A Recipe for Community Engagement: Whole Foods Market Lifestyle Center

"Begin with the End in Mind" ~ Stephen Covey

Put another way - Buy a big enough turkey and you'll be eatin' healthy for a week! 

Chef Rachel begins her presentation.

Recently I was invited to attend a cooking demonstration in the Lifestyle Center at our local Whole Foods Market in Jacksonville.

My participation was free (entry fee to general public was just $15), but I walked out the door that night having spent $70 on groceries and treats for the weekend, so I'm thinking they more than got their money's worth out of this bloganista!

The focus of the evening was Thanksgiving Leftovers. Now this is a subject I know something about, since my mom insists on procuring the largest bird that will fit in our oven. She loves a good turkey sandwich, and my oh-so-rich-and-creamy Turkey Tetrazzini, but this year, thanks to Chef Rachel and Whole Foods Market Jacksonville, we're going to expand our repertoire in the leftovers department.

Caribbean Turkey Soup
The demo turned out to be a fun way to spend an evening. After welcoming us into the gleaming, sophisticated  Lifestyle Center space, Chef Rachel presented three dishes using leftover turkey as the star ingredient. She made us feel at home - and shared with us that this was her first event here. She quickly made it her own space though, and won us over with her approachable style.

The first dish she demonstrated was a soup that blended Caribbean and Mexican influences for a sweet and spicy result. Sweet potato and spinach got a smoky-spicy kick from Chipotle in Adobo - one of my fave kitchen staples, a little bit is for enriching  the flavor profile of a dish.

Of course this version used turkey, but I have had a similar soup that used crab for the main protein, with equally sweet results. Either way, winner winner turkey dinner!

Turkey Enchilada with Mole
One of my favorite casserole dishes - not that I make many to begin with - is baked enchiladas. I love them all, but chicken is usually my go-to, so turkey is an easy swap. Expect some of these bad-boys to make it to the table in the week following Thanksgiving.

Chef Rachel included a recipe for a quick mole she whipped up before the demo, which uses 17 ingredients, so it seems like a stretch, but on closer investigation all were things I had in my well-stocked pantry. The revelation for me here - and the best tip of the evening - was using crumbled Feta cheese as the topper. The tart creaminess of the Feta cuts the richness of the mole, and the combo is magic. I was impressed. Chef Rachel also used Cream Cheese inside the enchiladas - a simple and fast way to up the creaminess quotient. Twelve enchiladas, just divide the block of cheese into twelve strips, drop one in each, add in the turkey w mole, and you're ready to roll! Thanks, Chef Rachel. Even an old... I mean "seasoned" home cook like me learned something new that night!

Again, she used the Adobo from the can of chipotles, which really helped pack in the heat and dimension of flavor that made it seem like she had been stewing this sauce up for hours. As easy as her recipe for the Mole looks, I'm gonna admit, I'll be using a convenient little carton of super-tasty pre-made mole along with some chipotle and a squeeze of fresh lime juice.

Turkey, Spinach & Sun Dried Cherry Roulade
The third dish of the evening was a Turkey, Spinach and Sun Dried Cherry Roulade. I was not as impressed with this one - mainly because of the dough-to-filling ratio. The accompanying Blackberry & Red Wine Pan Sauce took it across the finish line though. The flavors all blended well, and I LOVE LOVE LOVE cherries with just about anything, so I will be trying to work through this recipe, to see if I can make it conform to my own personal tastes - less bread, more turkey and cherries. Or cranberries, for that matter. Yum.

The Lifestyle Center is a great place for demos,  classes, parties and events. My friend Adrienne Cartagena is Whole Foods Market's Local Director of Marketing and Community Relations - a position she has thrived and grown in since 2011. She gets to play in this awesome space all the time - and yes, it's a dream job - but lest you think it's all about the glamour, that's Adrienne at the sink helping Chef Rachel keep up with the serving, prep and cleanup during her demo. She's hands ON, people.

Chef Rachel and Adrienne in the Lifestyle Center
"We have so much fun exploring and celebrating food in the Lifestyle Center" Adrienne told me recently.

"It's a wonderful way for us to showcase the culinary talent we have in our store, and it gives our team a chance to connect with our customers on a more personal level."  


I love Whole Foods commitment to their customers as community. It's in everything they do. The store is a gathering spot for locals who want to shop for organic foods and products, or just sit and enjoy a quick and nutritious meal from the Prepared Foods section, where all of the ingredients are natural or organic and as many as possible are locally grown.

Fellow tasters dig in.
In addition to featuring local products in their stores, Whole Foods has made over 8 million dollars in low-interest loans to independent local farmers and food artisans throughout the US. Learn more about their Local Producer Loan Program, including how to apply. 

It's a given that the store donates leftover food to local food pantries and shelters. In addition, several times a year they hold community giving days (otherwise known as “5% Days”) where five percent of that day’s net sales are donated to a local nonprofit or educational organization. Part of Adrienne's awesome job is promoting this effort and deciding which local groups will benefit. Read more about Whole Foods Mission and Values on their website.


Check out the Whole Foods Market Jacksonville Events Page and sign up for something fun and informative. Chef Rachel and Whole Foods Healthy Eating Specialist Heather have plenty in store - some events are free, some cost a modest amount to cover food costs, and some, like their current series of Beer Dinners, are on a bit larger scale so may cost a bit more, but all are a great value. I LOVED the Brooklyn Brewery Beer Dinner, and might just have to check out the next one - the  Samuel Adams Beer Dinner Thursday, December 12, 2013 from 6:30 PM to 8:00 PM is just $40 a seat - and the space is limited so if you're interested I suggest you book it now.


Want the inside scoop on what's cooking at Whole Foods? Pick up a copy or bookmark this link to The Whole Deal Value Guide - in stores or online. Deals, coupons, budget-friendly recipes, meal planner and money saving tips

Thanks to Adrienne and the crew at Whole Foods Market Jacksonville for all the invites to play along at various events. 

While my participation in this event was complimentary, it in no way clouded my judgement or influenced the opinions I have shared in this post. I don't make any profit from the links here, I just share them as a thank you to my hosts and to connect my readers to valuable information. 

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