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Published on May 20, 2017

jana johnson cooking

Culinary Creativity Comes from the Heart

Growing up, Avera dermatologist Jana Johnson, MD had a front-row seat to her mother’s culinary expertise, which she now shares as she unveils her own dinner designs with her family of six.

“She has amazing skill,” Johnson said of her mother, Jean Beddow. “My father was a university president, so she’d often plan and cater events for 100 to 200 people, doing everything from the menus to the centerpieces. She fed our family well, too. We had a lot of traditional family-time dinners together every week. She’s still like that and sometimes comes over with a meal of five or six courses to share with us.”

She loves the shared nature of creativity with foods and recipes.

“I think one thing that’s rooted in both her cooking and mine is that it’s all about love, not just of food and of trying new things, but a love for sharing the meal with family and friends,” she said. “That’s what fuels my passion.”

Healthy-But-Tasty Alternatives

As a physician, mom and wife, Johnson has tailored her approaches to cooking over the years, adopting approaches that lead to healthier meals.

“We were in the low-fat camp, but we realized it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. So now, we do avoid bad carbs and added sugars,” she said. “We aim to make our dishes ‘plant-centric’ and that helps. When you have kids, a lot changes, and I love to share healthy and tasty food with them.”

From wheat berries to vegetarian to a global list of dishes, Johnson experiments widely.

“Our holidays are all about the food, and we do enjoy some traditions, but we love trying to find healthier approaches,” she said. “We no longer use rice, we just use cauliflower rice. We found the same results with zucchini noodles. I think they’re both tastier.”

Planning is Priority

In order to “get healthy” with her cooking, Johnson said planning is critical.

“We’re the same as any other family – busy! I take time on Sunday mornings to plan the week out and shop. If I don’t plan, we’ll end up with pizza,” she said. “We do a lot of stir fries – they are easy, quick and you can pile on the veggies.”

Plan, plan and plan some more, but also experiment. You can achieve good-tasting healthier food, said Johnson, who lives and practices dermatology in Sioux Falls.

“I’m lucky as I have a husband who really helps – he does a lot of the grilling and helps me in the kitchen,” she said. “And I’m lucky that my family is open to new ideas. I can share with them. I love to read and to go running, but those are fairly solitary passions. Cooking and feeding my family well means something to them. That’s why I love to do it.”

Check out these great recipes from Johnson, along with some super-simple tips for subbing in good stuff for not-so good:

Sweet Potato Hash

Zucchini Mushroom Stir Fry

Quinoa Spinach Bake

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