December 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:


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 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