Cooking with kids: How to come up with simple but delicious concoctions

Student Yusef Morrison, 11, of East Point adds the final touches of a sugar sprinkle to his cream horn pastry just prior to baking, while Young Chefs Academy instructor Christina Glass supervises. CONTRIBUTED BY CHRIS HUNT PHOTOGRAPHY

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Student Yusef Morrison, 11, of East Point adds the final touches of a sugar sprinkle to his cream horn pastry just prior to baking, while Young Chefs Academy instructor Christina Glass supervises. CONTRIBUTED BY CHRIS HUNT PHOTOGRAPHY

One of the trending COVID-19 stories has been about how much the pandemic has changed the way we eat — and by extension the way we shop and cook. A recurring conclusion is that casual and comfortable is where it’s at in these uncertain times, especially for families with kids.

Whether it’s baking sourdough bread or making fudge brownies, we want simple ingredients and techniques, and ways to engage that take our minds off the realities of more confined and complicated lives.

Of course, a lot of kids are stuck at home now, so what better time to get them cooking in the kitchen, too? They might even take a few classes to get started.

Among the options, Young Chefs Academy Atlanta Midtown has a schedule of classes six days a week for ages 5 and up. Taught by chef instructors, the curriculum covers subjects such as kitchen safety, proper food handling, food preparation, cooking and baking techniques, and even a bit of math, science and history.

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Student Toni Tomori, 7, of Nigeria receives lessons in creating whipped cream plus the safe use of a high-speed blender from Young Chefs Academy instructor Deeyona Massay during a recent class. CONTRIBUTED BY CHRIS HUNT PHOTOGRAPHY

Credit: Chris Hunt

Student Toni Tomori, 7, of Nigeria receives lessons in creating whipped cream plus the safe use of a high-speed blender from Young Chefs Academy instructor Deeyona Massay during a recent class. CONTRIBUTED BY CHRIS HUNT PHOTOGRAPHY

Credit: Chris Hunt

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Student Toni Tomori, 7, of Nigeria receives lessons in creating whipped cream plus the safe use of a high-speed blender from Young Chefs Academy instructor Deeyona Massay during a recent class. CONTRIBUTED BY CHRIS HUNT PHOTOGRAPHY

Credit: Chris Hunt

Credit: Chris Hunt

Ty-re Dixon, the Atlanta Midtown franchisee, discovered Young Chefs Academy with his 10-year-old daughter, Brooklyn.

“She said, ‘Dad, I want to take cooking lessons.’ So I went online, Googled cooking lessons for kids, and found Young Chefs Academy,” Dixon said. “She started taking lessons, and I started talking with the owner, who wanted to expand the franchise. I don’t know how I talked myself into this craziness, but I did, and lo and behold, here I am.”

Dixon is a Morris Brown grad, and describes himself as a “serial entrepreneur.” But he’s always loved cooking. And he got into the restaurant business as a co-owner of Just Loaf’N New Orleans Po Boys.

He said there was another reason he became interested in Young Chefs, though. “There’s a lack of home economics and other personal skills kids have in the school system now,” he noted. “That’s what I had growing up. I grew up under my grandmother’s apron, watching her bake cakes, and letting me lick the spoon. That was a real bonding experience.”

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Student Connor Kolwaite, 10, of Auburn, Ala., adds an egg wash to the cream horn he made just prior to baking, as Young Chefs Academy instructor Christina Glass looks on during a recent class. CONTRIBUTED BY CHRIS HUNT PHOTOGRAPHY

Credit: Chris Hunt

Student Connor Kolwaite, 10, of Auburn, Ala., adds an egg wash to the cream horn he made just prior to baking, as Young Chefs Academy instructor Christina Glass looks on during a recent class. CONTRIBUTED BY CHRIS HUNT PHOTOGRAPHY

Credit: Chris Hunt

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Student Connor Kolwaite, 10, of Auburn, Ala., adds an egg wash to the cream horn he made just prior to baking, as Young Chefs Academy instructor Christina Glass looks on during a recent class. CONTRIBUTED BY CHRIS HUNT PHOTOGRAPHY

Credit: Chris Hunt

Credit: Chris Hunt

In response to the pandemic, Dixon has assumed a much bigger role in the business, taking over as general manager, and working in the office every day.

“It was a chance for me to really become more hands-on, and really become the face of my business,” he said. “I wanted to make sure that when parents were coming in, I had answers for them about what we were doing for safety.

“We’re a cooking school, so we wash our hands multiple times during class. But we’re also doing temperature checks, wearing masks and practicing social distancing.”

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Classes at Young Chefs Academy include social distancing and other safety measures. CONTRIBUTED BY CHRIS HUNT PHOTOGRAPHY

Credit: Chris Hunt

Classes at Young Chefs Academy include social distancing and other safety measures. CONTRIBUTED BY CHRIS HUNT PHOTOGRAPHY

Credit: Chris Hunt

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Classes at Young Chefs Academy include social distancing and other safety measures. CONTRIBUTED BY CHRIS HUNT PHOTOGRAPHY

Credit: Chris Hunt

Credit: Chris Hunt

Currently, Dixon is working on a platform for virtual cooking lessons, with hopes of getting online in a few weeks.

“I made a pretty good investment in equipment, so that’s the direction we’re going in,” he said. “With the numbers being much lower, we’ve got to be able to make money outside of these walls.

“Food is the thing that brings families and communities together. We want to be able to teach kids the joy of food and cooking. Our instructors have great culinary backgrounds, but the key is working with kids, and making them feel comfortable.”

With all that said, you might wonder what Dixon’s daughter Brooklyn is cooking these days.

“She loves to cook breakfast,” he said. “She makes bacon in the air fryer, toast in the toaster, and cracks and scrambles the eggs. About every morning, she gets up and makes her own breakfast, which is great for somebody who’s 10.”

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Sydney Sims, 12, of Atlanta adds the final touches of sugar sprinkles to her cream horn pastry just prior to baking while Young Chefs Academy instructor Christina Glass looks on. CONTRIBUTED BY CHRIS HUNT PHOTOGRAPHY

Credit: Chris Hunt

Sydney Sims, 12, of Atlanta adds the final touches of sugar sprinkles to her cream horn pastry just prior to baking while Young Chefs Academy instructor Christina Glass looks on. CONTRIBUTED BY CHRIS HUNT PHOTOGRAPHY

Credit: Chris Hunt

Combined ShapeCaption
Sydney Sims, 12, of Atlanta adds the final touches of sugar sprinkles to her cream horn pastry just prior to baking while Young Chefs Academy instructor Christina Glass looks on. CONTRIBUTED BY CHRIS HUNT PHOTOGRAPHY

Credit: Chris Hunt

Credit: Chris Hunt

Tips for cooking with kids

The recipes Young Chefs Academy instructors use are written by chefs with input from nutritionists, franchisee Ty-re Dixon notes.

But the instructors are not only teaching kids how to cook, they’re making sure they’re safe, and having a fun experience.

With that in mind, here are a few (perhaps obvious) tips for cooking with kids:

Safety first. It should go without saying, but children shouldn’t play around with sharp knives, hot burners or ovens, or heavy pots and pans.

Keep it simple. Pasta, or popcorn, or that old standby, pancakes, can still be exciting and satisfying.

Challenge taste buds. Try new flavors from time to time. You might be surprised by what your child doesn’t find yucky.

Sheet-pan meals. They’re perfect for getting creative with ingredients, and kids can easily help prep and assemble them before the pan goes into the oven.

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Recipes designed with cooking with kids in mind include: Perfect Pasta Salad, Italian Cream Soda, Pigs in a Blanket and Snickerdoodle Caramelitas. CONTRIBUTED BY CHRIS HUNT PHOTOGRAPHY

Credit: Chris Hunt

Recipes designed with cooking with kids in mind include: Perfect Pasta Salad, Italian Cream Soda, Pigs in a Blanket and Snickerdoodle Caramelitas. CONTRIBUTED BY CHRIS HUNT PHOTOGRAPHY

Credit: Chris Hunt

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Recipes designed with cooking with kids in mind include: Perfect Pasta Salad, Italian Cream Soda, Pigs in a Blanket and Snickerdoodle Caramelitas. CONTRIBUTED BY CHRIS HUNT PHOTOGRAPHY

Credit: Chris Hunt

Credit: Chris Hunt

Recipes

These recipes from Young Chefs Academy’s Culinary Camp were designed for cooking with kids. The instructions note that you should read your recipe all the way through before you begin, and get everything out and get ready to cook.

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For an Italian Cream Soda based on a recipe from Young Chefs Academy’s Culinary Camp, you're making the vanilla syrup as well as the whipped cream. CONTRIBUTED BY CHRIS HUNT PHOTOGRAPHY

Credit: Chris Hunt

For an Italian Cream Soda based on a recipe from Young Chefs Academy’s Culinary Camp, you're making the vanilla syrup as well as the whipped cream. CONTRIBUTED BY CHRIS HUNT PHOTOGRAPHY

Credit: Chris Hunt

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For an Italian Cream Soda based on a recipe from Young Chefs Academy’s Culinary Camp, you're making the vanilla syrup as well as the whipped cream. CONTRIBUTED BY CHRIS HUNT PHOTOGRAPHY

Credit: Chris Hunt

Credit: Chris Hunt

Italian Cream Sodas
  • For the vanilla syrup:
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • For the whipped cream:
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream, very cold
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • To serve:
  • 6 cups Italian sparkling water
  • Ice
  • 8 maraschino cherries with stems attached (optional)
  • Combine 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar in a saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Cool the mixture completely.
  • To make the whipped cream, add the cold cream to a stainless-steel bowl and beat until the mixture starts to thicken. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla and beat until stiff. Keep chilled until serving.
  • To serve, add ice to the serving glasses. Add 2 tablespoons vanilla syrup and 2 tablespoons whipped cream to each glass. Top with Italian sparkling water. Serve with more whipped cream and a straw. Makes 8 servings.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per serving: 211 calories (percent of calories from fat, 46), 1 gram protein, 28 grams carbohydrates, no fiber, 11 grams total fat (7 grams saturated), 34 milligrams cholesterol, 10 milligrams sodium.
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Perfect Pasta Salad, based on a recipe from Young Chefs Academy’s Culinary Camp, serves a colorful summer dish. CONTRIBUTED BY CHRIS HUNT PHOTOGRAPHY

Credit: Chris Hunt

Perfect Pasta Salad, based on a recipe from Young Chefs Academy’s Culinary Camp, serves a colorful summer dish. CONTRIBUTED BY CHRIS HUNT PHOTOGRAPHY

Credit: Chris Hunt

Combined ShapeCaption
Perfect Pasta Salad, based on a recipe from Young Chefs Academy’s Culinary Camp, serves a colorful summer dish. CONTRIBUTED BY CHRIS HUNT PHOTOGRAPHY

Credit: Chris Hunt

Credit: Chris Hunt

Perfect Pasta Salad
  • Italian dressing:
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Pasta salad:
  • 8 ounces garden (rainbow) pasta, cooked according to package directions
  • 1 pint container cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 4 string cheese sticks, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 8 fresh basil leaves, torn
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • In a bowl, combine all the ingredients for the Italian dressing. Use a whisk to stir to mix. Set aside.
  • In a large serving bowl, add the cooked pasta, cherry tomatoes, string cheese and fresh-torn basil.
  • Pour in the dressing. Use a large spoon to gently stir the mixture until the pasta salad ingredients are coated with the dressing.
  • Taste the pasta salad and add additional salt and pepper if needed. Makes 8 servings.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per serving: 202 calories (percent of calories from fat, 30), 8 grams protein, 28 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 7 grams total fat (2 grams saturated), 13 milligrams cholesterol, 484 milligrams sodium.
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Pigs in a Blanket, from a recipe from Young Chefs Academy’s Culinary Camp, are perfect for kids young and old. CONTRIBUTED BY CHRIS HUNT PHOTOGRAPHY

Credit: Chris Hunt

Pigs in a Blanket, from a recipe from Young Chefs Academy’s Culinary Camp, are perfect for kids young and old. CONTRIBUTED BY CHRIS HUNT PHOTOGRAPHY

Credit: Chris Hunt

Combined ShapeCaption
Pigs in a Blanket, from a recipe from Young Chefs Academy’s Culinary Camp, are perfect for kids young and old. CONTRIBUTED BY CHRIS HUNT PHOTOGRAPHY

Credit: Chris Hunt

Credit: Chris Hunt

Pigs in a Blanket
  • 1 packet active dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups flour, plus extra for flouring work surface
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 12 hot dogs
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  • Dissolve the yeast in the water, store to mix, and let stand for 5 minutes. Add the salt, flour, olive oil and the yeast mixture to a large mixing bowl and mix until the dough forms a ball.
  • Turn the dough out onto a surface dusted with flour and knead for 5 minutes until smooth. Lightly oil a mixing bowl and turn the dough in the bowl to coat. Cover and let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free area for 1 hour, or until doubled in size.
  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Punch the dough down and divide it into 12 equal portions. Roll each portion into an 8-inch rope. Twist the rope around the hot dog. Place them on the baking sheet. Whisk the egg and milk together with a fork. Brush the tops of the dough with the egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
  • Bake the pigs in a blanket for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes before serving.
  • Serve with ketchup and mustard. Makes 12 servings.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per serving: 303 calories (percent of calories from fat, 52), 10 grams protein, 26 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 18 grams total fat (6 grams saturated), 43 milligrams cholesterol, 610 milligrams sodium.
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Snickerdoodle Caramelitas, based on a recipe from Young Chefs Academy’s Culinary Camp, are worth the extra effort.

Credit: Chris Hunt

Snickerdoodle Caramelitas, based on a recipe from Young Chefs Academy’s Culinary Camp, are worth the extra effort.

Credit: Chris Hunt

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Snickerdoodle Caramelitas, based on a recipe from Young Chefs Academy’s Culinary Camp, are worth the extra effort.

Credit: Chris Hunt

Credit: Chris Hunt

Snickerdoodle Caramelitas
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup quick oats
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar, packed
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons cinnamon, divided
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cups unsalted butter, melted, plus more for greasing the baking dish
  • 1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips
  • 1 (10-ounce) jar of caramel sauce
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-by-12-inch baking dish with butter.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, oats, brown sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, baking soda and salt.
  • Stir in the melted butter and the mixture forms into a crumbly dough. In a small bowl, combine 2 teaspoons sugar and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon.
  • Press half of the dough into the pan and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and sprinkle the white chocolate chips over the dough. Drizzle the caramel sauce over the white chocolate. Sprinkle the remaining dough over the top. Sprinkle half of the cinnamon sugar over the top. Bake for 20 more minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle the rest of the cinnamon sugar over the top.
  • Cool for 2 hours before slicing into bars. Makes 20 bars.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per bar: 336 calories (percent of calories from fat, 46), 3 grams protein, 43 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 17 grams total fat (2 grams saturated), 30 milligrams cholesterol, 149 milligrams sodium.
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Young Chefs Academy instructor Deeyona Massay goes over instructions on how to make whipped cream with student Toni Tomori, 7, of Nigeria during a recent class. CONTRIBUTED BY CHRIS HUNT PHOTOGRAPHY

Credit: Chris Hunt

Young Chefs Academy instructor Deeyona Massay goes over instructions on how to make whipped cream with student Toni Tomori, 7, of Nigeria during a recent class. CONTRIBUTED BY CHRIS HUNT PHOTOGRAPHY

Credit: Chris Hunt

Combined ShapeCaption
Young Chefs Academy instructor Deeyona Massay goes over instructions on how to make whipped cream with student Toni Tomori, 7, of Nigeria during a recent class. CONTRIBUTED BY CHRIS HUNT PHOTOGRAPHY

Credit: Chris Hunt

Credit: Chris Hunt

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Toni Tomori, 7, of Nigeria delights in tasting her own version of an Oatmeal Cookie Crust dessert. Each student was given their choices of toppings and food colorings to create this dessert. CONTRIBUTED BY CHRIS HUNT PHOTOGRAPHY

Credit: Chris Hunt

Toni Tomori, 7, of Nigeria delights in tasting her own version of an Oatmeal Cookie Crust dessert. Each student was given their choices of toppings and food colorings to create this dessert. CONTRIBUTED BY CHRIS HUNT PHOTOGRAPHY

Credit: Chris Hunt

Combined ShapeCaption
Toni Tomori, 7, of Nigeria delights in tasting her own version of an Oatmeal Cookie Crust dessert. Each student was given their choices of toppings and food colorings to create this dessert. CONTRIBUTED BY CHRIS HUNT PHOTOGRAPHY

Credit: Chris Hunt

Credit: Chris Hunt

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Connor Kolwaite, 10, of Auburn, Ala., shows the fruits of his labor in the form of an Oatmeal Cookie Crust that he created during a recent class at Young Chefs Academy. CONTRIBUTED BY CHRIS HUNT PHOTOGRAPHY

Credit: Chris Hunt

Connor Kolwaite, 10, of Auburn, Ala., shows the fruits of his labor in the form of an Oatmeal Cookie Crust that he created during a recent class at Young Chefs Academy. CONTRIBUTED BY CHRIS HUNT PHOTOGRAPHY

Credit: Chris Hunt

Combined ShapeCaption
Connor Kolwaite, 10, of Auburn, Ala., shows the fruits of his labor in the form of an Oatmeal Cookie Crust that he created during a recent class at Young Chefs Academy. CONTRIBUTED BY CHRIS HUNT PHOTOGRAPHY

Credit: Chris Hunt

Credit: Chris Hunt

Combined ShapeCaption
Sydney Sims, 12, of Atlanta shows the Oatmeal Cookie Crust she created during a recent class at Young Chefs Academy. Each student was given a number of toppings and food colorings to make their own version of this dessert. CONTRIBUTED BY CHRIS HUNT PHOTOGRAPHY

Credit: Chris Hunt

Sydney Sims, 12, of Atlanta shows the Oatmeal Cookie Crust she created during a recent class at Young Chefs Academy. Each student was given a number of toppings and food colorings to make their own version of this dessert. CONTRIBUTED BY CHRIS HUNT PHOTOGRAPHY

Credit: Chris Hunt

Combined ShapeCaption
Sydney Sims, 12, of Atlanta shows the Oatmeal Cookie Crust she created during a recent class at Young Chefs Academy. Each student was given a number of toppings and food colorings to make their own version of this dessert. CONTRIBUTED BY CHRIS HUNT PHOTOGRAPHY

Credit: Chris Hunt

Credit: Chris Hunt