Double Chocolate Zucchini Cake

My mom has been making this Chocolate Zucchini Cake ever since I can remember and it has always been a favorite of mine.  My gardening skills are pretty limited, so I don’t usually have an over abundance of zucchini like those of you with zucchini growing in your gardens.  This year, however, my zucchini plant is cranking out zucchini like crazy and I am loving it.  It gives me a good excuse to make zucchini bread and of course this Double Chocolate Zucchini Cake.  To make this cake you start by mixing up a simple chocolate cake batter, stir in some zucchini for moisture, sprinkle it with some chocolate chips, and top it all off with a simple powdered sugar glaze.

Double Chocolate Zucchini Cake

3 Eggs
1 Cup Sugar
1 Cup Brown Sugar
1 Cup Vegetable Oil
1 Teaspoon Vanilla
2 Cups Zucchini, shredded
6 Tablespoons Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
3 Cups Flour
1 Teaspoon Salt
1 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1/4 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
2 Cups Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips
1 and 1/2 Cups Powdered Sugar
1/4 Cup Water
 Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  In a mixing bowl whisk together all of the dry ingredients. Set aside.  In the bowl of your mixer add the eggs, both sugars, oil and vanilla. Mix until combined.  Stir in the shredded zucchini.  Add the dry ingredients and mix until combined.  Pour the batter into a greased 9×13 cake pan.  Sprinkle the chocolate chips evenly over the top of the batter.  Bake for about 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Allow the cake to cool for 10 to 15 minutes before adding the glaze.  For the glaze whisk the powdered sugar and water together until fully combined and there are no more clumps of powdered sugar.  Drizzle the glaze evenly over the cake.  Allow the glaze to set up for a few minutes and then serve warm or allow the cake to cool before serving. Enjoy!
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Whole Wheat Cinnamon Swirl Bread

Several months ago I shared  with you the recipe for the  best  Whole Wheat Bread  ever.  I had been on a hunt for a long, long, long time to find the perfect recipe for me and I was so excited to finally find one that I absolutely LOVE!  This Whole Wheat Cinnamon Swirl Bread is made using the same base recipe as my whole wheat bread.  After you the dough is finished mixing you simply roll it out, drizzle a little honey over it, sprinkle with some cinnamon, roll it up and you have Cinnamon Swirl Bread.  If you are a fan or raisins (I am not)You could probably even throw a few in and make it cinnamon raisin bread.  This is the perfect breakfast bread.  It’s so yummy toasted and slathered with butter and a little honey.  It also makes for some pretty amazing French toast.

 Whole Wheat Cinnamon Swirl Bread

2 1/4 Cups Hot Water
1 Teaspoon Honey
2 Tablespoon Yeast
5 Tablespoon Vital Wheat Gluten
1 Tablespoon White Vinegar
1/3 Cup Oil (Vegetable or Coconut)
1/3 Cup Honey
2 Teaspoons Salt
5 1/5 – 6 Cups Whole Wheat Flour
4-6 Tablespoons Honey
2-4 Tablespoons Ground Cinnamon
In the bowl of your mixer add the water, yeast, and 1 teaspoon honey.  Cover and let sit for 2-3 minutes, until the yeast begins to bubble.  Add vital wheat gluten, vinegar, oil, 1/3 cup honey, salt and 3 cups of flour.  Mix until smooth.  Add the remaining flour 1 cup at a time until the dough begins to pull away from the edge of the bowl.  Once you have enough flour set the mixer to low/medium speed and let it mix for 5-8 minutes.  Dump the dough onto a lightly greased surface.  Divide the dough into two even balls. For each loaf:  Using a rolling pin roll into an 8×20 inch rectangle.  Drizzle with 2 to 3 tablespoons of honey and sprinkle with 1 to 2 tablespoons of ground cinnamon.  Leave a half an inch border with no honey or cinnamon all the way around the rectangle.  Starting with the short end of dough closest to you roll it up.    You want to roll the dough as tight as possible.  Once completely rolled pinch the dough together on each end to seal it up.  Place seam side down into a greased loaf pan.  Repeat with the other loaf.  Cover and let rise until double, about 30 minutes to an hour.  Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30-40 minutes.  Remove from bread pans immediately and cool on a wire rack.  Store at room temperature or freeze any that won’t be used within 5-6 days.  Do not refrigerate, it dries the bread out quickly.  Enjoy!

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Peanut Butter and Chocolate Rice Crispy Treats

With the temperature really heating up around here lately I’ve tried to use my oven as little possible.  These rice crispy treats were the perfect way to satisfy our sweet tooth with out having to turn on the oven and heat up the house.  I even took it one step further and did all the heating and melting in the microwave so there’s no time spent stirring melting marshmallows or chocolate over a hot stove.  I also love that these can easily be made from start to finish in less than 15 minutes.  These just might be one of the fastest and easiest treats I’ve made yet.  And with Chocolate and Peanut Butter basically being a match made in Heaven you know they’ve got to be good!

Peanut Butter Rice Crispy Treats

3 Tablespoons Butter
1 Cup Creamy Peanut Butter, divided
10 Ounces Marshmallows, regular or mini
6 Cups Rice Crispies Cereal
1 Cup Chocolate Chips, Semi Sweet or Milk Chocolate
3 Tablespoons Chopped Peanuts, optional
In a large microwave safe bowl add the butter, 1/2 cup of peanut butter and marshmallows.  Microwave on high stirring every 30 seconds for about 2 minutes or until everything is melted and combined.  Remove from the microwave and stir in the rice crispies until they are evenly coated with the marshmallow mixture.  Press evenly into a greased 9×13 pan.  In another microwave safe bowl add the chocolate chips and remaining 1/2 cup of peanut butter.  Microwave on high, stirring every 30 seconds, for about 1 minute or until melted and combined.  Spread evenly over top the rice crispy treats.  Sprinkle the chopped peanuts evenly over the top.  Cool and Enjoy!

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Rainbow Fruit Kabobs and Rainbow Colors Scavenger Hunt

I have a fun activity and snack for you today to help your little ones learn and have fun at the same time.  My 2 boys have been having so much fun participating in the Hogwarts Summer Fun Challenge over at Puddle Wonderful Learning.  One of their challenges was to go on a rainbow color hunt.  They loved it!  Want to send your kiddos on a rainbow color scavenger hunt?  Here’s the rules, okay so there’s not really any set rules.  We just went out side and I would say the color and then my boys would run around looking until they found the color.  Some colors were easy, like green, but indigo? Not so easy!  I’m not sure if we even really found indigo.  I even went so far as to do a google image search for the color indigo and was surprised to see the huge differences in colors all claiming to be indigo,  so we guessed.  Don’t judge if we’re way off 😉 To add to the fun we took a picture of the item we found for each color and turned it into a photo collage for them to look at and use to practice their colors.

This was such a fun activity to help my boys practice their colors and learn the order of the colors in a rainbow.  Another idea for doing this activity with a little bit older kids would be to just give them the camera and a list of the colors and see what pictures they come back with.  Or if you have a group of kids you could split them in 2 teams and which ever team comes back with a picture of each color first wins.   Or instead of pictures you could give them each a bag and the first one back with an object for each color wins.  There are so many ways you could do this scavenger hunt, but the point is to let them have fun while learning at the same time.
After our scavenger hunt we were ready for a snack.  I decided to stick with the rainbow theme and made these fun Rainbow Fruit Kabobs.  Simply choose a fruit for each color, cut them into bite size chunks, and slide them onto the skewer in order of the rainbow colors: Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo(I’m not aware of any indigo colored fruit, so we left that color out of our kabobs), and Violet.  For our kabobs we used Strawberries, Mandarin Oranges, Pineapple, Kiwi, Blueberries, and Grapes, but don’t be afraid to switch it up to use any fruits you have on hand, fresh or canned.  These were a simple, fun and healthy snack that my boys absolutely loved helping me make and eat!

Rainbow Fruit Kabobs

Choose a fruit for each color.
Red Fruit: Strawberry, Raspberry, Watermelon, Apple, Cherry
Orange Fruit: Orange, Mandarin Oranges, Cantalope, Peach, Apricot
Yellow Fruit: Pineapple, Banana
Green Fruit: Kiwi, Apple, Grapes, Honeydew Melon
Blue Fruit: Blueberry
Violet Fruit: Grapes , Plums
Wash, dry and cut all of your fruit into bite size chunks.  Slide the fruit onto the skewers making sure to keep them in order of the rainbow colors: Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo(not included in our kabobs), Violet.  Enjoy!

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Oatmeal Fudge Bars

If you haven’t noticed already from this, this, this, or this recipe, just to name a few, I am a big fan of oatmeal in any type of recipe.  These Oatmeal Fudge Bars are no exception.  If you’re anything like me then I’ve got a treat for you today.  These bars are like a thick chewy oatmeal cookie filled with a layer of fudge.  I’ll take two please!

Oatmeal Fudge Bars

1 Cup Salted Butter, softened
2 Cups Brown Sugar
2 Eggs
2 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract
2 and 1/2 Cups Flour
3 Cups Old Fashioned Rolled Oats
1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
Fudge Layer:
14 Ounces Canned Sweetened Condensed Milk
2 Cups Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips
2 Tablespoons Salted Butter
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

In a small mixing bowl whisk together the  flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.  In the bowl of your mixer beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy(about 2 minutes).  Add the eggs one at a time beating for one minute after each egg.  Beat in the vanilla.  Add the dry ingredients.  Mix just until combined.  Stir in the oats.  Set aside 1and1/2 to 2 cups of the mixture.  Spread the remaining oatmeal mixture evenly in a greased 9×13 pan.  Set aside and prepare the fudge layer.  In a medium saucepan add the sweetened condensed milk, chocolate chips, and butter.  Heat over low heat, stirring continually,  just until the chocolate is melted and the ingredients are combined.  Be sure to watch the chocolate carefully.  Pour the warm fudge mixture into the 9×13 pan over top the oatmeal layer.  Drop small bits of the reserved oatmeal mixture evenly over the fudge layer.  Don’t try to spread it.  Dropping it creates an open lacy pattern allowing the fudge to show through.  Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 25-30 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the chocolate layer is dull and starting to come away from the sides of the pan.  Cool on the counter for 2 hours and then refrigerate for 1 more hour before cutting.  Store in an airtight container at room temperature or we liked them best refrigerated.  Enjoy!
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Mint Chocolate Cookie Bars

These bars have got to be one of the best things I’ve made in a while.  It’s so hard to say that, because I truly love every recipe I put on here(if I don’t love it you won’t see it!), but I REALLY love Chocolate and Mint together. These bars have that amazing cookie texture, crisp top and bottom and soft gooey center.  After loading them up with some Andes Mint baking chips you’ve got the makings of a simply irresistible dessert! On a side note:  While working on this photo shoot I had my 3 “little helpers”  playing close by.  I guess I got so into it I didn’t even notice “little helper” number 3 sneak up next to me until I saw her adorable chubby little hand come into my field of vision.  I was already in the motion of snapping a shot when it appeared and this is what I ended up with:

The cutest Baby Photo Bomb ever!  Maybe she thought if she tried sneaking one up top she wouldn’t get caught, but she did!  And I even have a photo to prove it. 🙂
These bars remind me of one of my favorite cookies ever,  Andes Mint Cookies.
Mint Chocolate Cookie Bars

1/2 Cup Butter, softened
1/2 Cup Shortening
1 and 1/2 Cups Sugar
2 Eggs
1 Teaspoon Vanilla
1 Teaspoon Salt
1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1/4 Cup Cocoa Powder
1 and 3/4 Cups Flour
1 and 1/2 Cups Andes Mint Baking Chips
Cream the butter, shortening and sugar together until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs and vanilla.  Mix well.  Add the salt, soda and cocoa.  Mix well.  Add the flour and mix just until combined.  Stir in 1 and1/4 cups of the mint chips.  Spread the dough evenly into a greased 9×13 inch pan.  Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of mint chips evenly over the dough.  Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 25-30 minutes or until the center is set.  Cool and Enjoy!

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Mini Cinnamon Muffins

A while back I started seeing recipes for donut muffins pop up all over the web.  They sounded amazing.  Of course I had to check them out.  Who wouldn’t?  I was surprised to find that most of the recipes were the same idea as these amazing Cinnamon Muffins my family had loved ever since I was a kid.  I had never thought of them to be like a donut before, but I guess they are kind of like a cinnamon sugar donut in muffin form.  These were always a favorite of mine growing up and now my own kids love them too.  When I first started making them for my kids I was not surprised to find several muffins with the just the top cinnamon-sugar dipped portion eaten off.  If you have been around kids at all you know that no matter how good the rest of the cookie, muffin, cake, etc.. is if it is topped with any sort of frosting, sprinkles, or in this case cinnamon sugar the topping will be eaten off of several and the remaining portion left behind.  So I came up with a solution to our little problem.  Mini Cinnamon Muffins!  My kids love them.  They have the perfect cinnamon sugar topping to muffin ratio to satisfy them and they are…..

…just the right size for little hands.
Don’t worry these mini cinnamon muffins are not JUST for kids.  I love that I can have 2 or 3 with out feeling guilty and isn’t anything in mini form just so much cuter and fun to eat!?  Trust me they will be devoured by kids and adults alike.
Mini Cinnamon Muffins
1/3 Cup Butter or Shortening
1/2 Cup Sugar
1 Egg
1/2 Cup Milk
1 Teaspoon Vanilla
1 and 1/2 Teaspoons Baking Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1/4 Teaspoon Nutmeg
1/4 Teaspoon Cinnamon
1 and 1/2 Cup Flour( I use 1 cup white all purpose flour and 1/2 whole wheat flour)
3 Tablespoons Butter, melted
1/4 Cup Sugar
1 Tablespoon Cinnamon
Cream the butter and sugar together.  Add the egg, milk and vanilla.  Mix well.  Add the dry ingredients and mix just until combined.  Fill each cavity of a greased Mini Muffin Tin about 2/3 to 3/4 full.  You should get 24 mini muffins*.  Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10-12 minutes.  Allow the muffins to cool for 2-3 minutes or just until cool enough to handle.  In the meantime in a small bowl melt the 3 tablespoons of butter.  In a separate small bowl  stir together the cinnamon and sugar.  Dip each muffin top into the butter and then swirl around in the cinnamon sugar mixture until the top is evenly coated.  Place on a wire rack to finish cooling.  Enjoy!
 *You can also bake these in a regular size muffin tin.  Simply adjust the bake time to 20-22 minutes.  You will get about 9 regular sized muffins.
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Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Banana Bread


I have a confession to make……I don’t like banana bread.  I know it’s weird.  What’s even weirder is that I really like bananas. I just don’t like banana flavored stuff.  I’ve tried banana flavored cakes, cookies, breads, candy and I’m not sure why but it’s just not my favorite.  However, there are others in my house who love banana bread, so when I’m feeling nice and I have a few over ripe bananas that need used up I will occasionally make banana bread.  This go around I used my Mom’s traditional banana bread recipe, but decided to jazz it up a bit in hopes that I would enjoy it too. I added peanut butter and chocolate, because we all know chocolate and peanut butter makes everything taste better.  After letting it cool I cautiously took a bite and now I have to confess that I don’t like banana bread…..except this Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Banana Bread.  The addition of chocolate and peanut butter kind of mellow out the banana flavor a little bit and make it not as strong as it is in plain banana bread.  Which was a good thing thing for me, but if you are a banana bread lover don’t worry there is still plenty of banana flavor.  The three flavors compliment each other perfectly to create the best banana bread I have ever tasted.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

1/3 Cup Butter, room temperature
1/3 Cup Peanut Butter
2/3 Cup Sugar
2 Eggs
2 Tablespoons Milk
1 Cup Ripe Mashed Bananas, about 2-3 bananas
1 and 1/4 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Baking Soda
3/4 Teaspoon Salt
1 and 3/4 Cup Flour
1 Cup Chocolate Chips
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  In your mixer cream together the butter, peanut butter, and sugar.  Add the eggs, milk, and mashed bananas.  Mix until completely incorporated.  Add the dry ingredients and mix just until combined.  Stir in the chocolate chips(I reserved a few to sprinkle on top) until evenly distributed.  Pour into a greased bread pan.  Bake in a preheated oven for 60-65 minutes.  Or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Cool in the pan for 10 minutes then remove to a wire rack to finish cooling.  Enjoy!

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Honey-Citrus Chicken Fajitas

I love it when I can used left overs from one meal to make the preparation for the next meal that much faster and easier.  I had some Honey-Citrus Vinaigrette left over in the fridge and I knew it would be just the thing to spice up our traditional chicken fajitas.  The vinaigrette added so much flavor.  A fajita filling this good absolutely deserves to be served on these soft homemade tortillas .  Top with avocado, tomato, cheese and a little sour cream to complete the dish.

Honey-Citrus Chicken Fajitas
2 Pounds Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast, cubed
2 Tablespoons Oil
3/4 Teaspoon Cumin
1 Large Yellow Onion, chopped
1 Large Green Bell Pepper, chopped
1 Jalapeno, diced(optional)
1 Clove Garlic, minced
1/2 Bunch of Cilantro, minced
1/3 Cup Honey Citrus Vinaigrette, recipe follows
Topping Options:
Sour Cream
Drizzle of additional Honey Citrus Vinaigrette
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the oil.  Add the cubed chicken.  Season with cumin and salt and pepper to taste.  Wash, dry and chop the vegetables.  Add the onion, bell pepper, jalapeno and garlic to the skillet.  Cook until the chicken is thoroughly cooked and the vegetables are tender.  Add the cilantro about 1-2 minutes before finished cooking.  Remove from heat.  Pour the vinaigrette over the chicken mixture and stir to combine.  Serve on tortillas with your choice of toppings.  Enjoy!
Honey Citrus Vinaigrette
1 Garlic Clove, minced
1/2 Tablespoon Grated Onion
1/3 Cup Fresh Orange Juice
3 Tablespoons Fresh Lime Juice
2 Tablespoons Honey
3/4 Teaspoon Cumin
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
1/2 Cup Vegetable Oil
Place all of the ingredients in a sealed jar and shake well, until all ingredients are completely mixed.  Store in the fridge.  Shake immediately before use.
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Honey Almond Granola

Warning:  This granola is highly addictive!  I don’t know what it is, but I can never stop with just one handful.  Usually I’ll be munching away and half the batch is gone before I even realize how much I’ve eaten.  Oh well, it’s healthy right?  When you bake this granola be sure to press the mixture down firmly into the baking sheet and wait until it is completely cooled before

removing from the pan.  This is what forms the big clusters of granola making it perfect for snacking on.  I love mixing up a batch before road trips to keep us from loading up on less healthy treats at the gas station.  It’s also great mixed in with some fruit and yogurt for breakfast.

Want more granola?  Check out my Chocolate Peanut Butter Granola.
Honey Almond Granola

4 Cups Rolled Oats
1 Cup Sliced Almonds
1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
1/4 Cup Whole Wheat Flour
1/4 Cup Wheat Germ
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1/2 Teaspoon Cinnamon
1/3 Cup Coconut Oil
1/3 Cup Honey
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl add and stir together all of the dry ingredients.  Heat a small sauce pan over low/medium heat.  Add the coconut oil and honey.  Whisk together.  Can also be warmed in the microwave in a microwave safe bowl.  Heat stirring every 30 seconds until melted and combined.  It’s okay if the honey and coconut oil do not completely combine together.  Just warm and whisk until the oil and honey are melted.  Pour over the oat mixture.  Stir until completely combined.  Dump the granola into a greased rimmed baking sheet.  Spread evenly and press down firmly.  Bake in a preheated oven for 12 to 15 minutes.  Cool completely before removing from pan.  Store at room temperature in an airtight container.  Enjoy!

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