Nurturing culinary skills in 4-H
Not so for those enrolled in the foods and nutrition program in UC Agriculture and Natural Resources' (UC ANR) 4-H Youth Development Program. Youths as young as five learn how to prepare healthy nutritious food.
And yes, they learn how to make desserts, such as special treats for their family and friends at Halloween.
Former Solano County 4-H All-Star Ambassador Julianna Payne was so interested in the foods and nutrition project offered by the Sherwood Forest 4-H Club, Vallejo, she plans a culinary career.
"That's where I found my love of cooking and most especially, baking," said Payne, 19, who just completed her 14th year in 4-H, including 10 years in foods and nutrition.
4-H is administered by UC ANR Cooperative Extension offices in every California county. The program focuses on leadership and life skills.
"I believe that one of the most important life skills a person needs is knowing how to cook for themselves," Julianna said.
Payne, a 2014 high school graduate, is in her second year at Solano Community College, Fairfield. In the spring, she plans to attend an area culinary school to earn her associate degree in baking and pastry.
"During my 10 years in the food and nutrition project, I made so many things I could not even begin to count," she recalled. "I have made savory things like tamales, empanadas, raviolis, and chilis and I have made sweet things like, peppermint bark, pumpkin scones, toffees, and chocolate orange cupcakes."
Julianna, who joined 4-H at age 5, went on to serve as president of her club for three years. Her experience, enthusiasm and commitment to 4-H led to her being selected for the county's highest 4-H honor: Solano County 4-H All-Star Ambassador.
Her mother, Sharon Payne, is a former community leader of the Sherwood Forest 4-H Club and a past president of the Solano County 4-H Leaders' Council.
“4-H is a fantastic youth development organization that teaches youth life skills, leadership and citizenship,” said Sharon Payne, a 13-year 4-H volunteer. “Within their projects, youth can learn about whatever topic that interests them, from foods to computers or animals to robotics. Project work stimulates interests and skills and can introduce youth to careers they may not have otherwise considered.”
Said Valerie Williams, Solano County 4-H Program representative: “The 4-H Youth Development Program has a long history of promoting healthy living among youth and their families. Reconnecting youth to a healthy food system and teaching them how to grow and prepare fresh food is the focus of many 4-H healthy living programs. 4-H adult volunteer leaders provide mentoring to 4-H members, which plays a vital role in helping them select career paths and achieve success.”
As for Julianna Payne, she is continuing to hone her skills. She entered her gluten-free chocolate/orange cupcakes at the recent Solano County Fair, Vallejo and drew rave reviews from the judges, staff and volunteers who sampled the cupcakes.
Soon she will be teaching other 4-H'ers as she herself was taught.
“I plan on giving back to 4-H this year by becoming a project leader myself," Julianna said. "I will be teaching a cupcake project for 5-to-8-year-olds in the Sherwood Forest 4-H Club."
Here's the recipe:
Gluten Free Chocolate Orange Cupcakes with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting, Chocolate Drizzle and Candied Orange Peel
For the Cupcakes:
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons orange zest
1 cup boiling water
1-3/4 cups all-purpose gluten free flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Heat oven to 350°F. Line about 30 muffin cups (2-1/2 inch in diameter) with paper or foil baking cups.
Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil, orange juice, orange zest and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Fill cups 2/3 full with batter.
Bake 22 to 25 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in centers comes out clean. Cool completely in pans on wire rack. Makes about 30 cupcakes.
For the Frosting:
4 ounces unsalted butter, softened
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon Orange zest
In a large bowl, beat together the butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer. With the mixer on low speed, add the powdered sugar a cup at a time until smooth and creamy. Beat in the vanilla extract the orange juice and orange zest.
For the Garnish:
3 ounces semi-sweet chocolate baking bar
1 cup of water
1 cup of sugar
Melt chocolate in a bowl over a double boiler. Drizzle over cupcakes. Peel the orange and cut into 1/4 inch slices. Boil in water until tender. Drain. Heat sugar and water in pot until dissolved. Simmer orange peels in sugar water for 30 minutes. Set on cooling rack to cool. Once cool, toss in granulated sugar and set as garnish on top of cupcakes. Enjoy.
Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
Julianna Payne's cupcakes were a big hit at the Solano County Fair. From left are Gloria Gonzalez, superintendent of McCormack Hall; Julianna Payne; Sharon Payne, assistant superintendent; and Angelica Gonzalez, staff. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey).