Troublemakers and a Raspberry Maple Pie

Troublemakers and a Double Raspberry Pie with Maple Cream Cheese Crust 

A few weeks ago my family and I took a long vacation to the New Hampshire beach (yes, there really is beach in New Hampshire), which means I got the chance to devour a whole book in just a few sittings. It was Troublemakers, by Carla Shalaby. I borrowed it from a smart cookie of a coworker named Emma, who subbed for me in the kitchen while I communed with the ocean. She came in one morning to help me out and get a feel for the rhythm of the job, and we ended up having an intense discussion about kids, race, politics, elementary school, the subtle to not-at-all-subtle discrimination we've witnessed in schools, and the school-to-prison pipeline, and she brought up this book she'd recently read. She offered to loan it to me and, just like she predicted, once I started reading I had a hard time putting it down. 

In it, the author presents four studies of different children, all in first grade, two in one school and two in another. She talks with the children, their teachers, their friends, and their families looking for a well rounded sense of who the kids are not just at school, but in different parts of thier lives. The kids are all identified as "difficult" or challenging by their teachers, and the author set out to unpack why, and how the label affected the kids lives at school. Spoiler alert - it's not positive. I can't stop thinking about this book, and the questions it raises about how we treat kids who struggle with rules and conformity at an early age - for whatever reason - and how exclusion from classroom and school community may be more harmful than helpful as a consequence for non-compliance with rules, or non-conformity with school culture. And, how "school culture" can also be -conscious or unconcious- code for "white culture". 

Two phrases from the introduction have really stuck with me since reading it, and keep coming up in my thoughts. I'll paraphrase. First, Shalaby ponders how, even in school, the default mode is to encourage folks to "get ahead" of their neighbor, instead of "struggle alongside". An excellent example? Shalaby describes in heartbreaking detail what happens when kids are asked to police each other's behavior, setting up a dynamic of not just competition for the good favor of adults, but heirarchy based on, say, figuring out how to get picked as the line leader. It turns out kids opinions of other kids are deeply influenced by the way the adults in charge treat those kids. And when those adults show disdain or worse, exclude kids from the group they belong to - their community - other kids take note, and often continue that exclusion themselves. It is disappointing but not surprising that these exclusions and shows of power often break down along racial lines in the classroom. 
The second phrase? Shalaby suggests that we - and by "we" she means white folks - need to spend some time thinking about "how to thrive without stepping on anybody's neck." In a moment when the national powers that-be-seem interested only in stomping on the necks of the already marginalized, this one really keeps booming like a gong in my head. 

I'm grateful to work with such a curious, big hearted, radical group of people who have committed to working on these questions together.

Now we're all back at work after a short summer In-Service, having started a new school year this week. It feels good to be feeding people, as always. 
And making pie helps me relax, and think. This was a good old Sunday bake, made with care while I sorted through some things after our long trip. My mother in law was visiting and she brought us this really delicious cream cheese with a dozen Myers bagels. But we ate all the Montreal Spice bagels with butter and ended up  with pretty much the whole maple cream cheese container left over with no bagels in sight. We really only eat bagels when someone brings them to us from Myers, so I had to think of another use for the stuff.
I looked up cream cheese pie crust and yep, it was a thing. There were many methods, some far more complicated than others, so I went with the simplest one. I was taught (by my first formal kitchen teacher at the Whole in The Wall, Brigitte - I can't remember her last name but I would like to thank her someday for the excellent pie crust instruction) the importance of everything - bowl, flour, fat, liquids - being very cold when you put a pie crust together, and that's about the only rule I really stick to and insist on. It does make all the difference, and I'm someone who is often in a hurry and looking for a shortcut. I'm working on that though.  

fresh picked

Raspberry Pie with Maple Cream Cheese Crust


2 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
7 Tbsp butter, very cold, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
4 Tbsp maple cream cheese. Place cream cheese in a small bowl, cover and freeze for 20 minutes before using. You could also use plain cream cheese with a tsp or 2 of real maple syrup mixed in.
1/4 cup ice water
pinch of salt


6-7 cups red, black, or champagne raspberries - ideally a combination!
1/2 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 Tbsp maple syrup
2 Tbsp butter, very cold, cut into small chunks

Toss salt with flour in a large, chilled bowl. Cut in butter chunks and cream cheese until crumbly - crumbs the size of peas is a good goal.
Slowly add the ice water a bit at a time, and work the mixture together with your hands until it forms a ball. Smush it into a disk, wrap it in plastic and refrigerate for an hour or so.
Preheat the oven and get the filling ready.

Combine the raspberries, flour, and sugar in a large bowl and toss gently to combine. You want the raspberries fairly coated but still as whole as possible.

Divide the chilled dough into two pieces, and roll out between two pieces of lightly floured parchment paper to about 10 inch circles.
Line the bottom of a 9 inch pie plate with one crust, letting the edges overhang. Fill with the raspberry mixture. Drizzle the maple syrup over the top and dot with the butter chunks.
Top with the second crust. You can cover it completely and cut slits or small shapes, or go for a lattice. Here's a good lattice tutorial:

I like an egg wash for the top of fruit pies, but that's entirely up to you.

Place on a foil lined baking sheet and wrap the foil around the edges of the crust so it doesn't brown too quickly.
Bake at 425 for 35 minutes - or until the fruit is bubbly and the crust is deep golden.
A phrase I always remember from my fearless director Sarah's mom:

Take no pie out before it bubbles. 

Stories from Home and Kale Sesame Salad

curly kale

We serve a lot of vegetables at BCS. And we are often asked how we persuade the kids to eat them. When we talk to folks from other schools like ours we hear many variations of "we WANT to serve more vegetables, but the kids just hate them" or "the kids will only eat baby carrots with ranch", or " I can't stand to throw away a salad after no one touches it".
The truth is, we don't have a quick answer to the question.  What we do have are a few concepts we believe in when it comes to feeding, teaching, and caring for  young kids.

One is shared responsibility, which I wrote a bit about here.

Basically we believe that kids should ultimately be responsible for what they eat - assuming they are choosing from options provided for them by adults who have their heath and well-being in mind. We believe that kids are competent learners, and that they should be trusted to try things out in their own time. We know that it can take several offerings of a new food before a child accepts it. We are also aware of the cultural impact of this model. Meaning, we know that a family's economic status changes their ability to repeatedly offer expensive fresh foods to their kids only to have them rejected. Wasting food, or spending money on food that might have to be thrown away is simply not an option for most low-income families. But low-income families shouldn't be forced out of healthy food choices.
At our school we strive to offer at least a temporary fix for that problem with our food program,  during the precious, early years we spend with our kids and families. Of course we aim to waste as little food as possible - because we have to maintain the bottom line for our program. But we also encourage kids to put something new on their plate, even if we know they may not eat it the first time. Or the second, or the third. Just serving oneself some kale sesame salad is an important step toward food literacy, and we applaud it, even if it takes a few attempts to bite into that kale.

We also believe that the emotional tone of the kitchen, and the mealtime, contributes to the ability of kids to regulate their bodies and eat well. In other words, even in the kitchen, or maybe especially in the kitchen,  relationships are front and center. How do we gather together? How do we interact at meal times? How do we all support each other to get what we need to get through our day?
Well, we wash our hands, we take some deep breaths, we find a seat and serve ourselves. We pass to others. We remind each other to take what we need, and give new things a try. We remind kids that at school, we will always refill the bowl if it's empty, until everyone has had enough.
And we tell stories.
I'm a talker. It's how I relate, get to know others, and show others who I am. I'm always working on quieting down and listening, but it's a challenge for me. Often when I'm engaged in conversation with someone else instead of really listening closely I'm scanning for details, looking for common ground and  thinking of what I'm going to contribute next, as soon as I can. I do this not because I feel my experience is more important than my chatting partner's, but because  I desperately want to connect, with everyone. To show them that I understand and empathize, and to point out our similarities. I understand that part of this is my own desire for validation, and that's why I work hard on listening without planning my next interjection. Practicing active listening with kids is my favorite, because often their verbal communication is less straightforward, so I have to double my efforts to get the thread of what they're saying and follow it.

But like the young folks I cook for, I have a lot to say! And people, especially kids, are naturally curious about others and their lives. So awhile back I started telling stories about my family during lunch time. I remember how it began. When my daughter Sadie was born I took a few months off. When I returned to work she came by with my husband to nurse every day while lunch was wrapping up. The kids got to know her a bit, and often asked for more information about her - what was she up to when she wasn't visiting BCS? I started telling them little stories while they ate - about how many times she woke up during the previous night, or funny things her older brothers said or did to make her smile. As Sadie grew the stories became more involved. The one about her crawling into the corner of the bathroom while I got her bath ready one night, picking up a daddy long legs and trying to eat it when she was about 7 months old remains a favorite to this day.

Soon I was telling a story every day. Sometimes a new one from the night before, sometimes an old favorite like the spider story. Now that we have a dog, stories about Izzy (our 2 year old rescue mutt)  are very popular. Mostly they're just little snapshots of life with my family.
After a while, telling stories from home became part of the culture of lunch time. Kids began telling their own stories to the folks at their table and sometimes, like me, to the whole room. They began requesting stories from their teachers, from Sarah and Ruthie our directors, and from subs and visitors  at lunch. Everyone, with very few exceptions, obliged.

These days, if you visit the kitchen, you will likely be asked to share a story.  Sarah has several, but often retells a wonderful story about her mom and dad noticing a bear in their backyard while getting ready for company to arrive. Ruthie tells a preschool favorite about her dog, Wilma, sneaking out of the backyard and running away only to  eventually be found a few blocks away at a restaurant near her home. Teacher Gabrielle tells an exciting, suspenseful, and ultimately reassuring tale of losing one of her red rubber rain boots trying to swim for a rowboat in a slightly icy pond as a kid. Teacher Charles tells a sobering tale about stealing lollipops that were unfairly reserved for one single kid with an allergy in his kindergarten, while everyone else got crackers.

After she'd experienced a year of lunch time stories, Gabrielle commented  how therapeutic she thought the ritual was for the kids.  I asked what she meant, and she explained that for many of the kids we work with, whose lives outside of school are often traumatic and chaotic, listening to and sharing simple stories about family life seems calming. By telling stories we get to practice sharing, but also listening -really listening- to each other. Something I'm working on just like the preschoolers. And getting to know each other by talking about our families strengthens the relationship between everyone in the community - kids, teachers, even visitors.
If you come to eat with us at lunch you'll hear our stories, and we'll invite you to tell yours.
The stories let everyone know - you belong here, and we care about you. We are caring for each other.

So, about that Kale Sesame Salad!

Recipe Serves 6 as a side
 6 cups Curly or Lacinato Kale, ribboned
(here's a great tutorial on slicing the leaves thinly from the smitten kitchen)
1 cup thinly sliced green cabbage
1/4 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup dark sesame oil
3 Tbsp tamari
2 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp unseasoned rice vinegar
2 tsp toasted sesame seeds
sprinkle of red pepper flakes

Toss the kale, cabbage, and red onion in a large bowl.
In a small bowl, whisk the sesame oil, tamari, honey,  and rice vinegar until smooth.
Pour over veggies in large bowl and toss to coat. Add the sesame seeds and red pepper flakes if you like and toss again before serving.
This is great as a summer side, or as a main dish salad with some grilled chicken or pan-fried tofu.
The dressing recipe can be doubled or tripled, and is delicious on cold noodles and pretty much any other raw or roasted veggies - especially green beans!


salad ready for serving

Corn Bread - my absolute favorite recipe

Corn bread!!!

Much like my journey to (hopefully, someday) banana bread enlightenment, I've been on a long quest to make the perfect batch of cornbread. By perfect I mean great texture - moist (ooh I hate that word but I can't come up with another to convey what I need right now) not crumbly, sweet but not too sweet, just the right amount of saltiness, golden brown on top and bright yellow inside, with some real corn flavor. I like spicy versions with jalapeƱos, versions with whole corn kernels, and cheesy versions with cheddar or pepper jack right in the batter. But I wanted to come up with a recipe that was just straightforward and delicious, suitable for serving alongside sweet or savory stuff. I think I figured it out. The answer was, of all things, applesauce.
This is the way I make it for school lunch, and we don't ever have leftovers. Here, check it out.

the batter 

Just Really Good Corn Bread

Preheat oven to 425
line an 8x8 baking dish with parchment paper so there's overhang on all sides

2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 cups yellow corn meal
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
4 Tbsp butter, melted and slightly cooled
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce

Stir eggs, buttermilk, and applesauce together in a large mixing bowl. In another bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the egg mixture all at once and mix just until everything is combined. I cannot stress this enough. Lots of cornbread recipes give this direction but I'm convinced it really is the key to making cornbread come out with the perfect texture. Let there be lumps! Then scrape it all into your prepared pan and bake for about 20 minutes - or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Every oven is different, so I suggest checking it after 18 minutes, just to be safe. You don't want to overbake.


Sunday Home Bake - Peach Oat Crumble

I had these few peaches hanging around, we were out of cereal and well, here we go again.
Sunday bake.


the batter. Cal said, "That looks terrible." Not entirely untrue, but the crumbs look promising


the crumbs have been deployed


I knew those crumbs looked promising.

a very late breakfast is served

Peach Oat Crumble

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 cup rolled oats - not quick cooking
2/3 cup light brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
2 1/4 cups fresh peaches, peeled and chopped
2 eggs
1 cup coconut milk - the sure rich stuff in the can, not the carton
1 tsp vanilla

1/4 cup almond flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
5 Tbsp cold butter, cut into small pieces
pinch of salt
1/2 cup rolled oats
Combine all ingredients together in a small bowl and use your fingers to pinch together until you have a crumbly mixture with different sized clumps. It's great to have some larger chunks of butter!
Set aside.

Preheat your oven to 350.
Line a 13x9 inch baking pan - at least 2 inches deep - with parchment paper so that some hangs over each side.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, oats, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon. In a separate bowl, mis eggs, vanilla, and coconut milk.
Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour the wet ingredients slowly into the flour mixture, stirring with a wooden spoon just until it all comes together. Don't overmix!
Add the peaches and fold in gently.
Spread the batter in your lined pan, and sprinkle the crumbs as evenly as possible on top of the batter.
Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, except for maybe some sticky fruit.
Let cool for an hour before cutting, if you can.


Rice, Beans, Tortillas... and Shared Responsibility

Black bean, rice, and cheese burritos are a favorite at lunch. But not everyone approaches a burrito in the same way.

separate elements

neat and tidy


We use our simple rice and beans recipe and give kids options on the table. A platter of tortillas, a bowl of rice and beans, shredded cheese, veggies, and salsa. They decide what goes in their burrito, or if they roll one up at all. We believe in division of  responsibility when it comes to feeding kids, especially kids who are dealing with food insecurity or other kinds of trauma. The model, designed by Ellyn Satter, is outlined here: divisionofresponsibilityinfeeding.php, and it basically states that adults can choose when children will eat, and what is available, and children will decide what to eat and how much. 
From the ESI site:
The Ellyn Satter Institute is named for Ellyn Satter, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Family Therapist and internationally recognized authority on eating and feeding, who pioneered the Satter Feeding Dynamics Model and the Satter Eating Competence Model. She is the author of the Division of Responsibility in Feeding, which is the gold standard for feeding children. In her transformative, practical, theoretically sound, and evidence-based conceptualizations of eating and feeding, Satter emphasizes competency rather than deficiency, providing rather than depriving, and trust rather than control. 
As therapeutic caregivers, we love this. We believe that quality care and education for young children  is incomplete without a strong nutrition component that's an integrated part of the day, the school culture, and the curriuculum,  and we love how Ms. Satter's model emphasizes not just providing children with enough healthy food, but teaching them food competency. An understanding of food systems around them, and how different foods affect them. It stresses helping children recognize and respond to their hunger in appropriate ways. It also promotes a positive relationship with food, and the community one eats with regularly - whether that's a family or group of classmates. We feel like this is a powerful way to interact with kids around food, and we practice it everyday at meal and snack times.

I'm working on a longer piece about our ideas around food and feeding kids, and how they fit into the interconnected systems we believe need to work together to make a high quality early eduction program. To make a school really work for all of its children, families, and staff.  I'm developing this whole thing about how relationships are all we really have in this world, and we can't raise children, or teach them anything, without stressing healthy, loving, respectful relationships above everything else. And how we can't talk about relationships without talking about food. But I'm getting way ahead of myself. It's Sunday night and I need to get off the computer and plan out my Monday morning. More on all of this later, but for now, here's our recipe for tasty rice and beans for burritos.  They make a great Monday night dinner.

Basic Rice and Beans
2 cups short grain brown or basmati rice
2 cloves garlic
1/4 medium yellow onion
2 cups black beans, drained and rinsed
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt
black pepper to taste
1 tsp cumin

Cook  rice according to package directions. For extra flavor, cook the rice in veggie broth.
Set aside.
Mince  garlic and  onion. Saute in a Tbsp of olive oil over medium heat until fragrant, but not browning. Add  black beans, drained and rinsed. Season with salt, pepper, and cumin, and mix well.
Toss with the cooked rice, and a pat of butter.

Homemade salsa
3 medium Roma tomatoes, chopped
3-4 scallions
1 Tbsp lime juice
2 cloves garlic roughly chopped
a handful of cilantro leaves
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cumin
Pulse all ingredients in a food processor until mixed, but not smooth. Leave some texture!

Roll up with some cheese, or add cooked beef or chicken, avocado, pickled veggies, roasted veggies, crunchy veggies, etc. You get the picture.


Quick Pickled Veggies

 These are a favorite at BCS. We first learned about the magic of pickled veggies from our friends at City Market, first with a simple lactofermentation, salt-brined recipe. This one, to be exact, for sunshine pickles.

We loved those so much we moved on to slightly more involved pickling - with quick methods like this one here. You make a quick boil of vinegar, salt and sugar, add cold water, pour over your veggies and a little fresh dill in a quart jar and you're done. Pop them in the fridge and start enjoying deliciously pickled goodness on everything in like, an hour. Or wait until the next day if you want them to reach maximum quick pickle before eating. Either way, they'll stay at their 24 hour flavor and color in the fridge for up to a month.

Use single veggies - carrots, green beans and cukes work well - or pile up the colors like we do. In this batch we layered red cabbage, red and orange peppers, carrots, yellow peppers, and green beans, all thinly sliced.

Here's the video! We love these on hot dogs, yes, but also on top of rice, grilled chicken, on a cheese sandwich, on a GRILLED cheese sandwich, alongside quesadilla, in tacos... you get the idea.

Happy Pickling!

Friday Food Bag Recipe - Orzo Salad

Take Home Bags this Friday had ingredients for a simple Orzo Salad we love.
A box of orzo, butter, spinach, garlic, BCS-grown herbs...

toddlers with teacher Miranda picking basil for take home bags

feta, eggs to have on the side, and raspberries just for fun.

packing up the bags - check out those herb packs!

Summer Orzo Salad

You need:
 1 lb orzo pasta
4 cups baby spinach
2 cloves of garlic, minced
a handful of your favorite fresh herbs, roughly chopped (we used oregano, sage, and basil)
1 cup feta cheese, crumbled
2 Tbsp butter, melted
salt and pepper to taste
juice from 1/4 lemon

BCS basil

herb assortment

Cook orzo according to package directions in a large pot of salted water. Reserve about a 1/4 cup of the pasta water and set aside. Drain pasta.

Toss the baby spinach with the hot, cooked pasta and the melted butter. Add the garlic and herbs and the reserved salty pasta water and keep gently tossing. When everything is well combined, add the feta and toss again. Add a shake or two of black pepper and taste. You might need just a tiny bit of salt, or the salted pasta water and feta might be enough. Just before serving squeeze the lemon juice over the top. If you love lemon feel free to serve with extra lemon wedges on the side,

Vegetarians might like this with a fried egg or two on the side. I like a fried egg with just about anything, honestly.
If your family eats meat this is perfect alongside some grilled or roasted chicken.


Sunday Home Bake - Pear Cake with Dates and Cashews

Some Sundays I wake up and think: You know, I really want to bake something delicious and take pictures of the process and then write about it a little. 

Today was one of those days, so I drank some coffee and looked up recipes for pear cake, since I needed to use up the ridiculous pears from halfway across the planet I bought at Costco in an ill-fated attempt to get my 13 year old to eat something - anything- other than cereal and quesadillas. I thought he liked pears. I was, apparently, wrong. 
Anyway, I found a recipe for blueberry crumb cake and I thought I'd just switch out the blueberries for pears, but then I found a little pack of dates I had hidden away and decided to throw those in too. 
I also changed the crumb topping to more of a crispy, sugary, cashew brittle-ish kind of thing.   And the combo of the dates and pears make this dense, almost fudgy but somehow still coffee cake-ish texture. It was really, really good. 

So, no, it's not a summer recipe, but I'm going to file it away for fall and then make it repeatedly. 

Pear Date Cashew Crumb Cake

5 Tbsp butter, cut into 5 pieces
1/4 sugar
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup chopped raw cashews

1 2/2 cups chopped ripe pear
2/3 cup chopped dates
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder 
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
a few grates of fresh nutmeg
6 Tbsp butter
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 large eggs at room temp
1/2 cup coconut milk

Preheat oven to 350 and position a rack in the middle.  Line an 8x8 pan with parchment and set aside. 

Make the crumbs - pulse all ingredients except nuts in a food processor until crumbly crumbs form. transfer to a small bowl and stir in the chopped cashews. Cover tightly and refrigerate while you make the cake batter. 

Put butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment and beat until light and fluffy - 3-4 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, mixing on medium, then the vanilla. 
Whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg in another bowl. 
Add alternately with the coconut milk, starting and ending with the flour mixture. It will be a pretty thick batter. Gently fold in the chopped pears and dates, then use a rubber spatula to get it all into the prepared pan.  Smooth the top a little, then get your crumbs and sprinkle evenly over the top - it will seem like  a lot but go with it. 
Pop on that middle rack and bake for 40 minutes - then check it. The original blueberry recipe said 55-65 minutes but I know my oven usually needs about 5-10 minutes less than many recipes call for when I'm baking sweets. Mine was ready in about 50 minutes total, but make sure you check yours at 40 just in case. 



fruity batter

the sprinkling of the crumbs is complete


more cake

happy me

happy Sunday

Friday Food Bag Recipe - Roasted Veggie Tacos

I love rice and beans. It's a dinner staple at my house and a lunch favorite at school. It's quick, delicious, inexpensive, and infinitely adaptable.  Tacos are a super easy dinner idea.
Lately we've been using pretty much whatever we've got in the fridge to make roasted veggie tacos. The food bag version had carrots, garlic, and cauliflower.
We made these with rice and black beans, homemade salsa, and garlic roasted green beans.

Basic Rice and Beans
2 cups short grain brown or basmati rice
2 cloves garlic
1/4 medium yellow onion
2 cups black beans, drained and rinsed
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt
black pepper to taste
1 tsp cumin

Cook  rice according to package directions. For extra flavor, cook the rice in veggie broth.
Set aside.
Mince  garlic and  onion. Saute in a Tbsp of olive oil over medium heat until fragrant, but not browning. Add  black beans, drained and rinsed. Season with salt, pepper, and cumin, and mix well.
Toss with the cooked rice, and a pat of butter.

Homemade salsa
3 medium Roma tomatoes, chopped
3-4 scallions
1 Tbsp lime juice
2 cloves garlic roughly chopped
a handful of cilantro leaves
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cumin
Pulse all ingredients in a food processor until mixed, but not smooth. Leave some texture!

Roasted taco veggies
Chop 2-3 cups of veggies like carrots and cauliflower into 1 inch pieces, if you're using green beans, leave them whole. Toss in a large bowl with a generous slug of olive oil, a sprinkling of salt and pepper, and roast on a baking sheet at 400 degrees about 20 minutes, until they start to brown and caramelize on the edges. The roastier the better!

Put it all together! Serve warmed tortillas with rice and beans, salsa, and roasted veggies. Lovely.

Arugula Toast and Garlicky Roasted Veggies

Last week's Take Home bag was a brand new recipe. Inspired by the 'let's put everything on toast" craze, which has moved on from avocado to include just about every ingredient one can mash, spread, sprinkle, crush or otherwise adhere to a piece of toast.  I decided to try a take home bag version. But something adaptable and kid friendly.

My first thought was goat cheese, but we had a big order this week and I was afraid it would break the budget. Plus I always want to include ingredients in the bag that folks will feel comfortable buying on a regular basis.

So I went with cream cheese. I also packed up the ingredients for my favorite veggie dish right now, roasted green beans and potatoes. I still can't get over this, and it's been months since I first made it this way.  I can't help it, it's just delicious and it goes with everything.

So, here's the packing table on Friday afternoon: each bag got a loaf of bread for toast, cream cheese, arugula, olive oil, green beans, potatoes, and garlic. Oh, and a few sprigs of fresh thyme  I ordered from Black River.

I suggested toasting the bread pretty well, then spreading with cream cheese, and topping with some arugula, a tiny drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.

Roasted Green Beans and Potatoes have appeared here before in a slightly different form, but here they are again.

Lemony French Bean Salad 

Steam 4-6 cups of french beans until they are juuuuust past crisp tender. Still a bit of crispness, but not too much. Check after 4 minutes and go from there. 
Drain and transfer to a large mixing bowl. 

Wash 3-4 medium red potatoes and chop into 1/2 inch pieces. Toss with a few Tbsp of olive oil and some salt and pepper, and roast at 400 for 20 minutes or so, until the start to brown and crisp on the edges. Remove from oven and shake the pan a bit, then let cool slightly. 

Add them to the beans in the large bowl. 

Now make some dressing. 

1/3 cup olive oil
3-4 Tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 cloves minced garlic
1 tsp each salt and pepper

Whisk well, drizzle over the salad, and toss it all together. If you have any fresh thyme laying around sprinkle it on top.
If you want to get fancy, serve with extra lemon wedges. 

Happy Dinner!


I'm resisting the urge to title this post something ridiculous like "Ramp It Up!"  So, you're welcome, I guess.  But I am exactly that excited about these beauties. Terrific BCS teacher Colleen harvested these locally and brought a big bag to the kitchen last week.  

First I made pesto with the leaves. 

Ramp Pesto
6 cups ramp leaves, tightly packed
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup olive oil
3 Tbsp sunflower seeds
1/4 cup good parmesan cheese, grated

Whizz it all in a food processor, add a few drops of extra olive oil at a time if you need to. You want a thick paste, and it should smell amazing. 

Mix a Tbsp or two with  1 lb of hot, cooked pasta. Spread a little on toast or sliced baguette. Serve it as a condiment with grilled chicken or fish. Dip raw carrots and cucumbers in it. Eat a spoonful straight. Wish it was always ramp season. 

The next day I roasted the remaining bulbs and made Roasted Ramp Bulb Quinoa!

2 cups quinoa
3 cups vegetable broth
3 Tbsp olive oil, divided
salt and pepper
a lemon wedge or two
About 3/4 cup ramp bulbs, with some leaf still attached

Bring the quinoa and veggie broth to  a boil in a medium saucepan with a dash of salt and one Tbsp of olive oil. Turn heat to low and cover, cook for 20 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed. 

Toss the ramp bulbs with the remaining olive oil, season with salt and pepper. Roast on a baking sheet at 400 while the quinoa cooks. 
When they're nice and soft and the ends are turning brown and crispy take them out and let them cool slightly, then roughly chop them. 

Fluff the cooked quinoa with a fork.  Add the roasted ramps and toss well. 
Finish it off with a quick squeeze of lemon juice. 

It was hard not to eat the roasted bulbs on their own, especially the crispy bits.
Ohhhhhh ramps.

Friday Food Bag Recipe : Bread Bowl Egg Bake

Hi there!
So, even though this is coming way late to help you out with any brunch plans for today, I want to use the last of this week's bonkers full moon energy to start a new regular practice - posting the week's food bag recipe!
Sammy and I also made a Parent.Co video with this one, and I was super pleased with how it turned out. Plus I can happily report that all three kids loved it. This is a simple version, but feel free to improvise. Next time I think I'll try some caramelized onions and smoked gouda, or baby spinach and feta in a sourdough loaf, or rosemary, sage and sausage. You get the idea.
We sent home a loaf of bread, eggs, chives, red pepper, butter, cheddar cheese, and a quart of strawberries, just for fun.

Brunch Bread Bake

1 8-9 inch diameter loaf of whole grain bread
6 eggs
1/3 cup chopped red pepper
1/4 cup chopped chives
1/2 cup shredded cheese - we used sharp cheddar
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil for brushing

Cut off top of loaf and scoop out center to make a bowl - leave about an inch on all sides and keep bottom intact. 
Brush inside of bread bowl with olive oil, then sprinkle with about a third of the cheese. 
Beat eggs well, add salt and pepper to taste.
Pour into bread bowl. 
Sprinkle red peppers and chives evenly over the eggs. 
Top with another third of the cheese. 
Place bread in a foil lined oven safe dish - we used a 10 inch cast iron skillet. Curl the foil around the bread edges to keep it from browning too fast. 
Bake at 400 for 25 minutes, or until eggs puff and cooked through. 

Let cool slightly before slicing. Top with chopped tomatoes, the rest of the cheese and chives to serve!

Weekend Dinner Recipe - Cauliflower Steaks

I'm kind of obsessed with cauliflower. I roast it for the kids at school often, with just olive oil, salt and pepper - sometimes a little spice mix of some sort like curry or cumin and paprika. My love of it is shared by many teachers and has rubbed off on even some of our most veggie-skeptical kiddos.

So it's kind of funny that it's taken me so long to learn how to properly cook a cauliflower steak. Like avocado toast, this is a concept that's been done nearly to death by foodies. But unlike avocado toast, there are not really a million ways to interpret it, as I discovered after finding this recipe in an old issue of Bon Appetit Sarah gave me (because she knows I hoard old food magazines. )

I did tackle the whole recipe, including cauliflower puree for the  base and my own take on the special walnut caper sauce for the top, but the real story here is the cauliflower steak itself.
I urge you to make these at home for dinner. I made a smallish portion just for myself one night last week because I didn't think it would interest anyone else in my family, but I was dead wrong. My 9 year old was eating the walnut caper mixture with a spoon, and when I sat down with the whole dish plated EVERYONE wanted to share.

I hesitate to do a cauliflower steak food bag at BCS because I make a rule of avoiding recipes that require specialized equipment,  and you do need a pan that can go from the stove top to the oven to make these properly. Cast iron works best. And if you're making them for say, 4 people, you'll need a fairly large pan to do it all at once. But if you own a 12 inch or larger cast iron skillet you need to give these a try, even if you don't think you love cauliflower. You will.

Here's what you do:
Preheat your oven to 425
Remove the thought outer leaves from your head of cauliflower. Slice off the bottom of the stem to make a level base. Using a sharp knife, cut off about a 1/2 inch of two of the rounded sides of the head, reserve those bits.
Cut the remaining head in half, then in half again - you should end up with four "steaks, each about an inch or so thick. If you started with a big head of cauliflower they could be up to an inch and a half each.
Now, heat a Tbsp of olive oil in your oven proof pan over medium heat (cast iron if you have it). When it's nice and hot, swirl a Tbsp of butter in the pan until it melts. Then add the cauliflower steaks. They should sizzle a bit when they hit the hot pan. Salt and pepper the tops. Cook for 5 minutes or until you get a nice brown sear on the bottom. Flip and cook the other side until it browns as well. A little more salt and pepper.
When both sides are nice and brown, pop the pan into the hot oven. Roast the steaks for 8-10 minutes, until you can easily pierce the center with a fork.

If you have time and you're feeling ambitious, you can boil the leftover bits of cauliflower in a small saucepan of salted water until they're very tender, about 10 minutes, then puree them in a food processor with a tsp of tahini, some salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon.
Set aside.

If you want to make a topping you can go for the walnut caper salsa in the original recipe, or you can try my easier, spicier version.

Just combine:

1/4 cup chopped walnuts
2 Tbsp chopped pickled jalapeƱos
2 Tbsp sliced scallions
1 Tbsp capers
sprinkle of salt, pepper
2 tsp olive oil
2 tsp red wine vinegar

When your steaks are ready, you can spread a little of the puree on a plate, lay down a steak, then top with a little walnut "sauce" OR just sprinkle with a little parmesan and go to town.
Either way, these are super, super delicious.

Happy dinner!

Family Dinner Recipes!

We had the most delightful Family Dinner last week, the first of the year to feature outdoor eating!! So I tried to keep it (mostly) light and start the transition into veggie filled meals. I made some coconut rice, and a few giant salads. The dressings were the real story though.

Salad number one was just mixed local greens, quinoa, chick peas, and yellow peppers,  with a lemon garlic dressing I make at school and home all the time. Then we had warm, slightly roasted carrots, green beans, and potatoes with an awesome curry vinaigrette I adapted from Epicurious. These are both pretty versatile, and would be great drizzled over just about anything, as far as I'm concerned.
They were enjoyed my kids and grown ups alike, and many folks asked for the recipes. Here they are, for all of your spring salad needs!

Lemon Garlic Dressing

3 cloves garlic, finely minced
juice of 1/2 fresh lemon - about 3 Tbsp
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp rosemary  - use minced fresh herbs if you can, otherwise, dried is fine
1 tsp salt
fresh pepper
1 tsp honey
3/4 cup olive oil

Whisk all ingredients well! Let sit for 20 minutes or so if you can before serving. Store in an airtight jar in the fridge for up to a week.

Curry Viniagrette

2 Tbsp curry powder

1 cup olive oil

3 Tbsp cider vinegar

1 tsp salt

black pepper

1 small clove
garlic, minced

1 tsp honey

Mix 2 Tbsp curry powder in a small bowl with enough water to make a paste. Let sit for 5-10 minutes. Add 1 cup olive oil and stir. Let mixture sit for 1-2 hours.
Pour mixture through a fine mesh strainer lined with a paper towel. Discard the leftover solids.
Mix the curry oil with 3 Tbsp cider vinegar, 1 tsp of salt, a few shakes of pepper, the garlic, and the honey. Whisk well!

Bread Magic in the Kitchen

When I arrived in the kitchen last Monday, my coworker Charles said he left a gift for me on the spice shelf. It was these beautiful block prints,  made by  Vermont artist/activist  Jabari Jones, who is donating the proceeds from the prints to the Vermont Black Lives Matter organization.

They are postcard sized prints, each with a proverb about bread.

I've been thinking of how to display them, and of the timeliness of the gift, as I try to work on this post about bread at BCS.

Community Bread started just about a year ago, after I decided to get everyone to try making all of our own bread at school together.  But really it all started with the bread poem, another gift from a coworker, right around the holidays in 2015.

If I could work the oven
 I'd like to cook a bread
big enough to extinguish the hunger
of everyone, all the people
who have nothing to eat.
A bread bigger than the sun,
golden, perfumed
like violets.
A bread like this
I would give to feed
all of India and Chile
the poor, the children,
the old, and the baby birds.
That would be a day to memorize:
A day without hunger!
The most beautiful day in all of history.

-Gianni Rodari

The caption from my Instagram post of the poem:

I immediately loved the very first line of the poem, because it got  to the heart of how I felt about cooking for others. To me, "If I could work the oven" meant "If I could figure out this problem of hungry people, of getting everyone enough, if I had that power, this is what I would do." Of course, in my heart, I would bake a magical bread that would erase the problem on a global scale.
In reality, in the kitchen, what could I do to work that oven? School lunch had already come so far,  with our self-designed menus and everything made from scratch. But we were still buying not-so-great processed bread for sandwiches, or to eat with soup or stew, or for toast in the morning.  I did my best within our budget, but it wasn't ideal. For about the millionth time since starting the job, I imagined baking bread, lots of bread, in the school kitchen.

I was (and still am) a complete novice bread baker, though I loved the process with all my heart and was eager to learn more.  I knew our staff was full of baking enthusiasts and I knew that each classroom enjoyed baking with kids regularly or at least once in a while.  So I had an idea. I would bake as many loaves as I could every Monday and Tuesday, and any classroom that wanted to could bake as well. Together, we'd come up with bread for everyone for the week.
 I thought that would be a powerful thing for a kid who was coming from a food insecure situation, to learn how to bake bread, this building block of basic nutrition, and share it with their friends and teachers at mealtimes.

Bread is elemental. It's literally a symbol of nourishment, of "we have enough".  Our goal has always been to fill BCS with this feeling. We want kids to know it's a place where, regardless of what the world is like outside, their needs will be met. Their bellies will be filled.  Thinking this over I realized, this was it. This was how to work the oven. We could teach kids the skill of bread baking, while teaching them that they can take care of each other. That's what communities do.  That's how we get everyone fed.

I presented the idea to my amazing coworkers at our winter In-Service and we all baked focaccia and talked about what we find therapeutic in cooking and baking.  Community Bread at BCS was born.

group baking

At first I expected a complex baking schedule would be a necessity. I imagined rotating classrooms and days of the week based on the menu. But in practice it's been a much more fluid process. 
Basically, everybody bakes. Sometimes we coordinate, often we don't. Kids are so steeped in the process they can do it with little direction. Everyone eats lots of homemade bread (and other amazing goodies). 
Now it's a year later, and community bread is going strong.  Baking has become a part of the school culture as well as incredible curriculum. The toddlers and their teachers bake so often, it's unusual to enter their classroom and not smell something wonderful in the oven, or on its way.  The preschools bake every week, often producing half of the bread we serve everyone for lunch. 

The kids feel so much pride in baking to feed the whole school, and I'm just proud to be a part of it all. When I get to school in the morning and the preschoolers are busy in their classroom, dusted in flour from head to toe, kneading together, I can't help but think -we're doing it. 

We are working the oven!

Focaccia with Friends - BCS recipe

 Sprinkle 3 tsp dry yeast and 1 tsp sugar over 2 1/2 cups warm water in a large mixing bowl. Let sit for a minute or two, then gently whisk in 1 cup of unbleached flour. Let this sit for five minutes or so, then add 2 1/2 tsp salt, 1 Tbsp honey, and 2 Tbsp olive oil and stir with a wooden spoon to incorporate. Start adding flour a cup at a time, stirring with the wooden spoon, and then eventually using your hands, until it forms a shaggy ball. Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for a few minutes, dusting with flour when necessary to prevent sticking, until the dough is smooth and springy. Clean and dry the bowl, then swirl it with olive oil. Add the dough and roll it around to oil the whole surface. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and put in a warm place to rise for about 30 minutes. 
Preheat the oven to 400
Uncover the dough, and using a sharp knife, divide in half. Do not punch it down! Lightly brush two rimmed baking sheets with oil. Turn out half of the dough onto each tray. Use your hands to press it into a rectangle, reaching the edges of the pan if you can. Use your fingers to make indentations every 2 inches or so. Lightly brush the top of the dough with oil, and sprinkle with salt and  any herbs you like. 
Bake for 25 minutes or until the top is golden brown.