Arlington Andie Nelson is undaunted by the brawn needed to hack through the thick-skin of a butternut squash or chop open a seemingly impenetrable pumpkin. Many of the sous chefs at her side are not fully potty trained, but that is not a deterrent. In fact, this is how the Arlington resident and culinary school owner says hello to fall.
Nelson who runs an Arlington-based cooking school, Creative Kids Kitchen, has developed a series of classes to celebrate the season. Pint-sized foodies tackle recipes ranging from roasted-red pepper biscuits and butternut squash soup to autumn spice muffins and pumpkin seed bread.
“My 18-month-old daughter and 3 1/2 year-old son make these recipes with me,” said Nelson. “They are things that anyone from the well-seasoned chef who likes to make all kinds of elaborate dishes, to someone wanting to involve their child in the kitchen.”
Nelson teaches future gastronomes to embrace seasonal bounty. “The roasted red-pepper biscuits are a nice way to sneak in some vegetables when the kids think they are getting a treat,” she said. “They have red flecks in them that remind me of fall leaves.”
Students from pre-school to high school learn that the bumpy-skinned orbs they see lining produce stands can be peeled, pureed and baked into vehicles for ferrying nutmeg, cinnamon and sugar to their mouths.
“The biscuits are a nice way to sneak in some vegetables when the kids think they are getting a treat. They have red flecks in them that remind me of fall leaves.”
— Andie Nelson
“I am always amazed when we try something new in one of the classes and the kids like it,” said Christine Wilson. “I think, ‘Oh I never thought my kids would be interested in any of that.’ It makes them understand better what good food is all about and why we want to put good things in our bodies, which is really important, especially in the fall because we have so many fantastic root vegetables that are available.”
While Nelson’s classes reflect her belief in cooking with fresh produce, she tosses in child-friendly tools like jack-o-lantern-shaped cookie cutters. “Andie tries to be practical about the recipes, but she’s not afraid introduce the children to exotic ingredients,” said Kristen Neuman of Arlington, whose two toddlers have taken Nelson’s classes. “The kids get to see one new ingredient taken from start to finish.”
An ultramarathon runner and ironman triathlete, Nelson hails from a health-conscious, food-proud family. “I learned to cook before I could walk,” she said. “I was fortunate to have one of those moms who doesn't mind making a mess, as long as it involves having fun and learning something. My little step stool had a permanent place at the counter, where she taught me to crack eggs, cream butter and knead dough.” For more information, visit www.creativekidskitchen.com.