Posts Tagged ‘baking’

Cooking with the Pilot

December 6, 2016

Wandering into the kitchen one morning last weekend, my hockey-playing, pilot husband, who is an exterminator and has a degree in Biblical studies, was vigorously chopping some food source in a frying pan on the stove. I mention his hobbies, schooling and his occupations to point out that he has no formal, or informal for that matter, training in the culinary arts. NONE! He is widely renown for his burnt grilled cheese sandwiches. So his attempt at cooking amused me initially. As I began to ascertain the situation at hand, I became highly amused…. blog-worthy-amused!

On impulse at Costco, my sweet husband, the provider for our family, purchased a skid of hashbrowns. Just look at how crispy-fried those salty morsels appear! He was probably salivating in the super store. Gluten free and 100% REAL potatoes. How could he go wrong?

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Kindly I explained that the objective of hashbrown cooking is to leave them alone so they can get brown and crunchy. Smashing them to smithereens won’t get the desired results. Previously I had cooked two boxes of said Costco bulk purchase, so I was quite well-informed on the procedure.

Peering into the pan, something didn’t seem right. The limp potato strips looked dry (and smashed.) Kindly I inquired, “Did you read the directions?” It was an honest question. As soon as my question was delivered, my 13-year-old daughter, who has been trained in our kitchen by my capable side, started laughing and pointed at her dad the I-told-you-so-finger-of-doom. Seems she already mentioned reading the directions to him. That’s my girl!

Rick, Mr. Master Chef, (term used very sarcastically) opened the little carton of goodness and dumped the freeze-dried potatoes in the hot frying pan. He realized something was off. His spidey senses alerted him to the need for butter. In went a dollop of creamy yellow goodness. Butter is the answer to SO MANY cooking situations.

THEN he proceeded to read the directions. And I’ll admit, the instructions for this delicacy are unusual. 1. Open carton and add hot water to the fill line. 2. Close carton and let stand for 12 minutes. Drain well.

Uh oh.

Things were off to a poor start. The pan he had chosen was obviously too small if water was to be added, so he switched to a larger pan. (The only reason I know this is because I discovered a small frying pan in the sink with the remains of burnt freeze-dried potatoes stuck to its non-nonstick bottom.) It was too late to add water to the carton full of spuds, so he added water to the frying pan full of crunchy strips and butter. It said HOT water, so the stove burner was turned to HIGH, obviously. Just like whipping up a grilled cheese sandwich to quality blackness.

Disclaimer: my daughter filled me in on this whole process after the fact so this is all hearsay.

Okay, thinking he was good, he went back to the directions. 3. Preheat a large, non-stick skillet and 2 TBSP. oil over medium-high heat. So, FAIL on the non-stick part. Next oil was poured over the soggy white, limp, smashed potato strips. Doesn’t this make you want to have some???

This is when I wandered in… to witness the mutilation of the oily, half-saturated delicacy. Kindly I probed to see what oil he used. There are four oils in my cupboard: coconut, olive, sesame and vegetable. He had a 75% chance of success. Again, my daughter who loves home-ec informed me in a Dad-is-so-busted tone, “He used butter from your bowl. The one you measured to make cookies.” Ooooh, there are several things that could make this mama go all kinds of crazy on you. Using my softened butter that is measured in a bowl for baking is one of them. And she knew he knew better! That’s my girl. Again the finger-of-doom was pointed at the perpetrator.

It’s doubtful if he ever did read 4. Fry on one side for 3-4 minutes, or until golden brown. Kindly I offered to show him how to divide the pan of scrumptiousness into thirds and flip them to golden brown perfection.

Surprisingly, they tasted okay.

The moral of the story is: When at first you don’t succeed, fry fry again.

Or: Touch mama’s measured butter and die a slow death of much pain. (Kindly I let him live.)

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Brave Bun Debacle

November 25, 2016

2016 Thanksgiving was a tad out of the ordinary for our family for several very good reasons. 1. Our married daughter and her husband were coming home from Oklahoma for the first time in FOUR YEARS! If that ain’t a grand reason to mix things up, I don’t know what is? 2. Our niece is staying a little more than an hour away from our house and isn’t able to come home to be with family. Obviously it was necessary to squeeze in a visit on Turkey Day. And 3. The grand bun baking adventure really turned into an undertaking this year!

In years gone by, my motherly duty is to wake up semi-early and start the bun baking process so thousands of people can be blessed by yeasty white rolls of goodness on the national day of thankfulness. Perfection! This year, as previously mentioned, our morning was consumed by a ½ day trip. So buns moved to Thanksgiving Day Eve. Unfortunately, that Wednesday our kids flew in and the day turned into a driving exploit of sorts. Unfortunately, I found myself in the grocery store at 9:30 p.m. trying to locate the blasted little fast rising yeast packages. Can you already feel the tension rising? Get it?

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Frustrated and exhausted, I announced to my husband and all the other late night shoppers in the baking aisle, “That’s it. I’m not baking buns. I’m too worn out. Let’s buy buns.” Dutifully, my sweet husband followed me over to the bakery section and we stood speechless looking at the pathetic selection of sub-par store baked buns and rolls. They were puny. They were wrinkly. They were squished. They were covered in flour. They tasted dry…. I could sense it. With the savory memory of my yummy buns on the tip of my tongue, I announced, “That’s it. I’m baking buns. These are disgusting! Let’s buy yeast.” Rick mumbled, “Well, I wasn’t going to say it!”

At the late hour, I did request help from my beloved husband, who has never in his life participated in bun making. Willingly he agreed to come to my aid, not knowing what he was getting himself into!

If you know nothing about baking yeast buns, can I just tell you that it is a time consuming, yet wonderfully delicious process. It goes something like this: gather ingredients. Mix dry ingredients. Mix wet ingredients with very warm, but not exactly hot, water, so as to activate the yeast, but not burn its little eyes out. Combine ingredients and stir goop until a soft ball forms. This sounds so easy, but it is deceptive. Then let rise 15 minutes. Punch down. Let rise 15 minutes. Punch down. Let rise for 20 minutes. Shape into buns. Let rise 30-60 minutes. Bake 15 minutes.

Our freshly-turned-18-year-old son also joined in the process. If you could have heard them…. offering ME suggestions and baking tips. Oh my stars. One of them specializes in burnt grilled cheese sandwiches and the other one can only make waffles and mac-n-cheese. Not exactly chefs-in-the-making.

“It’s too sticky. It needs more flour.” Um, no. Keep stirring.

“This is done.” Um, no. Scrape the bowl and keep stirring.

“This is impossible to pick up and flip.” Um, no. I’ve done it for 20 years.

“I can punch down without flour on my fist.” Um…. go ahead and try, Mr. Martha Stewart.

“I can just roll them in a ball.” Um, no. Watch and learn the technique from the bun forming master.

“Just put a pan on each shelf of the oven at the same time.” Um, no. The bottom ones will burn.

“Are they done yet?” Um, no. Please stand by.

It was 1:30 a.m. when the last of the 120 not-really-cooled-off buns went into storage bags.  We fell blissfully into our beds with visions of floured buns dancing in our heads.

Thanksgiving 2016 was saved! Thank you, Rick and Keeve, my knights in floury armor.

Please see BUN RECIPE if you feel the need to have your own joy-filled bun baking extravaganza.

I Get by with a Little Help from my Friends

December 9, 2014

My handsome husband and I are still in our forties…. barely. By the skin of our teeth, but we ARE!  We were caught off guard this week when we both asked for help with COMMON words that we could not remember. I started the memory-fail game by asking, “What are those things called that come out of the ocean and are shaped like stars?” The confused look on his face lead me to believe he thought I was joking. Sadly, I was not. “Starfish?” Oh, yeah… and we broke out into laughter because laughter is good for your soul.  And after you can’t recall the word starfish and/or you realize your spouse can’t recall the word starfish you need something…. anything that is good for your soul.

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The very next day hubby was at the kitchen table texting someone, looked up and asked me, “What are those things called that go up in the sky and explode in pretty colors?”  …. I looked at him with that same confused look he gave me the previous day and answered, “Starfish?  … or did you mean fireworks?”  And we both laughed heartily again, as this seems to be the go-to response for aging in our home.

And names!  GAH! Really, we should all have our names tattooed on our foreheads, then there would be no need for racking our brains to remember names. I loved it when my boys were little and on hockey teams with their names written on the their helmets on hockey tape. Easy Peasy. My husband and I have an unwritten rule that I am talking with a person and he walks up, if I don’t introduce him, it means I have forgotten the person’s name. Then he puts out his hand and says, “Hi, I’m Rick,” and saves the day.  It works perfectly!

Mothers have forgotten their children’s names for all of history and that is somehow forgiven and thought of as common. When we were recently in the DMV for son #2’s driver’s license, his number was called and he started walking toward the counter without the needed paperwork that was in my hand. So I called him… by his father’s name… and then added, “Or whoever you are.” He turned back to get the papers and rolled his tootsie-roll brown eyes at me. Another mother seated a few seats over laughed and said that she does that all the time with her kids! That didn’t really make me feel better… just commiserated with company.

I won’t even get into trying to follow recipes at the ripe old age of 48. Don’t get me started. Don’t even get me started.

Christmas Baking at its Best!

December 23, 2013

This has been my year of slowing down… giving up control… take ‘er easy, eh!  That extended over into my Christmas baking.  Remembering my baking days of the past…. I had lists for the grocery store… new recipes picked out from Pinterest and printed out…. days marked off the calendar for BAKING ONLY!  No more.

This is how it went down this year…. the slowing down year….  I noticed that none of the five others living in this house were eating up the chunky peanut butter.  This brought on the spontaneous idea of making peanut butter cookies.  You know the ones… with the criss-cross fork marks.  Immediately I broke out the trusted red and white checked Betty Crocker cookbook with stains and spills to tell of my love.  There are plenty of spots on the peanut butter cookie page… bringing comfort to my soul.  So I started making the yummy delicacy… deciding to double the recipe along the way.  I was obviously absentmindedly following the recipe while visions of sugar plums danced in my head.  I remembered an entire bowl of milk and white chocolate Hershey kisses left over from a party three days hitherto.  I decided mid-mix to make the peanut butter cookies with the kisses in the middle.  So yummy!

kiss cookies

While all that was going on, I somehow switched which recipe I was following in Betty’s book.  Bummer.  I found myself looking into a bowl of WAY too much sugar and an odd amount of flour for the PB cookies.  I realized I was not making German Chocolate Pinwheels…. so I set that bowl aside, stuck a sticky note over the incorrect recipe, and started the dry ingredients again.  Then I didn’t have enough flour.  A trip across the street to borrow flour commenced.

Fast forward five or six days… the bowl with flour and sugar is still sitting on the counter with a sticky note in it detailing the amounts of ingredients.  The German cookies required far too much effort and time to continue. So today, I decided to pour over Betty’s offerings to see if any recipe called for those measurement of sugar and flour.  YES!  Pumpkin bars did!  Two weeks ago I was in Fry’s grocery store and saw pumpkin on sale… so I bought it.  My sister once told me, “If you buy what you love you’ll always have what you need!”  (It was concerning scrapbooking supplies, but I have applied it to every area of my life.)  Today two huge pans of pumpkin bars were created to perfection.

However, the recipe called for cream cheese frosting.  I did discover a tub of said frosting in the fridge and frosted 1/2 of one pan.  A third of a pan was consumed sans frosting.  Another fourth was eaten with frosting.  I texted my grocery-store-bound husband and asked him to pick up more frosting.  Many people in North Phoenix must be making pumpkin bars with flour and sugar left over from German Chocolate Pinwheels that were supposed to be Peanut Butter Kisses….. there was no cream cheese frosting to be found.  Finally arriving home with bricks of cream cheese…. that now need to be made into frosting…. that’s where we are.  And we will be here until tomorrow as the Grinch that Stole Christmas just started.

How has your Christmas baking gone???

Christmas Creativity

January 3, 2012

My sister asked me to make an apron for her in April or May.  She sent me a picture of what she wanted…. black with tiny polka-dots and a few faint ruffles on the bottom edge.  Black didn’t seem practical for baking…. flour, butter and sugar will show up like a fly in the milk.  But black and pink are so cute together! I’ve been wanting an apron myself for quite some time, so the idea appealed to me.  My sister-in-law, Jennie, came for a visit in March and brought me beautiful Beatrix Potter Benjamin Bunny fabric…. perfect for an apron for a Miss Potter super-fan!

June rolled around and we were off to a cabin for vacation.  Before we left I gathered fabric, ric-rac, ribbon, thread and I found a pattern that looked fairly straight forward.  The creative juices were flowing…. but sewing time didn’t present itself at the cabin.  Bummer. 

December rolled around and my sister was coming for Christmas!  I had great expectations, but I didn’t actually get the apron sewn before gift giving commenced.  It was more of a last day of December gift.  She loved it and so did I.  I just had to share how cute it turned out.  Now hopefully I’ll get mine done before next Christmas baking season!

My Holiday Planner

November 17, 2008

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Aaahhhh.  Organization at its BEST!  Now don’t go thinking I’m taking credit for this fabulous planner idea.  I attended a conference and took a class on building a website.  The gal that taught the course has a website ALL about organizational tips for the holidays.  Well, this is right up my alley, baby.  Not only did I make myself a binder/planner, I gave them as gifts last year too.  Scrapbooking + organizing = priceless.  Here’s Kris Ann’s website: http://christmasorganizing.com/

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The book is pure organizational genius.  It starts with monthly calendar pages and moves through every area of holidaying: gifts, decorating, letters, cleaning, favorites, where you hid stuff for next Christmas, etc.  Of course I decorated mine in wintry blues… my favorite colors that remind me of cold Canadian nights in the snow. 

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Last year was my first chance using the planner for the months of November and December and it was the first year in 20 years of marriage that we shipped Christmas gifts to the Canadian relatives ON TIME!  No extra postage because of procrastinating!  Wooo Hooo!

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The Deep Cleaning page strikes fear in the hearts of my children.  But, boy howdy, does the house look better during Jesus’ birthday.  It lists every cleaning job possible and then every single room and hallway in the house.  Sweet sanitary music to my ears.  You only do one or two rooms per week and it doesn’t even seem that bad, especially when an energetic mother and her three willing assistants attack the room simultaneously.  Ten to fifteen minutes per room… and the disgusting horizontal blinds even shine.

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The meal and baking planning sheets were a Godsend come grocery shopping time.  You just can’t put a price on the value of preparing ahead.  It also adds peace of mind to the season that can be so stressful. I used a plain white binder and slid in the cutesy covers with silver glitter.

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For those industrious fellow crafters and planners, here is the complete list of tabs: calendar, planner (weekly countdown of to-do lists), Thanksgiving (meal plans and recipes), cleaning, cards (sent/received lists and copies of past family letters), budget, decorating (magazine pictures, ideas from websites, lists of per-room decorations), gifts (planner with immediate family, extended family, friends, Wish lists, Gift Wrap Center, Gift Closet Stocking Stuffers, After Christmas Purchases and where I put them), food (meal plans, Baking planner, recipes), crafts (gifts to make, magazine ideas), wardrobe (A slot for each family members’ outfits: Sunday, Family Photo and Casual), Shopping Lists, and extras (lists of Christmas Favorite movies, books, music and Traveling checklists).

Join me in Christmas bliss.  :o)