Bite of Brainfood Blog

Pupusas 101

During the time between summer and school year programs, Brainfood staffers have lots to do: between writing reports, planning for after-school programs, organizing the kitchens and office, and more, our plates are pretty full. Yet in the midst of all this, we took some time last week to enjoy each other’s company and try our hands at a new kitchen skill: the art of making pupusas. The pupusa is a culinary endeavor that some of us had tried before, but had never really mastered. It comes up on the Brainfood Student Requests list almost every year, we've all heard about different fillings and styles, and we all have our favorite pupuseria in Columbia Heights or Mount Pleasant.  It’s definitely a fixture of our lives, so we wanted to experiment with some recipes and hone our technique. 
We were lucky to have a great teacher, Teresa, a chef who we share kitchen space with at our Mount Vernon site. She generously took the time to show us her technique and coach us through the process. Once we learned from the master, we gave it a try by ourselves, and we were pretty pleased with the results. For all you aspiring pupusa makers out there, here's a step-by-step overview of the process! 
Step 1: Make Your Fillings
We went with black beans (lovingly hand-mashed by Amanda!), shredded pork, and a sauteed summer squash veggie mixture. Of course, all three got a generous sprinkling of a delicious mild white cheese, labeled specifically as cheese for pupusas.

Finding Purpose: A Zucchini’s Perspective of Hopes and Aspirations in the Brainfood Kitchen

Typically at Brainfood we work with high school students, work that inevitably provides Brainfood staff with a bounty of hilarious and heartwarming stories to share on our blog. But in the lull between summer and fall programming, it seemed like a good time to share another story of growth and development that has happened on-site. What follows is a unique account of the path from seed-to-table by Zelda the Zucchini, born and raised in the Brainfood Youth Garden.

Photo credits to Aimee McLaughlin for the incredible portrait! Thanks Aimee!)

Hello there, my name is Zelda. I am a zucchini. What does being a zucchini mean to me? That’s a good question. I’ve been a zucchini all my life, so it’s hard for me to think outside my glossy green skin. But I will try.

My Spirit Vegetable

Madelyn Bullock
is a Brainfood graduate who completed the Kitchen All Stars program in 2013, Box Project in 2014, and worked on our Brainfood Homegrown production team for summer 2015. Madelyn is a senior at Benjamin Banneker Academic High School and she wrote the following personal statement as a reflection on what she's learned about herself in the kitchen and garden.

Food is my life. If  I were a vegetable I would be an eggplant. A vibrant purple with an absorbent flavor. There are so many possibilities for me, but not everyone knows how to use an eggplant. The power an eggplant holds is broad and unclear. My flavor fits in everywhere, but first let me make you a snack. 

Take a Peek Into a Week at Box Project!

Blog post by Brainfood Program Associate, Amanda Kirsch

Summer is always a busy season in our Brainfood kitchens. So busy, that sometimes we forget to share all of the fun with you, our amazing friends and supporters. But that ends here. 

Since the end of June, Box Project participants have been hard at work running a 6-week CSA out of our Mt. Vernon Square site. Each week our teens prepare a number of handmade food items to pair with an ever-changing variety of fresh produce from local farms. Box Project subscribers pick up their box of themed goodies each Thursday.

Hours of brainstorming, planning, recipe testing, shopping, and food prep lovingly go into each and every box. Take a peek at some of the action here, and feast your eyes on some cheerful faces and tasty fare.

Monday: With no time to waste, teams start the week with food prep. Our giant whiteboard/master checklist keeps us on track throughout the week.

"Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind", Creativity, and Backup Plans

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.” – Zen Master Shunryo Suzuki

As a youth worker, I am always learning from the amazing young people in our programs. One of the best things about working with teens is the fact that every class, every conversation, and every unique group of students has its own gems of wisdom to impart, whether I realize it at the time or not. And this summer, our students have been teaching me about Zen.  Maybe these high school students don’t consider themselves Zen masters, but as I’ve been reflecting on Summer Institute so far, one theme that these teens clearly have a lot to teach me about is the concept of “beginner’s mind.”

A Peek at Our Summer Harvest

Blog post by Elizabeth Packer, Box Project Intern

Summer is in full swing here at Brainfood. At Box Project, we're busy putting the finishing touches on our third box of the summer and preparing for our 15 clients to come pick them up. This week's box theme is Hungry Hungry Hippie, which means lots of veggie goodness. And the best part about cooking in the summer? The abundance of delicious produce the season brings. 

I'm spending my summer at Brainfood both working in the garden and assisting with Box Project, and it's nice to see our youth incorporating vegetables from our garden into the food they prepare for our clients and themselves. Throughout the week, our young chefs have had the chance to visit the garden and harvest a range of ingredients, from herbs like basil and parsley to veggies like eggplant and dragon tongue beans. The walk from our kitchen to the garden takes about 2 minutes—it doesn't get more local than this! 

Take a look at some of the beauties we currently have growing in the garden, and stay tuned as the season progresses to see what else we're harvesting. 

Welcome to Summer

Welcome to Summer Institute 2015! We have amazing students who are fun, spirited, and masters of the kitchen. Check out some of the awesome things we have been doing so far!        

What do Usher, Mike Tyson, and Brainfood’s beet cupcakes have in common?


I’ll give you a hint: they also share this common theme with Bill Clinton and Ellen Degeneres.


'How to Read a Recipe' To Chef's Challenge: A Year at Brainfood

Those of us who are Brainfood program staffers have been navigating some serious empty nest syndrome over the past few weeks. It seems like just yesterday we took our first Costco trip of the year, and now many of our teen participants are studying for final exams, heading off to college orientations, and/or preparing for summer jobs.
First Costco shop of the year!
The month of May was a whirlwind as one of our afterschool programs, Kitchen All Stars, came to a close for the year with a festive graduation celebration and an abundance of tasty food. After the streamers fell and the last dishes were washed and returned to storage, we found ourselves with quiet kitchens and an opportunity to take a step back and reflect on the year behind us. It’s hard to believe how much our teens have grown, both as individuals and cohorts, since they entered Brainfood’s doors last fall. They have so many accomplishments to be proud of, and we as their instructors are proud to share them with you.

Red, White + Brew!

This week, Brainfood was thrilled to be the non-profit beneficiary for an event hosted by Charlie Palmer Steak DC called “American Fare: Red, White + Brew.” The event featured  four DC Brewers: 3 Stars Brewing Company, Atlas Brew Works, DC Brau Brewing Company, and Port City Brewing Company, showcasing creative craft beers paired with menu items from Chef Jeff Russell’s "Jeff-to-Table" menu, each dish featuring farm-to-table ingredients sourced from a garden just a few miles away from the restaurant.
The event was truly a celebration of “all things grown and made right here in Washington, DC,”  which is right up our alley! Many of the brewers, chefs, guests, and others involved with the event clearly have a penchant for local food, and we had lots of great conversations about urban gardening, empowering youth as agents of change in their local food communities, and culinary education as part of the movement to transform the food system. 


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