Welcome to week 13 of Kitchen Classroom 2021, where America’s Test Kitchen Kids is sharing a weekly kid-tested and kid-approved recipe, hands-on experiment, or activity paired with a “Learning Moment” that brings learning to life in the kitchen.
In this week’s edition of Kitchen Classroom, Kids Cook Dinner! Our simple one-pot recipe for Stovetop Macaroni & Cheese is a step up from the box and easy for kids to make as a main or side dish for a family meal. It gets its ultracreamy sauce thanks to American cheese, and its punch of cheesy flavor from extra-sharp cheddar. As kids make the recipe, they will use scientific practices to observe how the elbow macaroni change in size and texture as they cook. And as the family gathers around the table to eat, you can use our conversation starters in Take It Further to reflect on this cheesy comfort food.
Don’t forget to share what your family makes by tagging @testkitchenkids or using #ATKkids on Instagram, or by sending photos to firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 March 29th through April 4th, 2021.
Kids Cook Dinner: Stovetop Macaroni & Cheese
Macaroni and cheese is always a crowd favorite, whether it’s a side dish or a full-on meal. This recipe is simple enough for kids to make on their own and share with family or friends. Make sure you get the American cheese from the deli section of your grocery store instead of individually-wrapped “singles.” Those are made with extra ingredients that will make the sauce too thick, plus they don’t have a lot of flavor. Because the macaroni is cooked in a measured amount of liquid, we don’t recommend using different shapes or sizes of pasta in this recipe.
[GET THE RECIPE]
What You’ll Need
1½ cups water
1 cup milk
2 cups (8 ounces) elbow macaroni
8-10 slices deli American cheese (4 ounces)
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 cup shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese (4 ounces)
Physical Science (Structure and Properties of Matter):
Before starting to cook, ask kids to make a prediction: How will the pasta in this recipe change when you cook it? Will the individual macaroni change in size or texture? Use this activity to find out:
- Before cooking, have kids use a ruler to measure a piece of uncooked macaroni in millimeters. Have them write down their measurement and anything else they observe about what it looks and feels like.
- Halfway through cooking, ask kids to spoon out one piece of macaroni from the saucepan and place it in a bowl to cool slightly. When it’s cool enough to handle, have kids measure and observe any changes in size and texture. They can also eat it, if they like!
- At the end of the recipe, have kids repeat this step with a piece of fully-cooked macaroni.
- After enjoying their meal, discuss the changes that kids recorded throughout the cooking process. Did anything surprise them? How much did the elbow macaroni change in size between steps? What did they notice about changes in texture? See if they have any other observations about any changes in color, smell, or taste.
- Explain to kids that most noodles (including pasta, such as elbow macaroni) start out hard and dry, but when they’re cooked in boiling water, the noodles absorb some of that water and become softer and more flexible. They also increase in size as the starches in the pasta absorb the water.
Take It Further
Language Arts (Speaking and Listening):
As you enjoy your macaroni and cheese together, use the prompts below to help foster conversation around your table. As kids and other family members answer the questions, help them think through their thoughts and feelings about their answers and what has been said by others. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Macaroni and cheese is simple and delicious on its own, but what are some extra ingredients or toppings you could add to it to make even more interesting?
- Macaroni and cheese is often thought of as “comfort food.” What does “comfort” mean? What are some things in your life that give you comfort?
- If you could open a restaurant of your own that only served macaroni and cheese, what would you call it? What are some other super cheesy meals could you serve?