COSTA MESA — No good cooking lesson begins without the traditional white chef's hat, even when you aren't allowed to use anything sharper than a butter knife.
So as Killybrooke Elementary School's second-grade students trickled Thursday afternoon into the Sci Lab that would be their kitchen, the first task was getting the hats to fit.
For Kiana Gomez, the hat slipped over her forehead, past her nose, before coming to a stop around her chin.
"Either I'll have to make your head bigger or your hat smaller," said Geoff Ianniello, as he refit her hat. "What do you think?"
Ianniello, Newport-Mesa Unified School District's nutrition services operations manager for Network for a Healthy California, led the students through the first of two after-school cooking lessons to learn how to make easy, healthy meals for themselves and their families.
"I've always wanted to be a chef for my whole life and for my career," Jenny Godinez, 8, said as she walked into the room. "I love to cook."
All the grades take two cooking classes that focus on nutrition and following a recipe, one veggie-, one fruit-based, depending on their skill level.
The goal is to reduce the students' risk of chronic diseases by getting them to eat more fruits and vegetables, Ianniello said.
"If you can catch them young, they can develop good eating habits that can last a lifetime," he said.
After the second class, the students will receive a free bilingual healthy cookbook with simple kid-friendly recipes like fruit-crunch cobbler, strawberry banana pancakes and spud stuffers — baked potatoes stuffed with veggies.
The students focused on what foods are in the different levels of the food pyramid. They worked on shredding lettuce and chopping up cucumbers, chilies and red and yellow bell peppers to make veggie tortilla roll-ups.
"We're working hard," Monserrath Jaime told the fellow chefs at her table as she cut up a red pepper. "I love cooking. It's better than staying at home, huh?"
Over at Keileigh Atkisson's table, the students were all cutting up their own fruit or veggie making sure to keep them separated, but it was no easy feat.
"Ouch! My arm hurts from cutting cucumbers," the 8-year-old said.
When everything was cut, chopped and ripped up, the students spread their tortillas with cream cheese and piled on the colorful ingredients. The end product, though, was too good for some of the students to eat.
"I don't want to eat it," Jenny said. "I want to show my parents."
Veggie Tortilla Roll-Up
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Makes four servings
4 whole (7-inch) whole-wheat tortillas
8 tablespoons nonfat cream cheese
2 cups shredded romaine lettuce or fresh spinach
1 cup chopped tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped bell pepper (red, green, orange, yellow, or a mixture)
1/2 cup chopped cucumber
1/4 cup canned diced green chilies
1/4 cup sliced ripe olives, drained
Spread each tortilla with 2 tablespoons cream cheese
Top each tortilla with lettuce, tomato, bell pepper cucumber, chilies and olives. Divide the ingredients so that each tortilla gets about the same amount.
Roll each tortilla. Serve.
Recipe courtesy of the Network for a Healthy California