New Beginnings: Getting back to the basics of eating

With a new year comes many opportunities for new beginnings right in your kitchen.  January is a great month to try different ways of cooking up some nutritious, heart healthy meals. Whether you’re just starting out on a New Year’s plan to healthier eating or whether you are easing yourself back into a healthier routine, we’ve got the recipes and tips for you.  

Have you heard of “food swapping”?  It’s easy to do.  Just replace one food item for another to make your food work better for you.  Swap the butter for extra virgin olive oil which is a healthy fat.  Switch out the salt for fresh or dried herbs to increase flavour in your food and to lower your sodium intake.  Savour fresh fruit and say no to fruit juice which will add more fibre and other good-for-you nutrients.  Swapping foods, such as reducing and omitting sodium from your cooking, makes your meals more nutritious.  Choose nutrient-dense foods versus calorie- dense foods by replacing white rice with whole grain brown rice. Brown rice has more fibre and  nutrition.  Swapping for healthier alternatives in your diet will help to promote overall health and well-being. 

The recipes that follow focus on heart-healthy dishes that are brimming with nutrition and that will warm you up this winter.  


Creamy Mushroom Soup


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil  
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons dried thyme 
  • 16 oz (2 packs) white button mushrooms, sliced
  • 8 oz (1 Pack) cremini mushrooms (brown ones), sliced 
  • 3 large portobello mushrooms, sliced  
  • 2 tablespoons sodium reduced or sodium free soy sauce
  • 16 oz almond or soy milk 
  • 8 oz almond or soy milk (to add if mixture is too thick)
  • black pepper (to taste)


  • In a large pot, add the olive oil, onion, garlic, dried thyme and basil and sauté until the onion is translucent (about 5 minutes). Stir often.
  • Add the sliced mushrooms and the soy sauce and stir well.  Cover the pot and cook on medium heat about 10 to 12 minutes. This will allow the mushrooms to release their water. Stir often.  
  • After 10 minutes, remove the lid from the pot and cook mushrooms for a further 10 minutes to allow some of the water to cook off.
  • Add the almond or soy milk. Cook for a final 10 minutes, stirring occasionally and allowing the flavours to blend. 
  • Remove one cup of the mushroom mixture and set aside.  
  • Allow the remaining mushroom mixture in the pot to cool down for about an hour and then place in a blender or food processor.  Process until smooth.  
  • Add the smooth mixture back to the pot and heat over low heat making sure the soup does not stick to the bottom of the pot.  If the mixture is too thick, you may need to add extra almond or soy milk to adjust to your preferred consistency.  
  • Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with the mushroom mixture that was set aside.  Add black pepper to taste and serve.  
  • This soup can be served with a salad and whole grain bread.  It can be made two days in advance of serving.  Serves 4 to 6.

Overnight Oats Breakfast Bowl


  • 1 1/2 cups Old Fashioned Rolled Oats
  • 2 cups almond milk (substitute: low fat cow milk, cashew, or soy milk)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup low fat Greek yogurt
  • Pinch of cinnamon
  • Optional toppings: Add roasted almonds, walnuts, fresh fruit such as sliced banana, chopped apple, pear, peach.  You can also add fresh berries, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, chia seeds.  The toppings and variety are endless.


  • Mix the oats, milk, Greek yogurt, vanilla, and cinnamon in a bowl.  You can also mix in a Tablespoon of nut butter such as organic peanut butter, almond butter or you can add a tablespoon of honey and some fruit here as well.  Mix ingredients well.
  • Pour into 4 glass jars and cover with a lid. Place in the refrigerator overnight.
  • The next morning, stir in more almond milk or choice of milk if desired. 
  • This breakfast can be eaten cold or you can warm in the microwave if you prefer. If you have a sweet tooth, you can add a teaspoon of honey or pure maple syrup.  This is where you can get creative and add your choice of toppings (optional toppings listed above in list of ingredients).  My favourite toppings are low fat Greek yogurt, fresh berries and a handful of walnuts drizzled with 1 teaspoon of honey across the top. 

Note: You can divide this recipe into 2 jars for a larger serving, or 4 smaller jars. You can double this recipe and keep the oats covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.  


Salmon with Orzo


  • ¾ cup uncooked orzo (rice-shaped pasta)  
  • 1 cup frozen green peas
  • 4 (4-ounce) skinless salmon fillets
  • 2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice
  • 2 green onions thinly sliced 
  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil (this is reserved for the orzo)


  • Pre-heat oven to 450F.  
  • Cook orzo in a medium saucepan according to package directions.  Stir in peas after 6 minutes.  
  • Meanwhile, place salmon on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and season with zest of lemon or lime. Pour freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice evenly over the salmon.
  • Season with freshly ground black pepper to taste.  
  • Bake the salmon until the internal temperature of the salmon reaches 140F or opaque in the center.  
  • Drain orzo and peas; return to the same saucepan. Stir in extra virgin olive oil and the chopped green onions.  Plate the salmon and serve the orzo and peas on the side.  Serves 4.  

Note:  This dish can be served with wilted greens such as bok choy, spinach or swiss chard, with extra virgin olive oil with sauteed garlic on top.  It can also be served with a salad.  

Maria Connell