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Prairie Fare: Accurate Measurement Promotes Baking Success

Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Food and Nutrition Specialist Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Food and Nutrition Specialist
Unfortunately, many young adults emerge from childhood without some basic cooking and baking skills.

By Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist

NDSU Extension Service

“Should I put it in this bowl or that bowl?” my 13-year-old son asked.

“Add to this bowl,” I replied, pointing at the stainless steel mixing bowl.

“Are you sure? You’re not talking about that bowl, are you?” he asked with a grin.

“Do I use this teaspoon or that one?” my 10-year-old daughter added with a giggle.

I was getting the picture. Maybe I was being a bit too “directive” as I taught my kids how to measure and bake.

“Mom, what’s a sifter?” my son asked as he perused an old recipe.

I almost said, “Do you mean this sifter or that sifter?”

I found the sifter and showed him how to use it. Then he patted the sifted flour into a measuring cup with a spoon.

“You really don’t need to sift flour as long as you do not pack it into a cup. If you pack it down, you will have too much flour in your recipe. It might get somewhat dry. Since we are using a sifter today, let’s measure it again,” I replied.

I poured the flour back into the sifter.

My son said nothing. He looked at me sideways, though, as he sifted the flour again.

This time he spooned the flour into a measuring cup and scraped off the excess with a knife. When he measured it the second time, he noted the extra flour on the waxed paper.

Seeing was believing, I hope.

We enjoyed many baked goods, including buns, cookies, muffins and cake the week and a half they had no school because of the flooding situation. For sure, we weren’t short on calories, but I hope both kids were gathering some lifetime skills.

Unfortunately, many young adults emerge from childhood without some basic cooking and baking skills. Cooking has become a spectator sport. We all can watch cooking shows, read cooking magazines and play games about food on handheld computers.

As we know, watching people play basketball does not necessarily build our athletic skills. Watching other people cook and bake does not necessarily build our culinary skills, either.

A few years ago, the Betty Crocker Kitchens sponsored a national survey of 1,500 adults. About 70 percent of the respondents rated their knowledge as “above average,” but just 38 percent scored “above average” on the 20-point quiz.

The Betty Crocker Kitchens also surveyed 1,000 kids ages 10 to 17. Every respondent knew how to play a computer game, but just 41 percent knew how to use a blender to make a fruit smoothie.

Try a few questions from the quiz given to the adults to see how you do.

1. How many teaspoons are in one tablespoon? a. 2 b. 3 c. 4

2. One stick of butter is equal to: a. 1/4 cup b. 1/3 cup c. 1/2 cup d. 1 cup

3. How much uncooked rice is needed to yield 1 cup of cooked rice? a. 1/3 cup b. 1/2 cup c. 3/4 cup d. 1 cup

4. You would use a Dutch oven when preparing which of the following? a. Lasagna b. Cake c. Beef stew

The answers: 1. b. 3 teaspoons; 2. c. 1/2 cup; 3. a. 1/3 cup; 4. c. Beef stew

For a free online cookbook and many fact sheets with recipes, visit Click on “For Parents/Caregivers.” The “Now Serving” handout series includes publications about cooking with kids and teens.

Here’s a simple recipe that will appeal to all ages:


1 Tbsp. yeast

1/2 c. warm water

1 tsp. honey

1 1/3 c. flour

1 tsp. salt

Toppings of choice

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. In a small bowl, combine yeast, water and honey. Let it sit for five minutes. In a medium bowl, mix the flour and salt together. After five minutes, add the yeast mixture to the flour and salt and mix well. (Mixture will be slightly crumbly.) Place the dough on a cutting board and knead it into a big ball. Break off 12 pieces of dough about the size of a big gumball and roll each one into a skinny snake. Twist the dough into a pretzel shape (or any shape you want). Bake for 10 minutes or until lightly browned.

Serve with warmed spaghetti sauce or honey mustard. For a sweet treat, you can brush with a light coat of butter and dip in cinnamon and sugar.

Makes 12 servings. Each one-pretzel serving has 50 calories, 0 grams (g) of fat, 11 g of carbohydrate and 2 g of protein.

(Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and associate professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.)

NDSU Agriculture Communication

Source:Julie Garden-Robinson, (701) 231-7187,
Editor:Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136,
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