Why I love Chia

chia seeds in spoon

Written by Angela Stanford, MBA, RD, RYT of Vital Nutrition & Wellness

I love chia for so many reasons! I recommend it to my clients because these simple seeds are a superfood packed full of nutritional health benefits, and I personally enjoy baking with chia as I am constantly in my kitchen adapting recipes to become allergy-free and vegan friendly.

1. Excellent Egg Substitute – I work with many clients who have allergies to eggs or have chosen vegan lifestyle, and they still want to eat baked goods. When mixed with water, chia seeds become an excellent binding agent that can be used in place of eggs when baking. For one egg, mix 3 tbsp water with 1 tbsp ground chia. Stir and let sit for 5-10 minutes. For a large egg, use 4 tbsp water.

2. Vegan and Allergy Friendly – Chia seeds are free from all common allergens, including gluten and offer a vegan source of omega fatty acids along with easily digestible protein.

3. Supports Digestive Tract Function – Chia is packed with soluble fiber along with vitamins and minerals that aid in normal digestive tract function. This fiber helps move food along the digestive tract and aides in the absorption of nutrients and elimination of toxins.

4. High in Antioxidants – Chia contains high levels of antioxidants. ORAC1 testing found chia higher even than flax seeds or blueberries!

5. Good Source of Calcium – Chia seeds are rich in calcium, containing more calcium by weight than whole milk. Plus, they contain the trace minerals magnesium and boron, which aid in the absorption of calcium and its’ utilization by the body.

6. Versatile – Chia seeds have a mild, nut-like flavor, are easily digested, do not have to be ground like flaxseeds in order to reap their omega-3 benefits. Sprinkle the seeds on salads, stir-fries and oatmeal, soak in nut, rice or soy milks and enjoy as beverages and puddings, or combine with water and use in baked goods in place of eggs. They are so east to use and store. Keep them in the refrigerator and grind as needed. If you buy them ground, use within 3-4 months.

Recipes using chia seeds

The chia seed was eaten by Aztecs for strength and was a main staple food along with corn and beans. Here are a few of my favorite chia seed recipes simple enough that kids can make and enjoy them too!

CHOCOLATE CHIA SEED PUDDING

Put all ingredients in a mason jar or other glass container with a secure lid and shake thoroughly. Store in refrigerator overnight. Top with chopped nuts and your choice of chopped/ sliced fruit. Sliced strawberries and sliced almonds are my favorite! Triple the recipe to share with friends and family!

Ingredients:

5 tbsp. chia seeds
1 cup non-dairy milk (I used unsweetened almond)
2 tbsp. cocoa powder
splash of agave

*note: If you use sweetened or vanilla flavored milk, you can cut back on the agave.

Adapted from a recipe by Jillian Bobowicz, Yoga Instructor at Bloom Retreat

VANILLA CHIA DELIGHT

Mix chia seeds and soymilk in a glass. Cover and pop it into the refrigerator for an hour. Remove from fridge and drink right from the glass. The chia soaks up the soymilk, so this drink reminds me of tapioca pudding. Also try stirring in a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg for an equally delicious drink!

Ingredients:

2 tbsp. chia seeds
4 oz vanilla soymilk

KIWI BERRY PUNCH

I always keep several bags of frozen berries in my freezer. Berries are natural sweet immunity boosters, low-calorie, and full of antioxidants. Berry consumption has been linked to diabetes and cancer prevention. Full Kiwi Berry Punch recipe here.

Ingredients:

2 cups spinach
2 cups water
1 cup blueberries (frozen)
1 cup mixed berries (frozen)
1 kiwi
1 banana
1/2 avocado
2 tbsp. chia seeds

*Use organic ingredients whenever possible. These recipes are Vegan and Gluten-free.

Where can you buy chia seeds?

I am often asked,  “Where do you find chia seeds?” I personally buy mine from Whole Foods, but you can find them at any local health food store, Whole Foods, Sprouts and even Trader Joes. You can also buy chia seeds on Amazon.

This entry was originally written for SimpleGreenSmoothies.com.  Visit them for more great ideas on how to use chia in your daily smoothie.

Angela offers nutrition counseling, teaches workshops combining yoga and mindful eating, and helps people start edible backyard and patio gardens. To learn more about Angela, visit Vital Nutrition & Wellness.

Blending vs Juicing 101

by Angela Stanford

Image As a nutritionist people are always asking me, “Angela, which is better, blending smoothies or juicing?”   And I answer, “Well that depends on why you want to blend/juice and what you blend/juice.”

Both smoothies and raw, fresh juices are very easy and delicious ways to infuse your body with lots of healthy nutrients, and to ingest those 5 servings of veggies and 3 servings of fruits we’re recommended to eat daily.

Whether you choose to blend or juice, you are gifting your body improved health by using these nutrient packed drinks to get more health giving, healing veggies and fruits into your body.  Regularly drinking smoothies or fresh, veggie-based juice will

  • increase your veggie intake dramatically
  • make it easier and quicker for your body to absorb nutrients because the blending and juicing allows the foods to become somewhat “pre-digested”
  • curb appetite and reduce cravings for sugar and processed foods because you are nourishing your cells with what they are asking for – micronutrients.  You body no longer craves the “carbs” (macronutrient)

BLENDING

Pros:

  • You can blend more than just veggies  – along with your veggies, you can add fruits, milks, ice, nuts, seeds, avocado, nut butters, oils, protein powders and crushed up supplements
  • Fiber helps fill you up – Since you are blending the whole veggie and fruit, the added fiber from the peels and flesh help fill up space in your stomach giving you a comforting feeling of fullness
  • Cost of the blender is minimal – most people already have a blender in their kitchen
  • Kids are more inclined to drink/eat smoothies – In my experience, kids love smoothies more than veggie-based juice because you can thicken them up to look and taste like a frozen dessert.  Just add a little frozen fruit, banana, ice or ground chia seeds to your veggies to help thicken up the drink.

Cons:

  • Less quantity of nutrients per serving than juicing – Because the fiber remains in the drink, you need to drink more smoothies than juice to get the same amount of vitamins, minerals and phytotnutrients per glass
  • Some produce is not good for blending. Root veggies like carrots, sweet potatoes, parsnips and beets are packed full of nutrition, but don’t taste so good in smoothies.  They come off chalky and bitter. They are more suitable for juicing.

JUICING

Pros:

  • More veggies per serving – Since the fiber is removed, more veggie juice fits in the glass versus a smoothie
  • Easier to digest nutrients – Unlike blending, juicing extracts nutrients and most of the water from veggies and fruits leaving behind plant fibers in skins, peels and seed hulls.  This allows your body to absorb the nutrients quicker without having to expend energy to digest all the bulk of the fiber too.
  • Quicker energy boost – Juice has a higher concentration of veggies (and therefore nutrients) per glass versus a smoothie, and is in an even more pre-digested format than smoothies for quicker nutrient absorption.
  • Less heat damage.  Blades run at high speed on blenders that can slightly heat the smoothie which could kill off some of the beneficial enzymes.  To counteract this, add ice to your smoothie to cool it down.

Cons: 

  • Juicing machines sometimes more difficult to clean –  Juicers usually have more parts to clean and take a little longer to clean than blenders
  • More refrigerator space required –  Juicing requires more veggies and fruits per serving than blending, so you need to have more refrigerator space to store them
  • Veggie costs are more than blending – because you are using more veggies per serving, you need to buy more

Along with SimpleGreenSmoothies.com, I’m fond of a book called The Juicing Bible by Pat Crocker.   It is a great resource for to blending and juicing for both newbies and veterans.  It offers dozens of recipes for raw, fresh juices, blended drinks and homemade frozen treats made from these nutritious beverages.

So now that you know the pros and cons of blending and juicing, you make the choice….or do you have to?  Why not do both!

Angela offers nutrition counseling, teaches workshops combining yoga and mindful eating, and helps people start edible backyard and patio gardens.  To learn more about Angela, book a FREE 15 minute consult or learn about her upcoming classes and workshops, visit www.vitalandwell.com.

How To Get Enough Calicum Without Drinking Milk Or Eating Dairy

by Angela Stanford

baby spinach
photo from familysponge.com website

Q: My kids aren’t fans of milk and we don’t push it. Are we missing out on calcium or other nutrients to build strong bones and teeth? We do drink some almond milk and occasionally coconut milk, but in the back of my mind I wonder if we should be supplementing with something additional.

A: “This may surprise you, but your kids can get all the calcium and other nutrients they need for strong bones and teeth without ever drinking a drop of cow’s milk. Humans like all other mammals were not designed to ingest breast milk after the first few years of life. After weaning, most of the enzymes needed to adequately digest the milk sugars (lactose) and milk proteins (casein and whey) decline in the human body since these substances are not in the other foods we traditionally hunt and gather. This is why so many people have digestive issues, true allergies and sensitivities to milk and other dairy products.”

How to get enough calcium without drinking milk or eating dairy

Kids can get the 800-1300mg of calcium recommended daily by eating a variety of other whole, unprocessed foods including spinach, kale, okra, collards, Chinese cabbage, soy beans (edamame), tofu, broccoli, beans, salmon, and sardines. Calcium is also found in fortified foods like breakfast cereals, orange juice, and most nut, rice, soy and coconut milks.

More importantly, kids need to get enough vitamin D, magnesium, manganese and vitamin K to help the body absorb calcium into its more than 200 bones and teeth. Without adequate calcium absorption, studies have shown that their bodies can be plagued later in life with osteoporosis, heart disease, hypertension, cancer and kidney stones.

Whole food sources of calcium absorption-aiding nutrients

Magnesium – spinach, swiss chard, cocoa powder, pumpkin, squash, sesame seeds, tahini, molasses, dry roasted soy beans (edamame), almonds, cashews, whole grain oats, wheat,

Manganese – spinach, wheat germ, rice bran, oat bran, hazelnuts, pine nuts, pecans, roasted pumpkin and squash seeds, flax seeds, sesame seeds, tahini, sunflower seeds, dry roasted edamame, chili powder, cocoa power, chili powder

Vitamin K – dried herbs including basil, sage and thyme; deeply colored leafy greens like kale, collards, cress, spinach, turnip Greens, mustard greens, beet greens, swiss chard; broccoli, spring onions (scallions), brussels sprouts, asparagus, pickled cucumber and prunes

Vitamin D –. Vitamin D is in very few whole foods in very small amounts-fatty fish (like tuna, mackerel, and salmon), beef liver, and egg yolks.

Your body also makes vitamin D with exposure to sunlight, but that process is hindered with sunscreen and because kids are spending more time in doors. Therefore some foods have been fortified with vitamin D like dairy products, orange juice, soy milk, and cereals. Doctors are also recommending up to 5000 IU of supplemental vitamin D per day to help with calcium absorption and other immune boosting benefits of vitamin D.

Try out these recipes below for a smoothie and a side dish rich in calcium and other nutrients your family can enjoy to grow strong bones and teeth.

Calcium-Rich Recipes

Almond Butter and "Jelly" Green Smoothie

Almond Butter and “Jelly” Green Smoothie Smoothie

Spinach and almonds are packed full of calcium along with other antioxidants and phytonutrients, so this green smoothie is super healthy and yummy. No added sugar or water needed. This is a sweet take on a child’s classic sandwich filled with fresh fruit and leafy greens.

Ingredients

2 cups spinach
2 ripe bananas
2 c. red and/or black grapes
2 c. baby spinach
2 c. almond milk
4 Tbsp almond butter

Directions

1. Blend your spinach and grapes together until you get a juice-like consistency
2. Add remaining ingredients and blend
3. Chill in refrigerator for an hour or use frozen grapes instead of fresh.
4. Top with raw sliced almonds

Find more healthy smoothie recipes at Simple Green Smoothies.

Sautéed Swiss Chard with Toasted Sesame Seeds

Ingredients

1 large bunch fresh Swiss chard
1 ½ Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 small clove garlic, sliced
Pinch of dried crushed red pepper
2 Tbsp water
1 tsp Earth Balance or butter
Pinch of salt
1 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds (or toasted pumpkin seeds)

Directions

1. Rinse Swiss chard in water and remove the toughest third of the stalk.
2. Chop Swiss chard leaves into 1-inch wide strips.
3. Heat medium-sized sauté pan on medium heat.
4. Add olive oil, sliced garlic and crushed red pepper; Sauté for about a minute.
5. Add chopped Swiss chard leaves and cover for 5 minutes.
6. Add 1-2 Tbsp water and flip chard over, so what was on the bottom is now on the top and cover for 5 more minutes.
7. Check for doneness by removing a piece of cooked chard and tasting to make sure it is tender.
8. Add 1 tsp butter or Earth Balance spread and pinch of salt.
9. Toss to combine.
10. Sprinkle with toasted sesame or pumpkin seeds and serve immediately.

  • Use organic ingredients whenever possible.
  • Recipes are Vegan and Gluten-free.

Angela offers nutrition counseling, workshops and corporate wellness programs. To learn more about Angela, a Registered Dietitian and Holistic Nutritionist, visit www.vitalandwell.com.

This post was adapted from an original post Angela wrote for www.familysponge.com  Family Sponge inspires families to live a balanced, adventurous and healthy lives.

Ask the Nutrition Expert: 10 Immune Boosting Foods

by Angela Stanford

grapefruit

Q: What foods can I feed my family to ward of colds and flu this season?

A: With fall upon us and temperatures dropping, people are catching colds and getting sick. Help protect your family by feeding them these 10 immune boosting foods.

10 IMMUNITY BOOSTING FOODS

Grapefruits are rich in vitamin C and flavonoids which are natural chemical compounds found to increase immune system activation. If you are not fond of grapefruits, eat their cousins – oranges and tangerines, other vitamin C-rich citrus fruits in season.

Sweet Potatoes are a great source of the antioxidant beta-carotene that sweeps up damaging free radicals and converts to vitamin A to keep the connective tissues in your skin strong and elastic as your first line of defense against harmful invaders like viruses and bacteria.

Mushrooms contain the mineral selenium which if you have low amounts of in your system studies have shown increases your risk of developing a more severe flu.  Also potent in the B vitamins riboflavin and niacin, studies have shown mushrooms have antiviral and antibacterial effects from the beta glucans that increase the production and activity of white blood cells to kill and rid your body of those nasty bacteria and viruses.

Garlic contains allicin, an infection fighting antioxidant that helps ward off immune system invaders and bacteria like H pylori.  A British study showed that people who ate more garlic in their diets were 2/3 less likely to catch a cold than those that did not.

Cooking tip: peel, chop and let garlic sit for 15-20 minutes before cooking to activate immune boosting enzymes. Spinach is an excellent source of folate which is key in aiding your body’s ability to resist infections and support lymphocytes that identify and destroy harmful invaders.

Spinach is an excellent source of folate which is key in aiding your body’s ability to resist infections and support lymphocytes that identify and destroy harmful invaders.

Cauliflower like broccoli and Brussels sprouts is a cruciferous vegetable rich in antioxidant vitamins that gives your immune system a boost. It also contains choline to keep your cells functioning properly and supports a healthy gastrointestinal barrier, keeping bacteria safely confined in the gut. Cauliflower is also a good food to eat when you’re sick because it’s rich in glutathione, a powerful antioxidant that helps fight off infection.

Cinnamon along with being a tasty and versatile spice, is a potent antiviral and antifungal agent. Add it to smoothies, baked sweet potatoes and roasted carrots, or sprinkle it on oatmeal, yogurt or you favorite toast with a smear of coconut butter. Yum!

Almonds are a not only a source of omega 3 fats, but also a rich source of the fat soluble vitamin E and contain B vitamins to help increase resiliency to stress that can make you susceptible to illness.

Yogurt contains probiotics or “live bacteria” that not only aid digestion, but like other fermented foods that contain the bacterial strains Lactobacillus casei and Lactobacillus reuteri have scientifically shown to prevent colds, improve immune response and shorten sick leave from work by 33%.

Wheat Germ is the food source part of the seed and is an excellent source of zinc which helps boost immunity.  Found raw or toasted, it tastes great sprinkled on salads, rice, or steamed vegetables.

Eating more of the foods listed above along with proper hand washing and getting enough rest will really boost your body’s defenses to ward of colds and flu this season.

Try cooking up these immune boosting recipes below or make your own creation using several foods listed above.

IMMUNITY BOOSTING RECIPES

Immune Boosting Smoothie Photo

Immune Booster Smoothie

Ingredients


2 cups spinach
1/4 cup carrots
1 banana
1/2 cups orange juice
1 cup water
2 cups frozen strawberries (I defrost them first because the flavor is more intense)
1/2 cup frozen blueberries

Additional immune boosters: powdered probiotics, olive leaf extract and elderberry extract (amount varies depending on how many people are drinking the smoothie)

Recipe and Photo from Simple Green Smoothies.

Sweet Potato, Corn & Kale Chowder

Ingredients


1 Tbsp Canola Oil
2 med. Carrots
1 med. Red Onion, chopped 1 stalk Celery, chopped 1 large Red Pepper, seeded & chopped
1 large Sweet Potato, peeled and chopped
1 sprig Fresh Thyme, minced
¾ tsp Turmeric
1 med Tomato, chopped
5 cups Cold Water or Veggie Stock
1 cup Fresh or Frozen Corn Kernels
3 cups Spinach Leaves, chopped, heavy stems removed and washed
Salt & Freshly Ground White Pepper to taste
Cayenne Pepper to taste
1 Tbsp Cornstarch
½ cup Fresh Parsley, chopped
¼ cup Cashew Pieces (optional)

Directions


In a large pot, heat the canola oil over medium-high heat. Sauté carrots, onion, celery, pepper, and sweet potato for 3 minutes. Add the thyme and turmeric; combine well with the vegetables. Add the tomato and cold water and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the corn, spinach, salt and white pepper, and simmer for 5 minutes. Season with cayenne pepper.

Combine the cornstarch with 2 teaspoons cold water (but see cashew option below). With the soup simmering, stir in the cornstarch mixture, continue to stir, and simmer for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in parsley.

If using cashews, use a blender or food processor to blend the cashews, cornstarch and ¾ cup of soup broth. Return this mixture to the simmering soup and continue to simmer soup, stirring often for 3 minutes.

*Use organic ingredients whenever possible.
*Vegan and Gluten-free.

Source: Whole Foods Cookbook (substituted spinach for kale)

This post was adapted from an original post Angela wrote for www.familysponge.com  Family Sponge inspires families to live a balanced, adventurous and healthy lives.


Do you have a burning nutrition question or recipe you would like to share.  Reply to this post or send your questions and recipe to angela@vitalandwell.com and they might  appear in a future post.

Angela offers nutrition counseling, workshops and corporate wellness programs. To learn more about Angela, a Registered Dietitian and Holistic Nutritionist, visit www.vitalandwell.com.



How to Pack a Lunch Good for the Body and Earth

by Angela Stanford

Kids have been back to school now for a few weeks and you may already be looking for new ways to pack lunches made of whole foods versus processed foods laden with artificial ingredients wrapped in excessive packaging that could harm your children and their environment.   Here are a few tips for parents and caregivers on how to be successful at packing a lunch that is good for the body and good for the earth.

Nutritious lunch meets the 4 color challenge in reusable containers complete with stainless cutlery and cloth napkin. Plastic on cheese is stick is BPA free and recyclable.

 GOOD FOR THE BODY

On Sunday, take ten minutes and plan 5 lunches for the week made from nutrient dense, whole foods your kids enjoy and make sure you have enough on hand for the week.  When planning think of the following:

  • Think Components – veggie, fruit, protein, grain, water, (organic when possible)
  • Think 4 Colors – try to put 4 different colors in the lunchbox and take Mother Nature’s lead on encouraging kids to eat a rainbow of color for better health.  E.g. turkey sandwich on 100% sprouted whole grain bread (brown), red apple, green edamame, orange baby carrots.  You can save money too by looking for fruits and veggies in season.  They are most often the produce items on sale.
  • Mix it Up – variety is the key to getting more nutrition in each bite and keeping choices fresh helps kids get more excited about what is in their lunchbox.

    -Switch up the Sandwich
    – instead of bread, use 100% sprouted whole grain pita pockets, hotdog buns, English muffins, tortillas, 100 calorie rounds or a double layer of romaine lettuce leaves
    -Hot alternativesserve soups, burritos, pasta and stir-fries. Heat up a stainless steel thermos with boiling hot water for 5 minutes.  Drain and then place the heated up leftovers in the warm container.  Warming up the container ensures food will still be warm at lunchtime.
    -Last night’s leftovers – leftovers make great lunches.  You can serve them hot or cold depending on your child’s preference.  Some kids like cold spaghetti with meatballs.
    -Dips & Spreads – spread on flavor, protein, fruits and veggies with foods like pesto, hummus, roasted red-pepper walnut spread, salsa and 100% fruit spread.  Remember choose organic when possible to avoid artificial ingredients and GMO’s.
  • Bring a Beverage – white milk or water only – flavored milk and juices (even if organic 100% juice) are filled with sugar and can contain as much sugar as soda!
  • Skip the Treatscookies, candies and chips don’t belong in a lunch.  Save the treat for treat-time, not mealtime.  Fruit is a great sweet addition to a lunch that is already wrapped up by Mother Nature in natural packaging (skin) containing fiber to help stabilize the entry of those natural sugars as they enter the bloodstream.

A lunch packed full of nutrition with colorful food choices in reusable containers complete with stainless cutlery and cloth napkin. Yogurt container is BPA free and recyclable.

GOOD FOR THE EARTH

  • Lunchboxes Not Ziplocs! – choose a sturdy lunchbox, free of BPA and PVC that is easy to clean with mild soap and water.
  • Reusable Containers – choose stainless steel containers for hot foods and BPA and PVC free plastic, reusable containers for cold foods, so these chemical don’t leach into the food.  Buy larger containers of food and portion them into your reusable containers rather than buying single serving sizes.  This reduces the amount of containers you chuck into the landfill and will save you some $$$$ too!  If you do use single portion sized containers, make sure they are compostable or recyclable. Avoid using zip locks because they stay in the landfill forever!
  • Beverage Containers – choose stainless steel (Kleen Kanteen is a popular brand) or BPA and PVC free plastic as a lighter weight option. (Nalgeen is a popular brand)  (Sigg) is another brand that is lightweight aluminum construction with a liner that keeps the aluminum from leaching into the beverage.  All of these containers are reusable and do not use resources like electricity and water to recycle plastic water bottles.  Using stainless steel versus single use plastic water bottles also reduces the risk of chemicals in the plastic leaching into the water you child drinks.  Replace beverage containers if they become dented or cracked.
  • Silverware – buy two inexpensive sets of stainless steel silverware for each child in your family – 1 for the lunchbox and 1 for the dishwasher to ease cleanup during the busy weekdays.  This keeps plastic silverware out of the landfill leaching chemicals into the earth as they breakdown.
  • Cloth Napkins– 2 for every kid – switch out when soiled and wash all with other towels at the end of the week to conserve water.  Using cloth saves trees and energy and water used to turn the trees into paper napkins.Give it a try!  Look at the lunches in this blog and try to pack your children a lunch that is both good for their bodies and good for the earth!

Garden Club – Harvest Celebration

by Angela Stanford

Garden Club Week 5 – Eating the Fruits of Our Labor

Today was the last session of Sycamore’s Spring Garden Club.   After the kids finished eating their lunches and fed their scraps to the red wigglers,  we headed over to check on the progress of our tomatoes and herbs.  Lo and behold, we found several blossoms replaced with little green tomatoes.  How exciting!

Fruits of our labor – first tomato

Since these little green tomatoes will take another month or two to produce enough fruit to make pizza and salad for 25 hungry fourth graders, (and we will be well into summer break by then) we supplemented the basil and bought some organic tomatoes to top the cheese pizza they enjoyed.  They also enjoyed eating “pizza poppers” by wrapping the chopped tomatoes with a basil leaf and popping into into their mouths.  Many kids were pleasantly surprised how delicious this simple little snack can be.  (Another version includes wrapping up a bit of fresh mozzarella and a cherry tomato with a basil leaf.)  Mmmmm!

two thumbs up for pizza made with garden fresh tomatoes and basil

While the kids were eating, we brainstormed other ways the kids could make pizza with basil and tomatoes at home.  For example, they could toast an english muffin, pita bread or piece of naan, spread pizza sauce on top and then top it with chopped tomatoes, shredded basil leaves and shredded mozzarella or parmesan cheese and then pop it in the toaster oven or under the broiler (with help from a grown up, of course) and yum.  It’s pizza time!

Here is another quick and easy way to enjoy eating fresh garden produce on your pizza.

Arugula & Cherry Tomato Pizza with Feta Cheese

Pre-baked pizza crust or whole grain tortillas or Naan

olive oil

parmesan cheese

3 cups arugula –coarsely chopped from your garden

15-20 cherry tomatoes – halved from your garden

2 tsp lemon juice, fresh

2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil

pinch of kosher salt

fresh ground black pepper to taste

Optional toppings:  pine nuts, olives, feta cheese, chopped fresh basil or other herbs from your garden

-Brush pre-paked pizza crust/tortilla/naan with olive oil.  Warm in oven or toaster oven according to package directions or 5-7 minutes depending on how crisp you want your crust.

-Cover with Parmesan cheese. Bake for 2 minutes until cheese is lightly brown.

-While cheese is melting, toss arugula, tomatoes, lemon juice, olive oil and optional toppings together.

-Gently cover pizza with topping while crust is still warm.

-Serves 4 as a light lunch.  Enjoy!

4rth grade gardeners with Angela Stanford and Kim Lawrence enjoying their garden

A big shout out to Mr. Lawrence, Sycamore’s Science Specialist and my partner with this project to help kids learn about where there food comes from and how the choices they make about food affect their health and the health of the environment.

See you next session  Until then….

Garden Club Visits Backyard and Patio Garden

Week 4 – Backyard Garden Tour

This week during our lunchtime garden club, the 4th grade gardeners learned what food and paper items are great for composting.   Upon finishing their lunch, the kids fed their lunch scraps to red wiggler worms in our Worm Cafe outside the science lab and then took a field trip to my backyard garden to explore what is “springing up.”

Mrs. Lawrence & 4rth grade gardeners feed worms in worm cafe

As we entered the garden, I told the kids they were entering a “nursery” where many baby plants are growing and over the next 2-3 months will grow and yield a bountiful amount of fruits and vegetables bursting with color.    As we walked through the strawberry patch, we talked about how strawberries and the sugar snap peas growing next to them are already producing food in early Spring while the mung beans now showing their leaves will soon follow and the blueberries are not far behind them.

Angela explains how you can grow many foods in small spaces in your back yard, or in containers on your patio

As we passed the herbs in pots and the green tomato plants in their Earthboxes starting to climb their trelaces,  we talked about how every blossom now appearing will soon be replaced with a colorful tomato ripe for eating in a couple of months.

smelling fragrant lemon blossoms

The kids also got to smell the fragrant blossoms on the meyer lemon tree that will drop and turn into green bulbs that in early March turn into yellow producing the most delicious fruit!

Angela demos composting kitchen scraps into the Tumbleweed composter

Lastly, we visited the compost bin and loaded up my Tumbleweed compost bin with food scraps form my kitchen and gave it a spin!  Mrs. Lawrence and I then explained the differences between how the composter breaks down food by incorporating oxygen with the spinning to help the microbes break down the scraps and turn them into compost, where the worms in the Worm Cafe eat the food scraps and turn it into worm castings which also make excellent compost!

See you next week!

Garden Club Brings Wall to Life

Week 3 – Planting the Living Wall

living, vertical wall of color

What a fun time I had with the 4th grade gardeners and Mrs. Lawrence this week planting this vertical garden of live color outside the Multipurpose Room on the Sycamore Valley Elementary school campus.

“diapering the plants”

The smiles on the kids faces were priceless as they wrapped up their flowers and herbs into these black felt squares that we laughingly called “black diapers.”

ready to plant in living wall

The felt holds the roots securely together and holds in moisture when the plant is tucked into it’s pouch on the vertical wall.

tucking plants into pouches on the wall

The kids tucked their plants into the 48 felt pouches on the wall. All members of the club will take turns watering the living wall as well as the Earthboxes according to a schedule set up by Mrs. Lawrence, our 4th grade science teacher and my partner on this wonderful project.

School Garden – veggies, flowers, herbs & sign

After all the plants were tucked into their pouches on the wall, the kids reviewed the watering schedule set up by Mrs. Lawrence to know when each member is responsible for watering the Earthbox through the remainder of the school year.

The Living Wall units will also water the Earthboxes from the water that drips out of the bottom row of pouches. This is an excellent lesson of water conservation which Mrs. Lawrence and I will discuss at our next meeting.

Lastly, Mrs. Lawrence and I , with the help of Manuel our ever helpful custodial engineer, hung the Garden Club sign the kids made above the Living Wall .

A big shout out to Plants on Walls (www.plantsonwalls.com) in San Francisco for their generous support with our Living Wall project.

No Garden Club next week.  In two weeks the kids will be touring my organic garden, learning about composting and enjoying a lunch on the lawn among the flowers and trees.

Garden Club Plants Pizza Garden

Week 2 – Planting our Earthboxes

Garden Club with Pizza Gardens in Earthboxes

This week our 4rth grade garden club students planted tomatoes and herbs into two Earthboxes that will be harvested and used to make pizza for all to enjoy!

After planting two different varieties of organic tomatoes, these little gardeners also learned that the tomatoes will be staked so they can crawl up and reach for the sun so they don’t cast shade on their neighboring herbs in the box that do not grow as tall.   These plants will require a minimum of 8 hours of full sun each day to thrive and produce plenty of food for our garden club pizza feast!

planting herbs around the tomato

The black cover on top of the box, attracts the sun and heat and holds in moisture.  The kids likened it to a shower cap for the plants, however this shower cap helps keep moisture in rather than out.  :-)

The kids gave the seedlings a little drink to get them started, but the Earthbox contains a reservoir at the bottom to hold water, so the plants always have access to it as they naturally reach down into the soil to drink from it.

A big shout out to Dustin and the rest of the team at Sloat Garden Center in Danville for their continued support of our school garden project!   http://sloatgardens.com

Next week we will will plant our Living Wall!

Sycamore Elementary Spring Garden Club

sprinkling water while preparing the Earthbox

On Thursday April 19th, science teacher Kim Lawrence joined me and 24 fourth graders at Sycamore Valley Elementary School to kick off the Spring session of our Garden Club that meets on Thursdays at lunchtime. We have 6 weeks of fun planned to teach these eager little gardeners about where their food comes from, the power food has to make them healthy and strong, and how to care for the earth to grow more nutritious food.

During our time together, we will be growing tomatoes & herbs in Earthboxes, learning about worm composting by feeding scraps from the kids lunches and planting a living wall to adorn our school with live art!

While the kids ate their lunches, I talked to them about the different parts of a plant and each of them shared examples of some of their favorite foods of these parts – root (carrot), stem (celery), leaf (spinach), blossom (cauliflower), fruit (strawberry), seeds (sunflower seeds).

adding soil to the Earthbox

After eating, we assembled the two Earthboxes that the fourth graders will plant tomatoes and herbs in next week. The kids then took turns filling the Earthbox with handfuls of organic soil, dolomite and organic fertilizer. In our last few minutes together, they learned about how the plants will get their water from a reservoir at the bottom of the box rather than from water sprinkled on top of the seeds. More on watering and developing a watering schedule in a couple of weeks!

making garden club sign

The kids finished up by decorating and signing their name to our Garden Club sign that will hang above the Living Wall we will be planting outside the MPR.

creativity displayed on school campus using recycled materials to celebrate Earth Day

To celebrate Earth Day this week, I couldn’t help but post this photo of all the terrific artwork displayed on the school grounds.  It really brought to life how colorful life can be when we teach our children how to honor and care of our Earth.

Next week – planting the pizza garden!