PUBLISHED: 2:49 PM on Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Getting a glance at nutrition on the North Slope

In October I had the exciting opportunity to visit the North Slope to represent the Cooperative Extension Service and the Alaska Health Fair Association. The experience provided more insight into health in Alaska and allowed volunteers to share our knowledge and resources with members of the Nuiqsut community and oil workers on the Slope. Volunteers ranging from massage therapists to RNs to nutrition educators spent three days putting on health fairs and enjoying the experience of life above the Arctic Circle.

We began our first day by flying to the village of Nuiqsut where we held a health fair at the local school. The school has approximately 140 students, most of whom attended the health fair. The younger children were excited by naming fruits and vegetables while older students had questions about the Food Pyramid and bulking up for wrestling. The high school science teacher made plans to build her own food pyramid and to track students' eating habits. Many children do not have access to affordable fresh fruits and vegetables and eat a diet very high in fat and sugar.

That evening we returned to the Alpine Oil Camp to have the first of two health fairs. Later that night two Security Guards were kind enough to take us out to view the Northern Lights.

Our second day began at 4 a.m. In order to accommodate work schedules, health fairs were held from 5-9 a.m. and 5-9 p.m.

The Health Fair included information on stress management, nutrition, mental health, diabetes, and tobacco cessation and blood screenings. BP and Conoco-Phillips sponsored blood screenings for their employees so the turnout at the fairs was high.

Employees were interested in the all of nutrition information we provided-especially portion sizes and their individual caloric needs. After our early morning fair at Alpine we flew to Kaparuk Oil Camp to set up more fairs. Kaparuk is a much larger facility and includes such amenities as an indoor archery range.

While waiting for their turn at the blood draw table, employees had the chance to peruse the various information tables.

Most were quite interested in the information we provided and had many questions. I heard two different stories when speaking with health fair attendees.

Some said they took better care of themselves during their two week shift and other said they took better care of themselves during their two weeks off.

Bourbon-Pecan Tart with Honey and Dark Chocolate

Serves 12

This tart goes together quickly and produces the "wow" factor.

For Pecan Shortbread Crust:

2 1/4 Cups flour

1/2 Cup pecans, toasted

1/2 Cup powdered sugar

1/4 tsp. kosher or sea salt

1 Cup + 1 tbs. cold unsalted butter, cubed

2 tsp. vanilla extract

In a food processor, add flour, pecans, powdered sugar and salt. Process until pecans are finely ground. With the motor running, slowly add the cubed butter until the dough begins to come together. Add the vanilla extract, and process until dough pulls into a ball. Remove the dough from food processor, and pat into a 11-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. If the dough seems too soft, refrigerate until it's easier to handle. Press dough into pan so the edges are flush with the top of the pan. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prick the bottom of tart shell with tines of a fork. Place tart shell on a baking sheet, and place in middle rack of oven; bake 15 minutes or until edges begin to firm up. Remove from oven and cool completely before filling.

For Filling:

3 eggs, beaten

2 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted

1 tsp. vanilla

3 1/2 Tbs. bourbon

3/4 Cup dark corn syrup

1/4 Cup honey

1/4 Cup brown sugar

1/2 Cup white sugar

1/4 tsp. kosher or sea salt

1 1/2 Cups pecan halves, toasted

Heaping 1/2 Cup dark chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place baked tart shell on a baking sheet, this makes it easier to transfer tart to and from the oven. Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl except toasted pecans and dark chocolate chips; mix until thoroughly combined. Fold in toasted pecan halves. Sprinkle dark chocolate chips over the bottom of the tart, and pour in filling.

Carefully place filled tart shell on baking sheet in middle rack of oven. Bake tart for 45-60 minutes or until the tart is set. Remove from oven and cool completely on a wire rack. Chill tart for 3 hours or overnight. Remove tart from tart ring before serving. Cut into 12 wedges and serve with whipped cream or a scoop of good vanilla ice cream.

Note: Ghirardelli's Double Dark Chocolate Chips work best for this recipe, semi-sweet chocolate chips are too sweet.

Apple, Cranberry & Pear Chutney

Serves 12-14

1 tbs. canola or grapeseed oil

1 yellow onion, diced

4 Cups fresh cranberries

2 Cups white sugar

1/2 Cup brown sugar

4 whole cloves

2 cinnamon sticks

1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg

1 tsp. salt

1 Cup apple cider or juice

1/4 Cup water

Juice of 1 orange

Large strips of zest from 1 orange

1 Cup golden raisins

2 large Fuji apples, peeled, cored and diced

2 firm Red pears, peeled, cored and diced

1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves, minced

In a heavy 6-quart saucepan, heat the canola or grapeseed oil over medium heat. Add in the diced onion and sauté until soft and golden. Pour in the apple cider or juice, water and orange juice. Add in the cranberries, white and brown sugar, cloves, cinnamon sticks, nutmeg and strips of orange zest. Continue to cook over medium heat, stirring frequently. Cook mixture until the cranberries begin to pop, about 10 minutes. Lower the heat to a simmer, and stir in the golden raisins, apples and pears. Simmer for an additional 10-15 minutes. Remove saucepan from the heat and stir in thyme leaves. Let mixture cool to room temperature, and then remove orange zest and cinnamon sticks. Place chutney in airtight containers or sealed jars; it will keep for up to 1 month.