Q&A With Cooking up Change National Finalists: Tohono O’odham Community Action Cooking Club

May 12, 2010 | Written By:


Photos by Mary Paganelli.

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

The Tohono O'odham Community Action Cooking Club overcame many challenges as they
prepared for this competition. They created new flavor combinations, found ways to keep recipes short and simple, and tweaked recipes to meet strict nutritional standards. We were thrilled to hear about their experience with the contest so far.


O'odham Community Action Cooking Club (Arizona)

Ross R.
Miguel, Yvette Ventura, Zade Arnold
Teacher: Mary Paganelli

Tepary Bean Quesadillas, Baby Spinach and Pear Salad with Carrot
Vinaigrette, and Yogurt Peanut Butter Fruit Dip

What was your inspiration for this dish?

The quesadilla is something we have at school but we wanted to make a better, healthier one. We love spinach and carrots so the salad idea just popped into our heads. When we saw peanut butter and yogurt on the list, we thought it would be good together.

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

We started with a list of the ingredients we all liked and then we mixed and matched and came up with flavors and combinations we thought would be healthy. We kept notes and tasted everything as we went along. Our final recipes were the ones we thought tasted and looked the best.

What role did your teacher play in this process?

She was our guide and helped us firm up our ideas. She suggested healthy combinations and kept track of the nutrition requirements to make sure we were on target.

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

Tepary beans, approved as a substitute for red beans, is the most significant traditional food of the Tohono O'odham people and is locally sourced from Papago Farms in Pisinemo, Arizona — our farmer there is Noland Johnson. We got our carrots and spinach from the Student Learning Farm at Tohono O'odham Community College in Sells, Arizona — there our farmers are Paul Buseck and Clifford Pablo.

What was your biggest challenge in creating this meal?

Trying to keep the recipes under six steps was really challenging. And not being able to use very many ingredients made it hard, plus combining everybody's different tastes.


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

Our recipes needed tweaking after the first time; we had to increase the calories, protein and fiber. Since we liked everything so much we just increased the amounts of specific ingredients to meet the requirements.

What interests you about creating a healthy meal?

Because it's not only creating a healthy meal, it's creating a healthy community. To show that healthy food tastes good. It's our traditional way to be healthy and we need to get back to that with our traditional foods.

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

Kids will like it because it looks better, it's colorful and it has our traditional food in it. It's something different and it tastes real good and is easy to make. School food is bland and our creations are more tasty.




HSC congratulates the Tohono 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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