Sep 132012


Homemade Pantry cover



Alana Chernila has written a lovely cookbook on a subject near and dear to my heart—preparing foods at home. It’s called The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying and Start Making. You may know Alana from her blog Eating From The Ground Up.

Alana lists the benefits of foods made at home:

  • They are better for you
  • They taste better
  • They usually cost less
  • They eliminate unnecessary packaging
  • They will change how you think about food.

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

There s a wide range of recipes: dairy, canned goods, soups, pastas, condiments, breads, crackers, cereal, beverages and desserts.

Although I’ve been making yogurt for years, I picked up a tip to keep the milk from scorching the bottom of the pan. Before adding the milk, put an ice cube in the pan. Turn on the heat and let the ice melt. Move the pan around so the melting ice coats the bottom of the pan. When the ice is melted, add the milk on top of the water. Be careful not to touch the bottom of the pan with a metal spoon when you stir.

Each recipe is prefaced by an essay that tells a story about Alana or her family. The book is filled with beautiful photos that inspire me to get into the kitchen and cook.

A couple of caveats. Some readers may object to a small bit of profanity in the essays.  And there is a typo in the white bread recipe.  Since I can’t eat gluten, I haven’t tried any of the bread or cracker recipes. But if you do try the white bread recipe, there is a mistake in the amount of salt. The recipe should read teaspoons, not tablespoons of salt.

The ideal reader for this book is someone who has some basic cooking experience and wants to spread her (or his) wings. Many recipes may be too complicated for the brand new cook or for someone who has little time to spend in the kitchen. And experienced cooks may find the book to be too basic. You can check out many of Alana’s recipes at her blog and see if the book looks right for you.

May 202011

A review of Time Management from the Inside Out by Julie Morgenstern

In Time Management from the Inside Out, Julie Morgenstern to writes that she has found that “the single most common obstacle people face in managing their time lies in the way that they view time.” It seems that there are quite a few of us who have no idea how long a task will take or how many things we can fit into a day. Morgenstern’s solution is to find ways to make time tangible.

How much time does it take?

Morgenstern suggests that we begin to learn how to estimate time better by choosing three tasks and writing down how long we think they will take. Then time them on three different occasions. Another method she suggests is to put a time estimate next to the items on our to-do list. After completing the job, write down how long it actually took. Morgenstern says that after two weeks, we should be much better at estimating the time we need for our projects.

How much time do we have?

Next we need to figure out how much we can do each week. Morgenstern suggests creating a “time map”, a chart that looks like a high school schedule. Instead of class periods, there are hours marked off for the different projects. English and Calculus are replaced by blocks of time marked “Client Meetings” and “Family Time”.

For people who want or need something less structured, Morgenstern suggests dividing tasks by the time needed to complete them. Then create three lists: one for chores that take 5 minutes or less, another for those that take 30 minutes or less and a third for tasks that take 1 hour or less. When some time opens up, choose a job from the appropriate list.

Another approach is Morgenstern’s Balance Tracker. Write down how much time you want to spend on the different areas of your life each week. As you complete a task, mark the time in the right column. As the week progresses, you can look at your tracker and see which areas need your attention.

From organizing to time management

Unlike many time management gurus, Julie Morgenstern originally made her mark as a home organizer. It shows. For example, she compares an overstuffed schedule to a cluttered closet. Morgenstern’s fresh approach makes a nice complement to the usual time management techniques.