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summer camp fun – week 5!

9 Aug

pcyZLPP30iv7yT_G0jO75yyqEHjifw6_TJkyJwAej_kWe kicked off our third and final session of the summer with eleven new campers this week! Despite the threat of rain on several occasions, our team of Butter Beans purple + yellow managed to stay dry, eat well, and learn a ton of exciting new things!

After a short introduction, our campers traveled to the South Brooklyn Children’s Garden for an afternoon of hands on activities. It was great to be at a garden designed for kids, and the campers felt right at home among the plants. We spent some time bonding in the playground before heading back to wrap up our first afternoon.

photo11On Tuesday our campers had their first full day in the kitchen! After planting our own seeds, everyone was hungry for a Lasagna Cupcake lunch! Served with homemade garlic bread and salad, it was like being in Little Italy! To celebrate the perfect August day, we spent the afternoon outdoors enjoying the sunshine.

Wednesday brought gloomy skies, and rather than risk being stuck in the rain we decided to hang back at camp and do some more cooking! We traveled to the Union Square Farmers Market in the morning, and returned to camp to make a wholesome lunch of Tomato Soup and Panzanella Salad. We used our leftover garlic bread from the day before, which added great flavor and helped us clean out the fridge. After lunch, we ventured to Brooklyn for a visit at NuNu Chocolates. We learned about how chocolate was actually used as currency in the olden days, and we each got to dip our own graham crackers in the melted goodness. Yum!

IMG_7139We love to make ice cream at camp, and on Thursday we visited Chloe’s Soft Serve Fruit Co. to learn about non-dairy ice cream from the pros. We made healthy sundaes with banana, strawberry, and mango ‘ice cream’, which was a great way to fuel up for our next adventure to East New York Farms. They are experts at bee keeping, and at the farm we got to taste honey straight from the hive, try on some bee suits, and learn about the art of keeping bees in the city. The honey was fresh and sweet, and everyone walked away with a little more appreciation for our black and white stripped friends.

3qNfPt0rJP3RKzc50poFB_F7PeNYaweSJOvp49tJcHgFriday brought another edition of Top Chef! This week, our campers worked together to make a Taco Fiesta, including homemade guacamole, salsa, and tortillas! These definitely weren’t your average tacos. Following lunch, Ingrid was back for another afternoon of yoga. It was a nice way to relax on such a dreary day, and a great way to welcome the weekend. We finished off the afternoon with a special dessert and movie.

It’s hard to believe that next week will be the last week of the summer! After months of anticipation and planning, it seems like the end came much too quickly. I couldn’t ask for a better group of campers to help close out the summer, and I am looking forward to a final week packed with food, farming, and fun!

summer camp fun – week 4!

2 Aug

It’s hard to believe that the second session of camp is already coming to an end!

Although it seems like the summer just started, we are about to say goodbye to our second session of campers. We’ve had a full house these past two weeks, filled with nutritious and delicious meals, dirt under our fingernails fun, and special guest visitors!

972303_554881394570800_400131587_nMonday, our fearless group travelled to Randall’s Island for a day at the Urban Farm and Children’s Garden. It was a beautiful day to be outside, explore the gardens, make some tzatziki with fresh vegetables, and hold the chickens!

On Tuesday, the campers got back to basics in the morning with homemade cornbread muffins and fresh butter. The homemade butter was especially delicious, and came in handy later in the week. In the afternoon, everyone traveled to Central Park to try their hand at fishing! Although no one caught anything, it was nice afternoon to be in park and explore nature.

73113_555694267822846_1862476614_nWednesday was a jam packed [pun intended!] day at camp. We took a trip to the farmers market in the morning to buy ingredients for our jam lesson in the afternoon, as well as fresh produce for our gazpacho and grilled cheese lunch. The infamous Beth from Beth’s Farmhouse Kitchen came by in the afternoon to lead our campers in a jam making lesson. We made fresh blueberry and nectarine/plum/peach jam; I hope the campers shared their jars with everyone at home!

971561_556150907777182_1316877857_n (1)Thursday we were back in the kitchen making a Middle Eastern themed lunch of baked falafels and tabbouleh. We also continued our exploration of composting with our very own worms! They are working their magic in our homemade compost buckets and we should have beautiful soil in no time. Looking at a figure full of leftovers, we also decided to repurpose some of our extra cornbread into Leftover Cornbread Bread Pudding. It’s always fun to try and use leftover or ingredients in new ways, and the sweet cornbread dessert was a hit!

6xQ9Ug0jqfjdHp9-E8uAV8iYhs7D56tdyDCtIepCDvwFor our last day of camp, we hit the farmers market for another edition of Top Chef Friday. As you can imagine, homemade pizzas were a big hit and it was awesome to make the whole thing – dough, sauce, and toppings – from scratch! With full bellies, we capped off our second session with yoga and a special graduation ceremony for all our budding young chefs!

I am sad to see another incredible group of campers go, but I am looking forward to what the next, and last, session of the summer has in store. If these next two weeks are anything like the last four, I can confidently say that I have had one of the best summers to date. Whether in the kitchen, at the farm, or just hanging out at camp it’s been a pleasure to share these last two weeks with all our amazing campers, and I don’t want to the summer to end!

summer camp fun – week 2!

19 Jul

QjMCMkuZMbe2nkPntwhLKCHRThuGXQW8OMiIULIqojYThe second week of our first camp session is drawing to a close, and I can’t believe all the amazing things our campers have done over these past two weeks!

Despite the heat wave, our campers had a week of fun and adventures. Although we were disappointed not to be able to go on some of the trips we had planned, our days were full of delicious new recipes, art + garden activities, and a special heat wave treat!

ZzZGaQGrkLY46mIS4SKU6VIuvbBRnWMm538QH2DjfMcOn Monday, our campers braved the great outdoors for an interactive and fun trip to the Brooklyn Grange. There, our campers learned about bee pollination, harvesting vegetables, and a great song about compost which we put to good use later in the week. They also had the opportunity to create a delicious quinoa salad using fresh vegetables from the farm.

On Tuesday, we spent some time in the kitchen baking nutritious morning glory muffins. Everyone thought it was fun to see how good vegetables can taste in a muffin, and they were the perfect mid-morning snack before an afternoon at the movies! To escape the heat, everyone made a special trip to the theater for a showing of Despicable Me 2. It was a nice way to eas into the hot week ahead.

LwFvmI9yb3tw0hsFa-GhAYVma1C2D7czP-EW0trrWwoWednesday was a very exciting day at camp. After a few long days of anticipation, our campers traveled to Ample Hill Ice Cream where they learned about the ice cream making process, and then made their own vanilla ice cream on a bicycle! It was a big hit among the campers, and everyone was very excited to finally taste what they had churned. The campers returned ready for some nourishing food, and worked together to make tomato, mozzarella + pesto sandwiches. We rounded out the afternoon by making our own play dough and dying it using different foods! We had blueberries for purple/blue, pureed kale for green, and ketchup for red/orange.

Thursday we started the day with sparkling fruit sangria [don’t worry… it was kid friendly!]. White grape juice, seltzer, peaches, grapes, and nectarines made a refreshing drink before our morning art project. For lunch, we worked hard to make veggie hand pies + mashed potatoes. The campers even made the dough from scratch, and they were delicious. During lunch I even overheard one camper exclaim ‘This is the best thing I have ever tasted!’ Needless to say we have some budding young chefs among us.

N0ETonHm7MuIo0sQVWs8VS9wLFaPlylyzkRnqeo5MXcAs a Friday treat, we made another round of popsicles [blueberry + ‘coconut cream’] in the morning before heading the Union Square Farmers Market for another edition of Top Chef – Grain Salad! Each group bought three different color vegetables, 1 herb, and 1 type of salad green to mix with their quinoa, couscous, or brown rice. It was the perfect lunch for such a steamy day. We finished off the week with a relaxing yoga class. As our first session drew to a close we presented our Food + Garden experts with their very own cookbooks, a graduation certificate, and a golden spatula to symbolize their time with Butter Beans.

urban composting

9 Jan

photo-1What image comes to mind when you think of composting?

For many of you, composting goes hand in hand with open spaces, farms, and backyards.

So what about those folks living in urban settings, where backyards are virtually non-existant and open spaces are confined to city parks and stretches of concrete? Are they compost-exempt?

A recent article in the New York Times graciously lists some city friendly composting devices that will help connect urban dwellers with newfound composting routines, as they make strides in reducing their food waste.

A quick summary:

  • Blanco, a sleek bin embedded into your kitchen counter
  • NatureMill, “compost made easy”
  • Worm Factory 360, if you are comfortable with worms in your apartment, this ones for you!
  • Envirocycle Mini, if you do have access to outdoor space, this could be a great option
  • Vokashi, a compost pick up and drop off service

Inspired?

Check out our food & garden summer camp where we collaborate with master-composters to teach our campers the fundamentals of composting.

Transforming hospital food: a conversation with Chef Frank Caputo

17 Dec

IMG_1848During a breakout session at the Blogher 2012 conference this past August, we found ourselves in a room of health professionals discussing the current state of hospital food. As hands were raised, and points brought up, we heard from the Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) that they were breaking ground on an organic farm near their hospital in the middle of the dessert!

Naturally, we approached them and exchanged information. We wanted to learn more, so we organized an interview with their Chef, Frank Caputo to discuss the birth of their inspiring farm, and the impacts it will have on their community.

Butter Beans: What is the mission of CTCA?

Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA) is the home of integrative and compassionate cancer care. We never stop searching for and providing powerful and innovative therapies to heal the whole person, improve quality of life and restore hope.

Butter Beans: Why have you made healthy food one of your goals? Why are you emphasizing nutrition as an integral part of your mission?

We know that there is a correlation between good nutrition and better health. For me personally, I think the biggest demand is from our patients because they want better nutrition, they want better ingredients, the information is out there for them to see. They’re always asking us if their food is all natural or certified organic and that lends itself to how we cook. We cook from scratch and we know what’s in our food. My team and I work very closely with our Registered Dieticians in the Nutrition Department to make sure our patients have the best food available for their nutritional needs.

IMG_1724-1Butter Beans: Tell us more about the goals of your organic farm program.

One of our goals is to promote good health in general. We encourage our patients to adopt a more plant-based diet and limit their amount of red meat.

Another one of our goals is to educate our patients on nutrition, food, sources of food, and the quality of our food from the very beginning. We will introduce the philosophy of seasonal foods to our patients. They’ll be able to learn techniques on growing seasonal foods.

Our organic farm will allow us to re-localize our own food source. We are bringing the food that we use even closer to us; therefore, we’re cutting out the middle man – it’s literally coming out of the ground to the patients’ plates within minutes to hours.

Butter Beans: Have you used the farm as an educational tool in your hospital?

We plan on using the farm to educate patients on growing and planting their own produce. We plan on having harvesting seminar groups and cooking demonstrations by 2014 as well as a hands-on learning center. Additionally, the patient garden area of the organic farm will provide our patients with the therapeutic benefits of gardening.

IMG_1813Butter Beans: Have you seen a change in the way patients feel while staying in your hospital? Do you think the fresh food is making a difference?

Absolutely, all the patients are excited about the farm. They were excited about it even before anything was on paper because they’ve heard me talking about it. There’s been this growing excitement. Now that it’s coming to fruition, they’re even more excited to see it taking place.

Butter Beans: What are the reactions of patients when given your food?

They’re extremely thankful. It lends itself back to their knowledge of food and also their knowledge of what we do here specifically in the culinary department. They can’t believe this is hospital food. We are certainly not the norm. They’re not just surprised, they’re beyond surprised. They’re so happy that we take the amount of time that we do and make the investment to provide food that has a high nutritional value, looks good, tastes good and is healthy for them.

Butter Beans: What inspired you to become the executive chef for CTCA?

Initially, I have to give credit to my mentor Chef Jack Shoop who, at the time, was working as the Executive Chef at CTCA at Eastern Regional Medical Center in Philadelphia. I was unemployed and looking for a job. He tried to convince me to work in the hospital for about three months and I kept turning him down.

After a while, Chef Shoop told me, “I know you, you are ready for this mentally, physically, emotionally, this is where you’re going to grow into who you really are.” I didn’t know much about nutrition or working in a hospital, but saw this as an opportunity to help others, learn and continue my education.

What you don’t know today, you want to learn for tomorrow. Real food – we’re all going in that direction. It’s just a matter of time before we all start getting back to the roots of our food, down to the simplest ingredients. And knowing what’s in our food. We are what we eat. If you eat junk, we know that’s not the best for our bodies. If we eat food that is good with high nutritional value, we know that can only help us – and not just if you have cancer. Healthy food helps us throughout our lives.

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Butter Beans: What was it like to cook your first meals with freshly picked local organic produce from the farm?

Our first harvest will be later this winter, but cooking with produce from McClendon’s Select farms is amazing. Chef Shoop used to say, “In order for the food to smile back, you have to smile at the food. If you’re not smiling at your food, how can the food smile? Knowing you have a product that came out of the ground yesterday – how could you not smile?” That was Chef Shoop’s philosophy.

Butter Beans: What are your thoughts on the Healthy Hospital Food Initiative in NYC? Have you been seeing changes in the quality and tastiness of hospital food in other states and other hospitals?

I think it’s great that the city is providing guidelines to its hospitals that will give patients access to healthier food while they’re undergoing treatment for any illness. Hopefully this will inspire others to follow suit.

Butter Beans: What were some of the unexpected hurdles in this project?

Well, one of the main questions was how were we going to irrigate a farm in the middle of Arizona! So, we constructed a one acre irrigation lagoon that holds 2.6 million gallons of water and used the abandoned Roosevelt irrigation canal system for our water source. And even before that question, though was finding a farmer – a farmer who had the skills, knowledge and capability to produce certified organic produce. Anyone can put a farm up, but how do you make it the best farm it can be and managed by someone who truly cares?

Butter Beans: What motivates you to do your best every day?

First and foremost, our patients and the people who serve our patients motivate me to do my best every day. I try to instill that same philosophy in my team. Do better today than what you did yesterday.

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A big thank you goes out to CTCA and Chef Frank Caputo for your vision and leadership in transforming hospital food in our country. May others be inspired by your story, and follow suit!

Photos courtesy of CTCA