Hospitality tutorial

Set up a Home Coffee Bar

Made-over credenza serves double duty: coffee bar and kitchen storage

Last fall I ready a blog post by Kathi Lipp, one of my favorite bloggers. In it she talked about the importance of hospitality in friendship. (See the original post here~  Many people equate hospitality with a good cup of coffee, accent on the good.  At first I dismissed the notion, after all I am not a coffee drinker. I have had exactly 3 cups of coffee in my entire life, counting the Styrofoam cup that my sister Marti, cousin Melissa, and I shared at a doughnut shop one rainy Saturday when we were 8, 9, and 10 respectively).  But the thought would not be dismissed so easily; my family loves coffee, my friends love coffee… My thoughts kept turning back to the idea.  By now Christmas was approaching and I decided a home cafe would make a lovely family gift.

cleaning tutorial

Kitchen Cupboard Cleaning Products

The ingredients are in your cupboard!


Handy sink set-up

For this season’s Kitchen Wisdom finale I want to leave you with another skill in your repertoire -homemade cleaning products.  Did you know the average American household spends $42 per month on cleaning products? (  7.13.2013)  I will show you how to set up a basic cleaning tote filled with homemade products from ingredients you already have around the house… vinegar, baking soda, essential oils, inexpensive dishwashing liquid, even  citrus peels.  

pumpkin & winter squash tutorial

How to ‘get into’ a pumpkin…

Opening a winter squash– without hurting yourself!

 Pumpkins and winter squash come with a fantastically tough rind; they are often oddly shaped and difficult to grasp securely.  Please exercise care in opening them. 

1.  To ‘get into’ your pumpkin, first wash it thoroughly under running water and then open it in one of the following ways:

bread D.I.Y.convenience foods freezing tutorial

Freezing Homemade Bread

Convenience, quality, and home-made taste is at hand in your freezer

When you have a stay-at-home day, bake in quantity.  (Try Favorite Buttermilk Bread, Big Soft Breadtwists or Cinnamon Sugar Wands (without the salt or sugar toppings), Home-Style Buttermilk Pan Rolls, Cinnamon Swirl Loaves, Pumpkin Yeast Bread, Classic French Bread. Allow the loaves to cool completely and firm up, at least four hours.  This will prevent frost crystals from forming inside the bread. For convenience, pre-slice the loaves.  This allows you to take just what you need from the freezer.

When all you need is a slice or two, simply use a table knife to separate slices from the frozen loaf and then thaw them quickly in your toaster.

 Double-bag loaves (rolls, too) in the heavy plastic bags that commercial bread comes in, knotting the opening tightly closed.   Be sure to squeeze any air out of plastic bags before sealing, or use a plastic drinking straw inserted in a small opening, and “suck” it out. 

A plastic drinking straw can be used to draw air from the bag.

Bread can be safely stored in the freezer practically indefinitely, but for best quality plan to use it within 6 weeks.  Frozen loaves thaw nicely in 2-4 hours at room temperature, with rolls requiring less time.  You should loosen, but not remove the wrappings while thawing, and wipe out any condensation that forms inside the bag.   You may also remove plastic wrappings, wrap the bread in aluminum foil, and heat in a low 275 – 300 degree F oven for 30 minutes, until warm throughout.  

bread tutorial

Preparing for Hearth Baking

Do you really “need” a baking stone?
answer: yes!

By “Preparing for Hearth Baking” I am referring to a set of directions a home baker can follow to mimic as closely as possible the hard-to-describe qualities of bread baked in a wood-fired oven. A heavy duty baking stone, following a lengthy heating in a very hot (450 – 500 degree F) oven provides the “hearth.”  Steam is produced using a heated broiler pan, watering can full of hot water, and spray bottle; a rimless baking sheet serves as a baker’s peel, and so on.  These tools are not hard and fast necessities; they are the tools I rely on to bake excellent hearth bread.  “Someday,” Sam tells me, “we will build a brick oven in our front yard.”  Until then, this does the job conveniently.

soup tutorial

The Gentle Art of Soup-Making

The Virtues of Homemade Soup 

Wouldn’t you agree there is something special about homemade soup?  It fairly sings, “I love you,” with every spoonful.  Soup is comforting, strengthening, and healing. Soup is not hard to make, but does require time, and something more… heart.   You see, soup is changeable.  You may follow the same recipe and end up with a slightly (or entirely) different dish each time you make it.  And while that is not a bad thing, after all, soups are a great way to make use of little dibs and dabs of leftovers, you must be willing to taste and adjust the seasoning near the end of the cooking time, asking yourself, “Does my soup taste balanced?  Are the flavors well-married?  Is it salty enough?  Could it use a touch of brightness (lemon juice), additional herbs or more freshly ground pepper?”   Evaluate the flavor and trust your instincts. You know what you like, and if you are blessed to cook for a family, you know their tastes as well.   While time may be hard to come by that is no reason to deprive yourself and the ones you love of the restorative powers of soup.  Think of ways to divide tasks into manageable steps, such as pre-chopping vegetables the day before, making a big batch of Egg Noodles (Knoephla – pronounced k-nip-flah)  ahead and freezing it in recipe-size portions, or tucking a morsel of meat, well-wrapped and labeled, into the freezer for a future batch of soup.

Pre-made stock is a frozen asset

Add economical to the virtues of soup.  You likely have most if not all of the makings of a beautiful pot of soup already stashed away in your garden, cupboards, refrigerator, and freezer.   On this week’s program of Kitchen Wisdom, I serve up a batch of ideas.  Ideas for re-purposing vegetable bits and peelings into Thrifty Stock and a formula for crafting a fermented  Vegetable Bouillon or a dried Veggie Powder to either enhance or form the basis of your next pot of soup.   A homestyle masterpiece:  Chicken Noodle Soup with Roasted Garlic, awaits you and several bonus recipes:  Heirloom Tomato & Chickpea Soup, Cheeseburger ChowderCurried Pumpkin Soup, Zucchini Velvet Soup, and Garden Vegetable Soup ~ with Pesto.  You’ll also find a Tutorial:  How to Sew a Muslin Stock Bag, a timely recipe for Turkey Carcass Stock, and old-fashioned, fortifying Bone Broth. Thank you for joining me, I hope my recipes are a blessing to you!

Michele Ps.  Next week we’ll delve into the world of homemade bread…  To view Kitchen Wisdom programs visit and click on the  Kitchen Wisdom box. Select and view your show online in the comfort of home, then meet me back here for all the recipes!

bread soup tutorial

How to make a Muslin Stock Bag, Bread Bag, Produce Bag

Endlessly useful, utterly washable
Fabric bags are endlessly useful and utterly washable.  I have 2 muslin bags for making Thrifty Stock and a nice pile of pretty print bags which I take to the market to bag produce that is sold by the each rather than by the pound (avocados, celery, lemons, limes, grapefruit,  lettuce, pomegranates, mangoes).  My favorite grocery store gives me a nickel credit for each reusable bag.  Just ask, and I’ll bet yours will, too.  
Fabric bags are great for  storing Classic French Bread, also– just for a day or two.  
Kids love them as treasure bags and stuff sacks and they make fun “wrapping paper” that will be used over and over.  Start with one fabric bag and once you see how easy and rewarding it was to make you’ll make more.
Note:  Stay tuned for helpful photos of fabric bags.   ~Michele
For Stock Bag:
1/3 yard unbleached muslin 
plastic produce bag
paper grocery bag
basic sewing supplies:  scissors, straight pins, sewing machine, thread
32 inches sturdy cotton yarn
1.  Take a look at a plastic produce bag.  This is the size bag you will be making.  Lay it on top of a paper grocery bag.  You will notice the 2 bags are nearly the same size when flat.  Cut either the front or back panel from the paper sack.  This is your pattern : )
2.  Lay fabric on a work surface and place pattern on the fabric with bottom edge against the fold of the fabric, pinning if necessary to hold the pattern and two layers of fabric in place. Trim fabric to match pattern and set pattern aside. You should have a piece of fabric that measures 12 inches wide by 34 inches long.   Quilters take note:  you can use your quilting ruler, rotary cutter, and cutting mat to quickly cut out your bag.
3.  Fold fabric in half from end to end with right sides together.  The crease forms the bottom of the bag.  Stitch one long side bottom to top, using 1/4 inch seam allowance.
4.  Using a straight pin, mark the second long side at 1 1/4 inches from the top.  Measure 1/2 inch down from the pin and place another pin.  This little gap is a “no sew zone” that will form the casing that will contain the bag’s drawstring.  Now sew the second side from the bottom to the pin using a 1/4 inch seam allowance.  Back-stitch, lift the needle, and cut the thread.  Resume stitching at the second pin (leaving a 1/2 inch gap) and sew to the top of the bag.  
5.  You now have an inside-out bag.  Roll top down 1/4 inch and press with a hot iron.  Fold down 3/4 inch and press again.  Now carefully stitch right along the edge of the hem all the way around the bag.  Turn bag right side-out.
6.  To make drawstring for bag, cut a length of yarn about 32 inches long.  Fasten a safety pin to one end of yard, tying a knot to secure it, and move it through the casing at the top of the bag.  Remove safety pin by untying or snipping the knot off.  Pull ends even and tie in a knot. You now have a Muslin Stock Bag! * Care of Muslin Stock Bag: After emptying the contents of the stock bag into compost, turn bag inside out and scrape any loose particles free.  Rinse and toss into the washing machine.  Wash in warm or hot water with detergent, no fabric softener.  Tumble dry low in the dryer or line dry.  Fold stock bag away in your dish towel drawer and it will be ready for its next use.

For Bread or Produce Bag: 1/3 yard cotton print (for bread or produce bag) plastic produce bag paper grocery bag basic sewing supplies:  scissors, straight pins, iron, sewing machine, thread 1 1/8 inch x 34 inch strip of fabric (selvage works well) Follow directions given above for Stock Bag through step 5.   6.   Make a fabric drawstring.  Mist 1 1/8 inch x 34 inch strip of fabric with water.  Fold long edges to the center and press with hot iron to crease.  Or use a binding tool, pressing with a hot iron as you pull it through.  Zigzag stitch the entire length of the strip.  Fasten a safety pin to one end of the drawstring and move it through the casing at the top of the bag.  Remove safety pin.  Pull ends even and tie in a knot.  You now have a completed Fabric Bread or Produce Bag!

breakfast cooking for 1 or 2 D.I.Y.convenience foods dessert freezing gifts gluten-free Journal mixes tutorial

DIY Convenience Foods

 Most convenience foods can be made at home – easily and cheaply

One of the most seductive myths of food product advertising is that the products being promoted will make our lives easier and better. Advertisers imply and sometimes shamelessly promise to give us more time, make us more attractive, promote family closeness, and create beautiful memories. In short advertisers promise to make us happy!  All we have to do is go to the store.  The shelves are neatly lined with thousands of attractive packages for our selection.  Remember these packages are designed by people who make a living by their ability to lure us to purchase.

My favorite store offers the best deal in town on pancake mixes and other convenience food items, but I can still save a substantial amount of money making them at home.

It is so easy to get in the habit of relying on convenience foods, after all they are convenient.  Open a box, bag or jar, add water or eggs or another can of something, stir, heat, and voila! dinner is served.  The truth is most of the convenience food items you currently buy at the grocery store can be made easily at home in just a few minutes and for very little money.   Added benefits:  ability to cater to specific dietary needs or allergies. You’ll never miss the preservatives, additives, dyes, and chemicals you won’t be ingesting.  And you may notice a reduction in the amount of kitchen waste going to the landfill because you aren’t bringing home so much packaging and can re-purpose food safe containers like glass jars.

I am happy to share a batch of my favorite DIY convenience foods with you from breakfast to dessert.  We’ll start with items to make and freeze and then learn the basics of crafting dry mixes. I made waffles a few days ago and there were several leftover.  I could have fed them to the chickens, and I sometimes do, but instead I froze them in a zipper-top freezer bag with small squares of parchment paper between.  You can individually wrap them in plastic, but parchment paper is compost-able and renewable, and plastic wrap is not.  On busy mornings a frozen waffle can be popped in the toaster for a super-quick yummy homemade breakfast.  The same can be done with leftover pancakes and French Toast.  

A little later  I will show you how I turned my favorite pancake recipe into a mix.

Let’s move on to dinner.  The freezer case at your local grocery store is brimming with quick skillet or stir-fry type meal ideas.  Stock your freezer inexpensively with Skillet Meals that are tailored to your family’s taste.  This recipe is easy to prepare in quantity and such a godsend when you’ve had a busy day and need to get dinner on the table NOW.  Recipe is taken from PNW 296 Freezing Convenience Foods, a great little booklet available through OSU Extension at  Use it as a template to create your own freezer meals.  Gluten-free pasta or cooked brown rice can be substituted for spiral pasta to make a gluten-free dinner.

Cooked beans – a great time-saver!

Canned beans are infinitely useful.  They are also inexpensive and easy to prepare from scratch in quantity.  I love having a variety of ready-to-use cooked beans in my freezer for recipes and you will, too.   Related recipes:  Mexican-style Pinto Beans, Un-refried Beans, Cuban-style Black Beans.  Tip:  Use your water bath canner to cook 4 pounds of beans at one time. 

Cookie dough – shaped & ready to freeze

You’ll find additional convenience foods to stock your freezer posted under DIY Convenience Foods   including Thrifty Stock, Pesto Now & Later, and Ready-to-bake Monster Cookies.

Thrifty Stock is a method of up-cycling veggie trimmings that might otherwise go to the compost pile, along with meat bones and dried herbs that perhaps you’ve grown yourself, into stock, the foundation for delicious soup.  

I’ll give you tips on how to package pesto in ways that match up with your recipes.  And Monster Cookies! Everything about these cookies is over-the-top.  They are big and bursting with goodies.  The dough can be formed into cookie discs, frozen in an unbaked state for up to a month, and baked a few at a time as desired for oven-fresh cookies on demand.

I turned my favorite pancake recipe into a time-saving mix and discovered it makes great waffles, too!  Pancake & Waffle Mix. The basic principles of creating dry mixes from your own recipes are simple:  measure out the dry ingredients for one batch of     (you fill in the blank)   , whisk them together, and measure the resulting volume or weight.  This lets you know how much mix is needed to combine with the remaining ingredients to make one batch of a finished recipe.  My favorite pancake recipe calls for 1 1/4 cups flour.  I make half of that whole wheat pastry flour and quadrupled the recipe.

Following the same principles I just outlined you can create mixes for some of the most popular convenience foods. Ranch Plus Dressing Mix, actually my sister Marti’s recipe, can be used to make Ranch Dressing, Ranch Dip, Thousand Island Dressing, and Cucumber Dressing ~ all delicious.  Layered Bean Soup Mix comes from my friend Margaret.  Taco & Fajita Seasoning Mix made from bulk dried herbs.  Secret Fudge Brownie Mix  only requires 3 stir-in ingredients.  Whole grain Gingerbread comes together quickly with this mix. Real Hot Cocoa Mix – you won’t believe how simple and delicious this recipe is.  

Exercise your creativity in how you package your mixes.  A little fabric and ribbon or raffia along with a creative label makes it prettier than anything on the shelf at the store, and it goes without saying mixes make welcome gifts.    Investing a little time on a week-end or evening or just a few minutes here and there can pay meaningful dividends on busy days. You will have a freezer or cupboard stocked with your own homemade mixes for foods your family likes to eat.  Thank you for joining me in the kitchen today as we stirred,cooked, and crafted to create our own convenience foods.  Please come back next week for more Kitchen Wisdom.  See you then!

D.I.Y.convenience foods tutorial

Create Your Own Dry Mixes

Template for Creating Your Own Bulk Mixes

Fall Fun: Twirling Leaves, completed August 5, 2010.
The leaf shapes were so much fun to mix and match – I mistakenly
cut enough to make 3 quilts!  Template from Quiltmaker mag. #87

Have you ever wondered if you could turn a favorite recipe into a mix?  Good candidates to tinker with include seasoning mixes, baking mixes, bean and grain side dishes, and soups made from dried goods.  You can also create your own custom tea blends and salad dressing mixes.  Remember to choose recipes appropriate for shelf storage.  If they are to be stored at room temperature they should not include perishable ingredients; those can be added later when it’s time to cook and serve the recipe.  Mixes are a great way to save both time and money and are a fun kitchen activity to involve your kids in.  Kids typically love to measure and mix – just make sure they do so accurately.  And they’ll enjoy decorating the jars or storage containers as well.  

1.  Choose a recipe. 

2.  Measure dry ingredients for one batch into a bowl.  Combine ingredients and measure the resulting volume or weight.  Write the measurement down.  This tells you how much “Mix” is needed to combine with remaining ingredients to make one batch of a finished recipe.

3.  Multiply your selected recipe to make a mix in quantity.

4.  Measure dry ingredients needed for quantity batch in a large bowl.  Combine thoroughly.  You now have a dry mix.

5.  Transfer mix to a jar or airtight food grade container with lid.  Label and store in a cool dark cupboard. Use within a few months.  Be sure to include directions on how to prepare the recipe from the mix.  (I write the date I made the mix on the bottom of the jar with a Sharpie permanent marker.)

Directions for Creating Individual Mixes

1.  Choose a recipe.

2.  Measure dry ingredients for one batch into a jar or airtight food grade container.  Ingredients may be combined or layered into the jar.

3.  Note on the jar what ingredients to add and how to prepare the recipe.  If you are giving it as a gift, be sure to mark an expiration date on the jar; 3-4 months is suitable for most dry mixes.

D.I.Y.convenience foods dinner freezing slow cooker tutorial

Cooking Dry Beans

From dry beans to convenience food – here’s how!

Black Beans, Pinto Beans, Refried Beans, Garbanzo Beans, Great Northern Beans, Kidney Beans, Cannellini Beans, Black-eyed Peas, Lima Beans.  Canned beans are infinitely useful.  They are also inexpensive and easy to prepare from scratch in quantity.  I love having a variety of ready-to-use cooked beans in my freezer for recipes.  The method outlined below utilizes two important principles.  The first is brining, which according to America’s Test Kitchen, tenderizes the seed coat.  The second is fermentation, which according to Sally Fallon Morell in her book Nourishing Traditions, improves digestibility of the beans, which reduces gastric upset.  People often ask, “How can I reduce the gas-causing effect of eating beans?”  Eat small amounts of beans often until your intestines develop the necessary flora to easily and properly digest them – and preparing them this way makes it simple!  Related recipes:  Mexican-Style Pinto Beans, Un-Refried Beans, Cuban-Style Black Beans, Confetti Bowl.  Tip:  Use your water bath canner to cook 4 pounds of beans at one time.  Thank you to my friend Beverly for the idea to package pre-cooked beans for the freezer in 2 cup packages – just like a can of beans from the store!

1 lb. dry beans (2 cups)
4 quarts room temperature water, 70-75 degrees F
1/4 cup whey or lemon juice 
2 Tbs sea salt

Place beans of choice in a large bowl, pot, or other container.  Add water, whey, and salt. Soak at room temperature overnight or up to 24 hours. 

Drain beans into a colander and rinse thoroughly.  

Transfer beans to a large pot, add 8 cups hot water, and bring to a boil, uncovered, over medium-high heat.  Reduce heat, tilt the lid on the pot, and simmer until desired tenderness is reached, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.  

OR cook in a slow cooker on HIGH heat for 3 to 4 1/2 hours.

Test several beans to determine doneness.  Older beans will take longer to cook, and really old beans may not soften.

Remove beans from heat, uncover, and let cool in their liquor for 1 hour.

Use immediately or package for the freezer.  Drain the beans and transfer to wide-mouth pint jars , freezer containers or freezer bags.  A pound of beans yields three 2 cup packages, equivalent to 3 cans of beans.  

Thaw frozen beans in one of the following ways:

  • defrost overnight in the refrigerator
  • thaw in the microwave on the defrost setting (not jars)
  • thaw tightly closed container in a large bowl of warm water (not jars)
  • set out at room temperature for an hour, then slide beans from their container into a small pan for heating.
If you can’t source organic dry beans locally, try    Your order is delivered once a month via truck to a designated “drop point.”  Products are regionally produced and reasonably priced.