Friday, November 18, 2016

Chef's Tasting Table Day 1 // The Project Produce Grant Hits West Oak School's Home Plate

Today begins a series of 11 blog posts to capture the impact of the Chef Ann Foundation's Project Produce Grant in West Oak School. I teamed up with Sue Kruckman (District 76 Wellness Chair and West Oak School Nurse) and Tracy Zeman (District 76 Director of Student Services) to brainstorm the 11 "Chef's Tasting Table" lunchroom events being held through May.

You know what they say, "Rome was not created in a day."

It's fun looking back to the start of my Food Revolution in 2012 when I was simply dreaming of volunteering in the schools, not at all sure of HOW, IF or WHERE to begin...

So far, 2016 has been like warm sunshine on my face! Thanks to an incredible D76 Wellness Committee, an enthusiastic and supportive school administration team and the FABULOUS Chef Ann Foundation, we're finally having fun with food education in school!

Enjoy this picture diary of our first Chef's Tasting Table day!

Chef's Tasting Table Day 1 Menu: 

Organic Curly Kale
Organic Spinach
Organic Turnips
Organic Carrots

Chef Lindsey's Jam Jar Honey Mustard

1/4 - 1 c Plain organic yogurt (experiment with yogurt amount, add more to mellow it out!)
1/4 c Apple cider vinegar
1/4 c honey
1/4 c dijon mustard
1/4 tsp sea salt

Other than the sea salt, this is pretty much an equal parts recipe (it can very much be eyeballed!). Make as much or as little as you want. If you prefer the dressing to be less tangy, add less vinegar. If you want it sweeter, add more honey and yogurt. Be the boss of your dip! Place all ingredients into a jam jar and shake it up! Of course, you can mix it all up in a bowl too. Jam jars are fun to shake, create less mess and can go right into the fridge.

Here is the lovely mob around our "data collection" posters. We also offered fresh kale and spinach to be taken home as we want this tasting to spread to the students' family tables! I was astounded by how many kids lined up to take some home and inspire others to eat more greens.

SCHOOL CHALLENGE: We challenged each lunch period to make homemade jam jar recipes with their parents and share pictures with our school district's social media channels using the hashtags #D76Diamonds and #JamJarChallenge. The students who participate will be entered into a raffle drawing and get a chance at winning a jam jar with the recipe and dry ingredients to my homemade ranch dressing. YUM!

Thank you Ambassador Sara Lohrman (Stevenson High School) for teaming up with me!
You ROCK sister!

We also prepped a super easy (and a ton of kids wanted seconds!)...

Simple Raw Curly Kale Salad 

1 bunch de-ribbed curly kale (I demonstrated how to de-rib with your hands. No knives needed!)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1-2 Lemons (only juice)
sea salt

You can do it... eyeball this one. Tear or rough chop the kale into small pieces. Drizzle a few tablespoons of oil onto the top of the leaves. Squeeze the juice of one lemon over the leaves. Sprinkle sea salt over the top. Using clean hands, massage the kale until all of the dressing has been absorbed by the leaves. Taste it! Add a little more oil, lemon juice or salt until it tastes just right. Also, the longer this sits, the more relaxed the kale gets and the tastier it becomes!


A HUGE thank you goes out to Jen and Jeff from Prairie Wind Family Farm (Part of the Sandhill Family Farm Group) for providing the organic Kale, Spinach, Carrots and Turnips to our students! They did a ton of unexpected prep work for me (it was wonderful not to have to take off all the carrot and turnip greens!). The student's reactions were priceless when I told them the produce came from an organic farm just 8 miles away! Shock and awe!! 

INTRODUCING the Chef Ann Foundation Team!

Just a week prior to the tasting event, I traveled with my husband Chris out to Colorado to visit my sister Katie and family. Schedules matched up and I was able to travel out to the foundation's Boulder headquarters to meet with the team, to experience an amazing #realschoolfood lunch and to tour one of their school food production kitchens. 

BEST NACHO SALAD BAR EVER!!! I was super impressed by the "from scratch" cheese bechamel sauce, the antibiotic free beef (mixed with beans - who knew!?) and of course the ridiculous variety of toppings (Can I eat here everyday?) 

Everything was delicious, especially the Southwest quinoa salad! More please!

Meet the amazing District Manager Chef Brandy Dreibelbis! She has been working with Chef Ann Cooper since it all began here in the Boulder Valley School District 8 years ago. Brandy gave us a thorough tour of the kitchen facility and I was blown away by the details. The BVSD school lunch program serves 52 schools out of 3 school food production kitchens. They serve a whopping 13,000 meals a day! Sustainability, local food sourcing, food quality, recycling, food waste reduction and cost efficiency are of top priority.

I asked Brandy if there was a "revolt" when they stopped serving the high sugar, low nutrient dense, high selling fast food. So many districts have tried to change towards healthier options and then have gone back because the kids just don't eat it. Answer: When Chef Ann took over and began evolving the BVSD lunch program out of the "typical" highly processed school food, the program lost participants for a few years. However, in less than two years, they persevered, rebounded and are thriving in the scalable #realschoolfood model that stands today. Particpation numbers are through the ROOF.

On top of this, they also have a food truck (aka the Munchie Machine - read all about it here!) which provides the local High School another food option outside of the school cafeteria. Plus, BVSD & the foundation host the ever popular Junior Chef Competitions twice a year for the students.

Can I get a What What!?!?

My take away:
1. A profitable #realschoolfood model can be a goal whether you are an outside School Food Company or a school operating your own cooking kitchen.
2. It's tougher to do the higher your Free and Reduced Lunch percentage - So get creative in the lunchroom like we are.
2. It will take time.
3. The Chef Ann Foundation is here to help and inspire us ALL. Connect with them and start today.
4. Brainstorm, start small and the collective passion for taking care of our youngest generation's bodies & minds will come back to us.
5. The American "Food Patriots" are ready to buy lunches and increase school lunch participation IF food providers are able to:
  • Source well (meat and dairy sourced free of antibiotics and hormones)
  • Use clean ingredients (artificial color and preservative free) 
  • Cook from scratch (whether it be inside a school or in another kitchen).
School cafeterias are the biggest restaurants in town; They are filled with our most precious commodity. 

We can figure this out.

I am so proud to add our chef tasting table events to the story and to help impact over 400 students minds and palates this year.

Thank you Chef Ann Foundation!

This is the waterfall I imagined four years ago, and the H20 is starting to flow a little bit faster...

To the Mullies we go!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Soffritto Sister Diaries | A Fremont Garden Tasting - Chermoula

The Summer, this garden tasting, Terri's trip... it's pretty far away now, but at the same time, everywhere for me. 

I don't know when I'll see you again in person Terri, and that's what's so hard about finishing this Summer garden tasting series together today. 

I finished our video this morning after you sent me your completed blog. It was so hard and so wonderful at the same time. The true essence of the mullies isn't it? So hard to jump in but so worth it in the end. Terri's blog today was so beautiful! It made me cry... again.

AND now we are celebrating! The most anticipated garden tasting recipe is finally here! 

Thanks for being so patient with us and we sure hope this tastes as good in your kitchen as it did in our Fremont Community Garden that beautiful, hot day. Terri and I know it will be a new family table favorite!

Enjoy hopping over to Terri's delicious blog for the recipe and please feel free to tag us if you make it for your family table on Facebook or Instagram. We would love to see all the fun you're having with your beautiful food - You inspire us too!

Until we meet again, I'll be keeping up our shenanigans "on the line" - AND thank heavens for Facetime!!! #Supersunite!!!

To the mullies we go...

Cheers to Jamie's Food Revolution for forever connecting us!!! Jamie is up in Canada this week talking to supermarkets, charities and politicians - anyone who will listen - and I'm excited about the good signs coming out of the meetings. In watching his message to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, I found that he also sent a message to President Obama too! I tweeted to @JustinTrudeau yesterday directly on how I think he can help lead the North American Food Revolution -  Why not? We have nothing to lose and everything to gain... well... except for our countries' waistlines and our childrens' health -----------> JOIN US.

"Everywhere" is a song I fell in love with after watching the movie "Practical Magic" back in the 90s. I bought the soundtrack and played this song over and over... Today, I believe in lots of practical magic in the kitchen. The song begins with the random quote: "Most women and children can perceive higher frequencies of sound than most men." Terri, you and I connect on another frequency and we have found BIG MAGIC together... the kind I thought only happened in the movies:) MUAH!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Join the #RealSchoolFood Campaign!

We want YOU! 

The Chef Ann Foundation is officially declaring October the month of Real School Food, and I am pumped to join the campaign for it's second year! They have lots of fun events and activities planned to get the word out so stay tuned in to Chef Ann's Instagram, Facebook and Twitter pages! 

Why do we need a whole month dedicated to raising awareness about real school food? 

It’s ridiculously simple.

"Childhood obesity and diet-related disease are crippling our children’s futures. Over 30 million children eat school lunch every day, and many of their meals are processed, heat-and-serve items loaded with artificial un-pronounceables and mystery ingredients that are contributing to the problem.  Our kids deserve better, and that means real school food, cooked with healthy, nourishing ingredients." - Chef Ann Foundation

This quote hits home for me BIG time.

4.5 years ago I swerved my family swagger van onto the real food highway. I hit my trigger point with concerns about my daughter's social, emotional and academic performance at school. Abbie was performing a full year behind grade level in 1st grade and she could not pay attention, sit still, follow two step directions or get along with her friends in school. I was ready to try anything, have no regrets, so I tried real food first. I kicked out the fake food - preservatives, artificial colors and added sugar. I also kicked out gluten and dairy for awhile. After two weeks of eating more clean, real food, she was symptom free (I know, I still can't believe it) and it changed the course of her life, my life and our family's life forever. Let me be clearIt's not about perfection for us. We eat out and we certainly eat some processed food. Our goal is simple: 80% real food to 20% "whatever" food. Cuz I really love to eat my "whatever" food too. 

The incredible connection between our gut-brain lights up my world like a glorious sunrise and I geek out about the microbiome pretty much everyday. New research is emerging at a furious pace and I try to keep up with "What's New in ADHD" as this information impacts my family's health no matter how well now my children are now functioning in school.

Everyone EATS and it's time we inspire the guts + minds which gather everyday in the biggest restaurants in town - SCHOOL CAFETERIAS! 

Get involved! Here are some ways you can add your support:

1. Snap a selfie with a sign #realschoolfood.
2. Post the selfie to your social media platforms (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook) and use the #realschoolfood hashtag in your comment (Here's a good one to copy: "30 million kids eat school lunch every day. It's time we served them #realschoolfood. Join the campaign now:") 
**Don't forget to make your Facebook post public so that the Chef Ann Foundation can track the hashtag and count the post towards a matching donation!**
3. You can even make your picture your banner or profile pic for the entire month of October (if you're a food education goober like me)!
4. For every person who posts using #realschoolfood from now until the end of October, $1 will be donated towards healthy school food programming for kids across the country. This is an incredible opportunity for Americans to make school food reform a reality, thanks to the generosity of the foundation's sponsors (click here to check em all out!).

To the Mullies we go...

Here is a link to the Chef Ann Foundation's Project Produce Grant. I helped our school district apply for this (fingers crossed!) and perhaps you could help yours too!

Speaking of supporting awesome Food Education... I will be attending the Pilot Light Chefs Feed Your Mind Gala on Friday October 7th - Tickets are running out! One of America's finest chefs will be hosting - It's your chance to meet Chef Tom Colichio! The gala will be packed with Chicago's finest chefs, educators and foodie "movers and shakers." I hope to see you there!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

A Children's Nature Festival | Willow Wood Preschool + Food Revolution Lake County

Come join the Lake County Food Revolution team for a fantastic family friendly event with Willow Wood Preschool! I plan on bringing my family and I hope to see yours there too! Link up here for more information about the event.

There will be so much TO DO!!!

If you and your kids want to play at the park enjoy:

Face Painting  
Bounce Houses 
DJ Entertainment

If you and your kids want to learn at the park enjoy:

Painting garden stones and seeing a live worm farm with Kohl Children's Museum.
Creating Tree Ring Necklaces with The Morton Arboretum.
Making a healthy jam jar dip for fresh vegetables with Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution with me and our Food Revolution Lake County team!

If you and your kids want to grow at the park enjoy:

Making a newspaper pot to plant bean seeds with the Glencoe Community Garden.
Planting organic carrot and kale seeds with The Home Depot at the Glen.
Enjoying complimentary healthy snacks from Mrs. Green's and a Peet's Coffee Bar.
Eating delicious food from food trucks provided by Bake 425 and La Cocinita.

We are so excited to be a part of the fabulous Willow Wood Preschool event and we look forward to inspiring you and your kids to cook + eat more vege our DIY jam jar dip making station! 

1. You will be amazed at how easy it is to make your own dressings.

2. We're pretty sure it'll kick-start a new kid-led dip making tradition at your family table. 

BOOM. Register HERE and we'll see you Sunday! I can't wait to pack up my swagger van and GO!

To the mullies...

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Soffritto Sister Diaries | A Hero Center + Marketplace Tour

Ohhhhhhhhh I can only imagine what these beautiful Fuller Center of Lake County Community Gardens look like now! 

Terri and I went to visit Executive Director Yvette Ewing a few weeks ago and got a grand tour of the facilities that I've been talking about for the past few months. After meeting her at the annual Farmer's Market kick off, Yvette drove us out to the Manna Garden (it was my first time out too!) and we were able to snap some pictures and hear first hand how the initiative continues to impact the community. Check out this quick information video on the Manna Garden - Terri and I were so inspired and quite overwhelmed at the enormous impact of the combined efforts between Fuller Center's Hero Project and the Lutheran Church Charities

Here is the fun quickie video we shot together in the garden. 


Yvette's Hero Kitchen is really shaping up!!! I love keeping up with the progress (Check out Yvette's most recent Facebook post on the new kitchen floor) and I'm looking forward to getting out there again soon (the kids are back in school, yea!) to see the evolution in person. 

I am so honored to be considered a Wellness Hero (anyone can volunteer their time & talents!) and I cannot wait to jump in and help teach food education at the Hero Kitchen someday!

Without a doubt, passion and vision is abundant at the Fuller Center and it's all because of YOU Yvette!! Thank you for fighting for food education in Lake County!

To the mullies we go,

Oh Terri I LOVE the blog you wrote about your trip here yesterday on Jamie Magazine! I miss you so freakin much... it's sure fun to be on the line with you. Love you! 
Read her beautiful blog post here.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Soffritto Sister Diaries | A Prairie Farm Corps Reunion in Pictures

Once again, the Prairie Farm Corps lit me up! 

Terri and I were so excited to come for a day and help prep for their annual Celebration Dinner - Terri made several vinaigrettes and a gorgeous hand chopped pesto with the students while I made two batches of homemade ice cream and prepped a bunch of ice cream starters for later freezing + churning.

Veronica, your Celebration Dinner kitchen team rocked out an epic feast and it was crazy fun to help you prep for it all. I am in awe of each one of you and the beautiful spread you shared with your friends and family to honor the incredible Summer you created together. 

Thank you Eric, Veronica, Amanda, Natalie, Shannon, Miya, Karina and Natalie for always inspiring me to cook with more vege and for rocking out a group of incredible students who will continue "waterfalling" out the importance of organic farming and the love of cooking from scratch!

Nurture the soil - Nurture the food - Nurture the soul - Nurture the community

I get goosebumps just thinking about how many people each one of you will inspire after you tell them about your Summer on the farm. We may never know how far and wide our impact will go... so keep sharing and passing down your favorite recipes and the skills you learned!

The Lake County Food Revolution = YOU!

To the mullies we go,