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The Albuquerque Journal North: A Taste for the Kitchen

Originally published in The Albuquerque Journal North, May 19, 2011, by Kate McGraw

The cafeteria cooks left the green chile out of the quesadillas. And, in the measured consideration of four of the “Sweeney Cougar Cooks” who had created the menu, that was an error. Vegetarian quesadillas with beans, corn, cheese and no green chile are … a little bland, thought fifth-graders Jailey Benavidez, 11; Jailine Arballo, 12; Jessica Perez, 11; and Gisel Lopez, 12.

“They shoulda put it in there,” Perez said.


But volunteer Chef Rocky Durham, who works with the Cooking With Kids (CWK) students who designed Wednesday’s menu, had a thought. “You know,” he noted, “these kids know and love green chile. But the cafeteria workers are cooking for the whole school. The little first-graders might not be so thrilled with green chile in their quesadillas.”

Despite such missteps, the Sweeney Cougar Cooks, fifth-graders at the southside elementary school who participate in the monthly CWK classes, had a wonderful day Wednesday.

Clad in royal-blue Sweeney T-shirts and matching blue bandannas to cover their hair, they prepared a special lentil recipe they’d invented for a national contest, pairing it with the quesadillas (made with homemade whole wheat tortillas) and mixed green salad with orange vinaigrette and orange wedges for a balanced, delicious lunch that was being evaluated by a trio of judges associated with the contest.

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