Cooking with children should be messy, exciting and fun; at least that’s what two Connecticut chefs who have devoted their careers to kitchen crafts with kids believe. While eating healthy is a goal that Kashia Cave and Cindy Hartog both share, they also both hold the view that teaching children basic kitchen skills is not only good for their bodies but also for their souls. After all, “some eat to live” while “others live to eat,” says Ms. Hartog, but either way eating is” something we get to do every day,” and if done right, “it is a pleasure we can have every day!”
My City Kitchen
384 Pratt St.
Meriden, CT 06450
“I am not a nutritionist; I am a chef!” exclaims Kashia Cave with pride and joy. A native of Trinidad who, from the age of eight, was schooled in the family kitchen, Kashia says that when she came to America in 1994 she was surprised and saddened to see that “a lot of kids don’t know how to cook.” After completing Lincoln Culinary Institute in Connecticut in 2006 and the Italian Culinary Institute for Foreigners in Italy, Ms. Cave made it her mission to teach children how to cook, how to cook healthy and how to cook for fun.
Battling childhood obesity is one of her many causes at the nonprofit My City Kitchen in Meriden, as is giving children “the opportunity to be themselves and express themselves through cooking.” Acknowledging that as a chef “it is more difficult for me to lose weight than them” because she must taste and sample so many cuisines and creations, that does not mean that children cannot be taught how to eat well.
Kashia teaches children how to follow a healthy diet while still enjoying their food, and at My City Kitchen she hosts after-school cooking classes, hobby cooking classes for children and teens (with and without parents) as well as educational cooking classes for those battling obesity. She also hosts birthday and other cooking parties, and presents cooking demonstrations at libraries, schools, churches and community centers. Here are a couple of her favorite entrees to prepare with children.
My City Kitchen Belgian Waffle Breakfast
Begin with a basic waffle recipe from any reputable cookbook or website (Kashia recommends those from Hallelujah Acres, Big Y and Whole Foods). Children should mix the batter, pour it into the hot waffle irons with adult guidance and then be taught basic kitchen knife skills to peel and slice up kiwis, strawberries and other fruits to create a fruit salad to top the waffle, which they can then garnish with mint leaves. Instead of traditional maple or commercial sugar syrups, Kashia suggests use honey or agave syrup as a healthier alternative.
Kashia’s Turkey Burger Lunch
Purchase freshly ground turkey from the meat counter (again, Kashia suggests Big Y or Whole Foods) and have the children make the turkey into patties. Grill the burgers (again with adult supervision), flipping them once, then place sliced low-fat cheese (preferably Swiss) to make some into cheeseburgers. Children are then taught the right way to clean lettuce, peel cucumbers and onions and to slice those and tomatoes to use as toppings on the burgers. Serve the burgers on whole wheat bread. Making mayonnaise from scratch is another fun and easy task, although Kashia admits that most children, even when they do so, say “where’s the Hellmann’s?”
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Cindy’s Sous Chefs LLC
A spaghetti ice cream machine? Who has a spaghetti ice cream machine? Cindy Hartog, that’s who! Cindy is a children’s chef with a unique and varied background. She has a masters in education from NYU, studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London and is a graduate of ICE (the Institute for Culinary Education) in Manhattan. When the former teacher, actress and chef turned 40, this mother of three decided “to put together all these things” to make a new career – and the kind of career that she admits is only possible in a place like Fairfield County.
Until very recently, Cindy held regular cooking classes for children (with or without parents). After several years of that, however, she decided that she would rather focus on just one aspect: parties, especially birthday parties. “I prefer the excitement of birthdays” to the normal class routine, says Ms. Hartog. “There is a lot of energy and positive feeling” at a birthday party, adds the chef, and she thrives on that energy.
Although children and parents can have any theme they want, “kids are opinionated,” Cindy cautions, and if anything seems even remotely “gross” to one child, soon all of the children will declare it so – and that can ruin the entire experience. “Make sure you pick something everyone likes,” she tells her clients (“Italian works the best” she adds). In addition to teaching the children how to make everything on the menu, Cindy says she also offers a mock television cooking show, where the birthday child is the star and the guests are the audience.
No birthday party, Italian or otherwise, would be complete without the cake and ice cream. Here with permission are her recipes for a nearly flour-less molten chocolate lava cake (which, she adds, uses so little flour that it can even be made without the flour) and an egg-free vanilla ice cream – which for fun she runs through the expensive spaghetti ice cream machine. That machine pushes out the ice cream into thin spaghetti- or lasagna-shaped noodles. While you can make ice cream in any flavor, she says that experience has taught her that if a child asks for chocolate, someone will make a rude or gross comment about what it looks like when it is squished through the spaghetti ice cream machine. So stick with vanilla.
Cindy’s Molten Chocolate (Lava) Cakes
- 8 ounces butter
- 1.25 pounds semi-sweet chocolate
- 12 large eggs
- 1.25 cups sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 3 tablespoons
- 1 teaspoon flour
Melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler. Then beat the sugar, salt and eggs. Beat egg mixture into the chocolate until smooth. Beat in flour until just combined. Pour into individual buttered tin cups. Bake at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 minutes or until you can insert a toothpick in the center and it come out smooth. Allow to cool slightly before removing.
Cindy’s Vanilla Gelato Recipe (especially good for use in the spaghetti ice cream machine)
- 1.5 cups milk
- 1.5 cups cream
- 1 cup sugar
- Vanilla to taste
Heat the first three ingredients until the sugar is absorbed. Cool the mixture. Add vanilla and freeze in an ice cream machine.
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