Before we know it school days—and more importantly, rushed chaotic school mornings—will be upon us and, despite the last stretch of summer outings and lying by the pool applying sunscreen to my red-headed, pale-skinned babes (bless you, SPF100), I know I will blink and we’ll be back in the saddle again. At this point in the game there’s serious satisfaction in planning and the feeling I’m “getting ahead” somehow. Along those lines, thank you, Target, for breaking out the school supplies; my rainbow of Post-its was running dangerously low. But besides gathering the requisite supplies and shopping for new shorts and shoes, there’s another type of stash waiting to simplify those upcoming morning routines without heating up the kitchen, so let’s talk about breakfast plans, shall we?
Being the foodie that I am, over the years there have been numerous seasons of food prep fervor that have affectionately, albeit with a roll of the eyes from the husband, deemed me The Chipmunk. I absolutely love washing and chopping and storing food away in the freezer. There was the summer of white peaches, the zucchini tsunami that sent my first food processor to its grave (rest in peace, Cuisinart Smart Power Delux), and the autumn of the hundred pounds of pumpkin puree. Go big or go home, right? I love being able to toss peak-of-season fruit into a smoothie or thaw a ziplock of homemade chili when I don’t feel like making dinner. And I especially love baking when it means starting from a more delicious, homemade mix and just a few simple additions.
Growing up, my mom discovered a book titled Make-A-Mix Cookery, and she, along with a few friends, gathered regularly to catch up on life and stock their freezers with a variety of “meal mixes.” The concept goes like this: measure, chop, and prep most of the ingredients for half a dozen delicious recipes, bag them, jot down the list of “finishing” ingredients and instructions, and stack them up in a freezer until needed.
Over the years my sisters and I have adopted the same tradition to get together with friends and at the same time fill our own freezers with a collection of tried-and-true recipes: oatmeal cookie pancakes, strawberry breakfast crumble, pumpkin pie muffins, and ginger tea scones—half the work of future baking done while the air conditioning continues to roll, the oven stays off, and you revel in daydream watching happy children skip to the bus, a nutmeg streusel muffin in hand, chanting, “My mom is the Queen of Breakfast, my mom is the Queen of Breakfast!”
In full disclosure, I should definitely warn that freezing cookie dough—especially this one—for a later date simply does not work. No matter how hard you try to forget you tucked it behind that box of frozen spinach you never will, and partially-frozen chocolate chip cookie dough murmurs a siren’s death call straight out of The Odyssey to bring you back time and time again for yet another pinch. I’m all for optimism, but let’s be honest, it will NEVER make it into that October Bento box, let alone a preheated oven.
All right, back to business. Here are a few things to think about as you prepare your Bake Life Easier stash:
- Follow the links here or use your own family favorites, but in general, sift together all the dry ingredients as The Mix, listing wet ingredients as the later add-ins.
- If a recipe calls for cutting in butter, shortening, coconut oil, etc., include that step with The Mix, just remember to store finished bags in the freezer to keep fats from going rancid in the Texas heat. Additions such as chocolate chips or nuts and the like can be tossed into the The Mix as well.
- Recipes for scones and biscuits can be prepared through the rolling out and cutting into shapes stage and then frozen in single layers stacked between parchment paper, sealed in a gallon freezer bag. Bake these straight from frozen.
- Clearly print the “to add later” ingredients on the bag as well as any special instructions, oven temperatures, etc. While we’re making notes here, don’t forget to jot down the date; mysteries are much better read than eaten.
- Lastly, if kept in the freezer, a baking mix will last up to six months, so this is a clear excuse to break out holiday flavors early. This justification also extends to playing holiday music during preparation, should certain family members balk at breaking the unspoken, pre-Thanksgiving laws of listening.
And now, it is my great pleasure to welcome you in as the newest members of the Chipmunk League with one last recipe, sure to become a family favorite. Join me now in the official club cheer: “I am the Queen of Breakfast, I am the Queen of Breakfast!”
Nutmeg Streusel Muffins
1 c. all-purpose flour
1/3 c. old-fashioned rolled oats
1 c. firmly packed brown sugar
½ c. butter, chilled
2/3 c. all-purpose flour
1 ½ tsp. baking powder
1 ½ tsp. ground nutmeg
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. sea salt
2/3 c. chopped pecans or dark chocolate, optional
2/3 c. buttermilk
1 egg, lightly beaten
- In a large bowl combine 1 cup flour, oats, and brown sugar; cut in the butter until crumbly. Reserve ½ cup for streusel topping.
- In the same bowl add the flour, baking powder, nutmeg, baking soda, salt, and nuts or chocolate if using. Stir to combine and optionally store as a baking mix to finish later.
ON BAKING DAY…
- Preheat the oven to 400° F.
- To the dry mix add the buttermilk and egg, stirring just until moistened. Spoon into a greased muffin tin and sprinkle generously with the streusel mixture.
- Bake 18-22 minutes, or until golden brown and the muffins spring back when touched. Let the muffins stand five minutes in the tin before removing to a rack to cool completely. Makes 12 muffins.