What do you feed our nation’s future leaders? Red meat or vegan tofu? Fair trade chocolate or Hershey’s Kisses? All-American hot dogs or exotic Indian curries?
The answer, of course, is “all of the above.”
I am Susana Heureaux, the chef here at SEGL. As a mother myself (that’s my daughter Aaliyah at left), I am constantly thinking about how to keep my meals delicious and healthy. I like to cook a variety of different cuisines, taking inspiration from Puerto Rican blends, Thai spices, and even student requests.
I love getting to know all of our students, where they come from, and what they like to eat. During the school day, I always look forward to their excitement when noon hits and they come down to see what is for lunch. I love hearing the positive comments the kids share with me. My favorite days are when I prepare a meal that reminds them of home.
When I started working with the food program here, I was worried about the criticism that I might receive from students. Teenagers can be tough to please, especially when they come from so many different backgrounds! I was pleasantly surprised to hear them clapping spontaneously after meals, telling me how much they love the food. It was also wonderful to see their openness in trying new foods and recipes. I can’t thank the students enough for welcoming me with open arms!
At SEGL, we try our best to accommodate any food restrictions. Each semester we have vegetarians and vegans, students with gluten and other allergies, and countless other needs to fulfill. It is worth the extra effort to ensure everyone feels welcome at the table.
My food duties don’t end at meals. I have started partnering with our science teacher, Alvin, to bring the food program to the classroom! In the chemistry class’s recent unit on pH, they studied an application of acids by making ceviche, a popular Peruvian dish.
One of the students’ favorite meals this semester is quinoa chili. I have included the (vegetarian) recipe below, as well as photos of a few other meals!
- 2 cups of quinoa
- 4 1/2 cups of water
- 3 T of butter
- 1 T salt
- 2 T corn oil
- mire poix (1 cup of each carrots, celery & onion)
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp chili flakes
- 3 T of salt
- 5 T chili powder
- 3 limes (juice and zest)
- 2 cans of peeled stewed tomatoes
- 2 cans of crushed tomatoes
- 2 cans of kidney beans
- 2 cans of black beans
- 2 cans of corn
- 1 cup cilantro
- 1 cup corn meal
- 5 cups of water
When I am making quinoa chili, I like to cook the quinoa first and add it to the chili at the end so that it doesn’t over cook. That allows the quinoa to sit and absorb any extra water that will make for the best texture. This is a tasty recipe that is completely vegan and gluten free. I hope you enjoy!
Rinse the quinoa and strain using a fine mesh strainer. Make sure to rinse well – quinoa has a bitter coating that needs to be rinsed off before cooking.
I start by boiling the water with butter and salt first, then adding the quinoa right when the water starts to boil. Bring the temperature down and allow to simmer until quinoa is fully cooked (~about 15 min). When the quinoa is cooked, it will look slightly transparent with a small little tail. Strain the quinoa and allow it to sit while you start preparing the chili.
For the chili, begin by chopping the onions, carrots, and celery. In a large saucepan, add the corn oil. Add the mire poix and allow it to cook until onions are transparent. Add cayenne, pepper flakes, salt, and chili powder. Then, add the canned tomatoes. Cook for about 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, add 5 cups of water. Drain and rinse the beans and corn before then adding them also to the saucepan. Bring the pot to a boil and allow it to simmer for 25 minutes.
While the pot is simmering, dissolve the corn meal in 1 cup of water. After the 25 minutes, add the corn meal mixture to the saucepan and simmer for an extra 15 minutes, mixing every 5 minutes or so. Mixing is important – if you don’t, the corn meal can stick and cause it to burn! After 15 minutes, the chili should now to start to thicken slightly. Finally, add the quinoa, lime juice, and cilantro cook for an additional 10 minutes.
Serve with corn bread, cheese and sour cream!
Yield: Serves 5 (perhaps more if you aren’t serving teenagers!)