Since my last post, the kitchen has been stripped bare. All cabinets, countertops, appliances, tile floor, lowered ceiling, insulation, HVAC ducts, lighting fixtures, plaster walls and the drywall beneath them have been laid to rest via six trips to the local “transfer station,” which is a fancy new term for a high-tech city dump.

Honestly, I’ve never seen such a tidy (albeit hopelessly out of date and functionally obsolete) space, formerly known as my kitchen―turn into such a disaster, as if overnight.

Harold warned me that things were about to get a whole lot worse before they could get better. That was no understatement. Here, let me show you what “a whole lot worse” looks like:

And then there was this …

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The topic of kids and money has always been important to me, but these days it’s occupying the top spot in my mind. I am convinced that one of the greatest gifts parents can give their children is confidence―financial confidence.

Kids who know how to make good financial decisions from a young age will have the confidence they need to make the right choices in the real world when they come to life’s critical decision points. The opposite of confidence is timidity, which by definition is lacking in boldness or determination; lacking in courage or self-confidence. Read more

Over the years I’ve responded to dozens of letters from DPLers getting ready to remodel their homes. They’re scared and confused. My response? Oh, pish-posh! What’s the big deal? Just stick to your budget, ask a lot of questions and don’t go overboard. You’ll do fine! And be sure to send pics.

Now, it’s my turn. We’ve decided it’s time to remodel our kitchen.

I’m scared and confused. Somehow at this moment, hearing “Oh pish-posh!” from anyone might just send me over the edge. So, I’ve come up with a method of my own to deal with all of this. And it Read more

How many gift cards do you have stuck in the back of your wallet, in your drawers or car’s console? Or worse, how many gift cards are you sure you have … somewhere (but you can’t exactly find them)?

Photo credt to y2bk’s photostream

Here’s the challenge: Name them one by one, including outstanding balances for each, in the comments below. These must be gift cards that you own, not your kids or spouse or any other person. The HONOR SYSTEM will prevail.

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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!

 

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.