Cooking can be fun, and when Food Bank of Delaware WIC Education Specialist Alisha Beckford hosts a cooking class – on Zoom — for parents and children on a bitterly cold February night, the result is almost a party. Who’s ready for dinner when – in less than an hour — the hearty, nutritious pot of chicken and dumplings is the result?
Another of our WIC Education Specialists, Chong Yi, assisted Alisha behind the scenes: Chong was on hand to answer chat questions and post pertinent information for the 19 participants, and kids, representing Neighborhood House, Hilltop, and ELC Newark.
WIC educators are trained to modify traditional recipes to accommodate the program’s approved food items, yet incorporate taste, eye-appeal, and appropriate nutritional values for young children.
Alisha started the class showing everyone how to prepare the dumpling dough with flour, milk and melted butter. Baking powder, she explained, is needed if the flour is not enriched to rise.
She selected pre-seasoned, frozen chicken strips – they are also pre-cooked – which can be cut into smaller pieces for children. Meanwhile, Alisha started a boiling a pot of water or broth, seasoned to taste with the cook’s selection of herbs and spices.
This recipe also called for peeled, sliced potatoes and canned or frozen vegetables; the result would yield a satisfying and kid-friendly meal containing protein, vegetables and starches.
In a skillet, Alisha first sautéed chopped onions over a low heat, then added the chicken. As a WIC educator, she explained chicken’s nutrient values, adding that it was rich in iron. “It’s important to incorporate iron-rich foods in our daily diet,” she said, noting the flour for the dumplings was iron fortified.
While the chicken and onions simmered, Alisha announced it was time to “go ahead and start the dumplings.” Making the dumplings from tiny balls of dough, she demonstrated and provided an opportunity to get the kids involved. “The kids really like rolling the dough into little balls,” she said. Alisha emphasized that it was important to keep the dough balls about the size of a fingertip; they puff up while cooking. She also suggested putting the dough balls into a bowl and “cook all at once, then go back and stir the onions and chicken.”
As the dumplings were cooking in the broth or water, Alisha suggested adding frozen or canned mixed vegetables, such as carrots and peas. “It’s a good time to sneak in dark, leafy greens,” she added.
How do you know when the dumplings are ready to eat? Alisha suggested testing one to make sure it is not still doughy inside. She recommended moms allow the dinner to simmer a bit so the broth thickens slightly.
The participants’ enthusiasm heightened as the meal neared completion. “Look at that, Mommy,” said one child. Moms asked to see the pot, and one said “My husband’s going to enjoy that.”
“Thank you. This was fun; I really enjoyed it,” said another.
Despite pandemic restrictions, WIC services are available by phone statewide for children from birth through age 5 and for pregnant and post-partum women. Breast feeding peer counseling is also offered. WIC offices are: 302-283-7540 in New Castle County and 302-424-7220 in Kent and Sussex counties.
WIC recipients with proof of Delaware residency are also eligible to receive food through the Food Bank of Delaware’s Healthy Pantry sites in Milford and Newark.
Visit www.fbd.org to learn more about programs that support women, children, seniors, and food-insecure families statewide.