Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Jr. Chef Camp/Granola Bars

Last week I took on the crazy task of training 8- to 14-years olds how to really get to work in the kitchen. I called it Jr. Chef Camp, and I had nine students: eight girls and one boy. It was very exciting to plan all this out, quite nerve-racking as the days grew closer, and exhausting but rewarding by the time the week was over. This was our schedule:

Tuesday – Vegetables and Pasta: al dente and brilliant vegetables
Classic Vinaigrette
Pasta Salad

Green Onion Dip
Roasted Vegetables with Penne

Wednesday – Cookies and Bars: properly following recipes
Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Pecan Cookies
The Best Brownies
Granola Bars (recipe below!)

Thursday – Bread: yeast
Honey Whole Wheat Bread
Parker House Rolls

Cinnamon Rolls
tasting: farmhouse rye, French sourdough

Friday – Pie Day!
all-butter pie crust
peach pie
chocolate cream pie

Really, they were very good students. They listened, they measured, they messed, they cleaned, they cooked, and they baked. I didn't have them use any sharp knives or touch the oven, since I'm not an incorporation with liability insurance, but if I did an older class (12 and up) in the future, I'd probably add those elements.

The students really made all of the recipes themselves with little assistance from me other than demonstrating or instructing, with an occasional hand if things needed to be pulled back in. The only big exceptions would be the green onion dip, the roasted vegetables (both were demonstrations only), and the filling for the chocolate cream pie (which I basically made and asked for help on some parts). It was a lot of fun watching them tentatively crack an egg after I told them it needed a big hard smack, except for Jeremy, who had no problem applying force to the egg.

My big dreamy hope for the class was that they would each feel by the end that they could really go home and make these things entirely on their own (or almost entirely, depending on knives and such), and that this would help them feel confidence in themselves. While I love cooking and baking for the opportunity it allows my creativity to come through, I find myself turning to recipes I love or want to try so I can feel accomplished and joy in the work my own two hands can do. Anyhow, I'm getting way too mushy for myself, so I'll move on...

I've been wanting to post this recipe for granola bars for some time, but I obviously haven't had much time for blogging lately (trust me...it's always on my mind!). Mark found it somewhere online, and we altered it, as we're prone to do. He was sick of all the packaged varieties of energy bars, made these, and our entire family loves them.

To view a printable version of this recipe, click here.

Granola Bars
makes 16 bars

1/2 c. almonds, toasted, chopped
1/2 c. craisins
1/2 c. roasted sunflower seeds
2 c. old-fashioned rolled oats
2 c. Rice Krispies
1 1/4 t. Kosher salt or 3/4 t. table salt
1/2 c. peanut butter
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. corn syrup (or honey, or a combination of both)
1 t. vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray a 9” x 13” baking pan with non-stick cooking spray.

In a large mixing bowl, mix almonds, craisins, sunflower seeds, oats, Rice Krispies, and salt.

In a medium microwave-safe bowl, add the remaining ingredients. Microwave on high until everything is melted and can be stirred together, checking every 30 seconds. Stir together, then pour into large mixing bowl. Stir all ingredients well.

Spread mixture into baking pan. With wet hands, press bars firmly until they are as condensed as you can make them.

Bake at 350˚ for 15 minutes. Place sheet pan on a cooling rack. Again, press the bars firmly until they are condensed as much as possible. If you have another clean sheet pan the same size, you can set it on top of the hot bars and press down. Cool completely before cutting. Bars keep well in an airtight container for about a week.


MZB said...

I am going to try them and your peach pie. Thanks. Magan B

Rachel said...

Magan, I can't wait to hear how it goes. Let me know!