SCRUMPTIOUSLY, it is that time of year where the Farmer’s Markets are jam-packed and budding with fresh, colorful goodies and ingredients of ALL colors, tastes, shapes and sizes. As part of the fabulous Butter Beans summer camp experience, I had the honor of teaching the camp kids all about healthy, nutritious eating and the power of food as medicine in the kitchen of their beautiful HQ space.
The Union Square Farmer’s Market was our grocery store for today’s lesson that I led about the Browning Effect that occurs to foods once exposed to heat, oxygen and light, along with the chemical reactions that occur when eggs are cooked, broccoli is steamed, pasta is cooked, onions are caramelized and toast is toasted.
Children are curious about how food changes when cooked.
The Browning Effect: We didn’t have a lemon, so we used orange juice and it did the trick! The kids were able to watch the browning effect in action and the OJ worked well to prevent the apple from turning brown in front of their eyes.
The toast turned uber crunchy, hard and crumbly after being toasted as the gluten molecules reacted with the heat, making toast no longer soft and pliable.
We examined the many shades of broccoli once it was blanched in boiling water, and the kids got to learn first-hand about chlorophyll content in green veggies. Chlorophyll’s critical presence in all green plants (any leaf, grass, veggies with a green color like spinach, asparagus, green beans, Brussels sprouts, green peppers, etc) allows them to absorb light from the sun and convert it into usage energy – their food.
To get the most chlorophyll in your diet, briefly steam your veggies/broccoli under 5 minutes to protect the chlorophyll from being lost with the heat.
Pasta noodles contain tons of starch molecules that absorb water when heated and like little water balloons, get filled up and eventually BURST as pasta pieces stick together like glue. We let the kids sample starchy, mushy pasta compared to perfectly-cooked (and healthier for you!) al dente pasta where the starches haven’t fully been broken down.
Onions and garlic are SO good for us as they help protect against cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease, the common cold. Once heated and cooked, their active ingredients become less potent and their texture becomes irreversibly translucent, sweet and soft.
Don’t cry! As onions are sliced or eaten, cells are broken, allowing enzymes called alliinases to break down and generate sulfur-rich gases, which diffuse through the air and eventually reach the eye, where the gases activate sensory neurons and create a stinging sensation. Tear glands produce tears to dilute and flush out the irritant which is why you cry when you cut an onion. Your body is protecting you!
Few tips to reduce tears while cutting/peeling onions: try cutting onions under running water or submerge the onion in a water basin while cutting to diffuse the gases; chill the onion first; avoid cutting off the root of the onion or cut it off last, as the root of the onion has a higher concentration of enzymes.
We compared the egg protein called avidin in the raw egg vs a cooked egg. This irreversible reaction called coagulation was really neat to watch in action as the protein went from clear to white in a matter of seconds. Similar to jello when it hardens into a gelatin-rich substance when cooled in the fridge – it entraps water molecules to produce a semi-solid gel.
Upon completion of our shopping list for our Vivacious Green Veggies and Pesto pasta dishes, we headed on a subway adventure to the Farmer’s Market to pick out and pay for our farm-fresh ingredients, then ventured back to the kitchen to whip up our lunch. Check out what we made!
Kids hand-chopped veggies, which we sauteed for fresh herbs and olive oil for one of our sauces. Wish you could have tasted how fresh our basil-garlic pesto sauce was! The tomato sauce made from bright red tomatoes from the market were packed with lycopene, a powerful antioxidant great for the body. Kids LOVED it!
Check out more pics and info about the Healthy Tummy Initiative HERE!