Young athletes must eat right!Tuesday, August 28
When I answered the phone some 18 years ago and said yes to a dishwashing job I never would have imagined all of the fun and exciting opportunities that it would lead to in the years since. It has allowed me the opportunity to travel the world, working in different kitchens, and experiencing the foods of different cultures. The most enjoyable part though is the diverse group of people that I get to cook for and the unique, outside the box, type events that I have been able to take part in.
One such unique experience took place this summer. I was approached by the player development team of the Edmonton Oilers and asked to help them in educating their up and coming young stars.
When first asked, I was quite surprised that they were reaching out to me for help, but when we sat down and was filled in, the picture became a lot clearer. In listening to them share their expectations with me it became easy to see that the team had figured out something very important. Rather than simply focusing on developing their draft picks on the ice, they realized the importance of helping to develop their young players into well rounded young men.
With players being drafted as young as 17 years old they are forced to grow up quickly, often away from home for their junior hockey career, and then heading to AA or AAA clubs, or, for the lucky few, straight to the NHL.
Although most people would be pretty envious of this career path, the sacrifice these young players make is often overlooked. Their time and effort is almost solely dedicated to hockey, so much so, that they often miss out on picking up some very basic life skills, like money management, doing their own laundry, or even feeding themselves. Making the NHL is extremely difficult and it takes a great deal of sacrifice, but it’s even more difficult to stay there. Given the overnight celebrity and the big contract that comes with making it, and countless nights on the road, it can very difficult for a young player to stay disciplined and live a healthy, balanced lifestyle.
In an effort to help the players adapt to becoming young adults and deal with the hectic pace and lifestyle of being a professional athlete, the Oilers organization took it upon themselves to do their part to have a positive impact on their young players. During the player development camp, players are not only tested on the ice, but they are exposed to nutritional and dietary suggestions, lessons about financial planning, sleep seminars, and many more helpful tools to prepare them for their future.
Our role was to work alongside the nutritionists to help educate the players about food and healthy eating habits. We began by teaching the players how to make their way through the grocery store, offering healthy and quick menu suggestions. Then we actually put the young stars to work, having them prepare a three course meal, using ingredients and techniques that we had demonstrated for them. It was a very fun way for the athletes to get their hands dirty and see that food could be approachable.
Following the success of these events I have been asked to prepare several simple cooking demonstrations for the young players to refer to as they head back to their junior teams.
The hope is that they take this to heart and make eating a balanced meal a part of their daily routine.
Italian Sausage & Bell Pepper Linguine
Prep time: 20 minutes Feeds: 4 degree of difficulty: 1
In honour of this week’s article I have prepared a simple pasta dish that has become an easy favourite in our home and virtually anyone can put together. It is very versatile, and if you can master these few techniques, you can begin to prepare other simple pasta dishes.
1 lb. dry pasta, we like linguini or penne, but most any will do
4 ea. Italian sausage
3 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. minced garlic
1 ea. red pepper, chopped
1 ea. yellow pepper, chopped
1 ea. 28 oz. can, diced tomatoes
1 ea. 6 oz. can tomato paste
1 cup white wine
2 cups fresh spinach
1 tsp. chili flakes
3 tbsp. fresh chopped basil
1-2 tbsp. white sugar
• Place the raw sausages in a medium sauce pot and cover with cold water
• Place the pot on a stove and bring to a simmer
• Meanwhile, place another large pot of water on the stove for the pasta, salt well, about 1 tablespoon per litre of water, bring to a simmer
• Once the sausage water comes to a boil, allow to simmer 3-4 minutes
• Remove from heat and gently run under cool water until cool enough to touch
• Proceed to slice the sausages into coins, set aside
• Slice the peppers into thin strips, removing the seeds and stem, don’t worry too much about the size or shape, just try to keep them fairly consistent, trust me, your family will just be happy to not be eating another rubbery hamburger
• Heat a medium sauce pan to medium-high heat, add the sausage coins, and peppers
• Saute until the peppers soften up a little, 1-2 minutes, then add your minced garlic
• Add the can of tomato paste to the sausages and peppers and stir to combine
• Quickly deglaze (this just means to pour the liquid in and stir around, lightly scraping the bottom to remove any of the good caramelized bits) with the white wine, allow to cook for 1-2 minutes
• At this time, place your pasta in the pot of water and cook until firm, yet tender, or al dente, I highly recommend following the instructions on the package, as they will give you the best recommendations for their particular pasta, but typically it will range from 6-10 minutes. Stir periodically, and place your strainer in the sink to be prepared to quickly strain the pasta
• Add the tomatoes to the pasta sauce and allow to simmer 4-5 minutes
• Now it’s time to bring everything together! Finish the pasta sauce off by tossing in the spinach, chili flakes and fresh basil
• Allow the spinach to wilt by stirring it in, 1-2 minutes
• Meanwhile, strain the pasta, draining off all of the water, DO NOT RINSE WITH WATER!
• Taste the pasta sauce, if it’s quite tart, add a pinch of sugar, adjust the salt and pepper too, the more you do this, the better you will find you become at adjusting the seasoning
• Now you can either place the pasta right in the sauce, or you can place the pasta in the bowl and top it with sauce, either way won’t hurt!
• Top the pasta with some fresh parmesan, serve it with a big hunk of crusty bread and watch your family smile from ear to ear!
Once you learn this basic recipe and the skills required to prepare it, you can begin to experiment, take out the peppers and add mushrooms, change the sausage for chicken or prawns.