Comfort-Cookin'I have six small appliances I consider necessary especially for someone with pain.  At the top of the list is my bread machine.  I love this and use it 2-4 times a week.  It has multiple perks:

  1. Bread tastes and smells awesome.
  2. Homemade is usually better than anything store-bought.
  3. The bread machine is so easy to use.
  4. Everyone is impressed (“You made these?”)
  5. Making bread is very satisfying too.

I know many people complain about the shape of the loaves in these machines. My trick is that I never bake in the machine. At my house, we are not overly fond of regular loaves of bread and a lot would get wasted. I started converting everything except artesian loafs to rolls and buns.  These are also easy to freeze as leftovers.  I start the bread in the morning.  When the dough cycle is over I cut the dough into 16 pieces for rolls or 8 or 12 pieces for buns or shape the loaf on a cookie sheet or in a clay baker. The dough then rises for a half hour to an hour.  Next, I brush and sprinkle the smaller loaves or rolls with desired toppings, and bake in a preheated oven.

If necessary to warm for dinner wrap rolls or buns in foil and heat 5-10 minutes.  Artesian bread can be heated on a baking sheet uncovered for 4-5 minutes. It is all really is very easy.

Here are some tips:

  1. I use parchment paper on baking sheets. This saves greasing sheets, a big wash-up, and I find a more even crust (I use this for cookies as well).
  2. If your machine doesn’t have a “preheat”, use warm (about 100 degrees) fluids and softened butter.
  3. Check dough about 4-5 minutes into mix/kneed cycle. It should be a nice smooth ball (your machine may take a little longer). If not holding together add a Tbsp. of water at a time (if moist and crumbly add flour instead).  If too moist add a Tbsp. of flour until smooth ball is there. With a little practice this gets easy.
  4. Cut dough into even pieces with sharp knife.
  5. I tent to shape each piece for rolls into a ball; however, stretching the dough into a rope which can be then tied into a knot, is quick and easy as well.
  6. Loaves can be shaped into logs (think Italian bread) or boules (round loaves).
  7. Brush with egg white (I use dried, reconstituted), a whole egg beaten with a Tbsp. of water, or melted butter. When I use butter, I bush again with more melted butter when they come out of the oven. Toppings can range from sesame seeds, poppy seeds, artesian topping, dill seed, kosher salt, coarse sea salt crystals to “everything” topping (toppings may not stick too well if you choose to brush-on butter).
  8. I use flour sack towels to cover while the dough is rising in pan; plastic wrap works well too. If you have a clay baker– just cover with the lid.
  9. Rolls/buns to be saved for another day should be wrapped individually in plastic wrap (I like Press and Seal but they are all good). Remaining loaves can be wrapped also.  Wrapped items then go into a freezer bag and frozen.  I like to use this trick for store bought bread such as sliced sour dough by wrapping it as one unit.  Bread stays very fresh this way and doesn’t dry out in the freezer as it can be prone to do.

If you don’t have a bread machine, yeast breads can be difficult for someone with pain (and the purpose of this blog is things we can make with little difficulty).  Yeast batter breads are easier but still not as easy as using a machine.  I got my first machine one year for Christmas and the second machine (15 years later) was for Mother’s Day-both times my husband frequently remarks it is the best gift he ever gave me.  If you don’t have a machine there are still some quick breads you can make (more in another blog).

Convenience Foods

Let’s take a look at some more convenience foods.

Bread Mixes (yeast): These are usually “no knead”.  The question here would be the taste.  If you and your family like the taste then it becomes a convenience.  If you have a bread machine these mixes aren’t a convenience, just something which costs more than ingredients you already have on hand.

Baking mixes (such as Bisquick):  A definite convenience food.  So many things can be made from this quickly and easily such as biscuits, muffins, pancakes, dumplings and more.  The low fat version doesn’t taste as good to me (naturally, fat tastes good).  Store brands are also a matter of taste.  I do keep my unused mix in the freezer (where I also keep flours I use infrequently).

Canned Biscuits, rolls and breads (in the dairy case): They can be dressed up and used in other recipes as well as a definite convenience option.  For the most part it is a matter of taste but beware, crescent rolls and some biscuits have yellow dye #5 in them.  Always check convenience food labels prior to using the first time and frequently after that (as the formula may change).

Pastas: All forms of pasta listed below are convenient; if you have ever made pasta from scratch even with a pasta machine you know it is not easy and it is time consuming (and can be frustrating).

Fresh pasta (commonly found in the dairy or deli section): Filled pastas such as tortellini and ravioli are awesome.  All fresh pasta cooks very quickly. Add your favorite sauce or in soups.

Frozen pasta (primarily filled like tortellini and ravioli): A matter of taste here once again; I prefer the fresh.

Dried pastas: Stores well and can be easier than fresh to cook al dente.  You can interchange much of the shapes. I like to use fusilli for spaghetti -the kids like the squiggly. Some may prefer Angel Hair or Vermicelli rather than standard spaghetti.

Why didn’t I think of this years ago? Instead of trying to measure salt by pouring it into a measuring spoon from the container or pouring it into a dish then trying to get the remainder back into the box, I store my table salt (which I use for baking and pasta) into a glass jar labeling the lid (SALT).  Kosher salt, which I use for nearly everything else, has its home in a glass canning container.  That way it is easy to measure, stays dry, and you can always see how much is left.


[toggle title=”Country White Rolls“]My family loves these.  They are fine textured without being dense and very tasty.  This was adapted from Taste of Home Quick Cooking March/April 1998.

1 cup water

1 egg

4 ½ tsp. vegetable oil

3 ¼ cup bread flour

¼ cup sugar

1 ½ tsp. salt

2 ¼ tsp. active yeast (one package)

In bread machine pan, place all ingredients in the order for your machine.  Choose dough setting.  When done remove from pan and place on a floured board.  Square dough up and cut into 16 pieces.  Shape and place on parchment covered baking sheet.  Cover and let rise 1 hour.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Brush with desired brush with egg white, egg, or butter and sprinkle with topping if desired.  Bake 12-15 minutes until brown.  If brushed with butter, brush again.  Cool on rack; can be reheated prior to serving.[/toggle]

[toggle title=”Beautiful Burger Buns“]

These are so much better than store bought. I adapted from a recipe on Better Recipes (internet) however I have seen that recipe on King Arthur’s website as well.

1 cup water

2 Tbs. butter

1 egg

3 ½ cups flour (bread or all purpose)

¼ cup sugar

1 ¼ tsp. salt

1 Tbsp. yeast (instant or bread machine)

In bread machine pan place all ingredients in the order for your machine.  Choose dough setting.  When done remove from pan and place on a floured board.  Square dough up and cut into 8 or 12 pieces (8 makes a Kaiser roll size bun).  Shape in balls and place on parchment covered baking sheet.  Flatten each ball slightly with hand.  Cover and let rise 1 hour.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Brush with desired brush on (egg white, eggs, or butter) and sprinkle with topping if desired (for these I like egg whites and sesame seed).  Bake 12-15 minutes until brown.  Cool on rack or towel; can be reheated prior to serving.[/toggle]

[toggle title=”Blueberry Muffin Buns“]These are so very yummy.  My granddaughters and I love them for breakfast or a mid-morning snack.  I like to add butter to mine while the girls like theirs “naked”.  It is adapted from a recipe in Better Homes and Garden’s Bread Machine Baking (1999).

¼ cup milk

1 egg

3 Tbs. water

2 Tbsp. butter, cut up

3 cups bread flour

3 Tbsp. sugar

¾ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. ground nutmeg

1 ½ tsp. yeast (active or bread machine)

½ cup dried blueberries

In bread machine pan place all ingredients except dried blueberries in the order for your machine. Choose dough setting.  A minute or two before “add beeper” start adding blueberries 2 Tbsp. at a time. (if no “add beeper” just start about 8 minutes after mix/knead begins.  Turn out onto a floured board.  If necessary, knead any loose berries into dough.  Square dough and cut into 16 pieces.  Roll into balls and place on parchment lined baking sheet.  Cover rolls and let rise 1 hour. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Brush with egg white mixed with 1 Tbsp. water.  Sprinkle heavily with coarse sugar.  Bake 12-15 minutes until brown. Cool on rack or towel.[/toggle]

[toggle title=”Acorn Squash Supreme“]These are so good and it is my husband’s absolute favorite vegetable recipe.  If I try to fix winter squash a different way he doesn’t even want to try it; he wants it fixed this way only.  It is easy to fix although it takes an hour to bake.  Adapted from an old clipping (looks like one of the “woman’s magazines” of the 1970’s).

2 medium acorn squashes

1 Tbsp. melted butter

½ cup heavy cream

½ cup maple syrup

Microwave each squash one minute (makes it easier to cut them).  Cut in half and seed.  Place halves in a greased baking dish cut side up.  Brush cut edges with butter.  Combine cream and maple syrup.  Pour into squash centers.  Bake in 350 degree oven one hour.  Carefully remove with spatula (try not to spill center liquid.  Use spoon to eat squash so you can get a little of the center liquid with each bite.  Serves 4.[/toggle]

[toggle title=”Roast Chicken with Pears“]Very tasty and easy to fix (a hit every time with my family); adapted from a recipe downloaded from the Right at Home Website (2011)

½ cup dried cranberries

2 parsnips peeled and cut into 1” pieces

2 carrots peeled and cut into 1” pieces

2 medium sweet onions peeled and cut into thin wedges

5 Tbsp. olive oil

5 Tbsp. Balsamic vinegar

2 tsp. dried thyme

2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pepper, freshly ground

Dark meat chicken pieces (8 thighs or 4 thighs and 4 drumsticks)

2 pears sliced into thin wedges

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  In small bowl soak cranberries in 1 cup hot water for about 10 minutes (then drain cranberries).  Combine 2 Tbsp. olive oil and 2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar, 1 tsp. thyme, 1 tsp, salt, and ¼ tsp. pepper.  Place chicken in plastic bag, add liquid and mix well, coating all pieces.

Line a large rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.  In a large bowl mix together drained cranberries, parsnips, carrots,  and sweet onion with 3 Tbsp. olive oil, 3 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar, 1 tsp. dried thyme, 1 tsp. salt, and ¼ tsp. pepper.  Mix well coating all vegetables.  Spread the mixture in pan and roast for 5 minutes in oven.

Take chicken out of the bag and lay skin side up directly on top of the vegetables (if using skinned place the side up which had the skin-tastes best with skin on).  Return to oven and bake another 35 minutes.  Remove from oven and gently move chicken pieces (using wooden spoon or spatula) to the sides and add pear slices.  Respace chicken then return to oven.  Roast for another 9-10 minutes (chicken should be 165 degrees when checked with meat thermometer).  Serve vegetable mixture, pears and chicken together. Serves 4-6.  [/toggle]


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