Archive for Kitchen

Hanging Out in the Kitchen

It's not all cooking in the kitchen. When the Cooking Class isn't whipping stuff up, the kitchen is a very popular hangout.
Pizza sales have been moved to the Conference Room.

A rare large group meal for Pizza Day.

One of the large tables often has Magic or another multiplayer game going.

A bidding game is a favorite right now.

One of our youngest students enjoys a candy necklace a friend shared with her.

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Master Chefs’ Amazing Dinner Performance

Active Room becomes dining room with atmosphere

On Saturday, November 6, the three students in Clearwater's Master Chef program and Mat Riggle, staff member and skilled chef, produced a five-course French dinner for 30 people. The evening was the first of three or four gourmet dinners the master chefs plan to prepare this year to raise money to add to and improve Clearwater's kitchen equipment.

The menu

Robert (16) and Braden (18), worked with Mat in March to design and create a dinner to raise money for their two-month stay in Denmark. During the 2009-10 school year they cooked a variety of foods each week. This year, they are joined by Lucas (17) and are undertaking an in-depth study of a number of world cuisines. They are learning how to take basic elements to make building blocks such as stocks and sauces, then they create original dishes based on those building blocks.
To make one of the dishes for the November dinner, they dry-roasted beef marrow bones, which were then cooked for hours with water and vegetables to become a basic brown stock.

Beef marrow bones ready for roasting

Brown stock underway

From the brown stock they made an espagnole sauce, which then was used to create a Marsala wine demi-glace. Brown stock and espagnole sauce went into the first course--French onion soup. The demi-glace was an element in the Marsala sauce served over the herb-crusted beef rib roast.

Beef course with Marsala sauce

The dinner was on a Saturday and the chefs began the process of making the demi-glace on the previous Tuesday. Work continued on Wednesday and Thursday, and then all four cooked all day on Friday and Saturday until dinner began.

Chefs begin work 5 days before dinner

Final preparations before serving dinner

Braden and Lucas

Robert in chef uniform with empty plates on Saturday

The chefs also made a Madeira wine veloute sauce using chicken bones. The sauce accompanied a chicken breast and pasta dish, a favorite of many of the diners and two of the chefs.

Lucas made several batches of roux for the chicken veloute and joked about gu-roux, so I dubbed him the guru of roux.

Lucas, the guru of roux

Stuffed chicken breasts before plating

Chicken breasts & pasta with Madeira wine veloute sauce

The four cooks used four pounds of butter, seven pounds of flour, 30 pounds of bones and more than 150 ingredients to make a five-couse meal for 30 people. By the time all the courses were served, they had prepared a total of 160 plates.

Two students and two staff members served diners with speed and efficiency, ensuring that each course was just the right temperature and freshness.

Lily, the speediest server

Nikos' second server gig

Salad, the fourth course

Those of us who dined that evening enjoyed wonderful food and stimulating conversation. The fifth course was Robert's amazing apple pie a la mode. A delicate, high-quality olive oil was drizzled over the ice cream--delicious. If my camera's battery hadn't run out of juice, you'd be able to see photos of the pie. One diner, who's lived long enough to try and probably make lots of apple pies, said it was the best apple pie she'd ever eaten.

The youngest diner

Robert's proud grandfather photographed each course

As a bonus, Corey Campbell, 2007 Clearwater graduate, singer/songwriter and Evergreen State College student, traveled from Olympia to sing and play for us. It was a perfect ending to a delicious, skillfully-prepared dinner.

Corey performed his original songs

It was a really wonderful evening and I can't wait for the next.

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Tuesday Cooking Class

Each Tuesday at Clearwater staff member Mat Riggle and Robert, an advanced student chef, work with Clearwater students of all ages to prepare a meal that the group has chosen. When the food is finished cooking, they all sit down and literally enjoy the fruits of their labors. After eating, everyone works to clean the kitchen, from dishes to pots to counters and tables to the floor.

Recently, they decided to make yakisoba or Japanese fried noodles.

Setting up

Separating yakisoba noodles

Cutting chicken

Several students chopped vegetables.

These two peeled carrots.

Robert (below right) noticed that Jaime was peeling the carrot by moving the peeler blade toward his carrot-holding hand rather than away from it. He quickly came over to explain and demonstrate to Jaime the safe way to peel a carrot.

Mat brought a propane wok to school to stir fry the yakisoba. Propane cooks at higher heat than non-commercial stoves. High-heat stir-frying maintains the color and crispness of vegetables better than steaming, which is what lower-heat residential stoves do.

More story, photos and recipes after the jump...

Several students tried their hand at rapidly circulating the meat, veggies and noodles in the wok.

Mat explained that since meat takes longer to cook, it is fried first. He also mentioned that frying with peanut oil adds a distinctive flavor to yakisoba.

Students discovered that keeping the food moving in the wok kept it from sticking or burning. Stirring food up the sides helped the liquid evaporate more quickly and prevented vegetables from steam cooking and becoming mushy.

Various seasonings were added throughout the stir frying to enhance flavors.


Pork Yakisoba
12 oz. yakisoba (rinsed with water and drained)
3 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
2 oz. pork (cut into small pieces and marinated with some soy sauce)
2 oz. cabbage (roughly chopped into pieces)
2 oz. carrot (cut into thin strips)
Some scallions (cut into thin threads)
2 Tbsp oil
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp sake
1/2 tsp mirin
3 dashes white pepper powder
1/2 tsp sugar
1/8 tsp sesame oil
Salt to taste

Heat up wok with oil. Add garlic and stir fry unti llight brown in color. Add pork and do a few quick stirs before adding cabbage and carrot. Stir a few times and add noodles and all the seasonings. Continue to stir-fry until the vegetables and noodles are cooked, for 1-2 minutes. Transfer out and serve immediately with some benishoga (Japanese pickled ginger).

Chicken Yakisoba
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp canola oil
2 Tbsp chile paste
2 cloves garlic, chopped
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, cut into 1-inch cubes.
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 onion, sliced lengthwise into eighths
1/2 medium head cabbage, coarsely chopped
2 carrots, coarsely chopped
8 oz. soba noodles, cooked and drained

In a large skillet combine sesame oil, canola oil and chile paste. Stir fry 30 seconds. Add garlic and stir fry an additional 30 seconds. Add chicken and 1/4 cup of soy sauce and stir fry until chicken is no longer pink. Remove mixture from pan, set aside and keep warm.

In the emptied pan, combine onion, cabbage and carrots. Stir fry until cabbage begins to wilt. Stir in the remaining soy sauce, cooked noodles and the chicken mixture to pan and mix to blend. Serve and enjoy!

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Cooking Class with Young Students

Robert and Braden, who have spent a lot of time under Mat's tutelage in the Clearwater kitchen, are doing their cooking and eating in Denmark for the next month and a half. (For their ongoing posts, look for the "Denmark" tag.) Meanwhile, cooking at Clearwater continues even in their absence.

Last week, I loved watching Mat work with a group of nine- and ten-year-olds, who wanted to make sushi and teriyaki to eat. These students don't have the expertise some of our older student cooks have, but they are learning more skills almost effortlessly thanks to Mat's ability to work with students at their particular skill level. They prepared ingredients, rolled rice balls, cleaned, and had a great time. Plus, the food they made was delicious.

Peeling carrots and cutting cucumbers

Mat purchased some whole squid and the four students cleaned them: removing heads, innards and skin. They were simultaneously fascinated and mildly repelled by the task. They all know a lot more about squid anatomy than they did before.

Cleaning whole squid

While they were all rolling rice balls, a six-year-old student wandered in to watch and eventually rolled her own rice ball. Watching her watch her older peers so intently reminded me again of the incalculable advantages of a school where all ages share all the spaces throughout the day. The learning and rich interactions that happen daily because everyone has access to each other all the time are sometimes obvious (as in this cooking class) and and other times more difficult to discern.

Rolling rice balls

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Batch of completed rice balls

The younger girl watched the others roll rice balls, stood on a chair to see Mat fry up the squid, then watched him improvise rolled sushi after discovering that the package of nori in the cupboard had disappeared. I later realized she also paid attention when I took photos of a couple of the students' rice-covered hands.

Fashioning sushi rolls without nori

Rice-covered hands

The six-year-old asked to roll a rice ball and found out that before she could begin, she had to wash her hands with soap, which surprised her. Perhaps she didn't intially see the difference between rice-messy and mud-messy hands. She also discovered that rolling a rice ball was not a slam dunk. She found she had to use quite a lot of pressure to fashion a ball that would stick together.

Rice ball with carrot and fried squid

Although the six-year-old girl may have wandered into cooking classes with the teenage students, I don't remember seeing her spend a lot of time watching much older students cook. I suspect what held her interest last week was the fact that the group was only three to four years older than her and what they were doing seemed therefore more accessible and possible.

I can guess but don't really know what of her experience that day seemed important to her, what new thoughts will bubble up, or what will ultimately stick with her. It doesn't matter whether I know. What matters is that she was able to be a part of a complex and rich experience that she chose and had meaning for her.

After she was done making her rice ball she came over to me and asked me to take a picture of her rice-covered hands. In addition to whatever she took away from the experience, as a bonus she got to share the experience of having and showing off messy hands.

Proud of rice-covered hands

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Cooking Begins for Denmark Trip Fundraising Dinner

Yesterday students Robert and Braden and their staff member mentor Mat began cooking for the dinner they will produce tomorrow. Today the intensity and duration of food and event preparations increased dramatically.

Mat and Robert chopping onion

Braden chopping basil

The dinner is one of the ways they are earning money for their two-month stay in Denmark while they attend Denmark's Sudbury school and explore that country and culture.

They cooked Gado Sauce, a peanut-based sauce that can be made ahead.

They also made a test batch of creme brulee. It was a test batch because they added some unexpected aromatic ingredients and wanted to find out how it would taste. I had the privilege of being a taster and I can testify that the creme brulee will be amazing.

Creme brulee ready for the oven

Creme brulee recipe (but without mystery aromatic ingredients). Click the image to enlarge.

Mat and Robert mixing creme brulee ingredients.
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Students Cook Fundraising Dinner for Their European Trip

If you haven't read about Robert and Braden's upcoming two-month stay at a Sudbury school in Denmark and how they will represent Clearwater at the European Sudbury Conference in Berlin this spring, do so now. They hope this trip will encourage more travel and student exchange between Sudbury schools around the world.

To earn money for their trip before they leave at the end of the month, they (together with staff member and cooking mentor Mat Riggle) will cook a sumptuous Asian-themed meal with dessert on Saturday, March 20 from 4:00-7:00 PM at The Clearwater School. If you would like to eat delicious food, enjoy good entertainment and support them on this adventure, please RSVP no later than March 18 to
The Clearwater School. The cost is $20 each for adults and $10 each for children. Please indicate in the RSVP if you have any diet restrictions and, if eating meat, whether you prefer pork or chicken.

Robert and Braden make Thai fresh rolls

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Cooking Class

Talking about making Thai red curry

Karen's recent post is a perfect segue to this one about the cooking class that takes place once or twice a week at Clearwater. A core group of students is involved in every class, and others come and go as their other interests and activities allow. The class is headed up by staff member Mat Riggle, a skilled chef who has worked in and managed a number of restaurants.

Demonstrating how to cut an onion

Chopping mango

Mat demonstrating how to roll a tamale in a banana leaf

Students involved in class range in age from 8 to 17. Early in the year I became a fly on the wall, watching Mat demonstrate knife skills, make a quick stock from vegetable peels and meat trimmings, put ingredients together using his vast experience, playfulness and curiosity instead of using exact measurements, encourage creativity and experimentation, effortlessly assign different people to specific tasks, and engage everyone in the fun of preparing food from scratch and then cleaning up afterward.

Click on the link to see more pictures and read more...

Oiling a banana leaf

Placing masa on a banana leaf

One 11-year-old student explained that she especially liked the chicken curry dish and thought the number of spices for the dish was interesting. She also felt proud that she was able to stay engaged and focused for the 3-1/2 to 4 hours the class lasts from beginning to end.

Masa dough on oiled banana leaf

Rolling tamale in banana leaf

Early on in the class 17-year-old Braden (who along with 15-year-old Robert will be attending a Sudbury school in Denmark this April and May) talked about learning to cut onions and garlic to release their flavors and was interested to discover that some Asian foods use different flavors such as fermented shrimp paste that one wouldn't expect based on the taste of the finished dish. He especially enjoyed the flavor of the Indian dish, saag paneer. Robert said he's enjoying learning how to cook everything and chop fast and efficiently.

Building a tamale

A 9-year-old enjoyed learning how to cut things and peel potatoes so the potato itself doesn't end up in the trash can. She especially enjoyed the tamales, spicy chicken sandwich, corned beef and teriyaki dishes they made.

Making fresh rolls

I enjoyed watching Mat moving around the kitchen, efficiency personified, freely offering his encyclopedic knowledge of food preparation and the many different ways to combine ingredients and flavors, even as he kept an eye on at least two pots on the stove top, whatever was cooking in the oven, corrected someone's hand position while chopping, talked about the "why" of what he was doing, AND laughed and joked with everyone.

Making stock

The cooking class is a delightful place to hang out not only to pick up tips and try to pick up some of Mat's efficiency and knowledge by osmosis, but also to enjoy the camaraderie between everyone whether they're in the middle of chopping, mixing or cooking or waiting for their turn to try out the next step.

Making Thai fresh rolls

A short list of things that have been prepared this year include: Thai fresh rolls, creme brulee, Djawa (Java) curry, chicken masala, Thai red curry, Gado sauce, Jamaican jerk chicken, roast beef sandwiches au jus, tamales wrapped in banana leaves, macaroons, macaroni and cheese from scratch using aged cheddar and gouda cheese, crepes and saag paneer. Students also have at their disposal approximately 50 spices and spice combinations.

Some Asian food ingredients and condiments

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Big Day in the Kitchen

I was so excited to hire Robert and Braden for the day to help me cook a bunch of food. I wanted to test as many new recipes as I could in one day, and I planned and shopped for a couple of days ahead of time.

I can't tell you how much fun it was to have them in the kitchen for the day. I wish we'd remembered to take a few photos, but we were awfully busy. We did manage to sit down and eat at one point (carrot and ginger soup with coconut cream garnish), and they went and goofed off for a little while with Cass. Not for long, though. We stopped off at Central Market on the way to my house and went a little crazy in the Asian aisle, in front of the Wall of Soy. We serendipitously discovered that if you eat straight adobo sauce, which is crazy hot, and then eat nori, which is seaweed, the nori makes the heat go away like magic.

They really love cooking, and they know a lot about food. They were tireless, fun and enthusiastic. The time they have spent in the new Clearwater kitchen with Mat has made them so confident. When we were tasting things, they were unabashedly opinionated, which was great. They have this crazy idea about opening a restaurant at the school with the menu being made with ingredients bought at the gas station.

By the end of the day, we had made fifteen things, then we fed ten people. I know the two aspiring chefs are going to be feeding many more. As for me, I could barely get out of my chair to make the pancakes for dessert, and they were all full of energy.

You can read more about the day, and a couple of the recipes we worked on and perfected, at The Udon Noodle Soup was the biggest hit of the evening. The rest of the recipes will be posted in the coming week or so.

(And please consider this a ringing endorsement of Braden and Robert as employees. I wish I could hire them every day, and they are saving up for a trip to Europe this spring.)

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Two Clearwater Students to Travel to Denmark This Spring

Robert and Braden, 15 and 17 respectively, have arranged with a Danish Sudbury school in Copenhagen, Den Demokratiske Skole, to visit and study there during the months of April and May. They will be staying with one of the founders and other school families during their sojourn. In addition, they have been invited to and will attend the International Sudbury Conference in Berlin at the end of May.

Robert & Braden

Braden has talked a lot about his desire to travel to other parts of the world. When he found out there are other Sudbury schools, including some in Europe and the Middle East, and that many of them welcome international students, he contacted the Danish school, a school in Belgium and one in Jerusalem. In emails to these schools, Robert and Braden described their interests, including cooking, traveling, juggling and spinning poi and how long they've been students at Clearwater. The school in Copenhagen replied first and their School Meeting approved a two-month visit. They have 18 students, including teenagers.

Robert and Braden have been emailing and skyping with the staff and students to hammer out the details, such as paying tuition, room and board. They are both actively earning money to finance the trip. Those of you in the Assembly have probably seen some emails from the two offering their services for a fee. They are happy to paint, clean out garages, babysit and move furniture, among other things. Please contact Clearwater if you would like to hire them.

Braden demonstrating his juggling skills

They are also organizing a fundraising dinner, to be scheduled in February or March. They will prepare all of the food, including an appetizer, three courses (including a vegetarian course) and a dessert. More details will be forthcoming.

Robert & Braden cooking at school

Both students can barely contain their excitement about the trip. Braden is working on learning some Danish, including phrases such as "Where's the bathroom?", "How much is that?", and "What does that mean?"

Robert is looking forward to going to school, hanging out with people and seeing everything, including a giant bridge he's seen photos of. He's also planning to do some skateboarding and poi spinning and check out some discos in Berlin.

Robert spinning poi

Braden is excited about meeting people and is especially looking forward to making contact with people from different countries at the Berlin conference. He hopes to go back to Europe next year, perhaps for a longer time at another school or two.

When asked how they feel about representing Clearwater in Copenhagen and Berlin, Robert said, "This is my shining moment for Clearwater," and Braden said, "I'm excited about it." One of the Danish school's staff member has asked if Braden and Robert would be willing to give a talk to Skole parents and students, and they readily agreed.

Copenhagen is a big city at 1.7 million people in the metropolitan area, so there will be lots of things to see and do. Berlin is even bigger, at 3.4 million people. It will be a great experience for both of them, even better than being tourists because they will be living and learning from natives. We are all lookiing forward to hearing the stories of their experiences when they return home in early June.

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The Return of the Chat ‘n Chew

It is wonderful to have a kitchen!

Last night marked the long awaited return of the Chat 'n Chew. The chew part needs no elaboration, but there was more chatting than chewing! After an hour of socializing a panel of four parents, all former staff members of other Sudbury schools, talked about their former schools and experiences there. It was a wonderful way for the whole community to warm up the kitchen (and test the smoke detector.)

The night before St. Patrick's Day, the Fundraising Committee held its Pledge Drive Phonathon, complete with Irish Coffee, mussels steamed in Guinness, Irish soda bread, and lots of people dropping by to pledge, lend a hand making a few phone calls, add to the music-making, or just enjoy the food and company. It was so much fun that we will be making it an annual event.

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