Develop Cooking Skills for Ultimate Vitality

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March is National Nutrition Month®   and a great time to challenge yourself to develop new cooking skills. After attending a conference hosted by the Culinary Institute of America and Harvard School of Public Health, I am more convinced than ever of the importance of being able to prepare delicious meals made from nourishing ingredients.

Adding fruits, vegetables and whole grains to our diets will add years, vitality and better brain function to our lives. Creatively prepared dishes containing healthy ingredients can be truly satisfying. My recent conference offered a mix of scientific sessions touting the benefits of eating a plant-forward diet with chef led cooking demonstrations and tastings.

Populations who have abnormally long life spans have been studied, and have several lifestyle norms in common. They don’t smoke, put family first, are active every day, are socially engaged, and they eat lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and nuts. Some are vegetarian, but most consume small quantities of meat.

One study of nearly 1000 people found a 53% drop is Alzheimer’s risk in those who followed the MIND diet. This features greens, beans, berries, other vegetables, olive oil, nuts, whole grains, fish, poultry, and wine and minimizes red meat, butter, stick margarine, cheese, sweets, and fried or fast food.

But who doesn’t love a good burger? This recipe is satisfying for meat lovers, utilizing half savory mushrooms with half beef, plus an interesting combination of seasonings. Top with the salsa and serve on a whole grain bun, and you’ll have a truly satisfying plant-forward meal.

Chipotle beef and mushroom burgers

Makes 4 to 5 portions

¼ cup + additional olive oil (or other vegetable oil)

1 pound shitake or button mushrooms, diced fine

1 pound ground beef

1 small, finely diced onion

2 tablespoons chopped garlic

½ teaspoon chipotle powder (may substitute chili powder)

¼ teaspoon smoked paprika (optional)

½ teaspoon red pepper flakes

½ teaspoon salt

Whole grain buns

  1. Sauté mushrooms with olive oil and 2 tablespoons finely diced onion over medium heat to brown slightly. Add garlic and sauté over low heat until excess moisture is removed, around 10 minutes.
  2. In a large bowl, combine sautéed mushrooms with remaining ingredients and mix gently. Form 4 – 5 patties.
  3. Sauté for 3 minutes on each side to brown and then bake in 350 degree oven until done, about 5 minutes.
  4. Serve with avocado mango salsa or other toppings you like on a whole grain bun.

Avocado mango salsa

Combine the following:

1 diced avocado

1 cup diced mango

½ finely diced red onion

1 small finely diced cucumber

1/8 cup red wine vinegar

1/8 cup lime juice

1/8 cup olive oil

¼ cup chopped cilantro

1 small, finely diced garlic clove