WINDER - Mary Maples has cooked for Barrow County school children for 13 years, first as a food assistant before rising to culinary manager at Apalachee High School. All that practice paid off March 15 when Maples won the state's first-place culinary award from the Georgia School Nutrition Association, an organization that promotes school nutrition.
GSNA's annual recipe contest offered three categories this year - whole grain pasta, sweet potato carrot souffle and dessert. Maples knew she had a winner with her whole wheat chicken pasta recipe.
"I picked whole wheat pasta with chicken and made it cold because whole wheat pasta is bland anyway and keeping it hot makes it sticky," Maples said.
The state contest took place at the Cordon Bleu Culinary College in Atlanta, she said, in front of a panel of chefs. Three hours was all the time allotted to make her creation from scratch. Maples said she was finished in one hour.
"The dilemma was cooking it and cooling it to below 40 degrees in three hours," she said. "I was sound asleep one night and woke up and realized I needed to take bags of ice to put on top of the pasta and the chicken to cool it down. The bags kept the melting ice from making the pasta watery."
Barrow County's Board of Education members enjoyed servings of the award-winning pasta prior to the May board meeting.
"It really is good," Superintendent Ron Saunders said.
Her secret is an ingredient found in every kitchen.
"I use an Italian vinegar fat-free dressing and it has a vinegar bite to it," Maples said. "I cut it with a little bit of sugar."
Maples won a white culinary jacket with her name on it, a chef's hat and $100.
SideBar: Chicken Pasta Salad
6 lbs. whole wheat rotini pasta
12 lbs. diced chicken
8 cups fat-free Italian dressing
1 cup sugar
Cook chicken and pasta separately. In a separate bowl mix well the dressing and sugar.
After the pasta and chicken cool, mix together and pour 5 cups Italian dressing and sugar mixture over and toss well. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Save 3 cups of the dressing mixture to use the next day.
The next day
3 lbs. fresh broccoli
3 lbs. tomatoes
2 lbs. bell peppers
16 oz. fresh mushrooms
2 lbs. purple onion
2 cups sunflower seeds
2 cups sliced black olives
6 cups shredded cheese
3 cups Italian dressing/sugar mixture
Cut up the broccoli, dice the tomatoes and bell peppers, slice the mushrooms and purple onion, then mix all those vegetables with sunflower seeds, 1 cup olives and 3 cups of the shredded cheese in with the past and chicken. Mix the dressing and sugar mixture in with everything and put it in the refrigerator to chill.
Just before serving put the remaining cheese on top, then the remaining black olives on top of the cheese.
Printed with permission from the
Barrow County school system