Healthy Recipes for Healthy Meals in Fairfax

Eating well is an important part of overall good health.

Katie Strong, family and consumer sciences Extension agent for Fairfax, and Sue Gonzalez, Master Food Volunteer, recently demonstrated delicious summer salad recipes for Britepaths families and staff to encourage healthy eating habits.

Afterwards, Sue accompanied the workshop participants to a local farmers market so that they could purchase fruits and vegetables to make more healthy recipes at home.

Be sure to click here to read more about this exciting event!


Tips for Master Food Volunteers–The Language of Behaviour: Deciphering a Child’s Emotions


There are many rewarding aspects to being a Master Food Volunteer, including the opportunity to work with children and teens. As with any job, there are challenges. One of these is knowing how to respond to kids’ behavior when we feel it is getting “out of control”.

Stacy Sevy, a Master Food Volunteer from Fairfax, recently attended a program by Robert Kaplow, Director of Arlington Public School’s Extended Day Program, in Arlington, Virginia.  Mr. Kaplow provided an enlightening and powerful seminar entitled, “When Kids Act Like Kids” to convey a full spectrum of behavioral issues that may arise when dealing with this age group and, more importantly, the solutions to them.

As a seasoned professional who has worked with youth for many years, and a father of four, Mr. Kaplow shared what he has found to be the key to learning the language of children: simply taking a vested interest to understand a child’s heart. This is the source of all emotions that become the conduit for children’s nonverbal communication expressed as behavior.  Like a thermometer, adults can observe a child’s activity to detect whether a situation is beginning to boil such as a child who distracts his friends instead of listening to your directions, or there is a cool sense of peace and harmony when smiling teens dig into their citrus salad.

Labeling behavior as “good” or “bad” doesn’t do justice to what’s happening within a child. Rather, Mr. Kaplow prefers to describe behavior as a construct that constantly changes as a response to the child’s world around him/her, even changing from day to day and hour by hour. If one looks at challenging displays of emotion as a symptom of a root problem that needs to be addressed appropriately rather than an annoyance (usually a recurring one), tackling it becomes easier, for both child and volunteer.

Do you want to learn more about  why “kids act like kids” and how you can appropriately address specific behaviors with them your Master Food Volunteer programs?

Click here: MFV Blog The Language of Behavior Deciphering a Child’s Emotions for more in-depth information and tips for success.

Thanks, Stacy, for sharing this with us!

Stacy Sevy is a Master Food Volunteer with the Fairfax County Extension Office.  


Orange County Master Food Volunteer Shares Love of Cooking with 4-H Youth

Mutahara Mobashar, a librarian from Orange County, instantly became intrigued when her colleague gave a presentation on how she trained to become a Master Food Volunteer at an annual library conference. Since Mutahara enjoys educational programming, outreach and working with food, she immediately found a way to get involved. Mutahara was initially informed that the nearest class was going to be in Fairfax County. She found it a little daunting to commit 30 volunteer hours in a county that was out of reach during that time.

Luckily, after a couple of years, the Extension Office in Orange County informed Mutahara that Clare Lillard was their new family and consumer sciences Extension agent, and a Master Food Volunteer training class was offered in Harrisonburg. She was excited to have someone to work with directly and locally. After she completed her training, she became a Master Food Volunteer. During the past two years, she has assisted with health fairs, canning classes and worked with children at school by providing them information on healthy food choices.

In February, she was asked to give a small class to a group of 4H youth on how to prepare and cook something simple. She immediately decided to teach the kids how to make “samosas.” A samosa is a deep fried, triangle pastry that is filled with a savory or sweet filling. As a Master Food Volunteer, she tries to teach healthy eating habits, however, she also tries to make a point to tell children that it is okay to treat themsleves with moderation.

Mutahara wanted to introduce a snack from a different culture that contained some unique spices. The savory samosas were filled with potatoes, ground chicken, onions, salt, cayenne, cumin and coriander. She demonstrated how to make the samosas by making a triangular shaped cone out of a tortilla and then sealing it with flour paste, filling it and then sealing it again. After they were fried, she allowed the children to taste them with a few sweet and sour sauces. Not only did she demonstrate savory samosas, but sweet samosas as well. They were stuffed with home canned apples, cinnamon and brown sugar. After they were deep fried, they dusted the samosas with icing sugar.

Mutahara’s overall emphasis was to encourage creativity and implicitly in the preparation of snack items. She wanted to teach the kids not to be afraid to try new things. Her dedication and hard work has truly made an impact on the kids who attended the 4-H workshop.

Article submitted by Steph Grasso, VT Dept. of Human Nutrition Foods and Exercise

Fairfax Master Food Volunteer Shares Love of Food

Michael Perel has always had a strong interest in cooking and nutrition.

Katie Strong, Family and Consumer Science Extension Agent, highlighted his dedication and willingness to share his love of food through various Extension Master Food projects and events. As a Master Food Volunteer, he has taken initiative from the start when delivering nutrition programs within his community. He volunteers at farmers markets, senior centers and at a Jewish community center to help others establish a healthy lifestyle through nutrition. Michael has developed educational handouts and creative nutritional games that engage the community to learn while having fun.

He reels in community members by challenging them to answer questions from his trivia wheel and rewards them with small prizes. If the trivia wheel is not out, he hands out tasty, nutritious food samples to the public with the recipe attached for them to try at home. Michael has taken his nutrition, cooking and food expertise to a higher level while developing new avenues for helping in the community.

Submitted by Steph Grasso, VT Department of Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise

National Volunteer Week 2017

I always look forward to National Volunteer Week!

Check it out: Within the last year, our Extension agents and volunteers provided 250 programs through our Master Food Volunteer Program with a variety of educational programs, including nutrition education, food safety, and food preservation.

Through these 250 programs, our Extension agents and volunteers reached 8,068 adults and 5,698 youth statewide, contributing 6,355 volunteer hours.

We have a lot to celebrate through these accomplishments!

Many thanks to our volunteers who continually offer a wealth of talent, innovation, creativity, commitment, and leadership.

And, many, many thanks to our wonderful Extension Agents who train, work with, and support our Master Food Volunteers. We could not do this without you.

Thank you for all you do!

Melissa Chase, State Coordinator



Amber Waves of Grain display

On Friday, April 7, 2017, over 60 educators from around Virginia were trained at Bethlehem United Methodist Church in Moneta in the King Arthur “Bake for Good” program. This workshop was a train-the-trainer workshop hosted by Susan Prillaman, family and consumer sciences Extension agent, and the Bedford Master Food Volunteers. Paula Gray of King Arthur flour also traveled from Vermont to conduct this wonderful workshop with us.

Over a thousand rolls were distributed to local charities including the Smith Mountain Lake Agape Center, Bedford Christian Ministries, and The Bedford Shepherd’s Table.

Susan Prillaman and the Master Food Volunteers explain how to incorporate tips into our nutrition programs to encourage youth and families to try new kinds of whole grains.

This was a phenomenal educators’ workshop! Not only did we learn how easy it is to make these great rolls, we also had a chance to make a few extra to sample with some locally produced butter and jam!  Susan and her volunteers made us feel so welcome, and everyone had a great time.

We also discussed ways to incorporate additional activities into our nutrition programs to encourage youth and their families to eat more whole grains.

We worked in groups of two people to make our bread dough.

The impact of this workshop will continue throughout Virginia as these trainers share their bread-making skills with the youth in their areas.

Kudos to Susan , Paula, and our Bedford Master Food Volunteers!

For more information about this event and to view additional pictures, visit Bedford County Extension’s Facebook page:  Click here.


Chesterfield Master Food Volunteers and the Fisher House Project

Left to right:  Fred and Chris Matthies, Beth and John Herochik

Fred Matthies is a Master Food Volunteer (MFV) from Chesterfield County who initiated and successfully accomplished The Fisher House Project in December 2016.

The Fisher House, located on the Campus of the Hunter Holmes at McGuire Hospital, provides free lodging to the families of veterans receiving treatment. This assistance makes it possible for military family members to stay close to loved ones to support them through their medical crises without the burden of costly accommodations.

Fred teamed up with other Master Food Volunteers, Rebecca Guthrie, Beth and John Herochik and Chris Matthies, to work on this ongoing project that has MFV prepare meals for the residents once a week, monthly.

This project provides volunteers with an opportunity to participate in meal planning, preparation, and presentation serving and cooking for crowds. The goal of the project is to provide nutritious meals by using online SNAP-ed/VCE recipes.

During the month of January, the menu consisted of beef stroganoff over noodles, a fresh garden salad, assorted cookies and beverages. February’s meal was baked vegetable or meat lasagna, a fresh garden salad, assorted cupcakes and beverages. Fred’s dedication to this project has made a difference to the residents stay at the Fisher House.

Without Fred and the other Master Food Volunteers, the Fisher House would not have the opportunity to serve nutritious meals to the residents made by our Master Food Volunteers!

Front row, left to right:  John Herochik, Rebecca Guthrie. Back row, left to right:  Fred and Chris Matthies

Submitted by Steph Grasso, Department of Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise

A Passion for Serving

A Passion for Serving

Jennifer Abel, Senior Extension Agent, Family and Consumer Sciences, in Arlington, is so proud to recognize the Master Food Volunteers. She admires their hard work and says, “They are the best group of MFV’s because they are so passionate about their work and are very reliable.” They are motivated to improve others lives by working on many programs, including Cooking Matters, Teen Cuisine, lessons at farmers markets, cooking classes and training sessions for new volunteers.

Jennifer wanted to specifically highlight a special MFV, Nancy Broff, who has been one of the longest serving Master Food Volunteers. Her dedication for teaching nutrition to the public has led her to take initiative for Cooking Matters. After realizing that there were insufficient funds to purchase foods for the classes, Nancy contacted six different grocery stores asking to have food donated to the program. Nancy drove each week on her own time to pick up the food at each grocery store. Not only was she in charge of the food, but she also organized the lessons, led the programs, selected the recipes and helped maintain the program’s successes.

arlington-pic-1As her dedication continued, she shared her nutrition expertise at the Legislative breakfasts held at VCE. Nancy was unimpressed with the breakfast being catered at the meetings because it did not meet the nutritional guidelines she has been teaching at her programs. At the next Legislative breakfast, Nancy volunteered to make the breakfast for everyone that was more nutrient dense than what was being catered beforehand. She continued to volunteer to make healthier breakfasts for each meeting, which has saved $800 worth of catering. VCE is so proud to have Nancy as a Master Food Volunteer as she continues to improve other’s lives by the power of nutrition.


Article submitted by Steph Grasso, Dept. of Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise


Holidays and Gift Giving: What you can’t see in the kitchen can hurt you


The year may be coming to the end, but the celebrations and food are not. During the holidays, food can be handled in a variety of ways when it comes to preparing, storing and delivering. The more times that food is handled, the more risks it can provide for foodborne illnesses. Foodborne illnesses come from food that is treated unsafely, which can lead to an upset stomach abdominal cramps, nausea and vomiting diarrhea, fever or dehydration. Every year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates about 48 million cases of confirmed foodborne illnesses occur.  However, following simple tips and precautions can decrease the risks of obtaining them:

  1. Use separate cutting boards for raw meat and ready-to-eat items like vegetables or bread
  2. Prepare uncooked recipes before recipes requiring raw meat to reduce cross contamination. Store them out of the way while preparing meat dishes to ensure they don’t become contaminated after preparation.
  3. Hot foods should remain above 140˚F and cold items should remain below 40˚F. Discard perishable foods if left out for 2 hours of more in the danger zone (40˚F- 140˚F).
  4. Use a food thermometer to check internal temperatures of dishes to ensure it is safe to eat.
    1. Fresh beef, pork, veal, and lamb should be cooked to 145 ˚F with a three-minute rest time
    2. Fish should be cooked to 145 ˚F
    3. Ground beef, veal and lamb should be cooked to 160 ˚F
    4. Egg dishes should be cooked to 160 ˚F
    5. All poultry should be cooked to 165 ˚F

During the holidays, it seems like food is handled in more ways than usual. For instance, mailing food as a gift such as fruit, cheese, cured meats, etc, is a popular choice because it is convenient, yet meaningful. However, there are many protocols that must be followed to ensure mail order food safety. These protocols can be found on the USDA website: (

Another trend during the holidays is inviting family/friends to a holiday buffet party. This is a festive time that allows giving and sharing of homemade recipes. However, this is also an invitation for bacteria getting into food that is left out for long periods of time.  This can be avoided by using specific shallow containers, following the two-hour rule, cooking food thoroughly, etc. To learn more about safe holiday buffets, read more on the USDA website, (

The holidays may be the time of giving, but NOT the time of giving foodborne illnesses. Treat your food with care to bring safe food to your table. To learn more about food safety, read more on the USDA website. (

Submitted by Steph Grasso, VT Department of Human Nutrition, Foods and Exercise

Tips for Tasty Holiday Ingredient Substitutions

hokiebird-cookingThe holidays are upon us, which means everything from added sugar to added portion sizes. During the holidays, it seems nearly impossible to avoid these temptations when high fattening foods may overflow the table at family gatherings; sugary treats are available at holiday parties or the extra large portion sizes may be plentiful at holiday feasts. How do you stick to healthy eating during the holiday season? Try substitution. Substituting high fat or sugary ingredients for more nutrient dense ingredients can allow you to still consume traditional holiday meals in a healthier manner.

Substituting ingredients allows you to continue your traditional holiday recipes, but with more nutrients and less calories, sugar and fat. When it comes to baking, you can substitute butter with mashed avocado to replace the bad fats with healthy fats that can help reduce your cholesterol. Another substitution for with white flour is to use half white and half whole-wheat flour.  This adds more fiber, antioxidants and protein. For more smart substitutions for your holiday meals, check out the American Heart Association’s “Holiday Healthy Eating Guide,” click here.

When substituting for healthier ingredients, you can follow this three-step model to adapt recipes:

  1. Look for the “problem” ingredients that make the recipe high in sodium, fat or sugar.
  2. Find low fat or low sugar substitutions to replace these ingredients. You can reduce the amount of the ingredient or completely eliminate the ingredient completely.
  3. Change your method of preparation. Ex: Try boiling instead of deep fat frying.

For a great research-based resource and handout for additional tips on ingredient substitutions, visit the University of Kentucky Extension’s website, click here.

It can be tricky determining the correct equivalent amount when substituting ingredients. If a recipe calls for 1 cup of shortening and you want to use applesauce and pureed prunes to decrease the sugar and fat content, how do you know how much to use?  Check out Iowa State Extension’s useful chart that determines substitution equivalents for a certain amount of ingredients–click here.

Cooking healthier is no reason to give up on your holiday cooking. Just a simple switch of ingredients can allow your recipes to be both delicious AND healthier.

Submitted by Steph Grasso, VT Department of Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise