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Easy ways to eat better
and healthier - Introduction
by Pat Mugridge

Aren't we all are looking for ways to eat better? Have more servings of the foods that are good for us like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes?

Does it seem they take too much time to prepare - and just don't taste as good as the "other" foods? You know the ones I mean: the high fat, salt, and sugar items that are so easy to pick up at the drive through, deli, or frozen food sections. We're busy and need to get food on the table that's fast and easy. Right?

What if I gave you some easy, fast, and tasty recipes that would allow you to incorporate all of those fresh and healthy foods? And what if most of these recipes take little or no cooking and could be used in a variety of ways to suit everyone's tastes? Well that's just what I am going to do.

This is the first of a series of articles that will coincide with new culinary classes that will run monthly at Hillcrest Family YMCA. Each month there will be a new recipe based on fresh produce, grains, and legumes. The recipes will take only a little time to prepare; most will be around 15 minutes. And best of all, many of the dishes can be used in multiple ways. The featured recipe could be part of a main dish, a light lunch, a side dish, or even a snack!

Let me tell you a little bit about what to expect. I have taught cooking classes for almost twenty years. I did a segment on a radio show for almost ten years that focused on seasonal foods and recipes. I also do some food writing for different venues.

My passion is making delicious food with good ingredients and finding ways to do it everyday. I believe that eating a variety of foods is the best way to get the vitamins and nutrients we need to live a healthy life.

And I firmly believe that everyday meals should be exciting and tasty. The most important people you will ever cook for are you and your family. I want to share the tools and tips that will make it possible to have the food you deserve.

Last fall I met Carla Turner, then membership director at the Hillcrest YMCA. She has a food background and a passion for helping people learn to eat well. Carla suggested that I work on starting some ways to incorporate cooking classes into the Y.

We started right away by adding an article about seasonal foods to our Hillcrest newsletter. Carla left Hillcrest to go the Downtown YMCA shortly afterwards and I began working on class ideas with Paul Rogerson, Hillcrest YMCA Program Director. The concept has been in the planning stage for quite a while.

Things came together when Legacy Village Giant Eagle agreed to be our partner and provide the fresh produce for our demonstrations. Chris Gibson, manager of Legacy Village Giant Eagle, cited Giant Eagle's commitment to offering only the finest quality fresh fruits and vegetables and also to making a contribution the community. We are so grateful to Chris and Legacy Village Giant Eagle for their help.

In planning the first class I wanted a recipe that was seasonal and versatile. Pineapple Salsa seemed a perfect choice.

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Pat Mugridge

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