National moment of silence

Posted by on Dec 21, 2012 in families, giving, news and happenings | 0 comments

425489_129504550542112_1437038017_nThis morning at 9:30am there will be a national moment of silence in honor of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting.

In light of the tragedy that occurred in Newtown, Connecticut last Friday, here are some ways to help those families in need.

Ann Curry, of NBC News, used Twitter to ask her followers to commit to 20 acts of kindness as a way to pay tribute to the 20 children that were lost in this horrific event. Her fans were so tenderhearted to change it to #26ActsofKindness, including the teachers and school officials that risked their lives to protect the students of Sandy Hook Elementary.

Submit an Evergram post and send your own words of support to help families in their healing process. All posts will be delivered on December 31st to those trying to come to terms with what happened.

Donate to the Newtown Memorial Fund, a long-term foundation that will provide funds to the victims as well as establish academic scholarships in the victims’ names for generations of Newtown students to come.

The United Way has created the Sandy Hook School Support Fund to provide assistance with funeral expenses, counseling, and other services.

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’tis the season for giving!

Posted by on Dec 19, 2012 in giving, holiday, local food, seasonal, seasonal celebrations, Valentine's Day, pink lemonade, cranberries, recipes | 3 comments

chalkboardjarsThe holiday season is in full gear, with seasonal drink and food specialties, elaborate holiday window displays, and twinkling lights wrapped around trees, fences, and neighborhood lamp posts.

But trying to find the right gift for your friends and family can often lead to a hectic shopping experience. We are here to help! Here is a list of some thoughtful gifts to inspire and delight your gift recipients:


  • Canal House Cooks Every Day by Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton. The most recent publication from this quarterly cookbook series reflects the seasonality of ingredients. Their collection of recipes designed for the home chef is accompanied by richly colored photos and illustrations.
  • The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman. After gaining a huge following from her food blog of the same name, Deb set out to create a one-stop resource for her fellow urban foodies and cooking enthusiasts. With recipes ranging the gamut from grapefruit olive oil pound cake to pumpernickel grissini with horseradish creme fraiche dip, this collection will cover all your cravings.
  • The Sprouted Kitchen by Sara Forte. Another renowned food blogger, Sara focuses on nutritionally balanced meals, employing leafy greens with hardy whole grains. Often excluding meat, these recipes are the perfect gift for someone who is interested in Meatless Mondays.
  • The Family Dinner by Laurie David. Known for her work as the producer for An Inconvenient Truth, Laurie has written a great book about the importance of eating together as a family. She provides some wonderful recipes, tips to educate your children on green living, games and activities to get conversations going, and lots of wonderful advice from leading food experts.

DIY Kits

  • Goat Cheese Kit from Belle Chevre This DIY project makes it easy to become an artisanal cheesemaker. Included in the set are all the supplies needed to make your very own goat cheese, as well as simple step-by-step instructions.
  • Pale Ale Beer Brewing Recipe Kit Craft your very own microbrewed beer in the comfort of your own home. With this kit, you have the tools needed to create a gallon of your own of delicious beer, comparable to the likes of your favorite pale ale.
  • Back to the Root’s Grow Your Own Mushrooms Grow multiple crops of pearl oyster mushrooms in your own kitchen. This eco-friendly kit allows you to cultivate mushrooms that are often hard to find in the average grocery store.

Local Handmade Goods

  • Morris Kitchen’s Syrups This Brooklyn-based small-scale syrup factory delights the palate with flavors like ginger, preserved lemon, rhubarb, and spiced apple. Use these versatile and tasty syrups in cocktails, baked goods, or even salad dressings, and be sure to visit their website for more great recipes.
  • Grady’s Cold Brew Coffee Offering a New Orleans-style coffee concentrate that’s hand brewed and bottled in Kings County, this velvety-smooth concentrate is perfect poured over ice, mixed with water or milk, or even used in your favorite brisket recipe.
  • Empire Mayonnaise Co Any one of their uniquely flavored mayos will be a welcomed addition to your favorite sandwich. With varieties like black olive, seasonal clove orange, and white truffle, the local ingredients are easily detected by your tastebuds.
  • Liddabit Sweets’ The Snacker By purchasing this not-so-ordinary chocolate box, you receive the perfect amount of sweetness, saltiness, chewiness, and crunch all neatly compiled into the perfect individual chocolate bar.
  • Spoonable Check out their incredibly delicious caramel spreads, all made right here in good ole Brooklyn. Choose from salty caramel, Brooklyn butterscotch, spicy chili, flowery lavender, chewy sesame and peppered orange!

Other ideas

  •  Woodgrain Eco Notebook and Folder With the combination of clean lines and a nature-themed aesthetic, this notebook and folder are the perfect gift for a coworker. Made of recycled paper and printed with soy ink, these beautiful office essentials can easily liven up your workday routines.
  • Chalkboard Spice Jar Ideal for the kitchen enthusiast, these jars make it easy to find out exactly what’s in the spice cabinet. Because the chalkboard is erasable, they have an endless life span, and can switch from holding cinnamon to ground ginger to turmeric with the ease of an eraser.
  • Chemex Coffeemaker Perhaps one of the coolest looking coffeemakers around, this is not only a beautiful gift, but it is also super functional. Ranging in size from three cups to 10 cups, this coffeemaker takes brewing your ordinary cup of java and turns it into a sensory experience.
  • Make your own holiday cookies and pick up a fun vintage platter, or for more inspiration check out this fun list of homemade holiday gifts.

For more ideas, visit the Eat Boutique Shop and Food52’s online store for other food-related items. Also make sure to take a look at the website for inspired gifts and seasonal knickknacks, and New York Magazine’s comprehensive Annual Holiday Gift Guide.

And what better way to wrap these gifts than with your own handmade holiday tags. Check out this list of creative DIY gift tags to make your gift even more special. Happy giving, and holidays to all!

Photo courtesy of Baking Bites

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Transforming hospital food: a conversation with Chef Frank Caputo

Posted by on Dec 17, 2012 in agriculture, families, fast food, Food & Farm program, Food for thought, gardens, healthy food, healthy lifestyle, local food, news and happenings, wellness | 0 comments

IMG_1848During a breakout session at the Blogher 2012 conference this past August, we found ourselves in a room of health professionals discussing the current state of hospital food. As hands were raised, and points brought up, we heard from the Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) that they were breaking ground on an organic farm near their hospital in the middle of the dessert!

Naturally, we approached them and exchanged information. We wanted to learn more, so we organized an interview with their Chef, Frank Caputo to discuss the birth of their inspiring farm, and the impacts it will have on their community.

Butter Beans: What is the mission of CTCA?

Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA) is the home of integrative and compassionate cancer care. We never stop searching for and providing powerful and innovative therapies to heal the whole person, improve quality of life and restore hope.

Butter Beans: Why have you made healthy food one of your goals? Why are you emphasizing nutrition as an integral part of your mission?

We know that there is a correlation between good nutrition and better health. For me personally, I think the biggest demand is from our patients because they want better nutrition, they want better ingredients, the information is out there for them to see. They’re always asking us if their food is all natural or certified organic and that lends itself to how we cook. We cook from scratch and we know what’s in our food. My team and I work very closely with our Registered Dieticians in the Nutrition Department to make sure our patients have the best food available for their nutritional needs.

IMG_1724-1Butter Beans: Tell us more about the goals of your organic farm program.

One of our goals is to promote good health in general. We encourage our patients to adopt a more plant-based diet and limit their amount of red meat.

Another one of our goals is to educate our patients on nutrition, food, sources of food, and the quality of our food from the very beginning. We will introduce the philosophy of seasonal foods to our patients. They’ll be able to learn techniques on growing seasonal foods.

Our organic farm will allow us to re-localize our own food source. We are bringing the food that we use even closer to us; therefore, we’re cutting out the middle man – it’s literally coming out of the ground to the patients’ plates within minutes to hours.

Butter Beans: Have you used the farm as an educational tool in your hospital?

We plan on using the farm to educate patients on growing and planting their own produce. We plan on having harvesting seminar groups and cooking demonstrations by 2014 as well as a hands-on learning center. Additionally, the patient garden area of the organic farm will provide our patients with the therapeutic benefits of gardening.

IMG_1813Butter Beans: Have you seen a change in the way patients feel while staying in your hospital? Do you think the fresh food is making a difference?

Absolutely, all the patients are excited about the farm. They were excited about it even before anything was on paper because they’ve heard me talking about it. There’s been this growing excitement. Now that it’s coming to fruition, they’re even more excited to see it taking place.

Butter Beans: What are the reactions of patients when given your food?

They’re extremely thankful. It lends itself back to their knowledge of food and also their knowledge of what we do here specifically in the culinary department. They can’t believe this is hospital food. We are certainly not the norm. They’re not just surprised, they’re beyond surprised. They’re so happy that we take the amount of time that we do and make the investment to provide food that has a high nutritional value, looks good, tastes good and is healthy for them.

Butter Beans: What inspired you to become the executive chef for CTCA?

Initially, I have to give credit to my mentor Chef Jack Shoop who, at the time, was working as the Executive Chef at CTCA at Eastern Regional Medical Center in Philadelphia. I was unemployed and looking for a job. He tried to convince me to work in the hospital for about three months and I kept turning him down.

After a while, Chef Shoop told me, “I know you, you are ready for this mentally, physically, emotionally, this is where you’re going to grow into who you really are.” I didn’t know much about nutrition or working in a hospital, but saw this as an opportunity to help others, learn and continue my education.

What you don’t know today, you want to learn for tomorrow. Real food – we’re all going in that direction. It’s just a matter of time before we all start getting back to the roots of our food, down to the simplest ingredients. And knowing what’s in our food. We are what we eat. If you eat junk, we know that’s not the best for our bodies. If we eat food that is good with high nutritional value, we know that can only help us – and not just if you have cancer. Healthy food helps us throughout our lives.


Butter Beans: What was it like to cook your first meals with freshly picked local organic produce from the farm?

Our first harvest will be later this winter, but cooking with produce from McClendon’s Select farms is amazing. Chef Shoop used to say, “In order for the food to smile back, you have to smile at the food. If you’re not smiling at your food, how can the food smile? Knowing you have a product that came out of the ground yesterday – how could you not smile?” That was Chef Shoop’s philosophy.

Butter Beans: What are your thoughts on the Healthy Hospital Food Initiative in NYC? Have you been seeing changes in the quality and tastiness of hospital food in other states and other hospitals?

I think it’s great that the city is providing guidelines to its hospitals that will give patients access to healthier food while they’re undergoing treatment for any illness. Hopefully this will inspire others to follow suit.

Butter Beans: What were some of the unexpected hurdles in this project?

Well, one of the main questions was how were we going to irrigate a farm in the middle of Arizona! So, we constructed a one acre irrigation lagoon that holds 2.6 million gallons of water and used the abandoned Roosevelt irrigation canal system for our water source. And even before that question, though was finding a farmer – a farmer who had the skills, knowledge and capability to produce certified organic produce. Anyone can put a farm up, but how do you make it the best farm it can be and managed by someone who truly cares?

Butter Beans: What motivates you to do your best every day?

First and foremost, our patients and the people who serve our patients motivate me to do my best every day. I try to instill that same philosophy in my team. Do better today than what you did yesterday.


A big thank you goes out to CTCA and Chef Frank Caputo for your vision and leadership in transforming hospital food in our country. May others be inspired by your story, and follow suit!

Photos courtesy of CTCA

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Friday food quote

Posted by on Dec 14, 2012 in cooking with kids, families, Food for thought, food waste, healthy food, healthy lifestyle, raising children, seasonal celebrations, wellness | 0 comments

family together twill close upThe weekend is coming up, leaving more time to spend cooking up delicious meals with your friends and family.

While you are cooking, keep in mind ways that you can reduce food waste in your kitchen, and take pride in knowing that you are connecting your family and friends through food. Sitting down at the table together is a humbling and healthy practice that we should all embrace and take part in.

Laurie David, the author of “The Family Dinner” invites us all to think about dinner-time as an opportunity to reflect on our environmental footprint as home chefs, “Dinner time is perfect to practice and talk about green, sustainable issues with your kids. You know what, I’m going to stop using so much plastic wrap. Or, I’m going to try this composting thing. Cause you know why, it’s so much fun and so rewarding to not throw stuff in the garbage…”

Feel free to share your tips on how to reduce food waste in your kitchen space, as well as any stories that light you up when you think about a shared dining experience you’ve had recently. Happy cooking!

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yes, you can make you own nut milk!

Posted by on Dec 12, 2012 in healthy food, healthy lifestyle, home remedies, raising children, Recipes, wellness | 1 comment

5605235286_8306349ab8For those of us who are sensitive to regular milk or have an intolerance, we often use nut milks as substitutes.

While alternative milks like soy, almond, coconut are great options for those of us on a specific diet, additional ingredients are plugged into these otherwise simple and healthy beverages to help them stay shelf stable.

The next time you purchase a common substitute for milk, take a peak at the ingredient list. Most of these milks contain a few funny sounding ingredients such as: carrageenan, potassium citrate, vitamin A palmitate and natural flavor to name a few.

Let’s get back to the roots of simple and healthy milk alternatives, and make them at home where you are in control of your ingredients.

Check out this streamlined video, and learn how to make your own almond milk by following Body + Soul’s brilliant almond milk recipe below:

Step 1: Soak one cup of raw almonds in water overnight. Leave extra water to allow for swelling.

Step 2: Remove almonds from water. For a less gritty texture, remove skins. Toast for a richer flavour.

Step 3: Place almonds in a blender with two cups of water. Blend until creamy.

Step 4: You can add flavouring such as cinnamon, honey or saffron, then blend again.

Step 5: Strain mixture through cheesecloth or a fine strainer to separate pulp. Drink. For a creamier version, leave covered in the fridge overnight. It will keep for up to a week.

Step 6: Dry-roast remaining pulp and store in a jar to use as almond flour. Alternatively, place discarded almond skins and pulp in cheesecloth to use as a body scrub.

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