Monday, May 21, 2012

Sunday Afternoon Baking - or - How Long Has This Been in the Cupboard?

As I mentioned earlier, painting the kitchen means moving everything out first - and since the new paint looks so nice, you don't want to just jam everything back in. Some of my preserves (apples in various form, pumpkin puree, all types of peaches, plums, and pears) have been there since Fall of 2010. Still perfectly good, but it would probably be wise to use them up before I go on another canning kick this fall.

So, I am on a baking kick. Much more productive! Now I will have plenty of shelf space - and no freezer space. I'll deal with that later.

I don't know about your household, but breakfast just doesn't happen in ours most mornings. Not in that 1950's hot-off-the-griddle way, anyway. Maybe some oatmeal, hot out of the microwave. We did have sausage and eggs today - for lunch! Breakfast tends to be whatever we can grab and pour out or heat up quickly, and if we can take it with us, all the better. Every once in a while I will take two whole loaves of bread, make them into french toast, flash freeze them, then bag them up and put them back in the freezer. Just pop one in the toaster, and it's ready for butter and syrup!

Biscuits and muffins are also a good alternative, and they generally freeze well. I had a box of baking mix (I have no idea why) that was close to expiration date, so I started with that. Keeping in mind that this is bulk cooking, we have:

Cheesy Garlic Breakfast Biscuits

Start with one box (40 oz) of baking mix.
Stir in 2 1/2 cups milk.
Add 2 T garlic salt and 1-2 cups shredded cheddar (other cheeses might be good too)

Stir until just mixed. Drop heaping spoonfuls onto cookie sheets and bake at 450 for about ten minutes. Watch carefully, the bottoms can burn before the tops look done.

There were a LOT of these...but every time someone walked through the kitchen, they ate one or two...or ten. I rescued a few dozen to put in the freezer, but that was only about half of what I made!

Next we made:

Christmas Muffins

So named because, as soon as I opened the oven, the whole room smelled like Christmas - you know, that smell you get in stores that sell Christmas decorations, usually including huge bins of cinnamon-cranberry potpourri sitting right by the door? In other words, yum! I couple of these myself.

Stir together:

1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 1/2 cups white sugar
6 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 T baking powder
1 tsp salt
5 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp ginger

Then add:

2 cups butter, melted
4 eggs
2 1/2 cups milk

Gently fold in:

1 bag cranberries that you found in the freezer
2-3 cups of apple pulp left over from when Daddy made cider, and which was also in the freezer (or, applesauce might work)
1 bag of chopped pecans

It will look something like this:

But will smell and taste a lot better, I promise.

I had some large muffin ppers I wanted to use, but no tins that size, so I filled them partway and put them on cookie sheets and in a baking pan.

They came out kind of square - which, when you think about it, makes more sense than round muffins. Much easier to store! And ohhhhhhhhh are they good! Perfect mix of tart and sweet, super moist without being soggy, and did I mention the smell? I may have eaten more than two.

While I was baking, I also had pinto beans simmering on the stove. I rinsed a bag of dried beans the night before, then soaked them overnight. In the morning I drained them, and covered them with water again. In the frying pan that I had made that sausage in earlier, I tossed the leftover onions from Saturday's burgers, a LOT of minced garlic (people who measure out garlic in teaspoons should stay out of the kitchen), and about a third of that bag of bacon ends and pieces that I forgot was in the freezer along with the cranberries and apple pulp. Cooked them enough to drive everyone in the house crazy with the smell, added some cumin to give everything this sickly yellow color, and stirred it all into the beans.

Again, they taste and smell better than they look. A lot better! I simmered them all day, adding water a few times when it got low, stirring every now and then. I'll can some, and serve the rest later this week with the leftover burgers.

Next up was this chocolate applesauce cake - sort of. I made muffins, not a cake. And I doubled the recipe. And I didn't make the topping, I just mixed a bag of chocolate chips right in. But, otherwise, it was exactly the same. (Note to self: Next time, try chocolate pudding mix instead of cocoa.)

S., of course, was a huge help once again. She especially likes to dump things in the bowl as I measure them out, and to help me operate the mixer.
No, I'm not completely crazy - look at the outlet.
M. deemed these "amazing", and ate enough to prove her sincerity.

They do look pretty yummy, don't they? And super moist - I love cooking with applesauce!

Unfortunately, by the time I finished baking these, I had exactly one muffin paper left. Not to mention, it was approximately 900 degrees in the kitchen by that point. I had plenty more preserves, but regretfully knocked off for the day. But there is a three-day weekend coming up...

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