By WAYLON CUNNINGHAM
The last few weeks in this column have seen their fair share of rich foods. We’ve had honey bars and sweet potato pie, haggis and buttered scones. And as far as I’m concerned, these are “healthy” foods. They “heal” the soul. But apparently, I’m told, many nutritional experts have a different view. I called one up this week to hear what all the fuss was about.
Chelsea Stevens isn’t your typical nutritionist, however. Or maybe she is. I guess I can’t say I know too much about this breed of folk, except that when someone says “nutritional diet,” I tend to think of a rabbit-like diet of kale and carrots. But Chelsea doesn’t do that. Instead, she spreads nutrition for the everyday mom and pop — your parents, homemakers and live-aloners who might not have a history of cooking fancy foods or a Whole Foods membership card.
In her words, her organization targets “the working person that wants to put a truly nutritional meal on the table, but doesn’t have five hours to do it.”
Next month will mark her eighth year at the Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Service, where she’s worked since her first year out of college. They work to address local needs throughout the state with educational programs backed by the latest research. She’s the coordinator for Williamson County, and with 471,000 people, “it’s a big job,” she says. She works with the department specifically focused on spreading more nutritional, home-cooked recipes, as studies have shown that many people in Texas simply aren’t getting the balanced nutrition necessary for proper health— particularly, the poor and those who often eat out at restaurants.
The recipes Texas Agrilife pushes through its website, newsletters and monthly workshops, however, should appeal to anyone. Home-cooked meals in general tend to have fewer calories from saturated fats, added sugars, and sodium, and these recipes undergo a review process with dieticians. Plus, unlike some recipes you might find in elaborate home cookbooks or online elsewhere, these are cheap, and take less than 30 minutes to prepare.
So if you’re the kind of person that eyes the spinach but buys the Spaghetti-O’s, you need to pay attention.
“I get it too,” Chelsea says. “I’m a working mom. I take my two kids to soccer practice.” (No minivan, however). And besides, she says, when you do this kind of thing for a living, the last place she wants to spend a lot of time when she gets home is the kitchen.
Last year Chelsea actually taught one of these cooking workshops in Liberty Hill. She’s lived here for the past three years with her husband, Cole Stevens, who runs a taxidermy shop in town. He also does game meat processing, and sometimes, she says, “I mix our two worlds.”
If the recipe calls for lean ground beef, she’ll use venison from her husband instead, as it’s “one of the leanest red meats you can get.”
Now that’s local adaptation.
BBQ Pepper Steak
1 each green, red and yellow bell pepper, cut into strips
1 small onion, cut into strips
1 pound boneless beef top round steak, fat trimmed and cut into strips (Chelsea uses venison tenderloin)
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3 Tablespoons light soy sauce (less sodium)
1/2 cup low-sodium barbecue sauce
2 cups hot, cooked long-grain brown rice
1. Heat large non-stick skillet with cooking spray on medium-heat.
2. Add bell peppers and onions; cook and stir 6-8 minutes; transfer to large bowl and cover to keep warm.
3. Add meat, garlic and black pepper to skillet.
4. Cook and stir 3 minutes.
5. Add soy sauce; cook 1 minute or until meat is done.
6. Stir in barbecue sauce and cook another 3 minutes.
7. Toss meat mixture with vegetables.
8. Spoon over rice.