Key Takeaways:

Melanie is a retired Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. She hosts the Nutrition Facts and Fallacies session on GetSetUp, where she helps Learners translate the latest science without ever forgetting the joy of eating. The recipe she submitted, shredded brussels sprouts salad, is for is simple to prepare, healthy, and taste good.

Melanie is a retired Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. For the last 14 years of her career, she was the Director of the Senior Nutrition Program with the Area Agency on Aging, Montgomery County, MD. She oversaw more than 40 congregate and home-delivered meals programs and led nutrition education and counseling for more than 6,000 seniors. She now hosts the Nutrition Facts and Fallacies session on GetSetUp, where she helps Learners translate the latest science without ever forgetting the joy of eating.

How did you become interested in cooking?

My mom was an avid cook, and I used to watch her. I became a foodie at an early age and loved interesting recipes. My mom collected recipes, and I started to collect them too. When I retired, I moved from Maryland to Florida. That was the perfect time to go through my stuff - I got rid of a third of my cookbook collection that I wasn’t using. I gave them to friends and the library. I also took a couple of days and went through piles of recipes I’d cut out of magazines and newspapers. As I was going through them, I realized many of them were from back in the sixties and seventies. We don’t eat that way anymore.  

Who taught you to cook?

Mom didn’t so much teach as inspire. I watched her and saw her love of cooking. She threw beautiful dinner parties. I was always intrigued by cooking. When I got my first apartment, I liked trying new recipes and having people over. I used to make an ice-cream Oreo pie - my friends still laugh about it. 

I was encouraged by my mother and then self-taught. With some creativity, and if you know how you want the final product to look, taste, and what texture it should have, you can get a nice variety of food.

The combination of being a foodie, enjoying cooking, a background in nutrition, and knowing the latest research on food comes together well. When I see a new recipe, I look at how I can make it healthier by cutting down on sodium or sugar or using plant-based ingredients instead of meat-based. 

Tell us a little about the dish you submitted.

When I have the opportunity to cook for others, I like to be creative and make sure that what I’m serving is healthy. I also like dishes that are simple to prepare. I don’t like complicated recipes. The recipe I submitted is simple to prepare, healthy, and tastes good. 

I do believe in moderation. Not everything is going to be healthy all the time. When I entertain, I love to have a wide variety of food – a couple of things higher in fat and sodium, desserts, but also salads, vegetables, and fruits.

The recipe I submitted was inspired by a Brussels sprouts recipe I saw demonstrated at the grocery store. Brussels sprouts are not especially loved by the masses. Something has to be done with them to make them look delicious and enticing. 

Because this recipe is so simple, I started taking it to potluck meals. When I first started taking it to office lunches, people rolled their eyes. But, over the years, they began to like it. I got people to like a cruciferous vegetable full of phytonutrients.

Raw brussels sprouts don’t have the same strong flavor and smell that many people find unpleasant. Shred the sprouts finely. Add a little dressing and candied pecans or walnuts for a bit of sweetness. 

Who is your cooking inspiration?

I am intrigued by chefs who take ordinary food and make it into something different that is healthier and tastes good. I like recipes that are simple to prepare with easy-to-find ingredients. I like to get ideas from cookbooks, but if I feel a recipe is unhealthy, I adjust it. For example, I may use half as much ground beef and substitute the rest with beans.  

Do you have any favorite dishes or any favorite food memories from childhood? 

I have a lot of memories of things my mother prepared that had an eastern European style. She was creative with her menu, serving roast duck with chopholders on the legs. We also ate veal, lamb, and steak, while vegetables played a smaller role in our diet.

Our diets have changed since then, and I like to give people tips to improve their food intake to decrease the risk of chronic disease and incorporate the latest research to slow down the aging process. My goal is to eat healthy without forgetting the joy of eating.

What advice do you have for people just learning to cook?

Start slowly. Get some simple recipes from magazines like Cooking Light or Eating Well. If you make something and don’t like it, don’t get discouraged. A good way to start is to try a new recipe a couple of times a week. If you live alone, prepare enough for two or four, pack the rest in a Ziploc bag, and store in the freezer.

Join Melanie as she co-hosts Plant-Based Eating: Recipe Spotlight with Deb and learn how to make Shredded Brussels Sprouts Salad.

Jun 13, 2022
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