Metro-East Living

Belleville Library’s summer camp is a recipe for success

Kids cook healthy meals at the Belleville Public Library

Belleville Public Library’s Youth Cooking Camp teaches youth about healthy eating and healthy living. The children learned easy recipes and the importance of kitchen safety and cleanliness.
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Belleville Public Library’s Youth Cooking Camp teaches youth about healthy eating and healthy living. The children learned easy recipes and the importance of kitchen safety and cleanliness.

If you were near downtown Belleville between 1 and 4 p.m. last week, that aroma you smelled was not from nearby restaurants. It was coming from the Belleville Public Library’s Youth Cooking Camp.

The three-day camp, June 7 to 9, was part of the University of Illinois Extension’s Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program. The program was designed to teach St. Clair and Madison County youngsters about the importance of healthy eating and provide them with the tools they need to get more nutrition in their diet.

The organization partnered with the Belleville Public Library to create a cooking camp for kids to learn about healthy eating and to keep them busy during their summer break. They learned about nutrition, portion size, healthy choices, kitchen safety and more.

“Our goal there is to provide nutrition education for people with limited resources and help them secure healthier lifestyles,” said U of I Extension Educator Linda Jackson. “Children are quite influential with their parents, so if they learn healthy recipes then they might share those with their parents.”

The camp for kids ages 6-16 was free. Parents were welcome to attend and participate. The 26 kids in the camp learned to make three recipes each day and were very hands-on during the cooking process. One day, for example, the chefs-in-training made a quick quiche, chicken pot pie with fresh vegetables and hummus. Another day, tostadas were on the menu.

Ellie Doolittle, 8, of Belleville, enjoyed the fruits of her labor.

“OMG...this is really good!” said Ellie after taking the first bite of her tostada.

The camp was so popular that the library decided to offer an afternoon session in July and a morning session in August.

To register your kids for the next camp or to learn more about upcoming events at the library, visit their website www.bellevillepubliclibrary.org or call 618-234-0441

Youth Cooking Camp

  • What: Three-day hands-on class for children 6 to 16. Parents are welcome to attend and participate.
  • Where: Belleville Public Library
  • When: 2-5 p.m. July 19-21 and 9 a.m. to noon Aug, 9-11
  • Cost: Free
  • Information: To register your kids for the next camp or to learn more about upcoming events at the library, visit their website www.bellevillepubliclibrary.org or call 618-234-0441

Cooking Camp Tostadas

FOR CRISPY TORTILLAS:

Vegetable oil for frying

6 white corn tortillas

Kosher salt for sprinkling

FOR CHICKEN:

3 cups cooked, shredded chicken

1/3 cup freshly squeezed lime juice

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup chopped fresh coriander (cilantro)

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

FOR TOSTADAS:

Refried beans, warm, recipe follows

3 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (about 1/2 cup)

1/2 head iceberg lettuce, cored and shredded

1 avocado, thinly sliced, or guacamole, recipe follows

2 cups salsa cruda, recipe follows

1/2 cup sour cream

1 scallion, thinly sliced

12 fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves

FOR REFRIED BEANS:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 medium Spanish onion, finely chopped

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground cumin

4 cloves garlic, minced

One 15 1/2-ounce can pinto beans (with liquid), mashed

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

To make tortillas: Pour the oil for frying into a large heavy-bottomed pot to a depth of about 2 inches. Place over medium heat and heat to 375 degrees. Add the tortillas, one at a time, and fry until golden brown and crispy, about 1 1/2 minutes. Using tongs, transfer to a paper towel-lined pan and sprinkle with salt. Set aside.

To make chicken: In a small bowl, mix together the chicken, lime juice, oil, coriander, and salt and season with pepper to taste. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.

To assemble tostadas: Preheat the broiler. Spread the beans evenly over one side of each tortilla and sprinkle with some of the cheese. Transfer to a baking sheet and broil until the cheese is lightly browned and melted, about 30 seconds. Divide the tortillas among 6 plates.

Evenly mound chicken on each tortilla and top with lettuce. Top each tostada with avocado, salsa, and a dollop of sour cream. Sprinkle with the scallion and garnish the tostada with the coriander leaves. Serve immediately.

Cook's note: the tortillas must be fried until very crispy, otherwise they may become rubbery, making them difficult to cut with a knife and fork.

To make refried beans: Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, coriander, and cumin and cook, stirring, until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, until lightly browned, about 1 minute more. Add the beans and cook, stirring frequently, until thick and amber brown in color, about 4 minutes. Stir in the salt and season with pepper to taste.

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