Thursday, April 29, 2010

Hundreds of kids lining up to eat their vegetables?!  Can you believe it?  Yep ... it's true.  How did we accomplish such a feat and throw in a little environmental education to boot?

Make Your Own Pasta Salad!

This year for our school's Family Green Night, I volunteered to do an activity that focused on the environmental impact of your diet.  Since this is an elementary-school, feel-good event, we focused on the positive.

For the education side, we featured information from the Meat Free Monday campaign highlighting how eliminating meat and dairy from your diet one day (or more) a week can significantly reduce your environmental footprint.  We also had a copy of Michael Pollan's Food Rules for folks to flip through.  We had an e-mail sign-up sheet so we could send out links to Meat Free Monday, the Environmental Working Group and their list of most pesticide-laden produce and to Welcoming Kitchen, of course!

The real highlight of the event was a Make Your Own Pasta Salad made up of entirely organic ingredients.  This idea also shows how easy it can be to create an entree that is safe for all of your guests.  We boiled up whole wheat pasta and brown rice pasta (separately, of course).  We tossed each of the pastas with an Italian herb vinaigrette, and let them chill in the refrigerator until it was time for the event.

We then set out a buffet of ingredients.  We had bowls of grated carrots, halved grape tomatoes, defrosted frozen corn and peas, chopped orange peppers, and seeded and diced cucumbers.  We also had raisins, garbanzo beans and edamame.  Folks could choose what they wanted to add to their pasta salad to make it the way they wanted it.  Everyone started with a scoop of the pasta of their choice, and then went to town with the toppings!

It was a huge hit.  I am definitely bringing this idea back for a casual dinner party, because it was fun and delicious.  It also worked for everyone who came through the line.  There were plenty of toppings to suit anyone's needs and restrictions.  Interestingly, the brown rice pasta was the choice of lots of people, whether or not they needed a gluten-free option.

I was so fortunate to have two great ladies helping me out.  This activity would have been a big flop without the awesome help of Karen and Val!

Next time you're in a rut for what to serve a group, think about Make Your Own Pasta Salad.  I think you'll be glad you did.

Happy Cooking!
Kim and Megan

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