Nikki McGowan is no stranger to half-pints in the kitchen.
The Howard County chef teaches kid-centric cooking classes in schools all over the region, making her a perfect fit to help us kick off Maryland Family's brand new Kids' Cooking Club.
Each week during June, check the Maryland Family website for a new kid-friendly recipe designed by a local chef. Make the recipes with your child, and tell us about it (see the next page for how to join). Once you've completed all four, we'll mail your budding chef a congratulatory certificate.
We're launching the club with a summertime favorite — guacamole. McGowan's recipe is straightforward and simple, with ingredients that kids will enjoy smelling and tasting. "When you give kids forks to mash the avocado, it's like Play-Doh," she says. "When I'm making this with classes, I relate it to baby poop. The kids love it. Somehow that makes it better."
McGowan lets her students sniff and taste ingredients throughout the process. "I tell them the cumin smells like a campfire and let them taste cayenne pepper with their fingers," she explains. "We always have a cup of water nearby. They love the drama of having their mouths on fire."
As an extra bonus, she shares a tip designed just for adults. "Add a few splashes of Corona to your guacamole for a grown-up party," she advises. "It gives it a nice texture."
About the Club
To join the Maryland Family Kids' Cooking Club, follow a few simple steps:
1. Make the recipe with your kids.
2. As you make the recipe, ask your kids to write about the experience. In a journal or notebook, answer the following questions:
What did you enjoy most about making the recipe?
What did you think of the taste?
What surprised you most while cooking?
What did you learn about cooking while making this recipe?
3. Take a photo of your kids with the finished product, if you'd like.
4. Visit the Maryland Family website (marylandfamilymagazine.com) each week during June to find a new recipe by a different local chef. The three remaining recipes will be posted on June 10, 17 and 24.
5. Optional, but fun! Send photos of your kids cooking with excerpts from their cooking journal to us, and we can post them on our website. E-mail email@example.com with "Kids Cooking Club Photo" in the subject line.
6. Let us know when you've completed all four recipes. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with "Kids Cooking Club certificate" in the subject line. Once you've completed all four, we'll mail your child a congratulatory certificate.
7. Now wash those hands and get cooking!
Metal spoons and forks
Large plastic bowls
4 ripe avocados
About 1/4 of a red onion
1 lime, cut in wedges
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Small bunch of cilantro
Hot sauce to taste (a couple of shakes)
Salt to taste
1. Parents: Cut the avocados in half, and use a knife to whack the seed so it sticks on the knife and can be easily removed. Those seeds are slippery!
2. Use a knife to slice the halves of the avocado while it's still in the shell. Then let the kids slice the rest of the avocado halves with their plastic knives.
3. Give the avocado halves and spoons to the kids and have them scoop out the avocados into a bowl. Watch for flinging avocado — this can get messy!
4. Using the back of a metal fork, mash the avocado until it looks like baby poop. (Yes, the kids will understand and enjoy the reference.)
5. Parents: Cut the red onion into slices. Then, using plastic knives and cutting boards, let the kids cut the onion into a smaller dice. (Remind them that even plastic knives can cut fingers.)
6. Add onion to avocado, and stir to mix.
7. Give lime wedges to the kids to squeeze into the avocado mixture. (After they squeeze out the juice, let them suck on the wedges to see how sour they are, then add a sprinkle of sugar to show them how different it tastes with just a little sugar. Be sure NOT to do this over the bowl. Sugar is not one of the guac ingredients!)
8. Add the cumin and cayenne to the mixture. (Let the kids try each spice on its own.)
9. Have the kids tear the leaves of the cilantro off the stems then cut up the leaves with the plastic knives. Add cilantro to avocado mixture.
10. Bring out hot sauces and have the kids choose which one or ones they want to add to the mixture. Make sure they don't add too much — you can't reverse "too spicy"!
11. Add a sprinkle of salt to taste. Mix well.
12. Enjoy with some chips!
About the Chef
Nikki McGowan is the founder of CKCS Foods Studio, a company that teaches cooking classes at schools and organizations throughout Baltimore, and CKCS Foods, a food service company that provides lunches to private schools.
Look for more of her recipes in our upcoming issues of Maryland Family.