Garden2Table – GARDEN2TABLE January 2022

Jan 20, 2022 | Garden2Table, Information

By Cassandra D’Antonio (2012), Chair

A little less than two years ago, the SEMG Garden2Table Outreach Committee was gearing up for a busy year. We had a wonderful group of eager volunteers who had attended training and practiced recipe demonstrations. Recipes for March and April were selected, and our schedule set at various senior centers around Sandoval County, including adding the Jemez Valley Senior Center to our list. Volunteers were provided with a bag of supplies and equipment. Then we all know what happened in early spring of 2020. Since our committee was put on hiatus, to keep our work on the radar, I have been writing monthly columns for this newsletter and demonstrated a recipe for Kitchen Creations, NMSU’s diabetes education program.

That may change in 2022! We may be able to return to the Senior Centers later this year and will hopefully be called to do more recipe demonstrations for Kitchen Creations. The exciting news is that two SEMG gardens may be incorporating recipe demonstrations and interactive cooking programs in their outreach: the Sandoval County Health Commons Garden and the Corrales Library Children’s Edible Garden. Photo:  Pixaby

The Health Commons Garden has received some initial funding and still is in the design phase. The Corrales Children’s Edible Garden will be planted this spring. We could always contemplate returning to this committee’s roots, which began by demonstrating recipes at growers markets. Though challenging, I think this would be a fun to procure ingredients from the market vendors and prepare a recipe ala “no recipe” style.

These outreach possibilities got me thinking. If the Garden2Table committee reconvened and our members were delegated to various recipe demonstration venues, one challenge would be to select a monthly recipe that would meet the needs of all audience participants: seniors, children, WIC recipients (Health Commons Garden), and diabetics. I challenged myself by first reviewing the nutritional needs of each target group and then finding a versatile recipe that met each group’s dietary needs, restrictions, and appetites. The recipe would also have to meet our standards of using fresh seasonal produce and common pantry staples, being quick and easy to prepare using only one appliance that requires electricity (electric skillet, roaster, wok, blender, etc.), and of course appetizing.

I believe I met the challenge in this month’s featured recipe Veggie & Mushroom Noodle Stir-Fry. Before we discuss how this recipe meets the challenge, let us quickly review the nutritional requirements of each target group.

Seniors (Senior/Community Centers). We have written extensively about the dietary needs of older adults in this column, so for brevity, the special nutrient needs of this group include calcium, Vitamins D and B12, dietary fiber, and potassium.  Let us not forget that an adult’s sense of taste changes with aging, which can cause a reduction in appetite, weight loss, poor nutrition, weakened immunity, and even death. So tasty, nutritional foods are a must for this group.

Children (Corrales Children’s Edible Garden). According to the CDC, there is a growing type 2 diabetes problem in our young people. Until recently, young children and teens almost never got type 2 diabetes, which is why it used to be called adult-onset diabetes. Now, about one-third of American youth are overweight, a problem closely related to the increase in kids with type 2 diabetes. Therefore, it is especially important that children eat more fruits and vegetables and limit their intake of processed foods and refined sugars and starches. As parents know, vegetables get a bad rap with kids. According to nuturelife.com, reasons children refuse a vegetable is because of its “weird” color, “gross” texture, or “funny” smell. To work toward increasing a child’s vegetable intake one meal (or snack) at a time, you should focus on the following 15 favorite kid-friendly vegetables:  sweet bell peppers, sweet potatoes & squash, grape tomatoes, sweet corn, spinach, peas, jicama, carrots, cauliflower, zucchini & summer squash, sugar snap peas, mushrooms, celery, broccoli, and cucumbers.

WIC Recipients (Sandoval County Health Commons Garden). The initial focus of this garden will be recipients of the USDA’s Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) nutrition assistance program. The USDA has some excellent websites, including a set of 16 nutrition education messages addressing whole grains, low fat dairy, fruits & vegetables, and child feeding. One in particular focuses on Meals of the Month: Recipes to Cook, Eat, and Repeat (WIC Meals of the Month: Keep Calm and Carrot On | WIC Works Resource System (usda.gov)). Another important aspect of selecting a demonstration recipe would be to review postpartum diet plans, which tend to focus on iron- and protein-rich foods, fruit & vegetables, fiber-rich carbs, and fats like avocados, nuts, and seeds.

Adult Diabetics (NMSU Kitchen Creations). We have also written extensively about the dietary needs of adults with type 2 diabetes. To summarize, it is important that this group limit their carbohydrate intake, choose recipes that are rich in fruits & vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds, lean sources of protein, fish, eggs, and low-fat dairy, while avoiding sweets, processed foods, and trans fats.

Veggie Mushroom Noodle Stir-Fry Wins Challenge

Though most stir-fries are healthy and versatile, I especially liked this recipe because it calls for whole-grain noodles (a kid favorite), the mighty mushroom, veggies that can be selected based on the tastes and nutritional needs of different groups, and its sauce packs a flavorful punch. Below is a list of this dish’s main ingredients and their benefits to each target group.

Whole Grain Noodles (or Brown Rice) are both high in fiber, which provides a slow release of energy without the blood sugar spikes you can get with white rice or pasta. They also provide a whopping dose of manganese which plays a role in fat and carbohydrate metabolism, calcium absorption, and blood sugar regulation, and is essential for normal brain and nerve function.

Mushrooms are becoming more and more recognized as a superfood. They are rich in soluble dietary fiber, vitamins B and D, minerals copper and potassium, and the antioxidant selenium which protects the body against damaging free radicals and damage from aging and boosts the immune system.

Fresh Crisp Vegetables of any type can be incorporate into this stir-fry, though you can also use veggies that are not considered crisp, such as sweet potatoes or zucchini. Select veggies that target the nutritional needs of and those most appealing to your target group. During the harvest months, choose veggies that are in season and growing in the gardens.

Five-Spice Blend is a Chinese seasoning that is said to incorporate all five tastes: sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and umami with its blend of star anise, cloves, Chinese cinnamon, Sichuan peppercorns and fennel. In this recipe it will intensify the robust flavor of the mushrooms while adding to the richness of the sauce.

The Garden2Table Outreach Committee will be looking for both new members and former members to rejoin possibly by early spring. If you are interested, please send me an email with your contact information and any specific interests at cassandantonio@aol.com. Wishing you all a healthy, joyful, and prosperous 2022.

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