Cooking Healthy, Eating Fresh Elective, Class 1 – The Hispanic Diet (Guest post)

His big red clown shoes were obvious as they peeked out from underneath the curtain. His smell overtook me immediately upon walking into the room. Pulling back the curtain, I saw him sitting there, right next to my patient. My 47 year old, obese patient with diabetes mellitus, hyperlipidemia, and exacerbation of her interstitial lung disease, had gone down stairs and picked up a meal from McDonald’s.

It’s a story we hear all to often in the medical field. And yet, these stories are not limited to our patients. As medical professionals, we too find ourselves in line for a quick bite of McyDees.

Among these stories that have now become commonplace though, there is a new story being written. One that is gaining prominence across the country, in places like the NYU medical center, Kaiser Permanente in California, and Cleveland Clinic, to name a few. And the string that binds these stories together is healthy, fresh food.

This week there was a new addition to this story with the inaugural class of the “Cooking Healthy, Eating Fresh” elective – a student run, hands-on cooking class geared towards MS2s right about to enter clinics. With a total of 5 classes this semester, each one focused on a specific health topic (e.g. diabetes, cardiovascular disease), the students in this class are getting a chance to hear from a physician in the field as well as learn to cook from a premier chef – German Mosquera, formerly at Ruggles Green, and now Head Chef at  Roots Bistro.


Class Topic – Accessibility

One of the main issues with counseling our patients, especially those with no insurance or a Gold Card, is accessibility to fresh fruit and veggies. If you’d like to read more about Houston’s food desert status and ideas already being worked on, check out this article from the Houston Chronicle.  The bottom line is that some of our neighborhoods in Houston don’t have easy access to fresh produce. There are a number of ideas being discussed, including the establishment of farmer’s markets in these communities, but share your thoughts – let us know if you have any ideas for what we can do as a community to promote accessibility.


Cool Ingredients

Butter lettuce – a versatile green leaf lettuce for wraps, salads, and sandwiches, use the hydroponic variety for cleaner, more sustainable growing.

Ancho Dried Chili – sweet and mild chili accent that can be added to any soup, sauce or marinade.

Epazote – A Latin American herb, available at a local Fiesta market, comparable to cilantro or basil.

Coconut palm sugar – a great low-glycemic sweetener option that is minimally processed.

Banana leaf – useful in Latin American cooking as a cooking vessel and flavor infuser.

Whole grain sprouted hemp tortillas – a better alternative to processed wheat or corn tortillas, contain more protein and fiber.


Random Tips

–  Learn how to handle your knife properly – allows for more precise cutting, better handling.

–  Use a type of acid, such as lime, lemon, or orange, to prevent oxidation (browning) in fruits such as avocados and apples.

–  Use Ancient sea salt instead of iodized salt because of its high mineral content. (but remember there is no iodine in sea salt)

–  Color is flavor, burnt is burnt!

–  Fresh ingredients are the key to flavorful food.

–  Simple vinaigrette ratio – 1 part acid:3 parts oil.

–  Know your dirty dozen and clean 15. This will help you save money and be more conscious when deciding what to buy organic.

Tortilla Soup


  • 3 field ripe tomatoes, or 1 -14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped white onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 6 cups chicken stock or vegetable stock
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • 4 large fresh epazote sprigs or cilantro

For the condiments:

  • 2 pasilla chiles, seeded and cut into small squares or strips
  • Hemp tortilla strips or squares
  • 1/2 lb. local artisan cheese
  • 1 ripe Hass avocado, pitted and peeled, then diced


1. Sauté the onions, tomatoes, and garlic with olive oil until soft.


2. Add the stock and bring to a boil.  Season to taste with sea salt, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 5 minutes.  Add the epazote or cilantro and continue to simmer for another 5 minutes. (Add chicken if desired).


3. To prepare the condiments, heat the oil in a small frying pan over medium heat.  Add the chiles and fry quickly until crisp, about 1 minute.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer the chiles to paper towels to drain, the pat them with more paper towels to absorb the excess oil.  Repeat the same steps for the tortilla strips.


4. When ready to serve, remove the epazote sprigs from the soup.  Put equal amounts of the tortilla strips and cheese in the bottom of each warmed bowl.  Ladle the hot soup and top with the fried chiles and the avocado.


Makes 6 servings



Butter Lettuce Salad with orange, jicama, and avocado


  • 1/3 cup fresh lime juice, strained (about 2 limes)
  • 1 chipotle chile, pureed
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 navel oranges
  • 2 bunches greens of choice, about 1/2 lb, large stems removed
  • 1 small jicama, about 3/4 lb, peeled and finely julienned
  • 1 ripe Hass avocado, pitted and peeled, then sliced lengthwise



1. In a small bowl, whisk together the lime juice, chile, 1 teaspoon sea salt, and pepper to taste.  Pour the oil in a thin, steady stream while whisking constantly until thoroughly emulsified, forming a vinaigrette.  Set aside.


2. Working with 1 orange at a time, cut a slice off the top and the bottom to reveal the flesh.  Place the orange upright on the cutting board and, using a sharp knife, cut down along the sides, removing all the white pith and membrane.  Cut the orange in half vertically then cut each half crosswise into slices 1/4 inch thick.  Repeat with remaining orange.  Place in a bowl, add the greens and jicama, and toss to mix.


3. Just before serving, drizzle the vinaigrette over the greens mixture, then carefully fold in the avocado slices.  Taste and adjust the seasoning with sea salt.


Makes 4 servings

Link to photo and alternate salad recipe


Jasdeep Mangat & the Cooking Healthy Team
(Recipes courtesy of German Mosquera)


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