I have no idea why on the one hand I seriously DO NOT care for cilantro but on the other hand I’m crazy for Cilantro-Lime Rice as served by both Chipotle and Qdoba casual Mexican restaurants.


How do they do that? How do they take rice, lime and cilantro for goodness’ sake, and turn it into such a delicious side dish?

I’ve been asking that question for a long time. Finally, I believe I have figured out how to make delicious, amazing Cilantro-Lime Rice that tastes for all the world just like the restaurants’—and for just pennies.

But before I get into the specifics for how to make Cilantro-Lime Rice, I want to tell you about something I have learned in this process—a super fast way to prepare plain rice from scratch in about 12 minutes give or take.

My rice cooker takes nearly 2 hours to do the same thing. More traditional methods include preparing rice on the stovetop or in the oven with proper liquid to rice measurements followed by covered cooking at low temperatures until all of the liquid is absorbed.

There is another way and I’m talking about the way we prepare pasta: Get a big pot of water boiling, add salt and pasta. Boil rapidly for 8 to 12 minutes. Drain, rinse. Done. Perfect every time. Yes, that defies every rule we’ve ever learned for how to prepare rice, but it just works! Read more


Pop quiz: You pull a chicken from the fridge to fix for dinner and notice that yesterday was the “Sell By” date. You should:

A. Throw it away because not many emergency rooms offer a stomach pumping family plan.

B. Cook it to an internal temperature of 195 F. minimum to kill the salmonella; serve with a pungent sauce to mask any residual fowl odor.

C. Relax. You and the supermarket have complied with FDA regulations requiring that this chicken be sold before the date on the label.

D. Refuse to answer on the grounds that obviously this is some kind of a trick question.

If you selected “D” you are right. This is a trick question and what better way to introduce an article on confusing dates than with a confusing pop quiz!

The truth is that “C” would be correct if not for that word “regulations.” Except for infant formula and some baby foods, product dating is not required by federal regulations. It is a convenience offered to store owners by food manufacturers.

Although dating of some products is required in 20 states, dating is voluntary on the part of manufacturers and processors. To further shake your confidence, stores are not legally required to remove outdated products from their shelves. So, it’s up to you to make sure you are getting the freshest products.

That means scrutinizing the package labeling and purchasing items with the most recent dates. Read more

So you like coffee. A lot. Me too. I like it so much I’m a home roaster. And an importer. That’s right. I import green coffee beans direct from the La Minita plantation in the Tarrazu region of Costa Rica. Why? Well, because (get ready) it’s the best inexpensive way to enjoy the best organic, free-trade, gourmet coffee on earth. (Here is more on how I got started, and you can, too.)

Apparently, I am not the only coffee lover in our EC family. You send me lots of questions and comments on the subject. Here one:

Which coffeemaker makes coffee the hottest and then keeps it hot without burning it?


“Hot” is a nebulous term when it comes to coffee. For McDonalds, hot meant a big lawsuit when its hot coffee burned a customer who spilled it in her lap. For my grandson Eli, hot means anything even slightly warmer than tepid.

Coffee aficionados insist that the water temperature for a drip coffee brewer needs to be hot at exactly 179 F. the moment it hits the coffee grounds. Personally, I find that to be on the cool side, which confirms “hot” is a matter of personal taste. Read more

If you are taking salad for lunch, pour the amount of dressing you will need into the bottom corner of a small plastic bag. Put a twist tie above the dressing and cut off the rest of the bag. When you are ready to eat, just snip off the corner and squeeze the dressing into your salad. Kristine


MAC N’ CHEESE MY WAY. My toddler eats only a small portion of a box of macaroni and cheese. Leftover mac and cheese is never a hit and the individual packs are too pricey. Instead, I buy the boxes when they are on sale and store the cheese powder and noodles in separate jars. Then I can prepare individual servings as needed. I use 1/3 cup of dry noodles and one heaping tablespoon each of cheese powder, butter and milk. Michel

TOILET CLEAN.  To get rid of mineral rings in the toilet, drop in one or two denture tablets. Check its progress in 30 minutes—or go ahead and leave it overnight. Flush. The toilet should be sparkling clean. Amy Read more

DEAR MARY: How can I fix carpet that has bleach spots on it? I tried using fabric pens about the same color as the tan carpet but the spots turned orange! Carol


DEAR CAROL: Bleach means done deal. There is no way you can “un-bleach” those spots. If you have a piece of spare carpet left over from when the carpet was installed, you can cut out the stained carpet and replace it with a patch from the new piece. If you don’t have that, cut the patch out of an inconspicuous area, like the back of a closet. Stick double-sided carpet tape onto the floor (or the pad if there is one) and press the patch into place. Because carpet has “nap,” done well the patch will be seamless and totally undetectable. If you are uncomfortable doing this yourself, call a local carpet repair expert. It should not be costly if you have the carpet piece ready to go. Good luck!

DEAR MARY: I can’t afford to replace my 50-year old light oak cupboards. They are still in good condition but look dull. Can you recommend a product that will clean and/or revitalize them? I ordered the Cosmas hardware you recommended and love them. (Cosmas makes a great oil rubbed bronze cabinet round knob for as little a $1.15 per knob in a pack of 25 -mh.) Thanks for all the products and tips you share with us. Judy

DEAR JUDY: I think you will be thrilled to pieces with your classic cabinets once  you deep clean them with Howards Feed-N-Wax Orange Oil Polish and Conditioner (about $8 for 16 oz.). Even if you need two or three bottles of this product, your cabinets are going to shine like a new penny! Howards contains beeswax and orange oil that replenish the oils in finished and oiled wood. I’m predicting that Howards plus Cosmas equals a big “Wow!” in your kitchen.   Read more

Since Mother’s Day is two weeks away and since I have a feeling you’re as surprised by that as I am and since I’m a mom and most of you are moms or know a mom or have a mother figure in your life–I’ve taken the liberty of assuming that you might appreciate some help coming up with an awesome Mother’s Day gift!


I wouldn’t say I am the ultimate expert when it comes to selecting perfect Mother’s Day gifts, but I know what I like and think I may not be too far off from what most moms would also enjoy. Here’s the deal: You love your mom. She’ll love these gifts. Easy as that.

Read more

My readers do come up with great tips, tricks and ideas for how to save time and money every day. Today is no exception. From bugs to puppy poop—all the way to phone chargers and tomato paste, we’re about to cover a lot of frugal ground.


CUTEST LITTLE LEAK DETECTOR. After dealing with a toilet leaking and causing $500 in damage because it went unnoticed for too long, my plumber told me about this ingenious little device called the LeakBug, which detects the smallest amount of standing water and alerts you to it with loud beeping like a smoke alarm. I purchased one for each of my bathrooms, under sinks and next to the water heater. I’m finding that my peace of mind is well worth the initial cost! Mack

TOMATO PASTE WASTE. Many times a recipe will call for a small amount of tomato paste. Often, this means that if you’re like me, what remains in the can is stored in the refrigerator for future use. It also means that months later I find it and toss it in the trash because it has now gone bad. But no more! Now, I take the remaining tomato paste and spread it out in a thin layer in a zip sandwich bag I store flat on a freezer shelf until it’s frozen. The next time I need tomato paste, I simply break off what I need, zip up the bag and replace in the freezer. Works great; no more waste! Karen Read more

DEAR MARY: I was wondering if you had a quick and easy way to keep the dish scrubbers (like the ones that have a sponge on one side attached to a pad for scrubbing pans on the other side) from smelling like mildew.


Ours do fine for a few days and then start smelling. I try to run them in the dishwasher, but don’t always remember. I sometimes spray them with bleach and let them sit for a minute or two before rinsing, and that seems to work, but I was wondering if there was a better way. I tried microwaving a wet sponge, and that just created a hot smelly sponge. Bronson

DEAR BRONSON: Putting kitchen sponges in the dishwasher daily, or as often as you run a load of dishes, is the best solution to this problem. The heat and detergent kill bacteria and mildew. I’m going to assume that you use one sponge at a time, and that may be the problem. Let me suggest you have at least two sponges going. This way, one will always be available to wipe the counter and so forth, while the other is getting sanitized in the dishwasher. Do this without fail for a couple of weeks and soon it’ll become a habit. Hope that helps! Read more