A Guatemalan Getaway

A Taste Around the World: A Guatemalan Getaway

So, for the ISPP Dietetic Interns final food culture lesson plan on the semester, we decided to go along with our Guatemalan theme and name our final Taste Around the World: A Guatemalan Getaway. This week, instead of focusing our nutrition education and food culture towards Mexican flavors, we decided to head a little more South.

Our nutrition education component of the program focused on the significance that fiber plays in the role of Guatemalan native’s diets and how it affects their health. We had on display a poster of the Guatemalan food guide compared to the US’s MyPlate. And boy, was there a difference! It was really interesting to see how many participants actually noticed the difference between each country’s food guide and how it impacted our healthy as well.

As the ISPP Dietetic Interns did last time, we developed and hosted this food culture nutrition education program. Not only did we develop and run the entire program, we came prepared this time. With funds from the Student Dietetic Association, we invested in culinary equipment like knives and cutting boards. Me, being the thrifty gal that I am, found a place that sold large amounts of 7 inch Santoku knives and small cutting boards…. The Dollar Tree. Who would’ve thought? After weeks of calling bulk culinary companies, I finally found what we were looking for. This way, participants could have their own “Taste Around the World” kitchen set. And we could add some consistency to the development phases of the program. Overall, I would say the program was another success and I will never forget that good deals can be in the last place you would expect.

Giving everyone a slice at knife skills

Giving everyone a slice at knife skills



Guatemalan Hot Chocolate!

Guatemalan Hot Chocolate!

ISPP Dietetic Interns always say "Safety First!"

ISPP Dietetic Interns always say “Safety First!”

Everyone loves vegetables!

Everyone loves vegetables!

So everyone can read our motto in the demo mirror!

So everyone can read our motto in the demo mirror!

Always brushing up on our culinary knife skills!

Always brushing up on our culinary knife skills!

Our salsa station!

Our salsa station!

Our festive table cloth to go with our theme!

Our festive table cloth to go with our theme!

The Baked Tamale Station! Yumm-O

The Baked Tamale Station! Yumm-O

The end product of our tamale adventure!

The end product of our tamale adventure!

The calm before the storm!

The calm before the storm!

ISPP Dietetic Internship


A Taste Around the World: A Mountaineer Mexican Fiesta

A Taste Around the World: A Mountaineer Mexican Fiesta

ISPP Dietetic Interns made the front page of the DA newspaper!

ISPP Dietetic Interns made the front page of the DA newspaper!

On Wednesday January 30th, 2013, WELLWVU partnered with our Didactic Program in Dietetics at and we launched our first of four healthy food culture cooking classes on campus. This program planning started in the Fall 2012 semester. At that point, the program was initially a graduate student’s responsibility to plan, organize, and delegate but with hiccups in the way- WVU’s ISPP Dietetic Internship came to the rescue!

When we originally found out that Kaylyn Crosier and myself were going to be running the series of education programs that entailed nutrition and culinary skill-building, we though- why not incorporate food culture? Everyone loves learning about different food cultures but, this will make the series even more interesting, with the added culinary and nutrition components.

So, for our launch event- we decided on Mexico as our theme. In fact, A Mountaineer Mexican Fiesta. There was an estimated 25 students who were going to participate. WELLWVU purchased our groceries the day of the event. A created packet was given to each participant.

In each packet consisted:

  • Cover page: menu
  • Hand-washing visual guide
  • A PowerPoint presentation (printed) that Kaylyn created on knife skills
  • Mexican culture and diet handout
  • Nutritional benefits of tomatoes handout
  • Chile pepper handout

The set-up for the event entailed the aid from 2 undergraduate interns from our Human Nutrition & Foods department. We were responsible for setting chairs out for participants, hanging signage for each kitchen unit, setting out all kitchen utensils/tools at each unit, hanging decorations.

I created signs for students to pronounce menu items correctly, the program packets, the food guide pyramid signs, and delivered decorations for the Ag Sciences Annex Test Kitchen. I arrived at the kitchen at 3pm, the program lasted 6pm-8pm, and I eventually exited the kitchen at approximately 9:45pm.

mexico menu

Page 2 in participant's packet

Page 2 in participant’s packet

mexico table

mexico group signs

mexico pepper

Front page article!

Front page article!

mexico article_1

Students were educated on proper knife skills

Students were educated on proper knife skills

Students learned the importance of washing all produce before using in the kitchen...

Students learned the importance of washing all produce before using in the kitchen…

Chiles Rellenos!!

Chiles Rellenos!!

Chilaquiles... Mmmmm

Chilaquiles… Mmmmm

Pico de Gallo!

Pico de Gallo!

Signs were placed near students on cutting board safety

Signs were placed near students on cutting board safety

One of the signs used in our presentation on nutrition. This was utilized/created to increase student's culture awareness and pronunciation.

One of the signs used in our presentation on nutrition. This was utilized/created to increase student’s culture awareness and pronunciation.

The class's cooking experience was complete! Time to eat!! Ole'!!

The class’s cooking experience was complete! Time to eat!! Ole’!!













Kitchen Ink

Kitchen Ink

You wouldn’t think tattoos and kitchens go hand-in-hand but, over the past years tattoos in restaurants and professional culinary settings, has dominated and almost become a tidal wave in trends. Tattoos, once considered a principal for sailors, bikers, ex-cons, and college hipsters, have now became a culinary staple. Tattoos have almost become a standard uniform in professional kitchens across the world. These tattoos range anywhere from hearts, butterflies, and unicorns to cheeseburgers, tacos, and tribal bands. Body art is so mainstream that everyone from modest kitchen rats to celebrity chefs proudly display their art on TV, magazines, catalogues, and in their very own cookbooks.

Read more on this article and see how tattoos in the kitchen are becoming a norm in present-day culinary professions.



Here is a picture that I took recently of a stranger walking in Morgantown

Here is a picture that I took recently of a stranger walking in Morgantown

Not Your Typical Pumpkin Season

Good for more than just delighting trick-or-treaters, the pumpkin is related to the squash and melon family and packs a nutritional antioxidant punch. The pumpkin is an autumn favorite, but you don’t just have to think about using one for decorating or pie.

What’s in Pumpkin: One cup of cooked, unsalted pumpkin has 49 calories and is a great source of the antioxidant beta-carotene. Pumpkin seeds have protein, healthy fats, minerals and a small amount of omega-3 fats.

Choosing: Pumpkins intended for carving don’t always taste as good as sugar (also called baking or pie) pumpkins. Choose pumpkins that are firm, smooth and brightly colored and, when possible, with the stem still attached.

Storing: Pumpkin “pulp” can be frozen or canned. You can store whole pumpkins in a cool, dry place for up to three months. Once sliced, keep the pieces in the refrigerator, wrapped in plastic for five to seven days. Place cooked pumpkin in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a week or in the freezer for three to six months.

Using Pumpkin this Season: Besides the iconic pumpkin pie, try your hand at pumpkin muffins, pumpkin rolls or maybe even pumpkin soup. You cook pumpkin like you would any other winter squash — peel it, slice it and remove the seeds. Then roast, boil or steam the pieces until tender. You can dice the cooked flesh into bite-sized pieces or puree them in a food processor.

You can also use the seeds. They’re easy to roast and are nutritious and flavorful.

So many ways to utilize seeds after carving pumpkins this season!

Health benefits of Pumpkin

  • It is one of the very low calorie vegetables. 100 g fruit provides just 26 calories and contains no saturated fats or cholesterol; however, it is rich in dietary fiber, anti-oxidants, minerals, vitamins. The vegetable is one of the food items recommended by dietitians in cholesterol controlling and weight reduction programs.
  • Pumpkin is a storehouse of many anti-oxidant vitamins such as vitamin-A, vitamin-C and vitamin-E.
  • With 7384 mg per 100 g, it is one of the vegetables in the Cucurbitaceae family featuring highest levels of vitamin-A, providing about 246% of RDA. Vitamin A is a powerful natural anti-oxidant and is required by the body for maintaining the integrity of skin and mucus membranes. It is also an essential vitamin for good visual sight. Research studies suggest that natural foods rich in vitamin A help a body protects against lung and oral cavity cancers.
  • It is also an excellent source of many natural poly-phenolic flavonoid compounds such as α, ß carotenes, cryptoxanthin, lutein and zea-xanthin. Carotenes convert into vitamin A inside the body.
  • Zea-xanthin is a natural anti-oxidant which has UV (ultra-violet) rays filtering actions in the macula lutea in retina of the eyes. Thus, it helps protect from “age-related macular disease” (ARMD) in the elderly.
  • The fruit is a good source of B-complex group of vitamins like folates, niacin, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), thiamin and pantothenic acid.
  • It is also rich source of minerals like copper, calcium, potassium and phosphorus.
  • Pumpkin seeds indeed are an excellent source of dietary fiber and mono-unsaturated fatty acids, which are good for heart health. In addition, the seeds are concentrated sources of protein, minerals and health-benefiting vitamins. For instance, 100 g of pumpkin seeds provide 559 calories, 30 g of protein, 110% RDA of iron, 4987 mg of niacin (31% RDA), selenium (17% of RDA), zinc (71%) etc., but no cholesterol. Further, the seeds are an excellent source of health promoting amino acid tryptophan. Tryptophan is converted to GABA in the brain.

    Pumpkin rolls are delicious year round

Key Health Benefits of Pumpkin Seeds

  1. Promotes Prostate Health

For you men over 50 helping carve pumpkins this Halloween, be sure to save those seeds.  Pumpkin seeds help promote a healthy prostate and minimize the issues such as urination problems due to an enlarged prostate.  Prostate problems are most common in men over fifty.

  1. Better Bones

Although it is the season for scary ghosts and skeletons, I’m not talking about a great looking skeleton with good bones hanging on your door for the “trick or treaters”.  I’m talking about your bones.  Pumpkin seeds are high in zinc and are a great natural resource for this much needed nutrition.  Low levels of zinc are one of the links to osteoporosis.

  1. Arthritis Relief

In a recent study pumpkin seeds showed the same anti-inflammatory benefits as the non-steroid drug indomethacin.  The good news on these results is that the pumpkin seeds did not have the same negative effect of damaged fats (lipid peroxides) in the lining of joints like the anti-inflammatory drug.  Okay, so this study was conducted on animals, but the healing benefits of pumpkin seeds for arthritis relief is a potential benefit to humans.

  1. Lower Cholesterol

Another known benefit of pumpkin seeds is their ability to help lower LDL “bad” cholesterol.  That is because the seeds have phytosterols, a compound that not only helps lower cholesterol but helps protect against certain cancers.  In addition to pumpkin seeds, many other nuts and seeds have the phytosterol compound including pistachios, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, English walnuts and Brazil nuts.

Making Pumpkin Seeds

Although you can buy pumpkin seeds already dried and seasoned, baking your own seeds is a less expensive and much more fun.

  • Scoop out the seed from inside the pumpkin
  • Using a paper towel, lightly pat the seeds and remove any pulp
  • Spread seeds evenly on a paper bag and dry them overnight
  • Preheat the oven to 160 – 170 degrees F
  • Place them in a single layer on a cookie sheet
  • Bake for 15 to 20 minutes

You can add seasoning like garlic powder, onion powder or salt and pepper for extra flavor.

By baking at a low temperature, you are more likely to preserve the essential oils and get all the health benefits of your pumpkin seeds.  You can add your seeds to your favorite salads, sprinkle in your soup or chili, add to your sautéed veggies or just eat them as is.

Pumpkin can be used for breakfast too!

What in the world is a Persimmon?

What in the world is a Persimmon?

Dating to ancient China, this orange-red fruit made its U.S. debut in the 1880s after being introduced in Washington, D.C. Today, California produces hundreds of persimmon varieties.

Is it healthy?: A medium-sized persimmon contains 120 calories and is a good source of fiber and vitamins A and K.

Selecting YOUR Persimmon: Select persimmons that are plump with smooth, unblemished skin and eat ripe ones immediately.

Storing: Store unripe persimmons at room temperature in a paper bag with an apple or banana to ripen. Or briefly store ripe persimmons in the refrigerator.

How do I use them?: With persimmons’ sweet flavor, they make a great addition to desserts. Try a persimmon cheesecake or a traditional persimmon pudding.

Persimmons look similar to tiny tomatoes, until you slice them open!

Here are five ways to eat persimmons:

  1. In a salad. Despite originating thousands of miles apart, persimmons (from East Asia) and pomegranates (from the Middle East) harmonize nicely—both flavor-wise and visually—in a fall/winter fruit salad. For an even more colorful (and very nutritious) dish, toss them with sliced red cabbage, Romaine lettuce, Asian pear, hazelnuts and Gorgonzola cheese, as in the Rainbow Chopped Salad from Epicurious.
  2. As a condiment or accompaniment. Organic Authority suggests serving a fresh persimmon salsa with grilled fish or chicken. Or it can be cooked into a spicy chutney with apples and raisins. Firm fuyus can also be sliced and roasted to be served as a sweet/savory side dish, as in this recipe from About.com.
  3. Dried. Dried persimmons are a popular treat in Japan where they are made through a labor-intensive process you’re unlikely to want to replicate at home. But even the shortcut method you can make in your oven—like this recipe from Martha Stewart—produces a yummy snack.
  4. In a drink. Imbibe magazine’s recipe for a persimmon margarita rimmed with cinnamon salt is a novel twist on one of my favorite cocktails. On the nonalcoholic side, 101 Asian Recipes explains how to make a Korean persimmon tea.
  5. In dessert. Nicole of Pinch My Salt shares her grandma’s recipe for sweet, moist persimmon cookies. And you can try a delicious-looking fuyu persimmon, pear and walnut rolled tart.

Sweet Sweet Potato Season!

Sweet Sweet Potato Season!

Sweet potatoes are a Native American super food that are nutrient-packed plants with orange or yellow flesh. They’re named for their sweet flavor caused by an enzyme that converts the potato’s starched into sugar.

Can you believe that a ½ cup serving of sweet potatoes has 90 calories and is an excellent source of beta-carotene vitamins A and C.

HOW TO CHOOSE: Select sweet potatoes that are firm and smooth and avoid ones with bruises or cracks. Also avoid choosing from a refrigerated display as the cool air can change the flavor.

HOW TO STORE: Store your sweet potatoes in a cool, dry place just like regular potatoes. Use room temperature sweet potatoes within a week.

HOW TO USE: Whenever possible cook sweet potatoes whole to retain the nutrients before peeling. Serve in place of baked potatoes or get creative with a recipe such as sweet potato pancakes.

Now, I know that everyone loves pumpkin pie around this time of year but, how about opting out that pumpkin for sweet potatoes?

Though traditionally considered a Southern or ethnic dish, particularly in African-American and Latino households, sweet potato pie is gaining traction as a Thanksgiving side.

One of the reasons sweet potato pie is offered as a pumpkin pie substitute is that the pies are similar in color and use mostly the same ingredients. The main difference is texture and taste.

What a sweet potato looks like when sliced open



  • Sweet potatoes are not yams. They’re not even related.
  • Sweet potatoes originally hail from Africa.
  • Pumpkins and sweet potatoes are great sources of vitamins A and C and other nutrients.



Here’s a breakdown for a 1/8 slice of a 9-inch pie:

  • Calories: Pumpkin pie — 316; Sweet potato pie — 340
  • Protein: Pumpkin —7 grams; Sweet potato — 5 grams
  • Fat: Pumpkin —14 grams; Sweet potato —16 grams
  • Cholesterol: Pumpkin — 25 mg; Sweet potato — 20 mg



While the fat and cholesterol levels are about the same, depending on the recipe you use and whether it is homemade or commercial, the calories and other nutrients can vary widely.

Pie Crust


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup shortening
  • 1/2 cup water


  • In a large bowl, combine flour and salt. Cut in shortening until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in water until mixture forms a ball. Divide dough in half, and shape into balls. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight
  • Roll out dough on a floured counter. Don’t overwork it.



  • 2 large sweet potatoes (roasted) or 1 small roasted long-neck pumpkin (press excess liquid). You will need about 1.5 cups of potato or pumpkin puree.
  • 1 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon


  • Position rack in bottom third of oven; preheat to 400 degrees.
  • Place puree in large bowl.
  • Whisk in brown sugar and next 4 ingredients.
  • Transfer filling to crust.
  • Bake pie until filling is puffed around edges and set in center, about 45 minutes. Transfer to rack; cool. Can be made a day ahead. Cover, refrigerate

    Home-cooked sweet potato pie

RDs and Restaurant Opportunities

Exciting Restaurant Opportunities

Menu labeling laws are creating new jobs for RDs in nutrition analysis, menu development, and more. Despite challenging economic times, people are eating out more than ever.

Obviously, today’s eating-out scene isn’t what it used to be. It’s no longer an occasional treat. In fact, it’s become mainstream. Part of the reason is that reason is that restaurants are reaching more people in more powerful ways. Social media, big-batch couponing, and targeted marketing and advertising are wildly popular, and restaurants often promote nutrition and health-related messages.

Food is a competitive business, and restaurants stand out offering what people want. Weight-conscious consumers demand tasty, low-fat, low-carb, and low-calorie. Eco-conscious customers seek restaurants that promote social responsibility and sustainability and offer local selections. Health-conscious clientele ask for nutrition and allergy info as well as options for special diets such as low sodium, vegan, gluten-free, and oil free. In fact, according to a National Restaurant Association (NRA) survey of 1,800 chefs, health/nutrition, gluten-free/allergy-free fare, children’s nutrition, and healthful kids’ meals are among the 20 hottest restaurant trends of 2012.

The sky’s the limit for RDs in restaurants nowadays. Some of the most important roles RDs can play in the restaurant industry include providing nutrition information, developing menus for special needs customers, helping with food safety and label regulation compliance, and marketing.

Nutrition analysis is one of the many menu-consulting services RDs can provide to restaurants. Others include recipe creation, menu development, recipe makeovers for improved nutrient profiles, identification and development of selections that meet guidelines for specific diets and dietary restrictions, adaptation of recipes for health conditions, and assistance with increasing perceived healthfulness of menus.

RDs with strong culinary backgrounds are ideal for assisting restaurants with developing new flavor profiles and ingredient combinations while meeting calorie and nutrient targets, sourcing fresh/local or unusual ingredients, and even helping with food budgeting. RDs also can train staff on topics that bring together nutrition and culinary arts in unique and interesting ways.

Menu development is another new avenue for RDs in today’s food industry. Niche markets provide consulting opportunities for RDs, like identifying and designing gluten- and allergy-free menu options; developing low-carb or low-fat dishes; promoting healthful kids’ meals; procuring local, organic, or sustainable ingredients; and developing vegetarian/vegan fare.

Developing, defining criteria for, and implementing special dietary meal, such as heart-healthy choices, are other opportunities requiring RDs expertise. In some cases, programs with nutrition criteria already exist, and the restaurant simply needs help identifying and developing menu items that meet the criteria. One example is the NRAs Kids LiveWell program, which already has established criteria for its participating menu items.

Another critical area of opportunity for RDs in the restaurant industry is food safety. Becoming ServSafe certified is one way to get your foot in the door. RDs also can become involved with state-specific compliance measures with the department of health, front- and back-of-the-house food safety training programs, food allergen labeling, and food allergy protocol training, which entails the prevention of allergen cross-contamination.

Food Safety at its finest!

RDs with experience in public relations and marketing are valuable additions to restaurant teams. For example, experts in customer relationship management give restaurants an edge with the use of social networking tools and social influence marketing. Being the healthy voice of a restaurant can be accomplished through marketing materials, becoming a spokesperson, interviews, food demos, tastings, seminars, workshops, health fairs, lectures, and trade shows.

RDs are in high demand to help restaurants comply with menu labeling laws. In addition to providing soon-to-be-required nutrition information, like calorie counts on menus, menu boards, food display tags, and at drive-thrus, restaurants will need assistance understanding health claims, FDA legislation, requirements, exemptions, and recommendations. Chain food establishments, including grocery store cafés and convenience stores, as well as those managing vending machines soon need to comply with the laws too. These businesses may know less about menu labeling than traditional restaurants and will be receptive to RDs expertise.

Despite mixed study findings on the effectiveness of menu labeling on food choices and behavior and its influence on the obesity epidemic, no one can ignore the fact that people want nutrition information. They also want healthful, tasty, balanced meals. Smart restaurants appreciate the value that dietitians bring to the table and understand the importance of customer loyalty. For nutrition professionals to effectively sell their services to restaurants, they need to be armed with persuasive evidence that illustrates their value.

RDs make the perfect partners for restaurants that care about the accuracy and quality of nutrition information they provide. A restaurant needs to protect its credibility. Restaurant nutrition consulting involves a high level of skill, knowledge, education, experience, and responsibility, and RDs are the best fit to ensure that nutrition information is accurate and doesn’t mislead consumers. And if food labels or nutrient claims are involved, RDs are familiar with FDA regulations.

RDs understand the bottom line.

RDs know that a restaurant is a business, and businesses must turn a profit. They know that being sensitive to the financial challenges of restaurateurs is an important part of forging a successful working relationship. When setting fees, a little creativity and flexibility regarding bulk pricing, package deals, and other compromises may, depending on the situation, result in a win-win.

RDs are also aware that chefs are passionate about the tools they create and may be resistant to standardizing recipes and following guidelines that ensure consistency and accuracy in recipe analysis. It’s important to respect the need for creativity and agree on ways to retain the food’s high quality while providing accurate, reliable information.

As for nutrition professionals, there is no better time to explore career opportunities in the restaurant industry. Restaurateurs need our expertise on many levels to provide healthful foods and accurate nutrition information in creative, innovative ways during a time when obesity and chronic disease is at an all-time high. Without a doubt, our generation has to make a difference….

RDs can be in the most unexpected places in your favorite restaurant!