With a stronger-than-ever national focus on what kids are eating, we’re looking at how local culinary instructors, educators, chefs and parents are getting children excited about cooking and making smart food choices. Starting this month, we’ll bring you weekly tips, recipes, dining-out ideas, hands-on activities and more.

A co-captain on the Clayton High School Swim Team, Dana Schwartz is serious about staying healthy, but doesn’t always have the time to prepare healthy lunches and snacks.

Her mother, Mary Schwartz, a former meat-and-potatoes farm girl turned gourmet cook, wanted to instill some culinary technique into her daughter’s repertoire before she goes off to college and starts cooking on her own next year. So, the two enrolled in the Ritz-Carlton, St. Louis’ recent Back to School – Modern Day Lunch Bag cooking class.

The class covered spreads; dips, salads, and dressings; sweets, treats and snacks; parfaits and smoothies. (Check out last week's snack recipes from the Ritz cooking class here.)

“Dana was interested in the whole cooking process,” Mary Schwartz says. “The chefs provided a healthy segue into things that are more adventuresome as well as cooking techniques.”

One of lunch items they both loved was the Poached Chicken Club. “The water mixture with pepper and salt cooks the chicken in about 6 to 8 minutes, and it was so much more flavorful than the marinated chicken we’ve made,” Dana Schwartz says.

The Ritz’s executive pastry chef Simone Faure says one of the reasons she included the Poached Chicken Club in the recipe list for the class was her own love of fried chicken from her hometown of New Orleans.

“I loved fried chicken, and I didn’t think there was life beyond frying chicken. Then I went to culinary school and learned there were so many options for me to enjoy chicken without putting on 15 pounds,” she says. “This is flavorful, delicious and it’s still chicken.”

The sandwich replaces the bacon element with turkey bacon, she says. The avocado provides the creaminess, and the cilantro the incredible taste. The arugula adds the crisp salad flavor.

The guacamole can be prepared two days in advance as long as it’s kept in an airtight container to stop any browning from taking place.

Poached Chicken Club

Courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton, St. Louis

Poached Chicken

  • 2 quarts water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 lemon, cut in half
  • ¼ cup salt
  • 2 Tbsp whole black peppercorns
  • 1 6 oz boneless, skinless chicken breast

| Preparation – Poached Chicken | Place water on stove in medium sized pot on high heat. Add all ingredients except chicken. Once water comes to a boil, turn down heat to medium. Add chicken breast, cook 6 to 8 minutes or until chicken is cooked thoroughly. Set aside.


  • 1 avocado
  • 2 Tbsp lime or lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1 Roma tomato, de-seeded and diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

| Preparation – Guacamole | In medium-sized mixing bowl, break down avocado and lemon/lime juice with a whisk or fork until avocado has turned into creamy state. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix thoroughly. Set aside in refrigerator.

Additional Toppings

  • 1 Tbsp vegetable or canola oil
  • 1 medium sweet onion, sliced
  • 2 slices turkey bacon
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 handful arugula
  • 1 vine-ripened tomato, sliced into ¼-inch pieces
  • 2 slices vegan or whole-grain bread

| Preparation – Additional Toppings | In a medium-sized sauté pan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add sliced onions and cook them slowly until they are golden brown in color, continuously stirring to achieve even caramelization. Set aside. Heat a medium-sized sauté pan over medium-high heat. Once pan is hot, add turkey bacon and cook until crisp, 3 to 5 minutes on each side. Set aside.

In a small mixing bowl, toss arugula with olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper to taste.

| Assembly | Toast vegan or whole-grain bread. Spread 1 Tbsp guacamole on each piece of bread. Place chicken breast on bottom piece. Add tomato and turkey bacon on top of chicken. Add caramelized onions and arugula. Cut in half and serve.

More Feast Magazine | Inspired Midwest food culture covering St. Louis, Kansas City and mid-Missouri articles.