Welcome to week 34 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.
This week, kids will explore the spicy world of chile peppers while making Tacos de Tinga de Pollo (Chicken Tinga Tacos); practice their geometry skills to press perfectly-sized DIY Corn Tortillas; make their own Grenadine syrup and learn how it—and some familiar fruits—got their names with some trivia; and flex their math muscles to find out just how many blueberries they’ll need for perfect Blueberry Muffins.
Don’t forget to share what your family makes by tagging @testkitchenkids or using #atkkids on Instagram, or by sending photos to email@example.com. 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 November 2nd through 8th.
Tacos de Tinga de Pollo (Chicken Tinga Tacos)
Tender shredded chicken in a flavorful—and just a tiny bit spicy—tomato sauce is sure to make Taco Tuesday (or any day) a hit in your house. We prefer chipotle chile powder in this recipe, but you can substitute ½ teaspoon of chili powder and a pinch of cayenne. Serve the chicken with warmed corn tortillas and your favorite taco toppings, such as hot sauce, diced avocado, chopped cilantro, sour cream, cotija cheese, Cabbage Slaw, and Pickled Red Onions. While the chicken simmers, kids will learn more about chile peppers and explore other spicy food finds in the kitchen.
[GET THE RECIPE]
What You’ll Need
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 onion, peeled and chopped fine
3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
⅛–¼ teaspoon chipotle chile powder
1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce, opened
1½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 teaspoon grated lime zest plus 1 tablespoon juice, zested and squeezed from 1 lime
8–10 (6-inch) corn tortillas (store-bought or homemade)
Physical Science (Chemical Reactions):
As the chicken cooks in step 4, share with kids that tinga dishes are from Mexico’s Puebla region, and involve cooking meat in a sauce that is often made with spicy chipotle peppers, which are smoked jalapeño peppers. Explain to kids that foods we think of as spicy usually incorporate some form of chile peppers. 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, kids can check out this video.
Challenge kids to go on a scavenger hunt to find spicy foods in your kitchen that may be made from or contain chile peppers. Encourage kids to look in the spice cabinet, pantry, and/or refrigerator for spicy foods. How many can they find? If kids are unsure about which ingredients are spicy, encourage them to smell condiments and spices. Remind kids to look at the the names of packaged foods to see if they see the words “hot,” “spicy,” “chile,” or “chili,” or the names of any specific chile peppers in the ingredient lists, such as cayenne, jalapeño, chipotle, habañero, poblano, serrano, guajillo, shishito, or Thai bird chiles. If kids are feeling brave, they can taste the foods they found and rank them from least spicy to the spiciest. The spiciest items have the most capsaicin!
DIY Corn Tortillas
You won’t believe how easy—and fun!—it is to make your own corn tortillas. Serve them alongside our Tacos de Tinga de Pollo or your favorite taco filling. Using a clear pie plate to press the dough makes it easy to see the size of your flattened tortilla. A tortilla press can also be used, as well as the bottom of a skillet. These tortillas need to be shaped and cooked one at a time. To make the process go faster, tackle this project with a family member or friend! Masa harina is used across Latin America to make tortillas, tamales (small, moist corn cakes wrapped in corn husks), and pupusas (thick tortillas filled with cheese, meat, and beans). You can find it in the international aisle or near the flour in your grocery store.
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What You’ll Need
2 cups (8 ounces) masa harina
1½ teaspoons salt
1⅓ cups warm water, plus extra as needed
4 teaspoons vegetable oil
Vegetable oil spray
Math (Measurement & Data):
In step 4 of this recipe, kids need to press their ball of masa harina dough into a tortilla with a 6-inch diameter. To guide their tortilla shaping, kids can use a permanent marker to trace a 6-inch circle on the outside of the zipper-lock bag.
To help them with this task, first review the definition of the diameter of a circle (the measurement across the widest part of the circle, passing through the center). Armed with a ruler, have kids search your kitchen for a bowl or circular container with a 6-inch diameter. Encourage kids to first estimate the diameter of each object and then check their predictions using the ruler.
Alternatively, kids can create their own compass to draw the circle on the zipper-lock bag, following the steps below:
- Cut an approximately 8-inch length of string.
- Tie one end of the string to a pushpin.
- Tie the other end of the string around the permanent marker, so that there are exactly 3 inches of string between the pushpin and the marker when the marker is held straight up and down. (Point out that 3 inches is the radius of the circle—the distance between the center of the circle and its edge. The radius of a circle is equal to half of its diameter.)
- Lay the zipper-lock bag on a piece of cardboard. Press the pushpin into the center of the zipper-lock bag. Keeping the string taut, move the marker around the pushpin to draw your circle.
Just a spoonful of this sweet, tart, ruby-red syrup transforms a regular drink into a restaurant-style fancy beverage. As their DIY syrup cools, kids will learn about where the word “grenadine” comes from and test their vocabulary knowledge with some word origin trivia.
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What You’ll Need
8 allspice berries
¾ cup (5¼ ounces) sugar
⅔ cup (5⅓ ounces) unsweetened 100 percent pomegranate juice
Language Arts (Vocabulary):
As their syrup cools in step 3, ask kids if they know why this syrup is named “grenadine.” Can they guess where the root of the word comes from?
Explain to kids that words in English often have origins or roots in words in other languages, especially Latin, Greek, and other European languages. Tell kids that the word “grenadine” comes from the French word for pomegranate, which is “grenade.” (Remember, the main ingredient in grenadine is pomegranate juice!) In older French, a pomegranate was called a “pome granate”—“pome” meaning apple and “granate” meaning “with many seeds.” If kids would like to see what a fresh pomegranate looks like, you can show them this article. Does a pomegranate look at all like an apple? Can they see all of the seeds inside? That’s where pomegranate juice comes from!
Lots of other fruits have fun name origins as well. Challenge kids to some tasty trivia: Can they guess where these other fruits get their names? (Older kids might enjoy looking up these words in the dictionary to help them discover the origins of their names.)
Nectarine - Answer: The word nectarine means “sweet as nectar.” In Ancient Greek mythology, nectar (or nektar in Greek) was the drink of the Olympian gods. Some think nectar is a combination of the Greek words nek- (meaning “death”) and tar- (meaning “overcoming”), since the drink was supposed to make people immortal.
Cantaloupe - Answer: This melon was brought from Armenia to Cantalupo, a town outside of Rome, Italy, where farmers began to grow it. Legend says that wolves once gathered and howled around this area, which is how Cantalupo got its name, joining the Latin words for “sing” (cantare) and “wolf” (lupus) for “singing wolf.” The melon was named after this town.
Strawberry - Answer: Trick question! No one really knows where the “straw” in strawberry comes from. Some people suggest it’s because the seeds on the outside of the fruit look like scattered pieces of yellow straw. Others think that strawberries’ slender stems (called runners) look like stalks of straw. What do you think?
Take It Further
Social Studies (Culture):
Kids can use their grenadine syrup to make two special drinks that they might order at a restaurant: a Shirley Temple and a Roy Rogers (see the “Food For Thought” section at the bottom of the recipe for how to make these drinks). Ask kids: Have you heard of Shirley Temple or Roy Rogers before? Why do you think these drinks were named after them?
Tell kids that Shirley Temple was an actress who became a wildly popular child star in the 1930s. She starred in dozens of movies in which she acted, sang, and tap danced. To learn more about Shirley Temple’s life and career, share this video with kids. As for her drink, the story goes that while out at a restaurant in Los Angeles, she watched her parents order cocktails, and wanted her own fancy drink. The bartender came up with a kid-friendly drink made from grenadine, ginger ale, and a maraschino cherry for her, and named it the “Shirley Temple.” The drink has been a kid-favorite ever since. When she grew up, Shirley Temple became involved in global politics, and became a U.S ambassador to Ghana and Czechoslovakia, fighting for rights and opportunities for people around the world.
Around the same time as Shirley Temple became popular, Roy Rogers was making his first movies. He was a cowboy who loved to sing, and became an actor who starred in almost 100 Western-themed movies and a popular TV show from the 1930s to the 1960s. One of his most famous co-stars was Trigger, his faithful horse. To see Roy Rogers and Trigger performing together, share this video with kids. Less is known about how the Roy Rogers drink came about, but it’s a combination of grenadine, cola, and a maraschino cherry, similar to the Shirley Temple.
The batter for this breakfast classic is stirred together in a bowl, no mixer needed. Kids can enjoy these muffins for breakfast or even a snack. Kids will get a chance to practice estimation and division when measuring out blueberries for their muffins. Can they guess how many berries will be in each one?
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What You’ll Need
Vegetable oil spray
3 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, measured separately
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1½ cups plain yogurt
2 large eggs
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1½ cups fresh or frozen blueberries
Math (Estimation and Division)
In this recipe, kids need to measure out 1½ cups of blueberries. Before they measure, have kids look at the size of one blueberry and the size of 1-cup and ½-cup dry measuring cups. Ask them to estimate how many blueberries they think will equal 1½ cups. Have kids count how many berries it takes to fill the 1-cup and ½-cup dry measuring cups and then add those numbers together. How close were their predictions?
Once they know how many blueberries are in 1½ cups, ask kids to calculate how many berries will be in each muffin. (Remind them that the recipe makes 12 muffins.) For example, if kids counted 60 berries to make 1½ cups, 60 berries divided by 12 muffins equals 5 berries in each muffin. Once the muffins have baked and cooled, have kids cut a muffin in half and count how many berries ended up inside. How close were their predictions? Do they think each muffin will have exactly the same number of berries inside? Why or why not?