Home Cooking

Simple family fare

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I'm still just a teenager, not a homemaker....But I love baking for my friends to let them know they're thought of.
What I'd like help with is the presentation of these gifts, as tupperware or a pla

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Ask the Miserly Mom: Cleaning, Grocery Budgeting, Bread and Scrapbooking

Questions Jonni answers:
--I would like to know what you can use on walls to clean hairspray off? Hope you can help!
--Thank you for all the hard work you do on the subject of $$$$$. It is nice to have the support. My question is, how much is a reasonable amount to expect to spend on a family of 6 for groceries? Keeping in mind of course that we try to serve healthy meals.

--I am looking for a bread recipe that will make a soft, non-crumbly bread. I would like to not buy store bread, but my bread recipe is too hard and crumbly to make good sandwiches, toast, etc.

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Ask the Miserly Mom: Snacks, Slip-Ups and Slipcovers

Jonni answers these questions:

  • I was wondering if you have any ideas for frugal, healthy snacks for kids. Mine love crackers, but they can be expensive. Any suggestions?
  • Just like going on a diet, I become very frugal for long periods of time, doing all the right things, from writing a menu and a food-shopping list to checking out sales and stocking up. I am restrained and don't buy stuff on impulse and ask myself if I need or want that item. Then after being very budgetwise for a long period of time, I just go loose. I stop doing all those good habits. I start racking up credit card debt again. I stop making menus but just go to the store and buy stuff. Needless to say, we end up in a financial hole, and we have to dig ourselves out. Is this common? How do you stop this cycle?
  • I have a sectional sofa that is maybe only 5 years old and is in good shape except for one corner where the cats clawed the material completely off of the arm. I mean, the wood is showing. Is there any way I can cover it cheaply? Any covers run at least $100.
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Winter Treats

Here are two favorite seasonal recipes featuring cider and pumpkins to share with your family and friends, plus a couple of tips on making them. Mulled cider is the perfect drink for cold nights. Pumpkin Honey Bread makes a great brunch or tea time treat; in the unlikely event you have slightly stale leftovers it's terrific in bread pudding or just toasted with butter. Enjoy them by themselves or together.

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Spice Up Your Child's Lunchbox

After two months in first grade, my daughter was as tired of eating sandwiches as I was of making them. Tuna fish, egg, ham, peanut butter. Day after day. How boring can it get? Even pickles couldn't lift our spirits.

"Pack a hot meal in a thermos," said grandma. But the thermos came back almost full. My daughter only has 15 minutes for lunch. She can take her sandwich outside in the playground if she wishes, but dragging a bowl of spaghetti isn't an option.

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Putting Food By

Old Mother Hubbard
I cannot stand to even visualize my children going hungry, or myself for that matter! If disaster struck today, this hour, this minute, how long could you provide sustenance for your family with the food store you have on hand? Would you even have drinking water available?

Life has afforded many of us the privilege of weekly grocery shopping and ready access to water. However, any one of many factors could easily turn this cushy situation around.

A simple water pipe break could make securing water tricky. An extensive truckers' strike could leave the grocery stores with skeletal supplies. Sudden unemployment could chop your grocery budget to zero overnight. Earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes--each area of the country has its own kind of natural disaster to guard against. It's not alarmist, but prudent, to be prepared.

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Pizza on the Cheap

A large pizza with pepperoni, olives, mushrooms and extra cheese please! Oh, the thought of it alone makes your mouth water, doesn't it? How we all love pizza! In the United States alone, over $20,000,000,000 (yes, all those zeros add up to 20 billion) was spent on pizza in 1994.

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Must-Have Kitchen Tools

busy kitchen

You don't need the hat, but it's a nice touch, no?

Looking at a cookware catalog might give you the impression that in order to make a meal, you need every gadget available. Not so.

Good food begins always with good ingredients. No fancy food processor will make up for wilted vegetables or stale spices. Beyond that, all you need are a few basics, plus whatever add-ons fit your cooking style.

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Making the Perfect Pie Crust

The finished pie crustAll of the anal-retentive suggestions you have ever heard about pie crust are true, because pie dough is a very special kind of dough. It isn't hard to achieve, once you know what you're going for and why, but pie crust can still intimidate a lot of people.

When I first got back into pie making I bought the Pillsbury crusts in the refrigerator section at the store. They aren't bad, it fooled some people and gave me a chance to ease into it without having to pull off the whole thing at once (sometimes I'm such a baby). But once I learned how easy crustmaking is, I never bought the premade kind again.

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Leftover Magic


My mother was the Goddess of Leftovers. I say that with all of the awe and respect she deserves. Around dinnertime, we would enter the kitchen drawn by smells that, although mouthwatering, we couldn't quite place. Was that cheese? Broccoli? Ham--no wait, hamburger.

When we asked her what was for dinner she would give us that "Mother's Secret" look and say it's a "Concoction!"

Although her cooking was 99% amazing, I can remember one time that her imagination just didn't make it into real life. It was some sort of funky hamburger-cornmeal pie thing that defied the laws of physics and weighed in at far more than any pie dish has a right to. Needless to say, that night we had peanut butter sandwiches.

All in all, her ideas were delicious. Read on for her theories.

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Holiday Cookies and Candies

[fudge graphic]Every year, right after Thanksgiving, I fill my grocery cart with delectable goodies that will fill my kitchen with wonderful smells. It's the time of year when I bake, and bake, and bake some more.

Every Christmas for the past 8 years I have made several types of homemade goodies, wrapped them carefully and sent them on their merry way. Some go to relatives, others to neighbors and some to friends.

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Five-Star Crockpot Recipes

It's 5:30 in the evening, you're tired, the kids are whining because they're hungry, and you have no clue what to make for dinner. If you had used your crockpot, dinner would already be ready and waiting for you--not that that's any consolation right this minute, but think about how nice it'll be next time!

Chances are that you already own a slow cooker, but it's probably hidden away in a hard-to-access cabinet somewhere with all your other rarely used kitchen appliances, collecting dust. My small slow cooker suffered the same fate. But then I purchased a 5-1/2 quart oval stoneware slow cooker, and my opinion of crockpots was forever changed. Let me tell you--it was the best $30 I'd ever spent!

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Eating Cheap, Eating Well


I love to cook. I love to eat. I am picky and will not eat things that have no nutritional value (excluding chocolate, which I mentally justify for its medicinal value). I am also the type of mom who looks at recipes and instead of using them, I change them to my own liking and consider it MY personal idea.

I have the ability to open an empty cupboard and create a meal. I think I learned it from my mom through osmosis. I don't ever remember a time that I was not full and content with the meals she prepared, but thinking back, I don't have any idea how she fed 5 kids and my dad on a nurse's wage.

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Easy Chocolate Gifts

Most people think diamonds are a girl's best friend, but they're wrong." My husband had been talking to our teenage son about girls, and how important good manners were if you wanted to impress a girl, then he suddenly threw this bit of advice in. "What women really want," he continued, "is chocolate!"

I laughed, but then I realized that he's not too far from the truth. Though most women wouldn't turn down a diamond in favor of a piece of chocolate, few would turn down a gift of chocolates, either. Come to think of it, few men would turn down such a gift. Chocolate rules.

These simple chocolate recipes should bring a smile to your Sweetheart this Valentine's Day. They're almost as much fun to make as they are to eat!

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Easter and Passover Recipes from Emeril LaGasse

Passover Brisket, Portugese Five Egg Bread and Sugarcane Baked Ham with Spiced Apples and Pears

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Cooking for Allergies


Finding a meal that will please the entire family is often difficult. But what if you ALSO have to take into consideration someone's food allergies? Even an old standard like spaghetti or macaroni and cheese may no longer be an option if your child is allergic to wheat or dairy.

Initially, you may decide to make separate meals for the allergic child, and feed the rest of the family normally. After a while, however, this gets REALLY old--twice as much cooking, and you may still be getting complaints of "I don't like that!" from both sides.

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Cook-Ahead Holidays with Debi Taylor-Hough


While other homemakers are spending a good portion of their holidays in the kitchen, chances are Debi Taylor-Hough will be out in the living room with her friends and family, enjoying hers. Why? Because Taylor-Hough has already prepared a good portion of her holiday feasts. They're waiting in the freezer to be thawed and cooked.

"The holidays can be so crazy, throwing in big meals on top of that can put you over the edge," says the Washington homemaker. "Having your meals planned and ready ahead of time can really ease the stress."

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Beating the Breakfast Rush Hour

[pancakes graphic]In many families, morning is a hectic and hurried time. Frequently parents feel fortunate just to get everyone out the door fully dressed each day. Serve a hot cooked breakfast every morning? Not a chance. Breakfast (if it's served at all) often consists of grabbing a toaster pastry and a quick glass of juice as the family runs out the door racing headlong to work and school.

I've discovered that taking an hour or two on an occassional weekend to prepare breakfast items for the freezer, takes much of the insanity out of the weekday morning rush.

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All About Tomatoes

It seems that every year I watch my tomatoes get bigger and bigger and still have to buy someone else's while mine stay green. Then, all of a sudden, every one of them is ready at once and I have tomatoes coming out the ears. Here are a few things you can do with them when you end up with more than you can possibly eat--including some ways to make sure you have some of that taste of summer long after you've broken out the quilts and flannels!

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All About Rice


Contrary to popular belief, rice is not designed by nature to be instant. It is not made a man named Ben and while it takes more than a minute to prepare, it's not a difficult process to do it yourself. If cooking rice from scratch scares you (no pre-prepped boxed stuff, just right out of the bag), read on--your days of scorched rice are over.

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All About Potatoes


There is no food I like better than the potato. My family calls me the Potato Queen because I haven't met a potato dish I don't like. Baked or boiled, fried or mashed, hot or cold, I love them all. Potatoes' versatility allows them to be used as main dishes, side dishes, soups, salads, breads and even desserts.

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All About Apples

In the Diary section a while back, I mentioned that I had acquired 40 pounds of organic apples on sale through my co-op. Using up that windfall, and planning for the apples that are now arriving in my yard and at stands and stores, had me puzzled at first. But there are as many ways to put them by as there are varieties, and endless recipes as well.

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Three-Day Recipe Blitz!

Get ready for a recipe blitz. It's not dirt cheap, nor is it fancy, but it's cheaper than convenience foods, almost as fast and takes advantage of good condiments. We find that cheap basic food (like rice and beans) with a little expensive condiment (like Indian pickles or really good mustard) makes you feel like you've eaten well and is still affordable.

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