Dining With Miss Lil: Harlem EatUp, Humana And Melba’s Host Healthy Eats for Seniors

September 9, 2019

By Lil Nickelson

Harlem EatUp Foundation (“Harlem EatUp”), Humana (“Humana”) and Melba’s Restaurant (“Melba’s”) joined forces on Wednesday, June 26th, 2019 to present a two-hour private cooking demonstration of healthy dishes to Harlem seniors. Melba Wilson, Owner of Melba’s Restaurant located at 300 West 114th Street and her Executive Chef Shawn Jones hosted a healthy cooking demonstration to the packed dining room from 1 pm to 3 pm and then the audience moved into the adjacent dining room to taste the three healthy dishes they demonstrated.

Melba Wilson started off their presentation by disclosing to the assembled, “I have lost 64 lbs. in my journey recently because I want to live longer to see my son grow up, start a family and see my grandchildren grow up. To do so I needed to make some changes.” The three healthy dishes the audience watched Melba and Shawn prepare with some audience participation were Grilled chicken breast with sautéed spinach and cherry tomatoes with a tossed green salad with fresh-made balsamic dressing.

The event was co-sponsored by Harlem EatUP and Humana. Harlem EatUp is extending the activities it sponsors past the mid-May annual festival within the community and Harlem residents greatly appreciates their efforts. Humana is new to the health care providers within the Harlem community and they are off to a great start.

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I met Nakeeta L. Wills, an independent life and health consultant working with Humana when she and Humana were escorting senior members of St Charles Borromeo Roman Catholic Church of Harlem to the Harlem EatUp Festival in Morningside Park. and Resurrection Chapel. The very next month Nakeeta reached out to me to invite senior citizens from my church, New Mount Zion Baptist Church, and other seniors in the community to a free cooking class with a well-known chef at Melbas. What a gracious offer and with the help of my church’s Senior Advocate Deborah Brown I submitted the names of enough seniors from my church, St. Charles plus St. Luke’s Baptist Church, St. Matthews and 2nd Canaan Baptist Church.

At the event I met up with Dawn Padmore, VP, Culinary Marketing for Karlitz & Company as well as the Executive Producer for the Harlem EatUp Festival and two Humanas personnel: Maria Davila, Market Point Sales Representative and Karina Portes, Field Marketing Representative for Downstate New York. Humana has been moving into the Harlem community and they have made a visual presence at these two events plus at the Senior Citizens Day event sponsored by the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce on August 13th, 2019. Humana even had swag lunch bags with water bottles inside as parting gifts for the audience. I like what Humana is doing for one of Harlem’s most precious commodities; namely our seniors!

Not only did Melba and Chef Shawn demonstrate how to make three healthy dishes, they also graciously fed everyone in attendance and shared the recipes for publication.

Here they are:

Sautéed Spinach and Cherry Tomatoes


  • 3 TBS extra virgin olive oil
  • Garlic 2 fresh bulbs, chopped
  • Cherry tomatoes ½ pint
  • 1/2 lb. of fresh spinach
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions: Heat olive oil in pan add garlic and tomato until fragrant and tomatoes start bursting, then add spinach and cook the spinach down 2 more minutes until it wilts. Stir and add salt and pepper to taste and pull off fire.

Grilled Chicken Breast


  • 1 lb. boneless & skinless chicken breasts, cut thin
  • 1 fresh lemon, juiced
  • Garlic 4 fresh bulbs, chopped
  • 1 sprig of fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 2 sprigs of fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions: Cut chicken breasts thin full lobe. Chop garlic, rosemary, and thyme and put into a small bowl. Add lemon juice to chopped ingredients and then pour over to chicken with olive oil, salt and pepper. Let set for at least 1 hour before grilling. Heat grill (stove top grill pan or George Foreman grill) and when hot place chicken on grill to cook. When you see the meat turn opaque turn over (if using a grill pan).

Fresh-made Balsamic Dressing


  • 1 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 shallot onion. minced
  • Garlic 2 fresh bulbs, minced
  • 1 TBS honey
  • 1 TBS of spicy mustard
  • Fresh parsley 1/4 bunch
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Directions: Combine all ingredients into a blender or bowl except the oil. Blend or whisk to incorporate the ingredients then slowly and the oil keep whisking or blending until the dressing combines.


Here’s Miss Lil’s tip for how to use up the left-over fresh rosemary and thyme. Chop and combine them with fresh garlic bulbs, your seasonings like salt, pepper, ground turmeric, cumin and paprika with some extra virgin olive oil and then rub inside the cavity and along the thigh, leg and breast of a whole chicken. Refrigerate overnight and set out for about 30 minutes to get the chill off the chicken. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees for 15 minutes before putting the chicken in a roasting pan. Cook covered for one hour and uncovered for another 30 minutes to crisp skin.

Get ready for another healthy dish.

Photos supplied by Angela Bankhead, Red Rooster Harlem’s Brand Manager. 1) 
Melba Wilson, Owner of Melba’s Restaurant and Executive Chef Shawn Jones 2) The audience eating the healthy dishes. 3) Swag bag gifts for the audience.

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