Healthy Living’s Learning Center Offers Culinary Experience for Kids
SARATOGA SPRINGS – On the menu – cheese ravioli and spaghetti with tomato sauce, made entirely from scratch and made entirely by kids ages 5 to 10.
Through Healthy Living Market’s Learning Center, kids of all ages can turn into mini chefs and learn their way around the kitchen, practice basic safety and techniques, and whip up tasty food from main courses to desserts and snacks. The market’s youth programs, such as Kids in the Kitchen, Preschool Chefs, and Family Kitchen, have proved wildly popular with classes often at maximum capacity.
The children who participated in this week’s Kids in the Kitchen class were tasked with making homemade pasta to create spaghetti and cheese ravioli dishes topped with tomato sauce. With instruction, guidance and demonstrations by Shannon Beckwith, Learning Center Chef and Instructor, the kids did everything by themselves.
“I really don’t want to limit kids thinking they can only make scrambled eggs or macaroni and cheese out of a box,” said Beckwith. “I want to expand their thoughts and their palettes. It’s important to me that kids are exposed to different types of foods whether it’s spicy, sweet or salty and that they know the ingredients that go into making the final product.”
Beckwith says it’s also important to let the kids do mostly all of the work themselves during the two-hour class. To prepare the pasta dough, the kids watched Beckwith’s demonstration first and then followed the same steps. They poured, stirred, kneaded, rolled and cut their noodles and Beckwith boiled them.
“It was really fun,” said 10-year-old Emily. “I liked rolling [the dough] in the [pasta] roller and making the pasta pieces. It was kind of hard because you had to keep it all together.”
“It was fun,” added 9-year-old Katherine. “I like pasta a lot and I like making pasta.”
For Beckwith, hearing her students say they enjoyed the class is the ultimate reward. With a degree in education as well as a degree from the Culinary Institute of America, she combines her passion for teaching with her passion for cooking; showing her students how delicious and easy it is to make healthy food.
“I really feel like I am a food educator rather than a chef instructor,” said Beckwith. “I think kids need to have a better understanding of the kitchen and where our food comes from. Most of the kids, if you asked them today where pasta comes from, they would say a box; which is true and in my kitchen at home it’s the same. I don’t make pasta from scratch every day at home, it’s just not practical. But it’s nice for them to see the ingredients that go into making pasta and the time that it takes and everything that goes into it. I think that’s really important.”
Perhaps the best part of the class for the students is eating the final product. After an afternoon of learning and cooking, the kids were all smiles as Beckwith handed out plates of the spaghetti and ravioli they made themselves.
“They love it,” said Beckwith. “And I always make them promise that they’ll try to make it at home because it’s fun to do it in here, but it doesn’t mean anything if you’re not going to take the recipes, which they always get, and do it at home. Make it a family project and make it on a Saturday or Sunday. It’s fun and it’s doable.”
In honor of Mardi Gras next month, Beckwith plans on teaching a New Orleans-style menu complete with beignets and jambalaya.
For more information or to sign up for a class, visit www.healthylivingmarket.com/learning-center. The Learning Center also hosts private and individual cooking classes, school field trips and birthday parties.