Monday, May 23, 2011

Easy gardening idea: Lettuce beds from scrap wood

It's been a while since I posted! I'm currently working on a schedule for posts that is more predictable and organized. More on that later. For now, I have a fun project to share. Springtime is upon us, and my partner Dustin and I have been trying to figure out what foods we would like to grow this year. Two weeks ago, we planted peas, kale, beets, and a few other spring crops in his workplace community garden (in the picture at right).

We're very lucky to have this space, and I know most people don't have yards or property that allow them to have a full garden. So, I wanted to share this easy and cheap way to grow salad greens anywhere! All you need is some scrap wood, a few tools, and a sunny place to store the lettuce beds. We got the idea from Grow It Organically, which has a lot of great gardening resources. For more specific instructions on building the beds, visit their website. I'll give a few details here, so you can get an idea of how easy it is!

First, you need some wood. No need to buy expensive wood at the hardware store. We called the feed store down the street and asked if they had any leftover wooden pallets (like the one below). Sure enough, they had plenty stocked in back of their store, and let us come take one free of charge.

Dustin used a hammer to pry apart the boards, so he ended up with loose wood. We then borrowed our neighbor's saw and cut them to the right size. For one lettuce bed, you'll need two one-foot boards and two 18-inch boards. Use nails to hold the boards together. You'll end up with something like this:

There are a few more steps on the website that you need to follow, including adding hardware cloth to the bottom of the frame, then laying window screen on the bottom of the tray to form a base. Then, pour in some soil and plant your lettuce seeds!

After a while, you'll have some beautiful greens growing in your backyard. We planted spinach and a variety of lettuce seeds. Total cost for this project was less than $20, and we'll have salad all summer long.

After two weeks

After a month

Monday, May 16, 2011

Recipe: Roasted kale chips

So, in an effort to make this a more useful blog, I've decided to start posting recipes that others recommend to me. I know there are a million recipe blogs out there, so this won't be the sole purpose of mine. But knowing how to make healthy meals is part of learning to live a healthy life, so I'm going to post a few recipes from time to time. I'll try to focus on ones that are easy to make.

A friend of mine, originally from Michigan but now living in Australia, sent this recipe for an easy and nutritious snack. Kale leaves are really good for you, filled with calcium, vitamin K, and other antioxidants. And this recipe for kale chips is quick to make (kids love it's a really popular snack in the after-school program I lead). Kale, being a leafy green, is also on the list for potential cancer-fighting foods.

My friend Holly, who sent this along, notes that she likes to add red pepper flakes, and that any vinegar can be used in place of rice vinegar. Enjoy!

Roasted Kale Chips
  • 1 bunch kale, washed well and spun dry
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • sea salt and coarsely ground black pepper, to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil and spray with nonstick pan coating.
  2. Use a sharp knife to cut along each side of the central rib or stem of each kale leaf; remove stems.
  3. Tear leaves into 2-inch pieces and place in a large mixing bowl.
  4. In a small bowl, stir together olive oil and vinegar with a fork. Drizzle over kale leaves; toss to coat evenly. Use tongs to lay kale leaves in a single layer on the baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  5. Roast kale for five minutes in oven. Remove from oven and gently toss leaves with tongs or spatula; return to oven. Roast for another five minutes, or until the kale is crispy and browned.
  6. Let stand one minute on baking sheet, then remove to plate and serve.
Photo credit:

Saturday, May 14, 2011

More kid posts

One of our healthy eating activities,
discovering and graphing the number of
seeds in cherry tomatoes
Here are some more essays from the 4th/5th graders on how to live a healthy life. The first one is a letter from two doctors to a patient seeking health advice. I especially love the final tag-line.
Dear "troubled person,"
Hi! So, you may have a problem. If all other diets fail, and you want to help yourself, you've come to the right place. You should start by finding a workout schedule. Then start going outside more! (It gives you Vitamin D.) Then throw out all of your "junky stuff" and start counting calories. Then come to me and my assistant. You should ask us about proper vitamins and what foods give you what.
For instance, you should eat orange and yellow food because it has Vitamin A and makes your skin, hair, and eyes healthier. Red foods have Vitamin C. Blue foods have antioxidants. White foods have potassium. Green foods have iron, antioxidants, and fiber which makes you feel full and digests your food. So, make a rainbow salad!
Thank you for having service with us. Remember, lose that flab and trade it with ab.
This next essay is written by three 5th grade boys who describe how they stay healthy. It makes me wish I could list "climbing trees" as one of my health strategies!
The way we stay healthy is we do bike rides, chin ups, pushups and sit ups. Also on Wednesdays and Fridays we run about one mile. We try not to eat junk food. I am giving up ice cream and other fattening foods. Also we climb trees and other outside things. We eat fruits, vegetables, and meat for protein, and different vitamins.
Some of us get 8 hours of sleep and we don’t drink those sugary sports and soda drinks. We play sports and do jujitsu.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Nutrition advice from the 4th and 5th graders

Students made tomato, basil
and mozzarella creations
Here is some more advice from 4th and 5th graders, this time about how to choose healthy foods. 
One thing you can do to make yourself healthy is exercising and eating organic foods. You can look for organic foods at farmers markets and local food stores. Good healthy snacks are things you grow in your garden. Things you get from local farms are also good for you. 
Here are good snack foods: Wheat Thins, apples, oranges, bananas, grapes, fruit salad, tomatoes, nuts, and organic ice pops. Healthy drinks are: v8, orange juice, apple juice, milk, water, and 100% juice.

And some more advice from the doctors to their patients:
Playing with our healthy food
To have a better life, you need to have a better diet. This is what we like to call the "Sidney and Co. Routine." One thing you could do is eat healthier like eating fruits and vegetables. Green foods will help you stop eating so much because it has so much fiber in it and fiber makes you full so you don't get so tempted to have more. Another food that will help you is purple and blue foods because if you are feeling lazy and tired, that could be symptoms of a sickness. So the antioxidants in the purple and blue foods will help keep you from getting sick. You should have red foods because they have Vitamin A which helps you when you are sick, so your immune system feels better. You should have all of these foods because they will all help you to have a healthier life.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Students reflect on how to live healthy lives

Learning to make healthy snacks
For the next few days, I'll be posting short essays on how to live a healthy life written by 4th and 5th graders at Poughkeepsie Day School. In the class I teach called "You Are What You Eat," my students learn about all aspects of healthy eating, including the importance of eating a rainbow of colors (different colored foods give you different nutrients), how to make healthy snacks, and what foods to eat in moderation.

Some students wrote about what steps they take to live healthy lives. Others pretended to be doctors giving health advice to patients. Read on to hear their simple and inspirational advice.

Dear patient,
You can feel better if you eat fruits and veggies and get some more sleep. Also get more exercise. These things will help you feel a lot better than you did feel. Start doing these things as soon as you get this. And for snack, lay off those sweets. You can eat things like apples, blueberries, oranges, strawberries, pears, carrots, tomatoes, salad, bananas, and homemade soup. Put in your schedule to go to the gym every day. No slacking, not at all, you! There are a lot of things that can help. You should eat these things because they will help you grow and feel better.
I hope you feel better soon.
your doctor
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