Greening My Plate
Posted: December 13, 2011
Attending a PA Nutrition Education Network foods workshop by Amanda Archibald, a Registered Dietitian from Maryland, was a busy, aromatic, noisy and social affair. Her focus is on getting down to the basics of food – making it delicious to eat and full of nutrients. She has little respect for recipes, other than using one as a basis for numerous variations, depending on food availability and the cook’s whim. Our recent workshop began with a discussion of anthropological and cultural aspects of food. Then we used her “nutrition roadmaps” to guide our discussion. These roadmaps take you from health properties to food ingredients, so antioxidants would lead you to the types of ingredients to add to a dish to kick up the antioxidant content.
Class participants were divided into groups to work on grain dishes, bean dishes, salads and dressings, and cooked greens. The flavoring table was rich with fresh washed herbs in glasses of water, bulbous garlic and tuberous ginger, all varieties of onion, flavored vinegars, cultured soy products, various oils, cheeses, fresh peppers and spices. Our first challenge was to go shopping and buy the most cost conscious items in our category. For example, my group needed 3 bunches of greens, so we choose two bunches of collards and one bunch of kale, based on price and quality. We had two or three other ingredients to purchase for the 5 different types of cooked greens we would prepare. We began our food preparation with 5 basic recipes, but we were told to adjust and adapt the recipes using the flavorful ingredients available to us. We set aside a small part of the washed and stripped greens for a raw greens dish (rubbed with oil and lemon juice), and then pre-cooked the remainder of the greens and stems. These greens were then used in 4 recipes, adding marinades made from the flavor table and even adding the cooked greens to a mush made from boiled corn meal, with a bit of cheese and, of course, some flavoring agents for the final recipe. Yes, I agree the idea of the last dish may not sound that great, but I made it again for myself today, and enjoyed every bit of it. It was an easy recipe that helped me consume more dark green vegetables, rich in antioxidants, vitamin A and healthy plant phytochemicals. I am feeling a bit sheepish that I made a face while I was preparing it during the workshop - it turned out to be one of the most popular of the 16 dishes we prepared!
What I gained from the workshop is the idea that if we keep healthy ingredients in the house, and we have some idea of how to use them, we can vary the preparation method to suit our taste and come up with easy and healthy meals. For me, the chance to work with greens other than salad greens was a fine learning experience – now I will finish that bag of frozen kale in the freezer using a variety of preparation methods! And the next time I see a way of preparing greens that looks interesting, I will substitute the most economical type of greens, or a blend of greens, knowing it will turn out just fine! After all, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans state “Eat a variety of vegetables, especially dark green, red and orange, and beans and peas”.
1. Report of the DGAC on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010; D5-42
Rayna Cooper is a Registered Dietitian and Family & Consumer Sciences/Nutrition Educator serving Penn State Extension in Adams County. Penn State is committed to affirmative action, equal opportunity, and the diversity of its workforce. Penn State Extension in Adams County is located at 670 Old Harrisburg Road, Suite 204, Gettysburg, PA 17325, phone 334-6271, email firstname.lastname@example.org.