January 2015 Archives

Chef for a Day 2015

Emily Paul
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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!

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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.

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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!

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 Click here to read my interview with David! 

Kids in the Kitchen

Emily Paul
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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. 

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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." 

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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

Emily Paul
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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

Amy Anton
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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!