Blog

Introducing: Vegetarian!

Next week our CHEF Kids programs will begin a 6-week unit focused exclusively on vegetarian cooking. We have a ton of exciting, flavorful recipes in this unit, and we’re super excited to get cooking. But we know our students, and we know the question on all of our students’ minds will be: why?

We were inspired to put together a vegetarian unit by the NY Time’s Food Section’s comprehensive look at how food and food production affect climate change. 26% of greenhouse gas emissions come from food production, 58% of that comes from production of animal products. This is largely due to the fact that raising animals and getting them to market takes more land, energy, and water than producing plant proteins. We thought it would be interesting to our students (it will be their planet, one day) to put together some recipes that make plant-based meals as delicious and nutritious as meat-based meals.

As we were researching and preparing for the unit, we began to realize that the plant-based protein options were much, much cheaper, pound-for-pound, than the meat options. Perfect for anyone on a budget or looking for an affordable meal option! So, for the planet and for your purse-strings: give meatless meals a chance! Click over to our recipe section to see our vegetarian recipes.

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Healthy Fall Harvest!

Here in Virginia the summer heat is finally winding down and we have actually had a few crisp fall days! If you’re anything like me, this cooler weather is making you see pumpkins! While the change in season means a lot of our fresh local produce is going away, it doesn’t mean you are out of options. Although you can still get most fresh fruits and veggies year-round in your local grocery store, it does taste better (and is typically less expensive) to eat seasonal produce.

Fruits and veggies are packed with nutrients. The most common nutrients across the board are Vitamin C, Vitamin A and Fiber. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps with wound healing, keeping your body healthy and the absorption of iron, to name a few. Vitamin A is most well-known for its role in vision, but also plays a role in fighting sickness. Fiber helps with digestion and helps our bellies to stay full between meals.

Check out the list below to see which fruits and veggies are in season this fall in Virginia, and which nutrients they are packed with! An “excellent source” means it contains 20% or more of your recommended daily value and a “good source” means it contains 10-19% of your recommended daily value for that nutrient. Regardless of which category it falls in, I promise it’s a delicious and healthy choice!

Excellent Source Vitamin C

Bell Peppers

Broccoli

Cabbage

Potatoes

Sweet Potatoes

Most Winter Squash varieties

Excellent Source Vitamin A

Sweet Potatoes

Most Winter Squash varieties

Pumpkin

Excellent Source Fiber

Apples

Pears

Good Source Vitamin C

Pumpkin

Pears

Beets

Good source Fiber

Broccoli

Sweet Potatoes

Beets

Good Source Potassium

Broccoli

Potatoes

Sweet Potatoes

Winter Squash

Pumpkin

Beets

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Be careful! That knife is sharp!

By our CHEF for a Day Program Manager, Tracey Roberts

My own teenage children make fun of me because I still say this to them every single time I see them using a kitchen knife.  I’ve loved my 3+ years here at PB&J and often wish I’d started my work here earlier in my kids’ lives. I’d love to say that I always cooked with my own kids from an early age, but I’d be fibbing.  I would try here and there, but I wasn’t consistent with it. I now realize that I really missed out on an opportunity. I’m not just talking about the opportunity to teach them something.  

I’m still missing out today that I don’t have two trained assistants working with me as I prepare dinner each night.  They are teens. They should be cooking dinner for ME at this point! My mom was the best of the best, but she never had me cook with her.  Now that she’s gone, I really treasure the few memories of making cookies together and the Thanksgiving she was too ill to cook the meal herself and coached me from her wheelchair to prepare all the family favorites.  Long story short, COOK WITH YOUR KIDS!! It strengthens math and science skills, has them practicing reading and following directions, and, most importantly, makes treasured memories.

Here in the PB&J kitchen, we safety teach kids how to use knives every day.  In our CHEF Kids after-school classes, we start third graders off with paring knives.  Before they ever have a knife in hand, they learn how you walk with the knife down by your side so as to never have it pointed out.  At PB&J, we do a lot of things the same way the staff do them in your favorite restaurant’s busy kitchen.  

We teach our students to use “THE CLAW” (always said with appropriate scary voice) just like professional chefs in order to keep their fingertips safe. We watch the way they are holding the knife to give them tips on how each knife is meant to be used differently (ex. paring knife vs. chef’s knife).  In our CHEF for a Day field trip pr0gram, we have younger students in the PB&J space preparing simple foods. In these classes, we start off with regular table knives. Even though these knives are not sharp at all, we pretend as if they are “the sharpest knives ever made” in order to practice how we treat a knife in a restaurant kitchen.

Start your own child out early with a table knife.  As parents, we tend to cut things up for our kids (because it’s so much faster), but it’s a great chance to work on the motor skills kids are using in their use (or attempted use) of a knife to cut a food.  Start off with soft foods like Jello or even mashed potatoes. It’s just for practice. Try to imagine your child cutting up his/her own pancake while you get to take a bite of a warm pancake for the first time in years!  Hahaha. By 8-9 years old, kids usually have the fine motor skills to start learning how to use a small kitchen knife like a paring knife (with adult supervision, of course).  
Again, don’t start off with a tough flank steak.  You can’t tell me that peeling and slicing up a banana isn’t a fun way to start the day.  😊  Celery is also great for cutting practice, and you can use it in a soup that night for dinner.  The most important thing is to get your kids in there with you in the kitchen. I’m telling you.  Learn from my mistakes! Train your kitchen assistants young! While they think it’s fun instead of work!  -Tracey Roberts, mom to Jack(13) and Lucy(15)

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Our Core Nutritional Lessons

  1. Make half your plate fruits and vegetables
    1. When making your plate for a meal, follow the “plate method”. Fill half of your plate with fruits and veggies and fill the other half with protein and whole grains
  • Make half your grains whole grains
    • Throughout the day be mindful of your grain choices. Half of the grains you eat each day should be considered a whole grain such as whole wheat bread, whole oats, brown rice, whole wheat pasta, whole wheat tortillas, etc. Whole grains have more fiber which keeps you full longer, helps with digestion and can play a role in lowering cholesterol levels in your body!
  • Everything in moderation
    • It’s okay to eat sweets and less healthful foods, but this should be done in small quantities and less often than foods that are more healthful for your body.
  • Strong bodies need strong bones: Milk Matters!
    • Your body needs calcium and vitamin D to build strong bones and teeth. You can only build your bones as a child – once you reach adulthood you can no longer make your bones stronger! Milk has protein, calcium and vitamin D! Drinking low fat plain milk is lower in calories, fat and sugar than drinking whole milk or flavored milk.
  • Focus on whole fruits (over canned fruit and fruit juice)
    • Fruit is packed with vitamins and fiber and is lower in calories than other snack foods. By choosing whole fruits over canned fruit and fruit juice, you are getting less sugar and more fiber!
  • Vary your veggies (dark green, red and orange, legumes, starchy and other vegetables)
    • By choosing different vegetables throughout the day and week, you are getting different vitamins and minerals in your diet. Choose a rainbow of colors!
  • Vary your protein routine (seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes, soy products, nuts and seeds)
    • Choose lean proteins more often (skinless chicken, lean beef, turkey and fish) as these are lower in fat and saturated fat. Try having a meal each week where your protein comes from a plant source (soy products, legumes, nuts and seeds).
  • Limit added sugars: less than 10% daily calories
    • Limit sugary drinks and choose water or unflavored milk most often. Save sugary desserts/snacks for special occasions and substitute fruit and yogurt for dessert.
  • Limit saturated fat: less than 10% daily calories
    • Choose low fat dairy products and lean meats to lower saturated fat intake. When eating foods higher in fat check the label to make sure most of the fat is coming from unsaturated fat instead of saturated or trans-fat! Your body needs fat, so choose healthy (unsaturated) fats over saturated fats.
  • Limit sodium
    • Limiting sodium may help prevent high blood pressure. Choose more whole/fresh foods such as fruits, veggies, meats and whole grains over processed pre-packaged foods.
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