Gifts with Themes

When you find yourself wondering what to get the foodie on your list this year, you know you can rely on Seasoned Cooking to help you out! This year, we are taking a look at three major gift themes and offering a wide variety of options within to let you mix and match to suit your own tastes and budget.


    Food TV hostess and writer, Sandra Lee has her very own Semi-Homemade empire. But that hasn't always been the case. In her new autobiography, Made From Scratch, she tells the tale of her humble upbringing, the challenges that she faced as she built her first business, only to fail, and how she rose from the ashes of that to create the Semi-Homemade cookbooks and programs we've come to know and love. For anyone that's a fan of her work, this book is both inspiring and entertaining. Some fun things to pair with the book include:
    • Any of her cookbooks, including Semi-Homemade Cooking 3, Semi-Homade Slow Cooker Recipes 2, and Semi-Homade 20-Minute Meals 2;
    • A basket with assorted items commonly used in Sandra Lee's recipes, such as brined olives, assorted packets of specialty flavored instant oatmeal, jars of roasted red peppers, bottles of your favorite gourmet salad dressings or marinades, and decorating items for cakes and cookies;
    • Better yet, consider tucking a couple books and ingredients into a large slow cooker ... make sure you include one of Sandra Lee's slow cooker cookbooks;

    To get an idea of the kinds of recipes Sandra Lee favors in her cookbooks, here are two from two of her most recent offerings:

Chicken Pasta Milanese

From Semi-Homemade Cooking 20-Minute Meals 2
  • 12 ounces refrigerated fettucini, about 1 1/3 (9-ounce) package, Buitoni
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, Bertolli
  • 3/4 pound boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 package (8-ounce) sliced fresh brown mushrooms
  • 1 teaspoon crushed garlic, Christopher Ranch
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning, McCormick
  • 3 cups baby arugula, Fresh Express
  • 1 can (15-ounce) diced tomatoes with basil and oregano, S&W
  • 3 cups white wine
  • Shredded Parmesan cheese, DiGiorno
1. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta according to package instructions. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat and add chicken, mushrooms, garlic, and Italian seasoning. Cook and stir until chicken is cooked through and mushrooms have released their juices, about 8 to 10 minutes. 2. Add arugula and cook and stir until wilted. Add tomatoes and wine. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 4 to 5 minutes. Drain pasta and toss with chicken mixture. Serve immediately with shredded Parmesan cheese.
  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 20 minutes

Pumpkin Maple Bread Pudding

From Semi-Homemade Cooking 3
  • Butter-flavored nonstick cooking spray
  • 1 loaf (16-ounce) cinnamon-raisin swirl bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes, Oroweat
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans, Planters
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice, McCormick
  • 1/2 cup real grade A maple syrup
  • 1 can (15-ounce) solid pack pumpkin, Libby's
  • 1 jar (4.5-ounce) brandied hard sauce, Crosse & Blackwell
  • 1 teaspoon maple extract, McCormick
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly spray a 3-quart casserole dish with butter-flavored cooking spray. Toss together cubed raisin bread and pecans in casserole dish. In a large bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients, except hard sauce and maple extract. Pour over bread cubes. Let soak for 1 hour, occasionally pressing bread down into custard. 2. Bake bread pudding in preheated oven for approximately 1 hour, or until knife inserted into the center comes out clean. 3. Remove hard sauce lide and place jar in a microwave-safe bowl. Fill bowl with water halfway up the side of the jar. Heat on HIGH in microwave for 30 to 45 seconds. Remove and stir in maple extract. Drizzle over bread pudding.
  • Yields: 10 servings
  • Preparation Time: 1 hour 15 minutes

Coffee Guru

    Coffee is hot. Well, the kind that's meant to be served that way, that is! Iced coffee is, well, cold. But that's a subject for another article. In this context, coffee and coffee gear make a great gift for the guru in your life. Besides the obvious beans and/or ground coffee options, here are some fun things to consider:
    • For many, coffee is as simple as pouring a cup from the maker. Others take it to an art form. For those people, consider a copy of Maxwell House Coffee Drinks & Desserts Cookbook: From Lattes and Muffins to Decadent Cakes and Midnight Treats. By the time you've flipped through the first few pages, you will be wanting to brew your own and enjoy.
    • Of course, there's always the tried and true gift of specialty beans with chocolate-covered spoons and such all tucked into a really great mug. But don't just choose any mug. Try to find something that really suits the recipient. You can even find services that will put your photo on a mug for you ... so think outside the cup, er, box!
    • Cuisinart just introduced an automatic coffeemaker with a built-in burr grinder this fall. While it's about $170, it does take all the guesswork out of brewing the perfect pot and takes their earlier idea of a built-in grinder and elevates it to heaven with a burr grinder addition. The Grind & Brew 12-Cup Automatic Coffeemaker from Cuisinart will have the coffee guru on your list smiling from ear to ear.

Baking Bug

    The colder months of the year scream for more baking. The holidays are a perfect time to encourage that habit in a friend that loves baking. And with all kinds of advances in materials and ingredients, you can opt for so much more than a metal baking pan and a boxed mix. Here are some suggestions:
    • A selection of hotpads and trivets in some of the newest materials might impress. Beautiful tempered glass trivets are decorative and durable. Consider silicone hotpads that are great insulators that are easy to keep clean.
    • Consider pairing a baking cookbook with items for decorating desserts and nestle them all in a baking pan of your choice. A beautiful bundt pan could be especially decorative!
    • Pair a muffin tin with a small jar of preserves nestled into each of the muffin cups. What a great way to encourage a taste test!
Whatever you opt to get for the foodies on your list, just remember that, for most of us, cooking is about sharing and love. So it only seems appropriate that this holiday season would feature cooking, sharing and love in abundance! Seasoned Greetings!