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Culinary students create healthy chocolate treats

Mar. 1, 2017

Chocolate mousse made with avocado?

Student poses with a tray of sweet treats

The students created sweet treats without the junk food, only utilizing whole grains and whole foods. | PHOTO COURTESY OF ALISHA REFERDA, IU KOKOMO

Junior Gabi Hartley admits to being skeptical at first, but the proof is in the pudding -- or in the mousse, in this case -- as she samples it in the Indiana University Kokomo food and nutrition lab.

“It’s pretty good,” she said, spooning a scoop onto one of the mini chocolate cakes she’s created for her class. Using avocado instead of heavy cream reduces the calorie and fat content of the dessert and is just one of the substitutions she’s learned to prepare healthier foods. She and her classmates gained hands-on practice taking recipes and making small changes to them, to make them healthier.

“This class has changed how I eat at home,” said Hartley, from Peru, Indiana. "I’m trying to stay away from sugary foods and find healthier substitutes I can use in recipes. I’ve definitely learned to cook better.”

Kim Mossburg, lecturer of health sciences, led five classes as they spent weeks researching recipes, testing them in the campus food and nutrition lab, and planning how to showcase their creations in “The Sweet Art of Culinary and Chocolate.” During the event, the students became the teachers, educating faculty and staff about healthy options to satisfy a sweet tooth.

"One of my goals was to allow them the opportunity to see what goes into putting on a big event like this, and all the work that goes into it," she said. "It’s also about educating people about how they can make healthier food choices. None of their recipes could be made with junk. We used whole grains and whole foods.”

Senior Brandon Whitehead combined chocolate, pomegranate and chicken into a pulled chicken barbecue dish, served next to a basket of chocolate flat bread.

People would be surprised by the kinds of substitutions possible to make foods healthier while maintaining good flavor, he said. Flaxseed can replace eggs, avocado or yogurt can replace a fat, and sweet potatoes can serve as the base for doughnuts.

"There are a lot of little things you can do to make a big difference in how healthy your food is," he said.

Planning and hosting the event was a great experience, especially for those interested in careers in catering, Whitehead said. He plans to attend graduate school after completing his degree in August, to become a registered dietitian.

"It was hands-on experience, actually planning the event and preparing for it," he said. "We learned how to transfer food and keep it at the right temperature for food safety."

fruit kabobs

Students displayed their sweet treats, like these fruit kabobs drizzled with chocolate, at "The Sweet Art of Culinary and Chocolate" event. | PHOTO COURTESY OF ALISHA REFERDA, IU KOKOMO

Freshman Kendra Boller learned about the importance of presentation when serving food.

“If you have something delicious, but it looks gross, people will be like, ‘No thanks,’ and pass you by,” she said. “It has to look good for people to find out it tastes good.”

Junior Racheal Durham was surprised to find that with a few tweaks, a carrot cake can not only be decadent but contain fewer calories and less fat than its traditional counterpart.

She beamed with pride as attendees “oohed” and “aahed” over her carrot cake, made with skim milk and vinegar -- rather than buttermilk -- raw sugar, and sunflower oil instead of butter. She concocted the frosting with yogurt and maple syrup in place of the traditional cream cheese.

“I love carrot cake, and this is probably the best carrot cake I’ve ever had,” she said. “I was surprised it was one of the healthiest I’ve eaten.”

IU Kokomo's culinary classes align with IU's priority of a commitment to student success, outlined in the university's Bicentennial Strategic Plan.

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