Douglas County food pantry leader believes new cooking classes can have 'ripple effects'

Skylynn Espinales, 11, Baldwin City, watches her grandmother, Mildred Reed, chop carrots during a three-hour cooking clinic held Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2012, at the Just Food warehouse, 1000 E. 11th St.. The clinic taught those in attendance how to wash, chop and measure food along with creating a nutritious dish of red beans and rice with pico de gallo.

Skylynn Espinales, 11, Baldwin City, watches her grandmother, Mildred Reed, chop carrots during a three-hour cooking clinic held Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2012, at the Just Food warehouse, 1000 E. 11th St.. The clinic taught those in attendance how to wash, chop and measure food along with creating a nutritious dish of red beans and rice with pico de gallo. by John Young

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.”

Lawrence chef Rick Martin checks in on, from left, Elle Martin, 7, Lawrence, Kailani Espinales, 9, Baldwin City, and his sister Skylynn Espinales, 11, as they prepare vegetables during a three-hour cooking clinic held at the Just Food warehouse, 1000 E. 11th St., Wednesday, Aug.  8, 2012. The clinic taught those in attendance how to make red beans and rice and pico de gallo.

Lawrence chef Rick Martin checks in on, from left, Elle Martin, 7, Lawrence, Kailani Espinales, 9, Baldwin City, and his sister Skylynn Espinales, 11, as they prepare vegetables during a three-hour cooking clinic held at the Just Food warehouse, 1000 E. 11th St., Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2012. The clinic taught those in attendance how to make red beans and rice and pico de gallo. by John Young

From left, Kailani Espinales, 9, Baldwin City, and Anne LaPlante, Lawrence, and her daughter, Elle Martin, 7, react as rice overflows their measuring cup during a three-hour cooking clinic held at the Just Food warehouse, 1000 E. 11th St., Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2012. The clinic taught those in attendance how to make red beans and rice and pico de gallo.

From left, Kailani Espinales, 9, Baldwin City, and Anne LaPlante, Lawrence, and her daughter, Elle Martin, 7, react as rice overflows their measuring cup during a three-hour cooking clinic held at the Just Food warehouse, 1000 E. 11th St., Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2012. The clinic taught those in attendance how to make red beans and rice and pico de gallo. by John Young

Kailani Espinales, 9, Baldwin City, left, squeezes a lime with all his might as Elle Martin, 7, Lawrence, stirs the bowl as the two make pico de gallo during a cooking class at the Just Food warehouse, 1000 E. 11th St.

Kailani Espinales, 9, Baldwin City, left, squeezes a lime with all his might as Elle Martin, 7, Lawrence, stirs the bowl as the two make pico de gallo during a cooking class at the Just Food warehouse, 1000 E. 11th St. by John Young


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.

Participants in a Just Food cooking class created a red bean mixture to put over rice and top with pico de gallo.

Participants in a Just Food cooking class created a red bean mixture to put over rice and top with pico de gallo. by John Young


MARTIN'S RED BEANS AND RICE RECIPE

For rice:

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.

Tagged: low-income, food pantry, cooking, nutrition, Just Food

Comments

DCCDA 2 years ago

This is such an exciting new initiative! It's wonderful to see community members of all generations and incomes coming together around healthy food. Great job Jeremy and Rick!

1

Marilyn Hull 2 years ago

Thanks for posting the recipes. I'm going to have to try making this.

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justfoodks 2 years ago

DCCDA:

Rick is a rockstar. This project would not happen without his expertise. We are so grateful for him.

Marilyn:

Try it, it's incredible!

1

Luv 2 years ago

What a great program and deep heart felt thank you to Just for Food and the people who are all involved. You make a big difference in people's lives. I am a sister who happened to be visiting the family when they returned back from this class. I got to taste test and the food was absolutely delicious. Good job, sis. Bravo!

2

justfoodks 2 years ago

Informed:

Here was a breakdown Rick provided of the food that he bought (he went to Checkers).

Cost: Rice - $1.20 Beans - $2.49 Sausage - $3.49 Kale - $1.50 Carrot - $0.25 Onion - $1.00 Seasoning - $0.32 Roma Tomato - $0.66 Cilantro - $0.35 Lime - $0.25

Total: $11.51

Per Serving: $1.44

1

justfoodks 2 years ago

Luv:

This is an intangible of the class. Many of the folks who came to these classes hadn't done a lot of things right in their lives. I'm not saying your sister was (or is) one of those people...but for them to do something, and be affirmed in having it taste so well, and be affirmed by me, our volunteers & staff eating it, etc, it makes a difference. It boosts self esteem, confidence and lets that individual know that they have the potential to do good things...even starting as small as making red beans and rice with pico de gallo.

Thank you for sharing that story. I am humbled and blown away, yet again.

Jeremy

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roggy 2 years ago

Love this! Congrats on a great program! I think you have started something very beneficial to everyone involved.

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Rick Martin 2 years ago

Great story Karrey. Thanks so much for being there!

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Karrey Britt 2 years ago

Thanks for sharing your culinary expertise! It was a fun story to cover and I took home a recipe — can't beat that.

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George_Braziller 2 years ago

Every food program should have a class like this. I think a great one would be to use an unopened box of monthly commodities as the starting point. No idea what's inside and then on the spot figure out how to create a variety of meals based on what's inside.

I do some attendant work for an elderly woman who is on two different commodity programs. I've never been able to figure out what to do with the bags of dried date chunks. She doesn't have any teeth so she can't eat them.

I'm a creative cook but even I can't figure out what to do with the bags and bags and bags of date chunks.

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