Boston Cream Donuts…Baked!

Hmmm…Doughnuts…Donuts…. Either way, they are tasty balls of fried dough, made tastier when filled or frosted or dunked.

SOME people, however, have a hard time stopping with one, two, or four doughnuts, which has made BAKED raised donuts a popular trend amongst the scratch bakers.

So, I figured, if I’m going to take the time to make a yeast donut, and save calories by baking it, I have caloric wiggle room to add a cream filling and chocolate frosting, eh?

Thus is born the baked Boston Cream Donut…

BAKED BOSTON CREAM DONUTS

Donuts:

3/4 cup warm milk
2 1/4 tsp (1 packet) active dry yeast
1 TBS unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg, whisked
1/2 tsp salt
2 -3 cup flour

Combine yeast and warm milk in your stand mixer bowl, or in a large mixing bowl. Let sit for 5-10 minutes. Gently mix in butter, sugar and egg (make sure egg is well blended before adding). Add flour, 1/2 c at a time. Add salt in with the first batch of flour. Mix thoroughly after each flour addition. Stop adding flour as soon as the dough sticks together. You definitely want as little flour in your dough as possible. using your dough hook, or hands, if you’re more traditional, knead for 5 minutes. Watch the dough. If it starts to stick to the sides, sprinkle a little bit of flour as needed to coax it back into a ball. Again, use as little flour as possible. When I make this, I typically only use 2 cups of flour.

Remove bowl and place in a warm place to rise until double (about an hour, but this can drastically vary depending on all sorts of factors).

Once it has risen, dump it onto a counter that has been lightly dusted with flour. Roll it out to about 1/2 inch thick. Use a glass or round cookie cutter to cut the dough into circles. Use as much of the dough in the first cut as possible, then collect the scraps and recut. If you must, you can do it a third time, but the resulting donuts will be tougher than the first.

Place the dough circles on parchment-covered baking sheets, about 2 inches apart. Let rise again until double, another 45 min- 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake for 5-7 minutes. Remove when they are light brown on top. Immediately slide to a cooling rack.

Filling (Pastry Cream):

2 cups milk
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/3 cup sugar
2 TBS butter
1 tsp vanilla

Stir together the milk and 1/4 cup sugar in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Over medium heat, bring it to a boil. Meanwhile, mix together the egg and egg yolks. Add the cornstarch and 1/3 cup sugar to the eggs and mix until smooth. When the milk has come to a boil, slowly pour a few tablespoons of it into the egg mixture.* Mix well and pour a little more hot milk in with the eggs. Mix well. Pour the egg mixture into the pan with the milk and slowly return to a boil, whisking frequently to keep the bottom from burning. When the mixture becomes thick, remove from heat and stir in butter and vanilla. Pour into a bowl and place plastic wrap to the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Place in the refrigerator until chilled.

Frosting:

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
3/4 cup chocolate chips

Pour cream into a sauce pan. Heat over medium heat until hot, but do not bring to a boil. Remove from heat and add chocolate chips. Stir until smooth.

To assemble:

Take a donut and poke a hole in one side with a small knife or skewer. Carefully move the knife/skewer around the inside of the donut to allow room for the filling. (A clean finger does this well, if that doesn’t gross you out)

Scoop some filling into a zipper-topped bag. Cut a small portion off the corner, insert into the donut and squeeze the filling into the donut.

Dip the top of the donut into the bowl of chocolate.

Enjoy. With friends…or family…or hot chocolate.

*This is called “tempering” the eggs, slowly bringing them up in temperature so that when you add them to the milk, they don’t cook so quickly that you have scrambled eggs in your pastry cream.

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You Will Roux the Day…

The secret to awesome and versatile from-scratch cooking is Roux (pronounced “roo”).

Roux is a classic french base used to thicken sauces.

It will revolutionize your dinners.

Can you tell I love Roux? It even deserves a capital letter, even when it’s not at the beginning of a sentence.

Roux is basically equal parts fat and flour, cooked to change the flavor into something nutty, instead of something, well…flour-y. You then add liquid to the mix slowly. Typically, the fat used is butter, although you can use oil, bacon grease, or rendered fat from various other meats, like sausage, turkey, chicken, beef…etc, depending on what you are using your roux for.

I use roux for gravies, condensed soup replacements, sauces and cream soups. It takes a little more time than opening up a can of condensed soup or gravy, but once you get the hang of it, it will be just as quick as using a powdered mix, and taste waaaayyyy better than any of those options, plus you’ll be avoiding a slew of dangerous preservatives and additives.

Basic Roux

4 TBS butter
4 TBS flour
2 cups liquid (chicken, beef or vegetable stock or milk)

Over medium heat, place butter in a sauce pot. Stir with a whisk until melted. Whisk in flour. Continue to whisk, checking every once in a while to check the color. The darker your roux, the more flavor, but be careful, because butter burns easily and it’s just a few seconds between toasty brown roux and a burnt mess. When your roux is toasty colored, start to add your liquid. You want to add your liquid about 1/4 cup at a time, stirring vigorously with your whisk continuously. Each time you have fully incorporated your liquid, add more liquid. You will see that each addition of liquid makes the consistency looser. Eventually the consistency will be more liquid than thick, and you can dump in the rest of your liquid. To ensure you have no lumps in your final product, be sure you whisk until there are no lumps before each addition of liquid.

Once your liquid is completely added, whisk frequently while cooking over medium heat until desired thickness.

Here are some pictures to help you through the process: (please excuse the blurriness, I was hurriedly taking pics while trying to keep my roux from burning…). The last four pictures are various stages you go through after each addition of more liquid.

Preservatives

Today I was cleaning out my pantry. In my bread basket, I found a package of english muffins. I was horrified.

I really don’t have anything against english muffins. I love, them, actually…straight out of the toaster smothered in butter and peanut butter…mmmm…

I was horrified because I had purchased these particular english muffins more than a month earlier…and they were still “fresh”…no mold to be found. Ick. How many chemicals did they have to pump into those english muffins to accomplish that? Horrified.

Preservatives are added to foods to extend its life, by preventing bacterial or fungal growth or preventing oxidation, which leads to discolorization or rancidity. Preservatives are also used on some produce to delay spoilage.

Some Common Preservatives You Should be Aware of:

BHA/BHT: Used in foods high in fats, cereals, baked goods, chewing gum, potato chips and meats. Keeps meat from discoloring, keeps food from going rancid. These cause cancer in lab animals and the U.S. Dept of Health classifies it as being “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen”. Some countries have restricted or banned their use in food.

Potassium Bromate: Used in baked goods, specifically bread, to improve texture and make it rise higher. It is also used in the production of malt barley. Its is a known carcinogen that has been banned in several countries. Its use in the U.S. is restricted, and bakers are “encouraged” to voluntarily not use it. (!!) This is justified, because under the right baking conditions, it is used up when the bread is baked. However, fluctuations in temperature or baking time means that it may still remain in the baked product. Also look for “bromated flour” in the ingredients on your bread…or make your bread from scratch. 🙂

Propyl Gallate: Used in high-fat foods. It is also used in cosmetics and toothpaste. It inhibits oxidation in oils. This is a suspected carcinogen that has been banned in many countries. It also increases estrogen levels, can create stomach irritation, skin irritation, and asthma attacks.

Sodium Benzoate: Used in beverages, pickles, salad dressings, jams & jellies, margarine, pre-made burger patties, fast food hamburgers. Although research is currently inconclusive, some evidence shows that when sodium benzoate combines with vitamin C (found in many soft drinks and jellies), it forms benzene, which is a carcinogen. It has been linked with hyperactivity in children, as well as DNA damage.

Sodium Nitrate/Nitrite: Used in cured meats, including bacon, smoked sausage, deli meats, hot dogs, etc. Prevents bacterial growth and discolorization. Nitrate is a natural salt. Synthetic nitrite is nitrate that is chemically processed.  Nitrite is more worrisome than nitrate, it is a known toxin in high amounts. Both can combine with chemicals in the stomach to create nitrosamine, a highly carcinogenic substance. They also create nitrosamine when charred, like when you grill your hot dogs. It is also possible that the curing process itself turns some of the nitrite/nitrate into nitrosamine. Nitrite has been linked to migraines, COPD, neurological conditions, diabetes and behavior issues in children. Synthetic nitrite is allowed to contain heavy metals, lead and arsenic. If you have a history of cancer in your family, you would be wise to avoid this.  It is important to note that nitrite does naturally occur in some foods, especially vegetables. You can find “uncured” hot dogs, sausage and bacon that instead use celery juice in the curing process. These are still cured, but do not use the synthetic nitrates. There is still a possiblity the body reacts the same way to the natural nitrites as the do the synthetic…but if you MUST have bacon (and…sometimes we must), “uncured” bacon is definitely a step or two up.

Sulfites (Bisulfites/Metabisulfites/Sulfur Dioxide): Used in wine, dried fruit, dried potatoes, and bottled lemon juice.  It inhibits bacterial growth and fruit discolorization. Some people are allergic or highly sensitive to sulfites. It may cause breathing problems in those who are sensitive. It is also known to destroy vitamin B1, which is needed to metabolize carbs and alcohol. If you have weird reactions to various foods, sulfite sensitivity may be the culprit.

TBHQ: Used in oils, high-oil foods, and frozen fish. It is shown to have negative affects on lab animals in high doses, such as DNA damage and tumors. Studies contradict and more studies are needed before it is labelled a carcinogen. There is strong evidence that it is related to stomach cancer.

Creamy Ranch Dressing

Ranch Dressing…it’s what makes the world go ’round.

Personally, I eat salad for the express purpose of having a reason to eat ranch dressing.

I will pick certain restaurants over others only because of their amazing ranch dressing.

It is the perfect condiment…

Unless it’s bottled. Years ago I gave up bottled dressing for the powdered mix…until we became an MSG-free home. So, I went on a quest. Luckily, this one didn’t involve dragons. The quest for the perfect homemade ranch dressing. This is it.

Creamy Ranch Dressing

1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup milk
1/2 tsp dried chives
1/2 tsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp dill weed
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp white sugar
1/4 tsp garlic
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper

Whisk together all ingredients until smooth. Let sit for 30 minutes in the fridge for optimum flavor. This thickens as it sits, add milk to achieve desired consistency as needed.

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Monosodium-Gross-amate

MSG. We hear a lot about it. Many people think ‘Chinese Food’ when they hear it, because there was a lot of hoopla about added MSG in Chinese food years ago.

So, what’s the deal? What is it? Is it bad for us?

Monosodium Glutamate is a naturally occurring chemical compound. What? It’s natural? Yep…so is arsenic.

Basically, it is an amino acid that reacts with brain chemicals that tells your brain “this stuff tastes amazingly good” when you eat it. It’s similar to what salt does, but at a much higher degree (about five times, from the research I’ve read). Glutamate is naturally occurring in various foods. Monosodium Glutamate is an additive that is added to packaged food and some meats. It is created when the amino acids in protein are broken down and separated. This is generally done through microbial or bacterial fermentation, or through use of hydrochloric acid. The bacteria is typically genetically engineered, and beets or corn are common crops used.

So, what’s the problem?

First, MSG spikes glutamate levels in the blood very quickly, unlike naturally occurring glutamate in foods. This means that the same amount of the additive is not processed the same way as the same amount as the naturally-occuring substance. This could propose a problem in regards to how the body processes the msg, and it may create a toxicity problem in the brain.

Second, MSG is considered an “excitotoxin”, which is basically a toxin that stimulates the brain to the point of possible damage. When the excitotoxin levels that stimulate a neuron do not decrease after a period of time, or increase, the neuron actually kills itself. You can see how this is a problem with MSG, but not naturally occurring glutamate, since the levels spike quickly, instead of slowly processing over time.

The FDA has classified MSG as “generally regarded as safe”, which means that it is safe for the general population, under ‘normal’ use. That excepts those with glutamate allergies or sensitivities. One problem is that no standard of safe amounts has been determined for MSG, and the amount being eaten by those who eat a large amount of processed and fast food has greatly increased since the FDA classification back in the 1950’s. Because each person reacts differently, it is difficult to set a limit.

MSG has been linked to neurological conditions, heart conditions, and diabetes. Many parents of kids with neuro conditions, like Autism Spectrum Disorders, Tourette’s Syndrome and ADHD have seen positive changes in their kids when removing MSG from their diets. Personally, it is one additive we avoid like the plague.

MSG and other additives that act like it in the body go by various names:

monosodium glutamate

glutamic acid

hydrolyzed protein (anything that says “hydrolyzed” is probably going to be an excitotoxin)

autolyzed yeast extract

disodium inosinate

disodium guanylate

amino acids

natural flavor (yeah, this is a biggie, you never know if it’s msg or not)

Zuppa Toscana Soup

I hate eating at Italian restaurants.

I cannot justify paying $10 a plate for pasta that I can make just as tastily (it’s a word…) in my own kitchen.

My favorite thing at Olive Garden is their black-tie cheesecake. (Yeah, I can probably make that, but it takes a long time, then I’d be stuck eating a whole cheesecake myself. What? Share?)

Then, one week I got some kale in our Bountiful Basket.

My choices were to find a recipe to make with it, or feed it to my husband’s classroom’s pet turtle. One of my friends suggested this soup, and boy am I glad they did! A cross between a creamy soup and a broth soup, with potatoes, sausage and kale…it’s now a family favorite.

ZUPPA TOSCANA SOUP

1 lb hot or mild italian sausage
1 small onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
32 oz chicken broth
3 cups water
3 medium potatoes, unpeeled.
3 cups kale
1 cup heavy cream
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

In a soup pot, place Italian sausage and diced onions. If the sausage is in links, remove the casings before putting them in the pot. Use hot Italian sausage if you like a kick. My kids prefer mild. Cook over medium heat. When the sausage is mostly cooked, add the garlic to the pan. Stir together and cook until sausage starts to brown. Remove the sausage, onion, garlic mixture to a bowl to wait.

In the same pot, over medium-high heat, pour in the chicken broth. Scrape any tasty brown bits from off of the bottom of the pan. Add the water to the pot. While waiting for that to boil (you can turn it to high if your pot can tolerate it), cut the potatoes into large matchstick-shaped pieces. I achieve this by cutting each potato in half lengthwise, then half again lengthwise, then turning onto the flat side, cutting lengthwise four more times, then in half. I am pretty sure only 2% of you understand what I’m talking about, so look at the picture for guidance. Place the potatoes in the pot with the broth mixture. Boil for about 10-15 minutes, until you can easily poke a potato with a fork, but they aren’t quite completely cooked.

Add in the kale, which you have cut into thin ribbons (discard the thick vein), and lower heat to medium. Cook for an additional 10 minutes, until kale is tender.

Add in your sausage mixture and heavy cream (and red pepper flakes if you need more kick). Lower heat to medium-low and simmer for an additional 5 minutes.

Serve with homemade bread. (That’s an order!!)

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REAL food alert: Check your sausage ingredients for MSG, BHT or BHA.

ALLERGY alert: To make this dairy-free, simply substitute the cream with an alternative milk. Coconut milk is thick and would work well, it will change the taste a bit, but give an island flair. Add some sea salt if the alternative milk makes the soup too sweet. Check your broth and sausage ingredients for allergens.

HEALTH alert: you can lower fat by subbing half and half or evaporated skim milk for the cream. You can also use turkey sausage.

VEGGIE alert: You can make this vegetarian by subbing veggie broth for the chicken broth, omitting the sausage or subbing in cooked beans for it. You can make this vegan by also subbing the cream for an alternative milk (see above)

Sugars

Sugar…….

Oh, sorry…I started dreaming of cookies and donuts and brownies and cheesecake…ahem…let me pull myself together here.

Sugar. Yep, sugar. It’s the stuff dreams and food addictions and great date nights and insulin pumps are made of.  Here in America, we have a love-hate relationship with it. It’s blamed for behavior problems, the rise in diabetes, disease, tooth decay and lowered immune systems. This villainization of sugar has led to various sugar substitutes to hit the market. Somehow, people have started thinking that these chemicals are somehow ‘healthier’ than regular old natural sugar. You can read more about that HERE. This article is about sugar. Everything in the world you want to know about some of the various sweeteners out there, so you can make an informed decision on what to use and when to use it.

A few terms first:

Fructose is fruit sugar. When your body breaks it down, it uses as much as it can for energy, then stores the rest as fat. This is especially true for fructose from sucrose. Fructose from whole fruits contain fiber and nutrients that help the body metabolize it more efficiently. What this means is that, the less processed the sugar, and the more natural it’s source, the more of the sugar the body uses, and the less goes to be stored as fat. This is important when comparing a highly processed sugar, like corn syrup, and a natural sugar, like fruit or honey.

Glucose is sugar in the blood. Carbs and certain types of sugar are broken down in the body and become glucose. Yes, this is what they test for when you drink that nasty drink during your pregnancy to see if you have gestational diabetes.

Sucrose is a combination sugar, half fructose and half glucose.

Lactose is milk sugar…YES! milk has sugar in it…not added to it, it’s part of it.

Glycemic Index (GI): this is a number given to a food that basically tells you how much it spikes your blood sugar after eating it. It is important for diabetics, but also affects those of us without diabetes. A spike in blood sugar will leave you hungry later and may cause mood swings or hyperactivity in kids and adults.

Sugar: the plain white stuff. Also called “table sugar” or “granulated sugar” you can get it in various ‘fine’-ness ratings, like fine and super fine. Notice that table sugar is always “Fine…”, never “Great” or “Fantabulous”. It’s made from either sugar beets or sugar cane. It is sucrose (now is the time to read the above definitions if you skimmed over them before… I’m not offended.) It is harvested, water is added, it’s mashed, then the liquid sugar is separated from the pulp of the cane or beet, then heated, filtered, purified and the water is evaporated. Then after more boiling, it separates into crystallized sugar and Molasses. Molasses retains all of the vitamins and minerals, so the less processed the sugar, the more good stuff you are getting. Depending on how the sugar is handled during the refining process, various ‘kinds’ of sugar can result. Sucanat is a mostly unrefined sugar that is essentially dried sugar cane juice. It retains all of the vitamins, minerals and molasses that is lost through the refining process. Raw Sugar is minimally processed, and retains a high amount of molasses in the sugar. Turbinado Sugar is a kind of raw sugar that has a very high moisture contect and is lower in calories than fully processed sugar. Brown Sugars are typically mostly-processed sugar that still retains some molasses. Chances are, the brown sugar you buy is actually fully refined sugar that is sprayed with a light coating of molasses. You can make your own brown sugar by putting regular sugar in a bag, adding a tsp of molasses and shaking/massaging until the sugar is fully coated. Powdered Sugar, also called Confectioner’s Sugar, is regular refined sugar that is ground to be very fine.  GI: 70-80 (sugar) 65 (raw sugar) 55 (molasses and sucanat) 

Corn Syrup is the source of much talk these days. As far as sugar villains go, it definitely has been painted a much bigger villainous moustache than refined sugar. It probably has a cooler evil lair as well. What’s all the hoopla, anyway? Well, corn syrup is created by taking corn starch and water and adding to it various enzymes extracted from water where they have grown specific bacteria and fungus ( I PROMISE I am not making this up). The enzymes react with the corn starch and create glucose. My question is, how was this not a hard sell? Those corn farmers have the best talent agents EVER!  The real villain we love to hate (and eat) is High-Fructose Corn Syrup. HFCS is created by taking the glucose-heavy corn syrup then exposing it to yet another enzyme, which has been taken by yet another strain of bacteria, turning most of the glucose into fructose. So, what gives? What so bad about that? Well, I’m hurt this time, you obviously didn’t read the above notes about Fructose…I’ll give you some time…I’ll still be here.                                               Yea! You’re back. Okay, so fructose turns into FAT. Plus it is mainly metabolized by the liver, and can create liver problems. HFCS has been linked to diabetes and heart disease. Some reports show trace amounts of mercury from companies who use hydrochloric acid in lieu of the bacteria and fungus in the refining process (I’m not sure which is worse…). GI: 62

Honey is made from honey bees who extract nectar from various flowers. It contains fructose and glucose. The ratio varies , depending on the honey, since each honey is unique to the area where it is cultivated and harvested. Honey has a very low water content, and it is nearly impossible to ferment it. Because of this, it’s a great sugar to have in long term storage for emergencies. It also contains electrolytes, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. There are generally two types of honey: Pasturized Honey (or processed honey) and Raw Honey. Processed honey has been heated, which kills any bacteria present. It is important to note that the low water content of honey makes it extremely resistant to bacteria. raw honey has even been shown to be successful in killing antibiotic-resistant MRSA  that is found in hospitals. The processing of the honey also kills much of the nutrients and enzymes that make raw honey especially healthful. Raw honey is also used medicinally as an antibacterial and antimicrobial, a skin salve (there is some evidence it is helpful with eczema) and eating local raw honey has been known to cure some allergies.  A quick google search about raw honey will give more info than you ever want to know about the benefits of it. Plus, it tastes dang good. It may also be helpful to mention that some commercial honeys are stretched with corn syrup and water, and some honey which was contaminated with lead in china has been repackaged and worked it’s way onto our shelves and in our products. Read about that here: http://healthland.time.com/2011/08/22/tainted-chinese-honey-may-be-on-u-s-store-shelves/ your best bet for honey is to find a local source. Chances are there’s a honey farmer not too far from you who would appreciate your business. GI: 35-70 depending on variety

Maple syrup is made from the sap extracted from maple trees. It is heated until enough water evaporates to become the proper thickness, then filtered. It is mostly Sucrose. It contains some minerals, antioxidants and amino acids. I should clarify, that I’m not talking about Mrs. Butterworth’s here. That stuff is maple flavored corn syrup. I’m talking about 100% sweet-goodness-from-Canada maple syrup. GI: 54

Agave is a relative newcomer to the sugar scene. It has been hailed as a great wonder, because of it’s low glycemic index, which makes it great for diabetics (more about that in a minute..depending on how fast you read). It is sweeter than regular sugar, so you can use less, which is a bonus. The fructose-glucose ratio varies depending on brand, but tends to be higher in fructose (up to 97%). (Okay, I think you have probably already memorized the definition of fructose and it’s related problems, so I won’t bug you to read it again). Another issue with agave is that it is highly processed. It processed in a similar way to corn syrup, either by bacterial enzymes or chemicals. Even agave that is termed “raw” is still processed in one of these two ways. In the case of agave, “raw” means it wasn’t heated above a certain temperature when processing. GI: 10-30 depending on brand


Now that you have memorized the various types of sugar, you understand that sugar with more glucose with spike your blood sugar more than sugar with more fructose. However, sugar with more fructose stores unused sugar as fat. Now that you know this, as well as the various info about processing and vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants in some sugars, you should know enough to give a lecture on it to any girl scout troop. Oh, and pick which sugar you think is right for various needs in your cooking and baking for your particular family.

“From Scratch” Myths

I know, I know. The words “from scratch” makes you feel queasy. Maybe it even fills you with fear. Flashbacks of the first time you cooked for your boyfriend and the fire department was called starts flying through your head. It’s okay. I understand. Take.Deep.Breaths. You can do this. Put down that cookie you bought from the store that tastes like preservatives wrapped in cardboard. There’s a better world out there. I promise. First, let’s smash apart some of the walls standing between you and scratch cooking.

Top “Cooking from Scratch” Myths

Myth #1: I don’t have the time.

Our society is all about time, isn’t it? In fact, we are so busy we can’t even take 2 minutes to melt chocolate chips in the microwave, which is why Nestle just came out with PRE-MELTED CHOCOLATE for heaven’s sake. In this world of “30-minute” meals and condensed soups…who has time to cook from scratch?

Scratch cooking does not have to take a long time. Sometimes it does, but not always. For instance, Kraft recently came out with “homestyle macaroni and cheese”…I got it once. I had a coupon for a free one. In the time it took me to prepare it, I could have made homemade mac n cheese with REAL ingredients. If you’re a working parent and don’t have much time, you can still cook from scratch. Many recipes here take 30 minutes or less. You can get creative and prep and freeze on the weekend, you can utilize your slow cooker. I’m saying, there are options for you, regardless of how much time you have, and the idea that “from scratch” means “takes more time” is false.

Myth#2: It’s too hard.

Everything in life has a learning curve. Parenting is hard, and yet you still have a couple of diapered wonders running around (okay, maybe you don’t…but you get the point). Cooking from scratch takes some practice, it’s true. But, it’s not ‘hard’. Maybe some aspects of cooking will be a little more challenging for you, some will come easily. I remember the first three times I made cinnamon rolls. They turned out like hockey pucks each time. I swore I would never attempt bread recipes again. Then, one day, I REALLY wanted homemade cinnamon rolls. I thought “people make these all of the time, and they’re awesome, I can do it, too!” I did. They were pretty good. Each time I made them they became better. Now, my cinnamon rolls pretty much rock.

Part of what makes cooking hard is when you get a poorly written recipe. Thanks to an influx of amateur cooks (like myself), there are two poorly written recipes for every well-written one on the internet. If you haven’t grown up cooking, some instructions will leave you scratching your head, and some will be left out altogether, because the writer of the recipe makes assumptions about your knowledge. I’ll help you out with that. All of the recipes here will have complete, and sometimes redundant instructions. Some food bloggers give their precious recipes but don’t want to give away their secrets to taking a recipe to the next level. I’m all about giving up secrets. You’ll learn short-cuts, tips and secrets to everything from the best way to mix cookie batter to shortcuts that make the best bread texture.

Myth #3: It doesn’t taste any better than cooking with packaged stuff.

Well, I guess this one is up for debate. That’s all in the palate. Read HERE about training your palate. Then, test it out, make some of the recipes you’ll find here and judge for yourself.