Monday, November 18, 2019

Sweet and Tart Cranberry Orange Quick Bread

Cranberry bread is a delightful alternative to muffins this time of year.  It's cranberry season so there is no better time to make this bread.  Make an extra loaf or two for your freezer.  One loaf just won't be enough.  The combination of sweet and tart flavors make this a favorite of mine. The addition of orange and nuts makes the aroma divine while adding a healthy twist.  Each slice of this cranberry bread has 228 calories.

Cranberry Orange Quick Bread for Breakfast or Snacks

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Cranberry Bread for Breakfast

This cranberry bread recipe is a tradition in my family.  This recipe comes to you via my mom who always had a platter of various quick breads ready for us for holiday breakfasts.  This is a festive way to keep the family satisfied on those mornings when you may be too busy for a big breakfast.  Make a loaf or two now and pop them in the freezer for Christmas morning.  Yum!
Cranberry Quick Bread

This cranberry bread really is quick to make.  I make this entirely by hand, without the assistance of any electric kitchen gadgets.  A pastry blender makes the process of cutting in the vegetable shortening a breeze.  The technique is simple as well.  Just combine the dry ingredients, add the wet ingredients all at once and fold in the nuts and berries.  One..two...three...let's make it!

Cranberry Bread

Printer Friendly Recipe
Cranberry Quick Bread
Serves 12
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1 cup fresh cranberries, chopped
  • 3/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • Zest of one orange
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts, walnuts or pistachios
  • Raw or sparkling sugar, for topping, optional
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Lightly grease a standard loaf pan.  In a medium bowl mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Stir with a whisk to combine well.  Cut in the shortening until the mixture resembles cornmeal.

A Pastry Blender Works Great
Zest the orange and squeeze the juice. Take a deep breath as you zest that orange.  The scent of the orange will brighten your day as well as add flavor to this yummy bread.  Measure the juice in a measuring cup.  Depending on the juiciness of your orange, you may need to add more juice to get 3/4 cups.   Add the zest and the egg to the juice and mix to combine.  Add the juice mixture to the dry mixture all at once and stir just to combine.

Add the cranberries and nuts to the mixture all at once.  Using a spatula, fold in the nuts and cranberries to distribute.  Pour the batter into the greased loaf pan.  Sprinkle with raw or sparkling sugar, if you desire.

The Sugar Makes a Crunchy Topping

Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool completely before serving.

Are you looking for some other morning pastry suggestions?
Pumpkin Bread and Pumpkin Muffins
Morning Glory Muffins
Pumpkin Scones
Cran-apple Muffins

Essential Kitchen Tools

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Thursday, November 14, 2019

Family Friendly Shepherd's Pie

Every few months I make a point to dive into my freezer to see what items may have been overlooked for too long.  Sometimes I go overboard when I stock up on meats and vegetables and as a result, I may not use them as quickly as I thought I would in my menu planning.

If that is true for you as well, you may want to take a look into the black hole of your freezer and plan some meals to use up those overlooked ingredients.

I found a couple of pounds of ground beef and an open, one pound bag of corn kernels in my freezer.  Those two ingredients called out to me loudly and clearly.  Yes, they told me it was time to make Shepherd's Pie.  Shepherd's Pie is a family-friendly meal that can be made for a few or many.

Rustic Shepherd's Pie for Dinner

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Rustic Shepherd's Pie for Dinner

Shepherd's pie is a meal that I have always prepared without a recipe.  My version is a simple dish, consisting of a layer of flavored browned ground beef, topped with a layer of corn kernels and
crowned with a layer of tasty mashed potatoes.

Since I wanted to share my version with all of you, I decided to check out other shepherd's pie recipes online.  What I found out is that the dish I have called shepherd's pie all my life is actually referred to as cottage pie because it is made with beef.  Shepherd's pie is traditionally made with lamb.  That may be true, but I'll continue to call my recipe Shepherd's Pie.

I also found that there are nearly as many versions of shepherd's pie as there are home cooks. So, I hope if you decide to make Shepherd's (or cottage) Pie for your family you will adapt this recipe to your family's tastes.  If you do, it is sure to become a family favorite.
Family Friendly Shepherd's Pie

Donna's Shepherd's Pie

Serves 4-6
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup of water
  • 3 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 1 pound bag frozen corn kernels, thawed and drained
  • 6 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup shredded mild cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Place the potatoes in a medium pot, covered with water.  Cover the pot and bring to a boil over high heat.

Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook the potatoes until a fork is easily inserted into the potatoes, about 10-15 minutes.

While the potatoes are cooking, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the onions, cooking until they start to take on a little color.  Add the minced garlic to the onions, cooking for about one minute.

Add the ground beef to the pan, breaking up the clumps of beef.  Season the beef with salt and pepper, starting with 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper.   Continue to cook until the beef is nicely browned.

Sprinkle the 2 tablespoons of flour over the beef, stirring to distribute the flour.  Cook for about 1 minute.

Add the water, stirring to make a sauce.  Cook the mixture until you see the sauce begin to thicken, about 2-3 minutes.

Taste the mixture again and add the rest of the salt and pepper as needed.  Cover the pan and turn off the heat.

The Saucy Beef Layer
Thicken with Flour and Make A Sauce
Drain the potatoes.  Add the butter, sour cream, cheddar cheese, salt, and pepper.

Mash the potatoes and additional ingredients together until smooth and fluffy.  I like to start my mashed potatoes with this potato masher and finish with my hand mixer.

Taste the potatoes and add salt and pepper as needed.

Making Mashed Potatoes
Mash the Potatoes
Spoon the beef mixture into a casserole dish, spreading to cover the bottom of the pan evenly.

The Ground Beef Makes the First Layer
The Seasoned Beef Layer
Pour the corn over the beef layer, spreading to distribute evenly.

Top the corn layer with the mashed potatoes, being sure to spread the potatoes to the edges of the pan.  This will seal the moisture from the beef and corn layers under the potatoes.

At this point, you may cover and refrigerate or freeze the Shepherd's Pie.

The Corn Layer
The Sweet Corn Layer
About an hour before serving, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and remove the Shepherd's Pie from the refrigerator.  Place the casserole dish on the center rack of the preheated oven.

Mashed Potatoes Top the Shepherd's Pie
Oven Ready Shepherd's Pie
Bake for 45 minutes, or until the potatoes are browned and the center of the casserole is bubbly.  Remove from the oven and let sit for 10-15 minutes.

Serve with a crisp salad or your favorite green vegetable.

Shepherd's Pie for Dinner
Shepherd's Pie for Dinner
Make this family-friendly meal for dinner tonight!

Essential Tools
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Monday, November 11, 2019

Crunchy Crab Cakes

Are you a crab cake lover?  If you are, this crab cake recipe will float your boat!

Crab cakes are one of those things I have typically reserved for a treat when I eat out.  When I go to a restaurant I like to order something I don't make for myself at home.  Crab cakes aren't hard to make at home but finding the lump crab meat to use in the recipe has been more of a challenge than I like when cooking at home.

Crunchy Crab Cakes

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Delicious Crunchy Crab Cakes
Crab Cakes
I found a local grocery store that is stocking the canned lump crab meat on a regular basis.  I was also able to get a can at my local BJ's last week.  That means I can now make these delicious crab cakes at home and have them any time I desire.

I like to make a batch of these crab cakes for the freezer.  That way they become a quick, easy, delicious dinner any day of the week. Stocking your freezer with crab cakes is easy.  You'll find the directions I follow in the recipe below.

Crunchy Cakes
You can make larger crab cakes for dinner-sized portions or smaller crab cakes for appetizers.  Wouldn't these wow your guests for the holidays? I divide the mixture into eight potions when making dinner-sized crab cakes and twelve portions for appetizer crab cakes.

I also like to serve my crab cakes with spicy sriracha mayo.   Just add as much sriracha sauce to your favorite mayonnaise as you like to get the level of heat you prefer.  Yummy!

Crab Cakes Recipe

Printer Friendly Recipe
For the Crab Cakes
Easy Crab Cakes
Crab Cakes Before Baking

  • 1 tbsp. butter and a touch of olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, minced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
  • 1/2 tsp. Old Bay crab boil seasoning
  • 3 Tablespoons half-and-half
  • 1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tablespoon minced parsley
  • 1/2 cup panko crumbs
  • 1 lb. lump crab meat (I use canned lump crab meat)


  • 1/2 cup panko crumbs
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. melted butter

Saute vegetables in the butter and olive oil over medium heat until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the Old Bay seasoning, half and half, and mustard to the vegetable mixture. Mix well. Set aside to cool.

Add the egg, parsley and bread crumbs, mixing well. Gently fold in the crab. Divide the mixture into eight or twelve equal amounts. I make eight crab cakes when I am making dinner-sized portions. Form into patties with the palms of your hands.

Stir together the bread crumbs, oil, butter, and Parmesan cheese. Pat topping onto both sides of the crabcakes and place them onto a greased cookie sheet and refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours.

You can freeze your crab cakes at this point.  Just wrap each crab cake in plastic wrap and then place the wrapped cakes in a zipper closure plastic bag for freezing. There is no need to thaw your crab cakes before baking them.

When ready to bake, preheat your oven and bake at 425ยบ for 10 - 13 minutes. Frozen crab cakes will take about twenty minutes to bake. Serve with sriracha mayo.

Kitchen Essentials for This Recipe


Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Butternut Squash Soup with a Little Heat

Butternut squash soup is usually the first soup I make as the weather turns chilly here in New England. I love it.  I love the color of butternut squash soup.  It screams fall to me.  I love the texture of butternut squash soup because it is perfect for dipping a slice of warm crusty bread.  Most of all, I love that this soup is easy to make.

Today's recipe makes a butternut squash soup with a little heat.  The heat comes from the addition of jalapeno peppers as one of the vegetables in the soup.  I use two jalapeno peppers when I make this soup.  Use only one if you want just a hint of heat.  Yes, you can leave the jalapeno peppers out of the soup altogether and still have a yummy soup.

Butternut Squash Soup with Jalapeno Peppers

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Butternut Squash Soup
This butternut squash is one of the easiest soups you'll ever make.  The hardest part is cutting up the butternut squash but you can get around that by buying the squash already cut into cubes. If you do buy a whole butternut squash be sure to have a good knife on hand.  I prefer to use a santoku knife. I'm including an Amazon link to the one I like below.

Butternut Squash Soup with Jalapeno Peppers
This soup has three steps.  First, you'll cut the vegetables and place them on a pan for roasting. Second, the vegetables will roast in your oven for thirty to forty minutes while you go about your busy life.  Third, you'll puree the vegetables and mix them with chicken stock. Voila! You have a yummy soup.

You will need a kitchen tool for pureeing the vegetables.  I prefer to use a food processor or an immersion blender.  Choose the tool you like best. Just be sure to cool the vegetables a bit before pureeing.

Butternut Squash Soup with Heat

Vegetables for Butternut Squash Soup

2 pounds butternut squash, cubed
1 medium onion, chunked
2 seeded jalapeno peppers, red ones work best
1 rib of celery, chunks
2 large cloves of garlic
4 cups chicken (or vegetable) stock
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
honey, to taste

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Prepare the vegetables and place them in a bowl.  Toss the vegetables with the extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Place the vegetables on a sheet pan.  Roast the vegetables for thirty to 40 minutes, until they are soft but not browned.

Cool the vegetables for about fifteen minutes.  Place half of the vegetables in the bowl of a food processor with about one cup of chicken stock.  Puree the vegetables with the stock until smooth.  Transfer the mixture to your soup pot.  Repeat with the remaining vegetables and another cup of stock.  Add the pureed mixture and the rest of the chicken stock to the soup pot.

Heat the soup over medium heat.  Add a tablespoon or two of honey to get the level of sweetness you desire.  Add salt and pepper as needed.

I love to serve my soup with some crusty bread for dipping in the soup.  So yummy!

Kitchen Essentials

Monday, November 4, 2019

Killer Cranberry Sauce with Orange and Ginger

This cranberry sauce recipe is just in time for your Thanksgiving meal planning. With just four simple ingredients you'll have a festive and delicious side to add to your holiday dinner.

Cranberry sauce is a funny thing.  Do you prefer chunky or jellied? Ask folks and they will have a definite preference.  The response seems to be related to whichever is served at their family's traditional Thanksgiving dinner.  In my family it was always jellied cranberry sauce, sliced perfectly.  It just wouldn't be Thanksgiving without it.  As a matter of fact, I always refused to eat chunky cranberry sauce, not being able to fathom how I could possibly enjoy chunks in my cranberry sauce.

A Delicious Fresh Cranberry Sauce

Killer Cranberry Sauce with Orange and Ginger
Killer Cranberry Sauce

I'm evidence that you can teach an old dog new tricks.  Yes, sirree.  Several years ago, I decided to step out of my comfort zone by making a chunky cranberry sauce.

Chunky Cranberry Sauce
One bite of this cranberry sauce and I became a lover of chunky cranberry sauce.  The orange and ginger will hook you.  Oh, we still serve the jellied kind at my house, but now there is a choice of either or both.  It's the best of both worlds.

Cranberry Sauce Ingredients
Four Simple Ingredients

Killer Cranberry Sauce

  • 1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 navel orange, zested and juiced
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • 4 cups fresh cranberries
  • 1/2 cup toasted pecans, optional

Grate the zest of the orange and add to a pot with the sugar and the ginger.  Juice the orange and add the juice to the pot with the sugar.

Simmer the mixture over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved.  Add the cranberries and cook until the cranberries pop.  That usually takes about five minutes.  Add the pecans, if desired, and cool.   I chose not to add nuts to this batch of cranberry sauce.

Cooking Cranberries
Cook until the Cranberries Pop
Of course, this makes the perfect accompaniment for your Thanksgiving dinner, but it can also be enjoyed beyond your Thanksgiving dinner.

Some ideas for using your cranberry sauce:
  • Spoon warm sauce over vanilla ice cream, or mix in with plain or vanilla-flavored yogurt for a tasty dessert. 
  • Jazz up your deli turkey.  Make a sandwich using the cranberry sauce as your sandwich spread.   
  • Mix 1/4 cup in with your morning oatmeal to put some zip in your morning.
Go ahead and make some of this yummy cranberry sauce today.  You will love it!

It's time to stock up on some kitchen essentials for holiday food preparation,

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