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  • Writer's pictureChef Lisa

Back to School Cooking Camp - Brain Food

We spent the last few lazy days of summer on Weed Beach learning how to prepare delicious and nutritious foods in order to enhance school performance. The day before camp began, Hurricane Henri threatened all of us in the Norhteast. We were all uncertain whether we would have power or running water on Monday, when camp was to begin. I planned accordingly. I bought nonperishable foods and stockpiled water, so the SproutChefs could create their own lunch with the resources we might have been limited to.

Much to our relief, Hurricane Henri did little damage to us in Darien. The camp began as planned. I decided to make day two the day to create lunch without the use of electricity or running water.

For the third and final day, the SproutChefs had to plan and prepare a delicious picnic lunch which was shared with their families on the beach.

We tried to end each day with a dessert. Sometimes we just ran out of time. We all agreed that desserts are essential to enjoying life, but we must learn to control our portions.

Day 1

We began the camp by making most everyone's favorite, Bee-Bin-Bop! This recipe may look intimidating, but if all the ingredients are present, it is very satisfying for a SproutChef to make. Besides that, it is nutritious. It has a lot of spinach, which can disturb some young chefs, but once they taste it, they are usually distracted by all the other wonderful flavors.



Prepare marinade ahead of time and marinate the beef, (chicken or tofu can be substituted) for at least 30 minutes:


1/2 cup soy sauce 1/4 cup brown sugar 5 tablespoons red wine vinegar 3 tablespoons vegetable oil 2 garlic cloves chopped 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger


1 lb. of lean beef is traditional, but chicken and tofu work fine

(Beef or chicken should be cut into small strips. The tofu is best cut in larger strips, so that it does not dissolve into the recipe when cooked.)


2 cups of white rice, 4 cups of water, 1 teaspoon salt, cooked for 20-30 min. until tender


2 carrots cut in julienne slices

1 bag of fresh spinach

1 bag of bean sprouts

Other ingredients:

4 eggs

salt and pepper

Vegetable oil for frying

Optional ingredients to serve with bee-bim-bop:

Korean pepper sauce


Turn the wok on high or heat a nonstick frying pan on medium high. Cook the egg

and sauté the meat and veggies individually and set aside. Once everything is cooked,

combine everything in the pan, heat it through and serve.

Bop is the Korean word for rice and bee-bin means beef all mixed-up.

Day 2 Survial Day - The SproutChef campers arrived to the Paddle Hut with no electricity or running water. We planned for this pseudo-disaster.

We spent some time the day before deciding what we could and could not do with and with out running water and electricity. They sent me off with a grocery list of what they wanted for a lunch prepared without the use of utilities.

I was impressed with how well they planned, keeping in mind their cooking limitations and their nutritional needs. The corn and bean recipe is what they created on their own. As a group they told me what to get and they made it. It was quite delicious!

The broccoli recipe is one I pulled from an old recipe book from the 1990's. The only perishable ingredient was the mayonnaise. Once the jar was opened, it should not be stored without refrigeration and the salad should be eaten soon after making.

We also made homemade pasta with a hand crank pasta maker. We left it to dry for when we had electricity again. They also wanted to make hummus from canned chick-peas. The hummus was going to be a challenge, because we would not have an electric blender or food processor. We would have to mix it until smooth with forks. They asked for whole wheat Mexican tortillas to spread the hummus on. The three recipes follow:

Broccoli Salad


  • 1 head of broccoli

  • 1 small onion

  • 2 cups raisins

  • 1 jar of real bacon bits

  • 1/2 cup of sunflower seeds

  • 1 cup mayonnaise

  • 2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar

  • 1/2 cup sugar


  1. Cut the broccoli flowers off the stem. (Save the stems to make a veggie broth)

  2. Chop the onion into small pieces.

  3. Put the broccoli, onions, raisins, bacon and sunflower seeds together in a big bowl.

  4. Mix the mayonnaise, red wine vinegar and sugar together until the sugar is dissolved.

  5. Pour the mayonnaise mixture over the broccoli mixture.

Darien's Own SproutChef's Disaster Salad

  • 2 cans of black beans, drained and rinsed

  • 2 cans of corn, drained

  • 1 red onion, chopped

  • multicolored sweet peppers, cut into bite sized pieces.

  • 1 teaspoon cumin

  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt

  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano

  • a pinch of chili powder

  • 1/4 cup of olive oil

  • 3 Tablespoons of red wine vinegar


  1. Put the drained and rinsed beans into a large bowl.

  2. Add the drained corn in with the beans.

  3. Chop the onions and add to the bowl.

  4. Cut the sweet peppers and add to the bowl.

  5. Mix together the cumin, garlic salt, oregano, chili powder, oil and vinegar in a small bowl.

  6. When the mixture is well mixed, pour it over the veggies and thoroughly mix it together.



  • 15 oz. can of Chickpeas

  • 1/4 cup fresh Lemon juice

  • 1/4 cup tahini

  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced

  • 2 Tablespoons of olive oil

  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin


  1. Drain and rinse the can of chickpeas.

  2. Mash the chickpeas with a fork until they are creamy.

  3. Add the lemon juice, tahini, minced garlic, olive oil and cumin and mix together well.

  4. Spread on whole wheat tortillas and cut into wedges.

Homemade Pasta Recipe


  • 2 cups flour

  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

  • 2 Tablespoons of olive oil

  • 3 large eggs


  1. Mix the three ingredients together in a bowl until the dough forms a ball and the bowl is clean.

  2. Knead the dough until it is the consistency of play dough.

  3. Use a rolling pin to flatten the dough enough to roll through the pasta maker.

  4. After the dough has been flattened into one big sheet run it through again to make divide into noodles.

  5. Hang the individual noodles to dry on a pasta tree.

  6. Cook the pasta in boiling hot water, until al dente, about three to five minutes.

  7. Drain and serve with pasta sauce

Day 3

This day was our final day. The day before, the SproutChefs decided what they wanted to make for our Weed Beach picnic, to be shared with their families.

Although not everyone agreed on the broccoli salad, many thought that their mother's might enjoy it, so we made more broccoli salad. They also requested the makings for a rainbow salad. I was instructed to buy a fruit for every color of the rainbow, that I could find in season. I did as I was told so they cut up the fruit and put in the hollowed out watermelon. There is no recipe just cut up watermelon, pineapple, green and purple grapes, blueberries and orange wedges, served as is.

We made a tomato, basil and mozzarella salad using the homemade pasta we made the day before. Once again, we used no recipe. We only cut up cherry tomatoes, basil and cubed mozzarella tossed with the pasta and seasoned to taste with balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

The grande finale SproutCheof concludes with cake decorating. Each SproutChef decorated a cake to take home. Below is a picture of everyone in the camp with their beautiful cakes.

I was sorry to see the class end. We had a lot of fun!

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