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Cooking Matters Michigan

Empowering families with the skills, confidence and knowledge to prepare healthy and affordable meals

Filtering by Tag: Cooking

Volunteer spotlight: John Heikka

dorothy hernandez

For the past few months we have had the invaluable help of John Heikka, our chef intern extraordinaire. John just recently wrapped up his internship with us and put into words his experiences and shared with us what brought him to the wonderful world of cooking. He is also teaching a class in Pontiac as a volunteer so we are happy to keep him among our volunteer ranks!

Here's his story:

I’ve been married to my wife Jan for 25 years, and while we have had some challenges like any couple. She is the absolute best. I appreciate so much her ongoing support throughout the last and very trying 6 years. Jan is the cook for a day care in Sterling Heights and amazes me with how many different dishes she can produce with a microwave and rice cooker (their facility does not have a stove). We have two great kids, Robert and Sandra. Robert is now 19 and enrolled and excelling at CAD design at ITT Tech. Robert is a volunteer in our church’s children’s ministry and works as a counselor at “Kids Camp” every summer. Sandra is 12 going on 38. She is certainly an incredibly gifted and talented young lady. Sandra also is a volunteer in our children’s ministry where she teaches and sings. She is currently taking piano as well. Sandra is a straight A student and a member of a student organization dedicated to fighting hunger. She is also my “Sous Chef” at home. They are the best people I know and I am looking forward to going back to “hanging” with them, since my schooling is over.

I am a Detroiter and darn proud of that. I grew up the literal definition of a “fan (atic) of the Lions, Tigers, Pistons, Wings and Wolverines. I graduated high school in 1973 from East Detroit and studied for three years at Sacred Heart Seminary to become a Catholic priest. Got that one wrong! I like Catholics, nothing personal, but I’m not even Catholic anymore. In the early 80’s I met Jan, and left my pursuit of an accounting degree for marital bliss. Back then you could get a job, work hard and just keep moving up. I did just that working for a commercial leasing company and a sub-contractor for 20 years in collections and customer service. I also became an amateur baseball umpire while volunteering at church in the children’s ministry.

I lost my job with the now defunct sub-contractor in November 2005 and we ended up losing our house and basically, as it seemed, our life. I had two surgeries including a heart repair procedure, and after that it was just impossible to land a job that lasted. The four of us currently abide in a 950-square-foot apartment in Warren. I hope to change that soon!

Finally, someone told me that I need to go back to school. So I said, if I have to go back to school, then I am going to have fun. So I enrolled back at Macomb Community College in the Culinary Arts program. I had spent some time teaching kids how to make bread and thought maybe there will be something there for me. And thus, in my last semester I landed a wonderful opportunity for an internship as a chef instructor at Gleaners Community Food Bank in the Cooking Matters program.

My ultimate goal is to be involved with food education. Food is certainly a magical thing. Can you think of any major life event/celebration that does not involve food? Most of them do. Food culture is a part of our families and society. I want to see well executed and simple foods of our traditions come back to our life events and certainly our families’ tables as a way to bring people together again. Somebody has to teach the skills and recipes that have been laid aside by past generations.

But for now, I will pursue a career as a prep cook or institutional cook and further hone my skills. But if the opportunity presents itself, I’ll jump on anything that involves the educational end of cookery.

Why he wanted to get involved in Cooking Matters I was never a “restaurant guy” prior to my enrollment at Macomb and I’ve always had a passion for teaching. So it was a natural fit to develop my skills and confidence while having fun. You should love what you do and do what you love.

It all started early last November when I was conversing with Kathy Grech, our table service instructor at Macomb about how people are just going to have to learn how to take a chicken apart again due to rising food costs. She immediately told me to contact Jake Williams and I did. I would have been happy to just volunteer as a chef/instructor, so being offered the internship was like winning the Super Bowl.

Overall, the class participants were the main highlight. The opportunity to be part of a team teaching a lot of the basics I learned in school in a manner that has such potential to effectively change lives both mentally and physically, is just phenomenal.

I recall early on in a Kids Class in Highland Park this little quiet girl who appeared to be shoved aside by her classmates, telling me after the class in a barely audible volume, “Thank you.” You never know if they are abused, malnourished, bullied or all the above. Her face, voice and those two simple words will never leave me. It’s also what began to build a passion for food education and I knew I was in the right place.

One week we were doing Banana Quesadillas and the coordinator for the class left the honey and peanut butter in her vehicle overnight in the middle of winter. Our coordinators are all great, however they happen to be human, just like the rest of us. The honey needed to be mixed with the peanut butter and some cinnamon. I looked over and saw the participant visibly struggling to mix these extremely cold items. As I saw the clock ticking, I then decided to just put the stainless steel bowl on the stove and whisk as fast as I could. I knew it work, but not a few people around the room were looking at me in an interesting manner. The quesadillas were great. (Editor’s note: This was me. Sorry, John! –dorothy)

Just recently we completed a Spanish speaking class in Mexican Town and the ladies on their way out telling me in their broken English that they learned so much and “Gracias” was really cool stuff. Not so much their words, but their facial expressions make my day, because people lives are being changed for the better.

Every Week One class I do now usually has a sauté’ opportunity and I love asking them why chefs toss items in the pan. Every time somebody will say,” To mix all the items?”. And I always respond, “Well…that is part of it, but don’t I look cool!?!”

His secrets in the kitchen Attitude. Your determination to succeed will be influenced by your determination. There are two kinds of kitchen experiences, success and education. Granted education can be a little disappointing, but if seek out the knowledge you were missing and are determined, then success will be yours! In my perfect world, every kitchen has some cast iron cookware. It is economical, easy to clean and heats very evenly. I’ve used my Dutch Oven as a deep fryer. This stuff lasts forever.

Thirdly, salads are generally under used in everyday home cooking. They are healthy and interesting. To me, 4 ounces of beautifully seasoned and grilled beef tenderloin on top of some leafy greens with walnuts, gorgonzola cheese, dried cherries, and red onions with a nice homemade vinaigrette is just heaven! Fruit salads are great all day as well.

My most humbling experience came this last semester in school. I was going to make a tomato fennel soup, which in the past was really good with a lemon/lime gremolata garnish. In the middle of winter I decided to use fresh roma tomatoes instead of canned. It was a very educational experience. The tomatoes being out of season were so acidic, that the soup was complete disaster. I just kicked myself all the way home.

My most memorable moment came at home prior to Christmas. I was baking cinnamon bread while my wife and the kids were decorating the tree. The pine scent and the cinnamon aroma just says family and Christmas like nothing I’ve ever encountered.

Relaxing Everyonewho is involved in cookery has a “food” activity that they find relaxing. For me, it is grilling some sort of protein or baking bread. I will still knead my bread by hand periodically. It’s good exercise! “Foodieism” can be a bit of a mental illness for some us.

I enjoy playing “competitive putt-putt” with my family. It gets verbally brutal, but we have fun. Also, you can find us in the fall picking apples and other produce when it’s available.

The whole family is big sports fans. We all play and spectate, especially pro football.

A healthy recipe This is one of my new favorite recipes for a side dish. Simple and elegant. Very nutritious.

QUINOA-PILAF STYLE

Onion, small dice 3 oz. Olive Oil 1 Tbsp. Quinoa, rinsed 4 oz, or ½ cup Water or Vegetable Stock 8 fluid ounces or 1 cup Kosher Salt To Taste Pepper To Taste

1. In a small sauce pot, heat the oil and sauté the onions over medium heat for a couple minutes till they start to turn clear. 2. Add the quinoa and brown very slightly. 3. Add the stock or water and season with salt and pepper. For this recipe volume start with ¼ teaspoon of both. 4. Bring to a boil and immediately turn heat to low. Cover pot with lid and simmer till Quinoa has absorbed all the liquid.

Chef’s Notes:

You can add any vegetable with the onions. Any spice can be added with the salt and pepper. Any herb can be added at the very end.

You can adjust the salt and pepper at the end of cooking.

Food Stamp Challenge: Living on $31.50 a week

dorothy hernandez

About a month ago during one of our weekly meetings, our fearless leader Ra suggested that our team take the Food Stamp Challenge, a national call to action to live off the food stamp allotment ($31.50) for one week. I was personally interested in taking it because I wanted to get a better understanding of where our participants are coming from.

Here are the guidelines (modified from the Fighting Poverty with Faith rules): 1. Keep your total food and beverage purchases under $31.50 for the week. 2. Include fast food and other restaurant meals and beverages in the total cost. 3. You may use pantry items you have at home like spices, but avoid staples like canned tomatoes, which should be included in purchases. 4. You may include free meals to you. 5. You can start and end anytime, and if you don’t make it, that is ok. You will know what it is like to live on a food stamp budget.

Most of us decided to start Monday, which coincided with Food Day, a grassroots effort to push for healthy, affordable food produced in a sustainable, humane way.

When prepping for my week of eating on a food stamp budget, I took a long look at my habits and likes. I know I drink way too much coffee and don’t pay enough attention to what I buy. I try to make lists that I inevitably forget at home and even though I try to plan my meals I end up eating out a lot more than I should. I love to go out for lunch and dinner with friends and family … both of which are luxuries that one on a food stamp budget can’t afford.

I sat down to write a list and after I thought I had a pretty good variety of food, I set off for Kroger Sunday to buy food for my week of eating on a food stamp diet.

At Kroger, I bought:

1 pound of yellow onions, $.81 1 head of garlic, $.75 4 jalapeno peppers, $.50 1 pound of Honeycrisp apples, $1.99 1 bag of brown rice, $.82 2 cans of black beans, $1.72 1 green pepper, $.52 Stonyfield yogurt on sale 4 for $3 with card Loaf of whole grain bread, $1 Package of corn tortillas, $2.29 1 can of diced tomatoes, $1.39 1 container of romaine lettuce, $1.59 2 bananas, $.31 Collards, $1.29 Kroger total: $17.98

Then I went to Meijer and bought:

¼ pound of deli turkey, $1.08 ($3.99/lb) Dozen eggs, $1.79 Shredded cheese $2 Granola, $2.79 Package of chicken breasts, $4.68 ($2.49/lb) Meijer total: $12.34

Total between both stores: $30.32

Yikes! Now I only have $1.18 for the rest of the week. Not much of a cushion. I figured I could use that to get more apples or bananas when my fruit runs out.

When I get home I realized I probably should’ve gotten a tub of yogurt instead of the individual cups of Stonyfield, which is my favorite but I got distracted by the pretty sign that said it was on sale. Despite the gimmick, it was still expensive. I also should’ve gotten a whole chicken instead of the chicken breasts. In terms of fruits and vegetables, I feel like I am woefully lacking in this department. I kicked myself later when I saw apples were $.59/pound at Meijer but I rationalized it by saying I only like Honeycrisp so they wouldn’t have gotten eaten anyway. I also don't have enough dairy ... definitely not enough for 3 cups a day.

While planning my meals, I figured meat and seafood would be out of the question since these are usually the budget busters. So I figure I could get some chicken and plan on making two things to last me the week. Luckily for me I like leftovers. I decide to make a huge pot of black beans that I can use in a variety of meals from my morning eggs to rice and beans at dinner. I also poach the chicken breasts and save the liquid to use like broth (I added some onions and garlic while cooking) and then I can shred up the chicken to add to the rice or to salad. Using the poaching liquid, I also made a batch of tortilla soup. Finally I cooked two cups of brown rice.

Also, I decide that this is the week that I’m going to attempt to forgo coffee because at $9.99/bag for my favorite coffee, that is a third of my budget. Even Folgers or Maxwell House coffee would be $4-5, which is not budget-friendly. For those of you who know me, no, I haven’t been abducted by aliens. Going from at least 6 cups to zero is going to be rough. But I figure I have to cut down anyway so might as well start now. (I apologize in advance to my friends and co-workers for my bad behavior.) I have a coupon for a free coffee at Starbucks that I will be cashing in when I’m going through withdrawal, probably this afternoon before my teen class.

I worked a long day Monday (9 a.m. to 9 p.m. between two jobs) so this required planning the night before. Usually when I’m doing a long day like this I get takeout, which can run up to $10.

Here’s how Day 1 went:

Breakfast 2 scrambled eggs wrapped in 2 tortillas with some beans

Lunch Food Day lunch, which we ordered from our volunteer chef Alison at the soup kitchen. We brought healthy lunches for our fellow Gleaners at our different distribution sites. Ra said as part of our challenge we could include free food, so here’s today’s freebie. I picked the turkey sandwich and there was also a small cup of potato salad, an orange and granola bar. I ate the sandwich and potato salad and saved the granola bar and orange for a snack later.

Mid-afternoon snack at about 4 p.m. Now I'm at my second job. At this point I’m getting really hungry (not to mention sleepy as this would’ve been coffee time) so I scarf the granola bar and an apple that I packed in my bag for dinner (I’m saving the orange for another time since eating an orange at a keyboard is not an easy feat). And then about an hour or so later I’m hungry again! I think it’s all in my head. But it is worth noting that I can’t just dig into my bag and pull out a snack or hit the vending machine. I drink more water.

Dinner Rice and beans with some cheese ... really craving something else, like veggies for a more well-rounded meal 1 orange

This is more or less what I’m going to eat every day; the only other variations would be to have granola and yogurt instead of the eggs in the morning or have a salad with chicken instead of a turkey sandwich for lunch. The only other thing I’m going to cook is the collards and I’ll probably do that on Wednesday so I can eat something new other than rice and beans.

What do you think of the food I got? If you’re doing the Food Stamp challenge, share your thoughts with us this week!

$10 Challenge: 5 ingredients, 2 different meals

dorothy hernandez

Tomorrow I'm going with a Cooking Matters for Adults class to Aldi for the grocery store trip and $10 challenge. The $10 Challenge is a fun way to put participants' newfound cooking and budgeting knowledge to the test: Shoppers have a $10 budget to buy one healthy ingredient from each food group. I went to the store today to give myself the $10 challenge and found some great stuff. I already had an idea to make Asian lettuce wraps because I have leaf lettuce and cilantro at home as well as the seasonings (soy sauce, ginger, etc). I wasn't sure what how to fulfill the other parts of the challenge, though, so I came in with a working list (fruit, low-fat cheese and brown rice) and decided to let prices and stock guide me. Unfortunately there was no low-fat cheese or brown rice so I changed my game plan, selecting nonfat vanilla yogurt and thin whole wheat spaghetti. I figured I could make a fruit smoothie to drink and make noodles with peanut butter sauce (both recipes are personal faves from the CMA book!). I'm also planning to make sesame-ginger asparagus on the side. After buying the food I realized I could make a whole different meal with the ingredients: whole wheat spaghetti with turkey meatballs with a yogurt parfait for dessert. I could toss the asparagus in a lemon vinaigrette for a side dish. Now it's your turn to take our $10 challenge: What five ingredients would you buy and what meal would you make?

Food budgeting: Feeding a family on a food stamp budget

jhartrick

Did you see the AP article that featured three chefs planning meals for a family of four on $68.88 a week? Check it out here if you missed it. Food budgeting is an important topic that we cover in Operation Frontline classes. Two of the chefs went over budget so after reading the story, I started thinking about how I would go about it, and most importantly stay within budget. I figured that with my OFL experience and limited budget myself as an AmeriCorps, this was right up my alley.

Last week I got my box of fresh, beautiful produce through Fresh Food Share, which is a community-based food distribution program run jointly through the Green Ribbon Collaborative (made up of Gleaners Community Food Bank of Southeast Michigan, Greening of Detroit and Eastern Market). For $17 this month's box contained oranges, apples, grapes, romaine lettuce, garlic, carrots, celery, potatoes, eggplant, broccollini, tomatoes and the most gorgeous peppers I've ever seen. Armed with enough produce to get through the week (and I'm sure far beyond that), I already had a good foundation for my meals. In our classes we like to tell our participants to take stock of what they have and build from there so you're not buying superfluous goods, especially with produce, which goes bad really fast. Other than berries, bananas, peppers and cilantro, I pretty much stuck to the veggies that were in my box (I got the $10 box, which still had more than enough produce for the week).

The budget buster is almost always the protein, which made up a huge portion of the chefs' budgets in the article. I usually buy meat from Honey Bee Market in southwest Detroit because they have such great deals, including chicken legs for 49 cents a pound and tilapia for only $2.99 a pound (compare that with $9.99 sometimes at Whole Foods!!). I picked up beef for stir fry so I could use up some of those mouthwatering veggies in my produce box and tacos for meat. Honey Bee also has very cheap produce and I almost always pick up peppers, cilantro and avocadoes there on my way home from work.

For staples, I pop in to Kroger near my apartment. You really can't go wrong with the 10 for $10 deals plus they have good meat sales. You can get a whole chicken for less than $1 per pound and that chicken goes a long way in feeding you for the week. I also got a big bag of rice here for $2.69 but I like to buy my rice at Asian markets--you definitely get a lot more bang for your buck. Same goes for seasonings such as soy sauce and sesame oil. You can get a much bigger bottle of these things than the smaller container found in the international aisles at the supermarket.

Finally one last tip for shopping on a budget is to shop in season. Strawberries are one of my favorite fruits but they're pricey most of the time--except for now. I saw strawberries for $1 at Meijer this week while shopping for a class; at Kroger they are on sale for 2 for $3.

Check out my menus and shopping list here and here. I ended up with nearly $6 to spare but I had some of the items on hand such as soy sauce and sesame oil.

What about you? Share your own menus and shopping list in the comments below!

We love our volunteers!

jhartrick

 We've said it many times and we'll say it again: without the great volunteer chefs and nutritionists who generously donate their time to OFL Detroit, we would get nothing done! In 2009, we had a total of 41 classes. We currently have 42 classes on the books for 2010, 41 of which are before the end of May! So that means lots of volunteer hours logged. To show our hardworking volunteers some love, we threw a Volunteer Appreciation Party at the Crofoot Feb. 24. Check out some snaps from the soiree.

 

Special thanks to Chef Michael Geiger from Eastern Market who did an awesome demo on Vietnamese fresh rolls. Even our seasoned (ba-dump-bump, I slay me with my puns) chefs picked up a few new tricks and tips. Here's Michael's recipe for Vietnamese fresh rolls and dipping sauce (sorry, no pics of the rolls because we ate them all and went back for seconds).

Vietnamese Summer Rolls and Dipping Sauce

Recipe by Michael Geiger, Eastern Market

  • 6 oz rice vermicelli or rice sticks
  • 10 oz boneless skinless chicken breast
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and julienne
  • 2 cups of shredded romaine lettuce
  • 1 english cucumber, peeled, seeded and julienne
  • 1/3 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • cup of fresh mint leaves
  • cup of fresh Thai basil
  • 10 rice paper wrappers ( 8 1/2 inch round)
  • cup of roasted peanuts, chopped

Procedure: 1. Cook the vermicelli in a large pot of boiling water until just tender, 1-2 minutes. Drain the noodles, rinse with cold water, and drain again. Set aside.

2. Fill a large pot of water and bring to a boil. Add chicken breast, reduce to a low simmer, and cook until opaque in center (instant-read thermometer should read 165°F when inserted into thickest part of breast). Transfer the chicken to a bowl and allow to cool. Once cool, shred chicken with hands.

3. To assemble rolls, add warm water to a large shallow bowl or pie plate. Moisten 1 wrapper in the water and place it on a clean cutting board. Place about 1/2 cup of the noodle mixture, approximately 1 oz of shredded chicken breast, some julienne carrots, julienne cucumbers, and a few cilantro leaves, mint leaves, and Thai basil in the center (add a few chopped peanuts at this point if desired.). Fold in each end of the wrapper and roll to completely enclose the filling. Repeat to make 10 rolls.

4. Slice in half and serve with dipping sauce.

Dipping sauce

1/4 cup Vietnamese fish sauce (nuoc mam) 1/3 cup sugar 3 T sugar 3 T rice vinegar 2 T water 1 large garlic clove minced 2 tsp chili sauce

Nutrition Quiz

jhartrick

The Detroit Free Press published a great Nutrition Quiz this week about that hard-to-pronounce grain - quinoa. We at Operation Frontline are infatuated with the little pseudocereal, often pairing it with the Ratatouille recipe in our classes.

So why is quinoa so great? According to quinoa.net (is there really a quinoa.net?),

1. It’s a VEGETARIAN solution, a balanced-amino-acid source of high quality protein.

2. It’s a SENIOR solution, a high-iron food that raises the hematocrit, delivers more oxygen to the brain, fights senility.

3. It’s a DIABETIC solution, a very low-glycemic-index cereal type food.

4. It’s a TASTE SOLUTION, quite delicious.

The president of the Quinoa Corporation, named Gorad, raves about the properties of the food, saying,

"Quinoa's most pragmatic quality," observed Gorad, "is that it's a basic food with strong earth energy. People who try it categorically respond, 'This tastes good!"

If you've never tried quinoa, this website has some great recipes. The Closet Cooking blog also has some delicious quiona recipes.

Now to test your knowledge -

1. First, some history: Where is the grain grown, and which ancient civilization first harvested it?

a) The Mayans in Mexico

b) The Incas in the Bolivian Andes

c) The Sudanese in the Sahara

2. How do you pronounce quinoa?

a) "Kwin-oh-ah"

b) "Co-in-ah"

c) "Keen-wa"

3. How much more of the daily value of protein does quinoa contain than whole wheat and rice, respectively?

a) 4.2% and 8.7%

b) 9.6% and 12.3%

c) 19.0% and 22.4%

4. Quinoa is significantly higher than whole wheat in lysine, an amino acid. Among other uses, the nutrient-absorbing lysine has been used for which condition?

a) Warts

b) Psoriasis

c) Herpes

For the answers, click here.

Recipe Developed by OFL: Detroit Volunteer Appears in The Dallas Morning News

jhartrick

This past week, The Dallas Morning News showcased a recipe in their article "Barley Jambalaya an inexpensive, Creole-flavored way to feed a group" that is nutritious and easy to make. The recipe, developed by our own Chef Sarah McKay (long-time volunteer for Operation Frontline: Detroit) replaces sausage and white rice for turkey ham and barley, kicking up the fiber content and reducing the fat content. This recipe is a favorite amongst OFL participants and appears in almost all of our classes. Congratulations, Sarah!                                                                                                                           Barley Jambalaya

Barley Jambalaya
Serves 6
 

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup pearl barley
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 whole bay leaves
  • 2 medium celery stalks
  • 1 medium green bell pepper
  • 3 medium onions
  • 2 medium cloves garlic
  • 4 ounces turkey ham
  • 1 tbsp. canola oil
  • 2 (14.5 oz) cans diced tomatoes, no salt added
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. ground black pepper
  1. Place barley in a colander and rinse under cold water. Bring water, bay leaves, and barley to a boil in medium saucepan over high heat.
  2. Reduce heat to low, cover saucepan and cook barley until tender and water is absorbed, about 45 minutes. Place barley in a colander, draining any excess water, and set aside.
  3. Rinse celery and green pepper. Peel onions and garlic and rinse onions.
  4. Dice onions, celery, and green pepper and mince garlic.
  5. Dice turkey ham into 1/4-inch pieces.
  6. Add oil to large soup pot and heat over medium-high heat.
  7. Add meat, onions, celery, peppers, and garlic to the soup pot. Mix well.
  8. Saute 5-10 minutes, scraping bottom of pan periodically.
  9. Add tomatoes. Turn heat to high and bring to boil.
  10. Add the 4 spices and stir to combine.
  11. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 15 minutes.
  12. Add cooked barley to the meat and vegetable mixture, stir to combine. Add more liquid if necessary.
  13. Cook over low heat for an additional 5-10 minutes to blend flavors together.
  14. Remove bay leaves before serving.

PER SERVING: Calories 363 (16% fat) Fat 7 g (1 g sat) Chol 20 mg

Sodium 1,466 mg Fiber 13 g Carbohydrates 64 g Protein 16 g

Tips:

  • If you only have a limited time to make this recipe, you can use Quick Barley instead of pearl barley. Just add the Quick Barley to the pot after adding the canned tomatoes, using the recommended amount of water on the box (taking into account that there is liquid from the canned tomatoes). You can either finish the jambalaya on the stovetop or put it all into a pan to be baked in the oven for 20 minutes.
  • Try ham, chicken, turkey sausage, or shrimp instead of the turkey ham.
  • This recipe does well in the freezer if you have leftovers.

Recipe: Stuffed Acorn Squash

jhartrick

This recipe was developed by OFL Chef BJ Williams, who has facilitated three classes, including two Eating Right classes and an Eating Well class. BJ, who specializes in vegan, vegetarian, and living or “raw” food, owns his own catering company called H20 Essence of Life. Through his company, he offers workshops, cooking classes, and retreats for those interested in learning more about a healthier lifestyle. When asked why he began volunteering with OFL, BJ said, “I wanted to learn how to become a better teacher.” After three months of teaching classes, BJ says that he has improved, learning that engaging people and making them involved makes for a better experience. If you are interested in learning more about BJ’s catering company, contact him through email at h2oessenceoflife@yahoo.com.

 

Rice-Stuffed Acorn Squash. Photo Credit: Taste of Home

 
Stuffed Acorn Squash
Serves 2

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 average acorn squash
  • 1 tsp of cinnamon
  • 1 tsp of nutmeg
  • 2 1/2 Tbs of olive oil

  For Stuffing:

  • 2 cups of cooked short grain brown rice (cooked according to rice package instructions)
  • 1 celery stalk diced finely
  • 1 cup of raisins (golden raisins are best)
  • 1 large Golden Delicious apple diced finely
  • ½ medium red or yellow onion diced finely
  • 1 teaspoon of maple syrup or to your taste
  • Salt and pepper to your taste (optional), or Braggs Amino Acids to your taste
  1. Heat oven to 350 degree f.
  2. Take acorn squash, wash it off with soapy water and dry.
  3. Cut in half and take out the seeds and set aside.
  4. Mix together: 1 tsp of cinnamon *, 1 tsp of nutmeg *, and 2 ½ Tbs of olive oil
  5. Mix ingredients together and rub into each half of the squash. 
  6. On a non-stick pan or glass dish, place squash face-down and bake in the oven for 30 – 35 minutes or until you can pierce the squash membrane with a fork.
  7. Remove squash from oven and set aside.
  8. Stuffing is prepared by mixing rice, raisins, vegetables, maple syrup and seasonings together until well mixed.  Mixture is then placed in the squash and is ready for serving.
  9. Optional:  Place stuffed squash back into the oven and cover for about 15 minutes for flavors to savor more.
  10. Serve by cutting in quarters and enjoy!

 

* Narrative of spice nutritional properties:

Cinnamon is said to be a strong stimulant for the glandular system and helpful with stomach upsets, colds and sore throat.

Nutmeg grated is excellent in custards, cakes, biscuits and pumpkin pie.

Cooking in Schools

jhartrick

As noted in our post, "Battling Childhood Hunger," the ability to serve good, healthy meals in schools is compromised by the amount of federal funding provided. When you're on a $2.70-per-child budget, what is the incentive of providing fresh food?

The New York Times published an article on Tuesday that talks about schools' inability to cook healthy meals with the equipment they have. Here is an excerpt:

Many advocates for better, healthier school food have begun to believe that the only way to improve what students eat is to stop reheating processed food and start cooking real, fresh food.

But little actual cooking goes on in the nation’s largest public school system, largely because little of it can. Barely half of New York’s 1,385 school kitchens have enough cooking and fire-suppression equipment so cooks can actually sauté, brown or boil over open flame.

Even in those that do, aging ovens sometimes don’t heat properly, equipment is hidden away in storage rooms or broken, and the staff isn’t trained to do much more than steam frozen vegetables, dig ravioli out of a six-pound can or heat frozen chicken patties in a convection oven.

New York is not that unusual. More than 80 percent of the nation’s districts cook fewer than half their entrees from scratch, according to a 2009 survey by the School Nutrition Association.

The slide didn’t happen overnight. As many American families stopped cooking and began to rely on prepared and packaged food, so did the schools. It became cheaper to cut skilled kitchen labor, eliminate raw ingredients and stop maintaining kitchens.

“In school food 30 or 40 years ago, they roasted turkeys and did all of these things,” said Eric Goldstein, the chief executive of the Office of School Support Services.

“We all recognize we want to be scratch cooking again, but we have some challenges to get there.”

You can read the rest of the story here

When we see what kinds of foods students are allowed to eat in school, it's no wonder that we have an obesity problem amongst children and adolescents. More to be said on that in future posts.