Week 6: Fajitas

We made fajitas this week in Kitchen Possible, and man oh man, were they tasty! This class was a little rambunctious. 6 weeks in, the kids know what to expect and are comfortable with our group, which is a good thing… but combined with the end-of-summer dread and what may have been a little too much sugar, the kids were hyped up. Luckily, fajitas are a super easy recipe that requires little patience and lots of changing steps to keep their attention piqued.

Each team decided on either chicken or steak fajitas. From there, they mixed up a super flavorful spice mix. A few of our kids don’t love spicy food, and they’ve learned to hold back on certain spices called for in the recipe. Others are spice super fans, meaning they added a little extra cayenne pepper to their mix. It’s nice to see them appreciating the fluid nature of a recipe!

As they seasoned and seared their meat and veggies, the kids were clearly in control. Meats in particular take a little extra intention and care, and they made sure to cook it all the way through but were careful not to overdo it. It’s really fun to see the ownership they feel over different components of each meal, truly embracing their responsibility and ability to get it done right.

To top their fajitas and cool things off, they made a cilantro lime crema. After following the recipe, the kids did lots of checking in and editing (step 4 of our “5 Steps to Cook Anything”.) Again, they were able to tailor their sauce to their tastes. Some added extra lime (these kids LOVE lime), some added extra pepper. Sauces are one of my favorite things to make for that very reason – each one is flexible and totally customizable. It seems lots of our kids like them for the same reason.

At the end of this week’s class, as we do every week, we tied our kitchen approach back to life outside of the kitchen. One of the kids shared her goal to improve her song writing skills (so cool) over the next year. We talked about “ingredients” she’ll need, like books to read and notebooks to write. Then the other kids all brainstormed some steps for her “recipe”, like practicing daily, and sharing her songs with others for feedback. It warms my heart to see these kids making plans and setting their hopes high for their futures, both long term and short term. The hope of this program is that our lessons in the kitchen will translate to a confidence and model for making things happen outside of the kitchen, and conversations like these are so important in tying that back for them.

Life Lessons from the Kitchen:

1.  One of the best parts of working on small teams to tackle these recipes is that the kids have extra opinions and support. This week, as they mixed up their cilantro lime crema, most of them asked another member of their team to give it a taste, knowing their opinion would help ensure it tasted great. This is an important step in making anything outside of the kitchen!  It's easy to get caught up in our own plan and process, only to emerge in the end with a result that’s not quite right. By stopping (at the right point) to share our plan or work with someone we trust, we create an opportunity to not only avoid issues but actually improve our end result.

2.  This week, when our spices hit the pans, things got a little smoky and eyes started to water. But of course, with sizzling meat in those pans, the kids couldn’t just run out of the room for relief. (Note, we always ensure things are safe in the kitchen. I’m talking a little irritation here, nothing unsafe.) This, though a little trying, was a nice opportunity to remind the kids that making great things happen isn’t always easy - sometimes it’s actually obnoxious. But despite any discomfort, we can’t just walk away from our process. In life, as in the kitchen, the smoke will eventually clear and something flavorful will be waiting for us when it does.

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