Avocado, Radish and Pea Shoot Open Faced Sandwich
My love for cooking came from the experiences I had as a child in our family kitchen. I have fond memories of being a pint sized sous chef to my grandmother, mother and aunt as they prepared our family meals. It was that early exposure that I feel led me to my passion for cooking and love for the family meal. To this day it is cooking that is my solace during times of turmoil, my respite during distress and the one thing that always centers me. My mother always says that I look most at peace when I am cooking. She is right.
I started my blog TakeBackYourTable.com as a way to share my passion for cooking and the family meal. My goal was to use my culinary skills to offer up easy, healthy recipes to families everywhere. Growing up Italian American, food and family went hand-in-hand. The family meal means everything and after I had my own children, my passion for it solidified. Each day I get to see first hand just how meaningful it is to teach children the importance of food and nutrition at an early age. The old proverb “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” always rings in my head whenever I have my babies by my side in the kitchen. It’s so true! Although my kids are only one and three years old, I know that the moments they spend with us in the kitchen and around the dinner table are invaluable both physically and emotionally.
My three year old son working at the ESNYC Garden.
Pulling the cart was one of his favorite parts!
Teaching kids about food, where it comes from and how it’s prepared is less about making them into little foodies and more about giving them the tools to help them sustain a healthy lifestyle. Getting them involved in the kitchen teaches them to be confident and self-sufficient (among many other things) and those are powerful traits to have. In a time where our kids are surrounded by fast food, poor school provided lunches and childhood obesity is at an all time high, it has never been more important to arm them with the tools they’ll need to lead healthy lives and that all starts in the kitchen.
Learning so much thanks to the amazing ESNYC teachers and garden staff.
My passion for family and food lead me to my work with the Edible Schoolyard of New York—the first Edible Schoolyard on the east coast and the first ever, four season one at that! If you aren’t familiar with the program, it’s creation of Chef Alice Waters that started over 16 years ago in Berkley California. Their mission is simple: “ to create and sustain an organic garden and landscape that is wholly integrated into the school’s curriculum, culture, and food program. ESY involves students in all aspects of farming the garden and preparing, serving, and eating food as a means of awakening their senses and encouraging awareness and appreciation of the trans-formative values of nourishment, community, and stewardship of the land.”
My dream come true! Teaching a cooking class at my alma mater, P.S. 216.
Showing the students how to make dressing using an empty jar. We all love to shake it (hence the blurry image)!
Before 2010, there was no Edible Schoolyard on the east coast. Lucky for me the first east coast school to receive an Edible Schoolyard was P.S. 216 in Brooklyn, my alma mater! I worked with Director Christiane Baker and her amazing team to start the first ever PS 216 Family Nights. They understood my attachment to the school and my love for the program and were extremely encouraging and welcoming. Christiane and her team are everything you would want surrounding your children, kind, inspiring, encouraging and passionate, a true testament to exactly how special the program is.
One work station all ready to go for a basic vinaigrette lesson.
Our goal with Family Night was to give the families of PS 216 a better sense of the program and what it entailed. As parents, we all know how hard it is to get an answer to “what did you do in school today?” from our kids so i wanted to show them first hand what their kids were doing. During these events, they were given the opportunity to explore the garden, meet the staff, get a greater sense of the program and it’s amazing facilities. Beyond checking out the garden, parents, caregivers and students were given the opportunity to participate in small cooking classes that I conducted using in-season ingredients fresh from the garden to create delicious recipes like this Opened Face Avocado and Cheddar Sandwich and a leafy green salad with homemade vinaigrette. At the end of each event, everyone sits down together to enjoy the fruit of their labor. It’s wonderful to see children so eager to try what they made, even if they have never tried it before—confirmation that getting your kids involved in the growing and preparation of their food will make them healthier eaters.
The beautifully set ESNYC table, ready for us to taste the
fruits veggies of our labor. : )
Mise en place aka everything we need to make a rockin’ fig vinaigrette!
According to the ESYNYC website, plans are in effect to establish five showcase schools, one in each borough of New York City. Their goal is to provide New York City’s one million public school students with access to an Edible Education. If you live in or around the NYC area, find out how you can volunteer with the program. Check out the ESYNYC website for community events and open garden hours when you and your family can get your hands dirty and learn something while you work in the garden. If you don’t live in the NYC area, get in contact with your local community to see if there are similar programs available. It will truly be an experience you and your family will never forget.
Avocado, Radish and Pea Shoot Open faced Sandwich
4 slices of hearty whole-grain bread
1 ripe avocado
4 slices of cheddar cheese
4 radishes, thinly sliced
1 cup pea shoots
salt and pepper, to taste
1.Cut avocado in half and remove the pit. Scoop out avocado flesh and place into a small bowl. Mash avocado with a fork until it’s a spreadable consistency, season with salt and pepper.
2. Lay bread onto a flat surface. Spread avocado evenly over the slices of bread. Layer on cheddar, radishes and sprinkle with pea shoots. Season sandwiches with additional salt and pepper (if desired) and a squeeze of lemon.