Double Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread

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Monday, April 30, 2012

Last weekend my mother-in-law sent us home with a bag full of zucchini. One of my favorite uses for zucchini is in bread, so of course I decided to whip some up. Only Stephen isn't a huge fan of bread, so this time I made it a little more decadent by adding cocoa powder and chocolate chips- additions very welcomed by him. When it came out of the oven it smelled amazing and tasted pretty darn good too!

Double Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread
Ingredients
2 c. all-purpose flour
2 c. sugar
6 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 c. + 1 tbsp. vegetable oil
3 eggs
2 c. zucchini, grated
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. espresso powder (optional)
1 c. semisweet chocolate chips

DIRECTIONS:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease two 9x5 inch loaf pans (either with butter or baking Pam).
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat oil, sugar, vanilla and eggs. Add grated zucchini and mix until incorporated.
3. In a separate bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, salt, soda and cinnamon (optional: espresso powder), whisk together. With mixer on low speed, slowly add the dry ingredients, one cup at a time. Mix until incorporated.
4. Remove bowl from mixer and gently fold in chocolate chips. Pour batter evenly between the two pans. Place in oven and bake for 1 hour.
5. Remove from oven and let cool in pans for 25 minutes. With a knife, gently go around the edges of the loaves, then turn loves over onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Blog Redesign

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Saturday, April 28, 2012

For my Dreamweaver class we had to redesign a blog or website. I asked my sister-in-law if she was willing to let me play around with her food blog. She kindly agreed. Thank you so much Emily! To see more of her blog, click HERE.

Liebster Blog Award

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Monday, April 23, 2012

Our little blog has been nominated for the Liebster Blog Award! Exciting news, right?! If you're not entirely sure about what this means, no worries, I'll explain. It's an "award" that is given to highlight and promote small(ish) websites or blogs with under 200 followers, in hopes of giving recognition to those who share their talents and creativity. 

I was nominated by my former roommate Mandy, over at Baking With Blondie. She's such an awesome friend, I can't even begin to describe how much I respect and admire her, not to mention drool over the yummy things she whips up for her cute little family. Seriously people, check out her culinary skills!


So I guess it is now my turn to nominate 3 bloggers. My picks are:
1. Claire, over at Belle and Whistle (art/photography)
2. Freya, over at Sincerely Freya (crafts/photography/wholeliving)
3. Emily, over at It Bakes Me Happy (baking)

Thanks again Mandy- you're the best!

Italian Meatballs- seriously good stuff

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Friday, April 20, 2012

That's right- spaghetti and meatballs. These aren't your average meatballs, they're so much better. I think too many people cut corners and try to add salt and pepper to some beef and call it good, but really by just adding a few simple ingredients, you can make them really tasty and tender. Also I learned from both my uncle and cousins (all great Italian cooks), that simmering the meatballs in sauce after frying them helps develop their flavor and keep them moist (preventing them from turning into hard little rocks). One of the best things about this recipe is that it makes the perfect amount of leftovers to use for meatball subs the next day. Give these a try, I'm sure you'll love them!

Italian Meatballs
Ingredients
1.25 lb ground chuck
1/2 c. Italian bread crumbs
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp. milk
1/4 c. grated parmesan romano cheese
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. parsley, finely chopped
1/8 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
(4 tbsp. olive oil for frying)

Sauce
3 c. traditional Prego pasta sauce (or 1 (28 oz whole tomatoes, pureed)
1/2 of a yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. parsley, finely chopped
1/2 tsp. basil, finely chopped
1 tsp. granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes

1 lb. pasta of choice, cooked and drained

DIRECTIONS:
1. In a medium size mixing bowl, lightly beat two eggs. Add ground chuck, bread crumbs, milk, grated cheese, minced garlic, parsley, oregano, red pepper, black pepper and salt. Gently combine until incorporated. Overmixing will pack the meat and create dense meatballs.
2. In a large skillet, over medium-low, heat olive oil. Once the oil is hot toss meatballs in. Turn every two minutes or so (when they turn brown), being careful not to burn them. When the meatballs have been browned, transfer to a plate covered with a paper towel.
3. As the oil cools, transfer to a large pot by pouring it through a mesh sieve (depending on how much there is left, you may not want to put it all in). Toss in onion and garlic. This will be the start of your sauce. Let the onion and garlic cook, then add the Prego. Stir until combined. Add parsley, basil, sugar, salt and red pepper. Turn heat on to low and let sauce simmer for 2-3 minutes, then carefully place the meatballs over top. Cover with a lid and simmer for 30-45 minutes.
4. While meatballs are simmering, cook pasta. Drain and divide between bowls or plates. Scoop a ladle of sauce over each 'bed' of pasta, then top with 3-5 meatballs. Garnish with additional parmesan romano cheese. Serve immediately.
Stephen + Natalie | Makes approximately 4-6 servings

Coconut Snowball Cupcakes

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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A couple of days ago I was trying to come up with a dessert to make for Easter. I wanted to do something with carrot, lemon or coconut. Then I remembered that I had some coconut left over from making this ice cream, and thought it would be just the right amount to make cupcakes. I made seven-minute frosting instead of a buttercream to give it a lighter consistency. And of course, it being Easter, I had to do something a little extra to make these cupcakes special, so I toasted some coconut to make a nest, and then topped them off with some speckled coconut M&M's eggs.

Coconut Snowball Cupcakes
Ingredients
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
12 tbsp. butter (1 1/2 sticks), room temperature
1 c. sugar
1/2 c. buttermilk
2 large eggs, plus 1 egg white
3/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. coconut oil
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. sweetened shredded coconut

Seven-minute frosting:
1 1/4 c. granulated sugar
2 tbsp. corn syrup
1/3 c. water
3 large egg whites
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
pinch of salt

1/2 c. sweetened shredded coconut

DIRECTIONS:
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a muffin tin with 12 liners, set aside.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar on high speed until light and fluffy (about 3-5 minutes). Turn speed down to low, add the eggs, one at a time, and then the egg white, scraping down the bowl after each addition. Add the vanilla extract and coconut oil, mix for 30 seconds.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Slowly add the dry ingredient mixture to the wet ingredients, alternating additions with the buttermilk. Mix until just combined (you do not want to over mix your batter). Remove bowl from stand mixer, fold in coconut.
4. Fill each liner 3/4 of the way full. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the tops begin to brown and a cake tester inserted into the center of the cupcake comes out clean. Remove from oven, let cool for 10 minutes, then transfer cupcakes to a wire rack to cool completely.
5. While cupcakes are cooling, prepare frosting. In a small saucepan, bring sugar, salt, corn syrup and water to a boil. Boil for 3-4 minutes or until a candy thermometer reads 200 degrees.
6. In the bowl of a stand mixer (with the whisk attachment on), beat egg whites and cream of tartar until foamy. Slowly pour the hot sugar mixture in. Continue to beat for 7 minutes or until stiff peaks begin to form. Add vanilla extract. Beat for an additional minute or so.
7. Spread frosting on top of cupcakes, then top with coconut.*
*To toast coconut, turn oven to 350 degrees. Spread coconut on a rimmed baking sheet. Place in oven for 5-10 minutes, stirring once or twice. Remove when flakes are golden brown.

Our weekend, according to Instagram

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Monday, April 9, 2012

This weekend began with me taming my serger.
Stephen has been asking me to hem his suit pants for
months now but the serger had been going haywire on
me and I didn't trust it on an expensive pair of wool trousers.
Finally I rethreaded everything and adjusted the tension
and it worked! Pants were done 20 minutes later. 
The Easter bunny came early. My Mom & Dad sent us
a box full of See's chocolate, some cookie cutters and a
handful of baker's twine in about 10 different colors. Score!
Friday night we ate dinner early and decided that
we needed to go out for some dessert. So
Cheesecake Factory it was. Mmm... sooo good!
Saturday we had a late night jam session. For no reason.
Ok, I guess that was what I thought, but Stephen told me
it was time to teach me how to play the guitar. I can't
say it came naturally, I'm a piano player, but I gave it my best.
Too many shoes. I wish I wore them more often...
Testing out my new lens and flash. I'm kind of in love.
Spring has sprung here in Jacksonville! I absolutely
love all of the flowers blooming around our apartment.
Coconut M&M's. I bought some to make cupcakes with, but
Stephen and I decided we needed to taste test them beforehand. 
Sunday night we had dinner with the Rudders. The menu:
Honey Baked Ham, twice baked potatoes, fruit salad, spring salad,
fresh steamed green beans and rolls. For dessert we had coconut
"bird's nest" cupcakes. All in all it was a good weekend.
Today is the first day of our 'babysit the Rudder kiddos for a week.'
More on that later. 

Happy Easter!

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Sunday, April 8, 2012

Yesterday Stephen and I went for a walk. We stumbled upon this little guy near the edge of our pond.

The Easter Bunny has arrived

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Thanks Mom & Dad!!! We always love getting packages, especially ones filled with See's!

Spicy Shredded Pork

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Friday, April 6, 2012

Oh how I wish there was a Cafe Rio near us. Unfortunately the closest one is in Virginia. When we lived in Utah we ate lunch/dinner there about twice a week, which is probably why Stephen has been nagging me to make Cafe Rio style shredded pork for months (we crave it, all of the time). I'm not sure why I am just now getting around to it (it is incredibly easy to make), but finally this morning I tossed everything in the Crock-Pot and let it go to work. 8 hours later, it turned into that sweet and spicy goodness pictured above. We buttered a pan and heated some flour tortillas in them, piled some pork on them and then topped them off with cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and sour cream. Yum!

Spicy Shredded Pork
Ingredients
1/2 of a yellow onion, cut into wedges
2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, minced
1 whole pork butt or shoulder (about 3-4 lbs)
2 cans Dr. Pepper or Coke (or one 2 liter)
3/4 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. water
1 can (10 oz) medium heat red enchilada sauce
pinch of salt

DIRECTIONS:
1. Turn crock pot on to high heat. Place onion wedges onto the bottom of the pot.
2. Salt and pepper the pork butt, then place on top of onion. Pour water and both cans of soda over the pork, add enchilada sauce and brown sugar, stir. Then sprinkle with the chipotle peppers and salt. Place the light on the pot and cook for 6-7 hours. During the cooking process, turn the pork 2-3 times. When the meat is falling apart and really tender, you know it is ready.
3. Remove the pork from the pot and place onto a cutting board. Using two forks shred the meat, discarding any fat. Return meat to the liquid in the pot, heat for an additional hour, keep warm until you are ready to serve it.

BBQ Chicken Pizza

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One of our favorite things to get at California Pizza Kitchen is their BBQ Chicken Pizza. Since we don't go there very often I decided to make my own version at home. Stephen and I both agree that it tastes just like it, if not better.

BBQ Chicken Pizza
Ingredients
1 ball pizza dough (I use this recipe)
1 boneless skinless chicken breasts or 5 chicken tenders
1/2 c. BBQ sauce (I use Sweet Baby Ray's Sweet & Spicy)
1 tsp. olive oil, to grease pan
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/4 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 of a red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 c. chopped cilantro

DIRECTIONS
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Place chicken breasts or tenders in a small ovenproof dish. Sprinkle with salt, then pour 1/4 c. of BBQ sauce over top. Turn chicken over to coat evenly. Bake for 20 minutes or so, until chicken is done. Remove and cut into slices. Set aside.
3. Increase oven temperature to 500 degrees. Prepare crust by rolling and placing onto a greased pan.
4. Spoon remaining BBQ sauce onto crust, spreading it evenly. Sprinkle shredded mozzarella over the sauce. Then top with chicken and red onion.
5. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until crust is brown and cheese begins to bubble. Remove from oven, garnish with chopped cilantro, let cool for 5 minutes, slice and serve.
Stephen + Natalie | Makes approximately 1 (10"-14") pizza

Baked Potato Pizza

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Thursday, April 5, 2012

I know what you're thinking. A baked potato pizza, really? But trust me, it is really good. When Stephen and I were living in Provo we went to a pizza buffet for dinner with friends. Some of you may know which one I'm talking about- The Pizza Pie Cafe. Although I'm not a huge fan of buffets, this one is actually pretty legit. Anyway, because it first started in Idaho, they have a pizza called the Spud-O-Licious. It's definitely not a traditional pizza but it is packed full of flavor and is mighty tasty. So if you're feeling a little adventurous and are tired of tomato-based pizzas, give it a try!

Baked Potato Pizza
Ingredients
1 ball of pizza dough (I use this recipe)
4 red potatoes (unpeeled), baked, cooled and sliced thinly
1/2 tbsp. butter, melted
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. oregano
1/8 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
6 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled
2 green onions, chopped
1 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 c. ranch (I use this Alfredo-ranch sauce)

DIRECTIONS:
1. Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Prepare crust by rolling it onto a lightly greased and floured pizza pan.
2. Spread ranch dressing or sauce over the pizza peel, leaving about 1 1/2 inches around the edge for the crust.
3. In a small bowl, toss the potato slices with the butter, garlic powder, rosemary, salt and pepper.
4. Sprinkle half of the cheese mixture over the pizza. Then place the potato slices over the cheese. Sprinkle remaining cheese as well as the bacon and green onions on top.
5. Bake for 10-15 minutes (during the last 2-3 minutes, you can turn the oven onto broil if you want to get things nice and crispy). Remove, let cool for 5 minutes, slice and serve.
Stephen + Natalie | Makes approximately 1 (10"-14") pizza

Baked Rigatoni with Mini Meatballs

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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Stephen and I love any kind of pasta dish, so when I came across a version of this recipe over at Smitten Kitchen, I knew we'd love it. Not only is it different from your average tomato-based baked ziti, but it has tiny little meatballs scattered throughout, which made Stephen especially happy. If you're not into meatballs you can always substitute them for chicken or just scratch the meat all together and toss in some veggies. Anyway you make it, you'll love it.

Baked Rigatoni with Mini Meatballs
Ingredients
1 lb. rigatoni noodles
1/2 c. grated parmesan cheese
1 tbsp. butter (to coat the pan)
1/4 c. milk

For the Mini Meatballs
1/2 lb ground beef
4 tbsp. Italian bread crumbs
2 tbsp.  milk
1 clove garlic, minced
1 egg
1 tbsp. chopped parsley
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
3/4 c. all-purpose flour
3-4 tbsp. vegetable oil, for frying

For the Sauce
4 1/2 c. milk
1 clove garlic, minced
4 tbsp. butter
3 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/2 c. grated parmesan cheese

DIRECTIONS:
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter a 9x13 baking dish, set aside.
2. To make the meatballs, combine ground beef, bread crumbs, milk, garlic, egg, parsley, salt and pepper in a small mixing bowl. When all ingredients are incorporated, roll into tiny balls (about the size of a raspberry). Place balls on a plate covered with flour. Roll to coat each ball. When all of the meat has been formed into balls and rolled in flour, place into a pan with hot oil (over medium heat). Cook for 3-5 minutes, or until they become brown and crusty. Remove and transfer to a plate covered with paper towels.
3. For the sauce, in a medium sauce pan, heat butter until it begins to bubble. Add garlic and cook until it begins to turn golden in color. Add flour, whisk for 2 minutes or so, then add milk. Sprinkle in nutmeg, salt and pepper. Let liquid simmer for 10 minutes (making sure it does not come to a rolling boil).
4. While the sauce is simmering, cook the rigatoni in a large pot of salted water. Drain and pour into buttered baking dish. Toss in meatballs and stir gently.
5. When sauce has simmered for 10 minutes, add cheese. Whisk until incorporated. Remove from heat.
6. Pour 1/4 c. milk over pasta and meatballs. Then pour the sauce on top. Cover with remaining 1/2 c. parmesan cheese. Place into oven and bake for 20 minutes or until cheese and noodles begin to brown.
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen- Baked Rigatoni with Mini Meatballs | Makes approximately 6-8 servings

Enchilada Cups

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Monday, April 2, 2012

Enchilada Cups
I could probably eat enchiladas 2-3 times a week. I love them. So when I was planning out our meals for this week, I knew I had to make these. They're kind of a knock-off version of Trader Joe's Enchilada Cups, which is perfect, because there isn't a Trader Joe's anywhere near us. These jumbo enchilada cups could be served as an appetizer or a main dish, and the recipe can easily be doubled, tripled or quadrupled if your going to be feeding a bigger crowd. Enjoy!

Enchilada Cups
Ingredients
1/2 lb. ground beef (or chicken)
1/4 yellow onion, diced
1 green onion, sliced
1/4 c. salsa (whichever type or brand you prefer)
1 (2.25 oz) can sliced black olives
12 corn tortillas
1/2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 c. shredded pepper jack cheese
1 (10 oz) can red enchilada sauce
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper

DIRECTIONS:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare an extra large muffin tin (6 wells) by lightly coating it with cooking spray. Take the 12 tortillas and using a circle cookie or biscuit cutter, cut a circle out of each tortilla. Place on circle on the bottom of each hole. Set the other remaining 6 circles aside. Cut the tortilla "rings" into pieces and spread around the sides of each hole.
2. In a medium pan set over medium-low heat, cook beef and diced yellow onions. Drain any liquid. Season with chili powder, cumin, onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Mix with salsa. Pour (dividing evenly) into  each hole.
3. Pour 1 spoonful of enchilada sauce over the meat in each hole. Cover with remaining tortilla circles. Pour 2-3 additional spoonfuls of sauce over each tortilla. Sprinkle cheese over top, then olives and green onions.
4. Place in oven and bake for 25-30 minutes or until the cheese begins to bubble and brown. Remove from oven and let cool for 3-4 minutes before using a fork to take out the cups out of the tin. Garnish with additional salsa or sour cream, serve immediately.
Stephen + Natalie | Makes 6 cups

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