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Monday, May 23, 2016

Inside-Out Chocolate Cupcakes

This recipe for Inside Out Chocolate Whoopie Cupcakes is the result of my long-standing love of whoopie pies. Whoopie pies have long been one of my favorite treats.  My mom used to spoil my brothers and me by making huge batches of whoopie pies that would be waiting for us after school.   Our family's traditional whoopie pie recipe is made with a filling that cooks together milk, flour, and vegetable shortening.  We are not fans of the fillings that use a marshmallow fluff base.  We're very fussy like that!

Inside-Out Chocolate Whoopie Cupcakes

These chocolate cupcakes have all of the things we love about whoopie pies.  They start with a moist and delicious chocolate cupcake. The chocolate cupcake is filled with the traditional whoopie pie cream filling and then that same cream filling is used as the frosting on top.  You can't get any better than that.  Yummy cream inside and outside!  That's why I call these cupcakes Inside-Out Chocolate Whoopie Cupcakes.

Long gone are the days when I could or would eat two or three whoopie pies after school, but I still love to make desserts that remind me of those days gone by.  I can tell you that without a doubt these cupcakes will make a special treat for those in your life with a sweet tooth.  These cupcakes will also be a hit at your picnics this summer.  Don't worry about the cream filling and frosting.  Cooking the ingredients makes the filling very stable.

Inside-Out Chocolate Whoopie Cupcakes
Very Chocolate Cupcake Ingredients
Printer Friendly Recipe
Makes 20 cupcakes

For the Cupcakes:

  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cups buttermilk, shaken
  • 6 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 1-teaspoon vanilla

Directions
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Fill the cups of your muffins tins with paper liners.  In a bowl, add the dry ingredients: cocoa, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt.  Stir to combine.
With your electric mixer on low (I used my hand mixer for this) stir in the eggs, water, buttermilk, vegetable oil and vanilla until combined.  Mix on medium speed for about 2 minutes until the ingredients are fully combined and the batter is smooth.  For uniform cupcakes, use a scoop to divide the batter into the muffin cups.  Bake for about 20 minutes on the center rack of the oven.  


The Cooling Cupcakes

Let cupcakes cool in the pan completely before filling and frosting them.



The Whoopie Cream Filling
For the Filling
  • 1-cup milk
  • 3 Tablespoons flour
  • 1-cup solid shortening
  • 1-cup sugar
  • 1-tsp vanilla

Directions

To make the filling: In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the milk and flour.  Cook, stirring constantly until the mixture forms a thick paste. Let cool.
In a medium bowl, beat sugar and shortening until fluffy. Add vanilla. Add cooled flour mixture and beat until double in volume.  The filling will be smooth and creamy.


To Fill and Frost the Cupcakes

Use a pastry bag to squirt the whoopie pie filling into the center of the Very Chocolate Cupcakes.  It is easy to squirt the filling into the top of the cupcake.  You'll be frosting over the top so no one will know how the filling was inserted.
Filling the Cupcakes with Cream Filling
Pipe additional whoopie pie filling on top of the Very Chocolate cupcakes.
Inside Out Chocolate Whoopie Cupcakes
Moist, chocolate cupcakes are always a big hit.  Make them even better with the addition of whoopie pie cream filling and frosting.  So good!

Here are a couple of other cupcake recipes you may enjoy:
Boston Cream Cupcakes
Red Velvet Cupcakes #1
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Enjoy!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Grilled Corn with Chili-Lime Butter

Grilled Corn on the Cob with Chili-Lime Butter
Do you grill your corn on the cob? Today I'm sharing my favorite grilled corn recipe and the timing for this recipe couldn't be any better.  As I look forward to the upcoming grilling season, I can't help but think about how delicious corn on the cob is when grilled. I bet if you grill your corn on the cob you'll never want to eat it any other way.  With Memorial Day and Fourth of July picnics in our future, what side dish do you automatically think about having?  Well, it's corn on the cob, of course, made even better with chili-lime butter.

Grilling corn on the cob is as easy as can be. There are many ways you can cook your corn on the grill. Some suggest grilling corn on the cob in the husk or wrapped in foil or straight up on the grill.  I always choose to grill my corn straight on the grill because I want a bit of grilled flavor added to my corn as a flavor base before adding my favorite chili-lime butter to season it.  Plain butter is fine, but adding the chili-lime butter will take your corn from good to great!  Make some chili-lime butter today and keep it in your freezer so it will be ready when you need it.

Chili-Lime Butter
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 lime, zested and juiced
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
Mix the butter, juice of one lime, lime zest, cilantro, chili powder, garlic and black pepper together in a small bowl until well combined.  Place the butter mixture on a piece of wax paper.  Roll the butter mixture into a log shape, twist the ends and refrigerate until chilled and the butter is solid.

Are you ready to grill your corn on the cob?  You'll want to preheat your grill to get it good and hot.  I use a gas grill, but a charcoal grill works as well.  While your grill is preheating, remove the husk and the silks from the corn.  Some people like to keep the husks attached. If you do, you'll want to soak the husks in water before you grill so they don't burn to a crisp.  I think it is easier just remove the husks completely and toss them in the compost before grilling.

Fresh Corn on the Cob
Rub the each cob of corn all over with olive oil.  Don't bother to add any flavoring at this point.  The flavor will come from the chili-lime butter after the corn is cooked.  Place the corn directly on the hot grill over high heat; rotating it frequently so no one spot is overly charred.  It will take about 10 minutes to cook the corn and you'll want some of those tasty kernels to be blackened.  Those little charred spots will give your corn its delicious grilled flavor.

Let Your Corn Get some Color on the Grill
Once the corn is cooked, place it on a serving platter and slather it with the chili-lime butter.  Add a sprinkling of kosher salt and a couple of twists of fresh ground pepper and you are good to go.

Slather on the Chili-Lime Butter

Yummy grilled corn with chili-lime-butter!  Enjoy some this weekend.  You can also use the chili-lime butter in this recipe for Cumin-Rubbed Steaks.

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Monday, May 16, 2016

A Quick Dinner-Chicken Fajitas

Are you looking for a quick, weeknight dinner suggestion?  Do you want a meal that is delicious and easy to put on the table after work?  The answer is fajitas!  Don't you just love to order fajitas when you eat out?  The warm flour tortillas, the sizzling vegetables, and the flavorful chicken or beef are delicious.  You don't have to go out for yummy fajitas.  You can make fajitas at home in no time flat.  Yes, you can.

Chicken fajitas are a favorite at my house.  All this fajitas recipe takes is a little thinking ahead to make sure all the ingredients and toppings are on hand in the refrigerator or pantry.  I marinate the chicken in a prepared dressing, cut up the vegetables and I am ready to go.  As the weather starts to warm up here in the Northeast I find myself craving dinners that can be cooked on our outdoor grill. The outdoor grill is perfect for weeknight dinners like fajitas.  Cooking fajitas on the grill is quick and easy and clean-up is a breeze!

Another great thing about making chicken fajitas is that you can add the chicken and grilled vegetables to a green salad and enjoy a lower calorie and low carb version of this dinner while the rest of the family enjoys the fajitas. Often, that's what I do.  This is a fun meal. Quick, easy, delicious and fun.  What's better than that?  Let's make fajitas for dinner, shall we?

Chicken Fajitas
Print Recipe
Serves 4

Chicken Fajitas Ingredients
Ingredients

  • 4 boneless chicken breast cutlets, sliced or pounded thin
  • 1/4 cup of your favorite herb-flavored, oil-based salad dressing ( I like Kraft Robusto Italian)
  • Southwest seasoning (make your own)
  • 1 package flour tortillas
  • 1 onion, sliced in large chunks
  • 2 bell peppers, one red, one green
  • 1 small zucchini, sliced

Condiments and Toppings

  • Sour Cream
  • Guacamole
  • Salsa
  • Sliced black olives
  • Shredded Mexican Cheese blend


Directions
In a glass-baking dish, pour Italian dressing over the chicken breasts to coat.  Don't use too much, you just want to coat the chicken breasts with the dressing.  Sprinkle the Southwest seasoning over both sides of the chicken breasts.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.  You can do this up to a day in advance.

About 10 minutes before you are ready to cook, slice the onion, peppers, and zucchini into a bowl.  I like to add zucchini to the mix to up the vegetable quotient and overall nutrition of this meal.  Toss the vegetables with 2 tablespoons of Italian dressing and some fresh ground black pepper. Set aside.

Preheat your grill.  I use a gas grill, so all it takes is a push of a button to get things going.  Place your vegetables in your vegetable grill basket, and cook them until softened and browned around the edges, but still crisp.  Remove from the grill, cover and set aside.

Next, cook your chicken breasts 3-5 minutes per side until cooked through.  They should read 185 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer.  Remove them from the grill onto a plate and cover with aluminum foil.  Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes to absorb the juices, and then slice lengthwise into strips.  Meanwhile, heat the tortillas, either in foil on the grill or in your microwave oven.

Chicken Fajitas for Dinner
That's all there is to it.  Call the family to the table and everyone can make their own fajitas.  Serve with a flavorful rice and a fresh garden salad and you have a festive and fun feast!   Everyone will be happy, happy, happy!

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Enjoy!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

How to Care for African Violets

The burst of color from African violet flowers can really brighten up your home and perk up your spirits.  Is your thumb more brown than green?  Not to worry, African violet care is very easy.

African violets like diffused bright light.  I have them in rooms with either a southern or a western exposure.  That's not to say that you can't grow them in other sunlight exposures, but these work beautifully for me.  I don't put my plants on a window sill.  Instead, they sit on tables placed near windows, but not directly on the sill.

African violets prefer stable temperatures from 65 to 75 degrees F and the nighttime temperature on a windowsill may be too cool for them.

Water from below.  My African violets are planted in pots that encourage watering from below.  The pots I prefer most come in two parts having an outside ceramic pot with an unglazed pottery insert.  This allows for water placed in the base of the glazed outside bowl to be slowly absorbed through the unglazed pot holding the plant and the soil.  I purchased the pot you see below a couple of years ago at my local Home Depot.  It works beautifully.  You can see how big and healthy my African violet is. Watering becomes a no-brainer activity with pots like these.  Every couple of weeks I check to see if all the water has been absorbed and if it has, I'll add more to the glazed pot.

The Perfect African Violet Pot
Use African violet soil.  The soil used for my African violets is special African violet soil available in bags commercially. You can find suggestions for mixtures of soil to use with African violets on the Internet, but I just use what I can buy at the local garden center or Home Depot.

Fertilize occasionally.  There is special African violet fertilizer available as well, but I don't bother with it.  Three or four times a year, I give all of my houseplants a good watering with Miracle Grow 10-10-10 water-soluble fertilizer.  The African violets get a dose at that time.  That's it.

Groom as needed.  My African violets require occasional grooming.  When the blooms fade and dry out, as you see in the picture below, I'll pull them off.
Faded Blooms Needing Removal

Some of the leaves around the base of the plant will wilt and droop.  Those should be pulled out and discarded.

Droopy Leaves Need to Be removed

African Violet Needs Re-potting

Re-pot when needed.  Once a year I assess whether my plants need re-potting.  The African violet in the pot above is in definite need of re-potting.  It looks like it has had little baby African violets.  I'll need to pull it out of the pot get the full picture.  All I need is a bag of African violet soil and a new pot to get started.  I am ready to go.

Re-Potting Requires New Soil and a Pot
I spread newspaper on my kitchen island and pulled the African violet plant out of its pot.  The roots told me it was definitely time to re-pot this plant.

Root Bound African Violet

Next, I looked at the base of the plant and saw the main plant and two additional plants, one just a tiny baby plant.

Baby African Violets
I prepared a pot for each of the plants.  The little baby plant is in a small starter pot.  It will need a bit of attention to be sure it thrives.  I filled each pot with new African violet soil and pressed the soil firmly around the plant.   Don't try to use any of the old soil because it is really worn out and needs to be discarded.  The result...three African violet plants from one.


One for me, one to gift and one to grow!  You can't beat that with a stick!

African violets for your home...a simple, yet beautiful thing.  Follow these simple steps for growing and caring for African violets and you will be rewarded with colorful indoor blooms.

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Monday, May 9, 2016

How to Care for Wood Cutting Boards


Learn How to Care for Your Wood Cutting Boards
Do you use wooden cutting boards in your kitchen? Wooden cutting boards are a beautiful thing.  Properly cared for, a wooden cutting board lasts for years and years.  Through many years of ownership, your board will develop deep character and patina, just like you.  It will be a cherished addition to your kitchen.  Use your board every day to protect your kitchen counters.  Your wooden board will also make an excellent serving tray or an attractive base for an appetizer cheese tray.

Proper care of your wooden cutting board begins when you bring it home.  Before you use the board, you will want to apply its first coat of food-safe mineral oil.  I usually get my mineral oil at my local drugstore.  You don't want to use vegetable oil or olive oil.  Both can turn rancid.  The video below shows you my tip for applying mineral oil to your wooden cutting boards.



A properly oiled cutting board is a pleasure to use and easy to clean.  

Remember this tip for oiling your board:
  • Oil daily for the first week.
  • Oil weekly for the next month.
  • Oil monthly for the rest of the board's life.

You should never do a few things with your wooden cutting boards.
  • Never put your wooden cutting board in the dishwasher.
  • Never let your wooden cutting board soak in water.
  • Never put your wooden cutting board away wet.

The theme from the "Nevers" is to minimize your cutting board's exposure to water.  Wipe your board after each use with soapy water and a soft cloth or sponge.  Rinse well and wipe dry.  Allow your board to dry completely before storing.  Occasionally, you may want to disinfect your cutting board with a mixture of vinegar and water.   Mix one part white vinegar with five parts water.  Wipe the board with the mixture using a soft cloth and allow the board to dry completely before putting it away.

A well cared-for wood cutting board will last you a lifetime.

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Enjoy!

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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Kicked Up Low Carb Egg Salad for Lunch


This low carb egg salad (7.6 grams of carbs) is a tasty lunch for those days when you are getting yourself back on track.  I'm no stranger to indulgences.  You'll find many recipes posted here for sinfully decadent recipes that I eat and enjoy.  The problem is those sinful indulgences creep up on me in many not so enjoyable ways.  Most obviously my waistline widens and the scale starts inching up into territories no one likes to admit. Can you relate?  Less obviously our health starts to suffer.  To keep that from happening we need to get back on track.

When I'm really cracking down on myself, I switch to low carb eating.  This low carb egg salad is a go-to lunch for me.  It satisfies my hunger and stays with me through the afternoon.  There is a lot of crunch in this egg salad that I find satisfying.  I've also kicked up the flavor with the addition of chopped onions and minced jalapeno pepper.  Adjust the amounts of those ingredients to suit your preference.  The one great thing about this recipe is that you can make it ahead of time without mixing the ingredients.  Take it with you in a well-sealed container and mix it together just before you eat it.

Kicked Up Low Carb Egg Salad
Kicked Up Egg Salad Bowl
Print Recipe
Serves one
7.6 grams of Carbs


  • 2 large eggs, hard boiled
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • 1/2 small onion, chopped
  • 4-6 jalapeno pepper slices
  • 2 Tablespoons, zero carb mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 cup chopped fresh spinach
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Directions
Chop the vegetables and add them to the bowl.  Stir the mayonnaise and the mustard until well combined.  Chop the egg and add to the bowl.  Season with salt and pepper.  Gently combine the ingredients making sure the mayonnaise mixture is well distributed throughout the salad. Enjoy your salad straight from the bowl or on a bed of crisp greens.

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Monday, May 2, 2016

How to Make a Pineapple Cucumber Smoothie

Let's start the month of May with another healthy smoothie recipe.  Smoothies have made it back on my lunchtime menu in a big way.  That's why you are seeing them here on the blog.  Smoothies seem to be a spring ritual for me.  That's probably because I start thinking about the beach and bathing suits.

Today's smoothie is a pleasing blend of fruits and vegetables that deliver the nutrients you are looking for and tastes good. It is an appealing color as well. That makes this pineapple cucumber smoothie as pretty to look at as it is tasty to drink.

Does it seem like smoothie making is too much bother?  To make the preparation simple, I keep a supply of fruits and vegetables on hand in my freezer so I'll always have the ingredients for a nutritious smoothie available.  I package the fruit and vegetables in individual plastic zip-top bags pre-measured in half-cup servings. Completing the cutting and chopping in advance reduces the preparation time. Having the fruits and vegetables already portioned out in the freezer also makes clean-up a breeze. That means I'm more likely to prepare a smoothie during the week because I won't have to spend any extra time on the clean-up.

The ingredients in this smoothie are pineapple, cucumber, beet, kale, banana, strawberries, pomegranate juice, almond milk and flaxseed meal.  One 184 calorie serving delivers 95% of your daily vitamin A, 82 % of Manganese, 53% of vitamin C, and over 25% of required vitamin B-12, vitamin E, and calcium.  If you don't like the earthiness of the beet, you can leave it out for a brighter taste.  I'm trying to add more beets to my diet so I sneak them into my smoothies whenever I can.
Recipe Calculator

Pineapple Cucumber Smoothie
Print Recipe
Serves 1
  • 1/2 cup pineapple chunks
  • 1/2 cup cucumber, peeled, seeded and chunked
  • 1/2 small red beet
  • 1/2 small banana
  • 2 medium strawberries
  • 1 Tablespoon flaxseed meal
  • 1/4 cup pomegranate juice
  • 1/4 cup packed kale 
  • 1/2 cup almond milk, unsweetened

Directions
Place the ingredients in your single serving blender in the order listed. Blend on high for 20-30 seconds, until smooth. Use frozen fruit and cucumber for a thick smoothie.

Other smoothie recipes you may like:
Raspberry Banana Smoothie 
A Green Smoothie for Lunch
A Strawberry Banana Lunch Smoothie

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Enjoy!

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