One thing about my job, is that it is always something new. I have worked in tobaco prevention and education for most of my time with the health department and continue to do a component of that with half my time, but I have also started to branch off into the “healthy eating, active living” (HEAL) side of things which is basically community obesity prevention and interventions. Both obesity and tobacco use cause the majority of preventable deaths and disease -cancers, heart diseases, strokes, diabetes, etc. So it is definitely important work.
Even before this new assignment at work, I’ve always been interested in nutrition and good food. But I’ve never been much for the cooking side of things. Eventhough I know that people who cook more at home tend to be healthier than those who eat out, I still just never got that into cooking.I love to eat good, whole, homemade, delicious and nutritious food, but always thought of cooking as a pain and only something Britton and I had time to do on the weekends. The work week usually meant (and sometimes still means) a quick throw-together of pasta or rice, frozen vegetables and fish or chicken.
It is still hard to fit in time to cook, but ever since I have been coordinating and collaborating to help facilitate a program called “Cooking Matters” in Milliken I’ve been intrigued with trying a few new things. In Cooking Matters we have a nutrition professor from CSU (Fort Collins) as well as another health educator helping to teach the course which is primarily geared at the underserved populations.
Everyone always has their usual bag of tricks when it comes to preparing food (like our evening throw-togethers), so a healthy cooking class helps to open your eyes to the wonders of all sorts of foods.
In fact, I think I’ve found my new favorite spice: cumin! I’ve never even paid much attention to it until in the class we made hummus -which is just basically pureed garbanzo beans, garlic, salt and cumin -so easy! And the cumin makes all the difference! It is also what makes Mexican food so delicious. Not only that, but this spice, like many spices boasts health benefits as well such as being a good source of iron, helping with digestion, and even cancer prevention!
Anyhow, we had a bout of cold, rainy weather this week and weekend, so for fun, we stayed in and cooked up a bunch of food. Some of these included:
Hummus with pita chips
Pearl Barley and vegetable chicken soup
Enchilada lasagna -slice up whole grain tortillas into strips about the size of lasagna noodles -do not cook! In a cooking pan sautee chicken, add enchilada sauce, can of tomatoes, lots of spices like cumin and oregano, sliced bell peppers (and jalapenos if you like it hot), black olives, etc. Put this mixture on top of the strips of tortillas in a large dish (13×9) and layer as you would lasagna. Add shredded cheese and bake in the oven for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Uncover for another ten if you like the cheese browned. Let sit for a bit. Add fat free greek yogurt or sour cream if desired on top.
Apple Crisp -Made with about 5 fresh apples with the skin still on sliced to about an 1/8 inch. Pumpkin pie spices (ginger, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon), brown sugar and a tiny bit of flour. For the topping (the crisp): A little butter, brown sugar, quick oats, flour and more spices mixed together and put on top. Then bake in the 350 degree oven for about 30-45 minutes.
Betty Crocker’s Homemade Carrot Cake -Made with 3 cups or about 8 freshly grated carrots and applesauce in a 1 to 1 complete exchange of the oil and decreased the sugar from 2 cups to 1 1/2 cups. Also added nutmeg, ginger, and cloves in addition to the cinnamon that was called for. Added chopped walnuts. And made the cream cheese frosting Betty Crocker called for (but made with lower fat neufchatel cheese). This was SOO good. And not too terrible nutrition wise!
Then last night we cooked up traditional lasagana only we used ground turkey in place of beef and added a lot of vegetables.
Cooking is still a pain with all the prep work of chopping and dicing, recipe reading and substituting and of course the cleaning up afterward, but the results are sooo delicious and so much better than any pre-processed options out there.
So while I started out as the reluctant coordinator of this cooking class, I am definitely turning into a convert! Plus I’ve been able to meet all sorts of nice people in the class as well. I would suggest to anyone who has “food issues” -like being overweight, picky, or a fast-food fiend that the best help is a cooking class! Very practical and fun! You control what is in your food and therefore what goes into your body. It is a freeing feeling. Cooking matters! It really does!