have their rough spells!

Tonight I made up for all (correction: several) of my subpar dinners over the past month.  Stored on my rarely-used Pinterest account for half a year now, this recipe for a spicy fish soup is ‘souper’ easy and requires very little prep.  Perfect for a Friday evening when all you want to do is lounge on the couch and catch up on missed episodes of Top Chef.

The only perishable ingredient required, excluding onion and garlic, is a green pepper.  The green chiles and diced tomatoes can be kept on hand in the pantry, and you can use frozen fish and shrimp (transfer to the fridge the night before to thaw).  Within 30 minutes of stepping in the door, I had a piping hot bowl of soup on the table that was hearty, delicious, nutritious, and did I mention easy?!?  A new staple dish to add to the repertoire.

It’s Nutrition Month, so I’m going to make a concerted effort to blog more often.  Hold me to it!  In the meantime, I better return to my To-Do list…


Spicy Cajun Fish Soup

(adapted from Allrecipes.com)

This soup is only mildly spicy so feel free to add heat with cayenne, chili flakes, or hot chili sauce (e.g. tabasco).  Adding the green pepper near the end of cooking means that it retains its colour and texture.

1/2 tbsp canola oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon chili powder
1.5 cups water
1 can (4 oz/127mL) chopped green chiles
1 tsp ground cumin
1 can (28 oz) diced tomatoes, undrained (preferably no-salt-added)
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 cup shrimp
1 lb halibut or other white fish, cut into 1-2″ chunks
Salt to taste

  1. Heat oil over medium heat in a large saucepan.  Add onions and saute, stirring often, for about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and chili powder and cook, stirring, for another 2 minutes
  2. Add the water, chopped green chillies (entire contents of can), cumin, and diced tomatoes.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer covered for 20 minutes
  3. Add the green pepper, shrimp and halibut. Return to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for another 5 minutes.

Makes 4 servings. Per serving: 225 kcal, 13 g CHO, 3 g fibre, 4.5 g fat (0.5 g saturated), 30 g protein, 180 mg sodium.

Easy but Elegant Asian-Style White Fish

16 Aug

It was my mom’s birthday earlier this week and I wanted to treat her to a nicer-than-usual dinner.  Sifting through my cookbooks, I came across a simple yet sophisticated fish recipe that I’ve made once before.  Mushrooms are sauteed until all of their moisture is lost and then tossed in a salty yet sweet Asian-inspired sauce.  Next, a firm white fish of your choice is topped with the mushroom mixture, then baked in the oven for just over ten minutes.  Easy peasy, right?

To class up the meal just a bit more, I decided to forgo the usual plain brown rice for a coconut rice dish from the Looneyspoons Collection cookbook.  Good ole Janet and Greta… again, providing me with much-needed inspiration!  Admittedly, I was slightly disappointed with the rice despite it being a nice addition to the meal.  The coconut flavour was too subtle; however, the ginger shone through and saved the day.  Next time I’d omit the salt and try it with the lemon zest (the fridge was void of lemons).

Do you have any easy, pseudo-gourmet meals worth sharing?  I’m always looking for new recipes to add to the pile, especially ones that trick my guests into thinking I’m a great chef!

Tilapia hiding under a mound of mushrooms


White Fish with Black Bean Sauce and Oyster Mushrooms
(from Rose Reisman’s Family Favorites cookbook)

Black bean sauce is a Chinese sauce made from fermented soy beans and wheat flour.  It’s very high in sodium (like many Asian sauces), so use it in moderation.

1-1/2 lbs (675 g) firm white fish (e.g. tilapia or pickerel)
1 tsp vegetable oil
4 cups sliced oyster mushrooms (feel free to substitute any kind of mushroom)

1 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp sweet chili sauce (or ketchup)
2 tbsp black bean sauce
3 tbsp water
2 tsp rice vinegar
2 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp finely chopped ginger
1 tsp minced garlic

Garnish (optional):  3 tbsp chopped green onions, 2 tbsp chopped cilantro

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and lightly coat with cooking spray or oil.
  2. Heat the oil in a large, non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the mushrooms and saute for 8 minutes or until the mushrooms are no longer wet, stirring often.
  3. Meanwhile, make the sauce by combining all sauce ingredients in a small bowl.  When the mushrooms are finished cooking, add the sauce to the mushrooms and saute for one more minute.
  4. Place the fish on the prepared baking sheet and divide the mushroom mixture evenly between the fillets.  Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until the fish just starts to flake.
  5. Garnish with the green onions and cilantro, and serve.

Makes 6 servings.  Per serving: 203 kcal, 10 g fat (1.4 g saturated fat), 0.7 g fibre, 23 g protein, 5 g carbohydrates, 268 mg sodium


Twice as Nice Coconut Rice
(from The Looneyspoons Collection)

Click here for tips on what to look for when choosing a coconut milk

1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp minced garlic
2 tsp grated gingerroot
1-1/2 cups uncooked brown rice
3/4 cup light coconut milk
2-1/4 cups water
1 tsp honey
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1/2 tsp salt

  1. In a medium pot, heat oil over medium heat.  Add garlic and gingerroot and cook, stirring frequently, for 1 minute.  Add rice and cook for one more minute.
  2. Stir in remaining ingredients and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes or until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender.  (Exact cooking time depends on brand of rice.  Check instructions on the package as some brown rice takes up to 45 minutes to cook).
  3. Fluff rice with a fork and serve immediately.

Makes 6 servings.  Per serving: 208 kcal, 4.6 g fat (3.1 g saturated fat), 4 g protein, 38 g carbohydrate, 1.7 g fibre, 4 g protein, 203 mg sodium.

Rustic Seafood Stew

15 Jan

There are few things more satisfying than a hearty soup or stew on a cold winter day.  Soups are the ideal forum for an array of vegetables to join together and mingle in harmony.  They lend themselves particularly well to vegetables that have seen better days.  With soup, technique is rarely important.  Chop each vegetable into whatever shape and size your heart desires, throw into a pot with some water, heat, and season to taste with salt, herbs, and other seasonings.  I speak from experience when I say that soups are one of the few dishes that even a strict recipe-follower feels comfortable concocting on a whim.

When you combine the ease of making a stew with seemingly gourmet ingredients, the result is a no-fuss meal that is perfect for easy entertaining.  I discovered this rustic seafood stew over the holidays while flipping through a Bon Appetit magazine.  Cioppino is the name given to an Italian-American fish stew that originated in San Fransisco.  Typically served with crusty bread, the stew combines shrimp, mussels, squid and fish in a rich tomato-wine broth.

The combination of flavours was absolute perfection.  It was so tasty that I’m at a loss for descriptive words!  Without a doubt, this recipe makes it onto my list of all-time favourite dishes.

Cioppino. The photo doesn't do the dish justice-- I was too eager to dive in.


Cioppino aka Rustic Seafood Stew (from Bon Appetit magazine)

1 teaspoon fennel seeds
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 small (or 1/2 large) fennel bulb, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand, juices reserved
1-1/2 cups dry white wine
8-ounce (250 ml) bottle clam juice
1 pound skinless haddock or cod, cut into 1″ pieces
1 pound mussels, scrubbed, debearded
1 pound large uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined, or frozen king crab legs, thawed
1 pound cleaned squid, thawed if frozen, bodies cut into 1/2″ rings, tentacles left whole
Country-style bread

  1. Toast fennel seeds in a small skillet over medium heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Finely grind in a spice mill or with a mortar and pestle; set aside.
  2. Heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, fennel, garlic, bay leaves, oregano, and red pepper flakes. Season with salt and pepper. Cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion and fennel are soft, about 12 minutes.
  3. Stir in ground fennel seeds, tomatoes with juices, wine, clam juice, and 1 cup water. Cover, bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring often, until flavors meld, about 15 minutes.
  4. Stir in fish, mussels, and shrimp and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook for 2 minutes. Add squid, cover, and cook until mussels open and seafood is cooked through, about 5 minutes (discard mussels that do not open). Serve with bread.

Makes 8 servings.  Per serving: 272 kcal, 8.5 g fat, 1.8 g fibre, 946 mg sodium.