Our children are our most precious treasures, as we have been reminded so tragically this season. Still, the first time I went to watch the children’s cooking class at Go Cooking, I approached the experience with a certain amount of uneasiness. I’m not quite sure what I was expecting — food fights? germy, sticky fingers? temper tantrums? gummy drops littering the floor?
Well, what I found was none of the above. Instead, I was enchanted by a room full of 7 to 10 year olds, quiet and intent, carefully listening to instructions and decorating cookies and gingerbread houses with the most thoughtful precision.
The instigator of this creativity is Sue L’Ortye, the instructor of our Go Cooking children and teenagers’ classes. L’Ortye has been teaching our children’s classes for a bit more than a year now. She also has her own catering company in Dundas called Sweet Kneads Catering (www.facebook.com/…/Sweet-Kneads-Catering/) The catering company started six years ago when her husband gave her a free session of “Boot Camp” at Liaison College. Already running a full time bookkeeping business, L’Ortye loved the cooking classes so much that she returned to take the courses required for her basic chef’s papers, and then, developed the catering business from there. A serendipitous meeting at a vendors’ show with Karen Aquino, our Go Cooking co-ordinator, brought her to the Spectator’s kitchen.
The children’s classes are primarily for 9 to 12 year olds and are held on Wednesdays, in the afternoons (during March break, there is a two day session). In addition to gingerbread cookies and houses, the children learn to make the “royal icing” so useful for decorative purposes. In other classes, they are introduced to the marvels of baking with yeast and fashion their own bread and rolls. A favorite project is creating cinnamon buns which they sold last year, donating the money to the Spectator’s charitable causes. (L’Ortye notes wryly that she actually made the ones that were sold — the children took their own home to eat and, apparently, our Spectator security guards also benefitted from some of the extra sweets.)
L’Ortye says that the secret to her success is always keeping the children busy enough and interested enough so that they have no time to misbehave. She laughs, “I brought a recipe for popcorn balls to the first 17 classes and never used it. I was always afraid that I would run out of things for them to do.”
The success of the children’s classes inspired the birth of our classes for teenagers. Designed for teens between the ages of 15 and 19, the focus of these sessions is to prepare teenagers for those first years at college when they may have to go it alone in the kitchen. The courses cover recipes ranging from breakfast to dinner and L’Ortye shows the teens how to make ingredients stretch: for instance, they may start with deboning a chicken, then make stock, chicken fingers, chicken Alfredo, and so on. Lessons in pasta, rice and potatoes, lasagne and shepherd’s pie are included, along with really basic subjects such as exploring the possibilities of eggs and how to make vinaigrette. What has surprised the instructor about the first two teenagers’ sessions is that there were more young men than women in the classes. The teenage boys, she says, were really, really interested.
Anyway, as of this blog post, there are still 6 places left in our January, Wednesday afternoon, Kids in the Kitchen sessions, so if you think that your child would enjoy this sort of experience, click on our Go Cooking Registration Page.
And, apropos of the seasonal lull, I thought I’d give you a recipe to help with that leftover turkey. I’ve made this soup for years and years and it’s very easy and can be very loosely adapted.
3 1/2 cups chicken broth
2 cups sliced sauteed mushrooms
2 tbsp. rice vinegar or white vinegar
2 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. grated gingerroot
1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon hot pepper flakes
1 tbsp. cornstarch
1 tbsp. cold water
2 cups cooked shredded turkey
2 cups sliced bok choy
6 oz. pea pods
1 beaten egg
3 tbsp. thinly sliced green onions
1. Combine chicken broth, mushrooms, vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, gingerroot and pepper in a large saucepan.
2. Bring to boil.
3. Stir together cornstarch and cold water.
4. Whisk into broth mixture. Cook and stir until thickened and then, cook two minutes more.
5. Stir in turkey, bok choy and pea pods. Cook for one minute more.
6. Pour the egg slowly into the soup in a steady stream while stirring to create shreds of egg.
7. Remove from heat. Sprinkle with green onions.