Most everyone is accustomed to reading about the Cherokee County School District (CCSD) students who excel – whether it’s on a bumper sticker or through CCSD’s communication system (read more about that on Page 50).
Apparently, it’s not only the students who’ve been receiving accolades lately.
Members of the district’s school nutrition department, which serves 5 million meals annually, have been on a winning streak. Some of the most recent honors include:
- The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Silver Turnip the Beet Award. To earn the award, school districts must demonstrate the highest standards in meal preparation and delivery.
- The Golden Radish Award from the Georgia Department of Education (DOE) School Nutrition Division. The award honors school nutrition programs that excel in providing fresh, locally grown produce and ingredients in meals, promoting the importance of farm-to-school food sourcing and participating in school garden projects.
- The School Nutrition Cafeteria of Excellence Award presented by the Georgia DOE’s School Nutrition Division. Clayton Elementary School is among the inaugural class of winners for this new award. It recognizes the top schools for each region for health inspection scores, quality and variety of menus, use of Georgia Grown produce and ingredients, promotion of school nutrition programs and student meal program participation.
- The Georgia DOE’s competitive Georgia Local Food for Schools pilot program. As participants selected for this new program, CCSD will be assisted in broadening its partnerships with local farmers and food producers to increase the fresh ingredients in school meals.
This past school year, the district also began recognizing its own “best of the best” through the newly established CCSD School Nutrition Team of the Year awards. Schools are measured in “Six Servings of Success” categories: health inspections, employee satisfaction, program participation, inventory levels, budgeting and promotions. In July, Clark Creek Elementary School STEM Academy was named the elementary division winner, and E.T. Booth Middle School was named the middle school/high school/center division winner.
Jessica Emmett, culinary specialist for the school district, develops new recipes for CCSD’s school kitchens. She’s focused on increasing fresh, locally grown ingredients and expanding students’ palates through “heritage recipes” influenced by international cuisines.
“As the culinary specialist for the school district, I am given creative freedom for recipe development as long as recipes fall within nutritional guidelines and costing,” she said. “I conduct research on food trends across the nation as well as recipe research on popular dishes within ethnic groups to help create meals that can be served to our students.
“While some of our heritage recipes may not be considered authentic, students are able to experience and taste the inspiration and love that is put into these dishes from all of the school nutrition professionals around the county. Once I have the heritage recipe conceptualized, I conduct recipe testing in our school nutrition test kitchen, and our administrative team comes together to decide the winning heritage recipe. All in all, it is a group effort consisting of our executive director, school nutrition supervisor, two registered dietitians and myself.”
• 4 pounds pork shoulder (pork butt)
• 2½ teaspoons salt
• 1 teaspoon black pepper
• 1 onion, chopped
• 1 jalapeño, deseeded and chopped
• 4 cloves garlic, minced
• ¾ cup juice from 2 oranges
• 1 tablespoon dried oregano
• 2 teaspoons ground cumin
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
Rinse and dry pork shoulder and cut into large 2- to 3-inch cubes. Rub all over with salt and pepper.
Combine rub ingredients, then rub over the pork. Place pork in a slow cooker (fat cap up). Top with the onion, jalapeño and minced garlic (don’t worry about spreading it) and squeeze the juice of the oranges over the pork.
Slow cook on low for 10 hours or on high for 7 hours. Pork should be tender enough to shred. Remove from the slow cooker and let cool slightly. Shred using two forks. Optional: Skim off fat from the juices remaining in the slow cooker and discard.
If you have more than 2 cups of juice, reduce it down to about 2 cups. The liquid will be salty; it is the seasoning for the pork. Set liquid aside; there is no need to strain out onion pieces.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spread shredded pork out on a sheet pan and place in oven for 6-8 minutes or until pork begins to crisp up around the edges. Assemble tacos with your choice of tortillas, carnitas meat, diced onion and chopped cilantro. Pair with Apple Cilantro Slaw for the ultimate bite.
Apple Cilantro Slaw
• ¼ cup mayonnaise
• 2½ teaspoons mustard
• ⅛ teaspoon salt
• ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
• 2 tablespoons honey
• 1 tablespoon lime juice
• 16 ounces bagged coleslaw mix
• 2 Gala apples, cored and shredded
• 1 tablespoon lime juice
• ½ cup washed and chopped cilantro
Whisk dressing ingredients in a bowl until smooth. Core and grate apples. Squeeze out excess juice from the apples and toss with lime juice to keep from turning brown. Store at 41 degrees or lower while preparing coleslaw salad.
In a large mixing bowl, combine slaw mix, chopped cilantro and grated apples. Dress coleslaw salad and grated apples (including remaining lime juice) with dressing no more than 1 hour prior to serving. Toss until evenly coated. Cover and hold at 41 degrees or lower until served.
• 32-ounce package frozen corn kernels
• ⅓ cup mayonnaise
• 2½ teaspoons lime juice
• ¼ teaspoon black pepper
• ½ teaspoon each of chili powder, garlic powder, salt, cayenne
• 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
• 2 green onions, finely chopped
Defrost corn overnight, draining any excess liquid. Spray sheet pan with nonstick spray. Spread corn on the sheet pan and roast at 450 degrees for
13-15 minutes, allowing some corn to become charred.
Make a sauce by mixing the mayo, Parmesan cheese, lime juice and all the spices. Set aside. Once corn has roasted, mix with chili-lime sauce.
Trim scallion top and bulb. Thinly slice green and white parts of scallion, and add to hot corn, mix well and transfer to a pan for serving. Top with a sprinkle of chili powder, another sprinkle of cheese and a few more green onions for color. Serve warm.
Cabbage Roll Soup
• 1 pound ground beef, cooked
• 1 small green cabbage (1½ pounds, cored and chopped)
• 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
• 3 carrots, quartered and chopped into smaller pieces
• 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
• 1 teaspoon vegetable or canola oil
• 1 can petite diced tomatoes with juice
• 1 teaspoon garlic powder
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon black pepper
• ½ cup rice
• 2 cups chicken broth
• 3½ cups water
Preheat skillet. Add oil, cook and drain ground beef, add onions. Saute until onions are soft and translucent. Add chopped cabbage and carrots. Add salt, pepper and garlic powder. Mix well.
Add diced tomatoes, chicken broth and water. Bring to a simmer. Add rice. Allow to simmer until rice is tender. Add parsley and turn off heat.
• 6 large tortillas or flatbread
• Shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, thinly sliced onions
• 1½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
• ½ teaspoon each of garlic powder, black pepper, salt
• 1 teaspoon each of cumin and chili powder
• 1 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil
• ½ cup plain Greek yogurt
• 1½ teaspoons water
• 1 tablespoon lemon juice
• 1½ teaspoons each of cumin and garlic powder
Mix yogurt sauce ingredients well a few hours ahead to allow ingredients to bloom.
Season chicken thighs with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Heat oil on medium-low heat and add cumin and chili powder. Fry for 10 seconds or until fragrant. Once fragrant, add seasoned chicken thighs into seasoned oil and turn heat to medium. Allow chicken thighs to cook until an internal temperature of 165 degrees is reached. Remove from heat and allow to rest for 4-5 minutes. Slice into strips.
To make wrap, warm tortillas or flatbread in microwave for a few seconds. Add 1 tablespoon yogurt sauce to tortilla or flatbread. Add chicken, shredded lettuce, tomato and onion slices. Wrap like a burrito and enjoy! Pairs well with Israeli Cucumber Salad.
Israeli Cucumber Salad
• 1 pound cucumbers, cut into half-moon shape
• 1 pint grape tomatoes, cut in half
• ¼ cup finely diced onion
• ½ cup chopped parsley
• 2 tablespoons canola oil
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 3 tablespoons lemon juice
Whisk oil, lemon juice and salt together. Combine all ingredients and mix well. Should be made at least 3 hours in advance to allow flavors to bloom.