Senior High kids bake up a little holiday cheer

2012-12-19T19:04:00Z 2012-12-20T07:57:04Z Senior High kids bake up a little holiday cheerBy ROB ROGERS rrogers@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

Come Friday, Heide Mankin throws wide the doors of her culinary arts classroom and invites in the parents of her cooking students. 

The teenagers will show off their wares — chocolate crinkles and chocolate kiss cookies, chocolate-dipped pretzels, fudge, deviled eggs and other appetizers along with holiday-themed drinks. 

"We've been cooking all week," Mankin said, smiling.

The students have spent all semester learning basic culinary skills — everything from how to use a double boil on certain dishes to how to make pie shells. 

In the back of the classroom Wednesday, Kyra Armstrong, Cherokee DeBuff and Brooke Davis, all sophomores, peeled hard-boiled eggs and measured ingredients for their deviled-eggs dish.

"She has a secret recipe that we're using," Debuff said, pointing to Armstrong. 

The yellow mash they'd whipped up in their bowl smelled of vinegar and egg. Armstrong assured her classmates it would be good.

Skyler Mallary and Kassi Hartley were measuring out vanilla, butter and chocolate chips for their fudge recipe. Mallary, scratching his head, ended up using his math skills to figure out how to halve a two-thirds cup of butter.

Nearly half the class is teenage boys, and Mallary said he's enjoyed the curriculum. 

"I learned how to make a really good pie crust," he said. 

He put his skills to use over Thanksgiving and made the family's pumpkin pie. Over the winter break, he's going to help his grandmother prepare the Christmas ham. 

For Hartley, that's part of what has made the class so enjoyable.  She's now able to help her mother more in the kitchen. 

"It's a lot easier now," she said. 

She plans to help with the holiday treat-making at her house over the break. 

And that's one of the reasons Mankin requires her students to invite their parents into the classroom at the end of the semester. 

"They always tell me, 'Oh, Mom can't' or 'Dad's busy,'" Mankin said. "But it's like in 'Field of Dreams.' If you invite them, they will come."

Parents show up to the classroom and the students' demeanor changes, Mankin said. Suddenly students are showing a healthy measure of pride in what they've done, and they're excited to show their parents what they've cooked up and what they can do. 

The parents are always excited to come in and check it all out.

"They're jacked when they come in," Mankin said. 

It's a great way to celebrate the end of the semester with good food and good company, and it gives students the chance to feel successful about their handiwork. 

In many cases, they take that confidence home and help more in the kitchen, which in turn means they're getting just a little more one-on-one time with a parent — something that's hard to do these days, Mankin said. 

"It's that actual sit-down parent time," she calls it.

Students also discover how simple some of the dishes are to make. And the more complicated ones, well, they learn they can do that, too.

"If they can make it here, they can make it at home," Mankin. 

And those aren't bad skills to have as the teens prepare to graduate and leave home. 

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