Pumpkin black bean quesadillas
Apple pear carrot salad
Broccoli cheddar soup
Jalapeño cheddar biscuits
Apple pear carrot salad
With autumn officially here, Jan and I were ready to start making soups. And with the Instant Pot—our new favorite kitchen gadget—in tow, we knew that we would be able to make soups pretty quickly. We started off with the boys working as a group to prepare the ingredients for the corn chowder, so that could be cooking while we prepared the salad and quesadillas. There were three boys in this week’s session, and they all settled into their tasks very quickly. Once the soup was simmering away, we divided up to work on the other dishes. This was the second week that I worked with R. He is comfortable in the kitchen and often talks about his dad and older brother, who are both cooks. I find that it is very natural for the youth to bring up their family when we are cooking, since food is key to so many important memories for them. They open up to us easily when the focus is on the dish they are preparing and not on them directly. In this way, we are able to offer them a safe space to share their emotions without them even thinking that might be our goal.
The soup needed time to cool, so we had the boys start eating the quesadillas and salad, and saved the soup for their second course. The quesadillas were a big hit. They loved the pumpkin, which was canned, so it was really easy to use. Also, we try to make sure to give them lots of options for toppings, so that they can make their dish their own. This week we introduced papalo, a fragrant herb that is used in the cuisines of Mexico and Central and South America. Jan suggested that next week, we repeat the menu, but with roasted delicata squash and homemade corn tortillas to compare store bought versus scratch made ingredients.
The corn chowder was worth the wait. It was so flavorful, which surprised me since we threw all of the ingredients into the Instant Pot raw. We encouraged the boys to try some of the same toppings from the quesadillas in the soup. I added papalo, avocado, and roasted hot peppers to my soup. It was incredible. There was enough soup left over that we were able to take some over to the girls to try.
As soon as we arrived to the shelter and told the girls that we had soup left over from the boys’ class, they dug out the cups and spoons and dished themselves a bowlful. They liked it so much they had a second and then a third serving. Jan and I were wondering if we even needed to cook at all, but A. said that she really wanted to make the broccoli cheddar soup, so we got started. P. and I made the jalapeño cheddar biscuits while A. and Jan made the soup. We didn’t have much time to cook, since the girls were eating for the first part of the class. It felt a bit rushed, and by the time everything was on the table, there were only a few minutes left for the girls to eat and talk. They weren’t all that hungry anyway, since they had eaten so much soup at the start of class. I felt a bit disappointed, since I knew that this was A.’s last class. She would be leaving in a couple days for placement, and I wanted to hear how she felt about the transition. I wished that we kept the meal simple, and just enjoyed the leftovers from the boys’ class, which would have given us more time to sit and share. Sometimes we try to fit as many recipes into class, forgetting that it is our time together, not our production output, that feeds the change we are seeking to cultivate. I wish that I could have said more to A. before she left, about how she has grown so much and developed so many skills for how to navigate the world and her challenging emotions. That she has a great sense for food and should keep developing that talent. That we are a part of the community, and she can still come talk to us over a bowl of soup anytime she wants.
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Heather Leach is Cultivating Change's facilitator and Program Director!