As I wrap up my second year as a FoodCorps service member, I am lucky enough to conclude the term with one of my favorite series of events. In partnership with Garden City Harvest’s Farm to School Program, our team leads family friendly cooking classes in the elementary school gardens of Missoula. Families join us to experience the garden during the bounty of summer, cook a fresh meal together, and eat as a school community.
Last week at Rattlesnake Elementary School, we had a record breaking 34 participants, including 20 adults and 14 kids. We started things off with a “choose your own adventure” herbal lemonade station and fresh veggies with homemade hummus. On the menu was Power Kale Salad, Spiralized Zucchini Salad, Mid-Summer’s Harvest Pasta, and Fresh Summer Rock n’ Rolls with a Peanut Dipping Sauce. As families arrived, we encouraged them to rotate between the four cooking stations to try out new cooking techniques. One of our FoodCorps sayings is to “try new things” and we sure did! We mashed garlic with a mortar and pestle, spiralized zucchini into thin ribbons, crinkle cut bell peppers, massaged kale in a Ziplock bag, and strategically rolled veggies up into rice wrappers. Throughout the class we taught the kids (and parents) a few simple rules to encourage cooking safety.
- Claw and Saw. Stabilize the item you are cutting by clawing your fingertips against the item and your cutting surface. Then, with your dominant hand, cut the item in a saw-like motion using your knife.
- Hands and Eyes. To stay safe, always keep your hands and eyes focused on your current task.
- Low and Slow. Keep tools low to the table and work slowly to stay in control.
- Wait to Taste. To avoid spreading germs, wait to taste any food until you’re done cooking.
To watch toddlers, elementary school students, middle school students, parents, grandparents, and volunteers work together to create a communal meal is truly a special occasion. At any age cooking is a practice of patience and flexibility, especially with kids. Your salad dressing will never exactly follow the recipe, the chunks of onion in the pasta will vary from tiny to giant, and sometimes a spring roll just won’t work. However, it will be fun and taste delicious. The Rattlesnake Cooking Class was a huge success! The food was scrumptious, we strengthened our garden community, and we created a positive food memories for everyone there. If you are feeling hungry and inspired, try making Summer Rock N’ Rolls (i.e. fresh spring rolls) at home tonight with your family.
Summer Rock n’ Rolls (adapted from City Blossoms – Garden Gastronomy)
- Spring roll rice paper (one per person)
- 1 cup rice noodles, cooked and cooled
- 1 cup of carrot peelings
- 1 cup of shredded cabbage
- 1 cup of grated beets
- 1 cup of grated kohlrabi
- ½ cup finely chopped basil (as desired)
- ½ cup finely chopped mint (as desired)
- ½ cup finely chopped chives or green onions (as desired)
- Other possible fillings: cucumber, bell pepper, avocado, zucchini, bean sprouts, lettuce, tofu, anything!
Peanut Dipping Sauce Recipe:
- ¼ cup peanut butter
- 2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce or tamari
- 1 clove of garlic, chopped
- ¼ cup of warm water
- 1 tablespoon of brown sugar
- Juice from ½ a lime (more or less, depending on your taste)
- Sprinkle of crushed red pepper or hot sauce (optional)
- Take a piece of rice paper and carefully dip it in lukewarm water for the count of 10. Try not to crack or fold the paper; it is delicate!
- Place the wet rice paper on a sheet of wax paper. It may seem a little stiff, but will continue to soften.
- Lay down a few carrot peels, a few slices of cabbage, and a pinch of grated beets and kohlrabi together in the center of the rice paper.
- On top, add a pinch of herbs (basil, mint, chives) as you desire. All of the filling should be facing the same direction and in a little mound in the center.
- Then, put a large pinch of noodles on top of the vegetables, but not so big that you can’t close the roll.
- Here’s the tricky part. Fold the left end of the rice paper over the pile of noodles. Then repeat with the right side and bottom (edge closest to you). Finally, roll the whole thing towards the top to wrap it like a burrito. A little practice is required, but even if you are not perfect, it will still be delicious!
- To make the peanut sauce, combine all ingredients in a non-stick pan. At low heat, stir constantly until peanut butter has melted and it is well mixed.
- Dip your fresh spring rolls in the peanut sauce and enjoy
Missoula County Public Schools
Amy is a Montana native who grew up on an organic dairy farm where she learned the value of a healthy lifestyle, hard work, and community connections. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Planning and Policy from Western Washington University in Bellingham, WA. Prior to serving with FoodCorps, Amy was an AmeriCorps volunteer coordinator for a neighborhood farm and community garden, a research assistant at an environmental consulting firm, a Food Bank volunteer, a farmers market vendor, and a farm volunteer while studying abroad in New Zealand. It wasn’t until after these recent life experiences that Amy fully realized her passion for local food and her desire to integrate it into her career path. She is an outdoor enthusiast, skier, cook, and traveler. Amy is serving for a second year in Missoula, MT. In her first year, she saw firsthand how unforgettable it is for a child to try a carrot right out of the ground that they helped plant. She is spending another year working on school food service procurement and recipe development, “Farmer in the Classroom” educational lessons, and school community garden coordination.