6 Chef-Created Recipes Your Family Can Make at Home

We asked cooks on the front lines of school food reform for their favorite family-friendly recipes.

by Marian Burros

January 4, 2011

RODALE NEWS, WASHINGTON, DC—It’s certainly a step in the right direction that the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act was finally passed and signed into law last month. It means more nutritious food at schools, no soft drinks and candy in vending machines, and even a tiny bit of money to make school lunches better.

But most school lunch programs still have a long, long way to go. Chefs who are attempting to help schools serve better food, plant gardens, and teach children how to cook have met with a lot of resistance. Stories about negative responses from school lunch ladies, food service directors, principals, school boards, state departments of education are legion.


But the chefs push on. And several of them agreed to provide us with recipes that they either are already using in school cafeterias or plan to use once the schools accept their assistance. Because these recipes are child-tested, they are perfect for parents to cook at home, and a snap for kids to make with their parents. Depending on the age and skill of the child, some children could make them on their own.

Sam Kass, senior policy advisor to first lady Michelle Obama, offers a particularly quick-to-make sandwich, especially if you buy the hummus and have some leftover turkey in the fridge. If not, try his homemade hummus formula; most kids love hummus and like to make it. Ann Cooper, best known as the Renegade Lunch Lady, shares a clever recipe from a student Iron Chef competition held this year at Monarch High School Catering Class in Boulder, CO. Chicago-based executive chef Paul Kahan, of the acclaimed restaurants Blackbird, Publican, and avec, suggests a flavorful stewed squash dish that's easy to freeze and reheat. And Bill Telepan of Telepan restaurant, who began working with a New York City school a couple of years ago, has provided a recipe for a Latin chicken and black bean salad combo that's sure to satisfy.

All of these dishes can be prepared ahead of time, perhaps on a weekend, leaving only the cooking to be done before dinner. They have been tested, and are a delicious way to start the new year. And while they were created for school kids to enjoy, adults will love them, too.

Paul Kahan’s Stewed Squash with Poblano Peppers
Yield: Fills six tortillas


½ pound pork shoulder, cut into small dice
1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, sliced ¼ inch thick
2 medium poblano peppers, trimmed, seeds removed and cut in ¼-inch slices
2 cloves garlic, chopped
12 ounces plum tomatoes, if in season; or 12 ounces peeled whole canned tomatoes, drained, liquid reserved; cut into small dice
1 Tablespoon fresh oregano or 1 pinch dried
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ cup chicken or vegetable stock or broth
4 cups winter squash, such as butternut or pumpkin; peeled, seeded, and cut into medium dice
1 Tablespoon roasted pumpkin or sunflower seeds
1 package 8-inch whole wheat tortillas


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Heat oil in heavy sauté pan, and sauté pork until browned.

3. Add the onions, peppers, and garlic. When lightly browned, add tomatoes and oregano, and season with salt and pepper.

4. Cook mixture until liquid has evaporated slightly.

5. Place diced squash in small baking dish or roasting pan in a single layer. Cover with tomato mixture. Cover pan with foil and bake 40 minutes, until just about tender.

6. Raise heat to 400 degrees; uncover pan and cook 8 to 10 minutes until mixture begins to brown.

7. Sprinkle with seeds and serve with warm tortillas.

The filling can be made ahead and frozen, then reheated in microwave to serve.

Bill Telepan’s Latin Chicken with Black Bean Salad

Latin Chicken
Yield: 4 servings for older children and adults, more for smaller children


1 Tablespoon black pepper
1 Tablespoon chili powder
1 Tablespoon oregano
1 Tablespoon ground cumin
1 Tablespoon paprika
1 Tablespoon chopped garlic
2 Tablespoons orange juice
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 4-pound chicken, split in half


1. Combine all ingredients except for chicken and blend well.

2. Place chicken in a baking dish and rub all over with all the marinade; cover and place in refrigerator for at least 4 hours (up to 2 days).

3. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

4. Bake chicken for 30 to 40 minutes, until the thigh reaches 160 degrees internal temperature.

Serve with ½ cup to 1 cup Black Bean Salad.

Black Bean Salad
Yield: About 6 cups


4 cups (about three 15-ounce cans) black beans, low-sodium if desired
½ cup chopped red onion
½ cup chopped red pepper
½ cup chopped green pepper
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 Tablespoons chopped cilantro
5 Tablespoons red wine vinegar or lemon juice
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt to taste


1. Rinse and drain beans and place in a bowl.

2. Combine with the rest of the ingredients and let rest for at least 1 hour (or overnight, if desired) in refrigerator.

Ann Cooper’s Jicama-Carrot-Apple Salad
Yield: 3½ cups


2 cloves garlic, unpeeled
1/8 cup honey or agave nectar
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tablespoon cider vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 cups grated jicama, liquid squeezed out and discarded
1 cup shredded carrots
1 cup grated Granny Smith apple
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


1. Heat a dry heavy skillet, preferably cast iron, over medium heat.

2. Add garlic and roast, turning cloves occasionally with tongs, until blackened in spots, about 10 minutes. Peel and remove tough ends.

3. Combine garlic, honey, oil, vinegar, and mustard in blender or food processor, and process until smooth.

4. Combine jicama, carrots, and apples in salad bowl. Add dressing and toss to coat.

5. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Sam Kass’ Hummus and Turkey Sandwich
Yield: 1 large sandwich, for one or two


1 whole wheat pita
½ cup hummus (recipe below, or buy premade)
Romaine lettuce
½ cucumber, sliced thinly
1 ripe tomato, sliced thinly
6-ounce oven-roasted turkey breast, thinly sliced


1. Preheat a medium sized cast-iron skillet. Drizzle a few drops of olive oil and use a brush to coat the surface evenly. Grill the pita bread to warm up and soften.

2. Cut pita loaf in half so you have two rounds. Spread an even layer of hummus on each side of the bread.

3. Top with turkey, lettuce, tomato, and cucumber slices. Serve immediately.

Homemade Hummus


3 garlic cloves, mashed
1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), low-sodium, if possible, drained and rinsed
2/3 cup tahini
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
¼ cup water
¼ cup olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin
Salt to taste
1 teaspoon harissa (available at Middle Eastern markets and some supermarkets) or hot pepper sauce (optional)


In a food processor, combine all ingredients except salt and harissa/hot pepper sauce. Process until smooth. Add more water if mixture is too thick. Season with salt and hot sauce as desired. Keeps for weeks in the refrigerator.

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