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The 279Online Mac and Stew Cooking Extravaganza

Michael Mckinley, education support professional, and Jess Stewart, social studies teacher for 279Online, have a new unit on food and agriculture that teaches students how humans interact with the environment. 

“Right now, we are at a point where we have to do our part to sustain our ecosystem. We want our planet to be here long after we have our peace,” said McKinley.

McKinley strives to make the environment healthier and is excited to teach students about the ways he lives more sustainably. In his everyday life, he composts and has a greenhouse, but one way he changes the world is by teaching students through food. 

During the extravaganza, students learned various cooking techniques including how to cut vegetables and season their food properly. They even talked about the differences in onions and how to grow them at home. 

Students provided suggestions to improve their learning and wrote encouraging comments like “This is the best class ever!” As they talked about their experiences with food and what led them to learn how to cook, McKinley related to their experiences.

“Thanksgiving was big, and I was around pies,” McKinley joked as he reflected on his experience cooking with his mom. 

In an earlier class, McKinley and Stewart did a lesson on how to make chocolate mousse without the use of dairy. Students were impressed to learn what they could make using chickpeas and other items around the house.

“I’m trying to live sustainably and do what I can,” McKinley said as he encouraged students to apply what they learned in their everyday lives. 

If the 279Online Mac and Stew Cooking Extravaganza got you hungry, try the sustainable recipe at home!


1 tablespoon of oil
1 bag of frozen vegetables
1 onion
1 green or red pepper
1 cup of celery
1/2 cup of vegetable broth
1 can of tomato paste
1 can of black beans
1 tablespoon of salt
Pepper to taste
Garlic powder to taste

Chop onion, pepper, and celery. Season with salt, pepper and garlic powder. 
In a large saucepan saute onion, pepper and celery.
In a cooking pot, add 1/2 cup of broth and sautéed vegetables. Bring to a boil.
Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 6 to 8 minutes.
Steam frozen mixed vegetables in the microwave.
Stir in mixed vegetables, black beans, tomato paste and tomato paste. Return to boil.
Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until tender
Adjust seasonings to taste.

Serve hot and enjoy!