The recipes range from the homespun – “Nana’s Party Meatballs” – to the exotic – “Bhaigan Chokha” (“Roasted Mashed Eggplant”) from the island of Trinidad & Tobago. And along the way, Healthy Helpings … and a Few Tasty Transgressions, the just-published cookbook from the Rutgers School of Public Health student volunteer organization, V.O.I.C.E.S., serves up a steady course of nutrition and health education.
The 2013 edition is the second Healthy Helpings cookbook published by V.O.I.C.E.S. (Volunteer Opportunities in Community Engaged Services) to raise funds for worthy causes. “The first edition in 2008 was so successful – we raised $2,000 for Elijah’s Promise in New Brunswick – that we decided to publish a second edition,” says Megan Rockafellow, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health whose love of cooking spurred her to spearhead the project. “Healthy Helpings is the culmination of two years of solicitations and culling recipes and health essays from the school and beyond.”
“Megan has worked tirelessly on this project,” says Bernadette West, V.O.I.C.E.S.’s academic adviser. “The first edition had contributions just from the School of Public Health. This year, we cast a wider net.” The 2013 edition of Healthy Helpings offers selections from other Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences schools, including Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and New Jersey Medical School, as well as from community groups across the state.
Proceeds will be split into equal donations to Elijah’s Promise and the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Foundation, at the request of Rockafellow. “My grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease about seven years ago, and I feel strongly that a cure to the disease will come if we support Alzheimer’s-focused scientific research,” Rockafellow says. One of the contributions is a tribute to her other grandmother: banana cream pie. “Everyone in my family requests that she makes this dessert for their birthday – or anytime we see her,” she says.
The student team organized the 150-page book containing more than 100 recipes into 12 sections – appetizers, beverages, soups and salads, vegetables, side dishes, main dishes, meat, poultry, vegetarian, seafood, breads and muffins, and desserts – and made sure to include healthy ingredient substitutions for those who want fewer calories or more nutritional value. Informational sections touch on such topics as “Eating on a Budget,” “What Does 200 Calories Look Like?” and “An Herb 101.”For the introduction, Rockafellow solicited perspectives on healthy eating from students representing various departments in the School of Public Health. “It was interesting to see the variety of standpoints on healthy eating, from environmental health to health systems and policies, even biostatistics,” she says.
The 2013 edition includes more ethnic dishes than the previous one. “As a school, we are very diverse,” says Rockafellow. “We come from different backgrounds, so we have recipes from all parts of the world.”
One recipe is for the vegan creation, “Bhaigan Chokha,” submitted by Harlem Gunness, a student at Rutgers School of Nursing.
“I wanted to share a dish from my upbringing,” he says of this recipe from Trinidad and Tobago, an island country off the coast of Venezuela that is home to people of African, Indian, Spanish and French origin. “My recipe stems from the indentured laborers who have come to the island from East India since 1838 and have kept their tradition and culture throughout the years.”
“We timed publication for December so it could be given as a holiday gift,” says West, who contributed “Cele’s Noodle Kugel,” her mother-in-law’s recipe. “It is probably not one of the healthier recipes,” she admits, “but it is a family holiday tradition we hold dear.”
To Order Healthy Helpings:
Healthy Helpings … and a Few Tasty Transgressions – will be available for purchase in the main lobby of the School of Public Health, 683 Hoes Lane West, in Piscataway December 10 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. The cost of the 2013 edition is $20; if purchased along with the 2008 edition $30. Books also can be ordered online or by emailing West or Rockafellow.