Happy end of February! By now, I do believe many of us are really, REALLY sick of cold weather…I know for a fact my patience has run out on old man winter and I am anxiously awaiting gentle spring breezes. That being said however, I have been enjoying having my oven on. Let’s face it; when the temperature is in the 80’s, the last thing we want to do is heat up the house by baking anything, but when it’s 20 or so? Let’s crank that bad boy up!!
Over the last few weeks we have been filling our freezers with cookies of every variety, freshly baked muffins and quick breads…bring on a big old cup of coffee! I love to stock up when we have time and having it cold outside is a terrific time to bake. The cool thing with most of these yummy treats is that I can make them using a very simple “base” recipe and ‘kick it up” however I’d like. Most basic cookies and quick breads or muffins start with the same simple ingredients…flour and sugar, butter or other fat, eggs or baking powder or soda…the fun part is all the different stuff you can add in!
One of my very favorite (and easiest) cookie recipes starts with an ordinary box of cake mix. You can use any flavor you would like, and add anything to it that sounds tasty…my personal favorite is a cherry cake mix with slivered almonds and a dash of almond extract. The varieties are limitless when you look at the different cake mix flavors out there. Similarly, a basic muffin recipe-or mix- can be tweeked to a multitude of different kinds of muffins or breads. Bananas and chocolate chips make chunky monkey bread, pineapple, coconut and a dash of rum extract make a terrific pina colada muffin, cocoa powder and red food coloring create everyone’s favorite red velvet muffin, and don’t get me started on the advantages of adding crushed candy bars to anything…mmm mmm good!
Most baked goods like cookies, muffins and quick breads freeze really well when they are packaged in air tight containers or zipper bags. As soon as they have cooled after baking, I wrap muffins and quick breads in plastic wrap, and then store in air tight containers in the freezer. The same goes for cookies; once they have cooled, I place them in zipper bags and freeze. I have found that the trick to all of this is, however, that you must do your baking when your kids aren’t around, because if yours are anything like mine were, if you don’t there won’t be anything left to freeze anyway!
Stay warm and bake away, my friends!!
My Favorite Cake Mix Cookies
1 box cake mix (any flavor)
½ C flour
½ C water
½ C vegetable oil
Mix together dry ingredients.
Add wet ingredients to dry and mix together until combined (do not over mix!)
Gently fold in desired mix-ins**
Drop by tablespoon (or try using a small ice cream scoop…it works great!) onto a parchment lined cookie sheet.
Bake at 375* for 13 minutes. Do not over bake or cookies will be dry!
Frost or glaze if desired!
**Try mixing in:
1 ½ T poppy seeds and 1 T grated lemon zest (white cake mix)
2 C mini chocolate chips (yellow cake mix)
½ C sprinkles (white cake mix)
1 t cinnamon and ½ C chopped pecans (yellow cake mix)
½ t each cinnamon, ginger and cloves (chocolate cake mix)
1 C dried cranberries, 1 T orange zest (yellow cake mix)
OR…get creative and add your own favorite flavors to different flavor cake mixes!
To read more of Vicki McGraw’s commentaries on good cooking, fine recipes and perfect party treats, visit www.jamestowngazette.com and click on Join Me in the Kitchen’s own page. The Jamestown Gazette is proud to present our county’s most creative and original writers for your enjoyment and enlightenment.