Thursday, January 16, 2020

Chef Ann Foundation - Parent Advocacy in School Food

I almost forgot how to get back on my blog...
It's been awhile my dear mullies, and it's sure GOOD to be typing and sharing here again today!

My latest blog is up today on the Chef Ann Foundation website! It's all about real school food parent advocacy + the powerful impact of our District 76 Wellness Team.

One Parent's Journey Towards Better School Food

I must catch ya'll up to the recipes and pics from November + December's D76 Chef's Tasting Table in the lunchroom! The above pics are from our most recent Holiday tasting and below is the tasting we held right before Thanksgiving. Keep scrolling for the yummy recipes which I have included at the end!

Apple Carrot Slaw with Starfruit and Scallions

3 c (2lbs shredding carrots) from Prairie Wind Family Farms
3 sliced honey crisp apples
1/4 c honey mustard
1/4 c extra virgin olive oil
2 T apple cider vinegar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Using a food processor, shred carrots with the medium grater. Switch out the blade and slice the apples thinly. In a medium bowl, whisk honey mustard, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. In a large bowl, mix shredded carrots, sliced apples, and dressing until well mix. Garnish with sliced scallions and thinly sliced starfruit.

(*Recipe was x6 for 350 student & staff tastings)

Chocolate Black Bean Hummus + Fresh Fruit Dippers

1 can black beans, drained and liquid reserved. (Eden Organic brand is my favorite as the beans are already pressure cooked, which helps digestion).
4 Tbsp pure maple syrup
4 Tbsp raw cacao
1/2 tsp salt

In a food processor or high speed blender, mix all ingredients until smooth (stop and scrape the sides a few times). Add reserved liquid to thin to desired consistency. Favorite dippers = Strawberries, apples, kiwis, bananas, and oranges.
Optional: Add a few heaping Tbsp's of dark chocolate almond butter - YUM! Also, cannellini beans are my second favorite bean to use.

(*Recipe was x18 for 350 student & staff tastings)

Friday, January 18, 2019

Chef's Tasting Table 2019 | Citrus Bonanza + A Cara Cara Jam Jar Dressing

This was the 2nd annual Citrus Chef's Tasting Table and I'm already looking forward to our 3rd next year. It's a BIG in-season fan favorite for all.

Pictured from the top:
Pummelo's (the large yellow grapefruits)

I visited both Diamond Lake and West Oak back to back this week; Without a doubt, we have 750+ citrus lovers in our district!

Now that we have their attention, get your eaters to think outside of the orange-wedge-box and make your own jam jar salad dressing! You can thank me later for helping you to get your kids to eat their greens.

A Cara Cara Jam Jar Dressing

1-2 Cara Cara oranges juiced (about 1/4 cup. And type of orange will work here!)
2 Tbsp vinegar (any kind you have on hand - Apple cider vinegar, White vinegar, Red/White Wine vinegar, Balsamic vinegar all works)
1 Tbsp honey
1/4 c extra virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp iodized or sea salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 garlic clove minced (optional)

Place all ingredients in a mason jam jar. Put the lid on and shake vigorously (a great job for kids!) until it's all mixed up. Enjoy on your favorite greens (my kids LOVE Gotham Greens), plus it would be delicious on fish too! Store in the refrigerator. 

To the mullies we go...

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Chef's Tasting Table 2019 | Chocolate Avocado Pudding with a Quick Blueberry Syrup

Everyone at Jewel thinks I'm nuts.
I think I am.

We are still recovering from this massive avocado processing we did before break. Thank you to the moon and back Steve Juracka (Assoc Superintendent & Wellness Chair), Julie Marchese (school nurse and wellness committee) and my amazing Mom Brenda (retired kindergarten teacher and best sous chef ever) for helping me scoop, process and fill up endless cups in the lunchroom! This food education day could not have been pulled off without YOU ALL! πŸ€›πŸ»πŸ‘ŠπŸ»πŸ€œπŸ»

I forgot to take pictures of the finished tasting cups. Bleh. 

So, to wet your whistles, here are some pictures of the day before in the Mundelein High School Transition Center where the participants did an incredible job "plating" their chocolate pudding and garnishes.

We had mixed reactions πŸ‘πŸ»πŸ‘ŒπŸ»πŸ‘ŽπŸ» which always means we are on track for stretching these students’ taste buds and food bravery. I especially love when staff ask me for the recipe!

Chocolate Avocado Pudding + Quick Blueberry Syrup
2 🍌’s
4 πŸ₯‘’s
1/2 c raw cacao
1/2 maple syrup (add more maple syrup to taste if needed for your eaters) 
1 c milk of choice (I used organic rice milk for allergy awareness)
1 T pure vanilla extract
Pinch of salt

Blend everything until smooth in food processor. Ideally, chill in the refrigerator before enjoying with your favorite toppings.

I gotta tell you the story behind how the blueberry syrup came to be. 

I originally went to Prairie Wind Family Farm to pick up cranberries. With my sunglasses still on, I walked into the barn and looked in the coolers, but couldn’t find them and then decided to look in the freezer. There they were!

They weren't cranberries. 
They were blueberries.

Thankfully, Jen let me keep them. And what a perfect switch up it turned out to be! 

Previously frozen fruit is PERFECT to make a quick syrup (heating on the stove will render a thicker, more intensely flavored syrup) and so that’s just what we did together at the D120 Transition Center + West Oak.

Here’s how you can make it too and it’s super fun to make with kids!

Quick Blueberry Syrup

2 c thawed, previously frozen blueberries 
2-3 Tbsp honey
pinch of salt

In a bowl, muddle together (I used a potato masher) the 2 cups of thawed blueberries with some honey and a pinch of salt. Smoosh the berries until all the pulp and juice is released. Pour the blueberry liquid through a fine mesh strainer and into a new bowl. Spoon this gorgeous liquid over anything your heart desires... vanilla ice cream anyone?

To the Mullies we go...

Monday, November 19, 2018

Chef's Tasting Table 2019 | Pumpkin Butter + Jicima + Pears

Watcha making for your Thanksgiving Table?

How bout something super simple, tasty, versatile and your kids can make it?

Please welcome pumpkin butter to your world - I've never made so much in my life.

You can find pumpkin butter recipes all over the "interweb" and I chose this simple recipe from Half Baked Harvest as my go-to for our food education fun this Fall season; Thank you for the constant cooking inspiration Tiegan Gerard, your food blog is AMAZEBALLS. 

slightly lowered the pumpkin spice amount and here is what I scooped up for our November school lunch tasting in the lunch room. 

The best part =  kids can make it themselves!

Pumpkin Butter

1 14-16oz can/box of organic pumpkin puree
1/2 c pure maple syrup
1/3 c organic apple cider
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp iodized salt

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl and serve as a dip, spread, oatmeal mix in, yogurt parfait...  

or your own pumpkin spice latte!


The kids loved the tasting and many had NEVER tried jicima ("yambean") before. I brought an uncut, whole jicima so the students could see how weird and brown it looks on the outside and identify it in the grocery during future shopping trips. 

Big thanks to Produce Manager Bob at our local Maple St Jewel for coordinating the massive jicima order and to Chef Myra for cutting them all up for us!! 

I am so thankful to the Diamond Lake School District Administration and Wellness Committee for sharing a passion for food education. It's been a dream to spear head this school lunch room tasting program every month, and I'm simply having a ball brainstorming new "bite sized" initiatives with the committee which are making such a difference in our #d76diamonds community.  

How did we get started? 

4 years ago, I helped the school district apply for the The Chef Ann Foundation Project Produce Grant which was the spark behind our "Chef's Tasting Table."

And speaking of sparks...

Link over to their website and be inspired by how the foundation works tirelessly to inspire and empower school districts to reform school food. 

I am so very honored and excited to celebrate this incredible 10 year milestone with them: 

Thank you thank you thank you Chef Ann Foundation for leading American school food reform!

It all starts at home plate.

To the Mullies we go...

Friday, October 12, 2018

A Taco Tuesday Grape Salsa + Wild Orange Anything Dip

September was a BIG month for spreading food education and gorgeous food love in the schools! 

As a member of the Diamond Lake District 76 Wellness Committee, we wanted to do something special for the teachers to kick off the school year. 

Our committee cooked up this first round of "Lunch and Learns" where I visited each school's teachers' lounge (Fairhaven, Diamond Lake, and West Oak School) and treated the staff to some delicious recipes. 

We had such relaxed, fun conversation together around all things, mostly food! 

I made a "Wild Orange Anything Dip" and a "Grape Salsa" which I served alongside as much produce as possible from Prairie Wind Family Farms. Whenever possible, I partner with local farmers like Jen and Jeff Miller because every dollar goes back directly to their farm which improves Lake County's economic, social and environmental sustainability. I was able to find all pantry ingredients at Jewel & Target.

Wild Orange “Anything” Dip
Inspired by Sarah Britton's Tangerine Tahini Dip (My New Roots)

8 oz Almond Butter (or any seed/nut butter of choice)
1-2 knobs ginger minced (a heaping Tbsp or so)
8 tsp pure maple syrup
8 tsp apple cider vinegar
3 Tbsp coconut aminos (or tamari or soy sauce)
sprinkle of cayenne pepper (optional)
1/4 tsp sea salt
14 drops Wild Orange dōTerra essential oil (or use the zest and juice from 1-2 of your favorite fresh oranges!)
1/2+ c of any type of milk to thin out (I used macadamia nut milk)
1 tsp black sesame seeds
1 tsp local bee pollen 

Whisk together all ingredients in a large bowl and enjoy with your favorite vege and/or fruit! Store in the refrigerator and add into your lunch for the week. Garnish with black sesame seeds and local bee pollen for more lick-the-bowl goodness.

Keep hanging with me for the grape salsa recipe... 

As the Compass Hiking and Yoga Retreats Chef, this month also marked the launch of our Compass Outreach Program! I am thrilled to announce our partnership with Mundelein High School District 120 Transition Center. As a proud alumni of Mundelein High School and current resident in the community, it's an honor to be joining the participants and staff every month this school year.

We had a ball making the grape salsa together. Along with basic knife safety & cutting skills (like the "cat claw"), we discussed the different ingredients and the versatility of grape salsa; Whether you make it to trick out your Taco Tuesday, eat it alone, put it on on chicken, pour it over fish or add it to anything else you can dream up, it's a "food hero" dish for sure.

A Taco Tuesday Grape Salsa
Inspired by Sarah Britton's "Cleansing Grape Salsa" (My New Roots)

1 lb mixed grapes (we mixed red, green and concord varieties)
1 small serrano pepper (deseeded and minced)
1 bunch fresh chives minced
1/2 c (about 1 big handful) fresh cilantro chopped
1-2 knobs fresh ginger peeled & minced
4-5 radishes minced
2-3 limes juiced (plus zest from one lime or 3-4 drops of dōTerra lime essential oil)
1 Tbsp Thrive algae oil or extra virgin olive oil
Ionized salt or sea salt to taste

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly.

It all starts at hOMe plate!

To the mullies we go...

Monday, September 10, 2018

Chef's Tasting Table 2019 | A Tomato Tasting with Prairie Wind Family Farm

Now that's a lot of 2nd's and 3rd's boys! Way to EAT those tomatoes!!

Welcome to the 2019 Chef's Tasting Table School Year with Diamond Lake School District 76!

I am just thrilled to be writing this post, as it's my third year in the lunch room with the D76 students and staff. I am simply amazed by our evolution in food education together.

3 years ago:

  • Most of the 8th grade students chose not to eat "lunch". Many tables would share candy and/or other processed snacks (like Takis Chips) brought from home. Very few participated in the school lunch program with Preferred Meals.
  • The majority of 7th and 8th graders were very hesitant or declined to try the foods at our tastings. 
  • It helped to "hide" the ingredients of a tasting table menu item as it helped students be more adventurous. Once I revealed the ingredients (like spinach!), they were more willing to try an unfamiliar or "weird" food the next time.
  • The majority of the 5th and 6th graders were always up for a tasting. They were enthusiastic and excited every month.

  • Virtually EVERY student in EVERY lunchroom (5th-8th) eats lunch whether it's a sack lunch from home or served from Preferred Meals.
  • The majority of EVERY lunchroom participates in the tasting. And I don't even have to hide the ingredients anymore to get kids to try what I'm serving up!
  • All grade levels exhibit enthusiasm for our Chef's Tasting Tables. WOW!
HUGE thank you's to Jennifer and Jeff Miller of Prairie Wind Family Farm for providing the beautiful and TASTY tomatoes for our very first tomato tasting. The kids asked for seconds and thirds more than every before. I simply love coming to the farm, talking to your staff, and picking up your organic produce (just 9 miles away from West Oak School)!

Each student received a boat of tomatoes that were sliced and prepared three ways:
  • Plain
  • Sprinkled with sea salt
  • Sprinkled with organic sugar
Why the three options? To begin sharing the experience of how seasoning can effect taste with the students. 
  • Why is tomato sauce and pizza sauce sometimes sweeter than eating a raw tomato? Well, the chef adds some sweetener to cut the acidity! 
  • Can you believe how a little salt brings out more flavor? 
  • Isn't it amazing how naturally sweet a grape tomato is all by itself!?
I was joined by a friend and fellow graduate from the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, Ms Erika Quezada-Sanchez of Lotus Life and Wellness. I am so grateful to be connected to her through our Mind Body Nutrition training and especially appreciative of her volunteering with me in the lunchroom! Thank you for sharing this awesome day with me and the students Erika, and I can't wait for you to join us again and spread more fun food education together!

More Guts More Glory - It all starts at hOMe plate!

To the Mullies we go...