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Nutrition Notes (PCN Fall 2016) SEP 19 2016 | Consumers and Producers | Pulse Crop News

This article appeared in the Fall 2016 issue of Pulse Crop News.

Debra McLennan, RD, APG Food & Nutrition Coordinator

So what did you do this summer? I was inspired to look at all of the recipes that Alberta Pulse has provided over the years. Pulses have been around for millennia and so have some of our recipes! So what better time than International Year of Pulses to jump into the mixing bowl and develop some brand new recipes!

APG has been fortunate to have such great relationships with our other pulse grower groups to be able to borrow recipes from them this past year, but we really wanted to see what it would be like to develop our own recipes and have a hand in saying what we like and don’t like and make changes to suit us. We also really wanted to highlight the pulses that we grow in Alberta with a nod to the other more popular ones too.

Where to start?

New recipes start with recipe development. Sounds simple right? While I like to experiment with recipes as much as the next person, the time involved to think of new recipe ideas and then develop the recipes, test them and photograph the final results meant I needed to find someone who specializes in this sort of thing. I wasn’t even sure where to start, but I did know that I wanted to work with a person or a company based in Alberta – support local I always say!

Meeting home economist Sue Spicer of Food by Design at FarmTech 2016 solved this dilemma. Her company develops recipes and tests them, and she has the contacts to organize the photography as well. It’s a one stop shop for recipe development, and on top of all that, she knows the nutrition benefits and versatility of pulses. She also has experience working with other Alberta products and understood the story we were trying to tell about Alberta pulses. It didn’t take long to get a contract in place and an initial meeting set up to talk turkey, I mean pulses!

What kind of recipes do we want?

Answering this question starts with listening to all the feedback gathered in the past year from our consumers, health professionals, educators, chefs, growers and our fabulous APG staff. IYP 2016 also helped with the direction to go with new recipes, with the creating awareness and food security/nutrition themes as guides. Easy to make, easy to find or “already in my pantry” ingredients that show pulses in different, unexpected recipes was the starting point.

Time is also a factor; our educators like recipes that can be completed within a typical class time frame of 45 minutes, start to finish. The dietitian in me also wanted to keep in mind our heart healthy and diabetic consumers, so now salt, sugar, fibre and carbohydrates are added to the list of items to watch.  With this list in hand, I met with Sue in April and she shared her initial recipe concepts. From there, she came up with a list of 26 potential recipe ideas.

After sharing this list with Leanne Fischbuch (APG Executive Director) and Jolene Watson (APG’s teacher resource liaison), we chose eight recipes that not only sounded tasty, but met most of our new recipe wishes. I could hardly wait for our next meeting in August… would we like the final recipes? Would they taste great? Talk about anticipation!

Food photography and tasting: The fun part!

Road trip! Off to the Food by Design studio in Calgary where Rachel Peterson (APG Communications Coordinator), Jolene and I met photographer Mike Heywood and Sue to finally see and taste our new recipes. So what did I learn from this experience? Food photography is exhilarating but exhausting at the same time! Who knew it would be so hard to take pictures of eight dishes?

Apparently, taking food pictures for print material is more complicated than pictures to be posted on a website, hence the difficulty. It is harder to capture the vibrant colours and feel of a recipe in a print photo compared to snapping a picture and posting it online. How do food bloggers do it?

It was great to have Rachel at the photo shoot so she could provide guidance on the type of photos we would need for our different resources, and Jolene provided recipe feedback based on her contacts with the educators who use our resources.

After eight fun, but gruelling, hours we had our eight recipes with some yummy photos to go along with them! The reward for making it through the photo session? Tasting all the new recipes! Lucky for us, we only had to tweak two of the recipes to make them even more delicious and then they were ready to go!

Nutrient analysis: The science part!

So the next step once the recipe testing is done is to do the nutrient analysis. Gone are the days where we could put just the recipe in a booklet or on a website! With the ever increasing awareness of health and nutrients, nutrition facts panels aren’t just for food labels in the grocery store. Our recipe users are looking for the number of calories in a serving along with grams of fat, sugar, fibre and protein, and let’s not forget about sodium!

It’s hard to develop recipes to meet all the requests of our consumer audiences, so I always try to have a variety of recipes that people can choose from based on the nutrients that they are concerned about. If there is a recipe that is too high in a nutrient, like fat, sugar or sodium, then I look to see if it’s possible to adjust the recipe to help improve the nutrition profile.

Sometimes you can and sometimes you can’t, so that’s when you can tell someone that moderation is key and that sometimes it’s ok to treat yourself. With my resource printing deadline looming, I’m racing to finish analyzing all of the recipes!

Sharing the new recipes: How do we do that?

When I started with the Alberta Pulse Growers a year ago, there were 10 paper copy resources plus the website that featured pulse recipes. After taking all these resources with me to a variety of events from diabetes expos, dietitian conferences, food shows and grower meetings and watching what people picked up and took home, I came to the conclusion that we have too many handouts!

The most popular resource, really the winner by a landslide was the recipe booklet! It didn’t matter who it was or where I was, everyone took a recipe booklet and if I didn’t have one out, they all asked. The second most popular resource is our website, so that made the decision easy – develop an APG recipe book of our own and put all the recipes on the website. Jolene, my APG go-to contact for teacher resources, told me the teachers like recipe cards, so we’ll make sure we have recipe cards!

With those decisions made, I’m now working on a rough draft of the recipe booklet which the designer/ printer will use to create our all new APG recipe resource. The designer is the person who brings our vision to life on paper and I can hardly wait to see what they will create! The goal is to have the new recipe booklet in the APG office for distribution in January 2017 so we can start sharing the new resource with everyone as well as post the recipes on the website at the same time!

How was the experience?

I have really enjoyed the process of creating new recipes and a new resource. It has been a very interesting journey and the knowledge that I’ve gained with this experience is going to come in handy next year when we develop more new recipes. I’m looking forward to hearing what everyone thinks of the new recipes and booklet to help guide our future resource development!

Do you have a question about pulse nutrition? I would love to hear from you! You can contact me at or 780-986-9398 ext. 6.