What’s Cooking: Chocolate Beet Muffins

whats cookingDid you know there are 56 grams of sugar in a 20 ounce Gatorade? You would have to eat 4 bananas to get that same amount of sugar from fruit (if that’s even possible!). And when you eat those bananas instead, you are actually full from all the fiber, you get a host of additional vitamins and minerals, and time for your body to absorb them as you digest.

For our February cooking classes we talked about sugar and how easy it so over-consume when you are having processed sweets and drinks. The recommended daily maximum for men is 38 grams (9 teaspoons) and for women is 25 grams (6 teaspoons). Both are less than that single Gatorade. Using fruits and vegetables to satisfy our sweet tooth can be just as delicious (or even more so) than desserts using processed sugar.

These chocolate beet muffins were very popular in our February classes. If your child didn’t get to join us in class, they can try making them at home with the recipe below.  Our April classes are all about breakfast:

Broccoli Head Chefs (9-12 year olds)

Breakfast Bonanza – Wednesday, April 3rd, 2019, 4-6pm

Celery Sous Chefs (5-8 year olds)

Pancake Party – Wednesday, April 24th, 2019, 4-5pm

Pancake Party – Thursday, April 25th, 2019, 4:30-5:30pm

Chocolate Beet Muffins

Adapted from Minimalist Baker

  • 2 tablespoons flax meal
  • 5 tablespoons water
  • 1 cup beet puree
  • ¼  cup maple syrup, agave, or honey (pick ONE of these to use)
  • ⅓  cup brown sugar
  • ¼  teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 ½  teaspoon baking soda (1 teaspoon + ½ teaspoon, or ½ teaspoon measured 3 times)
  • ¼  cup vegetable oil
  • ¼  cup soy milk
  • ½  cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 ⅓ cups wheat flour (1 cup + ⅓ cup)
  • ⅓ cup semisweet chocolate chips + more for topping

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 C) and line a mini muffin tray with paper liners.

Whisk ground flax and water in a large mixing bowl and let rest for 5 minutes. Measure the rest of the ingredients while you wait.

Add beet puree, oil, maple syrup, brown sugar, baking soda, salt and whisk for 45 seconds.

Stir in the soy milk and whisk once more.

Add cocoa powder and flour and stir with a spoon or spatula until just combined, being careful not to over-mix. The batter should be quite thick. 

Lastly, stir in chocolate chips. Then divide batter evenly between muffin tins (they should be filled just to the top).

Bake for 17-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool for a few minutes in the pan, remove from tins and let cool on a cooling rack. Will keep covered for several days. Freeze for longer-term storage.

Read the rest of the March Sprout!

Photo by Norm Eggert.

What’s Cooking: Beta Carotene

carrotsOur October cooking classes were bittersweet because they were the last ones we spent in the garden. Even though most of the garden was put to bed, we still harvested kale, carrots, beets, dill, sage, cilantro, and parsley. In our apple cooking classes we used local apples for an apple tasting and then the Celery Sous Chefs (5-8 year olds) made baked apple oatmeal and apple slices topped with their choice of toppings including sun butter, coconut flakes, dried fruit, and mini chocolate chips. The Broccoli Head Chefs (9-12 year olds) made the same baked oatmeal, plus a raw apple crisp and a kale salad with apples and beets.

Our Halloween classes featured beta carotene. Both ages learned about the health benefits of this vibrant pigment that can be found in carrots, pumpkin, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, and cantaloupe (and other plants too!). It helps our eyes be able to see (but doesn’t improve vision), helps with growth and development, and supports a healthy immune system. The Celery Sous Chef classes made two festive dips: a pumpkin white bean dip and a black bean dip. The Broccoli Head Chef class made both of those dips plus a roasted butternut squash, apple and leek soup, and a grated carrot salad.

This carrot salad does take a bit of work grating, but it was a big hit! The kids wear a pair of these gloves while grating as extra protection against cuts.

Our cooking classes are almost done for the year, but a few are still open! The 2019 schedule will be posted in December.

Broccoli Head Chefs (9-12 year olds)

Magic Eggs – Tuesday, November 27th, 2018, 3:30-5:30pm

It’s a Party! – Monday, December 10th, 2018, 3:30-5:30pm

Shredded Carrot Salad

Recipe adapted from My Paris Kitchen: Recipes and Stories by David Leibovitz

  • 2 pounds carrots
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • Juice from 1 lemon (about 3 tablespoons)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped herbs such as parsley or chives

Using the large holes of a box grater (or using a food processor), grate the carrots.

In a mixing bowl whisk together the olive oil, salt, mustard, sugar, and lemon juice. Toss the grated carrots in the dressing with the chopped herbs.

Host a Read for Seeds Fundraiser

Sprout Schools PhotoThis year we are thrilled to introduce you to our newest fundraising program for schools, Read for Seeds!

Each year Community Harvest Project farms fruits and vegetables to donate to individuals experiencing food insecurity. The produce we grow provides free, nutritious food for families in need who otherwise would not have access. We do so by using a neighbor-helping-neighbor approach, and engage volunteers each season to plant, tend, and harvest all of our crops. In 2017, Community Harvest Project hosted 8,456 volunteers who grew 271,509 pounds of produce for donation to food insecure individuals in Worcester County.

Many of our visitors are students, with over 3,500 elementary and middle school youth visiting our farms annually. After several years of working with local schools, we saw an opportunity to combine education and community service.  As you know, frequent practice is one of the crucial components of becoming a good reader. Similarly, frequent community engagement is an essential component of becoming a well-rounded individual. Our Read for Seeds program encourages students in their reading practice, engages them in community service, and raises funds for both our organization and your classrooms!

Here is how it works:

  • Pledging – Students collect pledges from relatives, friends, and neighbors for 15-minute time blocks that they will commit to reading during a two to three week reading period; we call this the Read-a-Thon! During the Read-a-Thon, students track the amount of time they read on the pledge form.
  • Donating – Once the Read-a-Thon is over, students follow up with their supporters to gather their pledges.  The pledges will then be split between your participating classrooms and Community Harvest Project.
  • Growing – The donations will help support our farm operations and your schools.  All produce grown by Community Harvest Project is donated to those in who need it most throughout Worcester County.
  • Celebrating – Participating classes will be invited to visit our farm in North Grafton to celebrate their hard work and see what they have helped accomplished!

Our team will support your classrooms throughout the entirety of the program with Read for Seeds materials, presentations, and more.  To sign-up for this program for the 2018-2019 school year, or if you have any questions, please contact me, Carolyn Ambrose, at 774-545-5409 or carolyn@community-harvest.org.  We look forward to collaborating with you!

October 2016 – Volunteers of the Month

The McDonough Family

leah-finn-ciaraPlease join us in a rousing round of applause for Leah, Finnegan and Keira McDonough, our Volunteers of the Month for October.  Like many of our volunteers something here seems to have resonated with them and they can be found visiting the farm again and again.  It seems that they have found a great family activity and originally what was going to be an article written by our staff has turned into a question and answer session that can’t be matched as a story to inspire.  Thank you Leah, Mike, Finnegan and Keira for all you do to support Community Harvest Project we really appreciate your efforts.

How did you first hear of CHP?

I was working for a regional accounting firm and in 2008 the firm decided to host an annual Community Day of Caring.  I was on the committee for our Westborough office to plan the event and we had to search for organizations where our large office could volunteer.  In our search, we came across the Community Harvest Project and having moved to Grafton only a couple years earlier, I was surprised to find such a great organization was basically in my backyard.  CHP was a much smaller organization back then and did not have the reach that it does now.  It is wonderful to see how much it has grown and what a tremendous following of supporters it has generated over the last several years.

Why did you choose Community Harvest Project as a non-profit to support?

From the first time I volunteered as part of my former employer’s Community Day, I knew that the Community Harvest Project was a special place.  The people there were so caring, kind and invested in doing something for the greater good.  The first day I volunteered, I also signed up to become a Volunteer Team Leader and I really enjoyed that role for the next few years until I had my first child.  It is incredible how many people you meet from all walks of life who come together to help others while getting your hands a little dirty.  I have been very much looking forward to the day when I could take my children to get involved and as this past spring approached, I couldn’t wait to get my hands dirty again!

 My kids and I enjoy looking at the choices of rows we can sponsor each year.  I always let them pick which fruit/vegetable they want to sponsor.  I also use it as vehicle to make an annual memorial contribution on behalf of two very close people that we lost a few years ago who meant a lot to both my husband, Mike, and myself.  It is great to be able to make a financial donation to a local organization where you can really see how that monetary support is used while also being able to make a donation on behalf of people who will forever remain in our hearts.  We very much value having a local organization like the Community Harvest Project that we can support both financially and personally.  The fundraising events are also tremendous and something the whole family can enjoy.

What are you hoping for Finnegan and Keira to experience and learn while volunteering here?

My original hope was to try to leave the farm a little better than when we first arrived each day, but to my surprise, my kids really took to farming too!  I wanted to encourage them to come with me to CHP with the hope that they would start to learn what it means to give back to your community, that it is important to help others and you can have a lot of fun doing it too.  I also hope that when they are a little older to be able to take them to the Worcester County Food Bank so they can not only be involved in the planting, weeding and harvesting of fresh produce, but also see where that produce goes and how many people can benefit from it.  Every year we make a point to go through our outgrown clothes and books/toys to donate to others who could use them.  I try to teach them about their neighbors and other community members not having as much as we might have, but to see it all first hand through the Community Harvest Project is such a tremendous feeling when you can donate your time and help others.  It is extremely gratifying!

What are your favorite things to do on the farm?  Least favorite?  How about Finnegan and Keira?

I really love it all!  Each day that we visit, we try to show up at the farm with a positive attitude and a willingness to take on any task that is needed.  Keira and Finnegan really seem to enjoy planting and they also really enjoy harvesting, especially when they could compete over who found the biggest pepper or squash.  They were also very interested in seeing all the groups, especially the young children their age that came on field trips from school.  I think it helped reinforce that there is a job for everyone at any age and with any ability or limitation.  I’m not going to lie, they definitely had days when they weren’t really into it and I did most of the work, but I would always encourage them and try to find a way to give them a job or responsibility so they contributed in some way that day.  Beyond the enjoyment of being outside and getting dirty as we work hard to help others, I really enjoy all the fascinating people that you get to meet.  This past year we met people young and old, local and from foreign countries, and everyone has a different story as to how they learned about CHP and why they were there on the farm that day.  What an extraordinary experience that can be shared!

What advice would you give to other families looking for a place to volunteer?

I would tell them don’t hesitate to try it out!  It is such a rewarding experience.  The staff are AMAZING and so engaged with the farm, the volunteers and the overall mission to aid in providing fresh produce to those in need.  Some days are hot and some are very wet, but knowing what an impact you are making as you see all of the other volunteers out there contributing their time and energy as they get dirty in an effort to help others, could not be more fulfilling.  There is a job or task for everyone as we all work together to help feed those that are hungry.

finn-keira-collageIs there anything else that you would like to add?

In an effort to really teach my kids what an impact their time and energy was making I created a collage of pictures and a log of all the things we did while on the farm in 2016.  We have this collage in our kitchen so we can see it every single day and acknowledge what a great job we did together.  I wanted to show them that while one visit may not seem like much, we really did a lot and when you add it all up, look at how much we accomplished over the growing season.

Thank you all for the time you put in over the season! The staff had a wonderful time getting to know the whole McDonough family, and watching the kids get more comfortable farming. We loved having you out and hope to see you in the spring!

Read the rest of the October 2016 Sprout!

June 2016 Veggie of the Month

Collard Greens

collards.PNGOur June Veggie of the Month is collards! These hearty greens are among the first of our crops transplanted into the fields, along with other plants in the brassica family such as broccoli and different cabbage varieties. Brassicas can withstand much lower temperatures than the likes of the nightshade family (tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, etc) so they are a perfect candidate to go in the ground in early May. This also means that they are our first crops ready to be picked! We will be picking a few for a small distribution this week, and then starting to pick them in earnest next week.

The benefit to planting collards does not just come with their early harvest date. Not only are they easy to grow, but you can harvest leaves from the same plant repeatedly like you can with kale. The plant will continue to produce new leaves throughout the summer and into the fall.

Collards are a great source of vitamin C, soluble fiber, vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin K, vitamin B1, potassium, calcium, iron, and omega-3 fatty acids. While they are crammed with vitamins, collards don’t have as strong of a flavor as some of their kin like kale, so they are a good beginner green. The age of the leaves does not affect flavor, but older leaves are tougher and should be cooked for longer. Though in the traditional Southern way they are braised for a long time, collards are also a great and fresh tasting green when cooked just briefly or eaten raw. Collards are also used in many other cuisines, such as those of Africa, India, Egypt, Spain and Pakistan. They are spiced with many different flavorings not limited to garlic, ginger, chiles, coconut, turmeric, coriander and cardamom. Since collard leaves are large and sturdy they also make excellent wraps (see our Pinterest board for a few recipes!). Don’t be scared by the seemingly odd addition of peanut butter in this recipe, it makes for a great peanut sauce and will quickly convert collard skeptics!

Collards with Peanut Butter

20150714_185029.jpgRecipe from Vegetal Matters. Serves 4-6.

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger
  • 1 lb collards, washed, large stems removed, and roughly chopped
  • ¼ cup vegetable stock or water
  • 3 tablespoons peanut butter (or other nut butter, or tahini)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice

Heat the oil in a large deep skillet or pot with a lid over medium heat. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for 3 minutes until it is slightly colored and fragrant. Add the collards, stock/water, peanut butter, salt, and pepper. Cover and cook until they are wilted, about 5 minutes. Uncover, and cook at a low bubble for 5 minutes more. If the pan looks dry add more stock/water, but you want to have a thicker sauce. Finish with the lime juice and serve as a side or over brown rice.

Read the rest of the June 2016 Sprout!