In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. ~ Proverbs 3:6

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Zucchini Brownies

Tonight I made my favorite zucchini recipe.  Zucchini brownies are a chocolaty treat that are super moist from what else, but zucchini!  It would be wonderful if these were healthy, just because they have a vegetable in them. That's not the case though, so these are definitely a treat that I only make once in awhile.  

started making these brownies a few years ago.  This recipe has been a keeper in my home ever since.  I originally found the recipe here from The Pioneer Cookbook.  The only thing I do differently from the original recipe is that I do not add nuts.  Neither my husband or myself like nuts in our baked goods. I think these are best when they are served warm, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream (sugar free and low fat if I'm eating it) and some fresh raspberries on top.  Mmm Mmm Good! 

1 zucchini, pealed and shredded (about two cups)
1 c. flour
1/2 c. cocoa powder
1/3 tsp. salt
3 eggs, beaten
1/3 c.  butter, softened
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
3/4 c. chocolate chips (i prefer milk chocolate chips)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix flour, cocoa powder, and salt in a bowl and set a side.  In a food processor, process the shredded zucchini and set aside.  In a separate bowl, cream eggs, butter, sugar and vanilla.  Stir in Zucchini.  Add dry ingredients and chocolate chips and mix well.  Bake in a greased 9x9 pan for 40-50 minutes or until center pokes clean.

Mom's Zucchini Bread

Last night, I made my first loaf of zucchini bread of the season.  With an abundance of zucchini in the garden, I'm sure there will be plenty more loaves to come in the upcoming weeks. Some will be eaten fresh from the oven.  Others will be gifted or put in the freezer for a later time.  

This zucchini bread recipe is the recipe my mother used.  It's the recipe I grew up on.  I loved zucchini bread as a kid.  I remember having it often during late summer and early fall, and nibbling on it anytime of day.  My favorite way to eat it as a child was warm, with a little butter spread on top.  I still like it that way, but these days I find it best enjoyed with a cup of coffee.

I've shared this recipe on the blog before, but it has been awhile.  This particular recipe is more dense than other zucchini breads I've tried.  It's definitely moist from the zucchini, but the texture is not not light and airy, rather it is dense and filling.  

One batch can make one large loaf, or it could be split into two small pans to make two loaves, making it convenient for gifting. 

2 c. flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tbs. cinnamon
2 c. zucchini, peeled and shredded (or about one medium zucchini)
3 eggs, beaten
1/2 c. oil
1 c. sugar
1 c. brown sugar
1 tbs. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350.  Mix flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon and set aside. In a separate bowl, mix eggs, oil and sugar.  Add brown sugar and vanilla.  Mix in shredded zucchini.  Slowly add dry mixture until well combined.  Pour batter in a greased bread pan and bake for one hour or until bread pokes clean in the middle.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Simple Sauteed Zucchini and Yellow Squash

Other than grilled zucchini, simple sauteed zucchini is probably my favorite way to eat zucchini.  Because it is so simple, it is the way I commonly prepare zucchini for a meal.  You can find a side of zucchini and squash, cooked on the stove top with a little olive oil and salt and pepper to taste, served anytime of year at my house.  I often serve this with fish, for a light and healthy supper.  Of course you could add onions, garlic or fresh herbs, but keeping it simple taste just fine.

one medium zucchini
one medium yellow squash
2 tbs. olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

On medium high heat, warm up olive oil in pan.  Chop vegetables and saute until tender.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Baked Parmesan Zucchini

Sharing another use for zucchini today.  This simple recipe is a favorite in our house.  Baked Parmesan zucchini is a simple delicious side that goes great with any Italian dish.  I try to watch my carbs, and have found that these make a great substitute for bread sticks that would traditionally be served with pizza or pasta.

I originally found this recipe through Pinterest, and it has been a quick and easy go-to side dish ever since.  The original recipe calls for four zucchini, but I find that two is a good amount for my family.  When using my garden zucchini, I often only need one zucchini, as garden zucchini tend to be bigger than store-bought zucchini.

2 medium zucchini
2 tbs. olive oil
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. garlic powder

Preheat oven to 350. Mix dry ingredients in a bowl and set aside.  Cut zucchini into strips.  Place zucchini on a baking pan lined with foil.  Drizzle oil over zucchini. Sprinkle zucchini with cheese mixture.  Bake for 20-30 minutes or until zucchini is tender. Broil the last two minutes to get the tops crispy and brown.

** I like to brush the olive oil on the zucchini to make sure it is evenly coated.  I also like to dip the zucchini strips in the cheese mixture to make sure the cheese is evenly coated.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Asian Style Zucchini

A few weeks ago, I was in search of new ways to use up zucchini.  I found a few recipes that took an Asian spin on sauteed zucchini.  I decided to take some of those ingredients, all of which I already had in the house, and I came up with my own version of an Asian zucchini side dish.

This recipe was easy and took minimal ingredients.  It's also very versatile.  If you don't have sesame oil, you could just use olive oil.  I think the sesame oil gives good flavor.  Ginger is also optional.  Not everyone likes ginger, but I think it brings out more of an Asian flavor to the dish.  

This dish ended up being a good use of  my garden zucchini and was a simple side to an Asian meal I had planned for a weeknight supper. It will definitely served for supper again in the near future. 

2 medium zucchini, sliced into thin slices
1 tbs. olive oil
1 tbs. sesame oil
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. minced ginger
1 to 2 tbs. low sodium soy sauce
1 tbs. sesame seeds

On medium to medium/high heat warm up olive oil and sesame oil.  Add garlic, ginger and soy sauce.  Give a few stirs, then saute zucchini until zucchini is tender.  Top with sesame seeds and serve over a bed of rice.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Chocolate Zucchini Raspberry Cupcakes

I enjoy using zucchini when baking, as zucchini always gives a moist texture to baked goods. A couple of months ago, I tried this zucchini raspberry cucake recoipe from All Recipes.  

I made these cupcake for a date night with my husband, a picnic in the park towards the end of spring.  I love chocolate in my desserts, and he loves fruit in his desserts.  This was a win-win for the both of us.  We both really enjoyed this recipe.

2 1/2 c. all purpose flour
1/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 c. softened butter
1 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 c. buttermilk 
2 c. shredded zucchini
1 1/4 c. fresh raspberries
1 c. chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Whisk flour, cocoa, baking soda and set aside.  Beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer until creamed.  Add eggs one at a time.  Mix in vanilla.  Pour in flour mixture, alternating with buttermilk, until just incorporated.  Fold in zucchini, raspberries and chocolate chips until just combined.  Spoon batter into greased or lined muffin tins 3/4 of the way full.  Bake for 20 minutes or until center pokes clean.  Let cool before frosting.  Garnish with a raspberry and sprig of mint.

I used my cream cheese frosting recipe (8 oz softened cream cheese, 4 tbs. butter, 1-2 c. powdered sugar, tbs. vanilla). A chocolate or raspberry whipped frosting would also be good with these cupcakes, making the frosting light and airy.  Also, when I pipe frosting on a cupcake, I usually just use a zip-lock freezer bag that I cut the corner off of to create a tip.

***  These cupcakes are a little on the dense side.  Still very good, but I might try a little less flour next time I make them.

Zucchini Boats

If you're like me, you have an abundance of zucchini in your garden this time of year, which means you're always looking for ways to use up your zucchini.  I love to make zucchini boats for a quick and easy supper, because they are fool-proof and easy to make, filling enough for my husband to eat and are also a great use of leftover ingredients from previous meals.

Zucchini boats are a great way to use up zucchini from the garden and leftover ingredients from a week's worth of food.  These are perfect to make at the end of the week when I have leftover onion, mushrooms and cheese from various recipes.  These are also extremely versatile, as there really is no exact ingredients or measurement of ingredients that have to be used for this recipe. I originally found this recipe for stuffed zucchini, but have since take the similar ingredients and adjusted the recipe to my liking. 

4 medium zucchini
half of a diced yellow onion
1 - 2 c. finely chopped mushrooms
1 tbs. minced garlic
1/2 c. seasoned bread crumbs
1/2 c. grated mozzarella cheese
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
2 tbs. balsamic vinegar
2 tbs. olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cut zucchini in half and scoop out some of the fleshy middle, creating a boat-like shape and set aside. Chop the scooped zucchini and set aside. On medium heat, warm olive oil in a pan.  Saute onion, chopped zucchini, mushrooms and garlic for about five to ten minutes, or until mushrooms soften.  Take off the heat and mix in cheeses, balsamic vinegar and bread crumbs.  Scoop mixture evenly into the zucchini boats and bake on a baking sheet lined with foil at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until zucchini is tender.  

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Easy Feet Print DIY Father's Day Gift from Young Twins

This week I've shared of few of the recipes I made for our Father's Day celebration last month.  It seems only fitting to share the DIY gift I had the boys make their Daddy for Father's Day.

I had a thoughtful gift picked out for my husband in no time, thanks to good ol' Pinterest.  I saw this little DIY gift on several pin boards, and it looked easy enough to duplicate. 

To start with, I got on the computer and typed out the message in the font and colors I liked, making sure to leave enough space for my twin toddlers' feet prints.

Next, I printed my creation on a piece of card stock.

Then, I painted one of my sons' feet (one foot at a time, and having baby wipes at arm's length for easy clean up) and pressed the panted feet on the paper, creating a heart shape.  I soon realized the first babies' feet were bigger than the second babies' feet.  To avoid overlapping of colors, I used a different color of paint for the second babies' feet prints.

Lastly, I let the paint dry and placed and framed our creation in an inexpensive frame from Walmart. 

My husband loved the gift, and he keeps it on his night stand!

The twins may not have understood it was Father's Day, but they understood that they love their dad and he loves them!

Better than Takeout Baked Sweet and Sour Chicken with Peppers and Pineapple

In my last post, I shared the recipe for the blackberry lime cheesecake tart I made for Father's Day.  Today, I want to share what we had for Father's Day Dinner.

Seeing as how Father's Day is a day to celebrate the father of my children, it was only fitting to make his favorite meal.  A meal that we have dubbed, better than takeout sweet and sour chicken.

I found this recipe a few years ago when looking for a good recipe for an Asian dinner to make for my husband's birthday.  My husband has been in love with this recipe ever since. He loves any kind of Asian cuisine, but this is probably his favorite homemade Asian dish that I make.  I think the peppers and pineapple are what make this dish so yummy!

My husband would be thrilled to eat this meal on a regular basis.  However, I only make it every so often, because it is a bit time consuming to cube the chicken and fry it before baking.  It comes together easily and is definitely not a difficult dish.  It just requires a bit more prep work than I like to put into a quick weeknight supper.  The taste is worth the time though, as it really is better than take out!  A family favorite in our house for sure!

3-4 boneless skinless chicken breast (cubed into one inch pieces)
one green pepper (chopped)
one red pepper (chopped)
20 oz. can of pineapple chunks (drained)
salt and pepper to taste
1 - 1.5 c. cornstarch
3 eggs (beaten)
1/4 c. canola oil

1 c. sugar
1 tsp. garlic salt
4 tbs. ketchup
1/4 c. apple cider vinegar
1/4 c. white vinegar
1 tbs. low sodium soy sauce
1 tbs. cornstarch

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  On a stove top, warm canola oil in a pan on medium heat. Place eggs and corn starch in two separate bowls. Dredge chicken in cornstarch, then in the egg.  Fry chicken in canola oil just long enough to brown the chicken.  Place chicken on paper towels to soak up excess grease, then put chicken in a greased 9x13 casserole dish.  In a separate bowl, whisk all of the ingredients for the sauce, then stir in the peppers and drained pineapple.  Pour mixture over the chicken and bake for one hour.  Serve over a bed of rice.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Blackberry Lime Cheesecake Tart

It's been a busy few weeks at our house, and it's looking like it won't be slowing down anytime soon.  While I am trying to get a few blog posts in here and there, my blog time is not a priority, which sort of explains my lack of posts lately.

I do have a few minutes to quickly get a blog post up this afternoon, while my little guys are napping, so today I'm going to share the recipe for the delicious blackberry lime cheesecake tart I made my husband for Father's day.

My husband is not really a dessert kind of guy, but when he does eat sweets, he likes them to be fruity.  Knowing that he loves berries and citrus flavors, I thought this blackberry lime cheesecake tart I had pinned away on a Pinterest board would be a refreshing summer treat for Father's Day. 

I made a few adaptions from the original recipe, but this tart did not disappoint!   My husband loved it, and to my surprise, I loved it too!  I am more of a chocolate kind of girl, but this tart was really good!  It was a very easy and refreshing summer dessert!

1 c. plus one tbs. all purpose four
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tbs. sugar
8 tbs. unsalted butter
1/4 c. ice water

*** see link above to the original recipe for directions for crust

*** I used a store bought graham cracker crust instead of making my own crust, just to simplify things a little.  Plus I thought the graham cracker crust would go better with this tart.

1 egg
6 oz. softened cream cheese
1/3 c. plain Greek yogurt
1/2 c. sugar, divided
1.2 tsp. vanilla
pinch of sea salt
1 pint of blackberries
zest of one lime
Juice of one lime
3 tbs. of corn starch

*** Original recipe used whole milk yogurt instead of Greek yogurt.  I used nonfat plain Greek yogurt because it is a staple in my house, and I wanted to keep the calories down. 

***The recipe also did not call for the juice of a lime.  I knew my husband loved the flavor of lime, so I added it for additional citrus flavor.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, lightly beat egg.  Mix in cream cheese, yogurt and lime juice until well combined. Fold in 1/4 of cup of sugar and the vanilla.  Toss the berries with the remaining sugar, lime zest and corn starch. Pour cream cheese mixture into crust and scatter berry mixture evenly on top.  Bake 55 minutes, or until no longer jiggly and the middle begins to crack a bit. Cool for an hour and place in refrigerator.  Best if served chilled.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Simple Patriotic Berry Trifle

I hope everyone had a good Fourth of July weekend.  I had a great weekend, spent with my three favorite guys in the whole world!  Our three day weekend was filled with shopping, parks, pools, festivals and a backyard cookout for our family of four.  We had all of the fixins', from potato salad to baked beans.  As a result, we spent a couple days eating our cookout leftovers.  

For our holiday dessert, I wanted to keep things on the light side.  I've really been watching my sugar intake this summer, so anytime I make a dessert, I make sure it is something my husband will eat the majority of, keeping my dessert portion to a minimum!  He is not a fan of rich decadent desserts, but prefers his sweets to be light and fruity.  I decided on a super-easy berry trifle that not only taste light and summery, it also looks pretty for a patriotic celebration.  Not to mention, it is a cinch to throw together!

1 pint strawberries 
1 pint blueberries
6 oz raspberries
6 oz blackberries
one store bought angel food cake
one 16 oz Cool Whip ([refer lite or sugar free)
1/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. water
2 tbs. lemon juice
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Rinse all berries.  Dice the strawberries.  Cut the angel food cake into one inch cubes.  Make a simple syrup by cooking the sugar, lemon juice and water on medium/high heat until sugar is dissolved. Take off of heat and stir in vanilla.  Brush the liquid on all sides of the angel food cake.  Place half of angel food cake in serving dish.  Top with berry variety of your choice.  Spread a layer of Cool Whip over berries.  Place the other half of angel food cake on top of Cool Whip.  Top with berry variety of your choice. Spread a layer of cool whip over berries.  Decorate the top with remaining berries.


*** If watching sugar intake you can omit the simple syrup step.  I've made it both ways, this past weekend, I skipped that step, to make an even lighter version of this recipe.

***You can make this completely from scratch and make your own angel food cake and whip cream.  For me this semi-homemade version fit my busy life just fine.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Garden Update

I've been away from my blog for a couple of weeks, due to just being busy!  With Father's Day and Fourth of July celebrations, and then a few days out of town in between, I have had little time to sit down and blog.
I thought I'd post a garden update to start the week off, since it has been about two months since we planted our garden.  It's been a bit of a rough year to be a first time gardener.  We have had A LOT of rain!!!  In fact, we haven't had to water our garden at all in about six weeks.  Because of all of the moisture, my garden got hit hard with a fungus.  Once the fungus cleared out, with much effort on my part, I immediately noticed things growing again.  In comparison to other gardens in the area, my garden is about 3-4 weeks behind in growth and production.
So far, our yellow squash plant has produced the most out of all of our plants.
There are probably a dozen squash growing on this one plant right now, with this plant constantly flowering and producing more squash on a regular basis.
The three zucchini plants have been flowering, for what seems like months, but within the past week, they've finally started producing zucchini!
 Each plant currently has about 3-4 zucchini growing on them.
 The cucumber plants have taken over the box....
 ....and the pickling cucumber plant has started to produce a few cucumbers this week.
The green beans have done well from the very beginning, but we are still waiting for the day we get to bring green beans from the garden to the supper table.
The red and green peppers were my best looking plants for most of the summer, but they have once again been attacked with a fungus.  I'm working to get it out of the box, so currently, they aren't looking so great.
We have one lonely green pepper that has been growing for weeks.  I'm patiently waiting for more peppers to follow.
Which brings me to my tomato plants.  My poor, poor tomato plants!  
The rain has been really hard on my potted tomatoes this year.  I lost one plant pretty early in the season.  All the tomato plants were planted the same way, but for whatever reason, this pot had a hard time draining.  Every time we had a hard rain, which has been often, this pot would flood with standing water, and I'd have to go empty the water.  I think it is safe to say, this plant is done.
My other two tomato plants were doing ok, until I went out of town for a few days.  While I was away, we had quite a bit of rain, and when I returned, I found another tomato plant withering away from too much moisture.
That made me a little sad, because it had started to produce a few small tomatoes before I went out of town.
That leaves me with one surviving tomato plant this season.
While it is in the process of producing tomatoes, I think it is safe to say I am not going to be canning a bunch of salsa or tomato sauce this year. 
No, the garden has not done as well as I had hoped in two months time, but compared to where my garden was exactly one month ago.....
....due to that fungus I was referring to, that literally took over my garden beds and plants and prevented my plants from growing.... 
Well, compared to a month ago, I'm pretty happy with where we are now....
...and I'm looking forward to finally being able to harvest my garden in upcoming weeks!