Cookbook Review

As an internationally-acclaimed home and food expert, Sandra Lee is known for giving practical tips to make everyday living a little bit sweeter and simpler, allowing today’s busy homemaker to take 100% of the credit for something that seems as if it were time-consuming and intricate. Semi-Homemade Money Saving Meals is packed with shortcuts that will inspire you to stock your pantry with the building blocks of a mouth-watering meal that you can feel good about serving, without spending hours shopping and cooking.

With the holidays upon us, Sandra is offering some keen advice for entertaining without a lot of effort or fuss:

  1. Expect unexpected guests. Shortbread, biscotti, pirouettes, truffles, and fine chocolates go well with coffee or liqueur and can be kept indefinitely.
  2. Give a frozen pie scratch appeal. Brush the top of a frozen apple pie with melted butter and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar during the last ten minutes of baking. When serving, sprinkle the plate with cinnamon and serve warm with a spoonful of mascarpone cheese lightly dusted with cinnamon.
  3. Add aromatics. Heat purchased gravy with bay leaves, peppercorns, dried herbs, or pearl onions to make it smell homemade. Pour it in a gravy boat and it'll be your little secret.
  4. Greet guests with no-bake sweets. Dip candy canes in melted chocolate and let them harden on waxed paper. Arrange on a tray for guests or wrap in bow-tied cellophane to give as gifts.
  5. Show your holiday spirits. Skewer fresh cranberries on a 4-inch bamboo skewer for a colorful cocktail swizzle. Or drop a few berries into a glass of Champagne to add a splash of color.

Find more ideas and tips at Sandra's website.

And this wouldn't be complete without a selection of recipes to try. Here's a simple holiday menu from Sandra's Semi-Homemade Money Saving Meals cookbook:

  • Sausage-Stuffed Mushrooms
  • Mandarin Cranberry Rice Dressing
  • Buttered Brussels Sprouts and Carrots
  • Orange and Bourbon-Grilled Turkey Tenderloins
  • Bourbon Sweet Potato Pie

Sausage-Stuffed Mushrooms

  • Nonstick cooking spray, Pam®
  • 28 large white button mushrooms (each about 2 inches in diameter)
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, Bertolli®
  • 1 pound spicy pork sausage, Jimmy Dean®
  • 2 teaspoons Greek seasoning, McCormick®
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 package (10-ounce) frozen chopped spinach, cooked and well-drained, Birds Eye®
  • 1 jar (4-ounce) chopped pimiento, drained, Dromedary®
  • 1/3 cup shredded Romano cheese, DiGiorno®
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Wipe mushrooms clean but do not get them wet. Remove mushroom stems; reserve. Lightly spray mushroom caps inside and out with cooking spray; set aside. Finely chop the mushroom stems; set aside.
  2. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Break up sausage into skillet; add chopped mushroom stems, Greek seasoning, and salt. Cook until sausage is crumbled and cooked through. Transfer sausage mixture to a bowl. Add spinach, pimiento, Romano cheese, and eggs; stir to combine.
  3. Stuff each mushroom with about 2 tablespoons of the sausage mixture, pressing firmly into the mushroom. Place stuffed mushrooms on prepared baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes just until mushrooms are tender and stuffing is heated through. Sprinkle with additional Romano cheese (optional).
  • Preparation Time: 40 minutes
  • Yields: 28 servings

Mandarin-Cranberry Rice Dressing

  • 1 box (6.2-ounce) fast-cooking long grain and wild rice, Uncle Ben's®
  • 1 cup frozen seasoning-blend vegetables, Pictsweet®
  • 3/4 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth, Swanson®
  • 1 can (11-ounce) mandarin orange segments, drained, Geisha®
  • 1/2 cup whole berry cranberry sauce, Ocean Spray®
  • 1/3 cup chopped pecans, Diamond®
  1. In a medium saucepan, combine rice, vegetable blend, and chicken broth. Bring to a boil; reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand about 5 minutes or until broth is absorbed. Stir in mandarin oranges, cranberry sauce, and pecans.
  • Preparation Time: 20 minutes
  • Yields: 4 servings

Buttered Brussels Sprouts and Carrots

  • 1 bag (16-ounce) frozen Brussels sprouts, Birds Eye®
  • 2 cups frozen sliced carrots, Birds Eye®
  • 1 cup frozen chopped onions, Ore-Ida®
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) butter
  • 1/3 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice, Minute Maid®
  1. In a large microwave-safe bowl, combine Brussels sprouts, carrots, onions, and the water. Cover and microwave on high setting (100 percent power) for 3 to 5 minutes or until Brussels sprouts are hot throughout, stirring once or twice. Drain well. Stir in butter. Cover and microwave 2 to 3 minutes more or until butter is melted, stirring once or twice. Add walnuts and lemon juice; toss until well mixed.
  • Preparation Time: 5 minutes
  • Yields: 10 servings

Orange- and Bourbon-Grilled Turkey Tenderloins

  • 2 pounds turkey breast tenderloins
  • 1/2 cup orange juice, Minute Maid®
  • 1/4 cup bourbon, Jim Beam®
  • 2 tablespoons molasses, Grandma's®
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, Grey Poupon®
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce, Kikkoman®
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice, McCormick®
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  1. Rinse turkey with cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Place turkey in a large zip-top plastic bag; set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together orange juice, bourbon, molasses, mustard, soy sauce, and pumpkin pie spice; pour over turkey in bag. Squeeze air from bag and seal. Marinate in refrigerator for at least 4 hours or up to 6 hours. Remove turkey from marinade; discard marinade. Let stand at room temperature for 20 minutes.
  2. Set up grill for direct grilling over medium-high heat. Oil grate when ready to start cooking. Pat tenderloins dry with paper towels. Brush with the 2 tablespoons oil; season with salt and pepper. Place turkey on hot oiled grill. Cook for 4 to 6 minutes per side or until cooked through and no longer pink in the center (170 degrees F). Slice tenderloins.
  • Preparation Time: 30 minutes, plus 4-6 hours for marinading
  • Yields: 6 servings

Bourbon Sweet Potato Pie

  • 1 frozen deep-dish piecrust, Marie Callender's®
  • 1 bag (24-ounce) frozen cut sweet potatoes, Ore-Ida® Steam n' Mash
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 can (5-ounce) evaporated milk, Carnation®
  • 1/4 cup bourbon, Jim Beam®
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice, McCormick®
  • Purchased caramel sauce (optional)
  • Chopped toasted pecans (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Let piecrust thaw for 10 minutes. Prick the bottom and sides of crust with a fork. Bake on a baking sheet in preheated oven for 8 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare sweet potatoes as directed on package. Mash cooked sweet potatoes with butter. Stir in sugar, eggs, evaporated milk, bourbon, and pumpkin spice; pour into pie shell. Leaving pie on baking sheet, bake for 10 minutes.
  3. Reduce oven to 350 degrees F and continue baking for 50 to 60 minutes or until a knife inserted 1 inch off-center comes away clean. Cool for 2 hours before slicing. Drizzle individual slices with caramel sauce and sprinkle with toasted pecans (optional).
  • Preparation Time: 1 hour 40 minutes, plus 2 hours cooling time
  • Yields: 8 servings