June 1, 2013

We're Back! Summer 2013: Session 1


Earlier this month marked the first session of our THIRD summer at PS24! Both Little and Big Sprouts alike were full of anticipation to begin a new season of planting, harvesting, and cooking delicious meals... and perhaps the most exciting part? We were joined by a bunch of new little faces!


The session began with our inaugural welcome circle led by Big Sprout Cam.   You know what this meant! It was time to give names to our new faces. We went around the circle, each new sprout picking a food that began with the first letter of their name- our favorite Cooking Sprouts tradition!



 We moved to the garden next, as believe it or not, thanks to a Big Sprouts small planting session a month earlier, there were a few things ready to be harvested! One of our resident Little Sprouts was able to harvest our first vegetable with ease: a perfect radish, which we set aside. With her help, the new Little Sprouts were able to harvest several more, learning all about the rules of the garden, and the way to which we tend to the plants.


We were also greeted by an overflow of leafy greens- a forest of all different kinds of lettuce! Teaching our new Sprouts the difference between a vegetable and a weed, the team began to weed and harvest.


Planting  and gardening was next on the agenda, and there was quite a bit on our to-do list! We began with a lesson on transplanting: for we had several pots of Basil, Brussels Sprouts, and more to be moved into the dirt in our beds! Gardening using seeds of peas, leeks, kale, and tomatoes were also on the agenda-- and following the vegetable specific instructions on each package, we sewed, pushed, and sprinkled the tiny pods into the ground with ease.

Using the posts of our beds, we also created our very own trellis for our pea plants! After a Big Sprout safely hammered little nails, using twine, our  Little Sprouts strung the posts as high as they possibly could!


And then, to the cutting boards! Since we had our new sprouts, we began with an agreeable meal for all: chicken and vegetable kabobs with three different dipping sauces (to be made from scratch, of course!), and a watermelon and feta salad. Delish!



The meal also proved to be a perfect introduction to some primary cooking techniques: and our new sprouts learned how to chop and dice with safety and ease! Our little sprouts chopped everything from mushrooms, to eggplant, to zucchini and onion!



The day was full of fun, and we of course left with bellies full as well-- a perfect first session of 2013!


Here are some of our recipes below:



Watermelon and Feta Salad


Watermelon and Feta Salad is a perfect go-to summer treat: perfect for days when it's hot and you need something refreshing to cool down! Our Little Sprouts loved the combination of sweet fruit with the saltiness of the feta: and of course, the mint for the refreshing kick!

Makes 6 servings
  • 1 Whole Watermelon, cubed
  • 1 Red Onion, finely diced
  • 12 oz Feta Cheese
  • 1/3 C. Fresh Mint, chopped

    Dressing
  • The juice from 3 limes, about 1/3 cup
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper

1. Mix watermelon, and onion lightly together. Add in feta, and then mint. Put into a large rectangular serving tray.
2. Evenly pour the dressing on top, and serve!


Making Kabobs
Making Kabobs is always a fun introductory way to get our Little Sprouts excited about being in the kitchen! They love to chop up all of the vegetables, which, when at home, can be chosen to cater to your Little Sprouts vegetable likes and taste! Though you can use everything from steak to shrimp, for our first session we used boneless chicken breast, which we cut into cubes and marinated with salt, pepper, olive oil, and some fresh lemon and parsley.  Your Little Sprouts will also love to create their own combination of protein, vegetables, and fruits!

You can buy Kabob Skewers at your grocery store in the kitchen supply section, or of course, at any BB&B!

Here are some suggestions for some foods to Kabob:
 
PROTEINS
Chicken, Steak, Shrimp, Fish (Swordfish, Tuna, Mahi Mahi)

VEGETABLES
 Zucchini, Eggplant, Mushrooms, Peppers, Onion, Carrots, Broccoli, Cherry Tomatoes

FRUITS 
Pineapple, Peaches, Plums


Dipping Sauces

Yogurt & Avocado Sauce

Ingredients 

  • 2 Avocados
  • 1 Cup Plain Greek Yogurt
  • 1 tbsp Cumin
  • 2 Limes (the juice only)
  • 3 cloves Garlic (pressed)
  • Fresh Cilantro
1. Chop avocados, and mash until smooth. 
2.  Whisk in Greek Yogurt, Cumin, and Lime Juice, until smooth.
3. Stir in the fresh garlic and cilantro.
 
Honey Mustard

Ingredients 

  • 1/4 Cup Honey
  • 1/4 Cup Plain Greek Yogurt
  • 1/4 cup Dijon Mustard
  • pinch of salt (to taste)
1. Stir ingredients together, adding salt to taste.
 
 
BBQ Sauce

Ingredients 

  • 1 15oz Can Tomato Sauce (or you can use our recipe for tomato sauce, as posted last year)
  • 1 12oz Can Tomato Paste
  • 1/4 cup Red Wine Vinegar
  • 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/3 cup pure raw honey
  • 1/3 cup molasses
1. Stir sauce and tomato paste together for several minutes.
2. Add in vinegar, then applesauce, then honey/molasses at the very end.
3. Whisk until smooth.
 
 

 


February 5, 2013

Cooking Sprouts Winter Session #2: J'Adore France!



For our second Winter Session of 2013, we decided to do things the French way! Ooh la la.

We began the day with a geography activity-- and on a large map spread on the floor, had our little sprouts locate France.  It was then the perfect time to have a little talk about the country itself-- did you know that France is not only one of the centers of agriculture in Europe, but also the world?  Due to a variance in the country's climate in different regions,  France is able to to grow an abundance of fruits and vegetables, as well as wheat. As for the cuisine, well, that was a hard one to review! Given how old France is, history has very much impacted the development of the country's cuisine! Thus,  French cuisine boasts an interesting diversity of dishes-- and though perhaps once each a considered a fusion, now all considered a classic french dish. We also explained that cuisine also differs in each region. One thing has stayed the same through the years, however, and that is the abundance of cheese!

On the menu was of course a warming veggie filled ratatouille,  chicken with tarragon,  and as a treat, crepes with Fruit Compote! There's something very comforting and warming about French food, and the sprouts thought so too :) We focused our food skills one more on dicing and chopping veggies, and also, on knowledge of spices and herbs! A successful day it was once more!







Tarragon Mushroom Chicken

Ingredients
Makes 4 large servings

  • 2 thick chicken breasts, cut in half to 4 thin chicken breasts
  • ½ cup of chicken stock
  • 1 package white button mushroom, 8oz. (any mushroom you like will work)
  • 3 big spoonfuls of dijon mustard
  • 1 small onion

  • Dried Tarragon
  • Salt / Pepper
  • Olive oil for sauteing

Directions


  1. Slice the mushrooms and saute them, on med-high heat. The goal is to brown them, not necessarily completely cook them. In a regular sized saute pan, you will need to do 2 batches. Salt the mushrooms lightly after they hit the pan. 6 minutes or so per batch. Pre-heat the oven to 375.
  2. While the mushrooms are sauteing, mix two big spoonfuls of mustard in a bowl with 2 pinches of tarragon and just a touch of chicken stock (water will work fine too). Mix well and rub the chicken with the mixture.
  3. Arrange 4 piles of mushrooms in an oven safe dish or sheet. Put a chicken breast on top of each pile and put in the oven.
  4. Chop the onion finely and saute it in a touch of olive oil. After 5 minutes, add in a spoonful of mustard and the rest of the chicken stock. Mix, let reduce by about a ⅓. Spoon over the chicken. Take out the chicken when the internal temperature is 160 degrees. About 20 minutes total cook time for the chicken.


 


Basic Crepe Recipe

Ingredients
Makes recipe makes 8 crepes

  • 1 cup all-purpose unbleached or whole wheat flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • oil spray for cooking

Directions


  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and the eggs, slowly pour in the milk and water, stirring to combine until smooth.
  2. Heat a medium size frying pan over medium high heat, oil lightly. Pour ¼ cup of the batter onto the frying pan (less is the frying pan is small), tilt the pan with a circular motion to evenly coat the bottom of the pan
  3. Cook one side for about 2 minutes, until the edges start to brown and the bottom is light brown. Loosen with a large flat spatula, turn and cook the other side.


Fruit Filling
Serves 6

Ingredients:
  • 2 pears
  • 2 apples
  • 2 bananas
  • 1 cup water (probably won’t use it all)
  • 2 TBsp of brown sugar
  • Cinnamon

1. Peel, core and dice the pears and apples. Cut the banana into little pieces too. Any fruit will work. Make sure the pieces are the size you want in the compote.
3. Simmer the fruit in the water, adding about half the sugar. After 15-20 minutes, the mixture should begin the thicken.
4. Add the rest of the sugar, and continue to cook down until the consistency is thick. Remember it will thicken a little when cooled. Ladle a tablespoon of the filling into a cooked crepe, roll it up and enjoy!



January 11, 2013

Winter Session #1: Lebanese Day!



... And we're back! This past Saturday marked the first session of our second ever Winter Session at PS24. Everyone-- both little and big sprouts alike-- were itching with excitement to begin a new season together.  It was a great day from start to finish.



The first thing on our agenda was a circle-- and plans to discuss a new design plan for our gardens. We showed the sprouts pictures of all different kinds of creative ways to garden, most recycling heavy. The sprouts were amazed. Did you know that you can transform an old dresser into a vegetable bed? How about a guitar? #excitingsurprises!

Since we spend the majority of our Summer Sessions keeping gardening skills in mind, we use our time during the winter to focus on our cooking techniques: kitchen safety is always a first priority! It's always important to ensure that all of the Little Sprouts are well prepared for all of the chopping and cooking techniques we use in the Summertime. However, we began the day with a little treat.



All summer long, the Little Sprouts begged, pleaded, and begged some more... for flowers. And so, as a surprise, with a variety of bulbs in tow,  lined up, and took a surprise trip to our summer gardens!



So, the Sprouts learned all about planting bulbs, and dug away, planting a crazy amount of flowers that will be blooming just in time for our Spring session.

We then went back to the kitchen to begin cooking. The theme? Lebanese day. Not a single hand was raised when we asked the sprouts if they had had the cuisine before. We knew we had picked something  new and exciting for them.



Lebanon. Geographically located in the East Mediterranean, the country contains three major types of terrain: a Coastal plane, mountain ranges, and a valley. All three are conducive for different types of agriculture, which operates as the third most important sector of the country. Fruits and vegetables are able to thrive in the valley (and even avocados!), citrus has the ability to grow on the coast, and olives grow in abundance in the mountains up North. Grains, specifically corn, is the number one crop of Lebanon, and then, apples and potatoes. 

Thus, the Lebanese cuisine is based on starches-- particularly whole grains. But also, fruits, vegetables, and for protein, fresh seafood, lamb, and goat. For seasoning, there is lots of lemon and olive oil. Dishes are small-- like tapas-- and so, we organized our menu this way as well!



On the menu? Fresh Hummus, Baba Ghanoush, Rice Pilaf, Roasted Cauliflower and a Lamb Stew! The Sprouts had to do an enormous amount of chopping: everything from potatoes, to cauliflower, to garlic, onions, you name it! And our one rule was particularly in effect today: all sprouts- little and big alike- MUST try the food! And we all did-- and a successful day it was! 




Katya was our team leader for the day-- here are the recipes she drafted!



Rice Pilaf
Makes 6 servings
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot grated
  • 1 cup of fresh or frozen peas
  • 1 cup uncooked white or brown basmati rice

  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable  broth (or plain water)
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Directions

  1. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Fry the onion and carrots in the butter until translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the rice, cook until the rice is lightly toasted, pour in the broth and season with salt. Bring it to boil, then lower the heat to medium-low and simmer for 20 minutes or until the rice is done, fluff with a fork, mix in the peas then serve.



Hummus (Lebanese)
Makes 1 cup

Ingredients
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled (could use roasted garlic for milder flavour)
  • 1 (15 ounce) cans garbanzo beans, drained
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup tahini
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 large lemon, juiced
  • salt to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon of smoked paprika

Directions

  1. Process garlic, olive oil, tahini, water, lemon juice and salt in a food processor until foamy. Add garbanzo beans and blend until the paste is smooth and creamy.
  2. Place hummus in the serving  bowl and sprinkle with 1/4 cup teaspoon of smoked paprika, serve with whole wheat pita bread or fresh vegetables



Roasted Cauliflower and Cherry Tomatoes (Lebanese)
Prep Time: 8 minutes
Cook Time: 12 minutes
Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 3/4 cup)

Ingredients
  • 1 medium head of cauliflower
  • 2 garlic bulbs, cloves peeled and crushed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked or regular paprika
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 475°.
  2. Toss all of the ingredients except parsley in a large bowl. Spread cauliflower in one layer on a baking sheet. Bake at 475° for 15-20 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring once after 5 minutes.
  3. Remove the dish from the oven, let it cool for 5 minutes, sprinkle with chopped parsley , serve warm or at room temperature.


Tahini Sauce:
  • 1 cup tahini
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preparation
Mix together the tahini, garlic, parsley, water, and lemon juice together in a bowl until no lumps of tahini remain. Season to taste with salt and pepper.


December 16, 2012

RECIPE SUNDAY: Vegetable Lasagna




Winter is here, which means lots and lots of layers!  While to some this means getting bundled up in sweaters, to us at Cooking Sprouts, it means lasagna!   Lasagna is a great winter meal.  Kids love the mixture of tomato sauce and cheese-- however the secret is loading it up with veggies that are easily customizable to your little sprout's tastes!  Though the recipe requires many steps and a bit of time, it's a fun experience for your sprout, and full of cooking preparation techniques for them to practice and learn!

So! We knew it was time for another experiment in the kitchen. Gathering an assortment of vegetables, we made a Cooking Sprouts rendition of Lasagna, sans noodles! As a tip, you and your sprout can even make your own customizable mini lasagnas! Here's what we came up with:

Vegetable Lasagna

Makes 6 Servings

Component 1: Tomato Basil Sauce
 
 

 Ingredients:
4 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
5 cloves of garlic
1 medium yellow onion
1 1/3 tsp salt
pinch red pepper flakes
1 28oz can plum tomatoes (hint! Rao's is the best and well worth the $5!)
1/3 cup fresh basil
1/4 cup red wine (optional, it cooks away ;-) )

1. In a medium sized pot, saute garlic, onion, salt, and red pepper flakes until browned.

2. Squish in each tomato, and add the remaining juice in the can. Add the fresh basil and optional red wine. Bring to a simmer.

3. Let cook for 15 minutes, covered, stirring occasionally.

Component 2: Sauteed Baby Bella Mushrooms


Ingredients:
2 1/2 tbsp truffle or extra virgin olive oil 
1 cup baby bella mushrooms, sliced 1/4" thick
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1 pinch salt

1. Heat olive oil over a medium heat.

2. Add mushrooms, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes.

3. Add balsamic vinegar, stir, and then let simmer for another 10 minutes, until mushrooms are browned.


Component 3: Roasted Eggplant and Zucchini



Ingredients:

1 medium sized eggplant, sliced 1/3" thick
1 large zucchini, sliced 1/4" thick
olive oil for drizzling
salt
freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 425 Degrees F. 

2. In a medium sized bowl, coat vegetable slices in olive oil, salt, and pepper.

2. Lay on a baking sheet, and let roast for 10 minutes, or until slightly browned.

 And now!

The Lasagna Sha-Bang:



15 oz part-skim ricotta cheese
1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
1 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
3/4 lb. 85% lean ground beef
2 tsp maldon sea salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp garlic powder
Roasted Eggplant and Zucchini recipe
Sauteed Baby Bella Mushroom recipe
7 oz fresh mozzarella, sliced into thin pieces
1/4 cup parmsean cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.



2.  In a small bowl, combine ricotta, basil, and 1 tbsp black pepper.

3. In a medium sized bowl, use hands to combine the ground beef, salt, black pepper, basil, and garlic powder. Meanwhile, in a medium sized frying pan, heat the olive oil on medium heat. Add the ground beef mixture, and cook until brown.



4. Layer a casserole dish (I used a 10 x 10 one) with the eggplant. Next, spread the ricotta cheese on top. Layer with the mushrooms after that, followed by the beef, then more eggplant. Top with tomato sauce and a thin layer of sprinkled parmesean, and finally, the sliced mozzarella. Fill the sides of the pan with the remaining tomato sauce.

4. Bake for 15 minutes, slice into squares, serve, and voila!





December 10, 2012

Recipe Sunday: Pumpkin Mac and Cheese!




There is no doubt that we all have fond memories of Macaroni & Cheese meals through the years-- and I am sure many of them during childhood!! That said, I don't think I have ever met a kid who has ever said no to a macaroni and cheese lunch or dinner.

And why not give it to them?  For parents and adults, it's quick and easy to reach for that blue box to re-create those warm and cozy Mac & Cheese meals for their kids (and for themselves, of course!).   But who wants macaroni and cheese from a box? You see, what many do not know, is how fast and easy it is to whip up from scratch!

I know what you're thinking: Despite it being from scratch, why would Cooking Sprouts even dare to think about posting a recipe that relies solely on cheese and macaroni? Well, well, well...  Because if you do the research, you can very strategically throw in some veggies, and kids will never ever know they are there!   

I knew it was time for a kitchen experiment.

Cruising the aisles of whole foods, with four recipes in hand, I stocked up on ingredients, came home, cooked. I discovered the whole process full of food preparation techniques that are easy and fun for kids as well. They'll love to grate the cheese and chop the veggies! Thus, another successful kitchen experiment! Here's what we came up with this time:

Pumpkin Mac & Cheese with Veggies

Makes 8 Servings



Ingredients:
2 tbsp salted butter
2 tbsp whole wheat flour
pinch of salt
sprinkle of black pepper
pinch of nutmeg
1 package (about 8 servings) whole grain macaroni elbows or shells
1 c. pumpkin puree
1 c. 1% milk
1 c. cheddar cheese, freshly grated (any kind! I used extra-sharp)
sprinkle of pumpkin pie spice
1/4 cup olive oil
1 c. brussel sprouts, sliced in half
1 c. porcini mushrooms, sliced in quarters
1. cup baby spinach




1. In a  medium pot, heat 2 quarts of water on medium heat, until it reaches a boil. Add noodles, stir, and drain.


2. Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees.  Mix together brussels sprouts and mushrooms in a bowl with olive oil. Lie flat side down on a baking sheet, and roast for 10-15 minutes.

3. In a large pot, whisk together flour and butter until melted, then add salt, pepper, black pepper, and whisk again until smooth.



4. Add pumpkin puree and milk, and whisk until thick.



5. Add cheese, and a bit of the spices, and mix until well-blended. Add salt to taste.



6. Stir in macaroni until all are covered. Stir in veggies, and then finally, the spinach. Cover until wilted. Stir and serve.



Voila! From now on, say no to blue boxes!








November 26, 2012

VIDEO: Let's Talk About Soil



We came across this educational video on soil resources earlier today-- and hope you find it as informative and fun to watch as we do!






November 25, 2012

Recipe Sunday: Turkey Veggie Chili


There is nothing better than a nice hot bowl of chili on a chilly day (no pun intended!)-- and for both adults and kids alike!  Being that today marked one of the coldest days of the year, I thought that it also couldn't have been a more appropriate time to hole up in my apartment, and make a healthy rendition myself-- and, of course, share with our Little Sprouts and their families! However, what was supposed to be an easy breezy dinner turned into an entire kitchen experiment!

You see, searching the net for chili recipes proved to be a quite difficult task. There are a tremendous amount of recipes out there that rely solely on beans, meat, an onion, a generic taco seasoning pack... and sometimes even a jar of salsa! While to some this makes for an easy and quick meal, the nutrition (and fun!) lies in adding veggies that cater to what your Little Sprout likes to eat! Not to mention, it also makes for a really fun chopping and dicing lesson in the kitchen.  Your Little Sprouts will love preparing the veggies to throw into the mix.

That said, I walked the aisles of my Whole Foods with a few recipes in hand, and picked my  ingredients. Two hours later, I had a steaming bowl of chili, with some freshly shredded cheddar cheese--- just what I wanted! Here's the recipe I came up with... I hope you guys enjoy this one!

Turkey Vegetable Chili

Makes 8-10 Servings

Ingredients:
3-4 tbsp olive oil
1.5 lb ground turkey breast (feel free to use any kind of meat you prefer!)
1 large yellow onion
2 stalks of celery, chopped
6 garlic cloves
1/4 of a jalapeƱo, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 yellow bell pepper, chopped
salt (to taste)
black pepper (to taste)
1 28oz can of plum tomatoes 
1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1.5 cups frozen (or canned) sweet corn
2.5 tsp chili powder
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp cayenne pepper 
pinch of red hot pepper flakes (optional)
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp dried oregano
Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese (grated fresh)
Sour Cream (optional)
1 Avocado, chopped
and any other veggies you'd like to use! suggestions: peas, yellow squash, zucchini...

1. In a large pot, heat the olive oil on medium heat.
2. Add the garlic, onion, celery, jalapeno, chopped peppers, and saute until soft (not browned).
3. Add the turkey, mix in the pot, until cooked. Also, when you do this, add bits of the spices as well- a pinch of each, salt, and black pepper.
4.  Squeeze the plum tomatoes into the mixture, and add the remaining juice. Then add the beans, and the remainder of the spices.
5. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to low/medium. Cover, let simmer for 30-45 minutes. Add additional spices to taste.
6. Serve in medium sized bowls, with a sprinkle of freshly grated extra sharp cheddar, a handful of chopped avocado, and a dollop of sour cream! Delish!