5 fun ways to create science in the kitchen!

With edible results of course!

This past Sunday, I taught a cooking class where we made homemade ricotta to use in our lasagna.  It was simple, it took less than an hour, and the kids thought that it was really cool! As I think back a few years, I've had similar "ah-ha science" moments when cooking with my kids. Here are some favorites that don't require a lot of time, ingredients, or money to recreate in your kitchen!

  1. Homemade Ricotta: The idea to make homemade ricotta had to practically hit me over the head twice before I actually made it.  First, I purchased a cheesemaking kit a couple of years ago and used it to make mozzarella from scratch several times, initially with my kids and then for a Girl Scout Brownie troop that I co-lead.  While the kit also included instructions for ricotta, I didn't make it.  Then, I came across another recipe for homemade ricotta on Chop Chop Magazine's website, and thought, I have to try this!  Here is the Chop Chop recipe for making ricotta: http://www.chopchopmag.org/recipe/homemade-ricotta
  2. Turn egg whites into "clouds" (which is necessary for delicious coconut macaroons): Watch your kids faces light up when 2 egg whites and a mere 1/4 teaspoon of salt turn into a fluffy white cloud-like mass in the bowl! Oh, and the cookies are delicious as well. My 9 year old son likes to make Ina Garten's recipe for Coconut Macaroons found here: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/coconut-macaroons-recipe3  For something extra special, dip them in chocolate!
  3. Homemade Whipped Cream: It's way more fun than the can or the tub!  All you need is a mason jar, a cup of heavy cream, a pinch of sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla.  Shake, shake, shake for a minute and viola! Whipped cream! Now that was easy! The Kitchn website even has a video: http://www.thekitchn.com/can-you-really-make-whipped-cream-with-just-a-mason-jar-putting-tips-to-the-test-in-the-kitchn-204588
  4. Pop some popcorn!: I "wowed" a group of 4 year old pre-schoolers last week by popping popcorn right before their eyes.  They had some questions about how those tiny hard kernels turned fluffy white.  Sure, it's easy to buy it by the bag, especially Skinny Pop..it is soooo good, or buy the microwave bags. But for about $15-20 you can get a decent air-popper + another $3 or so for a bag of kernels that will last a while.  In no time you'll make up the cost of all those bags at the store.  AND, you can season it any way you want.  I've also made popcorn in the microwave 3 ways: by putting kernels in a folded-over brown paper bag, by putting a dried cob in a folded-over brown paper bag, and by putting a dried cob in a glass bowl, partially covered by a microwave safe plate so it can vent. These methods have worked for me  (popping right off the cob is especially fun), but I've also read about a number of fires that start that way....and being highly risk-averse I tend to stick with the air-popper.  
  5. Bread dough: My kids favorite part is getting to punch down the dough after it's risen.  Since it's the only thing they're allowed to punch in our house, they all want a turn. The recipe can be pretty simple, and the science starts when you mix the yeast with a bit of warm water.  If you leave it for 15 minutes or so, it will get all foamy.  Then mix with your flour and maybe some egg or milk or oil and salt, knead for 10 minutes, and let rise under some dishtowels to keep it warm.  Kneading always seems like it takes FOREVER, and it seems like 60 seconds lasts about an hour.  But 60-90 minutes later, the big pillowy bread dough is ready for a good punch! Here's a link to my pizza dough post from last month, with a recipe: https://www.realfood4kids.com/news/2017/3/29/recipe-time-homemade-pizza

I hope you get to try at least one of these fun experiments with your kiddos!  Enjoy!