This week was special since we were doing “Mari’s Vegetarian Cheesesteaks” which is a recipe that my mom, Mari Bartram, developed when she was younger. I always used to say I didn’t like mushrooms until I ate this cheesesteak.
We had a pescatarian in the group, Reyna Barr, who was very excited when she learned about the recipe. “Veggie cheesesteaks, that’s so awesome!” she said.
Overall the veggie cheesesteak got mixed reviews, but the girls enjoyed the chopping and sautéing. It was clear how much their skills have improved over the course of seven weeks, and the impact this class has had on these girls.
— Olivia Bartram and Mari Bartram
Lewis Elkin School
It was all thumbs up for Week 7’s recipes! Despite some initial skepticism about a cheesesteak with no meat, Lewis Elkins students loved the vegetarian version of this Philly classic, (though unfortunately one student felt compelled to remove every mushroom.) It was very challenging for these 9 year olds to cut the sweet potatoes for sweet potato fries but they liked the end product. And of course the blackberry hand pies were a big hit. The students were so proud of their pies and enjoyed every bite. The vote for next week was clear: We’ll be making veggie cheesesteaks, sweet potatoes, and hand pies for our final meal together.
— Bette Begleiter
Philadelphia Montessori Charter School
The girls did not love the vegetarian steak sandwiches. We probably won’t select them for the finale, but the class did learn a lot about mushrooms in the process. The blackberry hand pies were also not a favorite. The students thought they were bitter. I would probably use strawberries next time!
— Bonnie Benson
St. Augustine Academy
“This is too healthy!” commented Amaia Randall when she and the other girls read the recipes for this week’s meal. The portobello mushrooms elicited a strong reaction from the students as they began to slice and handle them. “They are so rubbery," was the chorus. However, Brianna Arroyo liked the way the flavor of the onions, peppers, and mushrooms came together in the finished vegetarian cheesesteak.
— Cheryl Pfeiffer, Ann Strohacker, Irene Cabrelli
“I can’t believe we only have one week left,” cried Laziz Davronov.
“Let’s get started," said Jane Pupis, volunteer. "We have three recipes to make this week before we decide what we will make for our guests.”
We quickly read the recipes so we could make a plan as to which things had to get done and in what order.
We decided to make the pies first, then the sweet potatoes, and finally, the steak sandwiches. Working as one group, everyone got busy rolling out the dough, making the circles, and cutting up the blackberries. It was good that we tasted them first; we found that some were sweet and some were very sour. Folding the pastry circles for the hand pies and then crimping them shut with the fork was not as easy as it looked.
“The trick is not to fill them too much,” said Andrew Ramos.
Then it was time to make sweet potato fries and vegetarian mushroom cheesesteaks. After chopping all the veggies, we cooked them in two pans so everyone had a chance to watch over them. Finally it was time to eat.
The table looked ready with the cooled hand pies, the sweet potato fries, and the vegetarian “cheesesteaks” on the plates. Tasting the fries, Sophia commented,”Delicious!” Next, we tasted the cheesesteaks (with and without ketchup). Most people liked them. CJ described them the best, “This doesn’t taste like a cheesesteak, but it sure is good!”
Last, we tasted the blackberry hand pies. The hand pies smelled great and looked perfect, golden brown.
“I want leak-ee,” CJ Williams called. He knew it was his hand pie because it had a slight tear.
Most people liked them but Hamza thought “there was too much sugar because the berries tasted too sweet!”
All the students agreed to use the blackberry hand pies as the dessert for our final class, and the salmon packets in foil with the quinoa as the main dish.
— Susan Munafo
As soon as the students arrived they wanted to know the day’s menu. They were very excited about the hand pies but mushrooms were somewhat of a hard sell. Genesis immediately stated that she does not like mushrooms. Also, she added, she does not eat peppers or onions. However, she was first to volunteer to cut the onions.
Yadiel was much more enthusiastic. As we explored the ingredients he announced, “ I’m so excited right now that I can’t even speak!”
Calvin wasn’t quite sure how he felt about the menu, but he was willing to taste.
All liked the sweet potato fries and hand pies, but thought the pies should be sweeter.
The veggie steak sandwiches were not a hit. Genesis refused to even try. Calvin thought thought it was “disgusting,” and Yadiel said it was just ok... but ate every last bite!
As always, the students were eager to participate in the process of preparing and cooking.
p.s. The volunteers thought the sandwiches were delicious!
— Angela Burke, Cindy DePasquale
Bayard Taylor Elementary
In our Week 7 class there were a lot of “firsts” for our Bayard Taylor chefs. It was the first time any of them had tasted or cooked mushrooms; it was the first time they had made fries from fresh potatoes; and it was the first time they had made a dessert from scratch. With all that newness, we knew our young chefs would need to approach this meal as an adventure. Fortunately, this is an adventuresome group.
We decided to get the Sweet Potato Fries ready first, so they would be ready to go when all the other prep was finished. Mirelyz Perez quickly got the spices mixed with oil and plunged in to coat the fries. “Use your hands — this is supposed to be fun!” we urged, and her smile confirmed she had bought into the message. Meanwhile, Jayden Murphy and Gabriel Ortiz were thin-slicing the peppers, onions and mushrooms, and showing off how expert their knife skills have become. On the other side of the kitchen, Bryttanye Vasquez was rolling out the pie crust for the Blackberry Hand Pies, soon to be joined by Mirelyz. They loved making the deep purple blackberry sauce, and loved how it tasted even more. “It’s so sweet!” Mirelyz said approvingly.
When it came time to cook up the main meal, Jayden and Gabriel took charge at the stove, sautéing the onions and peppers in separate pans before combining them and mixing in the mushrooms. While they kept a close eye on them, Mirelyz popped the potatoes into the kitchen’s large oven as Bryttanye got the hand pies into the small oven. When it came time to add the cheese to the mushroom mix, everyone wanted a turn before we covered the pans. Somehow, it all came together at the same time, but how would they like it when they got to the table?
To help them imagine this dish as a cheesesteak, we suggested they close their eyes to smell the mixture in their rolls, and with their eyes still closed bite into them. Mirelyz thought this was a funny approach, but when she tried it she confessed “It smells like a cheesesteak!” It did not, unfortunately, taste like a cheesesteak for our young chefs — even with ketchup. “I just don’t like the mushrooms,” Zusanna De Jesus said, speaking for all. Yet Jayden put on his chef’s cap and thought the recipe could be adapted. “We could make this same thing at home, but add steak or chicken,” he suggested. The Sweet Potato Fries, fortunately, got better grades, though Zusanna thought they were “too sweet,” surprisingly. Everyone liked the hand pies and especially the extra sauce, which they used as a topping. Even with mixed results, they liked the way a cooking class is an adventure in making new things each week. Jayden gave the highest compliment possible for the experience. “I wish this were an everyday program,” he said at the end of class.
— Nancy Smith, Linda Molloy and Peter Landry
The Urban Promise junior chefs were skeptical about the mushrooms from the moment we gathered to go over the recipe. At the sight of the mushrooms Jermaine Brown said, “Not my cup of tea.”
Everyone had the chance to practice knife skills, slicing onions, peppers, and mushrooms — and the hard-to-cut sweet potatoes.
Jermaine had the idea to sprinkle some cinnamon on the sweet potatoes, so we added it to half of the potatoes before baking.
While things cooked, the kids rolled out the dough and began working on the hand pies. "Mine looks more like a cigar," said Adir Harris. Jermaine also thought some cinnamon sugar would be good sprinkled on the pies before baking.
When the meal was served, the chefs were still skeptical of the mushrooms. Malaysia Williams took a small bite and shook her head. “The mushrooms are throwing it off,” she said, removing them from her sandwich. Jermaine agreed. “Still not my cup of tea.”
— Maureen Dodson
This week's challenge of making three new dishes in two hours did not deter our chefs. They not only rose to the occasion, but had more fun than ever.
“I never made three recipes at once before, but it was worth it, because all of the food was delicious,” said Nalia Diaz. She continued, "This has been the BEST cooking class ever. I hope that I can come here again. I LOVE cooking class.”
Lu'Nique Deedon, whose job it was to fix the berries and other ingredients for the Blackberry Handprint Pies, had similar comments. "Thank you for making cooking fun."
Rashad Kelly had this to say: “We made three recipes at the same time. It was epic today." He added, “I made my own berry pie. It was so good that in my mind I wanted more.”
We had our doubts that the children would warm to the vegetarian cheesesteaks, but were we wrong! All but one child’s plate was cleaned in short order. Exclaimed Shemaj Henry of the cheesesteaks, “I wish I could take fifty of these home!”
A comment from another of our chefs, Rashara Kelly, really touched our hearts. "I am very thankful for Miss Sallie and Miss Pat for helping me learn how to cook."
The children in our class are not the only ones who are benefiting from cooking healthy meals. The vegetarian cheesesteaks are another dish that Pat and I will be fixing at home for our own families.
— Sallie Anderson and Pat Kelly
Even though there were three recipes on the itinerary this week: vegetarian mushroom cheesesteaks, sweet potato fries, and blackberry hand pies, this week all of the students were really excited about making the hand pies. It was hand pies this, hand pies that. If you asked them what they wanted to make for their final meal, it was hand pies and nothing else. Many of the students had made a connection between shaping the hand pies and making something similar to it at home with a family member. Overall this week the meal was a big success. The students are looking forward to their final meal. They have decided that they are going to make the turkey lettuce wrap with the apple and orange salad.
For most, this week’s menu was a home run (shout out to Phillies opening day!)
The most difficult part of the prep was cutting the sweet potatoes. Kiany Varela wanted to know why we couldn’t buy them already cut. We explained that even though it would be much easier, it would also be more expensive because you have to pay extra for convenience. Plus this gives them another opportunity to work on their cutting skills!
Allanah Bumpers, Khaliyl Ali, and Marta Gonzalez loved assembling the hand pies and then sealing them with the fork. Khaliyl summed the meal up perfectly— He didn’t think it would be all that good, but it was perfect! Home run!
— Maureen Barrett and Mariann Owens
Team Up Philly at Universal Daroff
“When can we make dessert?” is a weekly question with our group. Finally, the answer is TODAY! The blackberry hand pies were as easy to prepare as they were delicious.
— Elena Levitan
Robert B. Pollock Elementary School
On our second-to-last week of My Daughter’s Kitchen, the students worked hard to create our main course, side dish, and dessert.
After preparing our vegetarian cheesesteaks, sweet potato fries, and hand-pies, Joseph Alejandro, Grade 6, commented, “The [vegetarian] cheesesteaks do still have a meaty texture.”
Kaylie Cafferty, Grade 6, stated, "The hand-pies were my favorite part!
— Olivia Bates
The Comly Culinary kids were divided on this menu. Everyone loved the sweet potato fries, and drooled over the blackberry hand pies, but a vegetarian cheesesteak…. Not so much. Cheyanna Rivas and LiLa Mora both declared, “I don’t like mushrooms!” On the other hand, Erica Gogan, shouted, “Oh, but I love them.”
With five weeks of practice, the students knew just how to work together to get three recipes prepared. Each student started working on chopping, slicing and peeling the vegetables. Jaesha Benjamin has become our official onion chopper. He said, “This time, I only cried a little.” Maeve Taffe said, “We have so many items to prepare. How are we going to do it all?”
Once everything was prepped, we talked about timing. The class agreed to put the fries in the oven first; prepare the hand pies next; then add the vegetables to the hot pan.
Making the hand pies was a new adventure for the kids. “How do we roll out the dough, we don’t have a roller?” asked Jaesha Benjamin. We looked around the counter and found a can. Erica Gogan shouted, “I have an idea!” They washed the can, floured it, and used it to roll the dough nice and thin. Mrs. Craley was surprised that there were any blackberries left after the students “sampled” the bowl.
When it was time to assemble the cheesesteaks the culinary kids divided up the cooked vegetables and added the cheese. The yums were unanimous. The rolls were sliced and the “steak” added. Sweet potato fries were added to the plate next. The time had come for those mushroom dislikers. Within minutes, everyone agreed that this recipe was delicious.
Maeve Taffee said, “The fries are so flavorful and delicious! The sandwich tastes exactly like a actual cheesesteak.”
Cheyanna Rivas said, “I can’t even tell there isn’t any meat.”
Then came the hand pies. The table silenced as each child ate the blackberry hand pie. Lila Mora said, “These taste just like a Pop-Tart!” Jaesha Benjamin added, “Or a toaster strudel!”
“But, these are much healthier!” exclaimed Erica Gogan. “Maybe next week, we can use blueberries.”
This delicious meal made our decision for our final week very hard.
— Lorrie Craley
The cheese “steaks“ went over very well. The students worked as a team this session, prepared all three recipes, and wrote their invite cards for next week. They chose the Breakfast Biscuit Sandwiches and the Blackberry / Blueberry Hand Pies as the menu for the final meal of the semester.
— Judith Levine
Feltonville School of Arts and Sciences
Some quotes from this week, when we made vegetarian cheesesteaks, sweet potato fries, and blackberry hand pies:
“I felt excited about today’s meal. It tasted amazing!” — Rosary Torres
“The best part was the pie. It was crispy and sweet.” — Jazzairah Williams
“The pie was tart. It should’ve had more sugar. The cheesesteak was delicious.” — Marialis Rodriguez
— Tijuanda L. Riddick
Blessed Trinity Regional Catholic School
Such a great class this semester! Students this week made vegetarian cheesesteaks, sweet potato fries, and blackberry hand pies. Keengan Conard said, “You can’t tell there’s no meat."