Cooking camp memories, July 11-15 and July 18-22, 2016

Young people go to cooking camp because they either like to cook, or they would like to learn how to cook. The easiest way for the cooking teacher to find out their needs and wishes is to ask their parents via email in advance of the camp. By incorporating as many of their favorite foods as possible into the menus, I meet their needs and fulfill their wishes. This method of menu planning takes the guesswork out and gives the youth voice and choice–an important element in their engagement with the program.

Butterflied roast lemon chicken and potatoes
Butterflied roast lemon chicken and potatoes

Butterflying the chicken on the first day gave the campers a quick lesson on food safety–how to prevent cross contamination with raw meat juices, and how to use a food thermometer.

Photo by Megan Meinberg Photography



Before we started cooking each day, we talked about what we were going to make and what to make first, in order for all the dishes to be ready to eat when it was time for lunch.



One day, we visited the Crossroads Farmers Market and watched a culinary demonstration using a mezzaluna knife to prepare two kinds of salsa.



There were many colorful vegetables.


Another day we baked carrot cupcakes from Virginia Willis’ award-winning cookbook, Lighten Up Y’All!

Mounding the cooked rice pilaf onto a serving platter
Mounding the cooked rice pilaf onto a serving platter Photo by Megan Meinberg Photography

One of our campers during the first week is a pescatarian (a vegetarian who eats fish), and so we provided a vegetarian alternative entree, like rice with lentils, from Food of Life, by Persian cookbook author, Najmieh Batmanglij. It was so delicious that I was glad there were leftovers!


During the second week, we experimented with a variety of frozen desserts. We even came up with our own simple and smooth version of fresh plum sherbet.

Matthew, our guide, passes around a 10-pound Guittard dark chocolate bar
Matthew, our guide, passes around a 10-pound Guittard dark chocolate bar

Luckily for the campers, we were able to visit Moorenko’s ice cream production facility, located nearby. The young people were impressed that Moorenko’s uses 3,000 pounds of ice cream mixture every week during the summer months. That’s a lot of ice cream, and they have over 100 flavors!

Photo by Megan Meinberg Photography

On the last day, we had a taco party, including soft and crispy corn tortillas, ground beef filling (picadillo), tempeh chorizo for our vegetarian camper, fresh salsa, refried beans and chocolate coconut sorbet. It was the ultimate challenge and test of the campers’ cooking abilities, and every dish was so good! I especially liked the refried beans. We melted queso fresco on top–yum!

Getting ready for cooking camp

Chef Sheila, Ladybug and Holly
Chef Sheila, Ladybug and Holly

Everybody at our house is getting excited, anticipating lots of fun during the coming weeks of cooking camp.

That includes Ladybug, our 9-month-old cavachon puppy and Holly, our almost 10-year-old golden retriever. Cavachons are a mix between a cavalier King Charles spaniel and a bichon frisee. Our Ladybug loves everyone, especially normally shy and retiring neighbors, whom she coaxes into giving her pats and tummy rubs.

If you are planning to attend cooking camp but do not like dogs or are allergic, no worries! Our dynamic duo will happily camp out with my husband in his office during camp hours.



Fresh start to Chef Sheila’s log


Hello my friends,

Until now, I have not made regular posts, because I was unclear to whom I was writing. Now I know: It’s you, who want to know more about cooking at home. You could be a child or young person, or you could be a parent or adult cooking teacher. I am happy to help you however I can.

I plan to share an idea, a recipe or a story a few times a week, not to overburden you with reading material, but instead to give you an opportunity to get acquainted gradually with my teaching methods and family favorite recipes. If you reach out and post a comment, I will respond. My hope is that like other social media, this blog will create an opportunity to exchange ideas and develop friendships.

By the way, the photo above was taken last week by photographer Megan Meinberg in my home kitchen classroom.


Sweetheart Special

For years I have taught ‘tweens home cooking skills in after-school programs and summer cooking camps. Once I provided a series of Saturday classes for military families–parent/child partner teams had a blast cooking and dining together.

Now I think it would be fun to share culinary skills with adults, too. Nutritionist Kay Loughrey and I will provide a simple but elegant luncheon class that you’ll want to repeat for your own special occasion dinner parties.

Click on Sweetheart Special Info & Menu for all the details.

Real Food for Kids Recipe Contest

Chef Crye drove through a snowstorm to attend a cook-off at the Williams-Sonoma store at Mazza Gallerie in Chevy Chase. It was the first round of the KIDS COOK Original Recipe and Cooking Competition!

The contest is a collaborative effort of Real Food for Kids and Williams-Sonoma. Metropolitan Washington 4th-8th graders were encouraged to use their creativity to invent delicious dishes using fresh ingredients and following the guidelines.

Making Topping

This girl demonstrated how to make a mixed nut, raisin and brown sugar topping.

Pear & Goat Cheese Salad

This girl showed how to make a baked pear and goat cheese/dried cranberry salad.

Breakfast Burrito

This girl demonstrated her family’s favorite breakfast burrito.

Thai Shrimp

This girl prepared a Thai-style shrimp and noodle dish–and she made her own oyster sauce!

Kids’ cookbook author Nevin Martell asked the contestants questions as they cooked. Culinary expert Katherine Newell Smith led the judging, which was based on taste, appearance, presentation, originality and nutrition.

The Winner!

Guess who won Round One? It was the second girl from the left, who made the Thai shrimp and noodle dish. She and three friends will receive a private cooking lesson at Williams-Sonoma. Her recipe will be sampled at the Mazza Gallerie store on Feb. 27-29. All the contestants received Williams-Sonoma gift bags.

On to Round Two on Feb. 28 at the Clarendon Williams-Sonoma store–what fun!

Welcome Chinese New Year with Lucky Dumplings

Chinese people like to eat lucky foods on New Years Day. One of them is dumplings, because they look like gold or silver ingots. To be really lucky, make your dumplings with lots of pleats, and arrange them in lines, rather than (bad luck) circles. Circles are interpreted to mean that your life will go in circles, and you won’t go anywhere.

Young Chefs followed our friend Pat Tanumihardja’s recipe from her cookbook, “The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook: Home Cooking from Asian American Kitchens.  We tried making the dumpling dough, and we also tried round dumpling wrappers available in the freezer case of Asian markets. Both were delicious!


Enthusiastic student chef literally ‘dives into’ making dumpling dough from scratch during her Young Chefs Cooking Club class.


Young Chef student chefs practice the dumpling pleating technique.


Student chefs arrange dumplings in a skillet in preparation for the steam-fry cooking technique.

Valentine’s Menu

Happy Valentine's Day!

This week Young Chefs prepared Chicken Caesar Wraps,  Garlic Fries and  Chocolate-Dipped Strawberries  just in time for Valentine’s Day.

The adult chefs worried about how to prepare enough oven-roasted, garlicky potato wedges to give up to 20 cooking club members a sample. Would we be able to split five pounds of potatoes between two baking sheets in a single layer? Should we use aluminum foil, parchment paper or Silpat?

On Monday Chef Crye used aluminum foil but did not oil it, thinking that the potatoes had been tossed in plenty of oil. Mistake! The potatoes stuck to the foil, and it tore when the finished potatoes were scraped out.

On Tuesday she tried oiling teflon-coated baking sheets with similar results. The young people said that the potatoes tasted wonderful, but they looked like hash browns.

Here is Team Silver Spoon’s amusing menu:

Hash Drowns!
Hash browns, NOT Hash Drowns!

The consensus is: Line the baking sheets with aluminum foil, and oil it. Remove the “fries” with a silicone spatula, rather than a metal one.

Young Chefs Grand Finale Party!

written by Chef Sheila

Our Young Chefs  after-school cooking club is one of the free Excel Beyond the Bell activities offered at some Montgomery County (Maryland) middle schools.

Here are a few highlights from this month’s Grand Finale Party:

Want to speak up? Pass the potato, please!
Want to speak up? Pass the potato, please!

Each cooking club meeting begins with Circle Time. Whoever is holding “Mr. Potato” has the floor. The rules: Everyone has a turn to talk. You can pass, if you like. No put downs!

Learning to "French" a drumstick
Learning to “French” a drumstick

I showed youths how to “French” a chicken drumstick. We prepared the drumsticks for the party to be held the following afternoon, so that the chicken could soak up the Chinese Barbecue marinade overnight.

The next Jacques Pepin?
The next Jacques Pepin?

M. toasts pita chips to go with Jacques Pepin’s warm white bean puree.

Popcorn makes the holidays more festive than ever!
Popcorn makes the holidays more festive than ever!
We used Chef Catherine’s Whirligig popcorn popper to make Garlic Herb Parmesan popcorn. The cooking room smelled divine!
Chef Sheila & Chef Catherine are teaching us to decorate cookies like pros!
Chef Sheila & Chef Catherine are teaching us to decorate cookies like pros!
Chef Catherine uses plastic chip bag clips to secure the end of the pastry bags. How’s that for multi-tasking tools?
The secret to perfect gingerbread cookies
The secret to perfect gingerbread cookies
Chef Catherine shared her trick for rolling out gingerbread cookies evenly: Place lengths of yard sticks on either side of your rolling pin. The thickness of the yardstick is just right for rolled cookies.
Guess what? You can make gingerbread cookies with nutritious whole grain flour!
Guess what? You can make gingerbread cookies with nutritious whole grain flour!
Part of the fun of learning to cook and bake is finding ways to make our favorite recipes taste great — and make great nutritional sense. For the perfect balance, we used 50% white whole wheat flour in our gingerbread cookies.

Happy (and Healthy) Holidays from Young Chefs!
Happy (and Healthy) Holidays from Young Chefs!