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Cooking Up Affordability and Nutrition with Chef Juan Cuadra

As we wrapped the second session of our “Shop Smart, Save Big” series, we hosted one of our favorite lessons of the program, the hands-on cooking class, at the SOS Callahan Community Kitchen on April 18th. During this lesson we invite students to learn alongside a local chef. During the most recent session, Executive Chef Juan Cuadra from La Concha Key West taught participants how to make chicken piccata, as well as an apple chicken salad, using many of the same ingredients. While these dishes might seem upscale, don’t be fooled, both dishes were surprisingly simple, quick, and affordable to prepare.  


Using a wide variety of vegetables, including red bell peppers, onions, garlic, celery, tomatoes, and cabbage, alongside proteins such as chicken and grains like pasta, he taught participants how to quickly and easily create this chicken piccata. He also spoke about and showed participants how to master the difficult skill of multitasking while creating the apple chicken salad at the same time. Nevertheless, our students easily followed the chef's instructions and were able to each complete their own dishes with ease.  


Not only was this an extremely tasty meal, but an informative class. Thanks to Chef Juan's knowledge and expertise, the seven participants learned about what made this meal so nutrient rich while still delicious. The Chef explained why it was important to have a variety of vegetables in our meals, what the benefits of each ingredients were in relation to our overall health (i.e. how the protein in the chicken is important to give us enough energy throughout the day and keep us full for longer, or how red bell peppers are a good source of vitamin C and fiber, thus strengthening our immune system, helping our digestion, and keeping us full for longer). All this information tied back to knowledge that participants gained in previous lessons and brought it into the present moment where they were able to actively put the information to use. 

Most importantly, these two dishes were chosen to demonstrate that we can prepare two or more entirely different meals with the same exact ingredients. This proves that not only can healthy eating be fun and diverse but also cost effective- which is a key theme throughout our Shop Smart, Save Big Series.  



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