Mandy's Marvelous Meals

Recipes, tips, tricks, and my journey into cooking fabulous food!

Zucchini Bread


Well for those of you who have been keeping up with my blog, you probably know that the zucchini from my garden has been quite plentiful so far. Like I mentioned in a post a while back, I planned to make zucchini bread. Unfortunately I didn’t get around to it until this weekend. I made a couple of loaves and gave them out to my neighbors along with a zucchini. I had so many large zucchini I had to get them out of the garden because they were starting to kill the other plants!

I love this zucchini bread recipe, which I originally found on www.allrecipes.com. I’ve tried others but this one is my favorite. It is super moist with just the right amount of sweetness. I have to say zucchini bread is my favorite thing to make from zucchini…of course that’s only because it is a baked good…and I love baked goods! 😉  The recipe makes 2 loaves, so you’ll have some to share if you feel like it! It also freezes well. Also, I forgot to take pictures of the bread before I wrapped it up for the neighbors, but you get the point!

 

Zucchini Bread

3 cups flour

1 cup vegetable oil

3 eggs

2 cup sugar

2 cups uncooked zucchini, grated

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 tbsp. ground cinnamon

1 tsp. baking soda

¼ tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Grease two loaf pans and set aside.
  2. Combine the oil, eggs and sugar in a mixing bowl.  Beat on medium until well combined. Stir in the vanilla extract and the zucchini.
  3. Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl. Add this a little bit at a time to the wet ingredients, mixing on medium.
  4. Divide the batter in half and pour into two greased loaf pans.
  5. Bake in the preheated oven for 60-70 minutes or until baked through.

 

 

Leave a comment »

Grilled (Baked) Apples


Looking for something sweet, light and easy to make to top off all those 4th of July hamburgers & hot dogs? Try making this delicious dish.

Grilled Apples…which taste exactly like the baked apples from Cracker Barrel. I usually make these as a side dish to pork, but they are great as a dessert or for topping waffles, pancakes, crepes, etc. If you don’t have a grill, you can also make this recipe on the stove.

Grilled Apples

(Makes 2-3 servings)

2 apples, sliced

2 tbsp. butter

1/4 cup water

1 tsp. corn starch

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

  1. In a foil pie pan (or any foil pan) add all the ingredients and cover with foil.
  2. Place on a medium-high preheated grill and allow to cook for about 10 minutes.
  3. Remove the foil from the pan and stir. Allow to cook for 10 more minutes or until apples are tender. 
  4. Serve warm.

3 Comments »

Cake Pop….Failure?!?! I Think Not!


Not to toot my own horn…but I can bake! My baked goods are pretty awesome. There is only one problem….they rarely look “pretty”. I don’t know why but no matter how much I practice, or how careful and meticulous I am when I’m decorating…they just don’t turn out like the baked goods I see a lot of others make. To me taste is more important anyway, but when you are serving your food to people who are not your family the first thing they are looking at is the “prettiness”. I mean, if you have two trays of cupcakes and one looks beautiful and the other one looks like a 4 year old slapped some icing on top…which one do you think people are going to try?

So with that in mind, I am not sure why I thought making cake pops would be any different than the cakes, cupcakes, or the cookies I’ve made in the past….tasty but not pretty!

Each month at work we have a “staff training day” where we basically shut down so that we can focus strictly on meetings, staff development & training. As part of this, I like to treat my staff…whether it’s donuts, or bagels, pizza or my often requested “baked goods”.  I wanted to bring something different that I hadn’t brought in yet so I decided to give Cake Pops a try. I asked friends their opinions on making them and did a lot of research and read a lot of tutorials. I came to the conclusion that they did seem like a lot of work but really didn’t seem too difficult. How hard is it to screw up making a little ball of cake on a stick?

I saw this cute picture on pinterest which is how I totally envisioned my cake pops would turn out. Since the 4th of July was coming up I thought this would be a really nice presentation for my employees. Then I really became ambitious when I decided I wanted the cake in my cake pops to be multi-colored!

 

I was so pumped to make these awesome cake pops! I used my favorite white cake recipe and a basic buttercream and even making them “multi-colored” (red, white & blue for 4th of July) worked out nicely. I was moving along so well…thinking that I was right…a lot of work, maybe a little time consuming but overall not difficult. Adding the icing a little bit at a time to each color cake, they formed nicely into a “play-dough” consistency. I melted some chocolate and dipped the ends of the sticks in and then inserted the sticks into the cake balls. I put them in the freezer to just “firm up” and allow the chocolate on the stick to harden and become a binder for the cake to the stick.

They were looking pretty good….

All that was left was dipping them into the chocolate. From what I’d read and the advice I’d received I knew this part would probably be the “hard” part of the process, but since I wasn’t doing anything too fancy I figured it wouldn’t be so bad.

Until I started the first few and this is what I got…

Frustrated, I continued on. I took the advice of a friend to add shortening (I felt like this was good solid advice because this suggestion was also on the package directions.) to the chocolate to help thin it out, as can happen when it is over heated. Although this did seem to help a little bit and when I started dipping the pops again, it did not completely destroy the cake pops, they looked nothing like I wanted them to! The chocolate was still too thick (which I now have learned was probably because my shortening was too old and really didn’t do much to help out the chocolate. Since making these the other day I saved a few to be dipped later after I had a chance to purchase a new jar of shortening and it was much easier…still not pretty but easier!).

I was able to salvage about 30 pops that I was only partially embarrassed to serve my employees. Mostly everyone assured me they did not look that bad, but I’m pretty sure this was just because they were scared to tell the boss the truth. Only one of my employees (who is also a fairly good friend) was honest and said “wow, if you could decorate you could make so much money opening a bakery.” Thanks….I think!!!

So what was the ultimate outcome of this cake pop saga?

They tasted awesome!!!

They looked horrific!!!

It was basically just the usual…nothing fancy from this baker!

So even though they weren’t as pretty as I had planned, I am still sharing my recipe and the steps I went through to make them. Like I said these tasted great…and if you are better at decorating and working with chocolate than I am then you will definitely have success and will impress whoever you are making them for!

The final question is: ”Would I make them again?” The answer: “Maybe”.

To those of you brave enough to try them…may the decorating gods be with you!!! 😉

 

Cake Pops (Makes 50-60 1” cake pops)

1 white cake

1-2 cups buttercream icing

2 pkgs. (12 oz.) white chocolate melting candy

1-2 tsp. vegetable shortening

Lollipop sticks

Food coloring**, blue & red

Block of Styrofoam

(**Instead of using food coloring in the cake mix I used Wilton Icing Colors. This made a very rich color and I didn’t have to use very much at all.)

  1. Prepare the cake mix as directed. You can use a box mix, but I always prefer from scratch!
  2. Divide the cake mix evenly into three bowls. Add red food coloring (or Wilton Icing Colors) to one of the bowls and blue food coloring to another bowl, to desired color.
  3. Pour each bowl of cake mix into a separate pan or use a muffin pan. (Since you’ll be crumbling it up it doesn’t matter as long as it gets baked! :p) Bake as directed.
  4. Meanwhile prepare the icing (you can use store bought if you like) and set aside.
  5. Allow the cake to cool and once cool enough to handle crumble the cakes into three separate bowls (one for red, one for blue, one for white).
  6. Add about 2-3 tbsp. of icing into each bowl and mix with your hands. Continue to add icing a little bit at a time until the cake forms a large ball. You want the cake to be just moist like Play-dough.
  7. Next form the balls, take a little bit of each color cake and mold together into a round ball. Once all the balls have been formed place them in the refrigerator or freezer for about 10 minutes just to firm up.
  8. Melt a little bit of chocolate according to the directions on the package. This will be for the sticks. Dip the end of a lollipop stick in the melted chocolate and then insert it into the center of the cake pop about half way through. Be careful not to push the stick through to the other side.
  9. Return to refrigerator or freezer for another 10-15 minutes to allow chocolate to harden and cake balls to continue to firm up.
  10. Melt one bag of chocolate per the package directions. Add 1-2 tsp. of vegetable shortening if chocolate is too thick. Make sure to melt the chocolate in a deep dish or glass so that the cake pop can be completely covered by the chocolate. At this step, you can decorate the pops however you choose with different color chocolates and adding sprinkles, etc.
  11. Dip the cake pops in the melted chocolate and insert into a piece of styrofoam to dry.
  12. Cake Pops will be ready to eat immediately or can be frozen for a later time.

 

 

1 Comment »

Grilled Pineapple Sundae with Rum Sauce


This is a really easy and yummy dessert perfect for summer! I don’t even like pineapple, but I always eat this when I make it…it’s just that good (especially the rum sauce). You will impress whoever you make this for and little will they know that it was so simple!

I wish I could take credit for coming up with this on my own but I did read it somewhere. I think it was either in Food Network Magazine or on their website. I just remember seeing it and since it had minimal ingredients I was able to commit it to memory (shocking at my age 🙂 !) So I can’t give proper credit, but I’m definitely not trying to take all the credit! 😉

So what are you waiting for? GO MAKE THIS!!!

Grilled Pineapple Sundae with Rum Sauce

1 small pineapple, sliced into rings

Vanilla ice cream

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup pineapple rum (i.e. Malibu)

1 tbsp. butter

  1. Combine the sugar, rum and butter in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring often.
  2. Reduce heat to low and cook until sauce begins to thicken. Remove from heat and set aside.
  3. Grill the pineapple rings for 4-5 minutes per side.
  4. To “build” your sundae: place 1 pineapple ring on a plate, top with a scoop of ice cream in the middle and pour about 1 tbsp. of the warm rum sauce over the top. Serve immediately!
3 Comments »

Cookies for Inspiration


So I’ve been feeling very uninspired to blog this past week. I’ve been cooking up a storm and even have a list of foods I’ve made that I want to share….but I just couldn’t get myself to sit down and share my thoughts.

However tonight I made these really good butter cookies appropriately called “Meltaways” because they literally MELT IN YOUR MOUTH!!!

One of my employees had asked if I would be so kind to make cupcakes or cookies for her classroom’s picnic tomorrow.  Since I had just made cupcakes for them I wanted to do something different, however I was met with a challenge since the Individuals we serve have various degrees of developmental and physical difficulties and quite a few of them cannot eat regular food such as a cookie. I was determined to come up with something so I set out on Google and searched for soft cookie recipes. I came across these Meltaways at a blog called Landee See, Landee Do.

I followed the recipe pretty much exactly, however my method of adding the ingredients was a little different based on some of the comments that I’d read from others who had tried to make these. I also doubled the recipe and I got almost 5 dozen cookies out of it (unfortunately I wasn’t really focused on making them all similar in size so some got a little bit on the larger side). They came out great and are the perfect texture for our Consumers with special food texture requirements.

These were really easy and quick to make and are a nice change of pace from the usual cookie recipes you come across.

Now…if I could just stop eating them!!!!  (Oh yeah….if you haven’t figured it out…these ARE NOT diet friendly :)!)

Meltaways (Source: Landee See, Landee Do)

1 lb. (4 sticks) salted butter at room temperature

1 1/2 C. cornstarch

1 1/2 C. powdered sugar
2 C. flour
Cream Cheese Frosting (see below)
  1. Using a mixer beat butter on medium speed until light and fluffy. This will take a few minutes. Stop one time to scrape down the sides.
  2. Add the sugar and beat well until combined.
  3. Add the cornstarch a little bit at a time and beat until well blended.
  4. Mixing on low speed, add the flour 1/2 cup at a time.  Dough should be thick and manageable. If it is too thin add up to the full 2 cups (I used just under 2 cups, about 1 3/4 c.) if it is starting to get crumbly you’ve added too much.
  5. Drop spoonfuls of dough onto cookie sheets and gently flatten with the palm of your hand.
  6. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 8 minutes. Remove from oven and let sit for 2 more minutes, then remove cookies from cookie sheet to a wire rack to cool.
  7. Cool completely and add frosting. Be careful when handling these cookies as they are quite delicate!

Cream Cheese Frosting

6 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 C. powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
  1. Add all ingredients to a mixing bowl and beat on medium speed until well combined.
  2. Add food coloring, if desired.
Leave a comment »

Girl Scout Cookie Fix & Why Slow Weight Loss Wins


Today was my Week 7 weigh-in with a loss of another 1.5 lbs. bringing my total loss so far to 13.5 lbs. Even though I strive to lose 2 lbs/week that has not been happening…and after indulging in some Panera Bread (why do they offer a ‘side of bread’ when you order a sandwich? I swear I wanted to say ‘apple’ but a craving for refined carbs took over!!) on Monday I thought for sure I’d only lose another pound so I was pretty excited to see that extra 1/2 lb. on the scale.

In last week’s weigh-in post I mentioned that it was probably time for me to start exercising….so some of you may be wondering how that is going….well it’s NOT!!! What can I say? I’ve been so worn down and have had allergy-related migraines for the past 3 days so it’s been a struggle just to make it to work each day. Hopefully I’ll start to feel better and I’ll have no more excuses! And hopefully that will help me get back to 2 pounds per week.

Even if it doesn’t….I am ok with that. Or at least that is what I keep telling myself. I read this article “Why Slow Weight Loss Wins” on the Weight Watcher’s website and it is a nice little reminder how losing weight too quickly will pretty much guarantee that you’ll put it back on. I can definitely relate to this because I’ve been through many diets and with a lot of them I lost pretty fast, but yet here I am back to my larger self….so obviously something went wrong. Maybe all those cliche’s are right…”slow and steady wins the race”, “one pound is better than no pounds”??

Anyway…on to the good stuff: Girl Scout Cookies! I am proud to say I survived Girl Scout Cookie Season unharmed…even though everywhere I turned there were cute little girls outside of stores asking me to buy and my co-workers had boxes perched on their desks…I did not eat any!! What is in those things anyway? Some form of Girl Scout crack?!?!

My favorite kind is Thin Mints and so when I came across Edy’s Light Thin Mint Ice Cream (Available for a limited time only!) at the grocery store I grabbed it and it tastes awesome!

I pair it up with Fiber One Brownies  for a “brownie sundae” that is low-fat, low-cal heaven! Have you tried these brownies? I was a little skeptical at first, but they are only 2 WW PointsPlus so I gave them a try and was blown away by how good they taste. They are sooooo chocolatey!!

So here is my recipe for a quick and tasty snack with a total WW Points Plus value of 4! Enjoy

Thin Mint Ice Cream/Fiber One Brownie Sundae(Makes 1 serving; 4 WW PP)

1 Fiber One Fudge Brownie

1/4 cup Edy’s Thin Mint Light Ice Cream

  1. Unwrap brownie and place in a bowl. Scoop out 1/4 cup of ice cream, place on top of brownie and indulge!!!

 

4 Comments »

Chocolate Chip Cookies


Ahh, good old chocolate chip cookies. So many different types and I still have yet to find one I don’t like. Crispy & thin, moist & chewy, cake-like…I could go on and on.

This is my go to recipe for chocolate chip cookies. They are pretty thin so sometimes if I’m making them for other people I’ll add a little more flour. The recipe below makes a thin cookie, crispy around the edges, and chewy in the middle. I love cookies like this!

Chocolate chip cookies should be something everyone knows how to bake. And although I like to try out other recipes, you should always have your favorite “go to” recipe for these cookies. If you can produce a good chocolate chip cookie, you’ll make a lot of people happy!

Of course, I love many types of cookies, but I have to say that chocolate chip is by far my favorite. What are your favorite cookies? How do you like your chocolate chip cookies?

Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate Chip Cookies (Yields 2 dozen cookies)

½ cup butter

¼ cup sugar

½ cup packed brown sugar

½ tsp. vanilla extract

1 egg

1 cup flour

½ tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. salt

1 cup chocolate chip cookies

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Using a mixer, mix the butter, sugar and brown sugar until light and fluffy.
  3. Add vanilla extract and egg and mix until well combined.
  4. In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. Add this a little bit at a time to the mixer. Mix on medium speed until well combined.
  5. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  6. Drop spoonfuls of cookie dough onto parchment lined baking sheets about 2 inches apart.
  7. Bake in the preheated oven for 8-10 minutes.
2 Comments »

Nailed It! Or maybe not!!


Happy Easter!!!! I am wondering what types of wonderful Easter dishes you all came up with out there. Hubby and I decided to hit up a restaurant this year for Easter Brunch.  It was wonderful….but of course I couldn’t resist making us something special for the day. Since we both love Cadbury Crème Eggs (as mentioned in Saturday’s Post: Cadbury Egg Martini) I thought these cupcakes I found on Pinterest were a cute idea. The cupcakes are from www.mybakingaddiction.com and Jamie, the writer of this blog, tells you to use whatever chocolate cupcake recipe you like.

 Has anyone been seeing these photos on Pinterest?

That is totally what happened to me with these cupcakes!!!

 Here you see the cupcakes from Jamie on www.mybakingaddiction.com

Here you see my cupcakes!!! Oh boy!

I guess this is a good time to disclose a little secret….my food doesn’t always look the greatest…I am horrible at decorating baked goods and even my plating skills are atrocious. I’m slowly getting better…I’ve been practicing especially with the frosting and decorating and Hubby seems to have a good eye when it comes to “plating” dishes, so he is always willing to help out with that. Who doesn’t love a beautiful dessert? But, have you ever picked out the most gorgeously decorated cupcake from a display only to have it taste so-so? At least I can say, my food may not look the prettiest but nine times out of ten it tastes great!  To me, this is what ultimately matters, but as I grow as a cook I am realizing the importance of making my food look pretty.  When something tastes as good as it looks you will always have a perfect “10”!

Anyway, for my cupcakes I used my Devil’s Food go-to recipe…and I can’t remember exactly where it came from but it is a variation of the very popular Hershey’s chocolate cake with the boiling water (you know the one :)) However, since these were strictly for my Hubby (more about my “Slimmed Down” version later!) I decided to make a small batch. I’ve been pretty successful calculating recipes to make only 2-4 cupcakes, but based on how the cupcakes turned out I’d say my math was not 100% accurate (I never was good at math…thought I was finally getting better though?!) The first thing I noticed was that although they were moist, the texture of the cupcake was way too crumbly and they were crumbling all over the place. Instead of the top puffing up they spread out over the baking cup, making a mushroom like shape. Also, they did not turn out as chocolatey as they should have…however this was not such a bad thing because they took on more of a milk chocolate flavor, which went well with the candy theme.  By the time they were ready to be frosted, I just didn’t have the energy or desire to break out my icing bags and so I just tried my best to spread the icing on with a knife…which as you can see did not turn out the greatest.

All in all, however, when it came time to tasting them Hubby gave them a “4” out of 5 rating. He said they still tasted good despite their appearance. The one thing he did mention, however was that they were very sweet. In retrospect I could’ve taken into consideration the fact that Cadbury Crème Eggs are super sweet so it would’ve probably been beneficial to decrease the sugar in the cupcake just a bit. But if you don’t mind very sweet stuff (like me!) then it’s really not a big deal. The icing is just your basic vanilla buttercream and tasted great!

So here are the full recipes for the Devil’s Food Cupcakes & the Vanilla Buttercream. If you’ve got lots of Cadbury Eggs leftover from Easter, you can throw them in the cupcakes like the ones in the pictures.

Devil’s Food Cupcakes (Makes 24 cupcakes)

1 ½ cups unsalted butter

¾ cup cocoa powder

½ cup boiling water

2 ¼ cups sugar

1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract

4 large eggs, lightly beaten

3 cups cake flour

1 tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. salt

1 cup milk

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two cupcake pans with cupcake liners and set aside for later use.
  2. Sift cocoa into a medium bowl and whisk in boiling water. Set aside to cool.
  3. Using an electric mixer, cream butter on low speed until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in sugar until light and fluffy.
  4. Beat in vanilla and then add eggs a little bit at a time beating in between each addition until well combined.
  5. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt.
  6. Whisk milk into cocoa mixture.
  7. With mixer on low speed, alternately add flour and cocoa mixtures to the batter, a little of each at a time, starting and ending with the flour mixture.
  8. Fill cupcake liners 2/3 of the way full with the batter.
  9. Bake in the oven 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the cupcakes comes out clean.
  10. Transfer to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely before frosting.
  11. Frost as desired.

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

3  cups powdered sugar

1 cup butter

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

2 tbsp. heavy cream

  1. With an electric mixer, mix together the sugar and the butter until well blended, about 3-4 minutes.
  2. Add vanilla.
  3. Add cream 1 tbsp. at a time and beat on medium speed for about 1 minute, adding more cream if needed to reach desired consistency.
1 Comment »

Celebrate Good Times with Slimmed Down Milkshakes


Today is a good day. “Why?” you ask. Well I’ve lost 10 pounds over the last four weeks! Only 30 more to go! Initially, when I weighed-in this morning, all I could focus on was that I only lost 1 pound this past week. I felt totally disappointed because I had been losing 2 to 2.5 per week. But then I told myself to get a grip and look at the big picture. I then realized I had lost 10 lbs. in one month, thus making me feel much much happier.

So to celebrate, today’s Slimmed Down Sensations are some easy and tasty milkshake recipes.

No celebration is complete without cake & ice cream, right?! I had been seeing cake batter this and cake batter that all over Pinterest and did an internet search on my own to find a cake batter milkshake. The one that looked the best to me was this one from Betty Crocker.

Of course, it had way too many calories for me to be able to enjoy and still stick to my diet, so I played around with it and came up with the version in this post.

And speaking of cake…has anyone tried the special edition Birthday Cake Oreo?

As soon as I saw them I knew I had to try them, but I put it off because I am trying to be a good girl and Oreo’s are not only one of my favorites but are one of my biggest weaknesses. To have a pack of Oreo’s in the house would not be pretty (could probably eat half the pack in one sitting, at least!). Today, however, I gave in and decided to pick up a pack anyway. These are 2 WW Points Plus per cookie, but soooo worth it!  Sooo goood!

I already make an Oreo milkshake, which is basically made the same as the Cake Batter Milkshake with a few minor modifications. Decided I would just substitute one birthday cake Oreo for the reduced fat one I normally would use. This bumped up the WW Points Plus from 4 to 5, but still not bad for such a yummy treat!

So here’s to shedding my first 10 lbs!  Yummmmmmmm!!!

Slimmed Down Cake Batter Milkshake (WW Points Plus = 4)

½ cup almond milk

1/3 cup fat free vanilla ice cream

2 tbsp. vanilla (yellow or white) cake mix

2 tbsp. sugar free vanilla syrup (i.e. Torani or DaVinci)

1 cup ice

1 tbsp. rainbow sprinkles

2 tbsp. fat free whipped cream (optional)

  1.  Combine all ingredients except for sprinkles in a blender and blend until smooth and ice is crushed.
  2. Pour into a glass and stir in half of the sprinkles.
  3. Top with whipped cream and remaining sprinkles.
  4. Enjoy!

Slimmed Down Oreo Milkshake (WW Points Plus = 4)

½ cup almond milk

½ cup fat free vanilla ice cream

2 tbsp. sugar free vanilla syrup (ex. Torani or DaVinci)

1 cup ice

1 Reduced Fat Oreo Cookie

2 tbsp. fat free whipped cream (optional)

  1. Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until ice is crushed and desired consistency is reached.
  2. Top with whipped cream, if desired.

Slimmed Down Birthday Cake Oreo Milkshake (WW Points Plus = 5)

½ cup almond milk

½ cup fat free vanilla ice cream

2 tbsp. sugar free vanilla syrup (ex. Torani or DaVinci)

1 cup ice

1 Birthday Cake Oreo Cookie

2 tbsp. fat free whipped cream (optional)

  1.  Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until ice is crushed and desired consistency is reached.
  2. Top with whipped cream, if desired.
1 Comment »

%d bloggers like this: