Zucchini Mini Muffins

  • 6 ounces all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground allspice
  • 2/3 cup shredded zucchini
  • 3 tblsp canola oil
  • 2 tblsp butter, melted
  • 2 tblsp 1% low-fat milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • Cooking spray

Normally I would be more like ugh, its Monday… but today is different. Its amazing how a little sunshine will put you in such a good mood. The weekend was perfect, sunny and just the right temperature. I managed to spend most of my two days outside and popped indoors just long enough to bake these mini muffins. Isnt everything just so much better when its in a miniature form? These are a great way to curb a sweet tooth and deliver only 146 calories in 2 of them. Im always thankful to Cooking Light for delivering such deliciously light recipes to my door every month!

Preheat the oven to 400. Weigh the flour out and pour it into a medium sized bowl. Combine the flour with the brown sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, allspice and salt.

In a separate small bowl combine the zucchini along with the egg, butter, milk, oil and vanilla. I used the smaller side of my cheese grater for the zucchini to avoid larger chunks in the muffins. It also gets the juices of the zucchini flowing to create moist muffins.

Add the zucchini mixture in with the flour and stir until just combined. Divide the mixture evenly amongst 24 mini muffin cups coated with cooking spray. Cook for 10 minutes, or under a pick inserted into the center comes out clean. Place the muffin tins on a cooling rack to cool and then invert the pan to remove the muffins. They should come out fairly easy if you used enough baking spray. Serve these mini treats plain or with a side of cinnamon butter.

Zucchini Mini Muffins via @foodnfocus

Zucchini Mini Muffins via @foodnfocus

Rainbow Sprinkle Sugar Cookie Bars

Sometimes life just needs a little bit of celebrating. Wouldnt you agree? I think often times we forget to just celebrate the little things that get us through the day.

Ive got a lot of things in life to celebrate lately including the purchase of my first home and an upcoming wedding to the love of my life. But little things deserve celebration too, such as putting the finishing touches on my wedding list (hey, every little item being checked off the list counts!) or receiving something special in the mail. Because seriously, why not just take the time to celebrate the little things?

Rainbow Sprinkle Sugar Cookie Bars

The new issue of Food Network Magazine popped into my mailbox last week (cue the celebration) and as I leisurely paged through the issue their feature on 50 Bar Cookie recipes caught my eye. Most eye-catching were the Birthday Cake Bars, because who doesnt love a good dessert with sprinkles?

Rainbow Sprinkle Sugar Cookie Bars

So to celebrate Friday, heres the recipe. Pull out some sprinkles and celebrate the big and little things in your life this weekend!

Rainbow Sprinkle Sugar Cookie Bars

Print
Cook time
Total time
Author: April | Food n Focus
Serves: 20
Ingredients
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 112 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 14 teaspoon salt
  • 12 cups rainbow sprinkles
  • 1 can premixed vanilla frosting
Instructions
  1. Line a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with foil, leaving a 2-inch overhang on two sides; coat the foil with cooking spray. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Melt 2 sticks butter; let cool slightly. Whisk in 112 cups sugar, 3 eggs and 1 tablespoon vanilla. Stir in 2 cups flour and 14 teaspoon salt. Fold in the sprinkles.
  3. Bake until the edges are set but the center is soft, about 25 minutes.
  4. Allow the bars to cool completely before slicing into squares and frosting. Top them off with additional sprinkles and enjoy!
3.3.3077

Rainbow Sprinkle Sugar Cookie Bars

Food in the Windy City

My travels havent taken me far as of late, however, this past weekend I was presented with the opportunity to visit Chicago. While New York currently has my vote for my current favorite city to visit, Chicago is nice since its just a train ride away.

We arrived in the evening and had dinner reservations at Coco Pazzo in the River North area. This isnt your typical Italian restaurant and certainly is a notch far above Olive Garden flavors. Coco Pazzo offers Tuscan inspired dishes with seasonal ingredients. I had visited the restaurant before for New Years Eve and has quite possibly the most delicious fresh truffle risotto. If you havent tried truffle (Im not talking chocolate) you absolutely must try this unique flavor.

We started dinner with their Antipasti Misti, a plate filled with aged meats and cheese, roasted vegetables and olives. Served with a focaccia bread, this plate offered a wide variety of flavors to choose from.

Once I found out that we would be dining at Coco Pazzo, the only thing I could think about was that truffle risotto. Unfortunately this wasnt on the menu this night but the chef was able to whip up something similar with the truffles he did have on hand. Course 2. We dug in too quickly for me to event get a photo of the dish!

Course 3 was a pasta dish with their homemade sausage, tomato sauce and pesto and topped with goat cheese. I feel like goat cheese is something I love to hate. It always seems so strange to me but the minute I have some, the creamy flavors bring delight to my mouth. It was delicious.

Pasta with goat cheeseWe opted to skip dessert and instead headed to the Cheesecake Factory for a slice…or two. I know that this seems generic but really, who doesnt love their cheesecake?!

Saturday morning we headed over to Luxbar Restaurant in the Gold Coast area. Another favorite food destination of mine and a trip here is not complete without their pecan sticky bun.

Pecan Sticky BunBeing that it was St. Patricks Day, we figured wed throw some Irish flair into our day with a serving of corned beef hash and of course, french toast. (Yes, I realize french toast isnt Irish.) Both were amazing but even more delightful was the honey butter served with the french toast.

French Toast

After walking off the fattening breakfast, what trip to Chicago is complete without a Chicago Dog? Mustard, onions, relish, pickles, tomatoes and peppers. You cant go wrong.

Chicago Dog

Whats your favorite Chicago foodie destination?

Celebrate Can-It Forward Day with Roasted Salsa Verde

One of my favorite things to do once my garden is in full swing, producing the fruits of my labor, is make fresh salsa. I pretty much only plant the components that I need for salsa (and basil) in my garden. It’s so quick and easy to make on your own, why would you ever buy it in a jar?! And while I don’t have tomatillos planted in my garden, I don’t mind purchasing them at the farmer’s market so that I can make my all time favorite salsa: Roasted Salsa Verde.

I was so excited when Ball contacted me about their new book, The All New Book of Canning and Preserving. I’ve never canned before. Well, I’ve never successfully canned before. But it’s been something that I’ve wanted to learn and it really is quite simple. This book offers over 200 new recipes that are all categorized by canning technique. Yes, there is more than 1 way to can based on what you’re canning.

Roasted Salsa Verde

To celebrate the launch of their new book and the upcoming Can-It Forward Day, I decided to make their Roasted Salsa Verde from the book. Since you probably already understand what salsa is, I’ll explain a little bit more about their Can-It Forward initiative to raise money for food charities. The 2016 Can-It-Forward Day will take place on Friday, July 22nd from its new digital location, Facebook Live. Ball will be bringing together canners, gardeners and food enthusiasts alike. Canning demonstrations from popular canning bloggers, as well as the Ball brand’s expert chefs will take place from 10:00AM3:30PM ET on the Ball Canning Facebook page. You can watch canning demonstrations via Facebook Live from 10:00AM – 3:30PM ET. Each hour, viewers will have the chance to win a giveaway prize! That’s pretty exciting, hey?

Roasted Salsa Verde

Whether you are learning to can for the first time or looking to share preserving expertise, the spirit of “canning-it-forward” will come through in all social aspects of this year’s broadcast as well as this year’s focus on charity. To support communities offline, five small, local, non-profit organizations have been selected with the help of participating bloggers to benefit from the event. For every like, share, reaction and comment on the Can-It-Forward Day Facebook Live videos on July 22, a $1 donation will be made to one of the following local charities:

This is all pretty cool! Even cooler is the fact that Ball has offered to give away a pretty cool canning package to one of my lucky readers! Included in the package is their new book, The All New Book of Canning and Preserving, a case of Collection Elite Wide Mouth Pint Jars and one $5 off coupon to be used on FreshPreservingStore.com.

Get excited for giving and for salsa season! Make sure that you like, share or comment on the Facebook Live videos on July 22nd to help a good cause!

4.6 from 5 reviews
Roasted Salsa Verde
Author: April | Food n’ Focus
Ingredients
  • 4 lb. tomatillos, husks removed
  • 2 medium-size white onions, each cut into 8 wedges
  • 2 jalapeño or serrano peppers
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1⁄2 cup lime juice (about 6 limes)
  • 1⁄4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Arrange tomatillos, stem side down, on a large rimmed baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Place onions, jalapeño peppers, and garlic on prepared baking sheet. Bake at 425°F for 15 minutes or until garlic is softened. Remove garlic from baking sheet. Bake onion mixture 15 more minutes or until onion is tender and tomatillos and peppers are slightly charred. Remove from oven and cool slightly. When peppers are cool enough to handle, remove stems and seeds.
  2. Process roasted vegetables and garlic, in batches, in a food processor until smooth. Transfer to a 4-qt. stainless steel or enameled saucepan. Stir in lime juice and remaining ingredients. Bring to a simmer. Remove from heat.
  3. Ladle hot salsa into a hot jar, leaving 1⁄2-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Wipe jar rim. Center lid on jar. Apply band, and adjust to fingertip-tight. Place jar in boiling- water canner. Repeat until all jars are filled.
  4. Process jars 20 minutes, adjusting for altitude. Turn off heat; remove lid, and let jars stand 5 minutes. Remove jars and cool.
3.4.3177

Roasted Salsa Verde

5 Tips For Planning A Stress Free Game Day

I heard that there was a big, important football game coming up this weekend. Did anyone else hear about it?

All kidding aside, we all know that THE game of the year is coming up this weekend and one of my favorite things to do around this time is throw a party to celebrate. Or just throw parties in general. Either way, I’ve got some great tips and easy recipes for you to use as you prepare for our own party this weekend!

5 Tips For Planning A Stress Free Game Day

Getting ready for your guests to come over and enjoy a party can be a little stressful. I find that preparing some of the snacks ahead of time can cut down on the day-of stress and getting your husband to help you clean up the house can be helpful. That is, if you can get your husband to help with cleaning. Here are some of my other tips:

5 Tips For Planning A Stress Free Game Day

5 Tips For Planning A Stress Free Game Day

  1. Choose snacks and food that is easy to prepare ahead of time so that you’re not running around the kitchen the day of the game getting food prepared. Here are a few ideas:
  2. Get your house in order leading up to the event. That means right now you should already be getting your house in order, cleaning up things that won’t get messy before Sunday comes. Seriously, go get your house in order!
  3. I’m all about cutting down on waste but when it comes to having people over, less mess is better. Use paper plates, cups and plastic cutlery to help cut down on the mess after your guests leave. Try to find recyclable plates, cups and cutlery to cut down on your carbon footprint. And prepare the night before by setting out everything including any serving dishes you may need for the party.
  4. Ask for help. This is where your husband or children come into play. They can help straighten up the last minute things around the house, pour chips into bowls and keep younger siblings occupied so that you can get things accomplished.
  5. If you are preparing food the day-of for your guests, might I recommend DIGIORNO® Rising Crust Pizza? With dough that rises to crust perfection, toppings you can’t get enough of and a mouthwatering aroma you’ll crave, DIGIORNO® pizza comes out of your oven ready to serve in about 20 minutes. DIGIORNO® helps you get the most out of game day. Intentionally crafted by the bakery experts at DIGIORNO, each pizza bakes up hot and fresh in your own oven so you can enjoy the moments that matter with the people who matter.

5 Tips For Planning A Stress Free Game Day

There’s no reason to be stressed when it comes to a fun event such as your Big Game party. Relax. Ask for some help. And prepare what you can ahead of time so that you’re not a hot mess right as your guests arrive.

For more tips on how to #maketherightcall, or to view the “Typical Game Day Party Guests” video series, visit the DIGIORNO® Twitter page @DiGiornoPizza or Youtube.com/DiGiornopizzas.

5 Tips For Planning A Stress Free Game Day

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Cucumber Salad

  • 2 tbslp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tblsp white wine
  • 1 tblsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 cup slices red bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup slices green bell pepper
  • 3 tblsp chopped fresh chives
  • 1 tblsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 English cucumber, sliced

When I think about summer I think about garden fresh salads. Im anxiously awaiting fresh vegetables to appear at my local farmers market so that I can dig in. I found this gem of a recipe in my latest issue of Cooking Light and instantly knew I had to try it. Its the perfect light salad to bring to a summer cookout with the perfect balance of flavors. And since I have my herb garden all planted for the season I was able to incorporate my fresh herbs into the dish as well.

Combine the first 6 ingredients in a medium bowl and stir with a whisk. This is where its nice to keep a bottle of white wine on hand for cooking. Add in the peppers, cucumber, chives and parsley and toss to coat.

Serve the salad immediately for cover and store in the refrigerator until youre ready to serve it. I will say that because of the olive oil on the salad it probably will not store well for more than 48 hours. Happy Monday!

Cucumber Salad via @foodnfocus

Cucumber Salad via @foodnfocus

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Wisconsin Cheese Tour – Part 1

Let’s take a moment to talk about the obvious. I’m from Wisconsin. And I like cheese. I’m so glad that’s out in the open now. Given my love of cheese you can imagine my excitement when I was invited on a cheese tour hosted by the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board. Sign me up! I’m going to cover my tour experience today and tomorrow starting with the cheese makers that we visited. Starting with Clock Shadow Creamery.

Clock Shadow Creamery is an urban creamery located here in Milwaukee in a beautiful new facility. The creamery opened in 2012 in a very green facility. They even recycle the rain water for the toilets. They specialize in two things: cheese curds and quark. I’m pretty familiar with cheese curds but quark was quite new to me. Quark is a soft, spreadable cheese that can be purchased in a tub. Typically this cheese is used for sandwiches, salads and cheesecake. It is quite rare to find quark these days but they have it! They also share the space with Purple Door Ice Cream which just started incorporating quark into their flavors!

Clock Shadow Creamery

From here we traveled north to Theresa, Wisconsin to a vintage creamery called Widmer’s Cheese Cellars. This creamery offered a much more nostalgic feel to cheese making and has been around since 1922. The creamery is run by Joe Widmer who is a third generation cheese maker. Their specialty is Brick cheese of which I learned it is called ‘brick’ because it is processed and formed using actual bricks. Joe still uses the bricks that his grandfather used nearly 100 years ago. Joe is a Master Cheese Maker of both Brick and Colby cheeses. Pretty impressive! We were able to try a variety of the cheese that Widmer’s produces including a 10 year aged cheddar. Delicious!

Widmer's Cheese Cellars

Widmer's Cheese Cellars

We ended our day at Kelley Country Creamery in Fon du Lac which is a lovely little ice cream shop. The shop is a family run operation headed up by Tim and Karen Kelley along with their 5 children. All of the dairy comes from their farm which is just outside of the ice cream shop. I’m a huge fan of ice cream so you can imagine my excitement when I eyed up all of the available flavors. Even more exciting was getting to watch a batch of white chocolate raspberry being made…;and then tasting it after. Delicious and fresh!

Kelley Country Creamery

I would encourage you to check out each of these places if you’re ever in southeastern Wisconsin. You won’t be disappointed!

Homemade Cherry Pie Filling

Do you ever have a great idea for something and it just totally doesnt turn out as expected? Thats totally the theme of my blog today. I was working on a cherry pie/cookie/tart thing and it just did not work out as I imagined. Note to self: sugar cookies spread out in the oven…pie crust does not. At any rate, this pie filling turned out delicious. Even without the cookie/pie part.

Homemade Cherry Pie Filling | foodnfocus.com

There are certain things that get me really excited about living in Wisconsin. (No, not the Packers.) Cheese. Brats. Cherries. Cherries are a big deal here in the fall. Well, not HERE here. But Door County. And they are pretty much amazing. So sweet and fresh. Theyre hard to resist.

Homemade Cherry Pie Filling | foodnfocus.com

This recipe was a great place to put my OXO Cherry Pitter to good work. Seriously, if you dont have a cherry pitter you need one. Much like my strawberry huller, this handy little tool makes pitting cherries a snap. I even use it for small jobs like pitting 5 cherries for my yogurt and when Im just snacking on cherries. Lazy? Not really. I like to think of it as a classier way to eat cherries. Sitting at your desk spitting cherry pits in a trash can just does not seem work-appropriate.

Homemade Cherry Pie Filling | foodnfocus.com

Even if you dont live in Wisconsin you should still be in the heart of cherry season. Go grab some fresh cherries, make the filling and bake yourself a pie. Youll definitely make someone happy!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Homemade Cherry Pie Filling

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Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Author: April | Food n Focus
Ingredients
  • 5 to 6 cups fresh pitted cherries
  • 12 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 23 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 14 teaspoon almond extract
Instructions
  1. In a medium saucepan, combine the cherries, water, lemon juice, sugar and cornstarch. Bring the mixture to a boil.
  2. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. The sauce will begin to thicken.
  3. Remove the mixture from the heat and add in the almond extract, stirring to combine. Cool slightly before using in a recipe.
  4. Store the cherry filling in an air-tight container for up to 2 days.
3.2.2124

Homemade Cherry Pie Filling | foodnfocus.com

Vegetarian Freezer Burritos

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #DailyVegolutions #CollectiveBias

Are you a meal prep kind of person? I have found that if I take the time to prepare lunches, snacks and some dinners on Sunday afternoon that I feel less stressed during the week and I tend to eat better too. I love when I can open up my refrigerator on a Monday morning to stacks of containers ready to grab with my breakfast and lunch. I decided that this week I was going to switch things up a bit by making Vegetarian Freezer Burritos that I could just warm up for lunch!

Vegetarian Freezer BurritosVegetarian Freezer Burritos

These Vegetarian Freezer Burritos are quick and easy to pull together and can feed you or you family for a full week. My secret meal starter ingredient for these burritos is MorningStar Farms® Grillers® Crumbles™ mixed together with black beans and Great Value™ Chopped Spinach found at Walmart stores nationwide. I love that this base is packed with protein, fiber and vegetables! I whipped up a citrus marinade to drizzle over these ingredients to bring a burst of flavors to the burritos. I finished them off with a helping of rice and a sprinkle of cheese to complete the meal. If you are using the Ibotta app, you can buy any 3 MorningStar Farms® products and earn $3 through January.

Vegetarian Freezer BurritosVegetarian Freezer Burritos

If you have never tried a MorningStar Farms® this is the perfect way to make the switch. These little crumbles are not just for vegetarians and make for a convenient, as-is meal solution. The best part is that they help me and my family live a healthier lifestyle. You could say that this product is a party of my New Year’s ‘Vegolution’ helping me to incorporate more vegetables into my daily life.

Vegetarian Freezer Burritos
Author: April | Food n’ Focus
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 1 orange
  • 1 lime
  • 1 serrano chili pepper, seeded
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • ⅓ cup olive oil
  • 2 cups MorningStar Farms® Grillers® Crumbles™
  • 1 cup Great Value™ Chopped Spinach
  • 1 can (15 ounces) black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cups cooked white rice
  • 6 large flour burrito tortillas
  • ½ cup shredded cheddar cheese
Instructions
  1. Prepare the citrus marinade by juicing the orange and lime into the base of a food processor. Add in the chili pepper, garlic and olive oil and pulse to liquify the sauce.
  2. Combine the MorningStar Farms® Grillers® Crumbles™, black beans and Great Value™ Frozen Spinach in a large bowl. Drizzle the citrus marinade over the ingredients and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Place the tortilla shells out on a flat work surface. Divide the rice evenly between the 6 tortillas. Divide the bean mixture between the tortillas and place on top of the rice. Sprinkle each burrito with cheese.
  4. Carefully tuck the sides of the tortillas in towards the center and roll the burritos closed. Toast the burritos in a skilled on both sides before freezing.
  5. Wrap each burrito on aluminum foil and place all burritos in a large freezer zip-closer bag. Place in freezer until you’re ready to use.
  6. To warm: Place the frozen burrito in the microwave wrapped in a damp paper towel for 8-12 minutes, until no longer frozen in the center.
3.4.3177

kelloggs_crumbles_ibotta

Chocolatini Creme Brulee & BAILEYS Coffee Creamer Giveaway

And were back! For anyone that thought the giveaways were ending last week, Im back today with another delicious giveaway! Im a huge flavored coffee fan and Im sure some people out there are thinking, Well whats the point in drinking coffee then? I love to add a little bit of variety into my mornings and use BAILEYS Coffee Creamer often to spice up my day!

Ive never really used coffee creamer in a recipe before that wasnt a drink so I thought Id try my hand at spicing up a traditional creme brulee with one of BAILEYS Coffee Creamer many flavors. (They literally have nearly 20 flavors!) I opted for something traditional and tried out their Chocolatini. Yes, its as good as it sounds in coffee and in creme brulee!

Chocolatini Creme Brulee | foodnfocus.com

This was my first time making creme brulee and what I learned is that this dessert can be a little bit tricky. On my first try I overcooked the custard and it turned lumpy and runny. The second time around I cooked it just right so that it was just slightly jiggly in the center when I removed them from the oven. Be cautious!

So who is ready for a giveaway?!

Chocolatini Creme Brulee

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Author: April | Food n Focus
Serves: 5
Ingredients
  • 1 cup Chocolatini BAILEYS Coffee Creamer
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 13 cup granulated sugar
  • 18 teaspoon salt
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 5 tablespoons sugar
Instructions
  1. Place BAILEYS Coffee Creamer, cream, granulated sugar and salt in medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 4 to 5 minutes or until sugar is dissolved. Beat egg yolks in medium bowl; gradually whisk cream mixture into egg yolks. Stir in vanilla extract.
  2. Pour mixture into five 6-ounce custard cups. Place cups in 13 x 9-inch baking pan; fill pan with hot water to 1-inch depth. Loosely cover with foil.
  3. Bake for 1 hour, 10 minutes or until gently set in center. Remove to wire rack to cool slightly. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
  4. Preheat broiler. Sprinkle each creme brulee evenly with brown sugar. Broil for 2 minutes or until sugar is melted and caramelized. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or until topping hardens.
3.2.2885

Chocolatini Creme Brulee | foodnfocus.com