Friday, November 27, 2020

Gift Ideas for Home Cooks

This time of year I'm always struggling with gift ideas for the foodie adults on my gift list.  I thought you might be, too. After all, 2020 has made us all into home cooks, hasn't it? 

I've pulled together a list of the best kitchen essential gift ideas for home cooks. These ideas are based on my own experience.  They represent the kitchen essentials I reach for day after day. They will be appreciated by any home cook on your gift list.

Perfect for Gift Giving Kitchen Essentials

This post contains affiliate links for your shopping convenience.  I receive compensation that supports publishing this blog when you shop using these links.
Kitchen Essentials for Home Cooks

Potholders may seem mundane and boring, but there is nothing more important in the kitchen than potholders you will use.  I especially love thick, colorful, terry potholders because they are so flexible and easy to use.  I've had a variety of potholders over the years but my favorites are these terry potholders.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Five Thanksgiving Appetizers

It's that time of year again.  The holiday season is kicking into full throttle.  If you are like me you are spending a significant amount of time these days thinking about holiday menus, making shopping lists, and planning your holiday preparation.  

Have you decided what appetizers you will serve this Thanksgiving?  If not, I've assembled some suggestions from you.

Five Appetizer Recipes to Rock Thanksgiving


Five Thanksgiving Appetizers
Rock Your Thanksgiving with These Appetizers

This is a list of five of my favorite appetizers. They are tried and true party pleasers.  Choose the one or two that best represent the flavor preferences of your family and you can't go wrong.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Three Thanksgiving Breakfast Ideas to Make Ahead

Thanksgiving morning will be here before you know it. Yes, the holiday is coming.  You want it to be special, but hey, there's a lot of cooking to be done.  No one wants to start with a complicated breakfast!  Here are three suggestions for some special breakfast items that you can make ahead.  That way you can relax a little and have a special Thanksgiving breakfast without throwing off your dinner schedule.

Fall Breakfast-Cranberry Bread, Cran-apple Muffins, Pumpkin Scones

Three Thanksgiving breakfast Ideas

#1  Cranberry Bread

Serves 12
Cranberry Bread Ingredients
Cranberry Bread Ingredients
  • 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 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
  • Raw 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.

Zest the orange and squeeze the juice. Don't you love the scent of that orange zest? Just think how yummy it will make this bread.   Measure the juice in a measuring cup. 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 sugar, if you desire.

Sugar Makes a Crunchy Top
Here We Go...Ready for the Oven

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

Baked Cranberry Bread
Sweet and Tart Cranberry Bread

Get the printable Cranberry Bread recipe.

#2  Cran-Apple Muffins

Makes 10
Cran-apple muffin ingredients
Cran-apple Muffin Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup light sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 medium unpeeled apple, diced
  • 3/4 cup fresh cranberries
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Directions
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease your muffin pan. Whisk the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt together in a medium bowl. In a separate bowl mix together the eggs, brown sugar, oil, sour cream, and vanilla until combined.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix until just combined. Fold in the apples, cranberries, and walnuts all at once.  Don't over mix.

Scoop the batter evenly into the muffin tins. Sprinkle sugar on the top of each muffin for a little extra crunch. I use turbinado sugar.

Cran-apple muffins ready for the oven.
Cran-Apple Muffins Ready for the Oven

Bake for 20 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes in the pan and then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Baked Cran-apple Muffins
Cran-Apple Muffins

Get the printer-friendly Cran-Apple Muffin recipe.

#3  Pumpkin Scones

Makes 12 scones
304 calories per scone, with chocolate chips
The Pumpkin Scone Ingredients
The Pumpkin Scone Ingredients
  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 cup cold butter
  • 2/3 cups canned pumpkin
  • 2 large eggs
  • Turbinado sugar, for topping
  • Milk or cream for brushing the tops of the scones
  • 1 cup chocolate chips, optional

Directions
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and spices. I use my electric stand mixer to mix these scones. Cut the butter into small chunks and add to the flour mixture. Mix with the paddle attachment to incorporate the butter into the flour mixture. Don't worry about getting all the chunks the same size.

Use Your Mixer
Use Your Mixer
Add the chocolate chips if you are using them. They will add an additional 93 calories per scone.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the pumpkin and eggs until smooth. Add this mixture to the dry mixture. Stir until the batter holds together.

Divide the dough in half. On a lightly floured surface, roll into two 6 inch rounds. (5-inch rounds without the add-ins.) Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut each round into six wedges. Place on the baking sheet. Brush the tops with milk or cream and sprinkle with sugar.

The pumpkin scones ready for the oven.
The Scones Topped with Cream and Turbinado Sugar

Bake the scones for 22 to 25 minutes, until they are golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Serve warm.

Baked Pumpkin Scones with Chocolate Chips
Fresh from the Oven Scones
Get the printer-friendly pumpkin scones recipe.

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Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

The Best, Easy Chicken Pot Pie

Comfort food has been a favorite on my menu lately.  You know this if you've been following along regularly.  Trying times call for comfort food, don't you agree?

Chicken pot pie has been on my menu rotation lately.  It's been an easy meal to prepare and oh, so comforting to eat.  You’ll be surprised just how easy it is make chicken pot pie from scratch.  

Here are some keys to an easy, yummy chicken pot pie.


The Best, Easy Chicken Pot Pie



Three Ways to Make Chicken Pot Pie Easy

1. Make chicken pot pie when you have leftover chicken or buy a rotisserie chicken.

2. Use your favorite brand of prepared pie crust. Making your own pie crust from scratch is wonderful, but not the quickest, easiest option.

3. Use a package of frozen mixed vegetables. I like a mixture of carrots, peas, corn, and green beans.

Four Keys to Yummy Chicken Pot Pie

1. Use chicken stock instead of chicken broth. If you have homemade chicken stock on hand you are in luck.  Otherwise, use your favorite brand of prepared chicken stock.

2. Taste your chicken.  Is it well seasoned?  If the chicken tastes bland you'll want to punch up the seasoning.  If your chicken is well-seasoned you can go easier on the additional seasoning.

3. Add a little of your favorite dried herbs.  I like a little Bell's Poultry seasoning or a little thyme.  Choose what you like.

4. Don't skimp on the chicken.  Comfort food is hearty food.  

Chicken Pot Pie

Serves 4-6

Baked Chicken Pot Pie

  • 2-3 cups cooked chicken diced
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 5-Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 3/4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 pkg frozen mixed vegetables
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon favorite dried herbs
  • 2 prepared pie crusts

Directions

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F.  Take your pie crusts out of the refrigerator to warm slightly on your counter before rolling out to use.  Lightly grease your pie plate with a little solid shortening.

Melt the butter in a pot over medium heat.  Add the onion and celery.  Add a little salt and pepper.  I start with a teaspoon of kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Cook until the vegetables soften, about five minutes.

Add the flour to the pan and stir to make a paste.  Cook for about one minute.

Add the milk, chicken stock, and herbs.  Cook until it boils and thickens.  Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed.

Add the frozen vegetables and chicken.  Stir to combine. Remove from the heat.

Remove the pie crusts from the wrappings and flatten.  I like to use my rolling pin to roll them out a little more.  That way I always have plenty of room to crimp the edges. Place one of the crust into the pie plate.  

Add the chicken mixture.  Top with the second crust and crimp the edges.  Cut some vents in the top crust.  Brush on a little milk or cream to encourage browning.  I like the crust on my chicken pot pie to be very brown.

Bake in the center of your preheated oven for about one hour, or until the filling is bubbling. Remove and let sit to cool a bit before cutting. I usually wait for 20-30 minutes.


Enjoy!



Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Pumpkin Scones

Are you ready for another pumpkin recipe?  After all, it is pumpkin month, right?  Isn't October pumpkin month?  Well, it is at my house.  As a result, I've had pumpkin on my mind.

I recently caught a glimpse of some pumpkin scones at one of my favorite local coffee shops. 

I looked but didn't sample the day I saw them.  That's always dangerous because the thought of those scones got stuck in my brain in the same way the song, Mama Mia, just won't leave me after I hear it.  You know what I mean, don't you?

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Scones for a fall breakfast


Scones are a funny baked good.  They seem like a cross between a biscuit and a muffin.  At their best, scones have a crisp exterior with a soft, tender crumb.  Scones are lovely with a hot cup of coffee or tea.

Making scones is surprisingly easy.  The one key to successful scones is not to overwork your batter.  Just stir until the mixture just comes together.

Freezing unbaked scones makes it possible to have a warm scone with your morning coffee any time you wish.  Just follow the freezing suggestion below.

These scones have everything you love about a scone and more.  The pumpkin ensures a moist, tender crumb.  The spices are aromatic and scream fall.  Finally, the chocolate chips add sweet decadence.  

So yummy! 

Pumpkin Scones

Makes 12 scones
304 calories per scone, with chocolate chips
  • Pumpkin Scones ready for baking.
    2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 cup cold butter
  • 2/3 cups canned pumpkin
  • 2 large eggs
  • sparkling sugar, for topping
  • Milk or cream for brushing the tops of the scones
  • 1 cup of chocolate chips

 
Directions
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.  In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and spices.  

Use your electric stand mixer to mix these scones, mixing until the ingredients resemble crumbs.  Cut the butter into small chunks and add to the flour mixture.  Mix with the paddle attachment to incorporate the butter into the flour mixture.  Don't worry about getting all the chunks the same size.

Add the chocolate chips if you are using them.  They will add an additional 93 calories per scone, but it will be worth it.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the pumpkin and eggs until smooth.  Add this mixture to the dry mixture.  Stir until the batter holds together.

Divide the dough in half.  On a lightly floured surface, roll into two 6 inch rounds. 

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Cut each round into six wedges.  At this point, you can freeze the six of the wedges for another day.  I like to wrap them individually in plastic wrap before freezing so I can bake as many as I want at a time.

Place on the baking sheet.  Brush the tops with milk or cream and sprinkle with sparkling sugar.

Bake the scones for 22 to 25 minutes, until they are golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Serve warm.

Baked Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Scones
Fresh  from the Oven Scones


You can enjoy pumpkin month along with me by making these scones.  Just click the link for the printable pumpkin scones recipe.

Enjoy!