Christmas Gifts From My Instant Pot: Candied Lemon

I’ve never gotten into the whole Black Friday retail extravaganza. Might be because I’m not a fan of crowds, chaos, and mayhem, which is the way I would describe it.

Or I don’t like the idea of being manipulated into thinking that everything is a bargain on Black Friday, therefore, I must shop til I drop. Nope. Not me.

The theory behind the term Black Friday is not that it’s a dark, horrible thing the way it would be described in say an office environment of the day when all but the boss’ kid got pink-slipped leaving the entire company in a state of shock and awe.

It’s called Black Friday because supposedly, as the biggest shopping day of the year, retailers recoup all the losses they’ve experienced during the year so far—crazed shoppers taking them out of the red (financial loss) into a healthy profit status.

Honestly, I kinda’ doubt that whole red-black thing to be true, but it does explain the name of the day.

Perhaps you’ve guessed already, that I will not be joining any throngs of crazed shoppers next Friday. Instead, I will be home making Christmas gifts in my Instant Pot!

This year my homemade, consumable gifts will include Pure Madagascar Vanilla Extract, Pure Meyer Lemon Extract, Bacon Onion Jam and Candied Citrus Peel. Now here’s the crazy thing—I’m making all of these gifts in my Instant Pot, even the extracts! I’ve discovered that I can make the extracts in one day in my Instant Pot (yes, even pure vanilla extract!), where it used to take up to six months for extracts to be ready for gift-giving.

While I will be sharing all of these recipes and instructions with you soon, today I want to walk you through the simple steps to make Candied Lemon Peel.

Homemade candied lemon peel is a treat—one that is so decadent and classy, it makes for great gift—a treat you know will be gratefully received.

How to Make Fabulous Meals Using a Formula, Not a Recipe

Ever feel like kitchen klutz? Wish you could take that odd assortment of stuff in the pantry, refrigerator, and freezer and make something delicious without a specific recipe and without having to run to the market?

Well, grab your whisk and shout for joy! Thanks to this Fool-Proof 5-Step Formula you can create fabulous, original, homemade, delicious and nutritious entrees designed by You, using the items you have on hand.

Step 1: Combine 1 8-ounce carton sour cream, 1 cup milk, 1 cup water, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper with one item from Group A, which is coming up below (omit sour cream and milk when using tomatoes).

Step 2: Stir in one item from each of Groups B, C, D, and E (ditto)

Step 3: Spoon mixture into a lightly greased 13- x 9- x 2-inch baking dish.

Step 4: Sprinkle with one or two choices from Group F (yep, below).

Step 5: Cover and bake casserole at 350 F, for 1 hour and 10 minutes. Uncover and bake 10 additional minutes. Servings: 6.

Fabulous Solution to the Breakfast Dilemma

Mom was right. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Recent medical research says we cannot afford to miss it for many reasons:

  1. People who lose weight and keep it off are breakfast eaters.
  2. People who eat breakfast are better equipped to fight off colds and flu.
  3. Breakfast boosts metabolism all day and fires up your brain cells for faster, clearer thinking.

SIMPLE BREAKFAST GUIDELINES

  • Eat when you can but within two hours of waking.
  • Eat what you enjoy. You are more likely to create a lifelong habit if it’s something you enjoy.
  • Have “grab and go” breakfast items available that are healthy, tasty and affordable.

I have a great solution for your breakfast dilemma that meets all of the criteria above: Baked-from-scratch muffins! What? You don’t have time to bake every morning?

Not to worry! I’ve got a great method that will leave you excuse-less and make you your household’s Breakfast Hero.

Holiday Baking on the CHEAP!

Look up the word ‘impulsive’ in the dictionary and prepare to see my face. In my basement pantry, I have at least six bags of chocolate chips to prove it. They are the ghosts of a Christmas past—left over from one of my Gift-in-a-Jar marathon projects.

And those two containers of candied fruit that must be ten years old by now, which I keep because they’ve become such a novelty? They appear to be the same as the day I bought them.

Baking supplies are notoriously on sale at rock-bottom prices starting now in anticipation of Thanksgiving and continuing through the end of the year. I still have four five-pound bags of all-purpose flour from last holiday season, which I bought for $.99 each. Sugar is cheap during the holidays, too. Ditto for other holiday baking ingredients from marshmallows to sweetened condensed milk, dates to nuts.

One of my basic rules of grocery shopping is this: When it’s on sale, buy enough to last until it’s on sale again. Baking supplies become so cheap this time of year, now is the time to stock up.

Which begs the question you might be asking: How long will baking supplies last in the event you decide to buy enough to last the year? It all depends on the item and if you have the storage space to keep them at their optimum. Here is a handy guide:

Soups to Soothe the Soul and The Budget

Loyal readers of this column know by now that I love to cook. And I prefer to make things from scratch. But given my crazy work-travel-speak-write schedule, I don’t always have a lot of time to get a meal on the table. That’s the reason I am always on the lookout for quick and easy meals that are also delicious. Because if something tastes good, it’s so much better than going out.

Recently, a friend turned me on to a recipe for “homemade” soup that truly is one of the best soups I have ever tasted. Ever. And yes, I’m going to share it with you now, plus a couple more.

Butternut Squash Soup

You’ll need one container of butternut squash soup from the store (it comes in a quart-size “box” container at my store; also available at Trader Joe’s and others), a bag of frozen butternut squash cubes and pure maple syrup.

Pour the soup into a medium saucepan or soup pot, and add the bag of frozen squash. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to low. Allow to cook very gently, uncovered, until the squash is tender (15 minutes or so should do it, but check from time to time as you don’t want this to turn to mush). Stir in 2 tablespoons of maple syrup.

You’re done, Einstein. I call you that because this soup, served with a dollop of sour cream and croutons, will make your friends and family think you’re a genius. Serves: 6

How to Get Started Roasting Your Own Coffee Beans

Clearly, a recent post where I mentioned that my coffee roasting hobby has taken on a new dimension now that I import my green raw cofffee beans from the grower in Costa Rica, piqued the interest of many of coffee lovers.

It all started about 10 years when I had a conversation with Dax Wilson, who’d recently taken up this hobby of home roasting. The motivation? First, quality and taste, but also to cut the high cost of quality coffee by at least half. That was enough to get my attention and all I needed to become equally enthusiastic.

Today I’m going to walk you through the entire process I followed to get started, complete with tips and advice on creating your perfect cup of home roasted coffee.

Make It Yourself: Beef Jerky, French Salad Dressing, Steak Sauce 

If your family loves beef jerky, French salad dressing and A-1 Steak Sauce as much as mine, you definitely need to learn how to make these grocery items yourself—cheaper and better!

Here’s the deal: If you can make it as good or better than its store-bought version for way less money, why not? Give these recipes a try. I’m going to bet that once you do, you won’t go back.

Bake Bread, Save Dough: Basics for 5-Minutes-a-Day Bread Bakers

You may recall a column from a few weeks ago on baking bread—specifically, artisan bread in five minutes a day! It’s true. I do. And given the number of messages, comments and questions I received in response to that column, I’m excited to know that so many of my readers want to do that, too!

Rather than address each of your questions individually, I’ve taken the liberty to compile and edit them down to this manageable few:

Q: Can I get started with just the Master Recipe or do I really need the book?

The creators, Jeff and Zoe, have kindly made the Master Recipe plus step-by-step instructions with photos available at their website (click HERE), so the answer is no, you do not need the book to get started. But you’ll want it eventually. Hint: It would make a great Christmas gift.

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