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  • The Champagne Problem

    Isabel Montclaire|Updated Apr 3, 2024

    Lately I have contemplated the excess in our society. Most people I know struggle with spare rooms, attics, basements, garages, outbuildings and storage units full of things they don’t know what to do with. They get caught in the indecision twilight zone and they want to keep the thing and dispose of it all at the same time. I call a good problem a champagne problem. Champagne problems are good things to have! As I contemplated on the champagne problem of excess, I r...

  • Easter Aftermath

    Isabel Montclaire|Updated Mar 27, 2024

    One of my favorite memories of growing up was going to Mrs. Eden’s house for the annual Easter egg party. Mrs. Eden and her husband were retired and they loved kids. We loved every minute of making a big mess in her kitchen. When we were finished decorating the eggs, we ate a rabbit cake that had a pink gumdrop nose, licorice eyes and coconut fur. Down the street we went with a basket full of colorful hardboiled eggs. After Easter comes and goes, your fridge might overflow wit...

  • Crispy fish and chips

    Isabel Montclaire|Updated Mar 20, 2024

    My friend Jerry makes the best fish and chips ever! Since I live in the middle of nowhere, I can’t run down to the local Skippers or beach fish house every time I want to eat those. So, I asked Jerry to teach me how to make them. Fish and chips are incredibly easy to cook and there are just a few dishes to wash. Jerry has a Fry Daddy deep fat fryer made by Presto which makes deep fat frying remarkably easy. There is no temperature control to fiddle around with and it’s sim...

  • Flour Power

    Isabel Montclaire|Updated Mar 14, 2024

    Have you ever been to a county fair and seen the entries where bakers make the same exact baked good but the results are so varied you wonder if they were baked on different planets? Why does that happen? That question made me want to conduct an experiment. So I made the exact same bread recipe, baked it in the exact same pan and oven but used different flours. I used a simple four-ingredient recipe from the book “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day”. Using a recipe with jus...

  • The Perfect Kitchen

    Isabel Montclaire|Updated Mar 7, 2024

    I recently came across a short film in the National Archives titled “A Step Saving Kitchen”. In 1949 the Department of Agriculture designed this innovative kitchen to make cooking and baking easier. The idea was to minimize the need to walk, stoop and stretch during kitchen tasks. The film mesmerized me and I watched it on pins and needles like it was some kind of thriller. I wondered why all the kitchens built since 1949 weren’t like this one because the design and funct...

  • Refried Beans

    Isabel Montclaire|Updated Feb 26, 2024

    Last week I wrote about how to cook beans from scratch and why they are so much better than canned beans. Did I inspire you enough to go to the store and buy a bag or two? I hope so! Taking the next step to make refried beans is almost too easy. Refried beans are not really fried twice as the name suggests. The word “refried” comes from the Spanish word “refritos”, which means “well-fried”. Refried beans are simply cooked beans that are mashed and fried in a skillet with some...

  • Refried Beans, Part II

    Isabel Montclaire|Updated Feb 16, 2024

    Last week I wrote about falling in love with refried beans and learning how to make them. They are simple to cook and are the ultimate comfort food on a cold winter day. The number of people who don't know how to cook beans from scratch surprises me and they eat them from cans. Are they afraid of the beans? Is it because there is so much confusion about the right way to cook them – to salt or not to salt, that is the question! Presoak or no? Cooking beans from dried is not m...

  • Refried Beans 101

    Isabel Montclaire|Updated Feb 16, 2024

    Lately I've been reminiscing about riding my paint quarter horse, Quincy, on my friend Lolita's five hundred acre working farm in Hubbard, Oregon. Lolita and I rode most Sunday mornings and we would laugh and say that we were at "The Church of the Horse". Riding with her was a deeply spiritual experience because on every ride we would see sights that were breathtakingly beautiful and the images would stay with me the whole week. For example, on one winter not-a-cloud-in-the-sk...

  • The Banana Bread Hack

    Isabel Montclaire|Updated Feb 1, 2024

    You know by now that I am a fan of food made from scratch ingredients. Usually boxed food or “cheat and heats” just don’t hold a candle to food cooked with love and real ingredients. I can’t now recall how a box of Pillsbury Quick Bread banana nut mix made its way into the pantry. Perhaps in the middle of the night it snuck in on little cat feet? Or maybe in an unconscious daze I plucked it off a shelf at the grocery store. Regardless, there it was sitting in the cupboar...

  • The Shrinking Bread Saga, Part One

    Isabel Montclaire|Updated Jan 25, 2024

    Last week I went to a bakery in Bend and was shocked to see artisan bread being sold by the half loaf. The bread was about the same price I paid for a whole loaf a couple of years ago. We've all witnessed the rising cost of food in the past year but this seemed to punctuate the seriousness of the problem. I have heard the term "shrinkflation" which means smaller sizes for about the same price and this was a perfect example. This price increase had a profound effect on me and...