ATK Kids

Kitchen Classroom: Week 28

Week 28 of resources to help kids learn in the kitchen—and make something delicious along the way.

Published Sept. 18, 2020.

Welcome to week 28 of Kitchen Classroom, where America’s Test Kitchen Kids is sharing a weekly list 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. 

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This week, kids can explore spices in Spiced Applesauce Muffins, put their favorite snacks to the test in an experiment called “The Battle of Crispy Versus Crunchy,” learn about flags of the world while making a Caprese Panini, and contribute a fall-inspired main dish for family dinner by making Apple Cider-Glazed Pork Chops.

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 September 21st through 27th.

From left: Spiced Applesauce Muffins, The Battle of Crispy Versus Crunchy

Spiced Applesauce Muffins

These simple muffins come together in a bowl, no mixer needed! They are packed with the warm flavors of fall and are great for breakfast or a snack. Kids will learn the difference between spiced and spicy and learn more about where the spices in their muffins come from. 

What You’ll Need
Vegetable oil spray
¾ cup (3¾ ounces) all-purpose flour
¾ cup (4⅛ ounces) whole-wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
⅔ cup (4⅔ ounces) sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
¼ cup (2 ounces) apple cider or apple juice
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Learning Moment
Science (Food Science)
This recipe is called “spiced” applesauce muffins because it calls for multiple different spices, but it’s not spicy. Ask kids if they know the difference between spiced and spicy. Then explain that spicy food usually incorporates some form of chile peppers, such as crushed red pepper flakes, ground cayenne pepper, chopped chile peppers, or hot sauce. Chile peppers contain a chemical called capsaicin (“cap-SAY-sin”) that makes us feel hotter than we actually are–that’s why we say our mouth feels like it’s “on fire” when we eat something spicy, even if the food is cold. To learn more about how we taste spicy foods, have kids check out this video.

There is definitely NO capsaicin in these muffins! They’re spiced, which means that they’re flavored using the power of spices. These muffins include 2 different dried, ground spices: cinnamon and nutmeg, and a spice extract, vanilla. These spices aren’t made from chile peppers, but from other plants.

While the muffins are baking in step 7, have kids smell the cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla. How would they describe how each smells? Do the smells remind them of anything? Ask kids: Can you guess what part of the plant each one comes from? Explain that cinnamon comes from the bark of a tree, nutmeg is a seed, and vanilla extract comes from soaking a vanilla flower seed pod in a mixture of water and alcohol. The fact that cinnamon is tree bark may be surprising! To show them how cinnamon grows and how it’s harvested, you can share this video with kids.

The Battle of Crispy Versus Crunchy

Crispy and crunchy are two of the most popular food textures—especially when it comes to snack foods, such as chips and crackers. In this three-part, hands-on experiment, kids play the role of scientists and conduct tests to discover what makes foods crispy . . . or crunchy! 

What You’ll Need
3 wide, thin, and crispy or crunchy snack foods, such as:

  • Potato chips
  • Kettle chips
  • Pringles potato crisps
  • Tortilla chips
  • Doritos chips
  • Saltines
  • Water crackers

Learning Moment
Science (Scientific practices; Sensory science):
Before they begin this experiment, ask kids to make a prediction: Do they think there is a difference between crispy foods and crunchy foods? If so, what do they think that difference is? (You might want to record kids’ predictions and revisit them after they’ve conducted the different tests and made their observations.)

After conducting the three tests in this activity, kids will likely make a few discoveries about crispy and crunchy foods:

  • Crispy foods tend to be thinner, take less force to break, and make higher-pitched sounds when we chew them. 
  • Crunchy foods tend to be thicker, take more force to break, and make lower-pitched sounds when we chew them. 

(See “Food for Thought” at the bottom of the experiment page, for even more information about the results of this experiment.)

Based on their results, ask kids if they can think of any other foods that are crispy (such as cooked bacon and romaine lettuce) or crunchy (such as granola, celery sticks, and fried chicken). Do they prefer crispy foods, crunchy foods, or both?! Kids can also put their new knowledge to the test in our Hear the Crunch activity.

From left: Caprese Panini, Apple-Cider Glazed Pork Chops

Caprese Panini

Paninis make a great simple lunch or dinner that kids can prepare themselves. This recipe makes one panini, but young chefs can easily double it to make a second sandwich for a sibling (or a lucky grown up). This version takes the flavors of a Caprese salad and puts them in a melty, delicious sandwich.

What You’ll Need
2 (½-­inch-­thick) slices crusty bread
1 tablespoon extra-­virgin olive oil
½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 small tomato, sliced into circles
Pinch salt
4 fresh basil leaves

Learning Moment
Social Studies (Geography, World Cultures):
Tell kids that Caprese salad is a classic Italian dish made from tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil. The red, white, and green colors of the salad purposely match the red, white, and green colors of the Italian flag. Kids can learn more about Italy and see the Italian flag here. Caprese salad is not the only flag-inspired food found in Italy. Insalata Tricolore (made from tomatoes, mozzarella, and avocado) and Pizza Margherita (made from tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil) also celebrate the three Italian flag colors. 

Explain to kids that other countries have dishes that match that country’s flag, too. Chiles en Nogada is a patriotic red, white, and green dish traditionally eaten around Mexican Independence Day in Mexico. It consists of stuffed green poblano chiles covered in a creamy white walnut-based sauce and topped with red pomegranate seeds. The Mexican flag is also red, white, and green like the Italian flag, but the colors have a different meaning. In the Mexican flag, red symbolizes union, white symbolizes the Roman Catholic religion, and green symbolizes independence. Kids can learn more about Mexico and see the Mexican flag here

Challenge kids to choose a flag from another country and make a sandwich that represents the colors or designs of that flag. What ingredients can they find in the fridge or pantry that are different colors and would taste good together? Kids can make a real sandwich, or draw one from their imagination. This Time for Kids article is a good place to get them started with flag inspiration.

Apple Cider-Glazed Pork Chops

For a taste of fall, kids can make this impressive main dish for family dinner using fresh apple cider. Kids will learn all about how apple cider is made, and how it’s different from apple juice. 

What You’ll Need
½ cup apple cider
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme or ¼ teaspoon dried
4 boneless pork chops, ¾ to 1 inch thick
½ teaspoon salt
⅛ teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Learning Moment
Science (Food Science):
This recipe uses apple cider as the main ingredient for the glaze for the pork chops. Ask kids: Have you tried apple cider before? How do you think it’s the same or different from apple juice? 

Before starting to cook, pour some apple cider into a glass. If you have any apple juice on hand as well, pour that into a second glass. Ask kids:

  • What do you notice about how the cider (and juice) look?
  • How does each smell?
  • How do each taste?
  • If you have both cider and juice, how are they the same or different?

Explain to kids that apple cider is made from apples that are chopped and ground up into an "apple mash" that’s similar to applesauce. The mash is then wrapped in cloth and put into a cider press, which is a machine that squeezes out the juice from the mash. That juice is the apple cider! It’s a darker brown color than apple juice and is opaque (meaning you can’t see through it), because it still has small bits of apple pulp in it. Because of that pulp, apple cider tastes extra apple-y and intense. Apple juice, on the other hand, is apple cider that has been filtered. That means that after the cider is pressed, it’s poured through a very fine strainer that catches all of that extra pulp, turning the apple juice translucent (meaning you can see through it) and a lighter yellow color. Apple juice still tastes like apples, but has a lighter, less intense flavor than apple cider.

To see apples growing in an orchard and apple cider being pressed, share this video with kids.

On sale from September 1st through September 30, 2020, the October edition of the Young Chefs’ Club explores the wide world of NOODLES. Make Fresh Pasta, just like in Italy (no pasta machine required) and serve it with Marinara Sauce or Meat Sauce. Move on to rice vermicelli in our Rice Noodle Bowls with Pork and Scallions and fresh lo mein in Sesame Noodles with Snow Peas and Carrots. Explore the salty science of pasta water with a simple (dinner-providing) experiment. And the whole family can play our board game: Noodles and Ladders!  
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