ATK Kids

Kitchen Classroom: Week 22

Week 22 of resources to help kids learn in the kitchen—and make something delicious along the way.

Published Aug. 7, 2020.

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This week, kids can make vegetarian Rice and Bean Bowls with Corn and Avocado Crema for a family dinner, explore some cheesy science while preparing Crispy Frico Caesar Salad as a lunch or side dish, and tackle two different baking recipes: buttery Berry Scones make breakfast special while citrusy Key Lime Bars are best enjoyed on a hot summer’s day. 

Don’t forget to share what your family makes by tagging @testkitchenkids or using #atkkids on Instagram, or by sending photos to 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 August 10th through August 16th.

From left: Rice and Bean Bowls with Corn and Avocado Crema, Crispy Frico Caesar Salad

Rice and Bean Bowls with Corn and Avocado Crema

This one-pot vegetarian dinner takes the guesswork out of cooking rice and also infuses it with flavor, as the rice cooks in vegetable broth along with black beans, sauteed onions, and other seasonings. The finished bowls are topped with sauteed corn, salsa, and avocado crema, but kids can get creative by adding their favorite toppings, such as cheese, chopped herbs, and pepitas. As they’re enjoying their bowls, kids can learn more about the most popular grain in the world (rice!).

What You’ll Need
1 ripe avocado
6 tablespoons water
¼ cup cilantro leaves
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons sour cream
Salt and pepper
2 (15-ounce) cans black beans
1 cup long-grain white rice
1 tablespoon plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, measured separately
1½ cups frozen corn
1 onion
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 cups vegetable broth
Pico de gallo or salsa

Learning Moment 
Science (Botany):
Before kids begin cooking, ask them what they already know about rice. Explain that rice is a grain that was originally cultivated in China thousands of years ago. Today, rice is eaten by people all over the world, every single day. There are about 40,000 varieties of rice, though only a handful typically make it onto supermarket shelves in the United States, including white rice (used in this recipe), brown rice, sushi rice, basmati rice, jasmine rice, arborio rice, black (or forbidden) rice, and wild rice. Some, like white and brown rice, come in long-grain and short-grain varieties. This recipe uses long-grain white rice. 

Have kids go on a mini pantry scavenger hunt to find any varieties of rice you have on hand. Have kids observe a few grains of each type of rice (this is a great place to employ a magnifying glass, if you have one). What do they notice? You might ask kids:

  • How are the different rice varieties similar? Do they have the same shape and size? Are they the same color? How are they different? 
  • How does cooking rice change its color and texture?

Explain to kids that rice is actually the edible seed of a grass plant. Each grain of rice is made of an outer layer called the bran, which is rich in fiber, surrounding the germ, which is the beginning of a new rice plant, and the starchy endosperm, which is what we eat as white rice. When rice is harvested from the plant, each individual grain is covered with a protective husk. Once the husk is removed, you’re left with brown rice. Brown rice still has the brown-colored bran layer attached. White rice is milled to remove the bran and the germ. Because brown rice still has the bran layer, it has more nutrients than white rice. It takes longer to cook and has a chewier texture.

The next time kids are with you in the supermarket, encourage them to explore the different varieties of rice. How many different types of rice can they count? 

Take It Further
Social Studies (World Cultures):
We top our rice and bean bowls with tangy, creamy avocado crema made with avocados, sour cream, lime juice, and cilantro. This simple sauce is inspired by a Mexican dairy product called crema. Crema is thinner than sour cream, less sour, and has slightly more fat. It is traditionally used as a condiment to top a wide variety of dishes, and it helps balance the heat of spicy foods. Many grocery stores and supermarkets stock crema—if you find it, you can substitute it for the sour cream in this recipe (your sauce will be slightly thinner).


Crispy Frico Caesar Salad

Frico is a cheesy, crispy one-ingredient wonder that just happens to make a perfect (edible) plate for a crunchy Caesar salad. Kids will practice identifying and measuring the diameter of a circle as they prep circles of shredded Asiago cheese for baking.

What You’ll Need
Vegetable oil spray
2 cups shredded Asiago cheese (6 ounces)
⅓ cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon lemon juice, squeezed from ½ lemon
1½ teaspoons Dijon mustard
1½ teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1–2 anchovy fillets, rinsed, patted dry, and minced (optional)
1 small garlic clove, peeled and minced
⅛ teaspoon pepper
Pinch salt
2 romaine lettuce hearts (12 ounces), cut into bite-size pieces

Learning Moment
Math (Geometry):
To help shape their frico, kids will need to identify a bowl or plate with a 7-inch diameter. (They will eventually trace its outline and fill the circle with a thin layer of shredded cheese.) Ask kids if they know what “diameter” means in the context of geometry. (Answer: A straight line that runs from the edge of a circle through its center.) 

Have kids practice using a ruler to measure the diameter of different plates and bowls in your kitchen until they find one with a diameter as close to 7 inches as possible. 

While the Frico are baking, challenge kids to find other circles in the kitchen and measure their diameters. (Examples: mixing bowls, pie plate, aluminum cans, spice jars, oatmeal containers, the cap on a container of milk)

Take It Further 
Science (Food Science):
In “Food for Thought” at the bottom of the recipe page, kids will learn that you can’t use just any cheese to make crispy frico—it has to be a hard, dry, aged cheese, such as Asiago or Parmesan. To see what happens when you try to make frico with young, moist cheese, have kids make a few smaller frico on a second rimmed baking sheet that’s lined with parchment paper and sprayed with vegetable oil spray. Use whatever cheeses you have in your refrigerator, such as cheddar, Swiss, Monterey Jack, mozzarella, Gruyère, or Parmesan (be sure to shred them first). You can bake the mini frico at the same temperature, but start checking them after 5 to 7 minutes.

Kids will likely observe that younger cheeses, like mozzarella, mild cheddar, and Monterey Jack turn soft and gooey in the oven, while aged cheeses, like Parmesan, Gruyère, and sharp cheddar turn crisp and golden brown.


From left: Berry Scones, Key Lime Bars

Berry Scones

Buttery, flaky scones studded with berries make a special breakfast or afternoon snack. A food processor helps quickly cut chilled butter into the dough before kids stir in the liquid ingredients—and those berries—by hand.

What You’ll Need
1 cup (5 ounces) frozen mixed berries
1 tablespoon confectioners’ (powdered) sugar
1½ cups (7½ ounces) all-­purpose flour, plus extra for counter
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into ½-­inch pieces and chilled
2 tablespoons sugar
1½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup (4 ounces) whole milk
1 large egg yolk

Learning Moment
Math (Parts of a whole, fractions):
In step 6 of this recipe, kids shape their scones into eight equal wedges. After shaping the dough into an 8-inch circle, ask your young chef 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? 
  • If you cut a circle into 8 strips all in one direction, will the parts of the whole 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 scones. The uncut circle is a whole, so it is 1. After making the first cut and separating the dough 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. For more guidance on how to turn parts of a whole into fractions, they can turn to this video.


Key Lime Bars

Citrusy, creamy key lime bars are a sweet-tart treat and a graham cracker crust pressed into the pan makes the perfect crunchy base. Kids will get to practice their baking skills and their geography skills as they learn about where key limes come from. If you can find them, key limes have wonderful flavor, but more commonly found Persian limes are what we call for in this recipe. If you are using key limes, you’ll need 20 of them to squeeze the ½ cup of juice needed in this recipe. Whatever you do, don’t use bottled lime juice here—fresh juice has much better flavor!

What You’ll Need
Vegetable oil spray
5 whole graham crackers, broken into pieces (or ¾ cup store-­bought graham cracker crumbs)
⅓ cup (1⅔ ounces) all-purpose flour
¼ cup (1¾ ounces) sugar
⅛ teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1 (14-­ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
¼ cup (2 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon grated lime zest plus ½ cup juice (zested and squeezed from 4 limes)
1 large egg yolk
Pinch salt
½ cup (1½ ounces) sweetened shredded coconut, toasted, optional
Whipped Cream, optional

Learning Moment
Social Studies (Geography):
Ask kids: Have they heard of key limes before? Do they have any guesses about what key limes are or how they got their name?

Tell kids that key limes are smaller, yellower cousins to the bigger, darker green Persian limes they usually see in the grocery store. Key limes are more tart than Persian limes, with fragrant, floral juice. They’re so small that you’d have to squeeze 20 of them to get the ½ cup of juice for this recipe! If you can find key limes in your grocery store (and you’re not up for buying 20 of them!), have kids taste the juice and zest from a key lime side by side with juice and zest from a Persian lime. How would they describe the flavor of each? How are they similar? How are they different? 

Explain that key limes get their name from the Florida Keys, a group of over 1,700 islands off the coast of Florida. In geography, a key is a small island. It gets its name from the Spanish word cayo, which means rock or islet. Key limes used to be grown widely in the Florida Keys, and cooks who lived there invented key lime pie as a way to use the juice. 

Ask kids to find the state of Florida and its keys on a map. Can they find the largest island in the Florida Keys, Key Largo? How about the southernmost city in the United States, Key West? Tell kids that many coral reefs can be found throughout the Florida Keys. Off the coast of Key Largo is the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, and kids can watch this video of a glass-bottomed boat ride or this video of snorkeling to see the reef for themselves!


On sale from August 1st through August 31, 2020, the September edition of the Young Chefs’ Club celebrates COOKIES! Kids can bake five different cookie recipes, from a Giant Chocolate Chip Cookie to Chewy Peanut Butter Cookies to Glazed Sugar Cookies they can cut out (using cookie cutters in their box) and decorate. They’ll learn about the science of sugar in an edible—cookie-based!—experiment and enjoy some sugar-free time putting together a cookie-themed jigsaw puzzle.  
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