Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Zucchini Mini Muffins

It's been quite a while since I've posted anything to the blog, but I'm getting back into the swing of things here! I figure there's no better way to start than with a fantastic zucchini muffin recipe. It's spring which means it's time to plant our garden and enjoy months of fresh veggies! Last year was our first year gardening, and we truly loved it. I can't wait to get the garden going again in a week or so. Last year we had several zucchini plants and they produced very well! I am looking forward to lots of zucchini again this summer since I just LOVE it! In sweet or savory recipes...zucchini is always delicious! If you're looking for a a way to introduce your kids to zucchini bread, this mini muffin recipe is for you! My kids absolutely love these, and they are not fans of zucchini. Luckily zucchini hides very well in sweet treats. The muffins themselves have little green flecks in them from the shredded zucchini, but the flavor is sweet and cinnamon-y. 

This muffin recipe starts like any other...first whisk together the dry ingredients (white whole wheat flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and all spice) in a bowl. 

Next, shred your zucchini. I used the smaller holes on a box grater to make finely shredded zucchini. I wanted the green flecks to be as small as possible. You could use the regular holes or the smaller ones. Make sure you do not squeeze the liquid from the zucchini, we want to add all that was shredded to our muffins. I usually don't use an entire zucchini to get the 2/3 cup called for in this recipe. Just shred up what you need and set the rest aside for another use. I made these recently and squeezed the liquid out just to see how we liked them, and I have to say they are a bit more dry that way, so I recommend leaving the liquid in. Also it is much less work to just leave all of that liquid in the zucchini. 

To the shredded zucchini in the bowl, add the rest of your wet ingredients: 1 egg, brown sugar, melted coconut oil, melted butter, applesauce, milk, and vanilla. Whisk it all together. This makes a fairly sweet muffin in my opinion...I think I will try reducing the brown sugar to 1/3 cup the next time I make these. The original recipe had no applesauce, only oil and butter. I reduced these and subbed with some applesauce since I always have it on hand. If you don't keep applesauce around, feel free to use the 3 Tablespoons of oil and 2 Tablespoons of butter that the original recipe lists. 

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, and mix together until just combined. Do not over mix! 

Pour the batter into a greased mini-muffin tin, and bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. 

Muffins are finished cooking when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the muffin tops spring back when you press them lightly. 

These are very tasty muffins! My kids adore them. 

I originally took the pictures for this post about a year ago and never got around to posting it! The picture on the left is my daughter last year (just under 2 years old) and the one on the right is her today at 2.5 years old...the little stinker refused to take a bite for the picture! Ah well, I think I'll give her a pass since she's so cute! My son is at preschool right now, so he'll have muffins for breakfast tomorrow. I hope you'll give these a try, they are easy and delicious! 

Zucchini Mini Muffins 
Recipe adapted from: MyRecipes.com

1 1/3 cups white whole wheat flour (all-purpose also works) 
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 + 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
2/3 cup finely shredded zucchini
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup packed brown sugar (or less if you like them less sweet) 
2 Tablespoons applesauce 
2 Tablespoons coconut oil, melted (or sub canola oil)
1 Tablespoon butter, melted
2-3 Tablespoons milk (as needed) 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cooking spray

1. Preheat oven to 400°. Spray a mini muffin tin with cooking spray. 
2. Combine flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and allspice in a medium bowl. 
3. In a large bowl, whisk together the shredded zucchini (with all of its liquid), brown sugar, oil, butter, milk, vanilla, and egg. 
4. Add flour mixture to zucchini mixture, stirring batter just until combined. Do not over mix! 
5. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full. Bake at 400° for 10 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center of muffins comes out clean.

If you're looking for more breakfast zucchini recipes, here are some others that I have tried and love: 

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Spiced Pumpkin Loaf

I'm getting back into the swing of things here, and I thought I would get back to blogging! I have lots of new recipes to share, and I decided to kick things off with an awesome pumpkin loaf I made the other night. I'm so happy fall is here again...it's time for pumpkin everything! My kids really enjoy pumpkin spice flavors, so that gives me a great excuse to try lots of new things! I really got into making zucchini and yellow squash bread this summer, so my kids have gotten used to eating quick breads in loaf form instead of only in muffin form, which is a nice change of pace! They lovingly call this recipe "pumpkin cake." Who wouldn't want pumpkin cake for breakfast?! 

The great thing about baking a loaf of bread instead of muffins is obviously that you pour it and bake it all at once! A loaf of quick bread does take at least an hour to bake, so I often bake it the night before, so my kids don't have to wait. Let me show you how to make it. It's very easy!

First start by whisking together the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder and soda, salt, and spices. The original recipe that I got from food.com was for 2 loaves of pumpkin bread. I only have one loaf pan, so I cut the recipe in half. That is why the flour measurement listed in the recipe may look a little strange. I used mostly white whole wheat flour in this recipe, but feel free to use all-purpose if you prefer. This recipe has lots of wonderful spices: cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves. I imagine you could substitute an equal amount of pumpkin pie spice if you have that instead. Whisk these together and set that aside.

Then in a larger bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients: eggs, pumpkin, sugar, water, oil, and vanilla. I used less sugar than the recipe called for, and I thought a combination of white and brown sugar would be nice with the pumpkin. I was out of applesauce when I made this, but I would definitely use 1/4 cup oil and 1/4 cup applesauce in place of the 1/2 cup oil and then maybe even reduce the sugar down to 3/4 cup. I used whey from making homemade yogurt in place of the water. I tend to have a lot of whey since I make homemade yogurt about every other week or so, and this was an easy way to use up some of it, so if you have some extra whey lying around, this is a great place to use some of it! I also added vanilla, which was not in the original recipe, but I think every sweet recipe is better with vanilla!

Next add the dry ingredients to the wet, and stir until just combined. Like muffin batter, you don't want to overmix this. 

Pour the batter into a 9x5 inch loaf pan that has been sprayed with nonstick spray. 

Bake the pumpkin loaf in a preheated 350 degree oven for 60-70 minutes or until a toothpick or knife inserted in the center comes out clean. My bread took 70 minutes, and I find that a toothpick will not go all the way through a loaf of bread, so I use a butter knife to test for doneness. 

Let the pumpkin loaf cool for 10 or so minutes in the pan before slicing and serving. 

This bread is absolutely fantastic warm from the oven with some butter smeared on top. Yum! It is also wonderful at room temperature, and stays moist for days! 

If you love pumpkin and fall flavors, I hope you will give this one a try! 

Spiced Pumpkin Loaf
Recipe adapted from Food.com

1 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup plus 2 Tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 eggs
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup water (I used whey)
1/2 cup canola oil or melted coconut oil
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9x5 inch loaf pan with non-stick spray.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, pumpkin, sugars, water, oil, and vanilla.
4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and gently stir to combine. Break up large chunks of flour, but do not over mix.
5. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake 60-70 minutes or until a toothpick or knife inserted into the center comes out clean.
6. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then slice and enjoy plain or spread with butter or cream cheese!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Cinnamon Cottage Cheese Mini Muffins

If you've been following my blog, I'm sure you know by now how I hate waste. If I buy an ingredient, I typically find a way to use it in several ways because I hate the idea of throwing away food. I bought some cottage cheese to see if my daughter might enjoy it as a snack. It is inexpensive and high in protein, so I figured, why not? However, there is only so much cottage cheese she can eat, so I needed to find something to make with the rest of it since my husband and myself do not enjoy just eating it. To be honest, I don't care for cottage cheese at all, so I knew I would need to find a way to prepare it that would make it no longer even seem like cottage cheese.  I made these Cottage Cheese Pancakes from Weelicious for my son when he was younger, and they were a big hit. But this time I was looking for something different...I know this is going to shock you, but I was looking for some way to use the cottage cheese in muffin form. Shocking, right? A muffin recipe on my blog?? How unexpected! I know, I know...I post a lot of muffin recipes. But to be fair I make muffins at least once a week. They make for a very quick and easy breakfast for my whole family, and it is very easy to switch them up and make different flavors and make them healthier. 

So today I would like to share theses Cinnamon Cottage Cheese Muffins...that don't taste like cottage cheese! That is a promise from me because, like I said before, I do not care for cottage cheese, so if they tasted like cottage cheese, I would not have eaten more than one of them, and I have definitely had my fair share. My 3-and-a-half year old really loves them...he ate 8 or 9 of them the first day I made them. My 19-month-old really enjoys them too! My husband told me he absolutely loves the texture of them and enjoys them more than any other cinnamon muffin I have ever made...that is high praise because, as I said before, I make a lot of muffins! 

I adjusted the recipe a bit from the original, and I think it would be easy to adjust it more to make them even healthier. I think replacing some (or all) of the sugar for honey would work quite well as that that is the only part of this recipe that is concerning to me health wise. I usually prefer to use no more than 1/2 cup of sugar in a muffin recipe, and this one calls for 2/3 cup. I did not decrease the sugar when I made these the first time because I was afraid if I did they might not be sweet enough with the cottage cheese in them. I still don't think I would cut down on the sugar (as these muffins are not overly sweet), but I think if I made them again I would use 1/3 cup of sugar and 1/3 cup of honey, just to cut down on the refined sugar. As always, feel free to change up the recipe to fit your family's needs! Here is how I made these Cinnamon Cottage Cheese Muffins: 

Start by mixing your dry ingredients together in a medium bowl. I replaced some of the flour in the original recipe with whole wheat flour, but not all of it as I was afraid the muffins would be too dense. Whisk together the all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, and sugar, and set this aside. 

Next, to make sure there were no chunks of cottage cheese, I combined cottage cheese, applesauce, and a splash of the 2/3 cup milk in my electric food mill and blended until the cottage cheese chunks were as small as I could get them. This step is optional and was not in the original recipe, but for me it was a necessary step to ensure there were no chunks of cottage cheese in the final product. 

In a large bowl add the blended cottage cheese mixture, the rest of the milk, an egg, vanilla, and oil or butter. Whisk this together until smooth. 

Then add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and gently mix until combined. 

Pour into a greased mini muffin tin, filling about 2/3 full. 

I baked these at 400 degrees for 12 minutes, or until the tops were golden brown and sprung back when I pressed them lightly. These muffins are very moist, so a toothpick may not come out clean even when they are fully cooked. Regular-sized muffins will bake for 15-17 minutes. I always prefer making mini muffins if I my kids will be eating them because they are the perfect size for little hands to hold. 

Let the muffins cool in the pan for a few minutes, then remove them to a wire rack to finish cooling. 

I sat these on the kitchen table instead of the counter to cool today, and I'm pretty sure my son thought that meant the entire cooling rack was his serving of muffins...he kept eating them! 

Also, how cute is he in his super man jammies?? Even Super Man needs an energy boost from a muffin from time to time! 

These muffins are quite tasty! The cottage cheese just makes them very moist. They are best warm from the oven, but they hold up for a few days. We are on day 3 of eating them, and they are still good. I do nuke mine in the microwave for a few seconds so they are a little warm. My kids and husband eat theirs at room temperature. 

So if you have some extra cottage cheese on hand, give these a try! They are very good! I imagine you could add blueberries or some other fruit to give them even more flavor. However, my son prefers a plain muffin with fruit on the side. 

Here is the recipe for your reference! Happy baking and eating! 

Cinnamon Cottage Cheese Mini Muffins 
Adapted from this recipe

1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup white whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup cottage cheese
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
2/3 cup milk
1 egg, whisked
1/4 cup melted unsalted butter or coconut oil or canola oil
2 teaspoons vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a mini muffin or regular muffin tin with nonstick spray. 
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, and sugar. Set aside. 
3. In the bowl of a blender, food processor, or electric food mill, combine the cottage cheese, applesauce, and a little of the milk. Blend until smooth. (You can skip this step if you are not worried about the texture of the cottage cheese.) 
4. In a large bowl, whisk together the cottage cheese mixture, the rest of the milk, egg, butter or oil, and vanilla. 
5. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir gently to combine. 
6. Add batter to greased muffin tin, filling 2/3 full. Bake mini muffins for 12 minutes and regular sized muffins for 15-17 minutes. Muffins are done when the tops are golden and spring back when you press them slightly. Makes 36 mini muffins or 12 regular muffins. 

Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Easiest Homemade Meatloaf

I'm sure you can assume that since I have a food blog, I really love to cook. It's true...I love trying new recipes, and I am always trying to make every dish I make the be best it can possibly be. My husband really enjoys everything I make...he jokingly says it's half the reason he married me. :-) Even though he is of course extremely happy with a big fancy meal where every piece is made from scratch and perfect, some of his favorite dishes that I make are the most simple. This meatloaf is one of those meals. It is so very easy and always delicious. I actually told him the night before that I would be making this for dinner the next day and he texted me a little after lunch and said he had been looking forward to meatloaf all day. An easy meal that makes my husband that happy? Count me in! 

This is not just any regular meatloaf recipe, and the subtle changes are what makes it most appealing to me. You see, growing up I did not like meatloaf...at all. Not even a little bit. My mother would fry up a plain hamburger patty for me to eat because I simply refused to eat meatloaf. (What a pain I must have been to cook for...sorry Mom!) I first saw this recipe in a Kraft Food and Family Magazine several years ago, and the idea really intrigued me...a meatloaf recipe that actually sounded good?! Surely not! So what, you may ask, makes this meatloaf recipe so special? First of all, it is topped with barbecue sauce instead of ketchup, which is a big plus for me. I like ketchup to dip French fries in, and that's about it. But the ingredient that really makes this meatloaf shine is the store bought stuffing mix. (Gasp!) I know, I know...it's not the healthiest thing in the world, but this is not a dish that we eat that often...maybe every other month or so. The stuffing mix is used in place of any bread crumbs or vegetables, and it is really delicious! Not convinced? Let me show you how this goes...

First, combine ground beef, store-bought stuffing mix (I buy it in the large canisters, so it is easy to measure out), water, barbecue sauce, an egg, and some finely chopped baby spinach leaves in a bowl. The spinach leaves are a new addition, and honestly you could not taste them and they added pretty little green flecks to the meatloaf, so I will put them in from now on...I will probably add even more spinach next time. 

Mix these ingredients together with your hands until just combined. Sorry folks...you have to mix meatloaf with your hands. There is really no other way to combine the ingredients together properly. Also, be sure not to over mix the ingredients or you will have tough meatloaf, and nobody wants that. I went ahead and divided mine into 4 equal portions since I am making individual meatloaves instead of one big meatloaf. 

My husband and I both really like the ends of the meatloaf the best...you know the parts that get just slightly crispy at the edges? Yum! So I have started making these like individual meatloaves, so we get those edges all the way around. Best. Idea. Ever. I actually didn't look at my own recipe card when I was making these today, or I would have seen that I was supposed to separate these into 12 1/4 cup portions. Instead I just divided the meat mixture evenly to make 8 individual meatloaves...so make 8 or 12...whatever you like. I think I'll try to pay better attention and make 12 next time because smaller meatloaves equals more crispy edges, and that's what it's all about to me! Whatever size meatloaves you make, put them on a foil-lined baking sheet that has been sprayed with cooking spray. 

Then pour a bit more barbecue sauce over the top of each meatloaf. I don't measure this, but we like ours totally covered in barbecue sauce. I used my homemade barbecue sauce, and it was delicious, but usually I use store bought. I just happened to be out of it this time, and my homemade sauce is super easy to make! I drizzle a bit of sauce on top of each one.

Then I use a spoon to spread it around, making sure the top and sides are completely covered. If it doesn't look like enough, I just add a little more sauce. I did end up adding more here...yes we like a lot of sauce on ours! 

Bake the mini meatloaves at 400 degrees for 20-22 minutes. (If you do 12 smaller ones, bake them for 16-18 minutes). If you prefer a regular meatloaf, just shape the meat mixture into an oval loaf shape in an 8x8 a baking dish and bake for 50 minutes, or until cooked through. 

When you separate them into 12 portions, they look a bit more like meatballs...I guess it would be meatloaf balls? Well that just doesn't sound right at all...let's stick with mini meatloaves, shall we? 

A regular meatloaf will look like this...not too shabby, eh? We ate it like this for several years with no complaints, but I have to say my husband and I both prefer the individual meatloaves. 

I always serve meatloaf with mashed potatoes and a green vegetable. Today I had some asparagus that I needed to use, so we had roasted asparagus. 

Since I usually have them on hand, sometimes I sprinkle some French fried onions over top.This is not a necessary step, but it sure is tasty! 

Roasted Brussels sprouts are also delicious on the side. 

As are green beans and green bean casserole. That's actually where the idea for adding the French fried onions came from...I already had them out for the green bean casserole, so I figured why not? 

However you serve it, it is delicious! I can't resist anymore...I'm going in! 

The original recipe makes twice as much meatloaf, which is more than our family needs, so if you need a meatloaf recipe using 2 pounds of ground beef, simply double everything, and you can use an entire regular box of stuffing mix for the perfect amount. Also bake the doubled recipe in a 9x13 pan if making a regular meatloaf. 

The Easiest Homemade Meatloaf

Adapted slightly from: Kraft Recipes

1 pound ground beef (lean is best, but I usually use ground chuck) 
1 1/2 cups chicken flavor stuffing mix 
1/2 cup water 
1/4 cup barbecue sauce, plus more for the top of the meatloaf. 
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup finely chopped baby spinach leaves (optional) 

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray. 
2. Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl just until blended. 
3. Place meat mixture in 1/4-cup portions onto prepared baking sheet. (You should get 12 individual meatloaves). 
4. Bake for 16-18 minutes. (For 8 larger individual meatloaves, bake 20-22 minutes. For a regular sized meatloaf, shape into an oval loaf in an 8x8 pan and bake for 50 minutes.) 

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Easy Homemade Barbecue Sauce

Today I thought I would share a super easy homemade barbecue sauce recipe! This is so simple to make...you just stir everything together in a pot and let it simmer for 20 minutes or so, and that's it! I found the original recipe when I was out of bottled barbecue sauce once, and I have tweaked it to suit my family's tastes, and we love the results! This is a sweet, tangy, smoky, and slightly spicy sauce. It is delicious on chicken, pork, and beef, and I bet you already have all of the ingredients on hand. Of course, feel free to adjust the amount of each ingredient based on what your family likes...if you like a less sweet sauce, cut back on the brown sugar. If you prefer a very spicy sauce, add more hot sauce. That's the fun of making your own sauce...you can really make it taste exactly the way you want! So here we go...

In a small saucepan combine ketchup, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, cider vinegar, hot sauce, garlic powder, yellow mustard, salt, liquid smoke, and molasses. Honestly, the molasses are totally optional. I know not everyone just happens to have molasses sitting in their pantry, but I usually have some leftover from holiday baking, so I add a splash of it to this sauce. The original recipe does not include it, and it is delicious without it. It just adds a little something extra and some nice color. Also, if you don't have the liquid smoke, don't worry about it. Your barbecue sauce will just be less smoky. It only takes a tiny bit of liquid smoke, and I have a very small bottle that I keep just for recipes like this when I want to add a little bit of smokiness. 

Once you have that all in your pan, give it a stir then bring it to a simmer over medium heat. 

All you really have to do is heat it up, and it is perfectly usable, but I like to let mine simmer for 20 minutes or so over medium-low heat to let it thicken a bit and really develop the flavors. I think a good barbecue sauce needs to simmer for a little while so it loses some of that "ketchupy" flavor (for lack of a better word). Not that I have anything against ketchup, but when I want barbecue sauce, I want barbecue sauce...not ketchup with a slight barbecue flavor. 

You can see how it looks darker and more like what you'd expect from a barbecue sauce. Yum! Also it's nice and thick! 

Here is the recipe for your reference. This sauce is really delicious, and takes very little time and effort! 

Easy Homemade Barbecue Sauce 
Adapted from: Food.com

1/2 cup ketchup
2 1/2 Tablespoons brown sugar
2 1/2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 Tablespoon + 1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar 
3 dashes hot sauce
1 teaspoon garlic powder 
1 teaspoon yellow mustard 
1/4 teaspoon salt 
1 dash liquid smoke 
1 dash molasses 

1. Mix all ingredients together in a small saucepan, and bring to a simmer over medium heat. 
2. Reduce heat to medium-low and allow to simmer for up to 20 minutes. 
3. Allow to cool slightly and serve!