Blog post written by Hilary Ross, Program Events Coordinator
What’s the recipe for a fun and engaging Sunday evening? Bring together four Boston-based organizations, add in 30 Big and Little Sisters, combine with five types of empanadas, bake for 30 minutes, and voila! The result is a room full of women and girls laughing, sharing healthful food they made themselves, and building bonds while working together.
On Sunday, May 22, we partnered with Project Bread, The KITCHEN at the Boston Public Market, and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts to host a healthy cooking class for our Big and Little Sisters.
Before the class, Chef Kim Andrade from Project Bread prepared five different types of fillings for our empanadas, ranging from savory to sweet. Chef Kim defined empanadas for the class as “a turnover or mold of pastry filled with chopped or ground meat, vegetables, or fruit, and usually baked or fried.” Varieties of these delicious hand-pies are found in cuisines around the globe, from Latin America to Southeast Asia.
Because hand-pies are a common food element in many different cultures, Chef Kim put a new spin on what may be a familiar favorite for many of our Big and Little Sisters. She chose a variety of fillings and showed the Sisters different ways to improvise on the classic dish. She also highlighted the fact that when baked, empanadas are a healthy meal choice.
In our class, Big and Little Sisters prepared savory Jamaican-inspired vegetable empanadas, a Cape Verdean tuna pastel, and chicken enchilada empanadas. For a sweet treat they learned how to prepare “monkey kisses” with coconut, chocolate, and banana; apple turnovers with dulce de leche; and a raspberry and cream cheese filled empanada.
Big Sister Melanie Toner and Little Sister Destiny especially enjoyed making raspberry and cream cheese empanadas. “What Destiny and I really liked about the cooking class was that while there was a great level of instruction, there was also the opportunity to be creative and play around with the recipe,” Melanie shared. She added that they enjoyed the teamwork aspect of the activity and the chance to meet and work with other Big and Little Sisters. “I could tell Destiny was really proud of what she made, which was wonderful to see!” Melanie said.
As the empanadas baked and the room filled with delicious smells, Big and Little Sisters explored the local vendors at the Boston Public Market, played games, and got to know each other better. The class culminated in a communal empanada feast where the Sisters shared their creations with each other.
The class was part of Big Sister Boston’s Health & Fitness programming, one of five programming categories we offer to our Sister matches. We know from First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign that childhood obesity rates have tripled in the United States over the past three decades, with many children at high risk of diabetes and other chronic obesity-related health problems. Learning to cook healthy, affordable meals at home is one way to develop healthy habits from a young age, and can even impact an entire family’s meal choices.
Big thanks are in order for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts for sponsoring this fun and educational activity, especially Yvonne Tang, Director of Corporate Citizenship and Business Integration, and Caeli Rubens, Manager of Corporate Citizenship, for coordinating the event. We’d also like to thank Kira LaFosse-Baker, the Engagement Site Manager at The KITCHEN at the Boston Public Market for securing the space and to Chef Kim Andrade and Justine Kahn, Assistant Director of Programs, at Project Bread for developing the menu and preparing the food.