Recipe Rx: Good Health Starts in the Kitchen

IMG_0860I was so fortunate to have spent the last few days in the  Napa Valley attending an amazing conference at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone called Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Lives, which was co-sponsored by the CIA and Harvard Medical School.

The conference was the brainchild of David Eisenberg, MD, who is the director for research and education in complementary and integrative medical therapies at Harvard Medical School.  Dr. Eisenberg, a passionate food lover and cooking enthusiast,  is a true visionary who hopes to blend the worlds of food and medicine.  He’s trying to merge partnerships with culinary schools and medical schools.

IMG_0825The people who make the food we eat and the medical professionals dedicated to keeping us healthy rarely speak to each other, he said.  But we need to work together if we’re going to make any impact on America’s widening waistlines and rates of chronic disease.

Dr. Eisenberg  also wants physicians to increase their own culinary literacy.  He wants to see the day when a recipe may be just as likely to be handed to a patient as a prescription.  His vision is to have teaching kitchens in hospitals — a place where patients can learn the skills they need to improve their health.

Most of the 450 people in attendance were physicians — who typically receive little or no nutrition education in their training.  The four-day conference was a perfect blend of nutrition science with hands-on cooking classes in the stunning CIA kitchens.

The presentations covered a lot of territory, but the primary take-home nutrition messages can be boiled down to these nine concepts:

  • Eat lots of vegetables
  • Say yes to good fats
  • Upgrade your carbohydrates (think whole grains, fewer refined carbs)
  • Choose healthy proteins
  • Stay hydrated
  • Drink alcohol in moderation (optional)
  • Take a multivitamin daily
  • Move more
  • Eat mindfully all day long

I loved the way a nutrition concept was addressed and then recipes were demonstrated to help bring this to life.  For example, we talked a lot about the benefits of a plant-based diet.  That doesn’t been eschewing meat, but learning to “flip” the normal American plate so vegetables dominate. It’s rethinking the meat as center-of-the-plate star.   Dr. Eisenberg said he relies on stir fries to help increase the vegetables on his family’s dinner plate.  He demonstrated his favorite stir fry, including the final touch of a cucumber garnish that he lovingly added to the corners of the serving platter.

Quick and Easy Asian Stir Fry Recipe


1 cup chicken stock
4 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
4 teaspoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons chili garlic sauce

Stir fry
3 tablespoons canola or peanut oil
3 garlic cloves, minced or smashed
1 piece ginger (1-1/2-inch), thinly sliced
1 scallion, thinly sliced
black pepper, coarsely ground, to taste
16 oz. shiitake or white mushrooms
10 oz. shrimp, or sliced chicken breast
1 lb. snow peas
1/4 cup sake or chicken stock
2 teaspoons cornstarch, dissolved in 4 teaspoons water
Peanuts, chopped for garnish

Combine sauce ingredients in a bowl.  Place a wok or saucepan over high heat until it starts to smoke.  Add 1-1/2 tablespoons of oil, swirling to coat sides, add mushrooms, stir-fry until golden brown.  Remove from wok.  Set aside.

Rinse out and dry wok.  Heat the wok until medium hot.  Add 1-1/2 tablespoons of oil, swirling to coat sides, then add the garlic, ginger, scallion and pepper until aromatic.  Add the shrimp, increase heat to high, and stir-fry for 30 seconds or until the shrimp are half-way cooked.  Add the snow peas, stir-fry for 1 to 2 minutes, if the ingredients get too dry, while cooking, add the sake or chicken stock.  Add sauce, bring to a boil, add cornstarch to thicken.  Adjust seasonings.  Garnish with peanuts.  Plate and enjoy!  Makes 4 portions.

I just returned from the conference last night.  I’ll be writing more about the meeting and sharing some of the amazing recipes.  I took a lot of photos, so come back to visit soon!

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