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Holiday baking a time to teach

"Let's go crazy, mom!" my 4-year-old exclaimed. She began gyrating around the kitchen in time to a jazzy holiday compact disc. "This is a good break from mixing cookies!" I said as I jitterbugged around the kitchen with my lively child. I figured...

"Let's go crazy, mom!" my 4-year-old exclaimed. She began gyrating around the kitchen in time to a jazzy holiday compact disc.

"This is a good break from mixing cookies!" I said as I jitterbugged around the kitchen with my lively child.

I figured we burned off a couple of cookies worth of energy in the process.

Dancing burns 400 calories an hour.

After several songs, she was ready for a nap. I needed one, too.


My 9-year-old daughter helped bake the cookies. After they cooled, we assembled the cookies in stacks six cookies high. When I began to package them for a cookie exchange, I noticed that some of the stacks had shrunk.

My daughter giggled. She was either a witness or an accomplice. My 12-year-old son sheepishly entered the kitchen. I saw some crumbs on his face.

I didn't mind. He helped me make another batch of cookies.

Baking holiday cookies isn't just about making treats; it's about making memories, too.

Even though most cookies aren't "nutritional all-stars," we have room for some treats (discretionary calories) in an overall healthy diet. Enjoy your treats with some low-fat milk to get some calcium and vitamin D.

Children learn many things when they help you bake. They learn about language as they read recipes. Kids learn about math, especially if you're doubling or tripling recipes.

They learn the importance of accuracy, since baking is a science and inaccurate measuring can greatly affect a recipe. They learn about science, if you explain the function of the ingredients. For example, baking powder interacts with the acidic ingredients to produce carbon dioxide during baking, which causes the cookies to rise.

They may learn a little bit about conflict resolution, especially if siblings are involved. Kids also learn a little about delayed gratification. Making cookies from scratch takes time.


Kids may refine their skills in outwitting their parents by sneaking cookies, too.

Here are a few tips for the baking season.

E Measure accurately. Instead of scooping, spoon flour into the measuring cup and level off by scraping with a knife.

E Use the type of fat called for in the recipe. If you swap solid shortening, such as Crisco, for butter, then add the recommended amount of water specified on the package.

E Don't overmix cookies or quick breads. They can toughen as the gluten protein in the flour develops with mixing.

E Don't eat dough that contains raw eggs. It could contain salmonella bacteria.

E Preheat your oven to the recommended temperature.

E For best results, bake one pan at a time. Let the baking pan cool in between batches.


E Have fun. Put on some festive music and take a dancing break.

Here's a recipe for a holiday treat from the University of Massachusetts Extension Service.

Cranberry Pumpkin Muffins

2 cups flour

¾ cup sugar

3 tsp. baking powder

½ tsp. salt

½ tsp. cinnamon

¾ tsp. allspice

Zc cup vegetable oil

2 large eggs

¾ cup canned pumpkin

2 cups fresh or frozen chopped cranberries

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Sift together dry ingredients and set aside. Beat oil, eggs and pumpkin together until well blended. Add the wet ingredients (pumpkin mixture) to the dry ingredients all at once. Stir until moistened. Fold in chopped cranberries. Spoon into paper-lined muffin cups (use silver ones for a festive look). Bake at 400 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes.

Makes 12 muffins. Each muffin has 200 calories, 7 grams (g) of fat, 32 g of carbohydrate, 2 g of fiber and 50 percent of the recommended amount of vitamin A (as beta carotene).

Julie Garden-Robinson is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and associate professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences. Holiday baking a time to teach By Julie Garden-Robinson 20071221

Related Topics: AGRICULTURE
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