Lawrence chef Rick Martin helped about a dozen low-income residents cook a healthy dish of red beans and rice with sausage that was topped with fresh pico de gallo.
The cost: $1.44 per serving.
On Wednesday evening, Martin lead a three-hour cooking class where he showed residents how to chop and measure ingredients and then provided assistance as they created their dishes. He also talked about how to properly store food and sanitize cooking areas.
Martin’s classroom was in the lobby of the Just Food warehouse, 1000 E. 11th St.
Among the participants were Anne LaPlante, of Lawrence, and her 7-year-old daughter, Elle Martin. LaPlante said she learned new cutting and cooking techniques and found the weight and measurement tables helpful. Her daughter enjoyed helping Mom.
“It’s fun,” said Elle, as she dumped a cup of rice into the water.
Just Food, Douglas County’s food bank, received a $25,000 grant from the Kansas Health Foundation to help start a cooking program that could be replicated in other communities. Just Food wanted to start one because a majority of its clients do not know how to prepare flavorful dishes with the food that’s given away, such as canned beans, a package of chicken and garden tomatoes.
Jeremy Farmer, executive director of Just Food, said, “They think that microwaving macaroni and cheese is both cheap and quick, and they are just not aware that it’s just as simple and easy to take the produce or food that we give away and make something that’s balanced and nutritious for their family and tastes good.”
Wednesday’s cooking class was the last of three pilot classes to see how a cooking program might work and to gain input from the participants. Just Food plans to begin offering a four- to six-week cooking program in September or October that would be offered to anyone, regardless of income; the hope is that those who can afford to pay would make a donation to make the program sustainable.
“It’s not just people who are low-income and unable to have the resources to cook, but it’s a lot of parents who have kids playing soccer and baseball and they have just 30 minutes at home, so they pick up fast food. It’s teaching them how to cook, too, and about getting a balanced diet,” Farmer said.
The red-beans-and-rice dish included kale — a green that not many participants had used before, but many said it added color and a dose of nutrition.
Martin said that was one of the tricks he learned growing up as a child in a low-income family.
“It’s something I made a lot as a child, and I learned early to add fresh ingredients to do really nice additions of fresh, nutritious vegetables so that it’s not just beans and rice,” he said.
Farmer has big plans for Just Food’s cooking program, especially to help low-income residents get a leg up in life.
For those who complete a cooking program, they will receive the tools — things like pots and pans, knives and measuring cups — to take home and put to use.
Farmer also would like to offer an intermediate level and an expert level with the possibility that someone might even discover a new career. If so, Farmer would like Just Food to be able to offer a scholarship to Johnson County Community College’s culinary arts program. Farmer has even thought about having classes on canning foods, then possibly paying some in need of work to do it.
“It could have ripple effects that affect so many great things in our community,” Farmer said. “It’s super exciting to me. We want it to grow, and we want it to expand and be more than just a cooking class.”
COOKING AND SAFETY TIPS
Lawrence resident Rick Martin, a chef and culinary art director at Eudora High School, provided lots of tips during a cooking class at Just Food. Among the tips:
• Store foods in the refrigerator in this order from top to bottom for safety: ready to eat, raw seafood, raw whole cuts of beef or pork, raw ground beef or pork, and raw poultry.
• Best way to prevent foodborne illness: Wash hands. He said to use water as hot as you can stand, wet hands, use soap, wash for at least 15 seconds, rinse and dry with single-use towel.
• Cooking temperatures should be: 165 degrees for poultry, 155 for ground beef and pork, 145 for seafood and whole cuts of beef and pork, 135 for vegetables, soups and grains.
• The shelf life for leftovers in the refrigerator is seven days.
MARTIN'S RED BEANS AND RICE RECIPE
2 cups — dry, white rice
1 quart — water
1 teaspoon — salt
Place ingredients in a four-quart pot and bring to a simmer on medium heat. Simmer until rice is a soupy consistency, approximately 10 minutes. Cover and set aside for 15 minutes or until ready for use. Makes 8 servings.
Red bean mixture
3 cans — red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 pound — polish sausage, kielbasa or andoullie
1 cup — kale, chopped
1 — small onion, diced
2 — carrots, diced
1 tablespoon — paprika
1 teaspoon — chile powder
1 teaspoon — onion powder
1 cube — chicken bouillon
3 tablespoons — butter or vegetable oil
2 tablespoons — flour
1 1/2 cups — water
Heat 2 tables of butter, olive or vegetable oil in a four-quart sauce pan. Add carrots and onion and saute until soft and slightly browned. Add sausage and cook for an additional 4 minutes. Add flour and stir while cooking for an additional 2 minutes. Slowly add water while stirring. Add seasonings, beans and bouillon cube and simmer on low heat for 8 minutes. Add kale and set aside covered for 5 minutes. Serves 8.
Pico De Gallo
3 — roma tomatoes, diced
1/2 bunch — cilantro or parsley, chopped
1 — medium onion, diced
Half of a lime, juiced
1/2 teaspoon — salt
1/4 teaspoon — black pepper
Minced jalapeno optional
In a mixing bowl, combine all ingredients 15 minutes before serving. Chill.
Directions: Serve red bean mixture over rice and then top with pice de gallo. Total cost for ingredients is approximately $11.50.