In the winter we turn our attention away from the school gardens and bring cooking into the classroom. Without a kitchen at most of our schools, we keep our projects simple: dehydrating apples, making granola bites, and baking kale chips. Sometimes we even bring in hot plates and griddles for cranberry sauce or tortillas.
This winter we were fortunate to partner with the Island Wide Youth Collaborative to use their commercial kitchen for an after school program for YMCA kids. Compared to hot plates on classroom desks, this was a real treat -- ovens, stove tops, and granite counters!
Our focus for the program was to introduce kids to new foods and recipes, teach them basic kitchen skills, give them a sense of ownership with their food preparation, and build cooperation with friends.
Each week we focused on a different skill and meal – snack, breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert. We were happily surprised that every child tasted every dish we made (which was about 15 different recipes)! Our intention was for these recipes to be accessible enough for the little chefs to make at home by themselves.
The skill for snack week was improvisation and personal choice. We roasted peas with our own spice mixtures, and made energy bites with a variety of nut butters, grains, and seeds. Improvising with ingredients is the basic building block for an independent and creative cook.
Our next class was breakfast themed – the skills were cracking eggs, whisking, and mixing. This sounds simple but an over-beaten egg or over-mixed pancake batter can make or break a recipe! We learned how to whisk eggs and “fold” yogurt into the dry pancake ingredients.
For our lunch class we made zucchini fritters and vegetable spring rolls. We chopped, sliced, and grated vegetables of every color.
Our dinner theme was pizza. We learned about sourdough and got to see it alive and bubbling. We kneaded, rolled, and baked pre-made dough, and then got to make batches to take home for practice.
Finally we made desserts, where we focused on measuring ingredients. We baked black bean brownies and blended frozen bananas into “ice cream.”
We were so impressed with the students’ willingness to try every recipe - and to do the dishes!! One child who usually does not like yogurt loved the Greek yogurt pancakes. Most were weary of a spinach smoothie, but it was gone in no time. The sourdough pizzas were stacked high with veggies!
For this club we were inspired by recipes from the ChopChop Cookbook and local author Sarah Waldman's book "Little Bites." Do you have any favorite recipes that kids can make at home? Please share with us - firstname.lastname@example.org