By Molly Burke, FoodCorps service member
Tuesday morning, Mrs. Gelonese’s class of first graders and I set out from Litwin for Luther Belden Farm, in Hatfield, to enjoy a dairy farm field trip donated to us by the New England Dairy and Food Council. Darryl and Lucinda Williams, the farm’s owners, introduced us to their many adorable calves and surprisingly large dairy cows, showed us how their cows are milked by a very precise robot, and made sure we left with a healthy appreciation for local food systems and goodies like stickers and Cabot cheese.
When I returned to Litwin, some 5th graders helped me put together tomato planters made from Home Depot buckets. McKinstry Farms and Harry Brandt from Bowe School generously donated the plants. Thanks, Harry and McKinstry!
Wednesday was one long exercise in self restraint as I prepared four dozen whole grain, lactose-free cupcakes and frosting for two end-of-year class parties for Litwin fifth graders. When people think of plant-based foods, what often comes to mind is savory recipes, like tofu stir fries and veggie burgers. I wanted to show students that they can incorporate vegetables into sweet dishes, too. A few years ago when I was interning at Whole Foods Market, I learned that the in-house bakeries use only natural food dye in their desserts; their vivid green, purple, and pink frostings had been achieved using things like spinach, blueberries, and beets. So I did some research and found natural food dye tutorials online to use with my students. In February, Mrs. Gelonese’s class made pink heart pancakes with beet-derived dye. It had worked pretty well, so I decided to do more colors for the parties. On Tuesday night, I made a fresh batch of the beet dye, plus green, purple, and yellow dyes, made from boiled spinach, blueberries, and turmeric powder, respectively. I had the fifth graders mix frosting with a few drops of dye in snack-size ziploc bags, then squeeze the colorful concoctions into the cupcakes. The dye made the frosting a little runny at times, but the end result was a rainbow of beautiful, naturally colorful cupcakes!
On Thursday, the Stefanik cooking club made whole-wheat pizza from scratch, topped with herbs from the school garden. I’ve been using this dough recipe (which I wrote about in the previous blog post) both at home and in cooking club meetings, and it’s a crowd-pleaser. It’s made with rapid acting yeast and doesn’t need rising time, so it takes only about 10 minutes to prepare, and when rolled thin, only about 12-15 minutes to bake in the oven, depending on how crispy you want it. While the yeast activated, we went outside to the garden to harvest some fresh basil, chives, and oregano from the herb beds. We experimented with both the sweet Genovese and the purple varieties of basil. The kids each got their own dough ball, rolled it out, and topped it with sauce, cheese, turkey pepperoni (lower in saturated fat than traditional pork), and herbs. I forgot to steal a bite, but the kids said it turned out delicious and it smelled heavenly!
On Friday, the Litwin 5th graders planted more buckets, this time with bell peppers and strawberries. Some of the strawberry transplants already had pale green berries growing. We’re all excited for a great June harvest.Back at Stefanik, I put up the garden signs the students painted earlier this month. Some of them are crop markers, and some of them display the many garden mottos I asked students to think up in class. To represent the many cultures that make up Chicopee today, these mottos were written in different languages. Here are some of my favorites.
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The ChicopeeFRESH team is a group of creative individuals who are working to feed Chicopee students healthy, local and FRESH foods each day.