Kate Heyhoe

Kate's Global Kitchen

Holiday Cooking with Kids

by Kate Heyhoe


Calling all kids! Holidays mean not only having the kids out of school, but also getting a chance to invite them into the kitchen and help with the holiday baking. Whether you're making cookies, breads, or a batch of roasted party nuts, let the Young Chefs lend a hand.


The tips below are a good starting point for introducing kids (and even inexperienced adults) to the basics of measuring. And the simple recipes that follow put the cook's skills to the test, with tasty outcomes. After all, holidays are family time and food time, so combine them together for the best results.

Measuring with Confidence

Sometimes in cooking, precise measurements don't matter. Take pizza for instance. A recipe may call for 1/2 cup of sliced pepperoni, but if you don't measure and just toss on a handful of pepperoni, chances are the pizza won't be ruined. Many recipes though, especially ones for baked goods, do require close attention when measuring.

The Process: Measuring Accurately

Sometimes you measure just so one flavor doesn't overpower another. But some ingredients also react chemically with others, and an incorrect or imprecise measurement may alter the taste, texture or appearance of the entire dish. Cakes, batters and doughs often include a rising agent (yeast, baking powder, or other leavener), and they may depend on a delicate balance between liquid and dry ingredients to get proper results.

Kids make great measuring technicians. Even youngsters too small to work the stove or handle a knife can measure flour, chopped veggies, and liquids (sometimes with more mess than others). Measuring is fun and introduces kids to fractions and the subject of weights and measures.

Pointers: Use the right measuring tool; level off as called for.

To measure when cooking, use one of these kitchen tools:

• A set of measuring spoons, which can measure both liquid and dry ingredients. Measuring spoons come in 1/4-, 1/2-, and 1-teaspoon increments, a 1- tablespoon measure (which equals 3 teaspoons), and often a 1/8-teaspoon measure. For 1 teaspoon of liquid, fill the spoon to the rim. For 1 teaspoon of a dry ingredient, fill above the rim and then level off the top with a flat edge or knife. But if the recipe calls for a "rounded" spoonful, don't level off the top; allow a small amount to rest above the rim of the spoon, like a gentle hilltop. When the recipe calls or a "scant" spoonful, fill to just below the rim of the spoon.

• A clear measuring cup with a pour spout, used for liquids. Set the cup on the counter, pour in the liquid and bend down or stand so your eyes are level with the desired measurement line. Don't hold the cup in the air to view it. For "scant" measurements, fill to just below the line.

• A set of graduated cups in increments of 1/4-, 1/3-, 1/2- and 1-whole cup (or, a single cup with levels marked on it), for dry ingredients. To measure, spoon the dry ingredient (such as flour or sugar) into the cup, then level off the top with a spatula or knife. For brown sugar, shortening or butter, spoon the ingredient in and pack it down with the back of a spoon to push out any air pockets. But normally you don't pack an ingredient unless the recipe calls for it, as in "1/2 cup packed fresh basil leaves." For grated or shredded cheese, lightly add it to the measuring cup; don't pack it unless called for in the recipe.

• A kitchen scale, for weighing ingredients. While this is not essential, many recipes now list ingredients by weight instead of volume, or in many cases both. A measurement by weight is preferred because it's more accurate, especially in baking. Volumes are affected by other conditions, but weight is always constant. Flour, for instance, expands in humid weather, and it has more volume when stirred.

Reduce the 'Oops!': Never measure directly over the mixing bowl; if you accidentally add too much, you can't correct the measurement. Fill your measurement tool to the exact level you want, then pour it into your other ingredients.

Reduce the Mess: Let kids measure over a baking pan, wax paper or paper towels to catch any spills that happen. If spilled ingredients are clean, you can pour them back into their container.


Practice: Flaky Sour Cream Drop Biscuits

Makes 12 biscuits

Making drop biscuits is as easy as making drop cookies. You don't need a rolling pin, and these light and flaky treats are an effective way to boost kitchen confidence. With this recipe, Young Chefs gain experience in using measuring spoons, dry measuring cups and liquid measuring cups. Kids can make the batter and drop the biscuits, but adults should move the baking sheet in and out of the hot oven. (Don't forget the oven mitts!) Spread these biscuits with jam for breakfast, or serve them hot and buttered with dinner or soup.


2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup shortening
2/3 cup whole milk or skim milk
2/3 cup sour cream (or yogurt)

1. Heat oven to 450 degrees F. Grease baking sheet.

2. In medium mixing bowl, stir the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together.

3. Cut in shortening until mixture is crumbly. Use a pastry blender or gently mash with a fork.

4. In a small bowl, stir the milk and sour cream together until well blended.

5. Pour the liquid mixture into the flour mixture. Stir just until ingredients are moistened.

6. Drop dough by tablespoons onto baking sheet. Bake 10 to 12 minutes until golden brown. Serve warm. (Safety tip: Wear oven mitts to protect your hands, or ask an adult to take the tray in and out of the oven.)


More Fun Cooking with Kids

Blast-Off Blueberry Biscuits
Happy, Dappy, Flappy Jacks
Phoebe Snow's Mashed Maple Syrup Apples
Grandma McLeod's Gingerbread

cooking kids Cooking with Kids website


Kate's Global Kitchen for November 2004:
11/05/04     Thanksgiving Headquarters
11/12/04     Go Fig-ure: The Beauty of Figs
11/19/04     Holiday Cooking with Kids
11/26/04     Gathering the Tribe: From Pilgrims to Powwows


Copyright © 2004, Kate Heyhoe. All rights reserved.


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This page created November 2004