Kids Club Vol. 41: Spices
Welcome to the latest issue of our ChopChop Kids Club newsletter!
This month, we’re jazzing up our food with spices. Spices are the seeds, bark, berries, or roots of a fragrant plant or tree that have been dried and (often) ground to a powder. We use lots of spices in our recipes because they add so much delicious flavor and aroma to food—and, despite the name, spices aren’t always spicy! Keep reading for recipes, activities, and fun facts about this powerful ingredient.
INSIDE THIS ISSUE
- Cutting board
- Sharp knife (adult needed)
- Measuring cup
- Measuring spoons
- Medium Pot
- Wooden spoon
- Pot holders
- Potato masher or fork
- Lidded container
- 8 apples, peeled (if you like), cored, and diced
- 1 cup water
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg or cardamom
- Pinch salt
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- Put the apples, water, and spices in the pot, cover it, and put it on the stove. Turn the heat to medium-low and cook until the apples are very tender and falling apart, about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure the apples aren’t sticking. If the apples are tender but there is still a lot of water, keep cooking.
- Add the salt and lemon juice and stir well. Set aside to cool a bit, about 10 minutes. If the applesauce isn’t as smooth as you like it, stir it vigorously with a spoon or whisk. Serve right away, or put it in the container and refrigerate until cold. The applesauce will keep, covered and refrigerated, up to 4 days.
Spice Starter Kit
If you’re new to spices, try stocking your pantry with some of our favorites:
Red pepper flakes and cayenne are great for adding spiciness to almost any dish.
Chili powder is a blend of ground chiles, cumin, oregano, and garlic.
Cumin is a key ingredient in Mexican and Indian cooking. Its flavor goes well with beans.
Curry powder is a blend of South Asian spices. It is a great way to season many dishes, from egg salad to stir-fries.
Black pepper is a basic seasoning. Many spice companies sell whole peppercorns in a built-in pepper grinder. Freshly ground is a tastier choice than pre-ground.
It’s useful to know how a spice tastes so you can decide if you’d like to add it to a dish you’re making.
- Gather an assortment of spices and sprinkle a bit of each around the rim of a dinner plate. Label them in case you don’t remember which spice you sprinkled where.
- Cut an apple into small chunks or wedges and put them in the middle of the plate. The apple will give you something to taste the spice on that doesn’t have too strong a flavor of its own. (You could also use plain cooked pasta shapes or cooked potato cubes.)
- Now start tasting: Dip an apple chunk in one of the spices and eat it. Is it a warm or cool flavor? Is it sweet or spicy? Is it mild or strong? Do you like it?
- Which are your favorites?
- Which are your least favorites?
- Which spices do you think would go well with which kinds of food?
- Guess which spices might taste good together, and try two or more at one time.
- Close your eyes. Ask a friend to dip an apple slice in one of the spices and give it to you to taste. Can you guess which one it is?
A masala is an Indian spice mix. Curry powder, on the other hand, is actually a Western invention, but it’s a mix of traditional Indian spices that might include coriander, turmeric, chiles, cumin, fennel, black pepper, garlic, ginger, fenugreek, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, and mustard.
Kitchen Science: The Scoville Scale
The Scoville scale, developed in 1912 by a chemist named Wilbur Scoville, measures the heat of peppers, assigning each pepper an SHU (Scoville Heat Unit). Bell peppers have an SHU of 0, habanero peppers have an SHU of 200,000, and ghost chiles have an SHU of over a million!
Here’s how the rating works: A specific weight of dried pepper is dissolved in alcohol to extract the spicy compounds (called capsaicinoids). This solution is then diluted with sugar water until tasters can no longer detect the spiciness of the peppers. The Scoville rating is based on how diluted the pepper extract had to be to reach this undetectable amount of heat.
Spiced Dyed Eggs
It’s fun to make your own dye from spices! Experiment with other foods and spices: tea or coffee, onion skins, cabbage leaves, grated beets. Try painting on an egg with yellow mustard and then wiping it off with a paper towel. (The mustard gets its color from turmeric!)
WHAT YOU NEED
1 teaspoon white vinegar
2 cups water
2 teaspoons ground turmeric (for yellow dye) or 1 tablespoon paprika (for orange dye)
Hard-cooked white eggs (see https://www.chopchopfamily.org/recipe/our-favorite-hard-cooked-eggs/)
1. Put the vinegar and water in a pot with either of the spices. Put the pot on the stove, turn the heat to medium-high, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium and boil the mixture for 30 minutes. Turn off the heat.
2. Cool the dye to room temperature, about 30 minutes.
3. To color the eggs, soak them in the cooled dye mixture for at least 30 minutes. For really rich colors, try leaving them overnight in the refrigerator. After you’re done admiring your dye job, you can peel and eat the eggs! (Or refrigerate them in their shells to eat later.)