Nutrition services team gathers in the kitchen for a spring cooking training

Our schools are cooking up exciting new recipes. Kitchen managers have been working the Healthy Roots Institute system to build a sustainable school food program that bolsters the skills of kitchen teams and adds tasty, healthy flavors to menus.

Few things can stir up more student opinions than ‘what’s for lunch.’ Students, families and staff can all agree that when kids eat a well-nourished meal, they learn better and play harder. That’s why our schools are concentrating on serving more fresh and nutritious food choices. 

Just in time for March’s National Nutrition Month, Spring Lake Park Schools nutrition services staff teamed up with Healthy Roots Institute to add some new pizazz to the school menu. After the March training, staff is gearing up to bring these new flavors to student diners.

A healthy, hands-on approach

Kitchen managers recently participated in a unique training. They all gathered in the Park Terrace kitchen to train with a visiting chef. Often, trainings are held through lecture alone to cover the minimum of 10 continuing education/training hours per year. This was hands-on.

Visiting chef, Lachelle, founder of Healthy Roots Institute, has become a dynamic force on the Twin Cities’ food scene. She is known for cooking globally inspired comfort food that uproots unhealthy stereotypes and infuses global flavors. 

For Spring Lake Park Schools’ chefs, Lachelle began the session with a refresher on basic kitchen processes and tools, including knife skills. Then, the attendees sliced, diced and sampled four new recipes:

  • Vegan Cauliflower Tostadas with Fresh Tomato Salsa
  • Italian Caramelized Green Beans with Breadcrumbs
  • Buffalo Roasted Cauliflower with house-made Ranch Dressing
  • Apple Root Salad

During the taste test, kitchen managers commented on the freshness and quality of the ingredients. As they made the recipes, they could imagine how kids in their schools would perceive the food as healthy alternatives to classic favorites – like the meat-free buffalo roasted cauliflower that features a spicy kick enhanced by roasting in the oven.

Amy Kimmel, director of nutrition services, helped facilitate the new training. She has worked in the district since 2010, and it was fun for her to observe the excitement in the kitchen as managers cooked up the new recipes.

“My hope is to create a culture where we can work together to redefine school meals,” says Amy. “We can learn about the importance of cooking meals from scratch using whole, fresh ingredients that provide students with the nutrition they need for their educational success, health and wellbeing.”

What’s cooking the rest of the year

There are plans to train additional cooking staff and bring some of the recipes onto school menus this spring. The training is also serving up inspiration for future menu items next school year.

This April, Chef Lachelle is bringing her tips and tricks to a cooking class on Fridays to Park Terrace students. Mid-month, Park Terrace students will get a taste of the new menu items during a lunch taste-testing event. After getting some feedback from students, plans will evolve for bringing new items to the school menu.

Kitchen managers are also gearing up for their next recipe development training. They’ll learn to make homemade pizza sauce. At this time they will also combine spice blends to develop a completely custom “Signature SLP Spaghetti Sauce” together.

Check out behind-the-scenes photos of these yummy recipes in the making.

National Nutrition Month