Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Guest Post: Musings of a Healthy Cooking Teacher

Stacey is a Registered Dietitian at a large Midwestern university. She teaches healthy cooking classes and is a working mom of four kids ages 10 and under.

Why did I start teaching healthy cooking classes? Simply put, there are too many people who don’t know how to read a recipe or use common kitchen appliances. (Microwaves don’t count.)

It’s becoming generational. I found that when I did demonstrational classes, people loved tasting the food, but never actually thought about making it at home. I call it the “Food Network Halo Effect,” in which viewers watch the network, but never end up cooking anything on screen. However, once they landed in a kitchen, participating in the process made them less afraid to make mistakes, and those small victories gave them confidence to start trying things on their own. As I tell my classes, “It’s only food, not rocket science.”

I had one college freshman approach me during a class, embarrassed he didn’t quite understand recipes. The five minutes we spent learning have unlocked a world of healthier eating and for him, not to mention several ways to save money.

Time and time again, when folks get together and cook, really cool things happen: community development, team building, the melding of cultures and camaraderie. Often they walk in with uncertainties, but walk out laughing, encouraging each other to try recipes. Either way, as an educator, I see behavioral changes happen faster than if they participated in any lecture or demo.

I personally believe food is meant to be enjoyed. It’s a part of our culture, our traditions, our memories. But I also realize that for health’s sake, we need balance, so we can simultaneously enjoy food and nourish our bodies. This is important whether you’re trying to maintain your weight, prevent medical issues, or if you are smack dab in the middle of a health crisis. I try to teach the concept of balance to my own children, as well. If they enjoy a double cheeseburger at lunch, you better believe they’re going to have more health-filled options for supper.

Enough of the sermon, and let’s get to a recipe! Here’s one of my favorites from the Frugal Healthy Foods class I teach. The secret ingredient is surprising and gets folks talking every time. Try it, and I betchyoo like it, too. Better yet, tinker around with the ingredients (I give some options below) and make it your own.


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Sloppy Jacks
Serves 4-6
NOTE: Creative commons photo is from Flickr's Word Ridden, and gives a pretty good idea of what the end product will look like.

1 pound ground turkey (or equivalent Soy Crumbles)
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 cup ketchup
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 15-ounce can plain pumpkin (not pie filling)
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
Pinch black pepper
Whole wheat buns

In a large nonstick skillet, cook meat and onion over medium heat until meat is no longer pink. Drain and return to pan. Add ketchup, water, chili powder, pepper and vinegar and mix well. Stir in pumpkin, cover,  reduce heat to low, and simmer 10 minutes.

Options: Add brown sugar if you like it sweeter, hot sauce if you like it spicier, and chopped green pepper if you want a one-pot meal; you can also serve over baked potatoes.

NOTE: The pumpkin is a power-packed nutrition addition to this recipe as well. It is super high in vitamin A!

Approximate Calories, Fat, Fiber, Protein, and Price Per Serving
NOTE: Calculations do NOT include buns, since they numbers can vary wildly depending on brand.
Four servings: 236 calories, 8.5 g fat, 3.6 g fiber, 23.4 g protein, $1.24
Six servings: 157 calories, 5.6 g fat, 2.4 g fiber, 15.6 g protein, $0.82

1 pound (93/7) ground turkey: 640 calories, 32 g fat, 0 g fiber, 88 g protein, $2.80
1 small onion, chopped: 29 calories, 0.1 g fat, 1 g fiber, 0.6 g protein, $0.15
1/2 cup ketchup: 120 calories, 0 g fat, 0 g fiber, 0 g protein,
1/4 cup water: negligible calories, fat, fiber, and protein, $0.00
1 teaspoon chili powder: 9 calories, 0.4 g fat, 0.9 g fiber, 0.3 g protein, $0.05
1 15-ounce can plain pumpkin (not pie filling): 145 calories, 1.3 g fat, 12.3 g fiber, 4.7 g protein,
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar: negligible calories, fat, fiber, and protein, $0.02
Pinch black pepper: negligible calories, fat, fiber, and protein, $0.01
TOTALS: 943 calories, 33.8 g fat, 14.2 g fiber, 93.6 g protein, $4.94
PER SERVING (TOTAL/4): 236 calories, 8.5 g fat, 3.6 g fiber, 23.4 g protein, $1.24
PER SERVING (TOTAL/6): 157 calories, 5.6 g fat, 2.4 g fiber, 15.6 g protein, $0.82

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