The heat wasn’t too hot in Metro Health’s makeshift kitchen for Chef Oliver Hale, host of Chef O’s Place, a local cable cooking show. The healthy lifestyle chef bested his competition in a local celebrity chef cook-off held during a recent Health and Wellness Day at the Metro Health farmers market.
Hale’s stuffed chicken and rice pilaf combo beat entries prepared live by Metro Health Hospital Executive Chef Ryan Reynolds, Culinary Classroom Instructor and Personal Chef Terri Rees, and Chef Torrence O’Haire, whose culinary skills support Propaganda Doughnuts, a soon-to-open late-night ramen restaurant, The Bandit Queen, and his Starving Artist business.
The real winners, however, were audience members at the market, said Mishelle Bakewell, Metro Health Community Health and Wellness Director. She said events such as the cook-off are part of Metro Health’s mission to introduce the community to a healthier lifestyle. Attendees were able to sample all the dishes, made with fresh-from-the-farm ingredients, with the hope that they’d discover something new.
“People get a chance to try something like quinoa for the first time, which opens up their palate,” Bakewell said.
The Metro Health weekly market is a popular attraction for local residents, hospital patients and visitors, and hospital staff. Every Thursday morning, farmers and local artisans fill a street on the hospital’s campus to sell homegrown and handmade products. This year’s market runs until October 9.
In its ninth season, hospital staff have worked hard to ensure the market provides local, fresh food to those who might not otherwise have access. Vendors accept WIC and Senior Project Fresh vouchers, bridge cards, and double-up food bucks.
“We really try to keep a focus on that,” Bakewell said. “It’s really a misconception that healthy food costs more. We’re taking down barriers to healthy food.”
The success of the hospital campus market has led to a second market on Mondays at Aquinas College. Ellen Bristol, Metro Health Director of Public Relations, said improving access to healthier food choices perfectly aligns with the hospital’s focus on prevention.
“It puts our money where our mouth is,” she said. “This is part of a healthy lifestyle.”
The Health and Wellness Day was capped off with the Metro Way 5K Family Fun Run in the evening. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network were proud sponsors of both events.
Check out the recipe for Chef Hale’s winning entry, below. Get your fresh and healthy ingredients at one of the Metro Health farmers market locations. You’ll find a wide variety of locally sourced produce, cheeses, meats, and homemade jams, baked goods, and crafts.
Chef O’s Chicken Breasts stuffed with Zucchini, Roasted Red Pepper, and Goat Cheese
¼ cup minced onion
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup firmly packed, coarsely grated zucchini, squeezed dry in a paper towel
2 tablespoons roasted red pepper or pimiento, minced
1 ounce soft, mild goat cheese, crumbled
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (5 ounces each)
½ cup chicken broth
In a skillet, cook the onion in one tablespoon of the oil over medium low heat until softened. Add the zucchini and cook for one minute, or until the zucchini is tender. Stir in the red pepper and goat cheese. Add pepper to taste and cook the mixture, stirring until the cheese is melted. Transfer to a small bowl and let cool slightly.
On a flat cutting board, pound the chicken until it’s ¼ inch thick. With a tablespoon, place half of the mixture on the chicken breast. Roll the chicken up, keeping the mixture inside of the breast. Place in a greased cookie pan and bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees or until chicken is done.
Chef O’s Rice Pilaf with Cranberries
¼ cup apple cider
1 ½ cups cranberry juice
½ cup chopped onion
1 cup rice
½ cup dried cranberries
½ cup dry white wine
Plump the cranberries in the wine for about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring the apple cider, juice, and onions to a boil in a medium sauce pot. Add rice and cover the pot tightly. Cook in a 350 degree oven until the rice is tender and has absorbed all the liquid, about 30 minutes.
Combine the rice and the plumped cranberries. Serve with the chicken.
Photo credit: Diiesmiley