Posts Tagged: Solano County 4-H Youth Development Program
Life is just a bowl of…ch...no, not cherries!
Make that chicken chili.
When the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons square off at Super Bowl Sunday on Feb. 5 in Houston, odds are that feathers will fly and football fans will flock to heaping bowls of chili.
All chili aficionados have their favorite recipes, but white chili proved to be the winning alternative to red chili at the annual Solano County 4-H Chili Cookoff, held Jan. 14 in the Community Presbyterian Church in Vallejo.
The Lil' Peppers — three members of the Pleasants Valley 4-H Club, Vacaville — took home top honors with their “White Chili with Avocado Cream.” It was like putting a feather in the caps of chefs Jessie Means and Elijah Desmarais and his sister Maleah Desmarais. Advised by their cooking leader Marlene Means, they made the dish at home, delivered it to the cook-off in a crockpot, and answered a series of questions from four-judge panel.
They based their entry on a Cooking Light magazine recipe, but added agave to suit their tastes (they acknowledged they're not partial to one ingredient, serrano chile). They also substituted a can of white beans for a 15-ounce can of unsalted chickpeas (garbanzo beans).
The cook-off, which drew a total of five teams, was part of the Solano County 4-H Project Skills Day, an opportunity for youths to showcase what they've learned in their projects and to hone their display and presentation skills. The day ended with the cook-off.
“The Chili Cook-Off continues to be a big draw at Project Skills Day,” said Solano County 4-H program representative Valerie Williams. “Through their participation, 4-H team members develop life skills like organization, decision-making and communication. Not to be overlooked, team members gain practical knowledge about kitchen safety, food safety, food preparation and nutrition, while developing their chili recipes.”
The chili judges — John Vasquez Jr. of Vacaville and Skip Thomson of Dixon, both members of the Solano County Board of Supervisors; and fellow chili enthusiasts Robert Reed of Benicia and Will Cant of Vallejo — said they enjoyed all the dishes, but especially the chicken chili. They went for seconds.
“It was really good,” said Vasquez, a veteran cook-off judge, praising the intermingling of the flavors and the competence of the chefs.
Coordinator Connie Reid of the Sherwood Forrest Club in Vallejo escorted the judges to each team's table, where the 4-H'ers introduced themselves and talked about their chili, the ingredients, the preparation and the outcome.
The Lil' Peppers' project all started with Jessie Means wanting to participate in the cook-off. She asked her mother and 4-H cooking project leader, Marlene Means, to help, and then Jessie recruited Elijah and Maleah Desmarais.
What to prepare? At most cook-offs, teams make red chili. The Lil Peppers decided on white chili, made with chicken and pork instead of beef.
For the cook-off, they donned blue aprons appliquéd with chili peppers, made by Jessie. They kept the decorations simple: a black tablecloth graced with a few chili peppers.
It was a great learning experience, Marlene Means said.
“The team learned to read and follow the recipe," she said. "They did have a few teary moments — cutting the onions. They were careful working with the peppers. All three worked very hard.”
When the 4-H'ers tasted their finished product, they decided it was "a little too spicy!” So they added a tablespoon of agave.
The end result: the team loved it, the judges loved it, and so did the crowd that grouped around their entry for samples.
“There were many repeat tasters,” Marlene Means said.
All three members of the Pleasants Valley 4-H Club are enrolled in cooking projects, but also a variety of other projects. Jessie, the club's historian, is enrolled in swine, rabbits, horse, sewing, food preservation, cooking, outdoor cooking, indoor mini gardens, baking and bread making, and dog care and training. Maleah is enrolled in fine art, outdoor cooking, rabbits, and cooking projects, while Elijah's projects are poultry, outdoor cooking and rabbits.
All the cook-off teams delighted in creating their own costumes. The Chili Girls of Sherwood Forest 4-H Club, Vallejo, dressed as penguins. Two Harry Potter fans from the Tremont 4-H Club, Dixon, opted for "tie attire." Another team from the Pleasants Valley 4-H Club, Vacaville, donned sunglasses; they were just chillin' when they served a chili reportedly favored by "The Duke" (John Wayne). Another group from Dixon, the Mean Green Chili Cooking Machine of the Dixon Ridge 4-H Club, came as themselves, in 4-H attire. Their chili lived up to their name; it was the hottest and was quite delicious, the judges agreed.
The members of the other teams:
- The Chili Girls from the Sherwood Forest 4-H Club, Vallejo: Selah Deuz, Celeste Harrison, Hanna Stephens and Julietta Wynholds
- Harry Potter and the Order of Chili, Tremont 4-H Club, Dixon: Isabel Martinez and Trinity Roach
- Just Chillin', Pleasants Valley 4-H Club, Vacaville: Braydon Gish, Shayley Gish, Justin Means and Maya Prunty
- Mean Green Chili Cooking Machines, Dixon Ridge 4-H Club, Dixon: Maritiza Partida Cisneros, Miguel Partida Cisneros and Rudy Cisneros Radillo
Here's the winning recipe that the Lil' Peppers prepared:
White Chili with Avocado Cream
1 serrano chile (this is hot and can be omitted, the 4-H'ers agreed)
1 jalapeño pepper
1 medium onion, peeled and halved
4 cups unsalted chicken stock, divided
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons adobo sauce
1 chipotle chile, canned in adobo sauce
2 (15-ounce) cans unsalted cannellini beans, rinsed, drained, and divided
5 -1/2 teaspoons olive oil
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1 pound ground pork
2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces, browned
3 cups fresh white corn kernels
1 (15-ounce) can unsalted chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained (the 4-H'ers substituted 1 can of white beans)
1 cup half-and-half
3/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, divided
1/3 cup plus 1-1/2 teaspoons fresh lime juice, divided
2-3/8 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1 medium ripe peeled avocado
1/3 cup light sour cream
3/4 cup diced tomatillo
1 tablespoon agave or honey
- Preheat broiler to high.
- Arrange first 3 ingredients on a foil-lined baking sheet. Coat with cooking spray. Place pan on middle oven rack; broil 15 minutes or until charred on all sides, turning occasionally. Wrap peppers in foil; let stand 5 minutes. Peel peppers; discard peels, stems, and seeds. Combine peppers, onion, 1/2 cup stock, flour, adobo sauce, chipotle, and 1 can cannellini beans in a blender; process until smooth.
- Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add garlic to pan; sauté 30 seconds. Add cumin, oregano, and coriander to pan; sauté 30 seconds. Add pork; cook 4 minutes, stirring to crumble. Stir in onion mixture and remaining 3-1/2 cups stock. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Add chicken to pan; cook 5 minutes. Stir in remaining can of cannellini beans, corn, and white beans; cook 7 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low. Stir in half-and-half, 1/2 cup cilantro, and 1/3 cup juice; cook 3 minutes. Stir in 2-1/4 teaspoons salt.
- Place avocado in a small bowl; mash with the back of a fork. Stir in sour cream, remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons juice, and remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt. Serve chili with remaining 1/4 cup cilantro, avocado cream, and tomatillo.
(Nutritional Information. Amount per serving: Calories 380; fat 18.6 grams; saturated fat 6 grams; monofat 8.3 g; polyfat 1.9 g; protein 30 g; carbohydrate 24 g; fiber 6 g; cholesterol 85 mg; iron 2 mg; sodium 592 mg; and calcium 86 mg)
Solano County, said 4-H Program Representative Valerie Williams, has nearly 500 4-H members enrolled in a total of 11 clubs:
- Dixon: Dixon Ridge 4-H, Maine Prairie 4-H, Roving Clovers 4-H and Tremont 4-H
- Vacaville: Elmira 4-H, Pleasants Valley 4-H and Vaca Valley 4-H
- Fairfield-Suisun: Westwind 4-H and Suisun Valley 4-H
- Rio Vista: Rio Vista 4-H
- Vallejo-Benicia: Sherwood Forest 4-H
The Solano County 4-H Youth Development Program, part of the UC Cooperative Extension Program of the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR), follows the motto, “Making the best better.” 4-H, which stands for head, heart, health and hands, is open to youths ages 5 to 19. In age-appropriate projects, they learn skills through hands-on learning in projects ranging from arts and crafts, computers and leadership to dog care, poultry, rabbits and woodworking. They develop skills they would otherwise not attain at home or in public or private schools, said Williams, who may be reached at email@example.com for further information on the program.
A souper bowl of chili, that is.
Question is, which recipe to prepare? Well, the Solano County 4-H Youth Development Program to the rescue.
Every year the Solano County 4-H Project Skills Day includes a Solano County 4-H Chili Cookoff. Teams sign up, prepare their chili in advance, and transport it in a crockpot or slow cooker to the venue (this year it was the C. A. Jacobs Middle School in Dixon). They field questions from the judges, who sample it, score it and select the winning team.
This year's winner was a pepper-loving team that used four different kinds of peppers and the secret ingredient — love.
The group, all members of the Dixon Ridge 4-H Club and enrolled in the countywide Outdoor Cooking Project, chose Pasilla, Serrano, Anaheim and green bell peppers and also displayed "specimens" in front of their crockpot.
Team members Quincy and Fallon Decious and Shaley and Braydon Gish said they plan to make the chili for their families on Super Bowl Sunday. “It's really good,” they all agreed.
While preparing the peppers, they said they wore “doctor gloves” to prevent the potent pepper oils from reaching their skin.
The judges praised the flavor and texture, the display and their enthusiasm. Judges were Cutter Hicks, reporter with the Dixon Tribune; Jim Nessen of Dixon, who works for a data company in Sacramento, and Kathy Keatley Garvey, a University of California, Davis employee and a longtime 4-H volunteer and food columnist.
Valerie Williams, Solano County 4-H Program representative, said the cookoff competition teaches the participants public speaking as well as cooking and presentation skills.
“Public speaking has been a cornerstone of the 4-H Youth Development Program,” she said. “Public speaking skills are ranked No. 1 among the skill sets of professionals.” Youths participating in the Project Skills Day “develop many life skills, including public speaking, organizing ideas, and creating and using graphics, resulting in increased self-esteem and confidence.”
Four teams competed in the annual cookoff. Others were:
- Los Chileros, Pleasants Valley 4-H Club, Vacaville, comprised of Gracie O'Dell, Randy Marley and Justin Means
- Chuck and the Three Frijolitos of Pleasants Valley 4-H Club, comprised of -Anna and Charlotte Kent and Sheridan Parks
- The Chili Dogs, Suisun Valley 4-H Club, comprised of Xavier Copeland, Christopher Lang, and Robert and Clairese Wright.
The Los Chileros used both pork and beef and fire-roasted peppers. Another addition was corn, for a southwestern-style chili.
Chuck and the Three Frijolitos' recipe opted for beef stew meat and three different kinds of beans: pinto, black and kidney.
The Chili Dogs' key ingredients were hot dogs and carrots. Each wore a t-shirt with an image and name of their family dog. They made biscuit-shaped rolls to accompany their chili.
The winning recipe:
Outdoor Cooking Project
By Fallon and Quincy Decious, and Brayden and Shaley Gish
Dixon Ridge 4-H Club, Countywide Outdoor Cooking Project
2 pounds of pork shoulder, cut in 1/2-inch chunks
2 pounds ground beef
Olive oil (as needed to brown meat)
2 cans of tomatoes, chopped or diced
2 cans of beans, one kidney and one pinto, drained
2 Pasilla peppers
2 Serrano peppers
2 Anaheim peppers
2 green bell peppers
2 cloves garlic
Water, approximately 1 cup
Seasonings to taste: Beef boullion, chili powder, ground cumin, garlic salt, black pepper, paprika
In a large stock pot, brown pork in the olive oil. Add the ground beef and continue cooking over high heat until beef is browned, about 30 minutes. Add the water and seasons. Cook an additional 30 minutes. Add tomatoes and beans. Turn down beef and simmer for 30 minutes. While mixture is simmering, coarsely chop onions and peppers and finely copped garlic. Add these to the pot and continue cooking until pork is tender, about another 30 to 45 minutes. Check flavor and add seasonings to taste. If needed, thicken chili with cornstarch.
Here's another recipe to try that the judges favored for the flavor:
By Randy Marley, Justin Means and Gracie O'Dell
Pleasants Valley 4-H Club, Vacaville
Three 15-ounce cans of tomatoes
One 15-ounce can of corn
One 15-ounce can of black beans
One 15-ounce can of kidney beans
One six-ounce can of tomato paste
2 green bell peppers
2 Pasilla peppers
1 to 2 jalapeno peppers, depending on taste
2 Anaheim peppers
1 to 4 stems of cilantro
3 pounds steak
A half pound of pork sausage
2 tablespoons chicken stock powder
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon garlic
4-ounce package of chili spices
Salt and pepper to taste
The ingredients "can be adjusted to suit your taste," they said.
Brown meat in a skillet and then put in crock pot. Cut vegetables and add to crock pot. Add spices and canned tomatoes and paste. Cook on high for six hours. Add the corn and beans the last 30 to 45 minutes.