One of the most annoying things for me, a cook who never plans ahead, is being in the middle of making a recipe and finding that you’re missing a crucial ingredient.  This is the real reason that I never follow a recipe.  It’s not that I’m a creative cook, it’s that I’m a lazy shopper.  The recipe calls for sour cream but all I have is cream cheese and buttermilk?  Let’s see what happens!  No eggs?  Let’s try it without!  But sometimes there are things you just can’t substitute.  Or so I thought.

The most recent issue of Cooks Illustrated, one of my favorite magazines, listed simple solutions for the kind of cooking emergencies I run into all the time – no brown sugar or confectioners’ sugar.  And because I think you care, I’m going to list them here for you:

Confectioners’ Sugar (Which I always want to call confectionary sugar even though I know it’s wrong.)

In a blender or coffee bean grinder pulverize 1 cup of white sugar with 1 teaspoon cornstarch for 1 minute until the mixture is fully powdered.  Strain through a fine-mesh strainer to remove any large particles that remain.  Makes 1 cup confectioners’ sugar.

Brown Sugar

In a food processor or blender, pulse 1 cup of white sugar with 1 teaspoon dark molasses until fully combined. Maked 1 cup light brown sugar.  (Add an extra teaspoon of molasses for dark brown sugar.)

This is a long-winded (and hopefully helpful) way of leading me to this week’s 5 Things:

What are your five favorite magazines? Here are mine:

1. Cooks Illustrated – I love this magazine.  It’s the perfect mix of gourmet cooking and geeky science writing. As an extra bonus, Christopher Kimball, CI’s editor, is a bow-tie wearing, Vermont hippie who writes in every issue  about random topics from small town life to the Grateful Dead to drinking beer at the local auto repair shop.  It’s fantastic.

2. Cooking Light – I’ve subscribed for about a hundred years.  Great recipes, great advice, great magazine.

3. Organic Gardening – Always interesting, always helpful.  I wish it was published more than six times a year!

4. Domino – I just subscribed this week.  Cool, funky home design stuff, Domino is like Vogue in that the pictures are amazing and inspiring but you just have to laugh when you look at the prices on everything.

5. People (my guilty pleasure) – It’s the one reason I look forward to sitting in waiting rooms.  I don’t subscribe to the magazine, but I do read it whenever I get the chance.  At the hair salon, sitting in waiting rooms, standing in long grocery store lines…  It’s so trashy, but I just can’t help myself.

So now it’s your turn.  What are your five favorites?



  1. WHAT? You mean ‘confectionary’ is not the proper name? Who knew? I’m still going to call it that. I’m going to pretend that I didn’t just learn this little fact.


  2. Those are great tips! I am also coming up short on ingredients at times.
    My favorite magazines are Real Simple, Martha Stewart Living, Sunset & Bon Appetit.


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