Healthy Latin Cuisine ??? Yes, Indeed.


Category : Community, Food and Recipes, Meals-On-Wheels Staff

  This article is already starting to make quite a buzz on Twitter and in the socialsphere.  We hope more people can share this article, enjoy the recipe and learn more about the vision of Meals-on-Wheels Greater San Diego.  Many top chefs and culinary institutes have come together to help create this innovative new program which will introduce healthy Latin Cuisine to our seniors.  Thank you sincerely for reading.  Enjoy!






Each and every one of you is reading this posting because you have some special passion for food. Whether it’s in the sharing of special recipes and tips from friends or famous chefs, or actively studying culinary arts and nutrition, you are hooked!

Think of all the ways we engage with food. We travel around the world to discover different cultural influences and tastes. We spend hours preparing special delectable delights for ourselves and others to enjoy. We socialize around food, and yes, some of us even obsess over food! It is so much more than mere sustenance. Gathering around to “break bread” is culturally engrained in our very way of life. As long as we are fortunate enough to have the means and access, food is part of the very fabric of our beings.

Now consider what it would be like if you could no longer leave your home to do your own shopping or favorite restaurant hopping. And what if you could not prepare your own meals anymore due to health, frailty or expense?  Besides being absolutely devastating to most of our food-centric readers, these limitations would have also removed one very important aspect of enjoying food, socialization.

Most of us know that Meals-on-Wheels delivers meals to homebound seniors. They do so with a warm hug and smile providing much needed social contact.  And now, Meals-on-Wheels Greater San Diego is about to make that experience even more enjoyable for many seniors.  As a result of receiving a “Vision” grant from Walmart, in combination with Meals On Wheels Association of America, Meals-on-Wheels Greater San Diego is now developing a whole new approach to serving seniors. They are charged with creating a methodology to develop new healthy menu options that can be used for Meals on Wheels organizations throughout the nation and can serve the growing demand for a variety of healthy meals and choices for homebound seniors.

“Certainly we serve healthy food today. However, I know when I get to the age where I may need Meals-on-Wheels, I am most likely going to want organic food, or gluten-free offerings”, said Luanne Hinkle, Director of Development for Meals-on-Wheels Greater San Diego. “We knew we needed to look at what seniors will want to eat and what their palate will demand in the future. Seniors must have meal options that are not only healthy, but are palatable and tasty to them. We know that if the seniors we deliver meals to do not like the food and don’t eat it, then we have failed.”  After looking at demographics in San Diego that showed the number of Hispanic Seniors was growing rapidly, Healthy Latin Cuisine was Meals-on-Wheels’ newest menu-choice option.  “We have low-fat and low sodium menu options now, along with diabetic-friendly meals. Today we are developing  Healthy Latin Cuisine, tomorrow we may need to develop Healthy Asian Cuisine or Vegan choices.  The methodology we are building today will allow us to respond quickly and effectively to future demands”, Hinkle shared.

But how did they begin to create the very best in Healthy Latin Cuisine menus that are tasty, healthy and culturally responsive?  Fortunately, San Diego has some wonderful resources for this undertaking, including two of San Diego’s top Latin Cuisine Chef’s:  Chef Norma Martinez  El Vitral and Chef Isabel Cruz, proprietor of 6 restaurants, including Dragonfly ,Isabels Catina and Barrio Star.  Chef Martinez is well-known for her in-depth knowledge of spices and sauces throughout the various regions of Mexico, while Chef Cruz creates signature Latin-Asian fusions mixed with the healthiest cuisines of the Pacific Rim. What more could a Latin cuisine-loving gourmand want? Amidst incredibly busy schedules, including opening a new restaurant, these ladies generously gave of their time and talent to help.  Both women very much honor their heritage and love the senior population that Meals-on-Wheels serves.   Giving back in this way to the community was a quick decision for both chefs.


Flank Steak with Sweet Potatoes, Cherry Tomatoes, and Green Onions  – One of Isabel Cruz’s  Healthy Latin Cuisine Recipes developed for Meals-on-Wheels Greater San Diego

4 servings

¼ cup plus 3 tablespoons olive oil

¼ cup red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon dried oregano

⅛ teaspoon kosher salt

1 flank steak (about 1 ½ pounds)

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes

1 pint cherry tomatoes

2 bundles green onions, green parts, only, cut into 1 ½ inch pieces

Freshly ground black pepper

½ cup guava sauce (See attached recipe)


Whisk the ¼ cup oil, the vinegar, cumin, oregano, and 1/8 teaspoon salt together in a glass baking dish.  Add the flank steak, turn so the meat is well coated, and then cover with plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight.

Place the sweet potatoes in a medium saucepan and cover with salted water.  Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook until the sweet potatoes are tender when easily pierced with the tip of a knife but still hold their shape, about 5 minutes.  Drain and set aside.

Remove the steak from the refrigerator 15 to 30 minutes before cooking.

Preheat your grill to high or heat a grill pan over medium-high heat.

Place the steak on the hot grill and cook for about 4 minutes, or until browned, before turning.  Cook the second side for about 3 minutes for medium-rare.  Transfer the flank steak to a cutting board and let it rest while you finish the garnish.

Heat the 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking.  Add the sweet potatoes and let them cook, undisturbed, for about 2 minutes before turning them.  Cook for about 2 minutes more, or until golden brown and crisp.  Add the cherry tomatoes and sauté until they begin to blacken, about 2 minutes.  Add the green onions and stir for about 1 minute; they should soften but retain their bright green color.  Season with salt and pepper and transfer to a large platter.

Slice the steak against the grain into ½ inch slices. Fan the slices of steak around the vegetables and drizzle the guava sauce over the steak.  Season with a sprinkling of salt and some pepper.

Guava Sauce

Makes about 1 cup

1/3 cup cubed guava paste

1 garlic clove, minced

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons dry white wine

⅛ tsp. kosher salt













Isabel Cruz, Owner, Executive Chef

“Meals-on-Wheels is putting so much time and attention into the creation of healthy Hispanic menu options for seniors in San Diego. I think it’s really very special to be involved. It’s so important to take care of our elders and an important part of the Hispanic culture. “  Isabel Cruz  Photo Courtesy of Luanne Hinkle


In addition to these renown chef partners, San Diego Mesa College Culinary and Nutrition programs pitched in for nutritional analysis, menu preparation and testing, with Meals-on-Wheels nutrition interns following geriatric nutrition guidelines.


San Diego Mesa College Culinary Arts Student Participants, Photo courtesy Luanne Hinkle

And now the partnership with famous chefs continues as Chef Isabel Cruz, along with 10 other chefs, will compete for the prestigious Chefy Award presented at Meals-on-Wheels Bootleggers’ Ball on June 30 at the San Diego Sheraton Hotel and Marina.  Guests have the opportunity to sample competing appetizers and vote for their favorite chef, as well as enjoy a plated dinner and dancing. All in support of Meals-on-Wheels Greater San Diego, an agency devoted to keeping seniors independent and healthy in their own homes, while enjoying food they prefer and the company of a caring volunteer.

Chefy, the prestigious award and “man” around town, sampling fine cuisine of the participating chefs in the Appetizer Challenge at the Bootolegger’s Ball, June 30th. Pictured in front of JRDN, home of participating Executive Chef, David Warner

Featured Appetizer Challenge Chefs

Chef Isabel Cruz:                 Barrio Star

Chef Johnny Duran:            Top of the Market

Chef Bernard Guillas:          The Marine Room

Chef Rich Huarte:                 New York on Rye

Chef Michael Jacobs:          Proud Mary’s

Chef David Meade:              Nobu

Chef Jeff Roberto:                Sushi on a Roll

Chef Andrew Sasloe:           The Cosmopolitan
Restaurant & Hotel

Chef Tyler Thrasher:           Brooklyn Girl Eatery

Chef David Warner:             JRDN

Chef Julie Weiss:                 The Wild Thyme Company


With the collaboration between these renowned chefs, Mesa College and Meals-On-Wheels, San Diego seniors from the Latin community will soon be able to enjoy ethnically inspired dishes.  The ultimate beauty, however, is that all seniors can partake in these new delectable and healthy menu options. With menus on the horizon like this, and the only qualification for service being over 60* years of age, perhaps many of you would sign up for Meals-on-Wheels too!


*Meals-on-Wheels Greater San Diego is a fee for service agency.  The fee for both Lunch and dinner and accompanying beverages is $7.00 a day, delivered. Lunch only or dinner only is $4.00 a day delivered.  Meals-on-Wheels San Diego accepts no direct Federal funding and subsidizes every meal to make up the difference between fees charged and actual costs. Volunteer, Donate or Get Meals. Or visit for more information.


Comments (1)

you dont see a lot of healthy alternatives in latin cuisine, til now! thx for this article! gotta pass this on to my mom!

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