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Good eats

Homemade is healthier

By Katie Bausler

Sarah Lewis stands in her skookum Juneau kitchen between a vegetable-strewn butcher block counter and a gas stove brewing veggie stock. She moves fast between the counter and the stove, peeling, slicing, dicing, stirring, roasting, bagging, canning, pickling and freezing the carrots, kale, leeks, potatoes, peas, squash, beets, zucchini and all kinds of beans.

A laptop on the counter provides her audience a peek. Along with humor, she exudes honesty and charm while teaching a class on Zoom to participants from all over the state, giving pointers on putting up enough summer vegetables for a week's worth of meals in an hour. "I'm a working mom working from my own kitchen right now—and I don't like to cook dinner," she quips.

Sarah holds up an artichoke. "I typically don't do any of the fussy things like clipping off all of the pokey bits, because I figure if my kids and family can't handle those pokey bits, then they're gonna have a hard time in life."

Sarah is Juneau's family and community development cooperative extension agent and a batch cooking advocate. Classes like this Veggie Slam are her favorite. She advises using ingredients in season, on sale or from the garden.

"I'm not a single meal person," she says with a smile. "I love to spend an entire week on seven to eight recipes, putting them on the shelf from which you can make a couple meals each week, from a jar."

Saving food, reducing waste

Sarah's journey to food safety and preservation advocacy began in 2007 as a founding member of Juneau's Sustainability Commission and part of the annual local harvest festival team. At the time, she was an architect project manager for the City and Borough of Juneau.

"I started looking at local food resources and how people thrive in their environment," she says.

Sarah started with the basics: fermenting cabbage for sauerkraut, making jams and jellies, moving on to pickles—and then she "got brave": canning fish after closely consulting cooperative extension publications.

Sarah eventually cooked up a career change and became an extension agent herself. After studying for several years with fellow agent Roxie Rodgers Dinstel in Fairbanks, she branched into canning entire meals, albeit in separate jars, with the exception of soups.

She's also big on letting people know about delicious ways to reduce food waste.

"Celery leaves are especially good for making easy homemade celery salt," she points out, while mincing leaves on the cutting board. "Throw them in the dehydrator, crumble it up, add salt."

Sarah wears many hats. In addition to offering advice and information on local food resources and preservation, she shares expertise on home design, home energy, emergency preparedness and nutrition.
The latter led her to the popular Health Matters program offered by Bartlett Regional Hospital. Sarah instructs the yearlong diet and weight loss course aimed at people diagnosed with prediabetes. If you have dietary restrictions or health issues, homemade is healthier, she tells her students.

"You have total control when you are canning your own food. You can make super healthy, quick meals for yourself," she asserts. Just reheat.

Categories: Nutrition

Cook up a better future

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