Cooking with Children: Teaching Kids in a Grief Camp How to Cook

Cooking at the Grief Camp
He was excited about grating the potato!
He was very excited about putting lemon on the salad! He kept coming up before I was ready for him! It was his shining moment!
Potato Scallion Waffles and Baked Chicken Fingers

I was asked to participate in one of the most rewarding programs.  In Dallas, PA, The Lands at Hillside Farms is a farm that takes animals that have been abused or neglected and rehabilitates them.

They have horses, sheep, cows, etc.  Many families go there to visit them and the children learn a little something about the animals when they go.  They also have a dairy store, so you can pick up some items and grab an ice cream cone to finish off your visit.  One of their other programs is setting up a child grief camp.  Children who lost a sibling, parent, dealing with divorce or parents suffering from addiction get referred to this group by counselors and other mental health professionals, so they could join this group.  Once they arrive, they have chores with the animals, do crafts, and a speaker is brought in such as a beekeeper, etc to provide further education to the children.  I was chosen as the speaker.  Since the food in our country has changed a lot over the years to accommodate a growing population, my focus is to steer people to eat real food rather than loading up on processed foods or foods with a lot of chemicals in them or on them.  What is a better way to spread this message than to start with people at an early age?

I walked in and started assembling the ingredients to get ready for the demos for the salad, potato scallion waffles and baked chicken fingers and thyme chicken gravy and a simple green salad with lemon dressing.  There were twenty children registered in this grief camp.  The kids were working with crafts…and without asking…several of them were lining up and wanting to help me set up.  Some of them all wanted to do the same thing (like grate potatoes), so I gave each a turn, so they all felt included.  Some of them told me that they help their parents cook at home and each told me about what their favorite meal to make was.  One boy in particular was very excited about using the lemon squeezer on top of the salad…and kept coming up during my presentation asking when he could do cute! I gave some thyme to one of the young boys, and showed him now to removed the leaves and put it in the gravy.  I showed them how to put together all of the ingredients for the waffles and had them each put some in the waffle maker, so they could experience what it was like to use the actual waffle maker.  After I showed them all of the steps, there was so much more chicken and potatoes to cook….so the staff jumped in and more kids jumped in to help finish cooking all of the ingredients.  When it was all ready, we all sat down and ate together.  The kids came up to me afterwards and explained what they were going through and why they were at the grief camp.  Although I couldn’t make their pain go away, I told them how happy I was that they were there to eat with me and help me cook and they were thrilled with that!  Cooking food is such an extension of love..even when you are meeting people for the first time.  It makes people feel comforted and loved.  Cooking brings people together and creates a bond and loving memories.

Potato Scallion Waffles

Serves 4

Heat up the waffle iron.  Spray it with oil, when you add the ingredients to it.

Grate the potatoes in a bowl.  Add the flour, baking powder, salt, eggs, milk, melted butter and scallions.  Mix together and place about two heaping tablespoons in the waffle maker.

Cook waffles about 4-6 minutes (depending on waffle iron) and check to see for a golden brown color

Simple Green Salad

4 cups arugula

1 lemon (juice it)

1 clove garlic (minced)

1/2 cup olive oil

salt and pepper

1/2 cup grated pecorino cheese

Mix the lemon juice with the garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper.  Place the arugula in a bowl and add the lemon dressing and the pecorino cheese and toss!

Breaded Baked Chicken Fingers

4 chicken breasts (skinless and cut into fingers)

2 cups Greek yogurt

2 cups Italian panko bread crumbs

salt and pepper

spray oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In one dish place the greek yogurt.  In other dish place the Italian breadcrumbs.

Dredge each chicken finger in the yogurt (completely coat the chicken), then through the breadcrumbs.  Place them on an oiled baking sheet and spray the top of them with oil.  Salt and pepper the fingers.

Leave in the oven until the chicken fingers are fully cooked (about 30-40 minutes), until the inside temperature is 165 degrees.

Chicken Thyme Gravy

2 cups chicken broth (low sodium)

2 tbsp corn starch (or more for desired thickness)

1 bunch of time (leaves removed, discard sticks)

salt and pepper

In a bowl, whisk the chicken broth and corn starch until the lumps disappear.  Pour in a hot pot and stir until it starts to thicken.  Add the thyme leaves and salt and pepper and allow it to reduce (about 5-7 minutes) on medium to high heat.  Enjoy!!

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