When our lives aren’t working out exactly the way we had envisioned and it seems as if there’s no brighter sky on the horizon, one of the first things that drops by the wayside is thinking about healthy eating. There may be no time for cooking or even trekking to the supermarket, so a cup of tea and toast suffices for supper. Or — you know what happens — you’re tired, you’re rushed and that’s when it becomes easier to heat something up in the microwave or to scoff down a bag of chips for lunch.
But you also know that ignoring your health will only make you feel worse in the long run. Mission Services (www.mission-services.com/), a Christian organization in Hamilton, is dedicated to dealing with the many problems associated with poverty and this year, according to Carol Cowan, Associate Executive Director of Programmes, they have made good nutrition their number one goal. To meet this goal, they have initiated two programs for their clients: first of all, they have partnered with St. Charles Adult and Continuing Education Centre(www.stcharles.ca/) which offers not only training for chefs, but also cooking demonstrations; and secondly, they have become a distributor of Environment Hamilton’s Good Food Box(www.environmenthamilton.org).
You may have already seen the Spectator’s video of Chef Luigi Chiarini creating a vegetarian chili and talking about how to make quick economical meals from the random products in the food bank’s food box.(www.thespec.com/videozone/886577-video-cooking-class)
Chiarini, who teaches at the St. Charles Adult and Continuing Education Centre is an accomplished professional. His background is Italian and he has worked in restaurants in Italy (and Ontario) for many years. Not surprisingly, he says that his special interest is “rustic Italian cooking” which he describes as “using very basic ingredients to get really flavorful food.”
Since December, Chef Chiarini has completed two cooking demonstrations at Mission Services and they were so popular that in the upcoming months, there will be two per month. The demonstrations are free and open to all. So far, they have each attracted about 30 to 40 people of all ages and several of the clients have shown an interest in going on to the chef’s training course at the St. Charles Continuing Education Centre.
Chiarini says that it is just so much fun to see the results of the demonstrations.
“Rather than just opening a can of beans, people learn how to make a healthy vegetarian chili. We’ve also demonstrated stove top casseroles and how to make a basic tomato sauce, so that people can make their own chicken cacciatore, for instance. Each month the food box they receive is different — so my staff and I get a list of the ingredients on a Tuesday and brainstorm to come up with different recipes.”
This promotion of healthy eating has been supported by a partnership with Environment Hamilton which has allowed Mission Services to become a distributor of the Hamilton Good Food Box. The Good Food Box costs $15 and contains fresh quality produce worth $25 or more. The good buy is available because the nutritious vegetables and fruits have been bought wholesale with a preference to purchasing from Hamilton and Ontario farmers. Carol Cowan says that often Mission Services clients live in areas where there are few places to shop for fresh produce and that it may be very difficult for them to travel long distances to get groceries. Clients can now sign up for a box and pick it up at the downtown Mission Services Centre.
Cowan says, “These programs are part of Mission Services mandate not to just give hand-outs. We want to empower people, to offer educational and training opportunities and we are always looking for ways to partner with people.”
Mission Services will be hosting its annual Easter Dinner on Sunday, and if you think you might like to partner with this community group, either as a volunteer or with a donation, check out the many ways to help on their website.
And here is my very own “pièce de résistance” for Easter — stuffed eggs. Make lots — they’re good.
my own recipes
Halve hard-cooked eggs lengthwise; remove yolks and mash with desired combination of seasonings. Refill egg whites by cutting a thin slice off the bottom layer to make it lay flat. Some people use a pastry bag and pipe the filling into the whites. I just use a spoon.
1) For 6 eggs: 1/4 cup mayonnaise, 1 teaspoon vinegar, 1 teaspoon prepared mustard, 1/2 teaspoon salt and a dash of pepper
2) For 5 eggs: use 2 tablespoons mayonnaise, 2 tablespoons chopped kalamata olives, 2 teaspoons vinegar, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, salt and pepper to taste.
Use your imagination — a thin slice of olive, or radish, cucumber or pickle; capers; red onion; sprigs of parsley or dill. If you want to get really fancy, a small slice of smoked salmon or even caviar is good. I also like to sprinkle the finished products with a bit of smoked paprika or a few chopped chives.