Dear Mary: My young grandson is getting married soon, and neither he nor his fiance can cook. Could you please recommend a good all-purpose cookbook AND a microwave cookbook for newlyweds who will have a very tight and limited budget? I'm thinking this would be a useful and practical wedding gift. Thank you for your time in answering my question. It is appreciated. -- Connie R.
Dear Connie: Oh, this is so much fun for me because I feel like I have a captive audience in your kiddos, and a willing giver in you. I love, "Help! My Apartment Has a Kitchen Cookbook: 100 + Great Recipes with Foolproof Instructions," by Nancy Mills and her son Kevin Mills. It's written in college-student speak, so your kids should find it reader-friendly and not at all intimidating. And it hits on the basics such as grilled cheese sandwiches, French toast, baked salmon with garlic and al dente asparagus, just to name a few. And the book teaches cooking "How To's," like how to peel garlic, how to get the whole meal on the table at once, what to do with leftovers, and on it goes. This book is a gem. It was first published in 1996, but has been updated and revised since. My original tattered copy is a testament to how I have used it myself and learned a great deal. Perhaps my favorite chapter of all, "Food to Keep on Hand So You Won't Starve."
As for a microwave cookbook, you can't beat, "Not Your Mother's Microwave Cookbook: Fresh, Delicious and Wholesome Main Dishes, Snacks, Sides, Desserts, and More," by Beth Hensperger. It is a lovely book with recipes plus instruction for everything from hot dips to eggs, rice, fish, poultry, savory sauces and sweet treats. Calling her recipes "homemade fast food," I think your kids will be quick learners as soon as they discover all they can do with a microwave oven.
I wish your grandchildren much joy and happiness. Your gifts will surely promote that because I believe there's something about well-prepared food that brings hearts and souls together.
Dear Mary: I've been reading your column since I was a college student. You kept me motivated to pay off my college loans and then my grad school loans, so thank you.
I'm newly married and have a question about insurance for wedding rings. I know for other extended warranties you generally recommend that people stash the money into a bank account instead, but would this also apply to insuring fine jewelry? My engagement ring is valued at about $30,000 and it would cost about $600 a year to insure. Should I be storing $600 year into a bank account instead of paying it to an insurance company? Thank you for your always helpful advice! -- Kay K.
Dear Kay: Your question reminds me of one of the undeniable truths of life: The price tag does not always reflect the true cost. For example, the price tag a lovely suit has to include the cost of dry cleaning it for its entire useful life. The cost of a new puppy goes way up when you consider vet bills, food, equipment and grooming. And in your case, the cost of fine jewelry is increased by the cost of insurance.
Insuring your rings is not the same as taking out an extended warranty. You have an investment here. The wisdom demands that it be insured against loss, if you can afford it. And by afford I mean, you have an emergency fund, are not carrying unsecured debt and can pay these insurance premiums without going into debt.
Make sure you shop well for this insurance. You'll need to get a certified appraisal and then read all of the fine print on the insurance policy before you accept it. Know the limitations; know what constitutes a covered loss.
Be sure to check any insurance you have already. You may discover that you have coverage already through your homeowners or renters insurance, requiring only a rider that schedules this jewelry specifically.
Thanks for your kind words, and congratulations on being such a good EC student and paying off all of your college debt.
Mary invites questions at email@example.com, or c/o Everyday Cheapskate, P.O. Box 2099, Cypress, CA 90630.