December 2014 Archives

Green Garden Gifts

Emily Paul
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Hooray, the holiday season is here! Families are gathering, joyful music is playing, kitchens are warm with baking, and of course, people are frantically shopping. Last minute shoppers, don't stress about finding (not to mention affording) the perfect presents for loved ones and take a page from our Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ garden classes.


At MacGregor Elementary, our students collected rosemary, oregano, sage, and bay laurel stems to create aromatic, herb bouquet gifts. Unlike a Christmas tree, this gift is still useful even if it dries out! Whether the recipient likes to cook or not, the bouquet can be used as rustic décor, freshening any room with it's warm woody fragrance.


If you can only get your hands on rosemary, an herb that is particularly prolific in Texas I've quickly learned, try making rosemary wreaths or ornaments tied together with twine or ribbon. These handmade gifts are fun for kids (and adults!) to make, not to mention affordable and environmentally friendly.

Look outside and let your imagination do the gifting!   

Recipe for Success Foundation also has gifts that give - place your order by noon on December 22  for delivery by Christmas Eve!


Let It Go: Monarch Edition

Emily Paul
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Recipe for Success takes full advantage of our Recipe Gardens, utilizing their bounty in our culinary classes. However, it's not just students and school staff who love our homegrown harvest. The week before Thanksgiving, students caught countless monarch caterpillars munching away on the Mexican milkweed in our Recipe Garden at MacGregor Elementary. 


A hard freeze in Houston was in the forecast, and the kids were worried about the future of all these soon-to-be butterflies. Sympathizing with their anguish, I was talked into becoming a foster parent of four caterpillars, which I was informed, was not nearly enough. Evidently, our garden caterpillars faired just fine. When we returned in December, the once very lush milkweeds had not a leaf in sight!


Over the following weeks, my classes observed these caterpillars turn into chrysalises, from dewy green to black and orange. One reflective Pre-K student commented that the chrysalis was like the butterfly's sleeping bag, a perfectly apt (and adorable!) association for their curious minds to grasp.


Kindergartener watches a butterfly emerge in its makeshift habitat.

Never before had I held captive chrysalises and I found myself being just as rapt with their life cycle as the kids, particularly when the butterflies emerged! One particular kindergarten class squealed with delight as the emerging drama unfolded before them. A couple hours later, the fifth graders released the butterflies from their netted cage. Shy to start flying at first, they were serenaded by the class singing "Let It Go" and "I Believe I Can Fly" in complete earnest and support of these tiny creatures.

When finally the radiant orange wings took off into the wind, the class erupted in cheers. One student asked, "Can we plant more milkweed?" Absolutely. 


Benihana to the Rescue!

Helen Bow
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RFS Board Member Helen Bow is passionate about healthy eating and exercise.  With one son who's an adventurous eater (Greyson) and one who's a selective eater (Miles), it is always a challenge to please everyone at the dinner table. Often, it requires a little creativity.

teppanyaki.jpgMy 13-year-old son Miles has been selective about what he consumes from the get-go.  When he was old enough to start drinking milk from a cup, he refused to do so.  The kiddo hasn't had a full serving of milk in 12 years.  I'm not kidding.  That includes ice cream.  Yes, that's right.  My son will not even eat ice cream; and yet will opt for sorbet or gelato. To make sure he's getting the nutrients that milk provides, I've learned to compensate, offering him lots of cheese or sneaking milk or cream into mashed potatoes or mac and cheese.

Oddly, Miles loves onions and will eat them raw and cut up like an apple.  I'm always at a loss on what to cook to please the kiddo, to get him to eat healthy foods.  Last weekend, I decided to capitalize on the fact that he loves onions and drew inspiration from a recent trip to Benihana, famous for its teppanyaki-style cuisine.  Miles loves the place and gobbles up the soup, chicken fried rice, shrimp and beef.  So at home, I decided to make him chicken fried rice and included onions, carrots, peas and red and green bell peppers--and he loved it!  I also boiled carrots, onions and green bell peppers, cayenne pepper with soy sauce in organic chicken broth to create my own version of the Benihana soup and he devoured it, veggies and all.

What's more, the leftovers were plentiful so we could enjoy it for a few more days.  Thank you--or arigatou--for the inspiration Benihana!

Have you ever re-created one of your children's favorite dining experiences at home? Tell us in the comments! Or try this healthy stir-fry that uses a surprising technique!

TV Magic with Chef Randy Evans!

Emily Paul
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ChefRandyChopsticks.jpgChef Randy demonstrates how to use chopsticks. 

Chefs in Schools™, which matches celebrity chefs as guest instructors for fourth-grade classes, is one of the most exciting aspects of our Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ program.   Our volunteer chefs are getting a kick out of putting their own unique stamp on this year's curricular theme: Eat It! Food Adventures with Marco Polo.  Just yesterdayChef Randy Evans took fourth-graders from MacGregor Elementary on a culinary adventure to China. On the menu for the day were Far East Cauliflower Bowls, a revamped version of the ultimate take-out comfort food champion, Chinese fried rice.

Chef Randy showed students how to make "rice" with cauliflower, upping nutrient levels and lowering calories, all while sending the tastiness factor off the charts.  Kids were impressed that with only a few pulses of the food processor this wonder veggie could be transformed into a better version of the grain. 

Since 2006, Chef Randy has volunteered in our classrooms, charming and educating students with restaurant secrets and the finest culinary skills. Thursday was no different, except for one detail: the kids' beloved chef is now a TV star! As Chef Randy led students on the epicurean exploration, he regaled them with stories of his Kitchen Inferno episode "Milk and Cookies: Get Ready to Crumble", which debuted this past week on the Food Network. He even divulged a TV magic secret - it took 8 days to film the one hour episode.  The kids were delighted to get the inside scoop!