CANTON – For Brenda Adams, cooking is not reserved for her own kitchen. It’s a love that’s grown beyond her own kitchen and into the lives of family, friends, co-workers and schoolchildren, throughout Maine and even to another continent.

“Cooking is my passion, and I enjoy catering and entertaining for family and friends,” she said. “I have been a school nutrition director for 28 years, including SAD 21, SAD 36, SAD 43 and currently at Jay School Department. I have also been very active in the Maine School Food Service Association, leading me to be president of the association in 1996 representing Maine.” Her service was rewarded when she was elected Northeast regional director for the American School Food Service Association during 1999 and 2000.

One of the her fondest memories comes from a 1996 trip to South Africa she took with her husband, Charlie, when they helped with nutrition standards for schoolchildren.

“A delegation of 33 men and women from across the U.S. flew to Johannesburg, South Africa, to represent the American School Food Service Association for a two-week stay,” she said.

“We visited schools, universities and health organizations. When Nelson Mandela became president, his mission was that every child had the opportunity to attend school. The South African Healthy Ministry had a monumental task to provide healthy nutritious meals to schools without refrigeration and sanitation.”

Adams recalls how the lunch programs varied from the ones she knows. “Our first school visit was an eye-opener. The teacher had 45 children, all ages, per room, and (they) spoke seven different tribal languages, including some at age 16 that had never had the opportunity to go to school. Their “Mandela lunch” consisted of whole-wheat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, along with reconstituted soybean dry milk that was mixed in a dishpan with a wooden spoon and served in a tomato-soup size can. Once children drank the milk, the cans were rinsed in cold water and placed back in a box for the following day. Once we returned to the U.S., the ASFSA delegates sent stainless steel pans, wire whips, books and sewing machines back to the schools.”

Today, Adams continues to learn and share her knowledge of cooking with other school nutrition employees by teaching workshops, primarily focusing on low-fat cooking.

Adams, who lives in Canton, enjoys “traveling, snowmobiling in Canada and above the Arctic Circle in Finland, kayaking, interior decorating, bird-watching (especially the eagle often sighted from my kitchen window) and visiting my family’s cottage in Rangeley.”

Chicken picatta
2 whole boneless chicken breasts, cut in half

¼ pound butter, to use at the end

¼ pound of butter or enough oil to fry the chicken

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, approximately

2 eggs or Egg Beaters

1 small lemon, or half a large lemon

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

Salt and pepper
¼ cup capers, drained

Pound the 4 chicken breast halves until slightly thin. Mix 1 cup cheese and 1/8 teaspoon pepper and ½ teaspoon salt. Beat eggs, dip chicken in egg, roll in cheese. Heat oil or butter over medium high heat – do not brown the butter. Cook coated chicken about five minutes a side, depending on thickness, until done. Move to warm platter or warm oven while preparing the sauce. Put empty frying pan on high heat, let it get fairly hot, add one stick of butter, deglaze the pan, stirring until butter is very bubbly, but not too brown, just golden. Add juice of lemon, let it come to a boil again, add 2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce and the capers, shake pan to mix. It should be a translucent, rich caramel color. Pour over warm chicken breast, garnish with lemon crowns or lemon twist and fresh parsley.

Brenda’s note

Boneless pork chops also are great in this recipe.

Yeast rolls
2 cups warm water (110 to 115 degrees)

½ cup sugar

¼ cup canola oil

1 egg or Egg Beaters

1 teaspoon salt

6½ cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons instant yeast

Place warm water in mixer with a dough hook attached. Add sugar, canola oil, egg, instant yeast. Add 3 cups flour; beat on medium for 2 minutes. Add remaining flour and let dough hook knead the bread for 7 minutes. Place dough in oiled bowl, cover with towel and let rise until double in size. Punch down the dough, shape into rolls, place in greased pan(s). Bake at 375 degrees for 15 to 18 minutes. Yields 2 dozen rolls.

My mom’s coffee dot fudge
3 cups sugar

1 cup milk

½ cup light cream

2 tablespoons instant coffee

1 tablespoon light corn syrup

Pinch of salt

3 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

½ cup chocolate chips
½ cup pecans

Butter sides of heavy three-quart saucepan. In it, combine sugar, milk, light cream, coffee, corn syrup and salt. Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly until sugar dissolves and mixture comes to a boil. Cook to 235 degrees on a candy thermometer, stirring only if necessary if the temperature is rising too quickly. Usually this stirring isn’t needed. Remove from heat and add butter, let cool until 110 degrees. Make sure it cools without stirring. Add vanilla and beat by hand until fudge becomes very thick. Fold in chocolate chips and pecans, spread into buttered 8- by 8-inch pan. Let cool before cutting.

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