November 23, 2010

Yum! Bread for the City's Cooking Class, Thanksgiving Style!

Thanksgiving: when families come together, gather around the table, and eat a whole lot. It’s a time for thinking about our family and our blessings – and right alongside those things, we should also be thinking about our health.

Last week, our nutrition consultant, Sharon Gruber, hosted a special Thanksgiving cooking class for clients and staff. Sharon asked the group to list their favorite Thanksgiving foods. The list was long, including: turkey wings, sweet potatoes, macaroni and cheese, ham, pie, collard greens, mashed potatoes, corn pudding, cranberry sauce and Buffalo wings. At one point, a long-time cooking class participant, Val Ford, suggested “salad.” The room erupted with some astonishment, but Val held her ground and insisted that salad does have a rightful place at the Thanksgiving table.

Sharon then asked the class to identify those food items that are starches. There was some confusion as to what constitutes a starch, and Sharon explained that starch is a food that breaks down into sugar into our bodies. This includes foods like rice, pasta, and potatoes. Sharon explained that though not all starches are bad, but too much can be detrimental to your health. Starchy foods on our Thanksgiving list included be stuffing, Macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, etc.

Sharon advised that, like dinner on any other night, we can find balance on Thanksgiving by adding vegetables into starchy items. Dishes like stuffing can accommodate a lot of vegetables -- like celery, onions, bell peppers and even apples. Like stuffing, potato salad can be made healthier by adding ingredients like parsley, onion, celery, and olive oil and vinegar (instead of using mayonnaise).

Even with desserts, Sharon talked with the group about how sweets like pie can be prepared in a healthier way. Instead of more bread and more starch on the top of the pie, putting nuts or oats can be less starchy.

The class then put what they learned into practice, cooking mashed potatoes and green beans and baking an apple crisp. The mashed potatoes were made with cauliflower mashed together because the vegetable would make it less starchy and it gives it a creamier base. While making the mashed potato with cauliflower, people wondered whether the dish needed butter--but that would add cholesterol to the meal, and the cauliflower replaces the need for butter to give it a creamier base.

Dorothy Corry voiced her opinion, “My main problem is that I try to not use butter for flavor so I’ll just add salt. Is there a replacement for using salt?” Sharon suggested that instead of using salt use garlic and onions. “Think green herbs, the more spice and herbs mean less salt.”

The apple crisp, which was made with oats, apples and cranberries, can be put into the oven just like a pie. At the end we enjoyed these traditional desserts, healthfully prepared, and still delicious. The biggest hit was the greens beans: several clients said that they’d never had vegetables that tasted that good.

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