For my birthday in early September, my friend Kristin funded a classroom project in my honor through DonorsChoose.org at Dogwood Elementary in Knoxville, Tennessee. The teacher, Mrs. Nicely (I picture her fresh and rosy-cheeked, with two crisscrossing pencils in her hair), wrote this about her students:
We are an inner city school with over 88% of students receiving free and reduced lunch. We have over 710 students. The state of TN has one of the highest percentages of obesity in the country. We have to make changes in our students’ eating habits to make a change in our obesity rate.
Mrs. Nicely titled her project “We Love to Eat Apples Through Zucchini.” Her goal was to teach her students about healthy eating choices. She requested “healthy play foods, a book about nutrition, a book about the human body” and other materials to put her nutritious plan into action. I received an email a few months ago stating that “Apples to Zucchini” was underway. Mrs. Nicely was grateful and she assured me that her students were on the healthy high road. Such a great gift, I thought! Then, a few months later, I received a manila envelope filled with thank you letters from Mrs. Nicely’s students. All the letters were written in pencil on three-hole punched, lined paper. They are gems. Some unedited highlights:
Thank you for donating healthy foods and stuf. You are giving us diffrint healthy and nutrition food and other stuff…We have fun in the jem with all kinds of healthy stuff. Are hole school loves you to for giving us healthy stuf. Thank you if I coud I would chat but I can’t see you later.
It is important to eat healthy, because this is your only life. You don’t have nine lives like a cat…
Thank you for donating materials healthy, nutrition food and certain kinds of milk…
If some people are overweighted and eat to much, you can go to the gym and workout for 2 hours a day. You just have to belief that you can lose weight. If your shoulder or anything that hurts from eating to much junk food is a sign of death.
So that’s why everyone should stay healthy everyday.
It seems only right to top off Mrs. Nicely’s “We Love to Eat Apples Through Zucchini” project with a recipe of my own. It’s a fresh and cinchy salad. Yes, more salad. I can’t help it. I love fresh and cinchy. In this recipe, zucchini is the hunky hero, lemon is the leading lady, and mint is the magic that makes them marvelous. I love this salad. I think you will too. If I could ship it 1-day express refrigerated air mail to Mrs. Nicely’s classroom, I would….
Dogwood Elementary’s Healthy Zucchini Mint Salad
2-3 medium zucchini, very thinly sliced lengthwise
2-3 handfuls of fresh mint, finely chopped
Hunk of Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
Lemon juice and zest, to taste (I use at least one lemon)
Good quality olive oil, to taste
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Pinch of red pepper flakes
- In a medium bowl, combine fresh mint, lemon zest and red pepper flakes.
- Add lemon juice and a drizzle of olive oil, to taste. Toss.
- Add thin zucchini strips. Toss again.
- Add salt, pepper and red pepper flakes.
- Sprinkle with fresh Parmesan and gently toss again.
- Serve on salad plates with good bread to soak up the lemony dressing. Complements any main course – from apples on down!