Favorite zucchini recipes

I never thought I would become a fan of zucchini bread and muffins until last fall when a friend gave me several large zucchini to take home.

Here is what I have made so far this season…

These are the best zucchini chocolate chip muffins!  I bake them and they are instantly gone within 24 hours. My kids love them!  I also bake a gluten-free batch and they turn out great.

Zucchini Chocolate Bread with Chocolate Chips.  Very easy to make!  My oldest daughter brought this as a birthday treat last year and the first graders ate it up.

Zucchini carrot bread.  My first time making it.  Two out of three children plus myself enjoyed it.  Great way to use some of the carrots in your garden or fridge.

Zucchini chips.  Easy to make but you need to allow yourself some time.  Slice the zucchini very, very thin.  I had to use a food processor.  I tried to prepare a batch slicing by hand and they did not turn out.  Cover parchment paper over a cookie sheet and lay slices on the paper.  Spray with cooking spray.  Sprinkle with sea salt.

Do NOT use aluminum foil.  I did this on my first attempt and it was like peeling stickers off a paper–most of the slices broke.

Bake at 225 degrees for 45 minutes.  Turn the cookie sheet around and bake an additional 30-45 minutes.

They should look like potato chips. And they taste delicious!


My first positive cake decorating experience

A few years ago I made a list of things I will never do.  At the very top of the list was cake decorating.  After too many disastrous, I-am-way-too-embarrassed-to-show-you-pictures birthday cakes, I threw in the towel.  But the over last year I have formed a more positive relationship with my oven.  Baking has become one of my favorite hobbies.

So when the opportunity to make a birthday cake for an end of the summer/birthday party came my way, I seized it!  This is probably the first actual cake I have ever decorated that turned out halfway decent.  This is a simple flip flop cake that would be fun for a Labor Day barbeque or little girl’s birthday party.

My cake decorating attempts have only begun.  I have not one, not two, but three kid’s birthdays this fall!  I am already getting some ideas.

BTW – You should probably never say you will not do something.  There are some things on my original list that I currently do and enjoy.

Summer Snack: Bears on the Beach

Summer is not over yet!  I still have not purchased any of my children’s school supplies or fall clothes.  I am still enjoying the lazy afternoons of lounging around in my backyard.  Here is a fun backyard summery snack called Bears on the Beach courtesy of my husband’s mom.  She has many creative kid friendly ideas and this is one of my favorites.

She helped my kids make blue flavored jello.  Then they added Teddy Grahams, brown sugar for sand, and a toothpick umbrella (you can usually find at most Dollar Stores).  One of my kids added a cherry as a beach ball.It is a fun and simple snack my kids could put together themselves.

I think it will become a summer tradition around here.

Simple & Kid Friendly Blueberry Recipes

Blueberries are my favorite fruit!  They are easy to take on picnic.  No peels.  No need for slicing or digging out pits.  My kids eat them by the handful.  My kids love our annual blueberry picking tradition.  It’s a cheap “kid’s outing” and we venutre out to the beautiful Oregon countryside.  Plus you save more money utilizing U-pick especially if you want to a large quantity of berries!

Most our blueberries get eaten by the handful as a snack, with a meal, or put on cereal and oatmeal or in waffles.  I did try a few blueberry recipes this year.  All of these recipes were simple and used almost everything I already had in the house.  I did not have to buy any special ingredients.

First we made Blueberry Heaven Smoothies.  This was a good “kid friendly” smoothie because it has both apple juice and vanilla ice cream in it.  The kids loved it!

Next I made blueberry mini muffins.  These are the perfect snack for the car.  They are less messy than regular muffins.  I freezed a bunch to take on our upcoming road trip to Canada.

Last I made blueberry coffe cake.  Perfect for a brunch of breakfast meeting.  My kids ate this up too.

The blueberries are almost all gone!  I wish we would have picked more.  I might have to head out to the U-pick again before the season winds down.

I’m linking this up with Frugal Friday.

Tips for making guacamole

It is the perfect summer outdoorsy type snack.  A few people with culinary skills gave me a crash course in how to make a tasty guacamole.

I used the Perfect Guacamole recipe.  One thing I discovered is you need to adjust any guacamole recipe to taste.  Obviously vegetables come in all different sizes.  The first time I made it too bland.  The second time it had too much lime juice.

First I had to learn  the proper way to cut an avocado.  Make sure you select one that is soft.  You will need to be able to mash it with a fork.  If it’s solid, it is too overripe.  You will need to wait a few days.

First cut around the pit on the avocado in a complete circle…

Then twist off the top…

You should be able to stab the pit with the knife and pull it right out.

Scoop the “meat” of the avocado out and put in a bowl.  Then mash it with a fork. Add the rest of the ingredients (red onion, Serrano chiles, cilantro, lime juice, salt, and pepper).  Add the sliced tomato right before you are ready to serve it.  I added tomato to it right away the first two times I made it.  This previous time I added it right before I served it and I noticed a difference.

 There you go! A tasty and delicious appetizer to eat on your backyard patio!  Serve with tortilla chips.


Weight Watchers Versus My Fitness Pal

I lost ten pounds on Weight Watchers in 2010.  Now I lost the ten I previously gained back in 2011 by using My Fitness Pal.

I was not going to post pictures because you cannot see a significant difference.  I tried taking a profile shot but it reminded me of taking “belly pregnancy pictures” and that freaked me out a little bit.  But this is where it began–a night of chocolate fondue around the holidays.  And realizing I had snacked recklessly since mid October–and it was only getting worse.

This is me in California last week.  Even if you cannot see a big difference, I feel better about my eating!  That is what is most important.  I am no longer sneaking into the chocolate chips jar throughout the day.  Snacking is under control.  I’m also in Week #6 of training for my third marathon I am running in Seattle in June!

So which is better–Weight Watchers or My Fitness Pal?  Here’s my thoughts on that…

Recipes:  I loved the recipes on Weight Watchers.  I am kicking myself because I did not save them on a Word file. I made some great healthy meals while I was on WW.  You can  also type in a few ingredients of whatever you have in your fridge. A whole bunch of simple recipes pop up.  I realize you can do this using google or Pinterest, but I had more success finding simple recipes with Weight Watchers.

Counting Calories:  Weight Watchers measures foods by points.  Every single food is assigned a point based on the calories and nutritional value.  There is a list of “filling foods” and “zero point” food which is quite helpful.  However, I think am receiving a better education in healthy eating by counting to the calorie versus the point.  My Fitness Pal uses calories for everything.

Cost:  My Fitness Pal is free.  I got a deal with Weight Watchers on line and paid around $50.00 for three months.

Community:  WW has message boards and an “on line community” but I never accessed it.  I like My Fitness Pal because you can “friend” people similar to facebook.  I felt instand support once I joined.  You can “write on a wall” and start a discussion.  Or share a frustration or a success.  You can access other people’s food diaries to get meal ideas. You have the option of keeping your food diary own private.   There are message boards as well on varieties of topics.

Weight Loss:  I lost weight using both.  As long as you follow it, you should find results whichever one you use.

Valentine Treat Ideas

Valentines took on a whole new meaning as my children entered school.  Last year we spent a wintery afternoon handwriting cards, tucking little gifts inside, and baking treats.  Last year we made homemade Oreos with pink frosting.

Homemade oreos

The recipe is simple and only requires seven ingredients.  It is very easy to make them gluten free.  Use gluten free devil’s cake mix.  The gluten free batch turned out just as good as the regular batch.  We added a few drops of food coloring to the icing.

For my daughter’s Valentine party at school we made hand dipped Rice Krispy treats.  Follow the directions to make Rice Krispy treats.  Then use a heart shaped cookie cutter to make into shapes.  Dip into melted chocolate and add red hots, sprinkles, candy hearts or M&Ms.

For melting chocolate my husband (who loves to make candy, truffles, and chocolate) suggests putting a pot of boiling water on the stove.  Then melt your chocolate in a metal bowl resting on top of the boiling pot.  My chocolate has melted better this way and is less likely to burn versus melting directly on the stove.

We also sold some dipped  Rice Krispy treats for a “treat sale” my mom’s group does every year.  A simple heart shaped package and pink ribbon makes a nice presentation when you are a busy mom short on time.