I just love a good celebration, especially one that involves my three favorite things: cheese, cheese, and more cheese. And, that is exactly what Greater Bethlehem Temple, Anderson United Methodist Church, and I did one Saturday morning. Fifty people gathered together one last time to share success stories, fellowship, and enjoy a taste and see by Chef Erik Veney, voted Chef of the Year by New Orleans Magazine in 2003 and Executive Sous Chef at Restaurant Revolution in New Orleans.
Now friends, this group started as strangers looking to embark on a health and wellness journey six weeks prior. These two great churches in Jackson, Mississippi came together for six weeks to learn about the DASH diet and lactose intolerance through weekly educational classes and grocery store tours. DASH, dietary approaches to stop hypertension, challenged the way the group currently was eating and encouraged more fresh fruits, vegetables, and low-fat milk, cheese and yogurt. Keeping weekly dietary logs, many were astounded by the gaps in nutrient-rich foods. I was astounded by their willingness to improve their diet and get moving.
Each Saturday morning I was greeted with eager faces ready to absorb science based nutrition information from physicians, dietitians, and chefs. Concluding the wellness series with Chef Erik was icing (cheese) on the cake. Visually, he educated observers on how to prepare some of the South’s famous recipes in a healthier way.
Marvelous Mac and Cheese was my favorite, using low-fat cheese and lactose free milk, it was simply delicious. The Raisin and Bread Pudding with Vanilla Bean Sauce made the ending of a great series that much sweeter. But, the Cheesy Guacamole Dip , developed by Registered Dietitian and cookbook author, Toby Amidor, was the star of the show. Its secret ingredient, cottage cheese, turned reluctant tasters into convinced consumers. If you don’t have a nose for cottage cheese this recipe is sure to turn the tide. It is sneaky and delicious!
I will always remember my time with the DASH into Wellness participants. Warm hearted good ole Mississippians doing their part to change the culture of behavior and create a healthier community, starting at church.