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Cooking for Health program blends culinary, dietary topics

White coats met white tablecloths at the inaugural Cooking for Health dinner event hosted recently by Franciscan Health Services. The multi-course dining event transformed the hospital cafeteria on April 25, when invited guests learned more about how to prepare healthy delicious dishes while they ate a chef-prepared meal.

    Franciscan Health Services’ Cooking for Health program
    brought together a fine dining experience with information
    about preparing healthy and delicious dishes. 
(Photo by
    Bruce Burns/Burns Photography)
White coats met white tablecloths at the inaugural Cooking for Health dinner event hosted recently by Franciscan Health Services. The multi-course dining event transformed the hospital cafeteria on April 25, when invited guests learned more about how to prepare healthy delicious dishes while they ate a chef-prepared meal.
  As the evening’s emcee,
  Dr. Linda Williams offered tips,
  answered questions and
  introduced the physician
(Photo by Bruce Burns/
  Burns Photography)

Emceed by preventive medicine specialist Dr. Linda Williams, the event merged the feel of a high-end dining experience with an informational hospital program. It’s the first in what Franciscan hopes to make a regular programming event.

After Williams introduced a panel of physicians who presented personal stories throughout the evening, she also offered some general tips for healthy cooking and eating — shop the periphery of the grocery store to steer oneself toward the freshest foods; understand the difference between starchy and non-starchy vegetables; and order salad with the dressing on the side.

“Don’t forget, even healthy food can be ‘corrupted’ by frying it or adding sugar,” Williams said. 

First course: Olive tapenade on a cucumber slice
As the meal started, guests ate a cold appetizer featuring a chilled cucumber slice adorned with a dome of salty tapenade made from olives, anchovies, capers, garlic, lemon and basil. 
  The first course included
  simple olive tapanade atop
  a cold cucumber slice.
(Photo by Bruce Burns/
  Burns Photography)

The evening’s menu and dishes were prepared by Glenna Elvery, chef and owner of The Cottage on Dixie. The Homewood restaurant features a number of farm-to-table ingredients cooked into healthful dishes. 

Elvery said she has improved her diet over the past few years, since being diagnosed with fibromyalgia. By focusing on her nutrition, Elvery said she now has more energy and is less dependent on medication.

Program guest Cina Martin said she enjoyed the appetizer, and even accepted a second one when offered. Martin, a Matteson resident, signed up for the program thinking it was more participatory.
“I love to cook and I thought this was a cooking class, but that’s OK,” Martin said. “It’s going to be interesting to try all the food and get new ideas.”
  Once a professional bobsledder,
  Dr. Karli McMillan discussed
  her struggle with weight gain
  after she stopped training.
 (Photo by Bruce Burns/
  Burns Photography)
As the first course wrapped up, Dr. Karli McMillan took the podium to talk about her time as a professional athlete. Before becoming a doctor, McMillan said she was a professional bobsledder training in Utah. The doctor said she had to relearn how to eat after her bobsledding career ended.

“Without doing all that training for multiple hours a day but still eating the same stuff, I gained 40 pounds,” MacMillan said. “I had to completely change what I was doing, and I’m still working on losing it.”

Second course: Arugula with orange pieces and orange vinaigrette
Guests at one table were divided on the salad course, with its peppery arugula greens. Elvery said the sweet orange pieces in the recipe are meant to set off the zing of the arugula. 
  Guests get their first glimpse
  of the second course, a salad
  of arugula and orange pieces.
(Photo by Bruce Burns/
  Burns Photography)

As she prepared the orange vinaigrette during a demonstration session, Elvery recommended tossing dressing through a salad for a few minutes. By properly incorporating a salad dressing, people can use less while still enjoying the flavor.

“Toss, toss, toss! When you think you’ve tossed it enough, toss it a little more,” she said.
  Glenna Elvery, chef and owner
  of The Cottage on Dixie in
  Homewood, demonstrated how
  to prepare orange vinaigrette.
 (Photo by Bruce Burns/
  Burns Photography)
During the salad course, Dr. Marie Baird shared with the crowd that she has struggled to maintain a healthy weight for her entire life. Her father used to tell her to take small bites, and Baird said that’s a good approach for thinking about healthy eating, too. 
“Literally and figuratively, we should think about taking small bites toward health and weight loss,” Baird said. “We’re often very extreme in our thinking. Think about little things you can do every day.”
Third course: Moroccan chicken with butternut squash and dried fruits
As dinner was served, guests refreshed their drinks, choosing from San Pellegrino sparkling water, fresh peach tea or a glass of sauvignon blanc wine. The attending physicians mingled among the tables, answering questions and sharing personal stories.
  The entree course, which got
  a split reaction from guests
  at one table, offered a heavily
  spiced chicken breast and a
  side of 
butternut squash
  mixed with dried fruit. (Photo by
  Bruce Burns/Burns Photography)

Joyce Jones, of Glenwood, said she left tacos at home for her kids because “I knew I was going to eat good tonight.” Jones was unaccompanied at the couples event because her her husband, Chris, had to work later than expected. 

“I like to cook; he likes to eat,” Jones said. “I’m hoping to get some new ideas for cooking for myself and my husband.”
Guests were encouraged to ask questions throughout the evening. One guest inquired about whether home delivery meal services are a healthier option. 
Williams said that while these services — which ship to a user’s doorstep all the ingredients and instructions to make a meal — can help people eat fresh food, it’s choices that make the difference. Select the healthiest options, she said, and don’t add unnecessary oils and cheese when cooking.
Fourth course: Paleo zucchini banana bread bars
Guests could take with them recipe cards for each of the evening’s dishes, and each couple received a gift bag with a set of whisks, a bottle of olive oil and other goodies.
  The evening was topped off
  by a dessert course featuring
  a paleo-style zucchini banana
  bread bar. 
(Photo by Bruce
  Burns/Burns Photography)

The evening’s meal came to a close with a zucchini banana bread bar drizzled with chocolate, which was well received as a lightly sweet confection to conclude the dinner. 

While they polished off the dessert, Dr. Patrick Hines discussed how to read nutrition labels. He was flanked by two posters featuring blown-up images of nutrition labels on bottles of Sweet Baby Ray’s barbecue sauce and Wishbone Italian dressing. 

During a question-and-answer session, a guest asked Hines about getting health information online, curious of his opinion although, the guest said, “I know doctors hate Dr. Google.”

  Dr. Patrick Hines broke down
  the details on a food nutrition
  label, discussing the most
  important aspects for health.
(Photo by Bruce Burns/
  Burns Photography)
Hines clarified that most doctors appreciate the wealth of health information available online. He urged guests to research websites with well documented information. 
He said, and Williams later agreed, that doctors don’t learn much about nutrition while in medical school. Hines, for one, said he enjoys patients coming to him with questions about nutrition that encourage him to learn more, as well.
“Having more information is great,” he said. “Just be sure to use it appropriately.”

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