Katie Wheeler is a Service Member in Kalispell.

Every Tuesday in April and May, I taught an after school cooking class to six 5th graders at Edgerton Elementary with a fellow Kalispell AmeriCorps member.  These kids were the absolute best.
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When being taught about the value of buying local, they listened. When asked to give the egg salad–made with Greek yogurt instead of mayonnaise–a try, they not only agreed, but proceeded to eagerly plead for more. When asked to add just a bit more spinach to their mini-lasagnas, they added A LOT more.

During this cooking class series, we also made homemade ricotta and sauce for the lasagna, biscuits from scratch with homemade butter, and spent an entire class cooking eggs in a variety of ways paired with other healthy and delicious recipes.

However, it was our most recent class that was the cherry on top of our students’ awesomeness! Up to that point, we had made some vegetable-heavy dishes, yet the veggies were never the focal point of the dish. So this time, we did just that. We made roasted asparagus (from Lowdown Farm of the Western MT Grower’s Cooperative), baked sweet potato fries, and kale chips!  (See recipes below!) We wanted to ensure that our students understand that veggies are delicious and can stand on their own as a main course.

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Each of the dishes we cooked were voraciously gobbled up by the students. One student exclaimed, “These are SO good!! Can we save some for my mom and sister?!” Unfortunately, we could not restrain ourselves and proceeded to consume every last bite.

My favorite part of the class was when a student’s little brother came in early and he got to “eat himself” because his name is Kale! Of course, everyone got a big kick out of that! When his sister commented that “we are what we eat, after all,” the saying had never rung truer.

Baked Sweet Potato Fries

Ingredients
Olive oil
Sweet potatoes
Desired seasoning (salt, pepper, garlic, cayenne, chili pepper, onion, paprika etc.)

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees
2. Cut sweet potatoes into 1/4-inch long slices, then 1/4-wide inch strips
3. In a large bowl toss sweet potatoes with just enough oil to coat
4. In small bowl mix together desired seasoning
5. Sprinkle cut potatoes with seasoning
6. Spread sweet potatoes in single layer on a baking sheet, being sure not to overcrowd
7. Bake until sweet potatoes are tender and golden brown, turning occasionally, about 20 minutes

Oven Roasted Asparagus

Ingredients
Asparagus
Olive oil
Sea salt
Fresh ground pepper
Desired seasoning (
garlic, cayenne, chili pepper, onion, paprika etc.)

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees
2. Wash the asparagus thoroughly
3. Stack a bunch together and cut off the tough/thick bottom inch or so
4. Spread out the asparagus in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet
5. Pat it as dry as you can, as you don’t want any water to “steam” the asparagus in the oven
6. Generously drizzle olive oil all over the asparagus
7. Sprinkle the asparagus generously with sea salt.
8. Grind fresh pepper on top
9. Put the pan into a PREHEATED 425-degree oven for approximately 10 minutes

Baked Kale Chips

Ingredients
Kale
Olive oil
Sea salt, to taste

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 300°F
2. Rinse and dry the kale
3. Remove the stems
4. Cut or rip into large pieces
5. Toss with olive oil in a bowl then sprinkle with salt.
6. Arrange leaves in a single layer on a large baking sheet
7. Bake for 20 minutes, or until crisp