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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Demonstrate Basic Baking Ingredients with a Simple Pancake Lab

This simple pancake lab was a nice transition between our Basic Baking Ingredients and Quick Breads unit.

Each of four kitchen groups were given the same pancake recipe but omitted a different ingredient.

 leavening agent,
 and flour.
Then I demonstrated basic quick bread method to make a standard batch of pancakes.  The students compared each of the "pancake" batches to evaluate the importance of each ingredient.

You can download the recipe and reflection sheet here.  I used the reflection as the assessment for the Basic Baking Ingredients unit. It makes a great foundation for the next unit when my students will create their own muffin recipe.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Whole Grains and Beans Snack Food Lab

Last week students prepared a variety of whole grain and beans snacks:
 Cowboy Caviar,

The students loved the lab, especially the cookie dough dip.  I edited the recipes to suit my class size and level (Download my copies here).  It was a good way for my student to practice their knife skills.  My students don't know it yet, but they will be preparing fried rice for their final lab.  This whole grains and beans snack food lab is a great review.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Family and Consumer Sciences Classroom Composting

CompostHave you read this article about school wide composting? As a Family and Consumer Sciences teacher I have lots of food scraps to dispose of. Compost saves twofold.  First, the food scraps are not sent to the landfill where they will produce methane gas that contributes to global warming.  Secondly, our trash can needs to be emptied less often because there is no stinky wet waste. That saves on plastic, and the world would be much better with less of that!

We compost scraps from our food labs in a bin outside of my classroom.  The foods scraps make up the "green" components of compost.  We shred newspaper, paper towels, paper flour sacks, and dryer lint when the pile gets too moist.  It never smells bad as long as we keep the 1-3 green-brown ratio.

I would love to have a school wide composting program but I can't even imagine the scale.  I think a good start would be for the students to recycle milk cartons. Perhaps if there was a dollar value attached to composting, as the article implies, my "powers that be" would be more interested. :)

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Preparing Dry Beans Demonstration

black beansIn preparation for tomorrow's Beans, Nuts, and Seeds lab, I demonstrated how to prepare dried beans today. 

I began by showing a news segment about how to use canned beans. The segment also highlights cost savings of dried beans and the health benefits of beans and legumes.

Students calculate the cost savings of dried beans with a journal entry:

Which is a less expensive option: Cooked beans or dried beans?

  • Prepared canned pinto beans cost $1.99 per can
    • Each can yields about 2 cups of beans
  • Dried beans cost $1.19 per pound
    • Each pound of dried beans makes about 8 cups of beans
  • Ground beef costs $2.98 per pound
    • One ounce of meat= ½ cup of beans
  • What is the cost savings of dried beans vs. ground beef?

I show Pantry Raid III: Cool Beans and demonstrate how to prepare beans along with Alton Brown.  Despite Alton's advice I use the quick soak method.  I also cook the beans in a slow cooker so I don't have to keep an eye on them during my other classes.

We will have a big pot of black beans for whatever tomorrow's beans, nuts, and legumes lab brings us.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Whole Grains Preparation Lab

Sunset Oats After students have learned how to make good choices when choosing grain based breads and snacks, I have a lab for preparing whole grains from scratch. Most of the students were familiar with rice but all of the other grains were new to them.

Each kitchen makes a different whole grain.
  • Steel cut oats
  • Quinoa
  • Bulgur
  • Cornmeal
  • Rice
Then each student had a wide variety of grains to taste.  I offer various toppings to make the grains a bit more enticing for the newbies.
  • Maple syrup
  • Brown sugar
  • Raisins
  • Soy sauce
  • Honey
The favorite usually ends up being cornmeal mush. My students like it with maple syrup. I find that funny because older generations wrinkle their nose at cornmeal mush. :)

Whole Grain Labeling Activity

Whole wheat grain flour being scooped
After our MyPlate project I can see that my students need a little more work on whole grains.  They noticed that Poptarts and Oreos counted towards servings of grains and now think they are healthy snack servings.

I start this lesson with a formative assessment to evaluate what students already know about whole grains.  I show the students a collection of bread and snack packaging.  I hold up each item and ask for either a thumbs up for "healthy" or down "unhealthy."  Students are basically guessing based on packaging because they cannot read a nutrition label from where they are.

When the labels are sorted I show a YouTube clip describing the importance of fiber. (HealthiNation is a great channel to follow for quick, informative nutrition clips.)
After a short discussion on fiber I show a clip about choosing whole grain bread.

Using information from the videos I ask the students to read information from the various labels and decide if the food is a good source of fiber and if it is a whole grain.

I have a tendency to grab the most healthy-looking package instead of reading a label to be sure that the bread or product is a whole grain. This lesson plan is a good reminder for me!

Tomorrow we are preparing various whole grains from scratch.  We found out today that the main ingredient in Fruit Loops is indeed whole wheat flour... followed by sugar.  Hopefully tomorrow's lab will create some oatmeal and polenta converts!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Tortilla Toppings Fruits and Vegetables Foods Lab

We celebrated the final day of Homecoming on Friday with our tortilla toppings lab.  It comes right after our nutrition unit and at the beginning of our fruits and vegetables unit.  Too often students think you have to eat lots of lettuce to be healthy.  They don't think that parties and get-togethers are a time to eat healthy food.

Fruit Salsa
Pico de Gallo

A class with five kitchens would make two recipes each of fruit salsa and pico and one recipe of mock-guac.  This makes enough for each student (~15 per class) to try a bit of each.

I use it to demonstrate several concepts of preparing raw fruits and vegetables:

  • Peeling a kiwi
  • Peeling and coring an apple
  • Seeding a tomato and jalapeño
  • Chopping herbs
  • Cutting an avocado
  • Preventing enzymatic browning
Students also prepare their own tortillas for the lab.  It teaches them to use the broiler on the oven.  It's very easy:
  1. Preheat the broiler.  Move an oven rack so that food will be about 4" from heat.
  2. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.
  3. Cut tortillas into triangles (I budget 2 corn tortillas per student).
  4. Place tortillas on baking sheet.  They can touch but not overlap.
  5. Spray tortillas with cooking spray.  Sprinkle with salt, if desired.
  6. Broil for 3 minutes, watching constantly.  Chips are done when they are light brown and start to bubble.
  7. Continue to cook tortillas for 1 minute at a time until all are done.
I am happy to report that this lab is a consistent favorite.  Many of the students ask for copies of the recipe to try at home. 

Friday, October 4, 2013

Homecoming Week Dress-Up Days

It's time for the big football game tonight and the dance tomorrow.  Homecoming week has been a lot of fun! My personal favorite festivity is the themed dress-up days.  This year the cheerleaders picked "M Day," "Grandparent's Day," "America Day," and "Disney Day."

Monday: "M" Day
I wore all of my vintage plaids to be "Mismatched"
Tuesday: Grandparent's Day
Well... My grandmothers were alive in the 1940's so it seemed like a good excuse to wear my favorite vintage dress with the chartreuse heels from my wedding.
Wednesday: America Day
A throwback to my favorite celebrity ever, Rosie the Riveter. 
Thursday: Disney Day
This was a toughie... I found a red bubble dress at Goodwill, cut a hole in the lining, and stuffed it with plastic bags.  I wore a green beanie as a leaf and called myself the poisonous apple from Snow White.

Friday: Red and Gold Day
Just me in jeans and my red and gold Homecoming t-shirt

It was a fun week.  I hope the weather holds out for the game and dance!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Teach Fruits and Vegetables Classification with Tops & Bottoms: A Caldecott Honor Book

I love using my favorite children's book, Tops and Bottoms, to review fruits and vegetables classification.

It is a fable of a lazy bear and the hare who tricks him into giving up his harvest every year.  Hare tells Bear that he will farm the land, do all of the work, and split the harvest "right down the middle" with Bear getting the tops of plants and Hare getting the bottoms.

I have the students guess what the hare would plant. In other words, what vegetables grow underground? The students list different kinds of roots and tubers.

The book continues with Bear being angry and demanding the bottoms (Hare plants flowers, leaves, and stems) and the next year demanding the whole plant (Hare plants seeds and fruits).

I used to borrow this from the library every year, but now I own it on Kindle.  I downloaded the Kindle for Mac app and now I can project it for all students to see.  The pictures are great and the students really enjoy the book, even though it is for children much younger than them.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Alternatives to the USDA SuperTracker Program for Family and Consumer Sciences Teachers

USDA MyPlate greenAlthough I hope to not get too political, let's just say I'm more than annoyed at the United States federal government shutdown.  Over the last week my students have been entering information into the SuperTracker website to analyze their daily eating habits.  Tuesday, when the students were to print their final report, the site was taken down.  This means my students have wasted at least two blocks of valuable class time.

MyFitness Pal is the nutrition tracking program that I use personally. I like it because I can enter information on my phone as well as online (handy for 1-to-1 Ipad schools). Instead of being based on food groups, like MyPlate, it is based on macro- and micronutrients.  This is handy for me because MyPlate "thinks" I am anemic and don't eat enough fish even though I am a healthy, athletic, vegan.  Users can adjust their macronutrient percentages to fit their needs, as for a diabetic person who closely monitors carbohydrates.

The food selection is much better on MyFitness Pal than on MyPlate.  Users can enter their own information from favorite recipes and foods.  The information is shared with the whole community which means I can get the exact information for the exact food I'm using, such as Aldi generic brands.

MyFitness Pal also tracks exercise, which is an important component of healthy weight management. I can burn 1000+ calories in a two-hour practice- nearly half of the calories I would consume on a non-derby day.

MyPlate has good traits too.  It is very straightforward for my students to use.  Most of my students come to my class without a knowledge of macronutrients, so MyFitness Pal would be too advanced for them.  I also like how visual the program is.  After students enter an item a graph changes to track their levels of each food group. It's a great program for beginners.

And, like it or not, MyPlate is the USDA standard for a healthy diet.  It is what textbooks follow, videos follow, and free classroom materials follow.  Simply said, it is just easier for teachers to use.

The project requirements have been adjusted, but my students and I are still upset with the wasted time.  One good thing has come from our debacle: We've had great conversations about the branches of the federal government. ;)

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Eat This, Not That Posters

FriesThe documentary "Supersize Me" has been a popular film for FACS teachers to show their students.  Thankfully, however, it is out of date.  The film was released in 2004, nearly a decade ago.  Since then McDonald's has ended super size portions.  They have also introduced what I consider to be several healthy entrees.

Our Eat This, Not That posters help my students learn to find the healthy options when eating at their favorite restaurants.

We start by watching this fast food segment of Eat This, Not That from the Today Show. Then, students are grouped into pairs and assigned a restaurant.  The students search online to find nutrition facts from the restaurant (which, contrary to Supersize Me, are quite easy to find). They create two posters: One with a healthy meal and one with an unhealthy meal.  They tally total calories, total grams of fat and sugar, and total milligrams of sodium.

It is a very eye-opening project for the students.  They are happy to find that some of their favorite foods make a healthful choice.  They are also surprised to find that some of their favorites have many more calories than they realized.

The project is especially impactful if students know how many calories are allowed for someone of their age, sex, and size.  They realized that many of the "Not That" meals made up more than half of their total calories for a day.

This is one of my favorite activities from our nutrition unit.  It helps remind students that a healthy diet is not an all-or-nothing choice.