Baking, Busy, Chocolate, Cookies, Cooking, Recipes

Making the most of a mess

I love the saying, “If you’re gonna make a mess, you might as well make the most of it”, especially as it applies to cooking and baking.

This, my friends, is a big mess of butter.

IMG_7674Yep – a lot of butter.  One and a half pounds, to be exact.  I was softening it for a quadruple batch of chocolate chip cookies (and a single batch makes 2 dozen, so a lot of cookies).

My thinking is that if I’m going to do the work of mixing, measuring, scooping, baking, and then cleaning it up, I’d far and away prefer to do it all at once and get it over with.  Why make several messes when you can make one big mess and get it out of the way?

I’m not referring to once-a-month meal prep.  I know there are families who live by making all their meals – breakfasts, lunches, dinners, snacks, desserts – in one fell swoop.  They spend a day prepping or they work with other families and each person takes on a couple of meals, then they swap them out.  I think it’s great that they’ve found a way to make this work, but doing that much cooking and baking at once would knock me flat.

So, instead of making that big of a mess, I make slightly less messier messes.  If I’m making soup, I double it.  If I’m making one casserole, I double that, too.  I’ll put half in the freezer for a busy day and serve the other half that evening.  I like knowing that I’ve got a meal in the freezer, ready to be popped in the oven or reheated on the stove.

I’ve also found that having an extra meal in the freezer or desserts ready to be made up with just a few extra ingredients makes it easier for me to be hospitable.  One of my new friends had to have surgery a few weeks ago.  It was no trouble for me to pull some beef barley stew out of the freezer for her family.  If we’re going to a playdate, it’s simple to take out a dozen cookie dough balls and bake them (only 15 minutes in the oven!).

Which brings me back to all of that butter.  It’s no secret that I’m married to a guy who loves chocolate.  He’s always scrounging for chocolate chips or brownies or something with cocoa in it.  Having cookie dough balls in the freezer makes it easy for me to make 3 or 4 cookies for him in the evening.  Do we consume 8 dozen chocolate chip cookies by ourselves in a single month?  No, not even close, but I know that they’ll be eaten or given away eventually, and it makes Chris happy to have homemade cookies.  So, why not double (or in our case, quadruple) the recipe and have some on stand-by?

It’s not just freezer food.  We went to a Super Bowl Party last weekend and I wanted to bring something other than chicken wings or chips.  I had a big bag of brownie mix that I’d made up awhile ago (this is my favorite recipe for that… and it’s from PBS, of all places).  I’ve learned that 4 full cups of the mix = a 9 x 13 inch pan of brownies).  I measured out 4 cups, added the wet ingredients, and popped it in the oven.  Boom – homemade, from-scratch brownies.

Maybe you don’t think you have the freezer space.  I can understand that.  We’ve lived in itty-bitty apartments.  Even when we had a teeny-tiny freezer (I’m talking even smaller than the standard above-the-fridge freezers), I’d still make what I could, pour it in a Ziploc bag, and freeze it flat to save space.  It sounds silly, but it was like making a gift for myself, a gift of time for when I didn’t have any to make dinner.

I love having freezer meals for days when I have to take one or both of the boys to a doctor’s appointment (vaccinations are coming up for Jack this week – ugh) or when I want to spend their nap-time working on the unending amount of painting that awaits me in this house.  Or, let’s be honest, for when I plain don’t feel like cooking and would rather play with the boys.  So, when I do have the time to cook or bake, I make the most of it.  It saves time and cuts back on my stress levels in the end 🙂


Are you like me with making double (or quadruple) batches of things and storing it in the freezer or pantry for a busy day?  What are some of your favorite recipes?  This is the chocolate chip cookie recipe that I used (though I did sub some of the all-purpose flour for whole wheat flour and used a few “flaxmeal eggs” for some of the regular eggs).  Last night, I made a double batch of this Middle Eastern Chickpea & Rice Stew, which was economical as well as a big hit.  If you’ve got any tried-and-true favorites, please share!

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