Following dumpling ingredients, from farm to frying pan, in sixth grade

Posted by on Feb 21, 2018 in agriculture, Chinese New Year, cooking classes, cooking with kids, dumplings, social studies | 0 comments


IMG_0913Laura Cameron’s sixth grade class at BUGS, a charter middle school in Windsor Terrace, was having a hard time accepting the fact that favorite foods like bread and pasta come from–gasp–plants.

If the food didn’t strictly look like a vegetable–and of course, processed foods like store-bought pasta do not–it was hard for them to imagine how that particular food had gone from farm to table.

IMG_0927Moreover, it was hard for these children to imagine how historical peoples from around Asia, which they were studying, had managed to figure out how to turn a wild grass like wheat into the domesticated and versatile product it is today, and how to turn the hardy brown grain into the finely-ground white flour we use in thousands of products.

So, they reached out to our team at Butter Beans for assistance. Our educators were happy to roll up our sleeves and come up with a hands-on lesson plan to help them make these connections. Our first and last thought: dumplings.

Dumplings, which we prepared with wheat-based wrappers and served alongside rice for contrast, are an incredibly IMG_0904fun and educational food to prepare with groups of children. A few things we like about doing dumplings with kids of all ages:

  • Dumplings are part of the worldwide family of “pocket foods,” including ravioli, pierogi, empanadas and many other dishes, so almost every kid can find some connection to this dish via their own home culture.
  • While dumpling wrappers can be handmade, they can also be purchased cheaply (about $2.50 for a packet of 50 at Whole Foods), making it an activity unlikely to break the school budget, especially if each kid makes a single dumpling.
  • When preparing dumpling filling, there are many different ingredients and techniques involved, ensuring thatIMG_0943 every kid stays busy and gets to contribute. While we teach all of our students the same knife skills that adults might learn in a cooking class (with kid-safe knives, of course), some students might also find that they’re more comfortable working a grater or even using scissors to break down herbs.
  • All of our recipes are vegetarian–the best fit for our health-aligned mission, as well as NYC’s diverse population–and this one provides an especially appealing vehicle for vegetables that are simply minced and tucked inside. That said, they also allow kids (and parents) to see that they can easily add flavor to veggie-based dishes without using animal protein, i.e. by adding garlic and ginger and by creating a punchy, salty sauce using just soy sauce, rice vinegar and sesame oil.


When cooking in the classroom, family involvement makes all the difference

Speaking of cultural connections: Not only did this lesson kick off a Chinese New Year celebration, we’d be remiss if we didn’t note how important it was to have parent involvement in this activity, which involved constructing over a hundred dumplings with four groups of students in a sink-less school classroom. Parent volunteers made this flurry of tasks possible by staffing the pan-frying station, clearing dishes and providing pep talks. (Full disclosure: Belinda DiGiambattista, founder of Butter Beans, was one such parent.) 


Being able to invite parents into the classroom space is a rare opportunity for us educators. We want them to see theIMG_0922 hard work that their kids are doing and to feel a part of the community. We also know that as partners in caregiving, educators have an important role to play in helping parents to expose their kids to foods they might not try at home. For example, parents don’t have the benefit of peer pressure, which can often convince picky toddlers or teens that being courageous in the kitchen is cool. After seeing their children open up and try new foods in class, many parents said that they were excited to try this recipe at home with their children, and some even left with to-go kits of leftover filling and wrappers to try it again that very night. When it comes to convincing New York kids to try new plant-based foods, it truly does take a village!

By, Ryan Cherecwich, M.Ed, Butter Beans Wellness Educator

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Sip-ly Sweet!

Posted by on Feb 14, 2018 in Valentine's Day, pink lemonade, cranberries, recipes | 0 comments



In our cafeterias today, our food service teams spread the Valentine’s Day love with a homemade pink lemonade…Butter Beans style!   But first, how does lemonade even become pink?  Do pink lemons exist?

If we trace back the roots of pink lemonade history, there are claims that this beverage was invented at two different circuses:  In 1857, when a concession stand ran out of water, its salesman, Pete Conklin, found a vat of pink water that apparently one of the show’s stars used to wash her pink tights in.  He used this water and sold it as, “fine strawberry lemonade.”  Another claim was in 1912, when  circus promoter, Henry Alliott, accidentally dropped his red cinnamon candies in the vat of lemonade he was making.  Although, both their sales sky-rocketed, it is doubtful that it tasted very refreshing!

Today, pink lemonade  is commonly made with raspberries, crushed strawberries or often colored with red dye. It turns out, pink lemons actually do exist and  they are called “Eureka lemons.”  They have a unique pink flesh and variegated with green stripes on its rind.  download-2

At Butter Beans, we strive to make our refreshments natural, seasonal and healthy.  Instead of using artificial ingredients and because it is still winter, we used seasonal cranberries to create the pink hue.  Try out our Homemade Sweet Pink Lemonade recipe at home for a “Sip-ly Sweet” and refreshing treat!

  • 2 cups agave nectar or honey
  • 2 cups lemon juice
  • Splash of *cranberry  juice to make it pink in color
  • Stir until agave or honey is dissolved
  • Top pitcher with water
  • chill

*Look for a cranberry juice that is 100% cranberry juice – no high fructose corn syrup or sugar added

At Butter Beans, “We go together like “cranberries and lemonade!”

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