When Michael Schmitz of College Station, Texas, prepares a meal at home, he’s pouring out all his love right onto the plate.
“I like to do acts of love,” says the 17 year old. “Cooking is the best, because I get to choose what we eat and surprise my mom.”
Michael’s culinary interest was piqued five years ago, when he first took cooking lessons through the local Down Syndrome Association. He came away with a binder full of recipes and cooking skills that he uses daily. He makes breakfast for himself — scrambled eggs with ranch dressing and mustard being a favorite — and prepares breakfast and dinner for his parents when the family schedule allows.
“Michael enjoys cooking and does a great job,” says his mom, Rose. “When we all sit down to one of his meals, prepared especially for our family, Michael’s confidence and independence grow.”
Sometimes Michael decides to skip the recipe binder and comes up with creations all his own. Over the summer he delighted in cooking up a complex casserole that included heaping amounts of several of his favorite foods and condiments, along with ingredients he knows are healthy. Eyes sparkling, he told his mom to close her eyes as he proudly brought out his creation.
“I did an act of love for you, Mom!” he exclaimed. “I made supper! What do you think?”
Rose opened her eyes to see a dish filled with flavor pairings that weren’t particularly palatable, but one that had obviously been prepared with great care and an artistic touch.
No matter how tasty the meal Michael’s parents are quick to appreciate his efforts, returning love with love. “If these experiments were presented with less evident love, we would probably react more negatively,” Rose explained. “However, because of the joy Michael shows when he presents his creations to us, we find ourselves thanking him with hugs and amazement at his efforts. These are also followed with some direction as to combinations of food that work together and those that don’t.”
For instance, his parents explained to Michael that not very many people like yellow mustard in their scrambled eggs. The next time, remembering the loving guidance, he used salt instead.
Those positive reactions fuel Michael’s desire to serve others around him. His parents see Michael dishing out love wherever he goes, including school and his grandfather’s house down the road.
We asked Michael to share one of his favorite recipes with Living City, and he was happy to pass along a quick and easy three-in-one dinner dish that comes straight from the heart.
Michael’s three-way Tex-Mex
Ingredients (serves 3-4):
1 lb ground beef or turkey, browned
1 can of ranch style beans
1 packet of taco seasoning
3 Roma tomatoes, chopped
Salad greens (spring mix or iceberg lettuce)
taco shells or tortillas
Mix beans and seasoning into the browned meat.
This meat combination can be served three different ways:
Taco salad: Put a spoonful of meat mixture on top of a bed of salad greens.
Soft tacos: Put a spoonful of meat mixture on top of a flour or wheat tortilla. Top with shredded cheese and tomato. Roll and eat.
Crispy tacos: Put a spoonful of meat mixture into a taco shell. Top with shredded lettuce, cheese and tomato.