The year 2007 was a good one for me for lots of reasons. Here’s one: It’s the year I got good at baking homemade bread thanks to a simple discovery that would go on to revolutionize the world of home baking.

Presented in their book, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, authors Jeff Hertzberg, M.D. and Zoë Franḉois stated that anyone with an oven, flour, yeast, salt, and water could make authentic, artisan bread in just five minutes a day.

fresh-yeast-bread

Within hours of getting my hands on that book, I was onboard. My first attempt was ridiculously easy. And so successful I shocked myself and my family! A more delicious loaf of bread I cannot buy anywhere. And why would I, when I could now make it myself for about $.40 a loaf in just five minutes a day?

I must admit that the exact terminology, “five minutes,” might be a stretch, but here’s how that term has come to be: Jeff and Zoë have honed this method to taking about 15 minutes to mix up a big batch of bread dough, which after its first rise, sits in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

When you’re ready to bake a loaf, it takes all of about five minutes to reach into the container, tear off a pound or so of dough, shape it and get it oven-ready. That’s where the “five minutes a day” comes into play. It’s the amount of daily labor required.

I have used the method, but not baked every single day, since 2007. My husband could only dream of such a thing, that’s how much he loves this rustic, homemade French bread. It reminds us of our trips to Paris and the neighborhood bakeries where Parisiennes stop in every day to pick up fresh bread.

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Whenever I write about my love of coffee that admittedly has turned me into a coffee snob, reader feedback is as enthusiastic as it is voluminous. I’m happy to know I’m not alone in my snobbery.

 

coffee cup and saucer on a wooden table. dark background.

Many of you bring up interesting points—questions, too. Like what to do with brewed coffee that is no longer ideally fresh but too good to throw down the drain. Others want to know how to make your own cappuccino, lattes and even the “steamer,” made popular by Starbucks—surprisingly containing no coffee at all.

Short of purchasing an espresso machine that uses high pressure steam to make espresso and has a gizmo that steams the milk as well, there are ways we can improvise to create reasonable facsimiles of our favorite coffee drinks. 

READ: How to Store Raw, Roasted, and Ground Coffee to Keep it Fresh 

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POPULAR COFFEE DRINK HACKS

ESPRESSO

Both cappuccinos and lattes are typically made with espresso. You can fake that by making very strong brewed coffee. 

LATTE

Your very strong coffee mixed about 50/50 with hot milk and then topped with foam makes for a very tasty latte. Experiment as necessary to find your ideal proportion of coffee to milk.

CAPPUCCINO

Making an authentic cappuccino is a somewhat complicated process. But you can cut through all of that by simply making a mix that you store in the pantry, adding just 3 teaspoons of it to a very strong cup of coffee. You’ll be amazed by just how good this is.

Cappuccino Mix

Mix well, store in airtight container. To use, stir about 3 teaspoons of mix into a cup of hot freshly brewed strong coffee. Top with whipped cream, if desired.

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So, you planted a garden, lucked out when your property included fruit trees, stumbled upon a produce sale you just couldn’t pass up, or joined a CSA. Good for you! Now what? What will you do with all that bounty?

Your choices are a) quickly consume your harvest before it spoils b) give it away or c) preserve it to enjoy in the future.

 

One of the best ways to preserve—the method of food preservation that is making a big comeback—is known as “canning.”

Canning is not difficult, but it is a procedure that should be followed precisely.

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And just like that, it’s August and peach season. That’s a big deal where I live in northern Colorado. We love peaches!

Soon we’ll be enjoying Peach Street Fairs, Palisade Peach Festivals; peaches piled high in every store’s produce department and featured on nearly every restaurant’s menu.

ripe-tree-ripened-peaches

FREESTONE OR CLING?

While there are many varieties of peaches, basically there are two types: If a peach is “freestone” it means the stone falls right off of the flesh when it’s cut. A “clingstone” will stick to the pit.

Freestones are larger, juicier, sweeter and easier to work with in the kitchen since the pit pops right out of a ripe peach. Many store-bought yellow and white peaches fall into this category. One of the most famous is the Georgia peach.

Clingstone peaches—peaches that are harder to pit because the pit firmly adheres to the flesh—are mostly used for canning.

Fresh peaches are available nationwide starting in late July until the first or second week of September.

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Do you wonder why you never have enough money to save some? Why there’s always so much month left at the end of the money? Maybe it’s time to consider that you’ve been handing over your savings to local restaurants, drive-thrus, diners and coffee shops. Think about it.

man-holding-empty-wallet

What if you didn’t eat out so often? What if you were strategic in buying basic ingredients and then cooking great meals at home? What if you had more of your money tucked away in savings rather than in the coffers of local eating joints?

No matter your lifestyle, I am confident that with the right strategies, you really can reduce the amount of money you spend on food in order to have more money to save—and still eat healthy, satisfying meals.

MORE TIME THAN MONEY

If yours is a single-income household struggling to survive in a two-income world, keeping food on the table and the bills paid can be quite a challenge. The good news is that time is on your side. The one not working outside the home has the time—it takes time to carry out the best strategies—to keep the cost at rock bottom without sacrificing quality.

MULTIPLE STORES. All grocery stores and supermarkets have tremendous weekly sales—even Whole Foods and Sprouts. And they announce these details in their weekly flyers—in print and online.

MORE: 25 Ways to Chop Your Food Bill

EAT THE SALES. Buy only loss leaders and items that are on sale. You won’t starve and you’ll have a huge variety of food items to choose from and in every department. All food stores, even Whole Foods and Sprouts, have weekly sales. When your budget is really, really tight don’t give in to the temptation to buy more just because it’s on sale.

COUPON LIKE CRAZY. Matching coupons to sales is the best weapon you have against rising food costs. There are free websites like CouponMom.com that will hook you up with the best coupons out there—and teach you how to use them to your best advantage.

BECOME AN EXPERT. Invest five weeks and $39 in Erin Chase’s Grocery Budget Makeover! (she’s the $5 Dinner Mom). You’ll gain expert status in no time—and recoup the cost the first five minutes you put this valuable information to work. Registration for the class closes soon, so if you’re interested, do not delay.

LITTLE TIME, TIGHT BUDGET

For dual-income families with kids, time becomes an especially valuable commodity. It’s scarce. Both of you work full-time jobs. Kids are in school plus all of their extra-curricular activities.

Then there’s church and weekends filled with sports and just playing catchup to get ready for the next week. You don’t have time to visit every store; to take advantage of a variety of sales. But money is still really tight, which makes the challenge even greater.

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In a recent post, I asked readers to share their worst barbecue/grilling experiences that could have been spared if they’d had a decent instant-read thermometer.

ThermaPen and Grilled Chicken

Photo credit: ThermoWorks

I loved reading your comments, some of which are so funny you had me laughing out loud. But more than that, I learned that most of our grilling disasters involve chicken.

Grilled chicken should be delicious, moist, tender, and full of flavor. But all too often it turns out bloody raw in the middle or bone-dry and tough as shoe leather.

Here it is: Simple Secrets for Grilling Cheap Cuts of Meat

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I have loved my Instant Pot since the day it arrived back in 2016. I’ll admit to being slightly intimidated in the first few days but that was short-lived. Thanks to a few tips, tricks, and these ridiculously simple recipes, in no time I was making dinners in 30 minutes or less—start to finish.

Instant Pot DUO60 6 Qt 7-in-1 Multi-Use Programmable Pressure Cooker

Meals from my Instant Pot are as good (often better) than slow-cooked meals that I have to think about early in the day—and only one pot to clean at the end.

While there are plenty of recipes out there for electric pressure cookers, I find myself going back to my tried and true, no-brainer recipes that are as simple and the gadget itself.

All you need to pull this off in your kitchen is an Instant Pot, a few awesome, albeit it simple, recipes plus a general knowledge for how it works. Here are the basic terms:

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Getting our outdoor grill cleaned, polished and ready for summer got me thinking about how much fun it would be to celebrate. After all, the first day of summer comes but once a year, so why not do things up right with an amazing menu and a few good friends to kick off the season!

photo credit: combust

What happened next I can only attribute to a momentary lapse of good judgment. I visited the website of Lobel’s of New York, “the best source for the finest and freshest USDA prime dry-aged steaks, roasts, specialty meats, and gourmet products that money can buy.” Unveiling the mother of all outdoor grills seemed like an event worthy of a few high-quality American Wagyu steaks delivered overnight on a bed of dry ice. I checked the price. Gulp! One 20-oz Porterhouse steak: $159.95—plus overnight shipping.

Just the thought of forking out more than a hundred bucks on a single steak jerked me back to reality with enough force to cause whiplash. Surely there has to be frugal ground somewhere between Lobel’s and what’s left of the buy-one-get-one-free hotdogs sitting in the freezer. Read more