Double Chocolate Zucchini Muffins (GF, Nut-Free & Dairy-Free)

I have always loved zucchini bread because of its moist, wonderful texture, but it’s never really been a go-to bread recipe when I’m baking. However, this past summer, my coworker Bob brought me a 7 pound zucchini, and the first thing I thought to make was zucchini bread! Although 7 pounds seems huge, when I shredded it in my food processor it was even more than I expected. I was literally drowning in zucchini. I used about 1/2 of the zucchini right away, but froze the rest in quart size ziploc bags for when Winter came and 7 lb vegetables were no longer in surplus.

These muffins are great for so many reasons. They’re moist, full of rich chocolate, super soft, and best of all, very allergy-friendly! I brought these to a girls’ brunch a few months ago and they were a hit. When I remembered I still had leftover shredded zucchini in the freezer, I instantly thought of these muffins. I was a little hesitant to use anything other than fresh zucchini, but these turned out as delicious as I remembered.

Whether you’re looking for a perfect on-the-go breakfast recipe, or trying to sneak more vegetables into your picky kids’ (or husband’s) diet, these muffins are the answer! Give them a try- I hope you love them as much as I do!

Recipe notes: If you’re using zucchini that’s been frozen, you will have a lot of excess moisture, so be sure to squeeze most of the water out or your muffins will be sad and soggy. In the recipe below, I mention dairy-free chocolate chips, but you can use whatever kind of chocolate chips you’d like and still get the same results. Dairy-free (vegan) chocolate chips can be found at Whole Foods!

dczmuffins.jpg

Double Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

Makes 12 muffins

1/2 C dairy-free chocolate chips, divided

2 C grated zucchini, excess water squeezed out

2 eggs, beaten

6 T coconut or vegetable oil

1 t vanilla extract

1 1/2 C Gluten Free flour blend

1/4 C unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 t sea salt

1/2 t baking soda

12 t baking powder

1 C coconut sugar

Method:

Preheat oven to 325° and line standard muffin pan with 12 cupcake liners.

Melt 1/4 C of the chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl at 30 second intervals, stirring between to ensure they’re melting evenly. Set aside to cool sightly.

In a large bowl, add grated zucchini, eggs oil, and vanilla extract. Whisk to combine. Add melted chocolate chips and whisk again until fully combined.

In separate bowl, combine all dry ingredients and remaining 1/4 C of chocolate chips. Make a well in center of bowl and slowly pour in wet mixture. Fold together with rubber spatula until incorporated, making sure to not over-mix.

Pour into prepared muffin tin and bake for 22-25 minutes, until toothpick inserted comes out mostly clean. You don’t want to over bake these or they’ll be dry!

Tip** Store these in the fridge for up to a week, or freeze in sandwich size ziploc bags for busy weekday mornings!

Copycat Chicken Shawarma

This Thanksgiving, I threw all caution to the wind and loaded up on my Grandma Lynne’s famous stuffing and gravy, my mother-in law’s molasses rolls, my brother-in-law’s amazing deep fried turkey, and my mom’s home made green bean casserole. Then the uncomfortable full-ness sank in and I told myself I was never eating again.

Because that’s crazy talk and my “never eating again” only lasts about 30 minutes, I decided to put together one of my favorite Whole 30, veggie-full meals. This copycat chicken shawarma inspired by A Clean Bake is one of my all-time favorite slow cooker recipes and stars in this fresh and balanced meal. It can be topped with anything you have in the fridge, and the more color you add, the more effective the detox! I can just feel the pumpkin pie coma fading away…

cs2

My favorite way to enjoy it is served on top of a bed of cauliflower rice, and loaded with cucumbers, tomatoes, olives, radishes, pickled red onions, some tahini, lemon juice, and lots of freshly chopped parsley and mint. I could seriously eat it every day. You could also throw this in a pita with some hummus, or in a lettuce wrap.

The best part is you can make the chicken whenever, and store it in the fridge until you’re ready to fry it up with the spice mixture, which makes it perfect for weeknight meals! Be sure to read the instructions all the way through; the spice mixture isn’t used until the end of the cooking process.

cs1

Copycat Chicken Shawarma

Makes 4-6 servings

For the chicken:

2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs

1 C water

For the spice mixture:

2 t ground cumin

1 t lemon zest

1/2 t chili powder

1/2 t smoked paprika

1/2 t garlic powder

1/4 t sea salt

1/4 t pepper

1/4 t  ground turmeric

1/4 t ground cinnamon

Pinch of ground cloves

Method:

Add chicken and water to slow cooker and set on low for 6-7 hours. Let cool, shred, and set aside or store in fridge until ready to serve.

Combine all seasoning ingredients in small bowl and set aside.

Heat a sided skillet on medium heat and add 1/4 C olive oil. Once hot, add cooked chicken to pan and sprinkle half of seasoning mixture over chicken. Let cook for 1 minute, then turn chicken and coat other side with remaining seasoning mixture. Cook for another 2 minutes, then turn chicken one more time to ensure all seasoned chicken has made contact with oil in pan.

Tip** Try to avoid moving the chicken too much- you want it to get nice and crispy!

 

 

Dairy-Free Pumpkin Pie

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving! Baking pies always brings me back to my pie hustler days (you can read about in my About Me page ). While I’m a fan of a good pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving, most traditional recipes call for a can of sweetened condensed milk. I thought that by offering to bring the pumpkin pie to my family’s Thanksgiving dinner this year, I could ensure it’s dairy-free so I could enjoy without feeling awful the next day.

I  spent the past few days recipe testing to get this pie absolutely perfect before sharing with you all, and after getting feedback from my trusted panel of taste-testers (my lovely coworkers), this pie was confirmed to be just as delicious as any dairy-filled pumpkin pie! I’m convinced no one in my family will notice, and those who do probably cheated and read this post. Give this spin on tradition a try! I promise you’ll be amazed.

A couple things to note…

I experimented with Gluten-Free pie crust while I was recipe testing, but it was very hard to roll out. The pie pictured below was made using regular all-purpose flour because being Gluten-Free is a dietary preference for me and not a food sensitivity/allergy issue.

If you want to make this pie Gluten-Free, you can substitute the all-purpose flour out for Gluten-Free flour mix, but be warned that it is very prone to tearing! You could more easily make mini pies in a cupcake tin, but if you want one full pie, I would suggest buying the crust. Trader Joe’s now carries pre-made Gluten-Free pie crusts! Pick one up and call it a day.

I had some whole nutmeg in my spice drawer, so I used a micro plane to freshly grate some into the filling. This is by all means not necessary, but definitely provided some extra wonderful warm spice notes 🙂

If you’re feeling fancy and want to decorate with some cut outs like I did, bake them on a lined cookie sheet separately from the pie, and then add once the pie is cooled. If you add the raw cut outs to the pie and then cook, you’ll end up with some veeeeery crisped designs due to the hour-long bake time.

If you’re feeling extra fancy and want to top your beautiful pie with sugared cranberries, here’s the instructions I used. They were quick to make and turned out so pretty!

pie1

 

pie2

Dairy-Free Pumpkin Pie

For the filling:

3 large eggs

1 15 oz can pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling!)

1 C full-fat coconut milk

1 t vanilla extract

3/4 C brown sugar

1/2 t sea salt

1 1/2 t ground cinnamon

2 t pumpkin pie spice

1/2 t freshly grated nutmeg (optional)

For the crust:

**Note that this recipe makes a double crust so you have extra dough for cut outs. Feel free to half it if you are keeping it simple!

2 1/2 C all-purpose flour

8 T vegan butter, chilled (I use Earth Balance)

6 T vegetable shortening, chilled

1 t salt

2 T sugar

5-6 T ice water

pie3

Method:

In food processor, combine all crust ingredients besides water, and pulse to combine. Add water 1 T at a time, until it starts to ball together. (This happened at about 5 1/2 T for me). Turn onto floured surface, and smush together into two flat disks. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.

Preheat oven to 350°.

Use rolling pin to roll out first disk of chilled dough on floured surface, ensuring that it’s at least 2 inches wider than the pie plate you’re using. I use this silicone baking mat, and love that it tells me when my crust is rolled to the correct size!

Carefully transfer rolled pie crust to pie plate and crimp edges.

In large bowl, whisk all filling ingredients together and pour into unbaked pie shell. Bake for 55-60 minutes, until toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean.

Tip** Use pie crust shield or make your own out of aluminum foil to keep your crust from getting too brown!

Let the pie cool for at least two hours before serving, and top with dairy-free whipped topping or ice cream. Enjoy!

 

Quick Pickled Red Onions

I loooooove vinegar- anything sour, really. So when I received some beautiful, large Weck jars as a wedding shower gift last year, I learned how to “quick” pickle vegetables and haven’t needed store-bought since! I love knowing exactly what goes into them, especially because it’s hard to find them without added sugar. I have found that home-made have so much more flavor! This recipes subs traditional white granulated sugar out for pure maple syrup, which lends a tiny bit of sweetness without overpowering the bite of the vinegar that I love so much. I have these big boys at home, but any kind of canning jar will work!

Making these is so easy and fun, and having vibrant, flavorful pickled veggies on hand makes dressing salads, tacos, breakfast sandwiches, etc. up so easy! I call it “quick pickling” because it doesn’t involve the whole canning process (putting jar in boiling water to seal out excess air). I love this method because whatever you’re pickling is ready to enjoy as soon as the next day! They keep for about 2 weeks, although my pickled red onions never last that long.

You can apply this method to just about anything- Jalapenos, cucumbers… even carrots, green beans, or cauliflower! You can play around with different spices such as turmeric, and add fresh or dried herbs. You will be amazed at how easily these quick pickled red onions come together and how fancy they make your meals look!

onions1

 

onions2

Quick Pickled Red Onions

3 medium-sized red onions

1 C distilled white vinegar

1/2 C water

1 T salt

1 t black peppercorns

3  cloves garlic

3 T pure maple syrup

Method:

Slice onions and add to jar. Add vinegar, water, salt, and peppercorns to  medium sauce pan and bring to low boil. Peel garlic cloves and add to boiling mixture, turn off heat, and add maple syrup. Let cool for 5 minutes.

Pour mixture over sliced onions. It should completely cover the onions. If you’re a little short on liquid, add more vinegar.

Seal tightly and store in fridge. You’ll notice the liquid turns a vibrant red and this is how you know they’re ready to enjoy!

Tip** I usually try to make these a couple days before I want to use them, but they should be good 24 hours after making.

onions3

Matty’s Slow Cooker Carnitas

I’m all about meal prep. This usually takes place on Sundays before I grocery shop, so I can methodically buy only what we need and ensure we have enough week-night meals planned. When doing so, I plan a couple slow cooker meals that you can “set and forget,” because there is nothing better than coming home to dinner already made.

Often times, I have lofty intentions of getting dinner in the slow cooker before I leave for work. However, if it’s a busy weekday morning, I end up forgetting- rushing out the door without prepping anything. I would say this happens about 90% of the time. By the time my coffee kicks in and I remember, I’m sitting at my desk at work and can’t do anything about it. Because my husband is a full-time grad student at the moment, he is usually still at home, so I end up texting him a list of ingredients with some vague directions and hope for the best. This may sound risky, but it has resulted in some of the most amazing tacos we’ve ever had, and this was one of those instances.

When I got home from work and checked the slow cooker, I knew he had done it again. The pork was falling apart, but not overcooked, and was full of flavor. The last step was to broil the carnitas for a wonderful crispy crunch. This only took an extra few minutes and is worth dirtying an extra pan, trust me. We stuffed our faces with tacos and agreed that these were the best. Ever.

tacos1.jpg

I have been attempting slow-cooked pork for years and never really got the results I wanted. Either they were short of flavor, turned out too dry, or both. It wasn’t until recently that I discovered I was using the wrong cut of meat all along! I was trying to be healthy by using lean cuts of pork such as tenderloins, without realizing that the fat is essential to a flavorful, melt-in-your-mouth result. Last week, I bought a boneless pork butt and came to terms with all its glorious fat content and will never look back.

This pork is delicious in tacos, but can be used on top of nachos, in burritos, or on top of a taco salad like I did (lettuce wraps were a litttttle too messy.) Top it with lots of fresh cilantro, salsa, and some of my pickled red onions and you have yourself a perfect taco night!

tacos2.jpg

Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas:

Makes about 6 servings

3-4 lb boneless pork butt, excess fat trimmed off and cut into large chunks

2 t salt

1 t pepper

1 t ground cumin

1 t dried oregano

1 medium yellow onion, roughly chopped

2 bay leaves

Juice from 2 limes

Juice from 1 orange

1 C water

Method:

Add meat to slow cooker and top with the rest of the ingredients, stirring to evenly distribute. Set on low for 7 hours.

Turn slow cooker off after 7 hours and set oven to broil. Remove meat from slow cooker and spread into even layer on rimmed baking sheet. Broil for 3-5 minutes until golden brown and crispy.

Meanwhile, strain liquid from slow cooker into medium sauce pan and cook over medium heat until reduced by half.

Pour desired amount of reduced juice over pork and serve. Enjoy!

Tip** Pickled red onion recipe in next post!

 

Apricot Ginger Energy Bars (LARA Copycat Bars)

I have been a big fan of LARA bars for a while now; they have a million flavors, are usually on sale for $1 at the grocery store, and are the sole reason I survived the Whole 30 this past January. I love having healthy snack options like energy bars stashed at my desk for weekday afternoons that are dragging, because they save me from caving to the unhealthy options in the break room.

IMG_0299

When my friend Annie texted me to tell me she bought a 5 lb bag of sun dried apricots at Costco and then realized she didn’t like them (I love her), I immediately thought of trying home-made LARA bars. Obviously flattered that I was the first person she thought of, I told her that I’d put her sad, unwanted apricots to use.

You might be wondering why it’s worth making your own at home, and that’s a good question… why mess with a good thing, right? Let me tell you, everything is better home-made. This recipe comes together very easily, and you can literally use whatever dried fruits and nuts you have sitting in your pantry- just keep the ratios similar to the recipe below. They are the perfect snack to toss in your lunch box, to enjoy before or after a workout, or for breakfast on the go.

I love the combination of the apricots with ginger and cinnamon, but you can experiment here as well! Almond extract, fresh ginger…whatever you’re feeling. But the lemon zest is a must. Don’t leave that out!

IMG_0291 (1)

Apricot Ginger Energy Bars

Makes 18 bars

3 C dried apricots

3/4 C pitted Medjool dates

1/4 C Chia seeds

1 t cinnamon

1 t ground ginger

1 C raw unsalted cashews

1/2 C unsweetened dried coconut

1 t lemon zest

2 t lemon juice

1/4 C honey

Pinch of salt

IMG_0296

 

IMG_0300

Method:

Line 9 x 13 pan with parchment paper and lightly spray with nonstick oil.

Combine all ingredients in food processor and pulse until ingredients are well-distributed. Mixture should be sticking together easily. If it’s too dry, add 1 T more honey at a time until it comes together. Turn mixture into prepared pan and spray your (clean!) hands with more nonstick oil. Pat it down in even layer. Place into freezer for 20 minutes.

Take out of freezer and cut into ~18 pieces with chefs knife (I used a Norpro Scraper and it worked perfectly!) I also cut off the scraggly ends and ate those for quality control. Important step. Wrap individually with plastic wrap and store in fridge or freezer. Enjoy!

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

I thought everyone would be over butternut squash by this point, but I was wrong! I took a poll on my Instagram page last week to decide between Creamy Butternut Squash Pasta and butternut squash soup, and it resulted in a tie. Since I couldn’t possibly let half of you down, here’s the recipe for one of my favorite fall soups, just in time for #soupsunday!

A couple reasons I love this recipe: it takes less than 30 minutes to make, and you don’t have to spend any time stirring a pot or dirtying extra dishes! It’s vegan, but is so wonderfully creamy and filling, you’d never know it. You can use whatever broth you have on hand, but I used vegetable broth to keep this soup vegan. It’s perfect paired with a kale salad or some avocado toast for dinner, and reheats nicely for weekday lunches.

I was extra excited to make this soup today because of my new found affinity for crispy sage leaves. It’s not fall without the inclusion of sage in every vegetable dish, am I right? Taking the extra few minutes to “fry” some of these fuzzy little herbs in ghee to top your soup will result in a delicious and beautiful garnish for your roasted butternut squash soup.

bssoup1

 

bssoup2
Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Makes 4-6 servings

6 C butternut squash, diced

1 T olive oil

Salt & pepper

2 C leeks, roughly chopped

5 cloves garlic, roasted

2 1/2 C vegetable broth

1 C full-fat coconut milk

1/4 t crushed red pepper (optional)

Garnishes for soup- pomegranate seeds, crispy sage leaves, pepitas, etc.

bssoup3

Method:

For crispy sage leaves, heat small skillet on medium heat and add 1 T ghee. Add sage leaves and fry for about 60 seconds on each side. Remove carefully with a fork and set on paper towel to absorb excess ghee.

Preheat oven to 375°. Toss butternut squash with olive oil, salt and pepper, and spread onto rimmed baking sheet in single layer. Roast in preheated oven for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and toss squash for even cooking. Add chopped leeks to baking sheet and return to oven and bake for another 10-15 minutes until veggies are golden brown.

Tip** If you don’t have roasted garlic already prepared, here are the Cliff Notes from my last post – slice the very top off of a whole head of garlic, drizzle with olive oil and wrap in aluminum foil. Roast in oven for about 20 minutes until fragrant.

In high speed blender, add roasted butternut squash, leeks, garlic, vegetable broth, and coconut milk. Blend for 20 seconds on low, and another 30 seconds on medium.

Tip** If you’d like to serve this soup right away, make sure to heat broth and coconut milk before adding to blender so soup is nice and hot!

If soup appears too thick, add 1/4 C more broth. Season with salt, pepper, and optional crushed red pepper. Enjoy!