March Is National Nutrition Month This Year’s Theme Is “Beyond the Table” Lenoir County Health Department Celebrates!

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National Nutrition Month® is an annual campaign created 50 years ago in 1973 by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. During the month of March, everyone is invited to learn about making informed food choices and developing healthful eating and physical activity habits.

This year’s theme is “Beyond the Table.” which addresses the farm-to-fork aspect of nutrition, from food production and distribution to navigating grocery stores and farmers markets — and even home food safety and storage practices. It also describes the various ways we eat — not only around a dinner table, but also on the go, in schools and restaurants, at games and events.

This theme also includes sustainability, for instance, decreasing food waste from school and work to home and beyond.
If you go to the official website for National Nutrition Month, you will find a wealth of information, each week there are four messages and a
theme. This week’s theme is, Stay nourished on any budget

  • Learn cooking, food preparation and meal planning skills,
  • Use a grocery list and shop sales when purchasing food,
  • Learn about community resources such as SNAP, WIC, and local food banks,
  • Practice home food safety

LC Health Department Celebrates Teamwork and Nutrition
This week I had the pleasure of joining Linda Sutton, our Commissioners Chairperson, and Michael James, County Manager, to judge “Chopped” Health Department Style, in a way to celebrate teamwork the Lenoir County Health Department developed a series of contests. The Chopped contest consisted of teams cooking Spinach the vegetable of the season in a small appliance drawn randomly. The appliances included, the air fryer, the instant pot, the toaster oven and a steamer. They chose their own recipes and had only 20 minutes to prepare. They were all delicious and beautifully presented. I promised to share the recipes, hope you will enjoy them as much as we did!

Creamy Spinach Orzo

(This was Mr. James first experience with orzo, he really enjoyed it)

  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup orzo pasta
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 4 ounces roughly chopped spinach
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper

Combine the vegetable broth and milk in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the orzo and cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the Parmesan and spinach. Keep cooking for about 3 minutes, until the spinach wilts down.
Taste the orzo, add salt and pepper to taste. Stir and remove from heat and serve.

Spinach Artichoke Dip

  • 4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • ½ cup Greek yogurt
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • ¼ cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • ¼ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • ¾ cup fresh spinach
  • 1 can artichoke hearts
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ teaspoon black pepper

Add the fresh spinach in a bowl and microwave on high for 30 seconds until softened. Place in a paper towel and squeeze to remove any liquid.
Drain artichokes then chop them slightly. These pieces don’t have to be perfect, just roughly chopped.
Add all of the ingredients into a large bowl, stir well.
Transfer it into an air fryer safe ramekin. Sprinkle a little mozzarella cheese on top.
Air fry at 350 degrees for 15 minutes, until the cheese melts on top.
Remove from the air fryer carefully and let it cool for about 10 minutes before serving.
Use your favorite crackers for dipping.

Half N’ Half Pizza, for air fryer

For the Margherita Pizza

  • 1 Pizza Crust, shaped into 2 6inch circles, they used Pillsbury
  • 1 cup Pomodoro sauce
  • 8 ounces fresh Mozzarella cheese ball, sliced
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, evenly sliced
  • 8 ounces fresh spinach, shredded
  • 4 ounces fresh basil, shredded
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • ¼ teaspoon fine salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil

For the Spinach Pizza

  • 1 Pizza Crust, shaped into 2 6inch circles, they used Pillsbury
  • 1 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 8 ounces fresh garlic
  • 8 ounce fresh spinach, shredded
  • ¼ teaspoon fine salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • ½ tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil for drizzle
  • ¼ teaspoon dried chili flakes

For the Margherita, preheat air fryer oven by selecting AIR ROAST, set temperature to 425 degrees and time to 12 minutes. Press the START/PAUSE button to begin preheating.
Spread a thin layer of sauce over pizza crust. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon minced garlic, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon black pepper.
Next add Roma tomato and mozzarella cheese slices alternating.
Top pizza with 4 ounce fresh spinach ad 2 ounces fresh basil alternating.
Drizzle pizza with ½ teaspoon olive oil being careful to spread evenly.
Place pizza directly on the sheet pan. For a crispy crust use the AIR ROAST setting of the air fryer oven at 425 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Ovens may vary so check at the 10 minute mark.
Remove and serve.
For the Spinach pizza, preheat the air fryer to AIR ROAST, set temperature to 425 degrees and set time to 12 minutes. Press START/PAUSE button to begin preheating.
Spread a thin layer of sauce over pizza crust. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon minced garlic, 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon black pepper.
Next top pizza evenly with 4 ounce fresh spinach, ¼ cup shredded mozzarella cheese, and 1/6 or half of the feta crumbles.
Drizzle pizza with ½ teaspoon olive oil, be careful to spread evenly.
Place pizza directly on the cooking sheet.
For a crispy crust use the AIR ROAST setting of the air fryer oven at 425 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Ovens may vary so check at the 10 minute mark. Remove and serve.

Spinach, Garlic & Tomato Pasta, for the Instapot

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 shallots, diced
  • 15 garlic cloves (9 minced or pressed and 6 thinly sliced)
  • 2 cups dry white wine or additional broth
  • 2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 pound whole-wheat penne
  • 1 1/4 pounds cherry or grape tomatoes
  • 8-10 oz baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Add the oil to the Instant Pot, hit Sauté, and Adjust so it’s on the More or High setting. After 3 minutes of heating, add the shallots and sauté for 2 minutes. Add all the garlic and sauté for 3–5 minutes, until browned but not charred.
Pour in the wine and scrape any dark bits from the bottom of the pot. Add the broth and pasta but do not stir. Just smooth it out so it’s mostly submerged in the broth (it’s okay if some peeks above).
Top with the tomatoes and spinach and again, do not stir. (NOTE: The reason we don’t stir the pot once pasta is added is so that it won’t “clog up” the pot when attempting to come to pressure. It also ensures the pasta cooks evenly.)
Secure the lid, move the valve to the sealing position, hit Keep Warm/Cancel, and then hit Manual or Pressure Cook on High Pressure for 4 minutes. Quick release when done.
Stir in the Parmesan (if using), let rest for 2 minutes to slightly cool and thicken, and serve.