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Ask A Bay Area Expert: Healthy Recipes Kids Can Make

We're pleased to introduce two vibrant Bay Area up-and-coming chefs with connections to La Cocina, the non-profit incubator providing affordable commercial kitchen space and technical assistance for food startups, with an emphasis on a goal of self-sufficiency for immigrant- and female-owned entrepreneurs. Hailing from SoCal and Cuernavaca respectively, Dionne Knox and Dilsa Lugo have been inspired by grandmothers and mothers. They now share that joy of cooking with flair and talent, not to mention hard work beyond any measure. Our chefs share three recipes for older kids followed by three for the younger set.


Dionne Knox
Zella's Soulful Kitchen
Mandela Marketplace
1364 7th St.
Oakland, CA 94607
(510) 433-0993

Dionne Knox's grandmother, Zella, raised her own chickens, cultivated her garden, made jam from scratch and baked fresh daily bread. It was in that kitchen and under her guidance that Chef Knox developed a passion for nutritious, delicious Southern food. Today, she cooks with her eight-year-old niece, getting inspiration for healthy recipes for kids from what the younger generation likes best. Mind you, vegetables do make an appearance, even in discreet ways. It's easy to see why her Candied Orange-Honey Carrots are a best seller at Whole Foods in Noe Valley. Dionne Knox is the proud chef and owner of Zella's Soulful Kitchen, a full catering company offering farm-fresh handcrafted food, with a new marketplace café at Mandela Foods Cooperative in West Oakland, right across from the BART station.

Cool Breeze Smoothie
(serves 2)
  • 1 handful of spinach leaves
  • 1 banana (sliced)
  • 1 cup pineapple chunks
  • 1 cup chopped fresh peaches
  • 1 cup non-fat Greek vanilla yogurt
  • 1 heaping Tbsp of honey
  • 1/2 cup coconut water (add a bit more if needed)
  • 1/2 cup ice (eliminate ice if frozen fruit is used)


  1. Place spinach, coconut water, yogurt and honey in a blender
  2. Blend until combined
  3. Add pineapple, peaches, banana and ice
  4. Blend to smoothie texture, adding more coconut juice if desired less thick
  5. Serve immediately in tall glasses with straws
Candied Orange-Honey Carrots
(serves 4)
  • 1 bunch of half-dozen young carrots with tops
  • 4 Tbsp (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • Zest and juice (1/2 cup) of 1 medium orange
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp each of ground cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, ginger
  • Pinch of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Extra virgin olive oil to coat skillet


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Cut off all but an inch of carrot tops, leaving a little green
  3. Place carrots in large shallow pan, add oil, season with salt and pepper, turning to coat the carrots
  4. Bake carrots in the oven for 30 minutes, until fork-tender
  5. Over medium-low heat, melt butter in a skillet, swirling it around the pan until butter becomes brown and nutty
  6. Squeeze in the juice from the orange, add honey, orange zest, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and ginger
  7. Continue to cook for 2 minutes, until glaze coats a spoon
  8. Remove carrots from oven, arrange on a platter, drizzle orange-honey glaze over and serve warm

Blackberry Chili-Glazed Chicken
(served 4-6)

  • 3 lbs. organic chicken legs
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Olive oil
  • 1 cup good quality blackberry jam
  • 1/2 cup fresh blackberries, sliced
  • 1/2 cup sweet garlic-chili sauce
  • Zest and juice (1/2 cup) of 1 lime
  • 1 Tbsp freshly grated ginger
  • 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley (garnish)


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F
  2. Drizzle chicken with olive oil, season with salt and pepper
  3. Place chicken on foil-lined sheet pan on oven wire rack for 35-45 minutes, skin side down, flip over after 20-minute mark
  4. In medium saucepan, add blackberry jam, garlic-chili sauce, lime juice and zest, ginger, balsamic and pinch of salt
  5. Mix and bring to low simmer until it coats a spoon
  6. Remove glaze from heat, carefully fold in sliced blackberries
  7. Remove chicken from oven and drizzle glaze over top
  8. Arrange on a platter, garnish with fresh parsley and lime wedges

Dilsa Lugo
Los Cilantros Café
Las Peña Cultural Center
3105 Shattuck Ave.
Berkeley, CA 94705
(510) 230-7350

A garden filled with squash, chili, corn, lemon and fruit trees surrounded the house in Cuernavacas, Mexico where Dilsa Lugo grew up. Following her horticultural studies, Lugo and her husband came to the Bay Area where she connected with the Bread Project and La Cocina. Noticing a lack of tasty, authentic Mexican fare of the style she was accustomed to, Lugo launched her own catering company where her talents eventually led to the kitchens of Chez Panisse, A16 and to sous chef at Joanne Weir's La Copita in Sausalito. Plaudits prompted confidence and ambition trumped shut-eye, which means we get to try Chef Lugo's signature pork carnitas and more of "Dilsa's food from the heart," as Weir calls it, at Los Cilantros Café in Berkeley, which opened to a full house in June. Nonetheless, her kids are her biggest fans.

Fast Guacamole For Kids 
  • 2 avocados
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 1/4 small onion chopped fine
  • 2 Tbsp chopped cilantro
  • Salt


  1. Mash avocados with a fork
  2. Add lime juice, onion, cilantro and a pinch of salt
  3. Stir and serve as a dip or a snack with carrots
Watermelon Agua Fresca
(serves 8)
  • 1 small watermelon
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 24 oz. water
  • Ice


  1. Cut the rind off watermelon and cut into chunks
  2. Place in blender
  3. Add sugar and blend
  4. Add ice, blend again
  5. Serve in tall glasses

Carne Asada Tacos

  • 1/2 lb. of Niman Ranch flank steak (The secret is good-quality steak and tortillas)
  • 8 tortillas
  • Olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red onion chopped fine
  • Salt


  1. Sprinkle a touch of salt and drizzle some olive oil over steak
  2. Warm oven to low temperature to re-heat the tortillas
  3. Cook the steak and chop it on a wooden board
  4. Place meat on top of tortillas
  5. Garnish with red onion, cilantro and lime

Laurie Jo Miller Farr loves walkable cities. A tourism industry professional and transplanted New Yorker by way of half-a-lifetime in London, she's writing about the best of the bay and beyond for Yahoo, USA Today, eHow, and on

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