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Teen chefs dial up the nutrition in Superior

A summer course offered by UW-Extension taught local students skills they can use in the kitchen.

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Left to right, seventh grader Mica Bohannon and high school sophomore Emma McKeever discuss the next step in a recipe with Tarah Nichols, a FoodWise nutrition educator, during a cooking class on Thursday, July 14, at Superior Middle School.
Maria Lockwood / Superior Telegram
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SUPERIOR — For their final cooking session Thursday, July 14, at Superior Middle School, 11 teen chefs souped up the nutrition value of ramen noodles.

They supercharged the meal by slicing, dicing and sauteing fresh vegetables, then cooking them together with the noodles, broth and canned chicken. The resulting one-skillet meal capped off two weeks of learning provided by the University of Wisconsin-Madison Extension’s FoodWise program.

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Left to right, high school junior Mitchell Koch sautees carrots in a pan while seventh grader Celestia Utyro looks on during an Around the Table cooking class on Thursday, July 14, at Superior Middle School. The free class, provided through UW-Extension's FoodWise program, taught students kitchen skills as well as ways to pump up the nutrition of traditional dishes by adding fresh fruits and vegetables.
Maria Lockwood / Superior Telegram

The Around the Table class focused on nutrition and kitchen skills, with a surprise sprinkling of friendship. Seventh grader Celestia Utyro said her favorite part of the course was “making friends with Mitchell.” She and partner Mitchell Koch, a high school junior, shared duties for each recipe instead of designating a head chef for each.

The students baked berry crisp and made vegetable roll ups and pita pizzas during the free course. They hand-breaded their own chicken nuggets, learned knife safety skills and the importance of separating produce from meat during preparation. The teens also taste-tested fresh produce, deciphered food labels and learned calming techniques such as “soup bowl breathing.”

The goal of the class, said Julie Montgomery, FoodWise coordinator for Douglas County, was to build a healthy connection to food, self and community.

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“One of the things that hopefully they learned is that when we’re hungry, the first place we should look is for nutrient-dense foods, to feed your body that way. And then there are sometimes foods which we eat sometimes, but not daily,” Montgomery said.

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Sixth grader Aubree Severson, at left, and high school junior Annabelle Rochon use safe knife techniques they learned during Around the Table cooking classes to chop fresh vegetables on Thursday, July 14. They were among two dozen students who took part in the two-week course, which was offered through UW-Extension's FoodWise program.
Maria Lockwood / Superior Telegram

The students identified ways to make traditional foods more healthy, such as adding fresh fruit to a peanut butter sandwich in place of jelly.

Montgomery said FoodWise educators offered Teen Cuisine classes in Douglas County prior to the pandemic. This is the first time they’ve used the Around the Table curriculum for teens, although a version aimed at adults has been used for community nutrition classes. A total of 25 students signed up for the course, which was held from noon to 2 p.m. four days a week. Fourteen teens returned for the second half of class following a one-week hiatus for the Fourth of July week.
Students said one of their biggest takeaways from the class was how to properly sharpen and cut with a knife. Many were looking forward to recreating some of the dishes at home.

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Eighth grader Zach Dittbrender stirs ramen noodles, broth, chicken and vegetables together in a pan during a cooking class on Thursday, July 14, at Superior Middle School.
Maria Lockwood / Superior Telegram

High school freshman Alyssa Bohannon said she would like to make the chicken nuggets and pita pizza for her family.

Koch was looking forward to replicating the ramen noodle dish at home.

Sixth grader Aubree Severson planned to test out a yogurt parfait recipe from their workbook.

“It sounds really good,” she said.

Seventh grader Mica Bohannon said she really likes cooking, and hoped the skills to use the skills as she gets older and is allowed to do more cooking at home.

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Visit the Douglas County UW-Madison Extension website or Facebook page for more information on upcoming classes.

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Seventh grader Mack Hamilton reads through a recipe for ramen noodle skillet during a cooking class at Superior Middle School on Thursday, July 14.
Maria Lockwood / Superior Telegram
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Left to right, sixth grader Kajiden Hamilton, eighth grader Zach Dittbrender and sixth grader Elijah Myer sit down to taste the souped up ramen skillet meal they cooked during class on Thursday, July 14, at Superior Middle School.
Maria Lockwood / Superior Telegram

Maria Lockwood covers news in Douglas County, Wisconsin, for the Superior Telegram.
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