Etcetera - 02/03/12

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Parents with students in Blue Ridge Elementary and preschool programs may participate in healthy cooking classes, the Walla Walla Public Schools Week in Review reported.

Debi Evans from the Washington State University Walla Walla County Extension office will show how to cook an affordable, healthy meal. Ingredients will be bought with funds donated by Albertsons earlier this school year.

The parents who attend this class will be able to take the ingredients home to prepare this same $10 meal for their family. The class will be from 5:30-6:30 p.m. Feb. 9 during family night in the Blue Ridge gym.

Walla Walla Sweet Onions gained a mention in a Cuisine Francaise article by Celia Casey in the Pensacola (Fla.) News Journal online. Her Jan. 10 piece takes the mystery out of scratch cooking with "Cooking School: Soup brings deliciously healthy comfort."

Start with a basic recipe and modify it with personal preferences or seasonal ingredients, she said. "With a few basics, there are almost no mistakes in making soup." It can be ready in 30 minutes and if enough is made it'll provide leftovers where the flavors have melded, making it even better the second time.

The basics include using a mild sweet onion, such as Walla Walla for seasoning because of its higher sugar content. Finely chop or mince, then saute it in about 2 tablespoons of olive oil until soft and translucent. (Avoid a strong taste by not browning it.) Then toss in a bit of kosher salt and freshly grated pepper.

Then add about a quart of chicken or vegetable stock.

Beans add protein and fiber, but need time to cook, so add extra stock and simmer them until tender before adding other vegetables. Canned beans should be rinsed and drained.

"Vegetables are the soul of any soup. Fresh, seasonal vegetables will have the best flavor and texture. Tomatoes are one exception. For their convenience, flavor and color, canned plum tomatoes are excellent in soup. Choose one vegetable or 15 -- whatever you prefer."

Harder root vegetables, such as potatoes, carrots and turnips, take longer to cook than softer broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage. Leafy greens, spinach and kale are ready in minutes. "If meat is added, saute it after the onions are tender. Then add the stock. Be sure to skim off any fat that rises to the top." Add fresh herbs for the best garnish, Casey concluded.

Etcetera appears in daily and Sunday editions. Annie Charnley Eveland can be reached at annieeveland@wwub.com or afternoons at 526-8313.

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