As someone who spends a lot of time teaching other people how to cook, I'm always surprised by what people think cooking entails.
Some people are very mathematical cooks, following the recipes to the letter, measuring precisely. I'll never forget the student who, when I told him he needed 3 tablespoons of flour, ran to his kitchen station, and then ran back to me, breathlessly waving three different tablespoons: "Ms. Levine! I got the 3 tablespoons!"
Some people are inclined to throw caution to the winds while cooking, throwing everything into a bowl, stirring, and then being rudely surprised when it doesn't turn out as expected.
Of course, cooking is both an art and a science, requiring precision and technique as well as creative flair. But above all, it's an endeavor of the heart.
I think a lot about how I learned to cook. The chocolate chip cookie was the first recipe I made over and over again as a kid. Of course, I spent a lot of time making sure I measured everything perfectly. I tried different tools for mixing the dough. I gradually branched out into substituting one ingredient for another, seeing the results. Those were the "training wheels" days. But, I think about what was really going into those cookies, and it was this: My delight at being able to make something I loved. Happiness when my family ate and enjoyed my food. Relief that I was working with my hands, and a familiar relaxation of being surrounded by my kitchen tools. Hope that I would improve this time on my last version. Joy and nourishment. And a kind of repletion of the soul that is specific to perfect food.
When I say perfect food, I mean food made with perfect effort, or perfect love. Your mom's food, made with love, that always tastes the best. A simple egg, cooked perfectly. I think more than anything, cooking taught me to express the real truth of that perfect love. Through cooking, I could make it real. You can't see it. It's not a technique. But it's undeniably there, in the first bite.
This is something that is hard to teach. You can't tell someone what to do to find it. The only thing you can do is put them in the kitchen, over and over again, and see what comes out. Taste the food together and learn.
This is one of the recipes we used in our Wellness Notebook project (see previous post). I created this recipe when I discovered, shocked, that only one of my students had eaten hummus before. Well, either that or everyone was not paying attention enough to raise their hands. Actually, that second one sounds more likely. At any rate, I determined we were going to eat hummus. And spinach. And we were going to like it.
4 large spinach tortillas
2 c. baby spinach leaves, washed
2 roma tomatoes, sliced lengthwise
1 1/3 c. plain hummus (I used Sabra brand)
salt and pepper
1. Lay out 4 tortillas on a flat work surface. Using a butter knife, spread 1/3 c. of hummus on each tortilla.
2. Over the hummus, lay a layer of spinach leaves. Use enough leaves to cover the surface of the tortilla.
3. Lay 3 or 4 tomato slices down the center of each tortilla. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
4. Roll the tortillas up tightly, like a burrito. Slice each tortilla on the diagonal, creating 5 or 6 slices , about 1 1/2 inches thick.
5. Serve the slices on a plate.
This turned out to be one of the favorite recipes of the semester! It received the highest compliment one can get from a teenager: "This tastes kinda like Taco Bell!" Yesssss.
Share, comment, and let me know if you try this recipe out! I kept it simple for teenage tastes, but you can add any veggies you like in there!
Okay, so I lived through my first year of teaching high school. I lived, and I signed on for another. And then immediately began planning and dreaming about how next year, oh next year was going to be so much different.
One goal I have is to increase awareness of healthy snack options for my students. I came up with this project on the fly last year and ran with it. It needs some refining, but we're doing it again this year.
I told my students, we're going to make recipes that have three criteria:
1. They are cheaper than fast food.
2. They take 5 minutes to make.
3. They are healthier versions of snacks you already like to eat.
4. (Bonus point) You will get to eat these snacks in class.
This upcoming year, I'd like to give the students the option to research what recipes to try, giving them more control over the project. I'd also like to have them analyze nutritional content for each recipe this time around. Anyway, here's the basic plan:
Objective: Students will taste one healthy recipe per week. Students will analyze the recipe and make suggestions for modifications.
Materials needed: 3 x 5 index cards, construction paper, ingredients for recipes
1. Once a week, at the start of class, I demonstrated the entire procedure for making a healthy recipe. Students took notes on what ingredients I used, amounts, and procedures on the index card. They would tape the index card to a blank piece of construction paper.
2. Students each tasted the final result of the recipe. On a second index card, they answered the following questions: Describe the taste of this recipe. Did you like it? Why or why not? Would you make it at home? What changes to this recipe would you make if you were making it for yourself? They then added this "recipe review" card to their sheet of construction paper.
3. Students added one recipe page per week to their notebooks. At the end of the semester, they completed a Wellness Notebook introduction page, in which they reviewed all of their recipes and summarized the results. The entire project was turned in at semester's end.
Now, I want to say: my first year of teaching was all about survival. This means I didn't take any photos of this fantastic project. I promise to take more photos of future projects! I will include one or two of the recipes we used in a future post.
Let me know if you have recipe ideas for us! I'd like to hear your feedback!
I'm a school librarian, cookbook author, and longtime fan of food and literature. Welcome to my blog!