Callie Perez likes to help cook dinner and plan family meals for the week. She recently took a cooking class with her parents and has since refined her interest in eating healthier.
"I try to eat more fruits and less candy for snacks. When we go out to eat, I sometimes get a salad or fish and broccoli instead of fries," said Callie, 11.
Karen Saley, who teaches the class for the Pinellas County Extension, developed the program three years ago as a way to bring families together through cooking.
"Kids become healthier and more adventurous eaters when they participate in choosing and preparing the foods they eat," she said.
Saley will present a five-class series titled "Step Into the Kitchen: Families Cooking Together" on Thursdays, beginning this week and running through July 9.
The idea is to engage families with fun activities and introduce them to quick and nutritious cooking. Each week, one of the five food groups from the food pyramid will be introduced. For example, the first class covers the grain group and the importance of consuming whole grains.
Callie's parents, Wendy and Henry Perez of St. Petersburg, saw the program as a way to learn something new while spending time as a family.
"Karen makes the lessons fun through the games and handouts each week," Wendy Perez said. "The recipes are realistic, easy, quick and healthy, which, let's face it, we all need when trying to juggle our hectic schedules."
Another young graduate of the class is 9-year-old Ashlee Comegys, who whips up a simple vegetable fried rice and has started a book of her favorite recipes.
"Ashlee was always asking to help in the kitchen, and I wanted to learn some recipes that would be easy for her to follow," said her mother, Janine Comegys. So the South Pasadena family signed up for Saley's cooking class.
The only part of the program kids don't relish much, Saley says, is washing all the dishes.
'Step Into the Kitchen'
When: 6:30 to 8 p.m. Thursdays from this Thursday through July 9. Another program starts July 28.
Where: All Children's Education Center, 701 Fourth St. S., St. Petersburg
Cost: $25 for one adult and child for series; additional person is $5. Minimum age: 8. Online registration is recommended. Visit pinellascountyextension.org or call (727) 582-2100.