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Posts Tagged ‘cooking in vt’

Graduation Season

Written by Melissa Pasanen on . Posted in Taste of the Landscape


The May 2013 Community Kitchen Academy graduates. Photo by Melissa Pasanen.

It’s that graduation time of year, with varying degrees of pomp and circumstance accompanying the ritual of those moving on to the next phase of their lives, from preschoolers to college students and beyond.

A couple of weeks ago, I played a tiny role in this season of milestones when I spoke at a very special graduation of just five students. They were the 13th group to successfully complete the three-month Community Kitchen Academy program, a partnership between the Vermont Foodbank and the Chittenden Emergency Food Shelf, which educates underemployed and unemployed Vermonters for food service careers.

As an added bonus, while the students learn to julienne and sauté, they are also turning ingredients salvaged from local farms, restaurants, food service companies and retailers into nutritious meals to feed those at risk of hunger. This is made even more impactful by the fact that some CKA participants have been food shelf clients themselves.

I wrote a 2010 feature for Vermont Life on the program and was impressed with the rigorous curriculum — covering critical skills from food safety, to interview techniques, to teamwork — along with the resolve of participants to complete the program despite challenges in their lives. I have since joined their professional advisory board and, in 2012, CKA received Vermont State College accreditation and its graduates can earn nine college-level academic transfer credits, giving them a nice boost into higher education.

The menu prepared by the graduates. Photo by Melissa Pasanen

The menu prepared by the graduates. Photo by Melissa Pasanen.

Since the Burlington program was launched in 2009, 91 students have graduated, achieving an 87 percent success rate with job placement or going on to further education. In addition, students have prepared more than 116,000 portions of food for people in need. This July, the Foodbank in partnership with Central Vermont Community Action Council will expand to a second site in Barre.

While not all graduates end up working in food service, they all gain practical skills, valuable experience and confidence. As one young, single mom said to me, “Maybe my son will start eating my cooking. He’s into McDonald’s now.”

And that, as I said when I stood before the graduates and their numerous friends, family and other supporters, is really the most important thing they’ll take away with them. As I explained in my speech, over the years I’ve been writing about food, I’ve met a number of famous chefs who’ve cooked for presidents, royalty and movie stars, but ask any chef who he or she most enjoys cooking for and the answer will always be: “my family.” Whatever the future brings for the most recent set of CKA graduates, they leave the program with the confidence and ability to cook good food from scratch for those they love.

Pretty in Pink Pancakes

Written by Melissa Pasanen on . Posted in Taste of the Landscape

Pretty in Pink Pancakes. Photo by Andrew Wellman.

In the spring issue, we featured beets in our regular department, Cooking In Season.

Here’s one of the recipes we included. For more, pick up a copy of Spring Vermont Life, or click here to subscribe.

Pretty in Pink Pancakes

Adapted from 2012 Junior Iron Chef Team Fairfax from Bellows Free Academy Fairfax High School: students Lindsey Legault-Knowles, Morgan Marnell, Aman Saini and Ben Tague coached by teacher Sue O’Brien.

It’s hard to resist cooking these magenta-hued pancakes in heart shapes. (Yes, they’d be perfect for Valentine’s Day.) The recipe was inspired by a favorite whole wheat pancake recipe combined with an idea from Jessica Seinfeld’s Deceptively Delicious cookbook, which suggests adding grated apple and beet puree to packaged pancake mix. Whatever shape the pancakes take, adults and kids alike will fall in love with them, although you might want to wait until after they do to reveal the secret ingredient.

2 medium red beets (about 9 ounces)
1 cup whole wheat flour
2/3 cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons toasted wheat germ
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¾ teaspoon fine salt
2 eggs
2 to 3 tablespoons maple syrup (depending how sweet you like things)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 ½ cups buttermilk
1 cup grated apples (about two medium apples peeled and coarsely grated)
2 to 3 tablespoons canola oil, for frying pancakes

Trim the beets but do not peel them. Boil them in water on the stovetop, or steam them in a microwave until a knife pierces them easily. Cool slightly and then peel and chop coarsely. Purée the beets until smooth in a blender or food processor. (Add a tablespoon or so of water if necessary.) Measure out ½ cup of purée and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the whole wheat and all-purpose flours, wheat germ, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, maple syrup, vanilla extract, melted butter, buttermilk, beet purée and grated apple. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and stir in the liquid ingredients just until they are well blended and no pockets of flour remain.

Set a large frying pan over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon of oil to the pan. When the pan is hot, ladle scant 1/4-cupfuls of batter onto the surface, spreading them as necessary to about 3 inches in diameter. Cook about 3 to 4 minutes until bubbles form on the tops of the pancakes and then flip them to finish cooking for another 2 to 3 minutes. Repeat, adding oil to pan as necessary, until batter is used up. Serve pancakes hot with Vermont maple syrup. Makes about two dozen pancakes.

Click here for tips on growing beets.

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