We kicked up our chef-led classes a notch at Pachanga Patterson this past month with a great skill class in knives. Students were beyond excited to learn how to cut and begged for more, more, more to chop! We couldn’t pull enough items out of the kitchen for them to cut up (hello parents: think of the possibilities with food prep here!).

I really believe cutting to be a great skill and something we can start younger than most people think (I give my two-year-old students knives– under supervision). Many hard vegetables, like potatoes or carrots, can be boiled briefly to soften to make the cutting easier. Soft fruit and vegetables like sweet peppers, bananas and cucumbers are okay to chop as is. The kid knife I use in my classes, and recommend, are made by Curious Chef (I don’t receive any money from them). I have been using their knives for years and love that they look and feel like real chef knives, making the eventual transition to real chef knife a breeze. You can pick them up for under $6 on Amazon. (They even sell a cool 3-piece knife set if you have a few kids with different hand sizes, linked here.) I also find them to be safer (less students cutting themselves) than when using disposable plastic “dinner” knives. My other favorite kitchen tool we used in this class (for cutting up onions to reduce tears) is a hand-powered blender. It’s a good workout too.

So get your knives in order and get practicing! Kick off your knife skills like we did– with Tortilla Soup!

I know what you’re thinking: “My kid will not eat this.” Day of, many of our students said the same thing: “No way!” And when it came to our tasting portion, one student told me she “hated” the soup (don’t you love how kids never lie to you), followed by an edit that “it actually tastes okay when you dip chips into it.” Because like a good bloody mary, we all know soups are about the accessories you serve with it! For this soup, I recommend setting up the topping bar with items like avocado, onion, cilantro, sour cream, tortilla chips, scallions, radish– or whatever else you think might be a tasty addition.

Don’t forget to check out our Class page for upcoming free classes!

Chef Michelle’s Tortilla Soup

Serves 6
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3 garlic cloves, smashed, peeled and chopped
3 stalks celery, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 bunch scallions (about 4), whites and light green, sliced
2 red pepper, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 fresh poblano peppers, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3 roma tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 teaspoon ancho chile powder
1 teaspoon cayenne chile powder
4 cups cooked black beans (or two 15-ounce cans, washed and drained)
4 quarts water
sea salt / pepper

Garnish (see above topping bar suggestions)

Warm olive oil in a stock pot over medium heat. Add onion, cloves, celery, scallions, red pepper, poblano pepper and tomatoes. Saute 8 to 10 minutes to release aromas. Add spices, beans and water. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Cook for 20-30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

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