Thursday, December 12, 2013

Week Nine: Fresh Pressed Cider, Simple Baked Salmon, Coleslaw with Cranberries and Hazelnuts, and Roasted Ozette Fingerlings

Cider Pressing with Barb of City Fruit
Last Tuesday was Terra Madre Day, the international celebration of local food. Wanting to showcase Pacific Northwest bounty, I asked my friend Larry Liang, who volunteers for the nonprofit City Fruit, if we could borrow their wooden cider press (I'd seen it in action at a recent fundraiser and knew the kids would love it). Being the awesome guy he is, Larry arranged for fellow volunteer Barbara Burrill to bring the press as well as local apples and expertise. What a treat.

Barb brought several varieties to taste: Honeycrisp and Pazazz (from Collins Orchards in Selah), plus Golden Delicious, Spartan, a Ben Davis seedling, and an unidentified apple from the Burke-Gilman Urban Orchard, which comprises 27 trees between the University Bridge and west of Gasworks Park. Barb and other volunteers maintain the trees, donating the harvest to food banks.

Cider Pressing with Barb of City Fruit
Bugs love apples, which is why commercial orchards use so many pesticides, why apples top the
Environmental Working Group's "dirty dozen" list, and why we should buy organic whenever possible. Barb showed us a clever method of protecting against coddling moths: a lightly-waxed sandwich bag secured over the seedling. The bag allows sunlight, doesn't disintegrate in the rain, is organic and compostable. (It tickled me to learn this, as I had assumed when biking the Burke that the occasional paper-festooned tree was an art installation.)

Cider Pressing with Barb of City Fruit

We discussed the history of apples and why so few varieties are available in grocery stores, given that there are over 75,000 varieties and Washington State is the largest exporter in the nation. Apples have long been bred for beneficial qualities, but there is often a trade of taste for shelf life, which gave rise to the bland but easy-to-store Red Delicious, still Washington's most popular export (although Gala is gaining). Fortunately each year sees an increase in varieties available locally, and in our farmers markets, orchards like Collins, Booth Canyon in Okanogan, and Jerzy Boys in Chelan bring interesting heirloom varieties to sample and buy. Once you've tasted a complex, interesting apple, you will find it hard to consider anything with "Delicious" in its name as more than marketing.

Cider Pressing with Barb of City FruitAs expected, the kids had a great time with the cider-making process, from halving the apples, carving out and discarding the "yucky bits," loading the hopper, and turning the crank. It took a lot of muscle and everyone got a turn at the wheel.

Cider Pressing with Barb of City Fruit

Then it was time to press, and as beautiful as any other kind of magic, the cider poured out, a rich amber, almost like caramel. We gathered around for a toast, clinking glasses and quaffing a beverage as old as apples themselves. Now it was time to get busy with the rest of our menu.

Cider Pressing with Barb of City Fruit
Sadly, my camera ran out of battery after this photo. I couldn't resist these gorgeous cabbages, one (the red one) four times as expensive as the other (Savoy). The rosemary is from a decades-old plant in my garden. But the real star of our meal was the Makah Ozette potato (the photo is from Slow Food).

Makah Ozette, photo courtesy Slow Food
The Ozette enjoys the distinction of having come straight from Peru to the North America, without going through Europe. Some 200 years ago, Spanish explorers brought it to Neah Bay, where they attempted to homestead before tiring of the weather. The Ozette has been cultivated by the Makah ever since, though not commercially grown until the 1990's, and (along with the Great Plains buffalo and over 300 other items at risk of extinction), it is now listed on Slow Food's "Ark of Taste." Check out this Herbfarm video about the Ozette for more information. Now grown by several local farms and in home gardens (including my own), they repopulate like crazy, as long as you leave some stock in the ground. However, they are also very tasty, so it's hard to keep any around. Luckily, my friend Nina Laden, who grows them in her garden, had some to spare.

Short on time, we quickly scrubbed the Ozettes (mixing them with a variety of other fingerlings), plucked the pin-bones out of the salmon, and shredded the cabbage and carrots. Prep Lead Eric ran a tight ship, and twenty minutes later, the meal was ready. Plate Lead Alena set a lovely table (with proper utensil placement, a vanishing skill!). Gratitude Lead Kosma gave thanks, and we dove in.

This cell phone photo doesn't do justice to the food, but wow. Talk about eating the rainbow. The flavors and textures were just as various, and lip-smacking. Almost everything was local and seasonal. It was the kind of meal you want to serve with wine, but, given our company and the occasion, we made do with a cocktail conjured of the remaining cider, stretched with lemon juice and tea. And it too, was good.

Following her nose (we had amped up the garlic on the potatoes), sixth grade math teacher Ms. Dowell found her way to the kitchen and accepted our invitation to the table, engaging in a lively chat with the students. It was gratifying to show off their work, which is not just the food but the attitude. These kids are learning survival skills in the purest sense: ways to nurture themselves and community and the biodiversity of our planet. Which, happily, is a lot of fun . . . both to teach and to learn.

(Big thanks to Larry, Barb, Nina, whose generosity made this a memorable class, and to Mary, who comes every week to help out and has probably never washed so many dishes in her life. You are all rockstars.)


Fresh Pressed Cider


10 pounds of apples (the tarter the better)


  1. Prepare cider press with large pot for catching cider.
  2. Wash and cut apples, removing any insect-damaged parts.
  3. Feed apples into the hopper of cider press.
  4. Take turns turning crank to grind the fruit into a pulp, called mast.
  5. Crank pressing plate down on the mast to free up the juices.
  6. Pour cider into glass and enjoy!

Simple Baked Salmon

A perfect local food to celebrate Terra Madre day, wild salmon needs little to enhance its umami. This recipe can be made with frozen thawed or fresh wild salmon. Serves 4.


  • Four 3-oz wild salmon fillets
  • Olive oil
  • Coarse salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Lemon, quartered


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil or paper, brush with oil. Lay salmon skin-side down and season with salt and pepper. Bake until cooked through, about 15 minutes. Serve with lemon.

Roasted Ozette Fingerlings

Flavorful, nutritious, and easy to cultivate in home gardens, the Ozette potato, brought to the area by Peruvian explorers and cultivated for 200 years by the Makah tribe, is definitely worthy of saving from extinction. Serves 6-8.


  • 2 pounds Ozette potatoes, washed and cut in quarters length-wise
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 8 garlic cloves, minced
  • salt and freshly-ground pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line large baking sheet with foil. Toss potatoes with rosemary, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. The potatoes should be a single layer (use two sheets if needed). Roast for 20 minutes or until crispy outside and tender inside.


Coleslaw with Cranberries & Hazelnuts

Cranberries and hazelnuts are grown in the Pacific Northwest; local foods perfect for celebrating Terra Madre day. This recipe is colorful, kid-friendly, and adaptable to what you have on hand. Serves 4.


  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon Demerara (or regular) sugar
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 cups shredded cabbage (a colorful mix is nice)
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and grated
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup chopped hazelnuts (or pecans, walnuts, or almonds)

  1. Toast nuts briefly in a dry pan or under a broiler. Set aside to cool.
  2. In your serving bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, lemon juice, sugar, and salt.
  3. Add cabbage, carrots, green onions, cranberries, and nuts, and toss to coat.
  4. Ideally, allow to sit for 30 minutes before serving so flavors can meld.


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Week Eight: Tomato-Basil Bisque with Croutons, and Greens with Mustard Vinaigrette

Our guest expert this week was my friend Lesa Sullivan-Abajian, private chef, cooking instructor, and a frequent volunteer (beloved by Seattle nonprofits and farmers markets). Lesa has a heart of solid gold, or perhaps the culinary equivalent, Plugra. As engaging as she is knowledgeable, she navigated our often-chaotic classroom with grace, spicing the lesson with amusing metaphors and tips.

We began class with a welcome to new students (hello Kosma and Jade!), the obligatory washing of hands, some mint tea and Marash-pepper pumpkin seeds I'd roasted ahead of time, the volunteering of leads (prep, plate, gratitude, and KP), and review of our vocabulary list. I don't expect the students to remember the words, but weekly exposure will increase familiarity, and perhaps even pleasure, with the French terms. It's more important to remember how to assemble a "mise en place" than be able to say it, but why not aim for both?

Next, the kids showed off their skills as food detectives, saying "whole" or "processed" as we checked off the ingredients in our recipes. Lesa talked through the steps in making a puree and what makes it a bisque (traditionally, crustaceans; now, cream), and then talked about what kind of fats to put in a fry pan. She introduced the kids to oil smoke points, an important lesson for the beginning cook.

"If it burns so easily, why do we use butter?" she asked the class.

"Because everything's better with butter!" was the quick response. Fortunately you can get the flavor of butter with the higher smoke point of canola (or sunflower, or grapeseed) oil by combining the two.

After a quick demo on how to curl ones fingers away from the blade ("obey the law, use the claw"), we divided the class into teams, pairing those who were confident with their dicing skills with those who wanted practice. Unfortunately, our class knives, recently purchased on the cheap at Ross Dress For Less, were not adequate to the task, causing a lot of frustration. Good knives are the best investment any cook, or class, should make, and I hope we can make them happen soon. Meanwhile, we're on a tight budget.

Lesa showed us the two parts to a celery plant, the stalk and the root (also called celeriac) and demonstrated how to cube the spherical root in order to stabilize it, to better cut neat batons, or sticks. She tossed the batons with lemon juice (reminding the kids of their vocabulary word acidulate), sprinkled them with cumin, and set them out for snacking. Yum. Ugly, but delicious.

One team gathered at the stove to cook the mirepoix, while another opened cans of tomatoes, a third made a chiffonade of basil, and a fourth started on the croutons. (I was eager to see how the kids liked the croutons, which to my mind are so different from the packaged variety they deserve a different name.) With only one serrated knife in the block, it took a while, but before long the boules of bread became rough cubes and were tossed with oil and herbs before going in the oven.

"What can I do now?" said one student after the next. I'm always impressed by how well the students ask for direction and take direction. Without complaint, they cleaned up the workspace and gathered around to watch Lesa make salad dressing.

We've been mentioning ratios for several weeks, but the kids had not yet made salad dressing. (Michael Ruhlman's Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Cooking is one of my favorite food books. Familiarity with ratios, whether or not they are called that, is the key to gaining confidence and versatility in the kitchen. Doesn't everyone want to be able to whip up something, without a recipe, and make it taste sensational?)

Using our state-of-the-art equipment (vintage Osterizer), Lesa demonstrated how fat and acid molecules repel each other like "fighting cousins" and can be forced to "get along" by blending or whisking until the acid is suspended in the oil. She used the standard 3:1, or three parts oil to one part vinegar, but emphasized that ratios like all rules were made to be broken. Taste, taste, taste!

The salad dressed, the croutons toasted, an immersion blender (brought from home) was employed to puree the soup, and soon everything was ready for serving.  The kids were encouraged to try the croutons -- golden, crispy and warm -- in either their soup or salad, and they did not waste any time doing both. Thanks was given, and a long silence ensued. A very pleasurable silence: the sound of good food being savored.

Seeing that there was enough soup, Lesa, Mary, and I sat down with the kids (a first!) and enjoyed a bowl.

Michael Pollan recently said:
The meal is a really important human institution, and we’re in the process of undermining it, because of our food marketing and because of our lifestyles. And a lot is lost . . . the family meal is the nursery of democracy. I really do think we literally civilize our children at the table. That’s where they learn to take turns and to share and to argue; all these kind of proto-democratic, small d democratic skills, or small r republican skills, are acquired at the table.
I thought about this as we sat and talked with the kids right past the opportunity to involve them in cleanup. It seemed more important to practice the skill of conversation than KP, and with Mary staying on to help, I could afford to say "let the dishes wait." Soon enough, we adults could also hang up our aprons, turn out the lights, and go home to our families, with that satisfying glow of time well spent. There's probably a French word for that.



Tomato-Basil Bisque with Croutons

Adapted from a recipe by Dianne Rossen-Worthington for Food and Wine. Serves 4-6.


  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon high heat oil like canola or sunflower
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 celery rib, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons unbleached flour
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 large can (28 ounce size) chopped fire roasted tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/4 cup cream
  • 2 tablespoons freshly chopped basil
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Croutons for topping (recipe follows)


  1. Heat a 10-12” satoir or rondeau over medium-high heat for about 60 seconds without anything in it. Turn the heat down to medium. Melt butter and oil together until it begins to shimmer. Add the onion and celery and stir well with a heatproof spatula or wooden spoon. Cook until it becomes fragrant and translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and let it heat through for another minute. Turn the heat down to low and stir in the flour. When the vegetables are well coated with the flour, add broth and tomatoes. Turn the heat up to high and add the Italian seasoning, tomato paste, sugar and bay leaves. Stir well to combine and bring to a boil. Turn heat to medium and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove bay leaves.
  2. With an immersion blender or in a heatproof food processor, blend the soup until it is uniformly smooth. (Take care with this step, the soup is splashy!). Pour the soup back into the satoir or rondeau and stir in cream until well blended. Follow with basil. Season to taste with salt and pepper (and sometimes, a pinch of sugar). Top with croutons.



  • 2 Bolo or other rustic-style rolls (about 4 x 4”), halved through the center and cut into squares
  • ½ cup high heat oil such as canola, rice bran or sunflower
  • 2 teaspoons each of pepper, parsley flakes, paprika
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • A few pinches freshly ground black pepper


  1. In a large mixing bowl, mix the oil and seasonings together. Taste for salt and flavor before proceeding, adjust if necessary, then toss with bread cubes.
  2. Place the cubes on a high-sided baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Bake at 375 degrees for 7 minutes, turning once for even browning.
  3. Serve immediately or let cool before serving.

Greens with Mustard Vinaigrette

From Lesa Sullivan of Lesa Cooks. Serves 4-6


  •  5 ounces (about 4 cups) salad greens rinsed and well dried
  •  1 tablespoon lemon juice
  •  3 tablespoons unseasoned rice wine vinegar
  •  1 tablespoon Dijon or stone ground mustard
  •  2 teaspoons honey
  •  ¼ teaspoon salt
  •  1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  •  1 small garlic clove, crushed and finely chopped
  •  ¼ cup very good olive oil mixed with about ½ cup mildly flavored oil, such canola (3/4 cup total)
  •  1-1/4 teaspoon fresh herbs, minced (optional)


  • Arrange a damp towel laid flat under a bowl and tucked around its sides to prevent the bowl from moving. Combine lemon juice, vinegar, mustard, honey, salt, pepper and garlic with a whisk. When combined, continue whisking steadily.
  • Add oil by starting with a drop of it and whisking very thoroughly after adding it. (This can be done most easily with either a liquid measuring cup or a squeeze bottle. Do not stop whisking. Continue with two or three more drops and continue whisking. Do this once more, and then drizzle in with a slow and steady stream. The dressing will begin to thicken once the drizzling has started. This can also be done in a food processor or blender fitted with a metal blade: place everything but the oil and optional herbs in the container and pulse once or twice. Then, with the blade running, add oil as directed above.
  • Once combined, stir in optional herbs. Add half of the dressing to greens immediately before serving and toss well. Taste for flavoring and add more if desired.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Week Seven: Sweet Potato Hummus and Delicata Boats with Red Rice Stuffing

It jolted me to hear students say they had never tasted a sweet potato. One had never eaten squash. But it should not surprise me, especially coming from children. At TedxRainier last week, I learned from Valerie Seagrest of the Muckleshoot Food Sovereignty Project that the first peoples of our region had over 400 food items in their precontact diet, and now have, on average, fewer than twenty. Twenty!

When I asked the kids in our class how many apple varieties they could name, there were just two: Red Delicious and Granny Smith. Our modern food system has served to decrease the variety of our diets, with enormous consequences to our health and planet. It makes the necessity of classes like Farm to Table very real to me.

It was a privilege on Tuesday to welcome a kindred spirit, Kim O'Donnel, the food journalist, cookbook author, and trained chef, to teach two recipes from her bestselling vegetarian book, "The Meat Lover's Meatless Celebrations."

I thought I was well-prepared. Earlier in the week, our program was given a gift card from Metropolitan Market (thank you, wonderful neighborhood grocer). I shopped at their Uptown store for ingredients, shopped in my kitchen for some spices, and arrived at school in plenty of time to make photocopies, heat water for tea, and begin the mise en place (one of the fancy terms the kids are learning). When Kim arrived, we had a relaxed chat, and I was congratulating myself on having everything ready.

Then she asked, where is the tahini? Yikes! It was on my list but I must have blanked while shopping. I nabbed my purse and dashed to Safeway, two blocks away. Ten minutes and an excruciatingly slow "express" line later, all was well -- until we tried to open the can. The only opener we could find was no match for the deep lid. We took turns. We laughed. We turned the can over and attacked if from the bottom. No luck. Was the entire lesson going to be foiled by an impenetrable tahini can? I was about to try the "Russian hacker method" involving concrete and muscle (very nifty video here) when Phyllis arrived and succeeded with a knife. Thank you, Phyllis!

Crisis averted, Kim acquainted the kids with sweet potatoes, often mislabeled as yams in grocery markets. There are thousands of varieties, but the red-fleshed Garnet or Ruby types are common here, and as tasty as they are beautiful. Inexpensive, low in calories, rich in Vitamin A, beta-carotene, manganese, copper, and potassium, sweet potatoes are a superfood. They also have a low-glycemic index, making them popular for diabetic, macrobiotic, and Paleo diets (without the Thanksgiving marshmallow topping, of course).

Kim had pre-roasted the sweet potatoes for her recipe, giving us an opportunity to discuss the energy consumption of different appliances. Microwaves can use one third to one half the energy of conventional ovens, and make a good alternative for some foods. (Toaster ovens are another good alternative.) While a food's energy "footprint" is typically discussed in terms of the fossil fuels it requires to get from seed to store, there is also a footprint in getting it to the table, and choosing the right tool for the job can reduce energy costs and impact.

The kids had fun preparing and eating the hummus along with slices of fresh jicama and apple.

Then came the main dish. With Chloe taking the lead, the kids took turns scraping the skin off ginger (clever trick with a spoon), cleaning out the squash, tasting fennel seeds, and using a citrus zester (getting only the rind, not the bitter pith).

As the delicata and rice cooked, we turned our attention to pesticides, organic farming, and "beyond organic." Kim explores these topics regularly, and gave a good case for buying local foods in season, reinforcing the themes in the Nourish documentary.

I introduced the "Dirty Dozen" list, published annually by The Environmental Working Group. It lists produce that tests highest and lowest for pesticides (curiously, sweet potatoes, unlike conventional potatoes, test low, as do onions). Because organic foods are often more expensive, the budget-conscious consumer can use this information to decide where to spend their food dollars. Each student got a copy to take home and put on the fridge, or in a parent's wallet.

Of course, foods available from local farms are often "better than organic" (going beyond the federal standards). These are common at farmers markets and through CSA's, or Community Supported Agriculture, the source of many "food boxes" that arrive on Seattle porches during the week. (Mine is from Local Roots Farm, and happens to be heavy this week with  . . . delicata squash.)

It took longer than expected for the squash to soften in Cranky Oven, but when Kim deemed it ready, we hastily filled it, cut it, and served it up, while Plate Lead Emma set a pretty table. Joe, our Gratitude Lead, gave a warm thank you to Kim and the farmers who grew our ingredients. It was a fun and tasty lesson. Mary snapped this photo (missing a few) of our merry band saying "DELICATA!"

Next week, McClure has parent-teacher conferences and there is no class. The following week, Chef Lesa Sullivan-Abajian is coming to walk us through soups and salads. Or something the kids have never tried. The future looks bright.

Sweet Potato Hummus

From Kim O’Donnell’s The Meat Lover's Meatless Celebrations
  • 2 pounds orange-fleshed sweet potatoes (also sold as garnet or jewel yams)
  • 1 medium-size yellow onion
  • Olive oil, for brushing
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon paprika or other medium-heat ground chile pepper
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 1⁄2 medium-size lemon)


  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  2. Wash and scrub the sweet potatoes. Cut into 3- to 4-inch pieces, regardless of the width. Keep the skins on.
  3. Slice the onion in half and peel. Brush the onion and sweet potatoes with olive oil and place in a baking dish in a single layer. Cover with foil and roast for 1 hour; the sweet potatoes should be extremely tender.
  4. Let cool for about 10 minutes. Peel off the skins of the sweet potatoes.
  5. Place all the roasted vegetables in the bowl of a food processor or heavy-duty stand blender and puree. Add the garlic, tahini, paprika, and salt and blend. Then gradually add 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice and taste. Add more as needed.
  6. Serve at room temperature with chopped fruits and vegetables: apples, bell peppers, celery, endive, jicama, and pears are all great dipping companions.
  7. Keeps well in an airtight container in the refrigerator for at least 3 days. The garlic flavor deepens with time.

Delicata Boats with Red Rice Stuffing

From Kim O’Donnell’s The Meat Lover's Meatless Celebrations

  • 1 ½ cups water
  • 1 cup Bhutanese red rice (Plan B: long-grain Wehani; cooking times and liquid amounts may vary)
  • 3 to 4 delicata squash (about 1 pound each)
  • ⅛ cup olive oil, plus extra for brushing
  • ¼ teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • ¼ cup unsalted shelled pistachios, chopped (Other options: walnuts, almonds, or pecans)
  • ⅓ cup dried cranberries or cherries, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon peeled and minced fresh ginger
  • Zest of ½ lemon or orange, plus 1 or 2 squeezes of the juice
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground chile pepper of choice

  • Bring the water and the rice to a boil in a medium-size saucepan. Lower the heat to low, cover, and cook at a simmer, 20 to 25 minutes. The rice will be done when water is absorbed and grains are tender to the bite.
  • Preheat the oven to 400°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Trim both ends of each squash and slice in half lengthwise. Scoop out and discard the seeds and the attached pulp. Brush both sides of the squash with the olive oil, and season the inside to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Roast until easily pierced with a fork, about 30 minutes, and remove from the oven. Lower the oven heat to 350°F.
  • While the squash roasts, make the filling: Transfer the rice to a large mixing bowl and add the ⅛ cup of olive oil, and the parsley, nuts, dried fruit, fennel seeds, ginger, citrus zest, and chile pepper. Stir until the rice is coated with the oil and the mixture is well mixed. Add the ¼ teaspoon of salt, stir, taste, and reseason if necessary.
  • Fill each squash half with about ¼ cup of the filling. Return to the oven and heat for about 15 minutes, until the rice is warmed through.
  • Serve immediately, or lower the oven temperature to 225°F, cover with foil, and hold until ready to serve.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Week Six: Gluten-free Granola Parfaits and Hearty Vegetable Chili

IMG_0750[1]One of the unexpected benefits to teaching this class is learning more about local organizations doing good things for food education. Flagship Foundation Pure Food Kids Workshop is a stellar example. Having worked with Kurt Dammeier while building our neighborhood farmers market (his iconic mobile "pig" restaurant, Maximus/Minimus, was a regular feature, and Pasta & Co hosted our staff parties), I was eager to see how his foundation worked in the classroom.

To date, more than 50,000 kids have participated in their workshops, both in Seattle and New York City metro areas. Advertising-free and at zero cost to the participants, the workshop teaches kids how to become "food detectives" while reading labels and making a simple, nutritious vegetarian chili. Flagship is funded by donations as well as one percent of the sales from Dammeier's Sugar Mountain enterprise, which includes Beecher's, Pasta & Co, Bennett's Pure Food Bistro, Maximus/Minimus, plus soon-to-open restaurants, a patisserie, and a sausage biz.

Kristin Hyde, the program's affable and unflappable executive director, targets the curriculum to fourth and fifth graders, but she kept our middle school students completely engaged (with a tween at home, she totally "gets" their humor and attention spans). From a tote bag full of junk food, she pulled several technicolored snacks and asked the kids to read the nutrition labels. They explored the ins and outs of calories, serving sizes, hydrogenated oils, preservatives, additives, and those sneaky sugar grams.

With four grams in each sugarcube, consider the sugarload in these drinks:

Powerade (32 oz) = 56 grams or 14 sugarcubes
Coke (20 oz) = 65 grams or 16 sugarcubes
Vitamin Water (20 oz) = 32.5 grams or 8 sugarcubes

Sugar Stacks has side-by-side photos to help visualize the grim reality. That tiny cup of yogurt has the equivalent of seven sugarcubes! Yogurt does not need that much sugar to be delicious, and proof positive was the delight with which the kids gobbled up their pre-lesson snack of yogurt-applesauce-granola parfaits. Fruits are already sweet, and so is dairy. Lightly sweetened granola (with whole grains and nuts) mixed with applesauce and yogurt is a nutritional powerhouse.

I've included my favorite granola recipe below. We didn't have time to make it in class, but it's very simple to prepare. The coconut oil and nuts are heart-healthy; the sweetener can be adjusted to taste, and it stores well in an airtight container. Even a tiny parfait glass (see photo below) was filling enough that some of our students had little appetite left for their chili. I made a note of that.


Kristin provided each student with a lunchroom tray, silicone cutting board, and plastic knife. With the addition of a hot plate (not needed as we have the Cranky Oven), this set-up is ideal for teaching outside of a kitchen. The kids were soon busy with chopping and dicing veggies and rinsing beans and measuring spices, and it was an opportune moment to reinforce lessons on mincing, dicing, and chopping.

The Flagship Foundation chili recipe calls for canned beans, but as we discussed last week, soaked beans are excellent, inexpensive, and always BPA-free; they just take a little planning.

Random class and pdx
As the chili bubbled on the stove, Kristin led the kids in a lively discussion of nutrition. While the science of nutrition is hotly debated and still poorly researched (with many studies still relying on self-reported food diaries), there is broad consensus around the need for less sugar and carbohydrates, and more plant foods and diversity. The rainbow of colors in the chili was a perfect example.

You might notice the teapots on the table, courtesy of Goodwill. This week, the students tried cucumber white tea, and loved it. Zero sugar grams, people!

If you know of an elementary school, public or private, or a homeschool group that would benefit from the Pure Food Kids workshop, email Kristin

Gluten-free Granola Parfaits

This fail-proof recipe is adapted from Cannelle et Vanille.
  • 3 cups gluten-free rolled oats
  • 1 1/2 cups nuts and seeds (choose your favorite mix of slivered almonds, pistachios, pecans, walnuts, cashews, black and white sesame seeds, poppy seeds, chia seeds and flaxseeds)
  • 1/2 cup apple juice, unsweetened
  • 1/2 cup honey or maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • Greek yogurt, unsweetened
  • unsweetened applesauce or other fruit
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Combine the oats, nuts and seeds in a large bowl.
  3. Combine the apple juice, maple syrup, coconut oil, vanilla extract, cinnamon, sea salt and black pepper in a medium saucepan. Gently heat all together until salt is dissolved and coconut oil liquified. Pour liquid over the dry ingredients and toss to coat. Spread the mixture evenly on a baking sheet lined with parchment. 
  4. Bake for 40 minutes until golden. Make sure to stir the mixture about every 15 minutes to make sure it is evenly baked.
  5. Let the granola cool completely. It will become crunchier as it sits. Store in an airtight container for a few weeks.
  6. For parfaits, layer with yogurt and applesauce (or other fruit) in tall glass.

Hearty Vegetable Chili

From the Flagship Foundation, this chili can be varied by adding cooked ground beef, chicken, additional vegetables or spices. Serves 6.
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup red pepper, chopped
  • 1 cup green pepper, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1-½ teaspoons dried oregano
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 15.25 ounce can black beans
  • 1 15.25 ounce can kidney beans
  • 1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
  • ½ bunch cilantro
  1. Heat oil in medium pot over medium-high heat.
  2. Add onion and garlic and cook for 1 to 2 minutes.
  3. Add peppers to the soup pot and sauté until tender.
  4. Add spices and stir until all of the vegetables are coated.
  5. Add beans and stir until the beans are coated with the spices.
  6. Cut tomatoes into bite sized pieces, add to the soup pot, and stir. Turn the heat up to high and bring the soup to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes.
  7. Add corn to the soup pot and stir. Add up to 1 cup water if the chili looks too thick. Simmer for 5 minutes.
  8. Chop cilantro. Turn off the heat on the soup pot and add the cilantro. Stir the soup and enjoy!