The kitchen as classroom—it’s certainly not a new concept. A culinary hero of mine, Alice Waters, was one of the first chefs to identify this idea with her Edible Schoolyard Project, a project that has since taken on a life of its own and been replicated in myriad ways globally, helping children understand where their food comes from, that a healthy plant-based diet can be delicious when deliciously prepared, and how cooking fosters skills that we all need. This idea is different from seeing a kitchen as a place where one learns to cook; it’s reimagining this functional space as a place where one cooks to learn.
To help me explore this concept, I have a guest chef to help me out in the kitchen! Hayley Zappia—(our Cocomels Spokesmodel of last summer) has agreed to show us how even a simple recipe can foster critical thinking and problem solving, enhance reading skills, and build confidence—not to mention can be fun to make and good to eat. For Hayley’s project, I’ve chosen a great beginner product from the New Hope Network Blogger Box: Pyure Organic Sugar-Free Bakeable Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix.
Pyure cookie mix is the perfect starter product for your beginning young chef—the mix, an egg and a stick of butter. That’s it! Of course, there is the recipe planning—the butter must be room temp and it’s always best to have all those tools like bowls, baking sheets, utensils at the ready—a process cooking schools refer to as “pret en place” or “ready in place”. Measuring, unit conversions, oven temps and timing—think added math and chemistry—the more complex the recipe, the higher level of skills you need. Depending on where your young chef is with cooking experience, a lot of learning will go on…and a lot of fun! In fact, Pyure is ready to help by listing lots of healthy recipes for young cooks on its website. Be sure to check those out as your young person’s culinary journey continues!
So let’s get cooking and learning…the recipe for these yummy cookies is right on the bag, but we’ll go over it here, step by step with Chef Hayley:
First everyone washes their hands and has the soap and water ready for handwashing throughout the recipe preparation.
Now, have your new chef make sure all the tools and ingredients are ready and organized. You will need:
- One package of Pyure Organic Sugar-Free Bakeable Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix
- One stick of unsalted butter, softened (To soften butter, set it out at room temperature for about an hour. If your kitchen is particularly warm, it might not take that long. If your kitchen is chilly, it might take a bit longer, right?)
- One egg, cracked carefully into a small bowl and slightly beaten with a fork
Begin by preheating the oven and preparing your baking sheets. Set the oven at 375 degrees and wait until it is up to this temperature before placing a batch of the cookies inside. Line one or two large baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. For young chefs, this would be a great opportunity to discuss safety in terms of hot ovens and surfaces. The importance of carefully opening oven doors and removing hot items is worth practicing. Practicing ahead of actually removing hot items from the oven is worth the extra time and avoids accidents.
According to the Pyure package directions, put all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir. With some recipes that use traditional flours with gluten, care is taken to not over-beat the batter in order to avoid overworking the gluten, which results in tough cookies. However, this Pyure cookie mix is gluten-free, so beginners get a break with their dough. No gluten will form, so no danger of tough cookies, even if enthusiastically beaten. Ah….that would be the opening for a chemistry lesson on molecules and how they change, yes?
Once all the ingredients are well incorporated, drop the dough onto the prepared cookie sheets. If you want large cookies, use a tablespoon. If you want smaller cookies, use a teaspoon of dough. Looks like Chef Hayley went with jumbo cookies for a yield of two dozen or 24 cookies. (Can you say measurement and math???)
You will bake the cookies for approximately eight minutes. I say approximately because everyone’s oven is different—something Chef Hayley seems to know, as she keeps a watchful eye on her cookies to make sure they don’t burn.
Share them with those you love! Hayley made her cookies for her dad, who thinks the cookies and his smart daughter are super special.
Nutrition 101—a natural cooking lesson
One of the reasons for choosing Pyure Cookie Mix is the company’s commitment to reducing sugar in our diets—a really important consideration in children’s diets that often contain way too much sugar. Pyure contains no sugar and is sweetened by Stevia! What a plus. Not to mention this mix is also high in fiber, making it an important part of a sound diet—even though it’s a cookie. Healthy snacks mean so much to parents and cookies mean so much to kids…win, win!
The Pyure Cookie Mix is also organic—so important for young, developing brains and bodies. The trusted Environmental Working Group has a good article on popular packaged snack foods that are best avoided and why. With the organic stamp on Pyure products, parents can relax. (So a little learning for big people, too!)
Always Read Labels
All good cooks, no matter what the age, must be good readers and must always read labels. The label contains important information on health concerns and restrictions. For instance, Hayley’s mom has a nut allergy and this cookie mix contains almonds—a no go for Mom. But…more for Dad and Hayley!!
I asked Hayley for her own take on cooking to learn. Being a bright young woman, she noted that math and science are key to cooking. Math and science are critical skills—even more so for young women, who have always had the aptitude for but not always offered the opportunities to study and work in these fields. Discounted for decades “women’s work,” cooking is actually the work of math and science, of survival and food security, of artistic creativity, of healthcare and human safety. So girls and boys should both be grabbing an apron, says Hayley. I agree.
And while Hayley found this recipe fun and the cookies delicious (and Dad did too, BTW!), she is her mother’s daughter and is ready to graduate, moving on to more ambitious projects. And you’ve met Hayley’s mom—that’s Jane Davidson Zappia, the Keto Queen and star baker of Pop’s Pies. Hayley explained that she’s most inspired by her mom’s intricate baking skills: “She inspires me because she braids the pie dough, and I really want to braid someday. She also inspires me because she makes the best pies and she is famous!” Clearly cooking–and fame!–are part of the Zappia household. Hayley and I both believe that cooking should be part of your household too…we’re sure the fame will follow. There’s so much to learn and share!
What are young people cooking in your home? Share their creations!