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.”
En-JOY-ment and Breakfast
The root of “enjoy” is the Latin “gaudere” which means “rejoice”. I believe enjoyment is a responsibility and a choice and a life skill which can be learned. But first I think it’s worthwhile to understand what enjoyment is NOT.
True enjoyment has no sorrow added to it. In other words, a movie that I feel “smarmed” from afterward, doesn’t cut the mustard like a long walk in the snow. Deep wet snow, like today’s, may be a bit difficult to traverse, but there will be no sorrow in this trek. Rather, there are feelings of accomplishment and invigoration and the righteous earning of homemade hot chocolate, made by yours truly while someone else builds a roaring fire, and we continue discussing whatever came to our stimulated minds as we tried to identify animal tracks in the snow and discussed what we wanted to cook for Easter dinner.
Or I might read a bit and fall asleep on the couch. Now that’s enjoyment.
Yesterday the forecasted 2-4 inches of snow was closer to two feet. The power went off for many in our area, and because ours was flickering, I cut my quiet time short and began cooking: a double batch of biscuits, huge pan of scrambled eggs, elk sausages, canned peaches, and two pots of black tea. What says enjoyment like not just a pot, but TWO pots of tea?
This wasn’t difficult because I prepped almost everything the night before. I pulled my homemade baking mix out of the freezer, cut in the butter, added cream and milk, rolled out and cut out the biscuits, then put them in a baking dish thickly covered with coconut oil (makes the biscuits nice and crispy/crunchy on the bottom) while the oven was preheating to 450 and baking the sausages (the biscuits will take about 12 minutes at sea level, longer at 8,000 feet). The kids made tea, set the table, got out the butter, honey, peanut butter, cream pitcher, cinnamon, and peaches, and when the biscuits were five minutes from finished I put the eggs on to scramble.
It takes the stress out of breakfast (where everything needs to be hot) to heat up the plates and serving dishes (it’s more fun if you take your time and serve everything in dishes at the table to be passed around) and to heat the tea pot. If we’re having coffee (cream cools it) I leave the cream pitcher on the stove and preheat the mugs as well.
HERE’S HOW TO BEGIN: Put the sausages on (I prefer the oven rather than stove top). Put the tea kettle on and/or prepare the coffee (another thing to do the night before if you really want to make things nice and easy). Put the plates (number of eaters plus one to put food on, or simply to stack under or over to help keep the plates hot) in the oven on 175 degrees until you need to preheat for biscuits, or to bake leftover boiled potatoes cut into wedges. Take the plates out and wrap in dish towels to keep them warm.
Eggs: We do two eggs per person, add sea salt, pepper, nutmeg and a little cream. It’s nice if you’ve whipped them up the night before and just have to pull the bowl out of the fridge. Heat your pan a bit, then right when you’re ready to pour the eggs in, add your oil of choice (I prefer organic lard).
Right after you put the eggs on to scramble (remember this is when the biscuits have about five minutes to go) pour your steaming water into the teapot – I keep my teapot on the warming zone on my new Hallelujah stove (you can also heat by filling with hot water from the sink – then dump the water, put in the tea bags and you’re ready when it’s time to brew). Stir the eggs, give further instructions to kids (“don’t forget napkins, put milk in the cream pitcher,” etc.), and give a “5 minutes til breakfast” call, then remove tea bags – this is according to taste, of course. I don’t usually brew as long as the package says, and I usually use four bags per tea pot, and loose tea I sort of eyeball – about half the tea infuser full usually does it.
If something is awry (say your sausages aren’t ready) just go ahead with everything else – someone pouring tea, passing the eggs, giving thanks, and get the sausage to the table a little late – no problem. Sausage is welcome whenever it arrives! If you burned the eggs a bit, just add more pepper and call them Cajun-style.
When you get all this on the table you will truly be the MVP, the Star of the Snow, the Queen of the Castle. And no one will say “I’m hungry for a very long while.”
P.S. About that baking mix – DO NOT BUY THIS AT THE STORE. JUST SAY “NO TO YUCK!”
My recipe, which, as all recipes, should be tweaked and personalized by you:
10 cups of various and assorted, or simply one kind of flour – in this particular batch I used 6 cups of unbleached non-GMO wheat flour, three cups of white whole wheat (again non-GMO – I get this at Wal-Mart or Sprouts, and it’s Wheat Montana Farms and Bakery), 1 cup of quick cooking oats.
3 Tablespoons of baking powder (non-aluminum)
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 Tablespoon of sea salt (less if regular salt)
1/2 cup of powdered milk (I still add whole milk and cream, but the biscuits will turn out with water only)
Stir these dry ingredients together very thoroughly and separate into freezer bags according to your preferred outcome. I made three 3-cup bags and one 2.5-cup bag. This is a lot for most people. The 3-cup bag makes 15-18 large biscuits, of which I put back some for leftovers to wrap in foil and heat in the oven for the next day’s breakfast.
For the 3-cup mix I used two sticks of butter (will turn out with just one if you’re butter-conscious) and 1.5 cups of milk/cream (this was mostly milk with about 1/4 cup of heavy whipping cream). I also added about a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar to the milk (makes buttermilk of a sort). If your mix is a little too moist, put flour on your hands, on top of the dough, and extra on the counter (or wherever you roll out your biscuits). If it’s too dry, add a little more liquid. No fretting allowed. ENJOY this.
VARIATION: Before adding butter and milk, stir in some (maybe two Tablespoons) organic sugar, about a cup (1/2 is fine) of chopped walnuts, pecans, flaked coconut, dried apricots or raisins, or any combination thereof, and call them scones. Yum for sure.
ALWAYS: Serve with butter and love, as butter, after all, is love.
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