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Teenagers learn to fend for themselves in the kitchen

(ran TP, ST editions)

Senior Brad Magid is one of the first to arrive. He chooses the front-and-center seat, plops down and nonchalantly places two plastic-wrapped packages on the table in front of him.

The raw chicken breasts look cold, pale and _ at 7:30 a.m. _ not appetizing, but Magid is unfazed and eager to start.

Teacher Barbara Lange comes over for a closer look.

It's a lot of chicken, maybe enough to feed the entire class, she says, so Magid decides to save one package for another time because everyone else will be cooking, too.

It's make-anything day in Lange's Andover High School classroom in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., and most of the students are preparing something from Mrs. Lange's Foods Class Favorites, a cookbook that got its start last year when Lange's daughter was studying abroad and called home for easy-to-make recipes.

Some of the book's pages are handwritten, some are typed, and others are photocopied from cookbooks, but all the recipes are dishes that appeal to teenagers and are simple enough for novice cooks.

Lange is a good judge of both. She has spent 10 years teaching teens about nutrition, food and cooking at Andover and Lahser high schools in the Bloomfield Hills school district.

In that decade, she has seen changes in their tastes, lifestyles and awareness of good nutrition. If anything, she says, the changes make it more important _ not less _ for them to learn basic cooking skills.

Even in two-parent families, she says, teenagers often have to fend for themselves at dinnertime.

Sometimes it's because the parents are working late or have business or social obligations at night. Other times, it's because the kids have busy lives of their own, juggling after-school sports, activities and jobs.

When they finally get home, it's time to study, but dinner _ if it was served _ is over, and they are on their own.

"Kraft mac-and-cheese is a biggie," she says. "They make a lot of stir-fries _ they love those _ and I think they consume a lot of pizza that they order out."

As a result, some teenagers are more interested in cooking than kids were when she began teaching, but their level of knowledge seems lower, she says.

"I think there's less that kids know intuitively because they don't see cooking happening so much at home anymore _ women spend very little time in the kitchen now," she says.

Kids' food preferences have also shifted in the last decade, driven by concerns about weight and health. "A lot more kids are going vegetarian," she says. "Interest in meat has dwindled dramatically except for the boys. A lot of boys are still big steak eaters, but most kids prefer chicken now."

Young people are also more savvy about vitamins and minerals than in the past, but not everything has changed. They still drink too much pop, Lange says. "They forget it's not a food," she says.

In the cooking lab, student teams are busy chopping, stirring and sauteing in a half-dozen mini-kitchens.

Magid and three girls are using his chicken breasts for a stir-fry, a meal he says he often makes at home because his family doesn't cook much. With whatever vegetables are on hand and some rice, it's a quick, simple dinner.

"If you use those cut-up vegetables in bags, it's really easy," says one of his teammates, Kristin Oswald.

Fajitas are on the menu in Kitchen 2. After Ben Mutnick and Aaron Winkelman trim the chicken breasts of "nasty stuff" _ veins and fat _ they scoop the pieces into a skillet.

"You need to heat the oil first," says team member Melissa Smith.

"It doesn't matter," the others say.

"It matters," she replies.

"No, it doesn't."

"Yes, it does."

Mutnick mentions that the world's best chefs are men, but the guys listen to Smith, remove the meat and begin heating the oil.

For seasoning, they use a bottle of S&W brand Southwestern sauce instead of mixing their own.

Convenience items show up in many of the recipes in Lange's cookbook, including the strange-sounding Topsy-Turvy Apple Upside Down Pancake being assembled by Group 3. Canned apple pie filling and pancake mix are two main ingredients.

Lindsey Feldman says it sounds good, and she's eager to see how the dish _ which cooks in a few minutes in the microwave _ turns out.

"I'm not sure what it will look like, maybe like a cake," she says. The recipe turns out to make a kind of upside-down apple pie _ or cake _ that the teens rate as a winner.

The four cooks in Kitchen 4 are making a hearty breakfast of four omelets, oven-baked potato wedges and orange juice. Prepared in the oven, the potatoes have very little fat.

It's a good meal for the hour. Andy Brown, manning the skillet, says he likes having food class first thing in the morning because it's agood chance to eat.

Next to them, Dana Haddad, Tammi Yousif, Kristine Kallabat and Ryan Kass are preparing the most ambitious meal of the class, _ an herbed rice pilaf and Chicken a la Cheddar, a rolled chicken breast filled with cheese, then breaded, browned in a skillet and finished in the oven. The girls say their mothers are good cooks, and the daughters have obviously picked up some skills at home.

In Kitchen 6, two young men are making mountainous plates of nachos, one with ground beef and one without. After they're assembled, the plates go into the oven to melt the cheese.

Blake Thomas, who has the meatless version, is a vegetarian. Avoiding meat isn't difficult, he says. "There's a lot of new stuff for vegetarians," he says.

Lange's class is a one-semester elective that helps fulfill a graduation requirement for two semesters of "practical arts," either foods, industrial arts or business.

When the semester is over, the students leave with their own cookbooks, assembled from recipes they learned to make in class. In essence, they've made their own copies of Mrs. Lange's Foods Class Favorites.

Topsy-Turvy Apple Upside Down Pancake

2 tablespoons butter or margarine

1 cup apple pie filling

4 tablespoons brown sugar, divided

1{ teaspoons lemon juice

{ teaspoon apple pie spice

1 cup complete pancake mix

} cup water

{ teaspoon cinnamon

In a 9-inch microwave-safe pie plate, melt the butter on high for 15-20 seconds. Remove from the microwave and tilt the pan to spread the butter. Spread the apple pie filling over the butter. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the brown sugar, the lemon juice and the apple pie spice over the filling-butter mixture. Gently toss together.

Cover with a piece of waxed paper and microwave on high for 3 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small bowl combine the pancake mix and water. In a separate bowl combine the cinnamon and the remaining brown sugar.

Remove the apple mixture from the microwave. Pour the pancake mixture over it and sprinkle with the cinnamon mixture. Microwave on high for 2 minutes. Rotate the dish a half turn and microwave 2-3 minutes more or until a wooden pick inserted about 2 inches from the edge of the dish comes out clean.

Remove from the microwave and place a plate upside down on the top of the dish. Flip the pie plate and dish over so the pancake turns out onto the plate. Cut into 6 wedges and serve.

189 calories (21 percent from fat), 4 gm fat (1 gm saturated fat), 36 gm carbohydrate, 2 gm protein, 361 mg sodium, 0 cholesterol, 116 mg calcium, 1 gm fiber.

Source: "Mrs. Lange's Foods Class Favorites."

Beef Enchilada Rice

1 pound lean ground beef

1 package (1.25 ounces) taco seasoning mix

1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes

1{ cup instant rice

2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley or 2 teaspoons dried

{-} cup frozen corn

1 can (4.5 ounces) chopped green chiles, optional

4 thin slices American-style cheese

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the ground beef. Cook, stirring to break up the meat, until browned. Stir in the taco seasoning mix and tomatoes. Stir in the rice, parsley, corn and green chiles. Cover and cook about } minutes. If the mixture seems too dry or sticks to skillet, add \-{ cup water and continue cooking another 2 minutes.

Arrange the cheese slices over the top, cover and cook 5-10 minutes or until the cheese melts.

Makes 8 servings; about 1 cup per serving. 268 calories (38 percent from fat), 11 gm fat (5 gm saturated fat), 24 gm carbohydrate, 17 gm protein, 799 mg sodium, 53 mg cholesterol, 105 mg calcium, 2 gm fiber.

Source: "Mrs. Lange's Foods Class Favorites."

Chicken Stir-Fry


1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 cup chicken broth, divided

2 tablespoons soy sauce


4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, washed and patted dry

2 tablespoons or canola oil

1 can (8 ounces) sliced water chestnuts

3-5 vegetables of choice, washed and cut into bite-size pieces, such as celery, broccoli, carrot, bok choy, green pepper, mushrooms, snow peas, onion, bean sprouts, spinach, zucchini

In a small mixing bowl, mix together the cornstarch and 2 tablespoons of the chicken broth to make a smooth paste. Whisk in the remaining chicken broth and the soy sauce; set aside.

Trim any fat from the chicken pieces and cut into cubes. In a wok or large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the chicken pieces and stir-fry until golden brown and cooked throughout, 3-5 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, remove the chicken from the wok and set aside. Add the water chestnuts and vegetables of choice, starting with the ones that take the longest to cook, such as carrots and celery, adding more tender vegetables such as mushrooms and onions later and stir-fry until tender.

When the vegetables are cooked, return the chicken to the wok. Pour the reserved sauce over all and bring to a quick boil. Cook until the sauce is thick and clear. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings. 322 calories (31 percent from fat), 11 gm fat (2 gm saturated fat), 17 gm carbohydrate, 38 gm protein, 748 mg sodium, 97 mg cholesterol, 37 mg calcium, 3 grams fiber.

Source: "Mrs. Lange's Foods Class Favorites."

Chicken a la Cheddar

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 4 ounces each), washed and patted dry

4 cubes of cheddar cheese, about }-by-} inch each, divided

1 egg, beaten

{ cup plain dry bread crumbs

2 tablespoons margarine

1 recipe Rice Pilaf (recipe follows), optional

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Place each chicken breast flat on a piece of waxed paper or plastic wrap. Cover with another sheet. Using a meat mallet, flatten each breast to \-inch thickness. Roll each piece of chicken around a cube of cheese. Secure with a wooden pick.

Place the beaten egg in a small bowl. Sprinkle the bread crumbs in a shallow dish or pie plate. Moisten the chicken by dipping it into the beaten egg, then dredge the chicken in the bread crumbs, coating on all sides.

In a skillet, melt the margarine. Add the breaded chicken to the skillet and saute, turning to brown on all sides. Remove and place in a baking dish.

Cover and bake 15-20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and the cheese is melted. Remove from the oven and serve with Rice Pilaf if desired.

Makes 4 servings. Analysis without Rice Pilaf: 305 calories (46 percent from fat), 15 gm fat (5 gm saturated fat), 3 gm carbohydrate, 36 gm protein, 284 mg sodium, 152 mg cholesterol, 131 mg calcium, 0 fiber.

Source: "Mrs. Lange's Foods Class Favorites."

Rice Pilaf

1 tablespoon margarine

1 rib celery, washed and chopped

{ cup chopped onion

2 cups water

2 chicken bouillon cubes

2 tablespoons dried parsley flakes

\ teaspoon seasoned pepper

1 cup rice

In a medium saucepan melt the margarine. Add the celery and onion and saute until tender. Add the water and bouillon cubes and allow the cubes to dissolve. Add the parsley and pepper. Stir in the rice. Cover and simmer 20 minutes.

Makes about 4 cups. Per 1-cup serving: 209 calories (15 percent from fat), 3 gm fat (1 gm saturated fat), 40 gm carbohydrate, 4 gm protein, 626 mg sodium, trace of cholesterol, 30 mg calcium, 1 gm fiber.

Source: "Mrs. Lange's Foods Class Favorites."

Fresh Vegetable Pizza

Nonstick cooking spray

1 pound loaf of frozen bread dough, thawed according to package directions

1 cup ricotta cheese (regular or reduced fat)

{ teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

Vegetables: choose 4, using about 1 cup finely chopped for each, such as green peppers, tomato, green onions, Broccoli, celery, carrots, mushrooms, cauliflower


1 cup grated mozzarella cheese

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Spray a 12-inch pizza pan with nonstick cooking spray. Spread the thawed dough into the pan to the edges. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the edges are golden brown.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together the ricotta cheese, garlic powder and Italian seasoning. Remove the crust from the oven and spread the ricotta mixture over the entire crust spreading just to 1 inch of the edge. Turn the broiler on.

Choose your four vegetables and spread in concentric circles over the crust and filling. Sprinkle the mozzarella cheese over the vegetables. Broil the pizza until the cheese is melted and toasty on top. Cut into wedges and serve immediately.

Serves 6. Analysis based on using reduced-fat ricotta, mushrooms, green peppers, broccoli and carrots: 326 calories (25 percent from fat), 9 gm fat (5 gm saturated fat), 46 gm carbohydrate, 15 gm protein, 582 mg sodium, 25 mg cholesterol, 261 mg calcium, 4 grams fiber.

Source: "Mrs. Lange's Foods Class Favorites."