There’s nothing quite like a grandmother’s wisdom and Barbara Costello, affectionately known as Babs, has become a surrogate grandma to millions on TikTok courtesy of her ultra popular and downright delightful Brunch with Babs account.
Since joining the social media site in April 2020, the 74-year-old influencer has garnered almost 50 million likes for her easy recipes, jaunty energy and practical Brunch with Babs lifestyle tips.
“It’s all been such a surprise to me,” says Costello, who also released a best-selling cookbook, Celebrate with Babs, in 2022 and recently struck up a partnership with Pop-Tarts, which placed her smiling face on boxes of the beloved breakfast treats. “I was just helping my daughter, Liz, during the pandemic and she was expecting baby number three. She had two little ones at the time and one day when the boys were napping, she said, ‘Mom, I think you ought to try TikTok.”
“Of course, I said no,” Costello says with a laugh. “But after a lot of back and forth, I said, ‘Okay, I’ll try. I’ll do a TikTok.’”
The first Brunch with Babs video was a recipe for a quick and easy-to-make chicken and potato dish for dinner. “It’s just marinating some cut-up chicken pieces in olive oil and lemon juice, salt, pepper and garlic,” she says. “Throw that on a baking sheet and add some potatoes. It makes a delicious one-pan meal, but people went nuts for it.”
Costello was encouraged at the outpouring of love and continued to make supportive, uplifting and creative videos on everything from vodka-Prosecco grape recipes to getting laundry whiter to making bacon grease “flavor pods.” Her creativity and good nature caught the eyes and hearts of fans, sponsors and media outlets alike. In fact, she is currently the cover star of our latest issue of Woman’s World, on stands now.
When we recently sat down with Babs in an interview for the magazine to get her stress secrets, tips for overcoming heartache and delicious recipes for the magazine, we also asked her for the go-to tricks that make her life easier. Here, she shares her favorites to make your life easier, too!
Costello’s top 5 Brunch with Babs tips
1. Gut a pumpkin with a hand mixer
If there’s one thing Costello has learned in raising her four children while working as a preschool teacher, is the importance of making household tasks quick and easy. When asked about her favorite shortcuts, Costello smiles and says, “The pumpkin cleaning one was huge. It was about how to clean your pumpkin out with the hand mixer. The pumpkin hairs and all that gets loosened with your hand mixer,” she says with a smile.
2. Pre-scoop ice cream into cupcake liners
“Another one people loved was the ice cream tip — getting prepared for a party and pre-scooping ice cream into cupcake papers in a cupcake pan,” Babs recalls. “Scooping ice cream in each one before a party makes it so much easier easy to serve.”
3. Practice “Mise en place” before you cook
Costello is also a big advocate of being organized in the kitchen to create a better work environment and more enjoyable experience. “My favorite cooking hack — and it would make any dish more enjoyable to make — is mise en place. Get everything ready and organized before you begin cooking anything.”
“If your dish calls for a cup of chopped onion and you have to sauté it, don’t have the oil in the pan getting hot and you’re just peeling the onion. You’re going to go crazy,” she says. “So mise en place, make sure everything is in place. Get everything organized, the flour weighed, the butter melted, everything ready to go. Basically, then you’re ready to create your dish or your baked good or whatever. It’ll bring sanity into your kitchen especially during big family dinners or holiday feasts like Thanksgiving.”
4. Surprise yourself with a good scale
Having the right tools in the kitchen can help any cook create better meals and desserts. For Costello, having a good scale is essential. “I love baking, but I think weighing your ingredients brings it up to a whole new level,” she says, urging cooks to be precise in their measurements. “If you want to recreate something exactly, if you want to make the perfect chocolate chip cookie, measuring flour is so important.”
She admits some folks are skeptical, but she helps them see the value in the tool. “I’ve converted people because people will be like, ‘Oh, I don’t think you really need this.’ I say, ‘Okay, give me a cup of flour.’ And so they’ll just spoon it in. Then I do 128 grams per cup and I’ll weigh what they’ve done,” Costello says. “And my goodness, sometimes it’s a lot more flour than you think a cup of flour truly is, which makes for a dryer baked good or whatever. So I think my kitchen scale is essential.”
5. Toast nuts for extra savory goodness
Costello also encourages cooks to try the little things that really make a recipe extra tasty. Her favorite? Toasting nuts. “There’s a huge difference between just raw nuts on a salad and a toasted nut,” she says. “I either do them in the oven or on the stove, and just until I smell that nutty flavor. I stop then because they can burn so easily. So after about maybe five to seven minutes, stir and just keep an eye on them. It’s so easy to toast nuts, and it brings out such a rich flavor.”
What is Babs doing next?
Costello is already working on her next cookbook and fans can’t get enough of her recipes and tips. She thinks people appreciated her reassuring voice during the pandemic and that’s been one of the reasons she’s continued to be so warmly welcomed. “I think just having this older, kind, non-threatening lady on this platform during a very uncertain time was comforting. That resonated with people. The comments were very heartfelt It has been an adventure for sure,” she says. “I am excited for what’s next!”
It’s an adventure Costello has embraced, and we hope she keeps imparting her delightful wisdom and letting us join in the fun for many years to come!
Be sure to check out Babs’ wonderful tips about family time, faith, loving yourself and finding peace in the garden, as well as five of her favorite recipes — including lemon-barbecue chicken, corn salad and fresh peach pie — in the latest issue of Woman’s World on sale now!
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Deborah Evans Price believes everyone has a story to tell and, as a journalist, she considers it a privilege to share those stories with the world. Deborah contributes to Billboard, CMA Close Up, Jesus Calling, First for Women, Woman’s World and Country Top 40 with Fitz, among other media outlets. Author of the CMA Awards Vault and Country Faith, Deborah is the 2013 winner of the Country Music Association’s Media Achievement Award and the 2022 recipient of the Cindy Walker Humanitarian Award from the Academy of Western Artists. Deborah lives on a hill outside Nashville with her husband, Gary, son Trey and cat Toby.