Patricia A. Williams
A look of eager anticipation was upon each little face. The school was decorated with Pilgrims, pumpkins, Indians and food. The children were seated around the teacher in a circle. As I listened to the Thanksgiving Day story it became alive again.
The hustle and bustle of cooking for the holiday was in the air. My daughter, Linda, and I were to take on a new challenge. We were to do a cooking class for the local children's handicap rehabilitation center. It was really a big undertaking due to diabetes and multiple allergies, gluten, tomatoes, preservatives, chocolate, etc. that had to be taken into consideration. Here appetites and tastes were a big problem. Getting the kids to eat what was cooked and relieving the parental anxieties posed a real challenge.
The special education teachers dealt daily with structural dysfunctions, disease entities, plus social and communication problems. Teachers aides were present to assist with the children's care. My heart was touched by each one of them.
The teachers were always having special projects for the children to do. Today I was hosting a "cooking class" that would incorporate every child and produce a treat they all could eat. I had brought the ingredients for a very special "chocolate" cake. The recipe was extremely simple and never failed to be yummy. The challenge was to reconstruct an allergy free recipe.
The children's desks were arranged in a horseshoe shape. Behind each child stood an adult that would assist them with the cooking project. Excitement was in the air. Each junior cook was given a Chef's apron with their name on it as a special gift. To capture their attention I gave a simple chemistry lesson. Mixing the vinegar and baking soda together harvested the desired ooohh's and aaahh's. A small mixing bowl, spoon, strainer (instead of sifter/easier for child), 6" cake tin, and all the ingredients for the cake were pre-measured out into small individual zip lock bags that were placed in front of each child.
HEALTHY "CHOCOLATE" CAKE
(LARGE) BOWL ONE (SMALL) BOWL TWO
3/4 cup Spelt Flour (gluten free) 2/3 cup Honey
1/4 cup Amaranth Flour (gluten free) 2 Tbsp. Oil
1/2 cup Rice Flour (gluten free) 2 tsp. Vanilla
1/2 tsp. Salt 2 Tbsp. Vinegar
1 tsp. Soda
1/4 cup Carob Powder 2/3 cup water (cool)
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 8-9 inch round cake pan.
1. Place all dry ingredients in bowl. Get large mixing bowl and strainer.
Pour dry ingredients into strainer and shake dry ingredients into large
2. Measure and put all wet ingredients into a small mixing bowl. Do NOT
3. Mix wet ingredients into dry ingredients with a spoon or wire whisk until
4. Pour mixture into greased pan. (Oil, butter, or pan spray)
5. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. At 25 minutes stick a toothpick
straight up and down in cake, keeping a hold of the end. If it comes out
clean the cake is down.
Note: The recipe was cut in half for each child's cake.
Even though this cake was easy to make it proved to be a learning project for our junior chefs.. It was definitely an unforgettable experience.
Jimmy struggled daily with a palsy that didn't allow him to control the movements of his extremities. His smile turned to tears as he tried to control the erratic movements of his arms so his dry mixture would end up in his bowl. Instead it ended up all over him, the table and floor. Miss Linda came to the rescue with an emergency bag of ingredients and a real big mixing bowl. His tears disappeared, and a smile from ear to ear returned as he watched the mixture stay in his bowl this time.
There was one buzz of excited chatter throughout the room. As the cake pans were being
gathered they were taken to the kitchen to bake. Russell's "ummm good" and broad smile expressed his total delight with the project. He was much more interested in using his little fingers to stuff the cake mixture in his mouth and continue eating it like candy than he was in putting it in the cake pan. He suffered from numerous allergies and wasn't allowed many of the treats we take for granted. The carob looks and tastes like "chocolate" and he wasn't about to give up his treat to any old cake pan. With some gentle persuasion he agreed to let us bake what he had left into a brownie to take home.
The children were cleaned up and readied for nap time while their cakes baked. You could hear Russell anxiously requesting "Miss Linda, I need my wesapee, I need my wesapee for my mommy." My heart melted as I watched Miss Linda give him his copy. He held it close to his heart as he fell asleep. There wasn't enough words to adequately express how precious each child was. They truly appreciated even the smallest pleasures in life.
The teachers and assistants busied themselves putting the room back into order. By the time
the children awoke from their nap their cakes were cooled and placed in front of their sitting area. I stood quietly in the background as the Mommies started streaming in to pick the children up. I felt such joy and warmth on the inside as I watched their little faces beam with pride as they shared their project for day. They weren't having any problem expressing their happiness and showing off their chef aprons. They had each accomplished the task before them in spite of all the odds against them. They were magnificent little troopers.
As I prepared for bed Luke 6:38 "Give, and it will be given to you, good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bossom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you." (NKJV) ran through my mind. I had gone with the intention of bringing happiness to a group of "challenged" children and their families. But, I found myself hugging the experience close to my heart, to be cherished just as much as Jimmy's "wesapee."