Thursday, September 21, 2017

Light Up Your Life with Pine Cones

Have you noticed how it is getting dark earlier at night these days?  The thing I like least about fall and winter is how early the sun goes down.  Today I'm sharing a simple, pretty solution to the dark hours ahead of us.  Read on for a DIY fall decoration that will light up your life.

A Lighted Fall Pine Cone Basket 

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A Lighted Basket of Pine Cones
There are two solutions I gravitate to to solve my dislike of the dark nights of fall and winter. Sure, you can turn on the lights, but I prefer little pockets of light to brighten the dark corners of my rooms. For that, I'll use either flameless candles or strings of mini LED lights.
DIY Fall Illuminated Pine Cone Basket

Flameless candles with automatic timers are my first love.  You'll find them all over my house.  They are easily tucked into shelves and fit nicely into bathroom and bedroom decor.  They make perfect night lights. The strings of LED lights are a favorite for seasonal decor.  They work on wreaths and look sparkly in glass containers.  You can find these LED in many retail stores and at many price points.  Some even have seasonal holiday bulbs.  I tend to choose plain bright white lights because they go with everything.  They were the perfect choice for my DIY pine cone basket.

How to Make a Lighted Basket of Pine Cones

You will need:
This project will take you a couple of days, mainly because of drying time for the paint.  

Step One
Prepare your basket and pine cones.  This is a great project to repurpose an old basket you have in your basement like I did.  When using an old basket you'll want to clean it first.  Go ahead and give it a good wash.  I wash my baskets in a hot water and dish detergent.  Then I set them outside to completely dry.

If you gather pine cones for this project you will want to clean them, too, to remove any dirt and bugs.  I like to clean mine in a bucket of hot water with vinegar and dish detergent.  Rinse them well and let them dry in the sun or in a low oven, set at 200 degrees F.  

Step Two
Paint the basket and pine cones.  Spray painting is something I like to do outside.  I use old plastic tablecloths as my spray paint mat.  They work well to protect any surface from the paint and can either be reused after the paint dries or discarded.

Spray both the basket and the pine cones lightly with the gold paint. Multiple coats of a light spray work much better than one coat that produces a finished product with drips.  You'll find that each light coat of paint will dry very quickly and you'll be able to apply multiple coats in one day.

Once the paint dries on the basket apply the antiquing glaze to give your basket an aged look.  Let it dry.

Step Three
Assemble your lighted basket.  Arrange the pine cones in the basket.  String the LED lights around and through the pine cones, hiding the wire as best you can.  Set the timer to come on at dusk.

Some Tips for Buying LED Lights and Flameless Candles

Pay attention to the color of the light.  Warm light, daylight, multicolor lights will impact the look of your decor.  Take the time to choose the color you want.

Pay attention to the color of the wire connecting the LED lights.  If you want to hide the wire, choose a color that will blend in well.  Choose clear or silver wire if you want to put the string of lights in a clear glass container.

Know what kind of battery powers your lights.  I only choose lights with AA or AAA  battery packs. The batteries last longer, are cheaper and are easier to find in the stores.  Multi-packs of these batteries can be purchased at nice savings.  When using the timer, I usually only replace the batteries once during the fall-winter season.

Lighting Essentials

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Monday, September 18, 2017

Bacon Wrapped Chili Lime Pork Tenderloin

Today I'm sharing a pork recipe that is impressive enough to serve to guests but easy enough to prepare on a weeknight.  You will just need to think ahead enough to prepare a marinade ahead of time.

This bacon wrapped chili lime pork tenderloin gets its flavor two ways.  First is the flavorful chili lime marinade that you'll want to use to marinate your pork tenderloin for at least eight hours. Then, just before cooking, you'll wrap the tenderloin with bacon.  It's good stuff!

Bacon Wrapped Chili Lime Pork Tenderloin

Bacon Wrapped Pork Tenderloin
Bacon Wrapper Chili-Lime Pork Tenderloin
Pork is a meal choice that works any time of year.  It works for comfort food recipes and lighter grilling options.  This bacon wrapped chili lime pork tenderloin is a dinner choice that falls between the light meal and comfort food dinner options. I love using pork tenderloin because it is quick to prepare and also cooks quickly. 

It just so happens that I chose a chili lime marinade for this pork tenderloin, but just about any marinade will work.  You might even want to try this with one of the pre-seasoned pork tenderloins you can buy at your grocery store.  Then you won't even have to plan ahead.  How easy is that!
Bacon Wrapped Chili Lime Pork Tenderloin

The lime in this chili lime marinade delivers a fresh pop of flavor.  Be sure to add the zest of the lime for an additional zing.  As you can see in the picture, I added my tomato and grilled corn relish along side my pork tenderloin.  Oh, it was so delicious!  I highly recommend the relish on the side.

Bacon Wrapped Chili-Lime Pork Tenderloin

Sliced Bacon Wrapped Pork Tenderloin
Bacon Wrapped Pork Tenderloin
Serves Four

  • 1 pork tenderloin
  • 6-8 slices of bacon
  • 3 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 lime, zested and juiced
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne, if you like spicy
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

In a small bowl. mix together all of the ingredients, except the pork tenderloin and the bacon.  Place the pork tenderloin in a glass or ceramic baking dish or a zip top plastic bag.  Pour the marinade over the pork tenderloin being sure to cover well.  Refrigerate overnight, or up to 48 hours.  The longer you marinate, the more flavorful it will be.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.  Wrap the marinated pork tenderloin with the slices of bacon. Place the prepared pork tenderloin on a shallow baking sheet.  Toss chunks of potato with olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic powder to roast along side the pork tenderloin.

Bake the pork tenderloin for 40-45 minutes, or until it registers 145 degrees F on your meat thermometer.

Bacon Wrapped Chili Lime Marinated Pork Tenderloin
The Bacon Wrapped Pork Tenderloin
Don't forget to check out my tomato and grilled corn relish to serve as a side with this pork tenderloin.  It's especially nice this time of year.

Thank you for sharing this recipe with your friends on social media. Publishing this blog twice a week takes a lot of time and effort on my part.  Your support is greatly appreciated!  I am very grateful for your shares on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Yummly.


Thursday, September 14, 2017

How to Make Fresh Applesauce

Applesauce is a perfect complement to a pork dinner. I always have a pork tenderloin on hand in my fridge for a quick weeknight dinner.  A pork tenderloin roasts in about 20 minutes and if you buy one of the marinated options there is absolutely no prep time required.  That can be a real life saver when you are running behind and need to get dinner on the table. One of the things I do to make these pork tenderloin dinners my own is to serve them with my homemade applesauce.

A Homemade Applesauce Recipe

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Homemade Applesauce
Homemade Applesauce
Homemade apple sauce tastes so much better than any jarred sauce that I have purchased and takes so little time to make that I never buy apple sauce anymore.  September and October are the best times of year to make your own fresh applesauce as so many delicious apples come to market.  You can have the applesauce cooking on the stove in about five minutes and it will be ready when the pork tenderloin is ready to serve.

This is a four ingredient recipe.  How easy is that?  Just use my recipe as a starting point and adjust the salt, sugar, and cinnamon until the apple sauce is perfect for your tastes.  I like to use an apple variety that cooks down easily like McIntosh or Cortland, but you can use any variety you like. Choose any variety that looks and smells the most enticing.  Mixing different kinds of apples is also yummy.  You'll also want to use a good quality cinnamon because cinnamon and apples are the costars in this recipe.
How to Make Homemade Applesauce

I like to peel the apples for my applesauce.  I don't use a fancy apple peeler.  I just use my favorite vegetable peeler from OXO.  I actually like peeling apples and can usually peel an apple with one long ribbon of the peel.  Don't be too fussy with the peeling.  Leaving a few stray pieces of the peel in the applesauce will add to the color of the final product.

The tools you'll use to make your applesauce are very low tech.  All you need is a sharp vegetable peeler, a sharp paring knife, and an old fashioned potato masher.  You probably have these already in your kitchen.

Donna's Applesauce

Applesauce Ingredients
Applesauce Ingredients
Printer Friendly Recipe
Serves 4

  • 4 medium apples, Cortland or McIntosh, peeled and chunked
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2-4 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2-4 tablespoons water

Taste your apples to assess how sweet they are.  Decide how much sugar you think you need.  I always start with less sugar because I like my apple sauce to have a little tartness.  Mix the apples, salt, sugar, and cinnamon together in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add the water.  Two tablespoons are usually enough.

Cover the pot and let the mixture come to a boil.  Turn the heat down to simmer.  Cook the mixture for 10 to 15 minutes, until the apples start to collapse.  Remove the pot from the heat.  Using a potato masher, mash the apples until you get the consistency you want.

Mash the Applesauce with a Potato Masher
Mash the Apples
I like to leave some chunks in my applesauce.  Taste your applesauce and add more sugar or cinnamon as needed.

Chunky Homemade Applesauce
Chunky Homemade Applesauce

Serve your homemade applesauce warm or chilled. Make extra applesauce and mix it with your favorite plain yogurt or serve it on top of your morning oatmeal.  It's also delicious served warm with vanilla ice cream.  Yum!

Essential Kitchen Tools

OXO Vegetable Peeler
4-inch Paring Knife
A potato masher

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Shared on Meal Plan Monday


Monday, September 11, 2017

DIY Cheap and Effective Rug Cleaning

We've been a dog family since...forever.  That is why you won't find any wall-to-wall-carpeting anywhere in my home.  I do like area rugs to make my home feel warm and inviting.  Area rugs help absorb noise and add pops of color throughout my home.  All of the area rugs need to be cleaned periodically, especially since my sixteen-year-old dog, Sadie, has increased the frequency of her accidents. You might be wondering how to clean an area rug at home.  Today I want to show you how I clean my area rugs.  It is a cheap and effective rug cleaning method.

How to Clean Your Area Rugs

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Cheap and Effective Rug Cleaning
Cheap and Effective Rug Cleaning

Sadie had an oops moment today on one of my hall runners.  That made today a perfect day to show you how you can keep your rugs fresh and clean.  I decided to show you my process using the two polypropylene rugs I have in my front entry hall.  These rugs are workhorses and take a beating. That's why polypropylene is a good choice for the entry location.

Here's a picture of my sweet Sadie.  This is one of my wool rugs that I clean using this method.


I do have wool rugs in my family room and living room.  I've used this method to successfully clean both wool and polypropylene rugs.  You'll want to test your rugs for color fastness before you attempt to clean them, but a quality wool rug should be able to be cleaned this way, too.  Don't attempt to clean rugs with a canvas or cotton backing.  In my experience, the cotton backing shrinks and the rug will never lay flat again. I won't buy a rug with a backing for this reason.

I always clean my rugs outdoors.  That means you'll want to be sure you have a space that is large enough to accommodate the wet rugs for two to three days.  It will take that much time for the rugs to dry. You'll also want to be sure no rain is expected until the rugs are dry.  If you are cleaning a large rug it will be difficult to move them once they are wet. So, you'll want to recruit some help for moving the wet rugs.
How to Clean Your Area Rugs

It will take a couple of hours to get the rugs cleaned and a couple of days for them to dry.  The hardest part is moving the wet rugs around.  They do get heavy.  You'll definitely want help for a rug that is 8x10 feet large or more.

Rug Cleaning Tools

A bucket
A sturdy stiff bristled brush
A hose with a spray nozzle
Oxy Clean Powder

The Steps to Clean Your Rugs

Thoroughly vacuum your rugs and pre-treat any spots.  Check the front and the back of the rug for spots and stains.  This is especially important if you have a pet.

Rinse the rug with spray from your garden hose, soaking the rug completely.  As an aside, I use this Fireman's spray nozzle on my hose and it is the best!

Spray the Rug
Rinse with the Garden Hose

Scrub the rug with a mixture of water and Oxy Clean.  Follow the directions on the Oxy Clean box to make your cleaning solution.

Scrub with a sturdy brush and your bare feet. I like to start with the brush and finish with my feet. Make sure you have distributed the soapy water well and worked the soap into the fibers of the rug.

Rug Cleaning Tools
Rug Cleaning Tools

Rinse each rug well, spraying a strong stream of water from your hose.

Roll the rug and stand it on its end to drain.  This will remove a lot of the water from the rug.

Roll and Drain the Rugs
Roll and Drain the Rugs

Rinse each rug again using the hose.

Roll the rugs again and stand them on their ends to drain.  Leave the rug to drain for a couple of hours.

Open the rug and spread it over a railing or lay it flat to dry.  You'll want to lay the rug flat for most of the drying time so it doesn't get any annoying lumps in it.  I like to lay mine over my deck railing for a day and then lay them flat to finish drying.

Drying the Rugs
Drying the Cleaned Rugs

Check your rug periodically to monitor the drying process.  Sometimes I flip the rug over to help the back to dry.

Admire your work. After twenty four to forty eight hours your rug should be dry enough to bring back inside.

The Cleaned Rugs
The Cleaned Rugs in My Entry
Cleaning your rugs using this method takes some effort but you'll know they are clean and well rinsed.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

The Secret to Easy, Family-Friendly Meals

I don't know what I would do without my pantry.  It is because of my pantry that I can whip up meals for my family relatively quickly any day of the week.  Regular followers of Just One Donna know that my recipes are straightforward, flavorful, and simple to prepare.  Good food, prepared simply is my goal day in and day out.  A well-stocked pantry will help you to do the same.  September is a perfect time to update your pantry in preparation for end of year holidays and family gatherings.

A Guide to a Well-Stocked Pantry

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A Well-Stocked Pantry

What is a Pantry?

For me, the term pantry refers to the places in your kitchen where essential meal planning ingredients and tools are stored.  When I use the term pantry I am talking about the ingredient cabinets and refrigerator space in my kitchen.

The most important space I have dedicated to meal planning is the pantry closet you see pictured above.  This is my actual pantry, the way it looked when I opened the doors this morning.  I didn't "fix it up" for you.  You can see it is a no frills pantry.  I don't have "Pinterest worthy" storage containers with fancy labels. It is well organized with ingredients I regularly use for my family's meals. 

How to Organize the Pantry

Use practical, budget friendly storage containers to store the things that might attract the pantry moths that will make you crazy.  Sometimes I will reuse a plastic container and ingredient came in.  I like the plastic containers my bulk cashews are sold in.  You can see a container of cashews on the top right shelf.

Organization is important to your pantry.  You don't want to spend a lot of time searching for ingredients when you are making dinner.  The left side of the pantry has a shelf for baking items, canned goods, a rice, pasta, and grains shelf, and a condiments shelf.  The right side of the pantry has a snacks shelf and the remaining shelves are for kitchen appliances.  The very top of the pantry stores infrequently used appliances and seasonal baking supplies.  The very bottom of the pantry is dedicated to oils and beverages.  Choose an organization approach that fits the space you have.

Choose your pantry space for easy access.  This is not my only pantry cabinet space.  To the left of my stove is a corner cabinet where I store spices, flour, sugar, and onions.

Each shelf in the cabinet is a large lazy susan, making it easy to access items from the deep cabinet.  I also use a smaller lazy susan for the small spice and herb containers.  It is very handy having these items next to my stove and prep space.  Choose pantry space that is accessible to your preparation work area.

Declutter your pantry periodically.  Pantry space can get cluttered and unorganized.  Make time periodically to keep your pantry orderly.  An organized pantry will cut down on wasting precious time when you are preparing meals and will help you save money on your grocery bill.  I don't have a set schedule for decluttering and reorganizing my pantry, but I usually do some tidying up of my pantry space seasonally.  Choose a schedule that works for you.

Stocking Your Pantry

Your pantry must be stocked with the basic items you use regularly for your meal prep.  That's the only way your pantry can help you to save time and money in your meal preparation.  If you feel like your pantry space is cluttered and it is hard to find what you need, it is time to reorganize.  

A pantry checklist will help. To help you with the basics, I have created a free guide for a well-stocked pantry.  It is a checklist of the essential ingredients I keep on hand in my pantry.  This checklist is not all-inclusive.  I was careful to include just my must-have ingredients.  Use this free guide to help you organize and stock your pantry. The checklist will also be a handy shopping list when restocking your pantry.  Keep the checklist handy for your weekly shopping trips.

Essential Kitchen Tools

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