culinary culture


Knowledge is a key ingredient to our successes in life! It’s the only vehicle that empowers us to make educated choices. One of our favorite organizations, Common Threads, teaches low-income children to cook wholesome and affordable meals. They believe that through their hands-on cooking classes they can help prevent childhood obesity and reverse the trend of generations of non-cookers. We agree wholeheartedly! Food teaches us. It gives us knowledge about ourselves, diversity in culinary cultures and brings people together for a common goal!

Throughout the year, Chef Julie graciously donates her time and expertise as a guest chef at the Common Threads cooking classes. This year, she worked with an incredibly bright group of aspiring chefs at Morningside Elementary. By popular vote (via the mini-chefs) the following recipe was her best one! Easy and delicious, this one is sure to bring your family together at the dinner table.

Common Threads Class by Chef Julie Frans

Turkey Meatballs with Quinoa and Shredded Zucchini
1 onion diced
3 ribs celery diced
1 large carrot diced
2 cloves garlic
3 tbsp tomato paste
#1 ground turkey
1 cup quinoa, cooked
1 c natural bread crumbs (optional)
1 c shredded zucchini
2 eggs beaten
1/4 cup minced basil
1/2  tbsp salt
1/2 tbsp pepper

Preheat Oven to 350°F. Heat oil in pan. Sauté onion, celery and carrot for 3-4 minutes,or until soft. Add garlic and cook for another minute. Add tomato paste. Cook for 1 minute then remove form heat and set aside to cool. In a separate bowl combine turkey, egg, bread crumbs, zucchini, quinoa, basil, salt and pepper. When cool combine veggie and tomato mixture to turkey. Make sure all is well incorporated and form into balls. Sear in pan on all sides, and remove to baking sheet. Cook in 350 degree oven for 10 minutes. Combine with Sauce (below) and serve with whole wheat pasta. Top with parmesan cheese.

Chef’s Notes: The recipe can work fine without bread crumbs (for GF families) but will hold together a little better with the bread crumbs. The recipe also works without the first steps of sautéing the onion, celery, carrot, garlic, and tomato paste- you really can just combine the turkey, egg, quinoa, and zucchini and make balls if you need a short cut – it’s just not as yummy!

More about Common Threads:
Common Threads is an independent 501 c3 organization founded in 2003, with the mission to educate children on nutrition and physical well-being, while fostering an appreciation of cultural diversity through cooking. We provide after-school programming to children ages 8 through 12 years old. Programs are free for students who qualify for the free or reduced school lunch program. At 18 sites in Chicago and 13 sites across the country, including 6 locations in Miami, our staff of professional chef instructors and volunteer assistants guide children through hands-on cooking lessons based on cuisines from around the world.
Common Threads’ Cooking Skills and World Cuisine session teaches basic cooking skills, and builds upon student skills gradually.  All lessons emphasize using fresh, quality ingredients and adopting healthy cooking and eating habits.  Each week, our classes focus on a different culture as the students prepare and sample world cuisine, with recipes and tastings of typical foods from different cultures. By the end of the 10-week session, students will have learned to prepare healthy complete meals while touring world cuisine.

Through the simple process of preparing and sharing a nutritious meal, children who participate in our programs learn to connect with their bodies, their neighbors, and their world in bite-sized lessons. http://www.commonthreads.org

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