Dr. Karen Jacobs said she learned how to cook from her grandmother. She passed a love for cooking down to her children, and now that she has grandchildren, three generations of her family cook together.
“Cooking is something that is sort of part of my personality,” she said.
So much so, she brought it to students. Every Wednesday night, Jacobs, an occupational therapy professor and Boston University faculty-in-residence, opens the door of her 23rd floor StuVi II apartment. Students filter in and out for the Sargent Choice Test Kitchen with a stunning view of the Boston skyline as a backdrop. Each week for the past six years, Jacobs said, she brings a Sargent Choice-approved recipe for students to learn how to make and eat.
Jay Patruno, a dietetics student in Sargent College who serves as the event’s Sargent Choice Nutrition Center Representative, explained what “Sargent Choice” means. For something to be deemed “Sargent Choice,” it has to contain 100 percent whole grain, more fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, healthy oils, and low sodium. Patruno chose last night’s recipe, a pumpkin gnocchi with creamy mushroom sauce, a meal he said he made for his family on Thanksgiving.
Several of Jacobs’ occupational therapy students are regulars at the Test Kitchen, including Ereann Kilpatrick and Nikki Murgas. They said they have been attending since they came to Boston University a year ago. Murgas said because of the Test Kitchen, she’s more likely to experiment with new ingredients, like mushrooms, that she might not cook otherwise. Meeting new people, they both agreed, is a bonus.
Overall, a healthy lifestyle “is not something that needs to be a burden,” Patruno said. “And I think the goal of Sargent Choice is to show people healthy food tastes good. It’s easy as long as you know how to do it, and that’s what we’re here for.”
PUMPKIN GNOCCHI WITH CREAMY MUSHROOM SAUCE (adapted from Boston Medical Center Preventative Food Pantry)
Yield: Six servings
Nutrition information: 245 calories, 3 g saturated fat, 12 g protein, 39 g carbohydrates, 7 g fiber, 241 mg sodium
2 ¼ cups whole wheat flour, plus extra for kneading
1 15-oz. can 100% pumpkin puree, divided
¼ cup Parmesan cheese
½ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil or canola oil
¼ cup minced onion
2 tsp minced garlic
2 cups sliced mushrooms
1 cup fat-free evaporated milk
1 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
8 fresh sage leaves or ½ tsp dried sage
- Place flour into a large mixing bowl. Set aside ¼ cup pumpkin puree for the sauce. Add remaining pumpkin puree, beaten egg, Parmesan cheese, and salt. Using your hands, mix to form a soft dough. Knead dough for four to five minutes, until smooth—use extra flour if necessary.
- Divide dough into six equal parts. Roll each piece into a cylinder about one inch thick and twelve inches long. Cut into half-inch pieces. Place on a well-floured baking sheet.
- Bring six quarts of water to a boil. Add gnocchi and cook until they rise to the top, about four minutes.
- In the meantime, heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and cook for two minutes. Add mushrooms and cook until soft and browned, about four minutes. Whisk in reserved ¼ cup pumpkin puree, evaporated milk, vegetable broth, and sage. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer until lightly thickened, about eight minutes.
- Mix gnocchi into sauce. Heat through. Serve with extra Parmesan cheese if desired.