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Meal for four under $10 isn't child's play

CROSS CREEK — They feasted on baked phyllo stuffed with chicken, ham, mushrooms and cheese. And they nibbled on fresh cantaloupe with a splash of raspberry dressing.

Sounds a bit lofty for kids.

But the menu last week was part of the "Budget Gourmet" series at the Young Chefs Academy, a cooking school for kids age 6 to 13 with locations in New Tampa and Brandon.

And this month, the theme is as much to help parents as the kids themselves: dinner for four that costs less than $10.

"I couldn't imagine cooking anything for under $10," said Liz Turrell, whose 6-year-old son Brandt takes part in cooking classes at the academy. "I guess you could if you were creative enough."

The cooking school provides recipes and instructors who teach kitchen techniques and talk about fresh ingredients in classes that last about 90 minutes.

In a recent class, instructor Dawn Hart discussed April's theme.

"You know we're in a recession right now," she said. "These are hard financial times."

Each week this month, they will create low-cost meals like glazed ham steak and Parmesan scones; broccoli gratin, french carrots and roasted chicken; and pizza burger, cake-in-a-mug and oven fries.

Before they began the week's lesson, Hart had the kids read the recipe instructions aloud. When she pulled out whole cantaloupes, one student asked: "Is that a fruit?" Another exclaimed: "It's a bowling ball!"

Hart told them to scoop out the seeds.

"How come we can't take them to make a tree?" Brandt asked about the seeds.

Wearing Kevlar gloves and using specialty plastic knives, they cut, chopped, sliced and mixed. When Hart pulled out the delicate phyllo dough, some of the kids were fascinated.

"Is this napkin or food?" asked 7-year-old Fiona Walsh. "Can we touch it?"

After 15 minutes in the oven, the children sampled their work.

"We encourage them to at least taste it," said owner Rich Williams. "They're more willing to try something that they made."

Turns out, Brandt tried the raspberry dressing and did not like it. Fiona loved it.

Turrell said that since enrolling in classes a few months ago, Brandt now is more apt to try new foods. At home, he likes helping his mother cook. Once, as she wondered aloud how to prepare the chicken, he offered this: How about baking it in white wine or chicken broth?

After chomping down on his phyllo chicken and nodding in approval, Brandt gave his mother a taste.

"Take just a small bite," he said.

Dong-Phuong Nguyen can be reached at (813)909-4613 or

Here's a family dinner
for less than $10

*Cost estimates assume that some ingredients, including mushrooms, are bought in loose amounts, which is less expensive than buying in bulk packages. Also, the cost of some spices that may already be on your spice rack aren't figured in. Here's a breakdown.

Chicken Phyllo Dinner

2 precooked chicken breasts, shredded
(found in the freezer section. $1.20 per breast)

2 large white mushrooms, chopped (10 cents each)

3 oz. baked ham, julienne in 2-inch lengths
(75 cents)

11/2 cups of mozzarella cheese, grated ($1)

1/4 cup parsley, chopped (25 cents)

2 teaspoons herbs de Provence (combine
these dry herbs in an airtight container: 1 tablespoon thyme; 1 T basil, 1 T crushed rosemary, 1 T tarragon, 1 T savory; 1 teaspoon marjoram; 1 teaspoon oregano; 1 teaspoon lavender and 1 crushed bay leaf. Makes 1/3 cup.)

8 sheets phyllo dough, thawed ($2.99 for a 1 pound package containing 40 sheets at about 8 cents per sheet.)

4 tablespoons butter, melted ( about 30 cents)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat baking sheet with cooking spray.

2. Mix chicken, mushrooms, ham, cheese, parsley and herbs de Provence in a medium bowl.

3. Layer four sheets of phyllo dough, brushing melted butter between each layer. Cut dough in half, making 2 rectangles measuring about 61/2 x 83/4 inches each. Place 11/4 cups of the mixture onto the center of each rectangle. Fold the short sides toward the center, overlapping the edges by 1/2 inches and secure with melted butter. Brush tops of the phyllo.

4. Repeat process with remaining sheets of phyllo.

5. Place on baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes.

Cantaloupe with Raspberry Dressing

1/4 cup raspberry wine vinegar (25 cents)

11/2 tablespoons honey (25 cents)

1 teaspoon poppy seeds (25 cents)

1 cantaloupe, seeded and cut into quarters ($1.10)

Whisk together vinegar, honey and poppy seeds. Drizzle evenly over cantaloupe.

Learn more

Young Chef's Academy of New Tampa, 10335 Cross Creek Blvd. (Cory Lake Isles Professional Center)

Individual classes cost $35. A package of four classes is $89 per month with a one-time registration fee of $49. Call (813) 929-3338 or visit www.youngchefs

Young Chefs Academy of
Brandon, 1576 Bloomingdale Avenue in Valrico.

This month's theme is Mexican cooking. Call (813)643-7025 or for more information.

Meal for four under $10 isn't child's play 04/09/09 [Last modified: Friday, April 10, 2009 10:16am]
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