Assistant Professor of Medicine

Culinary medicine to me is a coming together of the soothing comforts of home cooking and the healing touch of The Great Physician. The culinary medicine courses I have taught in the past have had other names, but they are all focused on the role of foods and nutrition in health.

My first foray into culinary medicine was when I was gardening and cooking on the farm as a child.  I took a demonstration to the Iowa State Fair when I was 14 on how to cook the vegetables from my garden so they retain the most nutrition possible. I was about 8 years old when I gave my first nutrition presentation to our little 4-H club that met in a neighbor’s home. Probably my all-time favorite award I ever  won was for my yeast bread baking skills when I was about 10 years old. The yeast bread I took to the fair that year was a beautiful monkey bread decorated with a glaze and candied cherries. At the time I was a little disappointed that I did not win the Iowa State Fair bid,;another girl did because the judge said the box I covered with contact paper to hold the bread took away from the overall appearance of my 4-H project. I was only a tiny bit set back because I knew that bread was a great work of art and I learned a lot about presenting food that day. Months later at the end-of-the-year awards banquet, I was given this little 1-inch metal lapel pin that simply said “bread” on it. I was so thrilled and every time I come across that tiny pin, I remember the joy baking bread gave me even as a child.

I was making bread for as long as I can remember. I have wonderful memories of helping my mom deliver fresh, hot breads in exchange for money to buy groceries and pay the bills. Everyone loved our bread and I still deliver fresh yeast breads to neighbors and friends especially at Christmas and Easter.

I co-authored a textbook for college level students using the title of “Nutrition and Diet Therapy” but today, that text would be more appropriately called “Culinary Medicine”.  It is divided by diseases and describes the most appropriate nutrition for each. This is also the approach we take in our Culinary Medicine class at the University of Central Florida. The students spend time in the classroom and in the kitchen honing their ability to translate science into application for their patients.

 

What’s Healthier, Ground Turkey or Beef?

The Culinary Medicine students at the University of Central Florida Medical School are working on developing a repertoire of recipes that are both nutritious and delicious. The question about beef vs. ground turkey came up. We are interested in finding out what is better for us, ground turkey or beef?  The perception is that ground turkey is better, but does that hold up when the nutrient composition is analyzed?

A little research gives us the facts: Ounce for ounce ground turkey,  especially the ground turkey typically found in grocery stores, and lean beef have about the same amount of fat.  Ground turkey is a little higher amount of cholesterol than beef. Beef is higher in iron and several other micro-nutrients. Many packages of lean ground beef and ground turkey have similar fat content, but the type of fat differs with ground turkey having a little less saturated fat. Individual package labels will vary as both beef and turkey have a wide spectrum of fat content depending upon the company, cut and additives.  Overall, ground turkey and beef are very comparable. If comparing sliced turkey breast from a whole bird, the comparison would show a different story because ground turkey typically contains some skin and often dark meat which is higher in iron than turkey breast and also higher in saturated fat.  A black bean burger will often have the highest amounts of fiber and the lowest amount of fat, winning the nutrient wars on most individual nutrient comparisons except red meats contain more iron.

The choice for the overall winner of a-New Kind of Burger-comes down to personal preferences. Considerations might include differences such as economy, ingredients on hand and preference for vegetarian, red meat or poultry.

Adding vegetables to a meat patty is a great way to extend the protein and lower the fat content of the whole burger. The difference the vegetables make in nutritional value is way more beneficial than exchanging one meat for another.  Fat content can theoretically be reduced by up to 70 % depending upon how many vegetables are used.  I have used carrots, onions, peppers, cabbage, sauerkraut, beets, celery, garlic, potato, eggplant and many other vegetables when making burgers and the different vegetables can offer exotic flavor combinations to burger menus.

In the following recipe, oatmeal is used as a binder. We tried bread crumbs in the Culinary Science lab but they turned the mixture a little gummy. Oatmeal is also nice because it is a gluten-free option. Mayonnaise works well as a binder.  We tried egg but the mixture included so many vegetables that it was hard to form a patty that would hold together during cooking.

A little olive oil or spraying the baking pan or foil with non-stick cooking spray is important. In the Culinary Medicine Lab, the burgers stuck to the foil. The foil did not look like it was sprayed, or if it was, not adequately. It only takes a 1 second spray to keep the burgers from sticking so added fat content is minuscule.  If for health reasons a natural oil is preferred, lightly brush olive oil over the baking surface to prevent sticking.

This burger was made with lean ground beef, fresh garlic, zucchini and topped with cheese and spinach. Below is a recipe for ground beef and a flavorful mixture of veggies and my favorite black bean burger.
This vegetable and beef burger made in the UCF Culinary Medicine lab was made with lean ground beef, fresh onion and zucchini and topped with cheese and spinach. Below is a recipe for ground beef, chicken, turkey and a flavorful mixture of veggies or use the bean variation for my new favorite black bean burger.

A New Kind of Burger

1/2 lb ground chicken, beef, black beans or turkey
5 (about 1-inch each) fresh mushrooms, finely chopped
3/4 cup finely chopped summer squash
2 tablespoons finely chopped green onion
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon of sriracha sauce or Worcestershire sauce (for beef)
1/2 cup oatmeal, processed for a few seconds in food processor
1/8 teaspoon creole seasoning (such as Tony Chachere seasoning)

Combine all ingredients and form into 5 patties.  Place patties on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees or until internal temperature reaches desired doneness. (For Beef: 135 degrees for medium-rare, 145 degrees for medium, 155 degrees for medium-well and 165 degrees for well done). Bake black bean burgers just until heated through and vegetables are tender crisp.

Serve with your favorite cheese, lettuce, tomato and special sauce.

Tip: The burgers will hold together better when a food processor is used to finely chop the vegetables. Fold the meat into the vegetable mixture. The food processor turns the meat to mush very quickly and the result is a burger with a gummy texture. The beans on the other hand, do really well in the food processor. Process the beans and vegetables separately to get the best texture.

Makes 5 Burgers

 

The recipe below is a special sauce created by a team of students by accident. They mistakenly added creole seasoning to a yogurt base instead of the creole mustard called for in the recipe.  The result was a great, new sauce that would be perfect on the “New Kind of Burger”.

1/4 cup yogurt
1 tablespoon sour cream
1/4 teaspoon creole seasoning
1 teaspoon creole mustard
1 teaspoon ketchup
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon cider vinegar

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and chill a few minutes before serving.

Nothing Bundt Cakes-Double Chocolate and Red Velvet

Red Velvet and Double Chocolate mini bundt cakes send a special message of love for Valentine’s Day.  I experimented with beets to turn the batter into red velvet with mixed results. Fresh beets give the batter a beautiful red color but turns a brown color when baked. A real red for a traditional red velvet cake requires a little red food coloring in addition to mashed beets.  The advantage is that the beets add antioxidants to mini bundt cakes.

Fresh Beets Bleed Red-with lots of nutrients and antioxidants.
Fresh Beets Bleed Red-with lots of nutrients and antioxidants.

 

Beets are cooked until tender and then processed in the food processor. Once processed, the beets turn the batter red, but the bundt cakes turn brown when cooked as seen in the photo below.
Beets are cooked until tender and then processed in the food processor. Once processed, the beets turn the batter red, but the bundt cakes turn brown when cooked as seen in the photo below.
Bundt cake with beets is in the background. It turned brown as the batter reaches a high temperature and starts to set up. Chocolate batter with added beets and red food coloring is in the foreground. For the recognizable "red" found in red velvet cakes, a little food coloring helps the batter maintain its bright color even when heated.
Bundt cake with beets is in the background. It turned brown as the batter reaches a high temperature and starts to set up. Chocolate batter with added beets and red food coloring is in the foreground. For the recognizable “red” found in red velvet cakes, a little food coloring helps the batter maintain its bright color even when heated.

 

Baking soda and vinegar have two different purposes in this recipe: the soda neutralizes the acid in the chocolate and it also leavens the cake.
Baking soda and vinegar have two different purposes in this recipe: the soda neutralizes the acid in the chocolate and the combination of vinegar and soda leavens the cake.

Turn bundt cakes out of the pans within about 10 mintues of when they come out of the oven but let cool completely before frosting or adding a fruit garnish. Bundt cakes often taste even better the second day but everyone who passed through my test kitchen just had to have one immediately while still warm….If that is the case in your house, no worries, melted frosting and warm cake has an allure all its own. I gave up long ago trying to keep hands off of my warm bundt cakes. But, (and that’s a big but), if there are some still sitting when cool, store in  an air-tight container, either frosted or unfrosted.   Warm cake can be garnished with fruit when if it will be eaten within an hour or so but the fruit does not hold very long when it comes in contact with the warm cake.

Turn bundt cakes out of the pans within about 10 mintues of when they come out of the oven but let cool completely before frosting or adding a fruit garnish.
The inspiration for the double chocolate cake comes form Joanna Gaines recipe printed on a cedar shake and sold online at Magnolia Silos.

Joanna Gaines of Magnolia Silos fame sells recipes printed on cedar planks. It seems like everyone wants the recipe when I give food gifts so they are such a great gift for tucking into a box of bundt cakes.  The Magnolia Silos recipe starts with a box mix which I did not want to use because I really love making cakes from scratch, plus I really like the flavor of homemade cakes, plus I really like the whole foods/ingredients in homemade cakes and if I needed one more reason to make a cake from scratch, it would be so I could tell everyone I did it!  I love the oohs and aaahs and it is really about the same amount of time to bake this cake from scratch or from a mix.

Nothing Bundt Cakes
The inspiration for mini bundt cakes comes from the bakery chain called “Nothing Bundt Cakes”. They used red food coloring for the Red Velvet cake in the center of this photo. To get the same color when using beets, omit the chocolate and chocolate chips and stir in 1/2 cup cooked, mashed beets. 
My sister Debbie sent this photo of mini vanilla cakes she made. For vanilla bundt mini cakes, omit chocolate and chocolate chips. For an amazing vanilla flavor, use a high quality real vanilla extract. The vanilla flavor sometimes does not come through in foods but mini bundt cakes do not reach that high of a  temperature  and the vanilla flavor of a good extract with shine through.
My sister Debbie sent this photo of mini vanilla cakes she made.  Omit chocolate and chocolate chips in the following recipe to make  vanilla bundt cakes. For an amazing vanilla flavor, use a high quality real vanilla extract. The vanilla flavor sometimes does not come through in foods but mini bundt cakes do not reach that high of a temperature and the vanilla flavor of a good extract with shine through.
Debbie also made these gorgeous lemon mini bundt cakes. She made a homemade lemon curd and used lemon zest to garnish the mini bundt cakes.
Debbie also made these gorgeous lemon mini bundt cakes. She made a homemade lemon curd and used lemon zest to garnish the mini bundt cakes.  Omit cocoa powder and chcolate chips in following recipe and add 1 teaspoon of lemon flavoring and 2 tablespoons of lemon zest to the cake batter.

 

Bundt cakes are usually decorated with frosting but mango, strawberries and blueberries make a gorgeous presentation.
Bundt cakes are usually decorated with frosting but mango, strawberries and blueberries make a gorgeous presentation.

Both dark chocolate and beets  add antioxidants to Double Chocolate Mini Bundt Cakes.  Make the cake batter without the beets for double chocolate cake. Spoon half of batter into mini bundt cake pans and bake. Add cooked, mashed beets and red food coloring to the remaining batter and bake.  Red velvet cake is often dry, but beets keep the cake moist and tender.

Double Chocolate and Red Velvet Mini Bundt Cakes

1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 eggs
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vinegar
1 1/2 cups plain yogurt
1/2 cup dark chocolate pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat butter and sugar in mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla, eggs and cocoa powder. Combine flour, salt and baking soda in mixing bowl. Stir flour mixture into butter/sugar mixture at the same time as stirring in vinegar and yogurt. Fold in chocolate pieces.

Spray mini bundt cake pans with cooking spray and immediately spoon batter in pans. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until top is slightly moist but springs back when touched.  Turn out of baking pans and allow to cool. Decorate with frosting or fresh fruit.

For Red Velvet Chocolate Cake:  Add 1 teaspoon red food coloring (optional) and 1/2 cup cooked, grated beets.  Microwave 1 beet that is  pricked with a fork for 3 to 4 minutes until tender at 100%.  When cool enough to handle, cut off stem and root end; peel beet. Process in food processor until finely chopped and stir into batter.

Makes about 12 Mini Bundt Cakes

For Vanilla Mini Bundt Cakes: Omit cocoa and chocolate chips. A high quality vanilla will make these mini bundt cakes even better.

For Red Velvet Cake with a strong red color and no food coloring, omit chocolate and chocolate chips. Prepare cooked and mashed beets and stir into batter.

For Lemon Mini Bundt Cake: Omit coca and chocolate chips from main recipe. Stir in 1 teaspoon lemon flavoring and 2 tablespoons lemon juice.

 

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 lb powdered sugar
2 to 4 tablespoons cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch of salt (optional)

Whip cream cheese and butter until smooth. Beat in powdered sugar, cream, vanilla and salt. Beat several minutes or up to 10 minutes for the lightest fluffiest frosting ever. Pipe onto the center of each bundt cake or drizzle lightly over the top.