ATK Kids

Kitchen Classroom: Week 35

Week 35 of resources to help kids learn in the kitchen—and make something delicious along the way.

Published Nov. 6, 2020.

Welcome to week 35 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 practice their math skills while making Mini Beef and Cheese Empanadas; “go bananas” learning about the star ingredient of our Banana and Chocolate Chip Mini Muffins; get creative with adjectives while baking up a batch of Fluffy Dinner Rolls; and conduct a mini science experiment while mixing up Flavored Butters.

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 November 9th through 15th.

From left: Mini Beef and Cheese Empanadas, Banana and Chocolate Chip Mini Muffins

Mini Beef and Cheese Empanadas

Empanadas are a versatile food—they’re a perfect hand-held snack or can be part of family dinner. In this recipe, kids can fill their empanadas with beef and cheese, or make vegetarian empanadas by substituting beans for the ground beef (see “Food for Thought” at the bottom of the recipe page for more substitution ideas).

What You’ll Need
All-­purpose flour (for sprinkling on counter)
1 recipe Pie Dough (homemade or 2 rounds store-bought)
1 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon extra-­virgin olive oil, measured separately
6 ounces 85-­percent lean ground beef
1 shallot, peeled and minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
½ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup (2 ounces) water, plus extra for shaping empanadas
½ cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese (2 ounces)
1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro

Learning Moment
Math (Addition, Multiplication, Division):
This recipe makes 10 empanadas in one batch. While their empanadas are baking and cooling, challenge kids to put their math skills to the test with these word problems about making more—or fewer—empanadas. For all of the problems below, kids should assume that each person eats two empanadas. 

  • If you want to make enough empanadas for 10 people, how many empanadas will you need to make?
    (Answer: 2 empanadas x 10 people = 20 empanadas)
  • If you want to make enough empanadas for 2 people and have 1 empanada left over to save for later, how many empanadas will you need to make? How many ounces of ground beef will you need?
    (Answer: 2 people x 2 empanadas = 4 empanadas; 4 empanadas + 1 empanada = 5 empanadas, or half a batch; 6 ounces ground beef ÷ 2 = 3 ounces)
  • If you want to make enough empanadas for 15 people, how many empanadas will you need to make? How many garlic cloves will you need?
    (Answer: 2 empanadas x 15 people = 30 empanadas, or 3 batches; 2 garlic cloves x 3 batches = 6 garlic cloves)
  • Say there are five people in your family. If you want to make one batch of empanadas to share with them for lunch, and one batch to freeze for another day, how many empanadas will you need to make? How much salt will you need? How many tablespoons of tomato paste?
    (Answer: 5 people x 2 empanadas = 10 empanadas, 10 empanadas x 2 = 20 empanadas, or 2 batches; ¼ teaspoon salt x 2 batches = ½ teaspoon salt; 1 tablespoon tomato paste x 2 batches = 2 tablespoons tomato paste)

Take It Further
Social Studies (Culture, Geography):
Tell kids that empanadas originated from a larger savory pie made in Galicia, Spain that was brought Argentina by Spanish immigrants from that region. Over time, the recipe for that pie was made into smaller hand pies with new ingredients, which became empanadas. Today, empanadas are popular throughout South America and Central America, and there are many different styles and fillings.

Challenge your young chef to find Galicia, Spain on a map and see how far it is from Argentina. Then, look over the descriptions of popular empanadas below and have your young chef find every country on a map.

Argentina: Empanadas mendocinas are a popular type of Argentinean empanada. They’re filled with beef, onions, spices, hard boiled eggs, and green olives.

Bolivia: Salteñas de carne are well-known in Bolivia. These empanadas are unique because they are baked standing up rather than laying on their sides, and because the braided edge is on top of the empanada, not the side. 

Colombia: Empanadas in this country are usually made with a corn flour dough rather than a wheat flour dough. They’re frequently served with ají, a hot pepper sauce.

Mexico: You’ll find lots of find sweet empanadas in Mexico, with fillings such as pumpkin with warm spices, guava, apple, or pineapple.

Banana and Chocolate Chip Mini Muffins

Discover a new way to enjoy ripe bananas by making our Banana and Chocolate Chip Mini Muffins. Kids will learn more about this popular fruit and explore the difference between ripe and unripe bananas while making this recipe. 

What You’ll Need
Vegetable oil spray
1⅓ cups (6⅔ ounces) all-­purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
2 very ripe bananas (skins should be speckled black)
½ cup (3½ ounces) sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
¼ cup plain yogurt
1 large egg
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
⅓ cup (2 ounces) mini chocolate chips

Learning Moment 
Life Science (Plants):
While preparing your ingredients, ask kids: Do you know where bananas come from? How do you think they grow? Explain to kids that bananas are a type of fruit—technically, they’re berries! While it looks like bananas grow on trees, they actually grow on really big herb plants. In the center of the plant is a big stem that’s wrapped in leaves (and looks a lot like a tree trunk). Bananas are eaten all around the world, but they are grown in hot, tropical environments. The word banana comes from the Arabic word “banan,” which means finger. 

Ask kids: What does a ripe banana look like, feel like, smell like, and taste like? What about unripe or overripe bananas? If you have bananas on hand in these different stages, have kids observe, compare, and contrast them, or have kids think back to times when they’ve seen under-, over-, or perfectly ripe bananas. Explain that unripe bananas are green and hard, and turn yellow and soft as they ripen. Ripe bananas taste sweeter than unripe bananas, which is what gives these muffins their sweet banana flavor. Overripe bananas turn brown or even black, their flavor turns very sweet, and they become liquidy-soft.

While peeling the bananas, have kids examine each part. Explain that we do not generally eat banana skins or peels because they are tough and can be bitter. The flesh of the banana is the part we enjoy. Bananas do have seeds (they’re a fruit after all), but the seeds  are so tiny that we may not realize we are eating them. Explain to kids that the tiny black dots in the flesh are the seeds of the banana plant. Split the banana down the middle and have kids count how many seeds they can see.

Take It Further
Life Science (Plants):
The banana variety that is most commonly grown today is called Cavendish, but prior to the 1960s, the Gros Michel was the most popular banana variety. Check out the video here to learn about the history of bananas, and enjoy a review and side-by-side taste test of the Cavendish versus the Gros Michel banana from a kid’s perspective.

From left: Fluffy Dinner Rolls, Flavored Butters

Fluffy Dinner Rolls

Kids can practice their kneading and shaping skills with this tasty baking project—just in time for  Thanksgiving. The finished rolls are delicious smeared with a little butter (especially our Flavored Butters, below!) or served next to your favorite soup for dunking. Kids will learn all about adjectives by coming up with new names for this week’s Kitchen Classroom recipes.

What You’ll Need
2½ cups (12½ ounces) all-purpose flour
2¼ teaspoons instant or rapid-rise yeast
1 teaspoon salt
¾ cup (6 ounces) whole milk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons honey
1 large egg yolk
Vegetable oil spray
1 large egg, cracked into bowl and lightly beaten with fork

Learning Moment
English Language Arts (Parts of Speech)
This recipe has an interesting title: Fluffy Dinner Rolls. Explain to kids that the title uses grammar to let the reader know something about the recipe before they even make it. Ask kids if they know what an adjective is. Tell kids that an adjective is a word used to describe a person, place, or thing. Can they pick out which word in the title of the recipe is an adjective? (Answer: Fluffy). The word “fluffy” is describing a thing (the rolls). Ask kids if they think a “fluffy dinner roll” sounds more delicious than just a plain old “dinner roll.” Do they have any other ideas for adjectives that could describe these rolls?

Challenge kids to re-name the other recipes in this week’s Kitchen Classroom curriculum (Mini Beef and Cheese Empanadas, Banana and Chocolate Chip Mini Muffins, and Flavored Butters) using adjectives. The adjective might describe the taste, smell, appearance, or texture of the food. For example, a recipe for chocolate chip cookies could become “Crispy Chocolate Chip Cookies” or “Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies,” depending on what their texture is like. For some adjective inspiration, kids can watch this video.

Flavored Butters

Give plain butter a boost by adding some flavorful stir-ins. These amped-up butters are perfect for spreading on bread, biscuits, or homemade Fluffy Dinner Rolls, if you are also making them this week as part of Kitchen Classroom. (They’re also a wonderful kid contribution to your Thanksgiving meal.) This recipe is for Honey Butter; check out the “Food For Thought” section at the bottom of the recipe page for how to make Cinnamon-Maple Butter, Basil-Lemon Butter, Old Bay Butter, or Spicy Sriracha Butter as well. As they make their flavored butters, kids will learn more about how heat travels, and how to make their butter soften faster.

What You’ll Need
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon honey
⅛ teaspoon salt

Learning Moment
Physical Science (Structure and Properties of Matter, Energy):
In order to easily stir flavorful ingredients into the butter in this recipe, the butter first needs to be softened. As they prepare the ingredients for this recipe, have kids take a cold stick of butter out of the fridge and use a butter knife or bench scraper to cut one 1-tablespoon piece and one 5-tablespoon piece from the stick to make the 6 tablespoons total they need for this recipe. Instead of placing the butter in a bowl, have kids place the two pieces on a plate spaced apart from each other. Have kids observe the cold butter, and press lightly on each piece. Ask kids: What does the butter feel like? Is it hard or soft? Is it cold or warm? Ask kids to make a prediction: Which piece of butter will soften the fastest: the 1-tablespoon piece or the 5-tablespoon piece? Why do they think so?

As the butter sits, have kids check the pieces about every 10 minutes by gently pressing their clean finger into the butter. Are they becoming softer? Is one piece going faster than the other? When does the butter seem soft enough to stir together with their flavor additions? When the butter is soft, transfer it to a bowl and continue with the recipe as written.

Kids likely found that the 1-tablespoon piece of butter softened more quickly than the 5-tablespoon piece. Explain to kids that this is because of how heat transfers between objects. The heat from the warmer air in the kitchen travels into the cold butter as it sits on the counter, working its way from the outside, in. The 1-tablespoon piece of butter has a smaller volume (is smaller in size) and has more of its surface area exposed to the warm air than the 5-tablespoon piece. The heat can enter the piece of butter from the outside through all of the butter piece’s different surfaces, and can get to the middle more quickly with the 1-tablespoon piece, as it has a shorter distance to travel. The 5-tablespoon piece has a greater volume (is larger in size), so it takes longer for the heat to travel from its outside surfaces to its center. 

Kids may have found that the outside of the 5-tablespoon piece felt softer as it sat, but the middle remained harder and colder for longer. Based on this, share a cooking tip with kids: The next time a recipe calls for softened butter, increase its surface area by cutting it up into smaller pieces to make the softening process go faster!

The December edition of the Young Chefs’ Club celebrates one of America’s most popular foods: PIZZA! With recipes from Thin-Crust Pizza to Tear-and-Share Pepperoni Pizza Rolls to French Bread Pizza and even Pizza Art (yes, Pizza Art!) there’s something for every pizza lover out there. Learn more about the science of pizza dough in a “restful” experiment and play the pizza-party classic Pin the Topping on the Pizza! If you’d like to order the Young Chefs’ Club for the budding cook this holiday season, place your order by November 30th in order to receive your first box in December.  
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