Airmen aprenden cómo preparar platos mexicanos-americano (Airmen learn how to prepare Mexican-American dishes)

Airman 1st Class Marleah Miller, 844th Communications Group, adds the finishing touch to the “macho nachos,” one of the several Mexican-American dishes prepared July 31 during a dormitory cooking class at Blanchard Barracks. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class R. Michael Longoria)

Airman 1st Class Marleah Miller, 844th Communications Group, adds the finishing touch to the “macho nachos,” one of the several Mexican-American dishes prepared July 31 during a dormitory cooking class at Blanchard Barracks. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class R. Michael Longoria)

Tech. Sgt. Vernon Scott, enlisted aide to Lt. Gen. David A. Deptula, discusses proper chopping techniques while Airman 1st Class Adiah Phillips, 844th Communications Group, chops lettuce July 31 during a dormitory cooking class at Blanchard Barracks. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class R. Michael Longoria)

Tech. Sgt. Vernon Scott, enlisted aide to Lt. Gen. David A. Deptula, discusses proper chopping techniques while Airman 1st Class Adiah Phillips, 844th Communications Group, chops lettuce July 31 during a dormitory cooking class at Blanchard Barracks. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class R. Michael Longoria)

Master Sgt. Tim Carter, enlisted aide to Lt. Gen. Carrol H. Chandler, makes an enchilada sauce from scratch July 31 during a dormitory cooking class at Blanchard Barracks. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class R. Michael Longoria)

Master Sgt. Tim Carter, enlisted aide to Lt. Gen. Carrol H. Chandler, makes an enchilada sauce from scratch July 31 during a dormitory cooking class at Blanchard Barracks. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class R. Michael Longoria)

BOLLING AFB, D.C. -- Bolling Airmen received a crash course on several easy-to-make Mexican-American dishes during a dormitory cooking class at Blanchard Barracks July 31.

Two of our general officer enlisted aides held the class in a continuing effort to teach Airmen how to shop, handle and prepare their own meals since the closing of the dinning facility.

"This is an awesome program," said Chief Master Sgt. Randall A. Raper, 11th Wing command chief. "There is more to life than Ramen noodles! Many of our young Airmen have never had to learn to cook, always relied on mom to take care of that business.

"There are plenty of processed food chefs in the barracks," the chief added. "However, these meals are unhealthy. This program provides instruction in easy-to-prepare healthy and hearty meals. This of course ties in directly with our fit-to-fight initiatives."

As Airmen were tightly gathered around the small dormitory kitchen, Master Sgt. Tim Carter, enlisted aide to Lt. Gen. Carrol H. Chandler, and Tech. Sgt. Vernon Scott, enlisted aide to Lt. Gen. David A. Deptula, showed the Airmen how to make several Mexican-American dishes.

The dishes are selected based on four criteria: Is it inexpensive? Is it healthy? Does it have a short ingredient list? And is it easy to make?

"All food, all styles and all regions are open game," said Sergeant Scott. "If we can make it for you in an inexpensive way that still tastes good and it clears the guidelines, we pick it. Variation is the spice of culinary life -- mix it up."

Before the cooking began, Sergeant Scott briefed the Airmen on food care and rules to follow in the kitchen. "Although food-borne illnesses can occur anywhere, it is more likely in a dormitory room where proper food handling and storage are difficult," he said.

A few things to keep in mind to help maintain safe food and lower the risk of injury:
--Always take perishable food home quickly after grocery shopping.
--Do not be leave perishable foods out of the refrigerator for more than two hours.
--Allow for extra cooking time to cook food thoroughly when using a microwave oven. (In the dorm, other equipment can drain current from the electrical circuit causing a longer cooking time.)
--Refrigerate all carry-outs including pizza, fried chicken and Chinese food as soon as possible after serving.
--Always check "care packages" (food from home) to see if the cans or packages need to be refrigerated after opening.
--Eat at your desk to avoid getting crumbs on the floor or in your bed.
--Clean dishes immediately after eating.
--Use crates to store dry goods.
--Be prepared; keep your refrigerator stocked.
--Put only microwave-safe dishes in the microwave.
--Always cover food with wax paper or a paper towel before microwaving it to avoid splattering.
--Use a pot holder when removing anything from the microwave.

Following these precautions should lower the risk of food-borne illnesses and injury.

Sergeant Scott said for questionable food, the old adage "When in doubt, throw it out," still holds true.

The cooking class is held toward the end of every month.

"The response has been amazing," said Sergeant Scott. "We have the best Aiirmen in the Air Force here at Bolling. Airmen are starting to get into cooking. Plus, how can you turn down free food?"

A binder with all the recipes prepared in the class will be maintained by the Blanchard Barracks dorm managers. This binder will be a work in progress, as it includes the safety briefings and will continue to grow as we teach more classes and prepare different meals. To obtain a copy of any of the recipes or other information, please see the dorm management staff.

The program is being sponsored by the National Capitol Region's Chief Group, the Air Force Officers Wives Club and the Airman and Family Readiness Center.

To donate plates, bowls, pots, pans, silverware, cups and other kitchen utensils, contact your first sergeant.