Chocolate Zucchini Cake

I saw this pin for healthier chocolate zucchini brownies on Pinterest yesterday, and because I had a zucchini at the house and no specific plans for it, I decided to give them a try!

They turned out really good, but I’d definitely say that they’re cake more than brownies. And here’s the crazy thing: my kids have eaten this 2 nights in a row for dessert, raved like crazy about how delicious it was, and they still had NO idea there was zucchini in this until I told them. They actually love zucchini bread/muffins, but I didn’t tell them because I wanted an honest reaction to how they felt about it. (Sidenote: my not-picky, but doesn’t-really-love-desserts husband wasn’t a big fan, but he literally had one little nibble…I think with toppings he’d be won over.)

Here’s my variation on it, minus the frosting (we just spread a small amount of hot fudge, pictured below, on the top of the cake slice on our own plates).

1 C applesauce
1 C sugar
2 C flour (I followed the recommendation, doing 1 C white all purpose and 1 C wheat)
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 C unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 C shredded zucchini (I didn’t measure – I just used a fine cheese grater like this to shred a large zucchini) – blot a bit of moisture off the top, but don’t squeeze it dry.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease 9×13 baking pan (glass).
In large bowl, mix applesauce, sugar, and vanilla together. In separate bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, cocoa, baking soda, and stir until well mixed. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture (the batter will be thick!), then fold in zucchini (the moisture from the zucchini really softens up the batter).
Spread evenly onto greased pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes. 
Top with a little chocolate syrup (Midnight Moo from Trader Jo’s), hot fudge (ours is from Aldi), salted caramel (again, Trader Joe’s)…whatever you have around! Frosting would be good, too, I just didn’t want to go to the effort or add that much fat and calories.




Banana Oatmeal Breakfast Muffins

Adapted from here, and I’ve made them probably 4 times in the past month. The boys LOVE them.

2.5 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup plain low fat greek yogurt* (see substitution note!)
1/2 cup honey or agave nectar*
2 eggs
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
3-4 Tbl ground flax seed
1 tsp vanilla
3 large ripe bananas, mashed with a fork
2/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 400. Line 18 muffin tins with liners (the muffins will stick to the liners right out of the oven, but after they cool, they’re fine!).

Put the oats in the food processor and pulse until fine (you want it flour-like – some small pieces remaining is fine, though). Add all remaining ingredients EXCEPT CHOCOLATE CHIPS to the food processor and blend. My food processor is small, so I always do the oats first, dump them in a bowl and add the dry ingredients to the bowl. Then, I put all of the other ingredients in the food processor to mix, then add to the bowl and mix by hand. Stir in chocolate chips.

Bake for 15-18 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.

*I don’t always have Greek yogurt in the fridge, but I almost always have Dannon Lowfat Natural Vanilla. If I use the Dannon, I only put in a couple of tablespoons of honey or agave since it’s already sweet. I’ve also done half Greek, half Dannon and they’ve turned out great!

Chopped Dinner, Take 2

Bennett was up second…and his list was a little harder to work with.

Oh boy.

So my first thought, again, was chicken…though, I promise, the next two meals will not involve chicken. I looked and looked for orange chicken recipes that I thought would be eaten by my children, and when I came across this one, I thought immediately of my Balsamic Garlic Chicken (which we all eat and love), so I thought I could modify my recipe to include orange instead of lemon.

The french fries…really, again? Inspiration for that was from the episode of Chopped viewed right before writing down ingredients, so I have those fries to work with again. I bought Ore-Ida Fast Food Fries in hopes that they’d bake up really crispy. They did, and made a perfect little “nest” for the chicken…get it? A bird in a nest?

food thrown on a plate. this dinner took forever to make and i didn't plate it very creatively, did i?



I also made Roasted Broccoli, which I’ll post on here soon, as it’s a keeper. And, I made these orange rolls, which were really yummy and almost dessert-like. I didn’t have Grands biscuits; I had regular Pillsbury ones though, so I just rolled each of those into the rope she describes instead of cutting the biscuits and rolling them. I halved the rest of the recipe (for one can of biscuits) and had more than enough for the amount it made.

Now for the chocolate syrup. No way was I going to ruin dinner with chocolate syrup, so I just made dessert. I used an allrecipes recipe for Chocolate Orange Fondue, using semi-sweet Ghirardelli chocolate chips + some Hershey’s syrup – the orange liqueur because we didn’t have any. I served it with marshmallows, strawberries and banana slices. Delicious! It was the kids’ first time eating fondue (I just put their chocolate in a bowl and cut up their fruit, and let them dip using a toothpick), and they were fans for sure! Matt and I had a couple of bites, but otherwise, they polished off nearly a pound of strawberries and a couple of bananas!


Cookie Dough Cupcakes + The Best Chocolate Frosting

Via Pinterest, of course.

These were fun to make, and turned out well! The main change I would make from the original is this: instead of making 24 cupcakes, I’d make 20 or 21, filling the cupcake liners a bit fuller. Aside from that, and me editing the amount of vanilla used and removing the added salt, these were great!

Original here.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup salted butter, softened
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup firmly-packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips

1 (18.25 ounce) box yellow cake mix
1 1/3 cups water
1/3 cup canola oil
3 eggs

Whisk together the flour and baking soda; set aside.

Beat the butter, white sugar, and brown sugar with an electric mixer in a large bowl until smooth. Add 1 egg and the vanilla extract and beat until smooth. Mix in the flour mixture until just incorporated. Fold in the chocolate chips; mixing just enough to evenly combine.

Form the dough into tablespoon-sized balls; place onto a baking sheet, and freeze until solid, about 2 hours. **NOTE: when you remove the cookie sheet from the freezer, be sure your hands are completely dry or use a towel to make sure you don’t stick to the frozen metal!**

at a tablespoon size, this probably made 29 dough balls...i ate one, if you're counting what's in the picture.

Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line 20 muffin cups with paper liners.

Beat 3 eggs in a large bowl with an electric mixer. Add the cake mix, water, and canola oil; continue beating for 2 minutes on medium speed. Spoon into the prepared cupcake liners, filling each 3/4 full. Place a frozen cookie dough ball on the top center of each cupcake.

here's what it looks like fully assembled and ready to bake!

Bake in the preheated oven until a toothpick inserted into the cake portion of the cupcake (not the cookie dough ball) comes clean, about 20-25 minutes.

ignore the hideousness of my oven door window...this is about 10-12 minutes into the baking process.

Cool in the pans for 10 minutes before removing to cool completely on a wire rack.

yum! success!


Chocolate Frosting

This was SOOO good. Based on the instructions, I thought a single batch might not frost all of the cupcakes, so I doubled it. What is listed here should frost a 2-layer round 8 or 9″ cake, or a batch of cupcakes (plus, I had quite a bit leftover, but it wasn’t half of what I made, so I know doubling it was the right thing to do!).

Original here.

5-1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cup butter
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons evaporated milk (you can use regular milk, but I think that the evaporated milk made this extra-good!)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

In a medium bowl, sift together the confectioners’ sugar and cocoa, and set aside.

In a large bowl, cream butter until smooth, then gradually beat in sugar mixture alternately with evaporated milk. Blend in vanilla. Beat until light and fluffy. If necessary, adjust consistency with more milk or sugar.

Now, I am not into fancy decorating on the cupcakes, but even I can manage this: fill a ziploc with frosting, let out the air, and zip it closed. Cut off a corner, and squeeze out the frosting in messy circles on top of the cupcake (and I kind of drag the corner where I’m squeezing out the frosting through what is on the cupcake so that it doesn’t look like a big tube of playdoh on top ;).


No-Bake Energy Bites

Holy cow.  So good and so so easy.  And, really, quite good for you.  All three kids ate these!  They are a great snack to have on hand.  I will be making these regularly!  I did make some changes so my recipe is below (only because I despise coconut…if you like it click the link for original recipe).  Thank you, once again, pinterest.  Original here.

1 and 1/2 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/3 cup agave nectar
1/2 cup ground flaxseed
3/4 cup mini chocolate chips
1 tsp vanilla

Mix everything in a bowl.  Let chill in refrigerator for about an hour.  Once chilled, roll into balls and enjoy.  Store in tupperware and keep refrigerated.

I added extra oatmeal and chocolate chips to make up for the missing coconut.  After I made them, I read in the comments that some substituted crushed cheerios for the coconut.  I’m definitely doing this next time!  They formed into balls easily in the beginning but by the end my hands were a mess!  I think adding crushed cheerios would help with this.  So, I’ll cut the oatmeal back down to a cup.  Original calls for 1/2 cup of mini chocolate chips, but I may keep that at 3/4 cup.  It didn’t feel like too much to me! 🙂

This makes about 20, and I’m not kidding when I say we have about 5 left from yesterday.  Yummy!

Cheesecake Chocolate Chip Cookies

Saw these on Pinterest, had to try them. Delicious.

Original here. My changes reflect several batches and realizing that I really like them to have more of a cheesecake flavor, so I use more.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup softened butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
6 oz light cream cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla
12 ounces chocolate chips – I used about 10 oz, but all I had were milk chocolate chips…will use semi-sweet next time!

Preheat oven to 375.

Combine dry ingredients (flour through soda) in a bowl and set aside. In mixer, blend butter, sugar, egg, cream cheese, and vanilla. Slowly add the dry ingredients, mixing with each addition, until all are incorporated. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Grease a cookie sheet. Drop dough by the spoonful onto sheet lined with parchment paper, or better yet, a silicone mat, at least 1 inch apart.

Bake 10 to 12 minutes, but watch carefully…I took these out of the oven right before the “golden brown around the edges” stage and they were PERFECT.

lovely, i know, cooling on a paper towel...but i was lazy and didn't get out my cooling racks.

Crunchy Peanut Butter Mix

Confession.  The girls and I bake a LOT of sweets around the holidays.  Oh. My. Gosh.  Seriously, this stuff is oh so good.  And, like my girls would say this is easy peasy, lemon cheesy. 🙂

recipe found via pinterest

4 cups golden grahams cereal
2 cups cocoa puffs cereal
2 cups thin pretzel sticks
1 cup reese’s pieces (I’ve already admitted my love for these)
1 cup dry-roasted peanuts
10 oz white chocolate baking bars, chopped
1/2 cup powdered sugar

In a large bowl, mix cereals, pretzels, reese’s pieces and peanuts; set aside

In a microwavable bowl, microwave white chocolate until melted and chocolate can be stirred smooth.  Pour over ceral mixture, stirring until evenly coated.

In a large resealable plastic bag, toss half of the cereal mixture with 1/4 cup of the powdered sugar until evenly coated.  Repeat with the remaining cereal mixture and remaining powdered sugar.


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