Pictorial: Cooking at the Saturday Morning Market

Pictorial: Cooking at the Saturday Morning Market

It's taken more than a year to figure out what works and what doesn't as a Taste Cart volunteer and St. Petersburg Saturday Morning Market vendor. Below is a pictorial on the joys of cooking for a crowd and talking nutrition.

One of the more challenging parts of this is figuring what to make and finding out what the farmers will have. Sometimes the farmers have a bumper crop of something and I develop a recipe to move that product. Other times I want to try something new. That was the case with today, October 28, 2017. I wanted to try a Toasted Sesame Ginger Vinaigrette. I had all the ingredients in my pantry so it was pretty easy.

 All the ingredients I needed were already in my pantry

All the ingredients I needed were already in my pantry

The recipe for this dressing is a the end of this pictorial.

When I do a dressing it is usually in a mason jar or in an old jelly jar. I add all the ingredients and shake it up. These will keep in the refrigerator for months. I'm not kidding. Bacteria and mold don't like salt, vinegar and garlic and I always have some concoction in my fridge. I started by prepping the fresh ginger and adding it to the jar.

 Fresh ginger.

Fresh ginger.

Then I chopped two cloves of garlic and also added it to the jar.

 Two cloves of garlic, chopped.

Two cloves of garlic, chopped.

From then I added the oil, vinegar, soy, honey and toasted sesame oil which gives it its great flavor. This oil is also great on barley, farrow or quinoa mixed with chopped vegetables and feta cheese. Wow! What a good salad.

 Everything goes in a mason jar. Shake well.

Everything goes in a mason jar. Shake well.

When I arrive at the Market I go shopping. Today I went to Worden's Farm and bought red kale, bok choy, red leaf lettuce, mixed greens, arugula, and baby spinach. I bought some squash blossoms for color. They are completely edible. I give Worden's a receipt and they turn it in for cash. I spent $18. That's about what I normally spend.

 Buying the ingredients at Worden's.

Buying the ingredients at Worden's.

 These squash blossoms are edible and often stuffed with cheese or other ingredients. Here, they are washed and chopped and added to the greens for color.

These squash blossoms are edible and often stuffed with cheese or other ingredients. Here, they are washed and chopped and added to the greens for color.

All the greens must be washed. I use buckets of water and colanders since I don't have a sink. It works out well but next time I need to bring my salad spinner. Today I used the sun to dry the leaves.

 Washing the greens in buckets.

Washing the greens in buckets.

 Today I used the sun to dry the greens. Next time I may bring a spinner.

Today I used the sun to dry the greens. Next time I may bring a spinner.

Once the leaves are dry I plate them into paper serving dishes and provide forks. Then I dress the greens and serve. The Market makes a poster for me and prints out copies of the recipes. People love recipes and talking food and nutrition. For me that's the best part. It is always a totally fulfilling day when I cook at the Saturday Morning Market.

 Dressed greens ready for Market patrons.

Dressed greens ready for Market patrons.

 Wendy Wesley, RDN at the St. Petersburg Saturday Morning Market.

Wendy Wesley, RDN at the St. Petersburg Saturday Morning Market.

Toasted Sesame and Ginger Vinaigrette
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar
2 tbs honey
2 tbs soy sauce
2-4 tbs fresh ginger chopped
2 cloves garlic chopped
3 tbs toasted sesame oil (You should get some of this stuff today!)
Put all ingredients in a mason jar or old jelly jar and shake. Will keep in fridge for months.

Meet Charles*: The Face of the St. Petersburg Food Desert

Meet Charles*: The Face of the St. Petersburg Food Desert

Residents of Midtown struggle without a grocery store. This is the story of one man whose health severely declined after the closing of the area's only store.


As I read the consultation from the doctor my heart sank.

The patient was a middle-aged man who had a past medical history of type II diabetes, congestive heart failure and chronic kidney disease at the fourth stage which is pre-dialysis. The ordering physician, a kidney specialist, wanted the patient to be more compliant with his diet. The patient’s three diseases, without a proper diet and medications, are fatal.

I am a registered dietitian at a St. Petersburg acute care hospital and I love educating patients. Providing diabetes education to a patient at the bedside is a tall order. CHF education, with its strict sodium limitations, is too. Add renal restrictions of potassium, phosphorus and protein and the task is nearly impossible. This diet education was for all three diseases and the patient, who had been discharged, was eager to return home.

I met Charles dressed in his street clothes with his shoes on sitting on the edge of his hospital bed. He was hospitalized five days prior for shortness of breath and pleural effusion which were brought on by his congestive heart failure. Ready to get out of the hospital but not wanting to return, Charles asked his doctor to speak with a dietitian about what not to eat. He knew intuitively that his diet had contributed to his failing health.

To the best of my ability, I taught Charles to count carbohydrates for his diabetes, limit sodium for his heart failure and limit proteins and minerals that are hard on the kidneys. I then began to question him on his living arrangements and access to a kitchen.

Charles told me he lived in a rooming house in the Midtown section of south St. Petersburg, Florida. With one refrigerator that was common to all residents, Charles said he couldn’t trust his roommates to not steal food items he put in the refrigerator but could lock foods away in his room. He had access to a full kitchen with a stove and microwave oven. With this information we began to run down the list of shelf-stable items he could store in his room that would be within the limits of his diet. We discussed many strategies and seemed to be making some ground.  But then Charles abruptly stopped and sadly told me of the Walmart Neighborhood Market that had just closed one month prior.

“I used to walk there,” he said. “Every other day I walked there and got fresh vegetables and fruits, nuts and other stuff that I would store in my room.”

“So, how do you get groceries now?” I asked.

“I don’t,” he answered. “Since that store closed I’ve been eating junk from a gas station. Chips and crackers and stuff. And that’s when things got bad for me.”

I confirmed Charles’s suspicions that his current diet compared to his other healthier one was probably exacerbating his CHF and kidney failure. I also confirmed that managing diabetes on highly processed diet was more difficult because of added sugars and lack of fiber. He seemed despondent and hopeless and I was, too.

How could I help a patient whose only food choices were packaged, salty, processed food products? How could I help a patient who wanted to do better but just couldn’t make it happen because of a lousy food environment? How many people like Charles were impacted by the store’s closing and whose health was failing because of it? And, finally, how much was the loss of one grocery store costing the healthcare system in hospitalizations, medications and other medical expenses?

Charles and I kept working together trying to come up with a solution. He said at the first of the month he had money to take a cab to the super Walmart on 34th Street to do shopping in bulk. We discussed the canned fruits and vegetables he could buy that were safe for his kidneys. But with almost all processed foods comes salt. Prior to the store closing, Charles could keep his sodium low by eating fresh fruits and vegetables. Now, Charles had to make very serious concessions. His diabetes, was better managed, too, with access to a grocery store. Now his diet was at the mercy of low fiber, low nutrient-light processed foods.

Charles left the hospital shortly after our talk and returned to the rooming house. I see that since our encounter in March 2017 he has had two more hospitalizations each for complications relating to his diet-related illnesses.

The lack of access to fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables, beans, grains, meats and dairy presents grave health consequences to the City's poorest and sickest. Many communities across the US have improved or even resolved their food desert problems with creative partnerships with government, non-profits and local businesses. St. Petersburg languishes far behind other cities of similar size and orientation. Lack of incentive, vision or prioritization elsewhere have taken us to where we currently are.......and Charles eats orange-colored peanut butter crackers for dinner.



*Charles is not the patient’s real name.

 


 

 

 

 

Old Navy Check-Out Lanes: Why the Snacks?

Old Navy Check-Out Lanes: Why the Snacks?

Next time you are in Old Navy, Office Depot, Dick’s Sporting Goods or Home Depot ask yourself, “Why am I being encouraged to eat at a store that has nothing to do with food?”
 

Once it is pointed out to you it’s everywhere:  Snacks and sugary beverages in check-out lanes of retailers who do not sell food.

This post is NOT about asking retailers to change their marketing practices. I see that as a pointless exercise. My end-game in nutrition has always been to inform the consumer to be alert to these trends in food and to become smarter.

This is a good place to start.

Part of my presentation on mindfulness regarding food is to become aware of America’s snacking culture and to learn that we are constantly reminded to snack. When people question America’s obesity crisis they often look to fast foods and large portions. While these contribute greatly I think it is our snacking culture and love for sugary beverages that trip us up.

The patients I counsel are mostly doing well at mealtimes. When I question these patients about their beverage choices and snacking habits the picture comes into better focus. We can’t change what we don’t acknowledge.

A photo is worth 1,000 words. Next time you are in Old Navy, Office Depot, Dick’s Sporting Goods or Home Depot ask yourself, “Why am I being encouraged to eat at a store that has nothing to do with food?” Become an informed consumer and listen to your hunger and satiety cues. Reject the urge to snack on junk and sugary beverages.

How to Get that Onion Smell Off Your Hands

How to Get that Onion Smell Off Your Hands

How to Get that Onion Smell off your Hands

While an onion begins many meals in almost every cuisine, the onion, and the entire Allium family, (which includes leeks, shallots, garlic and chives) contains a redolent juice than lingers longer on the fingers (and cutting board) than it does on the tongue.

There are several ways to get rid of the smell. Rub your fingers with lemon juice, vinegar or another acid or try rubbing your fingers against a stainless steel bowl which alchemizes the odor.

My personal favorite way to rid my fingers of onion is to rub them in coffee grounds which completely neutralizes the smell. When my cutting board gets a little onion-y funky, I smear coffee grounds into the cutting board. The odors are eliminated immediately.

Want it Your Way? Maybe Not as FDA Delays Menu Labeling

Want it Your Way? Maybe Not as FDA Delays Menu Labeling

Aaaahhh…. May 5th was going to be a great day.

It was that day that restaurants with over 20 locations nationwide were required to put calorie counts on their point of purchase menus. The current administration and FDA leadership have delayed this labeling until 2018 and may ax it completely for some food service establishments. You can thank the supermarket and pizza lobbies for this.

We know that menu labeling works. A recent study released by Drexel University School of Public Health concluded that 80% of consumers see menu nutrition labeling and 26% use it to make decisions. When those 26% of consumers used the menu information they purchased 400 fewer calories, 370 mg less sodium and 10 grams less saturated fat. That’s huge especially in the sodium category.

And since Americans consume over 1/3 of their calories prepared away from home, this change would have helped a lot of people make better choices. Even the National Restaurant Association supports it.

But back to that pizza lobby. I swear there is such a thing and its mission is to “create community around pizza.” That aside, it has been a major player in the delay. I did find complete nutritional information online for Papa John’s and Pizza Hut. It took some effort and downloading. Not optimal for the consumer who is making a quick decision about dinner but it’s a start. (Last year I tried to find the ingredients in Papa John’s Pizza and could not. I was specifically looking for sugar and guess what? It’s A LOT. It’s the second ingredient behind flour.)

I pose a question: Why do food manufactures want a delay? You already know the answer but here’s proof. This is taken directly from the FDA’s website:

“This extension allows for further consideration of what opportunities there may be to reduce costs and enhance the flexibility of these requirements beyond those reflected in the final rule.”

Sixty percent of Americans want nutrition menu labeling at point of purchase. So why can’t we get that?

It’s not because the pizza lobby wants to create a “community around pizza.”

It’s greed.

Get Your Mise En Tip# 1 - Cutting Board Stays Out

Get Your Mise En Tip# 1 - Cutting Board Stays Out

Want to work faster in your kitchen?  Leave your cutting board out on the counter.

The year was 1997 and I had just moved into my sweet little Beach Drive apartment in downtown St. Petersburg.  The previous tenant left behind this big butcher block that measured about 1-foot by 2 feet. It was lovely. It was useful. It was damn heavy.

So it became mine and after sanitizing it I began chopping everything on it with great joy. And after each use I cleaned it and stored it away under the sink until…..I dropped it on my big toe.

Ouch! My toe swelled up to the size of a Key lime and I decided from then on to leave the cutting board out on the counter.

What happened next, quite organically, was curious. I noticed I got down to the business of cooking faster since I didn’t have to go through the motions of bringing out the cutting board. I also became more willing to scour the fridge for scraps of leftover onion, carrot, pepper, etc.  to add to my tuna salad, soup, stir fry, whatever, because all I had to do was grab a knife and go!

When fruit was on its way to overripe, I was more likely to cut it and eat it because of the cutting board’s ready presence. Breads? Slice and go. Meats? Cover with a thin plastic board and go. Hard boiled eggs? Chop and go. Cheese? Nuts? You get it. Everything that requires knife work (and what doesn’t ) is suddenly at your mercy because of this one trick.

 

Cutting board specs:
At least 12” by 24”
Wood is preferred material
Stays sanitized by warm soapy water.
Plastic covers for meat cutting
Odors are removed with acid like coffee grounds or lemon.

 

A Little Goes a Long Way: Homemade Salad Dressings

A Little Goes a Long Way: Homemade Salad Dressings

The true beauty of homemade salad dressings is that they are so full of flavor that you tend to use less of them. And, ultimately, using less of any food means fewer calories. That’s good if you are trying to consume less overall to maintain or lose weight. I am often looking for ways to decrease my input so dressing my salads with these makes sense.

 

11 Tips for Working Faster in the Home Kitchen

11 Tips for Working Faster in the Home Kitchen

Here are the 11 tips I teach during an hour-long presentation about working faster in your kitchen. These are just the tips and I will flesh out each of these in the future.

All Things Seafood

All Things Seafood

Many are afraid to buy and cook seafood but it is one of the easiest thing to prepare once you know how. We learn simple dinner recipes for fish, crab and shrimp that can be ready to eat in minutes.

Basic Vegetable Prep

Basic Vegetable Prep

It all starts with an onion and chopping one is one of the most useful kitchen skills to have. We also learn to prep tomatoes, peppers, salad greens and root vegetables culminating in a gorgeous entree salad.

Wash. Chop. Cook.

Wash. Chop. Cook.

When the photo of Julia Child's iconic kitchen popped up in my Facebook newsfeed I saw something that made me grin from ear to ear. While the Internet was buzzing about Julia's pegboard where all her gadgets hung in neat rows my eyes went to one special area of her kitchen: the sink.

Cooks Don't Cook in Schools

Cooks Don't Cook in Schools

Surprise. Surprise. Cooks don’t cook in public schools anymore. I mean I “knew” this going into an extensive tour of schools but I wasn’t prepared for how little the staff cooks in a school kitchen.