Local Students Craft Healthy Meal and Win Competition
By Nicole L. Garneau, PhD
Congrats to Bruce Randolph School of Near Northeast Denver for winning the EatWell@School competition sponsored by LiveWell Colorado!
Everyone knows the recipe for healthy eating… lean meat, whole grains and lots of fresh fruits and veggies… but dang! It’s not so easy and those hot Cheetos are so good! The companies that make packaged foods, like hot Cheetos, have some seriously smart chefs and taste scientists figuring out exactly what we will want to eat and what will keep us eating. So I was pretty impressed to see a local program that is working to change the equation and put us, real people, in the driver’s seat. EatWell@School by LiveWell Colorado sponsored a competition for local high school students to be both the chefs and the taste experts in the creation of healthy lunch we would all want to dig into.
“Led by volunteer chef mentors (senior-level culinary students from Johnson & Wales University), each group of students was schooled in a variety of culinary topics, including the intricacies of taste, food safety and knife skills, while also learning about developing a nutritious meal plan, managing a cooking budget and healthy food sourcing, ” LiveWell’s website describes.
The winning group is made up of five bright and creative seniors from Bruce Randolph School; Jen, Maria #1, Ivan, Janeth, and Maria #2 (aka Chicken). The team was supervised through the YMCA Community Programs director Jen Martin, and was mentored by Johnson & Wales students Angel and Rebecca who volunteered their time for the length of the nine week program. The team’s award-winning creation was a BBQ chicken panini wrap with colorful coleslaw and jalapeno infused peach crumble for dessert (recipes are below!). It was designed to pay homage to comfort foods, but included novel twists that added just the right amount of sophistication of taste and quality. I can say first hand that it was a delicious lunch, especially considering the requirements it fulfilled and the limitations placed on the students in creating the meal. First, it met the USDA requirements for nutrition. Second, it was limited to a specific list of ingredients available to Denver Public Schools and had to include at least one ingredient that is grown, baked or produced in Colorado. Finally, it had to cost less than one dollar per serving to make. And despite all these restrictions, the Bruce Randolph team nailed it.
Their menu was featured at the December 13, 2012 EatWell@School luncheon where it wowed the audience and inspired me to connect with the students to find out more about their experience.
Team leaders and returning team members, Jen and Janeth, described the first meeting where the students were introduced to the five tastes but doing an extensive series of taste tests, “It was really surprising, how we were all different.” Over the course of the program, the team brainstormed, learned the technical side of meal planning and preparation, the science of food and ultimately experimented to develop the tastes within the meals they knew people would like. The result of all this work was a healthy and actually really tasty meal that we can all make at home and that Denver Public Schools will feature in every school cafeteria on May 8, 2013.
The impact of the program goes well beyond the recipe creation though. Community Programs director Jen Martin explained, “My hope would be that students feel less afraid of food and cooking… that they see it’s not so scary. The students’ progress from week 1 to week 9 showed that cooking became a natural process for the students.” The students agreed and expanded on this thought. Ivan talked about changes at home explaining, “My mom buys more vegetables than she did before.” And Maria was quick to explain that she did not think she would like the program, “I don’t like cooking… but this was a fun experience and I ended up learning a lot.” Finally, for at least one student, Jen, it has changed the course of her life. “It made me think about what I want to do, and now I know I want to do culinary arts. It helped me in a way to go to college and to know what to expect.”
In honor of EatWell@School and Jen, Maria, Maria, Ivan and Janeth at Bruce Randolph, I hope that you’ll help us celebrate the launch of this meal on May 8, 2013 when schools across the Denver Public School District will be featuring this meal for lunch. We also invite you to join us at Denver Museum of Nature & Science where we will be featuring it as our special of the day to show our support of healthy eating and EatWell@School. And if you have a question about nutrition and healthy recipes, submit them to firstname.lastname@example.org. The students have signed on to be the Museum’s guest experts on these topics for the remainder of the school year; you can read their responses to questions that come in right here on our blog.
Check out this website for more information on the recipes and EatWell@School, and to see a video of the students in action in the kitchen: https://about.livewellcolorado.org/livewell-in-action/livewellschool-food-initiatives/eatwellschool-2012-recipes-video-and-photos/eatwellschool-2012-recipes-video-
Bruce Randolph School Chicken Panini Wrap (yields 12 servings)
32 oz Chicken, thigh
4 cups Spinach, baby
3 each Tomatoes, chopped
2 each Onion, red, sliced
1 tsp Canola oil
3 cups Mozzarella, shredded
1 TBL Taco seasoning
6 TBL Ranch Dressing – low fat
12 Whole grain 9” tortillas
- Heat oil in a medium sized non-stick pan over medium-low heat; add onions and cook until brown, stirring occasionally.
- Season chicken with taco seasoning, bake at 350˚F until internal temperature reaches 165˚F, shred.
- Warm tortillas by wrapping in foil and placing in oven for 2-3 minutes.
- Assemble wraps by spreading ½ TBL of ranch in center of tortilla, placing 1/3 cup spinach, ¼ cup tomatoes, 2 TBL of caramelized onions, 2 ½ oz of shredded chicken and ¼ cup of cheese and rolling it up by tucking in the ends and rolling.
- Press wrap on a panini press or on a preheated pan with another pan on top to press down.
- Cut in half on the diagonal and serve.
Colorful Coleslaw (yields 12 servings)
6 cups Cabbage, red, shredded
2 each Bell Peppers, green, sliced
2 lb Carrots, shredded
1 cup White Vinegar
1 TBL Dijon Mustard
3 TBL Honey
½ cup Canola Oil
1 bunch Broccoli, shredded florets
1 tsp Pepper
- In a separate medium bowl, combine vinegar, mustard and honey.
- While whisking, slowly add oil into vinegar mixture. Season with pepper.
- Add vinaigrette to vegetables and toss until fully coated.
Jalapeño Infused Peach Crumble (yields 12 servings)
5-15 ½ oz Canned diced Peaches in light syrup, drained
8 each Jalapenos, quartered
1 cup Applesauce, unsweetened
½ cup Brown Sugar, divided
2 cups Oats
½ tsp Cinnamon
½ tsp Nutmeg
¼ cup Honey
¼ cup Low Fat Vanilla Yogurt
- Place ¼ cup of brown sugar in a large pan over medium low heat until melted. Add peaches and mix to coat. Add applesauce and jalapenos and heat until thick and bubbly. Remove jalapenos. Set aside and keep warm.
- In a large bowl, combine the oats, cinnamon and nutmeg until evenly distributed. Place oat mixture into a large pan over medium heat stirring often and toast until brown. Place into a large bowl and drizzle with honey. Set aside.
- In a small bowl, mix the yogurt with a pinch of cinnamon. Set aside.
- To plate: use an ice cream scoop to portion peaches onto tray. Sprinkle the peaches with 2 tablespoons of the oats over the peaches. Place a dollop of yogurt on top of the peaches. Garnish with a julienne strip of jalapeno.
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