Breakfast the Most Important Meal of the Day

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Dear Home Ec 101,

I have an 8 am Philosphy class, but I find that a cup of coffee and the crust from last night’s pizza is never enough to power me through my demanding 12 credit minimum. Do you have any no-effort suggestions, Taster’s Choice is pretty taxing already.


Anemic in Akron

Heather says:

Scientists agree skipping breakfast is the fast-track to bad health, but who has that kind of time?

Well, you’re in luck the fine folks at Hot Pockets® have solved your breakfasty dilemma. Here’s a handy tutorial, just for busy people like you.

Read the box and note, it must be nutritious, it has real cheese.

Open BoxOpen the box.

Remove the wrapped breakfast pastry.

Open and remove the protective barrier

Place the pastry in the handy cooking sleeve / carrying case.

Microwave for two minutes on high.

Admire your handiwork.

Serve with appropriate garnish and sides.

Enjoy the rest of your April Fool’s Day.

Roast Some Turkey Necks for Awesome Stock

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Heather says:

Want to take your Thanksgiving recipes up to the next level? You can get started now by buying and roasting turkey necks to make stock. Want to get a jump on your Thanksgiving prep? Go ahead and make your roast turkey neck stock now and freeze it for your Thanksgiving recipes*. Would I go to the effort of roasting turkey necks every time I want stock? No, but for a special meal like Thanksgiving, I find the richness of this stock is well worth the extra time and effort. (I specifically made it to go in a mushroom risotto, but this stock is perfect for adding to dressing, gravy, mashed potatoes, whatever calls for stock or broth in your menu.)

Thankfully, I have noticed that turkey necks are becoming much easier to find -I live in a smaller town, if we have it, you probably won’t have to search too hard. Typically the necks are next to the cut up poultry and yes, you can definitely substitute turkey wings for the necks in this recipe.

Cheesecloth really comes in handy when straining your turkey neck stock or you can use it to make  a bouquet garni if you want. I prefer to take the toss it in the pot and then strain approach, what about you?

How to Roast Turkey Necks for Awesome Stock

How to roast turkey necks for amazing stock

: Roast Turkey Neck Stock

: Roast turkey necks make a rich stock for Thanksgiving recipes.

  • 3 lbs turkey necks
  • cooking spray or olive oil -unless you like scrubbing a roasting pan
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 6 peppercorns
  • 1 large carrot, scrubbed and cut into chunks
  • 2 ribs celery, washed, cut into chunks, with the leaves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 onion peeled, washed, and cut into quarters
  • Approximately 4 quarts COLD water

 Roast Turkey Neck Stock Instructions:

  • Preheat the oven to 450°F.
  • Spray a roasting pan with cooking spray or olive oil.
  • Place the necks in the roasting pan, if you want, you chop up the necks with a heavy cleaver, this will allow more gelatin to leach into the stock, but I don’t always bother and didn’t this time -obviously. And, do I need to mention you should do this on a cutting board and NOT in your roasting pan?
  • Roast at 450 for about 45 minutes, turning occasionally, until the necks are a rich brown and cooked through.
  • Place the necks and remaining ingredients in a 6 quart stock pot.
  • Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer.
  • Allow to simmer, skimming occasionally for 4 – 6 hours.
  • Strain through cheesecloth and a strainer into a bowl or pitcher. Use immediately or follow the next steps to store:
    • Set the bowl or pitcher in a cool water bath, changing the water frequently, or just add some ice cubes a handful at a time. Place the stock in the refrigerator overnight and skim off any fat.
    • Pour the stock into freezer safe containers (I use zippered freezer bags) label and freeze.
Helpful equipment:

*Yes, I’m working on this year’s Countdown to Turkey Day and I’m thinking about trying to bundle it all together and having it available as an ebook for those of you who want it in that format. It’s just the time factor kicking my butt, once again. Whee!

Rosemary Walnuts Recipe – Party Pick-up Nibble or Anytime Snack

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Bobbie says:

Nuts are one of my favorite snacks. Some folks think I’m nuts. Wait – does that make me a cannibal? Nevermind…you need to make these Rosemary Walnuts for your next party or even for your family just because you want them to feel special. Aromatic rosemary complements the rich, toasted walnuts perfectly, and a touch of ground cayenne pepper kicks it up a bit. You can use more or less depending on the strength of your cayenne. Rosemary Walnuts are meant to be a savory snack, not a HOT & SPICY one – the pepper is just there to enhance the flavor. If you know you’ve got super hot cayenne, halve the amount used. If you have found yourself avoiding nuts because they’re hard to digest, you’ll want to keep reading after the recipe for a way around that issue.

Rosemary Walnuts Recipe

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons dried whole rosemary leaves
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt (or 3/4 teaspoon white table salt)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper (cayenne)
  • 2 cups walnut halves (soaked and dried, if desired. See below.)

  Put the butter and seasonings in a heavy pan, and warm over low heat until the butter melts. Leave it on the heat for a couple minutes longer to allow the rosemary to permeate the butter.     Add the walnuts, stirring until all the  nut halves are well-coated with the seasoned butter. Spread on a baking sheet in a single layer, and bake at 350F. Bake for 10 minutes if using nuts that have been previously soaked and dried. Otherwise, bake about 15 minutes. Allow to cool before tasting, no matter how tempting they smell, or  you will burn the dickens out of your mouth. (I learn these things the hard way so you don’t have to. It’s a public service I perform unintentionally.) Serve at room temperature. Store leftover nuts in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator.

Making  Nuts More Digestible

Walnuts and other tree nuts, like all “seed foods” contain phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors. The enzyme inhibitors, which prevent seeds from germinating until they are planted, can affect the ability of enzymes in your digestive system to properly digest the nuts or seeds. You can simulate the effect of planting by soaking the nuts, which will neutralize the enzyme inhibitors. They can be used in this soaked state, if desired, or dried at very low heat in an oven or by using a dehydrator.

The phytic acid in seeds, grains, legumes and nuts has a chelating effect in the body. It reduces the bioavailability of minerals in the food  you eat — and NOT ONLY the minerals in the seed food, but in the other food that is in your digestive system at the same time. In the intestinal tract, the phytic acid in seed foods will bind with iron, calcium, magnesium, copper and zinc, blocking its absorption. So, while the minerals may exist in the food you consume, it’s changed into a form that your  body cannot use, and they are eliminated with wastes. If your diet consists largely of seed foods that have not been properly prepared, deficiencies may develop over time, possibly leading to health issues.


In a 2 quart bowl, dissolve 2 teaspoons of sea salt in water. Add 4 cups of walnut halves, then enough water to cover the nuts by a few inches. Leave the bowl in a warm place for 7 to 8 hours, or overnight. The water will be cloudy in the morning. Drain off the water, rinse the nuts well a few times until water runs clear. Spread nuts in a stainless steel baking dish or cookie sheet, and dry in an oven set at no more than 150F. A dehydrator set at 150F may be used instead. Time to dry will be 12 to 24 hours — until they are dry and quite crisp.

This same procedure can be used for pecans or almonds, however for almonds, the salt should be increased to 1 tablespoon for 4 cups of nuts.


Bobbie Laughman is an elder caregiver, writer and Slightly Nuts Person, who lives in Gettysburg, PA. You can contact her with questions or feedback at

Hearty Mushroom, Bacon and Green Onion Spread or Dip Recipe

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Bobbie says:

This savory Mushroom, Bacon and Green Onion Spread is a perfect hearty appetizer or snack for holiday get-togethers or any time. Serve it as a warm dip with breadsticks or veggies. On Christmas Day, I served it chilled as a cracker spread, and it was a huge hit, especially with one of my brothers-in-law, who repeatedly made sure I knew how much he liked it.

This recipe may be made ahead and re-warmed over very low heat. Remember, keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Don’t leave it out at room temperature for hours. Serve it in a small crockpot with a “warm” setting. I spread it in a small heatproof dish and use a vintage warming tray to keep it at serving temperature.

*Note from Heather* This recipe is easily converted to gluten free by using rice flour in place of all-purpose and using a gluten free soy sauce, Lee and Perrin’s Worcestershire Sauce is gluten free, check the brand you use.

Mushroom bacon green onion dip

Mushroom, Bacon and Green Onion Spread Recipe

  • 8 ounces fresh mushrooms (common white or button mushrooms)
  • 1 bunch green onions (scallions, spring onions)
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic (I used 4, actually, but I’m a little crazy for garlic)
  • 4 slices bacon
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, cut into 8 cubes
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  1. Finely mince the mushrooms. I did this in my food processor, with the steel blade, and using an on/off pulsing motion. Set aside.
  2. Slice green onions using a very sharp knife, so you can slice them very thinly. Set aside.
  3. Finely mince the garlic. Add this to the onions.
  4. In a large heavy skillet, fry the bacon until crisp. Remove bacon from skillet and set aside to cool, leaving the bacon grease in the pan.
  5. Saute the minced mushrooms in the bacon grease until they’ve given up all their liquid and have begun to brown a bit. Stir in the flour, mixing well, then add the Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, salt & pepper. Stir thoroughly.
  6. Melt cream cheese into mushrooms
  7. Reduce the heat to low, and add the cubed cream cheese, stirring it into the mushrooms as it melts.
  8. Add the sliced green onions and garlic and mix well.
  9. Stir in sour cream and bacon
  10. Crumble the bacon and add to the mixture, along with the sour cream. Stir over low heat just until hot throughout.

Transfer to a heated serving dish and serve with breadsticks, veggie dippers or crackers, or chill thoroughly and serve cold as a cracker spread.

~20 servings 2 TBSP each

Bobbie Laughman is an elder caregiver, writer, and Generally Nice Person, who lives in Gettysburg.  Have a question you’d like Bobbie to answer? Just want to say Hi There! Contact her at

Crunchy Nut Toffee Recipe and Candy Thermometer Calibration

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Bobbie says:

Buttery, crunchy, goodness topped with chocolate and nuts. What’s not to love? Not much, in my mind, even without the chocolate. Toffee is an excellent example of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts. Greater, delicious-er, abundantly gift-worthy and not too difficult to master.

The hardest part about candy making is having a good recipe. I’ve completely given up on those that rely on timing, because they never come out right for me. There are too many variables – do you have the same size pan as the recipe writer? Does it conduct heat the same way? Do you have the heat at exactly the same level? Just too many ways too mess it up a tiny bit, but in candy making, that tiny bit can make all the difference between fondant and hard candy. Ask me how I know.

So, now I always look for candy recipes that rely on temperature, because that is quantifiable and replicate-able, independent of the variables of each kitchen. Very science-y.

That is, as long as you have a good, reliable thermometer.

After trial and error and tears and sadness, I settled upon the one kind that, in my experience, seems to be the most reliable. Here’s a picture of mine:

This is my thermometer. There are many others like it, but this one is mine.

This is my thermometer. There are many others like it, but this one is mine.

Note that the glass is entirely sealed. One of those that made me cry was glass, except for the top, which was a plastic cap. This one used to have a wooden knob on the clip, as a handle, but my thermometer has served me for many years now, and at some point, that broke off. It was handy, but not required to the functionality.

Since success in candymaking is a mattter of degrees, it’s essential to know that your thermometer is going to give you an accurate reading. No matter what kind of thermometer you settle upon, you should calibrate it, to verify that it does give you an accurate reading. It’s not hard to do, requiring just a pot of boiling water and a few minutes.

Water boils at 212°F at sea level. At higher elevations, the boiling point is lower, due to the changes in air pressure, but at all elevations, changes in atmospheric conditions (weather) can cause a change of a few degrees in the temperature at which anything will come to a boil. To avoid wasting money spent on ingredients in a failed recipe, take a few minutes to calibrate your thermometer before starting your day’s candy making.

How to Calibrate a Candy Thermometer

Don't let it touch the bottom of the pot

Bring a pot of water to a boil, and insert the thermometer. Most candy thermometers have a clip of some sort. Clip it to the side of the pot so that it does not rest on the bottom, because that will not give you an accurate reading of the water temperature. Leave it in for a few minutes, then read the temperature. If the water is boiling at a temperature different than 212°F degrees, adjust the temperature in your recipe accordingly.


For example: the water boiled at 208°F degrees. 212°F – 208°F = 4°F, so if your recipe requires cooking to 300, you should adjust it down by four degrees to 296°F, for that day. (If the weather changes significantly that day, it may be wise to check it again.)


Oh, one more tip on candymaking. If it’s a recipe that requires cooking to a certain temperature, like this one does, follow the instructions AND the list of ingredients precisely. If you think you can wing it, I’ve saved you the trouble of testing that theory, because I’m a wing-it kind of cook. Trust me, don’t do it. Just…don’t. So, when the recipe says to use butter, then use butter. And by butter, I mean NOT margarine. NOT “lite” butter. Sugar means granulated white sugar. Not Splenda, not sucanat, or any other kind of sugar or sweetening substance. Substitutions will cause failure because the recipe was not formulated to work with it. Okay, let’s do science.

: Crunchy Nut Toffee Recipe

  • 1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped nuts of your choice, toasted if desired
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup very finely chopped nuts (for topping)

  • Have an ungreased baking sheet or 13x9x2 pan ready.
  • Melt butter over low heat in a 2 quart heavy saucepan. Add sugar, corn syrup and water, stirring to combine, then cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a metal spoon, until mixture comes to a boil.
  • Clip thermometer to side of pan, ensuring it does not touch the bottom, to avoid a false reading.
  • Continue cooking, stirring constantly, until mixture reaches 300°F. Stirring is important to keep the temperature increasing evenly.
  • The candy mixture will go through several color changes with the rise in temperature, from a pale yellow, to golden, and finally to the rich brown of caramels.
  • Once the temperature gets to 275°F, pay very close attention, since it can rise VERY quickly from there to 300°F and higher. Remove from heat and immediately stir in nuts.
  • Pour onto waiting pan, scraping with a silicone spatula, and spreading it evenly in pan. You needn’t spread it out to the edges – keep it the thickness you prefer. Cool completely. Melt the chocolate chips in the microwave or in the top of a double boiler, and spread on the cooled candy. Sprinkle evenly with finely chopped nuts. Chill in refrigerator to set the chocolate. Turn out of pan onto waxed paper. If desired, spread addtional melted chocolate and nuts on the other side. Once cool and chocolate is set, break into bite-sized pieces.

Number of servings (yield): 12


 Bobbie Laughman is an elder caregiver, writer and Avoider of Shopping (Whenever Possible) who lives in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. If you have a question you’d like Bobbie to answer, send it to her: