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SNAP! Bake to Stress Less

A Bake Sale? Wow! The familiar election day fundraiser vanished for several years due to health and safety precautions. So, when I received an invitation to bake for my grandkid's PTO, I dug out the recipe for my favorite cookie.

When all sense and sensibility are sucked out of the atmosphere, baking is a go-to escape for me. It's the perfect mindful distraction when stress tightens its tentacles around my brain. It provides me with a truly peaceful outlet. I can focus on what I'm preparing rather than reacting to the situation strangling me. We all have days where everyone and everything gets on our nerves. Rather than locking myself in the bathroom to cry, I bake! SNAP

Mom was the queen of her kitchen. Her coterie was led by the thoroughly modern 1950 Sunbeam Electric Mixmaster with its bullet shape and tail fins. Her pastry sheet held lingering memories of leftover flour. Dried bits of piecrust encased the rolling pin with green wooden handles. The Crown Jewels included four nesting Pyrex bowls blue inside the red, inside the green, and all fitting into the large yellow bowl.

You might have beautiful canisters or fancy jars filled with kitchen staples lined up on the countertop. You might even have bags of sugar and flour stowed behind your cupboard doors. I was a Tupperware Lady when my kids were little, so I still have one or two tightly sealed containers.

The control freak in me loves measuring. My measuring cups and spoons are some of my favorite utensils. Spooning the white sugar crystals, scooping the dusty flour, packing the brown sugar sweetness into a measuring cup, then leveling off the top. Perfect!

So what if it spills out on the countertop or dumps on the floor? That’s an easy fix compared to everything else going on in my life. Get out the broom and clean up the floor. Take a sponge and brush it into the sink! Then wash it away. If only stress were that easy to rinse down the drain.

Most people think the best part of baking is the (practically) instant gratification. Oh, the sweet anticipation of cake and cookies coming out of the oven in fifteen to forty-five minutes is more than I can handle. It’s so nice to have a delicious outcome, but for me, the prep process takes the cake.

I often sat in the kitchen with Mom, admiring her every move. Mom loved her collection of cookbooks, binders, and recipe boxes filled with index cards and splattered pages. Each handwritten recipe brought back memories of the friend who shared it with her.

I inherited her love of cookbooks! From cooking magazines and newspaper clippings to hardbound, softbound, and ring-bound cookbooks. My collection is overflowing! Then, along comes the Food Network, which I pursue with the enthusiasm of a kid watching Saturday morning cartoons. My head exploded when I discovered Pinterest. All those fabulous dishes I pretend that I’ll make someday! It’s time to take those recipes seriously. They’ll be my roadmap out of frustration.

I leave my husband and his needs safely occupied in a nearby room, but of course, within earshot. I cross the kitchen threshold and transform into the Barefoot Contessa of my home.

The baker’s rack holds my prized KitchenAid mixer. The drawers and cupboards are bursting with a hodgepodge of cooking utensils, cutting boards, baking sheets, and skillets.

I find relief from anxiety by concentrating on the prep work, which must be why I like watching cooking shows.

Finding a recipe that is going to make me happy is essential. I love using ingredients that remind me of times gone by. If I can re-create the aromas, I can escape to that happy place. For instance, spices like cinnamon and ginger paired with apples and pumpkin transport me to our annual autumn outing at the country apple farm. Its idyllic setting is perfect, with a big red barn and straw maze. While standing in line to get warm apple fritters at the bakery, I vividly recall my young son looking up at me and saying, “I wish we could put this smell in a bottle.” Ahhhhh.

The aromas coming from the kitchen do a better job of changing my mood than any essential oil or scented candle. Think about a turkey roasting in the oven. The aroma floating through the house sure reminds me of Thanksgiving.

Fast-baking sugar cookies bring memories of Christmas to life in a hurry. The aroma of Mom’s oatmeal raisin cookies floating through the air means home. While celebrating Chanukah with my family, I love the smell of onions and potatoes frying in oil. I know, not the stuff Yankee Candles are made of. It’s like a big hug wrapping itself around my house. Everyone can use a big ole’ hug, especially me. Even if I have to give it to myself. And if it makes me feel good, it will quite possibly elicit a good feeling from my anxious loved one.

What I’m getting at is this. I may not want to be in the moment of the current health crisis, so I let that aroma carry me to a time and place I cherish — even if just for a minute.

I wonder if Mom was constantly in the kitchen baking to “snap out of it.” Smart lady. It works.

Want Mom's recipe for her delicious Oatmeal Raisin Cookies? Sign up at the bottom of my homepage, and I'll send it to you.

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