I was recently invited to speak at the Early Childhood STEM Conference in Pasadena, and I was super pumped about it. Not only was I excited to get my creative juices flowing with some ideas for incorporating Science, Technology, Engineering and Math into gardening and cooking curriculums for young children, but I was also eager to revisit my original cooking inspiration: Alice Waters and her Edible Schoolyard Project.

When I was living in Berkeley, CA, I used to walk by the Edible Schoolyard Project garden at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School every day. The beautiful garden is the perfect experiential classroom for kids to learn about gardening, sustainability and the pleasure of cooking. I didn’t realize what an impact it had made on me until I had children and created Farm to Table Baby Mama & Family.


And now, with the ECSTEM Conference, it seems things have come full circle, as I revisit my original inspiration. During the workshop we cooked up a few STEM- and kid-friendly dishes. Avocado & Radish Toast was one of our favorites of the day. It features creamy avocado, peppery radish, and a zingy vinaigrette. And the flowers and herbs help to brighten things up, giving you a taste of spring in every bite. Here is the recipe followed by the STEM applications. Bon appétit!


1 small shallot diced, ½ tablespoon lemon juice, 1 tsp red wine vinegar, ¼ cup orange juice, ½ tsp salt, ¼ tsp pepper, ¼ cup olive oil

5 slices of bread, 3 avocados, 5 radishes, Salt / pepper, to taste

1. Make the vinaigrette. In a small bowl, combine shallot, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper. Slowly stream in olive oil and whisk until emulsified. Set aside.

2. Make the toast. Toast bread slices until golden brown.

3. Cut avocados in half and remove seeds. Scoop out the flesh and mash with a fork until spreadable but still chunky.

4. Prepare toppings: Roughly chop herbs, cut radishes in to paper thin slices, and separate flower petals.

5. Assemble the toast: Distribute avocado evenly amongst toast slices and top with a drizzle of vinaigrette. Add some radish slices, herbs and flower petals (optional). Finish with salt and pepper, to taste.


SCIENCE: Growing herbs, flowers and radishes in the garden (life sciences); avocado, fruit vs. vegetable; edible vs. non-edible flowers; bees and the role they play with flowers; vinaigrette – emulsion

TECHNOLOGY: How does a toaster/toaster oven work?

ENGINEERING: Following the recipe/instructions; assessing by taste and making adjustments; reaching the perfect avocado toast through trial and error

MATHEMATICS: Measuring plants as they grow; Dividing avocados in half (fractions); measuring ingredients

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Plate Half Full Philosophy

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My most recent video ( was a little different in that it didn’t focus on a recipe, but rather on the trials and tribulations of feeding young children healthy foods, and my tips for how to survive dinner time with a toddler without pulling your hair out. It was something I was excited to share, but once I got into the nitty gritty, I quickly realized it would be harder than I originally anticipated. When I started to look back on times when we’d had trouble getting the boys to eat or I’d seen friends of mine with a less adventurous eater, I realized that the solution always presented itself in a completely unexpected, completely organic way.

For instance, there was the time we were on vacation with friends of ours. Their son was eating very little which was understandable as the food was very different from home. Then one night, we were all at dinner, and there was some beautiful grilled fish on the table, which of course, all the kids refused to eat. But, in a stroke of inspiration, my husband grabbed a tortilla chip, put a bit of grilled fish on it, and BOOM. Fish chip was born. He made a connection by using the chip! The kids couldn’t get enough of it. Weird and illogical? Yes. But in the moment, a complete lifesaver.

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So I guess if there’s one piece of advice I could offer, it would be to keep at it, don’t loose hope, and to go your own way when it comes to cooking for your little ones. Don’t stress over whether you’re following Doctor So-and-So’s prescription for perfect children. Kids are unpredictable, and you never know what might work in the moment. Basically, don’t be afraid to get creative. It won’t always work, and sure sometimes you’ll end up making a fool of yourself in a crowded restaurant singing about your roast chicken, but sometimes it will work, and you’ll be over the moon.

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It’s the Inside that Counts – Ugly Tomatoes


Italians keep it simple. Seriously, a piece of bread, diced tomato, olive oil and basil, and you’ve got a culinary masterpiece that hits all the right flavor buttons. But how? The trick is, it’s the BEST bread. The BEST tomato. The BEST olive oil. The BEST basil. When you start with perfect ingredients, you don’t need to dress them up.

Case in point: the pasta with tomato sauce I make for dinner at least once a week. Everyone goes nuts for it, but guess what, (shhh) it’s stupid simple. Search out some great tomatoes and you’re half way to tangy, bright, garlic-y bliss.

The trick to picking tomatoes? Go for the ugly ones. Turns out, there’s a gene mutation that farmers love because it provides for uniform, perfectly round and red tomatoes. The only problem is, these (admittedly) pretty tomatoes are also lacking in flavor because that same gene mutation mucks with the ripening process, meaning less natural sugars and less tomato-ness.

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So don’t be shallow when it comes to selecting your tomatoes. Misshapen, a little wobbly, and maybe even a funky shade of purple? These are all good signs. Lastly, trust your nose. A good tomato has a slightly sweet, earthy smell, even from the outside.

Good luck and happy pasta making!

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