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Pumpkin Cinnamon Chip Scones

A few weeks ago, Mike was out for a fun evening with the guys.  Meanwhile, I was home alone (well, Adam was home too, but sleeping).  Of course, I got the itch to bake something.  I found myself with leftover pumpkin and leftover buttermilk, along with some leftover cinnamon chips.  Sounds like I had the makings for the perfect pumpkin scone!

I sent a scone with Mike to take to work the next day. Shortly after he left, the phone rang. It was Mike and he said ‘I’m not sure how you’re going to take this..’    Um, ok?     ‘but I think this scone is the best thing you’ve ever made!’ Yay!  This was my first attempt at making scones, and I am so glad they were a hit!

The cinnamon chips are amazing with the pumpkin in these scones.  I suspect any chips, or even dried fruit, would be good though.  The base recipe is just that good.  I lightened things up by using my baking BFF, light butter.  I used 2 glazes – plain and spiced, and have written the recipe below with the full amount that I used.   While the glazes were really good, truthfully these scones can hold their own sans glaze.  Another time I would use half the amount (or simply go without), because I prefer something a little less desserty.  If glaze is your thing, then have at it, because they were fabulous!

Pumpkin Cinnamon Chip Scones
Yields 8 scones

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt (optional)
1/2 cup (1 stick) light butter, cold and cut into 8 pieces
1/2 cup cinnamon chips (or white chocolate or butterscotch chips)
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Glaze – optional – see recipe below

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. In a food processor, pulse flours, brown sugar, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder and baking soda until combined.  Add cold butter pieces and pulse until combined and butter forms small pea-sized chunks.  Pour into a large bowl and stir in cinnamon chips.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together buttermilk, pumpkin, and vanilla.  Add pumpkin mixture to dry ingredients and gently fold until dough comes together.  (be careful not to over mix). 
  4. Transfer dough to prepared baking sheet.  Press and form dough into a 8 to 9-inch round.  Bake 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool completely and cut into 8 slices.

GLAZE:

Plain Glaze:

2 tablespoons skim milk
1 cup powdered sugar

  1. Whisk together milk and sugar until combined.  With a pastry brush, brush glaze over cooled scones.  Repeat until all glaze is used (or until desired coverage is achieved). 

Spiced Glaze:

1 tablespoons skim milk
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

  1.  Whisk together milk, sugar and pumpkin pie spice.  Pour glaze in a plastic bag.  Cut off a corner of the bag and pipe spiced glaze over scones, as desired. 

Note:  Let glaze(s) set before eating.

Adapted from Annie’s Eats, originally from Joy of Baking

Sweet Onion and Cheddar Cornbread

Chili and cornbread is such a classic combination. On Monday I shared a delicious Black Bean Chili with Roasted Butternut Squash with you. Today I am sharing with you this amazing Sweet Onion and Cheddar Cornbread that with our chili.  Of course, while I have made several cornbread recipes over the years, cornbread with sweet onions and cheddar is a version I did not have a recipe for…until now.

The first step in creating this recipe was to select a base, and for that I went to a very trusty source – the back of the cornmeal canister.  Their Easy Corn Bread was a perfect place to begin.  The rest was a little bit of guess work and crossed fingers.

Sauteed onions and cheddar cheese are the perfect additions that take this basic cornbread recipe to a whole new level. The poppy seeds sprinkled on top add a little visual appeal.  Mike has already requested I make this again.  There is no doubt this Sweet Onion and Cheddar Cornbread will be making a regular appearance at our dinner table this chili season.

Sweet Onion and Cheddar Cornbread
 
Author:
Yields: 16 servings
Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion
  • ¾ cup cornmeal
  • 1¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar, packed
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • pinch of salt (optional)
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • ¼ cup canola oil
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded (reserve 1 tablespoon for topping)
  • ¼ teaspoon poppy seeds
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray 9 inch baking pan with cooking spray.
  2. Heat olive oil in a medium skillet. Add onion and saute until softened (about 5-7 minutes). Reserve 1 tablespoon for topping. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, sugar and baking powder.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk milk, oil and egg until combined.
  5. Add milk mixture to dry ingredients, mixing just until dry ingredients are moistened. Fold in onion and and cheese (do not over mix).
  6. Pour batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle reserved onion and cheese and poppy seeds on top. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Adapted from back of Quaker corn meal canister

Black Bean Chili with Roasted Butternut Squash

One of my favorite things about the fall season (aside from an abundance of pumpkin recipes) is chili.  Not any chili will do, however…there are only a few chili recipes that I actually like.  Each is as good as the next, and they all have one thing in common.  They are vegetarian, and so delicious that you don’t miss the meat!

This Black Bean Chili with Roasted Butternut Squash is a new recipe to add to my chili repertiore.  It rivals my go-to recipe and then some.  The butternut squash adds a little more work to this recipe, but it’s definitely worth it.  I found some pre-cut cubes of butternut squash, which is what I used this time.  It definintely cut down on prep time.  But if you’re looking at a beautiful butternut squash and wondering what to do with it, I highly recommend trying this chili.

Black Bean Chili with Roasted Butternut Squash
Yields 4-6 servings

1 butternut squash (about 2 pounds), peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 yellow bell pepper, diced
4 garlic cloved, minced
2 (15 ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
2 (14.5 ounce) cans diced tomatoes with chiles, including juices
1 tablespoon chipotle chile in adobo sauce, minced
2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
salt and/or pepper, to taste

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss butternut squash cubes with olive oil.  Spray a large, rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray.  Transfer butternut squash to prepared baking sheet and spread out in a single layer.  Roast, tossing occasionally, until just tender and golden brown (about 30 minutes). 
  2. Heat oil in large pot over medium heat.  Add onion and bell pepper, and cook, stirring frequently, until soft (about 5 minutes).  Add garlic, stirring 1 minute.
  3. Stir in beans, broth, tomatoes, chipotle chiles, chili powder and oregano.  Simmer, covered 10 minutes.  Uncover and cook 10 more minutes.
  4. Stir squash into bean mixture and cook 5 minutes.  Add salt and/or pepper, to taste.  Serve warm.

Adapted from Health, December 2006

Porcini Mushroom and Spinach Risotto with Mascarpone

Years ago, I aspired to make risotto for the first time.  But I hesitated, because it was a little intimidating and seemed quite difficult.  Coincidentially, around the same time, I happened to catch a cooking show about risotto.  The chef explained step-by-step how to make it and alleviated any uncertainty I had.  Armed with a recipe from Cooking Light, I was bound and determined to perfect the art of making risotto!
Fortunately, risotto was just as easy to make as the professionals on television led me to believe.  Years later, we are still enjoying that same recipe, however since then I have incorporated a few changes to the original recipe.  I swapped oregano for thyme, added lots of fresh spinach and used vegetable broth to make this a vegetarian dish.
While we enjoy this risotto as a vegetarian entree, it of course makes for a wonderful side dish.  Porcini Mushroom and Spinach Risotto with Mascarpone is a household favorite, suitable for company, and a definite crowd pleaser.
Porcini Mushroom and Spinach Risotto with Mascarpone
 
Ingredients
  • 1½ cups boiling water
  • ½ ounce dried porcini mushrooms
  • 14 ounces vegetable broth
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 cup uncooked Arborio rice (or other short-grain rice)
  • ¾ cup chopped shallots
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ cup white wine
  • ¼ cup (2 ounces) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • ¼ cup (1 ounce) mascarpone cheese
  • 1½ teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 cups chopped fresh spinach
  • salt and pepper, to taste
Instructions
  1. Combine boiling water and mushrooms; let stand for 10 minutes. Drain through colander over a bowl. Reserve 1¼ cups soaking liquid, and chop mushrooms.
  2. In a small sauce pan, bring soaking liquid and broth to a simmer (do not boil), keeping mixture warm over low heat.
  3. Heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Spray with cooking spray. Add rice, shallots and garlic; saute 5 minutes, or until the rice gets browned and toasted.
  4. Add wine and cook until liquid evaporates (about 2 minutes).
  5. Reduce heat to medium. Add 1 cup broth mixture to rice mixture and cook until liquid is nearly absorbed (about 5 minutes); stirring frequently.
  6. Add remaining broth mixture ½ cup at a time, stirring frequently, until each portion of the broth mixture is nearly absorbed before adding the next (about 25 minutes total).
  7. Remove pan from heat. Add mushrooms, cheeses, oregano, spinach, salt and pepper, stirring gently until combined and cheese melts. Serve warm.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 4 servings
Adapted from Cooking Light
healthy chocolate peanut butter oat coconut bites

Healthy Peanut Butter Balls

 

Healthy Peanut Butter Balls are an addictive, no-bake snack, made from simple ingredients found in your pantry.  

It is no secret that I love peanut butter.  So you can imagine my excitement when I was selected to participate in the Foodbuzz Tastemaker program with the National Peanut Board.  The task was to create a snack recipe using peanut butter and incorporating other ingredients found in most homes. Easy enough!

I wanted to make something healthy, convenient and easy.  I also wanted to make something with oats.  It was time to roll up my sleeves, grab ingredients from the pantry and experiment.

After adding a little here, a touch there,…voila! I finally got the results I was looking for, using simple wholesome ingredients found in my pantry.

This healthy snack could not be any easier to make. The recipe requires no baking; simply measure, mix, roll and chill. The mixture may seem a little dry at first, but as you continue to mix it comes together (or add a little more honey or peanut butter to moisten the mixture to a consistency that works for you). Rolling the balls in a coating as optional. It makes the balls a little less sticky on the fingers, and also is a fun way to vary the flavors, but it is not necessary.

Healthy Peanut Butter Balls are a healthy and delicious snack, or even a quick breakfast on-the-go, featuring one of my favorite foods of all time…peanut butter!

Healthy Peanut Butter Balls
 
Yields: 16-18 balls
Ingredients
  • 1 cup peanut butter, natural is preferred (chunky or creamy)
  • 2 tablespoons honey (or agave nectar)
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 2 tablespoons ground flaxseed or wheat germ
  • 2 tablespoons sweetened flaked coconut
  • cocoa powder, wheat germ, powdered sugar, chopped peanuts, (optional) – for coating
Instructions
  1. Heat peanut butter and honey in the microwave until easily mixed, about 15-20 seconds. Stir until blended.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix oats, flaxseed and coconut (if using) until combined.
  3. Add peanut butter mixture to oat mixture and stir until incorporated. (Mixture may seem a little dry at first…just keep mixing).
  4. Form a rounded tablespoonful of the combined mixture into a ball and place on a plate. Repeat until all mixture is used. Now, if you do not want to coat the balls, skip to step 6.
  5. Roll each ball in whatever coating suits your preference. Cocoa powder, powdered sugar, wheat germ, cinnamon sugar and chopped peanuts are some ideas.

Disclaimer: As part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker program, I was provided with 2 jars of Planters peanut butter, from the National Peanut Board, for free.  The details of my experience are exclusively my opinion, and I was not otherwise influenced or compensated.

Spicy Beef and Zucchini Pasta

When I was flipping through a recent magazine for the second time, I was a little surprised to see that I flagged something called ‘Stovetop Chili Mac.’  It’s not something that I would typically make, based on title alone.  After a quick glance, I could definitely see the potential in this dish – increase the veggies, give it some kick,…and we find ourselves with the delicious Spicy Beef and Zucchini Pasta.

The beef and zucchini sauce was a spicy and flavorful topping on top of pasta, which is a nice change from your every day bolognese.  The preparation of this sauce reminds me of my go-to taco recipe though.  This recipe makes plenty, so enjoy pasta for dinner and then tacos for lunch the next day.  That’s what we did!

Spicy Beef and Zucchini Pasta
Yields 4 servings

3/4 pound (12 oz) short pasta, such as rotini or rigatoni
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
5 garlic cloves, minced or grated
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 green and/or red bell peppers, chopped
1 pound extra lean ground beef
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 medium zucchini, diced
2 cans (14.5 ounces each) diced tomatoes with chiles, including juices
2 ounces shredded cheddar cheese, for topping

  1. In a large pot of boiling water, cook pasta according to package instructions.  Drain and return to pot.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat oil over medium.  Add onion, peppers and garlic and cook until onion is translucent and peppers are soft (about 5 minutes).
  3. Increase heat to medium high, add beef and break it up with a wooden spoon.  Cook until no longer pink.  Add chili powder and cumin, and cook until fragrant (about 1 minute). Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Add zucchini and cook until tender.  Add tomatoes, bring to a simmer and cook until mixture is thickened and heated through. 
  5. Divide pasta among 4 bowls, top with meat sauce, and sprinkle with cheese.

Adapted from Everyday Food

Ghirardelli Intense Dark Chocolate

I was pretty excited to find a small-ish package at my doorstep. I was expecting some samples of Ghirardelli® Intense Dark chocolates. Little did I realize that a “sample” would equate to this…

Pardon the photo quality.  This was taken from my phone to text to an out-of-town Mike.  I knew he would be excited to come home!
As part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker program with Ghirardelli® Intense Dark chocolates, I was given the opportunity to taste three varieties of their Intense Dark chocolate line.  That’s right.  I got to sample top quality chocolate for free.   You don’t need to twist my arm for this one!   As a lover of all things chocolate, especially dark chocolate, this was right up my alley. 

The task was to share the pairings we put together with the chocolates. I enjoyed some plain, some with coffee, and was busy in the kitchen as well.    Well, you’ll see…let’s get started.
Twilight Delight – 72% cacao
When I first opened my chocolate bounty, Twilight Delight is the chocolate that I was immediately drawn to. After the first bite, I knew I was in trouble. The chocolate is smooth, dark, and is a perfect accompaniment with my coffee (or water, or wine, or milk, or Tuesday…you get the idea). I really wanted to just sit and eat all of this lovely chocolate plain, but the baker inside of me had other ideas.    It just so happens, that weekend I rediscovered a brownie recipe,..it was as if fate was working its little hand here.   Check out Brown Sugar Brownies for the recipe.
I really enjoyed the Twilight Delight chocolate with the caramel flavors of the brown sugar in these brownies. I also enjoyed Twlight Delight with dried apricots, coconut and pretzels.
Midnight Reverie – 86% Cacao
The darkest of the bunch, Midnight Reverie boasts 86% Cacao, and unrivaled chocolate intensity. To a dark chocolate lover like myself, it’s perfect.   Again, I really wanted to just enjoy the bar plain (and I definitely did!), but I wanted to make a dessert that would really highlight the beautiful chocolate. The idea of the darkest of dark whipped into a mousse was SO appealing, so I made Chocolate Ricotta Mousse. The Midnight Reverie chocolate was well pronounced throughout this dessert, and the result was a nice dark chocolate treat! 
I also enjoyed Midnight Reverie with marshmallows and pretzels.
Sea Salt Soiree – Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt and Roasted Almonds
How delicious does this sound!  There is something about the sweet-salty combination that is so appealing.  Now, I did not personally sample this chocolate because I have a tree nut allergy. *tear*  Fortunately Mike and my mom were willing and eager participants for this task!  They both devoured the chocolate.  You really can’t go wrong with dark chocolate and almonds, they say.  The sea salt puts it over the top, they say.   I will have to take their word for it.  *tear*  So for me, Sea Salt Soiree pairs best with sharing and smiles 🙂  (My taste testers thought they were perfect without accompaniment).  

So there you have if folks!  While these chocolate pair well with many accompaniments, they are quite delicious just plain.  It’s nice to have options…and chocolate!
Disclaimer: As part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker program, I was provided with 3 bars and 2 bags of Ghirardelli chocolate for free. The details of my experience are exclusively my opinion, and I was not otherwise influenced or compensated.

Chocolate Ricotta Mousse

As part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker program with Ghirardelli, I was given the opportunity to sample several of Ghirardelli Intense Dark chocolates, including Midnight Reverie, which is 86% cacao.   I thought, what better way to highlight this deliciously dark chocolate than to make it into mousse! 
I love the elegance of chocolate mousse, but have a hard time eating or serving it due to the amount of cream or half and half, etc. it typically contains.  As a healthier alternative, I have had my eye on a recipe for Chocolate Ricotta Mousse for quite a while. 

 

 
We enjoyed Chocolate Ricotta Mousse, but found that it is very important to approach this mousse as “mousse.” It is made with ricotta cheese, so accordingly expect the texture to be a little grainy (like ricotta).  In return, you get a delicious, light, chocolaty dessert that is higher in protein and lower in calories and fat than its traditional counterpart.

The original recipe calls for cocoa powder, which I substituted for an equivalent amount of Ghirardelli’s Midnight Reverie chocolate. Since this chocolate already contains some sugar, I reduced the amount of sugar in the mousse by half. The result was a perfect balance of sweetness. 

Chocolate Ricotta Mousse
Yields 6 servings
15 oz low fat ricotta cheese (room temperature)
1 ounce dark chocolate (melted and cooled), such as Ghirardelli Midnight Reverie 
OR  3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 egg whites (room temperature)
1/4 to 1/2 cup granulated sugar
Coarse salt
Cocoa powder, for serving (optional)
Whipped topping, for serving (optional)
  1. In a food processor, process ricotta and chocolate until smooth.  Transfer mixture to a large bowl.
  2. Place egg whites, sugar and a pinch of salt in a medium heat proof bowl set over simmering water.  Whisk constantly, until sugar dissolves and mixture is warm (about 3 minutes).  Remove from heat and beat mixture (using an electric mixer) on high until stiff glossy peaks form (about 5 minutes).
  3. With a rubber spatula, gently fold egg mixture into ricotta mixture until combined. 
  4. Divide mousse among 6 glasses or bowls.  Refrigerate 3 hours (or up to 1 day).  Serve dusted with cocoa powder or with a dollop of whipped topping, if desired.
Adapted from Everyday Food
Disclaimer: While this is not my formal write up of my experience with Ghirardelli chocolate, I feel obligated to disclose the following: “As part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker program, I was provided with Ghirardelli chocolate for free. The details of my experience are exclusively my opinion, and I was not otherwise influenced or compensated.” I will be sharing a full write up of my experience later this week.

Brown Sugar Brownies

Back in college, I had a recipe for Brown Sugar Brownies.  They were honestly the best brownies I’ve ever had (aside from my grandmother’s of course). I still remember them, but that was ages ago, and sadly my dear recipe is long gone.  Fast forward to a few weeks ago, I was in the middle of baking and ran out of brown sugar.  Mike went on an emergency brown sugar run for me.  When he set the bag down on the counter, it happened to be recipe-side up (hmm…do you think that was intentional?).  What did I see?  Brown Sugar Brownies!

Quick and easy to prepare, this recipe makes a delicious brownie that is more fudgy than cakey.  In fact, they are light and airy and almost melt in your mouth.  Now, I used dark chocolate that I received from the Foodbuzz Tastemaker program with Ghiardelli.  This would be delicious using unsweetened per the original recipe, but I was pleasantly susprised at the results with what I used.  I also used light butter, which has half the fat and calories of regular butter.  I like using light butter when I can, because if it works why not, right? 

Now for the best part.  If I told you these brownies were under 115 calories each, would you believe it?  I hardly believed it myself!  I did the calculation a few days after making them (and after I had already eaten a few bars).  I was eating half a brownie each time because I expected they would come in a lot higher.   I did the calculation once, checked it again.  It’s true.  These babies clock in around 112!

Brown Sugar Brownies
Yields 16 brownies

1/2 cup (1 stick) light butter, melted and cooled
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 ounces unsweetened OR dark chocolate (such as Ghirardelli Twilight Delight), melted, cooled slightly
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
powdered sugar (optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Spray 9 inch baking pan with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar until combined.
  3. Beat in eggs, adding one at at time. 
  4. Stir in melted chocolate and vanilla.
  5. Gently fold in flour, until combined.
  6. Pour mixture into pan and bake for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool completely.  Cut into squares, and sprinkle with powdered sugar, if desired.

Adapted from back of sugar bag (recipe found here here)

Disclaimer: While this is not my formal write up of my experience with Ghirardelli chocolate, I feel obligated to disclose the following:  “As part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker program, I was provided with Ghirardelli chocolate for free.  The details of my experience are exclusively my opinion, and I was not otherwise influenced or compensated.”  I will be sharing a full write up of my experience later this week. 

Brown Sugar Coconut Blueberry Muffins

The hunt for tasty ways to use the remainder of our blueberries continues.  It’s not a bad problem to have, that’s for sure.  We have been happily enjoying Blueberry Lemon Ricotta Pancakes, lots of blueberries in Greek yogurt, and many other treats.  But it was time to make something new.  I already have several blueberry muffin recipes that I love, but when I found a blueberry muffin recipe using brown sugar and buttermilk, I knew it would become an instant favorite.

While the recipe looked nearly perfect as-is, I decided to add a little twist and use coconut oil instead of canola oil.  This was my first time using coconut oil, but I had high hopes it would be the perfect addition to these muffins.

The coconut oil imparts a delicious coconut flavor to the muffins, which works beautifully with the tangy blueberries.  The muffins are incredibly moist as well.  Score for the coconut oil, and score for another fantastic recipe for blueberry muffins!

Brown Sugar Coconut Blueberry Muffins
 
Yields: 12 muffins
Ingredients
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup packed brown sugar
  • 1½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt (optional)
  • ⅓ cup coconut oil (or canola oil)
  • ⅓ cup buttermilk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups blueberries (fresh or frozen)
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar, for topping
  • 2 teaspoons sweetened flaked coconut, for topping
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Line 12 standard muffin cups with paper liners.
  2. In a large bowl, stir flour, sugar and baking powder.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together oil, buttermilk, eggs and vanilla until well blended.
  4. Add wet ingredients to flour mixture, stirring gently until just combined.
  5. Gently fold in blueberries.
  6. Divide batter evenly among 12 muffin cups. Top each muffin with a sprinkle of brown sugar and a sprinkle of coconut.
  7. Bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 5 minutes and then move to wire rack to cool completely.

Brown Sugar Coconut Blueberry Muffins
Yields 12 muffins

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt (optional)
1/3 cup coconut oil (or canola oil)
1/3 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups blueberries (fresh or frozen)
2 teaspoons brown sugar, for topping
2 teaspoons sweetened flaked coconut, for topping

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line 12 standard muffin cups with paper liners.
  2. In a large bowl, stir flour, sugar and baking powder.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together oil, buttermilk, eggs and vanilla until well blended.
  4. Add wet ingredients to flour mixture, stirring gently until just combined.
  5. Gently fold in blueberries.
  6. Divide batter evenly among 12 muffin cups.  Top each muffin with a sprinkle of brown sugar and a sprinkle of coconut.
  7. Bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let cool in pan for 5 minutes and then move to wire rack to cool completely.

Adapted from Babble

Kelapo Coconut Oil

Have you heard the buzz about coconut oil?   It seems to be all the rage these days. Everywhere I turn there is another article about the health benefits of coconut oil.   As someone who likes to keep up-to-date on healthy food trends, I’ve been interested in trying it.   So when I was contacted by Kelapo to sample Kelapo’s Virgin Coconut Oil, it was like they read my mind.


I first visited Kelapo’s website. There is a wealth of information there regarding the benefits of coconut oil. I found the uses section particularly helpful for a newbie to this product, as it explained that you can replace the butter/oil at a 1:1 ratio, and that it is helpful to warm it up when replacing oil in a recipe. Great tips!

I definitely wanted to bake something using coconut oil, but I had so many ideas swirling about, it was hard to choose.  I decided to put a little coconut twist on muffins, a recipe that I will share with you tomorrow. 

The result?  These muffins were amazing!  We loved the flavor the coconut oil imparted on the muffins, and they were very moist and had a nice texture.  Kelapo’s coconut oil was very nice to use as well.  I am more than pleased with my first coconut oil experience using Kelapo’s coconut oil, and I look forward to sharing more recipes using coconut oil with you.

One more thing!  The generous folks at Kelapo have given Alida’s Kitchen a discount code to share with you! From now until 10/20/2011, use the code ‘Alida20’ (case sensitive) to receive 20% off your order.  Pretty sweet!

Disclaimer: Kelapo sent me a jar of their Virgin Coconut Oil for free.  The details of my experience are exclusively my opinion, and I was not otherwise influenced or compensated.

Tortellini Soup with Chunky Tomatoes and Spinach - made in less than 30 minutes!

Tortellini Soup with Chunky Tomatoes and Spinach

(Photos updated 2/23/2012)

As the weather turns cooler, we find ourselves gravitating toward soups, chili, baked pasta, all of those warm comfort foods. I have had a vision for this tortellini soup for quite a while, but simply have not had an opportunity to execute it. Until now…

Filled with healthy vegetables and hearty tortellini, Tortellini Soup with Chunky Tomatoes and Spinach is the perfect comfort food for a crisp fall day, or any day for that matter.  And guess what?  It can be made in under 30 minutes!  Had I realized that, this soup would have been made long ago.

I put a range of 4 to 6 cups for the broth, so you can adjust to your preference. I like my soup on the chunkier side, so 4 cups of broth yielded the perfect consistency for me. I also used frozen spinach, which worked really well.   I recommend using both low sodium broth and tomatoes, so you can control the sodium by adding salt to taste.

As a great weeknight dinner, or a quick any time meal, we are looking forward to enjoying this soup all fall/winter long, and I hope you will too!

Tortellini Soup with Chunky Tomatoes and Spinach
 
Yields: 3 to 4 servings
Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 to 6 cups low sodium vegetable broth (or chicken broth)
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) low sodium diced tomatoes, including juices
  • 9-10 ounces tortellini (fresh or frozen), any variety
  • 1½ teaspoons Italian herb seasoning
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
  • 10 ounces fresh or frozen spinach, chopped (if frozen, thaw and squeeze out excess moisture)
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste
  • ¼ cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese
Instructions
  1. In a dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat. Saute onion for 5-7 minutes, or until translucent. Add garlic, and saute for 1 minute.
  2. Add broth and tomatoes. Turn heat to high, cover and bring to a boil.
  3. Add tortellini and cook according to package instructions.
  4. Within the last minute of cooking the tortellini, stir in Italian herb seasoning, crushed red pepper and spinach. Taste, and add salt and pepper seasoning, as desired.
  5. Serve immediately, garnishing each bowl with Parmesan cheese.

 

Adapted from Food Network

Pineapple Zucchini Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

One of my favorite things about birthdays is birthday cake. Especially making birthday cakes! The birthday person chooses a cake or simply gives me inspiration.  Then I try to make the best cake I can.  When it came time to choose my birthday cake, believe me, it was a tough decision. My head was still in zucchini-mode. I love pineapple, and I love cream cheese. So I was on zucchini, pineapple, and cream cheese mission. Seems easy enough, right? 

I researched a few recipes until deciding on this one, and made a few changes, reflected below.  The frosting is a nice balance of cinnamon and cream cheese and the perfect complement to the cupcakes.  There are chunks of pineapple and hints of coconut and zucchini in the cake.  They are healthy and come in under 200 calories.  Pineapple Zucchini Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting made the perfect birthday treat!

* REMINDER:  MAGAZINE GIVEAWAY ENDS TONIGHT!  GO HERE TO ENTER!  *

Pineapple Zucchini Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting
Yields 18 cupcakes

Cake:

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup white whole wheat flour
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sweetened flaked coconut
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt  (optional)
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups shredded zucchini (squeeze out some of the moisture)
20 ounce can of pineapple tidbits or crushed in juice, drained (I used tidbits for chunkier pieces)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line 18 standard muffin cups with paper liners (fill the empty cups halfway with water). 
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flours, sugar, coconut, baking soda, salt (if using) and cinnamon.  Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, stir together oil, eggs and vanilla until well blended.  Add zucchini and pineapple and mix until combined.
  4. Add zucchini mixture to dry ingredients and gently fold until combined.  (Note: Batter will be thick).
  5. Divide batter evenly among 18 muffin cups.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool completely on a wire rack.

Frosting:

8 ounces Neufchâtel (1/3 less fat) cream cheese
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon

  1. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese, sugar, vanilla and cinnamon. 
  2. Pipe or spread frosting on cupcakes, as desired. 

Note:  If not serving immediately, cupcakes/frosting should be refrigerated.  Otherwise, the frosting gets too soft.  When serving after refrigeration, let cupcake sit out for 10-15 minutes at room temperature.  (They are good straight from the fridge, however…if you can’t wait like me!)  🙂

Nutrition Information per Serving (1 cupcake and 1/18 frosting)
Calories: 190 ~ Fat: 6g ~ Carbs: 33.6g ~ Fiber 2.9g ~ Protein: 3.2g

Adapted from Skinny Taste

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies

I swear sometimes my best recipes are found in the most random of places. I found this recipe at the grocery store attached to a coupon for parchment paper, which I grabbed not knowing there was a recipe attached.  As luck would have it, as I was tearing off the coupon, I saw those 5 magic words…Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies.  Um…yes please! 

Let me tell you about these cookies.  There is peanut butter.  There are chopped peanuts.  There are chocolate chunks.  There are oats.  Intrigued?  Me too!  To ease the guilt-factor and be a little more figure-friendly, I used light butter and skim milk in lieu of the full-fat counterparts.  The result is a cookie that is soft, almost cakey, filled with chunky goodness and a delicious flavor combination in every bite.    

Also a reminder that if you haven’t entered my giveaway, go here and do so!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Yields 36 cookies

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup natural peanut butter (I used chunky)
1/2 cup butter, softened (I used light butter)
1 1/4 cups packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons milk (I used skim)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 bag (11.5 oz) semi-sweet chocolate chunks
1/3 cup quick cooking oats
1/3 cup chopped peanuts

  1. Combined flour and baking soda.  Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, on medium speed, beat peanut butter, butter and brown sugar until well blended.  Beat in milk, vanilla and egg just until blended. 
  3. Add flour mixture gradually to creamed mixture, mixing by hand, or on low speed, until blended. 
  4. Stir in chocolate chunks, oats and peanuts.
  5. Chill dough for 30 minutes to overnight. 
  6. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.   Line 2  cookie sheets with parchment paper (or silpat).
  7. Drop dough by heaping tablespoonfuls on cookie sheet and flatten slightly with back of spoon. 
  8. Bake 9-11 minutes or until cookie edges are set and edges turn brown.  Move cookies to wire rack to cool. 

Adapted from Reynolds

The Best Chicken Sate with Peanut Sauce

I am very excited to share this recipe with you.  It is my most requested dish, a family favorite, and it’s healthy too.  It is without a doubt The Best Chicken Sate with Peanut Sauce ever!

 
As you’ll notice, the marinade and sauce use many of the same ingredients.  For ease, I place the prep bowls side by side and prepare them in tandem.  I measure brown sugar for each, put it away; soy sauce for each, put it away, etc.  They end up like this (marinade on left, sauce on right).

This Chicken Sate with Peanut Sauce is definitely worthy of a special occasion, but with some advance prep work it can also be a nice weeknight dinner.  The chicken is best when given ample time to marinate (overnight works well).  I typically use chicken breast tenders and do not thread them on skewers to save myself the extra step.  The result is a delicious Asian-inspired dish with a little spicy kick.  

The Best Chicken Sate with Peanut Sauce
Yields 4 servings

1 pound boneless/skinless chicken tenders (or chicken breast cut into strips)

Sate/Marinade:
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
3-4 garlic cloves, grated or finely minced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, grated
1 tablepoon lime juice

Peanut Sauce:
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
2 garlic cloves, grated or finely minced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
zest of 1 lime
2 tablespoons natural peanut butter (chunky or smooth)

skewers (optional)
cooking spray

Note: if using wooden skewers, soak for at least 30 minutes prior to grilling.

  1. Put chicken in a Ziploc bag.
  2. Prepare sate: In a small bowl, combine brown sugar, soy sauce, garlic, red pepper flakes, ginger, and lime juice. 
  3. Add sate to chicken in bag, making sure chicken is well coated.  Place in refrigerator to marinate (4 hours up to 2 days; ideal time is around 10-15 hours)
  4. Prepare sauce:  In a separate dish, mix together brown sugar, soy sauce, garlic, red pepper flakes, lime zest and peanut butter.  Stir until combined.  Refrigerate until within 30 minutes of serving.
  5. Cooking:  Preheat grill.  Thread chicken on skewers, if using. 
  6. Place chicken on grill coated with cooking spray (or foil tray).  Cook for 4-5 minutes per side, or until chicken is done.  Serve with sauce.

Adapted from Cooking Light

PB Ball Banana Cinnamon Chip Muffins

Yesterday I shared with you Banana Cinnamon Chip Muffins.  If you haven’t baked with cinnamon chips before, I suggest you go out and get some.  They are so good, especially in this banana muffin recipe.  As I also mentioned, that’s what I made with half of the recipe.  Today I am going to share with you what I did with the other half. 


When I was conjuring up a purpose for the cinnamon chips, banana muffins were the first thing that popped into my head.  But then I got to thinking – what if I added something more…something delicious…something like…a peanut butter ball? 

So today, part 2 of yesterday’s Banana Cinnamon Chip Muffins, I present to you PB Ball Banana Cinnamon Chip Muffins.  The muffins alone deserve the spotlight, because they really are spectacular.  Add a peanut butter ball to the center, and they become something extraordinary. 

PB Ball Banana Cinnamon Chip Muffins
Yields 24 standard muffins

1 1/2 cup natural peanut butter (creamy or chunky)
1 cup powdered sugar

1 recipe Banana Cinnamon Chip Muffins

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line 24 standard muffins cups with paper liners.  Set aside.
  2. Beat peanut butter and powdered sugar together until blended. 
  3. Roll peanut butter mixture into 24 evenly-sized balls and place in the paper-lined muffin cups.  
  4. Make Banana Cinnamon Chip Muffins per the recipe.  Divide batter evenly among the muffin cups, covering the peanut butter ball. 
  5. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until muffin is set.  (You can do the toothpick test, obviously just don’t test through the peanut butter ball).  Let muffins cool in the pan for 5 minutes and then move to a wire rack to cool completely.

Adapted from Picky Palate

Banana Cinnamon Chip Muffins

If there is one thing we always have plenty of in this house, it’s bananas.  Whenever we run low, Mike is quick to run to the store to replenish our stash.  It didn’t take him long to learn that there is no such thing as too many bananas.  A surplus of bananas means baking bananas, which means treats!  As I write this, I have a bowlful of overripe bananas waiting to be mashed, whipped, mixed, baked into something delicious.

To completely change subjects – have I told you about my baking chip collection?  I have a thing for baking chips.  I love buying chips in anticipation of creating new and exciting treats, but life (i.e. a busy toddler) usually gets in the way of those plans.   I decided it was time for a self-intervention.  I must begin baking my way through this collection,…starting with these cinnamon chips.

So the two stories come together…in the form of Banana Cinnamon Chip Muffins.   These muffins are a delicious and healthy option, made partly with whole wheat flour.  They are also made using 3 bananas, which means you can use less oil.  The cinnamon chips add just a little extra something that make these muffins special.  But if cinnamon is not your thing, these would be great with chocolate chips (mmm, or even peanut butter chips!).

These muffins are moist and delicious.  They are all I hoped for and more…yet I ended up doing more with them.  I made half of the recipe as just Banana Cinnamon Chip Muffins.  Tomorrow I will share with you what I did with the other half of the recipe! 😉

Banana Cinnamon Chip Muffins
Yields 12 standard muffins

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 ripe mashed bananas
1/3 cup canola oil
1/4 cup buttermilk
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup cinnamon chips (or chocolate chips)

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Grease or line 12 standard muffins cups.  Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, baking powder, and baking soda.  Set aside.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix the bananas, oil, buttermilk, eggs and vanilla until combined. 
  4. Fold banana mixture into flour mixture until just blended (do not over mix).  Add cinnamon chips, and fold gently until combined.
  5. Distribute batter evenly among muffin cups.  Bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let cool in pan for 5 minutes and then move to a wire rack to cool completely.

Adapted from Keep Your Diet Real

Triple Chocolate Malted Cookies

The baby was asleep. The husband was out to dinner. What’s a girl to do? Make Triple Chocolate Malted Cookies, of course!

I haven’t made cookies in ages, and these just happen to be one of Mike’s favorites. Actually, after one bite, they quickly become everybody’s favorite. These cookies are soft, chewy, and chocolaty with a hint of malted milk flavor.

The dough is quite sticky, but becomes much more managable after chilling it in the refrigerator. It is also key to either line your cookie sheet, or spray it with cooking spray. Otherwise the cookies have a tendency to stick. 

Despite the minor challenges presesented by a sticky dough, these cookies are worth every effort. They are delicious and the perfect accompaniment to a cold glass of milk!

Triple Chocolate Malted Cookies
Yields approximately 30 cookies

1 cup brown sugar, packed
6 tablespoons chocolate malted milk powder
5 tablespoons butter, softened
3 tablespoons chocolate syrup
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup milk chocolate chips
1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

  1. In a large bowl, combine sugar, malted milk powder, butter, syrup, vanilla and egg; beat with a mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine flour and baking soda.  Gradually add flour mixture to wet ingredients, stirring (or beating at low speed) until combined.  Stir in chocolate chips.
  3. Chill dough for 30 minutes to overnight.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  5. Drop dough by heaping teaspoonfuls 2 inches apart on cookie sheet.  Bake for 10 minutes.  [Cookies will appear puffy when first taken out of the oven]  Cool on pan for 2 minutes or until firm.  Remove cookies and cool on a wire rack.

Adapted from Cooking Light

Peanut Butter Cup Blondies

A couple weeks ago, I enjoyed another Happy Magazine Day with the arrival of Cooking Light’s September, 2011 issue.  When I saw ‘Light Brownies’ featured on the cover, I was intrigued.  When I saw Peanut Butter Cup Blondies, I could not race to the store fast enough to pick up peanut butter cups!

These bars are easy to make and bake up into something amazing.  From the original recipe, I substituted half of the granulated sugar with brown sugar.  I also used skim milk, since that’s what I had on hand and generally prefer.  I used chunky peanut butter, and the little peanut chunks throughout the bars were awesome.  Last, I used milk chocolate chips instead of semisweet, but either would be great.  Dark or white chocolate chips would also be a delicious way to mix it up.

Chewy, peanut buttery, peanut butter cuppy, and oh so good, these bars are simply dreamy.  I adjusted the serving size from 20 to 16.  They are substantial enough to feel like you’re getting a big treat, yet they still come in under 200 calories per bar.  Not bad!

Peanut Butter Cup Blondies
 
Yields: 16 to 20 bars
Ingredients
  • 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup brown sugar, packed
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt (optional)
  • ⅓ cup natural peanut butter (creamy or chunky)
  • ¼ cup butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 2 tablespoons skim milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • ¼ cup milk or semisweet chocolate chips
  • 4 (0.75-ounce) peanut butter cups, coarsely chopped
  • Cooking spray
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray 9 x 9 inch baking pan with cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk to combine the flour, sugars, baking powder, and salt (if using).
  3. In a separate medium bowl, stir to combine the peanut butter, butter, milk, vanilla and eggs.
  4. Add peanut butter mixture to dry ingredients, and gently stir until combined. Fold in chocolate chips until combined (do not over mix).
  5. Pour batter in prepared baking dish. Arrange peanut butter cups over batter.
  6. Bake for 19 minutes, or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs clinging. Cool in pan on a wire rack.

Nutrition Information
Calories: 192 ~ Carbs: 26g ~ Fiber: >1 ~ Fat: 8.6g ~ Protein: 3.4g

Adapted from Cooking Light

Vegetable Quichetata with Roasted Garlic Hummus and Goat Cheese

As part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker program with Sabra, I was invited to create an original recipe suitable for a cocktail party using Sabra hummus.  My head has been swirling with several tasty ideas ever since, and I am very excited to share with you my creation!

We all know the basic difference between a crustless quiche and a frittata.  A crustless quiche is made with milk (or cream or half & half) and mixed with your veggies/meats.  A frittata is made with no milk and with whatever mix-ins you want to use.

Well, when you use hummus, but no milk, is the hummus a substitute for the milk, or is it considered a mix-in?  The answer wasn’t quite clear, so I married the two, and the ‘Quichetata’ was born!

In this variation of a Quichetata, I used Sabra’s Roasted Garlic hummus, spinach, roasted red pepper and goat cheese.  It is amazing how well you can really taste the hummus, which is good and garlicky, and balances nicely with flavors of the goat cheese and vegetables.  The result is fabulous.  Made in a mini-muffin pan, these Quichetatas are the perfect hot h’ors d’oeuvres for your next cocktail party, holiday party, open house or brunch.

Hummus Quichetata
Yields 24 mini-muffin-size quichetatas

8 large eggs
6 tablespoons Sabra Roasted Garlic Hummus
1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese, plus additional for topping
1 cup chopped fresh spinach
1/4 cup chopped roasted red pepper
Salt and pepper, to taste
Cooking spray

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Spray 2 12-cup mini muffin pans with cooking spray.  Set aside. 
  2. In a large bowl, whisk eggs and hummus together until combined.  Add roasted red pepper, spinach and goat cheese, whisking until incorporated.  Season with salt and pepper, as desired.
  3. Distribute egg mixture evenly among mini muffin cups (cups will be full).  Sprinkle additional goat cheese over each cup.
  4. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until eggs are set.  Serve immediately. 

Disclaimer: As part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker program, I was given Sabra’s hummus for free.  The details of my experience are exclusively my opinion, and I was not otherwise influenced or compensated.

    Rosemary Parmesan Dipping Oil & Crisco Olive Oils

    As part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker program, I got the opportunity to sample three olive oils from Crisco: Light Tasting, Pure and 100% Extra Virgin.  Since I use olive oil often, I was excited to give them a try.  But then I wondered…what would I possible do with these three olive oils?  What’s the difference? 

    Well, thanks to the handy little labels on each bottle, Crisco answered that very question for me and then some.  Light Tasting is best for frying, baking and as an everyday cooking oil.  Pure is best for grilling, sauteing and marinades.  100% Extra Virgin is best for dipping, dressing and sauces.  To give a true test, I decided to remake a couple of old favorite recipes using Light Tasting and Pure, and to make a new recipe for you using 100% Extra Virgin.

    Light Tasting

    Since Crisco’s Light Tasting olive oil is great for baked goods, I decided to remake my Rosemary Cornbread, but this time as muffins.  The oil had little to no fragrance and was otherwise very nice to use.  The result?  These muffins were fantastic!  This was the best batch of Rosemary Cornbread yet, so I’m very pleased with the Light Tasting olive oil. 


    Pure

    Given that Crisco’s Pure olive oil is ideal for marinating and grilling, it will definitely be popular around this house.  I decided to remake Mustard Rosemary Chicken, but this time we grilled the marinated chicken breasts (i.e. not on skewers).  The result?  Delicious!  We both remarked about how this chicken was one of the best we’ve had.  Another score using Crisco’s Pure olive oil!


    100% Extra Virgin

    Crisco’s 100% Extra Virgin olive oil is best for dipping, so what better way to test this than by making a dipping oil.  This recipe was inspired by a little pamphlet that came with the oils.  Rosemary Parmesan Dipping Oil is simple, quick and easy to make, and tastes incredible!  Three for three…thanks Crisco!

    Rosemary Parmesan Dipping Oil
    Yields 4 servings

    1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, such as Crisco® 100 % Extra Virgin Olive Oil
    1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
    1-2 garlic cloves, finely minced (or grated)
    Pinch salt
    Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
    1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
    1-2 tablespoons grated or finely shredded Parmesan cheese
    Crusty French or Italian Bread

    1. In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, vinegar, garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper.
    2. Pour into serving saucer(s) and add Parmesan cheese. 
    3. Serve with crusty bread. 

    Adapted from Crisco pamphlet

    Disclaimer: As part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker program, I was provided with a bottle of each of the above named Crisco olive oils for free.  The details of my experience are exclusively my opinion, and I was not otherwise influenced or compensated.

    Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes {Alida's Kitchen}

    Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes

    Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes are perfect for chocolate lovers and picky eaters, and a delicious way to use up some of that zucchini taking over your garden!
    I was asked to make cupcakes for a very special birthday party.  Mike’s grandmother turned 90!  How cool is that!  She is an amazing lady, who loves chocolate.  This request came shortly after I made Zucchini, Banana and Flaxseed Muffins, and I had zucchini on the brain.  Then it hit me – Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes.  Perfect!

    I knew this birthday crowd would appreciate the use of zucchini in these delectable goodies, though you would never guess that’s the secret ingredient simply by taste.  (Score if you’re serving a picky eater!)  The zucchini creates a moist cake, makes it slightly healthier, and is the perfect complement to this delicious chocolate cupcake!

    Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes
     
    These are a delicious way to use up some of that zucchini taking over your garden. Perfect for chocolate lovers and picky eaters. You would never guess there's zucchini in there!
    Yields: 24 cupcakes
    Ingredients
    • 1½ cups brown sugar
    • ¼ cup melted butter
    • ¾ cup canola oil
    • 3 large eggs
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • ½ cup buttermilk
    • 2 cups grated zucchini (squeeze out excess moisture)
    • ¾ cup semi-sweet mini chocolate chips
    • 2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1 cup dutch processed cocoa, sifted
    • 2 teaspoons baking soda
    • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
    • Frosting:
    • ½ cup (1 stick) butter
    • ⅔ cup dutch processed cocoa powder
    • 3 cups powdered sugar
    • ⅓ cup skim milk
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    Instructions
    1. CUPCAKES: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two muffin pans with paper liners and set aside.
    2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and cinnamon.
    3. In a separate medium bowl, cream the brown sugar, butter and oil. Beat in eggs, one at a time until incorporated. Stir in vanilla, buttermilk, zucchini and chocolate chips.
    4. Add liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir gently until combined (do not over mix).
    5. Spoon batter into muffin pans, filling them until about ¾ full. Bake for about 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cupcakes cool for 5 minutes in pan and then move to a wire rack to cool completely.
    6. Once cooled, frost with chocolate frosting and decorate as desired. Store cupcakes at room temperature in an air tight container.
    7. FROSTING: Melt the butter. Whisk in the cocoa powder, whisking until smooth.
    8. Stir in vanilla and alternately add powdered sugar and milk, using a hand mixer (or stand mixer) to beat to spreading consistency. Add small amount additional milk, if needed.

    Adapted from  Two Peas and Their Pod

    Portobello and Zucchini Tacos

    As Mike was sprinkling cheese on his Portobello and Zucchini Tacos, he could see it in my eyes and knew what I was about to do.  I couldn’t help myself – I had to do it!  I stole his dinner so I could plate it for pictures.  Who knew he was such a food stylist!  In all fairness, as I ran away with his dinner, I told him to take mine.  Off I went to snap away and he got to enjoy a warm dinner.
    Portobello and Zucchini Tacos
    So is the life as a husband of a food blogger. He sometimes gets cold dinner. He sometimes loses his dinner to pictures.  But there are some perks, with the most obvious being…actually getting to have dinner (or lunch, or muffins, you get the idea).  Mike is definitely a good sport…even if sometimes he has to give up his tacos for the craft.

    Portobello and Zucchini Tacos
    Now about the tacos. These tacos are fun, tasty and super easy! First you prepare your veggies, toss them in olive oil and seasoning, then throw it all in the oven to roast. In the meantime, heat up the tortillas and get the toppings ready. Serve. See? Simple, easy and so good!
    Portobello and Zucchini Tacos
     
    Yields: 4 servings (3 tacos per serving)
    Ingredients
    • 5 medium portobello mushrooms, stems and gills removed, sliced ½ inch thick
    • 3 teaspoons dried oregano
    • 4 garlic cloves, minced
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • Coarse salt and ground pepper
    • 4 medium zucchini, cut into 2-by-1/2-inch sticks
    • 1 medium red onion, halved and sliced ¼-inch thick
    • 12 (6-inch) corn tortillas
    • 6 ounces Monterey Jack cheese with roasted red peppers*, shredded, for serving
    • ½ cup fresh salsa, for serving
    Instructions
    1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
    2. In a 13 x 9 baking dish (or rimmed baking sheet) toss mushrooms with 1 tablespoon oil, 1½ teaspoons oregano, 2 minced garlic cloves, and season with salt and pepper to taste.
    3. In a separate 13 x 9 baking dish (or rimmed baking sheet) toss zucchini and red onion with remaining oil, oregano and garlic; season with salt and pepper to taste.
    4. Place both dishes in oven. Roast, tossing approximately every 10 minutes) until vegetables are browned and fork-tender (about 30 minutes).
    5. Meanwhile, stack tortillas and wrap in damp paper towel and microwave for 30-45 seconds.
    6. To serve, fill each tortilla with mushrooms, vegetable mixture, cheese and salsa.
    Notes
    You can substitute plain Monterey Jack cheese if you are unable to find Monterey Jack cheese with roasted red peppers.

    Adapted from Everyday Food

    Zucchini Bread

    Childhood summers, playing in the vegetable garden, my 3rd birthday “cake”, that’s what this zucchini bread tastes like. 

    Throughout my childhood, my parents had a vegetable garden.  I remember they grew cucumbers, green beans, various other vegetables, and of course zucchini.  Zucchini plants are the gift that keeps on giving.  Even better, lots of zucchini meant lots of delicious zucchini bread!

    My mom said she got this recipe from an old relative of my dad’s.  Isn’t that the way it is…the greatest recipes are the old tried and trues?  Classic zucchini bread…one of the best simple pleasures.

    Zucchini Bread
    Yields 4 small loaves

    3 eggs, lightly beaten
    1 cup canola oil
    2 cups granulated sugar
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    2 cups grated zucchini (with peel)
    3 cups flour (I used 1 1/2 cups all-purpose and 1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour)
    1/2 teaspoon baking powder
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    dash of salt
    1 teaspoon cinnamon
    Cooking spray

    1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Spray 4 small loaf pans with cooking spray (or grease/flour).  Set aside.
    2. In a medium bowl, whisk to combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.  Sift dry ingredients.
    3. In a large bowl, beat eggs, oil, sugar and vanilla until creamy.  Add zucchini and stir until combined.
    4. Fold the dry ingredients in with the wet ingredients until combined (do not over mix).
    5. Evenly distribute batter among 4 small loaf pans and bake for 60-70 minutes.  Let cool in pans for 5 minutes and then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

     

    Ravioli with Roasted Zucchini

    For the second recipe of ‘Zucchini Week,’ I am very excited to share this Ravioli with Roasted Zucchini recipe.  This dish has immediately vaulted its way into our rotation, and frankly we have been trying to find excuses to make it again and again and again.  It’s that good and easy too!

    We are huge garlic fans, so I thought slices instead of crushed would be a nice change.  The garlic pieces become a little crispy, which adds nice texture to the dish and the flavor is incredible.  The crushed red pepper gives this dish a little kick as well.  All together, this becomes the perfect topping for ravioli, or any pasta really.

    Ravioli with Roasted Zucchini
    Yields 4 servings

    4 small zucchini, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
    2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
    6 garlic cloves, sliced
    1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
    1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
    1 pound fresh cheese or spinach ravioli
    3 tablespoons chopped parsley

    1. Preheat oven to 400.  Spray baking dish or rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray.  Set aside.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil
    2. In a small bowl, mix olive oil and crushed red pepper. 
    3. Add zucchini, garlic and 3 tablespoons cheese to oil mixture and toss until thorougly coated.  
    4. Place zucchini mixture in a single layer on a baking dish or rimmed baking sheet.  Bake for 25-30 minutes, tossing halfway through, until tender and golden brown.
    5. Meanwhile, within the last 5-10 minutes of baking time, add ravioli to boiling water and cook per package directions (or 3-5 minutes until they float).  Drain and place in large bowl.
    6. Toss ravioli gently with roasted zucchini and garlic, half the parsley, and half of the remaining cheese.  Serve immediately, topping with remaining parsley and cheese.

    Adapted from Real Simple

    Zucchini, Banana, and Flaxseed Muffins | alidaskitchen.com

    Zucchini, Banana, and Flaxseed Muffins

    Zucchini, Banana, and Flaxseed Muffins | alidaskitchen.com

    Zucchini, Banana, and Flaxseed Muffins are a healthy muffin that tastes good too!  They are made without any butter or oil, yet the are moist and delicious due to the zucchini and banana. 

     New magazine day is one of my favorites days of the month.  Since I subscribe to several magazines, this translates into several favorite days a month!   Actually, I think Mike might like new magazine day more than I do.  Especially when after just one quick perusal, it looks like this…

    10 flags after just a quick glance.  Not bad, eh?   Just wait until I get a chance to be more thorough!

    It was hard to choose what to make first, but there was clearly no better way to kick off zucchini week here than Zucchini, Banana, and Flaxseed Muffins!  Good thing too, because these might be the tastiest muffins ever!  I know, I know, I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again.  But this time I mean it!

    After one bite, you will never guess that these are healthy and low fat!  Sure there is zucchini and banana, but I’m sure you’ve noticed a lot of times muffins find some way to become glorified cupcakes.  Not these.  There is no butter and no oil added to these muffins, yet they are incredibly moist and delicious.  For an additional nutrition boost, I subbed in some whole wheat flour.  I also replaced whole milk with buttermilk since it seems everything is made better with buttermilk.

    This week I will be featuring several zucchini recipes throughout the week.  I hope you will all enjoy them as much as we have!

    Zucchini, Banana, and Flaxseed Muffins
     
    Yields: 12 muffins
    Ingredients
    • 1 cup all-purpose flour
    • ¾ cup whole wheat pastry flour
    • ½ cup ground flaxseed (flaxseed meal)
    • 1 cup packed brown sugar
    • 2 teaspoons baking soda
    • 1 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
    • 1½ cups coarsely grated zucchini (I used 1½ zucchinis)
    • 1 mashed ripe banana (approx ⅓ cup)
    • ¾ cup buttermilk
    • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
    • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
    • nonstick cooking spray
    Instructions
    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly coat 12 standard muffin cups with cooking spray. Set aside.
    2. In a large bowl, whisk together flours, flaxseed, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder and cinnamon.
    3. In a small bowl, stir zucchini and mashed banana together. Add to flour mixture and stir to combine.
    4. In medium bowl, whisk together milk, egg and vanilla. Add milk mixture to flour mixture and stir gently until combined (do not overmix).
    5. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes in pan and then transfer to wire rack to cool completely (about 30 minutes).
    Notes
    Adapted from Everyday Food, September, 2011

    Magic Burgers

    We don’t eat a lot of meat in this house, but it’s been a while so why not, right?   Mike is a huge burger fan and often gets a stuffed burger of the day from a local restaurant.  Even though he loves to get those burgers out, he has been requesting I make Magic Burgers for some time now. I’m not sure where the term Magic Burgers came from…actually I remember years ago I made these and after one bite somebody said they’re like magic. 🙂  So anyway…

    I like my burgers plain or with cheese,  maybe even potato chips.  But absolutely no ketchup, no bacon, no pickles, you get the idea.  Since I don’t like relying on toppings to flavor my burgers, I add flavor to the patties.

      
    This is a basic recipe and very easy to put together.  I usually just eyeball the ingredients, but have listed below the approximate amounts for what I use.  Sometimes I sub green onions for the red onions, which is really good too.   Quick and easy to make, these burgers are a perfect last minute dinner just in time for the weekend.

    Magic Burgers
    Yields 4 burgers

    1 pound extra lean ground beef
    1/2 red onion, chopped
    1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
    2 garlic cloves, minced
    Freshly ground pepper
    Salt
    Onion buns
    Toppings (as desired) 

    1. In a large bowl, mix beef, onion, cheese, garlic, salt and pepper until blended (do not over mix).
    2. Divide mixture into 4 patties (a little larger than the size of your buns) and shape them thinner in the center so they don’t puff up.  
    3. Put patties onto grill heated to medium high heat.  Cook until juices appear on the top of the patties (approximately 4-5 minutes).  Flip and cook on other side until done (about 4-5 minutes). 
    4. Place on top of bun and serve with desired topping.

    Mushroom and Spinach Frittata with Smoked Gouda

    On Monday, I shared with you a summery dessert that uses 4 egg yolks.  I also promised you a healthy way to use up those remaining egg whites.  A promise is a promise!  This Mushroom Spinach Frittata with Smoked Gouda uses exactly 4 egg whites.  How is that for even-steven!

    Now I’m not normally a ‘smoked’ fan, but smoked gouda is truly the perfect complement to the earthy mushrooms in this frittata. The spinach gives beautiful color and flavor to the dish as well. From the original recipe, I increased the onion and added garlic. To compensate for these additions, I increased the olive oil by 1 teaspoon.

    The result is a delicious protein-packed veggie-filled dish that is perfect for breakfast, brunch, or a light dinner served with a side salad (saving room for Lime Tart for dessert, of course).

    Mushroom and Spinach Frittata with Smoked Gouda
     
    Yields: 4 servings
    Ingredients
    • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
    • 1 cup chopped Vidalia onion
    • 8 ounces sliced mushrooms (I used baby bellas)
    • 3 garlic cloves, minced
    • 4 cups packed baby spinach leaves
    • 2 large eggs
    • 4 large egg whites
    • ½ cup shredded smoked Gouda cheese, divided
    • Pinch of salt
    • ¼ teaspoon pepper
    • Cooking spray
    Instructions
    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 8-inch round cake pan with cooking spray. Set aside.
    2. Heat olive oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, cook 2 minutes. Add garlic, cook 1 minute. Add mushrooms; cook, stirring frequently, until tender (approximately 5 minutes). Add spinach, cover and cook until wilted (1 minute).
    3. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, egg whites, ¼ cup cheese, salt and pepper. Add spinach mixture to egg mixture, mix well.
    4. Pour mixture into cake pan and sprinkle with remaining ¼ cup cheese.
    5. Bake 30 minutes or until eggs have set. Cut into 4 wedges and serve.

     

    Nutrition Information per Serving (1/4 frittata)
    Calories = 177 ~ Fat = 9.6g ~ Carbs = 8.8g ~ Fiber = 1.5g ~ Protein = 13.5g

    Adapted from Health Magazine, March 2007

    Lime Tart

    While I’m a peanut butter and chocolate lover by trade, I would happily eat this Lime Tart for dessert every night. Truth be told, Mike and I may have enjoyed this tart for 4 nights in a row.  I am still dreaming about it.  It is refreshing, the perfect balance of tangy and sweet, creamy and just plain good! 

    Bonus – it’s very easy to make! The crust can be quickly mixed together and the filling can be made while the crust bakes.  Next pour the filling in the crust (warm or cool), bake again and then chill.  The hardest part is the wait!   

    Another bonus – this Lime Tart is done light! I used fat free sweetened condensed milk, and I used light butter.  As a result, fat and calories were reduced by approximately 45% and 12% respectively, when compared to their full far counterparts.  Even with these adjustments, this tart definitely tastes like an indulgence!

    Since this dessert uses 4 egg yolks, naturally you will have 4 egg whites leftover. Stay tuned later this week, as I have an incredible and healthy veggie-filled use for those egg whites!

    Lime Tart
    Yields 8 servings

    1 1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs

    2 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup sugar
    4 tablespoons unsalted light butter, melted
    1 can (14 ounces) fat free sweetened condensed milk
    3/4 cup fresh lime juice (from 3 to 5 limes)
    4 large egg yolks
    Pinch salt
    Grated lime zest, for garnish (optional) 
    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
    2. In a medium bowl, mix together graham cracker crumbs and 2 tablespoons of sugar.  Add butter and mix until combined.  Transfer  mixture to a 9-inch tart pan with a  removable bottom.  Pat into bottom and up sides.  Place on baking sheet, and bake until crust is fragrant and slightly colored (about 10 minutes). 
    3. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl combine condensed milk, lime juice, egg yolks, remaining 1/2 cup sugar – whisk until smooth. 
    4. Pour lime mixture into crust (warm or cool is fine).  Return to oven,  on baking sheet.  Bake until filling is set around edge but slightly loose in center (20 to 25 minutes).  
    5. Cool completely at room temperature; then refrigerate until chilled, at least 2 hours. Garnish with zest, if desired, and serve. 

    Nutrition Information per Serving (1/8 of tart)
     Calories = 321 ~ Fat = 7.4g ~ Carbohydrates = 58.3g ~ Protein = 6.2g

    Adapted from Everyday Food

    Baked Penne with Cheddar & Leeks

    Hi friends, are you still with me? In yesterday’s food-free post, I promised you a tasty recipe. What can be more tasty than cheese…and lots of it! Not much if you ask me. This upscale version of macaroni and cheese has plenty of cheese and a twist to boot.

    Actually the twist in this dish is two-fold. For one, eggs, in lieu of a roux, are used as a thickener which creates a gooey custard. For two, the addition of sweet leeks provides the perfect counterbalance to the cheddar.  All together it takes your everyday macaroni and cheese comfort food to a whole new level of cheesy goodness. 

    While it takes a little extra effort to make this dish, it is definitely worth it.  It makes enough to serve a crowd, a couple of hungry teenagers, or simply to reheat throughout the week for lunches.  Served with a side of green beans, a salad or whatever is your favorite vegetable, Baked Penne with Cheddar and Leeks is sure to become a family favorite!

    Have a fabulous weekend and thank you for visiting Alida’s Kitchen!

    Baked Penne with Cheddar and Leeks
    Serves 8 to 10

    1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter  (I used light butter)

    5 cups chopped leeks, white and pale green parts only; about 5 large
    2 garlic cloves, minced
    1/4 cup all purpose flour
    3 1/2 cups skim milk
    1 pound extra-sharp cheddar cheese, coarsely grated, about 4 cups packed
    1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
    1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
    Fresh ground pepper
    2 large eggs
    1 pound penne pasta
    1. Spray baking dish with cooking spray 13 x 9 baking dish. Set aside.  Preheat oven to 400°F.
    2. Melt 1/4 cup butter in heavy large saucepan over medium heat.
    3. Add leeks; stir to coat. Cover saucepan and cook until leeks are tender, stirring occasionally (about 12 minutes; do not brown).  After about 10 minutes, add minced garlic to the leeks to cook for the final 2 minutes.  
    4. Then uncover saucepan; add flour. Stir 2 minutes. Add milk; bring to simmer, stirring often. Add cheese, mustard, and pepper sauce. Stir until cheese melts. Remove from heat. Season cheese sauce to taste with salt. 
    5. Whisk eggs in medium bowl. Gradually whisk in 1 cup cheese sauce. Stir egg mixture into cheese sauce in saucepan.
    6. Meanwhile, cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain. Return to pot.
    7. Stir cheese sauce into pasta in pot. Transfer to prepared baking dish.
    8. Bake pasta until cheese sauce is bubbling around edges and some ends of pasta are golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes.  Let stand 15 minutes. Serve hot.

    Adapted from Bon Apetit