I have been stocking up on baking essentials for the holidays: butter, flour, chocolate chips, sugar. No matter how much I buy, I always think I should have gotten more – especially if anything was on sale. Our problem is storage. We live in an old farmhouse that doesn’t have any. When we moved in, there was one closet in the whole house. And it was downstairs, tucked under the stairs, in what’s now the schoolroom. We have added a lot of storage during the past 13 years: closets, cabinets, shelves. Somehow though, we still have an extra case or two of canned tomatoes stuck under our bed and I have 50 pounds of wheat berries stored under my desk. None of this is really here nor there. In addition to the holiday and birthday cooking and baking, it seems as though we all still need to be fed on a regular schedule. This is when I rely on super-easy recipes for lunch and dinner. You can count on a big pot of soup simmering on the back burner, while leftover-magic is taken to new heights this month. Here is what we have been whipping up in the kitchen.
* I was reminded of how much I love Leslie’s garlic dressing at Thanksgiving this year. I will give you the recipe although hers is always better than mine. Smash two garlic cloves with about 1/2 teaspoon of salt and make a paste. Scrape this slurry from the cutting board into a jar with 1/2 cup olive oil and a splash or two of vinegar. Shake to emulsify.
* Spaghetti pie is one of those things that I remember at this time of year. Toss leftover pasta, leftover red sauce, eggs and parmesan cheese together. (You can also add mozzarella or ricotta.) Pour into a greased ovenproof dish. (I usually use a pie plate and then slice into wedges for serving.) Bake at 375 covered for about 20 minutes and then an additional 10 minutes uncovered.
* I am on a constant quest to pump more calories into my kids. I have come up with a new pancake mix that seems to do a good job of this: 1 cup almond flour, 1 cup coconut flour, 2 cups regular flour, 1 cup oat flour, 1 tablespoon baking powder, 1 teaspoon baking soda and 1 teaspoon salt. Use 1 1/2 cups mix, 1 cup buttermilk, 2 tablespoons oil or melted butter and 2 eggs. The resulting pancakes are light and white in color (their criteria) and also high in protein and good fats (mine).
* Vincent made a fancy-pants Cook’s Illustrated NY Crumb Cake and it was good, but nowhere near as good as Tom’s grandmother’s recipe that uses a yellow cake mix. This makes a nice big cake, perfect for a crowd. It freezes well, on the off-chance there is any left.
* I love these spice cookies. They are another one of Tom’s grandmother’s recipes (different grandmother). I made them the year Vincent was born and in my postpartum haze, I stored a cookie tin full of them in the attic for a year. Not a fun discovery.
* Jude is rather famous for these cinnamon chocolate chip cookies. The original recipe comes from the Star Wars Cookbook where they’re called “Wookie Cookies”.
* Don’t forget your librarians! What would we homeschoolers do without them! We always bake a double batch of these super-easy chewy chocolate cookies. I don’t know if there is a correlation, but we always get the books we put on hold extra fast.
* I can’t tell you why this has made my life so much easier, but it has. I have been using the little rack from my toaster oven to defrost a few muffins or cookies for snacktime. It fits perfectly on top of the toaster oven and doesn’t take up precious counter space like a big cooling rack does.
* These savory parmesan shortbreads are so easy and great to give with a bottle of wine. They freeze well too.
* If you don’t have time to let your bread have a second rising, shape the dough into a free-form loaf and place it in a cold oven and bake immediately. I have found that baking at 400 degrees for 45 minutes works for most any bread.