Fuel for the fight

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Cheryl Schweizer/Columbia Basin Herald Culinary instructor Susie Moberg (left) and student Hielsi Rodriguez prepare soup destined as the main course of meals for cancer patients and their families. It’s a joint project of CB Tech and the Columbia Basin Cancer Foundation.

MOSES LAKE — Culinary students at Columbia Basin Technical Skills Center (CB Tech) and the Columbia Basin Cancer Foundation are teaming up to do some of the cooking for cancer patients and their families. The “Meals to Heal” program is open to people currently undergoing cancer treatment.

“It’s not always easy to go with a cancer patient and still come back and cook,” said Alyssa Schrader, a culinary student chopping vegetables Tuesday morning. Alyssa’s grandfather currently is undergoing treatment, and that requires an all-day trip to Wenatchee. Nobody’s interested in cooking when they get home, she said. “We eat TV dinners.”

The CB Tech kitchen aims higher than TV dinners. The meals are delivered every other week, and include the entree, cookies – from the CB Tech kitchen, of course – and salad. For the cancer patients also receive broth, beef or chicken, depending on available bones.

Tuesday the students were making cheeseburger soup, slicing and dicing potatoes and onions, cubing cheese, making a roux. The recipe combines ground beef, the vegetables and cheese, milk and sour cream, a professional cook’s recipe. “It’s delicious, though,” said culinary instructor Susie Moberg.

Cooking for cancer patients does require some changes in technique. “Everything has to be super-clean,” Alyssa said. “Clean and sanitize everything,” said Josue Velasquez.

The culinary class has made casseroles for the project, different kinds of soup, pasta with marinara sauce made from donated fresh tomatoes. The class had chili left after a catering job, and featured that as an entree.

The program relies on donated food, Moberg said. “Or we couldn’t do it.” Donations of fresh vegetables and fruit are accepted, as well as donations of grocery store gift cards.

Moberg said she’s also looking for donations of bones, but all bone donations must be from licensed meat processing facilities.

The bones are not just plunked in a pot of water, either. “It’s an involved process,” said culinary instructor Steve Armstrong.

Steaming the bones for 24 hours extracts the maximum amount of nutrients, Moberg said. The bones and vegetables - carrots, celery and onion are roasted first, then go into the kitchen’s steamer with a little garlic. “They (the vegetables) add an extra layer of flavor,” Armstrong said.

Making broth is a basic technique every CB Tech chef will encounter in restaurant kitchen, Armstrong said. “They’re doing something worthwhile” as well as learning critical skills, he said.

“This building will smell like broth when I make it.”

Armstrong said he gives the culinary students a piece of advice as they’re working on the project. “Be thinking about the families you’re helping,” he said.

Cheryl Schweizer can be reached via email at education@columbiabasinherald.com.

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