I’m glad to be back at the Peace House for the summer camp working with the kids.  I missed these kids. It was a lot of fun to be back for the Cooking and Nutrition class.  It felt great seeing the kids especially when the kids ran up to me, yelled “Miss Erin!!” and gave me big hugs.  I love the new shirts for summer camp, “Hope is my Super Power”. How inspiring!  

I’ve got plans for summer camp.  Over these six weeks we will be making a cold soup and a salad each week.  Each will be very different, new, exciting and will have a focus food. This week it was cucumbers.  I will also be incorporating what’s available from the garden. I don’t know what recipes I’m going to make until a couple days before class when I find out what the garden will harvest.  But I have my lineup of recipes ready.

I was able to use some fresh kale, basil and raspberries from the garden for cooking class.  The focus today was on cucumbers. Cucumbers are perfect for summer because they’re hydrating being 95% water; cooling for the summer heat and soothing to the digestive tract and for the skin.  Cucumbers have many more healing properties, they’re nutrient rich, full of antioxidants, detoxifying, stabilizing for blood sugar, balances acidity, reduces headaches, heart healthy, protects the brain and soothes the skin reducing puffiness and redness.  And so much more!

I like to teach the kids about what’s local (from our garden!), what’s seasonal (summer) and what’s sustainable (able to be maintained, does not deplete natural resources).  

The kids were ready and attentive.  They helped me set up and I got to work right away.  Special thanks to Olivia and Maya for assisting with class.  I had 5 students in class who were all involved and focused. We started with the kale, pulling it off the stems and then marinating it in olive oil, lemon juice and salt.  We then massaged the kale to break down the cellulose (plant fibers), making the kale softer, milder, brighter and more digestible. We observed and tasted the difference between the raw kale and the massaged kale.  One student liked the raw kale better, a very bitter taste.

We put the kale aside and started working on the Chilled Cucumber Avocado Gazpacho Soup.  We were able to use the fresh basil from the garden for the soup. We combined all ingredients, blended with an immersion blender and put it in the fridge so all the flavors could meld and the soup could chill.  This is a very quick, easy soup that can be made in just a few minutes. See the recipe below.

Next was the Cucumber Greek Salad.  The kids had fun cutting and eating the cucumbers and tasting feta cheese, Kalamata olives and artichoke hearts.  After we made the cucumber salad we mixed in the massaged kale and combined. We served the soup and salad and had a great meal.  I love when there is plenty left over for other students, staff and adults to taste. There was definitely plenty to go around!

We finished up with some fresh raspberries from the garden sprinkled with lemon juice and sugar.  They went fast!

There’s nothing like fresh garden vegetables, cool cucumbers, fragrant basil and sweet raspberries on a 93 degree hot summer day in Chicago.