Week 2: Pizza!

I’m not going to lie… Our second Kitchen Possible class was a BUSY one! We had a much fuller house tonight (more than double our turnout last week), which made for a lot of energy and a little bit of chaos. It was awesome seeing the kids who were with us last week back again, practically bursting with readiness to recite the 5 Steps to Cook Anything that we covered last week. As soon as I asked “Does anyone remember the first step to…” all of their hands shot up and stayed there until we’d gone through all 5 steps.

This week we took on pizzas AND homemade ranch dressing for our salads (which, in retrospect, was a little aggressive), and again, we had a ton of fun. The first and hardest step was forming the dough – that stuff is stretchy and gets overworked fast. Some of the kids got visibly frustrated as their dough refused to flatten out, riddled with holes as they persisted. This was a great lesson not only in perseverance, but in asking for help. Most of the kids needed a some support from an adult, but in the end, their pizzas all formed nicely – a little lopsided, but delicious none the less.

The kids had to decide between red and white pizzas (either tomato or ricotta), and it was cool hearing a few of them opt for the white pizza (or half white) simply because they hadn’t tried it before but liked the ricotta cheese they tasted. They topped their sauce of choice with garlic that we chopped with a fork (if you’ve never tried it, you have to – such a great trick for kids), and a vegetable of choice. We covered some basic knife rules, and they successfully chopped up their own veggies. Again this week, we were amazed that by telling the kids, “the recipe calls for a vegetable,” and allowing them to decide which one and how much of it they used, really worked! They happily added red bell peppers, mushrooms, or broccoli before topping their pizzas with fresh mozzarella, (but not before eating a few chunks themselves.) It’s so much fun seeing them excited over new flavors and ingredients!

Things got a little rushed toward the end of class, and we had to share a few batches of ranch dressing (made with Greek yogurt), but in the end, the kids were really impressed with their pizzas. They were thrilled every time another pan came out of the oven, and their faces lit up when they located the one they’d built with their own hands. One girl even said, “This actually tastes better than the ones you get at the pizza store!”

Life lessons from the kitchen, week 2:

1. I’d be pretending if I said this recipe was an easy one or that things went smoothly – for the kids or our team leaders. A few crusts stuck relentlessly to their baking sheets, some garlic cloves went flying, and a bit of smoke filled the room at one point. But it would be unfair to these kids if we promised something as amazing as PIZZA would always be easy. The best things in life take hard work, a little frustration (sometimes a lot), and pushing through the hard stuff. In the end, our delicious pizza was worth the work.

2. As the kids crushed cloves of garlic, chopped their veggies, and wrestled with their pizza dough, some of the steps that seemed simple in the demo didn’t go quite as planned. When I showed them how to form the dough, I hadn’t covered what to do when it overstretched and ripped in the middle. We also hadn’t given them a plan for what to do when they only had 5 minutes left and still had no ranch dressing made. This was a great opportunity to teach the kids about thinking on their feet and improvising. Let’s face it, few things ever go exactly as planned, and if we all just gave up when our goals started ripping in the middle, we’d never make it to anything great.

Kitchen Possible takes place at Gads Hill Center for youth in their Junior Building Leaders program.