Eating healthier and incorporating more fresh vegetables and fruits into our meals is the theme of the new series of healthy cooking workshops hosted by the John F. Kennedy library in partnership with Sustainable Solano and UR what U eat.

The first of these seasonal cooking workshops- Fresh Out of the Garden was held on May 6th at the downtown Vallejo Public Library and was a success with a great turnout of local residents. About 30 people, comprised of both adults and teens showed up to learn about healthy cooking and how to make spring rolls with traditional sauces.

Sabine Salek, the librarian in charge of adult services, welcomed the audience to the first in the four part series of free healthy cooking workshops. She has been instrumental in helping initiate the program which includes a conscious eating book group. The book group will have their first meeting on June 14th at 6:30 pm to discuss Michael Pollan’s Food Rules: An Eaters Manual.

For the first healthy cooking class the library set up a table at the entrance to the auditorium where participants could sign in, get flyers for future events, and peruse a selection of books related to healthy eating, gardening and Asian cuisine.

Chef Lisa Núñez-Hancock, a member of Sustainable Solano and founder of UR what U eat, is a culinary arts instructor, natural food chef and food activist. In collaboration with the library and Sustainable Solano she designed the program to raise consciousness about healthy food choices. Chef Lisa will be teaching all four seasonal cooking workshops and will help facilitate the conscious eating book group meetings with the library staff.

The event started with an introduction by Ms. Salek. Chef Lisa then explained the program to the audience, who gradually dribbled into the auditorium. She spoke about the importance of healthy eating and incorporating more vegetables into our daily diets. Then it was on to the culinary background and cultural and historical roots of the spring roll.

Instruction started with how to make the two traditional sauces, nước chấm and the peanut sauce, tương đậu phộng.

Two tables were set up in the auditorium and displayed all ingredients and utensils needed to make spring rolls at home. Techniques and knife skills to julienne vegetables were demonstrated and most importantly the techniques and set-up needed to handle rice paper wrappers.

Some teens were selected from the audience and invited to assist Chef Lisa in preparing the spring rolls. In their hands on experience they saw how easy and fun it was to make this healthy recipe once you got the hang of working with the rice wrappers. Teen volunteers also learned to not leave the rice wrappers in the water too long or you are left with a gummy mess!

Vegetarians, vegans and ominvores alike attended the workshop. The cooking class ended with all participants getting yummy samples of the delicious spring rolls and sauces.

Everyone who attended not only got a sample of the spring rolls, but also a copy of the recipes to take home. Organizers hope that an invisible take away from this seasonal cooking program will be to show how preparing food with your family can be a fun and healthy activity.

The next seasonal cooking workshop for Summer will be July 29th. In that workshop Chef Lisa will be teaching the group how to make fresh pesto sauce(s). In addition to the traditional basil and pine nut version she will also be demonstrating other delicious variations.

And, in the spirit of the theme of “eat more vegetables” the Summer class will show the techniques for preparing vegetable alternatives to pasta. Join the next group and in addition to exciting pesto variations, learn how to prepare spaghetti squash and turn zucchini and into fresh natural and healthy “pastas” for a truly veggie wonderful meal experience.