Carrie Fehr

Kitchen Garden Food and Fitness

Category: Science of Cooking

Comfort In Cookies

Double chocolate cookie keto

In unsettling moments, one place that always provides sanctuary for me, is in the kitchen.  An unexpected turn of events, recently led me down the coast of California to visit my son, who lives in Los Angeles. We spent the day sharing things we enjoy together: a walk around the lake, breakfast at a new restaurant, conversations on life, while also savoring the quiet moments, and spending time in the kitchen baking cookies, naturally.

Late in the afternoon, at the end of our visit, my son offered to bake some keto-friendly chocolate cookies. The smell of baking never fails to improve my mood and on this particular day, it might just bring a little comfort for a tender heart.

Besides I was really curious, eager to find out how my son would turn out a batch of cookies sans sugar, and minus all of the carb-laden ingredients that make cookies delicious. Keto, or ketogenic is a low-carb diet based on eating real foods that offer healthy benefits. The idea intrigued me. A lot.

And I have to admit, there is something really satisfying and comforting, about watching my son embrace the cooking process in his own kitchen, watching him engage in a dialogue with food that unfolds his story.  I find myself standing beside the kitchen island filled with awe, when a realization suddenly hit me and I digress for a moment, becoming conscious of a difference that stands out like night and day—- my son’s cooking style is the polar opposite of mine!

Step inside my kitchen and the first thing you’ll notice when I’m preparing a recipe, is that it’s very organized. Every bowl, measuring spoon, and ingredient is lined up and ready to be creamed, mixed, or chopped and sent off to its final destination. I also mentally prepare in advance for the cooking adventure, absorbing myself fully in the process, like a method actor exploring a character. I completely immerse myself in the recipe, dissecting every angle imaginable, as I visualize and breathe my next creation.

My son’s approach to cooking sharply contrasts with mine. A creative thinker, he allows his existential journey through food to be guided by delight in haphazard curiosity and spontaneous improvisation. “What do you think if I combine ghee with butter?” he calmly asks, realizing there’s not enough butter in the refrigerator. Or, “I just found some cocoa powder I can throw in,” he says thrilled by his discovery. “Maybe add a few salted nuts?”

He relies on a recipe like a set of guidelines to forge his own culinary path, rather than a roadmap with constrictive rules. It adds a bit of suspense to the process and also serves as a nice reminder that recipes, like life, can’t always be perfect.

Tasting along the way, his cooking style is more defined by feel rather than exact measurements. None of his ingredients are precisely measured, as he casually scoops the concoction of cookie dough from the bowl onto the baking pan with sheer pleasure and satisfaction.  He pops the cookies into the oven, trusting his own intuition and senses to guide him when they will be ready to come out. Like an ear for languages, it’s a talent.

By contrast, I’m one who slavishly counts the seconds with my kitchen timer, in case I get distracted and forget something in the oven. Plus, I like to play by the rules. So many factors go into baking, it’s as much a science as an art. I’ve learned that the smallest alteration in the ingredient or method can completely change the cooking chemistry outcome. Thinking to myself, I begin to wonder about my son’s baking result.

But by the time the sweet smells of chocolate begin to fill the house, I quickly abandon all conventional baking wisdom, and my sense of anticipation is rising from the seductive aromas emanating from the kitchen.

Still warm from the oven, I eagerly reach for a cookie and gently break it apart with my hands. I can’t wait to taste it! I bite into the brownie-like cookie and taste a hint of flaky salt that carries the intensity of the stevia-sweetened dark chocolate chips melting in my mouth. It reminds me of a super moist lava cake dripping in a silky river of chocolate. I find myself eating slowly, savoring the way the sweet and salty flavors ricochet around each other. Each bite makes me want another. I want more —- a lot more.

Although my son and I have very different culinary styles, we share the same philosophy about cooking, and appreciate the meditative sanctuary that our kitchen offers us. The intrinsic value of a dish, the product of a labor of love— is the joy it brings to each other.

Cooking is about engaging in the moment. It meets us wherever we are, like a yoga practice. It opens a path that is within us, like a treasure waiting to be discovered.  It is a tactile balm that soothes our heart. It waits to unfold slowly, like a lotus flower blooming.

We find stillness and quiet reflection in our kitchen sanctuary. It is a respite, a contemplative temple of food, where we can retreat, when the noise of life becomes distracting.

Double Chocolate Cookies (Keto)

Makes 1 1/2 dozen cookies

Ingredients:

½ cup, plus 2 Tbls unsalted butter, softenened

½ cup, plus 2 Tbls swerve sweetener

2 eggs, room temperature

1 tsp vanilla extract or almond extract

1 ¼ cup almond flour

¼ cup cocoa powder, sifted

1 tsp baking soda

¼ tsp salt

¾ cup stevia sweetened chocolate chips, plus a little more for topping

Flaky sea salt or fleur de sel for sprinkling on top

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine softened butter and swerve sweetener until  creamy and well-blended.

Beat in the eggs and vanilla extract.

Stir in the almond flour and mix until combined. Add sifted cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix until combined.

Stir in the chocolate chips.  The batter will be sticky.

Using an ice-cream scoop, form tablespoon-sized mounds of dough onto the baking sheets and press the tops down a bit with your fingers, or the back of a spoon. Sprinkle several chocolate chips and a little flaky salt over the top of each cookie.

Place in the preheated oven and bake for 12 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let cool on the baking sheet for about 10 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack.

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The Science Of Cooking: Citrus Rocks!

 

IMG_0826“If we look deeply into a flower, what do we see? Sunshine, a cloud, earth, minerals, the gardener, the complete cosmos.”-Thich Nhat Hanh

Citrus Rocks the Science of Cooking Class where fourth grade Chef Scientists explore the link between minerals that originate in the soil, to the unique role it plays on the human diet, along with a little citrus history, some fun anecdotes, and a healthy recipe.

Citrus Love: With its sheer variety and profusion of colors, citrus fruit esteemed in many cultures as a symbol of happiness — is not hard to love. Even though many citrus fruits are common, there are a few lesser known examples in our harvest basket that stand out. From the wild-looking, yet extremely fragrant Buddha’s hand, to the tiny oval kumquat with its sweet rind and intense tart pulp — make our lips pucker, to the bowling-ball sized pomelo that hangs on trees spanning across the landscape to an impressive 50 feet high.  The citrus harvest basket is brimming with diverse learning opportunities that weave together lessons about folklore, health, environment, and more.  It imparts a sense of wonder and appreciation that inspires students to retell the citrus anecdotes from memory throughout the year.  Retelling a story is a valuable sequencing skill that supports reading comprehension and writing skills in the classroom, and is notable, since cooking classes only meet one hour a month, and in some cases, less than that.

Good to the Bone:  As we turn our spotlight over to the science lab, fourth graders  discover that minerals come from the earth, and humans absorb these minerals through the plants they eat.  As scientists, they explore the nutrients in citrus fruit, and learn that aside from the immune boosting benefits of Vitamin C, it is chock-full of minerals that help our bones, teeth, and muscles, to name a few.  And last but not least, folate, a nutrient that improves mood by raising the serotonin levels in our body, can help explain why we feel so good after eating citrus fruit.

Getting Pithy:  One of the many virtues of citrus is the entire fruit is usable– the pulp, the juice, and aromatic peel, complete as nature intended, and as it turns out, is the perfect ingredient for the recipe– Fruit Roll Ups.  Click here for the link to the recipe.  Student chefs put their cooking skills into action using four colorful varieties of citrus fruit– the Cara Cara, Moro Blood, and Navel Oranges, along with the Satsuma Mandarin. As they section, slice, zest, peel, and juice, their way through the recipe, our excited chefs discover after eating the soft pulp leftover from juicing, that the hollowed out navel orange morphs into a drinking cup!  Finally, we mix and match citrus vocabulary words, like pithy, zesty, and juicy in a citrus acrostic poem, where students create phrases using the concepts they learned from the Science of Cooking Class.  Mindful eating, along with citrus poetry is a great ending to our class.

The Soul Of Ancient Grains

Whole Grain 4

Inspired by a 3rd grade student who raises an important philosophical question when she asks, “Do whole grains have souls?”

Throughout history ancient cultures have regarded grains as a sacred food, like medicine for the soul, it symbolized the essence of their spirituality that meant more than just sustenance. Grains played a significant role in shaping and influencing daily culinary, ritual, and spiritual practices.

Ancient grains tell stories about past civilizations that offer insights into their traditions and cultural values that were important to their life. Quinoa, the legendary grain of the Incas, was known to sustain the body with endurance and to increase deeper spiritual powers through meditation, and with respect, honored as the “mother grain.” Aztecs highly valued amaranth as “the food of the gods,” and for its supernatural health properties that was central to their spiritual rituals.  In the Hindu culture, grains played a role in important rite of passage ceremonies beginning with the ritual of baby’s first solid food, or spiritual food called the “feeding of the grains;” as well as, in weddings and in after life– funerals.

With appreciation for the deeper meaning of ancient grains that was once held sacred, and kept close at heart, I am mindful of my student, and her profound sense of curiosity to express a question the great philosopher, Socrates might ask– Do whole grains have a soul?

The New American Classroom: Farm-To-School Cooking

IMG_0937As we have become distant with our relationship to food, cooking at school offers children the opportunity to experience food in a completely new way, weighing each word, measuring each ingredient— it captivates all of their senses and highlights the love of food that nourishes the body, soothes the heart, and stimulates the mind while connecting them to the source.  Cooking in the classroom provide schools with a new opportunity, a new responsibility to play a leading role, of participating in shaping a healthy future that our children will inherit.

The following excerpt is about a day in the life of cooking in the classroom at The Berkeley Unified School District, where the lesson spotlights the Harvest of Greens.                                                                                                                        

Love is Greens: Since Valentine’s Day is celebrated during the same month as the Harvest of Greens cooking class, we share our feelings of love and how it relates to our nature’s bounty, which is a natural and perfect springboard into our lesson, Love is Greens!

Setting the Stage:  The culinary stage is set with table arrangements of tools, measurements, colorful mats, and mason jar centerpieces filled with harvest greens, which look like a still life against the backdrop of blue-and-white checkered bistro tablecloths illuminated from the sunlight that pours into the room like honey, transforming a bland space into a vibrant cooking lab.  The drama of the table setting announces the cooking adventure, and students dance with excitement into the classroom.

The Symphony:  The elements of cooking, math, and science come together like a beautiful symphony, with each section keeping tempo and harmonizing with the next. Beginning with the rhythmic staccato of chopping garlic against the cutting board, followed by the smooth rolling movement of knives slicing long cylinders of leafy greens that squeak, when very fresh. Students dangle thin ribbons of chard between excited fingers, placing them along the edge of their rulers, admiring each strand as though it was a special star before recording the longest and shortest measurement on a notepad. The grand finale erupts when a round of applause from the skillet of sizzling greens piled high like Mt. Everest, reaches its crescendo that make students, jump! “Steam.“ “Evaporation.” “It’s Shrinking,” are a few of the excited responses students shout with joy.  And then softly like a distant murmur that melts into silence, an unspoken signal to all, it is time to enjoy the fruits of our labor, in the recipe, Mac N’ Greens.

Silver Lining:  Mac N’ Greens formerly known as, The Pasta and Greens Recipe, morphed into a little jewel, due to an unfortunate circumstance. The supermarket where I grocery shop, sold out of my pasta of choice, and as a result, I settled on elbow macaroni. When I arrived to cooking class with the macaroni, my student’s eyes poured over with excitement and they cheered in unison, “Yes, we’re making Mac N’ Cheese.”  The idea stuck and I re-named it, Mac N’ Greens, a kid-friendlier version, which was an instant success.  I like the ease of preparation of this recipe it’s healthy with inexpensive ingredients and tasty!  Greens are a nutritional powerhouse too, mix and match for a contrast of flavors and textures, Collards, Chard, Kale, or add a little Broccoli Rabe for good measure. To make a creamier version, try some grated sharp cheddar cheese, and for a little crunch, top it with toasted breadcrumbs.

The Recipe:  Mac N’ Greens 

Carrie Fehr begins her thirteenth year as Chef Teacher for the cooking & gardening program in the Berkeley Unified School District. When not teaching or writing on her food blog, http://www.carriefehr.com.  Carrie practices Bikram yoga, and devotes many hours to cycling.  The New American Classroom:  Farm-To-School Cooking In Berkeley was  featured in Fedupwithlunch.com

Related articles:  Winter Greens

The New American Classroom: Farm-To-School Cooking

By Carrie Fehr

As we have become distant with our relationship to food, cooking at school offers children the opportunity to experience food in a completely new way, weighing each word, measuring each ingredient— it captivates all of their senses and highlights the love of food that nourishes the body, soothes the heart, and stimulates the mind while connecting them to the source.  Cooking in the classroom provide schools with a new opportunity, a new responsibility to play a leading role, of participating in shaping a healthy future that our children will inherit.

The following excerpt is about a day in the life of cooking in the classroom at The Berkeley Unified School District, where the lesson spotlights the Harvest of Greens.                                                                                                                        

Love is Greens: Since Valentine’s Day is celebrated during the same month as the Harvest of Greens cooking class, we share our feelings of love and how it relates to our nature’s bounty, which is a natural and perfect springboard into our lesson, Love is Greens!

Setting the Stage:  The culinary stage is set with table arrangements of tools, measurements, colorful mats, and mason jar centerpieces filled with harvest greens, which look like a still life against the backdrop of blue-and-white checkered bistro tablecloths illuminated from the sunlight that pours into the room like honey, transforming a bland space into a vibrant cooking lab.  The drama of the table setting announces the cooking adventure, and students dance with excitement into the classroom.

The Symphony:  The elements of cooking, math, and science come together like a beautiful symphony, with each section keeping tempo and harmonizing with the next. Beginning with the rhythmic staccato of chopping garlic against the cutting board, followed by the smooth rolling movement of knives slicing long cylinders of leafy greens that squeak, when very fresh. Students dangle thin ribbons of chard between excited fingers, placing them along the edge of their rulers, admiring each strand as though it was a special star before recording the longest and shortest measurement on a notepad. The grand finale erupts when a round of applause from the skillet of sizzling greens piled high like Mt. Everest, reach its crescendo that make students, jump! “Steam.“ “Evaporation.” “It’s Shrinking,” are a few of the excited responses students shout with joy.  And then softly like a distant murmur that melts into silence, an unspoken signal to all, it is time to enjoy the fruits of our labor, in the recipe, Mac N’ Greens.

Silver Lining:  Mac N’ Greens formerly known as, The Pasta and Greens Recipe, morphed into a little jewel, due to an unfortunate circumstance. The supermarket where I grocery shop, was sold out of my pasta of choice, and as a result, I settled on elbow macaroni. When I arrived to cooking class with the macaroni, my student’s eyes poured over with excitement and cheered in unison, “Yes, we’re making Mac N’ Cheese,” the idea stuck and I re-named it, Mac N’ Greens, a kid-friendlier version, which was an instant success.  I like the ease of preparation of this recipe it’s healthy with inexpensive ingredients and tasty!  Greens are a nutritional powerhouse too, mix and match for a contrast of flavors and textures, Collards, Chard, Kale, or add a little Broccoli Rabe for good measure. To make a creamier version, try some grated sharp cheddar cheese, and for a little crunch, top it with toasted breadcrumbs.

The Recipe: http://kidseatingright.com/recipes-5/mac-n-greens/

Carrie Fehr begins her twelfth year as Chef Teacher for the cooking & gardening program in the Berkeley Unified School District. When not teaching or writing on her food blog, http://www.carriefehr.com.  Carrie practices Bikram yoga, and devotes many hours to cycling.  She is an advocate for school food reform and is working on a book about her cooking lessons learned from the classroom.  The New American Classroom:  Farm-To-School Cooking In Berkeley was  featured in Fedupwithlunch.com

Root For Beets!

The beet is the melancholy vegetable, the one most willing to suffer. You can’t squeeze blood out of a turnip…—Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume

Fun facts about root vegetables ignite sparks all around the cooking room, with an atmosphere that becomes electric as students discover the magic of sweet beets, a vegetable, by no means is fancy, and is often misunderstood.  Slices of roasted beets fanned across a white plate, accented by a single carrot, fresh from the ground, is a visual study on contrast that makes our eyes pop from the deep intense purple that looks like it is dripping paint.  Students dance with excitement as they prepare a tasting plate of raw carrot with its long leafy stem, next to thin petals of tender honeyed beets that look translucent.  For a preview of next week’s recipe created for the Science of Cooking Series, please click here.

Winter Greens

Love is Green:  From the wildly diverse Brassica clan, to the vast palette of mustards, cabbages, and leafy greens, our harvest yield this month is overflowing with a cornucopia of Winter Greens that is so compelling, it draws students into cooking class like a magnet.  Since Valentine’s Day is around the corner, it is an auspicious time to share our feelings of love and how it relates to our nature’s bounty.  Our opening question begins with, “What color is love?”  “Red, purple, pink, even black,” are a few of the excited responses from students, and quickly we learn that love can have different meanings.  It should come as no surprise to anyone, that I am, in fact, deeply enamored with Winter Greens, and so quite predictably, the color of love to me, means green, which is a natural and perfect springboard into our lesson— Love is Greens.

Greens get its due. Highlights to our lesson lead off with the waxy broad leaf Collard Green, once considered a poor man’s food, have tufted rosettes of leaves supported by a sturdy upright stem which can grow up to 4 feet, is in sharp contrast to the colorful stems of the gorgeous Rainbow Chard that make it remarkable and as true to its namesake, and undeniably rules as the beauty queen of greens!  Dinosaur Kale with its deeply ridged green leaves is a jewel of nutrition that is unusually rich in nutrients and regarded as a super food.  And not to be outdone, Broccoli Rabe with its feathery leaves, clustered flower buds, and nutty-bitter nuances, pairs nicely as a counterbalance of flavor in a mixed bunch of greens — is arguably the best topping on pizza, ever.  Students enjoy preparing the featured Collard Greens, Rainbow Chard, Dinosaur Kale, and Broccoli Rabe in this Mac N’ Greens recipe.

The Science of Cooking: Citrus Rocks

 

IMG_0826“If we look deeply into a flower, what do we see? Sunshine, a cloud, earth, minerals, the gardener, the complete cosmos.”-Thich Nhat Hanh

Citrus Rocks:  Citrus rocks the Science of Cooking Class where fourth grade Chef Scientists explore the link between minerals that originate in the soil, to the unique role it plays on the human diet, along with a little citrus history, some fun anecdotes, and a healthy recipe.

Citrus Love: With its sheer variety and profusion of colors, citrus fruit esteemed in many cultures as a symbol of happiness — is not hard to love. Even though many citrus fruits are common, there are a few lesser known examples in our harvest basket that stand out. From the wild-looking, yet extremely fragrant Buddha’s hand, to the tiny oval kumquat with its sweet rind and intense tart pulp — make our lips pucker, to the bowling-ball sized pomelo that hangs on trees spanning across the landscape to an impressive 50 feet high.  The citrus harvest basket is brimming with diverse learning opportunities that weave together lessons about folklore, health, environment, and more.  It imparts a sense of wonder and appreciation that inspires students to retell the citrus anecdotes from memory throughout the year.  Retelling a story is a valuable sequencing skill that supports reading comprehension and writing skills in the classroom, and is notable, since cooking classes only meet one hour a month, and in some cases, less than that.

Good to the Bone:  As we turn our spotlight over to the science lab, fourth graders  discover that minerals come from the earth, and humans absorb these minerals through the plants they eat.  As scientists, they explore the nutrients in citrus fruit, and learn that aside from the immune boosting benefits of Vitamin C, it is chock-full of minerals that help our bones, teeth, and muscles, to name a few.  And last but not least, folate, a nutrient that improves mood by raising the serotonin levels in our body, can help explain why we feel so good after eating citrus fruit.

Getting Pithy:  One of the many virtues of citrus is the entire fruit is usable– the pulp, the juice, and aromatic peel, complete as nature intended, and as it turns out, is the perfect ingredient for the recipe– Fruit Roll Ups.  Click here for the link to the recipe.  Student chefs put their cooking skills into action using four colorful varieties of citrus fruit– the Cara Cara, Moro Blood, and Navel Oranges, along with the Satsuma Mandarin. As they section, slice, zest, peel, and juice, their way through the recipe, our excited chefs discover after eating the soft pulp leftover from juicing, that the hollowed out navel orange morphs into a drinking cup!  Finally, we mix and match citrus vocabulary words, like pithy, zesty, and juicy in a citrus acrostic poem, where students create phrases using the concepts they learned from the Science of Cooking Class.  Mindful eating, along with citrus poetry is a great ending to our class.

The Science Of Food: The Chef And The Scientist

Teaching science through the lens of cooking encourages students to understand the valuable connection between a chef and scientist, and offers a rich stew of inquiry-based science lessons that reinforces the vital role food plays in our health.

The Lesson:  In the science of cooking lesson, fifth graders explore the relationship of cellular respiration, a process about how cells extract energy from food– and its impact on our health.  In the concept of cellular respiration, students learn that the human body uses sugar glucose as a main source of energy, and when combined with oxygen, it will release that energy.  For example, eating simple carbohydrates, will offer a quick boost of energy, but the excess glucose (energy) will convert into fat, also increasing the risk for developing diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity, an epidemic that according to experts affects one out of three children and teens.  Eating foods rich in complex carbohydrates like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, will breakdown the glucose more slowly, process the energy more efficiently,  and will help  lower the risk for getting diseases.

The Experiment: To prove the effects of cellular respiration, students investigate three different nutrient sources from the recipe, Three Sisters Succotash aka Corn, Beans, and Squash.  Yeast, a single cell organism that can convert sugar into carbon dioxide, is mixed with each nutrient source, and then sealed inside a plastic bag submerged in a warm water bath.  For comparison purposes, students create a fourth variable that is only sugar.  Students make predictions on what they think will happen between the nutrient sources and the sugar.  Lucky this is the science of cooking class, because students now put on their chef hats and prepare the recipe, Three Sisters Succotash, while waiting on the outcome of the cellular respiration experiment.

As another epic class concludes, the results of the experiment confirm that sugar processes energy the fastest, but yet the message is clear:  slow and steady, corn, beans, and squash will win the race, the marathon of all–good health.


The Science of Cooking

The idea behind the Science of Cooking Class took shape when two teachers, one part science, and one part cooking, decided to team up and collaborate on a new and exciting approach to teaching science concepts through food, and as a result, The Science of Cooking Class came about.

Each Science of Cooking Class focuses on a nutrition lesson, a cooking lab activity, and a science concept. Students gain practical knowledge and skills by exploring the scientific components of each lesson. A study in the November/December 2011 issue of the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior shows how cooking in the classroom successfully helps students learn school subjects and develop cooking skills. Even at the higher educational level, the benefits and importance of combining cooking with an academic subject have become clear.

At Harvard University, the administration encouraged their faculty to create new ideas for courses that connect classrooms to the “life outside,” an experiential approach that students embrace. Offering a course on, The Science of the Physical Universe, Cooking and Science, proved extremely successful at Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. “This course may accomplish what I’ve been trying to do for so many years — make physics interesting, ’’ said David Weitz, Harvard professor of physics and applied physics, who led the course. (Boston Globe, 10/10) “I spent all my life in academia trying to teach physics… Weitz said. “And for the first time students were interested. They wanted to learn—they enjoyed it.” (Harvard Crimson, 12/10/10)

This month, the featured topic in the Science of Cooking Class for fourth graders, focused on how the electrolytes from a pear play a key role in sending signals to our muscles, brain, and heart. To illustrate the point, we showed how a pear uses its electrolytes to conduct an electrical charge from two different metals to make an electrical circuit, highlighting a science lesson on magnetism and electricity.

Beyond exposing students to the connections that underlie these two subjects, it also creates another dialogue for supporting greater collaboration between teachers of different subjects at school. Plus, the value of integrating science with cooking and how it relates in the classroom offers students both practical skills and conceptual tools that will serve them well in life.