Time to Eat Your Veggies...And Have Fun Doing It!

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Screen Shot 2016-02-08 at 10.26.39 AM.pngFrom rainbow chard to black kale, pink radishes to purple carrots, golden beets to sunchokes: There's really nothing boring about vegetables. They're fun to cook with and delicious to eat. All it takes is a willingness to discover vegetables' abundance in flavor, texture and color.

One fun way to discover vegetables for kids and adults alike is to participate in the annual VegOut! Challenge by Recipe for Success, a Houston-based nonprofit that has been fighting child obesity by promoting vegetables as part of a healthy diet for over 10 years. Beyond Houston, VegOut! has found support across the nation, with participants from 32 states joining in the challenge last year.

VegOut! is open to anyone--as individual participant or in a team--willing to take the challenge: Eat 30 different vegetables in 30 days. The fun part is in discovering vegetables but also in the competition: The more vegetables you try, the greater your chances to earn a badge, or even win a prize!

To complete a list of 30 vegetables in 30 days sounds pretty straightforward and easy to do. You could tick off the first five on any given day: onions, tomatoes, bell pepper, lettuce and potatoes. It gets harder, though, and "20" appears to be a stumbling block.

"The biggest feedback we got from folks who registered last year and did not finish--even ones who considered themselves super healthy eaters--was that they hit the wall at 20 and it was really tough for them to track veggies when they were traveling for business or on spring break or eating out," says Gracie Canvar, founder of Recipe for Success.

It's one of the reasons why Recipe for Success developed a new app designed to help you keep track of vegetables wherever you are, look them up, or find suggestions for recipes and ways to prepare.

With this app and web resources like Recipes A-Z, the 1-click Tracker and an interactive Find Your Veg map, the 2016 VegOut! Challenge is set up to be accessible to anyone trying to eat healthier, for the workplace to use it as a wellness tool and for (grand) parents to challenge kids to enjoy vegetables. There is really no excuse not to veg out every day--so bring home those veggies and eat them braised or grilled, roasted or raw, in a soup, salad or stew, not just for 30 days but year-round.

Download the FREE mobile app from your app store and register. You can also visitVegOutWithRFS.org to register and explore our endless resources. The app and website integrate seamlessly. The new app makes it easy to find fresh vegetables on the go with a find-your-veggie map.

Don't forget: You can sign up as individual or as a team. Earn badges and make sure you're in the running for a prize!

Hope Farms & The Issue of Food Deserts

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Recipe for Success Foundation has teamed up with the University of Houston to address the troubling issue of food deserts in Houston with Recipe for Success Foundation's new Hope Farms initative. 

The UH School of Architecture has designed urban farm models for Recipe for Success Foundaiton's Hope Farms to prove residents with their own fresh produce and train them as urban farmers.  Gracie Cavnar, founder of Recipe For Success and UH Architecture student, Alejandra Cervantes talk about Hope Farms and the UH School of Architecture plans. 


Flavorful Balance Through Contrast: Chef Surprise with The Del's Chef Albert Vazquez

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Last night, Recipe for Success Foundation kicked-off the Chef Surpíse season with Chef Albert Vasquez of The Del, Studewood Hospitality Group's neighborhood restaurant nestled among three of Houston's most fun and family-friendly neighborhoods, Briargrove, Tanglewood and Memorial.


Chef Albert, a South Texas Coast native presented unique flavor profiles through his concept of balance through contrast with dishes like his pickled bratwurst with cowboy bread, camarones a la plancha marinated in a grilled vegetable sofrito and slow-cooked carnitas dressed with a black garlic mole. He finished off the evening with exquisite smoked marranitos, a gingerbread like cookie made of smoked flour and a cafe quemada, a cold coffee sweetened with a dulce de leche of condensed milk. 

Chef Albert's down-home roots and experience appealed to Houston natives and brought a casual, yet elegant feel to RecipeHouse's Chef Surprise kick-off, an intimate 3-course dining experience including wine at RecipeHouse on the First Monday of the month starting at 6:30 pm. Chef Albert began his feat in the restaurant industry when he was only 15 years of age shucking oysters and cleaning fish in Port Aransas. He then found himself training under Scott Tycer at Aries and Gravitas before serving as culinary director for Dish Society.


RecipeHouse, home to private-events and cooking classes benefitting Recipe for Success Foundation, hosts Chef Surprise to engage chefs and the community as they fight childhood obesity with a fun, culinary adventure. Chef Surprise has featured past chefs including, Omar Pereney, of Peska, Randy Evans, Rebecca Masson of Fluff Bake Bar and Brandi Key of Coppa Osteria and Punk's Simple Southern Food

For more information on how to join RecipeHouse for our upcoming Chef Surpríse event, click here.

Post Oak HS J-Term

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Houston's Post Oak High School seeks to provide unique opportunities for students to cultivate real-life experiences. The school's teaching methods nourish students' diverse interests, helping students identify personal passions and actively prepare for university and for life beyond school. For three weeks each January, Post Oak High School students participate in an intensive study program, called J-Term.

So when Post Oak High School teacher Benjamin Preston contacted Chef Justin Kouri, our Culinary Education Coordinator about doing a J-Term course with Recipe House, Chef Justin welcomed the idea and had a blast hosting the 16 high school students in a three-week course in the culinary arts. "My goal was to give the students a comprehensive view of the food industry," says Chef Justin. 

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In addition to teaching the students cooking methods, knife skills and preparation techniques, Chef Justin organized several fascinating field trips. "The first was a visit with Chef Jon Buchannan at his restaurant Trevisio in the Texas Medical Center," says Chef Justin. Here, the students toured the restaurant and kitchen and learned about the economics of food costs in the restaurant industry, including sourcing produce, meats, dry goods and formulating mark-ups in terms of market pricing and operating the business of a restaurant.

The next field trip was truly located in a field! Chef Justin took the students to Finca Tres Robles, the urban farm operated by Tommy Garcia-Pratts and his brother Daniel Garcia-Pratts. At the farm, Tommy taught the students about the costs of growing produce and how to price it at market. The students also ventured out to volunteer in the Recipe for Success classroom at Rodriguez Elementary and got to experience how elementary kids engage with our Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™. 

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Back at RecipeHouse, the students developed their culinary chops. To hone their skills, Chef Justin broke the class into small groups and had each prepare and execute a three-course meal. The students' work was evaluated for quality and presentation.

Chef Justin explains he has years of experience working with professional chefs and has worked with elementary school aged kids for the past two years in Recipe for Success school programs and summer camps, but this was his opportunity to work with high schoolers. "It was exciting that the students were so motivated to take this course," says Chef Justin. "It was great to see their higher-level thought processes and more advanced responses to the lessons. I felt like I had my own creative team to collaborate with, so I found it very rewarding as well." 

Email Chef Justin about ongoing classes and custom classes for your group.

Ben Ferreira & H-E-B

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For February 2016 we are highlighting our community partner and sponsor H-E-B, greatly fueled by our relationship with Ben Ferreira. While attending an event at RecipeHouse with H-E-B Houston Division President Scott McCelland, Ben Ferreira was introduced to Gracie Cavnar and the mission of Recipe for Success. "We watched a video about the mission an programs of Recipe for Success, which were quite gripping to me," says Ferreira, Regional Director of Produce and Floral for H-E-B. As the regional director, he oversees many aspects of the produce business and supports local farmers by developing business relationships with local growers.  He also leads a team of more than 100 department managers in more than 80 retail locations. (photo above by Kim Coffman Photography.) 

H-E-B has been a tremendous partner for Recipe for Success. For the past five years, H-E-B's donations have ranged between $15,000 and $25,000 annually in support of our Blue Plate Special Café & Awards Luncheon. H-E-B has also generously supported our annual VegOut! Challenge by donating amounts ranging from $10,000 to $15,000 each year. The company has also made numerous in-kind donations of food and hosted in-store events and field trips, in addition to their wonderful participation on our board.

"In my work at H-E-B, I come across many people in the industry who are concerned about and working to stop childhood obesity, but Gracie's approach is different," says Ferreira. "It really changes the way kids think about their food in a very positive way." 

The foundation's programs and mission spoke to Ferreira in a very personal way. Ferreira explains that he grew up in a home with a father who was a passionate gardener who grew much of the family's produce and a mother who was a consummate chef. "My earliest memories are all in the kitchen. All of our food was homegrown and prepared by hand."

When Scott McClelland asked Ferreira to join our Board of Directors, Ferreira happily agreed. "I am pleased to be a liaison for H-E-B and happy to make my personal contributions to the board," says Ferreira, who also recently became a member of Hope Farms Board, as well as its and finance committee.

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"After I had the opportunity to judge the Iron Chef completion at MacGregor Elementary I was hooked," says Ferreira. "It was so great to see the kids who were so proud of crops they had grown and then watch them create a dish -- without even a recipe to start with. That solidified my impressions of Recipe for Success."  

Ferreira highlights the power of the foundation's school programs. "One of the things I really like about Recipe for Success' Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ is the impact it has beyond the schools," says Ferreira. "Gracie has shared with us the data that shows the impact on families, which in turn impacts the community. When the kids experience the lessons in school, it takes hold at home as kids encourage parents and family members to adopt what they have learned. At H-E-B, we have seen customer shopping trends shift more toward fresh food."

He hopes H-E-B's VegOut! 2016 companywide participation will be stronger than before. "My focus is selling more fresh produce, so I am hoping we'll be better integrated with the VegOut! 2016 campaign and can trumpet the nutritious eating message more fully in our stores," says Ferreira. "We hope to host events at our cooking connections and feature promotional materials for the VegOut! Challenge in stores." He also say H-E-B plans to use the VegOut! Challenge in March as a springboard for events and campaigns the store has planned for the rest of the year, which echo the message of eating fresh, nutritious food.  "We've also been working with H-E-B's corporate office in San Antonio, and hope to take the collaboration with Recipe for Success to a corporate scale across all stores," he says.

"There are a lot of people who are working to reduce obesity in children and adults, but Recipe for Success is a unique and effective program that stands out nationally," says Ferreira. "It's so great that Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ is fully scalable for affiliates and partners to participate across the country. The education piece is so unique and engaging. There is a huge opportunity to replicate the program nationally."  

To inquire about board opportunities, contact our board liaison, Stephanie Hill

Volunteer of Month - Feb 2015 Kay DeLaMater

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Volunteer_Kay DeLaMater_at Volunteer Party Dec 2015.jpgDelightful and dedicated volunteer Kay DeLaMater first learned about Recipe for Success in 2012 while searching volunteerhouston.org and has been donating her time and energy as an Office Star at RecipeHouse ever since.

"I was between jobs and looking for opportunities to volunteer close to my home," explains Kay. "Recipe for Success was a good match because my whole life centers on food. My love of healthy food began in childhood -- that's when we need to instill good eating habits. Children by nature are so wonderfully open to new ideas and flexible in their habits." 

Kay tells us she was fortunate that her own mother shaped her attitudes towards food and nutrition in very positive ways. "My mother was a registered dietitian and my best foodie friend," says Kay. "From her I learned that cooking can be an expression of love and that nutritious food is delicious. She allowed me to be involved with daily meal preparation as soon as I was old enough to follow basic instructions and to kneel on a stool pulled up to the kitchen counter."

Kay says she enjoys working alongside the staff at RecipeHouse. "Their enthusiasm is infectious," she says. "I've become known as 'the lady who likes to hand-address envelopes,'" she says proudly.

This past November, Kay helped out at RecipeHouse on the hectic days leading up the Blue Plate Special Café & Awards Luncheon. "It reminded me of when I worked for a professional association whose main focus was planning a huge annual conference for our members," says Kay. "We would have been sunk without our volunteers in the 11th hour! I was therefore very happy to assist the staff at Recipe House in their time of need. I've always been a behind-the-scenes sort of person. No matter the organization, I love providing administrative support so that others can spend time on the front lines."

Upon Recipe for Success Foundation's 10th birthday, Kay shares her dreams for the continued impact of the organization over the next 10 years. "I'd like to see continued growth of programs such as the VegOut! 30 Ways in 30 Days Challenge," says Kay. "It's a fun way for the adult community to be involved in the Foundation's mission. Adults ultimately determine children's diets. If we improve our eating habits, we can lead children by example."

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Chef Justin loves to share his deliciously nutritious recipes from RecipeHouse. Let us know what you think, or better yet--send us your favorites!

Start your day (or the weekend) with his flavorful satisfying SAVORY BAKED EGGS. What's your favorite breakfast creation? Send your tastiest recipe to justinkouri@recipe4success.org. You can also check out Justin's past recipes on the RecipeHouse blog or sign up for a class to learn first hand how to create tasty and nutritious meals and snacks.

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Savory Baked Eggs

Recipe & Photos by Justin Kouri


2 Tbsp olive oil

1 onion

2 cloves garlic

28 ounces crushed tomatoes

1 Tbsp fresh thyme

1 Tbsp + 1 tsp fresh oregano, divided

1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

3 cup fingerling potatoes, boiled

4 eggs

1 cup fontina, shredded

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Preheat oven to 400F. Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and sautee until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add crushed tomatoes, thyme, oregano and red pepper flakes, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, quarter potatoes and distribute among 4 large ramekins. Divide the tomato sauce among the ramekins. (This recipe can be prepared up to this point in advance.) In the center of each ramekin make a well within the potatoes and place the egg. Sprinkle with fontina and bake for 15 minutes or until egg is cooked, but yolk is still runny. Remove from oven and rest for 5 minutes. (This part is important because the egg will continue to cook.) Serve with toast points.

Yield: 4 servings

Prep time: 15 minutes

Active cooking time: 15 minutes

Total time: 30 minutes

Skill level: Easy

Up Close with Chef Lance Fegen

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Dynamic Houston chef and restaurateur Lance Fegen jumped in as one of our original Chefs Advisory Board members back in 2006, helping to develop recipes still used in our classes today. Chef Lance didn't hesitate to volunteer in the classroom at N.Q. Henderson Elementary during those early years, and has hosted field trips to his restaurants and dinners benefitting Recipe for Success.

"At the time that Gracie was launching Recipe for Success, I had just started a family and was enjoying spending time with my own kids," says Chef Fegen. "I had so much good in my life that I wanted to give some of that to others. Growing up, my mom took good care of us, especially with her cooking, says Fegen. "I know not all kids have that, so it's great to be able to pass those lessons along to the students. Once you get into the Recipe for Success classroom you fall in love with the kids and their learning process. It really becomes a part of you -- the effort you give to the kids you get back tenfold." 

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Fegen, who studied at the Culinary Institute of America in New York, first put his mark on the Houston culinary scene with restaurants such as Zula, Trevisio and Glass Wall. Later, he joined forces with business partner Lee Ellis and today their F.E.E.D. TX Restaurant group operates BRC Gastropub and multiple Liberty Kitchen locations in Houston and Austin. Fegen has also served on the Board of Directors with Houston Food Bank and worked with their Kids Café. 

Fegen has been busy opening several restaurants in recent years, but is looking forward to having time to share our Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ once again. "I have missed getting into the classroom and I would love to get back to it," he says.

 Fegen also says he highly recommends the experience to other chefs. "Go out and give some of yourself to others and expect nothing in return -- no glory, no accolades," says Fegen. "I believe chefs should give back: teach students how to cook and show them that restaurant careers are accessible. It's not about your persona: spend time with kids who look up to you, you will find it's very rewarding." 

He applauds the Recipe for Success classroom tradition where students pledge to be a food adventurer, because it helps keep kids' minds open. "These kids don't say, 'no, I'm not gonna try that,'" says Fegen. "It's interesting to see other kids, even my own, who haven't had this type of nutrition education, who will refuse to try new things."

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Fegen's enthusiasm for the program and the students it serves goes even further. "These kids are excited about the learning process and become invested in what they eat," says Fegen. They develop a deep connection to their food and where it comes from - that's important. I wouldn't have become a chef if I hadn't had an Italian cooking family. My mom had me rolling meatballs at age 5."

Fegen challenges grown-ups to learn more about their food, too. "I encourage anyone who calls themselves a foodie to go beyond the restaurants," says Fegen. "Get out and experience where your food comes from, explore the farmers markets, touch, smell, shop seasonally, grow your own. You become a true 'culinarian' by developing that deeper appreciation." 

Don't be scared of your CSA Share!

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Raining Veg.JPGVeg Basket.JPGDoes that pile of king-sized greens and gnarly root vegetables intimidate you? Even if you know your way around a kitchen, the variety and volume in a CSA share can be a little mind-boggling. "You get a lot of veggies all at once in a CSA," says RecipeHouse chef, Justin Kouri, "many more than you would usually pick up at the grocery store."

Chef Justin is excited about empowering people the knowledge to handle their seasonal surplus of veggies. "I want to help folks make good on their intentions to eat greener and healthier," he says. Join Justin at one of his upcoming classes that focus specifically on helping you cook up your CSA share at RecipeHouse. READ MORE about these and other 2016 classes at RecipeHouse.

In a blow-out: Start the New Year right and sign up for the CSA Cooking class on January 12 today or email Chef Justin about upcoming CSA classes slated for February 9 and March 8.

Are you intimidated by that pile of king-sized winter greens and gnarly root vegetables? Even if you know your way around a kitchen, the variety and volume in a CSA share can be a little mind-boggling. "You get a lot of veggies all at once," says our RecipeHouse Chef Justin Kouri. "When you are first getting into the slow food movement, that CSA share often delivers a lot more veggies that you would usually pick up at the grocery store."

Chef Justin is excited about empowering people with the knowledge to handle their seasonal surplus of veggies. "I want to see people to make good on their intentions to eat greener and healthier," he says. Join him for a upcoming CSA Class at RecipeHouse. 

"Especially during the winter, many vegetables are not-so-familiar," says Chef Justin. "My CSA classes feature easy, healthy recipes that are great for singles, couples and families. And I cover simple ways to preserve some of that fresh produce for later, inlcuding pickling and freezing techniques." 

Expect to learn a variety of recipes and tricks to make the most of your produce bounty. "You'll definitely come away with more than one recipe per veggie--like several ways to use all that kale. We'll also discuss what you can eat raw or simply marinate and then serve.

 The recipes will include plenty of savory options, but also some sweet options. "And, of course, each class ends with a feast of the foods we prepare in class. I'll send you home with your preserved foods, along with recipes and new-found knowledge and inspiration to make the most of your CSA shares," says Chef Justin.

 Start the New Year right and sign up for the CSA Cooking class on January 12 today or email Chef Justin about upcoming CSA classes slated for February 9 and March 8. 


Help Us Win! CultureMap Charity Challenge

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CultureMap Charity ChallengeHello and Happy Holidays! Recipe for Success Foundation is excited to announce we have been selected as one of the 12 charities to participate in CultureMap's 2016 Charity Challenge.  Please join us in voting everyday between December 15th to December 29th.  The charity with the most votes will be chosen as CultureMap's Charity Partner. This partnership will allow us to continue to impact young lives as we combat childhood obesity by changing the way children understand, appreciate and eat their food. Thank you in advance for your support and sharing with your family and friends! Vote here

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