January 23, 2009

Bake Day

I love Friday, and not just because it's the start of the weekend and my whole family will be home with me for two days. I love Friday because Friday is my baking days. As we try to pinch more pennies I have been making more and more of our food from scratch, and, truthfully, I wish I'd done it sooner. The more I make the more I want to make.

I am a creature of routine. I work out at about the same time each day, I do the same chores on the same day each week, I shop once a week on Thursday evening, and I bake on Friday. Normally I can get all my shopping in on Thursday evening so I can dive right into the mixing and making when I get home from my Friday Squash game (sounds posh but I'm such a beginner it's more like run around the court trying to hit that damn ball without tripping or wacking yourself in the leg (again) with your racket) before moving on to house cleaning. But last night I (well, Will, since he is the one who was late coming back from his squash game making me set off late to the store) didn't make it to the health food store where I buy all my granola and some of my other baking ingredients. Fortunately my morning game was cancelled and while I briefly thought about being good and going to a spin class, I decided to chuck it and head out to get my oats and flax seed and everything else I needed and get busy.

Evelyn and I bagged up what we needed plus some coconut covered date rolls that she loves, (she was chanting "date rolls, date rolls" as soon as we pulled into the parking lot) ran a few other errands since I already had the car out (I'm trying to take the car out as rarely as possible as we are rationing ourselves to $8 of gas per week) and then came home just in time for her to watch Charlie and Lola, her favorite cartoon.

While she watched I started the granola. We are big granola eaters and it was costing us a fortune (for the yogurt that we eat it with as well,but more on that later) until I started making a months worth at a time. I'm not sure it's a whole lot cheaper, but it sure is a whole lot better.

I've played around with the recipe a lot and still change what all goes into it each month, but here is my basic recipe.

3 1/2 cups oats
1/3 cup dried coconut flakes
2-3 T flax seeds
3/4 cup nuts ( I change what kinds each time, this week I used sliced almonds and chopped hazlenuts, sometimes I throw some sunflower seeds in as part of this amount)
1 T Cinnamon
1 t salt
1/3 cup veg oil
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 T maple syrup
1-2 T molasses
1 t vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup dried fruit ( I used chopped up figs and cranberries this week but apricots, cherries and raisins are all good additions to this recipe)
1/3 cup chocolate chips

Mix everything except the fruit and chocolate in a big bowl and pour into a foil lined sheet pan and bake at 375 until it starts to brown. The time it takes will depend on the size of your pan and how brown you want it. darker=crunchier. Sometimes I get thick rolled oats which are extra yummy in granola and I also use mini chocolate chips since I think they go further. (my boys always complain that there isn't enough chocolate in my cookies when I use a whole bag of regular chips but they never do when I use a half bag of mini chips, go figure)

While the granola was cooking away I emptied and filled the dishwasher and mixed up some chocolate chip cookie dough and spooned out one sheet pan (about a dozen) cookies which went in when the granola came out. Granola in the bowl to cool while I scooped out the remaining cookie dough onto a foil covered cutting board to freeze for the rest of the week. I know this sounds like a pain but it saves a tone of time later and means that I can pull balls of cookie dough out of the freezer and have warm gooey cookies 12 minutes later and really, my spoon and fingers are already covered in dough and it takes me 2 and a half minutes to spoon it all out ( I timed it today). Cutting board of cookies in the freezer and onto the applesauce.

I have, from my apple butter making days, one of those cool old apple peeler-corer that makes this recipe so fast. In the remaining 9 minutes that I had on the cookies I peeled, chopped and cored 7 granny smith apples and popped them into the crock pot with a 1/4 cup of sugar, 1/2 cup water and a table spoon of cinnamon. Tonight I'll mash it up a little and put it into jars for the week.

Whew. Evie's show was by then finished so I put milk in the microwave to heat up for yogurt and then did the fish puzzle with her for about twenty minutes straight(it's her favorite, can you tell) while the milk cooled enough to add the starter and pop it into the yogurt maker.

So, other than starting tomorrows cinnamon rolls (Saturday is my breakfast day, Sunday Will cooks) I am done for the day. Hummm, unless I can think of something else to make.....