Roots for the Home Team

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Chop up some veggies from local youth community gardens, add grains and herbs, then toss in the special flavor of professional chefs, and you have the recipe for tasty, fresh salads.

Each year the Roots for the Home Team non-profit, led by Susan Moores, gathers youth and chefs in the commercial kitchen of the St. Paul College culinary arts program to develop recipes on a wintry Saturday morning. The winning concoctions are then cultivated for garden plots that are eventually harvested and sold at weekend sports games. In 2018, options include Rockin’ Moroccan, Purple Rain, Wojapi Manoomin, Guatemalan Remolacha, Kickin’ It Filipino — and a Dreaming of Veggies soup.

Most of the produce comes from four garden partners: Appetite for Change, Dream of Wild Health, Urban Roots, and Urban Ventures.

Moores kicked off the farm-to-game idea seven years ago to give young people a wider circle of the food process, from planting and harvesting, to recipe development, to sales. The teens grow about 500 pounds of organic vegetables for Roots salads, and sell nearly 1,500 salads each season.

Says Moores, “Roots is creating new pathways for youth that help them grow their sense of self, and what they see as possibilities in their lives. Every season is a winning season for them, and for all of us in the Twin Cities because their bright futures are our bright futures.” 

— Mikki Morrissette


More Than Just a Passion

I was fortunate to be born and raised in Guatemala, a country rich in customs and traditions where a wide variety of vine-ripened fruits and vegetables are plentiful and affordable.

It’s not unusual for Latinas to spend quality time in the kitchen bonding with family. When I was a little girl, my parents were divorced and I ended up living with my maternal grandmother for several years in a small town called Quezaltepeque, where much of the daily routine revolved around cooking meals from scratch.

As a wife and mother in the United States, those childhood memories have always been alive in me. My time growing up in Guatemala informed my cooking and eating style early on. My philosophy is healthy, practical and simple.

The concept of eating healthier is nothing new, yet it continues to be a challenge for most people. Diabetes type 2 is the 21st century global epidemic that can be prevented with food education.

My community work includes serving on the board of the American Diabetes Association MN to help prevent this disease. During the Super Bowl, I participated in a kids challenge around healthy eating, and these days, I am participating in activities with the Minneapolis Public Schools Culinary and Wellness Services to encourage teens toward cooking and making wiser food choices.

Food for me is more than just a passion. It’s a way of life. It gives my life a deep purpose. In person and in book form, I enjoy encouraging and empowering people to explore new foods and cook more fresh meals at home for health and wellness. ­

Amalia Moreno-Damgaard


Food Fails

I have been a food stylist for 15 years. Food companies and advertising agencies ask me to help create mouthwatering appeal in their products. My job is to make items look their best for the camera.

You know those photos of the mom and kids happily cooking together? Or the family sitting down to a healthy meal with kids smiling while gobbling up broccoli? That is posed, on a set. Those kids are not brother and sister. They are smiling because it’s midday and they got to skip school and get paid.

The scene looks flawless because there are hair and makeup artists, and wardrobe and prop stylists, who make sure every detail is clean and color-coordinated for the beautiful kitchen built earlier that day. The food was not made by that perky mom. It was created by a professional like myself, with the help of several assistants.

Some of the most challenging sets are those for video and live television. One segment I worked on was promoting a high-powered blender. After adding a few ingredients and mixing, it was supposed to create churned frozen ice cream that the host would serve. I tested this recipe several times before going on air and could not get the proportions and machine to behave correctly. My results for the ice cream were a milky runny mess that never held together. I had to add food-safe stabilizers that thickened the product enough to make it look the way it should.

In life, and in the kitchen, we often want things to be perfect in a very imperfect world. Yet in the kitchen at least, sometimes there are simple fixes or small techniques that can make a difference.

For example:

• Items are often more interesting, and just plain cute when smaller. Think individual portions, soup in shot glasses, sandwiches cut into small triangles, or small cups or bowls filled with yogurt parfaits, fruit, seasoned vegetables or candies. One of my favorite recipes fixes was changing the presentation of my mom’s classic cheese ball. Maybe you have seen these at parties before? After a few people dig into it, the ball of cheese covered in nuts is a mess. By simply making it into a smaller log, people can easily cut off neat slices for clean service.

• Don’t draw attention to something if it did not turn out exactly as you had expected it. Most people will never know the difference. I once messed up a recipe for lemon bars that baked way too thin. I decided I would layer them with jam and cream cheese, making them into a new gourmet treat I called stuffed lemon bars. My mistake ended up being better than what I originally intended.

Life as a food stylist is to make the product look its best. We care very little about how food tastes, since the food is often photographed cold. In contrast, real life is imperfect. It is often messy, sometimes sticky, and usually unpredictable.

— Rachel Sherwood