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School garden gives back to community

June 24, 2014 - 12:05am

The concept of giving back to the community is alive and well on the Big Island in many forms. My favorites, of course, revolve around good food, especially healthy, local food. Here is an excellent example, and one I hope you will support.

With the belief that “everyone needs a good meal,” Malaai, the culinary garden at Waimea Middle School, is launching the Super Kitchen project. The name is an updated version of the old “soup kitchen,” with the school planning to offer a monthly meal to the community at no charge, though donations will be welcomed.

The first dinner will be held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. June 25 at the Kahilu Town Hall in Waimea, across from the Kahilu Theatre. With a goal of celebrating local, healthy, delicious and easy to prepare food, the Waimea Middle School students will be cooking under the leadership of Maria Peterson, a personal chef and Malaai board member. The menu will include familiar dishes, including chili, salad, brown rice, fresh fruit and Malaai iced herbal tea. Many of the ingredients will be sourced from the school’s beautiful 1-acre garden. Local farms and businesses have also donated ingredients.

“We are bringing to the community the kinds of experiences that we give to Waimea Middle School students in the garden,” said Vivienne Aronowitz, dietitian and board chairwoman. “By showing that food is not only good for you, but easy to prepare and within everyone’s reach, we hope to address the tide of chronic disease.” If the following recipes are any indication of their offerings, the community is definitely in for a treat. If you have any questions, call 989-7861.

Malaai Super Kitchen chili

Makes about 10 servings, packed with protein and fiber.

2 pounds lean ground beef (if prefer vegetarian, substitute 2 pounds chopped vegetables)

2 cups chopped onion

1 cup chopped bell pepper

4 tablespoons chili powder

2 cloves garlic, minced

Two 28-ounce cans diced tomatoes

2 cups kidney or pinto beans, soaked overnight in warm water (can substitute canned beans if desired; just rinse before using)

Pinch of salt and pepper

In a large saute pan, saute the beef, onion and bell pepper (and extra vegetables if using); cook until browned. Drain excess fat. Add chili powder, garlic, soaked and drained beans, and tomatoes. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low. Add salt and pepper to taste, then cover and simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Chili is done when beans are tender. Garnish with cilantro, cheese, sour cream or hot pepper.

Malaai Salad Dressing

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1/2 cup olive oil

1 to 2 teaspoons sweetener (sugar, honey or substitute)

2 tablespoons fresh chopped herbs

Mix all ingredients together to combine. Makes 1 1/4 cups, about 10 servings.