MONTPELIER -- Mac & trees -- macaroni and cheese with broccoli -- roasted parsnip chips, strawberry and spinach salad and green monster pops were already on the menu at some Vermont schools that have done away with frozen chicken nuggets and fish sticks.
Now those creative cooks are sharing their healthful recipes with other schools. "New School Cuisine: Nutritious and Seasonal Recipes for School Cooks by School Cooks," produced with help from a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, fundraising and the Vermont Department of Education. It was distributed last month to all Vermont public schools and to every state to spread the word about healthy eating.
"This is the way we help kids learn by providing fresh, home-cooked, local delicious food every single day," said Kathy Alexander, director of the Addison Northeast Supervisory Union Food Service Cooperative, who came up with the idea for the cookbook.
The cookbook is a way to share those creative recipes that also meet USDA guidelines, celebrate the quality of food that can be served and to set an example, she said.
"It's hard enough to make this work for kids and to meet all these regulations and meet your budget but then to also have to reinvent the wheel every time never seemed like a good idea, especially when there's so much wonderful work happening. So it was to share but also to celebrate," she said.
The cookbook also shows that local seasonal fresh foods -- such as kale, beets and apples -- can be used in schools affordably and accepted by students.
Healthy and nutritious food is finding its way into schools across the country, buoyed in part by a push from first lady Michelle Obama, said Ann Cooper, a chef, and founder of Food Family Farming Foundation, a nonprofit organization aimed at helping schools serve nutritious whole foods.
"With Michelle Obama as the ultimate cheerleader, kids are experiencing salad bars, meatless Mondays and fresh fruits and vegetables every day. ‘New School Cuisine,' the Vermont cookbook produced by school chefs, is a great example of the wonderful work that's being done to grow this movement and help all of us serve our kids the best possible school food," Cooper said.
The cookbook, which can be downloaded for free online and will soon be available to order after a second printing, includes nutritional breakdowns, and all the recipes -- including the chicken and bean enchilada bake, Swiss chard frittata, cheesy twice-baked potatoes and pumpkin pancakes -- have been tested multiple times. It's divided by chapters on soups and salads, fruits and vegetables, grains, and meat and meat alternatives. It also includes a list of reasons to buy local food, tips for making local food affordable and having a successful farm-to-school program, incorporating USDA foods into cooking and adapting recipes for school meals.
Kids already are asking again for the green monster pops -- flavored ice made of pureed pineapple, bananas, spinach and kale, said David Horner, a contributing chef to the cookbook and a food service director at the Chittenden East Supervisory Union who came up with the recipe.
They've also liked other new ones he's trying from the book including the gardeners' pie, Southwestern white bean soup and beef stew.
"We're going to work our way through it," he said of the cookbook.