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Never let empty baking pans go to waste

Updated on March 19, 2013

Rahm was right

Even though a person may not like all of the political sniping that goes on in Washington, D.C., it does not hurt to pay attention to some of the more useful attitudes that are displayed there. For example, Rahm Emmanuel, erstwhile chief of staff to the president, had this to say about good crises (and I paraphrase here) - “Never let one of them go to waste.” I used Emmanuel's thinking about crises, applying it to my discovery of several empty baking pans in the clutter of my little workroom.

Obviously, they were to be used to bake something – but what?

Hit the books

Lacking immediate insight into what should be baked in those baking pans, I turned to my favorite picture books for some clues. Irma Rombauer's “Joy of Cooking” was at hand, so it was the first of them to be scanned for inspiration. Unfortunately, my copy of her masterful cookbook was getting on in years. The illustrations within were all little line drawings, mostly of things like empty cooking pots, spoons, de-feathered chickens, and a cabbage or two. In a crisis like an empty baking pan crisis, better images were needed. Without running on here about all of the book reading exercises that followed the Rombauer book disappointment, it can be stated that this important research wound up with recourse to the Internet. There, I thought, I might find some full-color pictures of bake-worthy foods. And so it went.

There are color photos on the Internet

Chancing upon an Internet-borne scheme that bragged of being the finest of the finest ways by which to cook tender, meaty, spicy, and moist skinned and boneless chicken breasts, my stomach began a wonderful conversation with my brain. Aha. Even the photograph shown on the screen looked tender, meaty, spicy, and moist. I could taste the taste and smell the spices. The colors were perfect – golden brown, softly yellow, creamy white stuff running down the sides of those little pieces of chicken. It was very bake-worthy. Sure enough. Well, that was good for one of those empty pans, for there was a package of eight chicken breasts sitting right there in our refrigerator. Reading the cooking instructions quickly told me that we owned the other several ingredients – a jug of mayonnaise, black pepper, garlic powder, Parmesan cheese, and seasoning salt. 45 minutes in the oven. I could taste it already.

This Internet thing is wonderful for both inspirations for cooking stuff and for the instructions on how to actually do it. So, I kept on looking for more solutions to the empty baking pan situation. Yes. People should never allow empty baking pans to be wasted in idleness.

That Internet does not know everything, after all

I did not find inspiration. Stuck with two more empty baking pans, I turned to my mentor and boss, my bride of several years. Asking her what she had last baked in an empty baking pan was the perfect question. She told me (as if I did not remember without having to ask), “oatmeal-crusted chopped date bars.” I could see those oatmeal-date bars in my memory as delightfully colored and delicious as they had been when, earlier, I had made a perfect hog of myself, gorging on the things. That sort of crunchy and sweet, completely good-for-you concoction was an absolutely perfect item to be baked. But I had two big baking pans to fill. Also, I had no dates to chop up. What did I have that might work?

Line up the supplies

Aha. There were several plastic bags in the big storage container that were filled with dried fruit – some little dried cherries, some dried blueberries, and some dried and sweetened cranberries. Having seen those with my own eyes, I looked into the refrigerator to see what might be hiding in there, hiding, but suitable to be a part of prevention of the wasting of empty baking pans. There was a little plastic jar that held some leftover crushed pineapple. There were several sticks of margarine (in case lots of fat was called for). Milk was also there, but I didn't know if any were needed.

If you don't know, ask the boss

So I asked the real boss of our little kitchen, “How did you make that oatmeal crust on those chopped date bars you put together the other day?” She handed me a copy of the recipe. “I knew you were going to ask about the crust, so I wrote it down for you.” (You can see why she is the boss.)

Double or nothing, right?

She had used one baking pan for her oatmeal-date things, but I had two empty pans to be filled (plus the third pan that was to become the emergency empty pan to hold those chicken breasts). Nothing to it. I would simply take her crust formula and multiply everything in it by two. Pardon this pun, but that seemed to me to be a real piece of cake.

Cut in, cut out, cut up?

Part of her instructions for making the crust did tell me to “cut in” (whatever that means) three big sticks of butter or margarine. We had enough of that stuff, but the idea of chopping on blocks of fat in a bowl of oatmeal, flour, and brown sugar did not seem to be an entirely efficient or acceptable use of my time. I pulled up a jug of cooking oil to replace the solid fat. That just seemed like it would be a whole lot faster and a bunch easier on the muscles, too.

Don't need a messy spill, do we?

When the crust stuff was all mixed and ready, it truly filled the mixing bowl almost to the brim. I was happy about nixing the fat bars in favor of mixing in the cooking oil. That probably prevented overflowing the mixing bowl and spilling flour, oatmeal, and sugar all over the counter top. Into each of the two pans went a bottom crust layer. Each crust layer sat there at pan bottom waiting for me to do something about the need to spread a filling layer on top of it.

Once dry, but now wet again

In went the now-moistened dried fruit – the cherries, the blueberries, and the cranberries, all mixed with that small amount of crushed pineapple that I had found in the refrigerator earlier.

No olfactory fatigue in the kitchen now

Then, on top of the fruit, went the balance of the oatmeal crust mixture. On went the oven. In went all three of the once-empty baking pans, and off I went to play with our little doggie, drink some coffee, watch the news on the TV, and practice looking important in the event I might achieve being discovered today. The bell rang. Time to turn off the oven. My goodness, the kitchen smelled so good it almost brought tears to my eyes. No. It was the garlic and the seasoning salt, but it was a decent thought to believe that tears-in-the-eyes could be caused by some sort of olfactory emotional reaction, now, was it not so?

Baked chicken breasts fill one pan that was once empty. Wonderful chicken with spicy, rich flavor. Quite a find, this one was
Baked chicken breasts fill one pan that was once empty. Wonderful chicken with spicy, rich flavor. Quite a find, this one was | Source
One of two once empty baking pans that now hold some super-good fruit-filled bars. All this needs is to cut them out of the pan
One of two once empty baking pans that now hold some super-good fruit-filled bars. All this needs is to cut them out of the pan | Source
Now, THAT is one wing-ding of a fruit-filled. oatmeal-crusted hunk of eating pleasure
Now, THAT is one wing-ding of a fruit-filled. oatmeal-crusted hunk of eating pleasure | Source

OK – I am stingy, but here's what you can do

Take a look at the photos I stuck in here with this expository piece. They tend to make a person's tongue hang out, just wishing for a bite of something good – something baked- and three empty baking pans saved from the ignominy of being wasted.

I understand that many readers who have devoted valuable time and effort in studying this article will be annoyed that it is I who am in charge of those no longer empty baking pans – that I have retained everything in them to my own benefit – that you don't have anything of them other than the thought of how good everything tastes and how nourishing all of it is.

I have a solution for you in your misery.

Now it's your turn

Get some empty baking pans. Don't let them go to waste. Put something into them and bake the daylights out of it. Get your revenge on me for having caused you any misery. Tell me what you did. Cause me the pain of just having to imagine how good it would taste – if only I could grab some of it.


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    • GusTheRedneck profile image

      Gustave Kilthau 5 years ago from USA

      beingwell -

      Pans don't do much for a person when they remain empty - so I am happy that you decided to make some pies and satisfy the need to fill both your pans and your tummy. I see by the contents of your profile page that you are "into" food in a big way - and that you tell us that food is also "into" you. That should work right well.

      Gus :-)))

    • beingwell profile image

      beingwell 5 years ago from Bangkok

      Hi gus! I got hungry with your non-empty pans. Great! Time for desserts, and I'm having myself some pies! You just gave me an idea of what to make. Weehooo! Shared.

    • sgbrown profile image

      Sheila Brown 5 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      Yep! The wind was blowing that day too and we were "busy" with the grandkids, not paying enough attention to the smoker. I did manage to rescue enough of it to make some chopped brisket sandwiches for everyone! LOL :)

    • GusTheRedneck profile image

      Gustave Kilthau 5 years ago from USA

      Good Morning Sheila (sgbrown) -

      To burn a brisket is to sit down and cry for a time... Yes. Dogs can always show that they are brisket's best friends. Betcha you all closed the air vents on the smoker some for the next brisket, didn't you?

      Gus :-)))

    • sgbrown profile image

      Sheila Brown 5 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      We tend to do the same thing, Gus. A little of this and more of that. We are always experimenting with different rubs, it always seems to turn out good. We have two big dogs, so if something comes out just aweful, they'll eat it! We burned a brisket once, the dogs were very happy about it! Hopefull our cold weather is over here, looking forward to a nice day for Easter. I hope you have a Happy Easter and a wonderful spring! :)

    • GusTheRedneck profile image

      Gustave Kilthau 5 years ago from USA

      Howdy Sheila (sgbrown) -

      Thanks for getting so hungry after looking through this little article. Right here (just south from you a ways) it is now about 11pm - and I am STILL hungry. Been eating all sorts of good stuff all day. Can't gain an ounce of weight. I tell folks that is due to burning up all my calories writing about eating stuff. :-)

      Nice to know that you are another brisket-lover and go for chicken on the smoker. Me, too. Do those briskets for about 16-18 hours and 220 degrees with lots of rub all over them. Good stuff.

      those baking pans you see in this hub are actually called "toss-out" aluminum steam table pans, but they are just the right size. I have some aluminum covers that come with them so that if we make something using them we can put the cover on and give it to friends or family without having to sweat giving away heavy-duty baking pans. Works for us. As to those pix of what the pans held -- we scored heavily with the chicken and with the fruit bars. I apologize for the "recipes" for both things, but that is really how I do "my" kind of cooking. A bunch of this, some more of that, and a couple of handfuls of something else. If I tried to really measure stuff the way folks are supposed to measure things, I'd mess up and put in too much or too little. Some, a bunch, and a handful works better. If it looks right it usually works right. If not, the birds seem to go for it if it holds together long enough to go onto their feeding tray outside.

      Have fun. Hope for good weather up there in OK.

      Gus :-)))

    • sgbrown profile image

      Sheila Brown 5 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      Yum! Both of these sound delicious and your pictures are great! Here it is almost 10 pm and now I am hungry! I like your way of cooking! Our baking pans usually get filled with roasting chickens and put on the smoker my hubby built. They will go beside the wrapped briskets. I love those big ol' baking pans, they are usually filled with something really yummy! :)

    • GusTheRedneck profile image

      Gustave Kilthau 5 years ago from USA

      Hello Froggie (The Frog Prince) -

      Such an early riser you are - baker you say not - but getter-upper you be... Gotta tell you, Froggie - I'm no baker, either, but I like to mess around in the kitchen when and if the boss lets me in there. There came that question about what to do with those three empty baking pans. Figured it out after a time.

      Catch up with you around the area, Froggie.

      Gus :-)))

    • The Frog Prince profile image

      The Frog Prince 5 years ago from Arlington, TX

      Not being a baker, I must be missing out on that part of my kitchen. That oatmeal concoction looks delicious. Written as only a redneck could pen it :)

      The Frog

    • GusTheRedneck profile image

      Gustave Kilthau 5 years ago from USA

      Good Doctor bj (drbj) -

      The "usual" kind of chicken pieces prep around here is to bake the things on top of rice that is floating around in some kind of mushroom or chicken soup. This "mayo" deal was different for us. There was way too much in that big pan for just two geriatrics, so we passed the bulk of the chicken along to the grandkids and our daughter, etc. they had a good time with it.

      As to those fruit bars, I gave some to my buddies over at Medical Tectronics. I had to fight them off to prevent their presenting me with a new nebulizer pump. That's a problem I have with those folks. They are forever trying to give me stuff. To keep things from turning into warfare, I accepted several oxygen machine tubings. I will be trying to figure out how to avoid this eternal gift-receiving from now on, I suppose. :-)

      Gus :-)))

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 5 years ago from south Florida

      What a nice simple chicken breast recipe, Gus, uncomplicated and easy to bake - my favorite kind. I can almost literally smell its mouth-watering aroma from your photo. Thank you and your wife for sharing it.

    • Austinstar profile image

      Lela 5 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

      Wow, easy enough! I will try them this week! I've been using bread crumbs and parmesan cheese to top and bake butter coated chicken, but my brother always swears by using mayo. I'll give it a go!

    • GusTheRedneck profile image

      Gustave Kilthau 5 years ago from USA

      Howdy Lela (Austinstar) -

      You can set out to actually make those chicken deals without having to "try them." - Here's the formula -

      4 or a few more skinless, boneless chicken breasts, 1 cup of mayonnaise, 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese (ground up was what I used), 1-1/2 teaspoons seasoning salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, 1 teaspoon garlic powder. Mix up the stuff, spread it onto the chicken. Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes.

      Everyone here liked it. Sure was good.

      Gus :-)))

    • Austinstar profile image

      Lela 5 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

      Ha! I'm off to the rodeo today to eat junk food, but I would sure rather eat one of those chicken breasts and have an oatmeal cookie bar thingie for dessert!

      I'm going to try the chicken breast thing, though after my next run to the H.E.B.


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