Getting Back to Basics

It’s been almost 6 weeks since Sandy hit, and I can’t decide if it’s been the longest or shortest month and a half of my life.  I do know that with the help of many people, UWSLoves managed to make an impact on some of the struggling communities in the city.

The last two weekends we have been focused on getting the cookbook out and a wedding in Florida (yay Leanne and David), so I have not been in the kitchen.  I’ve definitely missed it.  So after 2 batches of chocolate chip cookies and a big dinner for Yitzy, Carlos, and I, I feel like I’ve returned to the basics of UWSLoves.  I of course made too much food, so the catering hall food preparation style has stuck.  If anyone wants leftovers, come on by (BTW, I am a terrible food photographer, so I promise it tasted much better than it looks).

I am happy to report that the food was quite tasty, so if you are on the fence about the cookbook, I can at least guarantee that I am a good cook. Tonight I made a salad with roasted carrots and eggplant, thinly sliced red onion, olives, and tomatoes with a citrus vinaigrette (inspired by my favorite salad by Carmine’s), the lemon chicken penne from the cookbook, and a garlic bread.  The key to my garlic bread is sauteeing the fresh garlic with olive and salted butter before placing it on the bread, and right before you put it in the oven sprinkle with shredded parmesan cheese.  Yitzy’s response to the bread/meal was pretty happy, and I had to rouse himself out of a food coma to do some of the dishes (I’m mean).

The last of the cookies are in the oven and tomorrow we start a pretty full weekend.  Yitzy and I will drive over to Orwasher’s Bakery to pick up a bread donation before heading out to the Quiles church in Coney Island with 600 dollars worth of pantry items.  After dropping them off, we will turn around and head to the Ikea Red Hook to pick up the rest of the meal preparation kits (pans, dishes, glasses, cultery, etc.).  Once we have packed Yitzy’s car it will be back to the church to hand out the kits to the 20 families.

Sunday we will get up even earlier to head out to the Occupy Sandy Relief Kitchen, were I will be a lead cook with a mother-daughter vegan team to get as much food out as possible to the Occupy Sandy relief sites.  Yitzy will help cook and then take out some of the food. I am pretty sure after the 12 hour day, we will be pretty pooped, but I am really excited to get back out there.

Next week we should have some big projects starting, a new logo, and a new website, so there are many things to look out for.

As always you can follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, or email me.

Here’s to a good, productive weekend!

NY Cares Winter Wishes Gifting

Today Carlos and I went out to buy our Christmakuh bush, who we were informed name is Frankie, which got me in the holiday spirit.

Frankie

A couple of weeks ago, UWSLoves signed up to provide 24 pre-teens holiday gifts, many of whom were impacted by Sandy.  We got the wishes that ranged from video games to roller skates, and tonight I purchased all of the gifts.  The final tally is: 3 game stop gift cards, 1 Forever 21 gift card, 3 Old Navy giftcards (yay warm clothes), 2 remote control trucks, 2 remote control cars, 1 barbie with car, 1 You Can be President barbie (what i wanted to be as a kid), puzzles, 2 keyboards, 1 pair of rollerskates, a jewelry/bead making kit, spiderman and batman action figures (POW!), a spy net video watch, a cd player, and a pink ipod shuffle.  Phew.

But the best part of our involvement in this program, is that a high school in the Bronx TAPCO who’s principal I used to teach with , is taking care of the personalization of the gifts and filling the stockings for each of the pre-teens.  This is going above and beyond what we have been asked to do, and I think it’s wonderful that these students get to help out. Some of these students are in difficult situations of their own, and they are getting such joy from helping out

When I taught in the Bronx, I was barely surviving until I figured out that the only way I could get through was to do something with my students that led to immediate good.  So with the help of another teacher at the school, we created a cross-age tutoring program at an elementary school nearby.  And for three years, my students gave an hour of their life each week to helping kids in their community.  These type of opportunities are important for everyone, and sometimes we forget that almost everyone is in a position to help someone else with the correct outlet.

I’m really looking forward to getting their stockings back (I’ll probably be just as happy looking through them as the pre-teens that get them) and wrapping everything to take to the community centers to distribute.  I’ll make sure to take a lot of pictures to share!

 

 

 

Something about Fishing

Trunk

About a week after UWSLoves got up and running, a close friend snarkily told me “If you give a man a fish he will be fed for a day, if you give a man a fishing pole, he will eat forever” and to be honest I was pretty annoyed.  Not because of the merit of the adage, but because at that point people just needed highly nutritious food made with love, period.

Now as we enter the second stage of relief, it is clear that it is time to start giving people the means to return to normal.  When I asked the Quiles family in Coney Island what their community needed the most, they immediately responded hot plates, dishes, silver ware, cups, etc.

Many people in rowhouses, tenements, and first floor apartments have electricity, but are awaiting insurance money to make their apartments livable again.  So hot plates and pans are necessary to cook meals until kitchens are rebuilt.

As far as dishes, cutlery, and utensils, many people threw them out when clearing out their damaged apartments.  So when they come in to the Church, they immediately ask for these things so they can stop using plastic plates and cutlery.

This weekend we are going to bring these necessary items for 20 families in Coney Island along with 600 dollars in pantry items to get them started.  We hope to cook on Friday night (mostly baking), so there is some UWSLoves goodness being handed out as well.

We have a Facebook event posted about Friday night/Saturday night.  If you have any gently used kitchenware, pantry items, or supplies (cold weather gear, toiletries, cleaning supplies, etc.), we will collect them at my apartment and bring them with us on Saturday morning.

The money for this effort was supplied by the 4-Toonist Auction, so thank you to everyone that donated art and bought the items (shipped today).

As always you can follow us on twitter, Facebook, and buy the e-cookbook.

Dad, Mimi, and baby me

My Inspiration

My inspiration for attempting to make delicious food to help those in need is my grandmother Mary Bickerstaff.  Mimi, as her grandchildren knew her, was a military wife originally from Arkansas.  She, my grandpa, and my dad’s family lived in Germany, South Carolina, and Alaska, before my grandpa retired from the Air Force and they bought a small car dealership and moved to Clayton, Georgia.

Mimi, made her place in the community raising my dad and his three siblings and being an active host and member of her church. By the time I was born, she was beloved in the community. One of my favorite pictures is of her at her surprise 60th birthday sitting on her throne: a toilet. She was funny, caring, and a consumate host.

My mom has often said my grandmother wasn’t comfortable around babies, but by the time I was old enough to decorate a Christmas cookie, we were always together.  People used to say we looked alike, but I think that was based more on our similar personalities than looks.

I was lucky to live within two miles of her until I was 18.  Mimi taught me how to cook, and more importantly she taught me that a meal is more important than ingredients or nutrition.  Every meal she made was a thoughtful and time-intensive menu of what people wanted/loved cooked with seasonable ingredients.  Sometimes meals would take 2 hours to prepare, but she always made sure that everything was on the table, so she could sit and enjoy the meal. My favorite meal was blackened catfish, green beans (the only ones I have ever liked), fresh cornbread, and sliced tomatoes, and she made it for me every time I came home in college even though she struggled with ovarian cancer the entire time.

By the time I was old enough to be alone in the kitchen, I was cooking meals and baking for my grandparents.  Every holiday we cooked together, and our Christmas cookies were handed out to friends and family.  When my grandmother was too ill to cook after her first stint in the hospital the summer after my freshman year in college,I stayed with her and my grandpa for 3 weeks, and I cooked for them every day.  I’ll always remember feeling very lucky that I could care for her like she had done for me my entire life.

She is my inspiration, so when I knew that I was going to put this cookbook together, I asked my mother for my grandmother’s peach cobbler recipe.  The recipe was quick, but beautiful especially in late summer months. Receiving pictures of my grandma’s original recipe at one of the busiest and most exhausting moments of my life, gave me so much strength.  That day we made a peach and a pear cobbler to bring to the Occupy Sandy site in Clinton Hill.  Looking at the cobbler was enough for me to be sure that I was making my grandmother proud.

Feeding Sandy is in part dedicated to the memory of Mimi, who passed away a month after I moved to NYC to become a Teaching Fellow.  If you would like to buy the book and/or buy it for someone else please click here.

Feeding Sandy: A Cookbook that Gives Back

We are very excited to introduce our new cookbook, Feeding Sandy: From Heart to Table!  The book contains 54 recipes and stories about the work of UWSLoves.  The book was compiled by Mandy Bickerstaff and designed by Carlos Bido, and we are very proud of it.

We want to thank everyone that donated recipes, their time, and money/supply donations, you have all been included in the book (so that’s exciting).

We do want to ask for one more favor. Please help us get the word out to your friends/family.  As the holidays approach, this would be a great gift, and for only $9.99 (you can donate more of course) it is extremely affordable.  They can buy the book from our website on the side bar or at www.blossomalive.com/feeding-sandy.  There you can also watch a video that describes our process and features narration by Mandy.

Countless hours went into finding the best partners to work with to get this e-cookbook up and available for sale.  The first is Blossom Alive, a start-up that is dedicated to providing guidance and recipes to support healthier and happier lifestyles.  They have generously donated their time and resources to creating a landing page for the book, creating the video, editorial help, and getting the word out.  We want to say thank you for all their hard work, and say good luck in helping us get this book selling.

Our second partner is GumRoad, a company that is all about democratizing the way people can sell their work.  Mandy spent days searching for the best and most honest way to sell the cookbook.  Amazon and the other big sellers take at least 30% out of the final price, and they have control over how they sell it and for how much.  Gumroad lets us set our own price and less than 7% goes to overhead (this includes the percentage that paypal takes).  Your payment is fully secure with as Gumroad has been certified as a PCI Service Provider Level 1, which is the most secure level on the web.

This way we make the most of every dollar that we get from the sale of this book.

Our next big projects are providing meal preparation kits (hot plates, pans, dishware, etc.) to 20 families that lost their kitchens in Coney Island and providing holiday gifts to 24 teens through the NY Cares Winter Wishes program.  This is just the start hopefully and we will begin to impact many more families and areas from the sale of this book.

Thank you all again!

UWSLoves

The Quiles Family: A Model of Strength and Compassion

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The last couple of days have been very busy.  I now knows what it means to have two full time jobs: 16 hour days.  Luckily, I love what I do, and yesterday I was able to bring a massive donation to the Quiles family and the Coney Island community. This donation was raised during the Artisanal Holiday Sale coordinated by Lea Avroch.

At 7:30 I met, Maggie and her parents Milagros and Augusto at their church, which has become their home.  They lost their homes as well as two cars and the first floor of the church was completely destroyed, but they have managed to help so many. They continue to feed people every day from 12:00-4:00 and they converted their area of worship to a storage facility/distribution center.  

I was humbled to learn of the work they continue to do for their congregation and community.  After meal service, Augusto goes out to deliver more to some of the hardest hit areas in the community.  Many still do not have the ability to cook their own food and our waiting for insurance money to begin to rebuild.  

During our conversation, we decided on our next big project.  We are going to provide the means to prepare hot food to 20 families.  That means hot plates, pots, dishes, silverware, cups, etc.  I have already ordered hot plates and next Saturday, Yitzy and I will head to Ikea to buy the remaining goods.  At 12:00, we will help the Quiles family hand out the kits, which will provide a way for these families to be more self-sufficient after losing everything. 

If you would like to help by donating a car to go to Ikea, donating money to help buy a kit (each kit is 60 dollars and will serve a family of four), or getting the word out, we would appreciate it. 

On another very happy note, our cookbook is set to launch tomorrow, so look out for more information.  It has been a labor of love and I am very proud of it and what it can possibly do for NYC relief efforts.