Jessica Lane, Staff Writer, firstname.lastname@example.org
Rosalie Bush, of OHCE Rural Neighbors, stands behind a steel island in the humid kitchen of Chickasha First Baptist Church. She demonstrates to the audience, seated on two rows of fold-out chairs in front of her, how to cook the package of groceries they receive from the food pantry.
Bush and Joyce Stockton and Gladys Scrimsher, also OHCE Rural Neighbors, put on a show for the group. Demonstrating how to make simple and healthy dishes with the food they are provided.
"I try to give them a little something different to do with what they've got," Bush said. For example, this time the group got a package of sausages, so she provided a recipe for jambalaya.
Unlike other cooking shows where only one or two audience members get to sample the dishes prepared before them, the OHCE cooking class gives a bowl of the freshly prepared dish to everyone.
In addition to teaching the class what to cook with the food they receive in their food packages, Bush teaches them about nutrition.
Bush told the class that eating well doesn't have to be expensive, nor does it have to be time consuming.
"Add a salad or a green vegetable, and you have a meal," Bush said.
The food preparation methods that Bush uses are mostly baking and stove top cooking rather than frying.
Bush also talked to the class about using substitutions in their cooking. For example, the cottage cheese in the broccoli cornbread keeps the bread moist, but it can't be tasted after cooking.
"So you don't have to hear the kids say 'but I don't like cottage cheese!' because they won't know it's there," Bush said.
Any kind of chicken can be used in the chicken and rice recipe, she said. It doesn't have to be prepared, frozen chicken breasts.
With their food packages this week, the group received a package of greens. Greens can be eaten in more ways than just in a salad, according to Stockton.
"Don't let those greens go to waste," Stockton said. She told the group that the greens can be eaten without dressing, on a salad or even in a peanut butter and pickles sandwich, which Stockton said she occasionally enjoys.
At each cooking class, there is a food drawing. Winners receive one of the dishes ready to eat that night or a package of fruit. This time, it was a large bag of apples. Stockton told the group that they can cut up the apples and put Sprite or lemon juice on them so that they don't turn brown. She added the classic health adage, "An apple a day keeps the doctor away."
Bush said that her recipe ideas come from a lifetime of culinary experience as well as cooking for the senior citizens at the church. It's not always easy to prepare for the monthly class, since the number of participants can vary from more than 30 to just a few.
Bush started the OHCE project about a year ago, she said.
"The church was pleased about us doing this." She said that one of the reasons she started the class was because often, people don't know what to do with the items in their food pantry package.
"I try to keep it to as few ingredients as possible and as simple as possible," Bush said.
"I try to stress that keeping nutrition in mind is something good they can do for their family, so that they aren't packing on calories needlessly."