• 12

    Celebrate the South Indian Holiday of Pongal!

    by Sunita B.

    The South Indian holiday of Pongal is a multi-day harvest festival full of music and food observed by the Tamil and Telugu community, celebrated this year per the Hindu religious calendar, starting on Thursday, January 14 and ending on Sunday, January 17.

    The festival marks the end of the winter solstice, and the start of the sun's six-month-long journey northwards when the sun enters the zodiac Makara (Capricorn). In the Tamil language, "pongal" means "bubbling up," and it is also the name of a delicious, hearty dish made with rice, lentils, and cashews.

    We will celebrate Pongal virtually on Friday, January 15 at 3:00 p.m. on Donatucci Library's Facebook page with music and a cooking demonstration of the holiday’s namesake dish. We will learn about and follow many of these very old traditions in a new place, with a new audience. I will also present a short Carnatic (South Indian Classical) vocal performance and then take it to the kitchen to show our patrons how to prepare for a traditional and tasty dish!

    Here is a sample recipe for Pongal (from KannammaCooks.com):


    • 1 cup raw rice (sona masuri)
    • 1/2 cup to 1 cup split moong dal
    • 4 cups water
    • 2 tablespoon Ghee
    • 1 tablespoon Oil
    • 2 tablespoon broken cashew nut
    • 1 teaspoon minced ginger
    • 1 teaspoon pepper
    • 2 teaspoon cumin seeds
    • 2 green chillies, chopped
    • 1 sprig curry leaves
    • 1 teaspoon salt


    1. Soak rice in water. Take split moong dal and dry roast it on a very low flame until you can smell the roasted dal. It would take approximately 3 minutes. Don’t roast for long. Cook the dal and rice together in a pressure cooker with 4 cups of water for a good 15 minutes or 10-12 whistles.
    2. Coarsely grind pepper and cumin with the help of a mortar and pestle. Set aside.
    3. Heat some ghee and oil in a pan. I used 2 tablespoons of ghee and a tablespoon of oil. Add in the broken cashew nut, ginger, curry leaves and green chillies. Roast on a low flame. Once the nuts are roasted add in the pepper-cumin mixture. Roast briefly for 20 seconds.
    4. Add in the cooked rice-dal mixture and salt. Mix everything to combine. Saute briefly for a minute or two.
    5. Remove off heat.

    One of the pieces I will be performing is a Tamil song titled "Kaliyuga Varadan", in the raga Brindavana Saranga, composed by the revolutionary Periasamy Thooran in the mid 20th Century.  Each year, the Pongal holiday coincides with the uplifting of the deity Muruga. The song is a tribute to Muruga and to his history in the Hindu canon.

    We welcome you to enjoy another virtual trip to another culture this Friday, January 15 at 3:00 p.m. on Facebook Live!

    Previous week's storytimes and programs are also archived and viewable via Donatucci Library's Facebook page.

    Holidays music culinary literacy Virtual Programs

  • 7

    Let Culinary Explorations of Literature Nourish You with Book Feast!

    by Katherine L.

    Have you ever thought about why we use the same vocabulary to describe consuming food and consuming knowledge? How we’re hungry for the truth, devour a good book, and digest information? 

    Intellectual nourishment has been so closely aligned with physical nourishment, it’s not surprising that food figures so prominently in books, the most formidable carriers of information. Book Feast celebrates this connection by highlighting a specific food or dish that plays a special role in a work of literature—analyzing its significance and demonstrating its general culinary use.

    As we all spend more time at home and more time than ever consuming (media, news, information, meals, and books), it’s a great time to cover some culinary basics and to discover new works. Combining the two, this program requires nothing beyond equipment found in most kitchens, ingredients sold in neighborhood stores, and resources through your local neighborhood library.

    We hope that you will find inspiration to read, to cook, and to explore—to nourish yourself with good food and good reads. Check out the first three episodes of Book Feast on the Free Library of Philadelphia’s YouTube channel if you’d like to learn more about the mysterious morality of onions in Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, banana massacres in García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, and carnal candy in Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye.

    Stay tuned for more episodes, and feel free to email a recommendation of your own favorite food passage to lanek @ freelibrary.org. 

    In the meantime, stay safe, stay healthy, stay full.

    recommendations culinary literacy literature Virtual Programs

  • 23

    Stocking Up Food for the Winter

    by Caity R.

    Written by Alex Evenson, Philabundance Nutrition Educator, with additions from Caity Rietzen, Culinary Literacy Center Supervisor

    Frozen peas, canned beans, and potato chips. What do these three food items have in common?

    bag of frozen peascan of beansfried potato chips

    Since the onset of COVID-19 last spring, many Americans have been trying to limit how often they go to the grocery store. At the same time, we are at home more than usual and may be surprised how quickly we run through food. Fresh produce is preferred by many but will also spoil the fastest, and generally should be eaten within the week. A key strategy to save money and shop less is to buy fruits and vegetables in their fresh, frozen, and canned forms. Once a crop is picked from the ground, the nutritional quality and taste starts to decrease over time. Since our fruits and vegetables come from all over the world (with the majority grown in California), a lot of the "fresh" produce we buy was picked several days ago.

    While buying fresh produce is still a nutritious choice, frozen and canned produce have long shelf lives and can actually have more nutrients than fresh! When asked which form of fruits and vegetables is the healthiest, people often say fresh because frozen and canned are processed and have additives like salt. But when we say that a food is processed, what do we really mean?

    Canned, fresh, and frozen foods

    The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines a processed food as one that has undergone any changes to its natural state. This includes washing, cleaning, milling, cutting, chopping, heating, pasteurizing, blanching, cooking, canning, freezing, drying, dehydrating, mixing, packaging, or other procedures. Since food begins to deteriorate as soon as it’s harvested, processing is necessary to stop the growth of the many bacteria and enzymes that spoil our food.

    Additionally, there are many foods whose nutritional quality is improved by processing. Canned tomatoes, for example, have more of the essential phytonutrient lycopene than fresh tomatoes. Milk is fortified with Vitamin D, which most Americans do not get enough of, and our salt has been iodized for years due to iodine deficiencies. When it comes to processed food, "...the longer the ingredients list, the more highly processed a food is. However, an ingredient that is not recognizable or has a long chemical name is not necessarily unhealthful", such as ascorbic acid which is added to prevent frozen fruit from browning.

    Fruits and vegetables are frozen at the peak of their ripeness, so they supply us with the maximum benefits for our bodies. When we decrease the temperature a food is held at through freezing, it slows the growth of microbes, as well as enzymes that ripen and spoil food. Fruit is simply washed and frozen, but vegetables need to be blanched before freezing. Blanching means the vegetables are placed in boiling water, removed after a couple minutes, and then placed in ice water. This process not only kills microbes with the hot water but it also sets the chlorophyll in green vegetables so they keep their vibrant green color. It also softens and partially cooks the veggies, making it a convenient ingredient for a cook to quickly heat up later.


    Canning was invented more than two hundred years ago, before we even knew that germs could infect food and make us sick. A Frenchman named Nicholas Appert invented this method after Napoleon Bonaparte offered a cash reward to whoever could come up with a way to feed French soldiers. Though the containers we use may have changed over the years, the basic method has not

    Similar to when we freeze foods, canning involves changing the temperature of food to kill microbes. In this case, the food is heated to very high temperatures first (around 250 degrees Fahrenheit) and then cooled before being placed in a sterile container. Also like the freezing process, canning facilities are located near farms so that the food can be canned immediately after harvest for the best flavor. 


    Drying is another way to preserve fruits and vegetables in addition to meat, beans, and wheat. Instead of changing the temperature, moisture is removed so that microbes can’t survive. Dried fruit is much sweeter since the fruit shrinks as the water is removed, making the fructose, or fruit sugar, more concentrated. This is why a serving size of fresh cherries is 1 cup whereas dried cherries is ¼ cup.


    Returning to the original question: what do the frozen peas, canned beans, and potato chips have in common? They have all been processed! Potato chips are the most processed of the three and have the most added salt and fat. When choosing processed foods, specifically frozen and canned, try to look for products that are low in sodium and fat, with no added sugars. The next time you shop, make sure to compare prices and fill your cart with fruits and vegetables in all their forms.

    Ready to give these other sources of vegetables a try? Check out this great recipe which uses canned carrots to make a delicious dish!

    Maple Glazed Carrots

    Recipe by Leigh-Ann Charles, MPH


    • 1 15 oz can of carrots
    • 1 TBS maple syrup 
    • 1 tsp high heat vegetable oil (canola, safflower, sunflower, coconut) 
    • 1 tsp butter (can substitute with a plant-based butter) 
    • Salt for taste


    • Medium saucepan 
    • Rubber spatula or wooden spoon 
    • Strainer


    1. Empty carrots into strainer and rinse. 
    2. Strain and gently pat dry to remove excess water  Heat a medium saucepan on medium high heat for a few minutes. 
    3. Using a high heat oil add oil to the heated pan. 
    4. Add carrots to pan in a flat layer and cook for 5 minutes. Avoid stirring to prevent breaking the carrots. 
    5. After 5 minutes, add maple syrup—gently stirring to evenly coat carrots. Cook for 2 minutes. 
    6. After 2 minutes, add butter and remove pan from heat. 
    7. Stir once for even coating and place in serving bowl.

    Learn more about the Culinary Literacy Center at freelibrary.org/cook or @freelibrarycook on Facebook and Instagram.

    Learn more about Philabundance at philabundance.org or @philabundance on Facebook and Instagram

    culinary literacy Health Healthy Communities

  • 16

    Celebrate the Holidays with Gingerbread

    by Naquawna L.

    One of my favorite treats for the holidays is making gingerbread!

    Did you know that gingerbread was derived from Greece in 2400 b.c and was originally meant to preserve ginger? Gingerbread was a term used for any recipe that combined ginger with honey, treacle, and molasses. Originally called fairings, its popularity grew from being served at medieval fairs known as Gingerbread Fairs. First shaped like animals and decorated with gold leaf, Queen Elizabeth I is credited with creating gingerbread people. When dignitaries came to visit her court, she would request the cookies be made to resemble those who visited. Eventually, its shape changed with the seasons. As the shapes changed, the decorations became more elaborate and the royal icing trimmings translated into the carved, white architectural details found on many colonial American seaside homes, now referred to as ‘gingerbread work

    First built in 16th century Germany, gingerbread houses quickly became associated with Christmas around the world. They also became synonymous with the story of Hansel and Gretzel, written by the Brothers Grimm. Their use of gingerbread in children’s fairy tales lead to other stories such as, The Gingerbread Man written by Jim Aylesworth, The Gingerbread Boy written by Paul Galdon, and The Gingerbread Baby written by Jan Brett. Considering there are countless stories written with the premise of gingerbread, I was sure to list a few others below.

    Gingerbread cookies were also brought to America by English colonists and were sometimes used to sway voters toward one candidate over the other. Once in America, three versions of gingerbread were publicized: the original ginger snap used for gingerbread men, which has a light snap and crunch; the bread version, often used in colonial America and baked into loaves of bread; and the traditional sturdy version used for building gingerbread houses.

    Making these treats is a great way to spend time with family, get into holiday spirit, and express your creativity. Below I have listed a few books that will help you create your own gingerbread and hope you have the opportunity to make them with your family this holiday season, as I do with mine.  


    Gingerbread Recipe


    • 3 cups AP flour
    • 2 tsp Ground ginger
    • 1 tsp Ground Cinnamon
    • 1tsp Baking soda
    • ¼ tsp Ground Nutmeg
    • ¼ tsp Salt
    • ¾ cup of Butter, softened
    • ¾ cup of Brown Sugar, firmly packed
    • ½ cup Molasses
    • 1 egg
    • 1 tsp Pure Vanilla extract


    1. Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl and set aside.
    2. Creaming Method: Beat the butter and brown sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy.
    3. Next add the molasses, egg, and vanilla extract until well combined.
    4. Gradually add the flour mixture on low speed until the dough forms. (do not overmix)
    5. Once combined, press the dough into a flat disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
    6. After refrigeration, allow dough to rest for 30 minutes to an hour so that the dough is pliable. 
    7. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 
    8. Lightly flour the surface, dough, and cookie cutters so that the dough does not stick. Roll the dough until it's ¼ inch thick. With a 5-inch cookie cutter, cut the dough into gingerbread people. Place them on an ungreased cookie sheet at least 1 inch apart.
    9. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until the edges of the cookies are set and just begining to brown. Let the cookies cool for 1-2 minutes before moving to a cooling rack to cool completely.
    10. Decorate the cookies as desired.
    11. Store the cookies in an airtight container for up to 1 week. 


    1. This dough can be made 1-2 days in advance.
    2. Vanilla paste can be used instead of vanilla extract.
    3. For soft and chewy cookies, melt the butter and combine it with the brown sugar, molasses, salt, and spices. With the paddle attachment or by hand, add the eggs and then add the flour and baking soda mixture until the dough forms. (Cookies will not puff up when baking. They will be very flat)
    4. The longer your dough rests, the better the cookies will be.
    5. You can use any kind of icing to decorate your cookies but Royal Icing is the best.
    6. Royal Icing can be time-consuming to make, so I recommend buying it instead of making it yourself.

    Nutritional Facts

    Per Serving:

    • 158 calories
    • protein 2g 4% DV
    • carbohydrates 24g 8% DV
    • fat 6.1g 10% DV
    • cholesterol 23mg 8% DV
    • sodium 125.3mg 5% DV

    This recipe is a combination of recipes from allrecipes.com

    For more gingerbread recipes and stories, take a look at these titles from our catalog:

    Gingerbread: Timeless Recipe for Cakes, Cookies, Desserts, Ice Cream, and Candy by Jennifer Lindner McGlinn
    Who says gingerbread is just for the holidays? This unique cookbook shows how gingerbread can be enjoyed for breakfast or dessert year-round. Reflecting the wisdom and creativity of a professional pastry chef and dedicated home-cook, Gingerbread collects 60 traditional and modern recipes. Start with simple, yummy treats like Gingerbread Rum Cake and Sticky Toffee Gingerbread, then graduate to building your own gingerbread house for the holidays. Any way you slice it, these gingery goodies are sure to be a hit on any day of the year!

    Gingerbread Christmas by Jan Brett
    Gingerbread Baby and his friend, Matti, take his gingerbread band to the Christmas Festival where they are a hit--until the aroma of gingerbread reaches the children, signaling the time to run away.


    The Gingerbread Man by Talita Van Graan
    This series was designed specifically to help beginner readers learn to read. The well-known stories, exciting artwork and repetitive text ensure a successful first independent read!





    The Gingerbread Doll by Susan Tews
    Although her family's prosperity brings her increasingly nicer dolls as Christmas gifts, Rebecca is most fond of her gingerbread doll because it was made from love.




    The Gingerbread Pirates by Kristin Kladstrup
    When Jim's gingerbread pirate, Captain Cookie, comes alive, the tasty treat prepares to battle Santa Claus, who likes to eat cookies on Christmas Eve.




    We would love to see your gingerbread work. Please leave us a comment or picture showing off your skills!

    Holidays How-To Children's books history culinary literacy Recipes

  • 15

    A Taste of African Heritage for Kwanzaa

    by Aurora S.

    Healthy Communities just wrapped a fall series of A Taste of African Heritage with instructor Paul O. Mims, who recently spoke with Oldways about Cooking, Culture, and Community During Covid

    A Taste of African Heritage (ATOAH) is Oldways’ African diaspora culinary program. ATOAH features naturally delicious vegetarian dishes from the African diaspora. ATOAH invites us to cook and discuss spices, whole grains, beans, tubers, and Oldways’ African heritage food pyramid. The African heritage food pyramid not only features nutritious foods, but reminds us of the importance of enjoying healthy meals and physical activity together. Kwanzaa, "an African American and Pan-African holiday" celebrated from December 26 to January 1, also affirms the "well-being of family and community".

    We are pleased to gather virtually with instructor Claire Richardson in her kitchen for A Taste of African Heritage daily from Saturday, December 26 to Thursday, December 31 at 2:00 p.m. to talk and share healthy recipes from the African diaspora. For a taste of what you can expect, follow along as Claire prepares Oldways Jollof Rice.

    Register and join us as we "let the old ways be our guide to good health and well-being."

    African American culinary literacy Recipes Healthy Communities Virtual Programs

  • 11

    Cooking with Pomegranates: Seeds the Day!

    by Shayna M.

    Pomegranates! They are unique red fruits filled with many juicy seeds, with a sweet and tart taste. While these fruits grow in warmer climates, they can be available in some local Philly stores in the fall and early winter months. 

    Some people like to crunch down on and eat the hard seeds that are surrounded by the juicy coating, and some people like to spit the seeds out after enjoying the juice around them. Pomegranates can be made into juice as well as molasses. This fruit can also be transformed into a dried spice called anardana, generally used in Indian and Pakistani cooking.

    Pomegranates contain lots of vitamins, minerals, and health properties, such as Vitamin C (helpful for immunity), Vitamin E (beneficial for skin health), Vitamin K (beneficial for blood), potassium (helpful for maintaining healthy blood pressure levels), and antioxidants (beneficial in protecting body from disease). Free Library resources can provide more information about this fruit, such as the book Pomegranates by Ann Kleinberg, available for physical checkout with your library card. Amazing, Edible Seeds: Health-Boosting and Delicious Recipes Using Nature’s Nutritional Powerhouse by Vicki Edgson is a cooking and information reference title available as an ebook.

    There are many different ways to open a pomegranate. Learning how, and practicing, can be fun! Here are some short (1 to 3 minute) videos on YouTube with ideas. 

    Nourishing Literacy team member Erik has a special understanding and knowledge of pomegranates, being from Los Angeles, where pomegranates grow in plentiful amounts. Erik’s father even has a pomegranate tree! Thank you Erik, for sharing your experience with pomegranates below.

    "Pomegranates remind me of my home in the South Bay area of the Greater Los Angeles area. They are one of my favorite fruits that I enjoy eating in the late summer and early fall months. My father and I enjoy eating them freshly picked off the vine. We usually rip one open and start picking out the seeds, staining our fingers a brilliant ruby red. My mother and I enjoy pressing the juice out of the seeds to make Agua Fresca, while trying our best not to color the rest of the kitchen into a Jackson Pollock painting. This fruit just reminds me of being home because I get to enjoy it surrounded by my parents, which is an occasional opportunity for us since we live on two seperate sides of the country." - Erik, Nourishing Literacy team member

    And here's Erik’s recipe for Pomegranate Agua Fresca!


    • 1 ½ cups pomegranate seeds
    • 4 cups water 
    • ½ cup simple syrup (1:1 ratio of water and sugar, boiled until sugar dissolves)


    1. Place the pomegranate seeds In a large and deep bowl, and using a waffle head potato masher, or another similar piece of equipment, press down on the seeds to juice them. 
    2. Using a fine mesh strainer, strain the freshly pressed juice into a clean pitcher. 
    3. Repeat steps 1 and 2, two more times to squeeze out as much juice from the seeds as possible.  
    4. Add the remaining 4 cups of water and simple syrup to the pitcher and mix to combine. Feel free to adjust the sweetness of the recipe to your desired taste by adding more water or more simple syrup as desired. 
    5. Chill for 4 hours, if possible, before serving. 

    If interested in making a visual art project inspired by pomegranates, Erik suggests using some of the juice that collects on the cutting board after cutting your pomegranate into sections, to paint with! To explore more around creating your own art supplies from natural materials, you might want to read The Organic Artist: Make Your Own Paper, Pens, Pigments, Prints, and More From Nature by Nick Neddo, available as an ebook to read online with your library card.

    If in the mood for some poetry, check out the ebook, The Pomegranate Tree and the Blue Jay by Parvin Mavaneh. And for music to listen to, Pomegranate Tree by Mikis Theodorakis, is available as a part of the Free Library’s Contemporary World Music database.

    How might pomegranates be a source of inspiration for you today, either in or out of the kitchen? 

    Nourishing Literacy offers food, literacy, wellness, and life skills activities and events to community members, with our core audience being youth, teachers, and caregivers. To learn more about the Culinary Literacy Center, please visit our website or connect with us through Instagram and Facebook.

    How-To culinary literacy Recipes Cook This Now Health

  • 2

    ¿Aprendiendo Español? Check Out These Resources!

    by Mary Marques

    Nowadays, mastering a new language is so much fun—there are so many resources available! Depending on your learning style, you can design a work plan that fits your needs and time. With only five minutes a day, you can build a basic vocabulary that can even help you start a short conversation.

    Following the Mantra: Repetition and Practice
    In this global community, learning a new language can be very handy. With this approach, you are exposed to discovering new cultural traditions, a different way of living, and a new view of the world. For instance, do you like to cook? Maybe reading and investigating non-traditional ingredients in a recipe can help you learn culinary vocabulary. For example, do you know why "avocado" is called "palta" in some Spanish countries? You can find the answer in the program "Language Through My Kitchen: Latin Cuisine" by watching the following presentation on Facebook of the Peruvian dish “La Causa Limeña.”  (Video, 59:40 minutes)


    Building a Vocabulary with Children’s Books
    As a long time language learner, I recommend looking at children’s books as a tool to discover new content. Even if you don’t know some of  the words, you can understand the story through the sequence of the illustrations. This is a great way to compile a list of terms that you can investigate the meaning of at a later time. Also, reading bilingual books can help you build the basic vocabulary that you need in order to start a short conversation in no time.


    La Historia de "Lucha y Lola"
    This Spanish book was presented at this year's Latin American Book Fair (virtual 2020 edition). This is the story of two friends that live in Mexico who are sharing a roadmap of their adventures! It is written by Cynthia Kreilick,  illustrated by Alyssa Kreilick, and read by Veronica Ponce de León, storyteller and Mexican folk artist.


    The Free Library Virtual Library
    There are several databases that can help you start designing your work plan to learn, improve, or master this beautiful language. 

    • Overdrive Sala de Lectura Electrónica en Español: Go to the "For Kids in Spanish" section and borrow an ebook. 
    • TumbleBooks: Select "Language Learning" and you can find a wide selection of virtual books to read online.
    • BookFlix: Click on the far right corner to change the booklist into Spanish. The ebooks are categorized by subjects: Animals and Nature, Earth and Sky, People and Places, ABCs and 123s, Adventure, Family and Community, Celebrations, Music and Rhyme, and Imagination.
    • Mango Languages: Learn basic vocabulary through repetition of words and phrases.
    • Duolingo: A fun way to learn a language and earn points in your progress.


    Investing Only 5 Minutes a Day
    Remember that practice is the recipe for success. To access the Free Library's databases, all you need is a library card and your pin number. Taking small steps every day can make you master the language of your dreams.

    ¡Aprenda Jugando!

    #spanish #español #languages #cultures #latinamerican #diversity #culinary #peruvian #recipes

    databases ebooks languages culinary literacy Recipes Languages and Learning Center

  • 24

    Brighten Up Your Thanksgiving Table

    by Caity R.

    Written by Alex Evenson, Philabundance Nutrition Educator, with additions from Caity Rietzen, Culinary Literacy Center Supervisor


    Cooking is a wonderful way to bring people together, and while this year's holiday will be unlike any other, we hope that you have a special day with smaller gatherings—or even virtual ones!

    Since it's already going to be different, why not try out some new, healthy recipes?

    Thanksgiving for many families in the United States is the biggest cooking holiday of the year and is full of food traditions. Generally, Thanksgiving centers around turkey and lots of buttery, starchy sides: white potatoes, sweet potatoes or yams, corn, stuffing, rolls, and of course pie(s) for dessert.  

    Starches such as potatoes, bread, and pasta are an important part of our diet and provide an easy to digest source of energy for our bodies. When eaten in their "whole" form (such as eating whole wheat bread or potatoes with the skins on), they are full of lots of fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

    However, when it comes to vegetables, it’s important to mix it up and eat other types besides the starchy ones. Dark leafy greens, red, orange, purple... you get the idea. Phytonutrients (which are also called antioxidants, polyphenols, and more) are what give fruits and vegetable their color and also strengthen the plant’s immune system. Similarly, when we eat colorful plant foods they can help us prevent common diseases like diabetes and cancer. You may be familiar with how orange produce like pumpkins, carrots, and sweet potatoes are high in beta carotene which improves our vision and immune system. Red and purple produce like plums and cranberries improve blood vessel health, and green veggies like cabbage, brussel sprouts, and collard greens have compounds that work to block cancer cells.

    Instead of trying to memorize all of this, it’s easiest to remember that all colors have benefits for our bodies and to try to "eat the rainbow". There are many colorful fall and winter fruits and vegetables to try this holiday season. Brighten your plate with purple cabbage, winter greens, golden beets, cranberries (fresh, frozen or canned), and winter squash. And on Thanksgiving day, as well as year round, see if you can fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables first!  

    To help jumpstart your rainbow-influenced Thanksgiving meal, the Culinary Literacy Center and Philabundance recently hosted a workshop providing healthy nutrition tips with recipe demonstrations from Chef Char Nolan. You can watch the full video via our Facebook page to help get you ready for the holiday! We also highly recommend these delicious Harvest Corn Muffins, featured in the presentation:

    Harvest Corn Muffins
    Recipe by Char Nolan

    These delicious corn muffins are filled with pieces of fresh corn and dried cherries. This recipe is a nice way to enjoy corn muffins with added flavors and nutrients. They are easy to make and will quickly become a favorite! This recipe can also be made egg and dairy-free.

    Makes 6-8 Muffins


    • 1 ½ cups of unbleached flour
    • ½ cup of yellow cornmeal
    • 6 teaspoons of sugar or your favorite sweetener (maple syrup, agave, etc.)
    • ½ teaspoon of salt
    • 1 teaspoon of baking soda
    • I cup of cooked, mashed sweet potatoes (about 1 medium sweet potato)
    • 1 teaspoon of vanilla flavoring
    • 6 ounces of non-dairy or dairy milk
    • 1 teaspoon of vinegar or lemon juice
    • 1 cup of fresh, frozen or canned corn
    • ½ cup of dried cherries


    • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
    • Combine the following ingredients together: flour, cornmeal, sugar, salt, and baking soda. Mix together and set aside.
    • In another bowl, add the mashed sweet potatoes, vanilla, and non-dairy milk. Mix all ingredients together well.
    • Add the wet ingredients to the bowl of flour and other ingredients, stir well, and mix by hand. Mixture will be on the thick side, add more milk, if needed.
    • Add corn and cherries, still mixing well. Allow mixture to "proof" for about ten minutes.
    • Using a three-ounce scoop, place the batter in a lined muffin tin, filling each 2/3 filled.
    • Place in the middle rack of a pre-heated oven, and cook for 20-23 minutes.
    • Muffins should be golden brown. Allow to cool. Enjoy and celebrate!

    Additional Resources:

    Learn more about the Culinary Literacy Center at freelibrary.org/cook or @freelibrarycook on Facebook and Instagram.

    Learn more about Philabundance at philabundance.org or @philabundance on Facebook and Instagram

    culinary literacy Health Healthy Communities

  • 12

    Trail Mix and Hiking Trails Can Cure the Blues

    by Naquawna L.

    Are you looking for a healthy snack and way to fuel your body as the fall and winter days get shorter? Try some trail mix!

    Trail mix can be packed with nutrients that fuel the body longer, and depending on the ingredients, it can also improve your mood. 

    Researchers suggest during the end of Daylight Savings Time there is an increase in S.A.D or Seasonal Affective Disorder. In other words, there is an increase in seasonal depression.

    Generally, the lack of sun causes a disruption in our circadian rhythm, also known as the body’s internal clock, which control certain brain activity and hormones in the body. When the circadian rhythm is imbalanced, it changes mood related chemicals and cause depression. Exercise can increase energy levels, improve sleep, reduce anxiety, and release hormones called endorphins that can reduce pain and increase feelings of well-being.

    It is also suggested that nature can help with stress reduction, anxiety, and depression. With this in mind, Philadelphia has beautiful trails throughout the city and we encourage you to take a 15-30 minute walk on one of these trails to soak up some sun (vitamin D).

    Likewise, certain foods can cause mood changes, such as oats, bananas, berries, and nuts. If you are not feeling like your normal self and need a little boost, try starting your day with our favorite trail mix recipe and a brisk walk on one of the trails listed above.


    Trail Mix Recipe

    • 1 cup of granola

    • ½ cup of Dark Chocolate morsels

    • 1 cup plantain chips (for saltiness) 

    • 1 cup dried cranberries

    • 1 cup yogurt-covered almonds or peanuts


    1. Measure ingredients.

    2. Mix ingredients together.

    3. Store in an airtight container outside of the refrigerator.


    • Making your own granola is a healthier and cheaper alternative than buying it.
    • While dark chocolate is healthiest, any kind of chocolate morsels can be used.
    • Dried bananas can be used to substitute plantains.
    • Any kind of berry can be used as a substitution for cranberries, such as raisins, blueberries, or strawberries.
    • If you aren’t a fan of almonds, you can use pecans, walnuts, or peanuts.
    • If you have a food allergy, feel free to omit yogurt-covered products and use something similar instead. 

    Be sure to leave us a comment of some of your favorite trail mix ingredients or pictures from your walk!

    culinary literacy nature self care

  • 6

    Noodles Across Tables

    by Shayna M.

    Thank you to Nourishing Literacy (NL) team member Carolyn for writing this blog post! In addition to sharing her experience and findings, Carolyn has included some of the activities and approaches that we use in NL. The NL team enjoys providing interactive food info and ideas that spark curiosity and are inclusive to all ages and skills. Noodles are a great vehicle for vegetables and lean protein, and can be enjoyed in so many different ways. What kinds of noodles have you enjoyed or might you like to taste?


    Nourishing Noodles
    As a mom to a young child and a pasta-lover, one of my favorite children’s books is Strega Nona. Winner of a Caldecott Honor for illustrations, Tomie de Paola’s classic features a magic pasta pot that produces enough spaghetti to nearly bury a town. Fun for all ages and a great way to introduce young readers to Italian noodles, this book is available to check out with your Free Library card in English, Spanish, and for download as an audiobook

    To this day, I crave chicken noodle soup when I come down with a cold. If I’m hosting a lunchtime playdate for my son, mac and cheese will be on the menu. Spaghetti with meatballs, noodles with shrimp, and pesto pasta are among the go-to meals that I cook for my family. 


    Noodles Across Cultures
    Comforting, nourishing, filling, easy, adaptable—noodles are a staple across tables with good reason. Vibrant and culturally rich, Philadelphia is home to people and traditions from around the world. Each day, in kitchens across the city, families prepare a stunning variety of noodles in many ways, from Vietnamese pho to Thai dishes like pad see ew and pad thai, Japanese ramen, Chinese lo mein and chow mein, Jewish noodle kugel, Mexican sopa de fideo, West African-style peanut sauce over Udon noodles, and more. 

    Want to dive deep into noodle varieties and dishes from different cultures? You might begin with Wikipedia’s Noodle page, which includes a basic definition of the noodle, "a type of food made from unleavened dough which is rolled flat and cut, stretched or extruded, into long strips or strings," a bit on the noodle’s origins and evolution over time and place, and a list of varieties according to the base ingredient: wheat, buckwheat, egg, rice, and other varieties made from acorn meal, mung bean or potato starch (or related starches), seaweed, corn, kudzu root starch, and Japanese konjac ('devil’s tongue'). A separate list of noodles identifies noodle types by country, and yet another list of noodle dishes provides well over 100 noodle dishes by region and country, from Burma to Cambodia, China, Europe, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Spanish-speaking countries, Thailand, Tibet, the United States, and Vietnam. And among the Free Library’s many resources on noodles is Brian Yervin’s A World of Noodles, which introduces readers to noodles around the world. Use your library card to place a hold on this book and request pick up at a neighborhood library near you.  

    rolling a dough ball onto a sheet

    Making Noodles From Scratch
    Boxed or bagged, dried noodles from the store are accessible, affordable, shelf-stable, and can be both quick to prepare and satisfying to eat. For these reasons, I’ve never made noodles from scratch before. After trying to prepare noodles recently, I learned that handmade noodles can be engaging and fun to make, for all ages! This project can take up to two hours, which might make it more of a special occasion recipe than an everyday one.

    I turned to Alice Waters’ cookbook The Art of Simple Food (available for physical checkout with your library card), for my first attempt at handmade pasta. I made tagliatelle, a long and flat noodle, though you can make many different shapes with this dough. This recipe calls for two eggs and two egg yolks, but I found that three eggs work just fine. Chopped parsley brought a subtle flavor and an added moisture that made the dough a bit softer and easier to work with. If you happen to have parchment paper, rolling the dough between 2 floured sheets can help you get the dough extra thin. My son joined me in rolling and he found that standing on a chair put more oomph in his roll. I dried some noodles on a cooling rack and others on a table, and they all turned out well.  

    Making noodles from scratch can involve trial and error and patience. Noodles made by hand will likely look and taste different than those purchased from a store or restaurant. This can make them special and unique. My handmade noodles were thicker than the boxed ones I’m used to, but they were delicious. We topped them with sautéed shrimp and grated cheese, and my family finished four servings between the three of us. We can’t wait to make (and eat) them again!

    Here are the ingredients needed to prepare these noodles. What might you add on top of your noodles?

    • 2 cups flour
    • 2 eggs and 2 egg yolks (or 3 eggs)
    • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley (optional)

    If you have dietary restrictions or food allergies, making your own noodles is also a great way to explore alternatives to the more common varieties. And with a peeler, a knife, or a box grater, you can turn almost any vegetable into a noodle. Below you’ll find more resources with recipes and tips for making your own noodles from scratch.

    Strips cut from the rolled out dough

    Free Library Resources
    Want to read and learn more about noodles? The Free Library has lots of resources on cooking with noodles and preparing your own, as well as children’s stories and nonfiction books centered around noodles. Check out any of the resources below with your library card, or go to our catalog and enter the search term "noodles" to find more inspiration. 

    Let’s Make Ramen by Hugh Amano and Sarah Becan is another great noodle resource appropriate for all ages. Equal parts graphic novel and cookbook, this is an accessible introduction to ramen and Japanese cuisine, with easy-to-follow recipes suitable for beginner cooks. 

    Do you like reading biographies or memoirs? In On the Noodle Road: From Beijing to Rome with Pasta and Love, food writer Jen Lin-Liu charts her travels from China to Italy in search of noodles and their history. As you read along, you might even think about creating a "noodle road" through our vibrant city, visiting neighborhoods, and sampling noodle dishes from the many different cultures represented in Philadelphia. Available as an audiobook with your library card, this culinary travelogue includes recipes too. 

    If all this reading about noodles is making you hungry, you’ll find plenty of ideas and cooking tips in Aliza Green’s Making Artisan Pasta, Andrea Nguyen’s The Pho Cookbook, and Jonathon Sawyer’s Noodle Kids: Around the World in 50 Fun, Healthy, Creative Recipes the Whole Family Can Cook Together. All three books are available for digital download with your library card. 


    Go Noodle
    Go Noodle is a free online program that engages millions of youth each month with movement and mindfulness-based games in English and Spanish. This is a wonderful resource to keep the entire family active, breathing deeply, and learning together through fun, playful games.


    Philadelphia Noodles
    Philadelphia’s Chinatown is a great place to explore and sample different varieties of noodles, with its plentiful shops and many affordable restaurants. The Nan Zhou Hand Drawn Noodle House is a great stop for handmade noodles that hail from Nan Zhou, known as the "Golden City" in its former heyday as the first stop on the Silk Road trade route. Chinatown is also home to so much more than Chinese food—you’ll find cuisine and ingredients representative of cultures from Vietnamese to Malaysian, Cambodian, Thai, Burmese, Japanese, and Korean. 


    Storytelling Activity: Noticing Noodles
    Think of, write down, or draw some images, words, and / or ideas that come to mind around "noodles." Using your imagination, create a story that includes noodles, while also being personal to you, your interests, and / or your culture. Try to incorporate the following elements into your story: a beginning and end, memorable characters, and a conflict and resolution. You can write your story down, draw a picture of it, or express it verbally. If possible and of interest, try creating an audio recording of your story. As you listen back, is there any part of the story that you would like to change? Anything that you would like to add?


    For more inspiration, check out our most recent Nourishing Literacy short learning video about tomatoes, which includes a quick recipe using noodles, as well as some storytelling ideas. Whether you noodle on cooking, eating, writing, or reading today, perhaps the noodle can be an inspiration for you! 

    Nourishing Literacy offers food, literacy, wellness, and life skills activities and programs to youth and intergenerational community members. To learn more about the Culinary Literacy Center, please visit our website or connect with us through Instagram and Facebook.

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