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.