Senior Independent Study Project

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What a great assignment! Two high school seniors, TJ and Ryan, asked me to mentor them on the last project of their high school careers: They wanted to learn to cook two simple meals, so that they could then videotape themselves preparing the foods.

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I asked the guys to come up with the menus for the two meals, and we cooked each one on a different day. In the end, they came up with the main course and asked me for suggestions for the vegetable side dishes and dessert. This menu included Fried Rice (Chao Fan), Baby Bok Choy with Oyster Sauce, Steamed Pears, Chinese Almond Cookies and Lemonade.

Neither young man had ever tasted bok choy before. I asked them to describe it, and they struggled to find the words. I would say the bok choy had a mild, cabbage-like flavor; it was crisp but tender, bright emerald green and enrobed with a savory sauce. If we were to make this dish again, I would split the bok choy into quarters instead of halves, because the base of the heads was not quite cooked enough.

 

Baking for the County Fair

Wixson, Mary Double Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

Winning a ribbon at the Montgomery County Fair for something you baked yourself is a highlight of some lucky young people’s summer. Chef Sheila fondly remembers her own childhood Fair competitions and would like to pass on the tradition to the generation coming up.

Again this year, Young Chefs is offering a special camp, Baking for the County Fair, on August 6-10. Each day we will not only prepare and eat lunch, we will also bake entries for the Fair. Families can deliver the entries themselves on Friday afternoon, August 10. If that’s not possible, Chef Sheila will help out.

2 Ways to Save on Cooking Camps and Classes

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Cooking classes are expensive! Chef Sheila now offers two discounts:

  1. Referrals Write to her at crye4(at)aol.com, and let her know you have referred someone for a cooking class or camp. When that youth submits a completed registration form, you will receive a $25 discount on your next class or summer cooking camp. Just think! If you refer 15 young people, and they all sign up, your week of cooking camp will be free!
  2. Family discounts Families will receive a 20% discount on their second (and third) child. The second child pays $300 for a week of camp or $60 for a 3-hour class.

Friday, March 2, Early Release Baking Class

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A kids’ afternoon baking class–what a fun thing to do on the next early release day from MCPS schools, March 2, 1:30 – 4:30 p.m.! Chef Sheila gently guides children ages 10-14 in her home kitchen classroom as they learn the basics about measurement, food chemistry and working safely with heat sources. Your child’s suggestions are welcome for what to bake, including a cookie, a cake and a quick bread. Your child will go home with their share of the treats and all the recipes. For registration directions, click on the tab for Early Release Baking Classes.

Early Release Cooking Classes, Jan. 25 and 26

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Something fun to do on the afternoon of an early release day from school Jan. 25 and 26

Chef Sheila will open her kitchen to children (ages 13-17) who love to bake cookies, muffins and quick breads on Thursday afternoon. As usual, she honors special recipe requests, so let her know what baked goods your child is eager to learn to make. We will divide up the baked goods to take home, along with recipes.

On Friday afternoon, boys and girls (ages 8-12) will try out their apple pie baking skills. Everyone will go home with a 9-inch flaky, buttery double-crust apple pie they will construct in class and bake at home. A Pyrex glass pie plate and recipes are included in the fee.

Email Chef Sheila to let her know about your child’s food allergies, sensitivities and restrictions: crye4(at)aol(dot)com.

COOKING CLASS FEES

THURSDAY, JAN. 25, 1:30-4:30 p.m., for ages 13-17: Cookies, Muffins and Quick Breads; FRIDAY, JAN. 26, 1:30-4:30 p.m., for ages 8-12: Apple Pie and Pie Crust Cookies EACH 3-HOUR CLASS COSTS $75

$75.00

Chocolate Celebration Cake

Kids in Young Chefs cooking classes and camps are empowered to choose the foods they want to learn to prepare–a unique method for engaging their interest.

During last summer’s July 31 to August 4 camp, the group decided to bake an old-fashioned chocolate birthday cake with divinity frosting. They used recipes from Baking Kids Love, by Sur La Table with Cindy Mushet and Baking for All Occasions, by Flo Braker. Below are some photos that demonstrate how easy it was to bake.

First, assemble the ingredients and equipment. In French, this is called mise en place.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, being careful not to over-mix.

Divide between two layer cake pans, and bake. Note that the oven racks evenly divide the oven into thirds.

Just out of the oven, the cake layers have a domed surface. You can correct this by placing a clean, dry kitchen towel on top of each hot cake layer and pressing down firmly with the palm of your hand to level it.

Tucking wax paper beneath the cake keeps the plate neat during the frosting process.

Voila!

Spread any leftover frosting on graham crackers for a snack that resembles s’mores, without the melted chocolate.

If you would like to try baking this cake yourself, here are the recipes. The chocolate cake recipe also offers a cream cheese frosting as an easier alternative to the divinity frosting: Chocolate Celebration Cake, Divinity Frosting.

 

Microwave Risotto with Cabbage

Ever since Microwave Gourmet by Barbara Kafka came out in 1987, I’ve been a fan. Her evocative writing in her Gourmet magazine monthly column influenced me to plant a Montmorency cherry tree in my yard, too. For the following twenty years our family appreciated jam, pies, and cherries preserved in mountain spirits that came from fruit the tree provided.

The microwave is a brilliant method for producing perfect risotto with a minimum of stirring. At Young Chefs’ recent school holiday morning cooking class, we made it with finely sliced cabbage and cherry tomatoes added in. Kids taste the chewiness of the arborio rice, the savory chicken stock and Parmesan, but the cabbage melts into the dish. Here is the recipe: Microwave Risotto with Cabbage.

Blue-Ribbon Muffins

The August 7-11 cooking camp focused on baking for the Montgomery County Agricultural Fair, in addition to preparing and eating a simple, healthy lunch each day.

Since only one person could take credit for each entry, we drew lots, because everyone helped to make all the baked goods. As a result, six campers competed with seven entries. Campers baked:

  • Browned Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
  • Double Chocolate Zucchini Muffins
  • Chocolate Fudge with Pretzels
  • Snickerdoodles
  • Banana Loaf Cake
  • Pecan Caramel Bar Cookies

It was so fun! We had a blast. Each day, we set aside the six most perfect specimens for the fair, and then we divided the rest for campers to take home and share.

Today Chef Sheila received an email from the mother of the 8-year-old girl, who won first place for muffins. YAY!!!

Here is a link to the recipe for Double Chocolate Zucchini Muffins, from Chef Sheila’s cousin, Edith Benthem Bain.

 

 

Testing Phyllo Muffin-Pies

 

Here is the link to the fruit-phyllo-muffin-pies that we tested with great success. Thanks to California Walnuts for the inspiration! img_1781

Apples are good practice for dicing skills, because they are not too hard. The trick is to learn how to slice the round fruits evenly.

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You want the fruits to be tender without becoming sauce. By straining off the juices and boiling them down separately, the flavor and sweetness is concentrated.

The walnuts must be finely chopped. This is easily done in a food processor.

 

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Below is the finished muffin-pie.

 

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You can make triangular hand pies with the leftover phyllo, like this:

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A plant-based Ethiopian lunch

When I was planning camp menus, one of the campers’ mothers mentioned that her children enjoy some of the milder vegetarian Ethiopian dishes. It was the perfect opportunity to try some of them, particularly because I just acquired a used copy of Teff Love, by Kittee Berns, via Amazon. Because Silver Spring has the highest concentration of Ethiopian businesses in the Washington area, I had no difficulty finding a source of special spices and both domestic and imported injera, the spongy, sour teff flour pancake used to mop up mouthfuls of stews and salad.

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Photos by Megan Meinberg Photography

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I especially liked the seasoned oil we made, called ye’quimem zeyet, using some Earth Balance buttery spread and vegetable oil. I’ll be using the remainder as a exotic component of stir fries and for finishing grilled fish.

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Split peas in a mild sauce, stewed cabbage in a golden tomato sauce, and apple tempeh salad rounded out our platter.

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These were definitely novel tastes for everyone, but they were inviting.

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Eating with you hands! On the floor! How cool is that?

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We finished the meal with chocolate-coconut sorbet, from The Perfect Scoop, by David Leibovitz. Although the campers enjoyed it, I wouldn’t make it again. This was the second camp where we tried the recipe, and both times the chocolate never really blended with the rest of the ingredients.

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Ladybug and Holly loved all the attention from the campers. Today they seem low key, as though they are just saving their enthusiasm for when the kids come back again.

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