Tomato-Watermelon Gazpacho (boys) Tomato-Avocado Soup (girls)
Jalapeño Popper Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
Cucumber-Ginger-Mint-Lime Agua Fresca
Fresh Fruit (pears, peaches, apples)
It’s become a habit for me in class to figure out how many of the ingredients for the recipe have
come from either Jan’s or my garden. This week the tomatoes, herbs, peppers, and garlic were
homegrown by Jan, and I provided the onions, scallions, peaches, pears, and apples from my
garden. The remainder came from local farmers, and I don’t think any of the produce was
purchased at the supermarket. It’s fun for me to boast how much food we can grow ourselves.
Every week, we’ve featured ingredients harvested from the raised beds at CCYC, and this
week, for the first time, we included fresh microgreens from the aquaponics tower in the
cafeteria. It was exciting for them to harvest and enjoy food that they had only planted a few
This was W and S’s last class with us before they move on to other placements.
Understandably, their energy was low, but that didn’t stop them from wanting to jump right into
the food prep. We all pitched in a hand to prepare the ingredients for the gazpacho, and I
enjoyed having the opportunity for all of us to work together. After the veggies were prepped,
W and I made the jalapeño popper grilled cheese sandwiches. I asked how W was
feeling knowing that he was going to be at the next facility for nine months. He said that he
wished that he had people to write letters to. After class, I asked Jan if he would be able to write
AHHAH letters, and she said that she would ask CCYC if we can set that up.
Miraculously, we prepared the food with time to spare (usually we are madly rushing to finish
before dashing off to set up with the girls). This gave us time to sit and eat together, and for the
boys to write a review of the recipes and their time in Cultivating Change. It also gave Jan an
opportunity to demonstrate some breathing and tapping exercises that the boys can use to help
them manage difficult emotions. S followed along while Jan talked him through the
exercises, and it was shocking to see the transformation that took place in S’s demeanor
and posture just in the five minutes that he practiced. His face brightened, and his body lifted
out of the slump it had been in all class. It looked as if he had been somehow inflated with
sunshine. He was truly beaming.
As we rolled our carts into the shelter, the girls were applying makeup and fixing their hair. We
discussed the menu, and P tasted the gazpacho the boys had made. She decided we
should take it in a completely different direction, so this time we made gazpacho with avocado
instead of watermelon. The texture of the avocado made the soup almost like a summer cream
of tomato, which lent itself perfectly to eating with the grilled cheese sandwiches. We made two
of the grilled cheese sandwiches as the recipe called for, and the other sandwiches were to be
the girls’ creations. They piled their grilled cheese with ham, four types of cheese, peppers and
avocados. The result was a gooey and decadent crowd favorite. The jalapeño popper grilled
cheese was also a big hit, with the staff asking for the recipe at the end of each class. That will
definitely be making its way into the cookbook! I’m so proud of them for their willingness to
experiment with flavor, and impressed by how delicious their concoctions consistently turn out.
They really find a way to shine in cooking class. P, in particular, peppers our conversations
with anecdotes about what she’s learned from cooking with her mother, and it is easy to see
how proud she is to share her skills in class.
Before class ended we asked P what she would like for her birthday meal, since she will
be turing 13 on our next visit. She requested Puerto Rican food. While fruit is always the dessert
on offer during Cultivating Change classes, Jan suggested that we make her a chocolate
zucchini cake as a surprise treat to celebrate her day.