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Nutritionist stresses healthy cooking for Tribal members

Nutritionist Marianna Nikiforov assists Veldina Osceola as Brian Billie prepares to cut a green pepper during an adult cooking class Oct. 11 in the BC Wellness Center kitchen. (Beverly Bidney)

BIG CYPRESS — Adults are learning how to improve their health by making and eating tasty food.

At a cooking class Oct. 11, nutritionist Marianna Nikiforov taught a group of Tribal members how to make a healthy stir fry with chicken and vegetables, but the recipe wasn’t the only thing being taught in the Big Cypress Wellness Center kitchen.

Peppered in between the step-by-step cooking instructions, Nikiforov also shared basic kitchen, cooking and shopping tips, such as thinking about the week ahead and planning a menu before going to the grocery store.

Cross contamination is a dangerous issue in home kitchens, so she told the group to use a specific knife and cutting board for the chicken to prevent contamination of the other ingredients. One participant asked if the chicken should be rinsed first; most of the cooks in the room said they usually do.

“You don’t have to rinse your chicken before you use it,” Nikiforov said. “That will spread salmonella everywhere.”

After the chicken was cut, marinated and put in hot pans on portable cooktops, the aroma of Chinese food permeated the room.

“I came to learn how to cook healthy meals,” Renee Tigertail said. “I usually eat out or at my mom’s house. I don’t cook much, but I love this and it’s easy to make.”

Nikiforov also provided handouts with nutritious choices to make healthy eating and shopping easier.

Once the chefs finished cooking the chicken, they took it out of the pans and added onions, peppers, carrots, garlic and fresh ginger. Sizzling ensued.

“You have to stir it the whole time,” Nikiforov instructed. “The Chinese people never stop stirring.”

Claudia Doctor planned to try the recipe for her grandson and Veldina Osceola was glad to have the chance to start cooking healthier food. Brian Billie enjoys his time in the kitchen and usually cooks twice a week.

“I need to keep learning how to cook and eat right,” he said. “That’s how I overcame diabetes.”

Edna McDuffie’s eating habits have gotten more adventurous over the years. She used to shun certain foods, but then learned to taste things before making up her mind.

“I used to think I won’t like that, but then when it was all put together it was good,” she said. “I wasn’t always a fan of garlic, but when it’s cooked it’s really good.”

Nikiforov explained that recipes can always be modified. For example, the stir fry recipe they used called for making a homemade marinade, but the class used a prepared one instead.

“Don’t be afraid of the recipe,” she said. “There is always a solution if you don’t have all of the ingredients. You can use any vegetable or meat you like. I like shrimp because it only takes two minutes to cook.”

Nikiforov showed the group a few graters and microplanes and told them how to use them to grate vegetables and garlic.

The finished stir fry was served over rice. The chefs ate what they could and took the rest home.

Beverly Bidney
Beverly Bidney has been a reporter and photographer for The Seminole Tribune since 2012. During her career, she has worked at various newspapers around the country including the Muskogee Phoenix in Oklahoma, Miami Herald, Associated Press, USA Today and other publications nationwide. A NAJA award winning journalist, she has covered just about everything over the years and is an advocate for a strong press. Contact her at

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