Thanksgiving Family Dinner

It's special every year, this gathering.

This November got off to a tricky start, for many of us. And the Thanksgiving holiday was, maybe, feeling like more of a hurdle to get over than a happy destination point. The kickoff to a season that suddenly felt less warm and bright.

But we dug deep and soon we were planning our annual Thanksgiving Family Feast with even more enthusiasm than usual at BCS.

We made lists. We made invitations. We shopped, we prepped.

We gathered staff and parents in to the kitchen one chilly night at closing time and baked pies, tarts, and pumpkin breads.

amazing pumpkin pies
parent bakers

 We made sure to invite everyone, including alumni and community friends.

And then, we cooked. All day long. Sarah and I prepped three turkeys and puzzled over when they should enter the ovens and how long we should roast them - like we do every year. We - along with teachers and preschoolers - peeled mountains of potatoes and cubes loaf after loaf of bread to homemade stuffing.

We laughed in the kitchen with the parents and friends who showed up to mash huge pots of potatoes, make gravy from scratch, chop carrots and celery, set tables, and oversee the turkey preparations.

We celebrated the return of last year's stellar turkey carver, a lovely BCS mom.

Then, around 5pm, the doors opened and hungry friends began to stream in. As folks filled their plates and began to fill the seats it was almost as if you could feel relief rising in the room.
Here we all were, together. Our community doing what it does so well, no matter the circumstance.

We cooked together, we shared a beautiful meal, we had conversations with friends and strangers.

We hugged. We held each other's babies, and we marveled at how tall the big kids had grown.

With our actions, we reaffirmed the values we always come back to at BCS for comfort, for direction,  for celebration.
We know that love - that unconditional positive regard - is powerful, and transformative.

We know that good food helps.

We know that a truly strong community supports everyone.

As I looked out on the busy noisy room from the kitchen I saw this all at work.
At Family Dinner, you'll probably pass the butter to the parent sitting next to you at the table who doesn't speak your language, but who's kid has a cube next to yours. You'll clean up a milk spill together and laugh about what a circus dinner with toddlers can be.

There is decency, acceptance, dignity, and love in each of these connections, these tiny interactions. In fact, they are what hold us together in difficult times.  And as I watched them unfold all around the room I felt immeasurably grateful for all the places like BCS, where these connections are happening every day.

We will be here, supporting each other with love, compassion, and good food,  at Thanksgiving time and always.

Love to you.
Happy Holidays.

Actual Preschooler's lunch plate!

Sesame noodles, marinated chick peas, greens and red cabbage salad, and pears! 

Sesame noodles

Bio 1lb spaghetti noodles, thin works best, and whole wheat taste dlucious. Rinse with cold water after cooking and set aside. 

Sauce: 2 cloves garlic finely minced
1/2 inch piece of ginger finely minced
1/4 cup tamari
1/4 cup honey
1Tbsp tahini
1/3cup sesame oil
2tsp sriracha or chili paste
1tsp apple cider vinegar

Whisk all ingredients until smooth, toss well with cooled noodles! 

Baking together

I led a baking workshop for our teachers this morning. Our dough is rising.

Welcome to Summer!

Big things are happening all around BCS!

We're growing gardens
working with our new grant funded garden educator Kristin

experimenting and collecting




 and more.

Our classroom teachers are working with our amazing Atelierista Becca Mack to document their curriculum and classroom experiences in incredible, beautiful, and creative ways. You can check out several classroom projects including a Sound Map of our neighborhood - Burlington's Old North End - a video about paper explorations, and an excellent article about the BCS infants and their found object collections on the blog Archivista

In kitchen news, I've taken on a  (sort of) new role as Food Program Coordinator! I'll still be making lunch every day, but I'll also be working on lots of other projects, the food program budget, and hopefully getting some systems in place that will allow us to make more of our own food from scratch and serve even healthier, tastier snacks. I'm also going to have more time to blog and keep everyone updated on all the exciting things happening in the kitchen and beyond.

Please follow me on Instagram (bcs_lunch_lady) and on Facebook  (The lunch lady) for pictures and to check out what I'm cooking!

My favorite news of late - our community baking project. For the past few months I've been busy baking bread each week, with lots of help from our Preschoolers, Toddlers, and their teachers, to feed our BCS community. Our goal is to bake all of our own bread from scratch. This week we hit a milestone when we baked enough bread to make sandwiches for everyone at lunch time. That's 50 kids!  We are enjoying the delicious bread, and the sense of pride that comes from making our own food and sharing it together.

Today I worked with teachers Melissa and Courtney and Becca Mack to make fresh salsa with the Older Toddlers.  The toddlers have been interested in salsa and actually wrote their own recipe last week, guessing ingredients by looking at a jar of salsa they had in their classroom. They used tomatoes, apples, grapes, cheese, salt, and green beans. It looked really interesting! They weren't sure about the taste though, and the end result wasn't what they'd expected. Their teachers suggested they ask me how I make salsa! This morning we worked together on my recipe, using tomatoes, garlic, scallions, lime juice, cilantro and salt.

gathering ingredients

chopping garlic

scallions are tough to chop!

Smelling and tasting limes

squeezing limes

limes are sour, but we like them....?

squeezing takes concentration

looks good!

We had so much fun we're planning more recipe work for next month!

Fresh Salsa

4 plum tomatoes, chopped
1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced
1 large clove garlic, minced
3 Tbsp cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
juice of 1 lime
1 tsp salt

Toss all ingredients together in a large bowl. Let sit for at least 10 minutes before eating so the flavors can meld together.

Happy Summer!

photo credits: Becca Mack, Erinn Simon, Charles Winkleman, BCS teachers

Hallway Taste Tests - sharing food and building community

As part of our never-ending quest to get our families cooking and eating more good food together, Sarah and I decided to use some grant money to try parent cooking classes every other month.

Like we often do, we had an idea and we went for it, worrying about the details later. Scheduling was our major stumbling block. We thought and thought about how to get folks to come. We knew we didn't want to ask parents to come to weekend events. That left weekdays, but that created another problem. If we scheduled the classes in the afternoon parents would have to leave work early to make it. If we tried for after 5pm we'd have to hope parents would stay at pick up time, and we'd have to provide after hours care for kids while their parents cooked - not ideal for anyone at the end of a long day. In the end we compromised and scheduled the classes from 4:30-5:30pm - early enough (we hoped) that some parents could make it, but not extending past the usual end of our school day.

We held two - a salsa making class to work on knife skills, and then pie making before our annual Thanksgiving Family dinner. A handful of parents attended each one, and we gave everyone who came recipes, utensils, and tons of delicious food to take home when we were done. But... we weren't satisfied. We wanted to reach more people - lots more. We wanted more bang for our buck.

During a brainstorming session, Sarah came up with the brilliant idea of taste tests. We would just set up a table in the hallway so everyone entering would have to pass right by, and we'd have samples of something delicious to share. And recipes and tips to take home, of course. We jokingly called our first attempt an Ambush Cooking Class.

 Biscuits and corn muffins were our first offerings. I made dozens of both, and we set up our table with warm trays of food, dishes of butter, napkins, step-by-step recipes, and sheets for rating the food that kids and parents could use.

Something interesting happened that we didn't quite expect. Everyone, everyone, who came in or out while we sat at our table stopped and tried the food.

Everyone took a few minutes out of their pick-up routine to have a bite, check out the recipe, fill out a rating sheet, chat with us or with teachers or other parents who were hanging around.

We talked with parents about what they were making for dinner that night. Parents who don't normally connect talked easily, and shared stories about picky eaters, or challenging dinner times.

Folks sat on the entryway couch together and fed biscuits to their babies and toddlers.

It was lovely. And we realized we were on to something. Almost everything we'd hoped to accomplish with the cooking classes was happening, right there in the hallway.

Next time we tried black bean and vegetable soups, and they were also a hit.

Then we moved on to Banana Cranberry and Pumpkin breads to try out our Holiday Food Bag recipes. Naturally, those were extremely popular.

Banana cranberry and pumpkin breads

Last week we tried two recipes using curry, to test new lunch and food bag menu possibilities.

prepping ingredients

Vegetable curry

curried rice and chick peas

The results were excellent, and we packed up curry veggie and rice ingredients in the food bags the very next day!

We couldn't be more excited about our new favorite community builder. Here's to more Hallway Taste Tests!

Moms and babies love banana bread!

Love it, Not Sure, or No thanks?

Teachers love taste tests too!

Giving feedback

Good food, happy kids!

Make our curry recipes for dinner!

Curried Rice and Chick Peas
serves 4-6 as a main dish

6 cups cooked rice 
2-3 cups chick peas
3 Tbsp olive oil
3 Tbsp curry powder
1/2 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
sprinkle of red pepper flakes if you like extra spice

Cook rice according to package directions. You’ll probably want to cook 3 cups of dry rice to get 6 cups cooked. 
Heat the oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. When the pan is nice and hot, add the minced onion and cook, stirring around often, for 2 or 3 minutes until the onions begin to soften and turn clear. Add the garlic and cook for another minute or two, stirring constantly so the garlic doesn’t stick or burn. 
When the onions and garlic are very fragrant, add the curry powder and stir well. It should almost form a loose paste. 
Add the chick peas and cook, stirring to coat them with the spice mixture. 

Meanwhile, put your cooked rice in a large bowl. Add the curried chick peas and toss gently to combine with the rice. Season with salt and pepper to taste. 

Veggie Coconut Curry
Serves 5-6 as a main dish

About 6-7 cups vegetables 
I like any combination of potatoes, carrots (peeled and chopped into 1 inch pieces) peas, and green beans (cut into 1 inch pieces). For this recipe I used all four! 
1/2 a medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp olive oil or coconut oil
3 Tbsp curry powder or curry paste
2 tsp salt
1 can coconut milk
1 c liquid coconut milk

Bring about 4 cups of water to a boil in a medium sauce pan. Add the carrots and potatoes. Boil for about 6-7 minutes, until you can pierce them with a fork. You want them tender, but not soft and mushy. Drain and set aside.
Heat the oil in a large deep skillet or sauce pan over medium heat. When pan is hot, add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions start to turn clear. When they are very fragrant, add the curry powder or paste and stir well. Add the rest of the vegetables including the pre-boiled carrots and potatoes. Stir around a bit until everything is coated in the curry spices. Add the coconut milk and liquid and stir gently. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes or so, until it thickens up a bit. Give it a taste and season with more salt and pepper if you like!