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Yia-Yia and I Make Greek Spinach Pie

An illustrated cookbook about making and sharing family recipes.

Photo of Bonnie Averbuch
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Tomorrow at school

Is multicultural day.

We’ll try different foods,

Learn new games to play.

We come from all over,

My classmates and I.

So many traditions, 

And different foods to try. 

Shruti will teach us

About her god, Shiva.

Nate and his mom

Will bring hummus pizzas. 

My Yia-Yia and I

Know what we’ll make.

Greek spinach pies -- 

Our favorite to bake!

We preheat the oven 

To 350 degrees.

I open the fridge,

Grab the cottage cheese.

Yia-Yia heats the spinach 

Then we let it cool.

And I drain the water --

Once I find my stool.

I mix in the spinach

With the cottage cheese.

Stir in salt and pepper, 

This recipe’s a breeze!

Whole wheat tortillas 

line the muffin tin.

One spoonful of filling 

Gets scooped right in.

One final step

In the oven they go,

For 15 minutes

Under the oven’s glow.


The buzzer goes off.

Take them out, let them cool. 

I can’t wait to show

Off this recipe at school!

We pack all them up,

Ready for my classmates.

All except two, 

Set aside on two plates

My Yia-Yia and I

Each taste one pie. 

“It’s quality control!”

Yia-Yia winks an eye. 

We lick our fingers

When we’re all done. 

Cooking with Yia-Yia

Is always so fun. 

Describe the intended vision for your early childhood book manuscript in 1-2 sentences

I see this book as both fun to read and an age-appropriate recipe for young kids to make with their caregivers, and this interactive nature of the book encourages both early childhood literacy as well as good nutrition. Healthy eating and reading are both such important parts of growth and development and this book uses a fun story to get children excited about cooking and a fun cooking experience to make children identify with and fall in love with the book.

Share your suggested book title

Yia-Yia and I Make Greek Spinach Pie

How has this book been informed by early childhood language development research and evidence? (response minimum 250 Characters)

Studies have shown that proper nutrition is integral to a child's ability to think and learn. One successful approach to encourage children to eat healthy is to include them in the cooking process. My book takes this one step further and creates a fun, engaging story to help get children even more excited about being involved with cooking. The ability to live the story of this book by cooking the recipes brings the story to life and creates an opportunity to make the story personal for every caregiver and child. The how-to nature of the illustrations, combined with empowering the child to become part of the book by making the recipe, enables the child to follow along before s/he is actually able to read the words. Cooking and the interactive components of the book promote creativity - which studies show enhance learning. The book uses mostly tier 1 vocabulary and a rhyming, rhythmic, sing-song-y text, all of which are important tools for developing early literacy skills.

Please describe any familiarity you may have with Philadelphia and its residents? (optional question)

I lived in Bethlehem, PA, for 4 years and New York City for 8 years, so I know Philadelphia's surrounding areas. I have also cared for many New York City children, so I understand the realities of urban families. Additionally, I have many good friends -- quite a few who are parents with young children -- who live in and around Philadelphia, helping me better understand those realities specific to Philadelphia residents.

How have you crafted this manuscript to resonate with and/or reflect the experiences of those living in urban contexts? (optional question)

While in graduate school, I taught nutrition and cooking to elementary school children living in Central Harlem. This is one of the recipes the children loved -- both the experience making it as well as the taste. When developing the recipe, I had to consider that inner-city families often lack access to healthy foods or lack time to make healthy meals. This book overcomes that obstacle by using a simple and quick recipe with ingredients readily available to most people, no matter where they live. It also lays out age-appropriate cooking tasks the children can perform. Additionally, it encourages caregivers to read to children at non-traditional time (i.e. mealtimes) - not just at bedtime.

Location: Country


Location: City


Tell us more about you / your team

I'm a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist currently pursuing a PhD in Denmark. While earning my M.S. in nutrition from Columbia University, I worked as a nutrition educator in an elementary school in Central Harlem. Observing the impact participation in cooking had on the children's dietary preferences astonished me. Children went from "ew-ing" any fruit or vegetable put in front of them to begging for more, their parents asking for the recipes that the kids were raving about at home. The link between nutrition and childhood learning and development is strongly correlated, I want to reach as many families as possible with simple, fun, and healthy recipes - already tested on children. Some of my favorite memories from my childhood are reading books with my parents. I can still recite some by heart. Illustrated cookbooks combine my fondness for fun children's books, their ability to promote learning and growth, and the lasting memories they create with a desire to encourage a healthy diet.

Provide an example visual identity for a look and feel you might like to achieve. ( (optional question, 3-5 visuals)

Multiple Choice - Have you been previously published (online, self-published, and print included)?

  • Yes

If yes, please list titles and publications.

I have a number of scientific journalism publications, mostly at Food Tank. I have also written for SlowFoodUSA and SuperKids Nutrition. Additionally, I have helped The Nutrition Twins develop recipes for several cookbooks and for many, many blog posts.

Do you have an agent?

  • No

How did you hear about the Challenge? (optional question)

  • OpenIDEO announcement email

What best describes you? (optional question)

  • I am/we are creatives, writers, or artists
  • I am/we are a formal part of a University or Research Institution


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Congrats on your story. Best of luck!

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