Welcome to week 42 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 holiday season, America's Test Kitchen Kids is asking kids to bake cookies to send to whoever they think needs a little joy in their life. Adults can take a picture and tag @testkitchenkids on Instagram with the hashtag #CookiesFromKids to participate in this sweet campaign, and we'll donate $1 for every photo posted in the month of December.
This week, kids can practice using their senses in a Tasting & Testing: Frozen Waffles activity; write some silly poetry as they cook an easy family dinner of Meatballs, a recipe from My First Cookbook; tackle some math word problems while making and decorating a batch of Cake Pops; and help the whole family get back in a weekday routine after winter break by making Overnight Oats with Bananas and Brown Sugar for a quick morning breakfast.
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 December 28th through January 3rd.
Tasting & Testing: Frozen Waffles
Sharpen your taste-testing skills and have a waffle party with your family! In this activity, kids and family members will taste different brands of frozen waffles and determine which one is the family favorite by rating them based on their flavor and texture. You can also swap out the waffles and do a taste test of tortilla chips, pickles, or cheese instead, if you prefer.
[GET THE ACTIVITY]
What You’ll Need
2–3 different brands of frozen waffles
1 tablespoon maple syrup per person
2 unsalted, plain crackers or 1 slice white sandwich bread per person
Engineering & Design (Executing Fair Tests, Analyzing and Interpreting Data):
As they try each sample, tasters will carefully observe the flavor and texture of each to decide which is their favorite. Explain to kids that when making observations, those observations can be subjective or objective. A subjective observation is one that involves someone’s personal opinions. This taste test is an example of a subjective test because it asks tasters about what they like or don’t like, which can be different from person to person. Saying, for example, “I like the flavor of sample 1 the best,” is a subjective observation, based on one person’s opinion, and other tasters might feel differently. An objective observation, on the other hand, is a measurable fact. Saying, for example, “Sample 1 is thicker than sample 2,” is an objective observation, because you could measure the thickness of each sample with a ruler to see which is thicker, which won’t change depending on any person’s opinions or preferences. An objective test with waffles would be to test how much syrup each sample could absorb, which could be measured by volume or weight.
To test their understanding of this concept, challenge your young chef to decide whether these statements are subjective or objective:
- “The texture of waffle 1 is too hard and crunchy; waffles should be soft.” (Answer: subjective)
- “The diameter of waffle 1 is bigger than waffle 3.” (Answer: objective)
- “The color of waffle 2 is more yellow than waffle 1.” (Answer: objective)
- “The flavor of waffle 3 is gross.” (Answer: subjective)
- “I like how fluffy waffle 2 is on the inside.” (Answer: subjective)
This simple meatball recipe was designed with kids ages 5 to 8 in mind. Your young chef will have fun shaping and rolling the meatballs, which are cooked right in their sauce. These meatballs are great with pasta (this recipe makes enough to sauce 12 ounces of pasta) or on meatball subs.
[GET THE RECIPE]
What You’ll Need
½ cup panko bread crumbs
½ cup milk
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon sugar
¾ teaspoon salt
1 pound 85 percent lean ground beef
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese (1 ounce)
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon dried oregano
English Language Arts (Poetry):
If you have a copy of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett, read it with your young chef (or have them read it to you!) while the meatballs are cooking or after you make this recipe. If you don’t have a copy, you can watch this read-aloud version. Ask kids: What would you do if it started raining meatballs in our neighborhood? What food would you like to see come down from the sky instead of rain? Why? Then, challenge kids to come up with a silly limerick about raining meatballs, or the food they’d like to see fall from the sky. Limericks are five lines long. The first, second, and fifth lines all rhyme, and each line should contain 7 to 10 syllables. The third and fourth lines also rhyme and should contain 5 to 7 syllables. Here’s an example:
Are those raindrops falling from the sky?
No, they’re blueberries from a big ol’ pie!
Now here’s the plan, Stan,
Eat as many as you can–
Ouch! One just hit me in the eye!
(If writing a limerick is a bit too challenging, encourage kids to think of words that rhyme with some of the key words from this recipe, such as “mix,” “place,” “cook,” and “cheese.”)
Winter break is a great time to tackle some creative baking projects as a family, such as these Cake Pops! Kids start by baking a yellow cake, then mix crumbled, cooled cake with a bit of milk before shaping the mixture into round cake pops. Here’s where the creativity comes in: Kids can dip their cake pops into melted dark, milk, or white chocolate (they can add food coloring to the white chocolate, if desired), and add colorful sprinkle or sanding sugar. It’s a delicious project, to be sure, but one kids will be proud to make, share—and eat!
[GET THE RECIPE]
What You’ll Need
For the Cake
Vegetable oil spray
1 cup (5 ounces) all-purpose flour
⅔ cup (4⅔ ounces) sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
⅓ cup sour cream
1 large egg plus 1 large yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
To Finish Cake Pops
3 tablespoons (1½ ounces) milk
2 cups (12 ounces) chocolate chips or white chocolate chips
Sprinkles or sanding sugar
As they’re waiting for the Cake Pops to set, challenge kids to think through the questions in this (Cake) Pop Quiz!
- This recipe makes 24 cake pops. If you dip half of them in white chocolate and the other half in dark chocolate, how many of each type of cake pop will you have? (Answer: 24 cake pops ÷ 2 types of chocolate = 12 white chocolate cake pops and 12 dark chocolate cake pops)
- If you dip ¼ of your cake pops in dark chocolate and ¾ of them in white chocolate, how many of each type of cake pop will you have? (Answer: ¼ of 24 = 6 dark chocolate cake pops; ¾ of 24 = 18 white chocolate cake pops)
- If you have two types of chocolate (dark chocolate and white chocolate) and three colors of sprinkles (pink, green, and blue), how many different combinations of cake pops can you make? (Answer: 2 types of chocolate x 3 colors of sprinkles = 6 combinations)
Dark chocolate + pink sprinkles
White chocolate + pink sprinkles
Dark chocolate + blue sprinkles
White chocolate + blue sprinkles
Dark chocolate + green sprinkles
White chocolate + green sprinkles
- If you wanted to make a cake pop rainbow with the 7 colors of the rainbow (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet), with 3 cake pops of each color, how many cake pops would you have left over? (Answer: 7 colors in the rainbow x 3 cake pops of each = 21 cake pops; 24 cake pops - 21 cake pops = 3 cake pops left over)
- The best part of making cake pops is getting to decorate them however you like! If you have 3 people in your family, and you want everyone to decorate an equal number of cake pops, how many cake pops will each person get to decorate? (Answer: 24 cake pops ÷ 3 people = 8 cake pops per person)
Overnight Oatmeal with Bananas and Brown Sugar
Whether your family is working and learning at home or in-person, kids can help everyone transition back into the school routine by making this breakfast recipe that starts the night before—saving everyone some time in the morning! If you’d like to try a different flavor, you can also check out this recipe’s variations with blueberries and almonds, raisins and brown sugar, and toasted coconut. To learn more about different kinds of oats and how they cook, kids can conduct a simple experiment using the microwave.
[GET THE RECIPE]
What You’ll Need
3 cups plus 1 cup water, measured separately
1 cup steel-cut oats
¼ teaspoon salt
2 ripe bananas, chopped
3 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Science (Executing Fair Tests; Plants):
Explain to kids that there are a few different types of oats that you can usually find at the grocery store. This recipe calls for steel-cut oats. Take a look in the pantry to see if you have any other types of oats on hand, such as old-fashioned rolled oats or quick oats. If so, have kids try this simple science experiment to determine how they are different.
- Have kids use masking tape and a marker to label 3 cereal bowls with “Quick-Cooking,” “Rolled,” and “Steel-Cut,” depending on the oats you have (if you only have two of the three, that’s fine). Have them place ¼ cup of each type of oat in its labeled bowl.
- Have kids observe the oats and make a prediction: What do kids notice about each type of oats? Which type do they think will cook fastest? Which one do they think will cook slowest? Why do they think that?
- Have kids add ½ cup water to the bowl with the quick-cooking oats. Have them place the bowl in the microwave and heat for 1 minute. Have them use a spoon to stir oats and taste a small amount. If the oats are tender and the liquid is absorbed, have kids use oven mitts remove the bowl from the microwave. If not, continue to heat in the microwave, 1 minute at a time, stirring and tasting at each 1 minute mark, until tender. Have kids record how many minutes this took.
- Have kids repeat cooking with the rolled and steel-cut oats in their separate bowls, heating, stirring, and tasting every 1 minute until tender. (If the oats aren’t tender yet but are looking very dry, stop! You don’t want them to scorch.) Have kids use oven mitts to remove bowls from microwave.
- Ask kids to compare and analyze their results: How long did it take for each type of oat to cook? Did each type of oat get tender before all of the water was absorbed? Why do kids think that is?
- To eat their experiment, kids can re-warm the quick-cooking or rolled oats in the microwave for 1 minute and top with their favorite toppings.
While kids enjoy eating their results, explain to them that old-fashioned, quick-cooking, and steel-cut oats all come from the same plant (oats!). The difference is in how they're processed. Old-fashioned and quick-cooking oats cook faster because they are both rolled oats. Rolled oats are lightly baked, steamed, and then pressed between two rollers and flattened. It’s almost like they’re like a sponge being squeezed flat, ready to absorb water again later, making them cook much faster. After being rolled, quick-cooking oats are cut in half, and sometimes in half again! They are much smaller, and therefore cook faster than old-fashioned oats which are more or less left intact. That’s really the only difference between them.
Steel cut oats took a lot longer to cook than the other two in this experiment. This is because they are not rolled. Steel cut oats get lightly baked, like all oats, but that’s really it! The baked oats are cut into three or four pieces and then packaged up. Because they don’t have the extra step of being steamed first, they take much longer to cook. But many people prefer the way they taste, and so for them it might be worth the extra cook time. This is why our recipe soaks steel-cut oats overnight, so they are quick to cook in the morning!
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.