Macaroni and cheese, a staple of so many children’s diets, might be the most popular comfort food out there. The typical box variety is what most of us know best and, frankly, it doesn’t take much skill or technique to put together. Simply boil water, add pasta, wait 8-10 minutes and drain. Then add in the package of powered cheese product, a pat of butter and a few teaspoons of milk and – voila!
Enter Jenny Schwartz, education and outreach coordinator for the Berkshire Co-Op in Great Barrington.
Last Saturday she conducted the latest installment of her “Kids Can Cook” monthly cooking series in the café area of the Co-op, showing a few kids how to create “Winter Squash Mac and Cheese.”
“It’s mac ‘n cheese with a twist,” Schwartz said.
In her version, adapted from a recipe found on health.clevelandclinic.org, Schwartz incorporates some baked butternut squash, garlic and a healthy dollop of low fat Greek yogurt. The girls had several tasks: first, they peeled and minced garlic cloves using a safety knife. Next up they used graters to shred the cheese (cheddar in place of Gruyere) and scooped out the baked squash and added in the yogurt, the last two ingredients went straight into the blender.
Schwartz heated the mix of squash and cheese with a wok, part of her traveling ensemble for each event.
A few minutes in the convection oven upstairs, and it was serving time!
“I thought it was better than most mac n cheese!” said daughter number two (she even enjoyed a second portion at home.)
Teaching kids cooking skills and healthy habits is something near and dear to Schwartz.
“I’ve been cooking with kids for years, and it’s something I truly love,” she said.
She began her culinary work volunteering at the 92nd Street Y in New York City, while she was in graduate school.
Since joining the Co-op in 2008, Jenny has conducted classes at schools throughout Berkshire County, including Muddy Brook; Monument Mountain; Nessacus; Crosby, Conte and Morningside in Pittsfield. Her efforts have also extended to giving store affordability and nutrition tours and cooking classes with CHP.
Her next workshop Feb. 6 will show kids how to make breakfast staples pancakes and hash browns healthier. Advanced registration is required: Find details here.