Wednesday, March 4, 2015

POSTED: Friday, June 13, 2014, 3:15 PM
(L-R) My Daughters Kiitchen participants Christian McKinney, Kimberly Luu, Aneza Abalo, Nysirah Hall and Nick Rodriguez show off their achievement medals after cooking the family dinner at Henry Lawton School in Phila. on May 28, 2014. (ELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer)

Even though the party didn't start till 5 p.m., Christian McKinney's grandmother and younger brother were waiting in the lobby of Lawton Elementary School at 3.

"Do you want to help in the kitchen?" I asked Brandon, 9.

"Me? he said with incredulous delight. "Mom-mom, Mom-mom, I get to help cook!" he cried, literally jumping up and down.

Maureen Fitzgerald @ 3:15 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Thursday, May 29, 2014, 6:58 PM
Nick Rodriguez puts the chicken parcels in the oven at the Henry Lawton School. (ELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer)

'Do you know what processed food is?" I asked the fifth graders at Henry Lawton Elementary, where I've been teaching cooking classes.

I had just seen Fed Up, the heartbreaking documentary on America's addiction to processed food, and I felt compelled to talk about it.

"It's fake food," said Nick Rodriguez.

Maureen Fitzgerald @ 6:58 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Thursday, May 29, 2014, 6:53 PM
Nysirah Hall's poached chicken and roasted broccoli she cooked at Henry Lawton School in Phila. on May 21, 2014. (Elizabeth Robertson / Staff Photographer)

Poached Chicken

Makes 6 servings

6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 2½ pounds) tender removed, cut into thirds

Maureen Fitzgerald @ 6:53 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Thursday, May 29, 2014, 6:49 PM
Students (from left) Nysira Hall, Kimberley Luu, and Nicholas Rodriguez get their coconut fish curry from teacher Maureen Fitzgerald. (AKIRA SUWA / Staff Photographer)

The first one to burst through the door for after-school cooking class at Lawton Elementary - as usual - is Christian McKinney, this week sporting a fresh mohawkish buzz-cut.

He wastes no time: he glances at the recipe, sizes up the ingredients on the stainless steel prep table, and starts right in, peeling, then chopping the garlic. If I didn't insist that he save some jobs for the others, he might get through most of the work before they even arrive.

"Nick is so excited for the fish curry today," he said. "What kind of fish are we cooking?"

Maureen Fitzgerald @ 6:49 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Thursday, May 29, 2014, 6:45 PM
The fish curry on the stove. It introduced some of the kids to salmon and coconut.

 Makes 6 servings

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 yellow onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

Maureen Fitzgerald @ 6:45 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Thursday, May 15, 2014, 6:51 PM
(clockwise from upper left) Nicholas Rodriguez, Christian McKinney, Kimberly Luu, Nysirah Hall, and Aneza Abalo eat their ratatouille after cooking at Henry Lawton School May 7, 2014. (TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer)

Ratatouille was on the menu for our after-school cooking class, and the fifth-grade cooks were eager to try the dish they knew about because of the eponymous Disney film - especially since the movie version of this vegetable stew was so good it melted the heart of the evil food critic, reminding him of his mother's home cooking.

Indeed, ratatouille is a staple of French home cooking; it is served in school cafeterias and is a dish French children love.

But they may not have loved it the first time they tried it, I told the Lawton elementary students. As I learned in the book French Kids Eat Everything, French parents know that taste buds take time to develop. If children don't like a dish, parents encourage them to keep tasting until they learn to appreciate it.

Maureen Fitzgerald @ 6:51 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Thursday, May 15, 2014, 6:47 PM
Voilà! The finished ratatouille. A big challenge for any cook is timing all the elements of a meal to be ready at the same time. TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer

Makes 6 servings

 ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

2 medium onions, finely chopped

Maureen Fitzgerald @ 6:47 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Thursday, May 15, 2014, 6:28 PM
Students Nysirah Hall (left) and Aneza Abaldo skewer chicken spiedini, a recipe from Brad Spence and Ned Maddock at Amis. (RON TARVER / Staff Photographer)

We were cooking at noon because of early dismissal for teacher report-card conferences, and some students were opening their report cards for the first time.

"I got an A in violin!" exclaimed Kimberly Luu - which set off a round of bragging about how many A's each received that lasted until I could get the geniuses to focus on cooking.

Before starting our spring cooking classes, I had asked several local chefs for simple, nutritious recipes that included fresh produce, could be prepared in about an hour, cost less than $20 for six servings, and contained about 20 grams of protein and no more than 500 calories per serving.

Maureen Fitzgerald @ 6:28 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
About this blog

Maureen Fitzgerald, Inquirer food editor, has been cooking dinner for 30 years. Her blog started with teaching her daughter, but has been continuing for the past two years with school children, this fall with fifth graders from Russell Byers Charter in Phila. The program continues to expand with 32 volunteers teaching 75 children in 15 classes this fall in Phila and Camden, in partnership with the Vetri Foundation for Children.

Reach My Daughter's at mfitzgerald@phillynews.com.

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