Maple Oatmeal Muffins

Maple Oatmeal Muffins bring simple, wholesome goodness to your morning! Make a dozen with a single bowl.

Like many Americans with a bit of disposable income and nowhere to vacation this summer, we’re in the middle of a kitchen remodel. (Cause, you know, great idea during a pandemic to rip up the cooking and eating space in your already stressed-out home.┬á­čĄ¬)

Anyway, we’re three weeks into the chaos of dishes in the bathtub, makeshift cardboard countertops, and appliances in the bedroom. I’m sure it’ll all be worth it when our new cooking space is sparkling and beautiful–and my husband has proven himself to be EXTREMELY capable at renovating–but man, it sure makes mealtimes tough.

I’ve been hanging in there at dinnertime with some pre-made frozen casseroles, but at breakfast there’s only so much cereal and frozen waffles I can eat. After awhile, I need my baked goods to start the day!┬á(It’s no secret that I’m a muffinaholic.)

With my mixing bowls in my office and measuring cups in my family room, I’ve needed to stick to the old KISS principle: Keep It Simple, Stupid…which is why I chose this maple oatmeal muffin recipe recently. It’s made with just one bowl and super basic ingredients like oats, maple syrup, and nuts. This way, I was able to whip up a dozen hearty muffins without making an even bigger mess in my kitchen (though I *did* have to wash the bowl in the bathtub). Plus, no need to pull tons of ingredients out of my pantry and clutter up my already untidy space!

The flavor of these muffins is not overly sweet, with the maple syrup adding its signature depth. As for texture, they’re slightly dense with pops of crunch from pecans. I’d recommend them for those times when you want a tasty baked good for breakfast but don’t have much to dress it up with.

Despite my torn-up kitchen, when I made these maple oatmeal muffins, it felt so good to sit down to my favorite type of breakfast once again. Not only were they wholesome, hearty, and perfect with a smear of butter, they helped me feel just a little more normal. (And, kitchen remodel or no kitchen remodel, couldn’t we all use anything that helps us feel more normal these days?)

Maple oatmeal muffins

Maple Oatmeal Muffins

These maple oatmeal muffins are a simple, wholesome breakfast made in one bowl!
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time18 mins
Servings: 12 muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 c. quick-cooking oats
  • 1/2 c. milk, any type
  • 1 c. all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • scant 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2/3 c. maple syrup
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 c. butter, melted
  • 1/3 c. chopped pecan pieces

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and grease a 12-cup muffin tin.
  • In a large bowl, combine the oats and milk. Let stand about 5 minutes to soften the oats. Add flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon and stir to combine.
  • Make a well in the center of the batter and add maple syrup, egg, and melted butter, mixing to combine. Fold in pecans.
  • Divide batter among the muffin cups and bake 15-18 minutes. Store in an airtight container.

Notes

Adapted from Midwest Living.

Peach Applesauce

Mix up your applesauce game with this sweet alternative! Peach applesauce is the perfect summery snack or dessert.

Quick: What’s your favorite summer fruit? While my thoughts immediately turn to blueberries and strawberries, peaches come in as a close second (or third, I guess?). These stone fruits are among the most versatile bases for sweets. I mean, is there any dessert you can’t make with peaches? Peach pie, peach cobbler, peach crisp, peach popsicles…I could go on, like:

Sorry, I’ve had a hankering to watch┬áForrest Gump lately.

Anyway, peaches aren’t just great on their own in snacks, smoothies, desserts, and breakfasts–they also make a great complement to other fruits, like…drumroll please…apples! I wouldn’t normally say homemade applesauce needs any tinkering (it’s pretty great on its own), but when sweet, juicy peaches are in season, might as well use the fruits of summer however you can. (Especially when you’ve brought home a giant pallet of them from Trader Joe’s, like I did recently.)

Anyway, this is one of those toss-everything-in-the-crock-pot-and-let-your-house-fill-with-aromas type recipes. You really can’t screw it up, and you could probably play with it to make it extra peachy, extra apple-y, extra sweet, or whatever you like. I also imagine you could use canned peaches in a pinch (like when they’re not in season).

Plus, since kids are STILL home for the longest summer ever that began in March, this makes a snack you can actually feel good about feeding them. (Anyone else going through snacks at record speed? Not gonna lie, we’ve been through a whole lot of chips and candy around here…)

Once the chunky goodness of this peach applesauce emerges from the slow cooker, it’s delicious hot or cold, on its own or atop vanilla ice cream. It’s a little smoother than traditional applesauce, which I think gives it an extra something special.

Enjoy!

Peach Applesauce

A summery variation on a fall favorite, this Peach Applesauce is lightly sweet with a hint of spice.
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time3 hrs

Ingredients

  • 4 large peaches, peeled and chopped
  • 8 Granny Smith apples, peeled and chopped
  • 1/4 c. white sugar
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/4 c. water

Instructions

  • Place all ingredients in a slow cooker. Cook on high 2 1/2 hours, then reduce heat to low and cook another hour or until the fruit has softened. Blend to your liking using a potato masher or immersion blender. Cool and refrigerate.

Pearl Couscous With Apples, Cranberries, & Herbs

The unique flavors in this Pearl Couscous With Apples, Cranberries, & Herbs blend perfectly for a memorable side dish. 

A few weeks ago we had some friends over for dinner.

Am I allowed to say that?

This is such a weird time where admitting to a dinner party feels like confessing an affair. (Also where coughing is the new farting.) Granted, our dinner group only just grazed the “gathering of 10 people” mark, so technically, we weren’t overstepping any official bounds. (There, now no one can yell at me in the comments.) Plus, personally, since having people over for dinner is something like a religious calling in my life, I felt pretty okay about inviting another family into our home after weeks of only virtual contact with friends.

While deciding a menu for our much-anticipated guests, I asked my husband if there was anything in particular he’d like to have on our special night. “How about that couscous thing you make?” he said, “The one with apples and herbs?”

I knew right away what he was talking about.┬áI’ve been making this Giada de Laurentiis recipe for pearl couscous with apples, cranberries, and herbs for a few years now, and it’s one of those dishes that doesn’t *sound* like it’ll be anything spectacular–and then you eat it and go…

Not surprisingly, the wife of the couple who joined us for dinner ended up asking me for the recipe–not the first time someone has asked! Which I figure means it’s about time to share it on the blog.

So what makes this such a standout side? First of all, we have to give credit to the real star of this dish: the pearl couscous. If you’ve never had this larger, meatier type of couscous, you’re seriously missing out. It’s just the most delightful thing to eat–almost squeaky in its chewy roundness. Meanwhile, a savory olive oil and fresh herb dressing soaks into not only the couscous, but also into tart green apples, crunchy almonds, and sweet dried cranberries. While it may sound like more of an autumn combo, I think it’s one to enjoy all year round. It’s delicious all on its own, or serve it alongside grilled chicken or pork chops. Magnifico!

I’m happy I served this for our friends, and I stand by the decision to have them and their kids over for dinner. (I’ll even confess that we’ve now had friends over for dinner TWICE. Rebelzzzz.) Cooking for others after a lengthy stretch of isolation did wonders for my sense of well-being. And, if you ask me, while social distancing for physical health matters, connecting with others–yes, even in REAL LIFE–matters, too.

Pearl Couscous with Apples, Cranberries, and Herbs

Chewy pearl couscous pairs with tart green apples, sweet cranberries, and an herbed olive oil dressing in this memorable side dish.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time20 mins

Ingredients

For the couscous:

  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 c. pearl (Israeli) couscous
  • 32 oz. chicken broth
  • 1/4 c. fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1 tsp. fresh thyme
  • 1 c. dried cranberries
  • 1/2 c. slivered almonds, toasted
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, diced

For the dressing

  • 1/4 c. apple cider vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. maple syrup
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/4 c. olive oil

Instructions

Cook the couscous:

  • In a large saucepan, heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the couscous. Cook and stir until lightly browned, 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Add chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until liquid is absorbed, 10-15 minutes.

Make the dressing:

  • While couscous cooks, whisk together cider vinegar, maple syrup, salt, black pepper, and olive oil.

Put it all together:

  • In a large serving bowl, combine cooked couscous, parsley, rosemary, thyme, cranberries, almonds, and apples. Stir in dressing and serve immediately.

Notes

Adapted from the Food Network.

Beef and Bean Nacho Casserole

Who doesn’t love nachos? This Beef and Bean Nacho Casserole layers ground beef, black beans, melty cheddar, sour cream, and more on crispy tortilla chips for a delicious, easy Mexican dinner.


Remember recipe keepers? As in, the OG Pinterest? When I got married, a friend gave me this once-stylish (and once covered) Trapper Keeper-esque recipe binder–complete with pockets for recipes torn from magazines and plenty of space to write down favorite breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and more.

Just like new…­čśé

Please ignore my awkwardly placed finger in this photo.

Little did I know that the internet would soon virtually eliminate my need for such a thing. With every recipe under the sun online, there’s less and less call for physical recipe keepers.

And yet…I do still actually use this book. (I’m in the generation that straddles the line between liking old school pen and paper and digital everything.) As you can probably tell from its appearance, this binder has seen 16 years of flipping, sorting, and stuffing. And while there are plenty of recipes I made in 2004 that I’d never consider now–lookin’ at you, chili with a spaghetti sauce base (yikes)–there are some I come back to time and again.


This Beef and Bean Nacho Casserole is one of them. Can you see why? Look at that gooey melted cheese, those dollops of sour cream, those lovable pops of cherry tomatoes! Come on, this meal is a nacho lover’s DREAM.

I honestly don’t know where this recipe originally came from, but it’s been in my recipe keeper almost since I acquired it. Some generous soul must have shared it with me, knowing what an inexperienced cook I was back then. Over the years I’ve tweaked it to make it my own. I’ve added fire-roasted corn, extra taco seasoning, and changed it from a single layer to a double layer. It’s not rocket science, certainly, but I can tell you it does make a crave-able Mexican meal that feeds a crowd. ‘Cause who doesn’t love nachos?

Typically, of course, nachos are not without their issues. The problem with making them in the microwave or under the broiler is getting the cheese to melt just right. Go too long and you’ll get a plate of scorched, blackened cheese crust–but too short a duration leaves you with a weird mish-mash that can’t decide if it’s melted or unmelted.

This recipe solves the problem by baking at 350 for about 30 minutes–perfect cheese-melting conditions, if you ask me. And though it may seem strange to bake dollops of sour cream, I promise it turns out as creamy as ever. Meanwhile, black beans add texture and fiber, and slivers of green onion finish things off with a piquant bite.

Hungry yet? Grab your nacho ingredients and get cooking! And tell me…do you have a recipe keeper? What’s yours like, and is it as messy (and well-loved) as mine?

Beef and Bean Nacho Casserole

In this delicious Mexican dinner, layers of ground beef, black beans, cheddar cheese, and more cover tortilla chips. Pop it in the oven for 30 minutes and you're done!
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Servings: 8 as a main dish

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 15-oz. can black beans, drained
  • 2 c. salsa
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. taco seasoning
  • 1/2 c. frozen corn kernels, preferably fire-roasted
  • 5 c. tortilla chips, roughly crushed
  • 1 c. sour cream
  • 2 c. shredded cheddar
  • 1/2 c. cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 1/4 c. green onions, sliced

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9 x 13 inch baking dish with cooking spray.
  • In a large skillet, brown ground beef. Drain, then add black beans, salsa, taco seasoning, and frozen corn. Cook until heated through.
  • Spread half the crushed tortilla chips in a layer in the prepared pan. Top with half the beef-bean mixture. Dollop with half the sour cream and sprinkle with half the cheddar. Repeat these layers: chips, beef-bean mixture, sour cream, shredded cheddar. Distribute halved cherry tomatoes, cut side down, over the top of the casserole and sprinkle with slicedgreen onions.
  • Bake 25-30 minutes or until heated through and cheese has melted.

Notes

A Love Letter to Food Original Recipe.

Easy Canned Tuna Poke Bowl

Want to recreate restaurant-style poke bowls on the cheap? Use canned tuna and canned crab in this easy canned tuna poke bowl!



Not long ago I posed a question on A Love Letter to Food’s Facebook page:

I love asking open-ended questions on social media because, not only does it get plenty of engagement from readers, but usually gets me thinking. When I asked this particular question, friends and followers had PLENTY of answers. And, seeing as how most of us have been deprived of the restaurant experience for weeks, if not months, I get it. I’m chomping at the bit as much as anyone to actually go OUT to eat.

In fact, for me, the Covid-19 restaurant ban has actually been a proving ground for determining which restaurants actually have good food and which I apparently go to for their ambiance or other factors. If all I can get is takeout, that takeout better be worth it! One type of restaurant whose food I’ve realized I genuinely miss? Poke bowl joints.

A wee bit of backstory: It took me until about age 30 before I ever acquiesced to eating sushi. Like most sushi-averse folks, the thought of eating raw fish seemed SO VERY WRONG. But eventually my husband convinced me to try a local sushi place with famously fresh rolls and my eyes were opened to the amazingness of this culinary wonder. After getting on the sushi bandwagon, you better believe poke bowls were an easy next step. I love their combo of mild and spicy flavors, and they can be surprisingly healthy, too!

Besides that, poke bowls are the Chipotle burritos of Asian food–convenient, customizable, and uncomplicated. And, even though we can’t eat them at restaurants at the moment, they’re pretty easy to make at home. This version is super budget-friendly, using canned tuna and canned crab (I know, it could be a lot fancier with sushi-grade tuna, but we’re going for inexpensive here, mmkay?) Topped with a spicy sriracha aioli–my favorite part of any poke bowl–these are a tasty at-home version of the fast-casual favorite.

So add what you like, take out what you like, and enjoy!

Easy Canned Tuna Poke Bowl

Quick to prep and easy on your budget, this canned tuna poke bowl is a great at-home version of a restaurant favorite.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time25 mins
Servings: 4

Ingredients

For the sriracha aioli:

  • 1/2 c. mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbsp. sriracha sauce
  • 2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • salt, to taste

For the poke bowls:

  • 1 1/2 c. dry white rice
  • 10 oz. frozen edamame
  • 5.3 oz. can albacore tuna packed in water, drained
  • 6 oz. can white crab meat, drained
  • 1 c. shredded carrot
  • 1 c. cucumber, diced
  • fried onions, for garnish
  • sesame seeds, for garnish
  • sliced green onions, for garnish

Instructions

Make the sriracha aioli:

  • In a measuring cup, whisk together all ingredients. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Make the bowls:

  • In a large pot, make rice according to package directions. Meanwhile, microwave edamame according to package directions and prep all other ingredients.
  • Assemble 4 individual bowls, dividing rice, edamame, tuna, crab, carrot, and cucumber among all. Garnish with fried onions, sesame seeds, and green onions. Top with sriracha aioli.

Notes

A Love Letter to Food original recipe.