Via Red Rabbit
The Red Rabbit Education Team had the privilege of “cooking” healthy no-cook recipes with some amazing East Harlem neighbors and partners in collaboration with SCAN New York.
SCAN New York, working in partnership with the New York City Food Policy Center at Hunter College and the NYC Housing Authority (NYCHA), is currently conducting a pilot project to develop a plan for resident-driven initiatives to increase access to and use of fresh healthy food in NYCHA communities. Funded by The Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund in partnership with United Neighborhood Houses, SCAN is working with NYCHA residents of all ages in a process that will identify the best strategies for future healthy food activities.
As part of this exciting initiative, Red Rabbit was invited to the SCAN Johnson Community Center on Wednesday evening to hold a “no-cook cook-off” for parents and their children. The focus of this week’s lesson was recipes using whole foods without any cooking necessary, and ensuring plenty of color and balance in every dish. The class reviewed that a whole food is one that we consume as close to its natural form as we can. (We like to ask the question, “Can you picture it growing in nature?”) When we pick a ripe fruit or vegetable, it is at its peak in nutritional value. Once we begin to process it, however, it starts to lose nutrients, especially when we add in unhealthy ingredients such as sugars and preservatives. We learned the difference between minimal processing (such as an ear of corn to frozen corn kernels) and high processing (such as an ear of corn to a bowl of sugary cereal), because some kinds of processing is better than others. In general, the less it’s processed, the healthier it is for you!
Other than being packed with whole and minimally-processed foods such as whole grain bread, fresh vegetables, and homemade salad dressings, the meals we made together were balanced and colorful. We discussed that the natural colors in foods are due to a range of phytonutrients–nutrients from plants that have disease-fighting properties–each serving a different benefit for our body. The more colors we eat, the more we can assure we’re taking care of every part of our body. It is also important to balance food groups in each meal, incorporating fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and healthy proteins onto every plate.
Together, parents and children at the Johnson Center prepared three colorful recipes that proved you don’t need to cook veggies to make them delicious! The final products were a Massaged Kale Salad with Chickpeas, Creamy Avocado and White Bean Wraps, and a Whole Wheat Panzanella Bread Salad. Participants were excited to work with some familiar foods such as avocados, some less familiar foods such as butter beans, and some very unfamiliar foods such as purple carrots! We learned to make our own salad dressings which are healthier than store-bought varieties, and techniques to make raw kale more palatable such as massaging leaves with olive oil, salt, and citrus juice. Using a rainbow of red, yellow, and orange peppers and purple and orange carrots brought beautiful color to our dishes and amazement to everyone’s eyes! Most of these items are available at farmers markets across New York City.
Most importantly, parents and children worked together to grate, mix, chop, and mash, illustrating that cooks of any age can help in the kitchen. After all, a family that cooks and eats together stays healthy together, so keep cookin’ NYC!
Other activities that were part of this event: