January 2012 Archives

Houston Chronicle reports: Board gets hands-on for Recipe for Success

Gracie Cavnar
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Gracie Cavnar laughs with Chef Garth Blackburn, who led her Board of Directors through a hands-on cooking class to prepare an impressive 3-course meal at RecipeHouse.

Read the full story by Molly Glentzer for The Houston Chronicle, here.

Volunteer of the Month...JoAnn Sittig

Alyssa Dole
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Joann Sittig.jpg"Every time Joann visits the Culinary classroom at Rodriguez Elementary we are in luck!  She is always jumping in to help and has no fear getting her hands dirty in the garden.  Students are always excited to get to work with Joann and the positivity she brings with her each day.  Whether she's sharing her tips for tasty kohlrabi or making sure the students pick radishes ready for harvest, she is always a tremendous help to us." Kendall Moister, Rodriguez Team Leader
"I really enjoy volunteering for R4S at Rodriguez. The 1st and 5th graders are a lot fun. They are willing to taste unfamiliar foods, and they love seeing the seeds they planted out in the garden actually end up as something they recognize. To bring the whole project full circle, Chef Kendall then prepares the harvest in ways that can appeal to the taste buds of kids without surrendering its healthy aspects. To top it all off, I get to work with three thoroughly enjoyable professionals: Chef Kendall, Mrs. Healy, and Chef Frank." -JoAnn Sittig

This is One School Announcement That You Don't Want to Miss.

Gracie Cavnar
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First Lady Michelle Obama, catalyst and creator of the "Let's Move" campaign (focused on eliminating childhood obesity epidemic within a generation) and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack just announced the first big changes to school lunches in 15 years.

"Improving the quality of the school meals is a critical step in building a healthy future for our kids," Secretary Vilsack.

Recipe For Success Foundation's mission statement - combating childhood obesity by changing the way children understand, appreciate and eat their food- is firmly aligned with the new USDA ruling.  Both campaig for those who do not yet have the power to advocate for themselves: children.

The rule - which phases in changes so as to allow all children (grades K-12), schools and food supply chains to adapt- will require most schools to "increase the availability of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free and low-fat fluid milk and reduce the levels of sodium, saturated fat and trans fat" (Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service, Vol. 77, No. 17).

The government ruling, although widely praised and long sought after, isn't necessarily a "eureka" kind of moment for many; the results of the ruling  - largely based on recommendations and backed by research issued by the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Research Council of the National Academies of Science- outline changes that could be viewed simply as common sense, describing a simpler diet with an emphasis on vegetables and fruits rather than processed foods high in saturated fat and sugar. While this seemingly novel diet may be relatively easy to achieve on an individual level, it is a mammoth of a task to accomplish on a national level, especially in a sector where the consumer (in this case, schoolchildren) gains most of his or her food knowledge and eating habits from a very limited environment - the school lunchroom.

With public figures such as First Lady Michelle Obama and celebrity chefs from Alice Waters to Rachel Ray crusading for this national cause, a glimmer of hope - in the form of brightly colored veggies and fruits - seems to be peeking through the obscurity that was once a mound of colorless mystery meat.

A lot of children - especially those who qualify for school meal programs- eat two meals a day in the school lunchroom.  In Houston ISD alone that means 80% of our students (or 161,600 children) will benefit.   This mostly untapped corner of the education world can have a major impact on a child's relationship with food, introducing healthier dishes in a familiar setting, but the 16,000 children who have participated in RFS Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ program in the last six years will be ready.  They already love their veggies!
The school cafeteria will soon become an extension of our RFS classrooms.

2011-2012 My Favorite Holiday Food Essay Contest

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Lyons.jpgCongratulations to our 2011-2012 Journalism Contest winner, Dottie Warren of Ms. Monteil's class, from Lyons Elementary!

Thanksgiving Tamales with Grandma!

Tsssss! I can hear the screaming of the crisp steam, as my mother lifts the top off a gargantuan pot full of one of my favorite foods. My favorite holiday food tradition is when my family prepares Turkey Tamales for Thanksgiving. My grandfather Arturo created the recipe because he wanted to combine the Mexican tradition of preparing tamales for special occasions and the American tradition of eating turkey at Thanksgiving. First my family and I visit our local Farmers' Market where we buy all of the fresh ingredients we need. Next, we prepare our multi-step recipe using a cornucopia of different ingredients. Lastly, we celebrate Thanksgiving by eating over delicious creations that everyone will enjoy!

        When we visit the Farmers' Market that my mother has shopped at for over forty years. My mother and grandmother share stores about the hilarious things my grandfather would do on visits there. We buy all of the freshest, greatest, vegetables straight from the farm like spinach, kale, chayote, bell peppers, garlic, tomatillos, green onion, celery and cilantro. Since we make our tamales in such large quantities to share with the rest of the family, we try to find the fattest turkey available! This will turn out great! Our new tradition is to make a non-meat, vegetables version using wild rice, garbanzo beans, lentils, and carrots in addition to making the turkey tamales. The traditions continue to grow.

        The success of the tamales rests with the quality of the vegetable base sauce. The sauce is used for making the masa, preparing the meat/or vegetable filling and the cream sauce on top. The sauce ingredients are: 2 heads of garlic, 1 bunch of kale, 4 chayote, 1 bunch cilantro, 4 bell peppers, 3 lbs tomatillos, 2 bunches green onion, 1 whole celery, 2 bags spinach. Wash and clean all the vegetables and place them except the spinach in a pot with water. Cook until tender. Place cooked vegetables in blender with the uncooked spinach and thin with the hot liquid. Return to pot and cook about 1 hour, season with salt to taste. Boil the turkey then shred. Use prepared vegetable sauce to simmer the meat for 30 mins. To prepare the masa, combine five, 5 lb bags of dry masa with 3 large tubs of Smart Balance Sprea. NOT LARD! Add the vegetable sauce until moist about 4-6 cups. Now spread about 3 tablespoon of masa evenly on moistened cornhusks. Place filling  (meat or vegetable) in center, then wrap both sides over each other and fold the bottom up to seal. Stock in pot and stem 1-1/2 hr.

        It's Thanksgiving day! By the time I am awake and out of my bed, the meat-filled bundles are steaming in the pot. Tssss! I help my mother lift the top off the enormous pot, and the steam and delicious aroma fill the air. The unique smell quickly reminds me of past family gatherings and of the one we will go to today.

        Finally! The moment I have been waiting for! As I unwrap the corn husk, the warm, green masa topped with a viscous vegetable cream sauce, which my mother just finished by adding sour cream to the vegetable base sauce, tastes like nothing I have tasted any where else but home. I Buen provecho!

Congratulations to our school finalists:
Bria Booker, MacGregor Elementary
Victoria Lopez, Rodriguez Elementary
Juliette Cedillo, Briscoe Elementary
Avery Robinson, Whittier Elementary
AJ Guerrero, DeZavala Elementary
Taylor East, Harbach-Ripley Elementary

Move Over Butter! Novo Nordisk Is the New Condiment in Town

Gracie Cavnar
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If you watch cooking shows, browse bookstores or stand in the checkout line at grocery stores, you most likely know of celebrity chef Paula Deen. Dubbed as "The Butter Queen," Deen is known for her southern charm and her southern (high fat, high sugar) recipes; she has been a Food Network staple for nine years, starring in her own cooking show, "Paula's Home Cooking," showcasing stick-to-your-gullet, down home southern comfort recipes.
Deen has announced that she has had Type 2 Diabetes for three years. Normally, how a person deals with his or her health issues is a personal matter, but when the health issue involves a public figure whose empire was built on the very foods that factored into her illness, then it's a different story. Her diabetes announcement coincided with another, even more surprising announcement: she will now be the official (paid) spokesperson for the diabetes medication Novo Nordisk.

Deen's endorsement of a diabetes drug only reinforces the already-engrained American mindset that we can eat however we want - no matter how unhealthy and no matter how much - as long as there is a pill that we can take to alleviate some of the damage. Why not take a preemptive approach and simply employ common sense and moderation when it comes to diet? Type 2 Diabetes is a chronic disease that can be avoided or at the very least managed with factors that are in our own (and not the pharmaceutical industry's) hands. Although anyone can get Type 2 Diabetes, the first factor is most often listed as being overweight or obese.
In addition to promoting the diabetes drug, Deen is also promoting - on a new website entitled "diabetes in a new light"- southern style dishes that are on the "lighter" side, more exercise, less stress and more doctor/patient partnering to manage the disease.   The public and her fellow TV star-chefs, are not buying it.  The Huffington Post continues to publish stories about the continuing backlash: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/23/paula-deen-diabetes-announcement-celebrity-chefs-support_n_1224454.html

Although the media frenzy surrounding Deen's declaration is focused on adults with the chronic disease, there is another section of the population - albeit surprising and disconcerting - that needs our attention: children.  Although just a few years ago it was rare to hear of a child with Type 2 Diabetes, those numbers - in conjunction with children's weight- are steadily increasing.  Type 2 Diabetes is a direct result of obesity.  This is a very serious problem across the country, especially in Houston where it is estimated that 28% of fourth graders, 16.7% of adolescents, 15-18 years of age, and 29.1% of adults are obese.  With this generation's fast-paced lifestyle, children (and adults) are eating out more and exercising less, paying more attention to the immediacy of food than to the health benefits of food.

Recipe for Success Foundation - with our focus on changing the way children understand, appreciate and east their food  - continues to advocate for improvements in the food world; and with each change, whether incremental or immense, we get closer to fulfilling a promise for healthier children.

Easy Kale Salad

Alyssa Dole
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Kale Salad.jpgEasy Kale Salad

1 bunch of fresh kale, stemmed and chopped into bite-sized pieces

½ onion, diced

½ cup sunflower seeds (or any other seed or nut your prefer)

¼ cup Feta, crumbled 

1 lemon, juiced

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Optional extra ingredients:

mustard greens, chopped

dried fruit (RFS Staff favorites are currants and blueberries)

fresh herbs

green onions

  1. Combine all ingredients except for lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper in a large mixing bowl. 
  2. Add lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper to small jar with a lid and shake to mix, then pour dressing evenly over the salad ingredients.
  3. Toss lightly with your hands or a fork to mix together and evenly coat.

Easy as 1-2-3!