There was a time that I felt compelled to rise early on Christmas morning to bake Cinnamon Rolls—my family’s breakfast item of choice on that very special day of the year.

When I say early, I mean 3:30am. It takes hours for sweet bread dough to rise multiple times. And let’s just say that over the years, some attempts have been more successful than others.

Those days are gone. I’m done with that routine and not because I don’t love my family.

Now I sleep in until exactly 43 minutes before I want everyone to wake up to the smell of fresh, hot, decadent, perfect-every-time Cinnamon Rolls.

I may regret letting the cat out of the bag on this because they still think I’m a world-class Cinnamon Roll baker, but for right now, I’m excited to show and tell the most outrageously awesome food hack I’ve ever discovered. Read more

They’re convenient and, we’re told, more healthy. But there are few things quite as boring or more difficult to prepare well than boneless skinless chicken breasts (BSCB).

 

Here’s the problem: Chicken skin helps to keep the chicken moist and the bones add flavor.

Remove both and what do you have? The potential for dry, tasteless, tough chicken.

But not to worry. Here are two foolproof methods to prepare BSCB so they come out and tender every time—provided that you follow these instructions exactly.

Read more

Look up the word ‘impulsive’ in the dictionary and prepare to see my face. In my basement pantry, I have bags of 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 on a wooden board, horizontal, close-up

 

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 bags of all-purpose flour from last holiday season, which I bought for $.99 each, which I’ve stored in the freezer. 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 the next time it’s on sale. Baking supplies become so cheap this time of year, now is the time to stock up.

Which begs the question: How long will baking supplies last in the event you decide to buy enough to last the year? It all depends on the items and if you have the storage space to keep them at their optimum.

Here is a handy guide:

Read more

When I packed up my kitchen for our big move a few years ago, I was embarrassed to discover what I had accumulated in the spice drawer.

I’m pretty sure there were a couple bottles of something or other in there that were certified antiques, pre-dating the Nixon administration. And that ground allspice? I think the sell-by date was 50 A.D.

Spice-Cabinet

 

Are spices safe to use indefinitely? We tend to take a long time to use them. The spices have no date anywhere on them. I hate throwing out perfectly good items if they’re safe to use. I also keep my spices and condiments in the fridge. Is that practice okay for the spices? Leroy

Read more

Back when Martha Stewart was peaking and famous for her ability to do everything perfectly—from hosting dinner parties to plowing fields—I decided I’d try my hand at being Martha for an evening. My plan was to invite a couple to our home for a gourmet dinner party.

I did what Martha would do: I went overboard. I set the table with china dishes and crystal stemware—loads of flatware, candles, and cloth napkins. It took a while but finally, I came up with a menu. First course:  French Onion Soup. What a pain. It took all day to prepare.

woman-making-soup 

The friends arrived late and brought a little surprise with them—their kids! That was not in the plan. I hadn’t prepared anything for children! And if that wasn’t bad enough, the quite pushy husband started poking around the kitchen, lifting lids and asking what was on the menu.

Starting with French Onion Soup, he made it abundantly clear that he doesn’t eat that. Then one by one as I went down the menu, he responded “Nope!” to everything we would be having for dinner.

As it turned out, three of us ate the planned meal while the husband and children dined on peanut butter and jelly.

All painful memories aside, there’s nothing like homemade soup to warm body and soul on a blustery, fall day. But what if you don’t have all day to make soup? Don’t sweat it. If all you have is about 20 minutes (give or take), you can make any of these mostly-from-scratch soups.

They’re so easy and so delicious (and cheap, but let that be our little secret), you’re going to want to make it “soup night” at least once a week until spring. Read more

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.

Read more

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 

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to amazon.com and affiliated sites. 

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.

Read more

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.

Read more