I love to cook with my grandchildren. For years they’ve been pulling up a stool in my kitchen to help prepare breakfast or simple meals. So, when my dear friend Pat Hackney told me about a free kids cooking class that is being offered as part of the Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens' 25th annual Autumn GardenFest, I was so excited and wanted to share this opportunity with you. I asked Pat to send me the information!

Some of the recipes being used are from Pat’s cooking memoirs. She shared with me one of these memories about a cooking party she held for a young neighbor many years ago and the friendships that developed from the party. It’s a true testament to the power of children in the kitchen!

Michael’s party

Pat shares: "One fall day I ran into friend Vicki, whose family had just moved to our neighborhood, and asked her how the family liked their new home. She said it was great but her son Michael, age 6, was lonely. It was October, and of course school was in session, but Michael attended his former school across town and most of the children in the neighborhood attended another school, so he had not had a chance to meet the neighborhood children.

"I responded to Vicki that I knew several boys his age since many of my friends had boys. I pondered, how could I introduce Michael to these boys? I decided the best way was to have a party after school and invite the neighborhood boys to meet Michael. I did not have children, toys, or games to entertain them, so I decided to do what I knew best. Host a cooking party for Michael! I invited five young boys: Hunter, Brent, Jack, Huck and Will, all between the ages of 6-8, along with their mothers, for a cooking party in my kitchen.

"I had recently received a booklet from M&M Candies full of kid-friendly ideas, so I decided to host an M&M party for Michael. Included in the booklet was a pattern for making little felt Pac-Man pouches and lots of recipes using M&Ms.

"When the boys and their mothers arrived, I served a light fruit beverage, oatmeal cookies made with M&Ms and offered unlimited bowls of M&Ms for snacking.

"The boys were immediately put to work making party mix and edible holiday wreaths with M&Ms. With the mothers' assistance, each child went home with a Pac-Man pouch filled with candies and lots of goodies. However, I later learned that Hunter also went home with a stomachache from eating so many M&Ms. Jane, his mother, told me he did not want to touch an M&M for a long time.

"These boys became good friends as well as did the mothers. The boys are now successful young men with families of their own. We have stayed in touch with most of them and even enjoyed attending their weddings. Several have been in each other’s weddings. Whenever I run into them, they frequently mention the Pac-Man party and how much they have enjoyed their friendship with each other over the years."

Cooking class for kids

This cooking class will be fun, but will have some educational value, too. Participants will learn to prepare Cupcake Pizzas, Spooky Brownies and Michael's Party Mix. This is a hands-on class and will include measuring, mixing and of course, tasting. Each participant will receive a copy of the recipes to take home.

This will be a fantastic opportunity for children and it’s in the most beautiful (and my favorite) place in all of Chatham County, the Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens at the Historic Bamboo Farm. The classes will be held at 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Oct. 27. There is a $5 per car admission to the gardens. Register your child for the cooking classes at friendsofthecoastalgardens.org.

There will be other activities for children and learning opportunities for adults going on during their Autumn GardenFest, whether you attend any of the special events or just use the opportunity to visit the beautiful gardens.

Teri Bell is co-owner of Miss Sophie’s Marketplace at the Mighty Eighth in Pooler. Go to sophiesmarketplace.com.



What: 25th annual Autumn GardenFest with vendors, workshops, reptile exhibit, kids' scavenger hunt and cooking classes

When: 1-4 p.m. Oct. 26 and 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Oct. 27

Where: Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens, 2 Canebrake Road

Cost: $5 per car

Info: Facebook event page,coastalbg.uga.edu



Michael's Party Mix

The boys enjoyed measuring the different ingredients for this recipe as well as mixing. Since the recipe has many ingredients, several boys could work on it together. Makes about 12 cups.



• 3 cups banana chips

• 3 cups honey graham cereal

• 3 cups thin pretzel sticks

• 1 ½ cups raisins

• 1 ½ cups M&Ms, plain or peanut

• 2 cups popcorn


Directions: Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, mix and then store in a tightly covered container.



Holiday Wreaths

For this recipe, I used a hot plate placed on a low child’s table to make it easier for the boys to assemble and stir. The mothers were a big help in assisting with this activity. Makes 8 wreaths.



• 3 cups miniature marshmallows

• 3 tablespoons butter

• ½ teaspoon green food color

• 1/8 teaspoon peppermint extract

• 3 ½ cups bran flake cereal

• ¾ cup plain M&Ms



1. Heat marshmallows and butter over medium low-heat until marshmallows are melted, stirring frequently. Add food coloring and peppermint extract.

2. Remove pan from heat; add cereal and ½ cup of M&Ms, stirring until cereal is well coated. Let cool enough to handle.

3. Divide mixture into 8 equal mounds on a greased cookie sheet. Use greased fingers to shape into wreaths about 3 inches in diameter. Decorate with remaining candies. Let stand until firm.




Spooky Brownies

Brownies are one of the most kid-friendly sweets, as they usually enjoy cracking the eggs and stirring the mixture.



• 1 box brownie mix, or store-bought brownies

• 16-ounce can white frosting mix

• Large marshmallows

• Chocolate morsels



1. Line an 8-inch square pan with foil so foil extends about 2 inches over sides of the pan. Spray foil with cooking spray.

2. Prepare brownies according to package directions. Cool completely, about 1 ½ hours.

3. Remove from pan by lifting foil and peel foil away. Cut brownies into squares, four rows of four.

4. Heat frosting in microwave until smooth and fluid.

5. Top each brownie with a large marshmallow. Spoon 1 tablespoon frosting over each marshmallow to coat. If frosting becomes too firm while decorating, microwave 5 seconds and stir.

6. Let stand until frosting is set, about 30 minutes. Use chocolate morsels to make eyes and mouth.



Cupcake Pizzas


• 1 can crescent dinner rolls

• ½ cup pizza sauce

• ¼ cup mini pepperoni slices

• ¼ pound Italian sausage or ground beef, cooked and drained

• ½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese



1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 8 regular-size muffin cups with vegetable spray.

2. Unroll dough into 8 triangles and press into muffin cups. Mix sauce, pepperoni, sausage and ¼ cup cheese.

3. Spoon 2 tablespoons mixture into dough-lined cup. Sprinkle with about 1 teaspoon additional cheese.

4. Bake 16-18 minutes. Remove cups from tins and serve.

Note: For vegetarian option, substitute meats with spinach, mushrooms and other veggies.



Pizza-A-Go Go's


• Ritz crackers

• Pepperoni slices

• Grated mozzarella cheese

Directions: Place pepperoni slice on Ritz cracker and top with about 1 teaspoon of cheese. Place on baking sheet and put under broiler in oven until cheese melts.