Eat well, live well

Hilton Head Health's new culinary center teaches benefits of healthy cooking

September 21, 2011 

  • Hilton Head Health is opening its doors to the general public to take classes at its new Culinary Arts Center. Details:

  • Chicken Souvlaki

    Makes: 6 servings (1 skewer per person)

    For the marinade

    1 cup lemon juice

    1/2 cup olive oil

    1 cup soy sauce, low sodium

    3 tablespoons oregano, dried

    6 garlic cloves, minced

    4 cups fresh chicken stock

    For the skewer

    1 yellow onion, cut into large squares

    1 green pepper, cut into large squares

    6 chicken breasts, cleaned, trimmed, cut into four strips

    6-8 inch wooden skewers

    In a medium-sized bowl, mix lemon juice, olive oil, soy sauce, oregano and garlic.

    Then skewer 4 pieces of chicken breast, keeping 2 pieces each of onion and green peppers between each strip of chicken on the skewers.

    Place skewers in a single layer in 2-inch pans and then drizzle marinade over skewers; do not stack meat deep or marinade will not reach the top layer.

    Marinate overnight.

    Grill mark skewers before service, finish in 350 degree oven uncovered for 10 minutes.

    Pour remaining marinade from the meat into a medium pot, add 4 cups fresh chicken stock and boil to reduce.

    Serve 2 ounces of sauce over each skewer after plating.

    Nutrition information: 180 calories; 2 fat grams. Recipe courtesy Culinary Arts Center at Hilton Head Health

Adam Tannenbaum carefully chopped garlic cloves to prepare the marinade for his chicken souvlaki. It was just one step of many, a bit of a daunting task when he first picked up the recipe. It involved layering, skewering, straining ... steps he normally wasn't used to.

"This is a little more advanced than the usually unseasoned chicken on my George Foreman Grill," he said.

The Connecticut native was attending the "Chicken 101" class last week at the new Culinary Arts Center at Hilton Head Health.

Patients come from around the country to spend days or months at the weight loss and healthy living retreat in Shipyard Plantation on Hilton Head Island. The curriculum helps residents figure out a fitness plan, a well-balanced diet and techniques to change the psychological habits that may have contributed to an unhealthy lifestyle. The center was recently featured on the A&E series "Heavy" that followed guests as they tried to lose weight and change their lives.

While much of its focus has been on healthy cooking, the Culinary Arts Center gives a different angle to its offerings. Just looking at a chicken souvlaki recipe can be intimidating, but watching how it is done and then doing it became much less frightening.

The center is designed specifically for teaching and learning. Chef Jen Welper cooks facing the students, who each have a stove, oven, sink and refrigerator of their own. Students can gather around the center island where Welper cooks or watch on television monitors that broadcast her every move.

Healthy eating doesn't have to be just chicken and brown rice. The chicken souvlaki is an example that flavorful chicken isn't fattening. The "Chicken 101" class came with a cookbook with extra attention on calorie counting. The souvlaki recipe, for example, has 180 calories and only two grams of fat.

The Culinary Arts Center opens up the ability to teach healthy cooking to not only guests, but to the general public as well. Hilton Head Health plans on welcoming locals not involved in a specific program to sign up for cooking classes.

"We want real people in here learning about real food," Welper said.

Virginia resident Susan Martin made a marinade for herself in the "Chicken 101" class.

"I don't know how to cook. I'm dangerous in the kitchen," she said with a laugh. "So I'm glad to be around people who can help me."

The next day she planned on more intensive nutrition session, one where a guide from the center took her to the store to help her shop for the healthiest ingredients for her recipes.

"It can be hard to eat healthy," she said. "I need all the help I can get."

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