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Dinner Tonight! Healthy Cooking School serves up healthful recipes, tips for better living

About 200 people participated in the Dinner Tonight! Healthy Cooking School recently at the Whitley Theological Center in San Antonio.

The school was conducted by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service in Bexar County, Prairie View A&M University Cooperative Extension Program and AgriLife Extension’s Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program.

“We present these cooking schools because many people are overwhelmed by the thought of menu planning and preparing healthy, cost-effective meals for themselves and their families,” said Angie Gutierrez, AgriLife Extension agent for family and consumer sciences, Bexar County.

Dinner Tonight! Healthy Cooking Schools were developed by AgriLife Extension with the purpose of bringing people together in a fun environment to learn about healthy meal planning and preparation, she said.

“With a little guidance and planning, making home-cooked meals can be easy, nutritious and inexpensive,” Gutierrez said.

Dinner picture

About 200 people participated in the recent Dinner Tonight! Healthy Cooking School held in San Antonio. (Texas A&M AgriLife Communications photo by Paul Schattenberg)

The event, which was emceed by Justice Jason Pulliam of the Fourth Court of Appeals in San Antonio, featured cooking demonstrations by local guest chefs. There were door prizes, and  attendees were given a Italian chard seedling they could plant at home.

There was also a health and wellness information area staffed by representatives of area agencies and organizations dedicated to healthier living.

In his remarks, Pulliam said the typical American family eats from three to five meals per week outside the home.

“By preparing more healthy meals at home, we can reduce the frequency that we eat out, spend more time together as a family and eat healthier meals,” Pulliam said.

He said eating out, especially fast foods, has been associated with weight gain, particularly among adults, and meals eaten outside the home tend to have more calories, fat and sodium as compared to those prepared at home.

“And eating out costs more,” he added.

Jenny Mattingsley, who has worked as a pastry chef in San Antonio, Austin, New York and Seattle and is now the food services director at Oblate School of Theology, prepared a zesty lemon chicken along with zucchini oat chocolate chip cookies.

Suzanne Parker, founder and CEO of Powerhouse Bakery, prepared a cranberry-orange swiss chard salad and chocolate-pomegranate brownies.

While the chefs made their recipes, preparations were shown in detail on four large projection screens placed throughout the venue.

“What we want people to take away from this event is that they should cook more at home,” Mattingsley said. “That’s the only real way you can stay healthy and know more about what’s in the foods you prepare and how they are prepared.”

As the chefs showed how to prepare their recipes, samples of the finished product were served to attendees by AgriLife Extension personnel and students from the University of Texas at San Antonio dietetic program.

“We provided four students from our program to help prepare and serve the foods the chefs showed attendees how to prepare,” said program director Dr. Liset Vasquez. “All of these students who helped are studying to become registered dietitians.”

Food Prep

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service personnel and volunteers made and served samples of the recipes  demontrated by guest chefs. (Texas A&M AgriLife Communications photo by Paul Schattenberg)

One cooking school attendee, Sonia Cavazos, a nurse with Methodist Healthcare Ministries of South Texas Inc., brought several other participants whose nutritional needs are being supplemented by food pantries at local churches.Vasquez said she and the students volunteered to help because the UTSA dietetic program has been involved in other health and wellness efforts with AgriLife Extension and their efforts “have similar goals of getting people to eat better as a means of helping prevent chronic disease.”

“We came because we wanted to know how to make better food choices,” Cavazos said. “But it was also important that we got ideas of foods and ingredients that were within the food budget of those people who use the food pantries.”

Another attendee, Larry Brisel, said he came to the cooking school because he had recently retired and expected to spend more time in the kitchen.

“I came to the cooking school to get tips on how to make meals that are relatively easy to prepare,” Brisel said. “Now that I’m retired, I’ll have more time to cook meals for myself and my wife.

“What I like about this program is the meals they show you how to prepare don’t require a lot of pots, pans and utensils, They’re easy to make, and I was pleased with how good everything tasted.”

Additional information on healthful recipes and upcoming Dinner Tonight! Healthy Cooking Schools in Texas can be found at

[By Paul Schattenberg via AgriLife Today]

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