Thursday, July 30, 2009

Zucchini Brownies

Things you might know about me: I wore Grateful Dead shirts in High School. I don't want my babies to grow up. I once had a crush on Jordan Knight [N.K.O.T.B]. Oh, wait, you didn't know that one. [Just so you know, that was way pre-Jerry Garcia days.] And, I'm not the biggest fan of chocolate. Truth be told, I'm not much of a dessert person.

There, I said it.

Don't get me wrong, I love to bake. I love to make desserts, but eating them. Eh, give or take, most of the time.

Shut the front door! These brownies are HEALTHY [as can be, I guess], and delicious. I've had this recipe for years, but dusted it off yesterday, and the littles and I got to work.

Plus, they help me use up the 14 lbs. of zucchini my garden is producing a day.

Don't think these will taste like zucchini bread. Or even zucchini really. They taste like a moist [one of my least favorite words, by the way, along with 'swab'.], fudgey brownie.

Seriously, try them. I'll be disappointed if you don't. If you need a zucchini [or 10], just let me know, and I can hook you up. [After you weed my flower beds, and mow my lawn, of course.]

Zucchini Brownies
The batter for these will appear DRY until the zucchini is added. It will look crumbly, and make you want to cry and throw it away. Don't! As soon as you add the zucchini and mix it for a minute, it will be moist [there's that stupid word again] and just right. Don't add any eggs or extra liquid. IF, after you've added the zucchini and mixed it well, and it still isn't wet, you can add a Tablespoon of water. I've never had to do that! Zucchinis have tons of water in them, so you'll get your moisture from them.
  • 1/4 c. applesauce*
  • 1/4 c. oil*
  • 1 1/2 c. sugar
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 c. flour
  • 1/2 c. cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 c. shredded zucchini
  • 1/2 c. chopped walnuts [I didn't add, but you can if you want]
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9x13 inch baking pan.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the applesauce, oil, sugar and vanilla until well blended.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Mix 1 cup at a time into the sugar mixture. Mix well. The "batter" will appear dry and crumbly.
  4. Mix in the zucchini and nuts [optional]. Mix until the zucchini turns it into a nice moist batter.
  5. Spread evenly in prepared pan and bake for 25-35 minutes [my oven takes about 35], until brownies spring back when touched. Don't overbake!
  6. Frost when cooled.
Basic Frosting
  • 6 T. cocoa
  • 6 T. butter
  • 3 c. + powdered sugar
  • 1/4 c. milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  1. Melt together cocoa and butter in a small saucepan. Set aside to cool.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together powdered sugar, milk and vanilla. Stir in cocoa/butter mixture. Add more powdered sugar [if needed] to reach the desired consistancy.
  3. Spread over cooled brownies.
*You can substitue applesauce for the full amount of the oil if you'd like. I do with great success. Try it both ways and see which you prefer.
At first these will seem cakey [and great!], but after the've been out for a day or so [in the pan covered with foil], they'll be more dense like a traditional brownie. Either way they are great.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Green Pit-za.

I apologize for my lack of recipes and postings! Summer is in full swing, and I'm trying to soak up every last minute of kid-fun, before I have to send my oldest to all-day school. But, please let's not talk about that, because it makes me hyperventilate and want to lock him in a tiny closet, where he won't grow up and leave me all day.

I'm totally one of those moms who don't want my kids gone all day. My kids are cool kids, and I love being with them all the time. [Remind me this when I call my husband at 4:00 today and tell him he better hurry home from work tonight, or I'm going to go crazy. Thanks.]

Awesome. Now I'm worked up all over again!

The original recipe for this dish came from a little someone called Rachael Ray. I know, I want to slap her too. But, she has some decent recipes sometimes! And, I promise I will never say EVOO.

I altered the recipe a little bit, and this is what I came up with.

It Ain't Easy Being Green Pit-za
  • 4-6 pita breads [I made mine from scratch, using this recipe]
  • 1/2 c. basil pesto
  • 1 c. ricotta cheese [I used skim ricotta]
  • 1 c. cooked broccoli florets, chopped
  • 1 bag spinach, cooked, drained, squeeze dried and chopped
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • shredded mozzarella cheese
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Toast pita bread on cookie sheets for 3 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.
  3. Cook broccoli in boiling water until cooked [not soggy!], remove from water, and chop. Combine with pesto and ricotta in a large bowl; set aside.
  4. In a medium skillet, heat olive oil and garlic. And in handfuls of spinach, stirring as it wilts. It looks like a lot of spinach, but it cooks down to not very much at all! When the spinach is cooked through, remove from pan to cool. Once it is cool, use a kitchen towel to squeeze the excess liquid from the spinach. Chop, and add to bowl with other ingredients. Season with salt & pepper to taste. [Easy on the salt!]
  5. Spread mixture on top of each pita bread, then sprinkle with mozzarella.
  6. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until cheese bubbles and begins to brown.

This is a great way to sneak in the extra greens. My little dudes love these, because they are individual size, and they think the green sauce is cool. [My kiddos love pesto!]

I serve this with a big green "everything" salad. Seriously, how did we all survive when salad was just lettuce, carrots and tomatoes? I love the make a big huge salad and add everything! Then, I eat it for lunch and dinner every day...until it's gone! [I'd like the bless the person who first added dried cranberries and nuts to salads, thankyou!] The above pictured salad has mixed greens, turkey bacon, dried cranberries, toasted almonds, carrots, tomatoes, and swiss cheese. It made me happy.

And with that, I'm off to smother my 6-year-old with kisses and be an overbearing mother. There isn't anything better to be!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Birthday food!

I've been cooking and baking for days!

My sweet baby girl is turning one this week [tomorrow]! So, instead of curling up in the fetal position and crying on the floor, I decided to throw a party instead!

We held her party on insanely hot [102 degree] day! We had a beach/pool themed party with a huge blow up water slide, a pool, water table, squirt guns and water fights! My intent was to have a big table of food and drinks outside...unfortunately, it was way too hot! So, we served the food inside, where it most likely wouldn't melt.

I used beach towels for the table cloths, served the food out of beach buckets, and served gallons and gallons of pink lemonade and water. [Fruit pizza, chicken salad & rolls, cold vegetable pizza, watermelon, a variety of goldfish crackers, water, pink lemonade, cake, cupcakes & ice cream!]

Recipes to follow shortly!

I'm still recovering, and hoping that tomorrow never comes!

Most of the food! I loved the colors!
Just for the record, I am NOT a cake decorator. I can do a lot of things, but decorate and make cute cakes isn't one of them! This was my best attempt. Please, don't mock me.
Someday she'll thank me for the stress decorating birthday cakes causes me!
The [as healthy as I could make it] smash cake!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Zucchini Bread

And so it begins! My garden is filled with zucchini! I'm grilling it, shredding it, freezing it, boiling it... and baking with it! Sunday morning I decided to try out a new zucchini bread recipe. I have one that I love, and have been making for years, but I wanted to try something new! This recipe certainly didn't disappoint!

You may have heard of little lady name Paula Deen. I make a lot of her recipes [or versions of them], and I knew I could trust a good Southern lady to produce a good zucchini bread!

Instead of following her recipe completely, I completely cut out the oil [a full cup] and replaced it with applesauce! I also reduced the sugar and added a mashed banana...

Okay, so it really isn't her recipe anymore, but it gave me a good starting point! With all of the changes I made, I made it healthier and it is SO good!

Paula...Er Anna's Zucchini Bread
  • 3 1/4 c. flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 2 3/4 c. sugar
  • 1 c. applesauce
  • 1 ripe banana, mashed
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1/3 c. water
  • 2 c. grated zucchini [I might have even used a little more]
  • 2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1 c. chopped walnuts [optional---I left out, so my baby could eat it]
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl mix wet ingredients [applesauce, eggs, water, zucchini, mashed banana and lemon juice], and in a separate bowl, mix together dry ingredients [flour, nutmeg, soda, cinnamon, and sugar]. Gradually pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until combined. Fold in nuts, if desired.
  3. Pour into 2 well greased loaf pans.
  4. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour, or until a tester comes out clean. [In my oven it took about 48-50 minutes!]
*You can also bake these in muffin tins, which take about 15-20 minutes to bake.
Just wait...I have a ton of zucchini recipes coming up! Zucchini brownies. No, really!!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Blueberries Wild Pancakes

These contain my dudes two favorite things: blueberries and pancakes. I was a totally awesome mom and made these for lunch, yes lunch the other day. In an effort to constantly keep our lives [summer] fun and exciting, I decided to mix it up a little bit. Of course, it means that someday soon, they'll be eating pasta & veggies for breakfast...but I haven't told them yet. Let them live in ignorance.

Everyone who knows me knows that I'm a "from scratch" kind of girl. I like to make cakes, cookies, buns, breads, and yes, even pancakes from scratch. Not only do I love the taste, but I find some sort of satisfaction from creating something from nothing.

That being said, there are times where a mix is a perfect and wonderful thing. Even better when it actually tastes good! [I know, who would have thunk!]

The Shirley J pancake mix is one of those mixes. Normally pancakes from mix are rubbery and tasteless and...well, don't have a place in my pantry [or food storage]! These pancakes are nice a and fluffy, and have that yummy homemade taste. Even better, they are a great base and allow for creativity and fun!

Blueberries Wild Pancakes


  • 2 cups frozen blueberries
  • 2/3 c. sugar
  • 2 T. flour
  • 2 tsp. fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • lemon zest
  • 1/4 c. water
  1. Mix flour, lemon juice, lemon zest, sugar and water in a saucepan. Add blueberries. Cook over medium heat about 15 minutes, or until thickened, stirring occasionally.
  2. While sauce is cooking, make pancakes.

Blueberry Pancakes

  1. Mix together pancake mix, sugar and toss in blueberries. Coat blueberries with dry mix. Stir in water until mix is combined.
  2. Fry on pancake griddle for about 1 1/2 minutes each side.
  3. Serve with blueberry syrup & whip cream, if desired.

[This makes quite a few pancakes. Enough for me to freeze quite a few, and save for breakfasts later in the week!]

*The blueberry syrup is great over pancakes, but could also be served over ice cream, short cake [blueberry shortcake!], waffles...anything!

**Fresh blueberries, if they are available to you, could be subsituted here! There might be some liquid alterations [in the sauce], but would probably taste even better!

***Also, for a great change, add a dollop of ricotta cheese to the top of the pancakes and then cover with the blueberry sauce. Yum!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Turkey Pesto Burgers

Have I mentioned lately that I love summer? Turkey burgers are one of my favorite summer foods to make! Nothing says summer to me more than foods that are grillable. And fast. And easy. And tasty. And fresh. And healthy. [Okay, and include fruit, which this doesn't. But I did serve it with fresh sliced kiwi. Feel better?]

Summer is also the reason the buns on this burger aren't my favorite homemade buns. I didn't have time to make them this morning before we left for the pool!! We played all day in the sun, which left little time to make buns!

And while we are blaming summer for is also the reason my back is fried. Just for the record, I'm Scandinavian. I'm white. But not just white, like fair-skinned, blue-eyed, put sunscreen-on-when-you-run-to-the-mailbox white.

I tried to put sunscreen on myself today. I was hugely successful on the upper 1/12 of my right and left shoulder blades. Leaving, of course, the rest to crisp away in the hot July sun.

So. My sunburned back and lack of [homemade] buns will have to be forgiven. Even with all of those strikes against me, I was able to pull off a seriously tasty meal.

Turkey Pesto Burgers
  • 1 lb. ground turkey [breast is best, as my husband would say]
  • 2 heaping Tablespoons pesto*
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3-1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • salt & pepper
  • 1/2 c. panko bread crumbs
  • 2 T. Shirley J all-purpose seasoning
  • Cheese [optional], I used provolone today
  1. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Mix together to incorporate, but don't overmix!
  2. Seperate into 4 equal sized patties [or 8, if you are into the ultra-trendy slider].
  3. Spray your grill with non-stick spray [who are we kidding, let's call a spade a spade...PAM], and grill patties until cooked through. [About 5-7 minutes a side, depending on your grill.]
  4. When the burgers are done, turn off the heat and place cheese slices on top of each patty. Close grill lid and allow cheese to melt.

*You can use store bought or homemade pesto, whichever you prefer. Very easy and basic, using pinenuts [or walnuts!], basil, parmesan cheese, garlic and olive oil. If you need a recipe, let me know! Store bought pesto can be found anywhere, in a variety of flavors.

I served my burgers with a pesto-mayo. Made by mixing mayo and pesto together...You never would have guessed!!

These burgers were served with Pomme Frites, which were awesome, in case you were wondering.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Cajun Chicken Pasta

We love this Cajun Chicken Pasta dish! It's great, because it is very versatile not only in the heat, but also in what you add [or don't add] to the sauce! If I am making this for the littles, then I usually cut back on the heat a bit. However, if it's a grown-up only dish, I kick it up a bit.

You can use store bought [pre mixed] Cajun seasoning for this, or make a mix of your own. I have done both with great successes every time!

Cajun Chicken Pasta
  • 5 oz. linguine [or any long pasta], I used spaghetti in the picture, because it is what I had on hand!
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken boobs, cut into pieces [you can do strips, but I usually do 1" cubes.]
  • 1 1/2 tsp. - 2 T. cajun seasoning [I never measure it, I go by color! When you are shaking in the bag, over the chicken, if it's really red, it's going to be spicy, if it's just coating and slightly turning the chicken pink, it'll be much milder!]
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 1 red bell pepper [you can add more, and different colors if you like]
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • mushrooms, sliced or chunked [you can omit this if you want, but I love 'em!]
  • 1 1/2 c. evaporated milk, Shirley J cream sauce base, heavy cream or 1/2 & 1/2. *
  • 1/2 tsp. dried basil [or if you have fresh, that's awesome]
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp. lemon pepper [don't skip this]
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/8 tsp. chili powder [optional, you can skip for less heat]
  • fresh Parmesan cheese
  1. In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook pasta until al dente; drain.
  2. Place chicken and cajun seasoning in a ziploc bag; shake to coat.
  3. In a large skillet over medium heat, saute chicken in olive oil until no longer pink. [About 5-7 minutes.]
  4. Add peppers, garlic and onions. Cook until tender. Be careful not to burn the garlic!
  5. Reduce heat, and stir in cream/milk/Shirley J. Season the sauce with basil, lemon pepper, salt, pepper & chili powder. Bring to a boil.
  6. Turn to simmer and let simmer until heated through and spices have combined.
  7. Toss with the cooked pasta & top with fresh Parmesan cheese.

*All options for this sauce work great! To make it a more healthful dish, use cream sauce base, evaporated milk [my fave], or 1/2 and 1/2.