Bean Salad with Rice was just one of the dishes 23 kids made at the end of the first day of the University of Illinois Extension’s Illinois Junior Chefs program held July 31 through Aug. 4 at Trinity Lutheran Church kitchen in Mt. Morris.
Illinois Junior Chefs is a cooking school developed and taught by Illinois Nutrition Education Programs. Kids ages 8-13 followed instructions by Extension staff and volunteers from 1-3 p.m. in church’s kitchen.
Lessons focus on learning about healthy foods that taste great and cooking skills are part of the program.
Chefs attending the classes learn the importance of including all five food groups in their daily diet, said Mary Beth Christen, Community Worker for Illinois Nutrition Education Programs.
“They experience many healthy and tasty recipes they prepare themselves and learn important life skills in the process,” she said.
At the end of Monday’s program, kids gave the Bean Salad with Rice a thumbs up, or thumbs down.
“No faces if you don’t like something,” warned instructor Natalie Husemann as Noah Jones wrinkled his nose and turned his thumb down.
“I like it,” said Abigail Rogers, of Oregon.
On Wednesday, Husemann directed the class through making Veggie Chow Mein, which involved lots of chopping.
Knife safety was the first thing Husemann talked about, as she demonstrated cutting an onion into small pieces.
“Remember to keep your fingers curved back,” she said, showing the proper technique for holding the onion with one hand while using the knife with the other.
Ella Rowe, 9, of Oregon, proclaimed the exercise “Fun!”
Dez Klapp, 9, of Mt. Morris, was squinting as she finished up.
“It’s burning my eyes,” she said.
Ariana Chapa, 8, of Mt. Morris, didn’t mind that too much.
“It smells good,” she said.
Husemann moved from group to group encouraging the budding cooks.
“I see lots of good chopping,” she said.
For more information about Extension classes, call 815-732-2191.
Vinde Wells contributed to this story.