November Recipe Challenge!

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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 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. 

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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. 

Urban Ag is BOOMING & Hope Farms Is On Board!

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Farmers markets are booming with numbers increasing to more than 8,500 from up from the 5,274 in 2009! Recipe for Success and Hope Farms are right on track with that growth and the USDA knows it! We are delighted to be the recipient of one of their awards that will increase access to local foods announced this week amounting to nearly $35 million allocated to communities. In honor of this award, we thought we'd educate you a little more about urban farming and why it is so important.

First off, what exactly is Urban Agriculture? Urban agriculture is the practice of growing food in an urban environment and that is what we will be doing at Hope Farms. Through urban agriculture, people are brought closer to the source of food production. This in turn could potentially lead to decreased food insecurity.

What exactly is food security? The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines food security as "...access by all people at all times to enough nutritious food for an active, healthy life."1 Food insecurity refers to a diet of reduced quality, variety, and desirability for some populations. To achieve food security, food must be readily available at all times to all people, and be of sufficient quality and nutritional value to sustain a healthy and active life. Security depends on diversified food systems of food preparation, production and distribution.  

In America, More than 23 million people in live in food deserts and this lack of access contributes to a poor diet and can lead to higher levels of obesity and other diet-related illness, such as diabetes and heart disease.

With Hope Farms, we will try to bridge the gap found in Houston's food deserts and create security with our Rolling Green Market, which will deliver significantly reduced-priced, fresh fruits and vegetables and The Hope Farms Co-Op, which will distribution of products to premium and wholesale buyers, CSA members, farm-to-school programs and farmers markets to support the new urban agribusinesses. Find more about what Hope Farms is doing here

Join us at Saks Fifth Avenue

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Time to put on your favorite Aquazzura stilettos and party with designer, Edgardo Osorio! Please join Carrie Colbert on Wednesday, October 28 from 6pm - 8pm for our second Dress for Dinner of the season!  You won't want to miss the fun at Saks Fifth Avenue!  Buy your tickets here!

Just look at the fun we had last month!

We're in Edible Houston!

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With the fall garden season is upon us, be sure to pick up the September/October 2015 issue of Edible Houston magazine to read the great article by Jenna White on farmers marKIDS! The article showcases our free farmers marKIDS program and features quotes from Recipe for Success Agriculture & Garden Director Justin Myers, as well as multiple garden instructors. If you haven't already, download the farmers marKIDS toolkit and make plans to host a farmstand during farmers marKIDs DAYs, Oct. 20-26 each year. You can also come support local school kids and celebrate Food Day 2015 at our farmers marKIDs stand at Discovery Green on Satuarday, October 24! Savor the fall harvest!

Lance Gilliam: Champion of Food Justice

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Three cheers for Lance Gilliam --  winner of the 2015 Mayor's Award: Champion of Food Justice. In the business world, Lance Gilliam has more than 35 years of experience representing retailers, restaurateurs and financial institutions with market analysis, site selection and transaction negotiation. He currently serves as a Partner for Waterman Steele Real Estate Advisors specializing in building and managing face-to-face outreach operations to build support for products, causes, issues and real estate market strategies to achieve tangible outcomes for clients.


With his background as the co-owner of the Cooking School of Aspen with his wife Jennifer, and his passion for philanthropy, Lance has been a longtime Recipe for Success Foundation cheerleader and is planning to donate the land for our Hope Farms urban agricultural project in the Sunnyside area of Houston. 

"I learned about Hope Farms in 2014, and although our proposed development in Sunnyside remains complicated and a work in progress, the commitment to include Hope Farms is an important one," says Lance Gilliam. "Hope Farms is an initiative that will bind a community with a place," he says. "It will connect people with land. Not only will it create jobs by training new farmers, it will offer a community the opportunity to experience urban farming at a scale well beyond what they have experienced before."

"Solving food access issues in our food deserts is so important on so many different levels, and it's really just the right thing to do," Lance says. "The only conversation to be had is how do you do it? Recipe for Success really teaches people how to access the food in a garden and how to use that food, how to do good things with it -- and make it taste good."

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He believes connecting people to the land is essential, "not only for the health of our families and children, but it's also healthy for business," he says. "Especially for communities that are lower income, solving food access issues is important for revitalizing those communities, not only on a family and individual level, but also in terms of the entire community."

Lance is a firm believer in the Hope Farms vision. "My hope is that Hope Farms will take food justice to the next level not only by providing a physical place for families to gather and get food from the garden together, but in terms of job training and creating jobs, it's literally like giving someone a fishing pole teach them how to fish, instead of just giving them a fish," says Lance. "Hope Farms will bring opportunities to teach folks how to farm and create an income and hopefully get them out of tough places, giving them new job skills, which is wonderful."

Lance champions for Hope Farms for the capacity it has to transform and revitalize the Sunnyside community. "This great community has an incredible history," says Lance. "It is currently home to about 70,000 people, most of them are African-American, many of them lower-income families. It's an area where there hasn't been a new grocery store built since the early 1970s. Although there's number of community gardens, that are important, but nothing on the scale of Hope Farms."

"My hope for Hope Farms is that it makes an impact that goes well beyond the property itself," says Lance. "And that it brings a brightness to the men and women that work there, as well as to the families around the Hope Farms site and really carries through their daily lives." 

Chef of the Year: Robert Del Grande

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Congratulations to Robert Del Grande of RDG+Bar Annie, our 2015 Chef of the Year! One of Houston's first superstar chefs, California native Robert Del Grande received his B.S. in Chemistry and Biology and his Ph.D. in Biochemistry before being drawn to Houston in 1981 by his (now) wife Mimi. Del Grande took a temporary job at the newly opened Café Annie, owned by Mimi's sister Cadence and business partner Lonnie Schiller.

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His adventure grew into a long-term family partnership and Café Annie rose to the forefront of fine cooking in the Southwest, garnering many top honors and awards, including the James Beard Award for Best Chef Southwest in 1992. In 2009, Café Annie moved down the block to its current location on Post Oak Boulevard taking the name RDG + Bar Annie, honoring the initials of its founding Chef and the restaurant that revolutionized Southwest cuisine.

But before all the accolades and the culinary career, he was a grad student who developed his passion for cooking, taking inspiration from the meals his mother and grandmother had served. His desire to share those traditions with his roommates - his desire to be near his sweetheart Mimi -- launched a remarkable career.

Robert says he's never felt more performance pressure than when preparing to meet a classroom of nine-year-olds. As a founding member of the Chef's Advisory Board he was instrumental in helping us design the curriculum and as a PhD in biochemistry he always delivers a lively and interesting class.

He generously taught in the classroom at Rodriguez Elementary for three years. Longtime Recipe for Success supporter Phyllis Childress remembers watching Robert Del Grande teaching students how to make quesadillas. "I was impressed that he chose a dish that they could relate to, while making a very healthy version of it." She recalls how Robert managed to turn this class on making a quesadilla into the 4th graders' earliest lessons in math, geometry, geography, biology, and physics.

"He talked about how many quesadillas (using burrito-sized wheat flour tortillas cut into eighths) he'd have to make to ensure that everyone there got a piece, demonstrating by cutting one, then showing the students how he had turned a circle into eight triangles, even how if you held two triangles end to point, you had a rectangle."

Every year Robert wanted to adopt the whole class and he and Mimi showed up with their arms full of holiday gifts. Chef Robert even hosted his student at his Uptown restaurant. The generosity didn't end there - Robert and Mimi have hosted many fundraising events for Recipe for Success over the years.

Robert Del Grande's more than 30 years of experimentation in the kitchen have made him a prominent figure in the historical revision of American cooking, as he has indelibly changed the culinary landscape with his expertise in tastes and flavors indigenous to the region. We are thankful for his many contributions to cuisine, as well as to Recipe for Success Foundation. Cheers to Robert Del Grande!

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Honoring Phyllis Childress

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Among our 2015 Blue Plate Special Café Honorees is longtime Recipe for Success Foundation supporter Phyllis Childress -- a wonderful woman who has been part of our organization from the very beginning. This former caterer jumped in as a Recipe for Success founding board member and has come through as an enthusiastic volunteer and dedicated fundraiser many times over.

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In preparation for our very first school year, Phyllis helped Gracie source and gather kitchen supplies for six kitchen carts for those first classrooms. Hunting down kid-sized kitchen utensils and equipment, Phyllis and Gracie scooped up whisks, spoons, lettuce knives, food processors and induction burners at Costco, Best Buy, Target and Restaurant Depot. "Wheeling those giant 'shopping trucks' around and loading them up with what we thought our chefs would need was an exciting exercise, both figuratively and literally," recalls Phyllis.

As a volunteer in the classroom she witnessed the transformative nature of our Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™. "I realized that these children could see that their chef instructors were like rock stars. And the seed was planted: learning about cooking might be a career opportunity well beyond just becoming a busboy," says Phyllis. "Another great observation was watching the effect of these classes on mothers who had volunteered as helpers in their children's classrooms. Their body language clearly said that these healthy food ideas just wouldn't fly - that is, until they tasted the results."

Phyllis has also been a superstar fundraiser, hosting a Gala In Small Bites fundraiser every single year since those fundraisers began in 2005. Reflecting on the many Small Bites dinners, she says it would be hard to pick which meal and which chef impressed me the most. "But I will confess to a giant crush on Garth Blackburn, "says Phyllis. "Besides being a fabulous chef, he's so cute, and he's a great teacher (something I know about since I taught cooking classes during my catering days) - so, consequently, I've been the annual hostess for the Gala In Small Bites at his SubZero Wolf showroom every year since he came onboard with Recipe for Success."

It's friends like Phyllis Chlidress that have helped keep the momentum going for Recipe for Success Foundation over the past 10 years and will continue to fuel our future. Thank you, Phyllis! 

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Teachers of the Year

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When the bell rings on Friday afternoons, Cedar Brook Elementary teachers Hortencia Flores and Esmeralda Warshaw, Golden Whisk Teachers of the Year, are not packing up and heading home for the weekend. Instead, they are preparing to teach in the garden and kitchen with an eager group of students. Ms. Flores, who is a first grade bilingual teacher, and Ms. Warshaw, a kindergarten bilingual teacher, were instrumental in bringing Seed to Plate Nutrition Education™ to Cedar Brook. 

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Two years ago, when Principal Jeffrey Post asked his administration "about levels of interest in the Recipe for Success program, both Ms. Warshaw and Ms. Flores jumped at the opportunity to partner with and lead something as wonderful for kids as Recipe for Success."  Especially rewarding for both teachers is that many 3rd and 4th grade participants were their former students, resulting in a unique bond between the teachers and the students as they explore a new and exciting curriculum. Parent volunteer Rachel Stinson says that Ms. Warshaw and Ms. Flores are "the heart and soul of this program," and in a challenging environment of budget cuts, dwindling after-school programs, and time constraints, they have made it their mission to have a Seed to Plate Nutrition Education™ program at Cedar Brook.  

Ms. Warshaw was originally drawn to the program after hearing about its benefits, and after her first year teaching the curriculum, she was inspired by the "wonderful opportunity for all students to explore, discover and apply academic and social skills in real life experiences, making the learning relevant and meaningful to them."  She has seen firsthand how the students are applying their knowledge and skills in the garden and kitchen, and she is committed to encouraging them along the way.  Most rewarding for Ms. Flores is seeing her students "respond to the challenge of trying new vegetables and foods and their level of involvement in the whole process of the Seed to Plate Nutrition Education™ program.  From the learning of new concepts to the hands-on experiences in the kitchen and garden, they zoom and boom like busy bees. They really look like little busy chefs!"

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With the help of Rachel Stinson and another parent volunteer, Jacinda Woloson, Ms. Warshaw and Ms. Flores are embarking on their second year of the program and are excited to see how it further impacts the students and the school.  With the teachers' encouragement, the students have decorated the lunchroom with banners and pictures showcasing their activities. The signs have not only generated interest in the program, but also the students have become well known to their peers, and they are frequently asked questions about the curriculum and the exciting skills they are developing.  

Ms. Woloson added that the teachers have integrated their heritage and an understanding of cultural differences into the class and curriculum, and they have instilled trust in and boosted the confidence of the students.  And it is not just the students who have excelled and grown from the program; Ms. Warshaw and Ms. Flores have both developed new skills in their teaching repertoire and have gained new food and nutrition perspective. 

With the fun and informative environment these two teachers have created for the Seed to Plate Nutrition Education™ students, there is a lot more growing at Cedar Brook than just the vegetables in the garden! 

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October Recipe Challenge

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Calling all clever cooks! Get in on 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! Try Justin's no-trick tortilla treat for a wholesome Halloween twist. What's your clever and healthy Halloween treat? Send your tastiest recipe to by October 31 and you could win the October Recipe Challenge and be included in next year's VEGOUT! COOKBOOK.  

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Spooky & Sweet Tortilla Cutouts

Recipe & Photo by Justin Kouri

These tortilla cutouts remind me of churros, but aren't fried! Using heart healthy coconut oil and whole-wheat tortillas, make this a fun and healthy activity to do with the entire family!



¼ cup coconut oil

½ tsp vanilla

¼ cup sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

5 whole-wheat tortilla

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Preheat oven to 350F.

Combine sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Mix and set aside.

Melt coconut oil and vanilla in a small pot over low heat.

Meanwhile, punch out tortillas with Halloween cookie cutters. Lay out on a parchment-lined sheet tray fitted with a cooling rack. Brush tortillas with oil mixture, flip and brush opposite side. Bake for 8 minutes. Remove from oven and quickly sprinkle sugar mixture over tortilla, flip and sprinkle over other side.  Cool completely. 

UH & Rice partner on design plan

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Students, professors, architects and sponsors gathered in Rice University's Anderson Hall on September 17 to peruse designs by twenty University of Houston and Rice architecture students who created site plan ideas for Hope Farms, a new urban agriculture project by Recipe for Success Foundation. 


Hope Farms is the beneficiary of the first-ever joint effort to involve both nationally renowned architectural programs in Houston. Architecture students in Susan Rogers' Community Design Resource Center at the University of Houston's Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture and Design, joined with Rice School of Architecture's Rice Building Workshop students led by Danny Samuels and Nonya Grenader all participated in the charette, which is an intense collaborative session to draft solutions to a design problem.

Hope Farms will be located on 2.5 acres in Houston's historic Sunnyside community, in the midst of one of the area's recognized food deserts, where the Foundation will grow and distribute affordable fresh produce to the neighborhood, train displaced U.S. Veterans as new urban farmers and provide jobs for area youth. The farm will include a market stand for the neighborhood, a community space for events and gatherings, raised beds for educational projects, a teaching and culinary demonstration space, orchard and much more.

Charged with integrating building and agricultural layouts to minimize energy use, maximize produce production and to engage the neighborhood, the students had to first consider the land and determine ways to draw in the surrounding community. A spectrum of creative ideas were presented, including aligning rows of crops to serve as a living, nurturing billboard for passing auto and pedestrian traffic and creating structures or pathways to visually connect two nearby schools to the Hope Farms site.

A host of fans for the Hope Farms project turned out for the student presentation including Recipe for Success Foundation Founder & CEO Gracie Cavnar and Agriculture & Garden Director, Justin Myers; Helen Bow, Assistant Vice President, Communications, Wells Fargo, which provided a sizable Neighborhood Lift grant to get the project started; Rudy Garcia, Texas Health Plan Executive Director for United Healthcare; Kelli King Jackson, Program Officer, Simmons Foundation; Nancy Bailey, Public Affairs and Communications Manager-Houston, Coca-Cola; and Dayni Alba, Corporate Social Responsibility/ Community & Education Investor, Boeing.


Professor Rogers and her students are excited to take the best solutions from the charette to develop the final site and building designs and during the fall semester will complete full architectural drawings for the project. "It will be a remarkable holiday gift for our Hope Farms  come December," said Cavnar. The historic collaboration between the two schools will continue as Rice Professors Samuels and Grenader and their students utilize the UH plans to begin the onsite build out next year. Professor Rogers is committed to building community infrastructure to support and promote healthier lifestyles. In 2013, her Community Design Resource Center collaborated with key stakeholders to create an idea book for Sunnyside that suggested urban farming as a critical component.  

Recipe for Success Foundation has inspired a broad coalition--two architecture schools, numerous corporate, foundation and private funders, veterans groups and community volunteers--collaborating to build a healthy future for Houston's Sunnyside community. For more information see our Hope Farms page

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