Kids can cook

Lila Fischer leads an afterschool nutrition class.

Jordan Souza, Isabella Silva, Arieanna Leavitt, and Christopher Rocha enjoy the nutrition class. — Lynn Christoffers

There’s nothing like learning about nutrition through your taste buds. Unfortunately for us adults, Lila Fischer’s once-monthly Afterschool Nutrition Program is only for kids. While a kid at heart, I didn’t qualify for helping out in the cooking, nor with the tasting, of last week’s healthy snack — homemade granola.

Fischer, a public health nurse in Edgartown, began the workshop by explaining why granola makes a really great breakfast, because it contains “grow foods” — proteins that help your muscles and brain grow; and “go foods” like grains, which give you energy. The oats in granola are a “go food.” Fischer explains that an advantage of making your own is that you can make it with a lot less sugar than most of the commercial brands

After washing their hands, the eight enthusiastic young people gathered around the ingredients and equipment already set out for them. The students ranged in age and cooking experience, but what struck me was how they were very intentionally including everyone in their group as Fischer took them through the simple steps of measuring and mixing together all the ingredients into large bowls, and then transferring it to the baking pans for cooking.

Third grader Daniel Garcia, 8 years old, had already attended one of the classes where he learned how to make pizza, which he has made it at home “lots of times.” He rattled off his special recipe: “I get the pizza dough, I spread it around in a circle, and I put some tomato sauce and then some cheese and put it in the microwave; take it out and then put on some pepperoni; put it back; and then eat it.”

Fourth grader Anita Cabral said she feels that “other kids should come to the class. It’s really fun here. The things [we cook] you can make it separately without the things you want and with the things you want.” Some of the kids chose to use only sunflower seeds, while others included almonds and shredded coconut. “So it’s fair. And I like cooking too. The only thing I can make at home are my famous eggs. They’re scrambled eggs, and then I put cut-up ham in it.”
Fischer decided to do the class when her prior blood pressure clinics weren’t getting a lot of people. “So, I spoke to Elyce [Retmier, children’s librarian], who said she has a good group of kids who are always coming afterschool, and would maybe be interested in doing cooking, and would benefit from having something more than computers,” Fischer said. “I love food and cooking and children, and improving nutrition education for kids is always a good thing. I remember learning about nutrition as a kid and loving it, and carrying around that knowledge. I remember doing cooking classes after school at the West Tisbury School. My mom actually taught it, so she’s my inspiration.”

Fischer isn’t the only one with a cook in the family. Eleven-year-old sixth grader Arianna Leavitt comes to the class because she really likes baking. “It’s a family thing,” Arianna said. “We all like to bake, and I haven’t baked in a long time now. I’m here to make granola for my family.”

Isabella Silva, an 11-year-old sixth grader, tells me, “I came because I love cooking and baking, and I think it’s so fun, and it’s a good time to get off your electronics, because many kids now are always on their electronics. I think it’s a cool thing to do with friends. I want to know how to make a good granola because it’s healthy, and I can make it for my mom and dad. So, we can have a good granola sometime.”

Silva shared her recipe: “I put in oats, honey, cinnamon, coconut oil … and a pinch of salt.”

Below is Fischer’s basic recipe, which you too can adapt to your own tastes and heart’s desire.

Homemade Honey Almond Granola Recipe

Makes approximately 10 ¼-cup servings

2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup sliced almonds
1 cup raw unsalted sunflower seeds
3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil (substitute with melted coconut oil or butter)
3 Tbsp. raw local honey
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
Pinch of sea salt
1 cup raw unsalted sunflower seeds
1 cup unsweetened dried coconut
½ cup dried, unsweetened fruit or raisins (optional)

Heat oven to 350°F. Combine oats, sliced almonds, and sunflower seeds in a medium bowl. Stir in oil, honey, cinnamon, and a pinch of salt until well coated.

Spread into one layer on baking sheet, and then bake, stirring every 8 to 10 minutes, until golden brown, 20 to 30 minutes. Add the shredded coconut after 10 to 15 minutes. Toward the end of the baking time, check the granola every few minutes to prevent it from overbrowning.

Transfer to a cooling rack and let the granola cool completely. Store cooled granola in an airtight container up to two weeks.

The Afterschool Nutrition Program at the Edgartown library the last Friday of every month is open to kids age 9 and up; no registration is required.