Eat Right: Cooking as an Educational Opportunity (Plus, Recipes!)

With school out of session, we're finding new and exciting ways to turn household activities into learning opportunities! 

This week, we're heading into the kitchen with some of our favorite kid-friendly, spring-inspired recipes. Follow along as we explore the science behind our favorite snacks!

Experiment #1: Science with Sourdough

  • The Recipe:

    • For Sourdough Starter
      • 1 cup flour
      • 1 cup water
      • 1 glass bowl or pitcher

    • For Sourdough Bread
      • 2 cups sourdough starter
      • 2 cups warm milk
      • 2 Tbsp butter
      • 1/4 cup honey
      • 1/4 cup sugar
      • 2 Tbsp yeast
      • 2 cups flour
      • 2 tsp salt
      • (We used this handy recipe from Kids' Cooking Activities!)

  • The Experiment:

    • Make your Sourdough Starter by combining one cup of water and one cup of water in a glass bowl or pitcher. Cover your container with a paper towel (held in place with a rubber band, if needed). Every day for a week, add 1/2 cup of flour and 1/2 cup of water, and stir to combine. 

    • Each day, write down your observations about the Sourdough Starter. Is it starting to bubble? Does it smell sour or sweet? What do you think it will look like tomorrow?

    • After one week, your Sourdough Starter is ready to make bread! Use it to start your favorite Sourdough recipe, and enjoy the delicious result!

  • What We Learned: In this experiment, we see the science behind yeast. The Sourdough Starter bubbles because it's letting off CO2: the same chemical reaction that creates the "rise" we see in bread dough. This is a great way to study chemical reactions!

Experiment #2: The Puzzle of Pickles

  • The Recipe:

    • 1/2 lb cucumbers, sliced into sticks
    • 1/2 lb baby carrots
    • 1/2 lb red onions, slivered
    • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
    • 1/3 cup sea salt
    • 8 cups water
    • 1 tsp fresh dill, washed, dried, and separated from stems
    • 3 glass jars with sealing lids

  • The Experiment:

    • Make the brine by combining the water, vinegar, salt, and dill in a large bowl. 
    • Separate your veggies into 3 glass jars, and fill until all the vegetables are covered with brine. Seal the jars tight! Store all three jars in the fridge.
    • Each day, observe the vegetables to see what has changed in terms of color, smell, and touch. Be sure to re-seal the jars when you're done with your observations.
    • Make predictions for the next day's changes. Which veggies do you think will "pickle" first? What color will the carrots turn? What will the cucumbers taste like when they're done? Will the onions be soft or crunchy?
    • After at least a week, devour your creations! Depending on how thick you cut your vegetables, the veggies may need as long as three weeks to pickle all the way. 

  • What We Learned: In this experiment, we see how chemical reactions make veggies change color and texture over time.  We're able to extend the life of our fruits and veggies in a new flavorful way. This is also a great opportunity to teach a history lesson! Did you know pickles have been around for more than 2,000 years?!

Experiment #3: Exploring Earth's Layers

  • The Recipe: *Note: Most "Edible Earth" recipes involve candies and other sweet treats to make model Earths. Our recipe suggests a few healthier alternatives, but you can always mix and match ingredients your kids enjoy!

    • For the inner core: About a cup of hard, edible items, like frozen fruit, an uncut apple, or nuts. 
    • For the outer core: About a cup of a softer edible item, like mashed potatoes, nut butter, or cooked rice. 
    • For the mantle: About two cups of a multi-textured edible item, like melted marshmallows with puffed-rice cereal, low calorie pudding or jello, or ice cream with mixed-in toppings. 
    • For the crust: About a cup of a "rocky" edible food item, like crushed up cereal, crushed graham crackers, or nuts. 
    • If you're going for the "layered" approach rather than a "ball," you'll also need a clear container, like a glass or clear plastic cup.

  • The Experiment:

    • The Ball Method: 
      • Start by forming your "inner core" material into a ball. Freeze for 30 minutes, if needed, then apply the next three layer materials in succession.
      • Your mantle should be the thickest layer: about twice as thick as the others. Your crust should be the thinnest: just a light outer dusting.
      • Freeze your growing sphere whenever it starts getting tough to handle.  
      • When you're done, cut the sphere in half and inspect the different layers before devouring your creation. 

    • The Layer Method:
      • Starting with a clear plastic or glass container, sprinkle in a light layer of your "crust" material. Follow this with a generous portion of your "mantle" (about half), followed by half of your "outer core" material. Be careful to make your layers level, so you can see the differences from the outside. 
      • Add in ALL of your "inner core," then follow with the rest of your "outer core" and "mantle" materials. Finish up with another light dusting of your "crust."
      • Before you dig in, inspect the individual layers from the outside of your container. The finished product should show the individual layers in great detail! 
      • Enjoy a delicious snack!

  • What We Learned: Both methods offer a close look at the layers of the Earth. Explain the differences between the layers: the Inner Core of the Earth is made of tough, compact iron and nickel. The Outer Core is a slightly softer layer made from similar materials we'd find in the core--but they're molten hot! The Mantle is the Earth's thickest layer, and contains a mix of hard and soft materials that move very slowly around the Outer Core. Finally, the Crust is where we live: it's comprised of dirt, top soil, and the rocky surface layer that makes up the ground we walk on. 

How did your creations turn out? Let us know on social media! We'd love to see your pictures on Instagram, where you can find us at @new.jammies