Meet Mereen Jacob, our February Volunteer of the Month!

Volunteer Coordinator
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Mereen.jpgOver the past year, Mereen has donated her time, supporting the foundation's mission through her work in the office and schools, during Girl Scout workshops, and at special events. Each opportunity for Mereen to volunteer is a time when we're able to see her passion for the organization through her dedication and cheerful disposition. "Her warmth and generosity to our students has been a breathe of fresh air," says Paola Tello, Culinary Director, "It is with much gratitude that I nominate Mereen for volunteer of the month."

After graduating from the University of Houston with a BS in Human Nutrition and Foods and working in various healthcare positions, Mereen began graduate school at Texas Woman's University. Her Masters in Nutrition courses motivated her to look for opportunities to volunteer in nutrition related fields. This search led her to Recipe for Success and upon learning more about our mission, she was "astonished and proud of the success generated by the dedicated people of this organization." Initially, Mereen's busy school and work schedule prevented her from immediately jumping into open volunteer opportunities, but she stayed abreast of the organization's current events. Once her schedule allowed for it, she jumped in feet first.

Currently on the job hunt, Mereen fills her free time with volunteer work not only at Recipe for Success but also within the nutrition department at Houston Methodist Hospital where she helps with ERAS (Enhanced Recovery After Surgery), a research study to determine if certain forms of nutrition or nutritional supplementation could improve patients' post-surgical recovery time. She is active at her church, St. Thomas Orthodox Cathedral, serving as a Sunday school teacher and each year she serves as the Team Captain of Team Footsteps of Faith for The Leukemia and Lymphomas Society's Light the Night Walk in memory of her father who passed after a battle with Multiple Myeloma.

Mereen's love for working with children and cooking keep her connected to Recipe for Success. Her favorite memory is volunteering as a Recipe House Ambassador for Girl Scouts and seeing the scouts learn about food and teamwork in a positive environment.

When asked what kept her volunteering with the foundation, Mereen answered, "Honestly? It's the children we are able to positively impact. During my final exit course for graduate school, I completed my research paper over the topic of childhood obesity and nutrition education. The question I presented was 'Does incorporating an interventional nutrition education program in schools for children provide improvements in eating habits and decrease risk of chronic diseases in adulthood?'. Basically, I was attempting to find evidence that what we do within our community through Recipe for Success, is beneficial for children in the present and future. Guess what the data said? It is beneficial. Truthfully though, I didn't need a bunch of data to prove that. I can see it in these children - in their smiles when they learn to chop an onion, in their eyes when [they] glimmer after tasting an eggplant taco and in their responses when they're eager to learn more about new cuisines! I keep volunteering because I love assisting in that experience."

Thank you, Mereen!

James Brock in the House

Recipe for Success
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James Brock.jpegJames Brock has joined us as Director of Advancement, overseeing media relations, special events production and donor cultivation.

Brock has held editorial positions with print and broadcast news organizations around the world, including writing and editing roles in New York, Paris, Dubai, and Houston. His reporting and writing has encompassed a wide variety of subjects, including profiles of Federico Fellini, Anthony Bourdain, and Tom Ford, food and wine and other culinary matters, the arts and culture, and personal finance and investing.

"I have long admired the work done by Recipe For Success - in fact, not long after moving to Houston, in 2013, I was urged by someone close to me to volunteer for the organization - and so many of my passions, interests, and skills dovetail with what it does," Brock said. "I am looking forward to helping take Recipe for Success even further and changing the lives of young people for the better," Brock said.

Brock has, in addition to his journalism career, worked in the kitchens of restaurants in Brooklyn, Spain, Germany, and Paris, produced an array of special events celebrating the shared meal, and in 2014 founded The Brockhaus, a culinary think tank and moveable dining club, which has welcomed guests to pop-up events in Houston and Dallas and on Nantucket.

"Recruiting donors to support our work and producing successful special events are both like telling a wonderful story that everyone wants to be in. Creating that story, with both attention to detail and sensitivity to guest experience is critical. So we are delighted to welcome James, a consummate storyteller, passionate foodie and experience-magician to our team," says Recipe for Success founder and CEO, Gracie Cavnar.

Welcome James!

KHOU-TV Visits RecipeHouse

Volunteer Coordinator
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KHOU says RFS Stands for Houston.jpgKHOU anchor Ron Trevino recently brought his crew to RecipeHouse, where students from Post Oak High School were on a culinary adventure. According to Trevino, Recipe For Success Foundation is trying fight childhood obesity by making healthy food fun, tasty, affordable and easy.

At the program's headquarters and kitchen in the Montrose area, students from Post Oak High School received a lesson in making healthy food choices. A chef taught them how to cook vegetable dumplings.

"I think I'll be able to cook on my own instead of going to eat ramen for the four years I'll be in college," says Salvador Rivera, a senior at Post Oak High.

Recipe For Success tries to change the way kids look at food.

"There are so many healthy foods that a lot of people don't know about and they taste really good," says student Emaya White.

The founder of Recipe For Success is Gracie Cavnar. A former architect who, years ago, decided to do something to improve eating habits of children.

"I got involved in getting vending machines out of elementary schools. In that process, I discovered this obesity epidemic," says Cavnar.

The kids are learning from chefs, teachers and even gardeners, as they're actually growing food as well. A number of area school districts are using the curriculum. The program that started in Houston has expanded to other cities across the country.

"It makes me feel really good to see the extraordinary impact we have had on so many people, changing lives for the better," says Cavnar.

The goal is to inspire a whole culture of healthy eating.

(Courtesy of Ron Trevino, KHOU-TV, January 22, 2018)

Watch the entire clip HERE.

Allison Hand is the January Volunteer of the Month!

Volunteer Coordinator
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Allison.jpgAllison joined the Recipe for Success Team four years ago as a member of our Seed-to-Plate SWAT team. Passionate about maintaining a healthy lifestyle for herself, Allison's desire to encourage healthy eating habits in children initially drew her to the organization. "I was excited about being a part of a mission to help reduce childhood obesity," she says, remembering a time when she helped the students harvest produce they had planted in the school gardens. "To see the excitement and smiles on their faces, seeing their work come to fruition, was very exciting to me. And to know they were going to eventually eat the food that they would cook was even more extraordinary!"

These days, Allison maintains a steady presence in the foundation's office, performing a variety of administrative tasks. Although many days Allison is handed a tedious task, she continues to return to the office week after week. Without her help, our small team would be overwhelmed. But because Allison both enjoys the office environment and knows her work is ultimately contributing to the foundation's mission, she continues to volunteer and we are grateful.

Allison is a full-time volunteer, donating her time five days a week to not only Recipe for Success but also Dress for Success and Parkway Place. When she's not busy serving others, you'll find Allison at the theater, catching the latest new release at the movies, or spending time with friends. In line with her passion for a healthy lifestyle, Allison spends time preparing and cooking meals for herself, as well as enjoying yoga five times a week.

The Recipe for Success Team is fortunate to have such a dedicated volunteer that also embodies so much of what we advocate for within the community. Thank you, Allison, for all that you do!

Meet T'Liza Kiel: 2017 Volunteer of the Year!

Volunteer Coordinator
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T'liza farm.jpgWe are excited and honored to name T'Liza Kiel the 2017 Volunteer of the Year for Recipe for Success Foundation. T'Liza connected with Recipe for Success Foundation through her work at Hope Farms with The Mission Continues 4th Platoon. T'Liza immediately connected with the Sunnyside community, which reminded her of La Marque, Texas, her hometown. Sunnyside's similarity to La Marque, as well as the fact that Hope Farms allows access to fresh produce to an area identified as a food desert, increased the significance of her service. As the Veterans Behavioral Health Director for Mental Health America of Greater Houston, T'Liza recognizes the positive effects fresh produce has on physical and mental well-being. Because the subject of mental health still carries a stigma, her work on the farm can serve as a conduit to open conversations with peers and community members concerning how a healthy diet positively influences mental health. For T'Liza, the urban farm exists as "a world of impact in one place".

In 2016, The Mission Continues Platoon learned their team could help make a big impact at Hope Farms. Not knowing the farm wasn't in full production, T'Liza was surprised upon her first visit to the farm to see an open field without crops. She remembers looking at Chief Agricultural Officer, Justin Myers, asking, "Where's the farm?" When he responded, "with that big Justin grin...'You're looking at it' ", T'Liza then understood their team truly had the opportunity to make an impact. She appropriately named their first service project "Breaking Ground". Since then, T'Liza and her team have watched the farm grow to fully operational with Saturday Farmers Markets, cooking demonstrations, and a weekly farm share program.

Aside from the good feelings derived from her service on the farm, T'Liza continues to volunteer because if organizations such as The Mission Continues and Recipe for Success Foundation existed during her childhood, it would have positively affected her life. "Volunteering is a humbling experience and since I am no longer in the Military, this is my continued way to serve my community," she says.

Outside of volunteering, this busy full time working mom of a three year old also cares for her sixteen year old sister and amazingly still finds time to nurture her passion, writing. "I aspire to be a bestselling author one day!" She also enjoys completing home projects with her husband of five years including starting their own home garden.

On Tuesday, November 28, 2017, Recipe for Success Foundation will honor T'Liza for her service to the foundation. As Justin Myers says, her "genuine enthusiasm and passion for service and her work with Hope Farms made a tremendous impact in mobilizing and uniting her fellow The Mission Continues volunteers. She first came to the farm when it was a mere field and over the course the year, she played a critical role in helping to shape and build the farm into the reality of today. Her positivity and commitment to the farm and mission of Recipe for Success as left an everlasting and valuable impact."

Thank you, T'Liza!

Roasted Fall Vegetables

Justin Kouri
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Recipe by Chef Al King

Photo by Justin Kouri

If it's cold in Texas, we're willing to bet it's cold where you are! Warm up with some roasted veggies. The some zesty gremolata, makes this recipe one of our favorites!

Serves 8

Ingredients

1 pound carrots, peeled, halved & cut into 1-inch pieces

1 pound parsnips, peeled, halved & cut into 1-inch pieces

1 pound turnips, cut into 1-inch wedges

1¼ pound brussel sprouts, halved

½ pound shallots, quatered

3 tablespoon grape seed oil

¼ cup flat leaf parsley, destemmed & minced

1 garlic clove, minced

¾ cup pecans, coarsely ground

¼ cup Romano pecorino cheese, grated

1 lemon, zested & juiced

1 tablespoon grape seed oil

2 tablespoon grape seed oil, for garnish

1 tablespoon lemon juice, for garnish

Procedure

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and line a sheet pan with foil.
  2. Place the carrots, parsnips, turnips, brussel sprouts, and shallots in a large bowl. Add 3 tablespoons of the oil, salt and pepper to taste. Toss to combine.
  3. Place the vegetables on the lined sheet pan and roast the vegetables for 30-45 minutes or until tender. Stir every 10 minutes to ensure even roasting.
  4. Remove sheet pan from the oven. Transfer the vegetables to a large platter to cool.
  5. Prepare the gremolata by combining parsley, garlic, lemon zest and juice, pecans, cheese and 1 tablespoon of oil in a medium size bowl.
  6. Add salt to taste. Mix to combine.
  7. Before serving, drizzle the vegetables with remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and remaining 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. then sprinkle the gremolata over the vegetables. Enjoy!

Garden Pesto

Justin Kouri
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Swing by Hope Farms this weekend to purchase some lovely greens. We'll show you how to make a veggie packed pesto, which can be frozen for flavor loaded additional to your favorite fall and winter dishes!!!

Garden Pesto

Photo & Recipe by Justin Kouri

Yield: 1 cup

Ingredients

1 cup basil

½ cup arugula (or other greens)

2 tablespoons oregano

2 cloves garlic

¼ cup walnuts, toasted and finely chopped

¼ cup parmesan, finely grated

1 tablespoon red pepper flakes

1 lemon, juiced

To taste salt & pepper

1 cup olive oil

Procedure

  1. Combine basil, arugula, oregano, garlic and walnuts in a food processor. Pulse until fine.

  2. Add parmesan, red pepper flakes, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Pulse until incorporated.

  3. While food processor is running, stream in olive oil until emulsified.

  4. Use pesto on pasta, sauteed vegetables or in scrambled eggs. Enjoy!

Notes

  • Pesto can be stored in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to one (1) week.

  • Try freezing pesto in ice cube trays for already portioned single servings to use all season. Frozen peso will keep for up to one (1) month

Happy Healthy Halloween Treats

Justin Kouri
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Charred Long Beans

Recipe & Photo by Justin Kouri

These long beans look like witch's fingers. But if you can't get your hangs on long beans, green beans work just as well. Have a fun and healthy Halloween!

Ingredients

1 pound long beans, trimmed & halved

5 cloves garlic, smashed

2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce

2 tablespoons grape seed oil

½ cup yogurt

2 tablespoons sirracha

1 teaspoon ginger, peeled & grated

1 lime, juiced

Procedure

  1. Preheat oven to 500F.

  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine long beans, garlic, soy sauce and grape seed oil.

  3. Toss to evenly coat. Transfer to a parchment paper lined sheet tray.

  4. Roast for 15-20, or until bean become darken and shrivel.

  5. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

  6. Meanwhile, combine yogurt, sirracha, ginger and lime juice in a small mixing bowl.

  7. Gently stir the ingredients.

  8. Serve along side the long beans. Enjoy!

Kale Chips

Justin Kouri
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Kale Chips_4x5 copy.jpg

Kale Chips

Photo & Recipe by Justin Kouri

Yields: About 4 cups

Ingredients

1 bunch kale, destemmed and torn into 1-2" pieces

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

1 lemon, zested

Procedure

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.

  2. Place kale in a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and toss to evenly coat.

  3. Transfer kale to a parchment paper lined sheet tray.

  4. Season kale with salt and pepper.

  5. Bake for 10-12 minutes.

  6. Remove kale chips from the oven. Zest lemon over kale chips immediately.

  7. Enjoy!

John Niscavits is October's Volunteer of the Month

Volunteer Coordinator
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John N.jpgCongratulations to John Niscavits, our October volunteer of the month. Hope Farms has benefited greatly from John's dedication to farm work assisting with production and post-hurricane restoration. With a personal interest in organic gardening and achieving partial self sustainment by supplementing with home grown produce, John sought out a hands-on experience in urban agriculture. "Recipe For Success' investment into Hope Farms has given me opportunities to enrich my understanding of growing food organically, as well as how to grow more efficiently," he says, adding that he and a fellow friend and neighbor would like to introduce these methods into their Hobby District community. John laughs about his ambitions and comments that his growing enthusiasm for urban farming evokes the desire to till up his front yard and plant rows of corn, joking, "Maybe one day we can write that into our deed restrictions."

When casting aside visions of corn rows, John works as a full-time nurse in neurotrauma intensive care and serves at Neartown Church, playing music and leading Bible studies. He also plays and records music with a close friend and Houston area producer and often collaborates with his wife, a songwriter as well. His family enjoys being outdoors, hiking, camping, and fishing in their free time.

John continues to volunteer at Hope Farms because of the relationships he's built with the Recipe for Success staff, apprentices, and fellow volunteers. Through meaningful conversations and gratifying work, John always learns something new, "whether it's about farming, gardening, or life in general." One of his favorite memories while volunteering was created when he and an intern built the greenhouse doors. It wasn't the construction of the doors that excited John, but the knowledge that he was contributing to a structure that would house all of the farm's seedlings and understanding these seedlings would eventually turn into an abundant harvest.

Chief Agricultural Officer, Justin Myers, along with the rest of the Recipe for Success team, is grateful for John's contribution to the farm through the scorching summer months to our first fall planting. Justin adds, "John's kind nature, authenticity, and positive energy has been a welcome and valuable presence to the farm's growth and success." Thank you, John, for your support of Hope Farms!

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