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Zucchini brownies

July 22, 2014

It’s the time of year when zucchinis are abundant around here.  Right now there are 3 big ones sitting on my counter, and several smaller ones waiting to be picked.  I’ll definitely use some for these zucchini enchiladas, because they were incredibly delicious, but I knew this brownie recipe would be a hit with my kids and their friends too.  It was funny listening to my daughter tell her friends that the brownies were baked with a secret ingredient.  She refused to divulge what it was until there was nothing left but crumbs.   After finding out he just ate zucchini, one of the boys said he guessed that meant he was “living a healthy lifestyle now.”  hehe

These brownies are rich and decadent, and no one would guess that they’re made with zucchini.  My kids were dubious, but as soon as they saw all the chocolate, they  happily devoured them.  If you’re looking for a sweet way to use up that giant zucchini growing in your garden, I highly recommend giving these a try.

Recipe:  Zucchini Brownies

(adapted from allrecipes; found at KitchMe)

1/2 c. canola oil
1 1/2 c. granulated sugar
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. kosher salt
2 c. shredded zucchini
1/2 c. dark chocolate chips
Frosting:
6 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 c. unsalted butter
2 c. powdered sugar
1/4 c. milk, any fat content
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and grease and flour a 9×9″ baking pan.

In a large bowl, mix together the oil, sugar, and 2 tsp. vanilla until well blended.  Combine flour, 1/2 c. cocoa, baking soda, and salt; stir into the sugar mixture.  Fold in zucchini and chocolate chips.  Spread evenly in prepared pan.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted an inch from the edge of the pan comes out with just a few crumbs.  Cool completely and frost.

To make frosting, melt together 6 Tbsp. cocoa and butter.  Set aside to cool a bit.  In a medium bowl, mix powdered sugar, milk, and 1/2 tsp. vanilla.  Add the cocoa mixture and blend thoroughly.  Spread over cooled brownies.

 

Meatball stroganoff

July 17, 2014
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meatball stroganoff.jpg

I’m always looking for dinners that all four of us really enjoy.  Unfortunately, new recipes sometimes mean that only Jim and I are going to be happy and full, and the kids are going to be whining and eating cereal in half an hour.  Luckily, this meatball stroganoff pleased everybody.

I was leery about using frozen meatballs, and my family teased me about this, but I googled reviews from people about what brand to buy.  As it turns out, I’m glad I did that and was happy with the brand I used.   It’s Cooked Perfect and you can find it at Sam’s Club or Walmart.  I won’t pretend they tasted like homemade, but they were still good.

I also lightened the stroganoff up quite a bit.  Typically, there’s lots of heavy cream and sour cream in a stroganoff, but I made some substitutions that worked perfectly and didn’t skimp on the flavor at all.  If my kids’ reactions and second helpings were any indication, this is definitely a 2-thumbs-up meal that I’ll be making again.

Recipe:  Meatball Stroganoff

(adapted from Menu Musings)

16 oz. bag of frozen Italian-style meatballs  (I used half of the 32 oz. Cooked Perfect bag of meatballs.)
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 c. beef broth
salt and pepper, to taste
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 c. nonfat evaporated milk  (or heavy cream)
4 Tbsp. light cream cheese
1 c. nonfat plain Greek yogurt (or sour cream)
wide egg noodles
shredded Parmesan cheese, for garnish

Heat olive oil in a large pan; add meatballs and cook until browned.  Pour beef broth in to deglaze the pan.  Add seasonings and evaporated milk.  Bring to a simmer; meanwhile, boil a pot of water and cook the noodles until they are al dente.  Add the Greek yogurt and cream cheese to the meatball mixture and stir until thoroughly combined.  Drain the noodles and add them to the stroganoff mixture.  Sprinkle with shredded Parmesan cheese and serve.

 

 

 

Homemade donuts

July 1, 2014

What better way to start your day than with fresh, hot donuts?  I popped my head into Claudia’s room this morning and asked if she wanted to make donuts for breakfast.  She was out of bed before I turned to walk down the hallway.  My girl loves her donuts, so I’ve been wanting to try this recipe with her and Sam.  They had fun, didn’t argue one time, and made some delicious donuts.  Wait… I need to mark that on the calendar.

Okay then.

These donuts are homemade, but might be considered a bit of a cheat.  They started out as Pillsbury Grands biscuits!  In short order, I was enjoying a cinnamon sugar donut with my iced coffee, and my personal chefs were bragging about how awesome they are.  (They are awesome, and so were their donuts!)

Recipe:  Homemade Donuts

1 refrigerated can of Pillsbury Grands biscuits
canola or peanut oil, for frying

Cinnamon-Sugar Topping:
3 Tbsp. butter, melted
1/4 c. granulated sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon

Glaze:
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
2-3 Tbsp. milk
1/4 tsp. vanilla
assorted sprinkles

Pour about 3 inches of oil into a pan and heat over medium heat until it reaches 350 degrees.  (I tore a little piece of biscuit dough off and dropped it in the oil to gauge when it was hot enough.)  Using a biscuit cutter (or an old dosage cup from my kiddos’ liquid suspension medicine!), make a hole in the center of each biscuit.  When the oil is ready, gently lay the donuts into the oil.  When one side becomes golden, turn with tongs until both sides are a nice golden color.  Remove from oil and drain on a cooling rack.

For cinnamon-sugar donuts, dip donuts into melted butter, then roll in cinnamon-sugar mixture.

For glazed topping, combine glaze ingredients until smooth.  Dip top of donut into glaze and immediately add sprinkles.

 

Quinoa and edamame salad

June 11, 2014
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Two more days of school and we’ll finally celebrate the beginning of summer vacation!  Woot woot!  It was a such a crazy long winter here in PA, and we had a ton of snow days to make up.  But, the end is within reach and we can’t wait!

Summer menus include lots of cold drinks on the deck and light dishes that can take the heat.  This is a great side to go along with something from the grill, but I also like it all on its own.  It’s a nice blend of fresh veggies and staples from my freezer, and it’s super healthy.  Plus, no mayo means it can travel with you to picnics with no worries.

Here’s to delicious summer eats!

Recipe:  Quinoa and Edamame Salad

(adapted from Eating Well…Living Thinner)

1 c. cooked, cooled quinoa
1 cup frozen corn
12 oz. bag of frozen edamame
1/2 sweet red bell pepper, diced
1/2 small cucumber, diced
2 green onions, thinly sliced, greens only

Dressing:
1 1/2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
juice of half a lime
juice of half a lemon
1 Tbsp. fresh cilantro, chopped
4-5 sprigs of fresh thyme, chopped (or 1/4 tsp. dried thyme)
salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 tsp. chili powder
dash of cayenne pepper

Cook frozen edamame according to package directions.  While edamame is cooking, toss frozen corn into a skillet over high heat to char it a bit.  (You could also just use thawed corn kernels or leftover corn from the cob.)  Combine edamame and corn in a bowl and allow to cool slightly.  Add cooked quinoa, diced red pepper, diced cucumber, and green onions.  Add a pinch of salt, to taste.

In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, lime juice, lemon juice, cilantro, thyme, 1/4 tsp. salt, 1/8 tsp. pepper, chili powder, and cayenne.  Drizzle over salad and toss to coat.  Chill to let flavors meld.  Serve cold or room temperature.

 

 

Mountain dew apple dumplings

May 15, 2014
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Mountain Dew Apple Dumplings

Well, my family’s annual “Iron Chef Throwdown” has come and gone.  It is one of our more competitive traditions, to say the least, and also one of our favorites.  There’s generally a little bragging and sometimes some mildly veiled intimidation, because there’s a lot at stake.  Bragging rights, to be sure, but also that shiny trophy that gets to spend a whole year with the winner.  I’m sad to admit, it’s been a while since it’s been to my house.

This year, our special ingredient was soda- any kind we wanted.  I chose root beer and made this absolutely amazing root beer bundt cake.  My mom has won the last couple times and I think it may have gone to her head a little, because she took the easy route and made root beer floats.  (Don’t judge.  She’s been under a lot of pressure.)  My youngest sister, Dani, baked these Mountain Dew apple dumplings, and ended up winning our competition.

I was more than a little surprised that her recipe could turn into such a golden dish of dumplings, but it certainly did.  Everyone loved them and it was one of the toughest votes we’ve ever had.  I came in 2nd, but my cake got some pretty rave reviews too.  ;)  Congrats, Dani!

Recipe:  Mountain Dew Apple Dumplings

(my sister’s winning Throwdown recipe, source unknown)

2 8-count cans crescent rolls
3-4 Granny Smith apples
1 c. sugar
1/2 c. unsalted butter
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 12-oz. can Mountain Dew soda

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9×13″ baking pan with cooking spray.  Peel and slice apples into 16 pieces.  Roll each apple slice in 1 section of crescent roll.  Place rolled slices in pan in two rows, placing any extras along the side.  Melt butter and add sugar and cinnamon.  Pour over apples.  Pour entire can of Mountain Dew all over the apples.  Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.  Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

Cookies and cream popcorn

April 13, 2014
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Gosh, it’s been so long since I’ve posted!  It was such a looonnnggg winter here that I think the snow and cold got to me.  I had no interest in cooking at all!  I’ve never been so grateful to see buds on the trees and crocuses in my yard.  I will not complain about the heat once all summer!

I first made this fantastically addictive treat to take to Claudia’s swim team party.  It’s so darn good that it’s become a favorite dessert for parties and potlucks.  Another perk is that it barely takes any time at all to put together and it keeps great in an airtight container.  Not that leftovers are an issue, though, but if you’ve got great self-control and want to ration it, go for it.

Recipe:  Cookies and Cream Popcorn

(from all things katie marie)

9 cups popped popcorn
20 finely crushed Oreos
one package of white Ghiradelli candy melts

Pop popcorn using a hot air popcorn popper.  Spread popped popcorn on baking sheets or waxed paper.  Melt candy melts in microwave according to package directions.  Drizzle over popcorn and sprinkle with crushed Oreos.  Refrigerate for 5 minutes to set up.  Enjoy!

 

 

Snow ice cream

January 21, 2014
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We had yet another snow day today, which means all four of us were home from school.  The kids might not agree with me, but I’m a little over this whole winter thing.  Snow and freezing temps are wearing me down and it’s only January.

To add a little fun to our day, I told Claudia she could make snow ice cream.  Any time that child hears the words “ice” and “cream” together, she’s absolutely delighted.  So imagine combining her favorite food with snow!  She couldn’t have been happier!  After two bowls, she declared snow ice cream to be the best thing she’s ever eaten.

Recipe:  Snow Ice Cream

(found at Gimme Some Oven)

1 c. milk, any fat content
1/3 c. granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
pinch of salt
8 c. clean snow

In a large bowl, whisk milk, sugar, vanilla and salt together until combined. Scoop some fresh, clean snow, and immediately stir it into the milk mixture until you reach your desired consistency. Top with sprinkles and enjoy your snow day!

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