BELLINGHAM - It was a smorgasbord of miniature proportions as parents, kids and community members came together to sample meals that have a chance of getting served up in local school cafeterias.
More than 60 people gathered at Squalicum High School on Friday night, April 26, to taste and vote on the top four meals for Whatcom Farm-to-School's Ideal Real Meal contest, which featured recipes using local winter vegetables.
The finalists were fiesta chili with blueberry corn cakes; hazelnut Vicki chicken with rosemary roasted roots and honey pear bread pudding; vegetable, beef and barley "stewp" with cheesy cornbread and peary good applesauce; and winter veggie risotto with old world salad and grandma's awesome apple cake.
"I think they're really creative," Bellingham School District food service director Mark Dalton said of the recipe finalists. "They tasted amazing, and I think we'll have a number of keepers here tonight."
The first-place individual item, grandma's awesome apple cake, would be an easy one to replicate in cafeteria kitchens, he said. Plus, it was a big hit with parents and kids.
"It helps give me some direction as to what people are liking," he said. "Ultimately, the kids are the judges of it when we get right down to the school lunch."
The meal that ended up with the most votes was fiesta chili with blueberry corn cakes, submitted by Bellingham mom Dani Compain. Her daughters were the first judges for the chili recipe, which includes local beans, squash and minced kale.
"They love it," she said. "I make it at home all the time."
She was excited to be involved in a contest that helps bring healthy, local food into schools. The top meal and recipe could end up on menus at schools throughout Whatcom County.
"I think it's super important that kids eat healthy so they can focus in school and grow healthfully and stay well," Compain said.
Tina Neher and Trisha Walton, who volunteer for Whatcom Farm-to-School at Alderwood Elementary and Shuksan Middle School, said they were tasting the meals from the perspective of what young, sometimes picky, kids would eat. Neher's daughter is one of those picky eaters.
"My daughter likes some of it that I didn't think she'd like," she said, noting that she liked the rosemary roasted roots. "I like it that we can bring the kids so they can have a say. They're the ones that matter because they're going to be eating it."
TRY THEM YOURSELF
Click here for the winning recipes in the Whatcom Farm-to-School's Ideal Real Meal contest.