December 2021: Happy Holidays! 

HSCommunity is a newsletter from the Health Sciences Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Subcommittee on Communications.

No Matter How You Celebrate, We Wish You a Happy Holiday Season!

Below, we've shared some recipes and family traditions from members of the Health Sciences community. We hope you enjoy them!

Winter Banana Bread

From Elizabeth Claydon:

This recipe is one that my mother used to make for me and would even send in care packages to me in college. Receiving and enjoying it always provided that connection to home and family no matter how far I was. Now I make this bread with my son, adapting it further based on our tastes and relationship. Food is something that has a strong social and emotional component as much as a health component and that social and emotional component can actually help to heal our relationship with food in some ways. This comfort food provides just that, comfort, especially in cold winter months. I hope you enjoy it and share it with others as well!

1 large loaf, c. 16 slices

2 cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup whole wheat flour
1 cup unpacked brown sugar
1 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon (more or less depending on preference)
3 egg whites (can use egg substitute/egg-free options in equivalent portions)
2 tbsp butter/margarine (melted)
¾ cup vanilla yogurt (can substitute non-dairy options if desired)
1 tbsp vanilla
2 cups mashed bananas (very ripe!)
1 cup chopped walnuts 
¾ cup dried fruit pieces

Preheat oven to 325°. Can use convection oven but reduce time by about 10 minutes.
Combine flours and next 5 ingredients in a large bowl. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, beat eggs whites, butter, yogurt, and vanilla with a whisk until smooth. Add mashed bananas and whisk again.
Add banana mixture to bowl with flour mixture. Stir until everything is moist, but do not over stir. Stir in chopped walnuts and dried fruit if desired.
Spray a 9x5 inch loaf pan with a non-stick spray (example: Pam, Baker’s Joy, etc.). Pour batter into pan. 
Bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes (see above comment on Convection), or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from pan and let cool on cooling rack before cutting.

Potato Candy

From Shelly Dusic: 

My mother made Potato Candy to share with our neighbors every year at Christmas time. A recipe that originated during the Great Depression in 1933, this candy is as affordable as it is plentiful. Pefect for anyone on a tight budget that wants to spread some holiday cheer. 

1/2 cup boiled, peeled and cooled Russett potatoes 
1/2 cup salted butter, softened
About 6-7 cups powdered sugar (plus some for dusting)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Creamy peanut better

Mash cooled potato and butter with a fork until smooth. Add salt, vanilla, and powdered sugar one cup at a time. Mix well between additions until the mixture makes a thick dough (like fondant). Dust the corner with powdered sugar and roll out the potato dough until about 1/4 inch thick. Spead creamy peanut butter evenly to dough edges. Carefully roll into a pinwheel log. Cut candy into 1/2 inch slices and serve. 
To preserve, cover tightly with plastic wrap or seal between layers of wax or parchment paper in a storage container that seals. Do not refrigerate. 

White Fish Stew

From Joanna DiStefano:

My family has a Seven Fishes dinner on Christmas Eve. This is a large gathering where seven types of fish are served, either in a single dish or several dishes, along with other treats. As in many Sicilian American and Italian American families, many of whom are Catholic, it is customary to abstain from meat prior to Christian religious feast days. So, this is why fish is traditionally served around holidays.  It is thought that the number seven is related to the number of sacraments in the Catholic Church or possibly the number of hills in Rome. Every Seven Fishes dinner is different and usually reflects what is available locally. In my family, we always have smoked trout dip, lots of pasta, including my grandfather's puttanesca and pasta al tonno, and a delicious white fish stew: 

Extra virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced
Salt and pepper
1 tsp fresh thyme
3/4 cup dry white wine
3 cups vegetable broth
2 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 cup golden raisins
2 tbsp capers, rinsed
2 lb fresh cod
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
3 tbsp toasted pine nuts, toasted

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large stock pot or Dutch oven over medium low heat. Add onions, celery, garlic, and salt and pepper to taste, stir until softened. Add thyme and stir for another minute before adding the wine. Bring to a simmer and allow to reduce slightly. Next, add vegetable broth, tomato paste, raisins, and capers. Cook over medium heat for 20 minutes. While that is cooking, lightly toast pine nuts and set aside. After the stew has simmered and has a nice perfume, gently add the cod to the liquid and stir lightly so that all of the fish is covered. Cover the pot and cook for 10 minutes. Then, remove the pot from the heat and let it stand covered for another 5 minutes. Fish should be flaky when stirred. Ladle into serving bowls and serve with pine nuts and parsley.

Chicken Biriyani

From Mohini Chatterji: 

Biriyani is an Indian dish consisting of layered meat and rice that somehow manages to epitomize both celebration and comfort! It is what helps me feel better when I feel homesick and long for food made by my mom who inspired me to love cooking. Here, I share a simple, no-fuss version which does not need a ton of complicated ingredients — just some Indian spice staples. It is the perfect accompaniment to a joyous occasion in your life or the perfect antidote to a bad day!


For marination
1 lb of chicken thighs cut into chunks
1 tsp Salt
½ tsp turmeric powder
1 tbsp red chili powder or paprika
2 tsp garam masala
1 cup yogurt
1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste (grind 5 cloves of garlic and a 2 inch piece of ginger)
1 thinly sliced red onion
½ cup chopped tomatoes

For rice:
1 ½ cups of basmati rice
8 cups water
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ghee
1 inch cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
4 cloves

For garnish:
2 boiled eggs
Mint leaves

Soak the basmati rice in water for 30 mins. Heat 3 tbsp oil in a pan and when it heats up, add the thinly sliced red onion and fry it on medium high heat until it turns crispy and golden brown (takes ~ 20 mins). Set aside some of it for garnish in the end.

Marinate the chicken with this fried onion and all the other ingredients listed under marination for a minimum of 1 hour (marinate overnight for best results).

Heat oil and add the marinated chicken into the pan and mix well. Cook this for about 10 mins on medium-high heat then add ½ cup water. Cover it with a lid and cook on medium flame till the chicken is cooked. In a large pot, add 8 cups water, salt, a spoon of ghee and the whole spices and bring to a boil.

Once it is at a rolling boil, add the soaked rice and cook for 5 mins until the rice is almost cooked and al dente. Layer the chicken gravy on the rice, place two boiled eggs on top and cover with lid on it and cook it on low flame for 10 minutes.

Garnish it with the reserved fried onions, fresh mint and ghee.

New Year's Day: Black Eye Peas & Cabbage

From Wendy:

When I was growing up in Wyoming County (located in southern West Virginia), my mom and grandma always cooked black eyed peas and cabbage on New Year's Day. No special recipe, but we had those two side dishes to bring "luck and wealth" for the new year. I was tasked with washing a few quarters, dimes and nickels to add to the cabbage. Whoever scooped out the most in coins was supposed to be the wealthiest for the new year. Although I don't know much about my family history, I've read these traditions come from Irish roots.

Potato Latkes

From Stacey Elza:

Grating by hand—rather than using a food processor—is key. My kids are picky eaters, and this is one of the few foods everyone in my family enjoys.

Makes 12 to 16 latkes
1 pound potatoes
½ cup finely chopped onion
1 large egg, lightly beaten
½ teaspoon salt
½ to ¾ cup olive oil
Accompaniments: sour cream and applesauce


Preheat oven to 250°F. Peel potatoes and coarsely grate by hand, transferring to a large bowl of cold water as grated. Soak potatoes 1 to 2 minutes after last batch is added to water, then drain well in a colander.

Spread grated potatoes and onion on a kitchen towel and roll up jelly-roll style. Twist towel tightly to wring out as much liquid as possible. Transfer potato mixture to a bowl and stir in egg and salt.

Heat ¼ cup oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. Working in batches of 4 latkes, spoon 2 tablespoons potato mixture per latke into skillet, spreading into 3-inch rounds with a fork. Reduce heat to moderate and cook until undersides are browned, about 5 minutes. Turn latkes over and cook until undersides are browned, about 5 minutes more. Transfer to paper towels to drain and season with salt. Add more oil to skillet as needed. Keep latkes warm on a wire rack set in a shallow baking pan in oven.

ENGAGE: November Responses

In the last edition of HSCommunity, we introduced an ongoing series called ENGAGE. The goal is to gain understanding and empathy about the lived experiences of our friends and colleagues at Health Sciences.

Last month we asked, "Have you ever been vaccinated against the flu? What factors into your decision?" We received more than two dozen responses!

One respondent shared: "Vaccination against the flu is an annual 'must-do' in my health routine. In third grade, I was diagnosed with asthma not long after my grandma suffered a fatal asthma attack. I was fortunate: My parents each carried medical coverage for our family through their employers. Our household was financially stable. My parents, who had decent health literacy, were motivated and -able- to prioritize my health. At this stage in my life, getting my flu shot is not a question of 'if' but 'when.'"

Did You Know? Flu shots are a fully covered under PEIA and The Health Plan for WVU’s insured employees, spouses and dependent family members. Flu shots also are covered for WVU students under the Aetna Student Health insurance plan. Most insurers cover the annual flu vaccine as preventive care, and often at no cost to the insured. That is the case for Medicare enrollees, many Medicaid enrollees, and people with coverage through the Affordable Care Act marketplaces such as

Another respondent said, “While I have not always remembered to get a flu shot each year, the times that I have gotten them have been due to different factors. Pregnancy, protecting immunocompromised family members, not wanting to be sick and miss work, and requirements at work.”

More information about the flu is available from the CDC. In this video, WVU's Dr. Lisa Costello shares how to keep yourself and others safe during flu season. It's also important to remember there may be underlying reasons for vaccine hesitation.

We invite you to look for the ENGAGE section of HSCommunity for future opportunities to share your lived experiences.

If you have any questions, please contact the WVU Health Sciences Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Subcommittee on Communications by emailing Wendy Holdren at

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