Google Amy's Cooking Adventures: September 2010

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Spinach and Bacon Cheese Dip

The baptism extravaganza continues!  On Saturday, all our guests had arrived and we had everyone over for a large Mexican-themed dinner.  By chance, I came across this cheese dip recipe just one week previous on an e-mail from Kraft Foods.  I was super excited to see this in my inbox, especially since I had already planned to make a cheese dip, but hadn’t settled on a specific recipe.

Because I wanted to make thing a little easier (and because I really dislike frying bacon), I decided to take a shortcut and use precooked bacon bits instead of frying and crumbling the bacon.  I also cut down the amount of cream cheese by one ounce, so I could buy the small package instead of cutting a large block in half and having leftovers in my refrigerator. 

The cheese dip was delicious and got rave reviews from all.  It was great with tortilla chips and also great as a topping on burritos, super nachos, and taco salads!  Yum!

Spinach and Bacon Cheese Dip

1 pkg. (10 oz.) frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained
1 lb.  (16 oz.) Velveeta Cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3 oz. Philadelphia Cream Cheese, cubed
1 can  (10 oz.) Diced Tomatoes & Green Chilies, drained
1 (4.5 oz.) package of Oscar Mayer Real Bacon Bits

Microwave ingredients in microwaveable bowl on high 5 min. or until cheese is completely melted and mixture is well blended, stirring after 3 min.
Transfer to a small crockpot to keep warm and serve with tortilla chips



Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Slow Cooker Bolognese

As mentioned in the previous post, this weekend’s baptism was the perfect opportunity to try out some new recipes on unsuspecting relatives.  On Friday night, we had a lot of people arriving throughout the evening, so I wanted to make something that could be ready whenever guests arrived.  I also chose this recipe because I could do all my food preparation in the morning and was free to great my guests as they filtered in later in the day.  To speed up the process in the morning, I chopped the onion and garlic in my mini food processor while the sausage and beef were browning.

I first found this Slow Cooker Bolognese on Framed.  I made just a few adjustments to this recipe, substituting 1 pound of Italian sausage for 1 pound of beef and crushed tomatoes for chopped (because we all know that I do not like huge chunks of tomato in my sauce). 

The delicious sauce was so easy to make and dazzled my family.  I only ended up with 7 of my guests on Friday night, so I have plenty of leftovers.  I will able to serve Spaghetti with Bolognese another two times for my small family.  This one recipe could easily serve 12-15 people.  It could also be halved easily for a smaller family (or fewer leftovers).

Slow Cooker Bolognese Sauce

1 pound beef
1 pound ground spicy Italian sausage
1 medium onion, chopped
8 cloves garlic, minced
3 (14 oz) cans crushed tomatoes
2 (15 oz) cans tomato sauce
2 (6 oz) cans tomato paste
1/3 cup sugar
2 tbsp dried oregano
1 tbsp dried basil
2 tsp dried marjoram
1 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper

Cook beef and sausage in a large skillet until browned

Transfer to a 5 quart slow cooker.  Add remaining ingredients and mix together.

Cook on low for 8 hours.

Serve on top of spaghetti, sprinkle with parmesan and serve with breadsticks or your favorite bread (I used Rosemary Basil Bread).


Monday, September 27, 2010

Baptism Extravaganza - Cake!

This past weekend was my youngest son’s baptism, and we had tons of family and friends in town.  So, I had the opportunity to try out a couple of recipes that make large batches.  Stay tuned for the yummy meals from this weekend including Slow Cooker Bolognese, Slow Cooker Mexican Shredded Beef, and Spinach and Bacon Cheese Dip.

To start, I thought I’d share the baptism cake.  The cake was two-tiered.  The top layer was white cake and the bottom was chocolate.  Both layers were covered with almond butter cream frosting and marshmallow fondant.  To make a cake that could stand up to stacking, I modified a boxed cake mix to make a denser, but still moist, cake.  To make this cake, you are going to pick any flavor cake mix and a complimentary pudding mix.  For example, if you have a chocolate cake mix, you’ll want a chocolate pudding mix; for a white cake mix, pick up a vanilla pudding mix, etc.

Easy Pound Cake

1 pkg any flavor cake mix
1 pkg. instant pudding mix, 4 serving size
1 cup whole milk (I used 2%)
1 cup Crisco oil
4 large eggs

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Blend ingredients for about 1 minute on low then 2 minutes on medium, scraping sides of bowl often.

Because there is extra oil in this cake mix, it takes longer to cook.  Because each oven is different, I suggest setting a time for the amount of time recommended on the package and checking it.  If it needs more time, return it to the oven for 5 minute increments until fully cooked (a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean).  It took me an extra 15 minutes of baking time.  Cool completely before frosting.

Wilton Butter Cream Frosting
Thin Consistency (ideal for icing cakes and writing detail)

1 c Crisco solid vegetable shortening
4 c confectioner’s sugar
4 tbsp warm water
1 tbsp meringue powder
1 tsp flavoring (I used almond extract)
A dash of salt

In an electric mixer, mix all ingredients until thoroughly blended.  Scrape sides and bottom of bowl often. Beat at medium speed for another 1-2 minutes until light and fluffy. Keep bowl covered with a damp cloth until ready to use.
For best results, keep icing bowl in refrigerator when not in use. Refrigerated in an airtight container, this icing can be stored 2 weeks. Rewhip before using.


Sunday, September 26, 2010

Magic Meatballs

As the mother of a toddler, I am always excited when I find a nutritious food that my son likes to eat.  The first time I saw a plate of meatballs disappear without a struggle, I was overcome with joy.  And when I heard, “More meatballs, Mama,” I knew meatballs would become a weekly meal in our house.  This recipe is a combination of the meatballs my mom made when I was growing up and the meatballs from The Sneaky Chef.  These little meatballs pack a healthy punch with whole wheat bread crumbs, wheat germ, and green vegetables, all of which my son has yet to detect.  Even my husband agrees that the taste and even the color didn’t change with the healthy additives.  Yum!

Magic Meatballs

1 pound lean ground beef
½ cup of whole wheat breadcrumbs
¼ cup wheat germ
1 egg
2 tbsp onion, finely chopped
1 can Healthy Request Cream of Mushroom Soup
1 soup can low fat milk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Mix together beef, breadcrumbs, wheat germ, puree, egg, onion, and salt and pepper to taste, until uniformly mixed.

Roll into approximately 12 meatballs and place into a casserole dish.

Whish together mushroom soup (undiluted) and milk.  Pour over meatballs.

Cover and bake for 1 hour.



Thursday, September 23, 2010

Tip #4 - Pureed Vegetables - Updated

Since I find myself referencing vegetable purees so often, I thought I would share some tips and recipes for them.  The recipes are adapted from The Sneaky Chef

Purees are great for a number of reasons.  First, they kick up the nutritional value of the recipe without changing the taste (who doesn’t want that?).  Purees are also great for parents of picky children, because they provide a way to sneak some veggies into their little bodies without them even realizing it!

I like to make a lot all in one shot and save a bunch of pre-measured purees in my freezer.  I measure out the quantity I want, transfer it to snack size baggies, and stick them in the freezer.  When I am ready to use a puree, I pull them out of the freezer and stick the whole baggie in a bowl of hot water from the tap.  By the time I am ready to mix it in, the puree is thawed.  So without further adieu:

Orange Puree

Equal parts carrots and sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped

Boil carrots and sweet potatoes until tender.  Remove from water and puree until smooth in a food processor.  Use immediately or freeze in ¼ cup quantities.

White Puree

Zucchini, peeled and chopped
Cauliflower (I prefer frozen, but you could use fresh)

Puree raw zucchini until smooth.  Steam or boil cauliflower until tender.  Add to pureed zucchini.  Continue pureeing until smooth.  Use immediately or freeze in ¼ cup quantities.

Green Puree

Equal parts frozen spinach, sweet peas, and broccoli (cauliflower is optional)

Steam or boil spinach, peas, and broccoli until tender.  Puree until very smooth.  Use immediately or freeze in ¼ cup quantities.

Purple Puree

1 ½ cups frozen spinach
1 cup frozen blueberries

Place spinach in a microwave safe bowl.  Add 2 tbsp water and cover with a plate.  Microwave for 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, thaw blueberries slightly and pulse in a food processor.  Add cooked spinach and a couple tablespoons of water.  Puree until very smooth.  Freeze excess in desired quantities.

*See The Sneaky Chef for more nutritional details and recipes!



Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Pizza is always a huge hit in our house and we seem to have it a lot, so every once and a while I like to shake things up a bit using different breads or, in this case, making calzones instead.  In browsing the internet, I have found many recipes for calzones and they mostly follow one of two fillings recipes.  Filling #1 typically consists of various meats, pizza sauce, and mozzarella.  Filling #2 is a nice meatless option with ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese, and spinach.  Both of these recipes seem lacking to me.  Whenever I’ve made filling #2, I miss the sauce and filling #1 lacks the yumminess of vegetables (plus there is always the chance that my two year old might accidently eat a veggie this way!)  So, I decided to play around combing the two recipes using ingredients that my husband and I both enjoy.  I also added in my recipe for pizza sauce, though you could also use your favorite canned or homemade sauce.


1 (8 ounce) can of tomato sauce
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp marjoram
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp garlic salt

2 (11 ounce) tubes of refrigerated thin pizza crust (I used Pillsbury)

8 oz ricotta cheese
1 egg
1 1/4 c shredded mozzarella cheese
1 tbsp olive oil
1 red bell pepper, chopped
4 oz fresh mushrooms, chopped
1 cup fresh spinach, roughly shredded
36 slices turkey pepperoni, halved

First, mix all the sauce ingredients together and set aside so the flavors can mellow while you prepare the calzone filling.

Preheat oven as indicated on the pizza crust packaging.

Heat olive oil in a small skillet.  Saute mushrooms and red pepper until tender.  Add the spinach, gently sauté about 1 more minute, until spinach wilts.

Meanwhile, beat one egg into the ricotta cheese (this loosens it up and keeps it from being clumpy).  Stir in mozzarella cheese.

Next, open your tubes of pizza dough.  I usually just cut the rolled dough in half.  Unroll, and you have 4 squares ready to fill.  Start by spreading one fourth of the cheese mixture a little off center on each dough square.  Follow by spooning one quarter of the sauce on top on the cheese mixture.  Last, sprinkle turkey pepperoni and one fourth of the vegetable mixture on top.

Fold the dough over to create a pocket.  Use a fork to “crimp” the edges so it doesn’t leak.  Bake according to pizza crust instructions, starting with the lowest amount of time, until calzones are golden brown.



Monday, September 20, 2010

Tip #3 - Ingredient Substitution

The other day when I was making the Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies, I discovered (after already mixing a bunch of ingredients together) that I did not have enough unsalted butter to complete the recipe.  I was faced with a real dilemma.  Do I just omit some of the butter?  Do I try and substitute something else for the missing butter?  What should I add instead?  Sound familiar?  This seems to happen to me more frequently than I care for - perhaps it has to do with having a 2 year old and a 6 six week old!  Therefore, I went searching for a tool to help me when I run short on ingredients and don't want to run to the neighbor's house or the grocery store.  When I searched, I found this awesome ingredient substitution chart.  It has substitutions for almost anything and has saved many a recipe!  Happy Cooking!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Crispy Bean & Cheese Burritos

I originally found this recipe in Family Circle magazine. It looked pretty simple and straightforward (not to mention tasty) so I thought I'd give it a whirl. Once I started in on this recipe, I discovered that what had seemed simple initially was actually a train wreck of confusing ingredient amounts/sizes, ambiguous directions and my own inability to properly fold a burrito. But fear not! What could have proven to be an epic fail on my part was salvaged into an edible and even scrumptious meal once I made several adjustments to the original recipe. The only remaining issue was the singed fingers due to my lack of burrito folding skills and general clumsiness when it come to hot skillets.

Some of the adjustments I made included reducing the heat of the pan from medium-high to medium (though I imagine that this will vary from stove to stove), determining the actual amount of rice needed, and determining the size and increasing the number of tortillas needed. The number of tortillas you need depends on your burrito folding prowess and how full you actually stuff them. I have added burrito folding tips in the recipe. I looked these up after I was done cooking--who knew there was a "right" way to fold a burrito! The original recipe called for 6 tortillas, I think there is enough filling to make up to 8 small burritos.

Crispy Bean & Cheese Burritos

1 bag (8 ounces) precooked microwaveable brown rice
1 c salsa
1 can (15 ounces) black beans, drained and rinsed
1 small ripe avocado, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 tbsp lime juice
1 1/2 c shredded Colby Jack cheese
6-8 flour tortillas (8 inch soft taco size)
Cooking spray

Prepare rice according to package instructions.

Mix rice, salsa, and beans together in a medium sized bowl, set aside.

Combine avocado and lime juice in a small bowl, set aside.

Lay out tortillas. Place fillings in a line across the tortilla. Place cheese first followed by approximately 1/2 cup of the rice mixture and a spoonful of avocados. Fold the burritos by folding in a long side first, followed by both short sides, then rolling the burrito over the final long side, and letting it rest on the fold.

Heat a large non stick skillet over medium heat. Coat both sides of the burrito with cooking spray and place seam side down in the skillet. Cook 1-2 minutes or until the tortilla is lightly browned and crispy. Flip and brown the other side. Repeat with the remaining burritos, reducing heat if they brown too quickly. Enjoy!

Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies

I first saw this recipe on Real Mom Kitchen. The brownie and peanut butter combination sounded heavenly (Reese's peanut butter cups, anyone?). These are super yummy, but I am thinking of some adjustments to make next time, so watch for part two of this recipe in a few weeks! This makes a really tall thick brownie that got really dry on the edges by the time the center was cooked. I think next time I will either try making brownies the regular way (not the cake-like brownies) or I may try using a larger pan. My peanut butter mixture also got rather crumbly, so I will be experimenting to find a way to make it stay together a bit better! But, if you like nice, thick, cake-like brownies, this is the recipe for you!

Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies

1 box of brownie mix
water, oil, and eggs for cake-like brownies, as indicated on box
4 tbsp unsalted butter*, melted
1/2 c confectioner's sugar
3/4 c smooth peanut butter
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven according to brownie mix. Grease and 8 inch square pan, set aside.

Prepare the brownie mix according to instructions for cake like brownies, this typically means adding 3 eggs instead of 2.

In a separate bowl, stir butter, confectioner's sugar, peanut butter, salt, and vanilla together until smooth.

Pour half of the brownie batter into the pan. Top with dollops of about 3/4 of the peanut butter mixture.

Pour remaining brownie batter on top, coving peanut butter. Drizzle the remaining peanut butter on top and use a knife to swirl through the layers.

Cook according to box instructions for an 8x8 pan. Brownies are fully cooked when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out mostly clean. Cool and enjoy!

*I used 3 tbsp unsalted butter, and 1 tbsp margarine--I ran out of butter!

Egg Rice

In my house, we are kind of rice fanatics. Rice is my favorite side dish and it is one of the few foods that I know, without a doubt, my 2 year old will eat. I like making this one is particular because my son usually won't eat the main dish, and this side dish offers protein in the form of the nuts and egg. I have also added some green tea to the mix for an extra boost of antioxidants. The only down side of this recipe is that is uses obscene amounts of chicken stock. So, if you are on a low sodium diet, I would suggest making something else. I have tried cutting down the amount of chicken stock, but it really compromises the taste and the look of the egg rice, so I just try not to think about it!

Egg Rice

1 1/4 c white rice (uncooked)
2 1/2 c cold water
2 tbsp chicken stock
1 tea bag decaffeinated green tea (optional)
1 tsp crushed garlic (0r 2 cloves, minced)
3 tbsp olive oil
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 c cashews
1/2 c frozen peas

Combine white rice, water, and chicken stock in a pot. Steep tea bag on the pot. Once the water starts boiling, remove tea bag, stir, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 18-20 minutes.

Add olive oil and garlic to a large skillet or wok. Lightly saute garlic for about 1 minute. Add rice. Cook over medium-high heat for 5-10 minutes, stirring and flipping occasionally until rice is beginning to brown.

Reduce heat to medium. Move rice to create a well in the center of the pan. Pour eggs into the well and let fry, stirring frequently. As you stir the egg, rice will begin to fall in and mix with the egg.

Once the egg is cooked completely (about 5 minutes), Stir in cashews and peas. Continue cooking until the cashews are a bit tender and peas are warmed through.

Serve with your favorite stir fry. Enjoy!

Serves 4

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Summer Vegetable Pasta Bake

This is another of my favorite fall recipes. It utilizes that overabundance of fall squashes (or fresh Farmer's Market veggies) again. When you are making this dish, you may feel like you are chopping way too many veggies. I was rather concerned myself. However, the large amount of veggies blends perfectly with all the pasta you are boiling up. This makes a huge recipe, so call some friends or expect leftovers!

Summer Vegetable Pasta Bake

1 medium zucchini (about 3 cups), chopped
1 medium yellow squash (about 3 cups), chopped
1 medium eggplant (about 3 cups), chopped
2 tomatoes, diced
2 tbsp onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 lb whole wheat rotini pasta
8 oz low-fat ricotta cheese
1 egg
1 c shredded mozzarella cheese

Boil pasta until it is al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Heat oil in a large skillet. Add salt, pepper, and garlic. Next, add zucchini, yellow squash, eggplant, tomatoes, and onion. Saute until vegetables are tender. Do not drain juices.

Meanwhile, beat egg and ricotta together.

Put pasta into a large casserole dish. Stir ricotta mix in until the pasta is evenly coated. Next stir the vegetable mixture into the pasta. Cover with mozzarella cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes or until cheese is melted. Serve with garlic bread or soft bread sticks. Enjoy!

Serves about 8

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Tip #2 - Tomatoes

Some recipes call for tomatoes to be peeled and seeded to remove some of the bitterness from a tomato.

I used to balk at this direction in recipes, trying to painstakingly peel the tomatoes with a paring knife. This was not only frustrating, but also very ineffective. So I began researching and much to my surprise, I discovered that peeling tomatoes can be easy. So if you are like me and you amateur sometimes shows, here are some simple directions on how to blanch and successfully peel your tomatoes!

Blanching tomatoes:

1. Using a sharp knife, cut an "X" onto the bottom of each tomato.

2. Start a pot of water boiling. Prepare a large bowl of ice water.

3. Drop tomatoes into a pot of rapidly boiling water for 30 seconds. I use a timer for this. If the tomatoes are in the water too long, they will being to cook and get mushy. If they aren't in long enough, they will be difficult to peel.

4. After 30 seconds, drop tomatoes into a bowl of ice water for 5 minutes. This will stop the cooking process.

5. Remove tomatoes from the water. The skins of the tomatoes should be easy enough to peel by hand. Use a sharp knife to remove any stubborn skins.

Spaghetti with Fresh Tomato Basil Sauce

I came across this recipe in People magazine last winter and knew it was one I needed to try once my fresh herbs were thriving. Now, I am not usually one for large chunks of tomato (in anything) so this recipe was a bit outside the box for me. In fact, my mom was shocked that I was even going to attempt it. I believe her exact words were "Do you even like tomatoes?". After I thought about it (and answered, "No.'), I decided to be adventurous and try to be a grown up and eat tomato chunks. However, I first decided to chop those tomatoes as small as I could and crush them beyond recognition while cooking. The result was pleasant for everyone. The sauce was a delightful sauce that was thick, but not chunky and a nice break from store bought pasta sauce. This is time consuming, but well worth the effort. I can't wait to make this for mom someday!

Spaghetti with Fresh Tomato Basil Sauce

1/4 c extra virgin olive oil
2 1/4 pounds roma tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and diced
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 c parmesan, romano, asiago cheese mixture
1/4 c fresh basil, packed
12 oz whole wheat spaghetti noodles

In a skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add tomatoes, salt, red pepper, black pepper, and garlic. Cook for a few minutes until tomatoes begin to soften.

Next, use a potato masher to chop tomatoes finely. Cook for 20-25 minutes until sauce has thickened, stirring frequently and continuing to mash to desired consistency.

Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil. Add noodles and cook just shy of al dente, about 7 minutes. Drain.

Add pasta to sauce and cook over medium high heat tossing until pasta is tender. Remove from heat. Stir in cheese and basil.

Serve with soft bread sticks and enjoy!

Soft Bread Sticks

I love having fresh baked bread alongside pasta dishes, but I don't always have to time to make a bread that has to raise, be punched down, and raised again. A nice alternative is soft bread sticks that only have to raise once and bake quickly! These are enjoyed by the whole family and makes a big enough batch that there are usually leftovers for the next day. Just warm them for 15 seconds in the microwave and they and soft and fresh again!

Soft Bread Sticks

1 packet dry active yeast (or 2 1/2 tsp)
1 tbsp sugar
1 1/4 c water (110-115 degrees)
1 c whole wheat flour
2 c all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tbsp canola oil
1 c grated parmesan cheese
2 tbsp grated parmesan, romano, and asiago cheese mix

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray, set aside.

Combine yeast, sugar and water. Cover with a damp cloth and set aside for about 2 minutes or until yeast begins to foam.

Add the whole wheat flour, 1 cup of the all purpose flour, oil, and salt and mix into a smooth dough.

Stir in the parmesan cheese, garlic, and as much of the remaining flour as needed to make a stiff dough.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead 5 to 10 minutes until dough is smooth and elastic. Divide dough into 10 potions. Shape each portion into an 8 inch rope. Press each rope into the cheese mixture so some sticks to the top.

Place ropes 2 inches apart on a baking sheet. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place for about 50 minutes.

Bake until lightly browned, 12 to 15 minutes. Serve warm with pasta or salads. Enjoy!

Makes 10 bread sticks.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Zucchini Pizza

During the fall, zucchini recipes abound since everyone (except me) has an abundance of zucchini bursting forth from successful gardens (my garden, on the other hand, was entirely unsuccessful this year). Since I still have more of those beautiful Farmer's Market Veggies, I decided to get creative. I was inspired a recipe posted at Real Mom Kitchen. I adjusted the recipe a bit to make it more of a meal than a snack, adding some chicken. I also added spinach and used a 100% whole wheat pizza crust to boost the nutritional value of this pizza. My husband and I both enjoyed this thoroughly, so there were no leftovers! However, this is not terribly kid-friendly, so I saved some chicken aside for my 2 year old to eat.

Zucchini Pizza

1 medium zucchini, sliced in 1/8 inch slices
1 pre-made 12 inch whole wheat pizza crust
1 tbsp olive oil
3/4 c fresh spinach, packed
1 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 1/2 c mozzarella cheese
1 6oz package chicken breast strips
1/2 tsp pizza seasoning
2 tbsp grated parmesan, romano, & asiago cheese mixture

Preheat oven to 425 degrees

Place zucchini slices on a greased baking sheet and cook for 10-15 minutes until tender. Careful not to burn them!

Meanwhile brush olive oil over the pizza crust. Add roughly chopped spinach and cooked zucchini slices.

Next, sprinkle garlic powder and pepper over the zucchini. Top with evenly with mozzarella cheese.

Finally, add the chicken breast strips (chopped), pizza seasoning and grated cheeses.

Bake for 8-10 minutes at 450 degrees or until cheese is nice and melty.

Slice and enjoy!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Chocolate Zucchini Nut Muffins

I was at our local Farmer's Market this past weekend and saw some beautiful zucchini that I couldn't help but buy. I also love sneaking veggies into foods that my 2 year old likes to eat, and the chocolate in the muffins guarantees that he will eat it! It also helps me feel a little less guilty about satisfying my sweet tooth. Mmmm...chocolate!

The original recipe called for grated zucchini rather than pureed, but I found the "strings" to be a little unappetizing. Because the pureed zucchini adds a bit more liquid than grated, I added the wheat germ to compensate for the additional liquid. Plus, we get the added nutrients and fiber found in wheat germ!

Chocolate Zucchini Nut Muffins

Makes: 24 Muffins

1 1/4 c all-purpose flour
1 1/4 c whole wheat flour
1/4 c wheat germ
4 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk
1/4 tsp white vinegar
1/2 c (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 3/4 c granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 c chopped walnuts
2 cups peeled, pureed zucchini
1 c semi sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line 2 cupcake pans with paper liners

In a medium sized bowl, blend flours, wheat germ, cocoa powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.

In a small bowl, stir together milk and vinegar. Set aside.

Beat butter, oil, and sugar on medium speed for 3 minutes or until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla, beat until well combined. Add milk mixture and beat well.

On low speed, gradually add flour mixture. bet until just combined. Stir in zucchini, nuts, and chocolate chips. Fill prepared muffin cups 2/3 full. Sprinkle with additional chocolate chips.

Bake at 325 for 20-28 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Tip #1 - Time Saver

If you have a lot of chopping to do, or even just a little I recommend investing in a mini food processor. I have a 3 cup food processor that I use when I have tons of chopping, or if I just don't feel like blinding myself with onion juice. The mini food processor also works great for making small amounts of pureed vegetables.

I roughly chop my veggies so they fit, push the button and my chopping is done in a fraction of the time. the best part is that mine is dishwasher safe, so I don't have to hand wash it later.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

I got this recipe earlier this summer from my friend Christina. It is nice for a cool fall day like today and it had a nice kick to it, if you like spicy food as much as my husband and me. For our 2 year old, I set aside some chicken cubes and let him dip them in some BBQ sauce. I also decided to add some pureed vegetables to give the soup more body and nutrition. This added a nice thickness to an otherwise thin soup.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

3-4 boneless skinless chicken breasts*
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 6 oz can tomato paste
2 tsp chicken stock
1/4 c orange puree (optional)
1/4 c white puree (optional)***

Begin by filling a 3 1/2 quart soup pot about half full with water. Bring to a boil and add chicken breasts. Cook for 20 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.

Meanwhile, add the tomato paste to the adobo sauce (without the peppers)** and mix together. Next add the onions, garlic, chicken stock, purees, and 1 or 2 chipotle peppers to this mixture.

Remove chicken from the water, set aside. Add tomato/pepper mixture to the water. Bring to a boil. Once chicken is cool enough to handle, chop into small cubes and add to soup. Cook on medium heat for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove chipotle peppers before serving

Serve with crushed tortilla chips, diced avocados, and shredded cheese.


*You can also use left over baked chicken for a time saver

**The recipe calls for only 1-2 of the peppers and the adobo sauce, however the sauce is really thick. I've found that the easiest way to remove to sauce to scrape all the peppers and sauce into a bowl and cover with at least one cup of water. You may need to swish the peppers around a bit to get the sauce off. Then, just strain the solids out and keep the "pepper water".

***Without purees broth will be significantly thinner.  Recipes found here

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


Today I used the left over Rosemary Basil Bread to make paninis. It was the most fabulous panini I think I have ever eaten. Seriously. We were all sad that we finished off the loaf of bread today. Next time, I think I will make a double batch so we have more sandwich bread.


Makes 3 Sandwiches

6 slices Rosemary Basil Bread, cut 1/2 inch thick
3-4 slices muenster cheese
12 slices Virginia Ham
15 slices turkey pepperoni

Preheat George Foreman Grill (or Panini Grill) to 475 (or highest setting)

Butter one side of each slice of bread.

Lay 1/2 slice of cheese on the unbuttered side of bread. Top with 5 slices of turkey pepperoni, 4 slices of ham, the other 1/2 slice of cheese, and another slice of bread (buttered side up). Repeat for 2 more sandwiches,

Put sandwiches into the Foreman for about 5 minutes or until cheese is melted and bread is golden brown. Serve with fruit or salads.



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