Welcome to the Kitchen Classroom!
BA University of Missouri-Kansas City, English Language and Literature
Andrea Deibler, Kitchen Director
Brenda Lijewski, Kitchen Support
Todd Warnke, Kitchen Support
Jamie's Class 1/26/22
Deep winter is settling in at the Children’s House and we all begin to get used to the days and days of cold and snow, like they have been with us forever. I always think of this time of year as a lesson in resilience against the dark, the cold and the winter days ahead. Even though I am still new, I feel like this month has presented more than its share of such lessons, with Covid keeping all of us on our collective toes. I say all of this because though we all come to school with open eyes and an understanding of our challenges, I am continually impressed with the sheer amount of enthusiasm, joy and kindness that the students and staff bring each day.
Our week with Jamie’s class was truly awesome. We have been working through the freezer this month trying to use up as much as we can, so there wasn’t as much prep work as in weeks past, so we spent the time baking quite a bit. Banana bread, muffins, cookies all made the list, but the sleeper hit came at the end of the week when we made the focaccia bread. I never know how messy kids really want to get, but I’m learning that more mess is usually better than less. Bread presents quite an opportunity for mess, and it’s even more exciting because you mix it by hand and you can’t wear gloves. Two groups took turns adding flour to yeast and water and squeezing, kneading and squishing it through fingers until they each had a perfectly soft dough. The next morning I baked the bread to go with a warm and cheesy broccoli soup, and it was, I’m not just saying this, the best batch of bread we have had since I have started. Food is always better when you have a little fun cooking it, and right now, finding opportunities to laugh and play while cooking seems like the thing we all might need to make it through until spring.
Karin's Class 12/15/21
Todd, Brenda, the students from Karin’s class, and I have been very busy during this last week before break, preparing and cooking meals in the spirit of celebration. Lots of prep work goes into every meal, but this week especially felt very prep heavy. Every day the kids have had piles and piles of potatoes, brussel sprouts, parsnips, carrots, sweet potatoes, cauliflower, apples, and zucchini to peel and chop to get ready for the next day. We couldn’t have done it without them.
Several of our meals this week are traditional menus that we have served in the past, including Wednesday’s amazing seasonal spread of pineapple glazed ham, roasted vegetables, homemade focaccia, apple slices and sweet potato pie, Thursday’s Jambalaya and Friday’s Winter Solstice soup. It’s wonderful to cook these menus that have been passed down through the years at The Children’s House, connecting me to the deep traditions that I’m learning bring so much comfort to the students and teachers at the school.
One new tradition I would like to try to bring to the school is the idea of a shop-free January. I have a couple of friends who, every January, decide not to shop for food and instead work through their freezer, pantry, and larder to use up things that have been hanging around. Though I know I will still have to shop for certain perishables like milk, eggs, and fruit, as well as pizza (don’t worry!), I would like to design the menu in January so that we have to buy as little as possible, for as long as possible. We have a freezer full of wonderful food, and if I get a little creative I think I can make it at least through the first week back to school serving just what we have from our freezer and pantry. So, as you look through the menu in January keep in mind that we will be trying to use up as much as possible so that we can start the year fresh and waste-free.
Sandra's Class 12/02/21
As I start to get my footing as the new Kitchen Director, it’s becoming clear that I have a lot of new names and faces to learn. Last week’s Harvest Feast gave me an excellent chance to meet so many of our students in a short amount of time, and get a better sense of the skill level of each classroom when it comes to helping in the kitchen. I’ve been so impressed with how students of all ages are able to peel, chop, measure, bake and use the kitchen tools with safety and confidence. Most of all, I am overjoyed that our students genuinely enjoy learning how to cook.
Our Harvest Feast each year centers around the story of Stone Soup. Just as the villagers in the story each add a humble ingredient to their soup, we ask our students to contribute an ingredient and their time to help prepare the soup for our lunch. Many hands make light work, as they say, and pretty soon we have a couple of huge pots of soup, chicken noodle and coconut wild rice, as well as a colorful fruit salad with pineapple, orange and pomegranate seeds, a kale salad with roasted butternut squash, dried cherries, toasted pumpkin seeds and and apple cider vinaigrette, and freshly baked slipper bread. In years past, I’ve learned, everyone eats together in the gym, a tradition I very much hope returns once we can all be together safely in one room. For now, though, the act of simply working side by side in the kitchen brings about feelings of normalcy and camaraderie that we have all craved over the last couple of years.
For me, this last month has been a reawakening. I am working again after a year and a half hiatus to have my son and be at home with him, and I am thrilled to be cooking for people again, especially the children and staff at our school. I look forward to the rest of the school year ahead with gratitude and excitement, and soon I will know everyone’s name!
Nadine's Class 11/10/21
It’s that time of year again when we celebrate gratitude and giving thanks by having harvest feasts in the classrooms!
In the Elementary and Junior High wings, the harvest feast is modeled after the story of “Stone Soup”. Each student will be asked to bring in an ingredient for the meal. Then, the Friday before and the Monday and Tuesday of the harvest feast, we send for the students to come to the kitchen to prepare their particular ingredients for the meal. It is quite a production getting all 109 students into the kitchen to open, measure, peel and chop their food, and it makes for an exciting few days!
Finally, Tuesday morning before we start making the soups, the third graders from lower elementary, the sixth graders from upper elementary and the eighth graders from the junior high come in with a stone to add to the empty pots. Once the stones are added to the pot, I begin making the soup while the students return to their classrooms to prepare their space.
Traditionally, the elementary and junior high students and staff, along with most of the administration share a meal together in the barn, with each person eating out of a familiar bowl, brought from home, and looking around the table at their second family. This year, everyone will be eating in their own classrooms, sharing the soup they made together socially distanced from each other. (Hopefully next year we can be together again in the barn!) I am grateful for the rich traditions we have at The Children’s House!