Outrageous Mac And Cheese With A Side Of ‘Zombie Brains'

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Bailey Travers looked at Ali Tenney as she dipped raw chicken tenders, first in buttermilk, then in cornflakes.

"Ewwws" echoed around the kitchen.

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Cory Edwards holds the pan handle and carefully stirs Outrageous Mac and Cheese during the Cooking with Kids class.

"It looks like zombie brains!" Travers' fateful comment produced giggles and silly conversation around the island in the library kitchen for the next few minutes.

Library director Terry Morris kept her invisible chef hat on as she made sure the seven boys and one girl taking the Payson Public Library's first-ever "Cooking with Kids" class did not let buttermilk drip on the floor.

"Oh! It's going to be so good!" Tyler Hill said.

The menu for the eight-to-10-year-old children taking the morning class was: Crispy Chicken Tenders, Outrageous Mac and Cheese, salad, Jimmie Joe's Ice Cream Sandwiches and Watermelon Spritzy.

The children made every bit of their meal under Morris' watchful eye.

"When you are in the kitchen, you have to pay attention because you don't want to get burned or hurt," Morris said, as she handed out their cookbooks to read.

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Mathew Edwards crushes corn flakes for a chicken tender crust as Connor Johnson and Ali Tenney look on.

They made dessert first so the vanilla ice cream would get hard again.

Conner Johnson took his sandwich apart to add more ice cream so it would come to the edges of the cookie to roll in the rainbow colored sprinkles.

"A long time ago, these were called jimmies," Morris told the children.

When a few sprinkles somehow sprang from the work table, the children took care of business.

"Cleaning up your mess as you go is all a part of cooking," Morris said.

So was frequent hand-washing.

Each child carefully took a turn cubing pieces of French bread for croutons seasoned with olive oil, garlic and herbs.

"My fingers smell like garlic," more than one child said after smashing the garlic so it would peel easily.

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A student chops ingredients for one of the dishes being prepared.

Morris brought out a 1950s pepper grinder and the kids took turns adding a quick grind of pepper to the seasoning mix.

The students' sense of adventure was tested when Morris passed around the slightly grayish Celtic Sea salt for tasting. Travers pronounced the Celtic salt "good."

They tasted Atlantic Sea and Kosher salts before deciding to use Kosher.

The good smells in the kitchen began to make mouths water.

While the croutons baked, reference librarian Bessie Tucker led the children to a feast of colorful napkins, rings, placemats, silverware and centerpiece choices for decorating their dining table.

They chose striped placemats to use as runners down the center of a white tablecloth.

Ordinary dried beans held flower and pinwheel centerpieces in clear glasses.

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After preparing the meal, the youth taking part in the Payson Library cooking class get to eat what they created.

"Remember to ask your mom before you use beans from the cupboard," Tucker said.

Table set, it was back to the kitchen to start on Outrageous Mac and Cheese out of double sea shell pasta.

Morris kept each child's interest up by job rotation -- they shared measuring, pouring, scooping and mixing duties, making salad then their pink watermelon and Sprite drink.

Small hands spilled nothing as they carried food to their colorful table when it came time to plate the meal.

"I liked scooping the melon balls best, but I'm looking forward to eating the chicken fingers most," Tenney said.

There was no mention of zombie brains as the children ate chicken fingers. They voted macaroni and cheese the best part of the meal, but that was before Morris brought their ice cream sandwiches from the freezer.

"Is the class only going to be one day?" Mathew Edwards asked, hoping for more cooking fun.

Although Morris' answer was ‘yes,' Edwards and his friends have new table setting and cooking skills to try out at home, along with baking kits and a hardcover cookbook.

"Kids need to experience cooking. It is important to know how to cook, iron and sew on a button, so that later, when they marry, they'll be marrying a person, not a maid," Morris said.

Lucas Garnand said he plans to set the table at home with fancy glasses, his marbles and the flowers his mom usually has.

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