Chocolate Chip Zucchini Muffins

Or, as my four-year-old calls them: ‘Bikini Muffins.’

(I actually considered using that as the title of this recipe, but I realized I might get some, ahem, inappropriate traffic using those terms, together.)

This delicious recipe came about because my lovely neighbor gave us just a small, petite, little zucchini. (Insert sarcasm and see picture below.)

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Yeah. It was actually HUGE.

Anyways, I figured this was the perfect opportunity to bake using zucchini for the very first time. (Nope, I’d never done it before.) I looked through my Recipe list on Pinterest and found a recipe stating it was ‘Award-Winning.’

Sold.

And the four-year-old and I were off on our baking adventure.

The Recipe:

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Muffins, adapted slightly from Sally’s Baking Addiction

Streusel Topping:

2/3 c old-fashioned oats

1/2 c dark brown sugar

2 T  flour

1/2 t cinnamon

1/4 c butter, cold, cut into small squares

1 T semi-sweet chocolate chips

Muffins:

1 egg, beaten

1/2 c dark brown sugar

1/2 c sugar

1/2 c vegetable oil

1 c grated zucchini 

2 t vanilla

1 1/2 c flour

1/2 t baking powder

1/2 t baking soda

1/2 t salt

2 t cinnamon

1/4 t ground nutmeg

3/4 c semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray muffin tin and set aside.

Streusel: Combine the oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, and flour together in a medium bowl. Cut in the cold butter with a pasty cutter. Mix until the streusel resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the chocolate chips with a spoon. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the beaten egg, brown sugar, granulated sugar, oil, zucchini, and vanilla until evenly combined. In a large bowl, toss the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and chocolate chips together. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix with a large wooden spoon or rubber spatula until combined. Avoid over-mixing.

Fill muffin cups all the way to the top (I only had enough batter for 11). Sprinkle streusal over the top of each muffin, covering completely. Gently press the streusel into the tops of each muffin. Bake for 5 minutes at 425 degrees and, keeping the muffins in the oven, lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue to bake for an additional 13-14 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 5 minutes before serving.

The Results:

I think I’d always avoided baking with zucchini because I was afraid it would taste funny, but, boy – oh boy! – was I wrong. These tasted absolutely perfect. They were so moist and full of fall flavor. The cinnamon, nutmeg, and chocolate chips work so well together. And the streusel, wow, it just took these to a new level.

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So, by the time I got around to taking a picture of these – this was the only one left.

My only complaint was that this only made 11… but so easy to rectify by doubling. Believe me, you’ll want to make more.

(And since I only used about 1/5 of that huge zucchini, making another batch of these is on today’s agenda.)

Just look at inside of these:

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Perfection.

And I don’t have to feel bad. Because they have a vegetable in them.

Right? 😉

Marbled Chocolate Banana Bread

I had some brown bananas.

Strike that.

I had dark, dark, brownish-blackish, mushy, falling-apart bananas.

They needed to be used ASAP.

And we all know the best way to use those kinds of bananas is in a banana bread. But I’ve been there, done that lots of times.

Now, if you’ve ever looked through my recipe index, you’ve probably realized that I quite enjoy the chocolate banana combination. And I’d already made a banana chocolate chip bread, so I knew I needed to take this version to a new level. And a little experimentation with my four-year-old was the perfect way to do it.

The Recipe:

Marbled Chocolate Banana Bread

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a loaf pan.

Part 1, Banana Bread:

3/4 c flour

1/2 t baking soda

1/4 t salt

1/4 t ground cinnamon

2 medium bananas (heavily speckled or even black bananas are best)

1/4 c butter, melted and cooled

3/8 c packed light brown sugar

1 large egg

1/2 t vanilla extract

Whisk all dry ingredients down to the cinnamon in a small bowl. Whip/mash bananas until frothy. Add the remaining ingredients and mix until blended. Add dry ingredients in two batches, mixing thoroughly after each addition. Pour into loaf pan.

Part 2, Chocolate Pound Cake:

1/4 c butter, softened

1/2 c sugar

1 eggs

1/4 c vanilla yogurt

1/2 t vanilla

3 T cocoa powder

3/8 c milk

5/8 c flour

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, yogurt, and vanilla and mix well. Add cocoa powder and stir until incorporated. Add milk alternately with flour, mixing just until incorporated.

Pour batter over the top of the banana bread mixture. With a small spatula or spoon, gently scoop and fold the banana mixture over and through the chocolate one.

Bake in center rack for 60-70 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean.

Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, remove, and let finish cooling on a rack.

The Results:

Hey, look… something turned out pretty:

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And it tasted pretty good, too!

It was moist throughout, and the two flavors (obviously) went well together.

I do have to say, though, the banana bread was the definite flavor winner – for me, it overpowered the chocolate a bit. If you are a chocoholic, you might want to up the chocolate-y-ness if you make this. I wanted more chocolate, personally, but the rest of the family loved it the way it was. So, it’s your choice.

The best part, my four-year-old was SO proud and thought that the marbling was very cool.

And his smile made the extra work worth it.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Cookies

I’ll give you one good guess on whether or not this recipe was chosen by me or the kids.

Yep, we’re back to kid-friendly cooking.  And really, I don’t mind.  It’s generally really fun and this time, both boys got involved.

(Which didn’t make it easier… but they were both so proud of the finished product.)

The lady hung out snacking in her chair while I divided the boys into dry vs. wet ingredients.  We only had one major whisk of flour across the counter and one too fast KitchenAid blast of ingredients.  

I call that a win.

The Recipe:

Peanut Butter and Jelly Cookies, adapted from Oscar’s Gooey, Chewy PBJ Cookies

3/4 c flour

1/2 t salt

1/2 t baking soda

1/4 t baking powder

1 c oats

1/4 c butter, softened

1/2 c creamy peanut butter

1/2 c sugar

1/2 c brown sugar

1 egg

1/4 c oil

1 t vanilla

1/2 c jam

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease baking sheets or line with parchment.

In medium bowl whisk all dry ingredients. 

In mixer, 

Strawberry Muffins

I have elite and discerning tastes.

(I mean, couldn’t you tell from my Disney Junior recipe.)

So maybe that’s a bit of a stretch, right now, with three littles running around.  I’ve learned that to be able to actually make something, I need to get their buy-in.  So that they: 1. Let me have the time to make it – and 2. Actually eat it after the fact.

The easiest way to do this is to let them pick the recipe.

That’s what happened this week.  I let my middle (chef-baker-wannabe) pick out anything he wanted for us to make.  He went to his trusty kids cookbook and picked one right out.

Let’s just say that today’s recipe is brought to you by the Letter S.

(Oh, how times have changed.)

The Recipe:

Strawberry Muffinsadapted from Abby Cadabby’s Disappearing Strawberry Muffins

1 1/2 c flour

1/3 c sugar

1/4 c cornmeal

1 t baking powder

1/2 t baking soda

1/4 t salt

1 c low-fat strawberry yogurt

1/3 c oil

1 large egg

2 c chopped strawberries (lightly sprinkle with flour)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line muffin tins with cups or lightly grease.  

Whisk together all dry ingredients and set aside.  Stir together yogurt and oil until incorporated.  Add egg and mix until well-blended.  Stir in dry ingredients until just mixed and then fold in strawberries.

Fill muffin cups 2/3 way full and bake for 20-25 minutes (until toothpick in center comes out clean).  Let cool on rack.

Makes 12 or so muffins.

The Results

Let’s just start with the beginning – a short trip to the grocery store to pick up some whole wheat flour.  (‘What?’ you’re saying – ‘I don’t see whole wheat flour in the recipe.’)  Well, of course you don’t… let’s just say our trip did not go exactly as planned (add car troubles, crying babies, and wrestling boys) and I ended up bringing home bread flour.  Really?!  The main thing I needed to pick up, and I did it wrong.  Sounds just about right around here.  So, as you can see, I just used regular flour instead because I was NOT going back.

Anyhow, other than that snafu, the recipe was super simple, and my four year old did pretty much all the work.  He was especially excited that I let him cut off the strawberry stems – it’s the little things for him.  🙂

And the muffins turned out pretty darn good.  The yogurt made them super moist inside and I loved the bits of fresh strawberries throughout.  And all three kids ate them right up, so I say a definite success!

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Banana Chocolate ‘Ice-Cream’

Hey, look – I’m writing a real post.  With a recipe and everything… craziness, I know.

So, I was looking for an easy toe-dip kind of recipe to start with.  Something the kids could help with and enjoy, something that wouldn’t heat up my house on a hot day, and something that wasn’t horribly unhealthy.  I had no idea where to start.

And that’s where Disney Junior stepped in.

Yep, you heard that right.  This recipe is being brought to you by a Disney Junior informative commercial.  (Please don’t judge.)

In this commercial a mom (I think), and her son, make a delicious ice-cream style treat out of bananas – the boys were intrigued and I thought it looked easy and fun.  So off we went.

The Recipe

Banana Chocolate ‘Ice Cream’ adapted from Disney Junior

4 bananas, sliced and frozen

2 T greek vanilla yogurt

1/2 t vanilla extract

1 T unsweetened cocoa powder

Makes approximately 1 pint.

In a food processor, pulse bananas until broken into small pieces.  Add the rest of the ingredients and let processor run until smooth and creamy.  Serve immediately as soft serve or freeze for several hours for a regular ice-cream consistency.

The Results

I didn’t really remember much from the Disney Junior commercial except the frozen bananas in a food processor.  So, I started by having the boys chop bananas, place them in a Tupperware, and then froze them all.  Seemed like a great idea until I went to dump them out and this happened:

A giant frozen rectangular block of bananas.

A giant frozen rectangular block of bananas.

Hmmm – I’m thinking next time to freeze them on a cookie sheet individually, since this did not break up well in the processor.  Eventually, with the help of my trusty pick-axe (or butter knife), I got these into smaller pieces that could be chopped up.

Pulsing was the best way to get things started – and then I realized that the bananas were staying pretty dry and crumbly.  I wanted to add something wet and healthy to get the creamy effect, so vanilla yogurt and extract it was.

The idea of adding the cocoa powder came at the end.  Because seriously, why not?!

And it was borderline genius, I tell you.

When we sampled the finished product after mixing, it soft, creamy, and lightly chocolate-y flavored.  The banana was the star, but the chocolate added a depth to it that I found quite enjoyable.  The boys liked it a lot, too.

We decided to freeze the bulk of it for later that night.

When we pulled it out, it was pretty solid – so I recommend letting it set out for a bit before serving.  At this point, it tasted just like a regular banana ice cream – with a chocolate twist.  Very satisfying and very delicious.

(Though for those chocoholics out there like me, I’m thinking doubling the cocoa would be fantastic.)

It's going to take a while to get my picture skills up to snuff, but for now, here's the finished product.

It’s going to take a while to get my picture skills up to snuff, but for now, here’s the finished product.

Strawberry Freezer Jam, Year Two

I had to buy store jam last week.

This is the first time I’ve had to do this since last summer, and it made me sad.

And motivated.

We spent the sunny weekend at our good friends’ house and one of the bonus benefits was that they desperately needed someone to clear out their strawberry patch… we forced ourselves to help.

And, you all know what fresh-picked strawberries are good for… jam!

I’d only gotten one box of pectin, which made 6 cups… I have enough strawberries for about 4 more batches.

So check out last year’s simple recipe.  All it takes is some strawberries, a lot of sugar (which I choose to be in denial about), and quite a few dirty dishes – but it is so worth it.

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Since we were on the road, I didn’t do a darn bit of cooking… but we did have some fun.

So I’ll leave you with some happy summer thoughts, photography-wise.

Lemon Blueberry Muffins

On a non-cooking note, I’m just going to start out by saying I jinxed myself.

For those of you that are following our semi kitchen remodel, I posted on Monday that our new countertops would be coming on Friday.  Literally 20 minutes later, Hubs received a phone call that the materials wouldn’t be ready on Friday…so we’re now planning on Tuesday next week (and yes, I know I’m probably jinxing myself again by sharing this).

So we’re still cooking/baking in a bit of a mess, but I’m getting pretty used to it by now.

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming…

This week is my oldest’s week to bring snack for preschool.  After last time’s cupcake fun, he insisted on making something else for his friends.  We decided on muffins – and I let him choose the flavor.  Who knew he’d go for lemon?

The Recipe:

Lemon Blueberry Muffins, adapted from allrecipes.com

(This makes 12 muffins.  I doubled it to make 24.)

1 3/4 c flour

3/4 c sugar

1 T grated lemon peel

1 t baking powder

3/4 t baking soda

1/4 t salt

1 egg

1 c plain yogurt

6 T butter or margarine, melted

1 T lemon juice

1 c fresh blueberries

In a large bowl, combine the first six dry ingredients.  In another bowl, beat the egg, yogurt, butter and lemon juice.  Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened.

In third bowl, roll washed and dried blueberries in flour (this prevents them from settling at the bottom of the muffins).  Add to the rest of the batter.

Fill greased muffin cups two-thirds full.  Bake at 350 degrees for 18-22 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool for 5 minutes in muffin pan then carefully remove by sliding a butter knife around sides and popping them out.  Finish cooling on wire rack.

{Printable Recipe}

The Results:

My oldest was so excited to be back in the kitchen again – and, since the little one was napping, he had free reign over the kitchen and all ingredients/gadgets.

I just love how proud he is to be helping (and I’m sure everyone at school got to hear how he made the muffins himself).  After mixing up everything and ladling the batter into the pan, we dropped a couple extra blueberries on top of each muffin to make them extra-blueberry-y.  When they came out of the oven, the extra ooze was obvious.

You know it’s good when it oozes blueberries.

These muffins definitely passed the test with the preschooler crowd – if the almost empty container was any indication.  My oldest adored them and has had several in addition to the one at school.

I thought they were really good – but I have to tell you, I dialed back the lemon flavor just in case it would be too much for some of the kiddos.  If I were making these just for my family, I probably would’ve doubled the lemon zest/juice – and may have even used lemon yogurt.  There is a definite light lemon flavor, but it can get lost in bites with extra blueberry.  I really enjoyed the lemon/blueberry combination, though, and look forward to exploring it again in the near future.

What really made these great, in my opinion, was the texture.  The yogurt made them extra moist without making them heavy at all.  And the bursts of blueberry goodness was simply a treat for the senses.

This is definitely a recipe I will be making again.

(Hopefully on my new countertops!  🙂  )

Clean out your Cupboard Cookies

It was a long weekend.

Hubs had weekend duty, so he was at work both days… which left me with two hooligans to keep busy (while attempting to keep my patience in check.)

We did pretty good on Saturday, as it was a beautiful day, and we had t-ball smack in the middle of the day.  Sunday, on the other hand, was kind of gray – a perfect day to stay in and spend some time together in the kitchen.

Now, it being a lazy Sunday, I had no desire to get out of my pj’s before noon, so I searched around our house for possible ingredients.  And I came across four partial bags of mix-in left-overs from previous recipes: some large dark chocolate chips, semi-sweet chips, peanut butter chips, and some sweetened flaked coconut.

Gotta include a pic featuring the ugly counters – as they will be gone on Friday!

I decided why not use these in the best chocolate chip cookie recipe – and see what happened.

The Recipe:

Clean out your Cupboard Cookies, from me and Hubs

1 c butter, softened

3/4 c sugar

3/4 c brown sugar

2 eggs

1 t vanilla extract

1 T milk

2 c oats, processed until fine

2 c flour

1 t baking soda

1 t baking powder

1/2 t salt

4 oz dark chocolate chips

4 oz semi sweet chocolate chips

3 oz peanut butter chips

3 oz sweetened flaked coconut

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add eggs, vanilla, and milk until well blended and forms a light batter-like consistency.  Add processed oats, flour, soda, baking powder, and salt.  Stir until well incorporated. Fold in chips and coconut.  Using a tablespoon, drop onto baking sheet.  Bake for 8-10 minutes – remove when sides turn golden brown.  Cool on wire rack.   Makes 3 dozen.

{Printable Recipe}

The Results:

Well, first I had to gather my sous-chefs… which means I had to pull out the mixer and they both came a-running.  (They do love to use our kitchen machines.)

We all took turns measuring, dumping, and turning on the mixer.  The boys were in pure heaven.

After everything was blended, we added our random ingredients and were ready to go.

Now, since there was so few of each thing, when you ate a cookie, you had no idea what it would taste like – it could have salty peanut butter or chewy coconut or rich chocolate or any combination thereof.  It’s kind of fun, like five types of cookies in one recipe, and you have no idea which one you’re going to get.

I do have to say, though, I definitely prefer the original recipe.  It’s just perfect at it is.

This one was really good, too – so if you’re looking to clean out some of those leftover bits of this and that (and you want to keep your kids happy and occupied), you should give this recipe a try.

 Have a wonderful Monday!

Pina Colada Popsicles

I think I may have mentioned at some point how much I hate my counters.

(I’m going somewhere with this, I promise.  Stick with me.)

We purchased this house from another family, and they had decided to have tile counters installed in the kitchen.  If you’ve ever worked in a tile kitchen, it’s not ideal.  First of all, any time I attempt to roll something out, I end up with creases from the grout dips.  Second, the grout cracks and no matter how much we try to refill and seal, it just keeps happening.  And finally, it just looks like crap.  The grout they chose is a light gray color that has degraded to a speckled, dirty mess – and nothing gets it clean.

I had learned to live with this over the seven-plus years we’ve lived here.  Mostly because I could ignore it, since I rarely did anything in the kitchen except the dishes.

But now, now that I use the counters many times a week, it drives me absolutely crazy-insane.

So, this spring, when Hubs got a nice little bonus check, we decided something needed to be done about it.  And we went forward with ordering some gorgeous slate-colored acrylic counters.  I can’t tell you how excited I was.

Well, while ordering, they asked us if we wanted to pay for demo…or do it ourselves.  In the interest of saving a little money and having fun swinging a sledge-hammer, we opted to do the demo ourselves.

Let’s just say our plan to demo the small bar area and lower it to give us more counter space did not quite go as planned.  As in, we found a fun pipe about a half-inch taller than the existing counters.  (Half inch – grrr!)

Fun times – the vent piping (1/2 inch too tall) comes form the wall and goes to the sink.

Countertops are now currently on hold, as we prepare to open the half wall, re-pipe, and rebuild the wall.

So, to make my long story even longer, I have not been happy with my kitchen, so I haven’t wanted to really cook.

But, that doesn’t mean I haven’t been looking for fun non-cooking recipes to make with my boys that I can share with you.

The Recipe:

Pina Colada Popsicles, from The Reality of Skinny

1 can pineapple chunks, in juice

1 banana

1 can coconut milk

1/2 t vanilla extract

Blend and freeze.

The Results:

This counts as cooking, right?  And the boys got to play with the blender – a favorite thing to do in our house.

I did one batch in our popsicle mold and another set in an ice-cube tray.  Both turned out really good.  Honestly, they taste just like virgin pina coladas.

Always an easy way to make little popsicles – all you need is plastic wrap and toothpicks.

(Which has me thinking that they might be even tastier with a little rum thrown in….hmmm.)

The boys (and their friends who were visiting) loved them.  And I knew that they weren’t too bad at all for them to eat.

Yes, he’s having a too cool, bad hair moment. But he’s enjoying the pop.

The small ones are perfect for quick pick-me-ups.

action shot

And I have visual proof that they both enjoyed them.

Now I just need to make a batch for Hubs and I (with rum) as a celebratory treat – when we finish the wall.

Wish us luck.

Pita Pizzas {Healthy Lunch}

I’m not sure if I mentioned it, but last week was our Spring Break.

Which means we were less busy, yet somehow busier than ever.  (If you understand that phrase, you might be a parent.)

One of the ways I tried to keep the boys out of trouble is to draft them into making their own lunches – but the five-year old only wants to do this when the meal is ‘fun.’  So a couple of weeks ago, I saw a super simple ‘fun’ recipe for pizzas from Lisa at Smart Food and Fit – that had the added bonus of actually being good for them!

We heading to Trader Joe’s and the boys picked out the smaller pitas – but hey, they were excited about the meal, which made me happy, too.

Once home, the two-year old protested and went to play with his stacking boxes, but the five-year old was raring to go.

The Recipe:

Pita Pizzas, adapted from Smart Food and Fit

Trader Joe’s Whole Wheat Mini Pita Pockets

Homemade Marina Sauce

cheese of your choice (the boys wanted medium cheddar)

Either top or fill pita with 1-2 T of marinara sauce.  Sprinkle cheese.  Bake in 350 degree oven for 7 – 10 minutes.

(Okay, I’m not doing a printable recipe because, as you can see, this is SO complicated. 😉 )

The Results:

Like I mentioned above, my oldest was all about helping out with this one.  He insisted on filling one of his pizzas instead of topping it, and I thought, why not?

The boys really liked these pizzas, as demonstrated by actually eating them (for some reason they go on hunger strikes every now and then) and asking for more.  I liked that the pockets have quite a bit of protein in them and kept them full until dinner.

Served with a banana and a glass of milk, a healthy meal was had by all.

Now we just need to work on adding some vegetables…

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On a completely different note, I had to post that I used John’s (From the Bartolini Kitchen’s) suggestion of taking some slices of Cheese Bread and making them into croutons – and they were simply AMAZING!  So if you’re going to try the Crescia al Formaggio, take a slice or two, cut them up, and either bake them in the oven or do what Hubs did: grill them on the BBQ.  Pure awesomeness, I tell you.