Never let empty baking pans go to waste
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?
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.