Using our Noodles


By Ibti Vincent, FoodPrints Lead Teacher

“Who here has made pasta from scratch?” the chef asked. About five hands shot into the air.

“Okay. Wow. That’s pretty good. But, now, I don’t mean that you took spaghetti noodles out of the box and boiled it. How many have made pasta out of flour and eggs?” One hand stayed raised.

Chef Ethan McKee was getting a sense of his students. He could see right off that they were good listeners and excited participants, but I bet he had no idea how awesome they would be at making pasta.

Last week, 30 fifth graders from the School Without Walls at Francis-Stevens Elementary took a walking field trip a few blocks away to Urbana, a popular Dupont Circle restaurant specializing in Italian food. It was a real treat.

You see, normally, FoodPrints sessions are presented to our various schools as “in-school” field trips. Sure, the teachers are pretty accomplished cooks and instructors, but this time, class was taught by a professional chef, in a beautiful restaurant located in the Hotel Palomar -- it was the result of a wonderful collaboration between Urbana, FRESHFARM’s FoodPrints program, and a DC public elementary school.

Before walking the four blocks to Urbana, the students harvested spinach (grown from seed!) along with kale, oregano, thyme, and chives in their school garden.

The students -- along with their classroom teacher, FoodPrints interns, and a few parent volunteers -- were greeted at Urbana by Executive Chef McKee with enthusiasm and aprons. There would be a lot of flour involved in today’s hands-on lesson, so the aprons were a welcome addition to our usual FoodPrints setup.
After washing our hands well -- that certainly didn’t change from our normal FoodPrints procedure -- we got to work at the five workstations Urbana’s team had set up. Before their eyes, students transformed a volcano of flour and eggs into smooth pasta dough.
We worked in teams to roll out the dough, passing it again and again through a pasta roller. I think our longest piece was over 12 feet long!
Some became fettuccine noodles, while other sheets were set aside for ravioli.

As we finished rolling out our pasta sheets, the amicable sous chef used sauteed our homegrown greens with shallots and garlic, which we stirred with some fresh ricotta to make the ravioli filling. Then Chef Ethan showed us the delicate process of filling, folding, and cutting our pillowy packets. You want to see a ten-year-old focus? Hand him a tube of ravioli filling and a sheet of fresh pasta!

As our noodles boiled -- fresh pasta takes just moments to cook to perfection -- we got cleaned up. Class ended with a feast. Chef Ethan and his team brought out pizzas, followed by bowls of our homemade pastas: spinach and kale ravioli in tomato sauce and fettuccine tossed in herb butter. (“Pizza, too?!” I think the 5th grade boys almost fainted from excitement. There were NO leftovers.)

Many thanks to the team at Urbana for making this most fun field trip possible. We hope to continue this fun and delicious partnership!

The SWS second graders kicked off Earth Day celebrations in great style with a bike ride to Lincoln park and a trash-free picnic! 

The Lincoln park excursion -- the culminating bike trip as part of the DCPS Cornerstone program that aims to teach all second graders to ride a bike – was a perfect opportunity to collaborate with their  monthly FoodPrints session. We used the preparation for the picnic – and the picnic itself – as a way to teach students about reducing trash, how to prepare and store items with reused containers and less packaging, and what “trash-free” could look like.
During the time I was planning this outing, the cherry blossoms were just blooming in Stanton park and I was astonished at the amount of trash left in the park by people who came to picnic and enjoy the trees.  I want our children to understand that going on a picnic doesn’t have to mean take-out foods with lots of plastic bags and throw-away containers.  With a little time and planning, we can make a trash free picnic with many of the recyclable containers we all have in our cabinets at home.  

Some of the recipes used for our lunch are from the children’s cooking magazine and website ChopChop (Lemony Hummus, a recipe by Cris Comerford, White House Executive Chef), and others were created by turning our yummy salad recipes (including ABC Salad) into sandwich filling to make them easier to eat. Ms. Scofield’s class had fun making the fillings, and Mr. Leavitt’s class was in charge of making the sandwiches and packing it all up for the ride.

To take our trash free picnic one step further, the students helped me recycle an old tablecloth into cloth napkins that we used for the picnic. They decorated the napkins with their ideas of how to help the earth and the importance of living “green.”  These ideas can feel overwhelming at times, but if we all just start with something like beginning to use less plastic bags and re-use our, we can truly make a difference in the world we leave our children and their grandchildren. We will wash the tablecloths and napkins and use them in the SWS FoodPrints kitchen for future lessons.
The accompanying bike trip was also a success! It was a feat for some students that were just barely able to ride or hadn’t ridden at all before the unit started. DCPS loaned SWS some bikes for students who didn’t have them, but most second graders brought their bikes every Thursday for a few months and received instruction from Mr. Chapman, the SWS physical education teacher, on riding technique and safety.

Many parents came along to ride and help. John Cochran, dad to Liam, had a great time: “It was a fun trip, with lots of grownups on hand to help the kids and a delicious lunch prepared by the kids in FoodPrints.”