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.

Sep 062010

Woman with piles of books

10 ways the library can help you save money and lead a richer life

There’s a wonderful source of free materials, events and help—the local library. It’s one of my favorite places. It helps people in so many ways.

1. Do you want to landscape your yard, decorate a room, fix a faucet, make a present, learn a craft, invest for the future, study world history, learn another language or plan a vacation? The library has books that will help

2. The cookbook section provides a wealth of ideas for meal planning. There are books for every taste, ranging from quick, child-friendly meals to sophisticated fare. The library also has books on preserving the harvest from the garden.

3. Are you looking for work? Your library has books on career planning, resume writing and job hunting. I’ve found many books that have helped me build my home business and learn new work skills.

4. The library supplies plenty of material for that terrific free activity—reading. It has fiction and nonfiction, recent best-sellers, old favorites and the classics. If you’re not sure what to read, just ask a librarian for suggestions.

5. The library is for little readers too.  Children can find book to help with school projects and information on their latest interests.  Many libraries also have free story times for children.

6. Libraries have more than just traditional books. They lend audio books on tape or CD. You can listen to a book while you are stuck in traffic, or cooking dinner or doing crafts. Some libraries also lend music and videos and offer computer and Internet access.

7. Do you want to make new friends? Check your library for special events, classes, book clubs, discussions and workshops.

8. Reference librarians are treasures. They can help find the address of a wholesale supplier for a home business, suggest a book for a school project, and dig up a statistic for a business report. Many libraries will supply reference information by telephone or e-mail, so that you don’t even have to leave your home or office to get help.

9. Check to see if your library provides access to electronic databases via their web site. I can find articles from subscription-only newspaper, research information from medical and academic journals, check several encyclopedias, download legal forms, do stock research and even get auto-repair information.

10. We’re not limited to the books in our local library. Through the marvels of Inter-Library Loan, we can borrow books, articles and microfilm from libraries and universities across the United States.

Ben Franklin helped to start the first lending library in the U.S. Thanks, Ben.