Archive for the ‘the lunch lady’ Category

School Lunch September 13 and 14, 2011

September 15, 2011

Here it is, the LaConner School District lunch for September 13, 2011. The menu is described as a chicken caesar salad, whole grain biscuit, chocolate chip cookie, grapes, and choice of milk or juice. The chicken is baked, sliced, boneless, skinless chicken we prepare here at school. I used to bake the biscuits, however this purchased product is pretty good, the students like them. We serve cookies about once every two weeks, when our carbs for the day are on the low side. We serve fresh fruit at least three times a week, with a bowl of apples, oranges, bananas out on the counter as another option. Notice that the beverage of choice here is a plain milk. We also offer lactose free milk, apple and orange juice. We have taken the chocolate milk off the menu except for Fridays for this year. There are some expected and understood complaints about this.

My plan has been to discuss the fact that a 8 ounce chocolate milk has the equivalent of 3 Tablespoons of sugar, and that it isn’t just sugar, it is high fructose corn syrup. I say, look it up, high fructose corn syrup has been studied for a while now and is linked to our rise in diabetes, obesity, and heart disease. When you realize that this stuff (not food) is going into little bodies, when you realize that most of the high school boys take two chocolate milks (1/3 cup sugar) for lunch, no wonder they have trouble staying calm right after lunch, and fall asleep as their metabolisms crash 6th period during algebra. It is time to realize that manufacturers (not farmers) can purchase real food and by the time they are finished with it, there is no longer any real food there to sustain a person.

So, ok, yes, we serve cookies sometimes for lunch, or a really nice apple crisp with a buttery, crunchy topping. This is called dessert and we all need dessert sometimes. These foods are not trying to be something else, we are not conning children into eating these foods by making up what they are. Chocolate milk is not really milk if you understand me. We’re going to call it dessert.

Lunch for September 14, 2011

This menu is described as beef nachos, re-fried beans, fresh made salsa, and apple crisp. The student decided to add the apple from our fruit bowls and milk. We make the cheese sauce from scratch using mild cheddar cheese. The next time we make the beef nachos we will be using beef we purchased this summer from Skagit Angus Farms up off of Cape Horn Road. They have cows grazing in meadows next to the Skagit River. These are our neighbors and we are so glad to support them. We make the salsa with fresh tomatoes, green onions, lots of cilantro, garlic and honey. Sometimes we add in a can of diced green chilies, sometimes we add a few diced fresh red peppers. The first few times we made it fresh instead of the prepared stuff many students balked. Now, they love it and are happy when leftovers are sent to the salad bar the next day with a bowl of tortilla chips. And the apple crisp is made with Washington grown apples.

If you are interested in what we are doing at LaConner Schools go to the school website and click on the lunch menu, then click on the welcome page. There is a mission statement and information about how we started changing our menus and recipes, and what steps we are continuing to take today. If you are wondering why we began this project, I would say that our school board and superintendent have a collective conscience about walking our talk. We cannot be educating kids with one side of our mouths and shoving chicken nuggets in  the other side. (although we do still serve chicken nuggets once in a while)

This is a teachers lunch. this  guy has a tremendous schedule and needs all the calories he can get.

This next photo made me really happy. The student was not prompted in any way. There are always going to be 14 students who are your bell-weather eaters, who are the first to complain, first to verbalize their fears about new foods. These students are my friends and are on my mind all of the time. There are familiar, friendly foods for them most of the time. But we really need to be motivated from our hunger, not what is cheap, not what is flashy on TV. This is what I tell the elementary teacher who sees a kindergarten student who eats nothing on the tray but would have drunk the chocolate milk: hunger will take over soon and the child will try the foods. It just takes some time and a few kind words from an adult.

As far as the home garden is concerned, we have been picking some sweet one million cherry tomatoes, cucumbers for pickling and a nice lemon cucumber. The white carrots are fun, they are not parsnips, which I am not fond of. Green beans are still coming. the corn is late. we are hoping for next week. It’s been a rewarding summer after some difficult starts/stops. Tell me about your garden, what flourished, what tasty new varieties have you tried? Watermelon radishes?  Sunflowers are finally blooming! Rain is predicted for this weekend.

could someone help me with these photos? I don’t know how to crop them or flatten them horizontally. there is no lunch tray in the universe that looks like these!

This Food Revolution/School Lunches

April 4, 2010

……at last, TV and the masses have moved me to write.

We are hearing about, and seeing on TV, a food revolution suddenly going on in the U.S. This brings a snarky smile to my face. The ubiquitous famous cook of the moment could come to any state in the nation and find school district boards, superintendents, food service nutritionists and managers, cooks and servers committed to providing fresh, local foods to the K-12 population.

One might see completely wiped out salad bars at the end of lunch, buckets moments before filled with organic greens, cucumbers, garbanzo beans, broccoli, artichoke hearts, sunflower seeds, olives both black and kalamata, shredded cheeses, cottage cheese, sliced ham, hard boiled eggs, cooked and chilled beets, with home made dressing choices like honey mustard, balsamic, blue cheese and ranch. Add homemade potato salads, broccoli salads, Chopped Asian salads and more.

One might visit with a food service manager and discover the careful choices made when ordering the commodities products from the state agency providing this service. Many managers avoid or take lightly the canned vegetables, the prefab omelets, the chicken nuggets, the beef “dippers, the American cheese products.

Who do you think has encouraged these agencies to offer whole wheat bread flour and whole grain pastas that have appeared just this year?

In truth, I am completely excited about this new “furor” over the way we eat, this new wave that is catching up with the wave that came along about 10-15 years ago when parents and food service employees came together to make a difference. How many elementary schools now have nutrition curriculum that includes menu making for lunches? Curriculum that includes a school garden? Curriculum that includes trips to the local farm, co-op, farmers market? They are everywhere.

I believe that curriculum in the elementary classroom and enough adults spending time in the cafeteria with k-6 students, helping them pay attention to their food, as well as serving lunch after recess when children are really hungry enough to eat, all these combined will affect how they will make the right choices as they move to middle and high school. We do need parents!

I see a first day of school in the near future when fresh local vegetables are stir fried with some kind of local protein, served with fragrant brown rice to kids who just can’t get enough….and say please and thank you without prompting…..

Another School Lunch Tray #3

January 14, 2010

Lasagna was on the menu today at school. We actually use that old lasagna recipe that is in the old USDA cook book. We just use the best ingredients we can get. We use real ricotta and mozzarella and parmesan cheeses. Ken cooks down the lasagna sauce with tomato paste and lots of herbs, then puts it all together. It is really good. We get frozen haricot verte and flash cook them just before serving so they are bright green tender and flavorful. Our rolls….I used to make them before my hands gave out. These are whole grain light and nutty. Students had a choice of bananas, on the menu, and a bowl of satsumas or apples.

So, does anyone out there have concerns about the big milk producers putting high fructose corn syrup in the chocolate milk these days? I’d rather it had some real fat in it and a little real sugar than HFCS. You can read about this stuff. Look it up.

Here is the salad bar…..after about 150 students plowed through…..lasagna is popular, usually not so much left.

Real People Eating Real Food Revisited

September 19, 2009

My first concern, 5 years ago, when accepting the role of food services manager at the school district, was reviewing /enhancing the menus to include more nutrition and beauty to what was already being offered.

I’ve always noticed the herded element found in most academic institutions and link this to a kind of lack of respect that flows both ways between students/staff of any kind, after a few years, say 8, in the k-12 system. Of course, in order to accomplish 500 meals in 4.5 hours there is much in the details that needs to be routine, simple, quick, no questions asked, deal with it.

After taking the pictures of our school lunches the last few days I have reconfirmed for myself just how ugly those trays are….and vow to do something about it……and I can through the blessed sense of possibility and purpose of our superintendent when he purchased china and serviceware for 250 people a few years back.

I will have to pick the menus that are easily held by a 10 inch plate, and serve the high school first to see how well they can handle the change with minimal breakage. Over time the esthetics will seep into their souls through their eyes, make them feel more human, more thought about, more cared for. Because I do.

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The Happy School Lunch Tray

September 18, 2009

Lunch Menu on Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Garden Pizza, Salad, Oranges, Chocolate Chip Cookie Bar, Access to the Salad Bar, your choice of Milk or Juice:

IMG_0132Here is the lunch for September 16, 2009

Taco Salad, Refried Beans with Salsa side, Fruit Salad, Access to Salad Bar, Milk or Juice, in this case the student brought bottled water:

IMG_0134We recycle as much plastic, glass and metal as we can corral. We compost all food, paper, and compostable food-ware, like the corn-based forks, pulp plates and trays. We are always looking for packaging that can be composted. We average about 1500 pounds of compost a week and have cut our garbage in half.  Thank you everyone in the district! Now, let’s bring the actual compost down by making sure we take as much as we can eat.

Apples for the School Lunch

September 14, 2009

I haven’t cooked or baked a thing all weekend which seems a bit odd. I did fry up some hearty french bread slices, slather on the cheese, basil and home grown tomatoes for lunch and dinners but it doesn’t count as cooking, for me.

I went out to one of my favorite places, Gordon’s Skagit Farm, to pick up some lovely Gala apples for tomorrows school lunch. The jonagolds are not quite ready yet, we will serve some of those next week. Here are some photos from the farm…..I will have more in the weeks to come as the squash ripen, the Indian corn is picked, and of course, the scary pumpkins arrive at the stand.

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You can imagine how satisfying it is to be able to serve really fresh, really local food to our students and staff. We support their health, we support our local neighborhood farms, and we support the planet by not spending very much oil to get this food. You can click on the link for Gordon Skagit Farms to learn more about them. Eddie Gordon is the artist who paints the signs and paintings that embellish the stand.

Culinary Arts First Day of Class

September 3, 2009

I am not able to show any students yet, until they sign off on an agreement to be photo-ed. So this is what my white board looks like today…..I like to give them some latin and obscure cooking and science terms to look at and think about, then figure out what the menu item listed is in everyday school lunch language. Can you guess what this food (?) is?

And here are two  of our beautiful kitchen stations. Notice the lovely pink and green mixers. We love our kitchenAid Mixers. Students often pick their stations by the mixer colors. Of course we have black, white, and lime green too. Our next classes will be on how to do dishes properly, scrub the sink because, frankly, a kitchen sink often is more dangerous than a toilet, because, because! We don’t think to really clean our sinks…..months of food scum percolating into myriads of microbes just waiting to jump onto your hands….oh, pictures…..

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School Lunch – Film Noir or Chaplinesque?

August 31, 2009

Our district goes back to school this week, staff meetings Monday and Tuesday, our first day with students on Wednesday….I have spent the summer dining on fish tacos, grilled veggie tacos, prawn tacos, venison tacos, with chipotle coleslaw, rice vinegar slaw, avocados and cucumber. I have eaten pizza with tomatoes and basil, pizza with fresh pico de gallo. Pizza with nicoise olives and fresh mozzarella. I’ve slurped four different recipes for clam chowder, new england style, with/wo bacon, gooey duck or razor clams, super light, and creamy thick. I’ve been cooking vegetables in coconut milk and adding green curry paste, garlic, lime juice and chili flakes.

we can make a chowder that will appeal to most of the students, these are kids k-12. There are some really decent canned clams out there. And we do grow the best potatoes here in the valley. There is a great pork processor up north of Bellingham that makes a nice smokey bacon.

I think students will eat the fish, Alaska Cod, whole muscle, baked with Panko, in the soft warm white corn tortilla. The condiment is a problem. Cabbages, Brassica!, are so wonderful, crisp, unique in flavor, and feared by those under thirty like a closed bathtub shower curtain when you get home late at night and realize you forgot to lock the front door.

Ok, ok, I know the simple answer is to let them pour on the Ranch, and we will do that……yet, I want a vegetable in there somewhere. Got any ideas?

Our ranch dressing is made with non fat plain yogurt, low fat mayonnaise, actually very good, lots of fresh garlic, fresh parlsey, dill, white pepper, and some low fat buttermilk, I figure they slather about 1/2 cup on top of their pepperoni pizza ( yes, they do that, and spaghetti too) so it would work with the taco too, I’d count it as protein….but the USDA wouldn’t. There is enough garlic/herbs to make it a tonic flush, but don’t tell anyone…

I am going to make a pizza with a salsa-esque topping, again, garlic, cilantro, basil, all the fresh herbs possible. maybe pepperoni on the side? Ken makes a killer pizza sauce that stands up on the spoon, so rich and sweet.

You can check out our September menu at the LaConner School District website. watch out for those corn dogs. They’ll kill ya.

Lunch Lady/Cooking Teacher

August 27, 2009

So, this is my real job, or, the activity for which I am paid, or what thrills me that I get to do everyday, fall, winter, spring. I make menus for our school lunches, chat with and order foods from giant food distributors, local farms, and small, devoted, food purveyors. The menus must be nutritionally correct per the National School Lunch Program brought to us by the USDA and the Washington State OSPI. And it is! Sometimes I go overboard on the butter, which shows up under saturated fats. So, I modify, modify, modify with olive oil.

I like to help teach 4th and 5th graders more about nutrition using the standard school lunch tray, you remember that old plastic tray, don’t you? I show them how I make a lunch menu for the day, filling in each one of those compartments. After some practice and ideas, I have the class make up a menu for 1 day that we will serve to the whole school. The most popular entree has been the Ice Cream Sundae. We use a plain Klondike bar, with banana slices placed on either side, and the commodities sliced, frozen strawberries, 1/4 cup, ladled on top, with a garnish of whipped cream, real, out of a pastry bag. It takes one other server to prepare this on the line, but it is worth it in happiness

I ask students and parents what they want to be eating. I make up new recipes, talk to staff about how we could possibly make them in quantities of 500 because that is our target number every day for lunch. You can go to the LaConner School District website and click on the food services to learn about what we are doing. Thanks for reading!