Cooking up a Healthy Moroccan Meal in Orange County

June 01, 2016

Cooking up Change competitions are happening all across the country, with winners heading to Washington, D.C., for the national finals on June 6. HSC’s Cooking up Change contest challenges high school culinary students to create a healthy and delicious school meal that can be served in a school cafeteria. Cooking up Change is not only fun and educational, but it also adds student voices to the national conversation about school food.

When the culinary team from Valley High School in Orange County thought about what they wanted to make for the Cooking up Change competition, they knew they wanted to think outside the box—and into a zucchini.

But a zucchini wasn’t the first vegetable they tried. “We first started with a bell pepper,” says Rosa. “And then we thought, ‘Why not zuchinni?’” The flavor of the zucchini worked well with the spices, so the team stuck with it.

And their peers and judges loved it! Their menu of Moroccan Stuffed Zucchini, Moroccan Salad and Spiced Pear Cups took first place in the Cooking up Change Orange County contest. They will be among the 10 teams competing next week in the Cooking up Change national finals.

Zucchini wasn’t the only ingredient the team went back and forth on. They knew they wanted to add a bit of sweetness to the dish and found that raisins had been on the ingredient list in the past, but the team found out that they were no longer able to use raisins. Teams are limited to commonly available school food service ingredients and equipment when creating their dishes. When the team tried sweet potatoes, the flavor was a great compliment to the overall dish.

But the team was thinking about more than just ingredient lists and flavor; they also wanted to make sure their peers would enjoy the meal. “When we were creating this dish, we thought about how many students just throw their food away,” says Rosa. “We really thought about, will they eat this and not throw it away. We were really into the competition because we really want to change school food.”

When the team tested their meal in peer taste tests, everyone loved it. “All we got was positive feedback,” says Mariah. “People kept asking us when it’s going to be put on the school menu.”

Although the team would love to win in D.C., they’re taking a big picture view of the whole trip. “Either way, if we win or lose, it’s all about the experience,” says Rosa. “We’ve learned and grown so much along the way, it’s just not about the win.”

Congratulations to the winning Orange County team—and all the Orange County student chefs—for proving that school meals can be healthy and delicious!

The Orange County contest took place on April 21 with support from local nonprofit Kid Healthy. Here are all the teams that competed:

Bolsa Grande High School
Student Chefs: Sheila, Edwin and Jonathan
Menu: Huli-Huli Sweet-Sour Chicken with Ono-Ono Mac Salad, Broke Da Mouth Orange Braised Cabbage with Apples and Da Kine Fruit Punch Cup

California High School
Student Chefs: Jacob, Edward and Jovaan
Menu: Meatball Sub Done Right, Pastaless Pasta Salad and Fruit Cup with a Twist

Fullerton Union High School
Student Chefs: Lindsey, Max and Kelsey
Menu: Mexican Pizza, Fiesta Salad and Caramelized Peach Parfait

Garden Grove High School
Student Chefs: Ruby, Oscar and Omar
Menu: Baja Chicken & Rice Wraps, Deconstructed Mexican Style Corn and Pineapple Cobbler

Katella High School
Student Chefs: Sarah, Evelyn and Christopher
Menu: Thai Wrap with Zippy Peanut Sauce, Thai Salad and Tart Tropical Treat

La Habra High School
Student Chefs: Amriel, Alexis and Carlito
Menu: Sub Florentino, Pesto Fresco and Dolce Foster

Los Amigos High School
Student Chefs: Andy, Brigette and Michael
Menu: “Luscious” Chicken Chili, Presto Zucchini Pesto and Fruit Lovers Delight

Ocean View High School
Student Chefs: Daniel, Bayla and Albert
Menu: Chicken Parmesan, Ensalata Tuscana and Apple Cannoli Dip

Sonora High School
Student Chefs: Ye-Rin and Kara
Menu: Finger Lickin’ Kickin’ Chicken, Rockin’ & a Roastin’ and Soothin’ Peach Creamsicle

Valley High School
Student Chefs: Rosa, Mariah and Daisy
Menu: Moroccan Stuffed Zucchini, Moroccan Salad and Spiced Pear Cups

Westminster High School
Student Chefs: Elizabeth and Abraham
Menu: Flamin’ Hot Buffalo Chicken Mac n’ Cheese, Sweet n’ Tangy Slaw and Apple n’ Cinnamon Pocket Pies