Once a week, the Hardin County Extension Service is filled with mouthwatering smells, scrumptious tastes, and warm laughs, smiles and hugs from a committed group of young adults.

They visit each week to spend time with their friends while learning important life skills related to reading and following directions, order of events, working as a team, and cooking and food safety. They not only engage in the process of preparing food, but also relish the fruits of their hard work — a delicious meal.

The young adults have Down syndrome, but that in no way impacts the quality of their food. Does the cooking process take a little longer? Sure, but that happens when you need to encourage your friends and compliment their chopping skills.

Do the recipes center on everyday foods that are readily accessible? Of course, especially when Toni Williams, SNAP education assistant at the Extension service, is helping.

Are the recipes relatively simple? Yes. But, it is possible that beef bourguignon could be the next dish on the menu, given the exceptional culinary skills of these chefs.

According to Williams, the recipes are kept simple and require some supervision.

“All the recipes have been good and offer our chefs manageable and accessible meals,” she said. “They have all enjoyed the last two years of classes. Some of their favorites have been sloppy joes, hamburgers, taco salads and even cakes.”

At a recent cooking class hosted by Down Syndrome Association of the Heartland, the chefs went through their regular routine of preparing for the recipe, including washing their hands, gathering supplies and finding their equipment.

Thanks to Williams, all the chefs have access to nylon knives that have the look and feel of real knives without the metal blade. These are great options for anyone new to the kitchen or experienced chefs dealing with mobility issues.

Once they were ready to cook, the chefs began by safely cooking bacon slices. Adults, who served as sous chefs, assisted young adults and reminded them that bacon grease can “pop” if the heat is too high.

While the bacon cooked, chefs washed and finely chopped green peppers into bite-size pieces or cracked and whisked eggs.

Participants worked together like a well-oiled machine with a few interruptions as chefs offered a hug to a fellow chef.

Once the bacon was cooked, eggs were scrambled and vegetables were sautéed, they assembled their quesadillas for the final cook. The chefs also prepared fresh fruit and muffins to go with their main dish. The final product can be enjoyed for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Gather your loved ones and prepare this recipe together, while offering each other support and affection throughout the process, perhaps even a warm hug. Caretakers need encouragement just as much as the chefs.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.
Terms of Use. The complete terms of use policy can be found at the bottom of this page.