Valentine’s Day Snack: Mini Double Chocolate Zucchini Cakes

[donotprint]Lately I’ve been thinking it would be handy to have some sort of super spy tool that would allow me to see into the pantry of my average reader. Am I all alone on the white whole wheat flour band wagon? Is Greek yogurt something you need to make a special trip to the grocery store for? In the end, I’m pulling from whatever I happen to have on hand to make something resembling a healthy snack. But it would still be cool to know.

I’m starting to think about Valentine’s Day which these cakes would be perfect for. But honestly, I found this recipe  and had a half of a leftover zucchini in the fridge…and there you go. Along with using up the zucchini, I got to dispense with this bar of super dark chocolate which had been hanging out at the bottom of my chocolate basket for a while.

Not until after I’d put the cakes in the oven and I took a photo did I notice that this particular bar of chocolate was well past its expiration date. If you don’t hear from me for a while, you know what happened.

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Mini Double Chocolate Zucchini Cakes Recipe

These decadent and satisfying little cakes are inspired by a recipe for Chocolate-Zucchini Cakes with Walnuts from marthastewart.com. If you don’t have white whole wheat flour, replace it with all purpose flour. If you don’t have Greek yogurt, replace it with sour cream.

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
Scant 3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3 tablespoons plain Greek-style yogurt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3.5 ounce bar of dark chocolate, chopped fine
1 cup finely grated zucchini, loosely packed

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease one mini muffin pan or line it with paper baking cups and set aside.

2. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, cocoa powder and salt. Set aside.

3. In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the butter, egg, yogurt, and vanilla. Add the flour mixture and stir a few times. Add the chocolate and zucchini and stir until combined.

4. Place heaping tablespoons of batter into each of the mini muffin wells. Bake for 15 to 17 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of a muffin comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool for a few minutes in the pan. Remove from pan and place on a cooling rack. Serve warm or cool. Store remaining cakes in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Yield: 24 mini cakes
Prep-time: 20 minutes
Baking-time: 15 minutes

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Easy Healthy Birthday Party Snacks

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My eldest just had her seventh birthday party and it was a blast. For pre-cake munching we offered the kids chocolate-dipped strawberries, fruit kebabs, and cheese pinwheels. The strawberries were the most popular by far. Next time I’ll just make 300 of those and call it a day.

The cheese pinwheels were the least popular, but I’ll offer you the recipe anyway. I’ve got to put some sort of variety out there just so I can say I tried. The adults were more than happy to pick up the slack and graze away.

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Cheese Pinwheel Recipe

4 ounces cream cheese
1 cup shredded orange sharp cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 sliced loaf soft whole wheat bread

In a small bowl, mix together the cream cheese, cheddar cheese, mayonnaise, salt, and garlic powder. Set aside.

Cut the crust off of a slice of bread and flatten it with a rolling pin. Spread 1 tablespoon of the cheese mixture on the flattened bread. Roll up the bread and wipe off any excess cheese. With the seam side down, slice the roll into 1-inch rounds (with a small serrated knife if you have it). Store covered in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Yield: 70 pinwheels
Prep-time: 20 minutes

 

[donotprint]By the way, the cake was a HUGE hit.

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RO*TEL Dip

Lest you think my children are fed a diet free of artificial foods, behold a Rowland family favorite:

The recipe for this dip most likely came the back of a can of RO*TEL, but the Rowland clan claimed it as their own a long time ago. Some of the extended family got together recently and I had the pleasure of whipping up a batch for the first time in several years.

1 pound Velveeta cheese
1 can RO*TEL tomatoes

Cut Velveeta into cubes. Place cubes in a medium microwave-safe bowl and microwave for approximately two minutes or until melted. Pour in undrained RO*TEL tomatoes and stir to combine. Serve with tortilla chips. 

Yield: 3 cups
Prep-time: 5 minutes

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa

[donotprint]I know. Your kid(s) would never eat this. What am I thinking? I almost didn’t even try this one because I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy it much less my little ones. But, my eldest is a brave little culinary soul. Her evaluation: “It’s good.”

According to Vegetables from Amaranth to Zucchini: The Essential Reference, the tomatillos are not green tomatoes. Rather they are a tart fruit that is formed within a “rustly-crisp parchment bladder. [/donotprint]

If you’re serving this salsa to grown-ups, you might want to add a small clove of garlic and a little bit of  jalapeno.

2 medium tomatillos
1 medium tomato
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Remove the wrapper from the tomatillos and rinse well in warm water to remove waxy film. Place the tomato and the tomatillos in a baking dish and roast in the oven for 10-15 minutes to soften. Allow to cool completely.

If the skin on the tomato is easy to peel off, go ahead and do so. Chop the tomatillos and tomatoes. Drain off excess liquid a bit. Mix together with the lime juice, cilantro, salt, and pepper. Serve with tortilla chips.

Yield: a generous cup
Prep-time: 10 minutes
Bake-time: 10 minutes

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Blueberry Pizza

I think there’s an unwritten rule in most households that the kitchen is principally the realm of one person. It’s pretty much understood chez moi that the kitchen belongs to me. However, when it comes to pizza, the rules change. Once a week, my husband makes a mean pizza pie. So it was with some trepidation that I embarked upon a quest to create a sweet little pizza snack. But, with some over-the-phone counsel from the pie master, I managed to create something beautiful.

My husband makes his own dough and I was fortunate enough to lay my hands on some. For this recipe I recommend store-bought pizza dough unless you are already accustomed to making your own. My local Whole Foods has some nice whole wheat dough in the freezer case. Alternately, you could try asking your favorite pizza parlour if they would sell you some of their dough.

1 pound pizza dough (I used white, but whole wheat would be fine)
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 cup plain Greek-style yogurt
Heaping 1/4 cup cream cheese
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon minced lemon zest
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup blueberries (frozen or fresh)

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit for at least 30 minutes.

The dough should be approaching room temperature.

We use a pizza stone in our oven and a cornmeal-dusted peel to transfer the pizza onto the stone. But, if you don’t have either, use a parchment-lined baking sheet. If you have some good dough on your hands, you should try tossing it. Otherwise, use a rolling pin to create 14 – 16 inch circle.

Mix together the egg, yogurt, cream cheese, honey, zest, lemon juice, and vanilla extract. Spread evenly over the tossed dough leaving the outer edge untouched in order to minimize run-off. Scatter the blueberries over the top.

Bake for 5-10 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Keep a close eye on it after five minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack. After a few minutes, slice and serve. Can be topped with cinnamon sugar, aged balsamic vinegar, or strawberry sauce (1 cup defrosted strawberries pureed with 1/2 teaspoon of sugar).

Yield: 8 slices
Prep-time: 30 minutes
Bake-time: 5-10 minutes

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Avocado and Tomato Face

The cuteness came out of nowhere. I just wanted an unadulterated shot of avocado. But it turned into a healthy snack with some serious visual appeal. The kids ate it and enjoyed it, which was sort of big deal. Then I ate four more. Num!

The recipe below is approximate as everything depends on how thick you slice the bread, how big the bread is, how thick you slice the avocado, and so on. I’m not going to get into that level of detail. Eyeball it. I’m sure you’ll be fine.

10-12 slices of bread (preferably from a  french baguette)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 ripe avocado (preferably Haas)
3 grape tomatoes, sliced
Fresh cilantro
One wedge of lime

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

For the crostini: Prepare the bread by laying the slices out onto a baking sheet. Brush a bit of olive oil onto each slice with a pastry brush. Bake for 15 minutes or until edges are golden and bread is crisp. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Gently wash a small handful of cilantro. Remove the stems and set the nicer looking leaves on a paper towel to air dry. Wash the tomatoes and slice them. Set aside. Slice the avocado just prior to assembly. If it the slices sit too long they may brown.

For assembly: Place an avocado slice on the lower half of a crostini. Place two or three of the cilantro leaves on the top half. Set two tomato slices on top of the cilantro for the eyes. Squeeze a few drops lime juice over the top of the avocado and tomato. Serve immediately.

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Cucumber Sandwiches

I haven’t actually tasted one of these. My kids will not share! Selfish little monkeys! But I guess that is that best indicator of all that they are a kid-friendly snack. We’ve got a thing for cucumbers dosed in vinegar at our house though. I imagine it’s not a such a thrill for most families. Still, you never know…

The recipe is adapted from one I found in The New York Times Cookbook. I think proper finger sandwiches are supposed to be wrapped in plastic wrap and refrigerated for a while, but I opted not to.

1/4 – 1/3 of a medium cucumber (preferably European Greenhouse), peeled and sliced
White vinegar
Salt and Pepper
4 slices of whole grain bread
Butter for spreading

Place the cucumbers in a small bowl, pour over enough white vinegar so that they are well coated. A bit of extra vinegar at the bottom of the bowl is fine. Sprinkle on a little bit of salt and pepper to taste and stir to coat. Allow the cucumbers to sit for five or ten minutes.

Prepare the bread slices by spreading on a thin layer of butter to coat one side of each slice. Shake any excess vinegar off of the cucumber slices and arrange them on two of the bread slices, overlapping slightly or in two layers. Top with another slice of bread. Cut off the crusts. Cut into quarters, preferably triangles, and serve.

Yield: 8 finger sandwiches 
Prep-time: 5 – 10 minutes

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Honey-roasted pecans

Not too long ago, Serious Eats was kind enough to share a recipe from Thomas Keller’s cookbook Ad Hoc at Home. I have been looking at roasted nuts recipes for a while now and was feeling a little overwhelmed. But Keller’s recipe for Candied Pecans is everything I was looking for. These nuts have perfect balance of crispy, sweet and salty going on. They are also flakey and buttery. If I close my eyes, it feels like I’m eating a croissant. ‘Nough said.

1 1/2 cup raw pecans
1-1 1/2 tablespoons honey
1/8 teaspoon salt, plus more to finish

Preheat oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit.

Spread nuts out on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake in the oven for 5-7 minutes. Transfer warm nuts to a medium bowl. Quickly drizzle the honey and salt over the nuts and stir until they are well coated.

Return the coated  nuts to the parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, rotating once. I took them out of the oven when it smelled like the honey was starting to caramelize – a tiny bit smokey.

Remove the nuts from the oven, sprinkle on a pinch of salt, and quickly separate any clumps as the honey will harden as the nuts cool. Allow to cool completely and serve. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one week.

Yield: 1 1/2 cups nuts (easily doubled)
Prep time: 5 minutes
Bake time: 1 1/2 hours

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Peanut Butter Clusters

[donotprint]These somehow manage to give me a sugar buzz even though they don’t seem to be totaly overloaded with it. I’ve really got to get some piece of software that will spit out nutrition information for recipes.

Anyway, these are tasty, as you can well imagine. It’s sort of like a reese’s peanut butter cup and a kit kat decided to quit their day jobs and move out to the country to start running their own organic co-op.[/donotprint]

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1/2 cup peanut butter (homogenized works best)
1/4 cup chocolate chips
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon ground flaxseed or wheat germ(optional)
1 1/2 cups corn flakes cereal

Place peanut butter, chocolate chips and maple syrup in a medium saucepan over low heat. Stir constantly with a rubber spatula until chocolate is melted and combined.

Turn off heat but leave your saucepan on the burner. Quickly stir in flaxseed or wheat germ. Immediately add cereal and stir gently with rubber spatula until well-coated. If the peanut butter mixture starts to get too firm, reheat it a bit.

Place mini muffin paper cups in mini muffin pan and spoon heaping tablespoons of the cereal mixture into the cups. Cover and allow to set for 1 hour. Serve or store in an airtight container. Best eaten the same day.

Yield: approximately 22 clusters
Prep time: 15 minutes
Set time: 1 hour

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Banana Splits

[donotprint]Yes, we have a jar of petro-chemical based “cherries” lurking in our pantry. No, I am not ashamed. Unsurprisingly, my “testers” consumed these with glee. Next time I might need to put a bit of whipped cream around the base of the ice cream.[/donotprint]

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1 banana, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup chocolate frozen yogurt
1/4 cup crispy brown rice cereal
2 teaspoons rainbow sprinkles
2 maraschino cherries (optional)
Cover the bottom of two shallow dishes with the banana slices. In the center of each bowl, place ¼ cup frozen yogurt. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons cereal and 1 teaspoon sprinkles. Top with a cherry (if desired).
Yield: 2 sundaes
Prep time: 5 minutes

Note: Cherries could be replaced with a dollop of strawberry jam or just a plain ol’ strawberry.

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