Tomorrow we will be busy in the kitchen all day preparing for our first Thanksgiving Family Dinner! We have invited the BCS community of families and staff, as well as volunteers and special friends that have helped us out this year. We are so thankful for our wonderful workplace!
Sarah and I will be cooking turkeys, mashed potatoes, stuffing (from scratch!) squash, and making veggie plates. Sarah also made some beautiful pumpkin bars and cranberry bars for dessert, so we'll whip up some cream for those.
I can't wait to post about it! Look out toward the end of the week.
Again, a big thank you to City Market for the generous donation - we are thankful for you too!!
I promised the shepherd's pie recipe after the last family dinner, and here you have it:
BCS Shepherd's Pie
1 lb ground beef (or turkey)
4 c. potatoes, (peeled or not, depending on your preference) washed and cut into large pieces
2 cups corn kernels (I use frozen corn, organic when there's room in the budget, though you could certainly use fresh or canned as well)
1 clove garlic ( or more to taste)
one packet of vegetarian brown gravy mix (this is what I use. if you have a homemade gravy recipe or a mix that you love, use it!)
about 1/2 cup milk and some butter or margarine for the mashed potatoes
1/2 to 1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
salt, pepper to taste
8 ior 9 inch square baking dish
First, preheat the over to 350 degrees. Then put the potatoes in a large pot with enough hot water to cover them and bring to a boil. Let them boil for about 10 minutes, then test for softness. You want them really soft so they'll mash easily and evenly.
While they're boiling chop the garlic as finely as you can, then cook it with the beef on high heat all the way through - no pink left anywhere. Season with salt, pepper.
Put the beef in the bottom of your dish.
Prepare the gravy - the kind I use just needs to be whisked with water and brought to a boil. When it's ready, pour it over the beef in the dish and mix around so it's all coated well.
Next, cook the corn in a pan with a little butter or margarine until it's heated through. Don't add salt while it's cooking - it will make the corn tough!
Pour the cooked corn over the beef making a nice layer.
Next, get to work on those mashed potatoes! They should be soft now, so drain them in a colander and put them back in the hot pot. Add your milk, butter or margarine and some salt if you like, then mash away. A masher is easiest, but a large fork or slotted spoon will work as well. Get them as smooth as you can, and taste for seasoning. If they feel stiff or dry, just add a little more milk a bit at a time.
When they're nice and smooth, spoon them over the corn layer in the dish, using a spatula to spread if necessary. When you've covered the corn, sprinkle the cheese all over the top. Use as much or as little as you'd like. I tend to like things cheesy!!
Pop it in the over until the cheese is nice and bubbly - about 10-12 minutes for a dish this size.
This will feed 6 people well, especially with some bread and salad! You can easily double or triple ( or more!) this recipe for a bigger crowd.
Some great variations to try:
Add some cooked carrots or kale or spinach to the beef before layering the corn.
Use mixed veggies instead of just corn for the second layer.
Mix the cheese with the potatoes while mashing instead of sprinkling on top.
It's a casserole! Improvise based on what your family likes!
Family Dinner (and more)
Last week's family dinner was amazing, but I'll get to that in a moment.
First I want to give the new preschoolers their due...with a few pics from the day the mayor came. He didn't visit with the preschoolers, but they enjoyed the lunch just the same. I'm so proud of these kiddos, they are really settling in to their new routine and classrooms, and I'm having so much fun cooking for them. Have a look...
It's a little hard to tell, but that's a mouthful of spinach!
Enjoying the meatloaf!A full table in the kitchen
And I'm so excited about the incredible kitchen area in the Green Preschool
I had some help preparing for the Family Dinner from my new friend and kitchen volunteer Meghan O'Day from Williston. She's working on a challenge project for school that involves learning about a non-profit organization and the work they do around a specific issue. Meghan is interested in childhood obesity, and she's spending some time with me this month learning about the BCS lunch program and how we work to promote good child and family nutrition.
She helped me prep and serve lunch on Tuesday, then came back Thursday afternoon to help get the dinner organized.
The turnout was terrific. We served shepherd's pie, homemade bread, and sliced apples buffet style near the entrance so families could come in, grab a plate, and head to their child's classroom to relax with teachers and other families.
After dinner, the party got a little wild in the preschool, where everyone was excited about the Rube-Goldberg machines the Green Preschoolers have been designing...
It was a chilly fall evening, so the shepherd's pie was perfect to warm us up. It was so popular I put it on the menu this week for lunch, and I'm distributing the recipe to parents as well.
I do love a casserole when it's cold outside!
On the lunch menu this week - grilled cheese and tomato soup, chicken alfredo, pizza, turkey burgers and green salad, yum!
The mayor came for lunch!
Last Thursday we had some very special guests at BCS. Mayor Bob Kiss and two of his co-workers joined our Older Toddlers for meatloaf, mashed potatoes, sauteed spinach, and cinnamon apples. They were touring businesses in the Old North End of Burlington (our neighborhood) and made us their lunchtime stop.
I used my Nana's tried and true recipe for meatloaf, the same one I use every time I make it for the kids:
1 pound ground beef
1/2 cup bread crumbs
large crushed garlic clove
salt and pepper
cover top with ketchup
(multiply this as many times as you need to - I used 10 pounds of beef!)
bake at 375 for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until proper temperature is reached on a meat thermometer.
The more you make the longer you'll need to bake. My "swimming pool sized" loaf - as Sarah likes to call it- takes about 2.5 hours.
It was a hit! I'm pretty sure the mayor asked for seconds. My husband was there taking photos, and captured some great conversations.
This toddler wanted to know if Bob Kiss liked to eat hot peppers.
And everyone enjoyed the meal. It was my first time serving the kids cooked spinach. I used large leaves and sauteed them with butter and a little salt, pepper and granulated garlic just until they were wilted and a little shiny. I'm happy to say, some of them tried it! And of the kids who tried it, some actually liked it! It was popular with the adults, and a nice new addition to our veggie rotation. I can't wait to make it again.
Notice the photo of the mayor behind his desk hanging on the line on the wall in this photo! Sarah gave it to the toddlers last week when they were preparing for the visit, and wondering what Bob Kiss's office looked like and what he did there.
Then it was time to get ready for nap.
(I love the way our classrooms transition from busy lunch times to quiet cozy napping spaces.)
Thank you Mayor Kiss! Please come back again soon!
p.s. There is so much more to catch up on! But I think I'll wait till the weekend for the rest. I have some wonderful photos of our new preschoolers enjoying lunch on meatloaf day, and of the fantastic kitchen area in our Green Preschool classroom, AND I'll want to report on our Curriculum Night and Family Dinner - happening tomorrow night. In the spirit of these chilly, windy, rainy Fall days we're having shepherd's pie, homemade bread, and applesauce. I'll tell you all about it. If you're part of the BCS family, we'll see you there!
So the ginger chicken and sesame noodles were well received. The kids liked the chicken about as much as they like any chicken with sauce on it, but the sesame noodles were the real surprise. They ate them up! And the best part was, I totally improvised the sauce. So I was excited when checking the Culinate blog today to find this great article about improvising stir fry sauces.
I must admit that I used some bottled teriyaki marinade with some fresh grated ginger and garlic for the chicken, but for the noodles I just followed my heart and my tastebuds and whisked together some toasted sesame oil, tamari, apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, ginger, and garlic. I used whole wheat spaghetti noodles. I had to adjust many times, and then ended up making a whole second batch after adding the first to the noodles (when trying new recipes at work I often forget I don't ever cook 4 pounds of pasta at a time at home!) but in the end it came out pretty good. Next time I won't be afraid of the sugar, and will maybe try honey instead.
And next week when chicken broccoli stir fry is on the menu, I'll be consulting the stir fry sauce cheat sheet!
Now for the "something exciting"!
Today Burlington Mayor Bob Kiss is touring our neighborhood - the Old North End - and will be stopping by BCS to eat some meatloaf and mashed potatoes with our Big Toddlers! My husband will be on hand to snap a few pictures, and also a few of all of our new classrooms and kiddos.
Look out for some pictures and details after the big day!
The new school year is in full swing, and the classrooms are busy with lots of kitchen projects. I have been joined for some portion of almost every morning by groups of kids with a teacher or two sorting, measuring, mixing, talking, and cooking up snacks for themselves and their friends. So far they've made pancakes, muffins, applesauce, apple cake, and play dough. It's been incredible to witness, as groups of up to five patiently wait for their turn with the spoon, offer predictions for what ingredients come next, or how long they'll need to bake a dish, and generally relax into the kitchen.
So it was great timing when our director Sarah shared this article with me yesterday. It 's a wonderful articulation of exactly what our teachers believe and strive for, not just in the kitchen, but in their classroom philosophy as well.
Take a minute to look around the site, Culinate, as well. Great recipes and ideas.
I think I'll try adapting the corn chowder, without the smoked fish, for the kids this fall.
My husband is planning a visit next week to document some of these projects, and our new preschoolers and toddlers enjoying lunch, so look for new photos soon.
New recipe for lunch today! Ginger chicken and sesame noodles! If it's a hit I'll post the recipe this weekend.
After a great vacation I'm headed back to the kitchen today to cook up some comforting macaroni and cheese and a cool, crispy salad for our new classrooms! I stopped by yesterday to check on the state of the kitchen and make a list of what we'd need to get through the week and, holy cow! The teachers and staff worked incredibly hard this past week of in-service. The center looks absolutely amazing. I can't wait to see the busy kiddos experiencing the new set-ups. Even the kitchen was organized and spotless. I love my job and my incredible co-workers!
I wanted to share a few links I've discovered over the past few weeks.
First, a great blog called Lunches Fit For A Kid, written by a Burlington mom who happens to be a friend of a friend. I am excited to try the pesto recipe, among others. Take a minute to look around, whether you cook for kids or not. She has wonderful lunch ideas (she's a devotee of the Bento thing) and includes recipes for other meals, as well as delicious things she makes for the grown ups.
I also wanted to mention Gruel for Dinner, written by my former neighbor and wonderful lady Kate. Though not technically about food for kids, it is a visually stunning, inspiring and instructive blog with lots of information about healthy, whole, local food in our wonderful Vermont.
Lastly, I just heard that BCS may be able to score a large donation of local tomatoes, which would serve the dual purpose of the wonderful fresh tomato pasta sauce by Jamie Oliver I've been wanting to try out on the kids, AND forcing me to can for the winter!
Happy New School Year everyone!
I have been on vacation this week, but I'm busy today baking lots of pizza and making fresh veggie platters. This afternoon is the graduation/moving up ceremony for all of our wonderful kids!
Our 5 year olds will be heading to kindergarten, and everyone else will be moving on up into their new classrooms on August 31st - after a week of preparation by our amazing staff.
The big kids are making fresh lemonade with honey to share at the event, which is taking place downtown at Contois Auditorium in City Hall on beautiful Church St.
A HUGE thank you to City Market for their help - we have funded this final family dinner of the year with part of their generous donation.
I can't wait!
I'd like to thank my incredible substitute Erika for holding the kitchen fort down for me this week!
She made some favorites like barbecue chicken, ravioli, turkey burgers, and sauteed green beans.
I'll be back on the 31st after a little time at the beach with my family, ready to cook it up for the new classes! Please make sure you follow us here, there are great things to come this Fall...
Last week I tried a new cold salad recipe I adapted from the Hannaford food magazine Fresh.
It was super easy - after you peeled, chopped and boiled the sweet potatoes anyway - but I peeled and chopped the afternoon before with my assistant Leah, then left them in a large pot of cold water in the fridge over night. On serving day I boiled them for just barely 10 minutes, until they were tender but firm, then rinsed them in cold water and put them back in the fridge. Then I chopped a large red bell pepper and a small bunch of scallions and added them to the potatoes. Next I mixed up the dressing. Instead of the pre-packaged spice mix in the recipe I used garlic powder, cumin, chili powder, and a little salt. I mixed them all with a half cup of mayo and a quarter cup of orange juice for every 6 cups of potatoes. You can ramp up the spice of course, depending on what your family likes.
I'm not going to lie and say the kids went crazy for this. They all tried it, but it was a new taste so they didn't devour it the way I'd hoped. But it did get more thumbs up than thumbs down, and the adults loved it, including me. It will certainly be part of my summer dinner rotation.
I tried it at home with cous cous and black beans - delicious!!
Eat lunch too!
Enjoying each others company....
learning to eat together....
getting a little help when we need it....
filling our bellies for big afternoons!
Summer is still in full swing at BCS. We have been picking up weekly donations of veggies from our good friends at Digger's Mirth Collective farm.
This weekend we received a big bunch of green beans, some beautiful chard, and a giant cantaloupe, all of which was served yesterday - delicious! I lined the serving bowls with big chard leaves, and then spooned sauteed green beans over them. The preschoolers ate them all up, including the chard, which had been warmed just a little by the buttery beans.
The melon was fresh and amazing. We can't thank our farmer friends enough!!
We've also been packing lunches for outings quite a bit. This Wednesday the Big Toddlers will take a trip to the ECHO Lake and Science Center on Lake Champlain, so my helper Leah and I will pack them a take-along lunch this afternoon. I found a nice little resource on making wraps for kids on the School Connections US Department of Agriculture website. Lots of ideas for portable sandwiches.
All you have to do is mix and match ingredients.....
turkey or leftover chicken
whole wheat tortillas
big sturdy lettuce leaves
rice paper wrappers
Fun right? They can be put together in bulk to serve to lots of kids at once (like I do!) and they make a nice change from the usual sandwich if you pack your own kiddo's lunch for school.
They're even a nice, no-oven-required dinner idea, served with a big salad.
barbecue chicken, fresh green beans, corn bread, carrots, and apples...
Summer at BCS means...
Picnics at the Intervale, taking care of the raised beds at school, eating fresh mint that grows on the playground, making lemonade and popsicles, and the soon-to-be-kindergarteners hard at work on their production of The Wizard Of Oz..
It also means preparing for the end of this school year and the beginning of the next. We call it Transition, and it includes younger kids visiting what will be their new classrooms at the end of August.
In honor of the Big Toddlers (2 and 3 year olds) and their impending Big Move to the Preschool, I wanted to focus on them a little, and give you a peek into their lunchtime.
Eating family style...
Enjoying apples, carrots and cornbread...A little silliness is to be expected...
because lunch is fun, after all.
Thank you toddlers and wonderful teachers for welcoming my personal photographer (also known as my husband!) into your classroom. You are all terrific!
But there's more!
I have a new assistant in the kitchen!
Leah is a 17 year old volunteer, and she's helping me out three days a week until it's time for her to return to school for her senior year. She has already made herself indispensable! She usually cleans and sets the tables, then helps me with fruit and veggie prep before we serve. After enjoying some of our work herself, we clean up together and prep for the next day. I'm still alone on Mondays and Fridays, and boy do I miss her! We're so glad she's joined us for the summer, and I'll post some photos of us hard at work soon.
In other great news, our July Family Dinner was a huge success. Even though it literally rained on our picnic and we had to move indoors, over 60 people came together to connect and eat delicious food. We had turkey roll-ups with greens, potato salad, watermelon, and all of the amazing dishes brought by our families. We even had a homemade pinata!
So you can imagine how pleased I am to tell you that as of this week, BCS is the proud and grateful recipient of some generous funding from City Market to continue our Family Dinners! We are so excited for our August get-together, and are now busy planning them for the rest of the year. THANK YOU City Market!
Summer is here!
Everyone is spending the mornings out and about - working on the gardens, walking around town, or heading to the Intervale. And that means hot, tired, and hungry kids in the kitchen at lunchtime! I'm looking to expand my sandwich and salad repertoire in the coming weeks. It's hard to sit down to spaghetti and meatballs after a sweaty morning of playing outside, no matter how much we may love them!
The Green Preschool is heading to the Intervale every Wednesday morning. It's a long walk, and they have so much fun it's hard to make it back to BCS in time for lunch. So last week the teachers asked if they could have lunch to-go on Wednesdays for a while. Yesterday I made them a few containers of cold sandwich filling with cucumbers, shredded carrots, diced cubes of cheese and a little ranch dressing, and packed it with pita bread, apples, and crackers.
I'm excited about this challenge, and plan to search around in my cookbooks this week for some fun and healthy picnic options.
I'm also making the switch from store-bought ranch to homemade. I'm trying out this recipe first, I'll let you know how it goes!
No-Mayonnaise Ranch Dressing from all-recipes.com...
I'm happy to be back...
cooking again. I had a terrific vacation but was glad to be shopping on Sunday for red peppers, cheddar cheese, quinoa (a first - coming up this week!) chicken, tortillas, yogurt, berries, broccoli, and a big bag of bread flour. Tomorrow we'll have tacos with ground beef, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, corn, salsa, AND some fresh cilantro the Green Preschool brought back from their outing to the Intervale today. Delicious ~ thanks Emily!!
Lunch today was a school-wide favorite, good old macaroni and cheese. Peas with butter for the babies and little toddlers, crunchy carrot sticks for the bigger kids. Sliced cantaloupe. Milk.
There was a good bit of macaroni and cheese left over, but by the time I left for the day the teachers had taken care of most of it ~
We are busy planning our June Family Dinner for next Thursday, June 24th. Heather and I decided on the menu, but I'm thinking of throwing in a surprise or two....
And HERE is the recipe I promised last time... Baked Spinach and Rice! My husband stumbled upon this site a week or two ago- Cooking with My Kid. If you need some fresh meal ideas I recommend it. Whether or not you want to involve your kids in the cooking process, this is delicious, healthy, kid-friendly food. The truth is, all of the recipes I checked out looked great, but I was especially intrigued by this one. I tried it and it's delicious. It looks and tastes like it took a lot of time and thought and yet, it's easy as pie to prepare and has only five ingredients. You can even go ahead and chop up some fresh spinach if you have it and use that instead of the frozen! I'm going to adapt the recipe for lunch and put it on the menu next month.
Baked Spinach & Rice Recipe
Prep Time: 25 mins (mostly unattended) Cooking Time: 30 mins
1 package rice pilaf
1 box frozen chopped spinach
1 cup mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup lowfat milk
Defrost spinach and squeeze dry. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Cook rice according to package directions and transfer to a large bowl. Stir in chopped spinach, cheese, milk and eggs. Pour into greased square baking dish and cook for 30 minutes or until set. Let cool for 5 minutes before cutting into squares for serving. Serves 4 to 6.
Thank you Lynn Monty for coming to visit us at BCS and writing a lovely article about our food program for the Hometown section of the Burlington Free Press!
To read the full article just click here.
I'm also excited because I learned a new recipe today that I think the kids will love, and that will make good use of any greens ( like spinach, chard, kale, etc) we might get from our farm share this season. I'll keep it a secret for now but it will be my next post, after my own kiddos have taste tested!
Here is the recipe for Erinn's delicious squash soup, served at our last Family Dinner. This is Vermont so even summer will hold a few days when soup is called for. Make two batches and freeze some, it reheats beautifully and can be thinned with water, broth or milk. Babies love it too.
Lunch Lady Squash Soup
Served at our May Family Dinner
(Food processor or blender required to get really smooth soup)
2 Medium/large butternut squash peeled, seeded, chopped into 2 inch pieces
6 Cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 Medium onion peeled and chopped
Salt, pepper, garlic powder
About half a cup of milk or cream (optional)
Place squash, onions, and broth into large soup pot. Bring to a low boil then reduce the heat and simmer until squash and onions are very soft and mushy. In small batches process the mixture in the processor or blender until it is very smooth , adding small amounts of milk or cream if desired. Season with salt , pepper, and garlic powder to taste.
Last week Sarah received word that BCS will be the recipient of a three-year grant from the Vermont Children's Trust Fund to strengthen our food program!! We are thrilled because this will allow us to really focus on making the program super sustainable over the next few years.
Meanwhile, the gardening season has begun! The preschoolers have been hard at work planting the raised beds at the school
and the BCS beds at the Archibald Neighborhood Garden are finally filled and ready!
In addition to that, we will be participating in a gleaning program at the Intervale Center for additional produce a few times a month. All in all, we should be swimming in fresh veggies all summer long!
As one preschooler exclaimed while looking over the seed packets and seedlings in the kitchen last week.. "Erinn, we're going to grow so much you won't need to buy any more food!"
Thanks for coming! I wanted to point out the Links list on the left side of the page - we have some good stuff we'd like you to know about.
First, where it reads "Donate Now"? Click there and you will find a great and easy way to donate to the BCS food program. Sarah has even set up some pre-set donation amounts with pictures and descriptions of what those dollars can fund. For example, $15 buys me a new box grater! $25 lets me upgrade to all organic fruits and veggies for a week's worth of lunches and snacks! $50 funds a BCS family dinner! And feel free to forward the site address to anyone you know who might like to help us feed kids great food!
The CACFP official site and the Vermont Campaign to End Childhood Hunger sites are next - not the flashiest stuff ever, but great information about the work that goes into running the program, and the work that's being done statewide. I highly recommend checking out the "facts and resources" section on the Vermont Campaign site for some sobering statistics served up with solid inspiration to get involved.
Grow Team ONE is the grassroots organization that supports the community garden where BCS maintains 2 plots. My family gardens there as well. Photos of our work there to come soon so keep an eye out.
Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution - we love this guy because he's working on a worldwide scale to get childhood nutrition and the food we serve in schools on more people's minds, and because he's going into school cafeterias to work with the folks who actually prepare that food.
Last is a link to the North American Reggio Emilia Alliance site where you can learn much more about the Reggio philosophy of early childhood education.
Check out the What's for lunch today page on the left to find out about today's meal.
And come back soon!
a little background....
I thought you might want to read this wonderful letter to the editor of the Burlington Free Press composed by Sarah Adams-Kollitz (director of BCS and our fearless leader ) that explains a bit about what we're doing with our food program, and why it's so important. Enjoy!
November 8, 2009
United Way: Bringing partners to the table
By Sarah Adams-Kollitz
We are lucky to live in a community where access to abundant local foods is celebrated. Yet many families still struggle to keep their children well-nourished. One in 10 Vermont families with an infant reports food insecurity. United Way and a team of local partners recently piloted a program to increase participation in the federally funded Child and Adult Food Care program. The program allows child care providers to receive reimbursement for meals and snacks they serve and offers families the assurance that their children are well-fed while away from home.
The idea behind the pilot was not to reinvent the wheel, but to think creatively about how to breathe new life into an under-used federal program. By working with Child Care Resource as a sponsoring agency, child care centers were able to avoid the onerous application and receive support in meeting program requirements. True to the community's commitment to locally produced food, the pilot included weekly deliveries of farm-fresh produce, excellent gardening and food curriculum training, and the chance to work person-to-person.
As a member of the pilot, The Burlington Children's Space has been able to receive funding for our growing food program. Along the way we have learned that young children will try new foods when they are introduced by trusted adults over time. Preschoolers, who thought kale was gross, learn to like it if they can try it raw, sauteed with garlic, or baked into kale "chips." Children who resisted carrot soup are excited to pass out samples they made with the last harvest from their garden. Parents who once struggled to pack nutritious lunches with limited resources can now receive free meals and are invited to join in when visiting at meal times.
For our program, food is one of the languages with which children are welcomed to school in the morning and sent home satisfied at the end of the day. It has helped us create an atmosphere of abundance, respect and generosity.
In this case the metaphor of bringing people to the table to meet a critical need in our community has become a daily reality. Thanks to the Child Care Food Network Pilot Program, more children and their families are finding pleasure and nourishment at that table. Thanks to the United Way Community Campaign, any community member can play a role in creating a community worth passing on to our children.
Sarah Adams-Kollitz of Burlington is the director of The Burlington Children's Space, a United Way member agency.
Welcome to the Burlington Children's Space lunch lady blog. I'm so glad you're here!
My name is Erinn and I am honored to hold the position of Cook at BCS. Through the federal Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) we provide healthy meals and snacks to the children we serve, and as Cook I get to plan, shop for and cook delicious lunches for around 35 toddlers and preschoolers every week.
The BCS staff and I decided to start this blog to share news about the food program with the kids and their families, and also to spread the word even further about our program - because we're really proud of it!
Thanks for visiting and please check in with us often - bookmark, follow us, google connect, etc...
We will be posting often with updates, recipes, and great information about our program and food resources in our community.
The lunch lady