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Local teens teach healthy cooking techniques

By Margie Mansure (

Article Published: Feb. 14, 2013 | Modified: Feb. 14, 2013
 Local teens teach healthy cooking techniques

Kathleen Mansure and Grace Bowling sauté kale with cooking class participants.

Photo submitted

Just like most kids, they once enjoyed ordering chicken nuggets off the child’s menu.

Now, sweet potato lasagna, fish tacos and bean soup are considered favorite foods.

For the past two Saturdays, local teens helped cook up a healthy feast at a N.C. Cooperative Extension healthy cooking class.

Grace Bowling, 14-year-old instructor, said, “I love to spend time in the kitchen cooking and I love to eat.”

Grace probably doesn’t realize it yet, but by developing cooking skills at a young age, she is positioning herself for a long, healthy life.

By assembling carefully chosen ingredients, home chefs have ultimate control over the nutrient density of their diets.

According to an article published in the New England Journal of Medicine, for the first time in 100 years, our children’s life expectancy is declining due to an increase in overweight. This phenomenon is because of associated diseases that are now occurring in young adults, such as diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.

Kids who regularly partake of home-cooked family meals are able to develop their palates to include a variety of flavors. If mostly salty, greasy and sweet flavors are on the menu, it’s really difficult to get children to enjoy the subtle and complex flavors found in healthier choices.

Children are able to assist in the kitchen as early as preschool age. Young cooks are likely to enjoy what they have prepared. By the age of 12, they are fully capable of developing the cooking skills needed for the rest of their lives.

“My sister and I cook one meal for the family every weekend, unless we are really busy,” said Elaine Mansure, 13-year-old instructor.

By the time Elaine is on her own, cooking up a nourishing meal will be second nature.

These recipes were considered winners by adult and teen participants. The slaw is the best that I have ever tried.

Fish (or Tempeh) Taco

Spice blend
2 tsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. dried cilantro
¼ tsp. red pepper (optional)

Choose either: Four tilapia filets, or, two, 8-oz. packages of tempeh

Juice of ½ lime
½ cup tamari (for the tempeh only)

Tortillas and Toppings
8 corn tortillas (or taco-size wheat tortillas); serve warm
Queso fresco
Lime, squeeze
Avocado, sliced
Chopped fresh cilantro

For the tilapia: Rinse and patted dry, slice each filet in half lengthwise. Separate the thick halves from the thin halves and divide each onto to shallow baking pans (with edges). This will allow variable cooking times for the two thicknesses. Spread the spice blend over the top of the filets. Bake in a 375-degree oven until cooked through; the thinner halves will come out before the thicker ones. Remove from oven and squeeze fresh lime juice over them. Serve warm.

For the tempeh: Slice the tempeh into 1/8-inch slices; makes about 35 slices (2.5 inches long). Sauté in a little olive oil in a hot skillet until brown on both sides. Reduce heat and add tamari and spice blend, stir to coat. Finish with a generous squeeze fresh lime juice. Serve warm.
Serves 4-6.

Chipotle Slaw

1 cup mayonnaise (or vegan mayonnaise)
Fresh lime juice of 1/2 lime
2 cups red cabbage
3 cups white cabbage
1 large carrot shredded
½ cup sliced green onion
¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 tablespoon chipotle peppers in adobo sauce; chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Lime Crema
3/4 cup plain yogurt or sour cream
3 tablespoons lime juice
1/3 cup lightly packed fresh cilantro leaves
1/2 tsp salt

To assemble tacos, start with a warm tortilla and top with, in order, slaw, fish/ tempeh, lime crema and toppings.

This recipe originated with Beth Darnell, contributed by Ann Keifert, adult cooking instructor.

Margie Mansure, M.S., R.D., is a registered dietitian and nutritionist and extension agent with the N.C. Cooperative Extension. She offers personalized classes to improve the health of citizens in Watauga County through worksites, schools and community groups. To contact Margie, email or call (828) 264-3061.

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