Healthy Cooking Demonstration

Last week, I had the opportunity to observe a healthy cooking demonstration by Chef Chris Hall.  Chris Hall went to culinary school, worked in several high-end restaurants, and has been a personal chef for clients in the Washington D.C. area.  More recently he has created his own business called MyKitchen.  He has built a licensed commercial kitchen in his home in Morgantown, where he provides cooking lessons and demonstrations.  There are several different types of cooking classes such as Southern Italian, Indian Cuisine, Kids in the Kitchen, Sushi, and a multitude of others.  The class I was able to observe was a 3-hour healthy cooking lesson called “Light, Fast, and Delicious”.  In a class of around 8-10 students, Chef Chris began the lesson by introducing himself and speaking a little bit about his background.  He then began explaining the fundamentals of the kitchen, where to find different types of equipment, and safety procedures.  He then allowed students to pair up and choose one of the eight recipes he had provided.  The recipes were all low-fat, healthy, and quick to prepare.  These recipes included pork Diane, chicken marsala, chicken noodle soup, fruit smoothies, a fish dish, green chile chicken, jumbalaya, and a few others.  I tasted all of the dishes and they were absolutely delicious…definitely not what you would expect from a “low-fat” meal.  Chef Chris was extremely helpful and truly loves teaching others how to cook.  Even if you have never set foot in the kitchen before, he does not mind teaching the basics.  I really liked the atmosphere of MyKitchen.  It felt like I was at my parents or grandparents house learning how to cook a recipe that had been handed down for generations.  And because it was such a small class, everyone got to know each other and got to taste everyone elses healthy creations.

I thought the healthy cooking demonstration was a great learning experience and it inspired me to want to cook more.  I also think that healthy cooking demonstrations should be utilized more in the community nutrition setting.  As a dietitian, we always tell people what to eat…but not how to prepare it.  I think there are major opportunities for educating the public on healthy cooking, just like MyKitchen has been doing.

Chef Chris Hall demonstrating cooking techniques.

The “Light, Fast, and Delicious” class preparing healthy meals in the commercial kitchen.

Check out MyKitchen’s TV commercial at


Tomato & Zucchini Pasta Recipe

Being a grad student can make it really difficult to cook healthy meals on a time crunch. Here is one of my favorite recipes that I made up and tend to throw together on a weekly basis.  Since I love, love, love pasta…this is my healthy “go-to” when I don’t have alot of time.

One of the main reasons I love this dish is because it’s nutrient-packed with load of health benefits. Here are just a few of the benefits from the ingredients…

  • Barilla PLUS pasta – 1 box has the equivalence of the fiber in 35 leaves of swiss chard, the protein in 11 eggs, and the ALA omega-3 in 6 oz of walnuts.
  • Olive Oil – Olive oil is contains a type of healthy fat called monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA). MUFA’s have been shown to lower your total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels, normalize blood clotting, and may also benefit insulin levels and blood sugar control.
  • Tomatoes – Tomatoes are excellent sources of potassium, Vit A, Vit C, Vit E, folic acid, and lycopene.  Lycopene is a carotenoid that has been found to reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer, and macular degeneration.
  • Zucchini – Zucchini is low in calories and high in fiber, making you feel fuller faster and aiding in digestion.  Zucchini is also high in the anti-oxidants, beta-carotene and Vit. C.
  • Chicken – Although some vegetarians may argue it’s health benefits, chicken is a good source of protein and niacin.  Niacin has been shown to have anti-cancer and anti-Alzheimer effects.
  • Garlic – Garlic may reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering blood pressure, total cholesterol, and LDL cholesterol levels. Garlic may also be anti-microbial due to a substance called allicin, a sulphur compound produced when garlic is crushed or chopped. Vit C and selenium in garlic may also decrease the risk of cancers.


  • 2 small chicken breasts
  • 1 serving Barilla PLUS farfalle pasta, cooked according to box instructions
  • 4-5 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • ~1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 zucchini
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Onion powder, basil, thyme, oregano, salt, pepper (to taste)
  • grated parmesan cheese (optional)


  1. Begin by placing the chicken in a greased pan over medium-high heat.  Cut chicken into bite-size cubes (appr. 1/2 inch).  Sprinkle onion powder, salt, and pepper.
  2. While the chicken is cooking, add olive oil in a small sauce pan and put over low heat.  Chop zucchini into bite-size pieces (appr 1/2 inch strips) and add to olive oil. Add minced garlic and onion powder, basil, thyme, oregano, salt, pepper (to taste).  Cook zucchini until tender.
  3. Cut grape tomatoes vertically into halves. When zucchini is halfway done cooking, add the tomatoes to the sauce pan.

      4.  Add olive oil, zucchini, and tomatoes to cooked pasta. Sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese, if desired.

      5.  Bon Appetit!


Choosing Healthy Recipes for Community Nutrition Programs

Today Emily Todhunter and I continued to work on the community nutrition program at The Shack, which would be funded by a possible grant from Build A Bear.  The theme of the program is “Shop Smart, Cook Healthy, Eat Right”.  The “Cook Healthy” portion is going to consist of  cooking demonstration where children and parents can take part in cooking a healthy meal.  The recipes we chose for the cooking demo are chili con carne and baked potatoes for the adults and granola bars for the kids.  The theories behind choosing these dishes is that they are nutritious, easy to make, inexpensive, and last for a long time.  The program would include ingredients that were discussed during the first lesson, “Shop Smart”, which would be a grocery store tour.

We also worked on a targeted community nutrition activity for 3rd and 4th graders to be taught next week to around 20 children from The Shack.  This 90-minute lesson would be on “Healthy Snacking”.  During the lesson students will learn to make homemade salsa, whole-wheat chips, and fruit and cheese skewers.  The students will also play an “identify that fruit or vegetable game” in two teams. Kids will put their hands in the box/bag, try to figure out what fruit or vegetable is in there, and then run back to their team, where they will tell their team what they found, and write what they found (but doesn’t tell the other team!).  The team that figures out all the items correctly first, wins a prize.  The nutrition lesson will focus on balancing your snacks based on the MyPlate recommendations and how to choose a healthy snack.

Below are the recipes for the granola bars, chili con carne, and the salsa and tortilla chips.

Homemade Granola Bar Recipe

Ingredients for the granola bars. I can’t wait to try this recipe!


  • 1/2 c. honey or corn syrup (or a combination of both)
  • 1/2 c. brown sugar
  • 1/2 c. peanut butter
  • 2 c. quick oats
  • 2 c. Rice Krispy cereal
  • 1/4 c. ground flax seed
  • 1 or 2 T. wheat germ (optional)
  • 1 c. total of your favorite mix-ins (chocolate chips, dried fruit, nuts, seeds, etc)


  • In a small sauce pan, mix honey (or corn syrup) and brown sugar.
  • Cook over medium-high heat until sugar is completely dissolved – stirring constantly.
  • Remove from heat and quickly stir in peanut butter.
  • Mix the oats, cereal, flax seed, and optional wheat germ in a large bowl.
  • Pour honey mixture over dry ingredients — mix well.
  • Stir in chocolate chips, nuts, fruit, and any other “mix-ins”
  • Press mixture into a 9″ x 13″ pan that has been greased or lined with wax paper. {I find it works best when I put another piece of wax paper on top of the bars and press down with a measuring cup.}
  • Let cool and “firm up”
  • Cut into bars and store in an air-tight container. I cut mine into 24 bars that were about 1″ x 4″ {8 rows by 3 rows}. I used a pastry cutter/scraper because it cuts really straight lines — but a long knife would work just fine too.
  • And since I used chocolate chips, I figured it would be best to store our granola bars in the refrigerator so they don’t melt.


Chili Con Carne Recipe

Pictured: Chili Con Carne. To be served with baked potatoes. Healthy toppings for baked potatoes include: salsa, reduced-fat sour cream, greek yogurt, green onions, reduced-fat shredded cheddar cheese, broccoli, sauteed mushrooms, red pepper flakes, chives…or just pour the chili on top!

Yield: 3 gal, Serving size: 1 cup

  • 10 lb Ground beef
  • 8 oz onions, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
    • Cook beef, onions, and garlic in a large pot until meat loses pink color
  • 2.5 qt diced tomatoes, canned
  • 2 qt tomato puree
  • 1 qt water
  • 3 oz chile powder
  • 1.5 Tbsp cumin, ground
  • 1 oz (1.5 Tbsp) salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 2 oz sugar, granulated
    • Mix tomato products, water, and seasonings. Add to beef. Cook until blended.
  • 9.5 lbs beans, pinto, kidney, or red, canned
    • Add beans to meat mixture. Cover and simmer for 1 hour. Add water if chili becomes too thick.

Source:  Food for Fifty (12th Edition) by Mary Molt

Tomato Salsa Recipe

Homemade tomato salsa with whole wheat tortilla chips is a healthy snack for children of all ages!

Makes 11 servings

  • 3 large tomatoes, seeded and chopped (3 cups)
  • 1 small green bell pepper, chopped (1/2 cup)
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 8 medium green onions, sliced (1/2 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped jalapeno chili
  • 2-3 tablespoons lime juice
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Mix ingredients in a bowl.

Cover and refrigerate until serving.

Tomato   Salsa Nutrition Facts 1   serving = ¼ cup
Calories 20
Total Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 0 mg
Sodium 125 mg
Total Carbohydrate 4 g
Dietary Fiber 1 g
Protein 1 g
Vitamin A 10% DV
Vitamin C 34% DV
Iron 2% DV


Whole Wheat Tortilla Chips Recipe

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Cut whole wheat tortillas into wedges or strips.
  • Spray both sides of tortilla pieces with cooking spray.
  • Spread the pieces out on a single layer on a baking sheet.
  • Season with spices—pepper, ranch dressing mix, chili powder, garlic powder, etc!
  • Bake until golden brown & crisp, about 12-15 minutes.