Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Drink, Eat at Corks and Crayons and Support Purple Asparagus

Photo Credit, Artisan Events

Imagine a class full of children swearing that they hate vegetables. Not hard to envision, right? Come back in an hour and watch them swarm the teacher’s desk for any leftovers from their veggie tasting. Believe that? I’ve witnessed this transformation on hundreds of occasions while teaching in the Chicago Public Schools for the non-profit that I founded and run, Purple Asparagus.

Purple Asparagus educates children, families and the community about eating that’s good for the body and the planet. Every year, we present Delicious Nutritious Adventures, our cornerstone education program, to thousands of parents and children throughout Chicago at schools, community centers, and farmers' markets. Delicious Nutritious Adventures invites families to explore the foods we eat in an entirely different way. We teach about the farmers who grow the food, the places it comes from, what’s good about food grown close to the earth, and how to prepare healthy, delicious recipes. Combining nutrition education, food literacy, cooking, and fun, our highly popular hands on classes celebrate farm fresh fruits and vegetables.

Obesity is a national crisis, one that’s hit Chicago particularly hard. Overweight and obese children are at greater risk for diabetes, hypertension, increased risk of heart disease, and poor self-esteem. The issue is particularly prevalent in the underserved communities where good food is in short supply. Purple Asparagus is working to combat this issue in these communities by taking a new approach to healthy eating.

While teaching kids about healthy choices is a priority to Purple Asparagus, we’re sneaky about that message. Everything about our classes (even our name) is fun. Kids are more willing to try “healthy” foods when they’re not presented as such. A first grade boy will surely turn up his nose at a chickpea when told that it’s high in fiber and protein. Explain instead that its Italian name comes from its resemblance to a wart on a famous Roman’s face and he’ll climb all over his classmate’s to try it. Describe mint as a gum plant and a child’s resistance to the green leaves will melt. We explore food in a way that’s interesting and fun that makes kids happy to try new foods.

In the 2010-11 school year, we provided 250 hours of free educational programming to schools, community centers, farmer's markets, and health fairs in Chicago serving roughly 2,500 students in over 30 Chicago neighborhoods on a shoestring budget with an all volunteer staff. We also served as a lead partner with Healthy Schools Campaign on the largest coordinated response to Michelle Obama's call to chefs, Chefs Move to Schools. Through this program, we trained over 175 chefs who visited close to 200 schools reaching 8,000 children.

All this is great, you say, but how can I help? It couldn’t be a better week to ask this question. Purple Asparagus’ annual fundraiser, Corks & Crayons Benefit at Uncommon Ground, 1401 W Devon Ave, Chicago, on Sunday, August 28, 2011 from 3-7 p.m. The family-friendly event that brings foodies old and young together to celebrate the joys of family meals and healthy eating all for a good cause. The event will include a mini farmers’ market sponsored by Harvest Moon Organics farm, live music from Old Town School musicians, the Kohl Foundation Storybook Bus as well as Truck Farm Chicago, a traveling mini-farm exhibit connecting kids to food and health.

If you cannot attend, please consider bidding on our online auction. We have some terrific auction items to buy now as well as some new items coming on in the next few days - even for out of towners!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Look Ma, No Splint: Purple Viking Potato Salad


After a long month of one handed existence, I'm back. Some of you may recall that back in June, I had a fight with a wine glass - it's not hard to figure out who won. Surgery and a month in a splint ensued putting a crimp in my two main work related activities: cooking and typing.

For the first week, I kept up this site with guest posts, posts written beforehand, and short posts pecked away on my computer one handed. And then life intervened (as if it hadn't already). Learning my dad was very sick, husband, kid, and I packed up on a sunny, sticky hot July afternoon and travelled to New York. After spending a few days in a hospital, we watched as he was transported home home to hospice care, stable, and day to day.

Together, these two difficulties underscored a simple truth that I can't deny - I'm no blogger. Occasionally, I read well-written and well thought out articles about blogging. Always, inevitably, each explain the importance of an editorial calendar. After reading this well-intentioned and well-reasoned advice, I dutifully prepare one. Then life and other matters intervene, usually teaching back to back to back classes, and other Purple Asparagus matters, nowadays preparing for our upcoming fundraiser, Cork and Crayons.

So I hereby renounce the editorial calendar, reclaiming this space for the reason I started it in the first place: an outlet and a repository for recipes. I'll leave the editorial calendars for serious bloggers. Instead, I'll focus on my main role: head spear and mom.

On my first foray back into two-handed blogging, I give you a recipe made one handed during my splinted days in mid-July. It will go quite well with my beef kebab featured in Daily Candy Kids.

Purple Viking Potato Salad
Serves 3

1 pound new potatoes
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon mustard
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
Salt and Pepper to taste

Cook the new potatoes in a pot of simmering salted water until tender. Drain and cool. When just warm to the touch, slice the potatoes 1/2-inch thick. Whisk together the remaining ingredients and toss in the potatoes. Serve.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Watch Us Grow: Learn About Illinois Farm Families, Become a Field Mom

Close your eyes.

Picture a farm.

Does your mind’s eye see the bucolic scene pictured on many a milk carton full of happy cows grazing around a red barn?

Or maybe the only farm you can picture is Fisher-Price’s version for kids.

I bet many of us will have no better luck when asked to describe a farmer. Even today, popular culture still portrays our farmers in bib front overalls and hayseed hats.

This is a sad state of affairs in my opinion. I wish we lived in a world where parents thought it as important to know the farmers who grow their child’s food as it is to know their child’s teacher.

Illinois Farm Families appears to agree. To start a dialogue and create understanding between family farmers and (mostly urban) moms who are feeding their families, they’ve launched a website, Watch it Grow, and are inviting city moms to become Field Moms as part of their Family-to-Family Farm tours.

Beginning this fall, Illinois Farm Families will bring a group of city moms out to meet farm families and tour their farms. This behind-the-scenes look will shed light on how the Illinois farmers in the program grow the food and care for the animals eat and what steps they’re taking to protect the earth.

You can learn more tomorrow when Illinos Farm Families will be at the Daley Plaza Farmers' Market or you could join us on Wednesday August 17, 8pm central for a Twitter chat, hashtag #fieldmoms.

If you have questions about becoming a Field Mom, call 1-800-647-7294 or email info@watchusgrow.org. You can also subscribe through the Watch it Grow site follow Field Moms on their farm tours.
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