And Another Thing–Great Cookbooks!

I just finished a post about things found during cleaning and organizing, and I forgot about my cookbooks. Here’s what happened. I’m clearing off the top of the fridge (the best place in my small kitchen for large bowl storage) and what to my wondering eyes do appear, but several cookbooks.

Once upon a time I put some favorite cookbooks in theretofore unused cabinet space atop the fridge, and then promptly forgot about them. When I spied them as I wiped down the nasty fridge top my first thought was, “Oh, this is where I put it!” I peered at the titles and sure enough The Breakfast Book by Marion Cunningham was among the treasures. Also found (forgot I had this gem, so wasn’t really looking for it) was Better than Storebought by Helen Witty and Elizabeth Schneider Colchie.

Better than Storebought promises and delivers solutions to the ever-present problem of high prices for low quality grocery store offerings. “This is a book,” says the book jacket, for cooks “. . . who love good, real food . . . . “for cooks who prefer to make more cheaply . . . foods . . . that wear grand-scale price-tags . . . for curious and questing cooks who enjoy the creation of intriguing edibles . . .”

As for “intriguing edibles” The Breakfast Book is a celebration of breakfast, with offerings such as knotthole and featherbed eggs, muesli ballymaloe, dewey buns and buttermilk breakfast doughnuts, because, as Marion Cunningham says, “Homemade doughnuts and fritters have their very own marvelous character, better than anything you can buy out and about.”

Well, there are some fairly marvelous pastries “out and about” in my area, but they also have some fairly marvelous price tags.

So, as I’ve said and will no doubt say again, “Do try this at home, with what’s right under your nose.”

Breakfast Breads

IMG_3706Breakfast breads are lifesavers for me.  They are healthy, easy, filling, economical, versatile, and delicious.  I begin with a baking mix of sorts (NEVER buy these).  In other words, I mix and match flours, leavenings, dairy, nuts, spices, and dried fruits–depending on what I have on hand.  All you really need to know is that something close to three cups of flour and three teaspoons of baking powder (or ONE teaspoon of baking soda) and one teaspoon of salt equals a baking mix.  You can use powdered milk and then add water, instead of liquid dairy (or your liquid of choice) for a surprisingly good (sometimes superior) result.

So, when recently John left at 5:00 a.m. intending to pick up his breakfast on the road, and the kids were asleep, and I was hungry, I asked the question, What can I cook that will be good when the kids wake up, but delicious for me to eat ahead beforehand .  Breakfast bread!

On this particular morning I had only two cups of whole wheat flour left, (usually I have flax and almond and coconut flours), one cup of quick cooking oats, some rice cereal, and about a cup of unbleached white flour (time to get groceries).  I stirred these together with sea salt (always use more than the salt-stingy baking recipes call for, especially at high altitude where increased salt helps with rising), baking powder (the baking soda canister was empty and the baking soda boxes were in the laundry and bathrooms, or so I figured) so I added a third egg, figuring that would also help with the rising (always a concern at 8,000 feet above sea level).

The fruit going bad was apples, so I chopped a couple of those and added spices as though it was apple pie (if you haven’t ground your nutmeg, cinnamon sticks, cloves and allspice in the coffee grinder yet, you haven’t tasted spices–I’ll tell you a cautionary tale about this at the bottom of the post – see the P.S.).

Now for melted butter and/or coconut oil, vanilla flavoring (look into making your own–so very elegant you will be) honey and real maple syrup (molasses would have been good), evaporated milk and water (out of milk).

Finally, for the “optional” (per many recipes) ingredient which I consider essential for good breakfast bread:  Nuts.  In this case I used walnuts, but ordinarily I would have also added sunflower seeds, which are cheap and healthy (surprise, I was out of sunflower seeds, too).

If I had chosen crushed pineapple rather than apples, pecans would have been good, with maybe some orange juice concentrate and lemon flavoring.

A peanut butter bread is delicious (substitute for some or all of the butter).  I love this with a glaze made of still more peanut butter, honey (or sweetener of choice/availability) and a drop or two of orange essential oil.

If John were home I would have made pumpkin bread to have with cream cheese, scrambled eggs and vanilla almond tea (I recommend Republic of Tea).

I always make a small bundt bread with this batter, leaving enough for a loaf pan or muffins, some of which goes into the freezer for those days when I just don’t want to cook breakfast, or for when the kids want tea party goodies.

Have your breakfast bread with coffee, tea, or milk.  And joy.

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P.S.  The picture at the top of the post is from another day, another breakfast bread, and as you can see, I don’t always grind my spices.  As for my caution:  You must hammer up your cinnamon sticks, nutmeg, etc, inside a baggie or other enclosure before putting them in your coffee grinder.  Ask me how I know that if you don’t do so, you will soon be buying a new coffee grinder.  As for that bit of leftover spice in the coffee grinder?  Not a problem – it just makes your next cup of coffee extra good.

You don’t have a bulk spice source in your town?  Look on the net for bulk spice distributors.  Just know that you’ll be getting LOTS of spices (great savings).  I double bag mine and store them in the fridge (used often) and the freezer.  And remember, bulk spice distributors also carry vanilla beans for that homemade (divine) vanilla flavoring.

Café Home

 

There is so much more to cooking than following a recipe.  Cooking is about people – what they like, love, and need.  And cooking, like many things, is best done at home by someone who loves those for whom she or he cooks.  Becoming adept in the kitchen is a key to quality living for large families, couples, and for those who live alone.

This is true for trained chefs and for people who loathe the very sight of a kitchen.  Think of it this way:  Just because you live in New York is not to say you need never learn to drive a car.  The ability to drive a car is a handy skill.  Just because you don’t particularly enjoy doing laundry is no excuse for taking everything to the cleaners.  Knowing how to pull and turn a few knobs and separate the whites from the colors is a basic life skill.  Just so being able to feed yourself.

Being unable to scramble eggs, make biscuits from scratch, or whip up a mean spaghetti sauce is just plain dumb.  The idea that it’s fine to go around practically bragging about not cooking is childish.  Not being able to cook is only fine if you are a child.  Let’s all do our friends, parents, kids and their spouses, and our grandkids a great favor:  let’s lead by example and cook!

It doesn’t matter who you are, the time will come when you need to cook.  My mother-in-law, bless her forever and ever, taught my husband to cook, clean, can, and that no job was beneath him.  So, when our last child was born Cesarean and I was a bit under the weather – no sweat.  From the time John brought the older three to the hospital looking ready for portraits, until I no longer needed his help, he took care of things – including the cooking.  When the hospital nurses remarked on the kids’ neatly parted hair, clean fingernails and starched little Levis, I was at a loss.  Did other dads actually drag dirty, unkempt kids to the hospital to see their mother and new sibling?  Apparently so.

At our house it works best for me to be the Kitchen Master.  Because of my proficiency, it’s easier to do most of the cooking myself.  But easier is not always better.  I need breaks, John enjoys weekend cooking, and cooking with the kids (especially if the grill and beef are involved), and the kids need to learn to cook.

So, you’ve taken the first step.  You’re convinced (or almost) you do need to know your way around the kitchen.  Stay with me and you’ll learn so much more than that.