August 2013 Archives

TX Lawmakers Undermine Health

Gracie Cavnar
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junk-food.jpgIn a recent article by Marion Nestle, a nationally respected food policy expert, some heavy news for childhood obesity battle in Texas:  "The Texas governor signed a bill this summer that was supposed to allow Texas high school students to buy "competitive" (because they compete with federally funded school meals) fast foods.  But a mistake in the wording allows them to buy "foods of minimal nutritional value"--candy, sodas, and the like in conflict with long-standing USDA regulations."  Read more.

And a more indepth look at this fiasco by Bettina Siegal on The Lunch Tray who broke the story.  Time for concerned citizens to reach out to our legislators and remind them that our children's health is more important than the financial health of junk food maker and sellers.

This is a huge setback in our work to make school meals healthier for all our kids.  To think that under Susan Combs as Texas Agricultural Commissioner, Texas was one of the first states to ban vending machines and foods of minimal nutritional value in our elementary schools statewide.

Vermont Public Radio Interview

Jenna White
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VermontEdition.jpgHost, Jane Lindholm recently interviewed Recipe for Success Founder, Gracie Cavnar on Vermont Edition.    "One out of six children in the US is obese. Gracie Cavnar has been working to change that. She's the founder of Recipe for Success Foundation and Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education, and author of Eat It! Food Adventures with Marco Polo.  And for part of the year, she lives in Woodstock, VT.

We'll talk with Gracie Cavnar about her work on solving the childhood obesity crisis by changing the way children eat."

This interview originally published by Vermont Public Radio here.

Arugula, Berry and Jicama Salad

Jenna White
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Jicama-Arugala salad.jpg The crunchy jicama, tart apple, sweet berries and peppery bite of arugula in this salad are a perfect way to celebrate summer produce at its peak.  Blackberries are splendid in salads because they're sturdy enough to stand up to tossing and substantial enough to be speared with a fork, but other berries would be delicious as well.  Jicama is a round, tan root vegetable that can be found in the produce section of the supermarket.  If you can't find it, just ask!  In a pinch, you can use seeded cucumber in place of jicama.  Arugula purchased at a local farmers market will be very peppery and delicious! 

Arugula, Jicama, and Apple Salad

From the RFS Chefs Advisory Board

Serves 4



For dressing:

4 teaspoons lime juice

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons champagne or rice wine vinegar

2 teaspoons agave nectar or honey

1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated (or 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger)

For salad:

2 cups arugula

1 cup blackberries, blueberries or raspberries

1 cup jicama, peeled and cut into thin matchsticks (about ½ jicama)

1 cup granny smith apple, cut into thin matchsticks



  • Add lime juice, oil, vinegar, agave nectar, and ginger in a bowl, and whisk vigorously to combine and emulsify.
  • Combine arugula, blackberries, jicama, and apple in separate bowl.
  • Toss with dressing, and serve immediately. Bon appetit!



  • Kid helper tip: Encourage the help of kids in the kitchen by allowing them to measure and pour dressing ingredients into a jar, instead of a bowl, then twist on the lid and let them shake vigorously to mix the dressing.
  • For a creamier dressing, add 2 tablespoons of Greek yogurt in the first step.
  • To prepare the salad ahead of time, do not dress! Store the salad ingredients in an airtight container for up to 3 days and store the dressing separately in a sealed container.
  • Make extra dressing and store in the refrigerator for a quick salad later!

Honoring Glen & Honi Boudreaux

Gracie Cavnar
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DSC00065 - Version 2.jpgThis year's Blue Plate Special Cafe Harvest Market and Awards Lunch on November 19 at River Oaks Country Club will honor founding RFS board members, Glen and Honi Boudreaux.  Owners of Jolie Vue Farms, a beautiful grass fed beef and Berkshire pig operation in Brenham, Texas the Boudreauxs have long been advocates of urban agriculture, farmers markets and everything else that shortens the distance from farm to plate.

The Blue Plate Special Café Harvest Market & Awards Lunch raises critical funds to continue our vital growth of Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ in Houston schools.  Beginning with a Harvest Market of locally made products and progressing to a feast of seasonal delights designed by the kids participating in our program, this charming event has emerged as a yummy prelude to Thanksgiving and a perfect way to celebrate the tradition of the shared meal. 

We're excited to honor amazing people like the Boudreauxs who have made a profound difference helping Houston children lead healthier lives.  Other awards include Chef of the Year-Ryan Pera,  Volunteers of the Year-Brooke Candelaria & Suzanne Williams and Teacher of the Year-Olga Abundis.

Tables and tickets are available.  Email for details.

Eat This! Campers Sell Cookies

Gracie Cavnar
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KaleCookieCampers-square.jpgChocolate Kale Cookies, a brand new product created by elementary aged kids who attended session five of our Eat This! Summer Camp at RecipeHouse, were the hands-down choice by Houston's Revival Market to add to their shelves.   Veteran supporters of Recipe for Success Foundation's efforts to combat childhood obesity by changing the way kids eat, Revival Market unveiled their latest product just in time for back to school.

Eat This! Summer Camps prepare children to become savvy food consumers through hands-on learning in the kitchen and garden. During each week-long session, campers develop and market an original food product with the help of the Foundation's Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ Instructors, and volunteer members of their Chefs Advisory Board, who this year included Jon Buchanan (Trevisio) and Ruffy Sulaiman (Hilton Americas-Houston), and Revival Market General Manager, Carlos Meltzer. 

"Children who understand how food is marketed to them are empowered to distinguish between facts and promotions when selecting their own food from grocery shelves," explained Gracie Cavnar.  After building their culinary chops testing recipes, this year's five groups of campers perfected their products and developed branding and packaging to present to Revival Market. "Understanding the basics of food marketing opens the door to critical thinking and gives kids a set of tools they can use in many areas of development," said Meltzer.

Finished products ranged from Salsa Gals' Italian-inspired salsa complete with the jingle, "Don't Mambo; Salsa!" to the deceptively healthy Razzalicious Brownies, chock full of fresh spinach and raspberries.  After sampling entries from the five Eat This! Summer Camp sessions, the Revival Market team selected their favorite:   "Everything was great, but we found the Chocolate Kale Cookies to be the best tasting item and loved the style of the box and the artwork the kids created," said Meltzer.

Campers, parents and RFS staff reunited at Revival Market for the official unveiling of the winning product. Attendees sampled all five products crafted by campers, viewed the various marketing campaigns, and enjoyed light bites provided by Revival Market.

"My child loved EVERYTHING about this camp--the garden, cooking,meeting an 'insect guy', marketing granola--EVERY aspect was phenomenal!" said Swati Narayan, Mom to eight-year-old Milan.

You can buy Chocolate Kale Cookies at Revival Market and a portion of the proceeds will be donated back to RFS programming.

Power Up for Back to School

Gracie Cavnar
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Joey makes Guacamole.JPGNew backpack--check. New shoes--check. Pens, paper, notebooks--check, check check. Kale--check. Wait a minute.  .  . kale?  Yes. That's right.  When the children go back to school this month, don't forget the brain food.

Resist the temptation to fall back on processed and fast foods when time gets tight.  It's the worst food for a young student's brain, impacting functions from short-term memory to learning capacity.  We've long known that our brains depend on essential vitamins and minerals to function well.  Now the experts maintain that the interior of the brain is just as integral to learning as the classroom environment with mounting evidence supporting a direct link between good nutrition and your child's ability to learn.

Here are my ten tips for boosting brainpower and sending your kids to school ready to learn:

  1. Start with a good breakfast.  In the morning rush, avoid canned breakfast drinks, cold/sugary cereals, doughnuts and the drive-through.  Stick to oatmeal, fresh fruits, low fat dairy and lean proteins.
  2. Eat a handful of walnuts or pecans every day.  Rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, these nuts are a super brain food. Keep a bowl out on the counter to scoop up for a snack, toss into your salads and on veggies and chop to top fish or chicken before broiling.
  3. Offer blueberries, strawberries, pomegranate seeds and apples for desert and snacks.  Buy these high antioxidant fruits in season to keep them affordable.  A sack of apples costs less than a family sized bag of chips and powers up the brain.
  4. Use whole grain bread for sandwiches & toast.  I know kids love soft fluffy white bread, but the highly processed flour might as well be candy for its brain effect.
  5. Switch to brown rice as a side dish or added into soups and stews.  It's a great injection of Vitamin B to support good brain activity.   
  6. Keep kale chips on the counter. Kale is the ultimate super food, affordable all year long and kids love it as a crunchy snack.  You don't have to break the news that the chips are a healthy choice. 
  7. Offer whole oranges and grapefruit instead of juice.  These citrus fruits are vitamin-packed but lose their punch and fiber when reduced to juice.  What better portable breakfast, desert or snack?
  8. Replace shortening, vegetable oil and butter with olive oil.  We have all heard for years about the dangers of fats, but olive oil is rich in Omega-3s and a brain builder.
  9. Drink tea instead of carbonated beverages.  Hot or cold, tea is packed with flavenoids, which boost brain function.  Use honey to avoid the sugar blues.
  10. Use lots of green fruits and veggies--especially artichokes, avocados, spinach, asparagus and olives--on sandwiches, in salads, soups, even scrambled eggs.

Every one of these tactics will boost your child's school readiness.  But, don't bite off more than you can chew, get overwhelmed and throw in the towel.  Introduce one new idea a week until you work up to all ten.  By Thanksgiving, the kids will be firing on all pistons.

My tips for breakfast:

Oatmeal is one of the best ways to start the day, but it takes a long time to make.  I have found a great shortcut and time saver:  Before going to bed, I bring 4 cups of water, 1 cup of steelcut oats and a pinch of salt to a boil in a pot; put the lid on and turn the stove off.  Next morning, I wake up to perfectly cooked oatmeal, scoop out a cup, zap it in the micro for 45 seconds, mash in a ripe banana and add a pinch of cinnamon.  Viola!  a fast, nutritious breakfast.  Cook enough oatmeal on Sunday night to last the entire week, store it in the fridge, and dip out daily servings.

My tips for switching to whole grain bread:

Start with a whole-wheat version that's slightly sweeter, like honey & oats or one of the white whole wheat breads on the market.  Make sure that the ingredient list begins with names of whole grains and that you are avoiding corn syrup.  Consider spending a rainy Sunday afternoon making whole wheat bread from scratch with your kids.  Besides having fun together playing with dough, they are far more likely to eat something they have made.

My tips for kale chips:

At our house, I make kale chips every night and by the next afternoon they've disappeared.   Take a fresh head of kale, tear the leaves off of their spines in handfuls and collect them in a bowl.  Rinse the torn leaves well and blot dry.  Drizzle olive oil over the torn leaves and toss with your hands to coat them evenly.  Spread the leaves in a single layer onto cookie sheets and sprinkle generously with Parmesan cheese and put in an 180° oven overnight.  The next morning, lightly sprinkle the crispy chips with a bit of salt and enjoy!

My tips for getting the kids to eat green:

It can be hard to get our kids to eat their green fruits and veggies, which tend to be the least sweet of all foods.  This is where combining them with foods they love is the better part of valor, even if it's ranch dressing.  Just make sure there is more veggie than coating!  It's better to avoid mandates like "eat your vegetables," which only turn kids off the concept and fortify their resistance.  This is where involving your kids in cooking really pays off.

My five year-old grandson spent a month with us this summer, and I had him in the kitchen everyday.  Each session would start with an exchange like this:

"Is it vegables? I don't like vegables. I don't like avocados. I don't like tomatoes."

"Did you know that avocados and tomatoes make great muscles so we can run faster?  Lets mash some up."

"Oh, this looks like guacamole.  I love guacamole! Can we have chips?" 

"Why don't we dip our carrots in it?"

"OK.  Hey! I love avocadoes!"

By the end of the month he was saying, I love about everything from peas to zucchini, but he still insisted that he didn't like vegables.

Prevention Means Business

Jenna White
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Supporting a healthy workforce is a good business decision and we love seeing the numbers expressed so clearly.  At Recipe for Success we offer support for companies that are interested in teaching employees how to make healthy eating decisions by offering our popular cooking classes in a variety of forms. 

Learn more about our Worksite Wellness programming here.

August's Volunteer of the Month

Tracy Weldon
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August 2013.pngWe are happy to announce Rachel Huisman as our volunteer of the month for August!  Rachel has been with Recipe for Success since January volunteering in our culinary classroom at MacGregor Elementary School and with community outreach events.  Rachel attended Rice University graduating with a degree in history, but hopped back into the classroom to obtain a nutrition degree eventually becoming a registered dietitian.  In her spare time, you can find Rachel cooking, traveling, sailing, or eating her favorite type of cuisine: Thai food. 

Rachel first learned about RFS a few years ago and loved the mission, but finally had extra time this year to get involved.  She thinks that Recipe for Success is important because it integrates many disciplines and it also gets children excited while raising awareness about fresh produce.  Initially, she was very surprised yet pleased at the effectiveness of our Seed-to-Plate Nutriton EducationTM program.  It is not easy to get kids excited, let alone, eat new fruits and veggies.  She gives credit to our staff because other efforts similar to ours are not as successful. 

Her most memorable moment was during the Iron Chef competition.  It was such a rewarding experience for her to see the students excited about the colorful and creative meals they have created. 

We are very thankful to have committed volunteers like Rachel and we will be glad to have her back at MacGregor in the fall!


If you would like to volunteer with any of our programs, please contact the volunteer coordinator.