Crockpot Chili

The weather here in the great northwest took quite a turn last week. We went from weeks of sunny warm weather, to wet and much colder weather.

(I’m crazy to admit it, but I was kind of glad. I love me some fall foods.)

Anyways, I’ve been trying to crockpot my way back into cooking a meal each week, and this recipe was a super easy way to do it – while honoring a return to cold weather food.

(Oh, and I use ‘chili’ in the pop culture way – because apparently, according to Sheldon Cooper, real chili does not have beans in it. I learn so many interesting things from him.)

The Recipe:

Crockpot Chili

1 lb ground beef, browned

3/4 c onion, diced

3/4 c celery, diced

1 can green chilis

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 large can diced tomatoes

2 cans kidney beans, drained

1 can cannellini beans, with liquid

1 T chili powder

1 t dried parsley

1 t salt

1 t oregano

Place all ingredients in crockpot and and cook on low for 8-9 hours.

The Results:

So, I have to be upfront and honest about something. Hubs may have helped me out the night before by prepping all the ingredients for me. This was super helpful because, as he put it, it would’ve taken me 45 minutes to prep what took him only 20. (It’s a sad, but true fact.) Anyways, that basically just led to me just dumping everything in first thing in the morning – SO easy.

And it turned out really good.

Now, this is not a gourmet chili or a specialized chili, or anything fancy like that. This is a regular basic chili that I think everyone would like. It’s hearty and delicious – and is wonderful for leftovers.

(And everyone in the family enjoyed it – which is crazy and hardly ever happens around here.)

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Chocolate Chip Zucchini Muffins

Or, as my four-year-old calls them: ‘Bikini Muffins.’

(I actually considered using that as the title of this recipe, but I realized I might get some, ahem, inappropriate traffic using those terms, together.)

This delicious recipe came about because my lovely neighbor gave us just a small, petite, little zucchini. (Insert sarcasm and see picture below.)

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Yeah. It was actually HUGE.

Anyways, I figured this was the perfect opportunity to bake using zucchini for the very first time. (Nope, I’d never done it before.) I looked through my Recipe list on Pinterest and found a recipe stating it was ‘Award-Winning.’

Sold.

And the four-year-old and I were off on our baking adventure.

The Recipe:

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Muffins, adapted slightly from Sally’s Baking Addiction

Streusel Topping:

2/3 c old-fashioned oats

1/2 c dark brown sugar

2 T  flour

1/2 t cinnamon

1/4 c butter, cold, cut into small squares

1 T semi-sweet chocolate chips

Muffins:

1 egg, beaten

1/2 c dark brown sugar

1/2 c sugar

1/2 c vegetable oil

1 c grated zucchini 

2 t vanilla

1 1/2 c flour

1/2 t baking powder

1/2 t baking soda

1/2 t salt

2 t cinnamon

1/4 t ground nutmeg

3/4 c semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray muffin tin and set aside.

Streusel: Combine the oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, and flour together in a medium bowl. Cut in the cold butter with a pasty cutter. Mix until the streusel resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the chocolate chips with a spoon. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the beaten egg, brown sugar, granulated sugar, oil, zucchini, and vanilla until evenly combined. In a large bowl, toss the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and chocolate chips together. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix with a large wooden spoon or rubber spatula until combined. Avoid over-mixing.

Fill muffin cups all the way to the top (I only had enough batter for 11). Sprinkle streusal over the top of each muffin, covering completely. Gently press the streusel into the tops of each muffin. Bake for 5 minutes at 425 degrees and, keeping the muffins in the oven, lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue to bake for an additional 13-14 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 5 minutes before serving.

The Results:

I think I’d always avoided baking with zucchini because I was afraid it would taste funny, but, boy – oh boy! – was I wrong. These tasted absolutely perfect. They were so moist and full of fall flavor. The cinnamon, nutmeg, and chocolate chips work so well together. And the streusel, wow, it just took these to a new level.

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So, by the time I got around to taking a picture of these – this was the only one left.

My only complaint was that this only made 11… but so easy to rectify by doubling. Believe me, you’ll want to make more.

(And since I only used about 1/5 of that huge zucchini, making another batch of these is on today’s agenda.)

Just look at inside of these:

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Perfection.

And I don’t have to feel bad. Because they have a vegetable in them.

Right? ;)

Marbled Chocolate Banana Bread

I had some brown bananas.

Strike that.

I had dark, dark, brownish-blackish, mushy, falling-apart bananas.

They needed to be used ASAP.

And we all know the best way to use those kinds of bananas is in a banana bread. But I’ve been there, done that lots of times.

Now, if you’ve ever looked through my recipe index, you’ve probably realized that I quite enjoy the chocolate banana combination. And I’d already made a banana chocolate chip bread, so I knew I needed to take this version to a new level. And a little experimentation with my four-year-old was the perfect way to do it.

The Recipe:

Marbled Chocolate Banana Bread

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a loaf pan.

Part 1, Banana Bread:

3/4 c flour

1/2 t baking soda

1/4 t salt

1/4 t ground cinnamon

2 medium bananas (heavily speckled or even black bananas are best)

1/4 c butter, melted and cooled

3/8 c packed light brown sugar

1 large egg

1/2 t vanilla extract

Whisk all dry ingredients down to the cinnamon in a small bowl. Whip/mash bananas until frothy. Add the remaining ingredients and mix until blended. Add dry ingredients in two batches, mixing thoroughly after each addition. Pour into loaf pan.

Part 2, Chocolate Pound Cake:

1/4 c butter, softened

1/2 c sugar

1 eggs

1/4 c vanilla yogurt

1/2 t vanilla

3 T cocoa powder

3/8 c milk

5/8 c flour

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, yogurt, and vanilla and mix well. Add cocoa powder and stir until incorporated. Add milk alternately with flour, mixing just until incorporated.

Pour batter over the top of the banana bread mixture. With a small spatula or spoon, gently scoop and fold the banana mixture over and through the chocolate one.

Bake in center rack for 60-70 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean.

Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, remove, and let finish cooling on a rack.

The Results:

Hey, look… something turned out pretty:

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And it tasted pretty good, too!

It was moist throughout, and the two flavors (obviously) went well together.

I do have to say, though, the banana bread was the definite flavor winner – for me, it overpowered the chocolate a bit. If you are a chocoholic, you might want to up the chocolate-y-ness if you make this. I wanted more chocolate, personally, but the rest of the family loved it the way it was. So, it’s your choice.

The best part, my four-year-old was SO proud and thought that the marbling was very cool.

And his smile made the extra work worth it.

Coffee Sugar Cookies

Do you ever see a recipe on your social media feed that is just undeniable?

Not only does it sound tasty, but it looks beautiful and you just know you can recreate it.

Yeah, that did not happen this week.

I saw an amazing recipe from I am Baker a couple weeks ago, pinned it, and waited until I could find a quiet, non-kiddo time to make it.  (Dreaming of gorgeous off-white round cookies, with perfect little sprinkles of black coffee throughout.)

You’ll have to scroll to the end to see what happened.  I bet you can guess.

The Recipe:

Coffee Sugar Cookies, adapted very slightly from I am Baker (mostly because it didn’t turn out exactly right)

1 c butter, softened

1 1/4 c sugar

2 eggs

2 T instant coffee

1 t vanilla

2 c flour

1/2 t baking powder

1/4 t salt

In a mixer, cream together butter and sugar. In a small bowl, combine eggs, vanilla, and coffee until fully incorporated. In separate bowl add together flour, baking powder, and salt. Slowly add your egg mixture to the butter mixture until well combined. Slowly add flour mixture until fully combined, do not over beat.

Chill this dough for at least one hour, preferably overnight.

When you are ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll out dough into tablespoon sized balls and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until edges are slightly golden. Allow cookies to cool completely.

The Results:

Let’s just start out by sharing the picture…

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Sad little misshapen cookies

Hmmm, I’m thinking something went wrong. (You should click on the link to I am Baker above to see what they actually should look like.)

I’m not sure if it was the use of instant coffee vs fresh-ground or what, but these did not look like the cookies of my dreams. Plus, my dough ended up really sticky – so I couldn’t roll it out as suggested or use a circle cookie cutter to make a perfect shape. Ooops.

But, but, but

In the good news column, they still tasted like I dreamed!

They were crisp and chewy and very much a grown up coffee-flavored treat (no kids allowed!).

So, my suggestion – head back to the original recipe…and let me know if your’s turn out better.

 

 

Peanut Butter and Jelly Cookies

I’ll give you one good guess on whether or not this recipe was chosen by me or the kids.

Yep, we’re back to kid-friendly cooking.  And really, I don’t mind.  It’s generally really fun and this time, both boys got involved.

(Which didn’t make it easier… but they were both so proud of the finished product.)

The lady hung out snacking in her chair while I divided the boys into dry vs. wet ingredients.  We only had one major whisk of flour across the counter and one too fast KitchenAid blast of ingredients.  

I call that a win.

The Recipe:

Peanut Butter and Jelly Cookies, adapted from Oscar’s Gooey, Chewy PBJ Cookies

3/4 c flour

1/2 t salt

1/2 t baking soda

1/4 t baking powder

1 c oats

1/4 c butter, softened

1/2 c creamy peanut butter

1/2 c sugar

1/2 c brown sugar

1 egg

1/4 c oil

1 t vanilla

1/2 c jam

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease baking sheets or line with parchment.

In medium bowl whisk all dry ingredients. 

In mixer, 

Toasted Coconut Pound Cake

We all have recipes we make, and we end up liking them.

We use words to describe them like tasty, delicious, and yummy.

But once the dish/food is gone, we don’t think about them or make them ever again.

This is NOT one of those recipes…

I was so excited to get a quiet and mostly empty house this weekend (boys outside playing and the lady napping upstairs). Even luckier was the fact that the morning was cool enough to risk heating up the oven. So, I pulled up my trusty Pinterest Recipe board, checked my ingredients in the house, and went to work on a recipe all for me.

The Recipe:

Toasted Coconut Pound Cake, adapted very slightly from Little Bits of 

3/4 c unsalted butter, room temperature

2 c all-purpose flour, plus more for pan

1 1/2 t baking powder

1/2 t salt

1 c sugar

1 t vanilla extract

3 large eggs

1 c buttermilk

1 1/4 c sweetened flaked coconut, toasted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a loaf pan. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. In a large mixing bowl with paddle attachment, beat butter and granulated sugar on medium-high until light and fluffy, scraping down bowl as needed. Add vanilla, then eggs, one at a time, beating well and scraping down bowl. With mixer on low, add flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with two 1/2-cup additions buttermilk, and beat until combined. With a rubber spatula, fold in 1 1/4 cups coconut.

Transfer batter to pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, about 60 minutes. Let cool in pan the remove cake from pan and let cool completely on rack.

Tips and Tricks:

(I’m adding this section when I think of something helpful for you novice cooks out there – as there are things that I didn’t know when I first started cooking that I wish someone would’ve explained to me. For all you experienced cooks, please feel free to skip this part.)

If you don’t have buttermilk: take a Tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar and place in 1 cup measuring cup.  Add regular milk to the 1 cup mark and let sit for 5-10 minutes.  Substitute exactly for buttermilk.

To toast coconut: Preheat oven to 350.  Spread coconut out on a cookie sheet.  Place in oven and let toast for about 10 minutes, flipping and stirring coconut as needed.  Remove when most coconut is a golden brown color.

The Results:

Oh. My. Goodness. This was an amazing pound cake. Seriously amazing.

(I’m not lying when I say I actually had a dream about it.)

(And ‘was’ is the operative word.  It did not last long.)

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The cake itself is buttery, soft, and moist. The coconut is crispy, fresh, and adds a perfect depth of flavor.  

I really did not want to share with the rest of the family, but figured it probably wouldn’t be too good for me to finish it up by myself. Hubs completely agreed, and all the kids kept asking for it as their dessert, snack, breakfast, or whatever they could have it for.

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This recipe will definitely be made again. And again.

(I’m trying to decide if adding chocolate chips will be too much, or if it’s perfect how it is. I’ll keep you posted.)

Strawberry Muffins

I have elite and discerning tastes.

(I mean, couldn’t you tell from my Disney Junior recipe.)

So maybe that’s a bit of a stretch, right now, with three littles running around.  I’ve learned that to be able to actually make something, I need to get their buy-in.  So that they: 1. Let me have the time to make it – and 2. Actually eat it after the fact.

The easiest way to do this is to let them pick the recipe.

That’s what happened this week.  I let my middle (chef-baker-wannabe) pick out anything he wanted for us to make.  He went to his trusty kids cookbook and picked one right out.

Let’s just say that today’s recipe is brought to you by the Letter S.

(Oh, how times have changed.)

The Recipe:

Strawberry Muffinsadapted from Abby Cadabby’s Disappearing Strawberry Muffins

1 1/2 c flour

1/3 c sugar

1/4 c cornmeal

1 t baking powder

1/2 t baking soda

1/4 t salt

1 c low-fat strawberry yogurt

1/3 c oil

1 large egg

2 c chopped strawberries (lightly sprinkle with flour)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line muffin tins with cups or lightly grease.  

Whisk together all dry ingredients and set aside.  Stir together yogurt and oil until incorporated.  Add egg and mix until well-blended.  Stir in dry ingredients until just mixed and then fold in strawberries.

Fill muffin cups 2/3 way full and bake for 20-25 minutes (until toothpick in center comes out clean).  Let cool on rack.

Makes 12 or so muffins.

The Results

Let’s just start with the beginning – a short trip to the grocery store to pick up some whole wheat flour.  (‘What?’ you’re saying – ‘I don’t see whole wheat flour in the recipe.’)  Well, of course you don’t… let’s just say our trip did not go exactly as planned (add car troubles, crying babies, and wrestling boys) and I ended up bringing home bread flour.  Really?!  The main thing I needed to pick up, and I did it wrong.  Sounds just about right around here.  So, as you can see, I just used regular flour instead because I was NOT going back.

Anyhow, other than that snafu, the recipe was super simple, and my four year old did pretty much all the work.  He was especially excited that I let him cut off the strawberry stems – it’s the little things for him.  :)

And the muffins turned out pretty darn good.  The yogurt made them super moist inside and I loved the bits of fresh strawberries throughout.  And all three kids ate them right up, so I say a definite success!

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