Celebrity Chef Michelle Bernstein is one busy lady: a James Beard Award winner, cookbook author, owner of three restaurants including highly-rated Michy’s in Miami, mother, Top Chef guest judge. On top of all that, she’s a member of the nonprofit Common Threads‘ Executive Chef Board, creating new recipes for the programs, helping with fundraising, and teaching classes. She took time out of her busy schedule to talk with Babble about the important work she’s doing with Common Threads.
Common Threads offers cooking classes for elementary-aged kids and their families, with a focus on underserved and low-income communities in Chicago, Washington DC, Los Angeles, and Miami. Common Thread’s mission is to educate children on the importance of nutrition and physical well-being, and to foster an appreciation of cultural diversity through cooking.
Over 1000 kids were served by Common Threads in 2011, learning about wholesome foods, preparing affordable meals, and strengthening relationships through cooking side-by-side with family and friends.
The impact, says Bernstein, is “incredible. It’s changing the lives of 99% of the families involved. They begin shopping for food together, eating together, learning about nutrition together.”
The classes are ones that, according to Bernstein, are “a casual warm place kids feel comfortable going to.” And they’re making a difference: kids learn to make better food choices, and over 70% of students eat more fruits and vegetables. They also eat less junk food, and have fun preparing meals and eating together.
The kids favorite recipe? “Pizza, of course!”
Chef Bernstein shared a nutritious, and delicious, recipe, similar to those used in Common Threads, with Babble readers – it’s a healthier twist on another perennial childhood favorite, macaroni and cheese. It’s already been proclaimed delicious by the littlest chefs in my house.
New Style Mac N Cheese by Michelle Bernstein
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons white onion, peeled and diced (1/8 of an inch)
1 garlic clove, minced
2 cups Israeli Couscous
Pinch of salt
2 ¼ cups vegetable or chicken stock (unsalted)
1 cup broccoli, cut into tiny pieces (about ¼ inch)
1 cup carrots, peeled and cut into tiny pieces (about ¼ inch)
¼ cup green beans, sliced thin into rounds
¼ cup milk
1 ½ cups mild cheddar cheese, grated
Heat the oil over medium low heat in a large sauce pan, add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the couscous, raise the heat to medium and cook, stirring, until just golden. Add the stock and a pinch of salt and cook for 7 minutes. Add the vegetables and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes. Add the milk, stir for a minute then shut off the heat and stir in the cheese.
Taste for seasoning.