In Your Kitchen

Washington Seniors Wellness Center

Staff and members of the Healthy Eating cooking demonstration class at the Washington Seniors Wellness Center: Maria Stewart, Shymee Davis, Deborah Wimberley, Ovis Dukes, Camille Gorham, Joyce Zanders, Gloria Logan, Bobbie Edwards, Annie Stewart and Doris Barker. 

Shymee Davis, the nutritionist at Washington Seniors Wellness Center, is part of a staff dedicated to providing programs for residents 60 years of age and older in Ward 7. One of her classes, Healthy Cooking, shows how individuals can prepare great-tasting and healthful meals easily and cost-effectively. She encourages participants to bring in recipes and prepare favorite dishes, showcasing their own talents and food preferences. 

Davis finds recipes in cooking magazines, online sites, and cooking shows, “but the members are actually the best resource – they have terrific recipes to share.” Camille Gorham, an avid cook who learned from her mother, volunteered to demonstrate a favorite recipe for a recent Healthy Cooking class. Gorham prepared all of the meals when her three children were younger, and most days she prefers to cook for herself and her husband rather than going out to restaurants. “I’ll try to cook most anything, and I chose the broccoli and chicken stir-fry recipe [see below] because of the healthy ingredients – it’s low in calories and I know that we need to be aware of what we’re eating,” states Gorham. 

Gorham also takes advantage of the aerobics classes at the center to augment her daily walks in her neighborhood, and enjoys participating in the monthly Soup and Salad Social class. Soup is on the menu October through March and salad during April through September.

Davis says that they see a wide variety of salads in the upcoming season, ranging from fruit that might include tropical varieties like pineapple, mango, banana, and kiwi to more savory salads like tuna, potato, or seasonal green salads made with beets, sunflower seeds, eggs, cheese, and carrots. At the end of each of her cooking sessions she shares information on the ingredients in the recipes – nutrition content like calories, vitamins, and minerals, as well as highlighting any items containing antioxidants.

Gloria Logan, a nearby resident and program participant at the Washington Seniors Wellness Center, addresses people attending the cooking demonstration. She’s enthusiastic about the programs at the center, which has been open since 1985 – everything from yoga, Tai Chi, line dancing, and card and board games to the Healthy Eating class. “It’s great that the programs are accessible to everyone and offered free of charge to DC residents. They’re tailored to those 60 years of age and older, focusing on nutrition, overall health, wellness, and exercise – enhancing mind, body and spirit.”

The Washington Seniors Wellness Center is funded by the DC Office on Aging, which provides Senior Wellness Centers in every ward. The centers' programs are managed by various 501 (c)(3) organizations. In the case of Washington Seniors Wellness Center the managing entity is East River Family Strengthening Collaborative, Inc. Rosie Parke of East River is impressed with the programming and events taking place at the Washington Seniors Wellness Center, as well as the friendly atmosphere. "The seniors are so outgoing –  they’re always talking with their peers and to me – it’s a very engaging social environment."

Orientation sessions take place Mondays (11:00 a.m.) and Thursdays (2:00 p.m.) at the Washington Seniors Wellness Center, 3001 Alabama Ave SE, 202-581-9355. 

Broccoli and Chicken Stir-Fry

Yield: 4 servings
1 pound boneless chicken breast (or equivalent in chicken breast pre-sliced cutlets)
1 red onion, sliced
1 each, red, yellow, and orange peppers (seeded and sliced lengthwise into ½-inch wide pieces)
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound fresh broccoli, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
½ pound fresh mushrooms, sliced
¼ cup butter, cubed
salt and pepper to taste
½ cup (or more to taste) favorite brand of Asian sesame garlic sauce
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 cups cooked brown rice, hot

Place oil in large skillet over medium high heat. Sauté the chicken, onion, and salt and pepper for approximately five minutes or until cooked through. Add garlic and cook an additional minute. Remove the chicken and onion and set aside, tented with aluminum foil to keep warm. 

In the same pan add butter and sauté the mushrooms, broccoli, and pepper slices over medium-high heat until broccoli is tender. Return the chicken and onions to the pan, stir in the Asian sesame garlic sauce (or your own marinade) and lemon juice; heat through and serve over hot rice.

If you’d like to substitute a sesame marinade for the Asian sesame garlic sauce, combine ¼ cup each vegetable oil, sesame oil, and soy sauce with 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 2 tablespoons fresh grated ginger, and 1 clove garlic minced. Combine all ingredients and mix well.

Annette Nielsen is a writer and a cook who has been engaged in food, farming, and sustainability issues for over 15 years. A native of the Adirondacks and a long-time resident of both New York City and DC, she lives in Southwest near the waterfront with her husband and son. Follow her on twitter: @The_Kitchen_Cab; reach her by email: annette@hillrag.com.