Oxford School District is on a mission to improve the health of the community one step at a time, from the students they see every day out into the far reaches of the community.
For the past year, Good Food for Oxford Schools has focused its efforts on the meals served in the district’s cafeteria, adding salad bars to many of the schools and making foods like fruits and vegetables appealing to students.
February was Heart Health Month, and the organization offered a heart healthy cooking class for community members to learn tasty recipes that are low in fat and good for the whole family.
Pairs from around Oxford, including Oxford Middle School assistant principal Yolanda Logan and her husband Bobby; Rochelle Watson and her son Isaiah Jones; and Mississippi State University Extension Service employee Susan Winters and AmeriCorps Vista Sylvia Stewart, shared the cafeteria space with Dave and Meghan Ray and their four children
Project coordinator Lauren Williams along with Mallory Stefan and child nutrition service director Richmond Smith invited University of Mississippi associate professor Dr. Kathy Knight to lead the class, which was made possible by a grant for new mobile cooking sets for the district.
Knight focused on not just what to prepare, but also how to properly use the equipment and understand the sometimes strange language of a typical recipe. Knight explained the tricks to using a chef knife properly as well as the different ways to peel a bulb (or knot) of garlic.
“A lot of people say, ‘I don’t want to eat healthy because it doesn’t taste good.’ Yes, it can taste good,” Knight said. “Healthy food doesn’t have to taste bad, and that’s my main message.”
Knight prepared a menu for a heart healthy meal, starting with a crunchy romaine salad followed by lemon garlic tilapia and sautéed spinach. Even the dessert, “Strawberries on a Cloud” with meringue, fresh berries and whipped cream, won’t do damage to a diet.
“The thing is to look for recipes that are low in saturated fats and that don’t use a lot of extra breading for frying,” Knight said. “Or, instead of frying, just sautée in a little olive oil or broil it in the oven.”
Many new cooks are overwhelmed by the recipes in a typical cookbook, and Knight said the easiest way to learn to cook is to take simple recipes and build onto them over time.
Amelia Camurati is editor of HottyToddy.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.