Gluten-free Granola Parfaits and Hearty Vegetable Chili

IMG_0750[1]One of the unexpected benefits to teaching this class is learning more about local organizations doing good things for food education. Flagship Foundation Pure Food Kids Workshop is a stellar example. Having worked with Kurt Dammeier while building our neighborhood farmers market (his iconic mobile “pig” restaurant, Maximus/Minimus, was a regular feature, and Pasta & Co hosted our staff parties), I was eager to see how his foundation worked in the classroom.

To date, more than 50,000 kids have participated in their workshops, both in Seattle and New York City metro areas. Advertising-free and at zero cost to the participants, the workshop teaches kids how to become “food detectives” while reading labels and making a simple, nutritious vegetarian chili. Flagship is funded by donations as well as one percent of the sales from Dammeier’s Sugar Mountain enterprise, which includes Beecher’s, Pasta & Co, Bennett’s Pure Food Bistro, Maximus/Minimus, plus soon-to-open restaurants, a patisserie, and a sausage biz.

Kristin Hyde, the program’s affable and unflappable executive director, targets the curriculum to fourth and fifth graders, but she kept our middle school students completely engaged (with a tween at home, she totally “gets” their humor and attention spans). From a tote bag full of junk food, she pulled several technicolored snacks and asked the kids to read the nutrition labels. They explored the ins and outs of calories, serving sizes, hydrogenated oils, preservatives, additives, and those sneaky sugar grams.

With four grams in each sugarcube, consider the sugarload in these drinks:

Powerade (32 oz) = 56 grams or 14 sugarcubes
Coke (20 oz) = 65 grams or 16 sugarcubes
Vitamin Water (20 oz) = 32.5 grams or 8 sugarcubes

Sugar Stacks has side-by-side photos to help visualize the grim reality. That tiny cup of yogurt has the equivalent of seven sugarcubes! Yogurt does not need that much sugar to be delicious, and proof positive was the delight with which the kids gobbled up their pre-lesson snack of yogurt-applesauce-granola parfaits. Fruits are already sweet, and so is dairy. Lightly sweetened granola (with whole grains and nuts) mixed with applesauce and yogurt is a nutritional powerhouse.

I’ve included my favorite granola recipe below. We didn’t have time to make it in class, but it’s very simple to prepare. The coconut oil and nuts are heart-healthy; the sweetener can be adjusted to taste, and it stores well in an airtight container. Even a tiny parfait glass (see photo below) was filling enough that some of our students had little appetite left for their chili. I made a note of that.


Kristin provided each student with a lunchroom tray, silicone cutting board, and plastic knife. With the addition of a hot plate (not needed as we have the Cranky Oven), this set-up is ideal for teaching outside of a kitchen. The kids were soon busy with chopping and dicing veggies and rinsing beans and measuring spices, and it was an opportune moment to reinforce lessons on mincing, dicing, and chopping.

The Flagship Foundation chili recipe calls for canned beans, but as we discussed last week, soaked beans are excellent, inexpensive, and always BPA-free; they just take a little planning.

Random class and pdx

As the chili bubbled on the stove, Kristin led the kids in a lively discussion of nutrition. While the science of nutrition is hotly debated and still poorly researched (with many studies still relying on self-reported food diaries), there is broad consensus around the need for less sugar and carbohydrates, and more plant foods and diversity. The rainbow of colors in the chili was a perfect example.

You might notice the teapots on the table, courtesy of Goodwill. This week, the students tried cucumber white tea, and loved it. Zero sugar grams, people!

If you know of an elementary school, public or private, or a homeschool group that would benefit from the Pure Food Kids workshop, email Kristin



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Gluten-Free Granola

This recipe is from Aran at Cannelle et Vanille.


  • 3 cups (300g) gluten-free rolled oats (you can even use quinoa flakes)

  • 1 1/2 cups (180 g) nuts and seeds – I used a combination of slivered almonds, pistachios, pecans, walnuts, cashews, black and white sesame seeds, poppy seeds, chia seeds and flaxseeds

  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) apple juice

  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) maple syrup (or honey)

  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) coconut oil

  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

  • 1 1/2 cup (180 g) dried fruit – I used dried blueberries and cranberries


  1. Preheat oven to 325F (160C).

  2. Combine the oats, nuts and seeds in a large bowl.

  3. Combine the apple juice, maple syrup, coconut oil, vanilla extract, cinnamon, sea salt and black pepper in a medium saucepan. Gently heat all together until salt is dissolved and coconut oil liquified. Pour liquid over the dry ingredients and toss to coat. Spread the mixture evenly on a baking sheet. Bake for 40 minutes until golden. Make sure to stir the mixture about every 15 minutes to make sure it is evenly baked.

  4. Let the granola cool completely. It will become crunchier as it sits. Stir in the dried fruit when completely cool. Store in an airtight container for a few weeks.

  5. Serve with fruit over yogurt or milk.


Hearty Vegetable Chili

From the Flagship Foundation, this chili can be varied by adding cooked ground beef, chicken, additional vegetables or spices. Serves 6.


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 1 cup onion, chopped

  • 4 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 cup red pepper, chopped

  • 1 cup green pepper, chopped

  • 1 tablespoon chili powder

  • 1-½ teaspoons dried oregano

  • ¾ teaspoon ground cumin

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper

  • 1 15.25 ounce can black beans

  • 1 15.25 ounce can kidney beans

  • 1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes

  • 1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels

  • ½ bunch cilantro


  1. Heat oil in medium pot over medium-high heat.

  2. Add onion and garlic and cook for 1 to 2 minutes.

  3. Add peppers to the soup pot and sauté until tender.

  4. Add spices and stir until all of the vegetables are coated.

  5. Add beans and stir until the beans are coated with the spices.

  6. Cut tomatoes into bite sized pieces, add to the soup pot, and stir. Turn the heat up to high and bring the soup to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes.

  7. Add corn to the soup pot and stir. Add up to 1 cup water if the chili looks too thick. Simmer for 5 minutes.

  8. Chop cilantro. Turn off the heat on the soup pot and add the cilantro. Stir the soup and enjoy.


Categories: Gluten-Free, Kid Favorite, Snack, Soup, Vegetarian


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