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Tom McCall chefs cook up healthful recipes in school-wide competition

Kitchen help - Thirty-three students demonstrate their culinary prowess at event
by: Chase Allgood, Al Rogers (center), principal of Tom McCall Upper Elementary School, judged entries in last Friday’s culinary competition.

Decked out in a tall chef's hat, fifth-grader Jason Haynes delivered a history lesson every time a judge came by to taste-test his butterless, milkess, eggless cake.

'This recipe has been around since the time of Andrew Jackson's wife,' the fifth-grader said, noting that Sarah Yorke Jackson served it to her husband during his presidency in the 1830s. 'It's just a pure, healthy snack that tastes really good.'

Never mind that Haynes' spice cake recipe included a dollop of whipped cream on top. He was proud of the time it took him to get the cake together - and the outcome itself.

'It takes a half-hour to put together the ingredients, and an hour to cook it,' noted Haynes. 'I think it has a very good flavor.'

Haynes and 32 of his fifth- and sixth-grade peers spent Friday morning cooking up their favorite healthful snacks as entries in the Forest Grove School District's first ever kids' culinary competition. The event was co-sponsored by Sodexho, the district's food services provider.

'I saw it in another district and I thought it could be done here,' said Jody Baruth, Sodexho's nutrition services manager. 'It gets kids thinking about healthy snack alternatives and gives them experience in the kitchen.'

Tom McCall teacher and contest judge Amy Sanford enjoyed tasting several of her students' snack recipes.

'I'm going to eat my way through here,' said Sanford, munching a forkful of sixth-grader Denise Olvera's 'original salad.'

Sanford added that she was 'amazed at the artistic presentation' of the recipes. Culinary class students from Forest Grove High School helped the younger students with that portion of the competition.

Happy to share

From mini pizza to pico de gallo, students were happy to share their most healthful kitchen secrets.

Eleven-year-old Storey Sleezer proudly held court over a big plate of peanut butter and banana sandwiches, a three-ingredient concoction she called 'The Elvis.'

'It's healthy because it's on whole wheat bread,' explained Storey, a sixth-grader.

She entered the contest because she thought it would be fun. 'I'm not sure I'm going to win, though,' she said.

The actual winners in six categories were:

• Health-conscious foods, sixth-grader Mersades Thompson for 'Grand el Salsa';

• Kid-Friendly Preparation, sixth-grader Kristina Kind for 'KK's Tropical Yogurt Parfait';

• Fun Foods, fifth-grader Noah Lavier for 'Pinwheels';

• Judge's Choice, fifth-grader Ricardo Abad Cuevas for 'Cucumber Crab Ceviche';

• Best Table Presentation, fifth-grader Jason Haynes for 'The Butterless Milkless Eggless Cake'; and

• Student Most Likely to be on a Cooking Show, sixth-grader McKenzie Condor for her 'Banana Fruit Split.'

Because the competition added a new dimension to the school's health education curriculum, Baruth said it's likely that she'll bring it back next year.

'It's pretty exciting to see the kids get into this,' she said. 'There were more than 50 entries - we even had one for pot roast.'