Monday, October 16, 2017

Morning Glory Muffins

I woke up yesterday at the crack of dawn to a beautiful morning.  The air was still, the sun was rising, and sunlight was breaking through the leaves on the trees in a way that takes your breath away.  Yes, it was a glorious morning, and since I was up I decided to make a batch of Morning Glory Muffins.  I was inspired by the day.

Morning Glory Muffins to Start Your Day

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Morning Glory Muffins
Morning Glory Muffins

Morning Glory muffins are chock full of goodness with dried cranberries. carrots, grated apple, coconut, and walnuts.  They are a hearty muffin that will remind you of carrot cake.  This recipe makes twelve hearty muffins, full of "good for you" ingredients.  You'll find them to be moist, not too sweet muffins that are perfect with your morning coffee.

These muffins will freeze well, too.  When they are cool, wrap each muffin individually in plastic wrap and then package them in a zip-top freezer bag for another day. They will be perfect for a grab-and-go breakfast, a snack, or a friend stopping by to for a cup of coffee or tea,
Morning Glory Muffins

Morning Glory Muffins

Makes 12
Making Morning Glory Muffins
Morning Glory Muffin Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries, soaked in hot water
  • 1-1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups grated peeled carrots
  • 1 large apple, peeled and grated
  • 1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts 
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup orange juice

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Line your muffin tin with cupcake papers and spray the inside of the papers with baking spray.  Soak the cranberries in a small bowl of hot water while you assemble the ingredients.  Mix the flours, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, and salt together in a large bowl.  I love to use this batter bowl when making muffins.  Whisk to combine well.

Grate the carrot and apple with a box grater.  Add the grated carrot, coconut, nuts, apple and drained cranberries to the dry ingredients, stirring well to distribute the dry ingredients.

In a separate bowl mix together the eggs, oil, vanilla and orange juice.  Add the wet mixture to the dry, stirring until mixed and the dry mixture is evenly moistened.  Divide the mixture evenly into the muffin cups.  Each muffin cup should be filled to the top.

Morning Glory muffins in the Pan
Fill the Muffin Cups to the Top

Bake the muffins on the middle rack of your oven for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let the muffins cool for five minutes in the pan and then tip them on their side to finish cooling.

Cooling Morning Glory Muffins
Morning Glory Muffins

Serve the muffins warm, or wrap individually for freezing.

Kitchen Essentials

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Thursday, October 12, 2017

Four Cheese Ziti Bake

Baked pasta is delicious.  One of my favorite baked pasta casseroles is Baked Ziti.  You can make baked ziti a hundred ways, but today I want to share my four cheese baked ziti recipe.  The four cheeses you'll find in this recipe are ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan, and Romano. Yum!

Four Cheese Baked Ziti for a Crowd

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Four Cheese Ziti Bake
Four Cheese Ziti Bake

This recipe makes a large ziti bake that will feed a crowd.  That makes this a perfect recipe for potlucks and family gatherings.  If you don't need to feed a crowd, divide the ingredients between two baking dishes.  Bake one for dinner and freeze the other for another day.

Four Cheese Ziti Bake

This is a multiple steps recipe, so to cut down on my time in the kitchen I like to use jarred sauce.  I use two twenty-four ounce jars of my favorite brand.  Trust me, no one will know.  The flavors in this ziti bake blend together beautifully.  Be sure to taste all of your ingredients as you go.  That way you'll know how much additional seasoning you need to add.

The recipe as written will please most people, including the little ones in your life.  If you'd like a little more spice, choose and Italian sausage with a little heat and add 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper.

Four Cheese Ziti Bake

Serves Many

Ziti Bake Ready to Bake
Ziti Bake Ready for the Oven
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • one pound ground beef
  • one pound loose Italian sausage (remove casing from sausage links)
  • one large onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4-1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • one 16 ounce package ziti
  • 15-ounce container ricotta cheese
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup grated Romano cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 16 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 2  24-ounce jars of tomato-based pasta sauce, your favorite
  • salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet.  Add the onion and cook for three to five minutes.  Add the ground beef and sausage to the skillet.  Use a wooden spoon to break the beef and sausage into small pieces. Cook over medium to medium-high heat, stirring occasionally.  After a few minutes add the garlic and stir to distribute.  Season with salt and pepper.  Continue cooking until the meats are browned and little bits have begun to stick to the bottom of your pan. Drain.

Tip:  Drain the meat mixture by putting it in a colander set into a pie dish lined with paper towels for easy cleanup.

Draining Cooked Meat in Colander
Drain the Beef and Sausage

Cook the ziti according to the package directions but for one to two minutes less than recommended.  Save one cup of the pasta water before draining.

While the ziti is cooking, mix together the ricotta cheese, eggs, and parsley. Shred the mozzarella cheese with a box grater.

To assemble the ziti bake:  Add the hot pasta to the meat mixture, stir to combine.  Add the ricotta cheese mixture and one jar of the pasta sauce.  If needed, add a little of the reserved pasta water. Stir to combine well.

In a large baking dish, first layer half of the meat mixture, topped with half of the Parmesan cheese, half of the Romano cheese, half of the second jar of sauce and half of the shredded mozzarella cheese.  Repeat, finishing with the mozzarella cheese. 

Bake for 45 minutes in a preheated 350 degrees F oven until bubbly and hot in the center.  I like to cover my ziti bake with parchment paper and then aluminum foil to keep the cheese from browning too much. Remove the foil and parchment paper for the last 15-20 minutes of baking time.

Baked Four Cheese Ziti Bake
Baked Four Cheese Ziti Bake

If you are baking after chilling the ziti bake in the refrigerator, let the ziti bake warm on your counter for at least thirty minutes.  You may need to extend your cooking time.

Kitchen Essentials

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Monday, October 9, 2017

Iced Oatmeal Cookies

If you are a purist when choosing cookies you'll love these iced oatmeal cookies.  These cookies are all about the oatmeal, enhanced by a simple sugar icing.  Eating them might bring back memories of days gone by, after-school milk and cookies, or brown bag lunches.

This post contains affiliate links for your convenience.  When you shop using these links I receive compensation that supports this blog.
Iced Oatmeal Cookies and Tea
Iced Oatmeal Cookies

These iced oatmeal cookies are just as yummy now as they were then.  They are still great with a glass or milk, but I like them with a hot cup of coffee or tea.

There's nothing complicated about making this recipe. Using your food processor to process the oatmeal into a finer texture is as complex as it gets.  I used my small Cuisinart Mini-Prep for that. The cookie batter comes together by hand so no other kitchen tools are required.

Iced Oatmeal Cookies
You'll want to keep these cookies in a sealed container for up to five days or freeze them for later.  They'll keep well in your freezer.

Iced Oatmeal Cookies

Printer Friendly Recipe

Makes Three Dozen
  • 2 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • ¾ cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
The Icing 
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 3-5 teaspoons milk
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.  Put the oatmeal in the bowl of your food processor and pulse five or six times.  You want the texture of the oats to be a little finer with a few bits of chunkier oats showing.

Oatmeal for Iced Oatmeal Cookies
Oatmeal for Iced Oatmeal Cookies
Place the oatmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium-sized bowl. Whisk to combine.

In a larger bowl, mix the melted butter, sugars, eggs, and vanilla together until well combined.  Add the flour mixture into the butter mixture and stir until the ingredients are well combined.

Using a two tablespoon sized scoop, scoop the cookies onto a greased baking sheet.  Bake for 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned.  Cool on the baking sheet for a couple of minutes before removing to finish cooling.

Cool the cookies completely.  In a small bowl, mix together the powdered sugar and vanilla.  Add the milk, one teaspoon at a time until you get the consistency you want for the icing.

Sugar Icing
Sugar Icing

Either dip the whole cookie into the icing to coat the top or place the icing into a zip-top plastic bag.  Snip the corner to pipe the icing onto the cookies. Let the icing dry completely before covering or stacking the cookies.

Iced Oatmeal Cookies Two Ways

Whichever way you decide to ice your cookies, the results will be delicious.  Go for it!

Shared on Meal Plan Monday.

Kitchen Essentials

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Thursday, October 5, 2017

Banana Bread with a Twist

Banana bread is often underrated and overlooked.  Perhaps it is because banana bread has long been an old standby and is too familiar.  There is a reason for that. Banana bread is delicious.  If you haven't made banana bread in a while it is time to make it again.  Just make it with a crunchy twist.

Banana Crunch Bread

A Slice of Banana Crunch Bread
Banana Crunch Bread
Banana bread is delicious any time of day.  It is perfect in the morning with your coffee.  When you need a grab-and-go breakfast, a slice of banana bread is a good solution.  I think a slice of banana bread is easier to eat on the run than a muffin.  In my experience, picky little ones will often eat banana bread when nothing else interests them.

Banana Crunch Bread
Don't forget banana bread as a sweet snack option.  I love a slice of banana bread with a steaming mug of my favorite tea mid-afternoon.

Tip:  Freeze ripe bananas by first removing the peel and then wrapping individually in plastic wrap.  Store in a zipper freezer bag to use when making banana bread and smoothies.

Banana bread freezes beautifully.  Just wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and place it in a freezer bag.  There's nothing better than having a loaf of banana bread on hand for when you need it.

This recipe adds a twist to classic banana bread with the addition of a crunchy top crust.  Who doesn't like a little bit of sweet crunch to start their day?

Banana Crunch Bread

Printer Friendly Recipe
Makes One Loaf
Banana Crunch Bread Loaf
Banana Crunch Bread Loaf
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 3 small, or 2 large ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup hot water
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

 Crunch Topping
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup cold butter, in chunks

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Lightly grease a glass or metal loaf pan.  Mix together the flour and salt.  Set aside.  In a separate bowl, cream together the butter and sugar.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.

Mash the bananas with the back of a fork. and add to the egg mixture.  Dissolve the baking soda in the hot water and add to the batter.  Add the flour mixture and the vanilla.  Stir to combine. Your batter will be lumpy.   Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan.

Make the crunch topping.  Place the flour, sugar, and butter in a medium bowl.  Using your hands, toss the ingredients and then squeeze the butter, flour, and sugar together between your fingers until well combined and crumbly. 

Bake for 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean.  Be careful not to over bake.

Let the bread cool in the pan for ten minutes and then turn it out onto a rack to cool completely. You'll want to let your banana bread cool completely for easy slicing.

Kitchen Essentials

If you are a regular reader, and I hope you are, you may have noticed I've been adding this Kitchen Essentials section to many of my posts.  I do this for two reasons.  First, I don't believe you should clutter your kitchen with a bunch of silly, single-use tools but the tools you do have should be practical and provide good value. I want to share with you which tools fit that description for me.

Second, I decided that 2017 was the year for me to earn something for the effort that it takes to publish this blog regularly. I do that by including affiliate links to products I think you need, will like and most importantly, use.  If you choose to make a purchase using one of those links I will earn a commission for referring you.  The cost to you will be the same as if you didn't use my link.  I think that works in both our favors. Win-win! 

Today's recipe for Banana Crunch Bread is wonderful because it doesn't really need any complicated gadgets.  This is a perfect recipe to focus on the basics.  Below you'll find my affiliate links for a beautiful loaf pan made in the USA, a set of stainless measuring spoons that includes a 1/8 teaspoon measure, a set of stainless measuring cups for dry ingredients that includes a 3/4 cup measure, and my favorite set of three glass liquid measuring cups.

It's time to make sure you have the basics in your kitchen for your holiday baking.

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Monday, October 2, 2017

A Taste of Fall with Apple Snack Cake

Today, the morning chill made me think how nice it would be to have something warm and tasty to accompany my coffee. The apples in the fridge reminded me of my favorite apple breakfast and snack cake. This apple cake is so easy to pull together, I knew I would be able to have a warm piece within an hour.

Apple Breakfast and Snack Cake

Apple Breakfast and Snack Cake
Apple Breakfast and Snack Cake

This apple cake has been in my life very long time.  I had it for the first time when I was a fourth-grade student teacher.  My supervising teacher brought the cake in as a treat for the other fourth grade teachers.  I remember it took all of my self-control not to eat multiple pieces of the cake.  Instead, I asked for the recipe and made myself a whole one to eat!

Apple Breakfast and Snack Cake
No need to worry.  This apple cake has the added benefit of being relatively healthy as far as baked goods go. One serving (when you cut the cake into nine pieces) has less than 200 calories.  It is so chock-full of apples you won't mind serving it to your kids as a start to their day.

If you have any leftovers, wrap individual pieces in plastic wrap and freeze for a treat with your morning coffee another day or as an after-school snack for the little ones. As a cautionary note, this cake is super moist.  Make sure you bake it completely.  I especially love this cake the second day.

Apple Breakfast & Snack Cake

Print Recipe

Makes one 9x9 cake
Apple cake with huge chunks of apple throughout.
Apple Cake
Nine servings
  • 2 apples, peeled, cored and cut into chunks (about 2 1/2 cups)
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.  Lightly grease a 9x9 inch baking pan.  Place the apple chunks in a medium bowl. In a separate bowl, mix the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.  Sprinkle the spice mixture over the apples and toss to coat.

My Nut Grater and Nutmeg Grater
Nut Grinder and Nutmeg Grater

As an aside, I use this nut grinder to finely chop the walnuts for this cake.  I also love this nutmeg grater because it allows me to get freshly grated nutmeg anytime I need it.   As a bonus, I can store additional nutmegs in the grater.

Pour the egg and melted butter over the apple mixture and toss to coat.  Next, whisk together the flour and baking soda. Add the flour mixture to the apples and stir to combine.  Add the chopped walnuts, if desired.  Spoon the mixture into your prepared pan.  This batter will be very thick.

Apple Cake Batter
This Apple Cake Batter is Very Thick

Bake the cake on the center rack of your oven for 45 minutes, or until it is browned and set.  Cool and serve.

Kitchen Essentials for this Recipe

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Shared on Meal Plan Monday.



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