Welcome to Kitchen Classroom, where America’s Test Kitchen Kids is sharing a weekly set of kid-tested and kid-approved recipes, hands-on experiments, and activities paired with suggestions for how to bring learning to life in the kitchen.
This week, we’re helping you get ready for the long Fourth of July weekend with some summery, celebratory recipes (and a colorful taste test). Kids can blend up a batch of refreshing Watermelon Slushies that taste like summer in a glass, assemble and bake festive Firecracker Hot Dogs, and mash up some creamy Guacamole. Have kids conduct a blind taste test to see if they detect a flavor difference between two very similar foods: green and red bell peppers (before dipping them into the Guacamole, of course).
Don’t forget to share what your family makes by tagging @testkitchenkids or using #atkkids on Instagram, or by sending photos to firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit the America’s Test Kitchen Kids website for more culinary content designed especially for kids, plus all of the Kitchen Classroom content in one easy-to-scan location.
Here’s what’s cooking for the week of June 29th through July 5th.
What’s better than fresh, cold watermelon on a hot summer day? A watermelon slushie! Kids can transform fresh watermelon into the “coolest” drink around using the freezer and the blender. You will need to freeze half of the watermelon for 2 hours before blending the slushies (see step 1 of the recipe), so be sure to plan ahead!
[GET THE RECIPE]
What You’ll Need
10 cups 1-inch seedless watermelon pieces (3 pounds)
¼ cup lime juice, squeezed from 2 limes
2 tablespoons Simple Syrup
⅛ teaspoon salt
Watermelons come in lots of different sizes (from tiny to gigantic!) and varieties (some have red or pink flesh and some even have orange or yellow flesh!). This recipe calls for seedless watermelon, which is popular because it’s so easy to eat—there’s no need to spit out those pesky seeds! Ask kids:
- Why do you think some watermelons have seeds and others don’t?
- Have you ever eaten a watermelon with seeds? (Maybe not! Over 85% of the watermelons sold today are seedless!)
Share with kids that watermelons are the fruits of the watermelon plant, just like apples are the fruits of the apple tree. The seeds inside watermelons can be planted and, under the right conditions, will grow new watermelon plants. Seedless watermelons were invented by plant scientists and farmers about 50 years ago so that customers could enjoy an easier-to-eat watermelon. If more advanced kids (and their grown-ups) are curious about how scientists and farmers created seedless watermelons, check out this video.
Take It Further
Language Arts (Reading Comprehension, Making Connections):
Seedless watermelons are easy to eat and cook with, but some people like the flavor of seeded watermelons better. If you can, have kids try some of both kinds of watermelon and see which they like best. Younger kids might also enjoy this read-aloud of the book The Watermelon Seed by Greg Pizzoli. After reading, ask kids:
- What was the crocodile in this story worried about?
- Do you really think a watermelon could grow from a seed in your stomach? (Don’t worry, it can’t!)
- What would that be like in your imagination? Do you think it would be fun or scary? Why?
- Do you have a favorite fruit that you could eat for every meal like the crocodile in this story?
Firecracker Hot Dogs
Bring the fun of Fourth of July firecrackers (safely) into the kitchen! These easy-to-make hot dogs were designed with young chefs in mind—they’ll enjoy shaping the biscuit dough, wrapping it around the hot dogs, and cutting out fun shapes to top their creations. The recipe is flexible: You can substitute vegetarian hot dogs and black sesame seeds will work just as well as white. Be sure to use canned biscuit dough here, not crescent dough, as the shape of the dough is key to the recipe’s success.
[GET THE RECIPE]
What You’ll Need
Vegetable oil spray
8 hot dogs
1 can biscuit dough
1 large egg
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
This simple recipe offers a great opportunity for younger kids to practice identifying shapes. Use the following questions for each step to help guide kids:
- In step 1, what shape is the baking sheet? What about the parchment paper? (Answer: rectangle, rectangle)
- In step 2, what shape are the hot dogs? (Answer: cylinders)
- In step 3, what shape is each piece of biscuit dough when you take it out of the can? (Answer: circle)
- In step 4, what shape will you choose to go on the top of your firecracker? (Answer: up to you!)
- In step 5, what shape is the egg while still in the shell? What shape is the yolk before you beat the egg? (Answer: oval, circle)
- What other shapes can you find in your kitchen? What shape is the refrigerator? What shape are your plates? The fruit in your refrigerator? A napkin?
For more advanced learners looking for more of a challenge, ask the following questions:
- In step 4, ask kids if they know the difference between “clockwise” and “counterclockwise.” (Answer: Clockwise is the direction clock hands move around its face (in a circle towards the right), counterclockwise is the opposite direction (in a circle, towards the left).)
- Challenge kids to wrap one hot dog with dough clockwise and one counterclockwise. Have them hold the skewered hot dog so that they are looking down at it from the top to determine which direction is clockwise. (It may be easier to wrap the hot dog holding it flat once they decide whether they should wrap around towards the left or to the right.) Do the finished hot dogs look different depending on whether you wrapped the dough around clockwise or counterclockwise?
Take It Further
History (Food History):
Hot dogs are a common food at backyard barbeques, baseball games, and Fourth of July celebrations, but when did hot dogs become popular in the United States? Explain that hot dogs are a type of sausage. They can be made from beef, pork, turkey, or even tofu! The first hot dogs are thought to originate from Germany. These early versions of hot dogs, called “frankfurters” or “weiners” were made to be eaten with sauerkraut and beer. Hot dogs made their way to New York City when German people began immigrating to the United States in the 1860s. No one knows for sure where the name “hot dog” comes from, but one theory traces it to the small dogs, called dachshunds, that German immigrants brought with them to the United States. Dachshunds are small, long, and thin, just like a hot dog!
The hot dog became widely popular in New York City when a man named Nathan Handwerker started a hot dog stand named “Nathan’s Famous” in Coney Island, part of Brooklyn, New York. Other hot dog stands were selling their sausages for 10 cents, so he began selling his for 5 cents. By the 1920s hot dogs were popular all over the country. They were even on the menu at the White House, in 1939, where they were served to the King and Queen of England. Did you know that you can still visit Nathan’s Famous today? To see the famous hot dog stand in action today, have kids watch this video!
Avocados, tomatoes, scallion, lime zest and juice, and cilantro (plus a little salt) are all it takes to make this flavorful dip that kids can mash up in just 20 minutes. Young chefs can scoop up their Guacamole with tortilla chips, sliced carrots, or sliced bell peppers (use the leftovers from your Taste Test the Rainbow experiment), or spoon it onto tacos and quesadillas.
[GET THE RECIPE]
What You’ll Need
3 ripe avocados
½ teaspoon salt
1 plum tomato, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 scallion, sliced thin
Many guacamole recipes (including this one) include cilantro, a leafy green herb that’s commonly used in many Asian and South American cuisines. We typically eat the leaves and tender stems of the cilantro plant, but cilantro seeds (also called coriander—you might find them in your spice cabinet!) and cilantro roots are edible, too. Set aside a few stems of cilantro for kids to observe. Ask them to identify the leaves and stem (and roots, if still attached).
Although lots of people love the flavor of cilantro, some people don’t like it at all—they often claim that it tastes like soap! According to scientists, about 12 percent of the global population detects a soapy flavor when they eat cilantro. That soapy flavor comes from molecules in the cilantro called aldehydes. Similar aldehydes are often found in soaps and lotions. Why do some people find cilantro soapy while others find its flavor is fresh and herbal? Scientists believe that whether or not cilantro tastes soapy to you is a result of your genetics.
Help kids set up a cilantro taste test:
- Give each family member a few cilantro leaves, and ask them to smell and then eat them. How would they describe the cilantro’s flavor?
- Repeat with the cilantro stems. Do they taste similar to or different from the leaves? (Most people find they taste similar, but the stems taste stronger than the leaves.)
- Does anyone think the cilantro tastes soapy?
- If you have coriander seeds or ground coriander in your pantry, have tasters smell and taste a small amount of each. Do they smell or taste like cilantro?
Taste Test the Rainbow
Do different colors of the same vegetable taste different? Kids can find out in this colorful blind taste test, in which blindfolded subjects eat strips of green and red bell pepper and observe whether they detect a flavor difference between the two. After they’re finished with the experiment, kids learn the truth about bell peppers: Red bell peppers are actually just ripe green bell peppers! (Not a fan of bell peppers? No problem! This taste test also works with red and yellow cherry tomatoes, orange and red/yellow/purple carrots, or even red and purple potatoes (don’t forget to cook them first!).)
[GET THE EXPERIMENT]
What You’ll Need
1 green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into ½-inch strips
1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into ½-inch strips
Science (Botany; Science Practices):
As they conduct their experiment, encourage kids to make a prediction (Do you think green and red bell peppers taste the same or different? Why do you think so?) and to make careful observations (What do you notice about the peppers’ flavors? How many tasters said they tasted similar? How many tasters said they tasted different?).
After they’ve made their observations, have kids read through the “Food for Thought” section at the bottom of the experiment page, where they’ll discover the (often surprising) truth: red bell peppers are actually just ripe green bell peppers. If you leave bell peppers on the pepper plant, they will start out green and, as they ripen, they’ll first turn yellow or orange and then, finally, they’ll turn red. And while green and red bell peppers (understandably) have very similar flavors, many tasters notice small differences. They often report that red bell peppers taste slightly sweeter while green bell peppers taste more “grassy.” These observations make sense: As peppers ripen, they create different flavor compounds.
Catching up on Kitchen Classroom? Find previous weeks using the links below:
- Kitchen Classroom: Week 15
- Kitchen Classroom: Week 14
- Kitchen Classroom: Week 13
- Kitchen Classroom: Week 12
- Kitchen Classroom: Week 11
- Kitchen Classroom: Week 10
- Kitchen Classroom: Week 9
- Kitchen Classroom: Week 8
- Kitchen Classroom: Week 7
- Kitchen Classroom: Week 6
- Kitchen Classroom: Week 5
- Kitchen Classroom: Week 4
- Kitchen Classroom: Week 3
- Kitchen Classroom: Week 2
- Kitchen Classroom: Week 1