Having everyday and convenience food mixes on hand are a great way to save time (no running to the store for something to serve last minute guests) and money (brownies for $.50 instead of $1.50 or more) in the kitchen. Not to mention, making your own mixes allows you to control the quality and the ingredients making them adaptable to special diets or allergies. So where do you start if you want to stock your pantry with quick and easy mixes?
|My mix shelves|
First, look around your pantry and think about what convenience foods you would like to make mixes to replace. Do you love having brownies on hand for an after-school snack? Would having pancake mix on hand make Saturday morning breakfast more relaxing? Are you looking for a use for all those bread crusts the kids never seem to want to eat--turn them into bread crumbs or stuffing mix!
Next, decide how you want to package your mixes. I use large glass jars that I keep on open bookcases in my kitchen. This works great for me because I have a long wall that not much else fits on it. Using quart and gallon size ziplock bags is great because you can stack them up, write the directions right on the package and they are pre-portioned. You can also put the bagged mixes in a plastic bin in your cupboard to keep them all together.
Now the fun part, making all the mixes! Grab your apron and maybe even a couple of friends and have some fun!
Buy your frequently used ingredients in bulk (flour, sugar, baking powder, etc.....) If you have limited storage space, gather a couple of friends for a mix day and split the ingredients. I can easily go through 25 lbs of flour on my mix days!
Using a large, shallow bowl will make mixing your ingredients much easier. It allows you to see if your ingredients are thoroughly mixed! (I used a dishpan from the dollar store for years to make my mixes in before I finally bought a GIANT stainless steel bowl). Make sure your bowl is big enough to hold all of your ingredients and give you enough room to stir (flour showers are just not pretty!).
A whisk makes quick work of dry ingredients. I keep a couple of different size whisks on hand for mixing my dry stuff together.
When cutting in shortening, especially into a large batch, I have found the best tool is--my hands. I can feel the shortening mixing in and can scoop easily to the bottom of the bowl to make sure everything is fully incorporated.
Making your own mixes allows you to control the ingredients. You can use all organic ingredients and still save over what an organic mix would cost you. Make gluten free mixes using an all purpose gluten free flour for a celiac friend (be sure all the other ingredients are gluten free also). Use a non-dairy dry milk powder for kids with dairy allergies. Leave the salt out for those with sodium or blood pressure concerns. It really opens up a lot of choices when you can control the ingredients. Sometime it takes a little experimenting, but it is worth it!
Mixes are great for sharing with other families. A can of peaches (store bought or home canned) and a bag of cobbler mix with a carton of whipping cream is a yummy gift for a new mom or as a housewarming gift. Moms of toddlers love cookie mixes that require just the addition of and egg and milk as an easy rainy day activity!
Mixes are great for camping! We fill a box with pre-measured mixes and only have to bring along a few extras (eggs, milk, water) in the cooler and we know we will be eating well. Some of our favorite camping mixes are: pancake mix (buttermilk or cinnamon oat pancakes), skillet scone mix, corn bread mix, quick cobbler mix (to use with fresh fruit from a local farmers market or picked straight from the tree), and tortilla mix, Our friends always tease us that we eat better when we are camping than they do at home.
Over the next few weeks, I will be sharing many of my favorite mix recipes and how I use them, so here is one to get you started:
8 Cups of sugar
6 Cups of unbleached flour
2 Cups of cocoa powder
1 1/2 Tbsp. baking powder
1 Tbsp. salt
Mix together and store in airtight container.
2 1/4 C. brownie mix
2 eggs, beaten
1/3 C. canola oil (or melted butter or margarine)
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 C. chopped nuts or chocolate chips (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8 inch square pan. Combine ingredients and mix until smooth. Bake for 30-35 minutes until center is set. Cool, cut, serve.
*try adding mint chips for choco-mint brownies.
*top warm brownies with mini-marshmallows, choco chips and some chopped graham cracker pieces for s'more topped brownies
Texas Sheet Cake
4 C. brownie mix
1/2 C. oil
1 C. water
1/2 C. sour cream
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. baking soda
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 10" x 15" jelly roll or sheet cake pan. Put brownie mix in bowl. In small saucepan bring oil, water, and sour cream to a boil. Add to the brownie mix. Stir in eggs, sour cream and baking soda. Pour into pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Prepare frosting and frost while cake is still hot.
Sheet Cake Frosting
1/2 C. evaporated milk
1/2 C. butter or margarine
1/4 C. cocoa powder
3 C. powdered sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract