Allegheny Health Network’s Center (AHN) for Inclusion Health, Healthy Food Centers in partnership with Greater Pgh Community Food Bank and Second Harvest, offer free healthy food options, nutrition education, and support to the greater Pittsburgh community.
As an added benefit, Cura Hospitality, AHN’s dining services partner, is conducting cooking demonstrations using food that is commonly stored in the AHN Healthy Food Center. At its pilot demonstration held last month at Forbes Hospital in Pittsburgh, Cura Director of Dining Clint Shearer and his Chef Mario Aponte created a black bean tostada with sweet potato. Chef prepared the recipe step by step to make it easy for attendees to replicate at home.
According to Cura Culinary Director for AHN Ryan Sonson, “We also introduced other ingredients like guacamole, pica de gallo, and salsa, not available in the food center, but showing the versatility of the recipe.”
A base tostada recipe was used with ingredients readily available in the food center including canned black beans and sweet potatoes. In addition to creating this easy-to-make and inexpensive entrée, Shearer and Chef Mario addressed the many health benefits of the recipe’s ingredients – for example, beans, which are an affordable source of protein, fiber, iron, and vitamins!
“The partnership with Cura is amazing – we were so thrilled with the pilot. I’m so impressed with Clint and Chefs Ryan and Mario. The way that they conducted the presentation was so informational, while respectful to those in attendance, “says Colleen Ereditario, MPH, RD, LDN
Program Manager, Healthy Food Centers for AHN.
A food education slant made the demo that much more interesting as Chef Mario explained the traditions of tostadas dating back 2,000 years ago to Mexico, and how it became a delicious way to extend and make use of leftover tortillas.
In fact, using leftovers and food scraps normally discarded are being repurposed in many Cura recipes as part of the company’s Waste Nothing program, even more important with the rise in food cost. To help, Cura operators are also sharing inflation mitigation recipes as a way to reduce the cost of meals without sacrificing health and taste.
For example, recipes that use leftover baked potatoes have been an exciting addition. From baked potatoes to potato croquettes, these delicious sides are served with marinara and parmesan cheese! Asparagus and broccoli stems are also being repurposed to create robust soups, sauces, and pestos, while turkey meat replaces beef in chilis!
Inflation mitigation recipes are added to back-of-the-house production so that operators can create these recipes with the tools to track and reduce waste. “Waste Nothing and these new inflation mitigation recipes help us to promote engagement and excitement with culinary staff, inspiring us to create something new,” says Sonson, who adds that the team is energized because it challenges them to think about food in a strategic way –which is great to see.
Attendees left with a colored recipe card and Cura’s Waste Nothing hot sauce. “Our hot sauce is a wonderful example of how we used end pieces of tomato, onions, and bell pepper to create a delicious condiment,” says Sonson.
“The attendees opened up during the presentation – one of the patients even gave Clint a hug. In high-risk communities, the center is a valuable resource, and now a place where attendees can learn to make meals from what they gather in the food center,” says Ms. Ereditario.
Cura’s quarterly culinary demonstrations will also extend to other AHN hospitals that feature a Healthy Food Center. West Penn Hospital and Allegheny General Hospital are unique as they also source foods grown onsite from hospital gardens!
“The collaboration with Cura only enhances our goal to bring healthier foods to our communities,” adds Ms. Ereditario.