Mad skills

When we had our daughter last year, Keith and I knew that we'd have to make some changes, one of the biggest of which was our finances. It's not like we were spending all our money on crap or constantly living right on the edge of the poverty line, but with an additional body in the house - and my decision to be a work-from-home mom - we had to make some adjustments.

The easiest way, I thought, to juggle the finances was to stop our reliance on store-bought, prepared, packaged food. I've always liked to cook and bake, thanks to my parents encouraging me as a young kid to learn how to use the appliances in the kitchen. I still remember making my dad a variation on the Denver omelette when I was 7 or so. One of the first badges I got in Brownies was for baking. I find being in the kitchen pretty relaxing, for the most part.

Then there's the 12 or so years I spent working in restaurant kitchens. But that's for another time.

My mom was the biggest influence in my cooking aspirations. She didn't go back to work until my younger sister was 6, so she had a full meal for us 5 nights a week (Friday and Saturdays were her 'nights off'). Mostly simple meals, always meat-potato-veggie. I imagine that her upbringing - a widower for a father, the only female in the house, heavy influence from the Scottish grandfather living with them - had a lot to do with the straightforwardness of most meals. I don't remember having anything as extravagant as lasagna until I was 11. We grew up without sugared cereals (but always had brown sugar available to coat our puffed wheat) or tinned pasta... and even after living on my own for almost 14 years now, I'm perfectly okay not having either. Guess we weren't really missing out on much.

About a year ago, my mom decided it was high time I learned how to bake bread.

I was terrified.

Bread, from what other people had told me, was one of the easiest things to do. I'd seen cooks on TV make bread and it just looked so finicky. I didn't want to deal with that.

Long story, short... I can make bread with the best of them now.

Even if the recipe I use is completely different from the one that everyone else uses (milk? nope. eggs? nope. overnight proofing? heck no!).

The recipe I use is supposed to be for 4 loaves, but somehow I always manage to get 7 out of it - 5 plain, 2 cinnamon. I don't dare double the recipe because we don't have enough room in the freezers for 14 loaves of bread.


And yes, as a matter of fact, I do use my dryer in the third (!!) proofing round. There's a south-facing window right above it and the laundry room is the warmest room in the house. Two birds, one stone.

While the bread was rising on the dryer on Friday, I made a double-batch of baking powder biscuits from a cookbook of my grandmother's. I've made these biscuits a few times and they're great. The last batch I made, I added some shredded cheese and a few herbs just to add a bit of flavour. This time around, I threw in raisins, apples, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice in a slightly brazen attempt to make something that resembled scones.

Once I figured out that if I didn't actually roll out the dough and just pressed it to about 1/2" thick, they worked great. Turned out fabulously and they're almost half gone already.  Maddy LOVES them, I'm definitely putting them into the regular baking rotation and Keith... I think he likes them. He must. He eats them when I offer him one.


Making bread has become a biweekly event; I've been trying to get some other baking done during those days, too, to take advantage of the hot oven. I think next time it's going to be a toss-up between these biscuits and the mini chocolate chip cookies that I have to give away to people almost as soon as they come out of the oven, as I would eat every single one of them if I was given the chance.

Cooking, baking, sewing... geez, you'd think I enjoyed being all domestic or something.

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