Cooking Classes Summer 2016

Boy, did I make a lot of mistakes with these cooking classes! Every week I seemed to blow it in a different way. I made so many mistakes that I think I will have to teach this class again next year, just to show I learned from the error of my ways.

Some children who came were already very good cooks, or had already done some cooking.  I think the biggest plus for some kids was that they were offered new things to try in a neutral territory.  Here are some ingredients that worked: 

  • Kids like mixing things up.  Most adults are turned off by a long list of ingredients. But the kids  found sniffing spices and scooping baking soda as just plain fun. For them, cooking is like a scientific experiment or witchcraft.
  • Kids will taste new things in cooking class they won't try at home.
  • Kids liked to cook in teams. Because I discovered too late that we could only have two burners on at a time in the room, I couldn't give each child a cook station. I had to double the kids up in twos, and surprisingly, the team concept worked out extremely well. By working in twos, they a) met each other; b) watched over each other; and c) gave each other advice so that we didn't have to interfere as much and could stand back a bit.  They still felt as if they were doing it all, but they helped each other to that goal. 

My defined goal for cooking classes in the future is  a) To expose kids to the idea that cooking is fun and something they would enjoy doing so they won't die of hunger when they go off to college and b) To give kids the chance to try as many different foods and flavors as possible.

Week One:  Popcorn.  Yes, I had a lot of great recipes, but I a) didn't try them out and b) didn't bring in all the ingredients for each one! I sold myself and the kids short on this one, thinking none of them would want to make cayenne and cocoa popcorn, but they did!  This, plus the fact that the fuses blew and I had to pop everyone's corn in the lounge, made for a totally disastrous first session. But they came back the next week anyway. 

Next year:  put this session at the end for an easy wrap-up and include a blender drink or float for fun.

Week Two: Eggs. I had three stations for the kids. I hard boiled eggs the day before (because Winn Dixie didn't have enough!), and I also had a station for scrambling eggs and a station for frying. 

  • Station One was very successful.  How can you go wrong with devilling eggs, and yet many kids had never eaten them before! They cheerfully mixed them up and gobbled them down -- almost to their parents' dismay (why don't you eat them at home when I make them?) To try next year: including avocado as an option -- the kids like a lot of ingredient choices.
  • Station Two was scrambling eggs.  How can you go wrong with scrambling eggs? And yet, many kids had never had cheese in their scrambled eggs, and enjoyed adding ham and other stuff.
  • Station Three was fried eggs.  
Next year: Don't let the teen volunteers take over! Their job is to watch and monitor. If the kids can't deal with the heat, change the recipes! And two stations is plenty! Skip the fried eggs next timeHere's how my layout evolved: three long tables laid out in a U with room between, and a small one at either corner of the room for nibblers to sit and eat their work.  The two opposite each other are for cooking (because we can only have two appliances on at a time in this room) and the third table opposite is for set up, chopping, and mixing.  There is going to be some waiting involved, but even if you get, say, 20 kids, 4 can be scrambling while 4 get ready to scramble and the rest are devilling.  It can go pretty quickly.

Week Three: French toast and waffles.  Here's the mistake I made this week: I made up two sets of recipes. One was a card I meant for them to take home, and the other was a large sheet of paper I posted, with the ingredients halved so each kid wouldn't make a ton of pancake batter.  Unfortunately they mixed the two up and started cooking off both. Next time...

  • Station One, the French toast, was fun. What's better than French toast stuffed with Nutella!
  • Station Two, the waffle iron, was equally fun. 
But again, next year: Don't let the teen volunteers take over! Their job is to watch and monitor. If the kids can't deal with the heat, change the recipes! The kids really wanted to use the waffle iron themselves! and don't forget the whipped cream and fruit for the waffles! And it might be fun to make blini instead of french toast next year, and let them roll them stuff them. 

Week Four: Macaroni & cheese or nachos & cheese
Week Five: Fried Rice 

My director predicted that about half way through the summer, I would get the hang of Cooking Class, and SHE WAS RIGHT!  Fried Rice went really well. Crystal brought in the oyster sauce, Daniel reminded me it was Fried Rice not Refried Rice, two people brought in frying pans when I forgot mine (!!!), Jacob appeared for duty, and most wonderfully of all, Kelly volunteered to wash dishes.
For the fried rice, I had large bowls of rice (jasmine, already cooked) at either table, along with oil and soy sauce and big spoons.  The kids picked out their veggies, scallions, carrots, shrimp, and green peas at the long table, and in teams of two cooked their dishes.
Week Six: Ramen. I passed out a lot of ramen packs and demonstrated the basic cooking method. We souped up our recipes with condiment and veggies. I was going to have them try adding an egg, but concentration and skill level didn't seem to be up. As a cooking lesson, the kids did well, but it didn't excite them very much.
Next year: Bring in some pre-blanched potatoes, and cook my favorite: cheese, onion?, bacon?, spinach?, potatoes.
Week Seven: Panini made in waffle irons. Kind of gimmicky.  The hot plates would have worked just as well.  
Week Eight: Healthy snacks

This is why I've loved my cooking classes: that's Milo standing at the end of the table in the blue and white striped shirt, and he's never in his young life agreed to eat anything but plain white rice. He ate two platesful of fried rice he made himself. He's five.  
The two other boys were just plain super nice kids.
Equipment purchased:

4 hotplates. Only 2 were used because we blew the fuses. 2 power strips.
4 large spoons.
4 measuring sets
paper plates
plastic cooking knives (that really cut, designed for kids)

I had sets of silverware and used that instead of plastic.

Supplies given out:
small books for kids to keep as their recipe books
recipe cards, one for each week.

I need to shop for hot pads. No tragedies occurred, but it would be nice not to worry about the tables; chopping boards.

Problem to overcome:  The Dishes.  Next year, bring in a lot of dish towels, bite the bullet, and assign one of your teens KP duty. Maybe they can take it in turns. But tell them to do it, show them what you want them to do, don't stick yourself in the kitchen. Really, you need one teen at each hotplate just to make sure nothing happens, and then keep yourself at the ingredients table to make things run smoothly. Check that all ingredients are labelled and available. Provide duplicates of ingredients like salt and buy several small containers of things like baking soda.

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