MARQUETTE - Every chair was filled on a steamy July afternoon and all eyes were on Rita Short.
Short, a registered dietician, had come to the Marquette Senior Center to offer two-fold help in the form of meals that are not only nutritious but can be prepared on a grill.
And the gathering of seniors, weary from a relentless hot spell, were a most interested audience.
A healthy salad, featuring black beans and edamame, was one of the dishes prepared during a summer recipe demonstration at the Marquette Senior Center recently. (Journal photo by Renee Prusi)
"Summer time is a great time for grilling," she said. "But there are a lot more choices than just burgers, hot dogs and brats.
"And summer is a great time for salads," Short said. "And those can include lots of veggies and fruits. The recommendation is to get at least five servings of those a day. That sounds overwhelming, but if you make a conscious effort, it's really not."
An easy way to incorporate more of these healthy items, Short said, is to have them washed and ready to go in the fridge.
Registered dietician Rita Short offered this recipe, a favorite of her family's, as one healthy choice for seniors. It can be prepared on the grill in the summer or in the oven any time of year.
Greek Chicken with Potatoes
Makes six servings
6 medium red potatoes, cut into four pieces each
1/2 pound carrots (about 5 or 6 medium carrots) chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 chicken breast, without skin, cut in half
2 chicken legs, without skin
2 chicken thighs, without skin
1/4 cup lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 teaspoon pepper
3 teaspoons dried oregano
Put cut potatoes and carrots on the bottom of a large roaster that has been coated with cooking spray.
Sprinkle half of lemon juice, olive oil and seasonings over vegetables. Layer chicken on top of this and sprinkle remaining olive oil and seasonings on chicken.
Cover with aluminum foil and put on gas grill with burners on medium or regulated until the grilll maintains a heat of 350-400 degrees. Cooking time varies between 1 hour to 1 1/2 hours so check every 10-15 minutes after 50 minutes of cooking has past.
Remove foil and baste liquid over top and cook for another 10-15 minutes until potatoes are tender and chicken is done.
(Or cook in a 350-degree oven, following similar procedure. Make sure the chicken is cooked to the desired internal temperature of 165 degrees.)
NOTE: You may use heavy duty aluminum foil instead of a roaster but it may be challenging to keep all ingredients in the foil unless the foil is wide enough.
"You can serve fruits and vegetables with your meal as a side dish," she said. "But they also make a great snack."
One of the vegetables Short recommended to seniors is edamame. Edamame is soybean, parboiled and frozen, making it a convenient choice.
To boost nutrition, seniors also should try to include more whole grains in their diets.
"I brought some samples," Short said, holding up several different bread loaves. "You're looking for bread with extra fiber. Those with three grams or more make it whole grain.
"And whole grain pastas can be found much more easily now," she said. "They used to be a lot more expensive than other pasta, but now the price is pretty close.
"And the taste has really improved, too, so if you haven't tried it in awhile, give it a go," she said. "When you eat it, after you add all the fixings, you can't even tell it's whole grain."
Another way to boost nutrition is simple as well, Short said.
"When you're making a salad, add black beans," she said. "That will increase your fiber intake easily. They are high in protein and have really gotten to be popular in recent years.
"And don't forget the tomatoes. They are a great source of lycopene and other antioxidants," Short said. "I suggest adding wheat berries as well. Those might take a little time to prepare, but they are worth it."
Wheat berries are the entire wheat kernel, except for the hull, and add both crunch and fiber when added to recipes. Short said they might be a bit more difficult to find at grocery stores, but can be purchased at the Marquette Food Co-op.
Other recommendations Short made were to use oils like olive, canola and peanut, which are better choices nutritionally than some more common oils; to include foods with Omega 3 fatty acids, like tuna and other fish as well as some nuts; and to try include fish in general more often as a main course.
"You can watch for specials on fish at local markets and buy in bulk," she said. "It freezes well for three to six months."
Short demonstrated some of the recipes she distributed to the seniors and the crowd was able to try a salad with wheat berries and black beans as well as some grilled chicken she had marinated overnight.
"Chicken you can take from frozen and thaw in the refrigerator. You mix up one of the marinades in a Ziploc bag and put the chicken in there to marinate while it thaws in the fridge," she said. "It's simple to do and so tasty. It's a change of pace that you will enjoy."
Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253.