The Slowcook at Spydog Farm The Slowcook at Spydog Farm

Cooking Up Change

May 19th, 2010 · 1 Comment · Posted in kids, school food

Winnter: grilled multi-grain quesadilla

Winner: grilled multi-grain quesadilla

Here it is, the winning entry in the national Cooking Up Change contest, high school division, a grilled mult-grain quesadilla with tepary beans prepared by a Native American team from the Tohono O’odham nation in Arizona.

Tepary beans are a traditional ingredient to the Tohono O’odham people and this quesadilla wowed the judges gathered for the final voting at Southeastern High School in Detroit. I, however, did not like the peanut butter and yogurt side dish at all and I thought the plate (or, in this case, tray) looked too brown. The spinach salad with carrot dressing was just ho-hum, I thought.

I also deducted points for using cut fruit like this because it has not been acidulated (a common failing in school food) and will turn brown quickly as well.

Genius "polenta pizza"

Genius "polenta pizza"

My vote went to the students from the Community Design Center in St. Paul, MN, for their killer “polenta pizza.”  The polenta, locally grown and milled, is used as a bed or “crust” for spinach and tomato, then topped with cheese. It could easily have been served as the entree for a wedding. On the side, they served an interesting “pesto chicken” breaded with corn flakes for an interesting crunch. And their “Minnesota Slaw” of carrots with vanilla and cinnamon had a nice kick.

Cornbread casserole and "brownie suprise"

Cornbread casserole and "brownie suprise"

The college division for some reason was completely dominated by University of California at Berkeley. (What a coincidence: I was just there.) Apparently, the other schools that entered didn’t follow the rules and were eliminated. In fact, all three finalist teams were from U.C. Berkeley’s nutrition sciences school, but only two of them were able to travel to Detroit.

I loved this “cornbread casserole” with red beans, tomatoes and American cheese. The rice pilaf with diced carrrots, green benas, spinach and basil was inspired. So was the brownie hiding under the yogurt and fruit. The “surprise” in this brownie is it contained pureed carrots and spinach. Lots of vegetables were ingeniously incorporated into this meal.

The winning duo from Berkeley

The winning duo from Berkeley

Here’s the winning team from Berkeley, Radha Changela on the left, and Brittany Mellen.

Cooking Up Change was sponsored by the Healthy Schools Campaign and the national Farm to School Network as part of the annual “Taking Root”confab in Detroit that gathered school food and farm to school advocates from around the country. I was invited to be one of the “prestigious panel of judges,” along with the likes of Tony Geraci, the head of food services for Baltimore Schools.

Also on the panel, and sitting next to me, was Margie Saidel, a vice-president of Chartwells in charge of nutrition and sustainability. I haven’t had many good things to say about Chartwells. So when I asked Saidel for her business card, she said, “I thought you might be interested,” in a sort of mock-grumbly voice.

At this event, everyone checked their six-shooter at the door.

One thing I suggested the organizers do next year is award prizes for best individual dishes, as well as naming overall winners. There was a high school team from Wisconsin among the three finalists that served an outstanding peach cobbler, by far the best of any of the side dishes in this group, but they went home empty handed.

Topping the panel of judges

Topping the panel of judges

And look! I got top billing on the judges panel.

Names were listed in alphabetical order.

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  • Pattie

    I love this, Ed. I am so glad you were there. This inspires me to suggest a healthy lunch showcase challenge to my kids and their friends this summer.