Iron Chef Impossible – Preschool Edition

eating vegetarian pasta

HOLY MOLY! This cooking job is hard. Crazy hard.

Day 2 began a smidge later than day 1 and a little worse for wear. I was greeted with the news that the hard-working kitchen assistant would not be coming in for the day. Breathe in. Breathe out. There is no sinking, only swimming.

I had an hour to put out a well rounded snack for around 120 food critics, I mean preschool and school age kids.

The hour flew by while I assembled a snack of mini bagels and cream cheese. I managed to figure out the allergy and dietary alternatives and get everything off to the classrooms with only a few minor mishaps. Whew!

With the snacks served it was time to begin making lunch. I already planned to make a vegetarian pasta sauce with spiral noodles. So… I loaded up the sink sized colander with every puree-able veggie in the fridge. After washing and cutting the veggies into large chunks I used a Robot Coupe to chop everything into teeny tiny pieces. The Robot Coupe looks like a small food processor bowl on top of a car battery. It weighs about 500 pounds! Well, more like 10 but still how many small appliances weigh 10 pounds?!? The bowl doesn’t hold much so it took about 6 batches to get everything chopped. Garlic, onions, celery, carrots, bell peppers, yellow summer squash, and zucchini were methodically whirred into a vegetable confetti.

making pasta sauce

I located a wide but shallow pot. After splashing in a bit of olive oil I added each batch of veggies one at a time allowing them to soften and simmer for a while. I seasoned and tasted. My usual cook by feel or “fly by the seat of my pantyhose” method would need to be amped up. I am finding it difficult to balance the amount of seasoning in dishes many times larger than what I make at home. Eventually I added a #10 can of crushed tomatoes and another of tomato sauce. I let everything simmer for as long as possible. It would have been nice to leave it for several hours but it only had about 20 minutes before lunch needed to be served. As it was I wound up dishing up whole wheat spiral pasta and sauce at the very last minute while scurrying around assembling the necessary entrée alternatives.

making vegetarian pasta sauce

The final product was just good enough, with a little more time and finesse it could have been fabulous. Next time I will use more garlic, salt, and pepper and maybe some balsamic vinegar. By the time I scooped some up for myself I was exhausted and wondering, “what in the world have I signed on for?” All of that made the pasta taste pretty incredible. I plopped down on the kitchen stool and thanked God for our hard working dish washer. A lot of pasta came back but mostly sauceless. I have decided to take it as a compliment…

making vegetarian pasta sauce

After lunch we received a grocery delivery and I had to do some pretty fancy maneuvering to wedge all the new items into the already full freezers. There are also two well stocked refrigerators.

Afternoon snack came together easily but it wasn’t my finest nutritional moment. I grabbed a few bags of frozen breaded cheese sticks from the freezer and let them get toasty while I sliced half a dozen pineapples into dainty wedges. I wasn’t thrilled about the cheese sticks but far less food came back after snack than after lunch. I tasted one just to see what the heck I was feeding everyone. They had the texture of a fish stick but with out the fishy taste. At 80 calories a piece they really weren’t that bad. The kids had one or two with some fruit.

preschool snack

With afternoon snack served I breathed a little sigh of relief. Then I went to put something into the milk cooler and it was not cold inside. Cool (still food safe) but not cold. The doors get opened and closed a bunch right before snack while staff grab milk for their classes. I left it for a few minutes but the thermometer didn’t return to normal.


A repairman was called and I set to work combining two mostly full units into one. I started grabbing gallons of milk to load onto the middle shelf of the kitchen fridge. One. Two. Three – Crash! Turns out that shelf only had three of its four supports clipped in. Nothing spilled or was damaged but I did need to pause for the briefest moment before figuring out how to move forward. Thanks to a few angelic co-workers and some Mary Poppins’ carpet bag magic all the food that needed to be moved fit into the kitchen fridge and a few corners of the freezers.

Before the end of the day an appliance super hero appeared in the kitchen. I am 100% convinced that he must be half woodland elf and half ninja. He was not so much a person as a blur of sound and activity. In no time he identified the problem and zipped around fixing it while talking a mile a minute.

I had him look at the kitchen refrigerator which had been crazy loud all day. He hopped up on a table and excitedly gestured for me to join him. With our noses peaking over the top of the stainless steel monster we inspected, the less dusty than I expected, situation. Sure enough one of the two motors was running dangerously slow. He did a little demonstration to illustrate the severity of the speed reduction. While still standing on the table top he turned to me and with the most hilariously deadly serious look on his face said, “it could go at any time.”

So after a quick trip to the office for approval and a few more spritely ninja moves we had new motor in the kitchen refrigerator and a replacement dose of Freon in the cooler. Awesome.

I didn’t get to end the day with a plan for the rest of the week. I did get up to my elbows in soapy water and finish the snack dishes. I also once again thanked God for dishwashers. Crazy as Day 2 was, it could have been much much worse.

washing dishes

For the Sake of Clarity: At no time during the refrigerator incident was any of the food unsafe for consumption. Should anything have become questionable it would have been disposed of immediately. In addition to feeding the children and staff of the center (including my son and mother) I also eat what I prepare and would like to prevent any food borne illness – because that would be truly unpleasant.

5 thoughts on “Iron Chef Impossible – Preschool Edition

  1. The only good thing about a day like that is it can’t get worse. Oops I hope I have not jinxed you. Just remember breathe and ask for help.

  2. Your fridge repairman reminded me of the Robert Deniro character in “Brazil.” Not that your place of employment is anything like the dark, dark world of that movie. I hope.

  3. What lucky kids to have you cooking for them! I’d let my daughter eat her school’s food if bore any resemblance to the healthy fare I know you’ll be making!

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