I can’t think of an easier or more refreshing dessert for a hot summer day than granita. Frozen and slushy, granita is made from just about any puréed fruit, juice or even champagne to which you’ve added sugar and other flavorings to taste. Then, you stick the mixture in the freezer. After careful attention, you’ll turn out an elegant dessert.

Granita

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After you pour your mixture into a shallow baking dish and place it in the freezer, you should stir it with a whisk every 20 to 40 minutes. Depending on the sugar content and the size of the pan, the granita should be ready in about four hours. More sugar slows the process because it lowers the mixture’s freezing point. Read more

As I write this, it’s a cool spring afternoon here in Southern California. But with summer looming, I know how hot it can get around here. And when the thermometer rises, the last thing I want to do is turn on the oven. Thankfully, Brenda Ponichtera, R.D., has tasty and nutritious food that beats the heat.

Happy Food

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It’s called Dump Chicken. And it’s genius. Here’s why: You dump chicken pieces and your choice of sauce into a 1-gallon freezer bag and stick it in the freezer. When you’re ready to eat it, thaw it overnight in the refrigerator, dump it into a pan and bake it. That’s it!

The following recipes can be made with any four to eight pieces of chicken; bone-in or boneless, skin-on or skinless, even whole. Experiment to see what you prefer. Simply mix the sauce ingredients and toss into the bag along with the chicken, seal and freeze. Read more

Salad is often categorized as a side dish. Especially September through May. But come Summer, salad becomes the headliner; the star of the show. And it’s a well-earned designation, too. Add a little protein and you’ve got a full meal. Toss in some fruit and you’ve dialed things up on the nutrition scale.
Salad
As I write, it’s a very cool day in Southern California where I live. But I know this will not last. I love a big salad in the summer that combines grains, fruits, vegetables and even meats in one dish. It’s the perfect way to use up chicken or steak left from last night’s barbecue, or even that piece of grilled salmon or seafood. Add whole grain rolls or breadsticks on the side, and dinner’s on the table. Read more

My sweet mother-in-law, Gwen Hunt, was a very organized woman. She had file folders for everything you can imagine including one containing lists of her most valued assets along with the name of the person who would fall heir to that item upon her passing.

Among the items I received are two three-ring binders, filled with “magnetic” scrapbook pages into which she had carefully placed hundreds of handwritten and newspaper-clipped recipes. Next to each one are little handwritten notes about the recipes. She includes each recipe’s origin along with other tidbits of information she undoubtedly believed I would want to know, such as how many cookies she baked for her parents’ 50th Wedding Anniversary celebration on April 27, 1950 (10 dozen each of six different recipes, neatly arranged on facing pages). Many of the recipes are dated 1942 and, she notes, were in her original trousseau collection. Read more

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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Today I want to introduce you to the idea of making your own laundry detergent. I know what you are thinking: Why on earth would we do that when laundry detergent is widely available? Store-bought detergent is a particular convenience for those of us who are already so busy we can hardly find time to do the laundry, let alone make the detergent.

There are several reasons, but the big one is cost. You can make your own detergent for about three cents per load. Commercial laundry detergent costs about 30 cents per load, depending on the type. That is significant. If you make your own detergent, you may more easily afford milk, eggs, bread and other pantry staples that are rising in price so quickly.

Another reason to make your own detergent: Allergies. Some people are allergic to the perfumes and other fillers in commercial detergents. Making your own allows you to know what is in it.

Powdered Laundry Detergent

1 cup grated Fels-Naptha soap
1/2 cup Arm and Hammer Super Washing Soda (not baking soda, please!)
1/2 cup 20 Mule Team Borax

Mix and store in airtight container or bag. For light loads, use 2 tablespoons. For heavy loads, use 3 tablespoons.

Big Batch: To make a large batch, grate 6 bars of Fels-Naptha Soap and then add 3 cups of Super Washing Soda and 3 cups of 20 Mule Team Borax. Mix well and store in covered container. TIP: Homemade detergent will not make suds in your washer, so do not be alarmed. Fels-Naptha Soap is a pure soap and typically makes little or no suds in the water. This makes it perfect for use in the new HE washers as well as traditional washers. You will also notice the need to either reduce your laundry softener, in most cases you can even eliminate the use of softener completely. You can also use white vinegar in the last rinse (1 cup is plenty) to remove all traces of detergent.

Liquid Laundry Detergent

3 pints water
1/3 bar Fels-Naptha Soap, grated
1/2 cup SuperWashing Soda (not baking soda, please!)
1/2 cup 20 Mule Team Borax
2 gallon bucket, for mixing
1 quart hot water
Mix Fels-Naptha soap in a saucepan with 3 pints hot water and heat on low until dissolved. Stir in SuperWashing Soda and Borax. Stir until thickened, and remove from heat. Add 1 quart hot water to a two-gallon bucket. Add soap mixture, and mix well. Fill bucket with additional hot water as needed (you should have about 1.5 gallons of the mixture), and mix well. Set aside for 24 hours, or until mixture thickens. Use 1/2 cup of mixture per load.

 

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!