Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Lettuce Celebrate Leafy, Leafy Greens!

'Tis the season... for Leafy Greens! Through the months of November and December, Lafayette School joined in a district-wide Farm-to-Table celebration of edible and nutritious plant leaves from the garden. Lettuce grab a knife and fork... and lettuce enjoy the latest hit from the LMC Vegetable Files, Leafy, Leafy Greens, a parody of Yellow Submarine by The Beatles:

We Love Them, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah: Who Were the Beatles? by Geoff Edgers (920 EDG). In February 1964, a British rock-and-roll quartet-- sporting groovy haircuts and mod suits-- stepped off an airplane at Kennedy Airport and were greeted by thousands of screaming fans. Two days later, The Fab Four from Liverpool-- John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr-- made a television appearance on a popular variety program, The Ed Sullivan Show. It was difficult to hear the performance over adoring shrieks from the audience, but seventy million viewers tuned in to watch and listen: Beatlemania had arrived in America!

How Does Your Garden Grow? The Environmental Club tends the late-season Lafayette Garden.

Leafy Green Artwork: Swiss Chard It Is, Maties!

The Environmental Club samples Swiss Chard harvested from the Lafayette Garden.

Crunch the Broccoli (like little trees!)... The Astounding Broccoli Boy by Frank Cottrell Boyce (FIC COT). Don't be scared, a favorite book says... be prepared. And so Rory Rooney, the smallest kid in his class, makes preparing a way of life. Rory is even sort-of prepared for bully Tommy-Lee, who begins most days by throwing Rory out of the back of the school bus. But Rory isn't prepared when he inexplicably turns green and finds himself in an experimental hospital ward. Is this astonishing green tint caused by his genes... or a virus... or something he ate? Or maybe, it's something even more extraordinary. Could this be a sign that Rory is a superhero? 

More Leafy Green Artwork: Spinach, Aye!
Popeye! Popeye!  The Super-Strong Cartoon Sailor Man Eats Leafy Greens.
Here, There, Everywhere: Leafy Greens Display at Southern Boulevard School.
Growing Up, Up, Up: Students show off Lafayette's Mobile Edible Garden Wall, a vertical feast of arugula, Swiss chard, beets, basil, parsley, and tarragon.

From The Beatles... to The Beets: The Environmental Club harvest a handful of nutritious garden treats.
Even More Leafy Green Artwork: All Hail the Kale!
Fresh Arugula is fun... Butterhead, the best we've seen. Tender Kale, one of our faves... Full of Beta Carotene. Mrs. LaChance, a Lafayette Library Aide-- and a certified Holistic Health and Wellness Coach-- serves up a recipe using kale, one of our much-loved leafy greens:

Massaged? Has she gone mad? Hear me out! I love kale for all that it is, but sometimes I find its texture… well… kind of tough.  I learned this technique of “massaging” either olive oil or a vinaigrette into the kale, with clean hands, for a minute or two. It loosens up the tough fibers in this power green, and, in my opinion, makes it even more delightful to eat. I then serve it simply, with shaved parmesan and some toasted pine nuts. But anything goes-- see what’s fresh in the produce department, and add it in!

Massaged Kale Salad

1 head of kale, cleaned (curly, dinosaur, any type will work)
Salt and pepper
¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
zest of the same lemon
¼ cup grated or shaved Parmesan cheese
¼ cup toasted pine nuts (pistachios work well too)

Remove tough stems from the leaves of the kale. Chop the leaves into bite-sized pieces and place in a large bowl. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then drizzle with the olive oil. Now, get in there with your clean hands and rub the oil into the leaves for about a minute or so!  Now, wash those hands! Add the lemon juice and zest, then top with the cheese and nuts... and dig in!

Other suggested additions:
Other types of lettuces or greens
Shaved or grated carrot
Chopped beets
Chopped red, yellow or orange peppers

From Garden to Table: Fifth Grade Teacher and Environmental Club Advisor Mrs. Worden harvested late-autumn greens from the Lafayette Garden and prepared them as part of a delicious and nutritious dinner! Chomp and chew... it's like a dream... with a plate of leafy greens!

Health by the Head and Nutrition by the Handful: Leafy greens are usually low in calories and fat-- and high in fiber and protein per calorie. They also provide our bodies with folate, manganese, and vitamins C and K. As we roam the grocery store... we all munch a bunch and ask for more!

Leaf through a Green Book: Green by Laura Seeger (P SEE). In this 2013 Caldecott Honor Book, die-cut pages, magical illustrations, and rhyming text celebrate the many shades of the color green. From the fresh, blooming green of the forest on a warm spring day, to the luminous green of a flickering firefly, to the succulent green of a fresh-cut lime, to the shimmering aquamarine of a tropical sea, there are amazing greens in the world around us. Green is the perfect book to check out during our season of leafy, leafy greens!

Winter is Coming: The Environmental Club Puts Hay on Garden Beds.

Another Leafy Green Treat from Mrs. LaChance:
Are you tired of hearing about kale? Or are you embracing its fibrous dark green goodness? Wherever you are on the kale scale (....sorry, couldn’t resist), try making these kale chips! Versions of kale chips can be found on grocery store shelves, but the homemade ones taste better (in my opinion) and they’re so darn easy to make. Let me know how you do!

Kale Chips

1 bunch of kale, rinsed and dried
2-3 teaspoons of olive oil
pinch or two of kosher salt
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
Remove the ribs from the kale, and tear the leaves into smaller pieces.
Spread leaves out onto a baking sheet (I like to line the baking sheet with foil or parchment for easy clean up). It’s okay if some leaves overlap.
Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt (alternatively, place kale leaves in a bowl and toss with oil and salt before placing on a baking sheet).
Bake for 12-15 minutes, watch so that the leaves don’t get too brown (too much brown = bitter). Leaves should be light and crispy (and still mostly green) when ready.
*also delicious sprinkled with grated Parmesan cheese or sesame seeds!

We all love to eat the leafy, leafy greens,
Leafy collard greens, leafy mustard greens.
We all love to eat the leafy, leafy greens,
Raw or lightly steamed, leafy, leafy greens!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Praise the Pumpkins and Celebrate Squash!

The School District of the Chathams' Farm-to-School program declared October Squash Month, and Lafayette School has found many ways over the past thirty-one days to learn about this tasty edible gourd. Let's get the celebration started with a squash rap hit from the LMC Vegetable Files, written by Library Aide Mrs. Massam, produced and directed by Library Media Specialist Mrs. Cifrodella, and brilliantly performed by fourth grade teacher Mr. Cleary and members of the Broadcast Club. It has a gourd beat and it's easy to dance to... Squash!

Mad Props for an Ancient Crop: Squash gets its name from the Native American word askutasquash, which loosely means eaten raw or uncooked. Squash is one of the world's oldest known food crops, grown for thousands of years, producing thousands and thousands of nutritious meals! Gardening in the footsteps of the Narragansett people who bestowed the vegetable with its catchy name, Mrs. Cifrodella and her family harvested a bumper crop of squash from their community garden plot this summer.
Zucchini from the Cifrodella Garden.

A Versatile Veggie: Ancestor gardeners hollowed out gourds to form tools and scoops used to savor supper or to slurp soup. Lafayette Spanish instructor Señora Leonardis baked a tasty modern treat using a big green squash from the summer garden. She shares, "Mi vecino me dio una calabaza grande y verde. Hice muchos panes de calabaza." A few years ago, a Canadian gardener harvested a squash that weighed almost 1500 pounds! Muy, muy grande!

Señora Leonardis Baked Squashy Bread!

In English, Squash is Delicious; en Español, la Calabaza es Delicioso! We know it's impolite to play with our food, but reading about playful vegetables is highly recommended! In the English-language picture book How Are You Peeling? Foods with Moods by Saxton Freymann (P FRE) and in a companion book written in Spanish, Vegetal Como Eres: Alimentos con Sentimientos, also by Saxton Freymann (FL 460 FRE), text and photographs explore emotions with clever vegetable carvings.

So Many Colors, So Many Shapes! Green, tan, white, orange... long, round, oval, crooked neck.... Mrs. Kraemer led art classes as they created squash paintings to decorate the cafeteria-- and this blog post!

Mrs. Kraemer sketches squash with an art class.

Gourds for All Seasons, Squash for All Seasons: Summer squash are fast-maturing with thin rinds and squishy seeds. They make great summer treats: just pick them, wash them, and serve them up raw. They cannot be stored for a long time. Winter squash are larger and slow-maturing, with thick rinds and hard seeds-- so hard, in fact, that cooking is needed. They can be stored for months on end.
Squash on the Menu: Squash not only look good and taste delicious, they are healthful and nutritious. Squash are rich in calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, protein, dietary fiber, vitamins A. B, and C... all sorts of good stuff! Throughout the month of October, everyone at Lafayette had the opportunity to sample squash dishes on the cafeteria menu. Here, Mr. Cleary savors a serving of zucchini.

Fifth Grade Teacher Mrs. Collett Delivers an Important Public Service Announcement about Cafeteria Squash!

Lafayette Friends Celebrate Squash Month in the Cafeteria.

From the Lafayette Cafeteria to the Kitchen Table:
 Library Aide Mrs. LaChance is a certified Holistic Health and Wellness Coach with lots of good-for-your mind and body ideas! Here, she shares a squash recipe that we can prepare and enjoy at home: 

Simplest Roasted Squash

1 large or 2 small “delicata” squash (they are oblong-shaped, pale yellow with green stripes).
2 T olive oil
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Rinse and dry squash well (no need to peel it!).
Slice off ends and discard. Carefully slice the squash in half lengthwise. Use a spoon to scrape out the seeds. Place the flat side down on a cutting board, and slice the squash into 1/2” half-moon-shaped slices.

Place slices in a bowl and toss with the olive oil, salt and pepper.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, or spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.  Arrange slices on the pan so that they do not overlap. Roast for 15 minutes, then flip them over and roast for 5-10 minutes or until they are lightly browned. Enjoy!

Simply Delicious: Simplest Roasted Squash!

Vote for Squash! In this presidential election season, it's interesting to note that both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew squash in their gardens. It's also interesting to read The First Garden: The White House Garden and How It Grew by Robbin Gourley (712 GOU), an illustrated description of how First Lady Michelle Obama created the White House Kitchen Garden as part of her campaign to promote healthy eating.

Dinner from the Garden: The Lafayette School Environmental Club, led by Mrs. Worden and Mrs. Coleman, prepared spaghetti squash to accompany a pizza meal made with fresh garden ingredients.

Environmental Club Members Enjoy Spaghetti Squash and Homegrown Pizza.
Of course, our celebration of Squash Month would not be complete without a shout out and a shriek for the spookiest squash of the season. Every October, carved pumpkins decorate porches and doorsteps in Chatham and across the United States. The inspiration for creating jack-o'-lanterns originated in Ireland, where other vegetables-- like turnips and potatoes-- were carved and decorated. Irish immigrants brought the tradition to America, home of the easy-to-carve pumpkin... and the rest is Halloween history!

From Seed to Jack-o'-Lantern: The Pumpkin Book by Gail Gibbons (635 GIB) describes how pumpkins come in different shapes and sizes, how they grow, and their and cultural significance and uses. This nonfiction book includes instructions for carving a pumpkin, drying the seeds, and many pumpkin facts. Speaking of facts, we'd like to extend an especially squashy thank you to K-12 Science Supervisor Kristen Crawford, who provided us with gourd facts and information this month!

And so gourd friends, by golly by gosh, let's praise all the pumpkins and celebrate squash-- a veggie enjoyed by our founding fathers and mothers, by Native Americans... and so many others!

Happy Squash Month and Happy Halloween!