November 2011

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!

Here’s a delicious recipe for onion dill bread.

Dill Bread
Adapted from The Joy of Cooking

Makes one 9×5-inch loaf

1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm (105 to 115°F) water
3 cups bread flour (I replaced 1/2 cup of this flour with whole wheat)
1/2 cup finely chopped onions
3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill, or 1 tablespoon dried dill or dill seeds
2 tablespoons sugar or honey
1 tablespoon wheat germ, toasted
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup large-curd cottage cheese
1 large egg

Optional, for top of bread:
1 egg, lightly beaten, or 1 tablespoon melted butter
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt or a few dill seeds

Combine yeast and water in a small bowl and let stand until the yeast is dissolved, about five minutes.

Combine flour, onions, dill, sugar or honey, wheat germ and salt in a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer. Add the yeast along with the cottage cheese and egg. Mix by hand or on low speed until the dough comes together, addition additional flour or warm water if needed. Knead for about 10 minutes by hand or with the dough hook on low to medium speed until the dough is smooth and elastic. Transfer to an oiled bowl and turn it over once to coat with oil. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place (75 to 80 degrees) until doubled in volume, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Grease a 9×5-inch (8-cup) loaf pan. Punch Gently press the dough down, form into a loaf and place seam side down in the pan. Cover with oiled plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°F. If desired, brush the top of loaf with the egg or melted butter, and then sprinkle with the additional salt or dill seeds. (I highly recommend the butter/salt combination.)

Bake until the crust is deep golden brown and the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when tapped, about 35 to 40 minutes. (My bread read just about 200°F on a thermometer when I took it out.) Remove the loaf from the pan to a rack and let cool completely.


November 19 was our third workday of the school year. Both the sky and the forecast threatened rain, but we were determined to soldier on no matter what, and invited people to the garden rain or shine.

But nature complied, as did our volunteer list. It never rained, but was cool enough that no one got too hot or miserable. We had at least 50 people there (including an honors society from Santa Monica College which brought 20 people on its own. Thanks, guys!)

It's like they're playing "Camouflage," our favorite game!

We got huge amounts of work done. In the photo above, people are clearing our former melon and pumpkin patch of the final crops and the weeds that threatened to overrun that fertile soil. Once the weeds were gone, we planted cover crops of borrage and clover to stave of the grasses that want to take over, and replenish some of the nutrients our plants took out. The cover crops will grow there until we’re ready to plant in the space again, at which time they’ll be mixed directly into the soil and turned into compost right there on the spot.

While the adults were using the big tools, the kids were working too. They brought their little brothers and they weeded…:

pulling grasses

…they dug holes, filled in holes, and looked for bugs…

…they picked strawberries…


…and they planted peas.

We got an amazing amount of work done and our best turn out yet. It is so gratifying to see the pride the community — students, parents, neighbors, everyone! — takes in this garden that we love so much. At the end of the day, we were able to send families home with bags bursting with collard greens, chard, kale, mint and other herbs. All of which was grown in beds that were tended to at previous workdays.

To everyone who came: thank you so much for your help.

To everyone else: see you next time, December 10th, 9 am!

 Who says kids won’t love a healthy snack?

Quite often when we tell people what we teach our kids in cooking class their response is, “Do they even like it?” Every time, with a satisfying smile, we reply, “Yes, they do!” And our doubter is left amazed. Take our Fourth Graders for example:

We walked Ms. Lafleur’s fourth grade class to the orchard and began to harvest some of the last Granny Smith and Fuji apples of the year. The kids were literally jumping with excitement over the prospect of picking this delicious fruit.  After we collected a bowlful of apples and took it back to the table, we washed and cut the apples.  The students then learned all about fennel and chopped the bulb up as well.  They also cut up some mint and sorrel they had harvested from the garden and tossed it all with a squeeze of lemon, a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. Finally, we took our forks in hand, and as a class we counted “one…two…three”…and we all tasted it! At first it was quiet, as everyone chewed up their first bite.  But then, the exclamations started coming from all directions! “This is GOOD!!”  “I love it!” “I’m going to want some more!” Every single student had  something wonderful to say about the tastiness of this snack.  Then from the side I kept hearing, “Miss Cassie, Miss Cassie” and so I walked over to my friend at the table.  He stood up and looked at me with an almost desperate countenance and pleaded “Please! Can I take this recipe home and give it to my mom so that she can make it for me for my birthday?!?” At once my heart was overjoyed at this most sincere stamp of approval.

Ms. Lefaur's class enjoying the salad


Try it for yourself and tell us what you think!

Apple Fennel Salad


2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and halved

2 bulbs fennel, sliced thin

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

optional: 1/4th cup chopped sorrel

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Cooking Method:

1.  Cut the apple into thin slices and place in a medium bowl with the fennel and sorrel.

2. Whisk together the lemon juice, mint, and olive oil in a small bowl.

3. Toss the apples, fennel and sorrel with the vinaigrette and season to taste with salt and pepper.

4. Enjoy!

The American Honda Foundation has just awarded us another $25,000 grant to continue our efforts throughout our (ever expanding!) community. To them, we say, “thank you!” and we can’t wait to put that money to work.

On a smaller but no less exciting note, we used our bike blender again in one of our cooking classes. The kids loved the resulting smoothie (the adults, not so much). The adults (this one, at least) did love seeing an entire class rally around each other. They stood in a circle around the bike chanting each others’ names and helping out when the pushing got tough. Literally: the kids would step on the pedals to help or kneel next to the bike and push the pedals with their hands if their classmates couldn’t turn them. The whole scene was heartwarming, and the apple smoothie at the end was well deserved.

In fact, it was so exciting that a class of kindergartners even filed in silently behind their teacher to check out the scene. They took the opportunity to walk around the garden too, and take a gander at our newly planted winter crops:

We’ve got several plantings of kale, chard, collards, and broccoli and more already in and going, and several more beds ready for plants that are on the way:

These beds were planted first. Just after they went in the ground, the water in the garden was turned off due to an irrigation issue at school. Thus, the plants bolted and look crazy (those tall plants in the middle bed are lettuce!). They still taste good, though. You can see the Mexican Marigolds blooming along the fence. They make the air so fragrant!

This was our second planting. We’re hoping to get some delicious brassicas and greens out of these beds. The flowers in the corners help attract beneficial insects, which eat the aphids and other pests that eat our crops.

Here, the amended soil waits patiently under a layer of alfalfa. The mulch layer will break down and replace some nutrients our earlier tomato crop leached from the soil. It will also protect the roots of whatever we plant next, staving off too much evaporation and some pests.