The kids at Young Chefs Academy in Gahanna measure, mix and munch.

The kids at Young Chefs Academy in Gahanna measure, mix and munch. They also learn a quintessential cooking skill - clean up as you go. It's a job they're eager to do. During a recent lesson, the kids squabbled over who got to wipe up the table first.

The children were making fruit cobbler and cheeseburger cupcakes - an entree they promised to taste regardless of whether they thought it sounded appetizing.

That's one of owner/ teacher Jill Jacob's rules: Kids need to take a bite of everything they make. They also need to wait until foods are served to sample them and keep their hands out of their noses and mouths while cooking.

Jacobs stocks her kitchen with lettuce knives, pizza cutters and hand choppers, which help kids safely cut and dice. Providing tools to help them do as much of the work themselves makes cooking more fun, she said.

She also considers the age of the students when determining what steps kids can do and whether they need adult help.

In between tasks, the kids shout out jokes and Jacobs sings songs. The key to cooking with kids is a laid-back attitude, she said: "If the parents relax, the kids relax and have fun."

After some of the budding chefs mixed together cooked ground meat, flour, eggs, cheese, ketchup and mustard, Jacobs walked around the work stations and showed each one the mixture.

"Do not say 'ewwww,' " she told the 11-member class. A few had to bite their tongues at the sight of lumpy pink mixture.

"I hope this is good," one student called out.

"You don't have to hope," Jacobs promised. "I tried it last night."

She finds that kids who have a hand in preparing food are more willing to try new things. "It opens them up to so many different foods," she said.

Twenty minutes later, Jacobs dished up the finished product to a chorus of yums.

"The cheeseburger cupcakes are pretty good," concluded 9-year-old Dominick De Stefano of New Albany.

The youngster, who loves to bake with this grandmother, has since prepared Crazy Cobbler for his family - earning him rave reviews and a Cub Scout badge, his mother Michelle De Stefano said.

The three-ingredient dessert was great because he could prepare it himself, she said. "He was pretty happy about the whole thing."

CHEESEBURGER CUPCAKES

INGREDIENTS:
1 small onion, finely chopped 1 to 2 teaspoons vegetable oil 1/2 pound pre-cooked ground beef, crumbled and drained of melted fat 2 1/2 cups flour 1 tablespoon sugar 2 teaspoons baking powder 1 teaspoon salt 3/4 cup ketchup 3/4 cup milk 1/2 cup butter, melted 2 eggs 1 teaspoon prepared mustard 2 cups Cheddar cheese, shredded
DIRECTIONS:
Grownup: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Coat muffin tins with cooking spray. Saute onion in oil over medium heat until translucent. Add pre-cooked beef and mix well.
Kid: In a small bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. In another bowl, combine ketchup, milk, butter, eggs and mustard. Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients just until moistened. Fold in beef mixture and cheese.
Grownup and Kid: Fill muffin tins 3/4 full.
Grownup: Bake for 15-18 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan to wire rack. Makes about 5 dozen.

CRAZY COBBLER

INGREDIENTS:
2 cans of cherry-pie filling
1 yellow cake mix
1 can (12 oz.) lemon-lime soda


DIRECTIONS:
Grownup: Open the various food packages and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Kid: Pour the cherry-pie filling into a 9-by-13 baking pan. Sprinkle the dry yellow cake mix over the pie filling. Pour the soda over the dry cake mix.
Grownup: Bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool. Easily serves 8.