Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

These muffins are sooo good. They turn out light and moist. They are packed with zucchini so you don’t have to feel guilty about eating what is essentially breakfast cupcakes. The kids will love them too.

Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup oil
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 firmly packed cups of shredded zucchini
1 – 3 tablespoons of milk (if necessary)

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line muffin tins with baking cups.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In another bowl, combine oil, eggs, vanilla extract, and shredded zucchini. Pour the zucchini mixture into the flour mixture and stir until just combined. If the batter is dry and crumbly, add milk, a tablespoon at a time, until it is smooth. The zucchini will release moisture while the muffins are baking, so you don’t want to add any more milk than necessary.

Divide the batter between 18 muffin cups. You want them to be about 2/3 full. Bake in preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.

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Almond Bundt Cake

Almond Bundt Cake

I am running a bake sale at my oldest son’s school next Saturday. I am considering baking this Almond Bundt Cake as one of the items I contribute to said bake sale. I have made this cake a few times over the past year. It’s delicious! It’s quick and easy to prepare, but extraordinary enough for a special occasion. I think it will sell quickly.

Tip:  Trader Joe’s sells Almond Meal at a reasonable price that is perfect for this recipe.

Almond Bundt Cake

Almond Bundt Cake

2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cups ground almonds
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons almond extract
1 cup milk

For the glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 tablespoons milk (plus more, if needed)

sliced almonds for garnish (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease and flour a 10-inch bundt pan.

Mix together the flour, ground almonds, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well. Add the vanilla and almond extracts.

Mix the flour into the mixture, alternating with the cup of milk.

Pour batter into prepared bundt pan.

Bake for 60 – 70 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool the cake for at least 10 minutes and then invert onto a cooling rack. Let the cake cool.

Make the glaze. In a bowl, mix the powdered sugar, almond extract and milk together until smooth. Drizzle over the cake. Sprinkle sliced almonds over the top of the cake, if you wish.

 


Crockpot Tom Kha Gai (Thai Coconut Chicken Soup)

Crockpot Tom Kha Gai

This is one of my favorite soups. It’s so flavorful. Traditionally, it is not done in the crockpot, but there is no reason why it can’t be. Cooking it in the crockpot is not only easy, but it allows for the flavors to meld as it cooks over several hours. It turns out fantastic! To make it a little more substantial, sometimes we will eat this soup over some cooked rice vermicelli noodles.

This recipe contains several ingredients that may not be easy to find in a regular grocery store. Use this recipe as an excuse to visit an Asian market. I cook so much Thai food that I tend to keep these ingredients on hand.

Galangal: I have rarely been able to find fresh galangal, but I have been able to find it frozen or dried at Asian markets. If you use dried galangal, don’t mince it, instead throw a handful of slices into the soup. Remove the galangal slices (as you would a bay leaf) before serving. If you are unable to get galangal, you may substitute ginger instead.

Galangal

Lemongrass: I am able to find lemongrass at my local Asian market. I will buy a bunch and clean it up and freeze it to use later. I have also seen a lemongrass paste in the produce section of my Publix. I would think 1 tablespoon of the paste could be used instead of minced lemongrass. If you can’t find lemongrass, you can leave it out.

Kaffir Lime Leaves:  These are actually kind of hard to find in any store. This may seem strange, but I buy them on ebay, usually from someone in California that has a kaffir lime tree growing in their yard. They go out and pick the leaves and mail them. The leaves ship well and don’t need to be refrigerated right after picking. Once I get my kaffir lime leaves, I freeze them. They keep forever in the freezer. Lime zest can be substituted for kaffir lime leaves. The flavor isn’t exactly the same, but it is similar.

Sambal Olek:  They actually sell this at Target in the ethnic food section. It is usually right next to the sriracha.

Crockpot Tom Kha Gai

Crockpot Tom Kha Gai (Thai Coconut Chicken Soup)

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
8 ounces mushrooms, washed and thickly sliced
5 cups chicken broth
1 13.5 (approximately) ounce can coconut milk
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1-inch piece galangal, minced (substitute ginger if you can’t find galangal)
1/2 stalk lemongrass, finely minced
3 kaffir lime leaves, rib removed and julienned (substitute zest of 1 lime)
1 teaspoon sambal olek (or sriracha)
1 teaspoon brown sugar
3 tablespoons fish sauce
juice of 1 lime
1 tablespoon Thai basil, chopped
3 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped

Combine all the ingredients except the Thai basil and fresh cilantro in the crockpot. Cook on high for 3 to 4 hours or on low for 6 to 8 hours. Right before serving, remove the chicken and shred with two forks. Return the shredded chicken to the crockpot along with the Thai basil and fresh cilantro. Serve with additional chopped fresh cilantro.


Fire Noodles with Shrimp

Fire Noodles with Shrimp

Did you know you can cook cucumbers? You can! They are especially great in stir-fries. In this particular spicy noodle dish, the addition of shredded cucumber helps cool the heat from the Red-Hot Chile Oil Dressing.

The Red-Hot Chile Oil Dressing is the key to this recipe. It’s essential. Make it first.

Prepare all the ingredients before you start cooking. This dish comes together very quickly.

Fire Noodles with Shrimp

Red-Hot Chile Oil Dressing (recipe follows)
4 ounces rice vermicelli
1/2 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 cucumbers, peeled and seeded (or use 4 – 5 pickling cucumbers)
3 carrots, peeled
handful of black fungus (found in Asian markets)

Soak the rice vermicelli in a large bowl with enough hot water to cover for about 15 minutes or until they soften. Drain in a colander and set aside.

Soak the black fungus in a bowl with enough hot water to cover for about 15 minutes or until they are soft. Drain and slice very thinly. Set aside.

Shred the cucumbers. The food processor fitted with the shredding attachment is the quickest way to do it. Squeeze the liquid out of the shredded cucumbers. I place the shredded cucumbers in a clean dishtowel, gather all the edges, and squeeze out the liquid.

Shred the carrots.

Heat 1/4 cup of the Red-Hot Chile Oil Dressing in a wok over high heat. Add the drained rice vermicelli noodles and stir-fry until softened, about 3 minutes. Move the noodles to the side of the wok. Add 2 more tablespoons of the Red-Hot Chile Oil Dressing and add the shrimp. Stir-fry the shrimp until no longer pink, 2 – 3 minutes, and then mix into the noodles. Add the cucumbers, carrots, and black fungus and stir-fry until well-combined and heated through.

Serve the noodles with extra Red-Hot Chile Oil Dressing for drizzling.

Red-Hot Chile Oil Dressing

I got this recipe from Nina Simonds’ Asian Noodles: Delicious Simple Dishes to Twirl, Slurp, and Savor (Hearst Books, 1997), one of my all time favorite cookbook. This dressing is hot and downright addicting! I like to use it in stir fries and to dress Asian-style noodle dishes.

I get the super-hot crushed red pepper from Penzey’s. I like it hot.

1/4 cup safflower or corn oil (I use canola)
2 1/2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper or 4 to 6 small dried hot chile peppers, seeded and cut into 1/4 inch rings
1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
7 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons Chinese black vinegar or Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons Chinese rice wine or sake
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar

Combine both oils in a heavy saucepan and heat over high heat until almost smoking hot. Add the red pepper, cover, and remove from the heat. Let sit until cool, about 10 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to dissolve the sugar. Refrigerated, in a covered container, the dressing will keep for a week. Makes about 1 1/2 cups.


Samosa Soup

Samosa Soup

I like Indian food. Samosas, Indian pastries filled with savory ingredients, are a favorite of mine. I have made Samosas filled with spiced potatoes and green peas on numerous occasions. They are a bit time-consuming to make so I do not make them often. I took ingredients found in Samosa filling and turned them into a delicious and easy soup.  This soup is quick enough to make on a weeknight. Served with warm naan bread, this soup is sure to satisfy a Samosas craving.

Samosa Soup

2 tablespoons canola oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
1 tablespoon curry powder (store-bought or homemade – recipe at bottom)
dash cayenne pepper (optional)
2 medium russet potatoes, peeled and diced
1/2 cup dried green split peas, picked over and rinsed
8 cups vegetable broth
1/2 cup frozen green peas
salt, to taste
1/4 fresh cilantro, chopped

Heat the canola oil in a soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the onions and sauté until soft. Add the garlic, ginger, and jalapenos, and saute one minute more. Add the curry powder, cayenne (if using), green split peas, and vegetable broth. Cook 10 minutes. Add the diced potatoes and continue to cook until the green split peas and potatoes are tender, about 20 more minutes. Add the frozen green pea and cook until warmed through, about 5 minutes. Take off the heat, add the cilantro, and serve.

Quick and Easy Salt-Free Madras Curry Powder

3 tablespoons ground turmeric
2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons ground coriander
1 tablespoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Combine all of the spices and store in a glass Mason jar.