Keep illness at bay this winter with wholesome food

The first snowflakes have gently fallen where we live, and a certain peace comes over us once the ground is white. It’s time to curl up with a warm drink and a book.

Enjoy the short lived tranquillity because it will be Christmas Day in a little more than a month.

Try to boost your immune system to avoid those nasty cold and flu viruses as we enter this busy season filled with celebrations, concerts, shopping and travel. Here are some tips that I have gathered to help you feel your best this winter.

We all know that drinking water throughout the day is key to having our bodies operate in top form, but did you know that you can boost this by starting your day with a cup or two of warm water and fresh lemon? This drink will boost your hydration in the dry winter months, helping to wake up your digestive system and deliver essential phytochemicals.

After this drink, try consuming probiotics to prevent seasonal diseases. Probiotics are live organisms that are in fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir or sauerkraut and are also available in capsule form.

They increase gut/digestive health, which helps prevent disease. Check out your local grocery store for your favorite yogurt, but ensure that the food label shows “live bacteria.” Ask your pharmacist or health care provider about information on probiotics before starting the capsules.

In a study done by the British Journal of Sports Medicine, athletes who took a probiotic supplement had half as many days with respiratory symptoms as those in the placebo group. Many health professionals now recommend probiotics when travelling to keep the body balanced and also whenever antibiotics are prescribed.

We have learned that the gut is directly connected to the brain, meaning it can help with immune responses but also emotional responses. We all want to be as happy as possible.

To benefit, a person should consume 10 to 50 billion colony-forming units (CFUs) of active probiotics per day. Many products are available at different price points. My personal recommendations are Renew Life Ultimate Flora, Genuine Health Probiotic and Genestra HMF Forte Probiotic Formula.

Next, choose an array of fruits and vegetables, whether they are in a smoothie or sprinkled over your cereal or salad or in your main course to boost vitamin C. Good choices are citrus fruits, berries, apples and peppers.

Do not forget to include zinc-rich foods in your menus. Zinc plays a large role in maintaining healthy cell production in the body. Great food choices are oysters, animal proteins, beans, legumes, nuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, hemp seeds, whole grains and fortified breakfast cereals.

Consider adding vitamin D to your supplement regimen. A Finnish study found that those with low vitamin D status were one and a half times more likely to get a respiratory infection than those in the control group.

Take a minimum of 1,000 IU daily and up to a maximum of 5,000 IU. Along with vitamin D, consider an omega-3 oil to keep things well-oiled for the winter. Again, talk to your health care providers before starting supplements.

Make eating simple by preparing wholesome food on the stove top. These types of recipes are great when you are short of time or want to hear the sizzle of your food cooking.

Cheesy pasta skillet  

This is a heavier meal that is comforting on a winter night.

  • 1 1/2 lb. ground beef 680 g
  • 2 tbsp. oil 30 mL
  • 1 diced garlic clove or 1/2 tsp. (1 mL) garlic powder
  • 1 red, yellow or orange pepper, cut into strips
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 c. sliced mushrooms 250 mL
  • 2 tbsp. white or red wine (optional) 30 mL
  • 1 1/2 c. water 375 mL
  • 3 c. rotini or penne pasta, uncooked 750 mL
  • 1 can tomato sauce213 mL
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, undrained 398 mL
  • 1 tbsp. brown sugar 15 mL
  • 1 tsp. chili powder 5 mL
  • 1/2 tsp. each salt and pepper 1 mL
  • 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper .5 mL
  • 1 c. shredded cheddar cheese or cheese of your choice 250 mL

Cook beef in large oiled skillet for about five minutes. Add vegetables and wine (if desired), cook and stir three to five minutes or until beef is done.

Add water and bring to a boil. Add pasta and stir until evenly covered with water. Cover and simmer on medium-low heat for 15 minutes or until pasta is tender.

Stir in tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, sugar and spices. Top with cheese and cover. Simmer on low heat for five minutes or until the cheese is melted and pasta mixture is heated through. Serve with bread or garlic toast.

Note: You could substitute ground chicken or turkey for the beef if desired.

And don’t forget dessert.

Skillet cinnamon apples

This recipe is so easy but so satisfying.

  • 8 apples, peeled, cored and cut into small chunks
  • 3 tbsp. unsalted butter 45 mL
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1/4 c. brown sugar 60 mL
  • 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon 7 mL
  • 1/8 tsp. cloves .5 mL
  • 1/8 tsp. nutmeg .5 mL
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract 5 mL
  • dash of salt

Melt the butter over medium heat in a large skillet. Add the chopped apples and the lemon juice and cook for two minutes.

Add the brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, vanilla and salt.

Stir to combine, making sure the apples are fully coated. Continue to sauté over medium heat for eight to 10 minutes or until the apples are tender. Serves four to six.

This is delicious topped with vanilla ice cream.

For best results, use a firm apple such as honey crisp, gala or red delicious.

No bake chocolate peanut butter cookies

These cookies are delicious with a warm drink and a side of fresh fruit.

  • 1/2 c. salted butter 125 mL
  • 1 3/4 c. sugar 425 mL
  • 1/3 c. unsweetened cocoa powder 80 mL
  • 1/2 c. milk 125 mL
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract 5 mL
  • 2/3 c. creamy peanut butter 160 mL
  • 3 c. quick oats (don’t use old fashioned oats) 750 mL

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or set out approximately 30 cupcake liners.

Combine butter, sugar, cocoa, and milk in a medium saucepan. Stir together and heat over medium heat until boiling, stirring constantly. Stop stirring for 60 seconds once the mixture has stopped bubbling over the entire top.

Remove from the heat and immediately add the vanilla, peanut butter and oats. Stir until well combined.

Scoop approximately two tablespoons of batter at a time and drop onto prepared sheets or into muffin liners.

Allow to set for approximately 30 minutes. Store in an air tight container. Makes approximately 30 cookies. Source:

Recipe contest

We all have family favourite recipes that for reasons of diet, food restrictions or personal preferences we have adapted to meet these needs.

We’re asking our readers to share their adapted family favourite recipes. The contest draw will be made Dec. 2 for a basket of baking ingredients.

Please submit your adapted family favourite recipes, along with your name, address and phone number, to or mail:

The Western Producer, Adapted Favourites

1000 – 3530 Millar Avenue

Saskatoon, Sask.

S7P 0B6

Jodie Mirosovsky is a home economist from Rosetown, Sask., and a member of Team Resources. Contact:

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