A pinch of this, a dash of that. The more experienced cooks can often get by without properly measuring ingredients. Their skill and experience guides them to know how much to add, but many novice cooks struggle at knowing when is enough to give flavor and when is enough to push it to the edge of inedible.

Anyone who has ever read a recipe has probably come across some vague terms. A pinch, dash, scant or heaping may have different meanings for each home cook. However, there are universal “measurements” for these terms. A pinch is the ingredients between your forefinger and your thumb. It’s less than a dash. A pinch of salt, for example, might be close to 1/16 teaspoon. A dash, on the other hand, was originally used to measure liquid ingredients, but more recently, it has been used to measure dry ingredients. When measuring liquid, it’s about three drops, and when measuring dry, it’s between 1/16 and 1/8 teaspoons.

“Add one scant teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes.” Scant is another unclear term you may find. It’s a measurement that is slightly less than the amount in the recipe. In fact, it’s so very close to meeting the absolute correct measurement that it can be considered “just barely.” A heaping teaspoon, in contrast, is used when measuring dry ingredients and means the ingredient should me mounded over the rim of the measuring utensil.

These terms aren’t really great terms to use in recipes because of the unfamiliarity of them. It’s better to use the exact measurement, but when you do come across them, you will be in better shape to pull off a great-tasting product.

Orange and Sweet Potato Pork Chops

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 dash salt (optional)

1 dash black pepper (optional)

2 (4 ounces) pork chops

1 large sweet potato, peeled and cubed

½ orange, sliced

1 dash cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a medium skillet, heat oil on medium high. Salt and pepper pork chops, if desired. Brown chops in oil, turning to brown both sides, about 2-3 minutes per side. Place potatoes in a small baking dish. Place meat on top of potatoes and top with orange slices. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Cover and bake for 45-50 minutes or until pork reaches at least 145 degrees Fahrenheit measured with a thermometer.

Yield: 2 servings

Nutrition facts (per serving): 250 calories, 9 grams fat, 110 milligrams sodium, 19 grams carbohydrate, 4 grams fiber, 25 grams protein

Adapted from University of Nebraska Lincoln Extension

Smith, a registered dietitian, is a nutrition and wellness educator for the University of Illinois Extension, McLean County. Contact her at 309-663-8306.

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