From the Azle News, December 30, 2010
Resolved for 2011: Cook like a ‘loser’ and win – with help from Azle chef by by Jeri Field (Posted Today 01:08 pm)Dunaway teaches her students to cook and eat foods in their “closest-to-nature” form. If getting healthy is on your list of resolutions for 2011, perhaps you’d like to follow the lead of Azle resident Linda Johnson, who is learning to eat like a “biggest loser.”Johnson believes a simple back-to-nature diet will awaken the healthy person hibernating inside. Her awakening came earlier this year after a cancer diagnosis sent her to a nutrition class. She was told the best way to deal with the side effects during and after chemo was to “use food as medicine.”“I called it Chemo 101,” she said. “Eat lean, healthy food to heal the body.”Being from West Texas Johnson has lived on casseroles, chicken fried steak, potatoes and very few vegetables. That began to change in November when she met Chef Julia Dunaway, who was demonstrating how to cook fresh pear crisp at the Azle Farmers Market.“I told her I wanted to use food as part of my healing process,” Johnson said – and a healthy cooking relationship was born.To date, Dunaway has given Johnson four lessons on “How to cook like a contestant on the reality-TV show, The Biggest Loser in which grossly obese people compete to see who can lose the most weight through both diet and exercise.“In my opinion, people don’t need to diet so much as learn portion control,” Dunaway said. “And know where your food comes from. Eat mostly plants and not too much red meat.”Instead of purchasing ready-made, expensive food like Jenny Craig or Weight Watchers, Dunaway teaches people how to prepare their own tasty, healthy meals at home, focusing on food in its “closest-to-nature form – dark green vegetables and fresh fruits.“It’s like teaching a person to fish,” she said. “I resolve to get them off the frozen lean cuisine and processed diet full of chemicals that tastes horrible. They can eat a lot cheaper and better by making it at home.”Johnson dubs Dunaway’s approach to food as, “A slow-food menu.”“It’s not difficult,” she said. “But you can’t open a box, add hamburger and have a meal in 30 minutes.” Johnson’s last chemo treatment was on Aug. 31. On Sept. 25 she had her first cooking lesson. Under Dunaway’s tutelage, she made stir-fried chicken and vegetables, seared chicken breast with various sauces and last but not least, Indian shrimp Marsala. That was the first shrimp Johnson had ever cooked or eaten.“Where I grew up fish had to be hauled in on ice and was extremely expensive,” she said. “The only shrimp we ever dealt with was bait for catfish.”But when Dunaway’s shrimp “didn’t taste fishy,” Johnson decided to try some popcorn shrimp in her stir-fry.“She taught me about stir-fry,” Johnson said with a nod to Dunaway. “By adding fresh ginger, garlic and peppers, I can make a good meal.” “And what about the pan-seared chicken?” asked Dunaway.“Pound a chicken breast flat, oil both sides, sprinkle with salt and pepper and sear it in an extremely hot skillet,” said Johnson.“Searing the meat seals in the flavor,” explained Dunaway. “Some people cook chicken breast to death, until it’s hard and chewy.”Johnson has decided that the stirfry is her favorite recipe so far.“I can try so many different things in it,” she said. “I like to add the seared chicken breast to a pan gravy…”“Pan sauce!” Dunaway corrected.“In West Texas we call it gravy,” laughed Johnson. “I use wine, dijon mustard, cherry preserves… and…” glancing in Dunaway’s direction, she added, “I like almonds instead of that balsamic vinegar.”“I’m impressed with how much you’ve already picked up,” Dunaway said. “Look at the skills, ideas and techniques you will use for the rest of your life.”Dunaway constructs her recipes to be simple and flexible, “and to get people away from salt, fat and high sugar, which is the bulk of most diets,” she said. If someone doesn’t care to use chicken, they can use beef, turkey, pork, even sausage.“Just don’t dominate with the meat,” she said. “Use it as a side dish or condiment.”Dunaway is a graduate of the Culinary School of Fort Worth.When she isn’t teaching people to cook like a contestant on The Biggest Loser, she’s chief social worker for the Federal Bureau of Prisons in Fort Worth.To learn more, check out Dunaway’s blog at www.chefjulia.blog spot.com, or email questions to her at juliadunaway@ gmail.com.Azle chef Julia Dunaway is helping Linda Johnson cook healthy foods that will repair her body after chemotherapy. Photos by Jeri Field
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