Brenda Langton to launch course teaching cooking techniques for healthful, immune-bolstering food

Brenda Langton has an old saying she swears by: "If you don't take time to eat well, sooner or later you will to take time to be sick."

You will have no trouble eating well if you visit Langton's acclaimed restaurants — Café Brenda in the Warehouse District and Spoonriver on the riverfront near the Guthrie Theater. Both restaurants feature outstanding dishes made of organic and natural foods.

"This has been my lifelong goal — to get good food into people," Langton said.

Her restaurants have been one avenue for that cause. Now she has another — a new three-day course in March offered by the University of Minnesota's Center for Spirituality & Healing. In the class, "Healthy Eating/Healthy Living," Langton, a senior fellow at the center, will go over several healthful recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks to get you through the day.

Highlights include homemade hummus, buckwheat potato croquette, miso vegetable soup, creamy soft polenta, and coconut rice pudding with cardamom, almonds, and golden raisins. Some of the recipes are featured in Brenda's classic cookbook, "The Café Brenda Cookbook."

"My concern is teaching people how to cook very healthy, immune-boosting foods that are simple. For me, simple is of the utmost importance — simple and delicious," Langton said. "I'm trying to use foods that are more like whole grains, legumes and lots of vegetables, nuts — plant-based proteins and fish."

Mary Jo Kreitzer, director of the Center for Spirituality & Healing, said the course is a natural fit for the center.

"As we look at how to help people make healthy lifestyle changes, how we eat is such a big part of that. So many people have really just grown up with fast food, processed food," she said. "What I love about Brenda's approach is that eating natural doesn't have to be time-consuming, doesn't have to be expensive. The key to it is planning."

Langton, a Bryn Mawr resident, plans to go over grocery shopping tips, too. She's a major fan of the local co-ops and urges others to shop at them to stock up on fresh, local produce.

"People get in ruts. With a little bit of planning and grocery shopping and having several new recipes to get going, it's not difficult [to make changes]," she said.

Langton has been focusing on healthful foods for years. She opened her first restaurant Café Kardamena in the late 1970s at the age of 21. She opened Café Brenda in 1986, and her latest venture, Spoonriver, opened in 2006.

While eating well is second nature for her, she's concerned about people who haven't tuned into all the research about the impact of diet on health. She points to skyrocketing sugar consumption and the tendency for so many people to skimp on vegetables.

"There is so much information out there, scientific evidence that diet is really the base of our health," she said. "If we don't have a good diet, we don't have a good immune system. If we don't have a good immune system, then that's when problems set in."

In addition to managing her restaurants and teaching the new course, she's also working on creating a video for the Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota. In the video, she goes over healthful-cooking tips with her daughter. In the spring, summer and fall months, she's busy with the Mill City Farmers Market. She is one of the founders of the market, which features a variety of local vendors devoted to providing organic and sustainable goods.

Clearly, there's a lot on her plate these days.

"Let's face it — we live at a very hectic pace. This is no joke," she said. "I have to feel good. I have to have energy to get through my day, and this is the way to do it — by eating good food."

By Sarah McKenzie

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