A healthy bit o’ green got into the mix for a kids cooking class at Second Harvest food bank earlier this month.
As miniature chefs, 10 children made leprechaun-themed soda bread and fruit shamrock smoothies with an optional pinch of spinach, enough for color and nutrition but without turning off young palates. Avocado and grapes joined bananas and pineapples for blender drink choices.
Kids ages 8 to 13 did their own measuring and mixing for spring-themed recipes with help from adult volunteers in a kitchen at Second Harvest. The nonprofit organization provides food to people in need across Eastern Washington and North Idaho.
“I love cooking; it’s my passion,” said Zandra Kaczor, 10. “Spinach is actually one of my favorite foods. I put it on pizzas and salads.”
Beginning in January, Second Harvest started offering cooking classes for kids, with sessions typically held twice a month. A class costs $20 per child, which helps fund other free cooking and nutrition classes for youth from low-income households.
Next up, Second Harvest will offer a longer session: April 3-6 Spring Break Cooking Camp at $75 for kids ages 8-12. Themes vary by day for 2-4 p.m. classes and include scratch salad dressing, cooking for breakfasts, bread-making and a turn at ice cream. Second Harvest is located at 1234 E. Front Ave.
The classes are making an impact on families, said Second Harvest kitchen manager Jandyl Doak, who teaches the children’s classes. She’s heard that participants are choosing more nutritious ingredients for meals, such as adding whole wheat flour to their pizza dough.
So far, kids classes have included themes of pizza-making, Valentine’s cookies, and the latest leprechaun-inspired one. The goal of all is to offer healthy eating tips and promote the use of whole, fresh ingredients.
“We’re trying to show the kids ideas for when they come home and they’re looking for something quick,” Doak said. One example: Use a slice of bread as a base with sauce, cheese and veggies for a quick after-school snack. “We do this to teach them some skills that are fun, nutritious and easy.”
“It was fascinating to see the kids learn they can put vegetables on pizzas,” she added. “They’d say ‘I don’t like vegetables.’ Then they would taste a friend’s pizza in class and say, ‘That’s good.’ They really like the bell peppers.”
Julie Humphreys, Second Harvest community relations manager, said children often enjoy helping at home with meal preparations.
“Some might be helping parents cook because they work,” she said. “We have fun, informative kids cooking classes where every child is a chef.”
Lexi Jennen, 9, and her cousin Isabella Jennen, 10, came together to the recent March class for fun and to gain some kitchen confidence, said Lexi’s mother Sheila Williams.
“Lexi likes to help me in the kitchen,” Williams said. “She’s heard about the food bank at school, so she was curious.”
Her daughter also is learning more about nutrition, she added. “Her dad’s family has diabetes, and we’ve talked about lowering sugar. All of a sudden, she’s decided she doesn’t want to eat meat, so we’re looking for things she can eat that don’t require meat.”
For the class, each child partnered with another student. After washing hands, one in the pair made a soda bread with cheese and spinach, while the other mixed up cinnamon soda bread.
Among those handling the spinach, the kids used a blender to mix a cup of the greens with buttermilk. Doak first demonstrated the step that turned the dough into a slight shamrock-colored green. “It’s going to be nice and green and you won’t even taste that spinach,” she said.
A few of the kids abandoned the spoon to mix the dough a bit with their hands.
Cheney resident Christina Damerville brought her daughter Selah, 8, who is home-schooled. The aspiring young cook soon turned to hand-mixing.
“I’m making cinnamon Leprechaun bread,” Selah said. “I like to cook pasta with my mom.”
While the breads baked in individual foil containers, the children walked over to a table holding cut-up fresh fruits, along with another small bowl of spinach, for the shamrock smoothie shakes.
“They can put in whatever they want,” said Doak, although the recipe called for certain portions. The selections included avocados, bananas, grapes, apples, pineapples, “and a little whipped cream for the top to make sure it’s a shamrock shake.”
A little exercise, literally, awaited the kids after they put a smoothie mixture into a blender pitcher, because Second Harvest had a stationary bicycle, called a Fender Blender Pro, set up in the kitchen. The bike has a blender attachment powered by pedaling action.
Each child in the class got to take a turn on the bike, plus take home a small foil container of bread. Doak also let them sample some cheddar leprechaun bread made ahead of the class.
“We usually ask that they take recipes home, and if they come back, we ask if they’ve used them,” Doak said.
Community donations supported the fall 2015 construction of the kitchen in a corner of Second Harvest’s center. The kitchen is used to provide nutrition information, scratch-cooking skills, budgeting and other community goals for more healthy eating.
This past summer, Second Harvest offered free kids cooking classes for children from the Northeast Youth Center in Spokane, SPEAR ministry, and similar programs. The kitchen also recently hosted older students from North Central High School for cooking sessions.