September 28, 2023


Free For All Food

COOK OF THE WEEK: Registered dietitian always trying new recipes | Food

MOOREVILLE • Valerie Weivoda’s parents both instilled in her a love of cooking, but she really branched out when she got to Ole Miss.

“Being in college, I had to learn to take care of myself,” said Weivoda, 30. “I started experimenting because I didn’t have my parents cooking for me.”

Weivoda grew up in Aberdeen, the youngest of six children born to Chester Patterson and the late Sharon Patterson.

“Both my parents were always cooking,” she said. “The first thing I remember making was scrambled eggs when I was 5 or 6. I was sitting on a kitchen counter while my dad taught me.”

At Ole Miss, Weivoda decided to major in nutrition. Today, the registered dietitian serves as the Lee County School District’s child nutrition director, a post she’d held since January 2019.

“Majoring in nutrition kept me interested in food, kept me cooking in college,” she said. “I also got the opportunity to meal prep and cook food for an older couple once a week while I was there. I’d cook at my home and take them three to four meals every Sunday. It was an opportunity to get better at something I loved to do.”

Weivoda and her husband, Philip, a certified athletic trainer at North Mississippi Medical Center, live in Mooreville. They’re both very health conscious and keep physically fit with exercise and diet.

“I’m always cooking something new,” she said. “I probably try a new recipe once a week at home. When we were dating, I’d order something and ask Phil to try a bite of mine. That’s how he got exposed to different foods that he’d never had before. Now, he’ll try anything. He’s always interested in what I’m cooking next. He’s very supportive of my cooking adventures.”

Weivoda makes her menus on the weekends and does the shopping and as much meal prep as she can. She makes a big breakfast hash or casserole that the two eat on during the week, and lunch is always some type of salad.

“Dinner is where I experiment with different types of proteins,” she said. “We might have sweet potato fries with either homemade chicken tenders with a pecan crust done in the air fryer, or ground turkey or beef bunless burgers.”

You can find some of her recipes on Instagram at val.weivoda_rd and leecounty_childnutrition.

“I have tons of cookbooks, but social media makes finding recipes so easy,” she said. “I use Instagram and Pinterest and I get a lot from food blogs, but I don’t follow any one blog. I play with recipes a lot. If I find one I like, I’ll make it, and then the next time I make it, I’ll change it up.”


2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

Sea salt and black pepper

1 tablespoon fresh sage, minced

1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

4 ounces curly kale, stems and leaves separated and chopped

2 medium apples, cored and diced

1/4 cup coarse almond flour, plus extra for topping

Slice the very tops and bottoms off each squash to form a flat surface, then cut them in half width-wise. Scoop out the seeds and coat the inside and outside of the squash with 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt and pepper. Place the squash cut side up on a lined baking sheet. Roast at 400 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes until squash is tender and can be pierced easily with a knife.

Meanwhile, heat remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the ground chicken, sage, fennel seeds, garlic powder, nutmeg, red pepper, 1 teaspoon sea salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper to the skillet. Cook until the chicken is no longer pink, about 6 to 7 minutes.

Add the onion and kale stems to the skillet and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the kale leaves and apples to the skillet. Pour in the chicken stock and sprinkle in the almond meal. Cook until the kale leaves are tender, about 5 minutes.

Remove the squash from the oven and stuff each half with the chicken mixture. Sprinkle some almond meal on top of each squash, then return to the oven and roast for another 15 minutes.

For the fried sage leaves, heat the olive oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Carefully add the sage leaves and fry for about 30 seconds, until crisp (but not brown). Drain the leaves on paper towels and season with sea salt. Place two leaves on each squash half. Serves 6.


1 sheet frozen puff pastry

5 1/2 ounces (2 cups) Gruyere cheese, shredded

1 1/2 pounds medium or thick asparagus

On a floured surface, roll the puff pastry into a 16×10-inch rectangle. Trim uneven edges. Place pastry on a baking sheet. With a sharp knife, lightly score pastry dough 1 inch in from the edges to mark a rectangle. Using a fork, pierce dough inside the markings at 1/2-inch intervals. Bake at 400 degrees until golden, about 15 minutes.

Remove pastry shell from oven, and sprinkle with Gruyere. Trim the bottoms of the asparagus spears to fit crosswise inside the tart shell; arrange in a single layer over Gruyere, alternating ends and tips. Brush with oil, and season with salt and pepper. Bake until spears are tender, 20 to 25 minutes.


1 1/2 cups peeled, cubed butternut squash

1/2 tablespoon pure maple syrup or honey

Dash each of cinnamon, salt, pepper and cayenne


1/2 cup 100% pomegranate juice

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoons sugar, or to taste

1 tablespoon poppy seeds (optional)

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon ginger powder


1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon pure maple syrup or honey

1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 cup raw pecans, roasted then chopped

2 ounces goat, feta or gorgonzola cheese

1 large ripe Bartlett pear, thinly sliced

1 Honeycrisp or Gala apple, thinly sliced

In a large bowl, toss together squash, oil, maple syrup, cinnamon, salt, pepper and cayenne. Spread out in a single layer on a parchment-paper lined baking sheet and roast at 400 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes or until tender.

For the dressing, combine all the ingredients for the dressing of your choice in a jar with a tightly fitting lid and shake until combined. Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve, up to 5 days. Shake to blend before serving.

For the salad, wash and chop the kale. Place it in a large bowl and toss with the arugula. Arrange the greens across a large serving platter. Scatter the roasted squash over the greens. Sprinkle with roasted chopped pecans then crumble the cheese over the top. Fan pear and apple slices over the top. Sprinkle all over with pomegranate arils. Drizzle with desired dressing.


1 tablespoon white vinegar

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1 knob fresh ginger, peeled

3 tablespoons sesame oil, divided

3 sweet potatoes, spiralized into noodles

1 1/2 pounds chicken breasts, cut into small cubes

For the sauce, combine all the sauce ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. Add water to thin the consistency as needed. Set aside.

For the pad thai, heat a large skillet over medium heat and add 2 tablespoons sesame oil. Once hot, add the sweet potato noodles in batches. Toss in the oil and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the noodles are tender but not too soft, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove and place on a plate.

In the same pan over medium heat, add remaining 1 tablespoon sesame oil. Add shallot and garlic and saute for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add chicken and season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is cooked through, about 5 to 6 minutes.

Next, crack the eggs into the pan. Scramble the eggs and cook for a few minutes, until the eggs are cooked through. Add the sweet potato noodles back in. Pour in the sauce and mix. Add green onions, cilantro and cashews. Toss to mix. Serves 4.


1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast

1/2 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs

1 (8-ounce) can crushed pineapple, slightly drained

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Place chicken, onions, and garlic in a slow cooker.

In a small bowl, combine pineapple, coconut aminos, lime juice, ground ginger, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. Stir to mix, and then add to slow cooker.

Cook on low for 4 to 6 hours. Remove chicken from slow cooker and shred with two forks.

Return chicken to slow cooker, stir to mix all ingredients, and set the temperature to warm (or low) until ready to serve. Serve chicken in a Swiss chard or lettuce leaf wrap, on a bed of greens, on top of a sweet potato or over cauliflower rice (can also be served in a bread wrap). If desired, add shredded carrots, sliced avocado, shredded cabbage, green onions, sliced almonds or fresh cilantro. Serves 6.