A full-season destination for those seeking sustenance of a higher order, there are any number of ways to work up a healthy appetite – ranging from canoeing and hiking in the summer to cross-country skiing, dog sledding, and snowshoeing in the winter. Riding horseback along any one of the innumerable trails provides a year-round stimulus for Chef Tanners creations; the fresh air and open vistas never fail to inspire a healthful hunger.
For the past 17 years Executive Chef Anna Tanner has been setting the table at one of the country’s premier health havens. As sanctuaries go, the Hills Health Ranch and Resort in 108 Mile House, BC, is expansive, sprawling over 20,000 picturesque acres of the Cariboo region.
A full-season destination for those seeking sustenance of a higher order, there are any number of ways to work up a healthy appetite—ranging from canoeing and hiking in the summer to cross-country skiing, dog sledding, and snowshoeing in the winter. Riding horseback along any one of the innumerable trails provides a year-round stimulus for Chef Tanner’s creations; the fresh air and open vistas never fail to inspire a healthful hunger.
First and foremost, the Hills Health Ranch is a rejuvenating retreat. It’s the inspired vision of Pat and Juanita Corbett that opened in 1985, replete with 20 chalets and a full suite of spa and lifestyle services. The spa experience is focused on helping guests recalibrate and gain inner peace, new strength, and renewed energy and power through varied sessions and seminars.
Home to the Canadian Wellness Centre, the Hills Health Ranch has more health professionals on hand than any other resort in the country and is committed to offering a holistic health experience that caters to relaxation, reflection, revitalization, and rejoicing.
The culinary component plays no small role in achieving this goal. Together with nutritionist and wellness director Regula Wittmer, Chef Tanner focuses on creating menus that cater to the inherent wellness philosophy while fostering an appreciation for the satisfaction a healthy meal can offer.
Conscious comfort food is the goal: cuisine that nourishes both the body and the mind.
\”We do a bit of everything here,” explains Chef Tanner. “As a destination spa there is an emphasis on lowering the calories, but people are always pleasantly surprised with the dishes. A lot of people come here with the expectation of sprouts and veggies only, but that is just the beginning.”
Creating consistently fresh and simple dishes with an eye on source is a challenge she embraces on a daily basis. Offering more than meals, Chef Tanner knows that her many guests are looking for inspiration to take home to their own kitchens. Nutritional seminars, home recipe books, and basic education have earned her a loyal clientele.
Helping people kick-start a healthy lifestyle is a major source of inspiration. With a solid focus on whole foods and simplicity, a primary goal for Chef Tanner is laying out the fundamentals of good eating. From teaching guests to read food labels to exposing them to a pantry primed for ready meal solutions, she is aware of the challenges and time constraints they will face when they return to the real world.
“It would be great to simply send everyone to the farmers’ market, but that is not an option for a lot of people,” says Chef Tanner, emphasizing that there is an increasing array of healthy options even in big-box supermarkets. “Our goal is to change their opinions on cooking: what they cook as well as how.”
These are words she takes to both heart and home, where her two young children and husband all play a role in the kitchen. “We are a typical family—busy, always running about. As a result, we have always tried to keep everyone at the same table and involve them with the meals,” she explains. “We have our own vegetable garden, and we weed, pick, and prepare together.”
What does not make its way into the family meal is brought into the restaurant, where it invariably serves to nourish other people’s desire to begin growing a few ingredients of their own.
- Sweet Potato, Parsnip, and Apple Bisque
- Black Cod Fish Cakes with Tarragon Caper Aioli
- Roasted Butternut Squash and Carrots with Sage
- Apple Streusel Cake
Wisdom to take home
While the full experience of the Hills Health Ranch can only be appreciated in situ, many of Chef Anna Tanner’s and nutritionist Regula Wittmer’s culinary wisdoms can be readily applied at home.
- Replace simple carbohydrates (processed and refined baked goods, crackers, white rice, or pasta) with complex carbohydrates wherever possible. Some good examples are brown rice, barley, millet, quinoa, bulgur, or cracked wheat.
- Enhance flavours in foods by using low-sodium broths, unsweetened fruit juices, or vegetable juices in place of water to blanch or steam vegetables, braise or poach proteins, or cook starches such as pastas or grains.
- Roast or toast nuts and seeds to intensify their flavours.
- Drizzle fresh or grilled vegetables with balsamic vinegar or other flavoured vinegars.
- Replace part of the ground meat in spaghetti sauce or chili recipes with cooked chopped beans, brown rice, or bulgur. It boosts the fibre content and cuts the fat.
- Use unsweetened fruit and vegetable purées such as applesauce, prune, or carrot to replace some of the oils and shortenings in muffin, quick bread, or cake recipes. Start by replacing about 20 percent and see how that affects the finished product.
- Try using a low-fat cream cheese mixed with a healthy fruit jam (one that has been sweetened with fruit juice instead of sugar). This blend is an excellent substitute for regular icing or frostings on cakes. It also makes a nice spread for whole wheat bread or bagels in the morning, instead of using butter.