Wednesday, December 14, 2022

The Best Money-Saving Homemade Baking and Mix Ideas for the Holidays


It's that time of year. We all know the crunch as the season of giving stresses our budgets to the limit and sometimes makes us wish that the whole process of gifting didn't have to be so materialistic. I've long been a person who considers gift-giving as my love language. I listen intently all year long when friends and family talk about their secret wishes or favorite flavors. I mentally store away that magical information to find or make that perfect present. When someone else does the same for me, my heart will almost skip a beat. I feel it on a deeply personal level. Yet, that warm need to share never goes away. 

I've also been known for many years for my Meal in a Jar mixes and baking mixes. I love to make jar mixes because they can be kept on hand and used conveniently. As a result, there's less temptation to eat all the treats at once. 

So without further blah, blah, blah. Here are some of the best Money-Saving Homemade Baking and Mix Ideas for the Holidays. They're not in any particular order. 

Sweet Potato Buttermilk Sticky Bun Baking Kit

I build the kit in a large #10 can and wrap the can with a holiday apron when I give it away.

Evil Genius 4 Holiday Cookie Mixes in One

Probably one of the most popular posts of all time! Holiday Cookie Mix! 

Neighbor Gift Ideas for Christmas!

Okay, it's not actually baking, but we use this vinegar in many of our baking recipes. 

Fruit Crisp Mix

There you go! Make some great and extremely cool personal gifts this year! I know we're doing the same. After issues with my personal health and some setbacks, it's time to save money. 

Always My Very Best,

Chef Tess

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

The Missionary Cookbook Chapter 4: Pasta Profiles 4 amazing Pasta Salads from one basic recipe


It's time for a little update on the mission of my amazing son Elder Luke Petersen. For those who have been following his adventures with us. We've had a change in location happen recently that was unexpected but necessary for his health. We are excited to share that Luke was transferred to Salt Lake City, Utah to finish his missionary service staying with his grandparents (my parents). He is still away from home and still a full-time missionary. He is what is called a Service Missionary.

He is now working with the horticultural department and plants that will help make beautiful church Temple grounds, at our church headquarters, conference center, and visitor center. The grounds are extensive and full of gorgeous areas that need a huge amount of work. This is an amazing opportunity for someone who loves plants like Luke does! People come here from all over the world to feel the love of God and learn about Jesus Christ. It's Luke's way of spreading the seeds of the gospel. I ❤️ him for being willing to serve in this way. I am also so excited to see his love of God's creations in action.

He has also been working with my parents fulfilling humanitarian efforts at Welfare Square to feed the hungry worldwide. My parents have been full-time service missionaries at the Bishop's Storehouse at welfare Square for the last year. Welfare Square is a landmark location for The Church of Jesus Christ in its efforts to care for those in need. The square hosts various employment services, food production, and storage facilities, distribution centers, and training facilities. The services housed here are provided free of charge.

We believe in following the example of Jesus Christ to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and lift up the downtrodden. In the 1930s, many people in the Salt Lake City area were struggling as a result of the Great Depression. In 1936, the Church formalized a welfare program to provide for basic needs and give opportunities for employment. Two years later, in 1938, Welfare Square was created.

Welfare Square resides on its own campus and includes a 178-foot grain silo, a milk and cheese processing plant, a cannery, a bakery, a market-style grocery, a clothing collection warehouse, and employment assistance offices. Services on the square are operated by volunteers and employees of the Church.

I love that God knows our hearts. He knows how much Elder Petersen has always loved working with plants and the peace that he feels when he is surrounded by God's creations. I know that the Lord's creations testify in their own way that God is real and so does my sweet son. I don't doubt that he is working with these plants because he is learning some lifelong lessons to lead people to Jesus Christ. 

It is a wonderful experience so far and one that he is growing from immensely. No pun intended. Okay. Maybe a little pun intended. 
Look how awesome he looks in his official uniform. My heart. Xoxo! I'm just a little bit bursting with momma pride. Only because I saw my own father wear this same uniform for forty-five years of my life. I know what kind of a dedicated Christ-like man my dad has always been, and it takes a giant to fill these threads. Luke's calling is for the next eighteen months. Time is going to fly! 
So, I know that even though my son is staying with his grandparents and serving a service mission now, he is still making meals and taking his own lunches to the temple grounds in Salt Lake City. 

So here's the premise. One salad to rule them all. 

The original post for this was called the profile of a Killer Salad on this blog and something I taught my kiddos early on was how to step into the kitchen and know what flavors worked together. So this is something I wanted to share today with this chapter of The Missionary Cookbook for those who are looking for beginner simple recipes to make life easier for those first starting lives away from home. 

Herb Alchemy 101 Cooking Without a Recipe

How many just read the words "herbs and spices without a recipe" and panic set in? I can hear you saying, "I don't cook like that! I need a recipe.” If that is you, then this post is for you. I want you to try to let go of your cooking inhibitions and think with your heart. If my 5-year-olds could do this, you most definitely can do it now! I believe in you!

So to begin with a basic explanation, herbs are the aromatic leaves, flowers, and stems of plants and spices are seeds and the bark of aromatic edible plants. Fresh or dry herbs and spices will work in cooking applications, but make sure you smell them inside the jar. If it smells like a spice or herb, then the stuff inside is still full of flavor. Most spices will need to be in an in-ground or grated form for cooking or baking. If you don't have a spice mill (not many people do), then just buy them pre-ground. 

Below is the basic outline of some flavors that work together well. Follow the steps and you will find success.   

Step 1: Begin with the pasta salad base.

Chef Tess’ Pasta Salad 101

Basic Pasta Salad

1 lb. pasta of your choice, cooked al dente according to package directions and seasoned well with salt and pepper
1 cup chopped bell pepper
1 cup carrots, shredded or chopped
1 stalk celery, sliced thin
½ medium red onion, sliced thin or chopped fine

Mix together all ingredients in a large bowl. 

Step 2: Make one batch of basic vinaigrette.

Basic Vinaigrette for Pennies a Jar! 

¾ cup olive or vegetable oil (flavored oils are great)
¼ cup red wine vinegar or cider vinegar
1 tsp. fresh pressed garlic
Herbs and spices (see below for variations)
Salt and pepper

  • Whisk oil and vinegar with other ingredients in a bowl. 
  • Start with a half teaspoon at a time of the herb or spice you want to add and then sample. 
  • Adjust flavors according to your taste. 
  • For one batch of salad, you will need one batch of salad dressing. 

Step 3: Add flavor profile to dressing & mix salad. 

Dressing Variations 

These herb and spice suggestions are to be used in the basic vinaigrette recipe to customize the recipe to fit your need. Add the flavor combinations directly to the basic pasta salad recipe. Come up with your own and try mixing and matching fresh veggies as they are in season. You can even add seasonal fruit you like. For hearty dinners, add some roasted chicken, beef, fish, or tofu. Try marinating your meat in the vinaigrette to save a lot of money instead of buying those fancy bottles of pre-made stuff. You can do this! It can be very liberating, but for you folks who just want a grab-and-go dressing fix, just use the pre-made spice blends.

These are lists of flavors that work together for the cuisine you want to create they are not a complete list. They are intended to get you started

Herbs: Basil, rosemary, thyme, flat-leaf parsley, marjoram
Spices: Fennel, caraway, crushed red pepper, celery seed
Flavoring: Hard cheeses like parmesan, asiago, olives, roasted peppers, citrus zest, capers

Herbs: Dill, oregano, rosemary, mint, parsley,
Spices: Fennel, anise, black pepper, dill seed
Flavoring: Feta cheese, olives, pickled peppers

Herbs: Cilantro, oregano, thyme
Spice: Cumin, coriander, chile pods, black pepper, allspice
Flavoring: Lime zest, roasted corn, green onions, radish, black olives

Herbs: Cilantro, mint, lemon grass, sesame oil (use 2 tsp. in place of some of the oil)
Spices: Cumin, chile paste, curry paste, fennel, ginger
Flavoring: Lime zest, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, citrus zest, peanuts or cashews

©Chef Stephanie Petersen. 2011. All rights reserved. Copies are NOT permitted without written consent from the author even for personal or church use! Chef Stephanie Petersen can be contacted at and is Chef Tess on Facebook and Twitter. 

There you go darlings. Begin learning some flavor profiles. I'll be posting more in the future! I promise.

Always My Very Best,
Your Friend Chef Tess

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Pastry Chef's Guide to Baking with Buckwheat Flour

If you're new to buckwheat, it can seem like a confusing little nugget because it is not a grain or a grass but rather technically known as a "pseudo-grain." Therefore, it can never cross-pollinate with anything containing gluten. Hooray! Despite the glaring term "wheat" in its name, it's always gluten-free as long as it is processed in a facility that is also gluten-free. Buckwheat has long been used for Japanese noodles and Russian porridge. It is grown and consumed worldwide. It is full of protein and fiber, making it excellent for those following special diets, including vegans. That brings us to baking. With a pronounced complex earthy and floral flavor profile that couples well in both sweet and savory baking applications, it is destined to become one of the most elegant and sophisticated flours to add to your baking products. It is one of the most exciting whole grain flour to use in baking.

Buckwheat in Baking

Flavor Factors

Tastes are impacted dramatically by the addition of buckwheat flour to baked goods and the choice of the variety of buckwheat flour.

·       HulledBuckwheat Flour variety: The dark hull has been removed before milling. Most bakers prefer it because of its milder, less bitter nature. The flavor is slightly earthy with delicate grassy notes and hints of floral.

·       Unhulled Buckwheat Flour varieties:

The dark hull has been included in the milling process. These have slightly bitter assertive notes and are usually combined with other mild-tasting flours. They are most notedly used in French Buckwheat Crepes.


  • In sweet applications, buckwheat pairs well with nuts, caramel, cocoa, and deep rich flavors.
  • In savory applications, buckwheat pairs well with complex cheeses, herbs, cured meats, and dairy.

Texture factors

It seems pretty apparent to the seasoned baker when baking with buckwheat, but we'll point it out. It is gluten-free. Here are a few other things to be aware of with texture.

  • Bread:  Buckwheat loaves of bread are not as light and fluffy as wheat loaves of bread due to a lack of gluten and may need the addition of xanthan, tapioca flour, or guar gum to achieve additional texture.
  • Muffins and quick bread: Light buckwheat flour is preferred in vanilla or golden-colored cookies and cakes. Buckwheat adds moistness to cakes and tenderness to cookies and bars.
  • Possible Problems: Some quick bread and muffins can become "gummy" if larger amounts of buckwheat are used—test the recipe before converting to 100% buckwheat.

Color of Buckwheat Flours

  • Hulled Buckwheat flour has a lovely light brown color that will show up in the final baked good.
  • Unhulled Buckwheat flour will be a light grey and finished baked goods will keep that distinct color like rye. Like rye, one will need to add molasses or cocoa to batters or doughs if the desired finished bake is expected to be a rich golden brown.

Start baking with buckwheat 

Ready to start baking with it now?

  • Cakes cookies and quick bread: Start with 25%. Again, because of the lack of gluten and the possible downfalls of buckwheat's nature, we suggest you start by substituting 25% buckwheat flour for the wheat flour in non-yeast bread or yeasted recipes like a muffin or cookie.
  • Bread: Start with 15%. Adding whole-grain flour will change the formulation, and gluten-free flour is a little finicky. The general rule is to increase the hydration by 10% when adding that 15% if using whole grain buckwheat.
  • Check baking temperatures: Because the color of the dough is different from buckwheat, always test the internal temperature of baked goods. Bread should be 185°F or higher. Batter products will vary but generally should be over 170°.

Buckwheat Brownies

Bake Time: 30-35 minutes


½ cup organic avocado oil

1 ½ cup organic cane sugar

2 tsp. vanilla

4 eggs or vegan alternative

1 Tbsp. dark corn syrup or blackstrap molasses

2 cups Organic Grains Buckwheat Flour

¾ cup organic dark cocoa powder

½ tsp. non-aluminum baking powder

1 tsp. sea salt


  1. Wash and sanitize all work surfaces and tools—Preheat the oven to 350°.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, mix the oil, sugar, vanilla, eggs, and syrup until the sugar dissolves, about 4 minutes. Add the flour, cocoa, and salt, mixing for 2 minutes. Allow batter to rest for about 5 minutes.
  3. Spread into a lightly greased bar pan (8x8x2 inch). Bake 30-35 minutes until an internal temperature of 150° or higher.
  4. Cool the brownies in the pan for at least 30 minutes before cutting, allowing them to set up.

Buckwheat Pancakes

Bake Time: 15-18 minutes


1 cup Organic Grains Buckwheat Flour

1 Tbsp. sugar

1 tsp. baking powder

¼ tsp. salt

1¼ cups milk

1 large egg, beaten


  1. Whisk buckwheat flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt together in a bowl.
  2. Beat egg and milk together in a bowl. Add the dry ingredients and whisk until the batter is thick and smooth. Let batter rest for at least 5 minutes before cooking.
  3. Drop batter by large spoonful onto the greased griddle and cook until bubbles form and the edges are dry for 3 to 4 minutes. Flip and cook until browned on the other side, 2 to 3 minutes. Repeat with the remaining batter.

Vegan & Gluten-Free Bread

Bake Time: 45-55 minutes


2 2/3 cups Organic Grains Buckwheat Flour

3 Tbsp. Organic Grains White Chia Seeds

1 cup Organic Grains Tapioca Flour

¼ cup sugar

½ tsp. salt

2 ¼ tsp. instant yeast (1 packet)

¼ cup olive oil

2 Tbsp. maple syrup

1 ¼ cup of water between 100-105° F


  1. Grind the chia seed into flour using a high-speed blender.
  2. Using an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, combine the buckwheat flour, chia flour, tapioca starch, organic cane sugar, and salt. Mix in the instant yeast. Add the olive oil, maple syrup, and warm water. Mix on low for about 15 seconds. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Continue mixing on medium-high for about 3 minutes.
  3. Use a spatula to group the dough together in a ball at the bottom of the mixing bowl. Pour about two teaspoons of additional olive oil on top of the dough. This will help you continue to form the round loaf without the dough sticking to the spatula (or your hands).
  4. Carefully remove the dough from the mixing bowl and onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Use your hands to form the dough into a round/oblong loaf. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and rise for 3 hours at 75°. Score the top of the loaf with a sharp kitchen knife or a razor blade.
  5. Preheat the oven to 400°F. When the loaf is finished rising, bake for 45-55 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the loaf reaches over 180°F.


There you go! Make some amazing gluten-free buckwheat flour stuff. I'm cheering for you 100%. 

Always My Very Best,

Your Friend, Chef Tess