The Launch of GiGi’s Kitchen!  

GiGi’s Playhouse Denver has been cooking up a storm with our new program, GiGi’s Kitchen! Our pilot session, which ran from February 27th to April 9th, was a big success with our adult participants. Each class was a mix of new recipes, valuable cooking skills, and a lot of nutritional knowledge. But GiGi’s Kitchen is more than just a cooking class. It’s a platform that fosters independence, builds confidence, and improves eating habits. This is a valuable program that supports our mission of creating an inclusive and empowering space for individuals with Down syndrome. This blog post will give insight into our kitchen program and what our participants have been up to!  

DIY Yogurt Parfaits  

GiGi’s Kitchen started with a fun and healthy recipe: building our own yogurt parfaits. The lesson began with a video on serving sizes and portion control using the My Plate model to guide their meals. Participants were then taught how to use measuring cups and practiced with different substances like flour, water, and dried beans, gaining a hands-on understanding of volume and quantity. Next, we moved on to the creation of parfaits. Participants were given various ingredients including yogurt, granola, cheerios, and a mix of strawberries and blueberries. They were encouraged to choose their preferred ingredients and create their unique parfait. This approach allowed participants to express their creativity and practice portion control. We ended by enjoying our sweet treats and recapping the day’s lesson. Participants shared their thoughts on the taste and texture of their parfaits, and how they might modify the recipe next time. This reflection allowed them to apply their learnings and reinforce the skills and knowledge they had gained 

Wrapping Up Nutrition with Plant Parts Wrap  

The second week at GiGi’s Kitchen was a blend of culinary skills and nutritional education. The session began with an introduction to knife skills, a fundamental aspect of cooking. Participants were taught the correct way to hold a knife, the different types of cuts, and how to safely cut ingredients. This hands-on experience not only equipped them with vital kitchen skills but also emphasized the importance of safety in the kitchen. Alongside this, we discussed the nutritional value of vegetables. Participants learned about the types of vegetables that come from different parts of the plant – roots, stems, leaves, flowers, fruits, and seeds. Participants put their knowledge to the test by cutting up bell peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, and broccoli. This activity allowed them to apply their learning, reinforcing the skills and knowledge they had gained. Everyone then made their wraps choosing from freshly cut veggies and 3 types of hummuses. A very healthy and delicious meal!  

A Perfect Pizza Party 

In our third week, we had a blast making personal pizzas! The class began with an essential lesson on fire safety. Participants learned how to use a fire extinguisher correctly, practiced the stop-drop-roll technique, and familiarized themselves with our fire escape plan. Additionally, participants learned how to read nutritional labels by comparing two different labels to determine which product was healthier based on the grams of fat, sugar, and carbohydrates. With the lessons complete it was time for the fun part- making the pizzas! The preparation started with participants cooking bacon and sausage. Participants then helped set out the rest of the ingredients. Everyone then created their pizzas, choosing from an array of toppings including pepperoni, pineapple, sausage, bacon, bell peppers, and cheese. The pizzas were served alongside breadsticks and lemonade. What a fun and yummy class!  

Pasta and Meatball Celebration 

The final week’s recipe was a classic favorite, pasta and meatballs! We began with an important lesson on food-safe temperatures. Participants learned about the different temperature ranges that various foods need to reach to be considered safe for consumption. This was particularly relevant as we were dealing with raw meat for the meatballs. We then discuss the importance of proteins and how they fit into a balanced diet. Participants learned how to handle raw meat safely. They mixed the ingredients for the meatballs and then formed the mixture into balls, applying their learnings about portion sizes from previous weeks. During the pasta-making process, the participants chose between penne or spaghetti noodles. Participants then cooked their chosen pasta, learning about the importance of timing to achieve the perfect ‘al dente’ texture. The pasta was then topped off with a choice between a garlic tomato sauce and a creamy alfredo sauce. The meal concluded on a sweet note with a dessert of oatmeal cream cookies. This was a chance for participants to indulge a little after their hard work during the session, and we used this opportunity to discuss the role of sweets and desserts in a balanced diet.  

Closing our Cookbooks 

As we wrap up our pilot session of GiGi’s Kitchen, we reflect on the incredible journey we had. Each week, our participants not only learned to prepare a new dish but also gained valuable cooking skills and nutritional knowledge. From understanding portion control with yogurt parfaits to practicing knife skills while preparing plant parts wraps, every lesson was a unique learning experience. After each session, we sat around the table to enjoy our meals while reinforcing the lessons learned, practicing table manners, and sharing our thoughts and experiences. By the end of the program, each participant had a recipe book filled with each recipe we made and the lessons we learned. We hope GiGi’s Kitchen will continue to be a valuable learning experience for our participants, and we look forward to the program’s future! 

What’s Next? 

Missed out on GiGi’s Kitchen this time? Don’t worry! We’re excited to announce that GiGi’s Kitchen will be back during our summer sessions. And that’s not all – we’re also introducing GiGi’s Kids Kitchen for children aged 6-12 years. Registration for both the adult and kids summer kitchen classes will open on April 22nd and close on May 17th. Stay tuned for more cooking adventures at the Denver Playhouse! 

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