Friday, April 29, 2011

Carribean Menu!

Good Morning everyone. Todays Lunch Menu has a bit of a Carribean feel to it. Jerk Fish, Coconut Rice and Braised Collard Greens.

The term jerk spice (also often commonly known as Jamaican jerk spice) refers to a spice rub. The word jerk refers to both the spice rub and to the particular cooking technique. Jerk can be applied as a cooking method for many different types of proteins, including goat, chicken, pork, fish, shellfish, tofu, and others. Jerk cooking has developed a worldwide following in most major Western European cosmopolitan urban centers.

Coconut rice is a dish prepared by cooking white rice in coconut milk or coconut flakes. As both the coconut and the rice-plant are indigenous in places all-around the world, coconut rice too is found in many cultures throughout the world (spanning across the equator from the caribbean to southeast-Asia).

Coconut Rice Recipe

2 cups rice
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup canned unsweetened coconut milk
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Rinse and drain rice in cold water. Place in a saucepan with water, coconut milk, and salt. Place the pot over high heat and, bring the liquid to a boil. Stir and reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting and cover the pot tightly with the lid. Continue cooking for 15 minutes.

Remove the pot from the heat and let stand 10 minutes, covered. Fluff with fork and serve.

Bon Appetit!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

We've got seedlings!

There's always a lot of excitement in the air (not to mention allergens! Achoo!) as the plants and trees that have survived with us through the long winter start to bloom and blossom. Walking around New York the past few weeks it's been impossible not to notice the Pear Trees and Cherry Blossoms showing signs of life from Harlem to Brooklyn. Meanwhile, here at HCZ we've been incubating our own set of seedlings for our Kitchen Garden...and after a few days and weeks of patience...we've got sprouts!

These seedlings will grow up to be some deliciously fresh fruits and vegetables. Plus along the way we'll get to learn about the amazing scientific processes that go on in the soil and the systems that support turning sunlight, air, and water into edible energy. So far we've started lots of tomatoes (Tiny Tim, New Yorker, Fox Cherry, Green Zebra, Goldie), some cucumbers (Big Munchers and Pickling Cucs), Eggplants (Apple Green and Black Beauty), Peppers (Big Jim and Hot Chili), Herbs (Thyme, Tarragon, Dill), some melons (Banana, Iroquois, Jerry Lind), some squashes (Patty Pan Squash and Pumpkins) and some cruciferous vegetables (Broccoli and Brussels Sprouts) to transplant into the garden.

We love the artist illustrated seed packets that we got from the Hudson Valley Seed Library and are excited about the heirloom varieties donated by John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds! What about you? Are you starting to think about growing your own balcony or fire escape garden now that the weather is turning? Or do you want to get your hands dirty in our garden? We would love to give you a tour of what's growing and we're always looking for volunteers to help us with our latest project. Let us know if you want to get involved. Until next time, keep growing and learning and eating well!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Happy Earth Day!

Since 1970, April 22nd has been celebrated around the world in ways big and small as "Earth Day." This unique holiday promotes awareness and appreciation for the Earth's environment. The Harlem Children's Zone recognizes what an important idea this is and we're excited to be in the process of preparing our own school garden for yet another year of connecting our students and community members with the process of growing and harvesting their own food. In honor of Earth Day, we got out in the garden and cleaned up what was lingering from last season so that we could kick off our compost bin and get the beds ready for the new seedlings that are started.

According to the Earth Day website, "planting a garden at a school or at home is recognized universally as one of the best ways to teach children of every age the life sciences, to inspire a greater desire for whole foods and generally to reconnect them with Nature." We could not agree more and we are looking forward to enjoying and honoring our garden and this beautiful planet we call home, not just on Earth Day, everyday throughout the coming seasons.

You can participate in this day by making your own pledge at

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Food Field Trip: Family Life Academy Charter School

Chef Andrew and I took a field trip up to the South Bronx to visit Chef Bennett at Family Life Academy Charter School (FLACS). We'd heard that Chef Bennett had a commitment to serving freshly-made wholesome food in the school cafeteria and we wanted to peek in on his operation and see for ourselves.

Family Life Academy is a great example of a school community, like Promise Academy, that is taking wellness seriously and interested in feeding children a balanced, healthy diet that will set them up to succeed not just in the classroom, but well into adulthood. In February 2010, FLACS began to cook student meals on site as opposed to the regular practice of having frozen meals delivered to the school and then reheated.

FLACS also incorporates a science curriculum that offers new vocabulary and lessons about food’s biological impact on our bodies. The goal of the program is to help students have a healthy relationship with food. In addition to the food being served in the cafeteria, FLACS has several rooftop planters where students help grow vegetables and herbs and learn about the nature's natural recycling systems using worm bins and composting.

We were really impressed by the food service operation at Family Life Academy and wanted to share some of what we were most encouraged by from our visit:

  • The food service staff was doing a great job of engaging the students in what was being served and on the day we visited kids were happily eating steamed kale and filling their own trays with items of their choosing from the salad bar
  • The Teachers and Staff were helping in the cafeteria, monitoring the salad bar, encouraging the children to try the soup, maintaining order in a crowded lunchroom
  • There was a genuine enthusiasm and an obvious interest from students and staff in creating a healthy school environment for the students at FLACS
  • Just like Chef Andrew, Chef Bennett works hard to feed students a balanced diet and introduce them to a variety of cuisines, some of the most interesting menu items at the school were: Ropa Vieja, Miso Soup, Fish with Avocado Sauce and Root Vegetable Mash...who knows? Maybe you'll see some of these items showing up in our cafeteria!

It's always encouraging to learn and see how other people are transforming school lunch programs and supporting kids in eating for life. Way to go Chef Bennett and everyone at FLACS! Thanks for letting us come and visit and challenging us to create an even great community commitment to wellness here at HCZ.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Parent Cooking Class Spring Sign-Up

Calling all parents! We are currently doing sign-ups for our next Parent Cooking Class. The Free 10 Week Class is offered to all Promise Academy Parents and starts April 27th. Classes are held every Wednesday night from 6-8pm for 10 weeks. Executive Chef Andrew Benson will walk you through cooking basics covering everything from:
  1. Food Safety
  2. Knife Skills
  3. Simple Classic Kitchen Techniques, including healthy cooking techniques like how to:
    1. Saute
    2. Roast
    3. Blanche
    4. Grill
  4. Basics of preparing Healthy Foods, including:
    1. Whole Grains
    2. Lean Meats
    3. Fruits and Vegetables
    4. Beans & Legumes
  5. Fast, easy recipes for fresh family meals
Learn how to take your weeknight routine to the next level and improve your family's mealtime have fun and gain skills to show off to your friends and family!

To sign up or ask questions please email Zoila Del-Villar 
Photo used under Creative Commons via user ReneS

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Make a Commitment to Wellness!

With your help, our community can change the alarming national trends towards lower life expectancy and obesity for the next generation that the modern American diet and an inactive lifestyle contributes to. We strive to teach our community how to eat for life: to set our children up to thrive and live their best life. We want to help  you develop a healthy relationship to food and an active lifestyle. And we need you to support HCZ's healthy nutrition environment.

Be A Positive Example
Adult members of the Harlem Children's Zone and Promise Academy communities set an example for our children. Whether you are a teacher, a parent or a member of the staff you help our kids learn to recognize food as fuel for their growing bodies and active minds. You can also help us teach the next generation of Harlem's children healthy ways to celebrate their own food traditions as a unique expression of family and culture while modeling what kinds of foods they should be seeking out and piling on their plates. Click to read more about HCZ's Wellness Policy and our Community Food Pledges.

Eat for Life
The basics of a healthy balanced diet are simple, but not always easy to satisfy. Essentially our bodies need a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins to function well. Our bodies also do best when we are active--for kids that means at least 60 minutes of active play a day! We've got lots of opportunities to get active around HCZ for parents, staff and students to take advantage of.

Create Change
Too much of the food that is readily available in Harlem and across the country is heavily processed and full of excessive salt, sugar and chemical additives. Whether you call it fast food or junk food the additives can cause high blood pressure, interfere with mental focus, cause mood swings, interrupt our natural sleep cycles and even contribute to our risk of cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. We encourage you to fill your diet with more "whole foods" that are minimally processed and free of all the junk that's snuck its way into the typical American diet.

Simple, not easy
We recognize that changing your diet (especially as an adult) is not an easy task. That's why we're committed to helping you any way we can. Please let us know if you have specific needs or questions about eating well or feeding your family healthfully and we'll do our best to serve your specific needs. In the meantime, check out some of the excellent resources available around the web to help you eat better, get more activity and get involved with movements for creating positive change in our food systems locally and nationally.

Please visit our Wellness Resources to link to some of our favorite sites, groups and tools about healthy eating, living well, and making positive changes for yourself, your kids and your community.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Help Us Get our Garden Going!

Every year as winter thaws out into spring we get giddy thinking about returning to our work in the garden. We've ordered the seeds and are gearing up to start planting once the risk of frost has passed. Everyone who's a part of HCZ is invited to join in the fun of getting the garden ready to go! In fact, all next week, April 18th-22nd, we are hosting Community Garden Work Days from 1-4pm in the 5th Floor Terrace Garden. We'll be outside, unless there is rain, and you can come and help us:
  • Test the soil PH
  • Feed the soil
  • Clean up from the long winter!
  • Start our compost heap
  • Turn and till the soil to prepare it for new seeds and seedlings
  • Weed out any stubborn plants that have found their way into the planters
It's going to be a great week of garden prep and we hope to see you there. If you have any questions or want to schedule a specific time to come with your class or group, please email our gardener, Miss Mia, at See you in the garden!

Monday, April 11, 2011

New Cafeteria Posters Help You Understand Healthy Eating!

Promise Academy Cafeteria Posters
If you eat in the Promise Academy Cafeteria, you've probably noticed some new posters greeting you as you enter to get your food. Our Educated Eaters Project is working hard to get everyone at HCZ--children and adults, staff and parents--to understand what motivates the foods that we serve in our cafeteria, and what we mean when we talk about "eating well." We've developed 8 posters about the following ideas:

  • You Are What You Eat
  • How To Eat Well
  • Food Fuels Your Body
  • Food For Thought
  • Eat Local and Think Global
  • End the Obesity Epidemic
  • Eat Well + Be Active = Healthier You
  • Avoid Empty Calories
The posters are colorfully accented with photos of fruits and veggies, but besides being beautiful they all have important messages for our community. We hope you'll take a look at them the next time you come join us for Sloppy Joe's or Braised Ox Tails. In the meantime, we're launching a new series on this blog that will go along with these posters, give you some additional food for thought, and describe some of the science behind statements like "eat well, be well." So, stay tuned!