"What can I bring?" I ask, before heading to a dinner party. And then I hold my breath and hope they don't say, "dessert."
Although I obviously love cooking, making a dessert is a different story for a few reasons:
- I lack the infrastructure. Since I rarely bake, I'm missing key ingredients. Which means I'll need a separate grocery run to stock up on items I won't use. Also, the heavy tools, like the mixer, are inconveniently located at the back of the lower cabinets (ouch).
- I have to focus on what I'm making. I haven't developed the instincts to bake a batch of cookies without following a recipe, or the experience to know when something will be done. So instead I read and re-read a recipe verbatim and check the oven compulsively to make sure nothing's burning.
- Desserts can't be re-purposed. Although it's true I could eat brownies for many days in a row, I can't turn the brownie into dinner for my kids, or wrap it up and take it for lunch the next day. That means there's a lot of legwork and cleanup for just one dish.
It's not just baking, most of the time I also don't enjoy cooking when I lack the infrastructure, have to focus on what I'm making, and can't re-purpose the finished product. Too much effort for not enough reward.
My capsule kitchen list helps with the first part by ensuring I always have versatile ingredients on hand. And improv cooking, using a few basic meal formulas, helps ensure I don't have to follow a recipe and that I can always customize and re-purpose. Both of these things make cooking so much easier and more fun, especially when life is busy.
Over the next few weeks, I'll be sharing some of my favorite meal formulas with you so you can take the thinking out of cooking and make it more enjoyable and less effortful too.
In the meantime, does anyone have any recipes for baked goods that don't require a lot of ingredients or dishes?