FOURTH-ANNUAL GARDEN HAIKUS FOR EARTH DAY CONTEST

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Earth Day Haiku Contest.jpgWe are celebrating the bounty of spring with poetry contest.

Celebrate National Gardening Month, National Poetry Month AND Earth Day this April by taking part in the fourth-annual Recipe for Success Foundation Garden Haikus for Earth Day Contest. Students and adults are invited to enter the citywide contest online. Houstonians can also pick up flyers and submit haikus on April 4 at the Recipe for Success booth at Bayou Greenway Day along Brays Bayou, on April 11 at the RFS booth at Earth Day Houston at Discovery Green, and on April 18 at the Veggie Riot VegOut! Wrap-up & Chef Showdown at Houstonia House in the Heights.  Or you can enter online HERE.

Rules for Contest:  Submit your poem in the traditional haiku format to reflect spring garden themes or the fun of growing and eating healthy food. Winners will be selected from three categories: Seeds (Age 5 to 11), Sprouts (Age 12 to 17), Blooms (Age 18+). Multiple submissions welcome. Entry deadline is April 30.
 
Prizes:

Seeds (Age 5 to 11) & Sprouts (Age 12 to 17): Farmer-for-a-Day with Tommy Garcia-Prats of urban farm Finca Tres Robles, plus an Eat It! Food Adventure with Marco Polo cookbook. Winners will spend a day learning about planting and harvesting, greenhouses and market stands at Finca Tres Robles, located in the East End of Houston.

Blooms (Age 18+): Organic Fresh Vegetable Basket from Houston-based Sown & Grown Farm, in addition to John Besh's Cooking From the Heart cookbook. Sown & Grown is an inner city farm, dedicated to land stewardship and creating beautiful, healthy ecosystems which feed our Houston communities.

The Outdoor Classroom

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 This past week, third-grade students at Westwood Elementary were able to connect the textbook with the real world as they learned about the plant life cycle in the context of their own school garden. Led by Olga Miles, students practiced the words maturation and germination as they toured the garden in search for plants in those stages. At the end of the tour, they got their hands dirty harvesting carrots and radishes and planting potatoes and flowers. 

Westwood ES.jpgLead instructor Olga Miles harvests a mature carrot with students. 

Westwood Elementary School is a member of our Affliate Partnership Program. Want to bring the Seed-2-Plate Nutrition Program to your school and become a Recipe for Success Affliate Partner? Click here for more details. 

Schools Get Involved In Better Nutrition

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McG kids make a salad.jpgHouston Chronicle reporter, Rebecca Hennes wrote about our work in the HealthZone section on Sunday, Feb 22, 2015.

"For decades, kids have tried every trick in the book to avoid eating vegetables.

For parents who struggle to figure out how to turn that around, researchers at the Baylor College of Medicine have determined that educational intervention - such as involving children in cooking or gardening - is the answer.  Read more...

The Nutrition Revolution Sprouting Up in Schools Nationwide

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The Houston-based Recipe for Success Foundation was founded in 2005 on the principle that kids who learn to garden and cook make better food choices in life. Founder Gracie Cavnar and her organization developed gardens and cooking programs at a select number of showcase schools in at-risk schools across Houston and began expanding from there. To date, Recipe for Success programs have impacted lives of more than 30,000 kids in Houston alone.

"As a mom, I knew that no one responds to lectures or nagging," says Cavar. "Eating healthy food had to be cool and fun, so that's what we set out to create, tapping top chefs in our community as guest instructors." The idea is to fight junk food marketing with this thoughtful type of healthy food marketing that engages kids at a young age and steers their food choices for the rest of their lives.

 "Recipe for Success Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ programs have empowered children with the knowledge and skills to make a lifetime of healthy eating decisions," says Cavnar. "This is documented by SPAN surveys implemented at the beginning and end of each academic year, revealing that vegetable consumption in participating children increases an average of 30 percent by the end of the school year."

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Recipe for Success' comprehensive Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ Program features a curriculum library of 400+ lesson plans to teach kids of all ages in a variety of settings and time constraints. The program is now showing school kids all over the Houston area - and in 9 additional cities across the nation - that eating healthy food is both cool and fun with its Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ at Affiliate Partner schools. Any school anywhere can sign up as an Affiliate Partner. Schools then send two or more of their own staff through the S2P web-based training and certification program.

 Costs include an annual affiliate partner fee of $500, plus a $250 fee for each staff member's training and certification. After registration and training are complete, the schools certified S2P instructors have online access to the full curriculum library of 400+ lesson plans, expert support, webinars, forums, and more to enable them to deliver this fun and effective nutritional programming. Each school must also cover their own consumables, culinary supplies and garden start-up materials.

 Hortencia Flores, a first grade teacher at Cedar Brook Elementary in Houston, Texas, began teaching the Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ program during weekly after-school sessions in early October 2014. "Classes are going really well," says Flores, who started with gardening and culinary classes held every Friday, after school.

"Students are highly engaged and motivated to try new vegetables and fruits, especially those coming from our garden," says Flores. "We had our first harvest a couple of weeks ago and celebrated with a delicious stir-fry recipe that students enjoyed so much. Last Friday, we used part of our harvest to prepare an amazing rainbow salad (1-2-3 salad recipe from the Recipe for Success website)." 


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 Flores reports that she enjoys teaching the Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ curriculum, and grows more comfortable and confident with the program with each passing week. She also says she is grateful for the support of a loyal crew of five volunteers, who have assisted with the S2P program at Cedar Brook Elementary since it began.

 "With the help of 25 of Houston's finest chefs we created our Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ to turn kids on to the magic of food and empower them to make healthy decisions and their own scrumptious meals," says Cavnar. "Our program inspired the First Lady's "Chefs Move To Schools" outreach, which we helped her launch, and now we have over 100 professional chefs volunteering with Recipe for Success as we grow from coast to coast."

 For information getting started with the Recipe for Success Affiliate Partner program, refer to the Recipe for Success affiliate partnership page.

The World's Greatest Pet

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When you think of typical classroom pets, lizards, various small rodents, and fish are usually the first to come to mind. All of those are great, but at Recipe for Success we are a little different; we keep worms. Students learn that worms, specifically red wigglers, are fantastic decomposers, devouring our culinary classroom scraps and producing nutrient rich humus for our garden. 

Worms.jpg This past week, a few of our programs received roughly two thousand worms and boy, were our kids excited. Never seen two thousand worms at once? It's quite the tangled mess. Before they arrived, students spruced up the worms new home, known as "The Worm Hotel," with wet newspaper strips and banana peels. One kindergartner exclaimed during this nesting activity that, "a worm is the greatest pet in the world." I couldn't agree more - low maintenance, inexpensive, silent, and their excretion helps us grow healthy food. Now that's a loveable pet.

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Students learn about the worms new habitat, The Worm Hotel. 

 Want to start vermicomposting at your house?  Check out Uncle Jim's Worm Farm to purchase your own pet red wigglers. 

Chef for a Day 2015

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My Favorite Holiday Food Writing Contest winner David Gallegos was awarded his grand prize last week: becoming Chef for a Day at The Houstonian Hotel, Club and Spa. Little Chef David was greeted with his very own embroidered Houstonian chef's jacket and hat. Executive Chef Neal Cox wasted no time introducing Chef David to the Houstonian's large kitchens and staff. On the menu for the day was Carrot and Apple Soup, Pork Tenderloin with Soba Noodles, and Wild Blueberry Pie with Lemon Ice Cream - quite a large feast for this little chef to prepare!

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No chef can work on an empty stomach. Chef David before devouring a waffle made in The Houstonian's Olivette's kitchen.

For two hours, Chef Neal patiently walked Chef David through each step of the meal - from dicing the carrots for the soup to searing the pork tenderloin, to rolling pie dough. After all that work, Chef David had certainly worked up quite an appetite. At the lunch table he was joined by family, teachers, and Chef Neal to enjoy the fruits of his labor.

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I ran into David this week and he pulled me aside to tell me that since becoming Chef for a Day his mother now lets him cook side by side with her, even teaching her a few things he picked up from Chef Neal. Quite the memorable experience for this young chef!

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 Click here to read my interview with David! 

Kids in the Kitchen

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One delicious perk of having prominent Houston chefs volunteer their time in our Seed-to-Plate ™ culinary classes is the opportunity they provide for students to visit their restaurants and get an insider's tour of some of Houston's favorite, professional kitchens. 

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Last month students from Rodriguez Elementary School got a taste of La Vista, Chef Greg Gordon's chic Galleria bistro serving delicious New American cuisine. Students first got a tour of the kitchen before rolling up their sleeves to make brick oven baked pizzas. The special treatment continued as they dined in La Vista's private dinning room known as the "The Cool People Room." 

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Afterwards, the kids worked the off the pizza with a fun game of kickball at the nearby Tanglewood Park. 

Surely positive kitchen experiences like this one will influence a few future culinary careers!

Frost Fighters

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Well the Old Farmer's Almanac predicted it; this winter was set to be a dousy. "Colder is just almost too familiar a term," Old Farmer's Almanac Editor Janice Stillman said. "Think of it as a refriger-nation." Temperature highs in the 40s may seem to our Northern neighbors like Houston is in the protected crisper section of the fridge; but nonetheless, we are certainly shaking in our boots.

These temperatures can be particularly unfriendly to our Recipe Gardens, as I am sure all you home gardeners can attest. Our students in our Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Program are learning the precautionary measures to take to protect those precious veggie plants they have worked so hard to cultivate. Here are three easy steps they are taking that you can try at home in your own gardens: 

  1. Water well. As the weather gets colder, the air gets drier which leads to soil moisture loss (This goes for us humans too! Stay hydrated, folks). Contrary to what you might expect, wet soil holds heat better than dry soil.
  2. Mulch. Adding dried leaves, hay, or even newspapers around plants conserves water and keeps the soil warm.
  3.  Cover.  The kids call this "blanketing." If frost is in the forecast, you can use frost cloths, newspapers, bed sheets, or old pots to cover plants. Never cover plants with plastic bags. Make sure to remove the next day to prevent scorching from the afternoon sun. 

Winter Watering.jpgGood luck and stay warm! 

Arctic Blast Survival Soup

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January is the time we all swear we'll eat better, and we promise ourselves we'll cook better food for our family, but darn it's cold... and we want something comforting... and warm.

carrotsoup.jpgI adore this Moroccan-inspired carrot soup that truly hits on all fronts. It is warm, satisfying, pretty to look at, healthy... and my kids will even eat it! (Though I admit I don't tell them that it is basically cooked carrots whizzed up in a blender.)

The process is quick and simple and leaves room for innovation, if you're into that kind of thing:

Sweat half of a chopped onion in a little butter. Throw in an array of spices that will have your kitchen smelling like the Kasbah. I love turmeric, as I read recently that it's good for joints, and coriander has the most delicious smell, so I add some of that as well.  A dash of cinnamon finishes it off for me, though some curry powder would be nice, or sometimes I add a little cumin.

Let the spices toast a bit before adding about 12 coarsely chopped carrots and chicken stock to just cover them, bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, cover and 20 minutes later, you're ready for the blender and a soul-inspiring bowl of soup.

I like mine with a dollop of Greek yogurt and toasted nuts, but my kids prefer a giant crouton with melted cheese smack dab in the middle of theirs!

What recipes help YOU walk the line between honoring New Year's Resolutions and keeping warm and toasty? Tell us in the comments!

 

 

Green Garden Gifts

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Hooray, the holiday season is here! Families are gathering, joyful music is playing, kitchens are warm with baking, and of course, people are frantically shopping. Last minute shoppers, don't stress about finding (not to mention affording) the perfect presents for loved ones and take a page from our Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ garden classes.

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At MacGregor Elementary, our students collected rosemary, oregano, sage, and bay laurel stems to create aromatic, herb bouquet gifts. Unlike a Christmas tree, this gift is still useful even if it dries out! Whether the recipient likes to cook or not, the bouquet can be used as rustic décor, freshening any room with it's warm woody fragrance.

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If you can only get your hands on rosemary, an herb that is particularly prolific in Texas I've quickly learned, try making rosemary wreaths or ornaments tied together with twine or ribbon. These handmade gifts are fun for kids (and adults!) to make, not to mention affordable and environmentally friendly.

Look outside and let your imagination do the gifting!   

Recipe for Success Foundation also has gifts that give - place your order by noon on December 22  for delivery by Christmas Eve!

 

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