Fresh, Seasonal School Food Cookbook with Scaled Recipes is a Hit

There may be no other school food book with 33,000 downloads from the web, we don’t know. We do know the recipes and methodology in our book, Cooking with California Food in K-12 Schools, published by the Center for Ecoliteracy, is a hit.

After three years of teaching cooking lessons to the school kitchen staff of a medium-size suburban college town, testing the recipes and methodology in a large inner city and a small rural district, we were ready to write a cookbook and professional development guide for schools.

The Center for Ecoliteracy, in partnership with TomKat Charitable Trust, published and presented the book and nutrition education cards in English and Spanish, on line and hard copy, as part of their nationally known program Rethinking School Lunch. We developed the nutritional education cards for front line school food service to become the best food educators they could be, and tested them over a one-year period for CEL.

With the new USDA school lunch regulations, CEL contracted with Robert Schram, Director of Catering, Clovis Unified School District (CA) to scale up the family-size recipes we had developed and align them with the new standards. The new “Scaled-up Recipes and Nutritional Analysis,”  is available free, and also a part of the suite of Rethinking School Lunch resources. The recipes incorporate many whole commodity foods (such as tuna, pasta, beans, meats) available from the USDA Agriculture Marketing Service, as a way of helping keep costs down for school districts.

The book is based on an adult education principles we have developed over the years,  starting with the premise that school food workers already know how to cook. They have raised families in many cases, cooking nightly. Some have worked for school districts in the days when real food was cooked in real school kitchens, with aromas of roasting turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy arousing the senses in the morning before lunch time, for staff and students. What they needed was a framework for fresh, seasonal and flavor.

The program we designed is simple, and the excellent graphics of the team at the Center for Ecoliteracy, make it easy to grasp – the principle of 6-5-4. Six foods kids know and love, five flavor profiles of the world’s great cuisines, and four seasons. Once you’ve mastered these, you can cook year round, in season, in any one of the flavor profiles using any one of the dishes.

Here’s what people are saying about the book:

David G. Binkle, Director Food and Nutrition Services, Los Angeles Unified School District and President, Chefs de Cuisine Association of California. Photo to left, starting from the left, Ann, David and Georgeanne. David says, “The Center for Ecoliteracy has done it again! The 6-5-4 focus that authors Georgeanne Brennan and Ann Evans take to bringing fresh cooking concepts to school meals is brilliant and long overdue. Cooking with California Food in K-12 Schools is a truly wonderful collection of recipes that kids will actually enjoy for years to come. The gold standard has been set yet again, and the bar has been raised to return schools to their roots of cooking and baking from scratch by incorporating fundamental culinary principles with real, fresh ingredients. I can’t wait to try the recipes with our students.” View video about food rebel David Binkle.

Robert Schramm, Director Food Service, Clovis Unified School District. “The cookbook is just phenomenal. It inspires me to think of food in many different ways. Let’s talk about the six dishes. We make jambalaya as a rice bowl dish, but I could also make it into a wrap. The five flavors can also be commingled. Spaghetti can be served as spaghetti (pasta) or the popular spaghetti taco (a form of wrap). And all groups can be changed by the four seasons. This helps create a menu that’s entertaining, movable, and alive.” (Quoted from Alice Tebo’s blog for CEL.)

The Honorable Karen Ross, Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture.
 This is Karen, as taken by Ann, before a speech Karen gave at a ground breaking ceremony for the Edible Sacramento Schoolyard. Here’s what she says about our book. “It is so important that our young people learn healthy eating practices-and there couldn’t be a better way than offering them an array of delicious choices reflecting the diversity of California’s heritage.Agriculture is a proud partner with our schools in growing future generations of productive, healthy citizens.” Karen is a supporter of farm to school, and recently helped create a position in her department on that.  Take me to the Secretary’s blog on farm to school.



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