ATK Kids
Kitchen Classroom: Week 12
Week 12 of resources to help kids learn in the kitchen—and make something delicious along the way.
05-29-2020
America's Test Kitchen Kids

In the words of Desmond Tutu, "If you are neutral in times of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor." Black Lives Matter. America's Test Kitchen Kids stands in solidarity with those protesting. We may be in the business of developing recipes, producing cookbooks, and creating educational content for children, but we do so in the hopes that it brings ALL families together in the kitchen and around the table. 

We continue to be committed to building a new generation of empowered cooks, engaged eaters, and curious experimenters, and featuring a diverse group of children in our books and on our website. As we pledge to practice antiracism, we have a lot of work to do—work that will never be finished—and we're listening. 

We’ve compiled a list of resources to help and encourage families to have effective, candid conversations on race, racism, and resistance. We’ll be using many of them ourselves. Are there resources we’re missing? Please let us know and we will update this list.  

In this week of Kitchen Classroom, kids dive into the fascinating science of food texture with an edible experiment that involves making salsa with two different textures. Plus, they can make super simple homemade Tortilla Snack Chips for dipping into their salsas. Then, kids discover whether two very similar foods—white and yellow cheddar cheese—have different flavors in a blind taste test (this is a fun activity for the whole family!). Finally, make a batch of Cheese Pupusas—balls of corn flour dough (called masa) stuffed with cheese, flattened into disks, and cooked in a skillet—for lunch or dinner. 

Don’t forget to share what your family makes by tagging @testkitchenkids or using #atkkids on Instagram, or by sending photos to kids@americastestkitchen.com. Visit the America’s Test Kitchen Kids website for more kid-tested and kid-approved recipes, experiments, and hands-on activities, plus all of the Kitchen Classroom content in one easy-to-scan location. 

Here’s what’s cooking for the week of June 1st through June 7th. 

From left: Testing and Tasting Texture, Tortilla Snack Chips

Testing and Tasting Texture

One day this week, snack time can pull double duty as science time. In this edible experiment, kids learn if changing a food’s texture can also change its flavor. They whip up two batches of salsa in the food processor, using the exact same ingredients. They leave one batch chunky and process the second batch until it’s smooth. Then, blindfolded tasters—other family members—describe the flavor and texture of each salsa: Do they taste the same or different? 
[GET THE EXPERIMENT]

What You’ll Need
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, opened
2 slices jarred pickled jalapeño
2 teaspoons lime juice, squeezed from ½ lime
1 garlic clove, peeled
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves
Tortilla chips (optional)

Learning Moment
Science (Food Science; Science Practices):
When we talk about the flavor of food, we’re usually referring to a combination of its taste and its smell. But the way food feels in your mouth as you eat it—its texture—plays a big role in our eating experience. When eating the chunky salsa, it’s typically easier for tasters to identify individual ingredients, such as juicy tomato and leafy cilantro. With the smooth salsa, the individual ingredients are often harder to identify. Because they’ve been processed into tiny pieces, everything has a similar texture.

This experiment also provides perfect opportunities for kids to engage in several science practices, including making predictions, collecting data from their tasters, and analyzing their data to draw conclusions. As kids work through the experiment, encourage them to share their observations and thinking by asking questions such as:

  • Do you predict that the chunky salsa will taste the same or different than the smooth salsa? Why do you think so? 
  • Why do you think it’s important that people taste the salsas blindfolded? 

 

Tortilla Snack Chips

These crunchy homemade tortilla chips are perfect for dipping in Guacamole, Hummus, or the salsa from the Testing and Tasting Texture experiment. Kids use a chef’s knife to cut flour tortillas into triangles before spraying them with vegetable oil spray for an even coat of oil. They can make plain snack chips, with just a sprinkle of salt, or try one of the flavorful variations: Pizza, Cinnamon-Sugar, or Ranch.
[GET THE RECIPE]

What You’ll Need
4 (8-inch) flour tortillas
Vegetable oil spray
½ teaspoon salt

Learning Moment
Math (Parts of a Whole, Fractions):
In step 2 of the recipe, we tell kids to cut the round tortilla into eight wedges. Making the wedges equally sized will help ensure the chips bake evenly. Before kids see the photos that accompany that step, ask them to think about equal parts and unequal parts, using the questions below to help guide them. 

  • How do you cut a circle into equal parts? 
  • Can you just cut the pieces in long strips? If you cut a circle into 8 long strips all in one direction, will the parts of the whole tortilla be equal, or unequal? 

Challenge kids to think of how they can turn a circle into eight equal triangles. If they need help, you can guide them by asking if they can first cut it into two equal parts? Then, can they make those two equal parts into four equal parts (cut crosswise). This video  and this related website might help more visual learners understand what cutting a shape into equal parts means. 

For older kids, have them call out the fractions they create as they cut the tortillas. The uncut tortilla is a whole, so it is 1. After making the first cut and separating the tortilla into two pieces, each piece is ½ of the whole. After the second cut leaves your young chef with four pieces, each piece is ¼ of the whole. After making the final two cuts, each piece is ⅛ of the whole. Challenge them to show you what ⅜, ½, or ⅔ of the whole should look like using the tortilla wedges. For more guidance on how to turn parts of a whole into fractions, they can turn to this video.

 

From left: Tasting Blind, Cheese Pupusas

Tasting Blind

Put your senses to the test! In this activity, kids play the part of a scientific researcher and set up a blind taste test of two samples of cheese. Can their “subjects” (siblings, parents, or other family members) taste a difference between two very similar foods? To make this taste test extra-scientific, try to get cheeses from the same brand and make sure that they are both mild or both sharp. (Yellow cheddar cheese is actually quite orange in color!) 
[GET THE EXPERIMENT]

What You’ll Need
2 slices white cheddar cheese (about ½ ounce) per person
2 slices yellow cheddar cheese (about ½ ounce) per person

Learning Moment
Science (Food Science): 

In this activity, kids learn about the difference between yellow and white cheddar cheeses—and how where you live in the United States might affect your cheddar color preferences (see the “Food for Thought” section at the end of the activity for a kid-friendly explanation). 

Before starting the taste test, ask kids to make a prediction: Do they think the two cheeses will taste the same or different? Why do they think so? During the activity, remind them that good scientific researchers control the conditions of their experiments: None of their test subjects should know which cheese sample is which, so tasters should be blindfolded before being given their cheeses. Tasters should also keep their thoughts to themselves until everyone has finished tasting, so their opinions don’t influence others by accident! After everyone has tasted, have kids reveal which cheese is which, and discuss how they taste. Ask kids and tasters: 

  • Were their predictions correct? 
  • Was anyone surprised by the results? 
  • Which cheese was each person’s favorite to eat?

Take It Further 
Social Studies (History and Geography):
Cheddar cheese is made from cow’s milk and has been around for more than 900 years! Today, it’s made in many countries around the world, but it was invented in a village called Cheddar in England, which is part of Great Britain. Ask kids whether they can find Great Britain, England, and the village Cheddar on a map.

Cheddar (the village) has natural caves where dairy farmers began aging cheeses as far back as the 12th century. Today, most cheeses are aged in climate-controlled rooms rather than caves, but one cheesemaker is still using the caves in Cheddar to make cheddar! Check out this video to see how their cheddar is made from start to finish, and to peek inside those cheese caves for yourself. For even more cheese science (and an interview with a real-life cheesemonger!), check out this episode of the ATK Kids podcast, Mystery Recipe!

 

Cheese Pupusas

Pupusas are thick corn tortilla cakes stuffed with savory ingredients such as cheese, beans, or pork. They’re especially popular in El Salvador, where they’re fried in oil and sold on the street as snacks. Pupusas are made with masa harina–a finely ground and treated corn product—which you can find in the international aisle or near the flour in your grocery store. This recipe, originally published in My First Cookbook, is designed for young chefs ages 5 to 8, but is absolutely fun for kids (and grown-ups) of any age. In fact, it’s a fun project for the whole family to make and enjoy. Serve the pupusa with a fresh, crunchy cabbage slaw called curtido. 
[GET THE RECIPE]

What You’ll Need
For the Pupusas
2 cups (8 ounces) masa harina
¾ teaspoon salt
1½ cups (12 ounces) warm water
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
Vegetable oil spray
2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese (8 ounces)

For the Cabbage Slaw (optional)
3 cups shredded green coleslaw mix
¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves
1 tablespoon lime juice
¼ teaspoon salt

Learning Moment
Language Arts (Vocabulary):
One key step in this recipe is testing the masa dough to make sure it has the right texture—if it’s too dry, it will be hard to shape into pupusas. Use stirring the dough in step 1 and portioning the dough in step 3 as an opportunity for kids to practice identifying and using adjectives that describe texture.

In step 1, have kids feel and describe the texture of each ingredient that goes into the bowl: masa harina, salt, water, and vegetable oil. Then, have them describe the texture of the masa dough as they stir with the rubber spatula. Is it the same or different from the texture of the ingredients? In step 3, have kids make a golf ball-size ball of dough and describe its texture. Does it remind them of anything? (The dough should have a texture very similar to Play-Doh.) 

As they press the golf ball-sized ball of dough flat, have them observe and describe what it looks like—does it have lots of cracks around the edge? Or is the edge smooth and round? (If lots of cracks form, the dough is too dry and needs more water.)

Take It Further 
Social Studies (World Cultures); Science (Biology):
Pupusas are a staple in El Salvador, where they are cooked and eaten at home and also in outposts called pupuserías. Ask kids if they have ever heard of El Salvador and, if so, what they know about it? Have them locate it on a world map. Based on where it’s located, can they make any predictions about its geography and climate? This website and this website have basic information about the country of El Salvador aimed at kids. 

El Salvador is home to more than 20 active volcanoes and often experiences earthquakes. Years ago, many of El Salvador’s forests were destroyed to make space for farming, but in the last few decades the country has been making great efforts to preserve habitats such as rainforests and cloud forests high up in the mountains. They have created a number of large national parks. These parks are home to a wide variety of amazing plants and animals, such as ocelots, jaguars, spider monkeys, anteaters, armadillos, and hundreds of species of birds, including toucans, Great Curassows (birds that only live in El Salvador!), and the national bird of El Salvador—the beautiful Turquoise-Browed Mot Mot. Have kids choose an animal from El Salvador that they are interested in learning about. Have them look up photos and facts about their animal and share what they learned with the rest of their family—maybe while you’re enjoying your Cheese Pupusas!

 

Join the Club

On sale until June 30, 2020, the July box of the Young Chefs’ Club is all about bringing science to life in the kitchen. Kids can use the power of science to make the smoothest, most flavorful nacho cheese sauce, a cake with layers that switch places in the oven, turn ordinary eggs into fluffy (edible) clouds, and transform just about any flavorful liquid into tiny, shiny spheres.