Veggie Guide

This is pretty cool.  A ninety four page guide to veggies in Vermont...for free!  It's a collaboration between a few groups including the Vermont Foodbank, Salvation Farms and High Mowing Seeds.  Everything you need to know about growing veggies in Vermont and then some.  Check it out. Vermont Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Handbook.

Fall Family Dinner

For September family dinner we wanted to show off some new snack recipes from our summer workshop with City Market, and we thought soup would be a good way to tie it all together. The kids have been loving black bean soup lately...
This is where the magic happens!
So I cooked up a few pots, and spent the afternoon making cheddar crackers. The preschoolers made delicious butter to spread on the crackers and bread. As always a huge thank you to City Market for sponsoring our  dinners. Thanks to them we had local cream, yogurt, cheese, and flour, and jars for our homemade butter. Recipes? You bet. Just keep reading.
We had a sunny September evening and a nice turnout, including some new families and other first-timers. We just love it when grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends show up for family dinner! Our snack guru Caroline even stopped by to say hi and taste a cracker. My family was there as well - they never miss a chance to hang out at BCS. The BCS kids hear a lot about my family. They even have favorite stories, usually involving Sadie, my youngest, that they ask me to tell again and again. So it's always a good time when the Simon family and the BCS family get together in person. We opened up all the kitchen windows, set the food up outside and let the good times roll.  Take a look...
Sadie Lou in the kitchen, visiting with some preschool friends outside

Kitchen windows overlooking the playground = lots of opportunities  for observing friends, chatting...

telling stories...

and hugs.

Black bean soup, VT cheddar crackers, strained yogurt dip, apples, bread, AND incredible samosas made by a BCS parent. That tray was empty in MINUTES!

Our fearless Program Director Jed and friend hang out in the kitchen
One of my kiddos enjoys a veggie samosa
look at those colors
Black bean soup!
families connect in the preschool classroom

Sadie digs the tree house
Teachers and kiddos 
Sandbox trucks
it's me! in the treehouse!

In other news, we continue to be so grateful for the gleaned produce we're receiving through the Intervale Gleaning and Food Rescue. This week we brought back over 50 pounds of produce, including many, many gorgeous watermelons, Digger's Mirth organic greens, yellow peppers, corn, carrots, dill and recipe cards from Hunger Free VT. We ate the salad greens, yellow peppers, and some of the watermelons with lunch yesterday, and I'll cook the carrots and corn up this week. Now that I think about it, it really is time for roasted carrots with honey.  I love fall.  
Anyway here are a few recipes we are loving lately. 

Black Bean Soup (serves a family of 5)

3 15 oz cans of black beans, undrained
1 qt chicken stock
1 small yellow onion
2 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp cumin
salt, black pepper to taste

Peel and dice 1 small yellow onion. Melt the butter in a large soup pot, then add the onion and stir until soft, about 4 minutes. When the onion bits are soft and clear, add the beans, stock, and spices and stir a little.  I usually use a potato masher or slotted spoon to mash some of the beans down, then stir some more. This helps the soup thicken up a little. If you have a food processor you can also puree a cup  of the soup at this point and then add it back into the pot, but it's not absolutely necessary. When it heats through add a little salt and pepper and taste. Keep going until you're happy. 

Saute small bits of just about any veggie you have on hand and add it to the soup when hot. Carrots, peppers, broccoli, zucchini or yellow squash are great. 
Grate some cheddar cheese on top.
Serve with quinoa, brown rice, bread, cornbread, or......homemade crackers!

Overnight Soaked VT Cheddar crackers (makes several dozen)

 2 ½ cups whole wheat, spelt, or rye flour, or a mixture

1 cup plain yogurt
¼ cup olive oil
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
2 Tbs. sesame seeds
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
all-purpose white flour, for rolling out crackers
Mix flour with yogurt – you may need to wet your fingers to form the dough into a ball. Cover and leave on the counter overnight, or for 12-24 hours.
In a small mixing bowl, stir together the olive oil, salt, baking powder, and sesame seeds. Knead this into the dough, using your fingers to “squish” the olive oil into the dough. Add the grated cheddar cheese and knead that in.
Preheat oven to 375°F. Generously flour a surface area to roll out the dough. The dough will be sticky, so you will be able to use a good bit of flour and re-roll dough scraps as necessary. Roll ¼” thick, and use either cookie cutters or a serrated knife to cut out shapes/rectangles. Place on parchment-paper covered baking sheet and bake about 12 minutes, or until golden and crisp. Repeat with remaining dough. Makes several dozen crackers. 
 Recipe courtesy of the City Market as adapted from Nourishing Traditions.

all photos courtesy of Sam Simon

What Can You Learn From Lunch?

What can you learn from lunch?

"It doesn't matter where your food comes from, until you have enough of it."
-Sarah Adams Kollitz, Executive Director of the Burlington Children's Space

"The couscous and the corn and the beans all mixed up together is delicious!"
-4 year old girl at lunch

Some kids like the corner table. The one by the biggest, brightest window in the kitchen. They prefer to sit with their backs to it, sunlight streaming over their shoulders. The better to take in all the action. And there is a lot of action. Three tables full of preschoolers, three teachers, and me. Sixteen people in all, talking and eating in a kitchen not too much bigger than one in an average home.

There is lively conversation, led by kids and supported by teachers. What's gone on so far this morning? What's on the table? What's the best way to get something you want passed to you quickly? What do you think of the veggies? What do you think will happen next in the story we're reading at rest time? Are there any more apples?

Skills are practiced. Taking turns. Taking what you need. Watching what your classmates do and listening to what they say.

Some kids need time to learn that there will be enough food for everyone at lunch,  though they are sitting next to kids who never have and probably never will worry about food and its availability. Some kids have to learn that they don't have to take every apple slice in the bowl when it comes to them, because there are more apples. It's taken them time to learn that at our school there are enough apples for everyone to have as many slices as they like. That I will keep refilling the bowl until everybody's belly is full.  The corner table kids know that now, and they take their time at lunch. Eating slowly, trying new things, taking a few apples and then, later, taking a few more.

We care deeply about kids. 

 And we care about real, good food. We know that many kids consume the majority of their meals in childcare. As we dig deeper into our work with kids and food it has become clear that preparing and serving kids healthy, homemade food as part of an intentional, child-centered, community-based curriculum is a unique way to proactively work on some big ideas with our humble lunch program.  

A story...
On his first trip to the BCS garden plot to pick veggies for lunch a boy who was new to our preschool noticed a bunch of beautiful ripe cherry tomatoes, and asked his teacher what they were. When she explained that they were tomatoes, edible and delicious, the boy picked as many as he could and ate them all at once.  He was amazed that there was food everywhere he looked in the garden, and everyone wasn't just eating it on the spot. Saving and sharing weren't part of his experiences with food, yet. 
On the next garden trip a week or so later there were more tomatoes to pick and this time the same boy carried bunches of the bright veggies back to school to share,  kissing them as he walked. 

We can fill an urgent physical, developmental need for the kids who come to us from places of food insecurity simply by feeding them every day. By consistently offering them food - as much as they need  consistently each day - we're providing not just the calories and nutrients they need to grow and develop, but also security. Food security. This is a biggie because when kids realize they can depend on meals, that they don't have to worry about being hungry during the day, they relax. They are suddenly free to explore their environment. They are able to get down to the business of engaging and exploring our school. And at our school we are working to connect the ideas of food, community, and caring for the natural world.

 We garden, and we glean produce from our local farms. We send extra produce home whenever we can. Teachers and children take ownership of composting food and paper towels. We host our family dinners to bring BCS families together around healthy food.  So, we are filling hungry bellies, yes. But we're also supporting kids as they learn how to live, work, play, rest and eat together. To take care of each other, to make healthy choices for themselves, and those around them. To feel their importance in their school, their community, and the world.

Here's the thing...
We're proud of our work, but we think we can do even more. We can make the program more accessible, keep our costs in line, and raise the quality of the food we serve. We don't need a lot, but raising some money would help us get our hands on some equipment that would allows us to use more local food, make more of our own food from scratch, and preserve more of what we make.
So we're starting a Kitchen Campaign! Our goal is $5000 to cover the cost of some kitchen upgrades. Specifically we'd love a freezer, an immersion blender, some planters and soil for growing herbs and greens in the kitchen, and lots of large mason jars for preserving and canning.
We're going to let folks know about it at our Family Dinner next week on the 20th. Look for a post and more photos then, and info on how you can donate or get involved.
And thanks.
We love what we do.