Do you have a budding foodie in the family, or a picky eater you want to encourage to become more adventurous? Cook, Learn, Grow is a local cooking school for kids that combines a flair for food with a passion for nurturing young minds.
Lori Hinze, Cook, Learn, Grow’s founder, started out as a school teacher who also taught cooking to kids from her home as a hobby. That was in the early 2000s, when, as she puts it, “people started taking notice of what was in school lunches.” And, of course, what they noticed wasn’t all good.
Hinze took a sabbatical from teaching to go to culinary school, and eventually married her two passions by starting Cook, Learn, Grow. In her career as a school teacher, she taught everything from pre-kindergarten to middle school honors English, but then decided it was time for something a little bit different.
“I love teaching and I love food,” says Hinze. “It just grew from a hobby into a business.”
Enter Cook, Learn, Grow, which teaches budding wee foodies all about food — everything from cooking it to serving it to eating it with good manners.
“We really want to impart the value of cooking and eating real food,” says Hinze. “There’s a place and a time for packaged food, but cooking is a reason for us to come together, in a celebration, as a family.”
The program offers summer camps, year-round cooking classes and in-home parties at various locations around the Austin area for kids ages 5 all the way up through teen, and offers adult classes as well. Their web site also includes a plethora of resources for kids and parents, including recipes and tutorials (one of which is reprinted below).
But Cook, Learn, Grow’s mission doesn’t end with creating budding chefs. Hinze also wants kids to understand what they eat a lot better than most of them do now.
“We talk a lot about ‘food literacy’ — where food comes from, what to do with it and how to cook it, and what’s seasonal,” she says.
Hinze recounts once telling a little girl her eggs used to come from her backyard (she used to keep chickens). The girl was flabbergasted — “You grew eggs?” she asked incredulously.
“That’s when I knew we had a problem,” said Hinze. Needless to say, she’s hard at work addressing it.
The kids who find their way to Cook, Learn, Grow’s classes run the gamut, says Hinze, from picky eaters who won’t try anything to kids who could probably teach the class on their own.
“We really go beyond just cupcakes and cookie decorating,” says Hinze. “We embrace all the food groups… including sugar. We are professional chefs, and we focus on everything — technique and cultivating an appreciation of real food.”
The learning at Cook, Learn, Grow is decidedly hands-on, and it has a way of converting picky eaters.
“They do everything themselves,” says Hinze. “We encourage them to taste, but we don’t force it. This year, we only had one kid out of almost a thousand kids that flat-out refused to taste something. That’s when I knew we were succeeding.”
The aim, always, is to help the younger generation more aware of where their food comes from, and to cultivate a real appreciation for food, including cooking it and enjoying it around the dinner table with family.
“There’s a whole generation of adults that hate cooking, and it just breaks my heart,” Hinze says. She wants to undo that cycle — and we’d say she’s off to a great start!
Now why not celebrate a great seasonal fruit — blackberries — with a delicious, kid-friendly recipe? The following tutorial is reprinted from Cook, Learn, Grow’s blog and used by permission. All text and images are copyright Cook, Learn, Grow, and the original is available here.
Blackberries are in season right now and just in time for the July Fourth Celebration.
I’ll give you three guesses what’s easy to make, taste like summer and fast as lightning to create with fresh blackberries. Ready, go!
Guess #1…nope, not blackberry cobbler, although that IS easy and yummy. Click here for my recipe from last year.
Guess #2…nope, not blackberry jam
Give up? Okay, this is your laaaaaassst guess!
Guess #3…you are right if you said, Blackberry Lime No Bake Cheesecake! You are one smart cookie!
Here’s the step by step way to make it but no recipe is included. Why? Because I want to challenge you to try using your taste buds as your guide. You can do it…this is so easy!
Place softened cream cheese and a splash of vanilla into a mixing bowl. (I eyeballed the amounts and ended up with a guesstimate of about 1-1/2 cup of cream cheese.)
Add fresh lime zest and juice. (I ended up using the zest of 1 lime and juice of 1-1/2 limes)
Then add a little powdered sugar. (After I tasted it , it wasn’t quite sweet enough, so I added a second scoop. The scoop is 1/4 cup, so 1/4 plus 1/4 equals how much? 1/2 cup; good job!
Whisk together until smooth and creamy. Taste and ask yourself is it sweet enough?, can I taste the lime?” If it needs to be a little sweeter, add a little more powdered sugar. If you can barely taste the lime, then add a little more juice.
Keep tasting and talking it out until you are one happy little chef.
Now it’s finally time for those luscious, juicy blackberries.
Place a few in the bottom of a serving dish. I used cute little mason jars. I love mason jars! They are perfect for each person to have their own serving and they’re perfect for summer. Summer time is mason jar time…more on that a little later.
Spoon a little of the lime cheesecake mixture on top of the berries.
Repeat with more fresh berries and another layer of the zesty cheesecake mixture.
Top with a single, beautiful blackberry and a sprinkle of zest.
And now you have a very easy, very summery, very blackberry lime no bake cheesecake!
See? You don’t really need a recipe…just start with these ingredients and make it how you like it! Maybe you could add a layer of crushed graham crackers for a little crunch.? Maybe not. Just go for it, the sky’s the limit!
Happy Fourth of July. I love ya!
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://www.livemom.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/lauren.jpg[/author_image] [author_info] Lauren Walz is a freelance writer and editor and mama to a two-year-old girl. While she’s quick to brag about being a fifth-generation Texan, Lauren moved to Northern California in 2004 after graduating from UT Law and lived in the Silicon Valley area until last spring, when she and her family were drawn back to Austin. Lauren is busy getting re-acquainted with her old stomping grounds and is astonished by how the food and wine scene has changed in Austin in the past 8 years. Lauren also blogs about cooking and parenthood on gourmetveggiemama.com.[/author_info] [/author]