Eating Mindfully?

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Salad.JPGConcerned about how we are going to feed an exploding population AND make progress toward healthier diets? Wondering how you can positively impact a sustainable food system? We can all play a part--with our personal habits and daily descisions.  We have to walk the talk in our own lives. 

"The Flavors of India" Small Bites

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Bobbie Nau, Kiran Verma, Andy & Liz Stepanian blog.jpegIndian chef partners with River Oaks philanthropists for one of tastiest dinner parties ever. By Shelby Hodge - May 18, 2015 

Chef Kiran Verma, who seems to never stop smiling, was grinning with extra verve during Recipe for Success' "The Flavors of India" dinner party in the River Oaks home of Bobbie and John Nau. For not only did the hostess dress up her garden with tented Indian party flair but guests fully embraced the theme, many dressing in saris and modern Indian dress.

Liz and Andy Stepanian, the Nau's daughter and son-in-law, joined in co-chairing the dinner evening and all three hosts (John Nau away on business) dressed to the nines, Bollywood style.

Read the whole story.

Fashion Gene Awards star designer Nanette Lepore

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Tootsies Group Resized .jpegBy Melissa Aguilar - May 6, 2015

Some women are born with a fashion gene. Houston mothers and daughters with innate style walked down the runway Wednesday as Tootsies hosted Recipe for Success' fourth annual Dress for Dinner - The Fashion Gene Awards Show. Nanette Lepore was the featured designer and dinner guest for the post-party feast prepared by chef Barbara McKnight of Culinaire.

Mother-daughter team Leisa Holland-Nelson and Laura Nelson Rose chaired the event. CultureMap's Clifford Pugh served as master of ceremonies. As the duos took their turns on the catwalk, he revealed what each thought about the other's sense of style -- and past fashion faux pas. "Shoulder pads," was the common criticism the daughters had for those moms who lived through the '80s.

Read the whole story. 

S2P Iron Chef Competition

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Annually in May our Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ cooking classes participate in Iron Chef Competitions. The competition is a summation of the Seed-to-Plate classes for the school year as students' cooking skills are put to the test to make a dish without a recipe. Classes are split into teams to compete for five distinguished categories: Best Knife Skills, Best Plate Presentation, Cleanest Workers, Best Teamwork, and the most coveted, Best Dish Overall. 

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Iron Chef Competition at Rodriguez Elementary School with special judges H-E-B Area Community Coordinator Meagan Galbraith, Recipe for Success Chef Susie Mullen, and Recipe for Success Culinary Education Coordinator, Justin Kouri. 

In Jeopardy fashion, teams answer questions from the year's curriculum to pick their ingredient baskets. No two baskets are the same, stirring the competitive spirit even more. 

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Sneaking some help from Chef Jon Buchanan of Trevisio.

This year, students at Rodriguez Elementary school were judged on their salad making abilities, while at MacGregor Elementary School students were judged on garden fresh spring rolls. 

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Students presenting spring rolls to Chef Monica Pope of Sparrow and fellow judges. 

When it comes to the judging, the tasting part is easy! Deciding category winners, however, is no easy feat. The amount of effort, sincerity, imagination, and skill the students pour into their final class is enough to deem everyone a winner. 

Summer Veg Paella

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Summer Veg.jpgPaella is truly an interesting dish. It is a compilation of Roman irrigation, the rice brought by the Moors to the Iberian Peninsula and the Spanish worker. Conceived in Valencia, paella is traditionally cooked in a low, flat-bottomed skillet over an open flame. The Spanish workers would cook paella with chicken, rabbit, snails and vegetables - anything that was inexpensive. Now most Spanish regions have their own twists on this famous dish.

My veggie focused take on paella incorporates the other culinary export from Valencia - oranges. Using the zest brightens the flavor profile and the juice adds some necessary acid and sweetness to the dish. I used summer squash and eggplant in my version, but depending on seasonal availability, feel free to substitute any vegetable.


 4c chicken stock

Pinch of saffron

5 sprigs of thyme

2T olive oil

1 small yellow squash (cut into ¼"coins)

1 small zucchini (cut into ¼" coins)

½ eggplant (cut into ¼" coins)

1 oz of dried chorizo, finely chopped (about ¼c)

½ onion, finely chopped (about ½c)

1 small red bell pepper, finely chopped (about ½c)

2T tomato paste

3 cloves garlic, minced

1T fresh thyme

1t paprika

¼t cayenne

Zest of 1 orange

Juice of 1 orange

Pinch of saffron

1c Arborio rice

1t salt

Flat leave parsley, roughly chopped, for garnish


  1. Bring stock, saffron and sprigs of thyme to a simmer in a medium size pot. Keep at a simmer until ready to use. 
  2.  Heat oil in a large flat bottom skillet over medium high heat. Quickly sear both sides of the vegetable: 2 minutes per side for the yellow squash and zucchini; 4 minutes per side for the eggplant. Set aside.
  3. In the same skillet add chorizo, onion and pepper. Cook until the onions are translucent and starting to brown. Add tomato paste, garlic, thyme, paprika and cayenne and continue to cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Add rice to skillet, continuing to stir, toasting the rice for 2 minutes. Add the orange zest, juice, saffron and chicken stock. When the liquid boils, reduce heat to low. Stir the rice mixture frequently for 5 minutes. Stop stirring and allow rice to cook for 20 minutes. DO NOT STIR. After 20 minutes, nestle the seared vegetables into the paella, cover the skillet and turn off the heat. Allow to rest for 15 minutes. Garnish with parsley and serve immediately.


Yields: 4 servings

Prep time: 15 minutes

Active cooking time: 1 hour 15 minutes

Inactive time: 15 minutes

Total time: 1 hour 45 minutes

Skill level: Easy

 Justin Kouri is Recipe for Success' Culinary Education Coordinator. He tweets at @ChefJustinR4S.

Who's ready for Eat This! Summer Camps?!

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While you're counting down the days till school's out, don't forget to check out the fun-filled Summer Camps at RecipeHouse coming up in June and July. Kids spend the week learning about cooking and gardening alongside talented chefs and wonderful garden instructors.

Choose from two programs: the original Eat This! Camp combination of cooking and gardening and product development, and Eat it! Food Adventures with Marco Polo exploring cuisines from Italy, Greece, Turkey, India and China. 

 Enrollment is open to all children ages 8-11. The 5-day camps are held at RecipeHouse, conveniently located in Houston's Museum District. Find camp dates and program details and download registration forms via the Eat This! Summer Camp page. 

A Gala in Small Bites 2015 Season

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Gracie & Bob Cavnar launched the 2015 season of We're Cooking Now! A Gala in Small Bites with two sold out events in late March. April's exciting dinners featured seafood, Spanish cuisine and the art of the easy gourmet! Guests at the remaining Small Bites fundraiser dinners happening in May will delight in the exotic flavors prepared by celebrated chefs and be inspired by the latest collections from top fashion designers - with two of the May dinners featuring tabletop accents by Christofle! Savor dishes prepared by acclaimed chefs, such as Chef Danny Trace of Brennan's, Chef Barbara McKnight of Culinare, Chef Kiran Verma of Kiran's and Chef Charles Clark of Ibiza Food & Wine Bar, Coppa Osteria and others. Chef Clark's event is the final dinner in the 2015 series and takes place in the exclusive penthouse at the Four Seasons!

 See the full 2015 season page to buy tickets or view the official invite.


The Almost-Healthy Mexican Cocktail

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Cinco de Mayo is a day of colorful celebrations and a fiesta of flavors. From loaded enchiladas to fishbowl-sized margaritas, it's easy to forget about a balanced diet. If you're looking to add a few more vitamins to your Cinco de Mayo happy hour, try our vibrant Almost-Healthy Mexican cocktail. It will have you saying, "Orange you glad there is tequila in this?"

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The Almost-Healthy Mexican Cocktail

Recipe by Jusin Kouri 


2oz Tequila

2oz Carrot Juice

2oz Orange Juice

1oz Pinapple juice

1 oz Jalapeño syrup (recipe below)

1 Jalapeño slice, for garnish


Combine all ingredients in a shaker filled with ice. Shake until shaker forms condensation. Strain over ice in a highball glass. Garnish with jalapeño slice. 

Jalapeño Syrup


1 cup Sugar

1 cup Water

1 Jalapeño, quartered (include ribs and seeds)


Combine ingredients in a small pot over high heat and bring to boil. Remove from heat and all to cool completetly. Strain. Discard jalapeño. Keep in air-tight container until needed. 


VegOut! in the Chronicle

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Vegout Chron pic.jpgRecipe for Success reminds you to eat your vegetables
Nonprofit promotes better eating with monthlong challenge
By Greg Morago-March 10, 2015

Caloric indulgences are always aplenty in Houston. But when the rodeo pulls into town, temptations can overwhelm even the most sensible of diets. Houston has nearly a month-long love affair with chocolate-dipped cheesecake, foot-long sausages on a stick, funnel cakes with a flurry of powdered sugar, heaping portions of barbecue, jaw-busting burgers and deep-fried bacon during the run of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.

Which makes VegOut!, a campaign sponsored by Recipe for Success, so perfectly timed. Read the whole story.

It's Déjà Vu All Over Again

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birthday_cupcakes__58456.1405367087.1280.1280.jpgAn Editorial for the Houston Chronicle, by Gracie Cavnar.

In 2004, I celebrated the news that Susan Combs, Texas Agricultural Commissioner at the time, had wrestled control of the school lunch program from those who supported the idea of soda machines in elementary schools and Sara Lee on the lunch line.  I was proud that Texas, which was leading the nation in childhood obesity rates, was also leading the way on meaningful reform to help reverse the epidemic. Last month, I got a headache when I read that Sid Miller, our current Texas Agricultural Commissioner, is on a campaign to reverse those rules and will probably succeed, despite protests from health experts, teachers and parents.

It had been a heads-up from Susan about vending machines in schools that sparked my own fight to save the next generation from a lifetime of obesity.  Now Mr. Miller was using time-tested political tactics to distract Texans from the real issues surrounding school food with his high-profile crusade to allow Moms to bring birthday cupcakes from home to little Johnny's class. The indignation of it all! Guvmint rules prohibiting dearly held family traditions of classroom birthday celebrations! The cupcake wars were a red herring, a non-issue. In fact birthday cupcakes have always enjoyed a waiver in both state and federal school nutrition rules.  But let's not let the facts get in the way.

School lunch is a hot potato--or should I say French fry--and always has been. There is a whole lot of money involved.  We spend over $10 billion annually on the National School Lunch program. That's big business. So, no wonder politicians like to ignore the Surgeon General's warnings.
Food in schools has always been controversial.  Started in 1946 in response to the nutritional deficiencies of U.S. military recruits, the school lunch program soon became embroiled in serial struggles among food and drink companies, farmers, agribusiness, school administrators, and nutritionists.  They fought over who could regulate what, where and when. It was all about the money.  Remember the ketchup and pickle relish controversy in the early 80's?  That was nuthin compared to efforts made by the soda industry to break into the lunch line.  In 1983, acting on a suit brought by the National Soft Drink Association, a panel of judges ruled that the USDA could regulate drinks only in public-school cafeterias, and only at mealtimes. As long as soft drink and candy companies had the permission of local school boards and administrators, they could sell anything, any place at anytime.  Vending machines began to multiply like bunnies in the hallways and gymnasiums of our schools.

It was bad enough that parents were already dealing with the cartoons, the toys and cross marketing that motivated the tiniest tots to demand sugary cereal and chicken nuggets.  But now, even if they limited TV, parents could no longer shield their kids from junk food access.  No matter what the home-rule, a five year old with money in his pocket could buy his own soda at school or have nothing but chips for lunch.  And what a coup for the snack food giants! Snaring a cradle to grave customer while making millions.

At the same time, obesity rates skyrocketed: Between 1980 and 2000, rates doubled and obesity has now eclipsed smoking as the number one health hazard in America.  Today, over half of all Americans are obese and 10% of us have Type II Diabetes.  This year, 400,000 Americans will die from diseases linked to their obesity and one million of our feet will be amputated. Sadly, every year the obesity epidemic reaches further down the age charts. 23 million American kids are already obese. Now, its not unusual for a six year old to develop chronic diseases that we used to only see in their grandparents: Type 2 Diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, liver disease, kidney failure and even cancer. 

Obesity is not just killing many of us; it's costing all of us--$270 billion in 2011 alone.  That's not only in healthcare, but also lost time at work, disability payments and increased insurance premiums for everyone.
The map to turn this epidemic around has been in our hands since 2005, when the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Institute of Medicine published a sweeping manifesto. After four years of gathering reports from over 60 top health researchers and documenting obesity trends along with its financial and health impacts, their action plan laid out recommended interventions at every level of our society, from home, to neighborhood, to school, town, city, state and federal.  They considered schools one of the most influential settings to encourage healthy behavior. The group, along with the American Public Health Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics called for an overhaul of school lunch guidelines along with elimination of all sugar-sweetened beverages, snacks and low nutrient food from vending machines and campus cafeterias.

By then, over 21% of elementary, 62% of middle and 85% of high schools had vending machines on campus and 83% of them offered a-la-carte foods on the lunch line from vendors like Taco Bell, Subway, Domino's and Pizza Hut.  School districts across the country pushed back. They counted on the extra revenue from vending and food contracts--typically upwards of $125,000 a year per school, and so did the big soda and snack food companies.  A raft of advertising ensued--$52 million annually directed at kids alone, to promote exercise as the best way to stay healthy, while celebrating American's freedom to eat what we want.  Go ahead; you deserve a break today!

Research indicates that what we eat and the way we eat it is at the root cause of obesity, so the school cafeteria is a great place to start changing habits.  American taxpayers foot the bill for 21.5 million kids to eat free meals at school every day.  For 80% of these children--16 million who are food insecure, it's often their only meal.  I'm wondering why we would agree to line the pockets of the junk food industry on the taxpayer's dime to feed our most vulnerable kids high-calorie, nutrient-poor food that contributes to their chance of becoming obese and practically ensures that we will continue to pay for a lifetime of their chronic diseases?  One of the most effective disruptors to the poverty cycle is good health.  Wouldn't the taxpayer dollar be better spent to guarantee healthy school lunches?

Shame on Mr. Miller for signaling to Texas schools that it's OK to go back to the old, profitable unhealthy ways; but shame on us for letting him get away with it! Cupcake anyone?

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