This morning, I resolved to get some baking done before the heat of the day made it impossible. On the docket: homemade bread, blueberry muffins, granola bars, and something with zucchini (of which I have a plethora). Now, I know how to maintain an orderly kitchen as I prepare food. First, you fill the sink with hot, soapy water for dishes to soak in as you use them. Then, you clear off the surfaces to maximize work space. Third, you prep all the necessary ingredients so they are right at hand as you need them. Finally, you clean as you go, keeping the work are neat and clean. See . . .
Yeah, just because I know what to do doesn’t mean I do it. I am a messy cook. To all of you Pinterest-pretty bakers and efficient, culinary connoisseurs, I hope I haven’t given you a heart attack. But, I figure I can’t be the only person who does it like this, flitting from one recipe to the next, cleaning bowls and utensils as needed for each, subsequent recipe, and leaving every last ingredient used out until the bitter end for the GREAT CLEAN-UP.
Yes, I do waste an inordinate amount of time looking for measuring cups and spoons, hand towels, and especially pot holders. The kitchen is one place where having duplicates of such items is not a matter of clutter, in my opinion. They are a necessity for the work to continue unabated. I have two sets of potholders and a silicone glove, three sets of measuring spoons, two sets of measuring cups, and of course, several hand towels (I used three this morning).
My husband goes crazy when he sees me preparing food. Why don’t I clear off the counters first and put things away (like the clean dishes in the strainer, so that I have someplace to dry all of the new dishes I am using)? I know he is right, but when I get it into my head to bake or cook in quick succession, I become obsessed. I don’t have time to stop and clean up along the way. Besides, why would I want to clean the same area three, four, five times? Why not just make a GREAT MESS and experience the satisfaction of seeing it all cleaned up again in one fell swoop? Like this . . .
Besides, all that mess produced a nice variety of healthy snacks for the week. For those interested, here is what I made:
1. Crunchy Granola Bars. I have been meaning to make granola bars for some time now, and I have finally done it. I followed this recipe. I didn’t want the granola bars to be too crunchy, so I cooked them for less time, but they still came out dry and crumbly, yielding both bars and loose granola. I think the problem was that I used a slightly smaller pan, making the bars thicker, which then required more honey to bind the ingredients together. Also, I used a combination of honey and pure maple syrup since I ran out of honey (oops!), and I included chopped almonds and Craisins, substituted coconut oil for canola oil, and sprinkled mini chocolate chips on top before pressing into the pan. The flavor is quite scrumptious, even if the consistency failed. I will try them again for sure.
2. Whole Wheat Blueberry Muffins. I am always on the hunt for new blueberry muffin recipes. I have two standbys that I often use, but today, I tried this recipe. I made a double batch because, with a family of seven, one dozen muffins barely makes it through a day. I added cinnamon, because I love cinnamon. In fact, except for the bread, I think every recipe I made today incorporated cinnamon. Anyway, these muffins turned out well; they are moist, flavorful, and healthy (I substituted coconut oil again). The thing is, even though they have all the elements of a great blueberry muffin, they somehow managed to taste healthy. It’s not a bad thing, really, it’s just that there are some baked goods that should taste simply delectable, not decidedly good for you, and blueberry muffins are one of them. These will do for a morning snack, but not for a special treat.
3. Healthy Carrot Zucchini Muffins. Well, these were another first attempt, and what a pleasant surprise! I stumbled across this recipe and, having an excess of carrots and zucchini, thought I would give it a try. I thought it might make a healthy afternoon snack. As I put the ingredients together, I couldn’t help but think of vomit, to be honest, but I forged ahead. When these smallish muffins finished baking, I removed them from the oven, disappointed that, in their finished state, they still didn’t look very appealing. Before packaging them up, I decided to try part of one. Wonderful! The nutmeg and cinnamon add such warmth and rich flavor to these muffins. The zucchini and carrot are delightfully understated, and although small, the muffins are moist and filling. The five, glowing reviews this recipe received on the website were right on the mark, and my two taste testers, ages 11 and 6, appreciatively agreed. I will definitely make these again.
4. Homemade, Whole Wheat Bread. This is our standard homemade bread recipe that we make a few times each week. I always make two loaves at a time, so I only have to bake them every other day. I use the bread maker for the dough cycle, transfer the dough into loaf pans and let them sit on the warming oven to rise for 30-45 minutes, then bake them in the oven for the last 30 minute of the process. Since I don’t use special bread flour (with extra gluten), my bread only lasts two days before it becomes too crumbly to use, but until then, it is a wonderful treat toasted with butter and topped with honey or jam. I use organic butter instead of oil, and I don’t wait 10 minutes for the yeast to proof. Sometimes, I use honey instead of sugar, sometimes brown sugar instead of white.
So, there you have it, a productive three hours, from start to finish. Are any of you messy bakers, or do you find my methods appalling? Regardless of how your kitchen looks, let your taste buds be the final judge. Happy Baking!