From the outside, the nonprofit, 100% volunteer-run Kids Cooking Corner has the whimsical appearance of a fairy-tale cottage, its white siding accented by baby-blue paint and surrounded by fresh flowers and topiaries. The interior of the century-old house is equally exciting to youngsters, though not because of a prince or fairy godmother willing to do all of the heavy lifting. Children work hard at The Kids Cooking Corner, but the work is disguised in fun and rewarded with tasty snacks. Instructors warmly welcome foster children and children with special needs into their classrooms.
Helmed by chef, health enthusiast, and mother of three Heidi O'Connor, the volunteers at The Kids Cooking Corner strive to educate whippersnappers on nutrition, food safety, and food prep, often helping picky eaters try new foods along the way. Instructors incorporate math, science, and reading into curricula, teaching real-world applications for kids' school-sourced skills. Children definitely get their hands dirty, however: in spring and summer, they spend time in The Kids Cooking Corner garden, getting firsthand experience working with ingredients from seed to plate. Brightly painted walls, a playful party room, and a fully stocked kitchen provide a safe, exciting environment for kids to get crafty with edibles during each class, as well as during summer camps, parties, and peaceful games of food baseball.
Smoke and fierce heat rise from a battalion of Weber gas grills and Big Green Egg smokers as barbecue docents line up in front of them, ready to wrangle rafts of raw meat into expertly grilled, smoked, and sauced feasts. In classes that range from three to seven hours, Phoenix BBQ and Grilling School's instructors impart their knowledge of sauces and marinades. They also teach students how to brine, smoke, and grill ingredients such as ribs, turkeys, chickens, peppers, pork, and veggies, all of which are provided. The three dudes in charge have been leading classes since 1998. Head honcho Stu McMullen draws upon myriad cooking classes and international travels to develop exciting recipes, while "sauce king" Eric Viken introduces sauces that can enchant palates and save accidentally overcooked meats. The barbecue experts hold classes onsite or in private backyards, enabling the family cat to finally learn to do something productive with its hunting gifts.
Though tamales are a staple of Mexican cuisine, they span a range of flavors and textures depending on who makes them. The Tamale House’s owners, Tony and Magdalena Jump, hold the keys to some of the category’s finest, earning second- and third-place standings at the national Best Darn Tamale Contest in 2011. They fill their tamales’ masa shells with ingredients such as pork sautéed in a green or red sauce, pork spiced with the house’s barbecue sauce, or a vegetarian-friendly combo of cheese and jalapeños.
Though the tamales have garnered national awards, regulars know that the rest of the menu is nothing to skim over. Every morning, Grandma Jump creates a limited number of chilies rellenos that sell out like hotcakes dipped in gold. The staff also fills freshly pressed tortillas with a range of traditional meats to create items such as chorizo-and-egg tacos, carne asada burritos, and cheese enchiladas.
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