April 21, 2010

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Dietetics and human nutrition students at the University of Kentucky recently proved that too many cooks in the kitchen is not necessarily a bad thing. They worked alongside their classmates to modify recipes to make them healthier, tastier and easier to prepare while using as many Kentucky-grown products as possible.

The recipe modifications were a part of the Kentucky Proud Recipe Database project. The project is a joint venture of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture and UK Cooperative Extension Service and School of Human Environmental Sciences in the College of Agriculture. This was the second semester UK students developed recipe modifications.

"It's definitely a way for us to take what the students are learning in class and allow them to apply it to a real-world situation," said Tammy Stephenson, a lecturer in the Department of Nutrition and Food Sciences who taught the experimental foods classes with UK Associate Professor Kwaku Addo.

Each month, family and consumer sciences extension agents will select one modified recipe that features an in-season Kentucky product. A link on the Kentucky Department of Agriculture's Kentucky Proud website will feature the selected recipe. The site will also include podcasts and videos that discuss consumer education topics such as shopping the farmers market, food safety issues, food preparation techniques and selecting, buying and storing the featured food. Family and consumer sciences extension agents will also feature the modified recipe in their local consumer education programs.

"It's a wonderful project that, in the long run, gives us copyrighted recipes that are uniquely Kentucky but also adds the use of research in a very applicable way for the Kentucky consumer," said Janet Johnson, Allen County family and consumer sciences extension agent.

Family and consumer sciences extension agents submitted recipes from their personal collections that they thought might be appropriate for the project.  Of those recipes, the students, working in pairs, selected one to modify.

"By far we've found that with the vegetables, during the spring season especially, the modifications are much tastier, healthier and prettier in terms of plating than the original recipes submitted by the agents," Johnson said.

Not only has the project provided an outlet for the creation of new Kentucky recipes, but it's also a great educational experience for students. Ashley and Cole Phillips, sisters and dietetics majors from Campbellsville, said they learned a lot in the process of modifying a green bean recipe. They presented their additions of minced garlic, reduced-fat dressing and ham to a panel of family and consumer sciences extension specialists and agents.  

"You can add a lot more things to a recipe without adding a lot more calories to it, if you do it in the right way in the right amounts," Cole Phillips said.

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