Q&A With Cooking up Change National Finalists: Laurel High School Harvest Challenge Team

May 13, 2010 | Written By:



HSC is proud to congratulate the finalists in the Cooking up Change National Healthy Cooking Contest to be held on Monday, May 17 in Detroit, Michigan at Taking Root, the National Farm to
Cafeteria conference
! In the days
leading up to the contest, we're spotlighting our finalists as they
prepare for victory in Detroit.

The Laurel High School Harvest Challenge Team faced many challenges as they prepared for this competition:
the nutritional standards of the competition, the availability of local ingredients, and recipes that went through
many revisions. But they were inspired by their purpose, knowing that
many students rely on school meals as a primary source of nutrition, and
they were guided by teachers who encouraged their progress. 


Laurel High School Harvest Challenge Team (Wisconsin)

Dylan Bruce, Kateri Burton, Anders Lewis
Teachers: Bjorn Bergman and
Renee Baker
Menu: Rice Pilaf, Spinach Salad, and Peach Cobbler

What was your inspiration for this dish?

As avid eaters of food, and students who are concerned with the state
of the school lunch program, we worked as hard as possible to create a
meal that is simple and appealing to a large range of our audience —
both visually and in terms of taste. We were also inspired by local
farmers, whom our team members share a mutual respect for. For instance,
the chicken in our pilaf was inspired by local farmers who raise
chickens, and one of the major inspirations we had was to use rice,
because it is a food that many cultures enjoy and share in common.

What stages of revision did your team go through during
the recipe development process?

The revision of our recipes was a continual process. We were
constantly brainstorming and using our team's knowledge as both cooks and
eaters which allowed us to revise our recipes, along with guidance from
the nutritional analysis we did. We kept track of our recipes and our
changes through the entire process, and when we felt comfortable with a
recipe we made the decision to keep it as the final recipe.

What role did your teacher play in this process?

In the teacher's own words, he is a herder. Without his guidance and
urging to get our work done, our team never would have gotten our act
together and gotten this done in time. That being said, our teacher was a
guide, and the team members were the ones who created, cooked,
analyzed, edited, reanalyzed, reedited, and chose the final recipes. 


Which ingredient(s) in your recipe are locally sourced? Where did
these items come from?

Spinach — from Greg Welna from Boaz, Wisc. Greg grows spinach year-round in his unheated hoophouse and sells it to local grocery stores.
Boaz, Wisc. is 27 miles from Viroqua, Wisc.

Butter (unsalted)– from Organic
Valley, distributed from Cashton, Wisc. Organic Valley is a cooperative
that is owned by many organic family farmers from across the United
States. The Midwest distribution center for Organic Valley is located in
Cashton, Wisc, which is 15 miles from Viroqua, Wisc. The national
headquarters for Organic Valley are located in La Farge, Wisc., which is 16
miles from Viroqua.

Vanilla yogurt — Cultural Revolution (organic), produced by Kalona Organics in
Kalona, Iowa. Kalona, Iowa is 203 miles away from Viroqua.

Green beans
(frozen) — from Sno Pac Inc. Sno Pac is a family-owned and operated
organic farm and processing plant located in Caledonia, Minn.. Caledonia,
Minn. is 56 miles from Viroqua.

What was your biggest challenge in creating this meal?

One of our biggest challenges was definitely the salad and lack of
ingredients to create a dressing, especially since the original
ingredients list didn't include any oil. Another challenge was
navigating the nutritional analysis as a student, with little previous
understanding of it, little guidance, and no access to the commodities
on the list to use their nutritional data. In the end, we came up with a
supplementary dressing and were able to find ingredients on the site we
felt properly represented the commodities.

Did your recipe meet the nutritional guidelines the first time you
analyzed it? If not, what adjustments did you make to meet the

No, the first time we analyzed the recipes, they didn't meet the
nutritional guidelines at several points, including a lack of calories,
too much sodium, and not enough fruit. To meet these problems, we
increased the serving size of the pilaf, added more peaches, and added
some raisins into the salad. In order to lower sodium we reduced croutons, reduced the amount of red beans, and took out salt.

What interests you about creating a healthy meal?

We have several points of interest in creating this meal. The whole
team is highly interested in food in general, and growing up in a
farming area has inspired us to try and bring some of the plentiful
local foods into the school lunch system. We also have interest in food
security, and understand that in some places, the school lunch is the
only reliable meal of the day, and if we can do something to help that
meal be tasteful, and healthy, we will.

What about your creation do you think will appeal to other students?

Rice is a universally loved and accepted food, and our rice pilaf is
something that people from almost any culture can and do enjoy. The
salad is a nutritious, tasteful, visually appealing side made with
locally grown spinach. The peach cobbler is a fantastic dessert, unique
to most any school lunch, which incorporates both sweetness and the
healthy aspect of the fruit.



HSC congratulates the Laurel team members on their progress so far, and we
look forward to seeing more of the students' remarkable work in the final round
of competition!

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