HOLLYWOOD – A love of cooking and an idea born out of the pandemic has resulted in a partnership among three of the Seminole Tribe’s departments – Education, Integrative Health and Seminole Media Productions (SMP). The result is a boon for the tribe’s high school students – many who are soon to graduate and live away from home for the first time.
The “Students’ Microwave Cookbook” is the brainchild of Suné Brandon, the office coordinator at Education. Like many, she was working from home during much of the pandemic and was inspired to do something that would renew community spirit after a long stretch of being away from colleagues and friends in person.
Brandon said she was looking to (quite literally) “channel some positivity and get cooking.” She had the idea to assemble a cookbook for the tribe’s forthcoming college students and fill it with delicious and easy recipes – something they could make instead of ordering pizza delivery or making the typical microwave popcorn or Hot Pockets.
Brandon enlisted the help of Karen Two-Shoes, a registered dietician and the tribalwide nutrition coordinator. The two began to assemble recipes and brought in SMP’s creative services manager – Miguel “Migz” Freire – to assist in producing a cookbook with the recipes and images of the food.
The book was just published in March and features 25 recipes, including a “mug omelet,” “microwave chicken and dumplings” and “microwave chocolate pudding cake.”
“Although cooking in a dorm room does not often lead to culinary masterpieces, there are definitely ways to have a delicious, varied diet when all a student has is a microwave and a few plates or mugs,” Brandon said. “We could not believe what could be prepared in a microwave.”
Two-Shoes and Brandon created the recipes as single servings, which they hope will help students with portion control. In addition, they hope it will help students to cut back on eating at fast-food restaurants.
The project – called “Culinary IQ” – didn’t stop there. Two-Shoes and SMP began to also produce companion cooking demonstration videos in the teaching kitchen at the Betty Mae Jumper Medical Center in Hollywood. There’s one video that’s available on YouTube so far. Two-Shoes demonstrates how to make the “midnight mac and cheese” and “chocolate cake in a mug.” Click here to watch the video.
“Students are typically a hard group to get to think about their health, but it’s important because what they do now will effect them later,” Two-Shoes said. “This is a great way to reach out to that age group and give them something nice and what they want.”
More cooking videos are on the horizon and Brandon and Two-Shoes are working on a second cookbook with smoothie recipes for students. They’d like to create a cookbook for the tribe’s elders, too – one with diabetic-friendly recipes and options for those who have kidney-related issues.
“Karen is really savvy with all this stuff – going to the reservations and cooking,” Brandon said. “She was a piece of the jigsaw puzzle that fit right in. We want to accentuate the positive and help strengthen the community – food uplifts everybody.”
Two-Shoes is the only tribal member who works in Integrative Health. She often travels to the tribe’s reservations to pass on a message of healthy living. She’d like to see more tribal members working in Integrative Health and at the tribe’s health clinics.
“It’s all about portion control. I tell people my grandmother used to make the best fried chicken and Spam and tomatoes,” Two-Shoes said. “I don’t use terms like bad and good – but nutritious and less nutritious to help people make choices.”
Starring in the cooking videos comes naturally for Two-Shoes, who has a background in media – she was a radio DJ and previously did video work at SMP. She also did online cooking demonstrations during the pandemic for tribal members. Now that the tribe is in phase three of reopening, she’s doing them in-person. She recently did one in Hollywood on how to make “fish-free sushi.”
To download the cookbook, visit seminoleeducation.com. A hard copy can be picked up at the Education department on the third floor of the Dorothy S. Osceola (DSO) building on the Hollywood Reservation. Brandon said the cookbook can also be sent to students who request it, by contacting her at [email protected].