Hungry to Make a Difference? Here’s How.

pbj cupcakes

 

‘Tis the season of leftover Halloween candy and apple pies and egg nog and champagne at midnight – or at brunch – or both if you are so inclined. Or lucky. Blogs and magazine articles and morning shows are already talking about how to avoid the holiday weight gain and the post-party hangover.

But a recent article in The Denver Post, tucked inside the “Season to Share” insert, stopped me in my tracks. There I was, happily sipping my hot coffee after a busy morning that started with me getting four children dressed and fed and off to school; and ended  with me cleaning up dishes from their breakfast of steel cut oatmeal with plump raisins and organic bananas, and topped with cinnamon, nutmeg and milk delivered weekly from Robinson Dairy. Whew – life is HARD. Then I read the Post article:  “For pupils, breakfast is served – thanks to Hunger Free Colorado.” Oh.

Sometimes I need it spelled out, literally, in black and white. Just an hour earlier, two out of my four were whining about not wanting raisins in their oatmeal and now I was reading the unappetizing and staggering statistics – 83 percent of the students at Rose Hill Elementary in Commerce City qualify for a free breakfast. Ouch. Kids at Rose Hill were eating Ultimate Breakfast Rounds (aka “UBRs”), packed with fiber and protein to get little bellies full so growing brains could learn. Hmmm – makes you think, doesn’t it?

Hunger Free Colorado, in operation since 2009, served almost 134,000 daily breakfasts during the last school year.  That sounds like a lot because it is a lot – but I imagine there are many more children out there going without, coming from families that are not able to make even the most humble of ends meet.

At Epicurean, we have always been diligent about supporting the community in the fight against hunger. After all, Larry DiPasquale started the company because of his passion for feeding people. Our experience with dozens of organizations across the state have made an impact on the Epicurean staff; and clients such as Live Well Colorado, an organization that is fighting the battle against childhood obesity which, research shows, often stems from a lack of resources (think – money) to obtain fresh, healthy foods has stayed with us all. We have an ongoing partnership with We Don’t Waste, an innovative establishment that collects unused food from venues, caterers, restaurants, and other food purveyors and distributes it to Denver’s underserved populations.  And our 20-plus-year relationship with Volunteers of America has and always will be close to our hearts – we even donate a portion of our Epicurean Street Cuisine Food Truck proceeds to the organization.

Based on the Post article, Hunger Free Colorado believes that more than 815,000 Coloradoans are at risk for hunger. Our state is has one of the fastest-growing rates of childhood poverty in the nation – though we are 31st in the lineup for school breakfast participation. Clearly, there is a lot of work to be done and a lot of mouths to feed. So whether you are an individual and want to reach out to Hunger Free Colorado or a restaurant able to support We Don’t Waste or just one person able to make a lunch for a young neighbor, we applaud you and ask that you share your story with us on Facebook.  In the meantime, here is our take on a breakfast treat to serve to your own family, thanks to Yvette Garfield of Handstand Kids. Enjoy – while counting your blessings.

 Peanut Butter & Jelly Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting

Prep time: 10 minutes | Cook time: 20  minutes | Serves: approximately 20 cupcakes

Ingredients:

  • 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened at room temperature
  • 1 ¾ cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 jar of strawberry jam

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Place the flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl and whisk to combine, set aside.
  • Place the softened butter and sugar in another large bowl and beat with an electric mixer on a low speed until smooth.
  • Add peanut butter to the bowl with the butter and sugar and mix on low speed until combined.
  • Add one egg and mix to combine. Repeat with remaining 2 eggs, mixing after each to combine before adding the next.
  • In another large bowl, whisk together the sour cream, vanilla extract, oil and buttermilk, set aside.
  • Add half of the dry flour mixture to the bowl with the butter. Mix on low speed until combined.
  • Add the sour cream mixture to the bowl and mix until combined.
  • Using rubber spatula, scrape down sides to make sure there are no lumps.
  • Add remaining flour mixture and mix until smooth.
  • Use a spoon to scoop the mixture into 20 lined cupcake pans or baking cups.
  • Bake cupcakes for approximately 20 minutes until golden brown, and let cool at room temperature.
  • Once cooled, use the melon baller to gently scoop out a small piece from the center of each cupcake.
  • Fill the holes with the strawberry jam.
  • Cover tops of cupcakes with Peanut Butter

 

*Alternative: For those with nut allergies, try this recipe with sunflower seed butter.

 

Let’s Do Lunch- Six Tips for Lunch Box Success

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We recently posted our “Oh, Happy Day” blog highlighting some breakfast options for the morning rush hour. Soon, we were inundated with requests for lunch ideas that are healthy, quick and appealing to the short set who are the leaders of tomorrow. For real. Tell them that-it makes them feel good. Anyway, we enlisted the help of Yvette Garfield, author of the Handstand Kids cookbooks, to come up with some ideas. She gets an “A+” in our book:

6 quick tips for back to school lunches

1) Get a fun new lunch box/bento box that has compartments. This helps with giving variety and portion size.
2) Make lunch colorful. Challenge yourself to get 3 different colors of fruits and veggies.
3) Have your child involved in the lunch process-from farmer’s market shopping to making a dish for the lunch box.
4) Don’t be afraid of soup for lunch. Kids love soup and it’s a great way to sneak some veggies. There are lots of great thermos options that keep soup hot till lunch time.
5) Dessert is ok, just try to avoid preservatives and processed items (see the recipe for Popcorn Balls below).
6) Read your labels! Make sure your peanut butter is made with JUST peanut butter, not sugar and hydrogenated oils. Fruit juices should not include artificial sugar; simple ingredients are always best.

Three recipes from Handstand Kids!

Apple-licious Taquitos

Ingredients:

  • 1 package whole wheat tortillas
  • 6 apples, red or green (manzana)
  • 1 jar applesauce (no sugar added)
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon (canela)
  • Vegetable oil (aceite)

Tools:

  • Instructor knife
  • Apple corer
  • Paint brushes
  • Spatula
  • Large spoon

Instructions:

1. Dice 3 slices of manzana on the cutting board. Mix the diced manzana with the applesauce.
2. Add a few dashes of canela in the bowl. Stir.
3. Use the pastry brush to lightly coat both sides of the tortillas with aceite.
4. Place 1 heaping tablespoon of the manzana mixture in the center of each tortilla.
5. Roll the tortillas to make a flute shape then carefully place them on the griddle, seam-side down.
6. Cook for 5 minutes, flipping occasionally, until the tortillas become crispy. Then remove them from the heat and let cool.

Popcorn Ball Treats!

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup agave or honey
  • 6 cups plain popped popcorn
  • 1 handful of dried fruit (cranberries or blueberries)

Tools:

  • Large bowl
  • Oven mitts
  • Wooden Spoon
  • Plastic wrap
  • Ribbon

Instructions:

1. Pop the popcorn kernels in a popcorn machine, microwave or over the stove and put into large bowl.
2. Pour the oil over the popped corn and gently mix through with wooden spoon.
3. Drizzle the agave or honey over the mixture. Carefully stir with the wooden spoon and pour in the dried fruit.
4. Grease hands with a light coat of oil and quickly shape the coated popcorn into balls before they cool.
5. Cover them with the plastic wrap and add to any lunch for a delicious treat.

Fiesta Corn

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups canned or fresh corn kernels
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 cup button mushrooms
  • 1 lima (lima), halved
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil (aceite)
  • Salt and pepper

Tools:

  • Cutting board
  • Knife
  • Large skillet
  • Measuring cups
  • Measuring spoons
  • Wooden spoon

Instructions:

1. Dice the peppers and set aside.
2. Slice the mushrooms and set aside.
3. Chop the cilantro and set aside.
4. In the large skillet, heat the aceite over medium heat.
5. Add the peppers and mushrooms, stirring them in with the wooden spoon. Cook for 4 minutes.
6. Add the corn and cook for another 3 minutes, or until all vegetables are soft.
7. Add salt and pepper to taste.
8. Squeeze the lima over the vegetables.
9. Stir in the cilantro and serve.

-Ciao
Stephanie Blackford
Communications Director, Epicurean Culinary Group
sblackford@epicureanCG.com