Roanna Martin

"make [food] simple and let things taste of what they are." {Curnonsky}

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Apples in October

This time of year, I adhere to a personal mantra of “three apples a day keeps the doctor away”. Seriously, it’s not that unusual for me to slice an apple into my morning oatmeal, snag an apple as an afternoon snack, and enjoy applesauce or apple crisp or cake or pie for dinner. A large dose of cinnamon, a few cloves and ginger thrown in for a rounded out fall flavor. Can’t beat it.

October is “National Apple Month”. It’s also “Farm to School” month. For this reason, I’m going to share about a little project that I completed in my most recent rotation. It has to do with apples, and farms, and schools.

The Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Design is not only home to the Division of Animal and Nutritional Sciences (where my program falls), but also the Division of Plant and Soil Sciences.

This division operates the Kearneysville Tree Fruit Research and Education Center located in Jefferson County, WV- in what is referred to as the “Eastern Panhandle” of the state. The fruits of this labor are then sold through the Plant and Soil Sciences farm, about 2.9 miles away from the dining hall where I was rotating. The apples are brought in large crates, and anyone can come to pick out their own apples. Varieties include Golden Delicious, Rome, Red Delicious, Honey Crisp and I believe a few others too. Availability varies, and this year was more limited than some, due to less than ideal growing conditions.


So how does this connect to my rotation? I needed to complete a “Process Improvement Project”, and chose to work on bringing local produce into the dining hall.

I first spoke with the Director of Dining Services. They had gotten apples from the farm in the past, but this year it had not been made a priority, so my assistance in the project would be much appreciated.

I made some phone calls, visited the farm, coordinated with dining facility personnel to cancel current orders of apples from the standard supplier, and got the ball rolling.

One of the common issues with purchasing local food is the increased amount of labor required in bypassing the “conventional” food system. In this case, the individuals working at the farm did not have time to sort out apples that were needed for the cafeteria, and likewise dining facilities was short-staffed and unable to provide this labor and transportation. So myself and the Director of Dining Services stepped in the labor gap and counted out 2,300 apples. Yeah, it was a lot of apples. 




Apples were brought into the dining facility. Here they are- ready to be washed and put out for tasting!


The apples were then placed in the cafeteria, along with point-of-sale advertisement that the apples were grown in West Virginia.




I may get a little bit too excited about fresh food- especially when it is grown locally. 

When calculating the cost of purchasing the West Virginia apples, even including the additional labor required for sorting, the cost of purchasing these apples was slightly less than ordering through the produce contract. Buying local foods for use in foodservice operations can be done- but I will be the first to admit that it takes creativity, hard work, and persistence. To date, 176 colleges and universities nationwide have completed a survey on the Farm to College website indicating that they are integrating local food into their operation. There are also now Farm to School programs in all fifty states. Movement towards connecting consumers with the source of their food is growing (pun intended), but a lot more work remains.

As a random bit of trivia- the Golden Delicious is the State Fruit of West Virginia- discovered in Clay County, WV around 1912 by a man named Anderson Mullins. There’s even a Golden Delicious Festival to celebrate it.



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Healthy Snacks

First off, my apologies to Emily  since this post is very similar to hers. But I figured that not everyone who reads my blog is also reading hers, although I highly recommend you take time to read her blog as well!

Today over lunchtime we got to set up shop in the dining hall, complete with a white table cloth.

We were surrounded by a variety of examples of snacks- some healthy, and some NOT so healthy. 

Armed with a stack of beautiful brochures that Emily designed, and a “MyPlate” wheel for quickly calculating calorie needs and servings from each food group, we set up to educate the student population about healthy snacking.

The station generated some interesting conversations, and it was fun to make ourselves available to anyone who had an interest in stopping by. 

Here are a few examples of the snacks that we had:

Celery with Peanut Butter


and an apple…


and a not so healthy snack of nachos and nacho cheese…

Although, it wouldn’t be hard to turn those unhealthy chips and cheese into a healthy snack, by swapping in whole grain tortilla chips, and a 1/4 cup salsa instead of the cheese!

Happy Snacking!


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How to Eat Healthy in the Dining Hall

College students often have some sort of complaint about the nearest dining hall. Either there isn’t “enough” food, there aren’t the specific foods they want, the food is “gross” or the classic “I promise they put laxatives in the food.” Well, coming from someone who ate at a college dining hall for 3 years during my undergrad, and now cooks for myself, here’s some advice for college students, “Take advantage of it!!!” Seriously. Particularly after working with the foodservice staff here at WVU for the past few weeks, they truly care about your dining experience. They want you to have healthy and delicious options!

Yesterday, Emily and I were able to give a presentation, by the same name as this blog post, to a group of students as part of a wellness program. We started off by distributing plates and cups from the dining hall, and a dry erase market to each student. Their assignment was to draw what proportion of their plates and cups should come from the five food groups: grain, vegetables, fruit, protein foods, and dairy. Here is one of the responses we got: So the student was pretty close, although she overestimated fruit and vegetables slightly. However- I’m not going to complain about that. You can hardly ever go wrong by adding more vegetables to your plate. Here’s what a plate ought to look like, according to the United States Department of Agriculture MyPlate initiative.


If you want to see the artwork of some of my younger students in a previous rotation, check out this post.

After this activity, we talked through each section of the cafeteria with the students. We listed healthier options at each station, and gave suggestions on spicing up cafeteria meals. Students also had the opportunity to draw on their plate what they typically get as a meal, and then we talked through some small changes they could make to improve the nutrient profile of what they are putting into their bodies. So, for example, on this plate, we suggested replacing the hash browns (which are high in fat) with another starch, preferably a whole grain. A slice of toast, a scoop of oatmeal, or a half a bagel would be a better choice than the high fat hash browns.

We also brought some food models and test tubes of fat and sugar content of foods to share with the group. The fact that the amount of fat in a cheeseburger fills up three test tubes is pretty startling. That doesn’t mean you can never eat a cheeseburger, it simply means that you shouldn’t have them every day.

One of my favorite models is the five pounds of fat and five pounds of muscle models. Both of them are the same weight, but the muscle is much more dense and compact. Think about what this means in your body. Plus, muscle is more metabolically active than fat. This means that if your body muscle composition is higher, you will burn more calories at your basal metabolic rate. The exact number of calories that muscle burns versus fat is hard to pinpoint, and there are differing numbers thrown around. In addition, there are many other factors affecting calorie burn, so working with exact numbers is not necessarily helpful.

Bottom line: healthy choices can be made anywhere- it just takes a bit of critical thinking and creativity!

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Vanilla Sugar, Tempered Chocolate, and Apple Cake

The bakery.

A place to bake crusty hearty rolls, and craft decadent treats. Today I had the privilege of working with WVU’s pastry chef, and I fully enjoyed my time in the bakery.

All sorts of treats were being whipped together, and I got to help with a few of them.

After mixing together a batch of Mexican Wedding Cookies, I was flipping through a recipe book, and “vanilla sugar” was mentioned. I had heard of vanilla sugar before, but I had never made it. In fact, I don’t think I had ever touched a real vanilla bean before. They’re a slightly pricier gourmet item, but something that I may add to my christmas list this year- simply because they smell amazing, and I’ll admit that sometimes I’m a foodie. So, to my great enjoyment, I got to make vanilla sugar, by slicing open a vanilla bean, scraping out the inside and rubbing sugar over it with my hands to infuse the scent and flavor.

Then I scraped a slab of white chocolate to make shavings for topping off some banana cream pies. I also learned a bit about the process of tempering- another process I’ve never done. I did not actually temper chocolate today, but discussed the process with the pastry chef, and then did a bit of research tonight.  Tempering is simply heating and cooling the chocolate to specified temperatures to control the crystallization of the cocoa butter  to avoid a mottled appearance on the surface of the chocolate and ensure that it will snap rather than crumble when broken.

And apparently I wasn’t “pastried out” when I left the kitchen today, because I came home to my own kitchen and mixed up one of my very favorite fall cakes. I love moist, dense, hearty cakes, and this one fits the bill. Plus, all the whole wheat flour and apples make it a pretty nutritious dessert!

Apple Cake

adapted from Simply in Season Cookbook, Herald Press

16 servings

5 cups apples (unpeeled and chopped)

1 1/3 cups sugar

Combine and let stand while mixing other ingredients.

1/2 cup oil

2 eggs (slightly beaten)

2 teaspoons vanilla

Combine in a separate bowl.

1.5 cups whole wheat flour

1/2 cup flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon each ginger and cloves

1 teaspoon salt

Combine in a third bowl.

Stir flour mixture into apples alternately with egg mixture. Pour into a greased 9×13 inch baking pan. Bake in preheated oven at 350 degrees F, 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Caramel Drizzle

1/3 cup brown sugar

2 Tablespoons skim milk

1 1/2 teaspoons flour

While cake bakes, heat to boiling, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.

3 Tablespoons powdered sugar

Mix in. Drizzle over hot cake.


And the final step to any recipe: savor and enjoy!

Nutrition Facts, analyzed by Spark Recipes:

232 calories, 7.8 g fat, 314 mg sodium, 41.1 g carb, 2.7 g fiber

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Breakfast at Hatfields

It’s a great part of a college student’s morning routine. Breakfast. Roll out of bed, put on your Friday WVU athletic gear, and head to the dining hall with a friend. Order a protein-rich egg white omelet, and top it off with a slice of toast and a glass of milk before running off to class.

Hatfields, located at the MountainLair, is open Monday through Friday from 7:15-10:00 AM for breakfast, and from 11 AM to 2:00 PM for lunch. Students can use their meal plan to enjoy an all-you-care-to-eat dining experience. For those who are really in a rush, they can take one large and one small to-go box.

The past few days I’ve been working with the Executive Chef at WVU dining services, and today I spent some time at Hatfield’s, assessing the food options. There is a great variety of food- with plenty of fruit, juices, and coffee. The “Traditional” line offers classic country cooking, and the made to order omelet bar is a great place to fuel up with some protein for the day!

For more information about WVU Dining Services options, check out their website.

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Food Safety: From Soil to Plate

Locally sourced meats and seafood, and locally grown produce are the top 2 hot menu trends for 2012, according to the National Restaurant Association. It’s a great trend which helps to decrease the number of miles food travels from where it is grown to the point of consumption. I fully support buying local food, but it’s also important to remember some basic safety tips when purchasing and preparing the food.

One of the other interns and I put together a bulletin board describing some of current practices for the hall of the Ag Sciences building where our Division is housed. We split the board into two sections: “On the Farm”, and “Before It Hits the Plate”.

Good Agriculture Practice (GAP) and Good Handling Practice (GHP) audits, set up by the USDA, are voluntary third-party certifications that purchasers (i.e. restaurants) often want in order to know that the producer is growing food safely. Although the products are not guaranteed to be free from microbial contamination, the producer has taken proactive measures to prevent such contamination. 

The audits include simple things such as examining the quality of irrigation water, proper use of animal manure for fertilizer, and cleaning product storage and packing areas regularly.

 More information on the specifics of these audits can be found here

After a restaurant purchases food, there are some basic food safety principles that should be adhered to.

  • Begin with clean hands. Wash your hands for 20 seconds with warm water and soap before and after preparing fresh produce.
  • Cut away any damaged or bruised areas on fresh fruits and vegetables. Produce that looks rotten should be discarded. 
  • All produce should be thoroughly washed before eating. Wash fruits and vegetables under running water just before eating, cutting or cooking.
  • Store perishable fresh fruits and vegetables (like strawberries, lettuce, herbs, and mushrooms) in a clean refrigerator at a temperature of 40° F or below.
  • Refrigerate all produce that is purchased pre-cut or peeled.