Oh what a night it was on Sunday night. The kitchen was bustling with activity and maybe a few anxious nerves as my affectionately named CNEs (Culinary Nutrition Experts) were getting ready for the grand finale of the program. They're final assignment was to plan, prep, and present a brief cooking demo for the class and we followed that fun up with the most amazing pot luck meal there ever was.
I also wanted to make something extra special to serve, so I created a brand shiny new recipe just for these uber special peeps. But I'll get to that. Here are some of the pics from the demos.
Our resident chef Kristin getting herself ready!
Odelia, Miranda and Kim getting ready to rock it!
Kim- doing her thing.
Alexa- never seen these cool as a cucumber chiquitta so ruffled. She did awesome (as did everyone!)Dominic was a master with the whisk- thickening up his mushroom gravy for his healthy poutine.
I can't quite put into words how this felt to me. I wish I could say that this has always been my dream- to teach people how to teach the most basic and the most important skills of life- delicious health promoting cooking. This however was not my wish- but I suppose is the result of a wish I made a lifetime ago when I was sick.
Five years ago I couldn't cook at all. But I knew I wanted to and I also knew that I learned best by doing. And so I taught myself how to cook, as my self-directed independent experimental learning while going through my healing process and my subsequent formal nutrition education training. I would learn about a nutrient in my text book, find the foods that were full of them and figure out how to make them. My recipes developed from there.
About a year ago, as the demands on my time grew, and grew and the waiting lists for my classes began to stretch, I realized that I couldn't do this on my own. There needed to be more people teaching this style of cooking classes- to extend the goodness far and wide. I put out the first notice for the Culinary Nutrition Expert Program last May and within four weeks we were full.
After three months of loads of chopping, washing, cooking, reading, writing and delicious eating, these amazing eight people- Odelia, Alexa, Dominic, Vicky, Miranda, Joanne, Kristin and Kim will be the very first to call themselves Certified Culinary Nutrition Experts. And experts they are!
After reading their assignments, seeing their presentations, chatting with them, dining with them each week for the last ten weeks, and listening in on their conversations with each other- I have a confidence a thousand times over that these women and man are fully qualified to create the most amazing health promoting recipes, teach AwesomeTown classes, counsel, coach and entice people that fresh, whole, real foods cooking is the VERY BEST way to go to get a kick start on achieving not just our health goals but personal goals as well.
They each have their own unique reasons for taking the course and I truly hope they each got from the program all that they had hoped. Coming from across various professions (everything from nutritionist to science teacher) and from across the GTA- from Toronto, to Hamilton, to Trenton to Bowmanville- these peeps showed up, worked hard, got creative, went out of their comfort zone and made it happen for themselves.
That, my love sweet lovers, is what I am most excited about. They took a chance on me to invest the time and finances and I worked my batooty off to deliver as best I could. I truly believe that I learned as much from them and from this process as I hope they learned from me and from each other.
I felt like a cross between a proud momma and an excited student on Sunday watching their demos.
When I was in nutrition school, and even long before when was finding my way through my own health crisis, I wished for nothing more than to have a place where I could go to learn all that I needed to learn to get myself well. Sunday night, I found that place. I had no idea though, when I made that wish five years ago, that I would be the one to create it.
Here is our 2011 class photo!
Over the next few weeks, I hope to introduce you to each of them, and hopefully they will grant me the honour of sharing their recipes and their experience of the program themselves right here on my blog. They are an outstanding bunch!
Now, with all the busyness of the Fall, I haven't had a whole lot of time to get in my kitchen and play. But for this fine, bunch I had to make it happen. And this was the result of my efforts.
Curried Culinary Nutrition Balls (It's the working title).
Curried Lentil + Spinach Brown Rice (A more boring and less offensive title)
1 red onion, finely chopped.
pinch of cayenne
1/2 cup water
- Cook onion in oil in a over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until slightly transluscent.
- Add ginger, garlic, cumin, coriander, turmeric, and cayenne. Cook stirring on low heat for 1-2 minutes.
- Stir in water, lentils, and coconut milk, then simmer, covered. Stir occasionally.
- Stir in sweet potato and cook, covered, until lentils are tender and water is absorbed, about 20 minutes.
- Add additional sea salt and cayenne to taste.
- Allow to cool slightly- mixture will thicken as it cools
1 1/2 cups chopped baby spinach
- Rinse rice
- Add rice to pot with water, red onion and spinach.
- Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer, covered.
- Cook for about 35 minutes until water is fully absorbed and rice is slightly stick. Allow to cool so can be handled.
(click here for a visual guide)
- Line a muffin tin with plastic wrap. I used one of my stray plastic bags and just cut it flat.
- Line the plastic lined muffin tin with brown rice as you would a pie crust.
- Spoon a dollop of marina into the brown rice ‘cup’ leaving about a ¼ inch space at the top
- Take another handful of brown rice and form a patty in your hands and gently place it on top of the marinara filled rice ‘cup’.
- Ever so carefully, remove the plastic liner and rice from the muffin tin and flip it on to a plate. These babies are remarkably durable.