As a participating school in the National School Lunch Program, we make full use of commodities.
“Secretly Lightened Up Chicken Alfredo Florentine (see recipe, p. 41) is a revamped menu item that satisfies the kids’ pasta and cheese craving while adding a green vegetable along the way.
“We used to serve a pasta with cheese sauce, but the sauce didn’t meet the new USDA regulations.
“So I found a commodity cheese sauce that fits the regs, but I wanted to lower the sodium and fat. So I added some skim milk to make a white sauce. That cuts the sodium by around 30 percent and the fat nearly in half. I add commodity diced chicken, fresh spinach and parsley, all on top of whole-grain spaghetti.”
—Brad Faith, Chef, Columbia (MO) Schools
“Who knew? Students really like the smoky sweet flavor that a basic ingredient like the onion can bring to menu items.
“Using onions in a few different forms (stewed, roasted, raw) adds deeper flavor to many lunch menu items.
“Honey Stewed Onions  as an ingredient add a smoky-sweet flavor that (surprise!) kids like.”
—Jason K. Morse, CEC, Executive Chef, Douglas Co. Schools, Castle Rock, CO
“Get students involved. Build dishes around their flavor interests.
“We got kids interested in Vegetable Curry Stew with Whole Wheat Israeli Couscous (above, right) by getting them involved in making it. Then, they wanted to try it.”
—Robert Manfre, Executive Chef, Metz Culinary Management, Wyoming Seminary Prep School
FEATURED RECIPE: Kids' Chicken Alfredo Florentine
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½ cup vegetable oil, divided
1 cup diced yellow onion
1 Tbsp. chopped garlic
6½ cups skim milk
¾ cup flour
4 lbs. prepared Italian cheese sauce
3 lbs. cooked, diced chicken
3 lbs. fresh spinach
1 Tbsp. salt
¼ tsp. black pepper
3 lbs. whole grain spaghetti
1 bunch parsley, chopped
1. In a stockpot over medium high heat, heat ¼ cup oil and then add onions. Cook onions for about 5 minutes, stirring often. Add garlic and sauté for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
2. Add milk and heat to a simmer, stirring often.
3. While milk heats, whisk together remaining oil and flour and set aside. When milk reaches a simmer, whisk in oil and flour, stirring well. Bring to a boil for 30 seconds, reduce heat and add cheese sauce, chicken, and spinach. Add salt and pepper.
4. Cook spaghetti according to directions. Drain and combine in serving container with sauce/chicken mixture and chopped parsley. Serving size about 1 cup.
Recipe: Brad Faith, chef, Columbia (MO) Schools