Friday, September 13th, 2013...9:20 am

Expo will demonstrate real food cooked healthfully

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Generally when there’s talk of a healthy cooking demonstration, my mind shuts down.
I’m not as bad as a friend of mine, who hasn’t found a single salad worth eating, but I’m not as good as my sister, who could live exclusively on vegetables.
I know my diet could and should improve, but my mind has to be wooed to make that occur.
An event this weekend just might do that.
The William Wells Brown Community Center is hosting a free “Eat to Live Expo” on Saturday, featuring cooking demonstrations from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
The thing that makes this event appealing to folks like me, folks who sit on the nutritional fence and lean toward the bad side, is that the chefs will give us food we fondly remember, but with a tasty and healthy twist.
Helen Alexander, 65, who is retiring from Alfalfa Restaurant as a sauté chef at the end of this month, has cooked most of her life,. She learned a lot from her mother, a great cook in Central City, where Alexander grew up.
“My mom was a great cook,” Alexander said. “But none of what she cooked was low-cal. It was always butter and lots of sugar and lots of fat.”
As a sauté chef, she has learned to manipulate flavors to create healthier cuisine while working with Alfalfa chef Paul Nowaki. She also is known for her killer cookies, house buns and house flatbread.
For the expo, Alexander will prepare a new dish called stir-fry casserole, with penne pasta, broccoli, zucchini, julienne carrots, spinach, fresh basil, garlic, Parmesan cheese and bread crumbs.
My mouth is watering.
“It is something that they can do really fast and still be healthy,” Alexander said. “Sautéing is cooking on high heat really quick. The whole stir-fry doesn’t take long.”
The dish is placed in the oven just long enough for the cheese to melt and the bread crumbs to toast.
Yum. It sounds so much better than any fast food meal that can be bought in the same amount of time.
Bilal El-Amin, who came up with the idea for the expo, said that’s the point.
El-Amin, coordinator of the Lexington East End Equity Partnership, said at nearly every house he has visited, food was cooking in the kitchen.
“People love to cook in the East End,” he said. “And they love to use new recipes.”
Most families simply need to see how meals can be made more healthful, he said. Cooking classes held at William Wells Brown have averaged about 60 people eager to learn, he said.
But for that to work, the neighborhood stores have to change as well.
The Good Neighbors Store project is helping three stores in the area change how food is displayed and increase the produce choices, El-Amin explained.
“We help them revamp their stores and create relationships with vendors,” he said.
New coolers filled with fresh produce have been added at the Pac & Save at 503 East Third Street, and it has a new layout to make shopping more customer-friendly, and Better Bites healthy snacks.
With renovations to stores and new recipes to try, all that’s left, El-Amin said, is changing people’s palates.
“I read we have to taste seven times for the palate to get adjusted,” El-Amin said. “One way to get this community to eat better is offer the free food and do something interactive.”
And there will be plenty of interaction Saturday.
Kids can be entertained with the inflatables, youth activities and healthful snacks, and parents can take part in health screenings, Zumba classes, raffles and cooking demonstrations.
Demonstrations will ­include Allison Davis of Wild Thyme Cooking School, who is preparing Queen of Greens power salad featuring kale; James Baker of Mtani Catering, ­preparing baked fish and greens; Chef Mikey Bullock of Chef Mikey & Co., who will prepare salmon croquettes; and Rona Roberts, food blogger of Savoring Kentucky and author of Sweet, Sweet Sorghum: Kentucky’s Golden ­Wonder who will prepare Big Kentucky cornmeal pancake with apple butter and sorghum.
With that menu, consider me wooed.

Eat to Live Expo, featuring free youth activities and cooking demonstrations
When: 9 a.m., Sept. 14. With a community walk and demonstrations by Allison Davis of Wild Thyme ­Cooking School; James Baker, Mtani Catering; Chef Mikey Bullock, Chef Mikey & Co.; Rona Roberts, Savoring Kentucky cooking blog; Helen Alexander, Alfalfa Restaurant.
Where: William Wells Brown Community Center, 548 E. 6th St.
Information: Call (859) 389-6678


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