Chocolate Cake

Finish Off a Great Meal With Cake

There’s nothing like following a great dinner with cake. It’s like the exclamation mark on a meal. I love to bake cakes and today I have three very different recipes to share: one from scratch, one that starts with a cake mix, and the third — it really isn’t cake, but once a year my family pretends it is.

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Village Of Frugality

Money in the Bank Is the Reward for Frugality

Living frugally does not mean choosing a life of poverty. Frugality is simply the act of avoiding waste. It means finding the most economical way to accomplish a task or project.

Frugality doesn’t mean giving up, it means living better because when you have all that you need plus money in the bank, life becomes much easier. Frugality is a state of mind, an attitude you choose for a way of life that is rewarding.

Every day my mailbox fills with frugal tips from my loyal readers. Some make me laugh; others leave me wondering why I didn’t think of that. Still, others have become such a common way of life for me, I’m grateful to have been reminded of what a great frugal idea it is.

Enjoy this recent sampling:

Cheaper air

Last summer, it got so hot where we live, many nights it was nearly impossible to sleep. We have central air in our home, but to make the room comfortable for sleep would require cooling the entire house — and that gets very expensive. We decided to buy an Energy Star window unit for our bedroom, that we run just long enough to cool the room before we go to bed. Our electric bill increased by only a few dollars. Marielle Read more

Kitchen Clutter

Let the Decluttering Begin

I know it’s time. It’s been time for at least five years, possibly longer. I need to clean my kitchen. Now, before you send the Health Department to my address, let me explain. What I mean by “clean” is that I need to clean out and organize my kitchen pantry, cupboards and drawers.

If you walked into my kitchen, you’d see a tidy and sanitary place. But don’t walk into the pantry or open a cupboard too hastily. Something might hit you on the head. At this moment, a bottle of Advil has been tossed on top of cereal boxes, which are resting on pudding boxes that have long ago expired.

Cynthia Ewer, editor of OrganizedHome.com says the first thing I need to do is harden my heart. An efficient, convenient kitchen, she says, must be pared to the bone. I must dare to dump anything and everything that is not absolutely necessary and useful. Read more

A 2nd Helping of Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day

It’s been more than a year since I began baking bread. I don’t bake just once in a while. I’m talking almost every day. I know what you’re thinking: “Did she retire? Has she lost her mind?”

I understand your confusion because, quite frankly, a year ago I would have thought the same thing. But that was before I became such a big fan of the method described in the book “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.” In a nutshell, I make a big batch of bread dough once a week using the master recipe. I’m not kidding when I say it takes all of about five minutes to measure, dump and mix. Then I park the dough in the refrigerator.

Each morning, I turn on the oven, grab a wad of dough from the fridge, form it on a cutting board and allow it to rise while I get ready for the day. Then, in the oven it goes. Twenty-five minutes later, voilà! I’ve got bakery-quality, hot, rustic artisan bread.

That book has really changed my life because now instead of paying $4 for a loaf of bread, I can make it for about 40 cents a loaf! Besides the cost savings, there’s just something soul-satisfying about making bread even when you have a very busy life outside the kitchen.

You have to know how excited I was to get my hands on Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë Francois’ second helping of fabulous bread recipes, “Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day: 100 New Recipes Featuring Whole Grains, Fruits, Vegetables, and Gluten-Free Ingredients.”

Oh, my.

I feel as if I’m in the advanced baking class now. Talk about healthy! Using the same method and dough I’ve been making every week over the past year, I now can kick it up a notch with Turkish-style pita bread with black sesame seeds, cherry tomato baguettes, rosemary Parmesan breadsticks and pain au potiron (peppery pumpkin and olive oil loaf). I tell you, this new book offers heaven in the oven for health-conscious bread lovers.

I love the chapter on sneaky breads. Jeff and Zoë give clever tips and tricks for how to incorporate fruits and vegetables into dough, resulting in tasty and healthy creations that kids will love. They just won’t know about the brown rice, parsley, garlic and bulgur wheat that go into their favorite bread. For those of you with family members who must eat gluten-free, there are recipes for you, too.

The best part about my favorite artisan bread books is that I have two new friends. Even though we never have met in person, I feel as if I know Jeff and Zoë. That’s because they’ve spoken to me on every page. They have taught me how to be a better baker — and now a much healthier baker, too!

Join the bread-baking conversation at my blog, http://www.MoneyRulesDebtStinks.com. I’ll try to answer your questions, and I want to know how you’re doing with baking your own artisan bread!

Meet the Newest Member of the BYOB Club

For years I’ve had something of a love hate relationship with baking bread. It’s a domestic skill I could never quite master. And that bothered me in the way that little things can.

This would be my pattern: Four out of five tries would flop, then in an act of mercy by the yeast gods I’d turn out a specimen fit for judging at the Iowa State Fair. But the time involved, the angst, the stress—not much in my life is worth all of that and surely not bread.

3218727713_1b7b82f994_zSeveral months ago the outrageous price for decent bread met headlong with a book and its intriguing title: Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day. Sure, uh-huh. Like anyone in her right mind would believe that. Five minutes a day? It takes longer than that to bake a loaf of frozen Bridgford dough—not exactly a hearty artisan choice, but bread nonetheless. And if this book was touting some prepackaged mix or pricey piece of equipment, I wasn’t interested. The photo on the cover is what compelled me to explore further. If what I was seeing was correct and the title was not a trick, this would qualify as too good to be true.

The verdict is in. It’s true, but not too good to be. Authors Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois have truly taken the home baking world by storm. They have created a method that takes out all of the variables of baking yeast breads, the time, the hassle, the waiting, the worrying—all of that gone.

I stand before you a changed woman. And a consistent home baker of artisan bread—the rustic, beautiful kind of bread you see in an European bakery. The kind of bread that is made once a day, consumed by the family and then replaced the following day. Every day. And yes, I am as busy as I ever was. Even I have five minutes a day to bake bread. I have not purchased bread for months. It’s become a tiny obsession. I’ve joined the BYOB movement (bake your own bread) and my goal is to hold out for an entire year. So far so good.

photo credit: brettneilson

photo credit: brettneilson

Here’s the deal: On Saturday I take about ten minutes to make up the Master Recipe. The ingredients are simple: water, flour, yeast and salt. That’s it. No eggs, oil, or sugar. I use my Kitchenaid mixer, but I could do this by hand. I measure the ingredients, mix to incorporate and that’s it. I pick up the bowl, dump the dough into my “proofing box” (a 40-cup plastic container with a lid), leave it on the counter for two hours then move it to the refrigerator. All of this takes only a few minutes and makes enough dough for eight one-pound loaves and will last for two weeks in the ‘fridge.

When I want to bake a loaf (usually each morning), I open the box, grab a wad of dough, dust it with a little flour, shape it quickly and set it on a wooden peel. There it sits for 40 mins to an hour as I get ready, the oven preheats and I do other things. I pop it into the oven on a baking stone and in about 30 minutes we have fresh, European bakery-style bread that is just to die for. Did I say no kneading? None! I tell you this is so simple, so awesome and so gratifying.

Since I became a BYOBer, I’ve used the master dough to make breadsticks, soft pretzels, pizza and dinner rolls.

Here’s the best part. A decent loaf of bread at my store is now closing in on $4. A loaf of my homemade artisan bread? About forty cents. That’s right. One-tenth the cost and about ten times better, too.

There’s something more for me that comes with baking bread. It’s soul-soothing. I love knowing that I have lots of yeast in the freezer and plenty of flour in the pantry. My survival gear makes me feel self-reliant.

I like that.

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