Inside-Out German Chocolate Cake

Oh. My. Goodness. This cake is so moist and so easy! And you don’t have to worry about frosting it because the frosting is mixed into the cake batter.

1 box chocolate cake mix
1 can coconut pecan frosting
Ingredients listed on box
*Only use half the oil listed in the box instructions!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a Bundt pan.

Prepare cake mix as directed on box, but use only half of the oil (or applesauce) as instructed. Add the can of frosting to the batter and mix in well.

Pour into prepared pan and bake for one hour or until cake tests for doneness.

Remove from oven and cool 15 minutes on a wire rack before inverting cake pan and removing cake.

*Feel free to try other cake flavor and frosting combinations. I’ve tried a few others, but the German chocolate variety is my favorite.

Helpful hint: when preparing cake pan, use dry cake mix instead of flour. It gets absorbed into the cake and doesn’t leave a white residue.

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Cheesy Baked Zucchini

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I like zucchini, but it’s been a struggle to find a way to cook it that the boys like – other than fried. They don’t like it sautéed or stir-fried. One of them likes it in zucchini bread, but we can only eat so much of that… I’ve pinned several zucchini recipes on Pinterest, but this is the first one I’ve gotten around to trying.

I wasn’t sure what they’d think of it, and I was pleasantly surprised when they both said they liked it and wanted more. I kept going back for more myself!

I didn’t follow the recipe as written. In fact, I made several changes to it. I don’t know that I’d change anything other than the thickness of the zucchini slices. Thinner slices would cook more quickly.

1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
olive oil
3-4 zucchini, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil
1/2 c. shredded Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 c. shredded Italian blend cheese, divided

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a 9×9 baking dish.

Sauté onion in olive oil; add garlic and sauté one additional minute. Remove from heat.

In a large mixing bowl, combine onion and garlic mixture, zucchini, basil, Parmesan cheese, and 1 cup of Italian blend cheese. Mix well and pour into baking dish.

Bake uncovered for 40 minutes, then top with remaining Italian blend cheese. Return to oven and bake an additional 10 minutes.

*In order to speed up the cooking time, I covered the zucchini for part of the baking time. I think that might have held a lot of the moisture in, which caused the final product to be very watery. Then again, it may just be the nature of the dish. I’ll know more after I make this a second time, which will be soon!

Cilantro Lime Rice

We love Chipotle, but it can get expensive for two adults, one child, and one bottomless pit 13-year-old (well, as of this Wednesday…). While browsing Pinterest, I came across a taste-alike recipe for their rice. I’m not a big fan of cilantro, but in small quantities, it adds just the right flavor.

The original recipe I followed must have a stronger flavor. I doubled the rice and increased the water, cut back on the oil, and used a little less lime juice. Here’s my version:

2 cups instant brown rice (original recipe: 1 cup)
1 3/4 cups water (per package instructions; original recipe: 1 cup)
2 teaspoons olive oil, divided (original recipe: 3 Tablespoons, divided)
3 Tablespoons chopped cilantro
juice from 1/2 lime (original recipe: juice from 3/4 lime)

Bring water and 1 teaspoon of oil to a boil. Add rice. Cook according to package instructions.

While rice is cooking, mix remaining teaspoon of oil with cilantro and lime juice in a small bowl. Stir into hot rice.

Serve as a side dish or as a taco or burrito filling.

20130311-221337.jpgI mixed in one can of black beans (rinsed and drained) and one can of whole kernel corn with red and green peppers, heated it in the microwave for a minute and a half, and served as a taco filling with some Roasted Tomatillo Avocado Salsa.

Roasted Tomatillo Avocado Salsa

The few times I’ve tried something made with tomatillos, including my own attempt at tomatillo salsa, I have not liked it. At all. But since I keep getting tomatillos in my produce co-op box, I thought I needed to try it again… (Please know that I don’t waste things in my co-op box that I don’t like. I find a home for them.)

My good friend Julie, who just got into the co-op with her daughter and me, made something like this and posted on Facebook how good it is. Since my last attempt at finding a home for this last batch of tomatillos didn’t pan out, I decided to try them again, using Julie’s recipe as a basis for mine. What resulted was pleasantly, surprisingly good!

This recipe still needs some tweaking. Even though it was really good, I want to try using a few more tomatillos in it. (What?!? Yes!) I also want to try something different with the garlic since it charred a little too much.

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5 medium tomatillos, husked and washed
1 medium jalapeño
2 cloves of garlic, peeled
1/2 teaspoon olive oil
1/4 cup large diced onion
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1 Tablespoon sour cream (or Greek yogurt)
1 medium avocado, halved, pitted, and diced
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Salt to taste

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Toss tomatillos, jalapeño, and garlic cloves with olive oil. Put in a cast iron skillet and cook for 10 minutes. Remove garlic and cook for additional 10 minutes or until tomatillos and jalapeño begin to blacken. Cool 10 minutes.

Squeeze garlic from charred skin into food processor. Cut jalapeños in half lengthwise. Scrape out and discard seeds. Cut jalapeño into pieces and put in food processor. Squeeze insides from tomatillos into food processor and discard skins. Purée.

Add onion, cumin, sour cream, avocado, cilantro, and salt. Pulse until well-blended.

Serve with chips or as a sauce for tacos, enchiladas, or burritos.

Serves 6-8.

Note: We did have some left over, so instead of throwing it out I refrigerated it in a Rubbermaid container. Two days later, the color hasn’t changed! I guess there’s enough acidity from the tomatillos, as well as thorough blending, that the avocado doesn’t brown. Good to know! I’ve also heard that this freezes well, but I haven’t tested that.

Squash Puffs

I think Mama clipped this recipe from a newspaper back when I was in high school. They were delicious and we made them a lot since Mama was always getting squash from her garden. It’s been a while since I made any, but my older son had some that one of my sisters made a while back. He loved them. When we got some squash in our last co-op box, he claimed those for squash puffs. And since he’s learning to cook and is responsible for helping with one meal a week, he decided he’d make them himself. He did everything but the frying – for the sake of safety. He’s going to be a great cook one day!

1 cup cooked, mashed yellow squash
1 egg
1/3 cup flour
1/3 cup cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 medium onion, diced
cooking oil

Stir together squash and egg until well blended. Add flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt; mix well. Stir in onion.

Heat about 1/2 inch of cooking oil in a large skillet. Drop squash mixture by large spoonfuls into hot oil and cook until browned. Flip over and cook other side until browned. Remove from oil to drain and cool on a plate lined with paper towels. Serve hot.

Yield: 15-18

Best Ever Cinnamon Apples

Caleb loves cinnamon apples. He just can’t get enough, but he always has to get them at a restaurant because I never make them at home. Until now.

Yesterday I found a recipe on Pinterest (surprise!) that was supposedly developed by Jillian Michaels (The Biggest Loser), so you know it’s healthy. I changed up the process a little and – voila! Cinnamon apple goodness that’s quick and easy and delicious!

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1 apple (I used Gala this first time.)
Saigon cinnamon*, to taste

Peel, core, and slice apple. Put in a microwave-safe dish and toss with cinnamon. Cover and microwave on HIGH for about a minute, or until the apple slices are tender. Pour into a small serving dish, making sure to let the cinnamon “sauce” drizzle over the apple slices. Mmmmmm…!

That’s all there is to it! No butter, no sugar, just plain natural goodness.

*A friend of mine recently introduced me to Saigon cinnamon, and now I won’t use anything else. It’s got a wonderful sweet-hot flavor that is unmatched. The boys now ask for “the good cinnamon” whenever I make anything that uses it. 🙂

Cranberry Apple Crisp

I got a bag of fresh cranberries in my co-op bag a few weeks before Thanksgiving. It was a first for me, and I didn’t really know how to use them. After looking over several recipes, I decided to make a crisp for a church function. I combined elements of two different desserts and came up with my own variation. As this crisp bakes, the smells blend and fill the house with a delicious aroma worthy of a Yankee candle…

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4 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
1 12-oz. bag of fresh cranberries, rinsed and drained
zest of one orange
1/4 c. white sugar
3 1/2 Tbsp. cinnamon*
2/3 c. quick cooking oats
2/3 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. butter, melted
1 c. brown sugar, packed
1 c. chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix together apple slices, cranberries, orange zest, white sugar, and cinnamon. Pour into a 9×13 baking dish and spread evenly.

In the same bowl, mix together oats, flour, butter, brown sugar, and walnuts. Stir until well mixed; spread evenly over cranberry mixture.

Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until apples are tender. Serve hot.

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Optional: Top servings with vanilla ice cream.

*A friend of mine recently introduced me to Saigon Cinnamon, which has a sweet-hot flavor. It’s all I’ll use now, and my boys always ask for “the good cinnamon” on their cinnamon toast or anything else that we use cinnamon on. I found mine at Costco, and it only costs $2.65 for the large bottle pictured above.