By Donna Cornelius
Patricia Terry taught nutrition in Venezuela for more than a decade – and learned a few lessons herself along the way.
As a Southern Baptist missionary, Terry was a food and nutrition instructor for wives of seminary students.
“I came home and right away noticed how differently people ate here,” said Terry, who’s now a Samford University professor and food lab director in the college’s Department of Nutrition and Dietetics. “In Venezuela, you went to the market instead of the drive-through. And I saw the obesity problem here as well.”
Terry and other instructors who are dietitians and chefs are sharing the joys and benefits of healthy cooking and eating – with a global angle – in a new class presented by the Samford Wellness Kitchen. The inaugural class, called “Cook Simply, Eat Healthy, Live Well” includes hands-on cooking technique lessons and nutritional information.
Students in the seven-week series are learning not only to prepare a variety of recipes, but also that healthy cooking doesn’t have to be hard. They’re being taught to be at ease in the kitchen as well as being taught about key nutrients and how different ethnic cuisines can help prevent disease and lead to good health.
The current class already has begun, but Terry thinks more offerings of this type will follow.
“This is the first class for the Samford Wellness Kitchen,” Terry said. “We hope to offer other classes in the summer, fall and spring. Hopefully, it’s the start of a new curriculum in culinary medicine.”
The first two classes focused on building your plate and kitchen essentials. The next sessions explore Middle Eastern, Italian, Asian and Latin American cuisines.
Jessica Ivey, one of the instructors, is a dietitian at St. Vincent’s One Nineteen Health and Wellness Center. After graduating from the University of North Carolina and completing a dietetic internship at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, she went on to culinary school at Johnson & Wales University. She’ll share with students her knowledge of Middle Eastern cooking, which she came to appreciate while on a culinary tour in Turkey.
“We’ll make a black-eyed pea salad with collard greens and red lentil kofta, which are meatballs,” she said.
Other instructors are Andrea Kirkland, an editor and culinary expert; Jamie Vespa, a registered dietitian who’s an assistant nutrition editor at Cooking Light magazine; and Laura Zapalowski, a chef, food stylist, recipe developer and tester, and co-owner of Homewood Gourmet with her husband, Chris. Samford students help out, too.
Dietitians teach some of the classes, and Zapalowski handles the skills class.
“For the last class, Andrea will do healthier versions of traditional Southern favorites,” Ivey said.
The class is held in the former Southern Living/Cooking Light test kitchens; Samford’s College of Health Sciences is housed in the building that was once headquarters for the magazines.
“We have 16 students,” Terry said. “We had to cap the class size due to the kitchen space. Students work in four teams of four at different stations.”
After the cooking sessions, Terry shares information about the health benefits of the ingredients they’ve used. The students gather in a classroom to eat what they’ve cooked.
“They talk about food, and there’s a lot of discussion,” Ivey said.
The class includes men and women of different ages and skill levels.
“The students range from those who can barely cook to those who love to cook,” Terry said.
Terry and Ivey said medical professionals have a growing appreciation for the benefits of healthy eating and nutrition.
“In our practice, we’ve seen so many more doctors referring patients,” Ivey said. “We teach evidence-based science.”
Terry is the author of the book “Made for Paradise.”
“It’s about God’s original plan for healthy eating, physical activity and rest,” she said.
Terry advises those who want to cook and eat in a healthy way to “cook simply.” She said almost everyone can benefit from eating foods with lower salt and sugar levels and from eating healthy fats.
Ivey said she encourages people to do more cooking at home.
“Cooking doesn’t have to be complicated,” she said. “You watch Food Network, and the recipes can seem so complex. Also, find different foods that you enjoy. That gives you more options for your toolbox.”
Ivey also recommended learning different cooking techniques from other cultures, such as stir-frying, braising and sautéing.
“Learn how to do the methods,” she said. “A lot of people are more interested in cooking than in actually doing it.”
To find out more about cooking classes and other classes at Samford University’s Academy of the Arts, visit samford.edu/go/aota or call 726-2739.
Patricia Terry shared one of the recipes that her students are making. It’s simple, healthy – and tasty.
Quinoa Salad With Chicken, Edamame and Grapes
Makes 4 servings (about 1 2/3 cups)
2/3 cup uncooked quinoa
½ cup frozen shelled edamame
2 tablespoons orange juice
4 teaspoons olive oil
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1 ½ teaspoons honey
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
2 cups chopped baby spinach
1 1/3 cups chopped cooked chicken breast (5 ¾ ounces)
1/3 cup halved grapes (2 ounces)
¼ cup thinly sliced green onions
¼ cup crumbled feta cheese
2 tablespoons chopped pecans
Cook quinoa according to package directions. Transfer to a large bowl and let cool.
Cook edamame according to package directions. Rinse with cold water; drain well.
While edamame cooks, combine orange juice, oil, vinegar, honey, salt and pepper in a jar with a tight-fitting lid; shake well to combine. Add edamame, spinach, chicken, grapes, green onions and feta cheese to quinoa. Pour orange juice mixture over salad and toss to coat. Sprinkle with pecans.
Nutrition (per serving): 300 calories, 13 g total fat, 3 g saturated fat, 21 g protein 28 g carbohydrate, 4 g fiber, 280 mg sodium.