A Local Gathering to Promote Local Foods in Schools

Last night we attended a gathering we told you about earlier: Cool Aid! a fundraiser at the Onteora Middle School/High School Cafeteria, in Boiceville New York. Cool-Aid proceeds will fund the purchase of a walk-in freezer for the central kitchen of the Onteora Schools.

The walk-in freezer will allow the cooks at the school to effectively extend the growing season for locally sourced produce, reduce waste of plentiful fresh foods, and increase nutrition by freezing fruits and vegetables picked at the height of their nutritive value.

We’re here to say the event was a great success!  Maxanne Resnick and a large group of volunteers worked to bring the idea to life.  This group included students who helped serve and did an impeccable job keeping the tables clean.

The line-up of local chefs provides a look at the array of culinary talent and the intriguing regional cuisine in this area.  The chefs included Dan Leader, Giovanni Scappin, Curt Robair, Bill Warnes, Ric Orlando, Devin Mills, Pika Roels, and Kevin Katz.

The chefs were paired up with a regional farmer of their choice and two students, and together they served up tasty and healthy foods that anyone, especially kids, could make.

Each hors d’ouevre was $2 each, and trust us, we ate like kings.

The live music, silent auction, food crafts for kids, juicer and smoothie bars, plus an array of other presentations made this an event for all ages. Watching the members of the community chat and enjoy great food together made it fun and memorable.

Check out some photos from the evening.

More details about the chefs.

Frontier was happy to help sponsor the event, and we hope this idea might inspire you to find ways to help schools or any other institutions in your area move towards using more fresh ingredients from local sources.

Please let us know about your local food projects!

Meet Liz Hopkins, chef at the Frontier Café

In a recent blog post about our LEED® Silver certificatied renovation, we showed you a photo of the beautiful café at Frontier’s Norway facility.

A real bonus for our café is its wonderful chef, Liz Hopkins. Liz creates the healthy organic lunch offerings our employees enjoy each day. Talk about an employee benefit you don’t find just anywhere! Besides being the chef at Frontier, Liz makes beautiful jewelry that we look forward to seeing at our employee craft fairs. She’s a dragon boat enthusiast too. Versatile gal.

Liz Hopkins, chef at Frontier café. Photo by Kathy Larson

Liz took time out from her duties in the Café kitchen to talk to us about her work at Frontier.

Tell us a bit about what you do at Frontier. What was your background that prepared you for this?

I’m the chef and café manager in the employee Café at the Norway facility.  When I was in my early 20s, I worked at a resort hotel in Arizona and was taught the basics of cooking, so that’s how I knew I could handle this.  A lot of what I do is also self-taught.

What are your favorite go-to spices when you work in the Café?

I really like Simply Organics Vegetable Seasoning, and basil is a favorite spice of mine.  Seriously, I use the Simply Organic Vegetable Seasoning in almost everything: grilled veggies, salad dressing, and salads.

What have you learned about spices from working in the Café that you can share with us?

I have learned to experiment with herbs and spices.  It’s important for people to remember you can add a small amount of a spice to your cooking, and then build on it. You can always add but never take out. Soon you’ll learn what you like.

Can you tell us a few quick tips that you use all the time? Any spices that match certain foods perfectly? (For example, we love the veggie seasoning on the fish you serve at the Café.)

Dill goes with fish.

Thyme goes with chicken.

Basil is always good with tomatoes.

Simply Organic Vegetable Seasoning goes with anything, and I use it on grilled veggies a lot.

For more savory flavor, use oregano or rosemary.

Also, I’ve learned that if food looks good, it usually is. People eat with their eyes! It’s really true.

Do you have any dishes you prepare that seem to be crowd favorites in the Café?

People seem to like my potato pancakes, grilled tofu, roast beef w/smashed potatoes, grilled veggies, and garden burgers. Lots of varieties of sandwiches are popular.

Can you share one of your favorite recipes with us?

GARDEN BURGER

1 cup finely shredded carrots

3/4 cup of cooked brown rice

1/2 cup shredded cheese (what ever flavor you like)

1/4 cup finely chopped onion  (I use a green onion)

1/8 cup finely ground sunflower seeds

1/4 cup dry bread crumbs

2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

1/4  teaspoon ground ginger

1/4  teaspoon ground coriander

2 egg whites

1 tablespoon tamari

Mix carrots, rice, cheese, onion, sunflower seeds, bread crumbs, parsley, ginger and coriander together in large bowl. Mix well.

In another bowl, mix egg whites (beaten) with tamari.

Add this to dry ingredients and mix well.

Cover, place in refrigerator for one hour.

Scoop into patties and bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 min.

What do you like to cook or bake at home for your family?

We like Mexican dishes, and I make a rhubarb crisp we like. To be honest, I cook more at work than I do at home!

Book Review: Truly Mexican by Roberto Santibañez

Happy Cinco de Mayo! We hope you’re celebrating with some fabulous Mexican cuisine today.

We’re feeling especially festive because we’re introducing our first cookbook review, too! We look forward to sharing reviews and recipes from the latest cookbooks, both here and on our website.

We’ll start off with Truly Mexican, by Roberto Santibañez, chef and owner of NYC’s Park Slope restaurant Fonda, which has become a popular dining destination for authentic Mexican cuisine.

Reviewed by Karen Miles

Remember what Julia Child’s cookbook did for French cuisine? Well, Roberto Santibañez similarly — and successfully — offers us the art of preparing a foreign cuisine in his new book, Truly Mexican. While walking us through the process of composing authentic Mexican sauces and condiments, we learn techniques that are important to Mexican cooking, such as toasting chili peppers and roasting tomatoes. We learn about Mexican staples, including spices, nuts and seeds, and fruits and vegetables.

Because the focus of the book is on sauces and condiments, entire chapters are devoted to salsas, guacamoles, adobos, and moles and pipianes. “I chose those sauces and dishes that contain accessible ingredients, illustrate important culinary concepts, and of course, taste amazing,” explains Santibañez. That’s not to say you can’t craft an entire Mexican meal from these recipes.

In fact, we learn how to use the sauces and condiments to transform a piece of meat or poultry into an irresistible, authentic ethnic dish. (There’s even a chapter on “More Ideas for Using Mexican Sauces.”) A chapter on “Sides for Rounding Out Your Meal” includes such basics as Mexican Fried Rice and such delicacies as Chipotle-Avocado Leaf Black Beans. And there’s no shortage of inspiring photos.

Don’t buy this book if you’re looking for something to whip up in a flash for dinner tonight. But if you love Mexican food and want to expand your repertoire beyond the usual taco Tuesday fare, invest in this cookbook. What you’ll get in return is a thoughtful, inspiring course in authentic Mexican cooking.

For a sampling of the recipes in Truly Mexican, check out these three from the book on our website: Peanut and Arbol Chile Salsa, Lamb in Modern Yellow Mole, and Mexican Red Rice. For more about Mexican cooking — and additional recipes — check out Cooking Great Mexican.

Watch the beautiful preview of the book, and see if you don’t feel like celebrating Cinco de Mayo right now.

Cool Aid! A Farm to Table Family Event, Boiceville NY

One of the most wonderful things about living in New York’s Hudson Valley is our proximity to so many dedicated local organic farmers and to the creative chefs who use that produce in their restaurants.

One group of these chefs and farmers is planning an interesting benefit that we’d like to share with you; it might just inspire you in your own community.

Cool Aid! is A FARM TO TABLE FAMILY EVENT to be held on Monday, May 23rd in the Onteora Middle School/High School Cafeteria, in Boiceville New York. Cool Aid proceeds will fund the purchase of a walk-in freezer for the central kitchen of the Onteora Schools in Boiceville, NY.

Here’s where it gets interesting. A walk-in freezer will allow the cooks at the school to effectively extend the growing season for locally sourced produce, reduce waste of plentiful fresh foods, and increase nutrition by freezing fruits and vegetables picked at the height of their nutritive value.

The school feels this will aid their ability to deliver healthy foods to their students, without a huge outlay of money. In planning this fundraiser, they looked for a way to do something educational, interactive and fun, linking school-age kids with area chefs and farmers.  Since the school enrolls students kindergarten through 12th grade, the goal was to get all levels involved.

Here’s what they came up with: An event in which eight local chefs will be paired up with a regional farmer of their choice and two students, who will help execute the assembly of a tasty and healthy food that’s easy for kids to make and fits perfectly into a student’s lunchbox.

The line-up of chefs provides a look at the array of culinary talent and the intriguing regional cuisine in this area.  The chefs include Dan Leader, Gianni Scappin, Curt Robair, Bill Warnes, Ric Orlando, Devin Mills, Pika Roels, and Kevin Katz.

In order to make the event accessible to all families in Ulster County, it’s a free event; families can purchase as many tickets as they wish for each hors d’ouevre, for $2 each.

Live music by the school’s band will be performed throughout the event. A silent auction is planned, featuring such items as autographed cookbooks from some of the top chefs in the country, including Tom Collicchio, David Burke, Daniel Orr, and Bill Telepan.

Students have designed the event’s logo and website (to follow shortly).  The event will also feature food crafts for kids, juicer and smoothie bars, healthy snack alternatives presented by Onteora Home and Career students, a presentation by Hudson Valley author Joanne Michaels on gardening, nutritional information with Lysa Ingalsbe, RN and holistic health coach, and a photo booth.

Upon learning about this event, Frontier joined with others as one of the sponsors.

We hope sharing the details of this event might inspire you to find ways to help schools or any other institutions in your area move towards using more fresh ingredients from local sources.

Please let us know if you’re involved in any projects like this one, we love hearing these stories.

School Principal Bans Packed Lunches

According to a story in today’s Chicago Tribune, at Little Village Academy on Chicago’s West Side, students are not allowed to pack lunches from home. Unless they have a medical excuse, they must eat the food served in the cafeteria.

Principal Elsa Carmona said her intention is to protect students from their own unhealthful food choices.

But many parents and students aren’t happy with this mandate, despite Carmon’s intentions.

In fact, according to the article, many Little Village students claim that, given the opportunity, they would make sound choices.

“They’re afraid that we’ll all bring in greasy food instead of healthy food and it won’t be as good as what they give us at school,” said student Yesenia Gutierrez. “It’s really lame. If we could bring in our own lunches, everyone knows what they’d bring. For example, the vegetarians could bring in their own veggie food.”

The lunch at Little Village is $2.25 a day – does this seem high to you? Can you pack a lunch for less than that?

Any of us who’ve spent time in a school lunchroom (and that’s most of us) have surely seen kids throw away the food they aren’t eating. So the idea of taking away any options for what they might want to eat seems like it might increase the chance that food is going to be wasted.

Clearly, this solution may not be the best plan. What other options are there for improving the nutritional value of school lunches? What’s worked for you in that area?

Some schools ban certain foods and drinks, like those with excessive amounts of sugar. Some schools even ban processed foods.

What are the rules at your child’s school? Are any foods OK for lunch, or are there rules in place to ensure lunches from home meet set nutrition standards?

We’d like to hear your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by.