How to Make the Best Muffins Ever


Panera Bread opened a new bakery-cafe located dangerously close to my home, a situation that gives new meaning to the term “mixed emotions.”

On the one hand my husband and I love their muffins. But at $33 a dozen ($2.75 each), the feeling tends to sour.


An occasional muffin has never posed a fiscal threat. But with this new location being so handy, that could change quickly had I not made it my business to figure out how to win at the muffin game.

I tell you this not so much as to boast (well, maybe just a little), but to share my recipes and tricks for how to make muffins from scratch that are quick, easy and even more delicious than the ones at Panera, and for less than $4 a dozen, or about $.33 each.  Continue reading

Posted on by Mary Hunt in Food & Recipes 8 Comments

Great Cookbooks for Kitchen Newbies


Dear Mary: My young grandson is getting married soon, and neither he nor his fiance can cook. Could you please recommend a good all-purpose cookbook AND a microwave cookbook for newlyweds who will have a very tight and limited budget? I’m thinking this would be a useful and practical wedding gift. Thank you for your time in answering my question. It is appreciated. Connie R. 

Some rights reserved by Mel B.

Some rights reserved by Mel B.

Dear Connie: Oh, this is so much fun for me because I feel like I have a captive audience in your kiddos, and a willing giver in you. I love, Help! My Apartment Has a Kitchen Cookbook: 100 + Great Recipes with Foolproof Instructions, by Nancy Mills and her son Kevin Mills. It’s written in college-student speak, so your kids should find it reader-friendly and not at all intimidating. And it hits on the basics like Grilled Cheese Sandwiches, French Toast, Baked Salmon with Garlic, Al Dente Asparagus, just to name a few. And the book teaches cooking “How Tos,” like how to peel garlic, how to get the whole meal on the table at once, what to do with leftovers, and on it goes. This book is a gem. It was first published in 1996, but has been updated and revised since. My original tattered copy is a testament to how I have used it myself, and learned a great deal. Perhaps my favorite chapter of all, “Food to Keep on Hand So You Won’t Starve.”  Continue reading

Posted on by Mary Hunt in Dear Mary 4 Comments

Better than Starbucks, Cheaper Too


DIY FANCY COFFEE. I make my own great frozen coffee drinks, better than the ones that cost so much money. It all starts with frozen coffee cubes, which I make from the flavored coffee of my choice and freeze in ice cube trays. That’s the secret. Most recipes call for adding things to cold coffee and then blending with ice. But the ice can water it down. By starting with frozen coffee, there’s no need for ice to make the drink frozen. My favorite recipe is frozen coffee cubes, hazelnut or caramel syrup, chocolate milk or powder, light cream or milk and a little sugar (I like mine sweet). Blend until smooth. Yummy! I just keep a zip-type bag full of coffee cubes in my freezer. Lori


FOIL THE FOOLS. Since it’s not recommended to put your home address in your GPS in case your car is stolen, I’ve set my “home” address as my local police station. I figure if a thief is dumb enough to think they can steal a car, they’ll be dumb enough to pull into the police station. If my car is ever stolen I’ll tell the police to keep an eye on their parking lot. While I don’t know if it would actually work, if it did I’d have the story of stories! And, by the way, I do know the way home from the police station. Tim Continue reading

Posted on by Mary Hunt in Tips 4 Comments

How to Store Non-Perishable Food


Every household needs to have some amount of food in storage. How much food to store is an individual decision that depends on your financial resources, storage area and other factors. Ideally, you need enough to feed your family for six months but start with shorter goals, like one week, then two weeks, and then a month—some kind of  incremental plan won’t bust the budget or throw you into panic buying that can easily lead to burnout and buyer’s remorse.

Some rights reserved by Salvation Army USA West

Some rights reserved by Salvation Army USA West

Canned goods. Generally, commercially canned foods are good for two to five years from the date they were packed.  High acid food like tomato sauce will not keep as long as a can of beans, for example. Canned protein like tuna, chicken, corned beef and even bacon (yes, you can now buy canned, cooked bacon) have a shelf life of five years, or longer.

Canned foods lose vitamins as time goes by so you will want to rotate your food supply so you are using and replacing items before their “use by” dates. Continue reading

Posted on by Mary Hunt in Home & Family 1 Comment

Prep Steps for First-Time Home Buyers


Buying a home can be exciting and terrifying, all at once. And for first-time buyers, you can probably multiply those feeling by a hundred.

According to Wendy Highfield, of Innovative Real Estate Group in Denver, Colo., “Now is such a great time to purchase a home, especially with the low rates and personalized loan programs available to help families with unique financial backgrounds.”

rent buy house real estate blank sign

My best advice for any homeowners, but especially first-timers, is to take the time to prepare. Not only will you be ready when the time is right, you’ll be more confident.

1. Boost Your Credit Score. Your credit score(s) will play a key role in your mortgage approval and and the interest rate you’ll pay. Order your credit reports now  from, a free service authorized by federal law. Go over each report, dispute any errors, and pay off as much debt as possible. You want to create a big gap between your overall available credit and the amount you are using at any given time. Continue reading

Posted on by Mary Hunt in Home & Family, Mary's Perspective 2 Comments