Healing foods

KU Medical Center kitchen demonstrates healthy home cooking

It’s been said that certain foods are good for the soul. Lisa Markley can show you how to cook a whole host of foods that are good for the heart, can help fight diabetes, boost the immune system and combat cancer.

Cranberry apple relish

  • 1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries
  • 1 cup chopped apples
  • 1/2 cup currants
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 cup apple juice
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Place cranberries, apples, currants, zest, maple syrup, salt, and juice into a large saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil. reduce heat, remove cover, and simmer 20 to 25 minutes until all of the liquid has evaporated. Remove from heat. Add walnuts or local pecans, serve at room temperature. This will keep in a sealed container in the refrigerator 3 to 4 days.

Markley is the nutrition educator and outpatient dietitian at KU Medical Center’s Program in Integrative Medicine. As part of her job, she oversees the Healing Foods Kitchen, a demonstration kitchen that helps faculty, staff, students, patients and community members learn about all aspects of healthy cooking, from selecting the right foods to choosing recipes that make cancer-fighting cruciferous vegetables taste delicious.

The kitchen began its first series of classes in July. Each class focuses on a specific topic and brings about a half-dozen students into the kitchen where Markley demonstrates how anyone can prepare healthy meals.

“Our message at the kitchen is translating healthy cooking into practical, hands-on applications,” Markley said. “We try to focus on particular health conditions and how foods relate to that.”

Submitted/Lisa Markley

Lisa Markley, nutrition educator and outpatient dietitian at KU Medical Center’s Program in Integrative Medicine, demonstrates healthy cooking techniques for a class. Markley directs the Healing Foods Kitchen, a program that shares healthy cooking methods, foods that can help ward off illness and other tips with university and community members.

This month, Markley is offering classes such as “Healing Foods for Cancer: Vitamin A Rich Superfoods,” “Fighting the Flu with the Right Foods” and “Fish Frenzy.” The classes offer educational tidbits such as the value of carotenoids found in winter squash in fighting cancer, as well as recipes participants can use at home. But those aren’t the only benefits.

“Of course, we get to eat everything we make,” Markley said.

The classes are open to the public and attract a wide cross section of the community. Many participants are KU Medical Center employees stopping by for a class on their lunch hour. Others are patients at the KU Hospital learning to alter their diets in response to a recently diagnosed health condition. Some are just learning to cook, and others are professionals. Markley said a recent class was attended by a pair of professional vegetarian chefs who wanted a better understanding of the nutrition of their foods.

Students also get in on the action. Markley enlists student volunteers in each class who help with the preparation and demonstration. For their efforts, they not only learn how to cook healthy, they get to share the meal at the end of class.

Markley designs many of the classes and asks participants to evaluate each upon completion. Several have been offered multiple times by popular demand. “Fish Frenzy,” a class that teaches the nutritional value of Omega-3, some of the best fish to prepare and cooking techniques such as marinating, pan searing and baking, is among the most popular. Others are developed at the suggestion of participants. One student wanted tips for a healthy stir-fry. Another wanted to know how to make gluten-free pizza dough.

The kitchen goes beyond food and nutrition in its classes, also showing the value of sustainability. The facility was built with bamboo cabinets, low-energy lights and Energy Star-certified appliances. It uses reusable dishes and Markley and her student assistants compost all food waste. She also addresses the benefits of using locally grown food and works to show participants how food grown in their own gardens can be prepared in healthy ways. Local growers donate much of the food used in the demonstrations.

A licensed dietitian, Markley also offers nutritional counseling in an outpatient setting. Few dietitians in the area have clinics in which they can do demonstrations, a real benefit in a fast food culture.

“It’s a unique feature of our clinic,” Markley said. “We want to make nutrition accessible to people, and we’re trying to get people back to the kitchen table.”

Though the Healing Foods Kitchen is relatively new, the Program in Integrative Medicine has been part of the KU Medical Center for 11 years. Markley credits Jeanne Drisko, Riordan Endowed Professor of Orthomolecular Medicine program director.

“It was because of her vision that we have the clinic, and I’m able to do this. She’s a very nutrition-oriented physician,” Markley said. “I feel blessed to be able to do what I’m passionate about, and that’s teaching people about the healing power of food.”

Click here for more on the Healing Foods Kitchen.

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