UC Food Blog
A secret to success, says UC SAREP’s program assistant Jeri Ohmart, “is patience and persistence. Keep your eye on the prize — increasing fresh, local, seasonal products in the school meal program; and creating an environment that teaches the full cycle from garden to cafeteria to compost and back to garden.”
Ohmart, who conducts the annual evaluation says the biggest lesson learned over the last 12 years of evaluations is not how to get the freshest produce or the healthiest meal. The lessons are much more salient. “To meet the goals of the farm-to-school program requires developing solid relationships based on mutual respect and trust — with food service directors, staff, maintenance and operations, school board members, teachers, and parents. Engage the larger community in any way possible. These are the principles that have kept our program moving in positive directions despite budget setbacks and the vagaries of funding and personnel shifts.”
To learn more about Davis Farm-to-School, visit their website. Read the full Davis Farm-to-School Evaluation or the Summary and Recommendations. Learn about more of SAREP's farm-to-school work on the SAREP web site.
“The Paleo Diet is a lifestyle based on the idea that in the past 40,000 years, our DNA has changed very little,” says the Dr. Oz Show website. “Therefore, eating processed foods like cereals, dairy products, and refined sugars invite disease and weight gain.”
When new diet fads hit the airwaves, UC Cooperative Extension’s nutrition educators hear questions. The nutrition educators are in schools, neighborhood centers, community gardens and health fairs teaching the evidence-based Dietary Guidelines for Americans, established by the USDA, to low-income Californians. At an annual training session held this month in Davis, nearly 200 UCCE educators were briefed on the Paleo diet by Sheri Zidenberg-Cherr, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Nutrition at UC Davis.
She said she’s open to new nutrition trends, but has some doubts about copying the dietary habits of our cavemen ancestors.
“After all, they only lived for 15 or 20 years,” Zidenberg-Cherr said. “Dr. Oz is going to say anything to get people excited.”
Ancient diets varied widely by location and historic period, making it difficult to accurately reconstruct eating patterns. And some of the published rationale for the Paleo diet is wrong.
“Scientists have discovered traces of seeds and grains on the teeth of fossilized humans,” she said. “Scientists have discovered remnants of grains on stone cooking tools.”
Zidenberg-Cherr said researchers are now beginning to explore the complex interplay of genes and lifestyle on an individual’s weight and health - a field called epigenetics. Ultimately, the research may one day provide personalized nutrition therapies that maximize genetic potentials, prevent chronic disease and improve treatment outcomes.
Epigenetics might explain the rave reviews by some who have been successful with the Paleo diet.
“Some people feel better when they eat a Paleo diet. It might have metabolic effects. It might improve glucose tolerance. It might be in their minds or it might be epigenetic,” Zidenberg-Cherr said.
The constant drumbeat of diet breakthroughs and fads, however, does tend to confuse the public and erode their confidence in nutrition messages.
“It’s our responsibility as nutrition scientists and educators to act as credible sources of science-based nutrition recommendations,” Zidenberg-Cherr told the UCCE nutrition educators.
And with the blossoms come the bees on which so many California crops depend for pollination.
In celebration of this vibrant time of year and the bees and beekeepers who help bring it to life, a special five-course gourmet dinner will be held Saturday, Feb. 8, at the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science at UC Davis.
The Mid-Winter Beekeeper’s Feast: A Taste of Mead and Honey is coordinated by the Mondavi Institute’s Honey and Pollination Center as a showcase for local, seasonal foods and a fundraiser for the center.
The dinner, which will be from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. in the Sensory Building of the Robert Mondavi Institute, has been designed by UC Davis alumna Ann Evans using her “Davis Farmer’s Market Cookbook” and by Mani Niall, author of numerous cookbooks including “Covered in Honey” and his latest venture, “Sweet!”
Each of the five courses will feature seasonally available foods that are enhanced with varietal honeys, wines and mead. The meal will conclude with a cheese course with fresh honeycomb and a selection of mead. The mead tasting will be guided by Darrell Corti, an international wine judge.
The event will be accompanied by a musical trio and include a silent auction of gift baskets and unique food-, wine- and honey-focused opportunities.
Proceeds from the evening will benefit the Honey and Pollination Center, which coordinates educational and research efforts in support of all aspects of the beekeeping industry.
If you’re interested in joining in this celebration of the bounty of the beehive and beekeepers, visit the events section of the Robert Mondavi Institute website and look for the Mid-Winter Beekeeper’s Feast flyer and registration information, including details for purchasing either single tickets or sponsoring an entire table.
In some parts of the country, eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day is thought to bring prosperity in the New Year. UC Riverside’s Reuben E. Herrington, a culinary manager/catering chef, has delicious recipes for black-eyed peas to share:
1 lb black-eyed peas
4 qts water
1 qt veg stock
.5c diced yellow onions
.5c diced green pepper
1 tsp minced garlic
1 smoked turkey leg or thigh
1/3 tsp kosher salt
1/3 tsp cracked black pepper
- Soak peas overnight in cold water
- In a large pot sauté onions, peppers, garlic, until translucent
- Drain and add peas to the pot , then add the stock and water and bring to a boil
- Once boiling turn down to a simmer and add the smoked turkey
- Cover and let cook for 3 hours on a medium to low heat
- Once peas are soft add salt and pepper to taste
- Remove smoked turkey and shred the remaining meat from the turkey and add to the peas
- Serve hot with jasmine white rice or cornbread
Traditionally served as a side dish or on New Year’s Day for most southern families, with fried chicken catfish, or smothered pork chops.
Black Eyed-Pea Fritters (Accara) w/ Hot pepper sweet relish
Ingredients for fritters:
1 cup black-eyed peas, soaked overnight, the rinsed and drained
1/2 medium onion, diced
1/2 cup raw peanuts
1 tsp thyme, minced
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp water
Salt to taste
1 bell pepper, finely chopped
1 tbsp cornmeal
Oil for frying
- In a food processor, combine the beans, onion, peanuts, thyme, cayenne, vinegar, water and salt and puree until you have a smooth mixture.
- Transfer to a bowl, cover and refrigerate for an hour.
- Remove the batter and add the chopped bell pepper and cornmeal and beat with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes.
- In a saucepan, heat the oil to about 350 degrees. Spoon the batter into the oil, taking care not to overcrowd the pan. Fry, stirring around, until the fritters are golden-brown, about 2 minutes.
- Transfer the fritters to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain. If you’re not eating them immediately, keep them warm in an oven warmed to 200 degrees.
- Canned black-eyed peas can be used to save time.
Ingredients for hot pepper sauce:
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 small red onion, diced
1/2 tsp cumin
1/8 tsp cayenne
Salt to taste
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 habanero chili, minced
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/4 cup tomato sauce
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup water
1/4 tsp freshly ground white pepper
- In a saucepan, over low heat, warm the oil. Add the onion, cumin, cayenne, and 1/2 tsp salt and saute until the onions start to caramelize, about 8 minutes.
- Stir in the garlic and chili and saute another two minutes (Make sure you have your exhaust on because this can cause some serious coughing). Add the tomato paste, tomato sauce, vinegar and water. Mix well and simmer until it starts to thicken, about 5-7 minutes.
- Transfer ingredients to a blender, add pepper if using, and puree to a smooth paste. Add more salt if desired.
Black Eyed-Pea Salad
1 lb black-eyed peas
4 qts water
1 c diced tomatoes
1 c diced red and green peppers
1 c diced red onions
1 c chopped parsley
.5 c white corn
.5 c champagne vinegar
.5 c olive oil
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/8 tsp cracked black pepper
1/8 tsp crushed red pepper
1/3 tsp sugar
- Let peas sock in cold water over night
- The next day cook peas until tender about 1.5 hours
- Drain and let cool
- In a large bowl combine all the ingredients and toss well coating the peas thoroughly.
- Season with salt and pepper and taste to adjust if needed.
- Let sit in the refrigerator until service.
- This will go well with any type of Southern Picnic or BBQ
- Canned black-eyed peas can be used as well to save time.
When I was in elementary school, an upcoming field trip meant we were selling candy bars. Around the holidays, it was not uncommon to have your pick from five dozen cupcakes at the school party. Now that I am in nutrition education, my eyes grow wide when I think back to all of the high-sugar, high-fat foods we brought into the classroom.
With that in mind, I take a lot of pride in the fact that the UC Calfresh Nutrition Education Program in Fresno County is creating healthier school environments.
A healthy school environment includes:
- Nutrition education for students and their parents
- Physical activity
- Healthy lunches
- School wellness policies that support healthy fundraisers and celebrations
- An environment that promotes the benefits of healthy choices
The list can go on and on!
In addition to supporting all of the above, UC CalFresh has been working with school administrators, teachers and food service staff to "brand" the cafeteria and classrooms as healthy spaces. This is accomplished through distributing nutrition corners.
Nutrition corners are essentially the materials to create nutrition bulletin boards in school cafeterias. They are updated regularly with nutrition and physical activity information for students, teachers and parents. Information on seasonal produce, recipes, student work and MyPlate decorate the corners.
Nutrition corners are also posted in classrooms, school libraries, teacher lounges and common areas.
Here are a few of the most recently added corners:
Did I mention students love reading nutrition corners?
A healthy environment that supports nutrition and physical activity is key to the health of the families in the Central Valley. For more information on the way we are creating healthier school environments, visit the UC CalFresh Fresno County blog.