Just desserts

Carol Roehm|Commercial-NewsMakiya Ezell whisks chocolate pudding as she shares a laugh Wednesday with Savannah Gash, left, and Milah Alexander during the Cooking With Purpose summer program at Kenneth D. Bailey Academy. The four-week cooking program is one of several summer enrichment opportunities being offered by Danville District 118.

DANVILLE – Teens in a summer cooking class whipped up a homemade dessert that doesn’t sound very appetizing but is a favorite chocolate concoction to many.

Ten Danville High School and North Ridge Middle School students learned how to make dirt pudding Wednesday afternoon during the “Cooking with a Purpose” program at Kenneth D. Bailey Academy.

The four-week cooking class is one of 25 free classes Danville District 118 is offering as part of its summer enrichment programming.

Students from DHS, Bailey Academy and North Ridge Middle School meet daily with cooking instructors Merrisha Bryant, who works at Bailey Academy, and Demetria Smith, who works at the high school. The two women teach the students about a variety of food- and cooking-related topics.

During the first couple days of each week, Bryant and Smith talk to the students about food safety and kitchen safety. Later in the week, they plan out a grocery list for the ingredients they will need for at least one meal and a dessert that they prepare in Bailey Academy’s kitchen on Fridays.

On Wednesday, after the students took turns whisking the chocolate pudding for their dessert and it was chilling in the refrigerator, Smith started to formulate a grocery list of ingredients for the students’ breakfast meal of omelets and pancakes they would be prepare next week.

Smith asked the students what they would like inside of their omelets, encouraging them to pick a few vegetables in addition to sausage and cheese.

“We’re going to have them try some vegetables,” she said. “How about spinach, mushrooms, onions and green pepper?”

Milah Alexander and Makiya Ezell wrinkled their noses and shook their heads at the suggestion of mushrooms.

“You don’t have to put it in there. It’s your omelet,” Smith reassured the girls.

Bryant quizzed the students on what they had learned the day before. They learned about kitchen equipment and how to use them, including pressure cookers, skillets, wooden spoons, rolling pins, food processors, microwaves, crockpots, toasters, strainers, blenders and two different types of mixers.

Bryant also reviewed with the students what to do in case of a kitchen fire: Put a lid on it or pour baking soda on it, but not flour, and call the fire department.

She also reminded them to wash their hands and use bleach to wash down cooking spaces before preparing food.

Although Bryant admitted dirt pudding was a simple dessert to make, she said the students learned how to whisk and learned how to follow instructions.

After eating a cup of dirt pudding, Omarrion McFarland said he liked it.

“It was different ... in a good way,” Omarrion said.

Makiya Ezell said she planned to make the dessert at home and eat it all herself.

“Each week we’re going to make a big meal and a dessert,” Bryant said.

Next week’s menu entails cooking breakfast foods; the third week will be chicken stir fry, chicken alfredo and apple crisp with homemade ice cream; and the fourth week will be spaghetti and making homemade gummy bears.

“We asked them what they wanted to learn how to cook,” Bryant said. “The meals were picked out by the students.”

Bryant said the goal of the class is to teach the teens how to make quick, nutritious meals that they can make at home anytime.

“The meals will have some kind of fresh ingredients in it, and they will learn how to pan fry,” she said. “They will learn how to make healthier choices.”

Each day ends with the students watching a cooking show, such as “Nailed It” and “Zumbo’s Just Desserts.”