HOMETOWN FLAVORS: School cafeteria manager serves up gluten-free goodness

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By WAYLON CUNNINGHAM

Michele Bordelon’s cooking is already a daily routine for many teenagers attending Liberty Hill High School.

And in fact, “if this tells you how old I am,” she says, she’s probably served some of those kids’ parents when they themselves were teenagers. And so that probably includes some of you out there, dear readers. But you can be forgiven if you don’t remember. It can be challenging to pick up on the personal nuances of the chef when she’s cooking 40,000 french fries in a high school cafeteria.

She’s the manager now, and the job keeps her pretty busy. While I was interviewing her, Michele was swapping stacks of paper, flipping cash, briefing employees coming through, and doing something involving free T-shirts. She apologized profusely that she was so busy. “These invoices have to be sent in at a certain time, or the workers don’t get paid,” she said. I wasn’t offended. I was impressed.

Cafeteria food has changed since she began 20 years ago. Back then, she says, the food was more mixed together and easier to serve. (My friends at my old East Texas high school called such food “Slop Scoop Delight”). But to keep pace with food trends, Bordelon says the cafeteria plates these days are more “a la carte” oriented, more focused on fruits and vegetables, and less covered in salt.

“We like the food to look good, taste good, and be good for you,” she says.

She says the cafeteria menu has begun to model itself more after restaurants like Chipotle. Kids these days have a different palette, she says. “People don’t cook at home as much, they eat out more.”

Not so in her own household. With Celiac’s disease running in her family, cooking at home isn’t exactly a choice. Many restaurants use gluten, which her family can’t eat. And even when there’s no bread in the item, a lack of awareness or resources means that many of the same cooking pots and utensils are still contaminated.

Celiac’s disease is much more than a gluten allergy, and it’s also different than the recent health movement, but the gluten-free recipes Michele shared this week can be of great use to any of the above.

They’ve been honed and de-glutenized through years of taste-test feedback from her family. She says they “taste with their eyes before their mouth, and if it looks the least little suspect the grandsons won’t have anything to do with it.”

Personally, my favorite are the peanut butter cookies. They use 5 ingredients and take 5 minutes (maybe slightly more). And if you don’t want to or can’t use peanut butter, she says you should be able to substitute almond, cashew or sunflower butter.

Peanut Butter Cookies
Ingredients:
1 c. Creamy Peanut Butter
3/4 c Sugar
1 large egg
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
* Optional 1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350
2. Mix peanut butter, sugar, egg, baking soda and salt until well blended. (If adding chocolate chips fold them in now)
3. Drop by rounded tablespoons, (I use a small melon scoop) 2 inches apart onto parchment lined baking sheet pan
4. Bake at 350 degrees for 12-14 minutes or until lightly browned and puffed
5. Cool sheet pans on wire racks for about 15 minutes

Lemon Pound Cake
Ingredients:
● 2 c GF flour (Bobs 1 to 1 baking flour)
● 1/2 tsp GF baking powder
● 1/4 tsp salt
● 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
● 1 1/2 c sugar
● 3 lg eggs room temp
● 1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
● 1 tsp GF Lemon extract
● 1 tsp GF Vanilla extract
● 1/2 c whole milk @ room temp

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350
2. Generously butter and sugar bunt pan knocking out excess sugar
3. Whisk together GF flour, baking powder and salt and set aside
4. Beat together butter and sugar in large bowl with mixer @ med/high speed until light and fluffy about 2-3 minutes, add eggs 1 @ a time beating well after each addition
5. Beat in zest and extracts
6. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture and milk alternately in batches mix until just incorporated
7. Spoon batter into bunt pan and bake until golden and cake tester comes out with moist crumbs attached
8. Let cool on rack for at least 30 min before glazing

Lemon Glaze
Ingredients:
● 1 c sugar
● 1/2 c fresh lemon juice

Directions:
● Combine ingredients in heavy sauce pan over med to high heat
● Bring to hard boil stirring constantly until thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon
● Invert cake onto cake plate slowly pour glaze on top allowing time for gaze to soak into cake
● Let cool
● Optional: Fold in 8 oz of fresh raspberries or blueberries after glaze is removed from heat and glaze cake

Green Chili Enchiladas
Ingredients:
● 2 lbs ground beef
● 4 pkgs cream cheese
● 2 small cans diced green chilies
● 2 cans green chili enchilada sauce
● 2 tspn cumin (reduce or add more depending on your personal taste) about 24 corn tortillas
● 2 c shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350
2. Add cumin to ground beef brown and drain
3. Place cream cheese and diced green chilies in large bowl add hot beef mixture mix well
4. Pour a layer of enchilada sauce on bottom of glass pan
5. Spread spoonful meat mixture on tortilla, roll and place into sauced glass pan
6. Repeat filling pan with single layer of enchiladas, cover with enchilada sauce and cheese
7. Cover and bake 30-40 minutes

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