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Zucchini Bread with Chocolate Chips

After spending time at our local farmer’s market, I came home with 6 giant zucchinis. I love zucchini, but have had some difficulty growing them the past several years. When I saw a man at the market pouring bushels of giant zucchini on the table, I knew I need to make zucchini bread.

When I got home at 10:00am, my two daughters were still asleep. My son was sitting in his pajamas in front of the TV playing Xbox. I turned off the TV, woke up the girls and told everyone we were making zucchini bread. I can’t tell you how thrilled everyone was with my idea!

I gave everyone assignments – one was wet ingredients, one was dry and one was the zucchini shredder. I ran back and forth between kids to help where I could. I planned to make 8 loaves of bread (and I only used 3 of those giant zucchinis!) and I was very thankful for our kitchen remodel last year. We had a large workspace which quickly became a mess. My oldest daughter went to get her iPod and soon the kitchen was filled with music, laughter and baking ingredients.

Side note: Always explain abbreviations to your children before having them help in the kitchen. We threw out two of the eight loaves because my daughter thought “tsp” was tablespoon!

I found this recipe on Pinterest, but knew if my kids were going to eat it, I would have to make it a little less healthy. Adding 2 tablespoons of mini chocolate chips made it more kid-friendly.

Ingredients:

1 ½ cups of shredded zucchini, pressed in paper towel to eliminate moisture

2 large eggs

¼ cup of plain yogurt

1 tablespoon of lemon juice

6 tablespoons of melted butter

1 ½ cups of granulated sugar

2 cups of flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon of allspice

2 tablespoons (or more) mini chocolate chips

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Coat a bread pan with cooking spray. I used disposable pans that were 8 x 3 5/8. (Save yourself some stress and place a baking sheet under the bread pans. I had some overflow and had to clean out my oven!)

Clean zucchini and chop off ends. Cut in half and scoop out the seeds. No need to peel. Place in food processor with shredding blade. When done, place on paper towel and squeeze out any moisture. Set aside.

In large bowl, mix flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, allspice and salt. Add zucchini.

Place butter in bowl and melt in microwave for 30 seconds.

In smaller bowl, add sugar, yogurt, eggs, lemon juice and butter. Mix until blended. Fold into zucchini mixture. (Or if you are like my kids, just dump it all in the bowl and mix – my way sounds so much nicer!)

If making kid-friendly, add two tablespoons of mini chocolate chips and mix into batter.

Transfer batter to bread pan.

Bake at 375 degrees for 55 to 60 minutes. Cool one hour before serving.

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Easy Italian Sausage with Potatoes and Onions

As a working mom, I am always looking for quick and easy meals. Last week, I had an hour and a half to shower, cook dinner and eat. Normally we would order pizza or have sandwiches on those kind of nights. Honestly, that gets really old. This meal took 15 minutes to prep and 45 minutes to cook. I had time to actually sit down and chew my food instead of inhaling it. The house smelled wonderful while it was cooking and everything tasted great!

I was in such a hurry that I only took a picture of the finished product. It was simple, so I am sure you don’t need the step by step pictures this time!

Ingredients:

6 Italian sauages

2 tbsp. dried oregano

6 cloves of garlic – minced

3 tbsp. olive oil

1 large Vidalia onion

6 medium potatoes

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Brown sausage in pan on stove. (Five minutes on each side).

While sausage is browning, cut potatoes and onions in bite sized pieces (don’t bother to peel the potatoes!)

Place potatoes and onions in a gallon zip bag with garlic, oregano and oil. Seal bag and shake to mix evenly.

Pour contents into a greased 9 x 13 baking dish.

Put browned sausage on top of potato mixture.

Bake in oven for 45 minutes.

It really is that simple. We served the sausage on rolls, but you can save the carbs and eat them without the bread.

The next day:

I had leftover potatoes and onions and decided to use them up the following morning for breakfast. I warmed up the leftovers on the stove and then scrambled in two eggs.  (I would have included the leftover sausage, but my husband finished it off as a late night snack.) Simple and delicious. My favorite kind of meal!

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Crockpot Chili

When I was a kid, we had chili out of a can. As a mom, I have to admit that serving canned chili over noodles is a quick dinner. However, it doesn’t look very appetizing and I am sure it is full of sodium and other junk. What is the mystery meat they use in canned chili? We probably don’t want to know.

Years ago, I set out to find a chili recipe. There are thousands of variations of chili out there, but nothing that really appealed to me. I started with a basic recipe and then added and subtracted according to our tastes. Here is what evolved over the years. Feel free to change it to suit your tastes.

Makes two meals for my family of 5

Prep time: 15 minutes. Cook time in crockpot: 4 hours

Ingredients:

1 1/2 lbs. of meat – I used ground chuck this time, but I have used sirloin cubes, boneless chicken breast or ground chicken

2 large green peppers, chopped

1 large Vidalia onion, chopped

2 (28oz.) cans diced tomatoes with juice

3 (15oz.) cans of beans (I used 2 dark kidney and one pinto, but any kind will work)

4 tbsp. cumin

3 tbsp. chili powder

This has enough spice for my kids. My husband usually spices his bowl up a little more with Tabasco or diced jalapeno peppers.

Directions:

If using ground meat (or chicken), brown meat on stove until cooked through. Drain and set aside. (When I make the chili with sirloin cubes, I just put it in the crockpot raw. It eliminates a step.)

Cut the peppers and onion in bite-sized pieces and add to 6 quart crockpot. (If you are really organized, you can cut the peppers and onions up the night before and refrigerate them. Some cooks may even have them cut and frozen to grab and go, but I am not that prepared.)

Drain and rinse all cans of beans and pour into crockpot.

Add meat on top of beans.

Add diced tomatoes and juice to crockpot.

Sprinkle cumin and chili powder on top of all and mix all together.

Cook in crockpot for 4 hours on low if you browned meat first. If using cubed sirloin, cook 4 hours on high.

Serve over Ditalini noodles or with a side of cornbread.

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Stuffed Mini Peppers

The other night we had a rare night off from softball. It was 4:00 and no one had any other activities that day. My husband was planning on making dinner that night, but it would not be ready until 7:00. Having to wait three more hours made me wish I had stopped for lunch earlier in the day. My choice was to either come up with an appetizer or rip open a bag of Cheetos that had been callling my name from the pantry.

While wandering the grocery store a few days before, I had a taste for the stuffed peppers I have made in the past. I bought a bag of mini peppers along with a small log of goat cheese. I knew I would find a night just like this one to make this for us. The salami I had on hand went great with the stuffed peppers and a glass of wine.

Warning: Hide the Cheetos while these are cooking. They smell so good, your mouth will water. In fact, stay out of the kitchen until these are done!

Ingredients:

3 mini peppers, sliced in half to make six

4oz. goat cheese

1 tsp. dried basil

Directions:

Mix goat cheese and dried basil in bowl and set aside.

Slice peppers in half, leaving stem on and take out seeds and veins.

Fill pepper halves with goat cheese mixture.

Bake in oven for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

(Okay, so I added another pepper after I took the picture. They are sooooo good!)

Enjoy with a glass of wine and a friend!

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Crisp Salad with Romaine, Apples, Red Onion, Blue Cheese and Walnuts

We normally keep romaine lettuce in the house for a quick salad. Our go-to salad is Caesar, as it requires few ingredients and little work. We are not big fans of a garden salad. It reminds me of the Pizza Hut salad bar.

While shopping for our usual staples in the produce department, I realized that we had enough fun things to put together a more interesting salad. Let me know what you think.

Ingredients:

2 Romaine Lettuce Hearts

2 granny smith apples

1 small red onion

1 container of crumbled blue cheese

½ cup of walnuts

Lite Poppy seed dressing, homemade or storebought (I used Maple Grove Farms Fat Free Poppyseed).

Directions:

Wash and chop Romaine hearts. I cut mine in ½ inch rings.

Wash and chop granny smith apples in bite sized pieces.  No need to peel the apples.

Peel red onion. Cut in half and then in rings.

Place the lettuce, apples and onion in large bowl. Pour in container of blue cheese crumbles.

If walnuts are too big, crush slightly with bottom of a thick glass. Add to bowl.

Pour on dressing and toss when ready to serve.

Enjoy!

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Easy Summer Pasta Salad

During the summer months, we often pack a meal to go. We are busy running to and from activities or sitting at a ball game so we want something that can go in the cooler without worrying about it spoiling. This is a great light lunch or snack to hold you over until dinner and is a delicious side for a BBQ or picnic. It is very easy to put together and tastes great!

Ingredients:

1/3 box of cooked orzo pasta

1 (15oz) can garbanzo beans

1/2 cup loosely packed cilantro

1/2 pint of grape tomatoes

Juice of 1/2 a lime or 2 tbsp. of lime juice

Drizzle (1 tsp.) of olive oil to keep pasta from sticking

Directions:

Cook pasta per directions. Drain and set aside in serving bowl. After 5 minutes, add oil and mix evenly.

Cut cilantro into small pieces with kitchen scissors.

Slice grape tomatoes in half.

Add cilantro and tomatoes to pasta.

And drained can of garbanzo beans.

Mix together.

Pour lime juice on top and mix evenly.

Chill in refrigerator until ready to serve.

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Hummus with a Kick!

I love hummus. When I don’t have time for a real lunch, hummus is a great snack. It fills you up enough to last until you can have a real meal. Although hummus is great with crackers, I feel a lot less guilty dipping veggies instead. I normally eat store bought hummus, but this time I went looking for a recipe to make myself. This one has a lot of kick from a jalapeno pepper. I made two versions. My husband likes a little more heat than I do. You will need the veggies to cool your mouth on his version. Both were gobbled up during the week.

Adapted from recipe from Peanut Butter and Peppers

Ingredients:

1 (15.5oz) can of garbanzo beans (chick peas), drained

3 cloves of garlic (or 1 ½ tsp of minced garlic)

½ cup of fresh cilantro

1 jalapeno, seeds and veins included

2 tbsp. of lime juice or more as needed

1 tsp. ground cumin

½ teaspoon of salt

Directions:

Cut top off jalapeno and slice pepper in strips. Do not discard seeds or veins. Peel garlic and chop roughly if using fresh.

Add both jalapeno and garlic to food processor. Pulse a few times to mince.

Add remaining ingredients and blend until smooth. If it is too hard to mix, add more lime juice.

Pour hummus into an airtight container. Refrigerate for an hour to chill and blend flavors. Hummus lasts up to one week in the fridge. Serve with carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, bell peppers, jicama or whatever fresh veggies you enjoy.

To make a cooled down version:

After I tasted the first hummus, I knew it was too much of a kick for me (my husband LOVED it). I used half of the hot hummus and added another ½ can of garbanzo beans and lime juice. It still had a lot of flavor, but was a little easier on my mouth.

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