Honoring Change Agents

Vote 0 Votes

BPS Honorees.jpgRecipe for Success Foundation honored founding board members and agents of change at the annual Blue Plate Special Café Harvest Market & Awards Luncheon on November 18. Chairs Arvia and Jason Few and Kristen and John Berger topped fundraising goals thanks to the sold-out crowd of 400 guests attending the event at River Oaks Country Club, which garnered over $200,000 for the Foundation's award winning programs to combat childhood obesity.

In a special nod to the Foundation's tenth anniversary, founding board members, Amy Anton, Glen & Honi Boudreaux, Phyllis Childress and Kim Tutcher, along with early advisor, Peg Lee were honored for their seminal efforts to launch the non-profit in 2005 and sustained support throughout the intervening decade.

Robert Del Grande, chef-partner of RDG+Bar Annie and James Beard Award Winner, was thanked for being a founding member of the Chef's Advisory Board and named Chef of the Year.  Del Grande was instrumental in designing the Foundation's signature Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ curriculum, and has long volunteered in fourth grade classrooms to teach children to cook as well as hosted many fundraising events through the decade.

Lance Gilliam, Real Estate Developer and Philanthropist, received the fifth annual Mayor's Award: Champion of Food Justice, in recognition of his assistance in launching Hope Farms, the Foundation's urban agricultural and farmer training site. After accepting his award, Gilliam commandeered the mic and asked the audience to step up with him to underwrite the costs for more schools to get the Foundation's Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ started.  He raised $10,000 on the spot.

KPRC 2 Anchor, Rachel McNeill expressed the importance of nutrition education for our youth - citing the tremendous impact Recipe for Success has made through their Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™. While, Co-Chair Kristen Berger remarked how, "Looking at these children and seeing how this program effects them and teaches cultural tolerance as well as healthy food is what really roped me in."

Mistress of Ceremonies, Rachel McNeill, of KPRC 2 set the tone for the spirited luncheon program where ex-fashion editors, turned authors Laura Keogh and Ceri Marsh of How to Feed a Family: The Sweet Potato Chronicles demonstrated their easy family-friendly recipes and shared their golden rules to cooking.

Notables also in attendance included:. Former Mayor Bill White, Holly Alvis, Rachel Hovnanian, Bob Cavnar, Jessica Rossman, Drew Anton, Kristy Bradshaw, Mimi Del Grande, Susan Criner, Roz Pactor, Marsha Smart, Todd Waite, Laurann Claridge, Mary Fay Way, Susan Padon, Anne Kinder, Kara Vidal, Cathy Brock, Jennifer Gilliam, Isabel David, Estela Cockrell, Elizabeth Petersen, Bill Baldwin, Anita Smith, Brenda Love, Clayton Erikson, Peter Remington, Tina Pyne, Janet Cockrell Genevieve Patterson, Ileana Trevino, Laura Jaramillo, Denise Monteleone, Jeff Shell, Kelley Lubanko, Susan Sarofim, Sis Johnson, Marsha Montemayor, Rudy Guera, Valerie Dieterich, Kimberly Albright, Karen Garcia, Leisa Holland Nelson, Susan Pye, and Roxanne Neumann.   Enjoy photos from the event in our Flikr Album linked here:

Blue Plate Special Harvest Market & Awards Luncheon


December Recipe Challenge!

Vote 0 Votes

Do you have a prized recipe for a deliciously healthy holiday treat? Join in the fun of Chef Justin's recipe exchange! Each month, he shares his tantalizing recipes while our readers, followers and fans - that's YOU - send in favorite recipes!

For some holiday fun, try Justin's luscious Chocolate Beet Cookies, made with smart substitutions that cut calories and boost nutrition. What's your favorite healthy holiday cookie recipe? Send your tastiest recipe to justinkouri@recipe4success.org by December 31 and you could win the November Recipe Challenge and be included in next year's VEGOUT! COOKBOOK. You can also check out Justin's past recipes on the Recipe House blog.

Chocolate Beet Cookies

Recipe & photos by Justin Kouri

Thumbnail image for RecipeChallenge_Beet Cookies Close-up FOR BLOG.jpg

The holidays are loaded with unhealthy landmines, so I like to use baking substitutes when I can. Avocados are a great replacement for butter. I typically use one avocado in place of one cup of butter. Enjoy this delicious AND healthy holiday treat!


1 cup dried cherries,

1 cup dark chocolate chips

¼ cup coconut oil

1 avocado

½ cup brown sugar

½ cup beets, boiled, peeled & pureed

1 egg

2 tsp apple cider vinegar

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 cups flour

1 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tsp baking soda

½ tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt



Preheat oven to 375F.

Place dried cherries in a small bowl. Rehydrate the cherries by pouring boiling water over them. Allow them to rest in the hot water for 10 minutes. Remove and pat dry.

Meanwhile, melt chocolate chips and coconut oil together over a double boiler. Cool for 5 minutes.

Using the paddle attachment of a standing mixer, cream together avocado and brown sugar, about 5 minutes. Stream in melted chocolate and mix until combined. Add beet puree, egg, vinegar and vanilla extract. Mix.

In a separate bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add half to the chocolate-beet mixture and mix until combined. Add remaining dry ingredients and mix until completely combined.

Scoop onto prepared sheet tray, about 2 inches apart. Bake for 10 minutes. Cool on rack.  

Yield: 24 cookiesThumbnail image for Thumbnail image for RecipeChallnge_Beet Cookies - FOR BLOG.jpeg

Prep time: 10 minutes

Active cooking time: 10 minutes

Total time: 20 minutes

Skill level: Easy




December Volunteer of the Month

Vote 0 Votes

Our sincere thanks and congratulations to our December 2015 Volunteer of the Month: Janet Van. Kind-hearted Janet Van is a frequent volunteer at RecipeHouse, helping us show kids and adults just how fun and delicious healthy food can be over the past year. Here's what Janet had to say about volunteering with Recipe for Success.

What sparked your interest to volunteer with Recipe for Success?

Janet Van: I was first introduced to Recipe for Success through a club at my university when Emily, the previous volunteer coordinator, came to give a talk about the non-profit organization. I was immediately taken by how this organization's mission to bring awareness to childhood obesity, since it is a subject I feel strongly about. I wanted to help create the change that this organization strives to do.

 Vol_December2015_Janet Van_2 for BLOG.jpeg

What keeps you coming back week after week? What are your favorite things to do or experience when you are volunteering?

JV: I just love working with the Girl scouts and seeing their eyes light up when they are learning to prepare the nutritious foods we have for them. It's so much fun when I get to guide them (especially the younger girls) through the recipe and watch them have so much fun. 

What does volunteering bring to your life outside of your volunteer work?

JV: Volunteering had taught me about sticking with a commitment and going through with it wholeheartedly. It has also taught me to balance my time and focus on what is most important in my life and getting closer towards my goals.

Do you have a favorite memory/story thus far? Could just be an observation or a specific moment in time.

JV: I would say that my favorite memory so far would be when I volunteered at a birthday party that was inspired by the television show "Chopped." I got to lead a team of 10-year-old girls and guide them when they created their own recipes out of random ingredients. It was so much fun seeing them working hard to create their masterpieces and feeling proud of their food creations.

It's Recipe for Success Foundation's 10th Birthday: where would you like to see the organization in another 10 years?

JV: I would like to see this organization continue to grow nationwide. There are many kids around the country that would benefit from getting a hands-on learning experience about foods and how to be healthy. Recipe for Success would help so many communities by empowering people with awareness about nutrition.

Thank you Janet for your shining spirit and dedication to the mission of Recipe for Success. To inquire about volunteer opportunities, refer to our Volunteer Page.


A Salute to Chef Peter Garcia

Vote 0 Votes

Hat's off to our Founder's Plate Chef of the Month for December 2015, Peter Garcia, Chef/Owner El Meson. 

For more than twenty-five years, Peter Garcia's family has operated El Meson, serving Tex Mex, Cuban and Spanish specialties that reflect the family's adventurous migration from Spain, through Cuba and New York, and finally to Houston, where the Garcias arrived in 1981.

Chef Peter Garcia cooks paella_2009 Small Bites For BLOG.jpeg

Peter was on our founding Chef's Advisory Board, has taught monthly for almost 10 years at Rodriguez and Gross Elementary Schools. And the ever-hospitable chef has executed numerous wildly popular fundraising events for Recipe for Success Foundation.

On Chef Garcia's first year of teaching elementary students, Gracie Cavnar, Founder & CEO of Recipe for Success Foundation recalls "he was unflappable in the classroom, and just fabulous at connecting with those kids, they were enraptured."

"I remember that first year, I was all over the place cooking with the kids and creating the curriculum, but I enjoyed it," says Garcia. "As chefs, we teach the world how to dine, and hello - this is the beginning, this is it. Year after year I keep coming back, because I see it making a difference." 

Chef Peter Garcia with Students at El Meson 2008 For BLOG.jpeg

In June of 2010, he joined us at The White House for the kick-off of Chefs Move to Schools. "I was very proud to represent Recipe for Success and Houston, Texas that day amongst this big conclave of chefs on the south lawn of the White House," says Chef Garcia.

"When Recipe for Success was presented as a best practice [at the White House], and when the other chefs saw our name on his coat, he became a walking advertisement for Recipe for Success," says Cavnar. It's no surprise that Garcia was named our Chef of the Year at our 2012 Blue Plate Special Café Awards Luncheon.

Growing up in New York City, Peter's love of food was sparked at an early age and as a teenager worked in his father's restaurant, Los Parados, as a short order cook. There he learned the basics of chopping vegetables, cutting meat, and making coffee. 

In 1992, after his father passed away, Peter assumed the front of house duties of the restaurant, taking full advantage of his degrees in philosophy and theater. He continues to appear regularly in local theater and is a respected activist in Houston's Latino community. Even with his dedication to the community, the restaurant and his family remain Chef Garcia's top priorities. His mother, Esperanza said it best: "We come together daily to work as a family. I think I am indeed fortunate." 

Life Around the Dinner Table

Vote 0 Votes

Viv tackles a Turkey dinner.jpgNovember hosts America's most high profile meal, forever fixed in our mind's eye by Norman Rockwell, who used the Thanksgiving table to showcase his idea of a traditional family dinner. But contrary to national myth, our treasured Thanksgiving holiday wasn't handed down from the Pilgrims. It was a post-civil war effort of Abraham Lincoln's to promote national unity. Shared meals have that kind of power, not only to heal a nation, but also to build community and strengthen family ties.

Every one of us harbors powerful memories of family food traditions that are woven tightly into defining who we are as individuals and as part of our tribe. A look at the history of mealtime illuminates our progression from hunter-gatherers to agrarian life to workers in the industrial revolution to our present fast-paced, tech filled lives. As the way we secure food has changed, naturally so has the way we consume it. 10,000 years ago, killing a wild deer meant the entire community had to prepare and eat it together, or it went to waste, so shared meals were tied to our very survival. Now that we have so many choices for how we source our food--ranging from growing it ourselves to finding it on grocery shelves and in the drive-through, packaged in single servings--sharing is no longer mandatory, and sadly it's a tradition that many Americans have left behind. Not me!

I am sad to see meals demoted to something eaten on the run, jammed in between other activities. A lot has been lost along the way: conversation, communal tasks, leisurely consumption, and each of those missed opportunities has left a trail of unintended results. Researchers tell us that children who eat at least one home-prepared meal a day, while sitting around a table with their family, are less likely to have drug issues, tend to do better in school and are generally healthier.  At Recipe for Success Foundation, our students sit down to eat together after preparing food. Along the way, they learn sharing, teamwork and a little etiquette. Seems like a good enough reason for all of us to get back around a table for dinner.

My family's meal traditions are woven into my soul. Each memory makes me smile and salivate. I've passed many down to my own kids and grandkids: pulling them into the kitchen as soon as they could stand; teaching them to set the table and share their stories; picking dinner ingredients from the garden; preparing dishes their great grandmothers made alongside newer ones. At dinner is where we continue to bond through the generations with no topic of conversation off the table. It doesn't take a holiday like Thanksgiving to get my family to sit down for a lively meal together, but if you haven't tried, it's a good place to start.

Honoring Peg Lee

Vote 0 Votes

Peg Lee began teaching cooking classes at Houston Community College in the 1970s and quickly discovered and delighted in the abundant humor that comes with the territoryPeg Lee began teaching cooking classes at Houston Community College in the 1970s and quickly discovered and delighted in the abundant humor that comes with the territory. A decade later, Peg became the founding director of the Rice Epicurean cooking school. In 2001, Houston's brand new Central Market lured her away to start their, now wildly successful, cooking school where she helped attract well-known national and international chefs, often ushering them all over Houston. 

Peg Lee_Blue Plate Honoree 2015_For Blog2.jpeg

Gracie reached out for Peg's advice when she began thinking about forming a program to teach kids to cook, and they agreed that the newly emerging Slow Food group, where they were both members, might take on the project.  "I heard Gracie present the idea of Recipe for Success and I immediately thought that it was a great idea," says Peg. "When you teach a child, you also teach the parents. It brings all of that knowledge into the home and family. Parents see that it's not that difficult to cook and are often impressed with their kids' cooking."   

As a longtime cooking instructor and school director, Peg saw the waves of benefits that Recipe for Success Foundation's Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ could bring. "When parents learn about cooking from their children, it opens up doors for the whole family," says Peg.  

Gracie approached Peg about getting Central Market to sponsor cooking supplies, but she suggested asking H-E-B instead. "I knew H-E-B would be a better partner for Recipe for Success," says Peg. "They have so many more stores that serve more families in the neighborhoods that the Recipe for Success programs were serving and targeting." Peg says she's very pleased to see H-E-B currently supporting Recipe for Success in an even stronger way.   

"During those first few years of Recipe for Success, Central Market did sponsor the Gala in Small Bites series," says Peg, who has retired as the Houston Central Market Cooking School's Director, but still works as an events liaison for the school. 

In those early days of Recipe for Success' Small Bites dinners, Peg Lee worked with the volunteer chefs to keep on budget and impart a certain sensibility to their creative efforts. "I had to be firm most of the time," says Peg. "I had to make sure they didn't over order ingredients, especially things like truffles. 

Peg never misses a chance to spread the word about the great work of Recipe for Success to people in the community, to Houston chefs, and even to renowned chefs and food activists who may have founded other in-school programs. "I've always been a supporter of Recipe for Success Foundation," says Peg.  "I once went to a dinner in New York with Alice Waters and proudly told her about Recipe for Success. And she said, 'yes, I've heard about Recipe for Success.'" To this day, Peg remains a cheerleader and advocate for the Foundation.   

Peg would like to see the Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ program taught in every state. "I think Recipe for Success programs should be mandated across the country," says Peg"I feel education doesn't stop at the door of the classroom - when you educate the child, you educate the whole family."  

Peg Lee with Students _For Blog.jpeg

Blue Plate Special Awards Luncheon

Vote 0 Votes
Join us as we honor our friends and supporters in November! Reserve your seat at the Recipe for Success Blue Plate Special Awards Luncheon to hear our featured speakers, Ceri Marsh and Laura Keogh, internationally noted bloggers and the co-authors of the bestselling cookbook How to Feed a Family: The Sweet Potato Chronicles. These delightful speakers will be sharing their experiences and anecdotes, making for a most enjoyable afternoon. The luncheon is set for November 18 at the River Oaks Country Club. CLICK HERE for tickets and sponsor information.

Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 12.20.26 PM.png

Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 12.20.41 PM.png

Steak (R)evolution Panel Discussion at Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Vote 0 Votes

Community_Steak at MFAH-Panel.pngIn mid-October, Recipe for Success Foundation collaborated with MFAH Films, the film department at The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston for the screening of the documentary film Steak (R)Evolution. Directed by Franck Ribière, the film takes viewers around the world with farmers, chefs, butchers, and food journalists to uncover the art and culture of red meat.  

Following the film, Recipe for Success Foundation's Founder & CEO Gracie Cavnar led a panel discussion on the topics featured in the film. Panelists Glen & Honi Boudreaux, owners of Jolie Vue Farms and Chef Kris Jakob, of Kris Bistro at Culinary Institute LeNôtre, offered their perspectives of farming and beef production. Here are a few comments from the discussion: 

"Small-scale farming is bringing young people back into farming," said Glen Boudreaux. "I see that as a good thing, considering most farmers are over the age of 60. I'm glad to see that small-scale farming has grown exponentially over the years, and that's good for producers as well as consumers." 

Community_Steak at MFAH-Marian Luntz.png"As a chef, I am pleased that quality beef and other meats are accessible to restaurants and that more restaurants are serving cuts from nose to tail," said Chef Kris Jakob. "As restaurants, we have to do some marketing of the lesser-known cuts, but that's easy because many customers are asking about the products and wanting to know more about the food they're ordering."   

 As a small-scale farmer, Honi Boudreaux explained that she appreciates building relationships with customers. "We get to do direct sales, which connects the customer to the farms," said Honi. "Now the big meat industry is looking to farmers like us to learn how to go about that. I feel we must connect people to the land. That's what Recipe for Success gardens at schools do - they connect kids to the land. We have the capacity to grow all year, so no one should have to go hungry."  

November Recipe Challenge!

Vote 0 Votes

Holiday cooking season is here!  What a great time to join in the fun of Chef Justin's recipe exchange! Each month, his tantalizing recipes along with his picks of recipes submitted by our readers, followers and fans - that's YOU! For November, try Justin's delicious Sweet Potato Tart, featuring a comforting combo of both sweet and savory flavors. What's your favorite holiday recipe? Perhaps a main course, a side dish or dessert? Send your tastiest recipe to justinkouri@recipe4success.org by Nov. 30 and you could win the November Recipe Challenge and be included in next year's VEGOUT! COOKBOOK. 

Sweet Potato Tart

Recipe & Photo by Justin Kouri 

This is a very versatile tart; it can be served as a savory OR sweet dish! Whenever you decide to serve it, this twist on traditional ingredients is a great addition to your holiday repertoire. 

Sweet Potato Pie 1 copy_forBlog.jpeg


Pie Crust

1¾ cup AP flour

1 Tbsp sugar

½t salt

1½ cup butter, cubed & chilled, divided

1½ Tbsp apple cider vinegar

2 Tbsp ice cold water



2 sweet potatoes

1 apples

1 onion

1 Tbsp olive oil

3 egg yolks

1 tsp cinnamon

¼ tsp nutmeg

¼ tsp cloves

¼ tsp cayenne

½ tsp salt

1 orange, juiced



3 egg whites

1 tsp vanilla extract

½ tsp cream of tartar


Pie Crust

Combine flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Add ½ cup of butter and pulse until completely incorporated. Add remaining butter, vinegar and water. Pulse until dough just comes together. Wrap in plastic and chill for at least one hour and up to 1 week.

Roll out dough on lightly floured surface. Once the dough is ¼" thick, pick up and place in a greased 10" tart pan. Blind bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely.


Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400F. Toss potatoes, apple, onion and olive oil in a large bowl. Place on sheet tray and roast for 30 minutes or until fork tender. Put potato mixture in a food processor and pulse until smooth. Add yolks, spices, salt and orange juice to processor and pulse until incorporated.  Add filling to pie shell and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely.


Prior to serving, whip egg whites, vanilla extract and cream of tartar in a metal bowl until holds stiff peaks. Top pie. Brulée under broiler or with hand-held flame. 

Honoring Kim Tutcher

Vote 0 Votes

It was when they were neighbors a dozen years ago, that Kim Tutcher first met Gracie Cavnar--before she started Recipe for Success Foundation.  But she was actively researching the issue of childhood obesity and shared her concerned with Kim.  As a wife and mother, Kim was moved by Gracie's determination to find a way to address this health pandemic, so as Recipe for Success took off, Kim stepped up as a founding Board Member, rolled up her sleeves and helped launch the cooking classes, volunteering monthly at Briscoe Elementary throughout the first year of programming.  The first party she gave in her new home was a Small Bites Dinner to raise money for Foundation efforts.  In 2008, Kim chaired the first Blue Plate Special Café Luncheon featuring Dr. Mehmet Oz--reaching income levels yet to be matched.  After retiring from the Executive Board, Kim has remained a member of the Foundation's Community Advisory Board.

BluePlateHonoree_KimTutcher _ Gracie_For Blog.jpeg

"Seeing how far Recipe for Success has come in the last 10 years is amazing - it just keeps calling me - and so does Gracie," Kim says with a smile. 

"One of the stories I like to share - and will never forget - was setting up the classroom at Briscoe Elementary for the cooking classes," says Kim. "There was a whole series of things to be done, from rolling in the cooking carts to prepping for the chefs, and then the clean up, ugh! We had to fill tubs with water from a tiny sink in a janitor's closet and, very carefully without sloshing too much, get them back to the classroom to wash all the utensils, pots and pans."

Kim recalls a very special day and the close of the school year. "One of my most powerful memories was a luncheon at Ouisie's Restaurant," says Kim. "Elouise Jones was one of our first volunteer chefs, and at the end of the year she invited the whole class to her restaurant. She toured us through the kitchen and had set up the private dining room with linens, china, silverware placed just so, flowers and menus. It was so touching to see the kids order from the menu, select the proper silverware and use their manners."

Kim continues to support Recipe for Success because she sees the many ways its programs leave a positive imprint on children, preparing them for adult life. "My favorite program is probably the farmers MarKIDS. It was fun to see how proud they were of the vegetables they grew. They set up stands, worked them and had to figure out the money - lots of moving parts."

BluePlateHonnoree_Kim Tutcher _ Dr.Oz _For Blog.jpeg

Thank you, Kim, for being one of our magnificent moving parts!     

<< 1 2 3 4 5