2015 Archives

Don't be scared of your CSA Share!

Shannon Smith
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Raining Veg.JPGVeg Basket.JPGDoes that pile of king-sized greens and gnarly root vegetables intimidate you? Even if you know your way around a kitchen, the variety and volume in a CSA share can be a little mind-boggling. "You get a lot of veggies all at once in a CSA," says RecipeHouse chef, Justin Kouri, "many more than you would usually pick up at the grocery store."

Chef Justin is excited about empowering people the knowledge to handle their seasonal surplus of veggies. "I want to help folks make good on their intentions to eat greener and healthier," he says. Join Justin at one of his upcoming classes that focus specifically on helping you cook up your CSA share at RecipeHouse. READ MORE about these and other 2016 classes at RecipeHouse.

In a blow-out: Start the New Year right and sign up for the CSA Cooking class on January 12 today or email Chef Justin about upcoming CSA classes slated for February 9 and March 8.

Are you intimidated by that pile of king-sized winter greens and gnarly root vegetables? Even if you know your way around a kitchen, the variety and volume in a CSA share can be a little mind-boggling. "You get a lot of veggies all at once," says our RecipeHouse Chef Justin Kouri. "When you are first getting into the slow food movement, that CSA share often delivers a lot more veggies that you would usually pick up at the grocery store."

Chef Justin is excited about empowering people with the knowledge to handle their seasonal surplus of veggies. "I want to see people to make good on their intentions to eat greener and healthier," he says. Join him for a upcoming CSA Class at RecipeHouse. 

"Especially during the winter, many vegetables are not-so-familiar," says Chef Justin. "My CSA classes feature easy, healthy recipes that are great for singles, couples and families. And I cover simple ways to preserve some of that fresh produce for later, inlcuding pickling and freezing techniques." 

Expect to learn a variety of recipes and tricks to make the most of your produce bounty. "You'll definitely come away with more than one recipe per veggie--like several ways to use all that kale. We'll also discuss what you can eat raw or simply marinate and then serve.

 The recipes will include plenty of savory options, but also some sweet options. "And, of course, each class ends with a feast of the foods we prepare in class. I'll send you home with your preserved foods, along with recipes and new-found knowledge and inspiration to make the most of your CSA shares," says Chef Justin.

 Start the New Year right and sign up for the CSA Cooking class on January 12 today or email Chef Justin about upcoming CSA classes slated for February 9 and March 8. 


Help Us Win! CultureMap Charity Challenge

Shannon Smith
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CultureMap Charity ChallengeHello and Happy Holidays! Recipe for Success Foundation is excited to announce we have been selected as one of the 12 charities to participate in CultureMap's 2016 Charity Challenge.  Please join us in voting everyday between December 15th to December 29th.  The charity with the most votes will be chosen as CultureMap's Charity Partner. This partnership will allow us to continue to impact young lives as we combat childhood obesity by changing the way children understand, appreciate and eat their food. Thank you in advance for your support and sharing with your family and friends! Vote here

December Volunteer of the Month

Shannon Smith
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After graduating from UH with a degree in Human Nutrition and Food, Starla Garcia began volunteering with Recipe For Success in June 2012 to fuel her interests in cooking, nutritious foods, and educating children. She has donated her time with us at our office, at our special events, and during our summer programs. She currently volunteers for weeknight events and weekend cooking classes at RecipeHouseStarla says one of her fondest memories was meeting and talking to chef Hugo Ortega at the 2012 Blue Plate Special Café & Awards Luncheon. "He was selling his book, Street Food of Mexico, and I learned that he was from the same little city in Mexico as grandmother," says Starla. 

What keeps you coming back week after week? What are your favorite things to do or experience when you are volunteering?  

Starla Garcia: I've enjoyed watching the organization grow over the past three years and am proud of how it has stayed focused to its mission of reducing childhood obesity in the Houston area. It has been nice to be part of something like this and watch it become a very involved non-profit organization in the city.  


What does volunteering bring to your life outside of your volunteer work? 

SG: Volunteering brings social connection to my life and allows me to connect with others who have similar interests in nutrition, serving communities, and education.  


Do you have a favorite memory or story so far?  

SG: My favorite memory was meeting and talking to chef Hugo Ortega at the Blue Plate Luncheon three years ago. He was selling his book, Street Food of Mexico, and I learned that he was from the same little city in Mexico as grandmother. I ended up buying the book and he wrote a sweet message in the book to my family and me 


Vol of Month_Girl Scouts.jpgIt's Recipe for Success Foundation's 10th Birthday: where would you like to see the organization in another 10 years?  

SG: I would like to see it move into schools in other metropolitan areas and continue partnering for events with local Houston businesses. I think it's fantastic that Houston recognizes the integrity of the organization and wants to help keep it moving forward 


What are some ways that you enjoy contributing to Recipe for Success' mission to combat childhood obesity?  

SG: Due to my schedule, I am unable to volunteer at the schools, but I still continue to contribute to the Recipe for Success mission through the fundraising events at SAKS, Neiman Marcus, or other events during the week after work. I have also volunteered over the weekends for the cooking classes with the Girl Scouts at RecipeHouse 


Was there a particular experience in your life that shaped your attitudes towards food and nutrition in a positive way?  

SG: Growing up in the Rio Grande Valley there wasn't much information or education about healthy eating or nutritious foods. As a high school runner being recruited by college teams, I started to look for information regarding ways I could eat better, be healthier, and get faster. Instead of looking towards supplements, I saw food as a way to become not only a better athlete, but also a better person. When things started to improve in my running, I began sharing nutrition information and the ways I was eating to help my family and friends be healthier also 


Have you witnessed moments that demonstrate the effectiveness of the foundation's programs?  

SG: I have seen how kids who have experienced the Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ are able to distinguish between vegetables, fruits, and they are open to trying new foods. It is exciting to watch them try foods for the very first time and enjoy them. It is also great to see that the children are very familiar with foods like chickpeas, quinoa, and kale.  

Up Close with Chef Charles Clark

Sandra Cook
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Equally successful as both restaurateur and chef, Charles Clark has made an indelible imprint on Houston's dining culture. Chef Clark has given time and time again of his talents to raise money and awareness on behalf of Recipe for Success through our Gala in Small Bites dinners and in the classroom at Rodriguez Elementary. We are thrilled that he will host Delicious Alchemy: The Banquet on May 19 at his dramatic and dazzling new venue The Dunlavy at Lost Lake on Buffalo Bayou. 

"Charles and his crew came to cook at my house for our very first Gala in Small Bites--we were raising money even before we had a program," remembers founder, Gracie Cavnar.  "It's only fitting that we celebrate our tenth Anniversary at his place, and we can't wait!"  

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When Charles and his partner Grant Cooper opened Ibiza more than fifteen years ago, Recipe for Success Foundation Founders Gracie and Bob Cavnar were immediate fans, and Gracie wasn't shy about complimenting the chef each time she dined there.  Years later, she easily convinced him to host a fundraising dinner for her newly established foundation. "She was so nice, well-travelled and truly liked food. And she dined at Ibiza frequently," he remembers.  

Chef Clark says he has really enjoyed the casual, in-home settings of the Gala in Small Bites dinners--and he should know, having been the featured chef at ten of them! "Holding a charity event in in someone's home makes it more personal, more connected to the cause," says Clark. "Plus it brings more money directly to the charity because there less overhead for the chef or restaurant than with a larger venue."   

He says he loves that the fundraising events are not in a big hotel ballroom. "It's more personal, quaint and genuine. After doing this for years, these are almost no-brainers for me. It's great to plan dinner for 50 to100 people, good people (which usually includes pretty women). It's great to have the sponsorship of Recipe for Success' partners like Sysco and Whole Foods to help offset the cost. Gracie always thinks of different angles to help chefs minimize the cost."  

Chef Clark says he highly recommends other chefs work with Recipe for Success. "There's such a good network of chefs, usually from chef-driven restaurants, not major chains," he says. "You work among your own colleagues and peers, so it's a great environment."   

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Clark teamed with business partner Grant Cooper more than 15 years ago to form Clark Cooper Concepts.  Since their first venture at Ibiza, the partners have opened a slew of popular dining destinations, including Brasserie 19, Coppa Osteria, Punk's Simple Southern Food and Salt + Air. The Dunlavy at Lost Lake, which overlooks Buffalo Bayou off Allen Parkway at Dunlavy Street, is the company's latest concept to wow Houston diners. The modern space takes advantage of its scenic setting with vast, floor-to-ceiling windows and sparkles with more than 45 vintage chandeliers, collected over nearly two years.  

When asked what do you hope people take away from the Delicious Alchemy anniversary weekend, Chef Clark talks about the appreciating everything Recipe for Success Foundation has accomplished. "I hope people will appreciate that reaching 10 years is really something," he says. "With the Foundation's incredible achievements, I hope the anniversary events will give the cause even more momentum. I certainly want the dinner to live up to the expectations, given the tradition of excellence that all the great volunteer chefs involved with Recipe for Success have established."

Open House, Open Heart

Sandra Cook
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After moving into an historic home, Bill Baldwin, who also owns Boulevard Realty, gained a new appreciation for inner-city farming and the value of locally grown produce. "Back around 2008fell in love with 1908 home in the Woodland Heights," says Bill Baldwin. "The entire journey of restoring the home and moving into it inspired me to get into old-fashioned ways. I built a chicken coop and got a dozen chickens. I got into beekeeping, organic gardening and pursued local organic food whenever possible. I was motivated to teach local neighborhoods to feed themselves. I wanted to teach kids that eggs don't come from grocery stores, they come from chickens!" When Baldwin discovered the synergies between his enthusiasm and the mission of Recipe for Success, he became an enthusiastic supporter.  Last year he hosted a fundraiser for the Foundation in his home.  In 2016, he's taking it a step further.  An offhand conversation with Gracie about the kitchen being the heart of the home, inspired his collaboration with DJ Palmore to dream up their Heart of the Home Tour slated for February 13-21 to benefit our cause.

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Get your tickets for the Afton Oaks Heart of the Home Tour

Get your tickets for the Heart of the Home Tour  

  • VIP Dinner (Tues. 2/16) - $200 per person or $350 per couple. This ticket gives you access to an exclusive VIP dinner with special guests Chef Ryan Pera and Morgan Weber. 
  • This ticket gives you access to the open house taking place on any of these days between 11 AM to 5 PM. 

After moving into an historic home, Bill Baldwin, who also owns Boulevard Realty, gained a new appreciation for inner-city farming and the value of locally grown produce. "Back around 2008, I fell in love with a 1908 home in the Woodland Heights," says Bill Baldwin. "The entire journey of restoring the home and moving into it inspired me to get into old-fashioned ways. I built a chicken coop and got a dozen chickens. I got into beekeeping, organic gardening and pursued local organic food whenever possible. I was motivated to teach local neighborhoods to feed themselves. I wanted to teach kids that eggs don't come from grocery stores, they come from chickens!"  

Baldwin says the more he embraced inner-city farming, the more he heard about Recipe for Success FoundationHe also got involved with the Green Valentine organization created by long-time Foundation supporter, Jeff Shell.  Green Valentine celebrates sustainable living for two weeks each February. For their 10th anniversary in 2015, Baldwin hosted the Green Hearts Gala, which benefitted Recipe for Success"We considered several local charities, but the grass roots nature of Recipe for Success was the deciding factor," says Baldwin. 

As Baldwin's company began anticipating the completion of a distinctive new construction listing in Houston's Afton Oaks neighborhood, Bill decided to stage an open house tour to showcase the craftsmanship of David James Custom Builder, a company owned and operated by DJ Palmore, and immediately thought of having the tour benefit Recipe for SuccessAn offhand conversation with Gracie about the kitchen being the heart of the home, inspired the name: Heart of the Home Tour. The event, happening on two weekends in February 2016includes a VIP dinner featuring Coltivare/Revival/Eight Row Flint proprietors Morgan Weber and Chef Ryan Pera. 

"It's so important to know your neighborhood - get out there and host or attend events in your neighborhood," says Baldwin, who has been active in the community for years, first serving on school board at age 18. "Strong schools make a strong community. You don't have to go the suburbs to find good schools, they can be in any in-town neighborhood. When you take ownership of your local school, you ensure a bright future for children."  


Reap, Sow, Grow: Hope Farms Update

Shannon Smith
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Alejandra Cervantes

The vision for Hope Farms, our urban agricultural project, came into sharper focus during December 2015 as Professor Susan Rogers' students at The University of Houston Gerald Hines College of Architecture unveiled their cutting-edge designs for a space that would empower a community and bring generations together. 

Multi-use spaces, placement of entries, presentation to the street and neighbors, thoughtful resource use and building materials, solar panels and water capture, interesting people and project flow and integration of agriculture and community areas were all on display in beautifully handcrafted models showing the full potential of the farm woven into the fabric of its surrounding community. Students presented their ideas, models and reasoning to Recipe for Success Founder & CEO, Gracie Cavnar and Professors Danny Samuels and Nonya Grenader, project advisors from Rice University whose Design Build Lab students hope to construct the final project. 
The architecture designs all highlighted a great sense of community, ranging from welcoming signs and scenic rows or crops to retention ponds that double as soccer fields and pavilions that can be used for gatherings for the whole community. Bringing people together is a key theme for Hope Farms, which seeks to unite the community, veterans, families and farmers as it produces affordable produce for neighbors marooned in one of Houston's largest food deserts.
UH Hope Farms Design

One University of Houston Architecture Student, Alejandra Cervantes, joined Gracie on air on Sunday, December 13 on KTRK's Viva Houston to discuss the developments and the issue of food deserts and how Hope Farms aims to address that critical issue and more in the Sunnyside community of Houston.

Hope Farms and its Rolling Green Market received more good news recently from the USDA! Recipe for Success is thrilled to announce a $100,000 grant from the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS)to increase domestic consumption of and access to locally and regionally produced agricultural products, and to develop new market opportunities for farm and ranch operations. Hope Farms and the Rolling Green Market will be doing just that by bring fresh produce straight from the farm to the underserved community and training and educating the community about farming and agriculture.

For the Love of Brazilian Cake

Shannon Smith
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Alex Blair: Dinner Conversations
Alex Blair shares her love of a chocolate Brazilian Cake that she can only eat when she is home in Brazil. 

Can you wax poetic about your favorite food or the memory of a meal? Then, we want to hear about it! Join our Dinner Conversation and tell us your story or write a poem. We are spending the year capturing Houstonian's culinary remembrances, treasured food traditions and life-changing meals; stories of family, friends, travel and community; threads of food memories that bind our cultures, weave communities and create generational customs. Email us: [email protected]


Shannon Smith
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DeliciousAlchemySaveTheDateDelicious Alchemy is the ultimate expression of our vision: A world where healthy eating is the norm and a culture where nutritious food is shared, appreciated, and celebrated. A fête in four partsDinner Conversations, The Banquet, The Art of Food and The Community Supper. Join us as we celebrate our 10th anniversary and spread our vision and culture of healthy eating.  

The Banquet, Thursday, May 19. One hundred guests will gather 'round one long exquisitely set table under the sparkling chandeliers of The Dunlavy to dine on a sumptuous ten-course Banquet prepared by ten of Houston's iconic chefs and founding members of the Recipe For Success Foundation's Chef's Advisory Board. $2,500 per person, space is limited. 

Dinner Conversations is our year-long multi-media project of collecting personal essays, written, recorded and video interviews and photography capturing Houstonians sharing their most powerful food memories, life changing meals and fondest family food traditions, which will be published throughout the year and honored for posterity in an online archive of Houstonians at the Table. 

The Art of Food, Friday, May 20. An evening that tickles all your senses: sight, sound, taste, smell and touch, featuring a juried art exhibit and silent auction, "We're Cooking Now! The Cookbook" signing, music, poetry, performance art and delectable nosh prepared by our town's most creative chefs offered in a free flowing party that promises to last until the wee hours.   VIP Salon   with table service $250, or General Admission $150 per person.  

The Community Supper, Sunday, May 22 4-7 pm. A Sunday afternoon of music, food and friends at Leonel Castillo Community Center, on where we will pay homage to the kind of shared community meals--pancake breakfasts, spaghetti suppers, chicken dinners, church picnics and block parties, upon which the towns and cities across America were built. $25 per adult; $10 for kids. 

January Recipe Challenge!

Sandra Cook
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Chef Justin loves to share his deliciously healthy recipes from RecipeHouse.  Let us know what you think, or better yet--send us your favorites!  

Kick off 2016 with this vitamin-packed Pink Pom Pom Smoothie. Try it in the morning to start your day off right or to replenish after a good workout. What's your favorite smoothie concoction? Send your tastiest recipe to [email protected] You can also check out Justin's past recipes on his RecipeHouse blog or sign up for a class to learn first hand how to create deliciously healthy meals and snacks. 

Pink Pom Pom Smoothie 

Recipe by Justin Kouri RecipeChallenge_Jan2016_Smoothie 1.JPG


1 cup pomegranate juice 

2 small beets, boiled 

1 orange, zestedsegmented & juiced 

1 cup whole milk Greek yogurt 

2 Tbsp honey 

2 Tbsp ginger, microplaned  

1 cup blueberry, frozen 



Combine pomegranate juice and cooked beets in a high-powered blender. Blitz until smooth, about 5 minutes. Add orange zest, segments, juice, yogurt, honey and ginger to the blender and continue to blitzAdd frozen cranberries and pulse until just incorporated.  


Yield: 3½ cups  

Prep time: 15 min 

Active cooking time: N/A   

Total time: 15 min 

Skill level: Easy 




Food, glorious (healthy) food celebrated at 10th anniversary of Recipe for Success

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Authors of How to Feed a Family: The Sweet Potato ChroniclesLaura Keogh and Ceri Marsh shared their golden rules of cooking with the gathering of 400 guests dedicated to helping Recipe for Success in its mission to combat childhood obesity. Leading the charge that raised $200,000 for the non-profit were chairs Arvia and Jason Few and Kristen and John Berger.

Read the article here and see some of the fun highlights from the luncheon! 


Honoring Change Agents

Shannon Smith
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BPS Honorees.jpgRecipe for Success Foundation honored founding board members and agents of change at the annual Blue Plate Special Café Harvest Market & Awards Luncheon on November 18. Chairs Arvia and Jason Few and Kristen and John Berger topped fundraising goals thanks to the sold-out crowd of 400 guests attending the event at River Oaks Country Club, which garnered over $200,000 for the Foundation's award winning programs to combat childhood obesity.

In a special nod to the Foundation's tenth anniversary, founding board members, Amy Anton, Glen & Honi Boudreaux, Phyllis Childress and Kim Tutcher, along with early advisor, Peg Lee were honored for their seminal efforts to launch the non-profit in 2005 and sustained support throughout the intervening decade.

Robert Del Grande, chef-partner of RDG+Bar Annie and James Beard Award Winner, was thanked for being a founding member of the Chef's Advisory Board and named Chef of the Year.  Del Grande was instrumental in designing the Foundation's signature Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ curriculum, and has long volunteered in fourth grade classrooms to teach children to cook as well as hosted many fundraising events through the decade.

Lance Gilliam, Real Estate Developer and Philanthropist, received the fifth annual Mayor's Award: Champion of Food Justice, in recognition of his assistance in launching Hope Farms, the Foundation's urban agricultural and farmer training site. After accepting his award, Gilliam commandeered the mic and asked the audience to step up with him to underwrite the costs for more schools to get the Foundation's Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ started.  He raised $10,000 on the spot.

KPRC 2 Anchor, Rachel McNeill expressed the importance of nutrition education for our youth - citing the tremendous impact Recipe for Success has made through their Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™. While, Co-Chair Kristen Berger remarked how, "Looking at these children and seeing how this program effects them and teaches cultural tolerance as well as healthy food is what really roped me in."

Mistress of Ceremonies, Rachel McNeill, of KPRC 2 set the tone for the spirited luncheon program where ex-fashion editors, turned authors Laura Keogh and Ceri Marsh of How to Feed a Family: The Sweet Potato Chronicles demonstrated their easy family-friendly recipes and shared their golden rules to cooking.

Notables also in attendance included:. Former Mayor Bill White, Holly Alvis, Rachel Hovnanian, Bob Cavnar, Jessica Rossman, Drew Anton, Kristy Bradshaw, Mimi Del Grande, Susan Criner, Roz Pactor, Marsha Smart, Todd Waite, Laurann Claridge, Mary Fay Way, Susan Padon, Anne Kinder, Kara Vidal, Cathy Brock, Jennifer Gilliam, Isabel David, Estela Cockrell, Elizabeth Petersen, Bill Baldwin, Anita Smith, Brenda Love, Clayton Erikson, Peter Remington, Tina Pyne, Janet Cockrell Genevieve Patterson, Ileana Trevino, Laura Jaramillo, Denise Monteleone, Jeff Shell, Kelley Lubanko, Susan Sarofim, Sis Johnson, Marsha Montemayor, Rudy Guera, Valerie Dieterich, Kimberly Albright, Karen Garcia, Leisa Holland Nelson, Susan Pye, and Roxanne Neumann.   Enjoy photos from the event in our Flikr Album linked here:

Blue Plate Special Harvest Market & Awards Luncheon


Founding Board Members Honored for Foundation's Fight Against Childhood Obesity

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Recipe for Success drew 400 warriors who raised more than $200,000 for the foundation on its tenth birthday, celebrating a decade of award winning programs and efforts in a continued fight against childhood obesity.

See all the fun pictures and read the full article HERE

UH Architects design urban farm proposed for Sunnyside

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Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 4.44.23 PM.pngThere are few places residents to buy fresh fruits and vegetables in of Sunnyside, a part of Houston considered to be a food desert. But a nonprofit group's proposal to develop an urban farm in the neighborhood aims to change that.

Read the rest of the article and see pictures from the presentations HERE

December Recipe Challenge!

Sandra Cook
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Do you have a prized recipe for a deliciously healthy holiday treat? Join in the fun of Chef Justin's recipe exchange! Each month, he shares his tantalizing recipes while our readers, followers and fans - that's YOU - send in favorite recipes!

For some holiday fun, try Justin's luscious Chocolate Beet Cookies, made with smart substitutions that cut calories and boost nutrition. What's your favorite healthy holiday cookie recipe? Send your tastiest recipe to [email protected] by December 31 and you could win the November Recipe Challenge and be included in next year's VEGOUT! COOKBOOK. You can also check out Justin's past recipes on the Recipe House blog.

Chocolate Beet Cookies

Recipe & photos by Justin Kouri

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The holidays are loaded with unhealthy landmines, so I like to use baking substitutes when I can. Avocados are a great replacement for butter. I typically use one avocado in place of one cup of butter. Enjoy this delicious AND healthy holiday treat!


1 cup dried cherries,

1 cup dark chocolate chips

¼ cup coconut oil

1 avocado

½ cup brown sugar

½ cup beets, boiled, peeled & pureed

1 egg

2 tsp apple cider vinegar

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 cups flour

1 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tsp baking soda

½ tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt



Preheat oven to 375F.

Place dried cherries in a small bowl. Rehydrate the cherries by pouring boiling water over them. Allow them to rest in the hot water for 10 minutes. Remove and pat dry.

Meanwhile, melt chocolate chips and coconut oil together over a double boiler. Cool for 5 minutes.

Using the paddle attachment of a standing mixer, cream together avocado and brown sugar, about 5 minutes. Stream in melted chocolate and mix until combined. Add beet puree, egg, vinegar and vanilla extract. Mix.

In a separate bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add half to the chocolate-beet mixture and mix until combined. Add remaining dry ingredients and mix until completely combined.

Scoop onto prepared sheet tray, about 2 inches apart. Bake for 10 minutes. Cool on rack.  

Yield: 24 cookiesThumbnail image for Thumbnail image for RecipeChallnge_Beet Cookies - FOR BLOG.jpeg

Prep time: 10 minutes

Active cooking time: 10 minutes

Total time: 20 minutes

Skill level: Easy




November Volunteer of the Month

Sandra Cook
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Our sincere thanks and congratulations to our November 2015 Volunteer of the Month: Janet Van. Kind-hearted Janet Van is a frequent volunteer at RecipeHouse, helping us show kids and adults just how fun and delicious healthy food can be over the past year. Here's what Janet had to say about volunteering with Recipe for Success.

What sparked your interest to volunteer with Recipe for Success?

Janet Van: I was first introduced to Recipe for Success through a club at my university when Emily, the previous volunteer coordinator, came to give a talk about the non-profit organization. I was immediately taken by how this organization's mission to bring awareness to childhood obesity, since it is a subject I feel strongly about. I wanted to help create the change that this organization strives to do.

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What keeps you coming back week after week? What are your favorite things to do or experience when you are volunteering?

JV: I just love working with the Girl scouts and seeing their eyes light up when they are learning to prepare the nutritious foods we have for them. It's so much fun when I get to guide them (especially the younger girls) through the recipe and watch them have so much fun. 

What does volunteering bring to your life outside of your volunteer work?

JV: Volunteering had taught me about sticking with a commitment and going through with it wholeheartedly. It has also taught me to balance my time and focus on what is most important in my life and getting closer towards my goals.

Do you have a favorite memory/story thus far? Could just be an observation or a specific moment in time.

JV: I would say that my favorite memory so far would be when I volunteered at a birthday party that was inspired by the television show "Chopped." I got to lead a team of 10-year-old girls and guide them when they created their own recipes out of random ingredients. It was so much fun seeing them working hard to create their masterpieces and feeling proud of their food creations.

It's Recipe for Success Foundation's 10th Birthday: where would you like to see the organization in another 10 years?

JV: I would like to see this organization continue to grow nationwide. There are many kids around the country that would benefit from getting a hands-on learning experience about foods and how to be healthy. Recipe for Success would help so many communities by empowering people with awareness about nutrition.

Thank you Janet for your shining spirit and dedication to the mission of Recipe for Success. To inquire about volunteer opportunities, refer to our Volunteer Page.


A Salute to Chef Peter Garcia

Sandra Cook
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Hat's off to our Founder's Plate Chef of the Month for December 2015, Peter Garcia, Chef/Owner El Meson. 

For more than twenty-five years, Peter Garcia's family has operated El Meson, serving Tex Mex, Cuban and Spanish specialties that reflect the family's adventurous migration from Spain, through Cuba and New York, and finally to Houston, where the Garcias arrived in 1981.

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Peter was on our founding Chef's Advisory Board, has taught monthly for almost 10 years at Rodriguez and Gross Elementary Schools. And the ever-hospitable chef has executed numerous wildly popular fundraising events for Recipe for Success Foundation.

On Chef Garcia's first year of teaching elementary students, Gracie Cavnar, Founder & CEO of Recipe for Success Foundation recalls "he was unflappable in the classroom, and just fabulous at connecting with those kids, they were enraptured."

"I remember that first year, I was all over the place cooking with the kids and creating the curriculum, but I enjoyed it," says Garcia. "As chefs, we teach the world how to dine, and hello - this is the beginning, this is it. Year after year I keep coming back, because I see it making a difference." 

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In June of 2010, he joined us at The White House for the kick-off of Chefs Move to Schools. "I was very proud to represent Recipe for Success and Houston, Texas that day amongst this big conclave of chefs on the south lawn of the White House," says Chef Garcia.

"When Recipe for Success was presented as a best practice [at the White House], and when the other chefs saw our name on his coat, he became a walking advertisement for Recipe for Success," says Cavnar. It's no surprise that Garcia was named our Chef of the Year at our 2012 Blue Plate Special Café Awards Luncheon.

Growing up in New York City, Peter's love of food was sparked at an early age and as a teenager worked in his father's restaurant, Los Parados, as a short order cook. There he learned the basics of chopping vegetables, cutting meat, and making coffee. 

In 1992, after his father passed away, Peter assumed the front of house duties of the restaurant, taking full advantage of his degrees in philosophy and theater. He continues to appear regularly in local theater and is a respected activist in Houston's Latino community. Even with his dedication to the community, the restaurant and his family remain Chef Garcia's top priorities. His mother, Esperanza said it best: "We come together daily to work as a family. I think I am indeed fortunate." 

Houston Welcomes Aquazzura Shoe Designer Edgardo Osorio

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Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 4.43.35 PM.pngLast month, Recipe For Success Foundation, hosted their 2nd Dress for Dinner Season VII fundraising event, hosted by designer Edgardo Osorio. Edgardo is the Founder and Creative Director of Aquazzura Firenze, a relatively new shoe company (Founded in 2011) that has become a staple on the feet of fashionistas and celebrities around the globe. This was Edgardo's first time in Houston, but not his first visit to Texas. Edgardo had previously visited Dallas, TX. The event was hosted at Saks 5th Avenue, and kicked off with networking and shopping with the shoe designer. Promptly at 7pm, a Q&A session with Edgardo, led by Houston Chronicle Fashion & Beauty Editor, Joy Sewing kicked off.

Read the rest of the write-up and see pictures HERE.

Chef Justin Wins Risotto Fest

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Heartbeet RisottoProving that healthy food can be super delicious, our own Chef Justin Kouri won the competition for taste buds at the recent showdown among Houston's culinary ruling class.  New York-based celebrity chef Rocco Dispirito was just one element that wowed the throng of 800 who turned out at Houston Design Center for the 11th International Risotto Festival. Italian music and wines played backdrop to the coterie of chefs who whipped up tantalizing versions of the Italian specialty.

While guests grazed through the offerings, more than a dozen waited for the judges' decision on top honors. Dispirito led the team in the blind tasting. In the end, it was Justin Kourirepresenting Recipe for Success, who took top prize for his HeartBeet Risotto. Read more here and create your own award-winning risotto dish with the all-veg recipe hereRisotto Fest

Life Around the Dinner Table

Gracie Cavnar
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Viv tackles a Turkey dinner.jpgNovember hosts America's most high profile meal, forever fixed in our mind's eye by Norman Rockwell, who used the Thanksgiving table to showcase his idea of a traditional family dinner. But contrary to national myth, our treasured Thanksgiving holiday wasn't handed down from the Pilgrims. It was a post-civil war effort of Abraham Lincoln's to promote national unity. Shared meals have that kind of power, not only to heal a nation, but also to build community and strengthen family ties.

Every one of us harbors powerful memories of family food traditions that are woven tightly into defining who we are as individuals and as part of our tribe. A look at the history of mealtime illuminates our progression from hunter-gatherers to agrarian life to workers in the industrial revolution to our present fast-paced, tech filled lives. As the way we secure food has changed, naturally so has the way we consume it. 10,000 years ago, killing a wild deer meant the entire community had to prepare and eat it together, or it went to waste, so shared meals were tied to our very survival. Now that we have so many choices for how we source our food--ranging from growing it ourselves to finding it on grocery shelves and in the drive-through, packaged in single servings--sharing is no longer mandatory, and sadly it's a tradition that many Americans have left behind. Not me!

I am sad to see meals demoted to something eaten on the run, jammed in between other activities. A lot has been lost along the way: conversation, communal tasks, leisurely consumption, and each of those missed opportunities has left a trail of unintended results. Researchers tell us that children who eat at least one home-prepared meal a day, while sitting around a table with their family, are less likely to have drug issues, tend to do better in school and are generally healthier.  At Recipe for Success Foundation, our students sit down to eat together after preparing food. Along the way, they learn sharing, teamwork and a little etiquette. Seems like a good enough reason for all of us to get back around a table for dinner.

My family's meal traditions are woven into my soul. Each memory makes me smile and salivate. I've passed many down to my own kids and grandkids: pulling them into the kitchen as soon as they could stand; teaching them to set the table and share their stories; picking dinner ingredients from the garden; preparing dishes their great grandmothers made alongside newer ones. At dinner is where we continue to bond through the generations with no topic of conversation off the table. It doesn't take a holiday like Thanksgiving to get my family to sit down for a lively meal together, but if you haven't tried, it's a good place to start.

Honoring Peg Lee

Sandra Cook
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Peg Lee began teaching cooking classes at Houston Community College in the 1970s and quickly discovered and delighted in the abundant humor that comes with the territoryPeg Lee began teaching cooking classes at Houston Community College in the 1970s and quickly discovered and delighted in the abundant humor that comes with the territory. A decade later, Peg became the founding director of the Rice Epicurean cooking school. In 2001, Houston's brand new Central Market lured her away to start their, now wildly successful, cooking school where she helped attract well-known national and international chefs, often ushering them all over Houston. 

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Gracie reached out for Peg's advice when she began thinking about forming a program to teach kids to cook, and they agreed that the newly emerging Slow Food group, where they were both members, might take on the project.  "I heard Gracie present the idea of Recipe for Success and I immediately thought that it was a great idea," says Peg. "When you teach a child, you also teach the parents. It brings all of that knowledge into the home and family. Parents see that it's not that difficult to cook and are often impressed with their kids' cooking."   

As a longtime cooking instructor and school director, Peg saw the waves of benefits that Recipe for Success Foundation's Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ could bring. "When parents learn about cooking from their children, it opens up doors for the whole family," says Peg.  

Gracie approached Peg about getting Central Market to sponsor cooking supplies, but she suggested asking H-E-B instead. "I knew H-E-B would be a better partner for Recipe for Success," says Peg. "They have so many more stores that serve more families in the neighborhoods that the Recipe for Success programs were serving and targeting." Peg says she's very pleased to see H-E-B currently supporting Recipe for Success in an even stronger way.   

"During those first few years of Recipe for Success, Central Market did sponsor the Gala in Small Bites series," says Peg, who has retired as the Houston Central Market Cooking School's Director, but still works as an events liaison for the school. 

In those early days of Recipe for Success' Small Bites dinners, Peg Lee worked with the volunteer chefs to keep on budget and impart a certain sensibility to their creative efforts. "I had to be firm most of the time," says Peg. "I had to make sure they didn't over order ingredients, especially things like truffles. 

Peg never misses a chance to spread the word about the great work of Recipe for Success to people in the community, to Houston chefs, and even to renowned chefs and food activists who may have founded other in-school programs. "I've always been a supporter of Recipe for Success Foundation," says Peg.  "I once went to a dinner in New York with Alice Waters and proudly told her about Recipe for Success. And she said, 'yes, I've heard about Recipe for Success.'" To this day, Peg remains a cheerleader and advocate for the Foundation.   

Peg would like to see the Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ program taught in every state. "I think Recipe for Success programs should be mandated across the country," says Peg"I feel education doesn't stop at the door of the classroom - when you educate the child, you educate the whole family."  

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Blue Plate Special Awards Luncheon

Shannon Smith
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Join us as we honor our friends and supporters in November! Reserve your seat at the Recipe for Success Blue Plate Special Awards Luncheon to hear our featured speakers, Ceri Marsh and Laura Keogh, internationally noted bloggers and the co-authors of the bestselling cookbook How to Feed a Family: The Sweet Potato Chronicles. These delightful speakers will be sharing their experiences and anecdotes, making for a most enjoyable afternoon. The luncheon is set for November 18 at the River Oaks Country Club. CLICK HERE for tickets and sponsor information.

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Steak (R)evolution Panel Discussion at Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Shannon Smith
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Community_Steak at MFAH-Panel.pngIn mid-October, Recipe for Success Foundation collaborated with MFAH Films, the film department at The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston for the screening of the documentary film Steak (R)Evolution. Directed by Franck Ribière, the film takes viewers around the world with farmers, chefs, butchers, and food journalists to uncover the art and culture of red meat.  

Following the film, Recipe for Success Foundation's Founder & CEO Gracie Cavnar led a panel discussion on the topics featured in the film. Panelists Glen & Honi Boudreaux, owners of Jolie Vue Farms and Chef Kris Jakob, of Kris Bistro at Culinary Institute LeNôtre, offered their perspectives of farming and beef production. Here are a few comments from the discussion: 

"Small-scale farming is bringing young people back into farming," said Glen Boudreaux. "I see that as a good thing, considering most farmers are over the age of 60. I'm glad to see that small-scale farming has grown exponentially over the years, and that's good for producers as well as consumers." 

Community_Steak at MFAH-Marian Luntz.png"As a chef, I am pleased that quality beef and other meats are accessible to restaurants and that more restaurants are serving cuts from nose to tail," said Chef Kris Jakob. "As restaurants, we have to do some marketing of the lesser-known cuts, but that's easy because many customers are asking about the products and wanting to know more about the food they're ordering."   

 As a small-scale farmer, Honi Boudreaux explained that she appreciates building relationships with customers. "We get to do direct sales, which connects the customer to the farms," said Honi. "Now the big meat industry is looking to farmers like us to learn how to go about that. I feel we must connect people to the land. That's what Recipe for Success gardens at schools do - they connect kids to the land. We have the capacity to grow all year, so no one should have to go hungry."  

November Recipe Challenge!

Sandra Cook
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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 [email protected] 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. 

Honoring Kim Tutcher

Sandra Cook
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It was when they were neighbors a dozen years ago, that Kim Tutcher first met Gracie Cavnar--before she started Recipe for Success Foundation.  But she was actively researching the issue of childhood obesity and shared her concerned with Kim.  As a wife and mother, Kim was moved by Gracie's determination to find a way to address this health pandemic, so as Recipe for Success took off, Kim stepped up as a founding Board Member, rolled up her sleeves and helped launch the cooking classes, volunteering monthly at Briscoe Elementary throughout the first year of programming.  The first party she gave in her new home was a Small Bites Dinner to raise money for Foundation efforts.  In 2008, Kim chaired the first Blue Plate Special Café Luncheon featuring Dr. Mehmet Oz--reaching income levels yet to be matched.  After retiring from the Executive Board, Kim has remained a member of the Foundation's Community Advisory Board.

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"Seeing how far Recipe for Success has come in the last 10 years is amazing - it just keeps calling me - and so does Gracie," Kim says with a smile. 

"One of the stories I like to share - and will never forget - was setting up the classroom at Briscoe Elementary for the cooking classes," says Kim. "There was a whole series of things to be done, from rolling in the cooking carts to prepping for the chefs, and then the clean up, ugh! We had to fill tubs with water from a tiny sink in a janitor's closet and, very carefully without sloshing too much, get them back to the classroom to wash all the utensils, pots and pans."

Kim recalls a very special day and the close of the school year. "One of my most powerful memories was a luncheon at Ouisie's Restaurant," says Kim. "Elouise Jones was one of our first volunteer chefs, and at the end of the year she invited the whole class to her restaurant. She toured us through the kitchen and had set up the private dining room with linens, china, silverware placed just so, flowers and menus. It was so touching to see the kids order from the menu, select the proper silverware and use their manners."

Kim continues to support Recipe for Success because she sees the many ways its programs leave a positive imprint on children, preparing them for adult life. "My favorite program is probably the farmers MarKIDS. It was fun to see how proud they were of the vegetables they grew. They set up stands, worked them and had to figure out the money - lots of moving parts."

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Thank you, Kim, for being one of our magnificent moving parts!     

October Volunteer of the Month

Sandra Cook
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The dynamic Eileen Hatcher currently volunteers at Recipe House as a helper in the Recipe for Success offices. Eileen began volunteering with us as a classroom and gardening volunteer, and later brought her generosity and enthusiasm for our mission to our office to lend a hand to our staff members. We asked Eileen a few questions about her experiences as a volunteer.  

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What sparked your interest to volunteer with Recipe for Success?  

Eileen Hatcher: I've been eating food all my life, cooking most of it and growing some of it for a good while, too, so it seemed that my skill set matched nicely with the Recipe for Success mission and activities. At a Houston Urban Gardeners meeting, the Recipe for Success instructor at my local elementary school explained how the program helps kids learn to garden, cook and eat healthy foods. As soon as the meeting was over, I walked up and signed up. As a vegetarian, I was excited that recipes with no or less meat were used in the kitchen.  


What keeps you coming back week after week? What are your favorite things to do or experience when you are volunteering? 

EH: The children in my neighborhood need much more positive interactions with each other and adults. The spirit in the kitchen and garden was always gentle and supportive. I loved the children's responses to seeing things grow. I loved hearing them toss around science and foreign (cooking) words that they had never heard before. I loved that they would warn each other not to step on the earthworms in the garden. Molding appropriate social behavior and interactions was perhaps a secondary, even unintended, outcome of the Recipe for Success curriculum, but it may have been as important as the modeling of good health practices   


How does volunteering enhance your life?   

EH: Volunteering with Recipe for Success in my local elementary school made me appreciate my upbringing in a family that gardened and was too poor (or cheap) to buy processed foods. (Bet my mom never thought she'd hear me say that!) I now realize how difficult it can be to support healthy eating in a single parent household and that working parents need help and resources for how to make meal-prep and mealtime a participatory family event. 


Do you have a favorite memory / story thus far? Could just be an observation or a specific moment in time.  

EH: Sharing home-grown and home-cooked food ties us to culture and community. What is served and how it's cooked is all part of your history and sharing it confirms your belief in the future. As Houston becomes more diverse, sharing these recipes and dishes help us appreciate each other's (and our own) cultures and understand each other better. Everyone's granny or mom used to eat in season, cook family recipes and tell the stories about family and location. 

For a stir-fry cooking lesson, the local Pei Wei donated 100 chopsticks to Recipe for Success to enhance the lesson. The kids were so excited to not only cook, but also learn how to use chopsticks and explore another culture. In the garden, the children learned how to make seed balls of wildflower seeds and clay to increase germination and viability. 


It's Recipe for Success' 10th Birthday: where would you like to see the organization in another 10 years?  

EH: In 10 years, I would hope that gardening and healthy eating would be a part of every school's curriculum; but knowing that is fairly improbable, I see a need for some existing seed-to-plate programs to expand and serve more grades. I would like to see additional classes using ethnic recipes as the basis for encouraging healthy eating. I would like to see the continuation of meatless meal preparation, even more instruction on healthy shopping and attention to ingredients in off-the-shelf cooking products and identification of genetically modified ingredients. I would also like to see Recipe for Success supporting family potluck dinners in the schools and the community. 


[Note: Recipe for Success has extensive curriculum available that teaches children how to read labels and make good decisions when purchasing prepared foods.  These real-world shopping lessons are embedded in our free farmers marKIDS curriculum and Eat This! Summer Camp. ] 


Thank you Eileen for volunteering with Recipe for Success! To inquire about volunteering opportunities, email our Volunteer Coordinator.  

Sharing with Southern States

Shannon Smith
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We are so proud to have Rachel England, our Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ Program Coordinator, represent Recipe for Success at the 9th annual Southern Obesity Summit taking place November 15-17 in Jackson, Mississippi. This marks Recipe for Success Foundation's first participation in the conference, with Rachel leading a breakout session on our Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™.

Michelle Smith, Texas Coordinator for Alliance for Healthy Kids, first encouraged Rachel to apply for a breakout session earlier this year. "I saw it as an opportunity for Recipe for Success to be a part of the greater conversation about preventative solutions. It's important for people in a position to do something to see that children don't have time to wait for schools to catch up with the research data," says Rachel. "During my session, attendees will not only learn about our innovative and engaging Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™, but also be invited to take advantage of our free VegOut! curriculum and the farmers marKIDS curriculum," says Rachel. "I'm excited about the possibility of those programs spreading throughout the south, where obesity rates are some of the highest in the country."

 The Southern Obesity Summit (SOS) is the largest regional obesity prevention event in the United States, drawing hundreds of participants from the 16 Southern States: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia. This year's conference expects around 400 people to attend.

Harvesting Carrots.jpgRachel's session will demonstrate how Recipe for Success Foundation programs have achieved remarkable results by actively addressing and combating the childhood obesity epidemic through hands-on learning that introduces children to their food from seed-to-plate. "I will explain how our academically aligned curriculum helps children learn the entire cycle of food, gain a new appreciation for food, and have fun while doing it," says Rachel. 

"I look forward to showing educators and administrators the importance of weaving nutrition education into the culture of their campus," says Rachel. "I will share best practices of the Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ Program, easy tools to implement, and an overview of how our many lessons are aligned with the Common Core."

According to the conference, attendees at SOS are likely to be policymakers, leaders from community-based organizations, federal and state government officials, health care providers, youth and members from national and state associations.

"Beyond my breakout session, I'm also looking forward to the opportunity to network with educators on university level and the potential to get more people onboard on a national level, as well as spread the word to advocates who can help get more schools involved," says Rachel. 

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

Recipe for Success
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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!

Sandra Cook
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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!

Go Green

Gracie Cavnar
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FMK Pitch.jpegDid you know that domestic produce travels an average of 1,500 miles before making it to your local grocery store?

Every October 24, thousands of events all around the country bring Americans together to mark Food Day by celebrating real food, such as produce that is seasonal and locally grown. Another purpose of Food Day is to advocate for better food policy.

October 24 is a day to resolve to make changes in our own diets and to take action to solve food-related problems in our communities at the local, state, and national level. For 2015, Food Day planners are encouraging people worldwide to shift "Toward a Greener Diet" by seeking more locally grown real food.

Recipe for Success Foundation's engaging, free, downloadable farmers marKIDS curriculum offers a rewarding way for kids, teachers and parents to celebrate Food Day, joining in the nationwide celebration and a movement for healthy, affordable, and sustainable food. Participating in the farmers marKIDS program not only connects entrepreneurial kids to a healthy, sustainable way to raise funds to support their gardens, it also makes fresh produce easily accessible to the surrounding neighborhood. Kids are encouraged to stage their farm stand the week of Food Day: October 20-26, during the nationally celebrated, annual farmers marKIDS DAYS.

We think a great way to green-up your diet is to buy homegrown produce from local neighborhood kids! We hope to see lots of Houston supporters come out to our farmers marKIDS stand at Discovery Green on October 24. Don't forget: All kids who participate in the program and register their market stands with us have a chance to win garden seeds, and farmers marKIDS who send in a photograph of their stand in operation will earn a chance to win up to $500 in garden supplies and be featured on the Recipe for Success Foundation blog, social networking sites and in media coverage. Just be sure to register and submit photos of your stand! Get your class, scout troop or family started with the free, downloadable farmers marKIDS toolkit, which includes five lesson plans to develop financial literacy, entrepreneurial skills and business experience.

Lance Gilliam: Champion of Food Justice

Sandra Cook
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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."

 HopeFarms_GlenB & Lance G_FOR BLOG.jpegGlenn Boudreaux and Lance Gilliam at Hope Farms site

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

Sandra Cook
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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

Sandra Cook
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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

Sandra Cook
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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

Sandra Cook
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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 [email protected] 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

Sandra Cook
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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

September Volunteer of the Month

Sandra Cook
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We are delighted to recognize Joey Luna, manager at Revival Market and Volunteer with Eat This! Summer Camp as the September 2015 Volunteer of the Month. He was kind enough to answer a few questions about his experiences volunteering with Recipe for Success.

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What sparked your interest to volunteer for Recipe for Success?

Joey Luna: I worked here at Revival before being a manager so I knew about the program and I just wanted to jump at it and I wanted to learn more about the inner workings of Recipe for Success. [Note: Revival Market has worked with Recipe for Success Summer Camps for the past 3 years and recently promoted the winning product from the 2015 Eat This! Summer camp sessions, the popular Figgy Piggies, fig-filled cookies.]

What keeps you coming back?

JL: The groups of kids -- it was surprising at how into food they were. My lecturing about butchery was kept to a minimum. It was great having the kids ask question after question about different foods, such as or "what kind of foods do you like?" and "how do you prepare this food?" or tell me "this is the food I like." It was really nice to see kids that young that they were that interested in food and already had a lot more knowledge than the patrons in our store!

What does volunteering bring to your life outside of the actual volunteer work?

JL: It gets me out of a working mindset. It was fulfilling to know I was just talking to the kids about food, not having to sell anything. You could see the excitement on their faces and they listened with open eyes and ears and gave a lot of feedback.

Do you have a favorite memory or story thus far?

JL: The unveiling party was a lot of fun! The kids were excited about not only finding out what product won, but they were asking me 'do you remember I came in with my mom the other day' and 'I want to try this [pointing at different charcuteries]' and were asking our Pastry Chef, Alyssa, tons of questions about how she cooks/bakes different items for the store. It was a great culmination of all of their hard work over the summer.

One last question, it's our 10th birthday this year, where would you like to see RFS in another 10 years?

JL: Well, I'm still a bit new to knowing the full reach of what RFS does now, but I'd love to see RFS in as many schools around the Houston area as possible. I feel lucky to see the elementary school down the street have a community garden and, being in the Heights bubble, I forget that not all schools have that. It's great that there's an organization like RFS that can provide nutrition and food education from the beginning to end, it'd be great to see that in as many schools as possible.

Thank you again, Joey, for all you do for Recipe for Success. Here's to 10 more years!



KHOU at Briscoe Elementary

Sandra Cook
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KHOU Channel 11's staff will trade in their sleek news desks and microphones for shovels and soil at Briscoe Elementary on Saturday, October 24. Their day of volunteering marks the annual Make A Difference Day, which falls on the fourth Saturday in October each year, and is the largest nationally recognized day of community service. Especially serendipitous this year is that Make A Difference Day also happens to fall on Food Day, which occurs each year on October 24 and is a celebration of wholesome food and a call to action to affect changes in food policy. It's great that KHOU's desire to help in Briscoe's garden amplifies Food Day messaging, and the convergence of both events certainly gives the volunteers and students a lot to celebrate!

The KHOU team will be tending to the Briscoe Elementary garden, helping students cultivate their produce. The Briscoe students will be participating in Recipe for Success's farmers marKIDS program this year, not only growing and harvesting produce, but also learning how to sell it, developing financial literacy and entrepreneurial skills along the way. For their inaugural market, the students will help build a wooden stand that they can reuse at all their markets throughout the year.

In addition to the market stand, the children will be replenishing their garden. With the help of the KHOU volunteers, four new raised beds will be created and 10 new trees will be planted to establish a mini orchard. By expanding the garden, the students will be able to have a much more robust selection of produce, and they'll be able to keep their farmers marKIDS stand open throughout the year, selling to parents, teachers, and other community members and having the opportunity to put all the proceeds back into their garden and market stand.

Helping to beautify the garden and commemorate the day in colorful fashion, volunteers will be assisting Houston muralist Suzi Sellers paint a mural in the garden. In 2010, Sellers donated her time and talents to MacGregor and N.Q. Henderson Elementary, and she will use the brick panels in the Briscoe garden as her canvas, painting oversized fruits, vegetables, and garden critters.  We cannot wait to see how she transforms the garden into a work of art!

A big thanks to KHOU for volunteering to provide people, supplies, and their time, and also for bringing their TV cameras so the excitement of the day's activities can all be shared with our community!

Call Congress For Lunch

Gracie Cavnar
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good school lunch(1).jpgIronic that fall hosts both National Childhood Obesity Month in September and National School Lunch Week in October. It was the sad state of school food that snared my attention nearly twenty years ago, eventually inspiring the launch of Recipe for Success.

Our school hallways were filled with snack vending, and junk food concessions crowded the lunch line. These efforts to monetize poor eating choices among our youngest and most vulnerable were having a devastating effect. A deadly epidemic was spiraling out of control, (30% of American kids are obese.) Those in charge had perfectly plausible excuses: we are just giving the kids the food they prefer and therefore eat; the commissions and licensing fees are supporting our arts, our scoreboard, our music program; this is the best we can do on our limited budgets.

As many as 12 million American children eat their only meals of the day at school and 32 million eat school-provided lunch. For decades, the typical fare, bursting with sodium, fat and sugar, practically guaranteed poor health for the kids who depended on it. Something had to be done. Congress passed the Hunger-Free Kids Act in 2010 with bipartisan support with guidelines and incentives designed to deliver more fresh produce and whole grains, low fat dairy and portion control. "Oh, the sky is falling!" Reports on tossed food and student lunch line revolts flooded the airways. But according to a recent Robert Wood Johnson Foundation survey, 70% of the kids now report liking the new food. And districts that were enthusiastic early adapters have already begun to see impact on student waistlines.

In August, the Kellogg Foundation reported that two-thirds of Americans say the nutritional quality of food served in public school cafeterias is good--even excellent--up from 26 percent from 2010, before the new standards. And 93 percent of those surveyed believe that it is important to serve nutritious foods in schools to support children's health and capacity to learn.

You would think we might have rounded the corner on this issue. But there were and still remain lots of powerful companies with skin in the game. I have learned that when a great deal of money is involved, common sense rarely prevails. Some $52 billion a year is spent advertising junk food to kids--obviously a large target market, and school lunch contracts are very lucrative. Don't think these companies are going to take huge slashes in market share with a smile on their faces. No, they are now spending billions to
promote "free choice" and softening the standards--a lot of that money is being spent on
Capitol Hill.

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 is due for reauthorization by September 30, 2015. As consumers and parents, we must hold the line and fight for what is best for our kids--healthier school lunches. Call your U.S. Representative today and insist that Congress stand up for our kids, not for deep-pocketed junk food makers.

September Recipe Challenge

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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!  Here is Justin's savory risotto-inspired dish made with faro, in honor of Whole Grain Month. What are your go-to, crowd-pleasing weeknight meals that are both doable and delectable? Send your tastiest recipe to [email protected] and you could win the September Recipe Challenge and be included in next year's VEGOUT! COOKBOOK.  You can also check out Justin's past recipes on the Recipe House blog.


Farroto with Mushrooms & Peas

Recipe & photo by Justin Kouri

I've taken traditional risotto and substituted an alternative whole grain. Farro is an ancient grain, a special type of wheat, believed to have originated in Italy. In fact, farro retains a majority of its nutrients after cooked, making it a great source of energy.  On top of that, I've applied a Southeast Asian profile to make this my own.


4c vegetable stock

1 - 4" stalk lemongrass, peeled & crushed

¼c olive oil, divided

½lb cremini mushrooms, destemed & sliced thinly

1 shallot, finely minced

2" - ginger, microplaned

1c faro

½c white wine

½c frozen peas, dethawed

¼c lime juice

2T soy sauce

¼c cilantro, chiffonade

Salt & pepper


In a medium sized stock pot, combine vegetable stock and lemongrass. Bring to boil. Reduce to simmer and cover.

In a large high-sided skillet, heat 2T olive oil over medium high heat.  Sautee mushrooms in batches, until golden brown. Remove from heat and set aside.

Reduce heat to medium and in the same skillet, add remaining 2T olive oil. Add shallot and ginger to pan and cook until shallots become translucent, about 2-3 minutes.  Add faro to pan and toast for 1-2.  Pour wine into pan and stir continually until faro absorbs completely.  Add 1c of stock to faro at a time, stir until all liquid is absorbed before adding another cup. Once faro is cooked al dente, reduce heat to low and add lime juice and soy sauce. Stir vigorously to build the starchiness, which gives risotto its creamy texture. Finally add mushrooms, peas and cilantro to faroto. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy. 


Volunteer of the Year 2014-15

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BDukcbZlETG6PuWj3cmqeTtAohrfJz0452peAq_4CCk.jpegPeter began volunteering at KIPP SHINE in 2012.

A decade earlier, while studying at the University of Texas at Austin, he first found his passion for healthy living as a member of the university's marathon team. Later, while helping to organize the Houston Marathon, he often passed by undeveloped land along the first few miles of the course and dreamed about planting orchards and gardens there for kids attending the nearby schools. Lack of horticultural know-how and a busy schedule building information systems and streamlining accounting processes for an oil and gas company kept that dream on the backburner. 

When his company was acquired, Peter took advantage of a lull in his workload to embrace an alternate version of his dream. He discovered Recipe for Success Foundation and their efforts to build gardens and teach kids about gardening and cooking, giving them a foundation of healthy choices to benefit them for the rest of their lives.

On the Fridays when he volunteers at KIPP SHINE, an early childhood and elementary school, Peter gets to help second graders build that healthy foundation and enjoys seeing the refreshing way with which they approach life. Meeting and learning from instructors, chefs, and others who are passionate about healthy living has benefits, too. 

At home, Peter's one-pot meals are tastier than ever thanks to spices and techniques he picked up at RFS, and his balcony is now full of greenery, including most of the ingredients for an occasional romantic dinner.

Besides volunteering, Peter enjoys running and swimming. He travels occasionally, too, including back to his birthplace, Taiwan, where he enjoys the abundant fresh local produce and street food.


If you are interested in volunteering with Recipe for Success, email our volunteer coordinator Kristen, [email protected]

Amy Anton: Onboard from the Start

Sandra Cook
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 Amy Anton joined the Recipe for Success Board at its inception. From hosting Pizza Parties to Co-chairing the 2007 We're cooking Now! A Gala in Small Bites, Amy has played a big part in making things happen for the organization. She also volunteered on a monthly basis for years at MacGregor Elementary.

"I remember back in the beginning at MacGregor, it was on two chefs: Randy Evans and Monica Pope," says Amy. "The kids were impressed that a real chef would come to their class. How amazing that a chef with a well-known restaurant in Houston takes the time once a week to teach elementary school kids? That speaks volumes about the organization."

"From the beginning, Amy rolled up her sleeves and jumped in, initially and for many years volunteering every month in the classroom," says Gracie Cavnar, Founder & CEO of Recipe for Success Foundation. "She and Drew have hosted several fundraising events for us and she actively works to get her friends involved--raising thousands of dollars. Amy helped us design the RecipeHouse concept and sent her own kids to our first classes there and she still contributes to our blog. As a hands-on mother of three active boys, Amy has brought a great perspective to our planning and content development through the years. It's fair to say, we wouldn't be the same organization we are today without her influence and energy."

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Beyond her three beautiful boys, and husband, Drew, Amy's favorite things in life are food and travel. Houston native, Amy went to St. John's School and received her degree in journalism at Washington & Lee University before returning to secure her MBA from Rice University in 1999.

Food is her passion and Amy loves to cook. After having her children, she realized how important good nutrition is as well as the importance of the family table. In the spirit of passing on family traditions and healthy eating, she has taught her boys the art of cooking since they could stand at the counter.

Her family has long been engaged in philanthropy and community service in Houston and set a high bar example of the importance of giving back. Amy maintains a position on the Boards of the Nature Conservancy and the Friends of Child Advocates for which she served as President in 2005. With her children now attending her own alma mater, she has also become a very active volunteer in their school.

In December 2008, Amy published first children's picture book, "Ina the Octopus" about a young octopus who helps a diver bring artifacts up from the bottom of the sea so they can be put in a museum. The proceeds from her book go to the Institute of Nautical Archaeology.

Amy continues to commit her time to our mission. During 2014 she once again engaged St. John's School in the VegOut! Challenge and our Earth Day Garden Haiku Contest. She also blogged during VegOut! 2014 and scribed a blog post on a favorite soup this past winter.

Beefing Up the Big Screen

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There's no satisfaction quite like cutting into a perfectly succulent, marbled piece of steak.  But how does that cut of deliciousness get from farm to plate?  In his critically acclaimed documentary Steak (R)Evolution, director Franck Ribière takes viewers around the world with farmers, chefs, butchers, and food journalists to uncover the art of red meat. 

Ribière's goal is not only to find the best steak out there, but also to decipher what differentiates the best steaks and makes them notable, and how the shift to smaller-scale farming organizations is affecting the beef industry.  Highlights of his scrumptious steak odyssey include the Angus country of Scotland, the Kobe beef ranches in Japan, and some of New York City's most revered butcher shops and steakhouses.

Recipe for Success is co-sponsoring a screening of Steak (R)Evolution at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, on Friday, October 9th, at 7pm, and a panel and Q&A with Glen Boudreaux from Jolie Vue Farms will immediately follow the screening.  We will also be collecting stories for our Dinner Conversations project.  If you cannot make the Friday night screening and panel, there will be one additional screening of the film on Saturday, October 10th, at 7pm.  Watch the trailer here!

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Recipe Challenge!

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Chef Justin Kouri, our new Culinary Coordinator, is kicking off a fun recipe exchange featuring his tantalizng dishes from RecipeHouse along with his picks of those submitted by our readers, followers, and fans-that's YOU! What are you doing to ban lunch box boredom and jazz up your back-to-school lunch routine? Send your yummiest recipe - it can be super simple or a four-course meal - for a packed lunch to [email protected] and you could win the August Challenge and be included in next year's VEGOUT! COOKBOOK. Veggie Panini.JPGVeggie Panini

Recipe by Chef Justin Kouri
This back to school recipe replaces sugar loaded condiments with a healthy alternative!
Don't have a Panini Grill? There's no need! We'll show you how to make your own press with the grill pan you already own and an extra brick!
Corn Spread                      Sandwich:
4 ears corn                        8 slices multigrain bread
2 limes, juiced                   ¼ head red cabbage, shredded
1 jalapeño, small dice        2 beefsteak tomatoes, sliced
                                          1 red onion, thinly sliced
                                   8 slices of fontina cheese
Corn Spread
Shuck corncobs and remove kernels. Place the corn and lime juice in a food processor and blitz until almost smooth, about 5 minutes. Strain and discard solid remnants. Add corn mixture to small saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring until thick, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and fold in jalapeño. Allow to cool completely.
Heat Panini grill or make shift grill (grill plate and foil covered brick) over medium high heat. Spread cooled corn spread on one side of both slices of bread. Arrange cabbage, tomato, onion and cheese on one slice of bread. Close sandwich with remaining slice, spread side down. Place sandwich on Panini grill and cook until cheese begins to melt. If using a make shift grill position sandwich on grill and place brick on top. Cook for 1-2 minutes, flip sandwich, placing brick back on top and cook for another 2 minutes. Remove from heat, cut in half and enjoy!

S2P now at West U Elementary!

Sandra Cook
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We are thilled to be launching our Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ at West U Elementary -- the largest elementary school in Houston ISD.

West University parent Kristen Berger first got to know Recipe for Success Foundation after Arvia Few invited her to attend the past few year's Blue Plate Special Luncheons. She later visited a Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ classroom at MacGregor Elementary. This year, Berger is chairing the November 18 Blue Plate Special Luncheon with Arvia Few. 

"When I visited the classroom at MacGregor Elementary, I was so impressed by the many benefits beyond teaching the kids about where the food comes from and eating healthy," says Berger. "I saw how it inspired kids for their future. One boy said he wanted grow up to be like his chef instructor Monica Pope. My favorite part was hearing a girl say 'I take the recipes home and make them with my Dad.' It's wonderful how it permeates through the family unit." 

Berger also talked to the fourth grade teacher whose class she observed. I asked the teacher if the Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ program takes away anything from her required teaching for the STAAR test compliance. The teacher said, "no it helps me teach essential lessons on deeper level."

After her visit to the Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ classroom at MacGregor Elementary, Houston mom Kristen Berger immediately started working on getting the engaging and empowering nutrition program into West University Elementary, which is currently the largest elementary school in Houston ISD with students in K-5th grade. With the growth of the area and the student population the school has had to focus its resources and programming strictly on core curriculum. Berger started with the PTO and got the ball rolling for the school to adopt the program.

"The school had an after-school garden club program that was not living up to its potential, so I talked to administration, who liked the idea of the program, but had trouble finding room during the school day to fit it in," says Berger. She explains that after multiple teachers spoke up for the program and the enrichment value it would bring to the students, a solution was reached to convert the existing after-school garden club, which met twice a week, into an after-school Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ program.

Starting this fall, West U. Elementary plans to rotate all grades through the program over the course of the school year. "This is a big reason that Recipe for Success' Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ program shines - it is adaptable to any situation, any circumstances," says Berger. The entire school will be encouraged to participate in Recipe for Success Foundation's additional, free, auxiliary programs, such as Farmers MarKIDS in the fall, essay and poetry writing contests, a health fair, and the annual VegOut! during March.

"The after-school program at West U will be a small, but steady start, just planting the seed of enrichment for the school. It's about much more than gardening and cooking, which are so important, but the program teaches kids about culture, working well with others, teamwork, and more. And another beautiful thing: the school garden is located in a central focal point of the school, so reviving the garden will be an inspiration to the entire campus," says Berger.



1485% Growth over 10 years

Sandra Cook
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Schools from California to South Texas and an ever-increasing number in Houston are adopting Recipe for Success Foundation's award-winning Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ to achieve measurable change in children's eating habits with the organization's unique chef-designed curriculum that makes healthy food fun and tasty. "Why reinvent the wheel?" says Juan Gonzalez, Principal at Patterson Elementary in Houston. "When Recipe for Success has spent millions designing and testing a flexible nutrition curriculum that complements our regular school day and supports critical learning objectives to boot."

Seed-To-Plate Nutrition Education™ prepares children with knowledge and skills they need to make healthy eating decisions for a lifetime. Evaluations show that kids participating in the Seed-To-Plate Nutrition Education™ classes eat as much as 30% more veggies after just one year and take their new skills and knowledge home to cook healthy meals with their families.

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The Foundation welcomes a number of new schools as Affiliate Partners in Houston and nationwide for Fall 2015. In Petaluma, California, Meadow School fifth grade teachers have selected the program's Marco Polo themed unit of twenty gardening and culinary classes for their students, which was inspired by the explorer's travels through Europe and Asia. The curriculum's extra worksheets in history, geography and social studies along with math and science will thoroughly engage their students and help inspire a culture of health on this Sonoma County campus in the heart of the wine country.

In the Foundation's home base of Houston, Texas, 31 schools across the city now offer the signature curriculum that integrates hands-on gardening and culinary classes with complementary worksheets in math science, language arts and other core learning objectives. The program is gaining popularity among charter schools. Four schools featuring the program this fall: KIPP Shine, KIPP Zenith Academy and KIPP Legacy and Yes Prep West Preparatory School. West University Elementary, the largest elementary school in HISD with more than 1,200 students, begins offering Seed-To-Plate Nutrition Education™ for PreK-fifth graders in an after-school format this fall. "This is a big reason that Recipe for Success' Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ program shines - it is adaptable to any situation, any circumstances," says West U Elementary parent Kristen Berger.

In South Texas, Santa Gertrudis Elementary School, in Kingsville is building gardens with the help of The King Ranch and will launch the Seed- to-Plate Nutrition Education™ program this fall forthe school's 2nd and 3rd grade classes. "It is so important to change the thinking of our children when they are young and then they can help teach their families -- this is the best way to change for our future. It is my hope that other schools learn about our program and want to pursue it with their campuses," says Mary Springs, Superintendent, Santa Gertrudis ISD.

Become a Recipe for Success Foundation Affiliate Partner
With fall classes around the corner, schools and community groups who are concerned about student health are signing up to become Recipe for Success Foundation Affiliate Partners to gain access to the group's proven-effective curriculum. Affiliate Partners send their own employees--typically teachers--through the Foundation's online S2P Instructor training program to become certified. All certified S2P Instructors of licensed Affiliate Partners enjoy direct support from the Recipe for Success Foundation Home Team with an extensive online library of 400 Common Core aligned lesson plans for pre-K through fifth grade, support materials, training videos, access to garden and culinary experts, professional development and a forum to share best practices with fellow S2P Instructors across the country.

"We're pleased to provide an inexpensive way to replicate our success in changing children's eating behaviors," says Gracie Cavnar, founder and CEO of Recipe for Success Foundation. "We accept applications from any interested school or community center willing to implement our program with integrity."

Introductory participation rates are very appealing: The $500 annual Affiliate Partner fee and $250 per person for two teachers to train and certify as S2P Instructors, brings the first year investment to just $1,000 per campus. Click here for more Information and application forms or by call us at 713-520-0443. 

Join us at Elaine Turner

Sandra Cook
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Time to say goodbye to summer trends and say hello to fall fashion! Please join us on Wednesday, September 2, to kickoff our 10th Anniversary season. The party, which includes light bites by PESKA Seafood Culture, and takes place at Elaine Turner Boutique in glamorous BLVD Place. This festive shopping party kicks off the Foundation's 10th year of pursuing its mission of combatting childhood obesity. This year's Dress for Dinner fashion series is chaired by noteworthy fashion blogger Carrie Colbert. CLICK HERE to RSVP and find more on our upcoming events!

Take a Seat at Our Table

Recipe for Success
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The Dinner Conversation is a new dialogue that we are starting Houston to honor our tenth anniversary, designed to celebrate our vision of a world where healthy eating is the norm and a culture where nutritious food is shared, appreciated, and celebrated.  It will be a multi-media project of personal essays, written, recorded and video interviews and photography that we will collect throughout the year.
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We have plans to capture Houstonians from every neighborhood and walk of life sharing their most powerful food memories, life changing meals and fondest family food traditions, which will be honored for posterity in an electronic book.  There will be some special sections including, A Taste of Home, where we ask immigrants to divulge where in Houston they find that special ingredient, and Food of Our Grandmothers--multiple generations remembering their family food traditions creating an oral and written history of life around their dinner table.  And on one special night, we will ask all Houstonians to take a group photo at dinner, capturing a moment in time in our diverse city for social media.  Pull up to our table and dig in!

A Decade in the Making

Recipe for Success
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Glen-&-Honi-Bourdeaux-optimized.jpgThe first time Gracie met Glen Boudreaux, he approached her after a presentation about her vision for a new organization called Recipe for Success, which included the idea of Hope Farms to bring fresh produce into underserved Houston neighborhoods.  At the time, the term food desert had yet to appear in the national conversation.  He said, "Gracie, I know all about non-profit farming; what can I do to help?" A new partnership was born on the spot!  Since that day, Honi & Glen Boudreaux have worked with Gracie to bring the vision of Hope Farms to reality. Now thanks to a substantial grant from Wells Fargo Foundation, a sizeable gift of land in Houston's Sunnyside neighborhood plus initial capital and operating gifts from the Simmons and Brown Foundations, Hope Farms is about to sprout as a showcase urban farm where we will train displaced veterans to become urban agri-entrepreneurs, while we grow and distribute affordable fresh produce for our neighbors and friends.
Glen and Honi are committed to expanding the farm belt around Houston and to building a sustainable urban farm system inside the city to help alleviate access issues in our city's poorest neighborhoods. We can't even add up the hours that they have spent over years with Gracie in meetings to plan, layout and negotiate a site for Hope Farms, which has suffered fits and starts through the years as one real estate deal after another fell through. No one gave up. In the meantime, these founding members of the Recipe for Success Board of Directors have contributed endless energy and re¬sources to encourage healthier diets among Houstonians and created a model of ag¬ricultural best practices at their Jolie Vue Farms near Brenham. They co-founded the Rice University Farmers Market and launched the first home delivery of farm-raised products in Houston.

The Boudreauxs were our Champions of Food Justice in 2013 and will are excited to honor them again this year as founding board members at the Blue Plate Special Lunch on November 18.  But the best day of the year will be when Honi and Glen can wander out into the fields of Hope Farms, pick a piece of fruit right off the vine and hand it to someone for their dinner!

Let us know if you want to help us build the barn, train the farmers and plant the fields at Hope Farms with either time or treasure.

Eat This! Summer Camp on FOX 26 news!

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We were delighted when Ruben Dominguez of FOX 26 showed up to feature our Eat This! Summer camp on their morning news program!  Ruben reported on our final camp session for the season anda gave us the opportunity to tell viewers about our mission and other programs. 



Check out the video featuring Chef Paola and some talented Summer Camp chefs! Thanks again to Ruben and FOX 26!


Happy Birthday to Us

Gracie Cavnar
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Recipe for Success Foundation-Changing the way our children eat with our signature Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ program - 01.jpgAugust 5, 2015.  Today is Recipe for Success Foundation's tenth birthday, when the new non-profit I registered with the Secretary of State was officially acknowledged and our work could commence.  When I received that stamped document, I had a list in my hand of the projects I wanted to execute with this new foundation: teach kids to cook and garden, publish cookbooks for kids, create an urban farm in Houston and produce a kids cooking television show.  It was a lot, but I am a headstrong Gemini; I was confident in my vision, fueled by my passion and enabled by a generous grant from my husband, the support of my kids, the enthusiasm of my friends and the ability to work for free.

Ten years and 30,000+ kids later we are commencing today on a yearlong celebration of our roots while we plant the seeds of our future.  Throughout the year, we will be celebrating all those folks--family, friends, chefs, volunteers and patrons who have helped turn my dream into a reality. Before the year is out, we will have checked the box on each of those original projects--with some having grown to a national footprint beyond my wildest dreams, and we have added a few more to the list.  We aren't pausing, satisfied that our work is done, but we are taking the moment to reflect on that original vision and all that has gone into turning it into a real Recipe for Success!

By that summer of 2005, I had already been dancing around the edges of getting proactive for years after discovering to my horror the breathtaking rates of childhood obesity, especially in Texas.  I first worked to get soda machines removed from our elementary schools, and then I created the Recipe for Success initiative of our family foundation to launch informal talks among stakeholders in Houston to map out a possible solution plan that captured synergies.  There was lots of handwringing, plenty of ideas, not a lot of collaborative action.  I realized that I would need to be more than a yenta; I would have to jump in and do something.  That ignited my insatiable study of how other communities--at home and abroad--were addressing this issue and what the global experts and researchers were saying was at the root of the problem. I got my hands on Slow Food's Terre Madre curriculum for Italian children and Jamie Oliver's lesson plans for his London project and the Minister of Culture's outreach materials for French schoolchildren and I looked at Alice Water's nascent project in Berkley.  I read research studies and white papers like novels, including Robert Wood Johnson's comprehensive community action plan, developed with a national advisory group and the American Public Health Association and published in 2003.  It became my bible.

I didn't have a personal dog in the hunt, what I did have was a lot of time on my hands after retiring from decades of workaholic behavior, a personal passion for cooking, local food and gardening and the pleasure of seeing family and friends regularly around my dining table.   And after many years in the hospitality industry, I enjoyed friendships with loads of great chefs.  If I was going to get into this fight to make a difference, I knew that I had to connect my work to my passion.  When I discovered that of all the causes of childhood obesity--and there are many, the predominant, underlying issues were the changes in the food we eat and the way we eat it.  Cooking fresh food from scratch and sharing it around the table with family and friends--this was a campaign I could get behind and I knew just the group to add some spice to my efforts.

My first call very early on was to Monica Pope.  If I wanted to teach kids to cook, would you help me?  She likes to say now, that she really didn't think I would actually do anything, so it was easy to say yes.  But when I circled back in 2005 and said I was ready, she swung into action helping me convince other Houston chefs to join us.  Bob and I invited dozens of chefs and many of our friends to a Sunday brunch at our place, so I could tell everyone at once what our plan was.  YEAR ONE we're all neighbors invite.jpgMonica hosted a gathering in November at tafia for our new Houston First Lady, Andrea White's We Are All Neighbors outreach to Houston's community leaders to showcase Chefs in Schools™ the first project I planned to launch.  Monica, Claire Smith, Lance Fegan and Bryan Caswell prepared the lunch with food donated from Jolie Vue, Lowell Farms, Gunderson Farms, Bar N Ranch and Rio Grande Organics. Flat Creek Estate, Haak Vineyards and Texas Hills Vineyards poured their wines.

By December, fueled by those two gatherings, we had recruited a dozen folks to join our board of directors and twenty-five chefs to help: John Brock, Carolyn Carcassi, Bryan Caswell, Charles Clark, Louis Cressy, Robert del Grande, Randy Evans, Lance Fegan, Chris Garcia , Peter Garcia, Lauren Gockley, Jason Gould, Anita Jasinghani, Ouisie Jones, Al King, Sandra Mangini, Jim Manning, Veronica Ortiz, Monica Pope, Philippe Schmidt, John Sheely, Randy Rucker, Chris Shepherd, Claire Smith and Brendon Treanor.

All spring, while I worked with Linda Clarke--Mayor Bill White's Special Advisor for Education, to line up schools for our pilot program, we started raising money.  If Recipe for Success was going to be a public foundation, we needed 75% of our support to come from outside our family.  Cissy Segall Davis, jumped in to lend a hand with a series of special events I called We're Cooking Now, a gala in small bites.  The concept of a deconstructed gala made up of exquisite dinner parties in private homes was perhaps a reaction to the past decade during which Bob and I chaired and attended scores of galas, but it also exemplified the culture we wanted to promote and teach.  We produced a dozen small dinners individually hosted by Cathy Brock, Yvonne & Rufus Cormier, Franci Neely, Gayle & Mike DeGeurin, Sonny Garza, Phyllis Hand, Eileen & George Hricik, Karen & Mike Mayell, Phyllis Childress, Kim & Dan Tutcher, Andrea & Bill White and Bob & me, each featuring a headliner chef.  Two hundred donors came to dinner.  We finished that first year with money in the bank, a committed founding board of directors, dozens of chefs willing to help and a plan of action in hand.  It was the start of something big.Lynn Wyatt We're Cooking Now.jpg

Movin' into South Texas

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Big News! We're talkin' King Ranch big! Recipe for Success Foundation has partnered with the Santa Gertrudis School in Kingsville, Texas to offer its comprehensive Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education Program to the school's 2nd and 3rd grade classes. The students will learn to plant and cultivate fruits and vegetables, learn about nutrition and learn to how to cook with the produce they harvest from their own garden. The school saw the Recipe for Success Seed to Plate Nutrition Education Program as a key opportunity to increase student awareness about healthy eating, the food cycle, provide greater understanding of the farming culture, which has a rich heritage in their local community since the early days of the King Ranch during the mid-1800s.


"I am looking forward to watching the students learn about growing plants and how they contribute to a healthy lifestyle. Young children have such enthusiasm for learning and when new things are introduced it is motivating to everyone. It is so important to change the thinking of our children when they are young and then they can help teach their families. This is the best way to change for our future. It is my hope that other schools learn about our program and want to pursue it with their campuses. There is such a need in South Texas to help everyone learn about becoming healthier," said Mary Springs, Superintendent, Santa Gertrudis ISD.


Located on the grounds of the King Ranch in Kingsville, Santa Gertrudis School, originally was established for the families who work on the King Ranch, and the current school facility, which opened in 2010 and features historical displays honoring the heritage of the King Ranch. "In 2012, Gracie Cavnar introduced me to Recipe for Success and I wanted to incorporate this learning experience at Santa Gertrudis Elementary, said Robert J. Underbrink, President and CEO of King Ranch, Inc. "King Ranch has always had a belief that we need to take care of one another and teaching our children how to create healthy habits is the foundation for our future. Over the past several years, we have continued to educate and encourage our employees through our own wellness program. This is a great opportunity to now include the whole family. I look forward to hearing about the children helping their parents in the kitchen and making long lasting family memories."


August's Volunteer of the Month

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We are proud to recognize Alicia May as our Vounteer of the Month! Alicua volunteers at MacGregor Elementary and Briscoe Elementary and at our RecipeHouse Summer Camps. We asked Alicia a few questions about her experiences and the things she loves about volunteering with Recipe for Success.  

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 What sparked your interest to volunteer with Recipe for Success?

Alicia: Recipe for Success jumped out at me because it's everything I love. I'm a retired teacher so it gets me back into the classroom. I love to cook, I love to garden, so it just encompassed everything I enjoy. Being new to Houston, it was a nice way to meet people.

What keeps you coming back week after week? You're our summer camp MVP signing up every week. What about what we're doing gets you jazzed?

Alicia: It's just how happy the children are. A lot of kids don't like vegetables. I know parents are sending their kids to the camps so they can learn more about food, and maybe the kids are hesitant to try new foods, but Recipe for Success is doing a great job of getting them to try their vegetables and making it fun. There's the odd child that pouts in the back once in a while, but most of the time they all have smiles on their faces the entire time. They're happy at camp. I'm doing what I love, it's a small classroom setting, and I don't mind doing the dishes, because interacting with the great instructors and the children - it's a positive thing during my day. 

There are also no electronic devices. It's good old-fashioned learning, hands on, touching, feeling, smelling! During the school year, they're in the classroom all day -- smelling is not part of learning in the classroom. This brings a whole new dimension to their learning.

 What's your favorite memory / story thus far? 

Alicia: For all the school classes, you can see the weight off their shoulders in the classroom. It's completely different, no pressure, they're using a completely different part of their brain, and you can just see the, ''ahhh" on all of them. There was even a child who obviously had tactile issues - it was at Briscoe - and some of the food he couldn't touch. You could see his anxiety level rise and he would go sit down. But he still participated and it still flowed even though you could see he was stressing out. He would gently go sit down compose himself, come back and no one would make a big deal about it.

It's Recipe for Success' 10th Birthday: where would you like to see the organization in another 10 years?

Alicia: Ideally, in every school. The children get so much from this. The US has become so international and it just comes together over food. The best diplomacy has been conquered over food. Food brings everyone together. It's great to see all these new tastes for the children and it opens their world. A certain smell will remind them, oh this is India! Or this is Greece! They don't even have to be eating the food, they can just walk past a restaurant and they'll say, "hmm, I know that smell!"

Thank you, Alicia, for your consistent commitment and support!

Interested in volunteering with us? Email us! 

Third and Goal

Gracie Cavnar
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Healthy Lunch.pngIn June, the Texas State Ag Commissioner rolled back progressive rules to support healthier lunches in Texas citing complaints by lunch providers that it was too difficult to meet the standard and that students rejected healthier options.  Well, that's not what the rest of the country is reporting, according to a recent survey by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.  Hopefully Texas schools will stay the course and help our kids grow up healthier by rejecting poor nutritional options offered by the big food manufacturers.  But, it will be up to parents and concerned citizens to ensure this outcome.  We have seen ever and over again, its the squeeky wheel...

Picnic Shish Kebabs

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July is National Picnic Month! Now is the time to enjoy the warm summer weather with friends and family united by a plateful of the season's best produce. 

Two key attributes to a perfect picnic dish: ease and portablitiy. Our Veggie Shish Kebabs & Dipping Sauce are fast to prepare and can be eaten with a frisbee in hand. Bon appétit!

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Veggie Shish Kebabs & Dipping Sauce


Skewers:                                Dipping Sauce:                               

1t cumin                                1c greek yogurt                                  

1t coriander                           2T parsley

½t sumac                              2T mint                                                                                                                

½t fenugreek                         1t red curry paste                             

1 eggplant                             2 lemons, zested & juiced                

2 zucchini                              Salt & pepper                                     

2 summer squash 

1 pint cherry tomatoes

Salt & pepper


Preheat grill to high, or if using a grill pan, heat over high heat.

Combine yogurt, mint, parsley, curry, lemon zest and juice in a large bowl and whisk until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside. 

Combine cumin, coriander, sumac and fenugreek in a large bowl. Cut the eggplant into 1" cubes. Cut zucchini and squash in half long-wise, half again long-wise and then slice into 1" pieces.  Toss vegetables with spices.  Skewer. Grill over high heat until charred, about 3 minutes per side. Serve with sauce on side.

Yields: 4 servings

Prep time: 10 min

Active cooking time: 12 minutes

Total time: 22 minutes

Original recipe and photograph created for Recipe for Success by Chef Justin Kouri. 

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What is your favorite picnic spot? 

Eating Mindfully?

Gracie Cavnar
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Salad.JPGConcerned about how we are going to feed an exploding population AND make progress toward healthier diets? Wondering how you can positively impact a sustainable food system? We can all play a part--with our personal habits and daily descisions.  We have to walk the talk in our own lives. 

"The Flavors of India" Small Bites

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Bobbie Nau, Kiran Verma, Andy & Liz Stepanian blog.jpegIndian chef partners with River Oaks philanthropists for one of tastiest dinner parties ever. By Shelby Hodge - May 18, 2015 

Chef Kiran Verma, who seems to never stop smiling, was grinning with extra verve during Recipe for Success' "The Flavors of India" dinner party in the River Oaks home of Bobbie and John Nau. For not only did the hostess dress up her garden with tented Indian party flair but guests fully embraced the theme, many dressing in saris and modern Indian dress.

Liz and Andy Stepanian, the Nau's daughter and son-in-law, joined in co-chairing the dinner evening and all three hosts (John Nau away on business) dressed to the nines, Bollywood style.

Read the whole story.

Fashion Gene Awards star designer Nanette Lepore

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Tootsies Group Resized .jpegBy Melissa Aguilar - May 6, 2015

Some women are born with a fashion gene. Houston mothers and daughters with innate style walked down the runway Wednesday as Tootsies hosted Recipe for Success' fourth annual Dress for Dinner - The Fashion Gene Awards Show. Nanette Lepore was the featured designer and dinner guest for the post-party feast prepared by chef Barbara McKnight of Culinaire.

Mother-daughter team Leisa Holland-Nelson and Laura Nelson Rose chaired the event. CultureMap's Clifford Pugh served as master of ceremonies. As the duos took their turns on the catwalk, he revealed what each thought about the other's sense of style -- and past fashion faux pas. "Shoulder pads," was the common criticism the daughters had for those moms who lived through the '80s.

Read the whole story. 

S2P Iron Chef Competition

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Annually in May our Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ cooking classes participate in Iron Chef Competitions. The competition is a summation of the Seed-to-Plate classes for the school year as students' cooking skills are put to the test to make a dish without a recipe. Classes are split into teams to compete for five distinguished categories: Best Knife Skills, Best Plate Presentation, Cleanest Workers, Best Teamwork, and the most coveted, Best Dish Overall. 

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Iron Chef Competition at Rodriguez Elementary School with special judges H-E-B Area Community Coordinator Meagan Galbraith, Recipe for Success Chef Susie Mullen, and Recipe for Success Culinary Education Coordinator, Justin Kouri. 

In Jeopardy fashion, teams answer questions from the year's curriculum to pick their ingredient baskets. No two baskets are the same, stirring the competitive spirit even more. 

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Sneaking some help from Chef Jon Buchanan of Trevisio.

This year, students at Rodriguez Elementary school were judged on their salad making abilities, while at MacGregor Elementary School students were judged on garden fresh spring rolls. 

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Students presenting spring rolls to Chef Monica Pope of Sparrow and fellow judges. 

When it comes to the judging, the tasting part is easy! Deciding category winners, however, is no easy feat. The amount of effort, sincerity, imagination, and skill the students pour into their final class is enough to deem everyone a winner. 

Summer Veg Paella

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Summer Veg.jpgPaella is truly an interesting dish. It is a compilation of Roman irrigation, the rice brought by the Moors to the Iberian Peninsula and the Spanish worker. Conceived in Valencia, paella is traditionally cooked in a low, flat-bottomed skillet over an open flame. The Spanish workers would cook paella with chicken, rabbit, snails and vegetables - anything that was inexpensive. Now most Spanish regions have their own twists on this famous dish.

My veggie focused take on paella incorporates the other culinary export from Valencia - oranges. Using the zest brightens the flavor profile and the juice adds some necessary acid and sweetness to the dish. I used summer squash and eggplant in my version, but depending on seasonal availability, feel free to substitute any vegetable.


 4c chicken stock

Pinch of saffron

5 sprigs of thyme

2T olive oil

1 small yellow squash (cut into ¼"coins)

1 small zucchini (cut into ¼" coins)

½ eggplant (cut into ¼" coins)

1 oz of dried chorizo, finely chopped (about ¼c)

½ onion, finely chopped (about ½c)

1 small red bell pepper, finely chopped (about ½c)

2T tomato paste

3 cloves garlic, minced

1T fresh thyme

1t paprika

¼t cayenne

Zest of 1 orange

Juice of 1 orange

Pinch of saffron

1c Arborio rice

1t salt

Flat leave parsley, roughly chopped, for garnish


  1. Bring stock, saffron and sprigs of thyme to a simmer in a medium size pot. Keep at a simmer until ready to use. 
  2.  Heat oil in a large flat bottom skillet over medium high heat. Quickly sear both sides of the vegetable: 2 minutes per side for the yellow squash and zucchini; 4 minutes per side for the eggplant. Set aside.
  3. In the same skillet add chorizo, onion and pepper. Cook until the onions are translucent and starting to brown. Add tomato paste, garlic, thyme, paprika and cayenne and continue to cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Add rice to skillet, continuing to stir, toasting the rice for 2 minutes. Add the orange zest, juice, saffron and chicken stock. When the liquid boils, reduce heat to low. Stir the rice mixture frequently for 5 minutes. Stop stirring and allow rice to cook for 20 minutes. DO NOT STIR. After 20 minutes, nestle the seared vegetables into the paella, cover the skillet and turn off the heat. Allow to rest for 15 minutes. Garnish with parsley and serve immediately.


Yields: 4 servings

Prep time: 15 minutes

Active cooking time: 1 hour 15 minutes

Inactive time: 15 minutes

Total time: 1 hour 45 minutes

Skill level: Easy

 Justin Kouri is Recipe for Success' Culinary Education Coordinator. He tweets at @ChefJustinR4S.

Who's ready for Eat This! Summer Camps?!

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While you're counting down the days till school's out, don't forget to check out the fun-filled Summer Camps at RecipeHouse coming up in June and July. Kids spend the week learning about cooking and gardening alongside talented chefs and wonderful garden instructors.

Choose from two programs: the original Eat This! Camp combination of cooking and gardening and product development, and Eat it! Food Adventures with Marco Polo exploring cuisines from Italy, Greece, Turkey, India and China. 

 Enrollment is open to all children ages 8-11. The 5-day camps are held at RecipeHouse, conveniently located in Houston's Museum District. Find camp dates and program details and download registration forms via the Eat This! Summer Camp page. 

A Gala in Small Bites 2015 Season

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Gracie & Bob Cavnar launched the 2015 season of We're Cooking Now! A Gala in Small Bites with two sold out events in late March. April's exciting dinners featured seafood, Spanish cuisine and the art of the easy gourmet! Guests at the remaining Small Bites fundraiser dinners happening in May will delight in the exotic flavors prepared by celebrated chefs and be inspired by the latest collections from top fashion designers - with two of the May dinners featuring tabletop accents by Christofle! Savor dishes prepared by acclaimed chefs, such as Chef Danny Trace of Brennan's, Chef Barbara McKnight of Culinare, Chef Kiran Verma of Kiran's and Chef Charles Clark of Ibiza Food & Wine Bar, Coppa Osteria and others. Chef Clark's event is the final dinner in the 2015 series and takes place in the exclusive penthouse at the Four Seasons!

 See the full 2015 season page to buy tickets or view the official invite.


The Almost-Healthy Mexican Cocktail

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Cinco de Mayo is a day of colorful celebrations and a fiesta of flavors. From loaded enchiladas to fishbowl-sized margaritas, it's easy to forget about a balanced diet. If you're looking to add a few more vitamins to your Cinco de Mayo happy hour, try our vibrant Almost-Healthy Mexican cocktail. It will have you saying, "Orange you glad there is tequila in this?"

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The Almost-Healthy Mexican Cocktail

Recipe by Jusin Kouri 


2oz Tequila

2oz Carrot Juice

2oz Orange Juice

1oz Pinapple juice

1 oz Jalapeño syrup (recipe below)

1 Jalapeño slice, for garnish


Combine all ingredients in a shaker filled with ice. Shake until shaker forms condensation. Strain over ice in a highball glass. Garnish with jalapeño slice. 

Jalapeño Syrup


1 cup Sugar

1 cup Water

1 Jalapeño, quartered (include ribs and seeds)


Combine ingredients in a small pot over high heat and bring to boil. Remove from heat and all to cool completetly. Strain. Discard jalapeño. Keep in air-tight container until needed. 


farmers marKIDS in Edible

Recipe for Success
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Thumbnail image for Farmers MarKIDS stand.jpgThe publication highlighted our entreprenurial kids in their #3 issue in May 2015 with this story by Jenna White.

farmers marKIDS

Program helps students sell the food they grow

Last year, after nearly a decade of connecting children with their food through hands-on culinary and garden lessons, Recipe for Success Foundation sprouted a sweet idea: Use the garden to teach financial literacy. They named the resulting program Farmers MarKIDS. Read more.

VegOut! in the Chronicle

Recipe for Success
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Vegout Chron pic.jpgRecipe for Success reminds you to eat your vegetables
Nonprofit promotes better eating with monthlong challenge
By Greg Morago-March 10, 2015

Caloric indulgences are always aplenty in Houston. But when the rodeo pulls into town, temptations can overwhelm even the most sensible of diets. Houston has nearly a month-long love affair with chocolate-dipped cheesecake, foot-long sausages on a stick, funnel cakes with a flurry of powdered sugar, heaping portions of barbecue, jaw-busting burgers and deep-fried bacon during the run of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.

Which makes VegOut!, a campaign sponsored by Recipe for Success, so perfectly timed. Read the whole story.

It's Déjà Vu All Over Again

Recipe for Success
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birthday_cupcakes__58456.1405367087.1280.1280.jpgAn Editorial for the Houston Chronicle, by Gracie Cavnar.

In 2004, I celebrated the news that Susan Combs, Texas Agricultural Commissioner at the time, had wrestled control of the school lunch program from those who supported the idea of soda machines in elementary schools and Sara Lee on the lunch line.  I was proud that Texas, which was leading the nation in childhood obesity rates, was also leading the way on meaningful reform to help reverse the epidemic. Last month, I got a headache when I read that Sid Miller, our current Texas Agricultural Commissioner, is on a campaign to reverse those rules and will probably succeed, despite protests from health experts, teachers and parents.

It had been a heads-up from Susan about vending machines in schools that sparked my own fight to save the next generation from a lifetime of obesity.  Now Mr. Miller was using time-tested political tactics to distract Texans from the real issues surrounding school food with his high-profile crusade to allow Moms to bring birthday cupcakes from home to little Johnny's class. The indignation of it all! Guvmint rules prohibiting dearly held family traditions of classroom birthday celebrations! The cupcake wars were a red herring, a non-issue. In fact birthday cupcakes have always enjoyed a waiver in both state and federal school nutrition rules.  But let's not let the facts get in the way.

School lunch is a hot potato--or should I say French fry--and always has been. There is a whole lot of money involved.  We spend over $10 billion annually on the National School Lunch program. That's big business. So, no wonder politicians like to ignore the Surgeon General's warnings.
Food in schools has always been controversial.  Started in 1946 in response to the nutritional deficiencies of U.S. military recruits, the school lunch program soon became embroiled in serial struggles among food and drink companies, farmers, agribusiness, school administrators, and nutritionists.  They fought over who could regulate what, where and when. It was all about the money.  Remember the ketchup and pickle relish controversy in the early 80's?  That was nuthin compared to efforts made by the soda industry to break into the lunch line.  In 1983, acting on a suit brought by the National Soft Drink Association, a panel of judges ruled that the USDA could regulate drinks only in public-school cafeterias, and only at mealtimes. As long as soft drink and candy companies had the permission of local school boards and administrators, they could sell anything, any place at anytime.  Vending machines began to multiply like bunnies in the hallways and gymnasiums of our schools.

It was bad enough that parents were already dealing with the cartoons, the toys and cross marketing that motivated the tiniest tots to demand sugary cereal and chicken nuggets.  But now, even if they limited TV, parents could no longer shield their kids from junk food access.  No matter what the home-rule, a five year old with money in his pocket could buy his own soda at school or have nothing but chips for lunch.  And what a coup for the snack food giants! Snaring a cradle to grave customer while making millions.

At the same time, obesity rates skyrocketed: Between 1980 and 2000, rates doubled and obesity has now eclipsed smoking as the number one health hazard in America.  Today, over half of all Americans are obese and 10% of us have Type II Diabetes.  This year, 400,000 Americans will die from diseases linked to their obesity and one million of our feet will be amputated. Sadly, every year the obesity epidemic reaches further down the age charts. 23 million American kids are already obese. Now, its not unusual for a six year old to develop chronic diseases that we used to only see in their grandparents: Type 2 Diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, liver disease, kidney failure and even cancer. 

Obesity is not just killing many of us; it's costing all of us--$270 billion in 2011 alone.  That's not only in healthcare, but also lost time at work, disability payments and increased insurance premiums for everyone.
The map to turn this epidemic around has been in our hands since 2005, when the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Institute of Medicine published a sweeping manifesto. After four years of gathering reports from over 60 top health researchers and documenting obesity trends along with its financial and health impacts, their action plan laid out recommended interventions at every level of our society, from home, to neighborhood, to school, town, city, state and federal.  They considered schools one of the most influential settings to encourage healthy behavior. The group, along with the American Public Health Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics called for an overhaul of school lunch guidelines along with elimination of all sugar-sweetened beverages, snacks and low nutrient food from vending machines and campus cafeterias.

By then, over 21% of elementary, 62% of middle and 85% of high schools had vending machines on campus and 83% of them offered a-la-carte foods on the lunch line from vendors like Taco Bell, Subway, Domino's and Pizza Hut.  School districts across the country pushed back. They counted on the extra revenue from vending and food contracts--typically upwards of $125,000 a year per school, and so did the big soda and snack food companies.  A raft of advertising ensued--$52 million annually directed at kids alone, to promote exercise as the best way to stay healthy, while celebrating American's freedom to eat what we want.  Go ahead; you deserve a break today!

Research indicates that what we eat and the way we eat it is at the root cause of obesity, so the school cafeteria is a great place to start changing habits.  American taxpayers foot the bill for 21.5 million kids to eat free meals at school every day.  For 80% of these children--16 million who are food insecure, it's often their only meal.  I'm wondering why we would agree to line the pockets of the junk food industry on the taxpayer's dime to feed our most vulnerable kids high-calorie, nutrient-poor food that contributes to their chance of becoming obese and practically ensures that we will continue to pay for a lifetime of their chronic diseases?  One of the most effective disruptors to the poverty cycle is good health.  Wouldn't the taxpayer dollar be better spent to guarantee healthy school lunches?

Shame on Mr. Miller for signaling to Texas schools that it's OK to go back to the old, profitable unhealthy ways; but shame on us for letting him get away with it! Cupcake anyone?

Snack Time

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If you are someone who only eats at meal times, power to you. Around 3 PM on most days, I am struck with an intense snack craving akin to someone on a two hour hike. As a teacher, I know I am not alone in that feeling. The last bell of the day rings and kids are off scavenging for snacks like leopards on the hunt. Unfortunately, many students settle for highly processed, fire hydrant red powdered "cheese" puffs and other snacks with a similar dirth in substence. Parents, fear not! We have an easy and delicious alternative: Chewy No-Bake Granola Bars. 

These bars are the perfect refueling snack for children (and adults too!) who need the energy for afternoon activities like tutorials and sports, without the excessive sugar and salt. The nuts offer great protein while the wheat germ adds a nice fiber boost! Enjoy. 

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Chewy No-Bake Granola Bars

Recipe by Justin Kouri


 1c Rolled oats

½c Pecans, roughly chopped

¼c Shredded coconut

2T Coconut oil

1/3c Honey

1T Brown sugar

1t Vanilla extract

2T Wheat germ

½t Sea salt

¼c Dried cranberries


Pre-heat oven to 350°F. Line a 9"x5" loaf pan with parchment paper so that there is an extra 2" on the long sides of the pan. This will make it easier to remove the finished product from the pan.

Place oats, pecans and coconut on baking sheet and toast for 15 minutes, stirring the ingredients every five minutes.

Meanwhile, over medium-high heat, combine coconut oil, honey, brown sugar and vanilla in small sauce pan and bring to a boil. Right when it begins to bubble, remove from heat.

 Once the oat mixture is toasted, place in large metal bowl. Add wheat germ, salt and dried cranberries to the oat mixture. Add the warm honey mixture to the bowl and stir until everything is combined.  Pour into prepared pan, and press with spatula so that the mixture is uniform. Allow to cool for 15 minutes, then wrap with plastic and chill for 45 minutes, or overnight. Pull the granola loaf out of the pan, cut into 6  uniform bars and serve.

 Yields: 6 servings

Prep time: 5 minutes

Active cooking time: 15 minutes

Inactive cooking time: 1 hour

Total time: 1 hour 20 minutes

Skill level: Easy

Let us know how you and your kiddos like them in the comments below! What would you add?  

Why We Are Front & Center @Bayou Green Day

Recipe for Success
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VegOut! festival.jpgWe want to celebrate the historic legacy of Houston's bayous as the first food highway into town at the city's inception and to bring some cultural relevance into the connection of land, water, and the vast diversity of Houstonian's foodways.  The RFS team will be at three parks on Saturday, April 4 as part of the Houston Parks Board Bayou Green Day. 

We helped create an event passport as another salute to the original gateways to Houston, so we will be stamping passports at all three of our booths:  At Gragg Park folks can stop by to share their Favorite Holiday Food Stories on video and earn a passport stamp.  Then, at Spurlock Park we are helping folks write original poetry and enter our Garden Haikus for Earth Day contest, which will be judged by Rich Levy (Poet and Director of Inprint.) Poets will earn another passport stamp.  At our #HoustonDigsRealFood booth located in Mason Park, we will have all the necessary materials to make a plant pot, plant a veggie from seed and earn another passport stamp   Snaring three stamps will win the passport holder a prize from Success Rice & Mahatma Rice, which will be givenout at all three Recipe for Success booths.

It's just another food adventure with Recipe for Success Foundation that reflects our efforts to celebrate and share our appreciation for fresh, nutritious food and inspire a culture where healthy eating is the norm.  Here is a link to all the other things happening during this event.  Send us you pictures and have fun.


Recipe for Success
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Earth Day Haiku Contest.jpgWe are celebrating the bounty of spring with poetry contest.

Celebrate National Gardening Month, National Poetry Month AND Earth Day this April by taking part in the fourth-annual Recipe for Success Foundation Garden Haikus for Earth Day Contest. Students and adults are invited to enter the citywide contest online. Houstonians can also pick up flyers and submit haikus on April 4 at the Recipe for Success booth at Bayou Greenway Day along Brays Bayou, on April 11 at the RFS booth at Earth Day Houston at Discovery Green, and on April 18 at the Veggie Riot VegOut! Wrap-up & Chef Showdown at Houstonia House in the Heights.  Or you can enter online HERE.

Rules for Contest:  Submit your poem in the traditional haiku format to reflect spring garden themes or the fun of growing and eating healthy food. Winners will be selected from three categories: Seeds (Age 5 to 11), Sprouts (Age 12 to 17), Blooms (Age 18+). Multiple submissions welcome. Entry deadline is April 30.

Seeds (Age 5 to 11) & Sprouts (Age 12 to 17): Farmer-for-a-Day with Tommy Garcia-Prats of urban farm Finca Tres Robles, plus an Eat It! Food Adventure with Marco Polo cookbook. Winners will spend a day learning about planting and harvesting, greenhouses and market stands at Finca Tres Robles, located in the East End of Houston.

Blooms (Age 18+): Organic Fresh Vegetable Basket from Houston-based Sown & Grown Farm, in addition to John Besh's Cooking From the Heart cookbook. Sown & Grown is an inner city farm, dedicated to land stewardship and creating beautiful, healthy ecosystems which feed our Houston communities.

The Outdoor Classroom

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 This past week, third-grade students at Westwood Elementary were able to connect the textbook with the real world as they learned about the plant life cycle in the context of their own school garden. Led by Olga Miles, students practiced the words maturation and germination as they toured the garden in search for plants in those stages. At the end of the tour, they got their hands dirty harvesting carrots and radishes and planting potatoes and flowers. 

Westwood ES.jpgLead instructor Olga Miles harvests a mature carrot with students. 

Westwood Elementary School is a member of our Affliate Partnership Program. Want to bring the Seed-2-Plate Nutrition Program to your school and become a Recipe for Success Affliate Partner? Click here for more details. 

Schools Get Involved In Better Nutrition

Recipe for Success
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McG kids make a salad.jpgHouston Chronicle reporter, Rebecca Hennes wrote about our work in the HealthZone section on Sunday, Feb 22, 2015.

"For decades, kids have tried every trick in the book to avoid eating vegetables.

For parents who struggle to figure out how to turn that around, researchers at the Baylor College of Medicine have determined that educational intervention - such as involving children in cooking or gardening - is the answer.  Read more...

The Nutrition Revolution Sprouting Up in Schools Nationwide

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The Houston-based Recipe for Success Foundation was founded in 2005 on the principle that kids who learn to garden and cook make better food choices in life. Founder Gracie Cavnar and her organization developed gardens and cooking programs at a select number of showcase schools in at-risk schools across Houston and began expanding from there. To date, Recipe for Success programs have impacted lives of more than 30,000 kids in Houston alone.

"As a mom, I knew that no one responds to lectures or nagging," says Cavar. "Eating healthy food had to be cool and fun, so that's what we set out to create, tapping top chefs in our community as guest instructors." The idea is to fight junk food marketing with this thoughtful type of healthy food marketing that engages kids at a young age and steers their food choices for the rest of their lives.

 "Recipe for Success Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ programs have empowered children with the knowledge and skills to make a lifetime of healthy eating decisions," says Cavnar. "This is documented by SPAN surveys implemented at the beginning and end of each academic year, revealing that vegetable consumption in participating children increases an average of 30 percent by the end of the school year."

Recipe for Success' comprehensive Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ Program features a curriculum library of 400+ lesson plans to teach kids of all ages in a variety of settings and time constraints. The program is now showing school kids all over the Houston area - and in 9 additional cities across the nation - that eating healthy food is both cool and fun with its Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ at Affiliate Partner schools. Any school anywhere can sign up as an Affiliate Partner. Schools then send two or more of their own staff through the S2P web-based training and certification program.

 Costs include an annual affiliate partner fee of $500, plus a $250 fee for each staff member's training and certification. After registration and training are complete, the schools certified S2P instructors have online access to the full curriculum library of 400+ lesson plans, expert support, webinars, forums, and more to enable them to deliver this fun and effective nutritional programming. Each school must also cover their own consumables, culinary supplies and garden start-up materials.

 Hortencia Flores, a first grade teacher at Cedar Brook Elementary in Houston, Texas, began teaching the Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ program during weekly after-school sessions in early October 2014. "Classes are going really well," says Flores, who started with gardening and culinary classes held every Friday, after school.

"Students are highly engaged and motivated to try new vegetables and fruits, especially those coming from our garden," says Flores. "We had our first harvest a couple of weeks ago and celebrated with a delicious stir-fry recipe that students enjoyed so much. Last Friday, we used part of our harvest to prepare an amazing rainbow salad (1-2-3 salad recipe from the Recipe for Success website)." 


 Flores reports that she enjoys teaching the Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ curriculum, and grows more comfortable and confident with the program with each passing week. She also says she is grateful for the support of a loyal crew of five volunteers, who have assisted with the S2P program at Cedar Brook Elementary since it began.

 "With the help of 25 of Houston's finest chefs we created our Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ to turn kids on to the magic of food and empower them to make healthy decisions and their own scrumptious meals," says Cavnar. "Our program inspired the First Lady's "Chefs Move To Schools" outreach, which we helped her launch, and now we have over 100 professional chefs volunteering with Recipe for Success as we grow from coast to coast."

 For information getting started with the Recipe for Success Affiliate Partner program, refer to the Recipe for Success affiliate partnership page.

The World's Greatest Pet

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When you think of typical classroom pets, lizards, various small rodents, and fish are usually the first to come to mind. All of those are great, but at Recipe for Success we are a little different; we keep worms. Students learn that worms, specifically red wigglers, are fantastic decomposers, devouring our culinary classroom scraps and producing nutrient rich humus for our garden. 

Worms.jpg This past week, a few of our programs received roughly two thousand worms and boy, were our kids excited. Never seen two thousand worms at once? It's quite the tangled mess. Before they arrived, students spruced up the worms new home, known as "The Worm Hotel," with wet newspaper strips and banana peels. One kindergartner exclaimed during this nesting activity that, "a worm is the greatest pet in the world." I couldn't agree more - low maintenance, inexpensive, silent, and their excretion helps us grow healthy food. Now that's a loveable pet.

Worm Hotel.jpg

Students learn about the worms new habitat, The Worm Hotel. 

 Want to start vermicomposting at your house?  Check out Uncle Jim's Worm Farm to purchase your own pet red wigglers. 

Chef for a Day 2015

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My Favorite Holiday Food Writing Contest winner David Gallegos was awarded his grand prize last week: becoming Chef for a Day at The Houstonian Hotel, Club and Spa. Little Chef David was greeted with his very own embroidered Houstonian chef's jacket and hat. Executive Chef Neal Cox wasted no time introducing Chef David to the Houstonian's large kitchens and staff. On the menu for the day was Carrot and Apple Soup, Pork Tenderloin with Soba Noodles, and Wild Blueberry Pie with Lemon Ice Cream - quite a large feast for this little chef to prepare!


No chef can work on an empty stomach. Chef David before devouring a waffle made in The Houstonian's Olivette's kitchen.

For two hours, Chef Neal patiently walked Chef David through each step of the meal - from dicing the carrots for the soup to searing the pork tenderloin, to rolling pie dough. After all that work, Chef David had certainly worked up quite an appetite. At the lunch table he was joined by family, teachers, and Chef Neal to enjoy the fruits of his labor.


I ran into David this week and he pulled me aside to tell me that since becoming Chef for a Day his mother now lets him cook side by side with her, even teaching her a few things he picked up from Chef Neal. Quite the memorable experience for this young chef!


 Click here to read my interview with David! 

Kids in the Kitchen

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One delicious perk of having prominent Houston chefs volunteer their time in our Seed-to-Plate ™ culinary classes is the opportunity they provide for students to visit their restaurants and get an insider's tour of some of Houston's favorite, professional kitchens. 

La Vista .jpg

Last month students from Rodriguez Elementary School got a taste of La Vista, Chef Greg Gordon's chic Galleria bistro serving delicious New American cuisine. Students first got a tour of the kitchen before rolling up their sleeves to make brick oven baked pizzas. The special treatment continued as they dined in La Vista's private dinning room known as the "The Cool People Room." 

La Vista Pizza 2.jpg

Afterwards, the kids worked the off the pizza with a fun game of kickball at the nearby Tanglewood Park. 

Surely positive kitchen experiences like this one will influence a few future culinary careers!

Frost Fighters

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Well the Old Farmer's Almanac predicted it; this winter was set to be a dousy. "Colder is just almost too familiar a term," Old Farmer's Almanac Editor Janice Stillman said. "Think of it as a refriger-nation." Temperature highs in the 40s may seem to our Northern neighbors like Houston is in the protected crisper section of the fridge; but nonetheless, we are certainly shaking in our boots.

These temperatures can be particularly unfriendly to our Recipe Gardens, as I am sure all you home gardeners can attest. Our students in our Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Program are learning the precautionary measures to take to protect those precious veggie plants they have worked so hard to cultivate. Here are three easy steps they are taking that you can try at home in your own gardens: 

  1. Water well. As the weather gets colder, the air gets drier which leads to soil moisture loss (This goes for us humans too! Stay hydrated, folks). Contrary to what you might expect, wet soil holds heat better than dry soil.
  2. Mulch. Adding dried leaves, hay, or even newspapers around plants conserves water and keeps the soil warm.
  3.  Cover.  The kids call this "blanketing." If frost is in the forecast, you can use frost cloths, newspapers, bed sheets, or old pots to cover plants. Never cover plants with plastic bags. Make sure to remove the next day to prevent scorching from the afternoon sun. 

Winter Watering.jpgGood luck and stay warm! 

Arctic Blast Survival Soup

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January is the time we all swear we'll eat better, and we promise ourselves we'll cook better food for our family, but darn it's cold... and we want something comforting... and warm.

carrotsoup.jpgI adore this Moroccan-inspired carrot soup that truly hits on all fronts. It is warm, satisfying, pretty to look at, healthy... and my kids will even eat it! (Though I admit I don't tell them that it is basically cooked carrots whizzed up in a blender.)

The process is quick and simple and leaves room for innovation, if you're into that kind of thing:

Sweat half of a chopped onion in a little butter. Throw in an array of spices that will have your kitchen smelling like the Kasbah. I love turmeric, as I read recently that it's good for joints, and coriander has the most delicious smell, so I add some of that as well.  A dash of cinnamon finishes it off for me, though some curry powder would be nice, or sometimes I add a little cumin.

Let the spices toast a bit before adding about 12 coarsely chopped carrots and chicken stock to just cover them, bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, cover and 20 minutes later, you're ready for the blender and a soul-inspiring bowl of soup.

I like mine with a dollop of Greek yogurt and toasted nuts, but my kids prefer a giant crouton with melted cheese smack dab in the middle of theirs!

What recipes help YOU walk the line between honoring New Year's Resolutions and keeping warm and toasty? Tell us in the comments!