ATK Kids

Kitchen Classroom: Week 39

Week 39 of resources to help kids learn in the kitchen—and make something delicious along the way.

Published Dec. 4, 2020.

Welcome to week 39 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 celebrate Hanukkah by making Oven-Baked Latkes, a recipe from My First Cookbook that’s designed for kids ages 5 to 8; learn all about where vanilla comes from while whisking together a big batch of Sugar Cookie Mix (perfect for holiday gifting!); observe how rice changes as it cooks as they bake a simple side dish of Baked Brown Rice; and explore how cornstarch is the key to a thick, glossy sauce while making Beef and Broccoli Stir-Fry for a family meal.

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 December 7th through 13th.

From left: Oven-Baked Latkes, Sugar Cookie Mix

Oven-Baked Latkes

In 2020, the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah will be celebrated for 8 nights, from December 10th to December 18th. This recipe for potato latkes, a traditional Hanukkah dish, is designed for young chefs ages 5 to 8. Kids can shred the potatoes easily in the food processor, and bake the latkes safely in the oven. As their latkes bake, kids can practice their addition and subtraction skills with some latke word problems. If your potatoes are too big to fit in the feed tube of the food processor in step 2 of the recipe, cut them in half lengthwise before processing.

What You’ll Need
Vegetable oil spray
½ cup vegetable oil
1¼ pounds Yukon gold potatoes, unpeeled
1 onion, peeled and cut into quarters
¼ cup (1¼ ounces) all-purpose flour
1 large egg
1 teaspoon salt

Learning Moment
Math (Addition and Subtraction):
This recipe makes 12 latkes. As they bake in step 6, challenge kids to solve the following addition and subtraction problems:

  • If you eat 1 latke, your brother eats 2, and your dad eats 3, how many latkes will have been eaten? How many will be left over?
    (Answer: 1 + 2 + 3 = 6 latkes eaten. 12 latkes total - 6 latkes eaten = 6 latkes left.)
  • Uh oh! You dropped 2 of your left over latkes on the floor! (Good thing you have a dog.) Now how many latkes are left?
    (Answer: 6 leftover latkes - 2 that fell = 4 latkes left)
  • If you made a full batch of 12 latkes and wanted to eat 8 of them (1 for each night of Hanukkah!), how many latkes would be left over?
    (12 latkes - 8 latkes = 4 latkes left over)

Take It Further
Social Studies (Culture):
Ask kids: What do you know about the holiday of Hanukkah? Explain to kids that Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday that is celebrated for eight nights, usually in the month of December. It remembers a story about a temple that only had enough oil to burn a menorah (a special lamp) for one night, but the oil lasted for eight nights instead. Today, for eight nights in a row, families that celebrate Hanukkah light their own menorahs at home and fry foods, such as latkes, in lots of oil. To learn more about the history of this holiday and how it’s celebrated today, kids can watch this video from PBS Kids or this video from Sesame Street.

Sugar Cookie Mix

What’s better than one batch of cookies? Four batches! With this DIY recipe, kids can make their own dry cookie mix, so the next time a cookie craving hits, all they have to do is add eggs and butter to bake off a quick treat. This cookie mix also makes a great gift for kids to give at the holidays: Package 1½ cups of the mix in an airtight container—be sure to include a label or note with the baking instructions and ingredients the recipient will need to add to their mix. While whisking up this easy make-ahead mix, kids will learn all about the different forms of vanilla. If you can’t find vanilla powder, you can add vanilla extract along with the melted butter and egg in step 2 of the recipe.

What You’ll Need
For the Sugar Cookie Mix
4 cups (20 ounces) all-purpose flour
3 cups (21 ounces) sugar
1 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons vanilla powder
1 teaspoon baking soda

To Make 1 Batch of Cookies
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 large egg
1½ cups (10 ounces) Sugar Cookie Mix

Learning Moment
Life Science (Plants):
This recipe calls for a unique ingredient: vanilla powder. Ask kids: Do you know where vanilla comes from? Have you made any recipes before that use vanilla powder or vanilla extract? How do you think vanilla powder might be made? 

Explain to kids that vanilla comes from vanilla beans, which grow from special vanilla orchid flowers. Vanilla extract is made by first drying vanilla beans and then soaking them in alcohol to extract their flavor. Since vanilla extract is a liquid, this recipe has to use a different way to get vanilla flavor into a dry cookie mix. Enter vanilla powder! Vanilla powder is vanilla extract that has been dried out—a process that concentrates its flavor, making it especially vanilla-y. Have kids observe and smell the vanilla powder, and compare it to vanilla extract and/or a vanilla bean, if you have them on hand. How are they the same or different? Does one have a stronger smell than the other?

To learn more about where vanilla comes from, how it’s grown, and how vanilla extract is made, share this video with kids.

From left: Baked Brown Rice, Beef and Broccoli Stir-Fry

Baked Brown Rice

Sweet, earthy, and nutty brown rice makes for a simple side dish or a base for grain bowls, but it can sometimes be tricky to prepare. For fluffy, tender rice every time, we use the oven. Kids will observe how rice transforms as it cooks and learn about the science of starch.

What You’ll Need
1½ cups brown rice
1 tablespoon butter, cut into 4 pieces or 1 tablespoon olive oil
½ teaspoon

Learning Moment 
Physical Science (Structure and Properties of Matter):
In step 1, have kids set aside a few grains of rice separate from the baking dish. While the rice cooks in the oven in step 3, have kids observe the raw rice (this is a great time to use a magnifying glass, if you have one). Ask kids: What do the grains of rice look and feel like? Have kids measure the raw rice grains with a ruler (best done in millimeters). When the baked rice is ready, remove a spoonful and let it cool slightly. Have kids compare a few grains of cooled, cooked rice to the uncooked rice. Ask kids: How has the rice changed? Have the grains of rice changed in size? (Kids can measure the cooked rice with a ruler to find out.) What do you notice about how the cooked rice looks and feels compared to the uncooked rice?

Explain to kids that just like dried pasta, grains of rice start out hard and dry. As they cook in water, the starch trapped in the rice grains begins to absorb that water and becomes softer and more flexible. Once the starches in the rice have absorbed all the water they can, the rice is tender and fluffy. 

Take it Further 
Social Studies (Culture):
The next time you’re at the grocery store, take a look at all of the different varieties of rice on the shelves. How many can you spot? Rice is an important ingredient that is eaten around the world, and people prepare and consume different kinds of rice in different ways. To learn more about how rice is used to make a variety of celebratory dishes served throughout the African Diaspora, share this video with kids.

Beef and Broccoli Stir-Fry

Let kids take the lead on dinner by making this tangy beef and broccoli stir-fry. This recipe uses a technique called “velveting”—coating the beef with a mixture that includes cornstarch to keep the meat juicy and tender and make the sauce thick and glossy. Serve this stir-fry with steamed white rice or Baked Brown Rice (see above).

What You’ll Need
1 tablespoon plus ¼ cup water, measured separately
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1½ teaspoons cornstarch
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 pound flank steak
¼ cup hoisin sauce
2 teaspoons Asian chili-garlic sauce
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
6 cups broccoli florets, cut into 1-inch pieces
4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced

Learning Moment
Science (Structure and Properties of Matter):
Cornstarch is the key to a stir-fry sauce that’s thick and glossy instead of thin and watery. Ask kids to think back to how they used cornstarch in this recipe (they whisked it with water, soy sauce, and baking soda in step 1, and then tossed the beef with that mixture in step 2). 

Explain to kids that they are going to make a model of what the cornstarch is doing in the stir-fry. A model is a representation that helps us better understand something. In this case they’re going to use cornstarch and water to model—help us understand—how cornstarch works. 

  1. In a small microwave-safe bowl, have kids whisk together ¼ cup room-temperature water and 2 teaspoons cornstarch. Ask them to observe what the mixture looks like.
  2. Place the cornstarch mixture in the microwave and cook until the mixture is bubbling, about 1 minute.
  3. Use oven mitts to remove the bowl from the microwave and let it cool slightly. Use a spoon to carefully stir the mixture. Ask kids to observe the thickness of this model “sauce.” What do they notice about it? How does it look different than it did in step 1? 

Explain to kids that cornstarch is an ingredient that causes liquids to thicken when they’re heated up. When the cornstarch in the mixture that coats the beef is cooked in the pan in step 5, the cornstarch-liquid mixture turns into a gel. A gel is a thick, jellylike substance (Jell-O, jam, and toothpaste are all examples of gels). If this recipe didn’t use the cornstarch, the stir-fry sauce would have stayed loose and watery. Instead, thanks to cornstarch, it’s nice and thick and coats each piece of beef and broccoli.

On sale throughout the month of December, the January edition of the Young Chefs’ Club is an introduction to the wide world of dumplings. Kids will travel to China while making Guotie (Pot Stickers), visit Argentina and Mexico while making sweet and savory empanadas, and visit Poland (by way of Pittsburgh) while making potato and cheddar pierogi. Kids can discover dumplings from around the world in our fold-out poster and use them to inspire their own miniature, decoratable dumpling sculptures.  
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