Week 5: Custom Barbecue Sauce

This week was a special one in Kitchen Possible. The kids learned to make the thing that first sparked my love of cooking - barbecue sauce. At this point, now past the halfway point of the program, the kids come into the kitchen ready to go. They pay close attention to the recipe demonstration and ask good questions, and though they don't express it out loud, they always have a twinkle of competitive spirit in their eyes as they get ready to break into teams and make the best food in the room. This week, the kids were especially pumped, because we had a couple reporters join us in the kitchen. (I’ll update this post with info on our stories in DNAinfo and on Telemundo soon!)

So back to barbecue sauce. Like every good sauce, barbecue sauce brings lots of distinct ingredients together, needs lots of tasting as you go, and takes time to bubble into something beautiful and well, saucy. Barbecue sauce captures so many lessons of the kitchen in a single pot, so I was really excited for the kids to make their own. But more than just any homemade barbecue sauce, each team of 3 kids made their very own, custom sauce. They chose their own flavors and ingredients, and I'm happy to report, each sauce was super tasty!

As the kids chose their custom ingredients for their barbecue sauces, it was exciting to see them take such ownership over their recipes. They had an array of fruits, peppers, spices and condiments to choose from, and each team banded together to come with a creative combination. Some of my favorite combinations included…

  • “Mad Dog Sauce” with strawberry, mango, jalapeno, liquid smoke and cinnamon
  • “Magical Mango” with mango, honey and cayenne
  • “ADRB Sauce” (team initials) with blueberry, jalapeno, and plenty of chili flake

To make good use of their sauces, we shredded up rotisserie chicken and made sandwiches. The kids also roasted vegetables (green beans, carrots and parsnips) and topped them with either a squeeze of lime juice or a sprinkle of cinnamon, a super simple way to make their veggies a bit more exciting. All of the kids tried parsnips for the first time, and most of them really liked them. It's amazing how their role in making their food impacts the way they experience it.

Confidence levels in Kitchen Possible are at an all time high. Any early shyness or apprehension has disappeared, replaced with excitement to jump right in, and each team truly acts like a team. It's so great to see the kids working together, taking turns and dividing to conquer all of the tasks of a recipe. I’m already half heartbroken over our fast approaching final class this summer - just 3 weeks left! I’m going to miss these little cooks…. (I’m not crying! It’s the onions!)

Life lessons from the kitchen:

1. Barbecue sauce was an expert level lesson in the 4th step of our “5 Steps to Cook Anything” - Check in and edit. To ensure their sauces were coming together the way they wanted, the kids had to consistently taste and edit, adding new ingredients and adjusting amounts as they went. And if and when their sauce didn’t taste right, they had to figure out what to add to get it back on track. This is, of course, something we have to do outside of the kitchen all the time. Very rarely does following the minimum of a plan get us to the type of outcome we really want, but by actively monitoring progress and adding a little something extra when necessary, we can end up with something we’re truly proud of.

2. This week, our barbecue sauce recipe called for some ingredients that weren’t so tasty on their own - like Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, mustard (subjective, but most of the kids made gross faces over it), and onion (again, not a fan favorite amongst the kids). This made for a great opportunity to talk about the importance of following a recipe, even when it includes things we don’t especially enjoy. Most great things outside of the kitchen have at least one dreadful step in the process, but without it, the end product wouldn’t taste quite right.

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

Photo Credit this week: DNAinfo