LEWISTON – Samantha Holden’s future in the culinary arts almost passed her by without her even knowing it. As she hung up the phone and jotted down another reservation for The Green Ladle, which is Lewiston Regional Technical Center’s culinary arts restaurant on Goddard Road, she shook her head and smiled at the thought.

“When I was sophomore and getting ready to apply to LRTC, I had to sign up for information sessions in two areas. I didn’t even want to cook, really, but I went to the session; I was the only one there. Somehow, they talked me into giving it a try.”

Now, almost two years later, the Lewiston resident is planning her life around her love of the culinary arts. After graduation in early June, she has a list of goals she’s determined to accomplish.

“First, I want to become a chef on a cruise line, so I can travel all over. Then, I’d like to maybe be a personal chef. Those two jobs will get me a lot of experience. Finally, I’d love to open my own restaurant and catering business.” Her first step, though, is to go to school. “I’ve been accepted to the New England Culinary Institute in Vermont, but I’m still considering a lot of options right now.”

In the short time that she’s been in the culinary arts program in Lewiston, Holden has developed fine skills and a sense of leadership. The program coordinator and head chef, Dan Caron, says, “She’s one of our stars. Sam works very hard.”

Time spent at The Green Ladle gives Holden valuable experience.

“Everyone here takes on all roles in the restaurant,” she explains. “Today, I’m a hostess. Next week, I may cook. Two weeks later, I’ll serve the meals. Not everyone likes doing everything, but it’s a good way to learn all about running a restaurant, from menu planning to seating and serving.”

Holden enjoys preparing soups and sautéed dishes. “Oh, I just love them, mostly because I really enjoy eating them, too. They’re easy to make, but so delicious!” She’s still learning to enjoy baking. “It’s not that I hate it, but if I had a choice between cooking a meal and baking, it would be meals, hands down.”

When the phone rang again, she took another reservation. After hanging up, she stressed that everyone is welcome and said she hopes the restaurant program continues. Then, two women who were looking forward to a great meal entered. Holden greeted them with a smile.

“Everyone is welcome,” she said. “Just make sure to get a reservation!”

The Green Ladle is open Wednesday through Friday, from January to May. The restaurant serves a lunch buffet and offers seatings from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Reservations can be made by calling 777-3199.

Cheesy chicken casserole
2 cans cream of chicken soup

1 can cream of mushroom soup

4 cups white rice

2 cups leftover chicken (more or less, depending on your taste)

1 to 2 cans of peas, fully drained (again, amount is to taste)
8-ounce bag of mozzarella cheese
Cook rice in 4 cups of water and put cooked rice in a regular-size casserole dish. Add the cream of mushroom and cream of chicken soups. Mix the chicken and peas into the rice mixture, then slowly mix in the cheese, being careful not to make the rice mushy. Cook at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes.
Samantha’s notes:
This casserole is very good for getting rid of leftovers. A quick and easy meal that is also cheap to make. For variations, use carrots, summer squash, onions or other vegetables instead of the peas. You can also add different kinds of cheese (such as cheddar) or rice (such as wild rice). Turkey, ham or tuna can be used in place of the chicken.
Creamy chicken Alfredo
2 chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces

2 cups pasta (penne, linguine or fettuccine works best)

1 teaspoon each basil, oregano and parsley, mixed together

1 tablespoon garlic

2½ cups light cream

1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

3 tablespoons oil
Approximately 1½ cups white wine
Cook your pasta al dente, strain and rinse with cold water. Set aside.

Put the oil in medium pan and put the heat almost on high. Put your chicken, garlic and herbs in the pan and sauté until the chicken is done. Toss a few times to coat all of the chicken. Dump in enough of your wine to cover the bottom of the pan to deglaze the pan and reduce the liquid to 3 to 4 tablespoons. Deglazing your pan helps to get flavor cooked onto the pan into your chicken and sauce. When wine is reduced, add in the cream and bring to a boil. Boiling your cream will help the thickening process. Once cream is reduced a little, add cheese a little at a time. You may not actually need all of it, but you may add some to the top of the dish to help garnish. Add the pasta, heat through and serve.
Samantha’s notes:
This recipe was introduced to me through my culinary arts teacher, Danny Caron. I use it frequently and am sharing it because every pasta lover needs to know this recipe. You also can sauté the chicken ahead of time, until it’s about 90 percent cooked, then refrigerate it; return it to the pan with the garlic and herbs and continue the recipe.

For variations, you can add sun dried tomatoes, capers or other vegetables to make it more of a meal. Shallots may be used instead of the garlic for a less-potent flavor.
Orange salad
1 tub (16 ounces) cottage cheese

1 can mandarin oranges, drained completely
1 box orange Jell-O mix
Put the cottage cheese in a bowl and mix the Jell-O powder in. Add mandarin oranges, but be careful not to break them apart. Serve cold.
Samantha’s notes:
This is a very simple and very tasty recipe my family has used at family reunions and large gatherings because it is quick and simple to make in large amounts. Variations: You can add orange slices or any kind of fruit cut in bite-sized pieces to change the recipe to your own taste. A different flavor of Jell-O can be used, as well.

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