Week 4: Pasta and Homemade Sauce

I’m practically bursting with pride while writing this post – specifically pride in how far our 19 Kitchen Possible recruits have come in just 4 weeks. I’d say this was probably our best class yet, not just because the food turned out so well, but because everyone really banded together to help each other make it all happen.

This week to took on pasta with homemade sauces, and I think everyone really surprised themselves. Each group of 3 had to decide on either spicy meat sauce or creamy tomato Parmesan sauce, both packed full of veggies and fresh herbs. The recipes were simple enough but still pretty sophisticated for their 9-11 year old palettes, and they took them on like champions. Lots of the kids enthusiastically tasted their ingredients (which, I believe, is a must in order to really appreciate what you’re aiming for in a recipe), even the crushed red pepper and chicken broth!

Across the board, the kids’ kitchen confidence is definitely increasing. I cherish overhearing the tips and advice they share with each other as though they’ve been cooking these dishes for years. Today they sautéed, simmered, and seasoned-to-taste like pros, and in the end, their sauces were proof of it all.

At the end of class today, Michelle shared a story about tackling a home improvement project with her husband Ryan. She shared the importance of team work and compromising to meet each other half way, and that by following a plan together, they were actually able to create something better than either of them would have been able to alone. This was especially relevant to these kids, who’ve been really leaning on each other to complete their dishes together. When we asked, many of them admitted they’d had to let their teammate do things differently than they’d have done them themselves, but that in the end, they could see value in learning different approaches (like one girl who added more crushed red pepper than her teammate planned to, something the whole team loved in the end).

Many of the kids brought home bowls of sauced pasta to share with their families and promised to make more for them soon. Tonight, as we do each week, we gave away the extra ingredients. I promise, you’ve never seen kids so excited over a box of chicken broth or a bulb or garlic!

Once again, I can’t wait for next Monday. It’s quite a bit of work getting ready for each of these classes, but it’s so worth it each time. Nothing is as great as hearing these kids proclaim, “Whoa! This is GOOD!!” almost confused and totally impressed with themselves when they try their dish for the first time.

Life lessons from the kitchen:

1. As the kids browned their ground beef, sautéed their veggies, and simmered their sauces, most of them got so excited to stir the contents of their pans that they robbed their ingredients of proper cooking time. And this makes total sense – it’s anxiety-inducing to let that stuff sit there sizzling away without us! This is something we can all relate to, isn’t it? When we’re working toward something we really want, it can be temping to overwork it, constantly pushing to keep things moving – and this is a hard lesson, because this “stirring” is SO necessary (in making sauces and chasing goals). After all, it’s that hard work that will eventually help us get to our desired outcome… But all that hard work, without the time and space to really come together, can actually be counterproductive.

2. This week, more than in weeks past, the kids had to customize their dishes to their own tastes, while still following a specific recipe; A little extra crushed red pepper, basil, or even chicken stock to get their sauce just right. This was a great opportunity to talk about owning their decisions. No matter what a recipe calls for, or what the standard plan toward a goal includes, we have to tackle it in a way that’s right for us. A recipe is a powerful tool, but it’s often only a starting place. To really end up with a dish we love eating and are proud to share, we have to follow our own instincts along the way.

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