February 2012 Archives

Volunteer of the Month... Leslie Yen

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Leslie grew up in California cooking, but had no gardening experience.   She later moved to New York, where she worked as a caterer, then made her way to Houston. While she is very busy now studying to get her masters in Nutrition, she enjoys taking some time away from her studies to work with the kids at Briscoe Elementary, where she has been a volunteer for over a year now.  She really enjoys exploring recipes with the kids-and is very excited about all she has learned about gardening. 


"In every nutrition class I have taken we discuss the growing problem of childhood obesity. I relish the opportunity to take action against the epidemic by working with Recipe for Success. It is such a terrific organization and I feel privileged to be a part of it."- Leslie Yen

Leslie, Thank you for all of your hard work!

Going Halfsies

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Remember the days when you weren't allowed to leave the table until you finished all the food on your plate? 

Getting children to eat healthier is the topic of a national, multi-layered discussion/debate; with vanguard issues such as eating more fruits and vegetables, eating less sugary and fatty foods and getting more exercise at the forefront, it is easy to lose sight of lesser-broached, but equally as important issues, such as portion control (a topic that is mainly addressed in adults, but, if addressed at a young age, would have a more profound effect later in life). 

In a society that seems to be gaining momentum in lifestyle pace, with more extracurricular activities for children and longer workdays for parents, the home-cooked meal is becoming the exception to the rule. Instead, eating habits are learned from restaurants, fast food chains and commercials, with all three options offering a common theme: outlandish portion sizes, and usually at a relatively inexpensive price, making the temptation to overeat that much stronger. If the large portion sizes consisted of fresh veggies, fruits and lean proteins, there would not be much of a problem, but that is not usually the case. Plates are being piled with greasy, fatty foods that are nutritionally subpar.

A healthy, balanced meal needs to define not just what is on the plate, but how much is on the plate. 

Go Halfsies, a new social initiative that addresses the issue of portion control along with other interrelated issues such as obesity and food waste, advocates for smaller restaurant portions (in comparison to the current restaurant portions that range from two to four times the size of recommended portions) at full price. Go Halfsies is partnering with restaurants--the first are in Austin and New York City--that have designated items on their menus to the initiative. When customers choose a meal with a Go Halfsies symbol, they pay full price while receiving only half of the portion. Extra proceeds are donated to support the fight against hunger.  

Recipe for Success Foundation's hand-on Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ is aimed at preventing childhood obesity by helping children develop healthier habits. Portion size is something we regularly address.  Whether in the classroom, in the lunchroom, around the dining room table or seated at a restaurant, we encourage children to focus on the quality and the quantity of their food. So we add our voices to the clarion call:  When dining out--whether there is a special promotion available or not, just eat half!

Carrot and Kolhrabi Soup

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Carrot & Kohlrabi Soup

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For the soup:

1 ½ pounds carrots, peeled and thinly sliced

2 large        kohlrabi, peeled and thinly sliced

1         onion, peeled and thinly sliced

3 cups water

2 cups chicken broth or stock

½ cup milk

To taste         salt and pepper

For the croutons:

1         whole grain french bread roll

2 tablespoon olive oil

Make the soup

Peel and thinly slice carrots, onion, and kohlrabi.

Place water in a sauce pot. Bring to a boil. 

Add the vegetables. Simmer until the vegetables are soft 

Place a strainer over a bowl. Drain the vegetables into the strainer.  Save the liquid. 

Place the vegetables in a blender or food processor.  Puree until smooth.

Place the puree, the cooking liquid, chicken broth and milk into a sauce pot. 

Heat to a simmer.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Make the croutons

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Cut the bread into cubes.

Place bread into a bowl.  Add the oil. Toss to combine.

Spread cubes on a sheet pan. 

Place  pan in the oven. Bake until crisp. Remove from the oven.


Place the soup in bowls. 

Pass the hot croutons at the table.

*Try substituting broccoli or squash for the carrots for 2 new and different recipes.  

CultureMap Raves about RecipeHouse

Gracie Cavnar
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A top chef school in Houston: Gracie Cavnar's RecipeHouse offers cooking classes from masters
02.15.12 | 11:31 am
Houston may not be dense, but it can be quite good at hiding gems just out of sight. So when I was invited to a cooking class to celebrate the opening of RecipeHouse, an extension of Gracie Cavnar's Recipe 4 Success, I was stunned to learn that the organization, keeps its headquarters just a few steps from my front door in Montrose.

Read Sarah's entire story here.

Bettina Siegel Joins RFS on a Field Trip With Students from MacGregor ES

Gracie Cavnar
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Wasabina, Daikon and More! Cooking With the Kids from Recipe for Success

Last week I volunteered, as I do every month, with Recipe for Success - a comprehensive "seed to plate" instructional program that brings gardens, cooking, nutrition education and celebrity chefs into local schools.  I don't always post about my experiences with R4S, but last week's class was so fun I wanted to share.

Instead of meeting my assigned fourth grade class at its elementary school, as we usually do, we all gathered at t'afia, an innovative Houston restaurant which uses only local foods.  T'afia is the brainchild of Monica Pope, a much-lauded chef (James Beard nominee, Top Chef Masters contestant, etc.), R4S Board Member and classroom volunteer.  Our assignment was to make Monica's Winter Vegetable Slaw which we would then enjoy along with a full meal prepared by the t'afia kitchen.

One of the things I like best about volunteering with R4S is sharing information with kids about food -- exposing them to new produce and herbs, exploring new flavors and then talking about what they like and don't like.  But this time around the kids weren't the only ones learning:  I encountered a vegetable I'd never even heard of before,"wasabina," a leafy, peppery green with a slight wasabi taste.  I also learned how to properly sprout my own grains and seeds, something I've been interested in trying.
Read the rest of Bettina's story on Lunch Tray.

The Houston Chronicle features our Rolling Green Market

Gracie Cavnar
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Sunday, February 5, 2012
by Allan Turner, The Houston Chronicle City&State section

"As an oasis in one of Houston's sprawling "food deserts," the little grocery store wasn't much. Wilted mustard greens, pocked tomatoes and past-their-prime cantaloupes filled the produce bins. Soft drinks, candy and salty snacks lurked tantalizingly nearby." Read the whole story here.

RecipeHouse Offering Hands-on Cooking Classes in Museum District Kitchen

Gracie Cavnar
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On January 18, Recipe for Success Foundation launched the first of what will be a stimulating assortment of 2012 healthy cooking and gardening classes at the newly opened RecipeHouse (RH), located in Houston's Museum District at 4400 Yupon Street.

RH kickoff with board.JPGThis hands-on cooking class boasted Chef Garth Blackburn - executive chef for Subzero/Wolf showroom in Houston- as instructor, and RFS board members and some special guests as attendees. A meticulously measured blend of dialogue, instruction, eating and imbibing, the cooking class proved to be a resounding success; with sated appetites and renewed interest in and advocacy for RH, board members offered up their own thoughts about the evening.
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"Garth was great - his idea that we, not him, would make dinner under his guidance made it real and the food more appreciated" - Amy Anton. And it's not too often that you hear - whether from a child or an adult - "Best Brussels sprouts I ever had!" - Frank Steininger.

Adrienne Ryherd Considers Pint-Sized Chefs: When Kids Rule the Kitchen

Gracie Cavnar
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This story from Adrienne Ryherd, who volunteers at MacGregor Elementary:

"Think it's improbable (or impossible) for young students to get energized about cooking and eating healthy foods? I thought so too.  Think again.

Kids-chopping.gifI recently heard about the RFS Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ Program (S2P)- designed to involve children in the entire process of healthy eating and targeting under-served schools where nutrition education is needed most.  It began in 2006 as a pilot program in Houston schools such as MacGregor Elementary (which now continues as one of the program's showcase schools.)  They reported earlier this year that because of overwhelming success, will soon be available nationwide to licensed S2P Affiliate Partners.   I wanted to see for myself.

Walking into the MacGregor Elementary (one of Recipe for Success Foundation's Showcase Schools) classroom is akin to walking into a proper test kitchen, only this kitchen happens to be in an elementary classroom that is tailored to fit the culinary needs of young students - in this case, 1st graders, to be exact. Mobile cooking stations outfitted with all the necessary cooking utensils are lined down the center of the room and kid-friendly diagrams (food plate, ABCs of vegetables, the five tastes) adorn the walls, making the atmosphere approachable and exciting.

As the children filed in, anticipation tangible in the air, they all knew the routine. After picking up their very own Recipe for Success apron, they proceeded to wash their hands and take their places at a cooking station of their choice.

Choices - healthy ones, that is- are exactly what the S2P program is encouraging young students to make. And what better way to approach this goal than by including the students in every step of their cooking journey, from the seeds they plant in the school gardens to the type of dishes they prepare in the classroom (a.k.a. kitchen).

Before food preparation began, the students and Alyssa, (a Recipe for Success Foundation staff chef and "Team Leader" at this school), engaged in conversation regarding the dish of the day.  It was "green eggs and ham." But this children's classic had a twist:  instead of using green food coloring, the children used different types of greens (harvested from their very own gardens on the school grounds) to create a pesto to be mixed into the eggs. After identifying and discussing all the greens they would be using (and the list was prolific, even for an adult) such as mustard greens, kale, dino kale, red Russian kale and rainbow chard, the children continued to tear and cut the greens, of course with some questions and comments along the way.

After delivering their chopped up greens and eggs (which they cracked in a bowl themselves) to Chef Alyssa, the children waited expectantly as she blended the greens with Parmesan cheese, olive oil and garlic, discussing each ingredient as she added it to the blender. Between discussions of ingredients, colors, smells, health benefits and texture, the students engaged all of their senses and gained confidence in their cooking skills, ending the class with a resounding "Bon Appetit!" as they heartily dug into their freshly-made dish. 

I would have never believed it, if I hadn't seen for myself."  Adrienne Ryherd.

Help Us Get the Truck Rolling!

Gracie Cavnar
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"On January 18, 2012 Mayor Annise Parker's & Recipe for Success Foundation's Rolling Green Market initiative earned $25,000 and a second place finish at the U.S. Conference of Mayors' 2012 Childhood Obesity Prevention Awards."  See the press release issued by Mayor Parker here:

Imagine this scenario:
A beautifully painted vehicle rolls down your street every Tuesday, 
music playing and bells ringing.  It reminds you of when the ice cream truck
used to roam this neighborhood, but it's the Hope Farms Rolling Green Market.

It parks on the corner, a half dozen young people jump out, and within minutes it is transformed into the most bountiful Farmers Market stand you have ever seen.  Under a striped awning, crates of fresh produce cover tables.  The vegetables you don't recognize are accessorized with recipe cards for delicious, affordable family meals.  A chef holds court in one corner doing a cooking class--ratatouille--he even lets your 5-year-old help.  And a smiling young woman is offering tasting samples.  "Try before you buy!" she encourages your neighbors.  When you look at the blackboard pricelist, you can't believe your eyes!  The summer squash is only 50¢ a pound!  At these prices, you can make that ratatouille for your whole family for just a couple of dollars--even less than getting everyone a 99¢ value meal at the fast food joint on the corner.  And they take WICS, too.  You look forward to Tuesdays all week long.  The arrival of the Hope Farms Rolling Green Market every Tuesday afternoon has become a defacto neighborhood gathering, which is so much fun.  But it has also been a lifesaver for you and your whole family.  It is your only resource for fresh produce . . . it has changed your life.

We must raise an additional $200,000 to get the Hope Farms Green Market Rolling.  Will you help us? Donate any amount today.

Our goal for the Hope Farms Rolling Green Market is to alleviate serious health risk and promote good nutrition by delivering significantly reduced-priced, fresh fruits and vegetables directly to families who are now marooned in identified Houston neighborhoods that are known as food deserts or who are otherwise considered to be suffering from nutritional insecurity, thereby empowering caregivers to provide a healthy diet to Houston's children.  The secondary goals of Hope Farms Rolling Green Market Are: To promote the increased consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables and good nutrition to all Houstonians, and to be a national roll model that inspires similar initiatives throughout the country.

The Hope Farms Rolling Green Market vehicle will be fabricated from a used Mercedes Freightliner stepvan.  It will have a fully refrigerated cargo area with added coolers, a vegetable prep and washing station, a portable cooking station, a pop-open window, a fully retractable side awning and all the tables, chairs and equipment required to transform it into an impromptu farmers market stand and cooking demonstration area.  It will be 100% wrapped in graphics, which will transform it into a fulltime rolling billboard for fresh food.

The day-to-day business operation of the Hope Farms Rolling Green Market will be undertaken by our city's youth--a team of five 16-24 year old interns selected through a highly competitive process for a one-year internship as a member of the Rolling Green Team.  Each intern will receive an annual stipend of $5,000 minimum.  The Rolling Green Team will actively participate in a career development program focused on expanding their job skills and preparing them for the workforce, with the support of selected mentors and advisors.  The Team will be responsible for developing and maintaining relationships with food donors, collection of produce, community outreach and customer development, sales and distribution of produce, collection of payments, and submitting detailed reports, and will be mentored and managed by a member of the Recipe for Success Foundation professional staff--the Director of Rolling Green.

The Hope Farms Rolling Green Market will operate on a regular timetable Monday through Sunday, circulating throughout Houston's most critically at-risk neighborhoods - the ones marooned in food deserts.  In a pending agreement with the City of Houston Heath Department and Harris County Health Department, it may also make frequently scheduled appearances at the neighborhood clinics.

Green Eggs and "Ham" with Cynthia Stephens

Guest Volunteer
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One word to describe my day as a volunteer: enchanting! 

To aptly describe my recent volunteer experience with this wonderful organization, I offer one word: enchanting!
As the children lined up single-file at the door of the cooking class, I was immediately taken in by the contagious innocence. The 20+ kids glowed with a wide-eyed anticipation while waiting patiently to be fit with small aprons emblazoned with "Recipe4Success."
The enchantment continued as grins and giggles permeated the classroom and hands were dutifully washed and even numbered children were grouped around separate work areas. As each young student explored all the large fresh-from-the garden collard and mustard greens, Swiss chard, kale, eggs and neatly displayed cooking tools, I learned you can't touch anything more than twice, what a whisk was probably for, and their firm opinions on vegetables.
Mouths were zipped and hands went into pockets as Alyssa efficiently captured their attention. Then the transformation began for a healthy repast of something wonderful resembling a kind of pesto, comprised of green eggs and "ham."
As class commenced, outstretched arms waved to proudly volunteer what they knew of healthy eating, protein, and where ham comes from and each child got to taste the bitter greens, whisk eggs and stir the vegetables, eggs and turkey together (ham substitute for nutritional value). I learned that all the vegetables were grown on the premises and quickly glanced out the window to admire neatly displayed rows of tall fresh vegetables and herbs for use in forthcoming healthy adventures.
I'm a cook and while I take pride in all that entails, I gained immense admiration for a wonderful program that was clearly one of the highlights of a routine elementary school day. After the hour had quickly passed, I realized that this was unquestionably one of the highlights of mine.

Cynthia Stephens.  A Good Writer