Don’t put off until later a chore you can accomplish before it gets hot

 

Nothing gets your day going like a big bowl of dough.

Nothing gets your day going like a big bowl of dough.  This time of year the dough gets very excited.

You know I love to cook and bake – well, I love to cook and bake my food. I don’t love to cook and bake myself on a 100 + day, so I have to get going early in the morning to beat the heat.

I like to make bread,  but EEEEK!  The kitchen gets hot. That’s okay in Winter, but nowadays, with the red stuff hitting the triple digits, it’s probably a dumb idea to crank the old oven up to 450.

So, I start out the night before, I feed the starter and make the sponge, and it’s waiting for me on the counter when I wake up the next morning. The smell is absolutely heavenly, Dah-ling!

I measure the flour and other stuff, I get it all ready on the counter, cause when I get up in the morning, I have to admit, I’m not too motivated. Having it all set up, everything measured in little dishes, bread board right in place – that helps.  I can start it while the coffee maker is burbling away, and when I get done kneading it, I have a nice hot cuppa java to steady my rickety old arms.

Kneading a bread dough for 12 minutes will wake you up, okee-dokee!

I try to get going by 5:30am, so I can get it in the oven around 7 am, and done waaaaay before 9am.  I like to have the kitchen cooled off and the windows shut tight by 9am.

Of course bread does not demand hands-on attention every minute, so I try to do a few other cooking jobs in the mean time.

When I tell you I have pots on the stove I really mean I have pots on the stove.

When I tell you I have pots on the stove I really mean I have pots on the stove.

Rice is a good thing to cook in the morning, because you can set it aside in the fridge and re-heat it later, or use it cold as the bed for a salad. I just got a killer deal on a 10 lb bag of Royal Basmati, which usually sells for about $20 – I paid about $9 at Cash and Carry. I store it in jars. Four jars held one 10 lb bag.

I was afraid, at that price, there would be something wrong with it, but as soon as I got a whiff of it on the stove I was thrilled with that popcorn smell.  The grains come out separate and tender, sweet and tasty.

The other pots on the stove are barley and boneless chicken breasts. I like to make big batches of food for my dogs, store them in pint containers in the freezer. There’s usually an extra cup of rice left over for people dinner.

The other day I got cheap blueberries at Safeway.  We eat as many as we can fresh on salads and cereal.  I usually like to put some aside in the freezer for the future, but this time I decided to make some blueberry bars.

These disappear fast.

These disappear fast.

Again, if I can get myself out of the sack by 5am, I  can throw out a batch of these pretties by 7.  It’s just a basic oatmeal cookie recipe smeared into a baking pan instead of dropped by the spoonfuls on a sheet.   And,  instead of chocolate chips, I added blueberries. Made it totally different – more like a breakfast cake than a cookie.   

It’s 11:55. I just walked out to my compost pile to clean out my vacuum bucket, and I feel just about wiped out by the heat. Time for lunch.

Blue and white potatoes, with red apples.

Blue and white potatoes, with red potatoes and apples.  Somebody call Betsy Ross!

Potato salad is one of the nicest things to make early in the morning.  The hardest part for me is cooking the potatoes – everybody knows, you have to get them done enough, but not too done.   I like to use the little yukons and red and purple potatoes they have available now, they’re a little harder to get right.  I cook them whole, it helps to keep them from getting overdone. The  different sizes require constant poking, pinching, prodding. Some of the little ones get done right away, the bigger ones take about 20 minutes.  But this is really the integral step in a potato salad – you have to get the potatoes done right.  While I’ve got the potatoes on the stove I boil a few eggs, always nice to have some hard boiled eggs in the fridge for a quick snack.

The dressing is easy.  I dice up some yellow onion, garlic, celery, really fine, so it spreads throughout. Then I whip in a cup of mayonnaise, two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, a tablespoon of whatever mustard I have, teaspoon of sugar or honey, and two cooked, mashed egg yolks. When this is all smooth, I gently fold in the diced cooked potatoes and a diced Fuji apple. I also add the cooked egg whites, all chopped up.

It’s good to cook the potatoes and eggs early in the morning, get that over with, put them in the fridge. Once these things are ready, this salad puts itself together really fast, and it’s already somewhat cold if you’ve chilled the ingredients. I use a whole bag of little potatoes from Safeway, and I get a couple of days worth of meals and snacks out of a batch this size.

When I’m sitting in the house under the fan at noon time, I always like to look back on all the work I already accomplished this morning.

Post Script

This thermometer sits on our eastern facing covered porch.

This thermometer sits on our eastern facing covered porch.

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