End of Summer's Bounty

Summer squash - including zucchini and yellow squash - is plentiful right now, but it's easy to run out of ideas for what to make with it. Instead of trying another zucchini bread recipe or trying to hide the squash in baked goods, test what one of our Early Childhood Center cooks whipped up...

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, cut the squash into bite-sized pieces, toss the squash in a small amount of vegetable oil and bake for 30 or 40 minutes. You're welcome to adjust the seasoning and incorporate spices to taste. The children in our program love this recipe because the squash loses its watery quality and gains a level of sweetness.

Hopefully this simple recipe will help you use up leftover squash that might be in your walk-in and introduce squash in a bright, straightforward way!

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Fresh Taste for Seniors- A Cooking Demo

This past spring the Hunter College Food Policy Center asked me to be the professional chef for the Fresh Taste for Seniors video series. This series was designed to train Hunter's nutrition students to conduct cooking demonstration for seniors in East Harlem. These videos are a great resource and can be used by anyone who works with seniors. Along with the videos, are six inexpensive and healthy recipes that can be used year-round; nutritional information; guidelines; equipment and tips. 

A Delicious Way to Keep Hydrated

It's easy to say that keeping hydrated in the summer is important, but putting that into practice and making healthy decisions about what to drink is harder. Over the last six years, we have encouraged a healthy diet by eliminating juice from our menus. Getting rid of our juice was a contentious issue; our Head Start and RealArts After School children and our older adult clients were resistant to the change. But Juice, even 100% juice, has a lot of sugar in it. Fortunately for everyone, there is a middle ground between juice and water! Fruit or vegetable infused water can alleviate the desire for a flavored beverage, help your clients transition juice out of their diets, and repurpose juiced citrus or other rinds and peels. 

Infused water is incredibly easy to make - just add the fruit, rinds or peels to the water and let it steep overnight in the refrigerator. There are special pitchers that have a strainer so the fruit doesn't get poured into glasses, but this isn't a necessary expense. 

Potential additives: lemon, orange and lime peels and rinds; cucumber slices or peels; any cut up berries or stone fruit. 

Have fun experimenting with water! 

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Cooking with Less Sugar and Salt

Salt and sugar are often what our taste buds are attracted to most!  In the past, our kitchens at Lenox Hill Neighborhood House used lots of “Chicken Base” to enhance flavor, but it is expensive and unhealthy as it is made mostly of salt. 

Over the last 6 years, we have cut out chicken base entirely and have replaced with lemon juice and lemon zest along with fresh and dried herbs to add and enhance flavors. When choosing whether to opt for dried herbs over fresh herbs, we recommend using fresh parsley, cilantro and basil over their dried counterparts because the taste, texture and color is substantially better.  

For sugar substitutes, we use honey, molasses, orange juice or apple sauce in place of white sugar. These sweeteners are less refined, have nutrients and are great for adding and enhancing flavors.  Try some of these substitutes in your favorite recipes!

Remember, if you are cooking for young children, you are developing their taste buds.  If you put too much salt or sugar in the food, they will crave this in their diet for the rest of their lives.  It is a big responsibility!

Cool Rice for the Summer

While reading up on nutritional info about various grains for our recent Grains Workshop, I stumbled on some interesting research. It indicates that grains, particularly rice, when cooked and then cooled might have less calories than the HOT versions. The grains would also be lower on the Glycemic Index, a scale that measures how a food affects your blood sugar. 

Summer is here, so it's a great time for making chilled whole grain salads.  We have just added a tasty recipe for Brown Rice Greek Salad to our Recipe Page

Beating the Heat with Summer Meals

Cooking in the summer can be wonderful with a bounty of fruits and vegetables at their peak ripeness. Unfortunately, the heat can make it so you don't want to go near your oven and stove. We're here to help you make delicious meals no matter the temperature. Here are some ideas: 

  • Cook chicken breast the day before, shred it, and make a chicken salad with various vegetables and a sauce using light mayo. 
  • Incorporate beans into a classic salad of lettuce, tomato and carrots for protein and added crunch. 
  • Make a bean dip for a quick snack. Puree white beans with garlic and parsley; black beans with cumin, garlic powder and chili power; or chickpeas with garlic and lemon to make hummus. 
  • Make a cold soup like a gazpacho. Puree tomatoes, cucumbers, olive oil, vinegar and some garlic for a refreshing tomato soup. 
  • Create different variations of coleslaw with apples, red cabbage and vinegar instead of mayo. 
  • Try any of the grain salads from our grain workshop
  • Check out our salad section on the recipe page for more ideas. 

Achieving Goals with BronxWorks

I visited two of BronxWorks' sites this week: the Living Room, their 24-hour drop in center, and Safe Haven their homeless shelter for men. I'm thrilled to share that that they have met all of their original three goals! 

Their goals were to work with their vendor to find prepared items with less salt, to add fresh broccoli to their menu and to improve their culinary skills- particularly with knives since they'll be preparing more fresh vegetables. 

After our time working in the kitchen we went to the community garden to collect fresh herbs. The cooks were very excited to make salad dressing with hyper local ingredients.

The staff has been working incredibly hard to serve more fresh and healthier food to their clients.  They're planning on attending our future workshops to continue their work. Now that they've met their goals, they're going to move forward with new goals. Our mantra here is in order to make change do small, achievable actions. 

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Our Growing Garden

Thanks to the summer weather our green roof is flourishing! We're growing parsley, spearmint, sweet basil, cilantro, oregano, sage, garlic, and rosemary. Try incorporating some more herbs into light, healthy salads. Our healthy ranch recipe, is the perfect accompaniment! 


Healthy Ranch Dressing

Makes about 4 quarts or 1 gallon


7 cups non-fat yogurt

5 cups buttermilk or 1 % milk with 3 tbsp lemon juice

1.5 cups light mayonnaise

1/3 cup lemon juice


¼ cup Dijon mustard

5 tbsp Onion Powder

3 tbsp Garlic Powder

3 tbsp Salt

1 cup chopped parsley, chives, or scallions


Mix all ingredients well. Refrigerate. If using 1% milk with lemon juice, let the mixture sit separately for 20 minutes in a warm place, before adding all other ingredients.

Meet Our Newest Summer Cohort

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We were so thrilled to spend time with and learn from so many wonderful organizations at The Teaching Kitchen this week!  A big thanks to Brooklyn Community Services, Brooklyn Kindergarten Society and Fort Greene Senior Citizens Council for their enthusiasm and participation in our training course. We had a blast sharing snack ideas, discussing clients' favorite meals and brainstorming manageable ways to introduce healthier foods into our menus. We also had the great pleasure of welcoming staff from the New York Health Foundation and the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation Center for Healthy Neighborhoods to participate in and witness our program in action. 

Summer Snacks!

Our summer camp started this week, so we have a lot of kids in the building to feed. We are always looking for healthy snacks for both the kids and the seniors. One recipe that we use over and over that's a favorite is our hummus. This is a great healthy alternative to store bought snacks, which are often loaded with sugar and salt. Even better -- our homemade hummus is cheap and easy to make! When making the hummus you can add leftover vegetables you've had during the week to add additional nutrients. Including beets or red peppers can make the hummus pink or red, and what kid doesn't love pink food? This hummus can be served with whole wheat pita, crackers or raw veggies for dipping. To make a more substantial snack, layer the hummus into a whole wheat tortilla and layer on lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, shredded carrots or any vegetables that your kids love. 

Hummus Recipe 

Snack for 40 or 50 adults or kids


1 #10 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed well

Juice of 4 lemons or ½ cup bottled real lemon juice

2 Tbsp cumin

2 Tbsp chopped garlic

1 Tbsp salt

1 cup vegetable oil

1 cup water


*If using leftover vegetables add about 1 cup cooked carrots, beets, or winter squash.

Drain and rinse chickpeas.  May need to make in two batches in a Food Processor/ Cuisinart. Put half the drained chickpeas into the Cuisinart.  Juice lemons and add to Cuisinart bowl.  Add all other ingredients and pulse until totally pureed.  Add other half of chickpeas with some of the 1st batch and puree.  Add “leftover” vegetables if using.  Mix both batches together and combine well.  Refrigerate.

Add other spices or herbs and increase or decrease the garlic to taste. 

Learning and Teaching with Childcare Organizations

We had such a great time meeting the impressive women who feed children at Community Life Center, East Harlem Block Nursery and Citizen's Care Day Care. Not only did we explore our rooftop garden, but we also chatted with our kitchen staff about their experience, talked about the best things to serve in the summer heat and discussed how to make the most of fresh food with small storage spaces. Thank you for sharing your experience with us!  

Creating a Culturally Friendly Menu

By: Janice Lai, Nutrition Intern

Recently at Lenox Hill Neighborhood House, we’ve seen an increase in the number of Chinese-speaking clients in our Innovative Senior Center, and it’s a priority for us to better meet their needs. We’re facing two big challenges: one is language – how to better communicate with all of our members, and the other is how to meet their cultural and nutritional needs. One of our Nutrition Interns, Janice Lai, had some suggestions.  


As a nutrition student originally from Hong Kong, I am aware of the food culture differences between the U.S. and China that can make it difficult for some Chinese immigrants to enjoy American food.

Here are some ideas from Chinese food culture to make your menu friendlier to these clients:

·       Include ingredients such as bok choy, tofu, pork and rice.

·       Use miso, soy sauce and sesame paste to make a great marinade. You can also replace salt                  with ginger, scallions and garlic.

·       Serve cooked leafy vegetables, root vegetables and green beans. Raw salads are not common             in the Chinese culture


Here's a recipe we serve at our sites that's a hit. 

Baked Sesame Tofu

4 to 5 servings


16 ounces firm tofu, cut into ¾ inch slices

2 tbsp sesame oil

2 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp rice wine vinegar

2 tsp honey or maple syrup

1 clove garlic, minced


Preheat oven to 400 ˚F.  Spray baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray or oil. Slice tofu.  Pat tofu dry with paper towel or clean dish cloth.  Combine all other ingredients in a bowl and whisk well.  Toss tofu in marinade to fully cover all pieces. Place on non-stick baking pan and cook for 25 to 30 minutes, turning each piece at 15 minutes to brown on other side.

Tofu can be used in a stir fry with broccoli, snow peas, carrots, etc. It also makes a great low calorie snack or can be used in a sandwich or wrap with lettuce, grated carrots, and sliced red pepper. 

Nutritional information:  Tofu is a good source of protein, calcium, iron, and minerals.  It also contains all eight amino acids. 

Cooking Grains Workshop

Our latest workshop was a great success! We discussed a very important topic that can make a big impact on your budget and your clients’ health: grains!  We made summer salads that are healthy, delicious and easy to prepare, using wheat berries, barley, bulgur wheat, and polenta. These options are cheaper than brown rice, require no more work and are more nutritious.  Our clients appreciate the variety these grains add to our menus, but don’t be discouraged if your clients don’t know what to think the first time you serve them a new grain – take some time to talk to them and get their feedback and have fun creating new dishes. 

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Summer is the perfect time to try new grains.  When the weather is hot, you can prepare the grains ahead of time and serve them as part of a cold salad.  Try the Wheat Berry Salad with Dried Fruit and Nuts we made:

To find more great recipes look in our recipe section.

Wheat Berry Salad with Dried Fruit and Nuts

Serves 30


4 cups uncooked wheat berries

4 cups converted brown rice

1 cup chopped walnuts or other nuts or seeds (pumpkin or sunflower)

3 stalks of celery, washed and chopped finely

1 ½ cups dried fruit, raisins, cranberries, or combination

½ cup chopped fresh cilantro, parsley, chopped fresh spinach

1 red onion, chopped finely

1/3 cup olive oil or other vegetable oil

¼ cup lemon juice, bottled or fresh

½ tsp salt

½ tsp pepper


In a large pot combine the wheat berries and enough water to cover the grain by 5 inches. Bring water to a boil and cook uncovered for 1 hour, or until tender.  Drain and cool.  Put brown rice in half hotel pan and cover with boiling water by ½ inch. Cover with film and foil and cook in 325°F oven for 30 to 40 minutes.  Cool rice. Combine wheat berries and rice when cool. The grains can be done ahead of time or the day before.  Toast the nuts on a baking sheet for 5 to 10 minutes in a 325°F oven.  Watch closely so they don’t burn.  Chop celery, red onion, and cilantro or parsley. In a large bowl, combine rice/ wheat berry mixture, walnuts, dried fruit, celery, onion, and herbs.  Mix oil with lemon juice and salt and pepper.  Pour over salad.  Combine well.  Chill salad until serving.

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Spring Herbs!

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Every year we’re lucky enough to have some of our students in the Early Childhood Center help us plant herbs we use in our kitchen. This spring they planted basil and parsley. If you want to take an inspiration from our children, plant your own herbs in pots. If you don’t have the space, try getting some fresh herbs, either at a farmers’ market or from your vendor instead of using the regular dried varieties. Here’s a great recipe to highlight herbs that’ll make any recipe taste fresh!


Basil Spinach Pesto

Makes about 3 to 4 cups

1 ½ cups washed and packed baby spinach leaves

1 cup washed and packed basil leaves

¼ cup toasted nuts (walnuts, pumpkin seeds, etc.), Optional

¼ cup grated Parmesan

2 to 4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

½ tsp salt

1 tbsp. fresh or bottles lemon juice

¾ tsp lemon zest

½ tsp ground pepper

½ cup olive oil



Place all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until well combined and the consistency is a thick puree.  Alternately, put all ingredients in a stainless bowl and using a mezzaluna, chop all ingredients until they are roughly chopped and well combined.  Refrigerate until used.

Meet Our Newest Teaching Kitchen Cohort!

We spent an exciting two days with staff from Bellevue Day Care Center, BronxWorks, Future of American Learning Center, and St. Mark’s UMC Family Services Council! We cooked alongside Lenox Hill chefs and cooks preparing nutritious and cost friendly meals and snacks.  The jury is out on whether our bulgur, cauliflower, and cheddar “mac and cheese” or Arroz con Pollo using chicken thighs was a more delicious meal. Check out our recipe page for detailed instruction on how to make these in your kitchen.

We had a great time learning from each other! If you wish to connect to the wisdom of Teaching Kitchen Chef Lynn Loflin or ask questions of other participants, please visit our newly launched online forum. Share recipes and ideas or post a comment or question to get us started!

Change A Dressing, Change A Lot!

Nelba Bonilla and Maria Cruz making homemade salad dressing at Cypress Hills LDC

Nelba Bonilla and Maria Cruz making homemade salad dressing at Cypress Hills LDC

By: lynn Loflin

On a recent visit to Cypress Hills L.D.C. in Brooklyn, Nelba Bonilla and Maria Cruz asked me to help them make a salad dressing for lunch.  When we looked at the nutritional label on their processed salad dressing we saw the first ingredient was water, and the last six ingredients were added chemical preservatives and emulsifiers. None of those represent the fresh, local ingredients that are around us and that they wanted to use.  Since everything is better and healthier when it’s made from scratch, we made our own!  

We whipped this up in less than 5 minutes.  It is not only much cheaper than the pre-made salad dressing that most organizations buy, but it is also much tastier, healthier and more appropriate for children’s taste buds! 

Simple Vinaigrette

In the summer we use fresh herbs from our vegetable garden.  Have your kids grow and harvest the herbs for their salad or buy them from a farmer’s market!

2 cups vegetable oil (canola, olive or a blend)

1 cup Vinegar (cider, white, red wine or your choice)

1 cup Water

1 tbsp fresh cilantro or parsley or dried herb

2 to 3 tbsp Honey

½ tbsp Salt

¼ tsp black pepper

1 tbsp prepared mustard, optional


Measure and put all ingredients in a plastic container with a tight fitting lid and shake to combine.

Alternately, use a small immersion blender to combine the ingredients.  The immersion blender keeps the ingredients emulsified for several days.