Bite of Brainfood Blog

Goodbye, Training Wheels: Working Sans Recipes on the Brainfood Signature Sandwich Challenge

Recipes are a big part of cooking. At least for beginners, they’re essential tools that provide instruction necessary to get the desired results. But like training wheels, they become less essential with time. We learn to experiment, rely on past experience, and trust our instincts. The transition from following a recipe step-by-step to cooking without that guidance can be exciting, fun, and yes, even a little bit scary.  Here at Brainfood in Kitchen All Stars, we made that leap this week. We started with a versatile, forgiving, and consistently crowd-pleasing food item that we hoped would minimize the “scary” part of this transition: the sandwich. And though it was a dramatic departure from how we’ve been doing things, I’d say the fun and excitement and fun far outweighed the fear.

A New Season

The seasons have changed. Summer turned into fall, and our Brainfood youth garden has produced the last of its summer crops. Other plants, however, are just beginning to yield in abundance. Kale, spinach, arugula, carrots, mustard greens, and beets—now in season—are ushered in with autumn.

First Days, Again

One of the kickers of being a teacher is that, unlike your students, you often have several first days of class.  I’ve had quite a few “first days” at Brainfood, each with its own charms and pitfalls.  In my rookie year at Brainfood, I bit my lip with nerves and obsessively counted the mixing bowls.  My second year, teaching solo for the first time, I forgot to eat lunch and nearly got drowned out by my own rumbling stomach while explaining our attendance policy.  Third through fifth years got better.  I moved up from a smaller, older kitchen to a larger, brighter one for a few years and watched new students marvel at the expanse of stainless steel countertops when they walked in the door.  Then I taught in an empty Sunday school classroom (i.e., not a kitchen at all), and spent the first day showing my students how to set up portable burners and stack the pint-sized chairs in the corner of the room to give us more space.  And this year, just this Monday, I started first day of Brainfood classes in a completely different way: outside.

Welcome to Brainfood, Ricki!

Hi there! My name is Ricki. I am one of the newest members of the Brainfood team. Part of our mission is to use food as a tool to build life skills. This is exactly what drew me to Brainfood. Food is a universal language that connects people from all backgrounds and walks of life. It is not only essential to us for nourishment but it is also a way to explore cultures and take healthy risks.


Trivia, Treats, and Thai Basil: Brainfood goes to Homegrown DC

Homegrown DC logoWhat do you get when you combine 5 eggplants, 10 lbs of pole beans, a gallon of blanched sweet potato greens, and dozens of Thai basil bunches? We asked ourselves that very question earlier this month, as a mild panic set in: Our after-school cooking programs hadn’t started back up for the year, and we were filling our fridges and freezers to the gills with fresh produce from the Brainfood Youth Garden. What were we going to do with all those extra veggies?! Thanks to the folks at Neighborhood Farm Initiative, City Blossoms, and Common Good City Farm, we found the answer last weekend: Homegrown DC, a “hyper-local” farmers market where community gardens, urban farms, and youth gardens like ours can show off what they’ve grown and celebrate delicious foods originating right here in the District.

End of Summer Harvest & Back to School!

It’s that time of year! Freshly sharpened pencils, crisp empty notebook pages full of possibility, fall activity fairs, and new beginnings. Over at Brainfood, we’ve been busy harvesting lots of produce from the Brainfood Youth Garden and stockpiling it for fall programs. The garden has been producing loads of yummy veggies: pole beans, padron peppers, tomatoes, okra, and most of all, GREENS! We’ve been blanching and freezing collard greens, beet greens, rainbow chard, sweet potato greens, and more, and our students are certainly in for a year filled with lots of recipes featuring hyper-local greens from our Youth Garden right here on K Street!


You know it's a Brainfood summer when...

You know it’s a Brainfood summer when…

1. there's a dance party in the kitchen that involves wigs and sequined sunglasses.

Brainfood grads often have creative streak, and our Box Project class was no exception. After a summer of impromptu singing and some spontaneous kitchen dance routines, we challenged them to channel their talents into a last day music video. Armed with props supplied by Garden Manager Aimee, they created a music video mashup that's still got us laughing.

Food as a Story

All food has a story.  From where it was planted, to where it was grown, to who harvested it, to how it was transported, to who sold it, to who bought it, to who cooked it, and to who ate it, there are so many little stories that each dish collects along its journey from farm to table.  And every person along the journey that food takes has their own story to tell too. 
Here at the Brainfood Summer Institute, we took a day to appreciate the art of food storytelling and how food interacts with culture and tradition.  We named this day “Soul Food Day” and cooked some of the dishes our students had requested, including collard greens, mac & cheese, cornbread, and pumpkin pie.  Before we began cooking, we took some time to watch a few videos of speakers on the website “A Spoken Dish” – a storytelling project dedicated to “celebrating and documenting food memories and rituals from people across the South.”

In a Pickle: Strategies for Reducing Food Waste

Brainfood Summer Institute class with pickles

The United States produces roughly 35 million tons of food waste every year, 95% of which, according to the EPA, goes straight to our landfills and incinerators. That means food waste ends up in our municipal solid waste systems more than any other kind of solid waste. At Brainfood, we care a lot about our food: where it comes from, how it was raised or grown, how it’s preserved and stored, the way it’s seasoned, handled, and cooked, and the energy and nutrients it provides us. This month at Summer Institute, our students paused to think about simple, realistic strategies to make the most out of our food resources and reduce food waste.

Updates from Summer Institute!

 Writtten by Brainfood Summer Institute intern Caitlin Sirianni 

With only two weeks left, Summer Institute is well underway! 

We started program with baking week where students learned how to

 with different doughs and batters as well as how to make healthy substitutions for low-fat baking. These recipes included pumpkin chocolate chip cupcakes, beet chocolate cake, and zucchini muffins. Most students were shocked how delicious the baked goods were even with the unconventional ingredients. On biscuit day, students used their creativity to showcase some 4th of July spirit! The second week of program introduced knife skills followed by protein and whole-grains week. The theme for this past week was local food systems. We focused on what foods are in season and used herbs and spices from the Brainfood garden in our recipes.

One of the students' favorite days was Jamaican beef patties, stuffed

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