As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Feeding America estimates that more than 50 million people (including 17 million children) live in food-insecure households in the United States. Do you want to find ways to maximize the availability and access to food in communities like yours? Join the Purple Plow H2 Grow Challenge this spring.
What is Purple Plow?
Purple Plow is a special project created by the American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture. It’s meant to encourage students to learn more about food production as well as hunger and sustainability by building their own prototypes to solve specific problems.
Who can enter?
All Purple Plow challenges are open to individuals or teams in grades five through 12. Students can participate as part of an in-school or homeschool assignment, or take on the project with an after-school club, Scout troop, or other groups.
What’s the challenge?
The H2 Grow Challenge invites students to design, build and maintain a sustainable food production system that combines raising fish and growing edible plants. Known as aquaponics, this integrated system should use the waste from the aquatic environment to provide the plants with essential nutrients. It should also maximize food production in the allotted space while ensuring healthy environments for plant and aquatic animal life.
How do you win?
In order to successfully complete the challenge, students must:
• Create and maintain environments that are suitable for plant and aquatic animal life
• Harvest a plant-based food source within 90 days or show the progress of plant growth within a specified timeframe
• Produce a presentation about what they learned and post it on social media
Entries must be submitted to the Purple Plow website by 11:59 p.m. EST on July 31, 2021.
A note for educators
You can find detailed instructions for the challenge, including lesson plans, suggested materials and timeline, a rubric and a student guide with reflection questions online at purpleplow.org/challenges/h2grow-challenge.
A brief guide to fondue sets
Whether you serve up meat and vegetables, cheese and bread, or chocolate and fruit, fondue is a great option if you want to have a fun, interactive meal with loved ones. Here are some features to keep in mind if you’re shopping for a new set.
You can find fondue sets able to accommodate between two and eight people. While you should consider the size of your family — as well as the possibility of sharing a meal with additional guests — keep in mind that it can be harder to maintain fondue at the desired temperature in a larger pot.
One decision you’ll have to make when choosing a fondue set is whether to opt for an electric model or the traditional pot that sits over a burner. The latter has the advantage of working even if there’s a power outage. However, it’s easier to control the temperature of an electric pot, which is practical if you alternate between types of fondue.
Fondue pots come in a variety of materials, each with properties that suit certain needs better than others. For example, cast iron retains heat very well, making it ideal for meat fondue. Stainless steel, however, is lightweight and won’t break. Be sure to opt for a pot with a non-stick coating on the inside to make cleaning easier.
Finally, while most fondue sets include long forks, certain models also come with other practical accessories such as small ramekin dishes and a revolving stand.
If you have young children, look for a fondue set that has non-skid rubber feet and a cool-touch exterior. Keep in mind that electric models are less of a fire hazard than ones with a burner.
Roasted pumpkin hummus
If you love hummus, this creamy combination of chickpeas and roasted pumpkin is sure to become a seasonal favorite.
Start to finish: 50 minutes (10 minutes active)
• 1 small pumpkin (about 18 ounces), peeled, seeded, and diced
• 6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
• 1 teaspoon ground coriander
• 1 garlic bulb
• 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (save some of the liquid)
• 2 tablespoons tahini
• 2 tablespoons maple syrup
• Juice of 1 lemon
• 1 pinch of salt
• 1 teaspoon paprika
• 1 teaspoon sesame seeds
• 1/4 cup Italian parsley, finely chopped
1. Preheat the oven to 425 F. In a large bowl, combine the pumpkin, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and the ground coriander. Toss until the pumpkin pieces are well coated. Spread evenly on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cut off the pointed end of the garlic bulb to expose the tops of the cloves. Place the bulb on the baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes.
2. Remove the pumpkin and garlic from the oven and let cool for about 15 minutes. Hold the garlic bulb at the base, turn it upside down and squeeze out the roasted cloves. Place the garlic, pumpkin, 3 tablespoons of olive oil, chickpeas, tahini, maple syrup, lemon juice, and salt in a blender. Blend until the mixture is a uniform puree. Add seasoning and adjust the consistency with the chickpea liquid as needed.
3. Scoop the hummus into a serving bowl. Drizzle on the remaining olive oil and sprinkle it with paprika, sesame seeds, and parsley. Serve warm with pita chips.
5 types of winter squash to put on your fall menu
Packed with antioxidants, fiber, potassium, and vitamin A, winter squashes are versatile ingredients that can be used to prepare a wide range of delectable dishes. Here are just some of the varieties that would make great additions to your diet this season.
This round, deep orange squash has a mild, sweet taste that makes it a delicious choice for homemade fries and pies. The seeds can also be roasted and enjoyed as a snack.
2. Sweet dumpling
Cream-colored with green stripes, this variety of squash is a particularly good choice for desserts such as pudding and sorbet thanks to its slightly nutty flavor.
This round, squat squash has dark green skin and orange flesh that’s sweet and firm. It can be used to make creamy soups and curries, and it pairs well with mashed potatoes.
Also known as sweet potato squash due to its similar flavor, this striped oblong variety can be cooked or eaten raw. Use it to make everything from jam to fries.
This large, blue-gray, or dark green squash has a round base and very bumpy skin. Less sweet than other varieties, it’s a great substitute for potato in stews and shepherd’s pie.
From acorn and butternut to the heart of gold and spaghetti, there are plenty of options when it comes to winter squash. Visit the farms and food markets in your area to find a local selection.
5 types of cakes to (re)discover
Whether you have a major sweet tooth or just enjoy the occasional dessert, here are five irresistible cakes you can make at home or pick up from a local shop.
1. Angel food cake
Light as a feather, this ring-shaped cake is made with flour, sugar, and egg whites — no butter! Enjoy it with fresh fruit, whipped cream, chocolate sauce, or ice cream.
2. Swiss roll cake
This unique type of sponge cake is slathered with jam, icing, or whipped cream before being rolled up. A common iteration is the decadent yule log served around Christmas.
This cake is traditionally made with a pound each of flour, butter, eggs, and sugar. Ideal for teatime, it may be flavored with orange or lemon and dusted with icing sugar.
4. Upside-down cake
Baked in a pan with its toppings at the bottom, this moist cake can be made with apples, pineapple, rhubarb, peaches, and more. Serve it with vanilla ice cream or maple syrup.
5. Black Forest cake
This German classic consists of chocolate sponge cake layered with whipped cream, chocolate shavings, and cherries soaked in kirsch (a type of sour cherry brandy).
If you want to treat yourself to these or other desserts, visit the bakeries and pastry shops in your area.
Spaghetti squash with tomato sauce
If you’re looking for a healthy and delicious alternative to pasta, spaghetti squash is now in season. Serve it up with homemade tomato sauce for a delightfully simple fall meal.
Start to finish: 1 hour (20 minutes active)
• 1 spaghetti squash
• 1/4 cup olive oil, divided
• Salt and pepper, to taste
• 1 can whole tomatoes
• 1 onion, finely chopped
• 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
• 1 tablespoon dried oregano
• 1 dried bay leaf
• 1 teaspoon dried chili flakes
• A few fresh basil leaves, to garnish
1. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Slice the squash in half lengthwise, and use a spoon to remove the seeds and stringy pulp from the center. Drizzle half the olive oil over the squash, and season it with salt and pepper. Place the squash cut side down on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Roast in the oven for 45 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, place the other half of the olive oil and the remaining ingredients in a pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and let simmer for about 40 minutes.
3. Remove the squash from the oven and let it cool. In the meantime, puree the sauce using an immersion blender, and add seasoning if needed.
4. Turn over the squash halves and use a fork to scrape the flesh into spaghetti-like strands. Divide the squash among 4 plates, top with sauce, and garnish with fresh basil leaves.
When you add zucchini to lightly sweetened bread, the result is impossible to resist.
Start to finish: 1 hour 10 minutes (10 minutes active)
• 2 zucchinis
• 2 eggs
• 2/3 cup melted butter
• 1/2 cup sugar
• 1/2 cup brown sugar
• 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
• 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
• 2 cups flour
• 1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease a 10 by 5-inch loaf pan.
2. Cut off the ends of the zucchinis, then grate them using a cheese grater. Place the grated zucchini in a large bowl, and combine it with all the other ingredients except the flour and nuts. Incorporate everything until the mixture has a uniform texture. Add the flour and mix well. Repeat with the nuts.
3. Pour the mixture into the pan, and bake for about 60 minutes or until a fork inserted in the center of the bread comes out clean. Let cool, then slice and serve.