Didion’s Food Explorers is currently on winter break.
We will resume culinary explorations around the world in Feb 2018.
We would like to thank the families of the children who have joined us this fall 2017 and letting their amazing children share these cooking adventures around the world with us. :-)
Andrea P. Garvey, Kari Millette, and Chris Pearson
Dec 8th, 2017: Session 2, Day 4. Today was our last cooking class with the children enrolled in session 2 of Didion’s Food Explorers. We made Mexican hot-chocolate cookies. This is a simply delicious recipe from Martha Stewart that I have been enjoying it since 2013… So I couldn’t help it but share it with the children and my friends/co-facilitators Chef Kari Millette and Chris Pearson. We doubled the recipe and reduced the amount of cayenne pepper to 1/8 teaspoon. I also brought a batch that I baked at home in the morning so the children could taste the unmodified version of the recipe while drinking milk – lots of milk.
Dec 1st, 2017: Session 2, Day 3. After almost one month hiatus, Didion’s Food Explorers resumed our cooking adventure around the world. This time, the recipe took us to Italy with a simple and versatile pasta. The basic egg pasta recipe we used from allrecipes.com is simple and versatile. We set up four stations with each station making the pasta dough from start to finish. As always, the children got particularly enthusiastic about using the kitchen utensils such as the rolling pins and the dough scraper. We discussed how we could cut the pasta into whatever shape we wanted but it had to be consistent across the four stations so we wouldn’t have different cooking times. The children decided to cut the pasta dough into rectangular pieces. We also talked about how this recipe can be used to make lasagna noodles by simply cutting the stretched dough into larger rectangular pieces. Once cooked, the pasta was served with pesto (we used the Costco jar pesto) and the children went for seconds and thirds. :-)
Nov 24th, 2017: No class due to Thanksgiving break. We wish you a Lovely and Abundant THANKSGIVING, loaded with great food made together with family and friends!
Nov 17th, 2017: No class on Parent-Teacher Conference week.
Nov 10th, 2017: No class due to Veteran’s Day Holiday!
Nov 3rd, 2017: Session 2, Day 2. On our second day of Session 2, the recipe took us to South India, more specifically, to the state of Tamil Nadu. This area in South India is known for its curry, versatile salads, and stir-fry. We made chickpea salad – a twist on a traditional South Indian salad, which can be made as an appetizer or a healthy snack. Each child had their own knife to work with and they loved the more elaborate aspect of food preparation. When dicing the vegetables and fruit, we talked about the importance of dicing into small bite size. The raw carrots appeared to have a mind of their own, jumping off the children’s cutting mats. While the diced vegetables, fruit, and garbanzo beans were soaking in the lemon juice, we took our “green trash” to the school garden compost and grabbed a few fresh herbs (basil and parsley) to see if they’d elevate the taste of the salad. It was heartwarming to see the children enthusiastically tasting the salad, going for seconds, trying variations of the salad by adding black pepper, basil or parsley. One child even commented while we were eating the salad: “Wow… This was an upgrade from last week’s Brazilian bread!” LOL! It sounds like our culinary trip to South India was more successful than our culinary trip to Brazil.
Oct 27th, 2017: Session 2, Day 1. On the first day of Session 2, a new group of enthusiastic children joined us. The recipe took us below the Equator line to Brazil. We started the session talking a little bit about Brazil such as its geographical location, size, native language (Brazilian Portuguese – not Spanish), and then jumped right into the recipe: pão de queijo (cheese bread). Pão de queijo is typical from the state of Minas Gerais and it is a major hit among Brazilians due to its chewy texture and extra cheesy flavor. Composed of just a few ingredients, pão de queijo requires a great deal of tactile experience since the hands are a must when making this dough. Because we had to use electric toaster ovens, the ovens were not reaching the desired temperature, which affected the shape of the bread… The children kept calling it Brazilian quesadillas or Brazilian flat bread. LOL! We talked about using the moment as an opportunity for “meaningful failure” and discussed the various hypotheses that each child had to explain why the bread to went flat. Toward the end of the session, as the toaster ovens started to reach the adequate temperature, the pão de queijo started to resemble more like a round bread.
Oct 20th, 2017: Session 1, Day 4. Today was the last day of cooking together for the children enrolled in Session 1. Despite the weather getting colder, one can always appreciate a good, homemade frozen treat. So, we wrapped up Session 1 by making a few frozen treats. We had two Cuisinart ice cream makers available and were able to assign two groups of children to the ice cream making process (which was done in less than 3 minutes). A third group of children was assigned to preparing the ice cream toppings by slicing bananas, chopping strawberries, and pouring semi-sweet chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, and sliced almonds into serving bowls. We also had Halloween-inspired decorating sugar and cut bananas previously frozen that were used to make a creamy fruit sorbet. We used a super easy vanilla ice cream recipe, which was a great base for many ice cream variations. The children liked exploring the various flavor options by adding fruit, chocolate chips, and the colorful decorating sugars. We also made a quick banana sorbet by adding the frozen pieces of banana into the food processor and mixing it until creamy and lighter in color (about 3 minutes). Even the children who reported not liking bananas liked the banana sorbet. I also brought a purple sweet potato ice cream made with reduced fat coconut milk for the kids to taste. The color was beautiful and bright but the taste, according to the children, was a bit too bland. Can’t compete with sugar, huh? LOL!
Oct 13th, 2017: Session 1, Day 3. On the 3rd day of cooking, Didion’s Food Explorers came back to North America to explore this great fall squash: the pumpkin. This was perfect because our school’s Fall Festival was on the same day and started right after we finished up. The children made a super easy, dairy-free pumpkin soup. We had a group of children assigned to slicing the bread (to go with the soup), another group of children dicing the onions, and another group of children measuring the spices and opening the cans of organic pumpkin puree (a task that can take quite a few hands to get it done – it’s actually hilarious!). The chopping of the onions was the “talk of the class” with many children getting teary eyes while chopping the onions and having to rotate stations. At one point, the Staff Lounge was impregnated with the chemical irritant released when cutting onions. The children suggested goggles for next time and we talked about how the eye irritation was coming through their noses and we just can’t hold our breaths for too long. There were a few children who did not seem to be bothered by the onions and powered through the onion dicing. Of course, I had to take pics of their teary eyes and some children had to throw themselves down to the floor because of the onion smell. A lot of fun dramatization went on! As for the bread? Oh well… 12 children managed to eat two entire loafs of French bread (LOL!). It has been a joy cooking with your children: Chef Kari, Chris, and I are grateful for the opportunity to share our joy of cooking with them!
October 6th, 2017: Session 1, Day 2. We had another awesome cooking day with Didion’s Food Explorers. The children were so eager to learn and use their hands: it’s heart-warming! During our second day, the Food Explorers visited Japan by making grilled chicken skewers brushed with house-made teriyaki sauce and sunomono. These are popular dishes in Japan and provided the children with the opportunity to learn how to safely use a Mandoline slicer and how to thread pieces of raw chicken into bamboo skewers while wearing food-safe plastic gloves. The children working on the sunomono salad also perfected their knife skills even further by practicing to slow down when cutting the cucumber, by curling in their fingertips when slicing, and by cutting off a thin, flat piece of the cucumber length-wise to prevent the cucumber from rolling off the cutting mat. When it was time to eat, we brought out steamed rice (a major hit, of course!) and the kids also worked on using chopsticks.
September 29th, 2017: Session 1, Day 1. On the first day of the Food Explorers Club, the recipes took us across the “pond” (Atlantic ocean) to the Mediterranean area as the kids made limey hummus and cannellini beans dip with herbs de Provence. A group of 4 children was responsible for making the hummus recipe, another group of 4 was responsible for the white bean dip, and the remaining children were responsible for cutting the rainbow carrots, yellow cauliflower, and flat bread placing them in bowls and platters along with beet chips and cherry tomatoes. Using the food processor and learning proper knife skills was a major hit. Another source of excitement was taking the vegetable “trash” to the school garden’s compost. Kari had to randomly pick two numbers between 1-10 and whoever shut out that number joined her. When she said 1 was one of the numbers, a 4th grader gently said “but you said a number between 1 and 10 so 1 should not be one of them!” That’s what you get for working with smart kids who are paying attention to what you say. The children were also enthusiastic to taste their creations and to talk about which bean dip they liked the most. The winner among the younger kids (1st-3rd graders) was the limey hummus, while the white bean dip with herbs de Provence was a favorite among the older kids (6th-7th graders).