…and other things learned last Tuesday.

Last week we hosted our heart-healthy cooking workshop. We decided to make it interesting and come up with the menu spontaneously, based on what people brought from their gardens. I also purchased a few things at the local gas station/convenience store where too many Hillsboro residents purchase their meals (IMHO). I thought it would be instructive to see how we could make a healthy meal conveniently, quickly, and thriftily with what was on hand—just like in real life.

Beth and Robin, known for their good cooking and good health were on hand to guide me and the other participants through the processes that would turn a random assortment of produce into a spectacular feast. I think they did a stellar job. Here’s the menu from Chez High Rocks:

  • A warm salad of sautéed red cabbage and steamed kale in a sweet apple cider vinegar dressing with local black walnuts and apples.
  •  Eggplant, Juliette tomatoes, sweet peppers and basil in sautéed in olive oil on pasta with fresh mozzarella
  •  Spiced pumpkin pudding with coconut milk. (Okay, the coconut milk was kind of cheating, but we had a low fat can left over from camp and I couldn’t resist.)


By using such fresh ingredients, we didn’t need much fat, salt, or sugar to make things taste great. We learned that the cinnamon in the pumpkin pudding helps keep blood sugar levels from spiking.  The basil has anti-inflammatory properties and contributes to good cardiovascular health.

I learned how efficient a microwave is at cooking pumpkin and other winter squash. Just stab and nuke for several minutes, depending on the size of your squash. You get tender steamed squash in minutes to make a quick pie or soup. The pumpkin pudding we made was like a pie without the crust (because who has time to make a crust most weeknights, and they don’t sell them at the gas station), but no one seemed to miss it.

We steamed the kale over the cooking pasta to save a pot and some energy. If you made it a habit to always steam a veggie over pasta water, spaghetti night would be much healthier.

The best part was we were all sitting down together to eat in less than 45 minutes. Of course it is nice to have a squad of sous chefs, but this meal could be thrown together pretty quickly on your own.

Bon appetit!