Culinary Creations: cooking up fun at camp

With the addition of a brand new teaching kitchen, youth can see some of their food’s journey from beginning to end.

Read Time 4 minutes

July 2021 – Campers trail from the garden with arms, baskets, and bags loaded full of fresh veggies. Tanadoona-grown lettuce and beets are on the menu today, and they are eager to cook up something delicious.

In 2021, Tanadoona introduced the Culinary Creations specialty camp, where campers spend some of the week in the new teaching kitchen learning to chop, measure, mix, and plate tasty meals using ingredients grown onsite.

As they walk back to the teaching kitchen, they share some of their favorite vegetables to eat, and how they like to eat them:

One camper insists lettuce with ketchup is truly the best way to enjoy a salad.

Another loves corn on the cob, and doesn’t let her braces stop her from enjoying it—especially when grandma helps her cut the kernels off so she can eat it.

During the week campers created meals using different methods. They experimented in the teaching kitchen, harvested and tended the garden, and even did some outdoor cooking over the bonfire.

A space to cook up new skills

When the new Community & Dining Center was in the planning stages, it was important for there to be plenty of space for youth to learn and develop new skills.

With the addition of the teaching kitchen, youth can see some of their food’s journey from garden to table. Whether it’s produce from the vegetable garden, or herbs from the Aquaponics system, youth are able to use fresh ingredients grown right on the property in their recipes.

By utilizing Tanadoona’s home-grown ingredients they are also learning about sustainable food production, and how growing your own food can be great for the environment and a healthy choice for their bodies.

Today’s menu: a berry delicious meal

Campers grab a seat around the tables and listen attentively to find out what they will be making. On the counter in front of them they have piled all their freshly picked lettuce, along with cartons of strawberries, craisins, tortillas, honey, cinnamon and the other ingredients for their creation.

Berry breakfast tacos and strawberry salad is on the menu today, and campers are ready to start cooking! Stations are set up and campers work together to determine who will take care of each step. Some gather to help slice strawberries, others take turns measuring and combining ingredients for the filling. Everyone takes turns trimming the lettuce, while two others wash and dry the leaves. The final (and most popular) station is mixing up the cream cheese, honey, and cinnamon for the taco filling and everyone wants to take a turn at it.

While campers cook, they discuss other times they’ve been in a kitchen. Most of the campers love helping their families make meals, and they share some of their specialties:

“I like to make apple cider and put cinnamon in it,” one camper says as she mixes cinnamon into the cream cheese filling.

Another enjoys helping his dad grill on the weekends. “We’re both grill masters,” he says.

Campers also debate what the difference is between cooking and baking. Is it the things you make? Using the oven? Measuring ingredients? Or the freedom to experiment? A definite answer was not landed on, but they all agreed the end result is the same—you get to eat something yummy.

Family Style

As the campers add the final touches to the meal, they work together to set the tables.

“We’re going to do this family style,” Counselor Rusty tells the campers, and they giggle as they start calling each other brother and sister.

They pass around tortillas, take turns spreading the filling on top, and load them up with strawberries. Everyone is paying special attention to make sure there is enough to go around. They fill their bowls up with strawberry and Tanadoona garden salad, and wait patiently for everyone’s plates to be full before taking their first bites.

“It’s delicious!”

“Five stars!”

“I’d make this at home!”

Not only is the meal delicious, but campers are happy with the work they did together to create it.

“I like cooking because you work really hard to make something, and everyone says it looks good, and it tastes good, and it makes you really proud,” one camper shared.


Cooking up community

Campers spent the week in the garden and the kitchen, and realized they had plenty of produce to go around. They had already brought home some extra lettuce to their families, and they wanted to find a different way to use the extra vegetables.

“How about we sell it?” one camper suggested. All the chefs agreed, and the first Tanadoona Farmer’s Market was created! Campers worked together to bag extra produce, while others made signs to display their prices.

“Laugh for Lettuce” and “Balance for Beets” were the going prices for veggies. You could also tell a joke as payment for your produce.

Not only did campers develop their cooking skills during the week, they also learned how to work as a team and create genuine relationships with each other. They showed their compassion and were eager to share their ingredients and meals with everyone.

“Maybe next year we could cook for everyone in camp!” It would be a big job, but all the chefs agreed they would be excited to create a meal for everyone at Tanadoona.


Try out these Tanadoona camper-approved recipes for yourself!
Strawberry Salad and Strawberry Breakfast Tacos