zucchinichocolate

Chocolate Zucchini Muffins (Healthier)

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These were a pleasant surprise tonight! While I’ve never made anything quite like this before, I mainly just wanted to use up some zucchini that I had frozen last fall (see “What To Do With Zucchini“).  We are attempting a No Spend Challenge for the month of February, with the intent to use a lot of the food currently taking up space in our pantry and freezer.

The hint of cloves/cinnamon make this recipe work very well! This is definitely a keeper.  If muffins aren’t your preference, this would also make a good chocolate zucchini loaf, or bundt cake.  Just increase the cooking time to ~55 minutes.

zucchinichocolate2

 This was a new (to me) recipe, slightly modified to suit the ingredients I had (and didn’t).  I actually didn’t have any honey on hand, so (right or wrong) I substituted a mix of white sugar and water.  I’ve also been experimenting recently trying to substitute palm sugar in place of brown sugar, just for kicks- I will say I think it worked here.

PREP TIME: 15 min    COOK TIME: 40 min   TOTAL TIME: 55 min    YIELD: 8
Ingredients:
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup of plain or vanilla yogurt
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup of brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk (or mix 3/4 tsp of white vinegar with regular milk, and allow 3-5 minutes to sour)
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 2 cups approx shredded zucchini (if frozen, be sure to thaw and drain excess liquid)
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. In large bowl combine oil, yogurt, honey, sugar, eggs, vanilla, and buttermilk and mix until well blended.
  3. In separate bowl, combine remaining dry ingredients and mix well.
  4. Add dry ingredient mixture gradually to wet ingredients, mix.
  5. Fold in zucchini and chocolate chips until just combined.
  6. Pour into greased muffin tins, bake 40 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center of muffins comes out clean.
basil

Basil Pesto

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This is my all-time favorite pesto recipe, and one of my favorite recipes period.  It’s great with pastas, gnocchi, paninis or sandwiches for a quick meal, and can be used in various other recipes.

I realize it may seem like a daunting task to make your own pesto when it’s just so convenient to buy it in a jar- but trust me, the taste and freshness is well worth making your own.  If you’re still hung up on the convenience of pre-made pesto, why not make a large batch, portion it, then freeze it for future use (otherwise known as “freezer cooking”)?  This is especially great when you can find a large bunch of basil at your local grocery store, or if you grow it yourself.

Unfortunately, between the cats and myself, we tend to kill any poor houseplants (including herbs) that find their way into our home.  But luckily, our local italian market sells large bunches of basil for cheap.

PREP TIME: 20 min    COOK TIME: 0 min    TOTAL TIME: 20 min    YIELD: 4
Ingredients:
  • 2 cups loosely packed basil leaves
  • 2 tbsp of pine nuts (or pistachios)
  • 1 walnut (optional if you don’t happen to have any)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 tbsp of lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino cheese (or just more Parmesan if you don’t have any or can’t find any)
  • pinch of salt
Directions:
  1. Mince garlic and add a little bit of oil then add the pine nuts and walnut and blend; I prefer using a hand mixer, but a food processor should do the job.
  2. Add the basil and a pinch of salt then blend a bit at a time turning the food processor on and off rather than letting it run continuously so you don’t “cook” the basil.
  3. Add the oil blend again (not too much).
  4. When the pesto reaches a smooth consistency put it in a bowl, add the cheese and lemon juice and combine well using a wooden spoon. Presto, pesto!

Because I usually just make this for my husband and myself, I would divide up this recipe and reserve half for another day. Often I will double or triple this recipe and divide accordingly and freeze for future use. I find a convenient way to do this is by dividing the pesto using a silicone muffin pan, freezing then removing the “frozen pesto discs” and storing in a freezer bag.  I hope you enjoy!