Tag Archives: chocolate

Chocolatey Zucchini Banana Brownies

brownies

The amount of zucchini growing in my garden right now is ridiculous.  Just about every day I go outside to find a new one the size of my arm.  This is awesome except for one problem – I’m the only one in the family who actually likes zucchini on its own and truth be told, it’s far from my favourite vegetable.  Which leaves me asking myself, ‘what the hell am I going to do with all this zucchini?!’

I’ve come up with some very tasty recipes such as zucchini fritters and a great corn, zucchini and feta salad and I’ve started shredding it and adding it into everything from rice, to quinoa to pasta sauces.

Yesterday I had a few very ripe bananas sitting around that were starting to attract fruit flies so I decided to give a zucchini and banana bread a go.  I knew my eldest (who is 7) wouldn’t eat it unless I added chocolate, so that’s what I did.  I was hoping it would turn out good enough that the kids wouldn’t turn their noses up at it.  To my surprise this recipe turned out better than I could have hoped for!

It’s less of a bread texture and more of a dense, rich, chocolatey, satisfying brownie texture!  I made a whole pan yesterday and the kids had eaten the entire thing by today.  My 5-year-old says it’s the best ‘cake’ he’s ever had, which I’m still in shock over.

This brownie/cake is so moist because of the zucchini and the banana chocolate flavour is wonderful.  There’s so many things you could top this with – whipped cream, ice cream, chocolate or vanilla frosting, peanut butter, caramel, melted chocolate…..  you get the idea.  I wanted to keep it healthy so I just topped mine with fresh strawberries.  The kids enjoyed theirs with left-over chocolate frosting.

I made this in a 9 x 9 inch baking dish.  It can easily be cut across one or two times and layered with any of the above mentioned ingredients to make a layered brownie/cake.  I’m thinking for my next one (which I’ll probably make again in a few days!)  I’ll cut this ‘brownie cake’ into 3 and put in a layer of whipped cream, a layer of camel sauce and a topping of chocolate peanut butter frosting.

I love that this is a pretty guilt free recipe because it’s loaded with bananas and zucchini.  A perfect summer dessert!  It’s also great in the morning with a cup of coffee (:

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder (dark cocoa powder if you want a dark chocolate taste)
  • OPTIONAL:  1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups packed shredded zucchini (no need to drain liquid)
  • 2 medium or 3 small very ripe bananas

METHOD

  • Combine flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking soda and powder and cinnamon in a bowl.
  • Cream together oil, sugars, vanilla and banana.
  • Add eggs one at a time and mix.
  • STIR in shredded zucchini and pour wet mixture into dry mixture.
  • Fold together until everything is mixed.
  • Pour into a greased 9 x 9 inch baking pan.
  • If adding chocolate chips, sprinkle them evenly on top of mixture (or you could stir them right in!)
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the pan comes out clean.
  • Let cool and enjoy on its own or with your favourite topping!

OMG Double Chocolate, Peanut Butter, Caramel and Pretzel Bars with Sea Salt

chocolate peanut butter bars

I’ve always preferred to cook savoury foods as opposed to sweet ones.  Don’t get me wrong.  I LOVE sweets.  Especially anything with chocolate.  I’ve just never experimented much with baking and/or dessert.  I tend to stick with the classics and prefer to buy anything that’s at all complicated to make.

However, this year I decided to  participate in a cookie/baked goods exchange since my entire family will be at my place for the holidays and this was a perfect way to have a variety of different holiday treats on hand with minimal work and without spending a fortune by buying everything at the store.

I decided if I was going to do this ‘holiday baking’ thing, I was gonna damn well do it right.  My fantasy was to create something that had EVERYTHING I’ve ever wanted in one bite.  Buttery graham cracker crust, soft, rich chocolate, creamy fluffy peanut butter, crunchy pretzels, Rice Krispies and toffee and of course, gooey caramel and sea salt.  AH-MAZING.

These turned out better than I ever could have imagined.  By far my best ‘dessert achievement’. EVER.  I’m OBSESSED with these things.  They are everything I could have ever dreamed of in a dessert bar and more.  This will now officially and forever more be a holiday tradition in my house.  I have a feeling I’ll be breaking out the stretchy pants this year….

WARNING:  It’s nearly impossible to eat just one/three and they’re just as good straight out of the freezer…. Proceed with caution!

chocolate bars with salt

INGREDIENTS (makes 24 – 60+ bars depending on what size you want to cut them)

Graham cracker layer:

  • 2.5 cups honey graham cracker crumbs (or regular graham cracker crumbs)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted, melted butter

Bottom chocolate layer:

  • 1 cup milk chocolate melting wafers (or chocolate chips or any chocolate YOU like)
  • 2 Tbsp smooth peanut butter

Peanut butter and pretzel layer:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 cups pretzels, crushed up into smaller pieces

Caramel, peanut and Rice Krispies layer:

  • 1 – cup caramel sauce 
  • 1/2 cup – 1 cup salted peanuts
  • OPTIONAL:  3/4 cup Rice Krispies cereal
  • NOTE:  you could just use 1 cup of peanuts OR 1 cup of Rice Krispies for kids who don’t like nuts, but I used both!

Top chocolate layer:

  • 1 1/4 cup milk chocolate melting wafers (or whatever chocolate you like)
  • 1/4 cup smooth peanut butter

Topping:

  • 1/4 tsp flaked sea salt
  • OPTIONAL:  1/3 cup Hershey’s toffee bits

METHOD:

  • Using a 13″ x 10″ pan, line with foil and spray foil with non-stick cooking spray.
  • Melt butter and mix with graham cracker crumbs.  Press crumbs evenly onto foil and chill in freezer for 15 minutes.
  • While graham cracker is in freezer, place a heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water.  Melt the milk chocolate and peanut butter, stirring until smooth.  Spread evenly over graham cracker crust.  Chill in freezer for 15 minutes.
  • Using a stand or hand-held mixer, beat peanut butter, butter and powdered sugar until smooth and creamy.  Spread over chocolate layer.
  • Spread crushed pretzels evenly over peanut butter layer and press into the mixture a bit.

bars with pretzels

  • Make caramel sauce according to recipe directions and immediately spread/drizzle on top of pretzels.
  • Top with peanuts and/or Rice Krispies and press into caramel a bit.  Chill in freezer for 15 minutes.

bars with rice krispies use

  • Melt the 2nd chocolate and peanut butter layer the same way you did the first chocolate/peanut butter layer.  Pour on top of caramel.
  • Add toffee bits, if using and sprinkle with sea salt.
  • Allow bars to chill in fridge for at least 1 hour before slicing.
  • NOTE:  DO NOT try to slice the bars at room temperature because the peanut butter will have softened and the bars will become messy and squishy.

bars finished in pan

Bars will become soft if left at room temperature.  They are best if stored in the fridge and served immediately or within 10 minutes of coming out of fridge.

chocolate peanut butter bars

 

 

 

 

 

Why Halloween is currently my FAVOURITE holiday!

Orion the Ninja Turtle

Orion the Ninja Turtle

Cassius as Batman

Cassius as Batman

The day I look forward to all year-long has finally arrived!  My absolute favourite day of the year.  It’s 6am and I’ve already been up for 2 hours.  I woke up at 4 and couldn’t go back to sleep.  yes, I get THAT excited on Halloween!  In fact, I’ve been excited for weeks.

I’m totally obsessed with this amazing chocolate-filled holiday.  I love the decorations.  I love dressing up the kids and watching how happy and giddy they get.  I love carving pumpkins and roasting the seeds; and of course, I love the loot.  But the biggest reason I LOVE Halloween is that it’s the one holiday I remember really enjoying with my father, despite his dictator-like attitude towards it.  I have 3 siblings and we’re very close in age, so for a few years all 4 of us would be out trick-or-treating together with my dad.

My father loved Halloween.  It was his thing.  I think he loved it so much because it was the one time of year he could send out his ‘mini army’ to gather all forms of sugar for him.  He would map out the best routes to take through town in order to optimize our candy gathering.  He would hand us each a pillow-case and declare that we weren’t going home until they were all filled – and he was serious.  Our Halloween nights were more of a marathon than a casual walk.  We didn’t walk door-to-door.  We ran.  We ran until our feet hurt.  We ran until the lights in the jack-o-lanterns had been blown out.  If one of us started complaining or whining too much, effectively slowing the entire group down, that kid would be sent home with my mom and left to feel like they had failed my father.  In essence, he pitted us against each other to see who could collect the most candy for him. The prize was his affection and approval.  What a dick.  Haha.

Somehow, it didn’t ruin the holiday for me though.  Instead it ingrained in me the same sort of excited, obsessive candy gathering mentality that he had.  When it came to Halloween, I had never really given much thought to what a profound affect my father’s actions had on me until I had my own kids and began trick-or-treating with them.

I immediately felt a rush of adrenalin the first time I went out with my 3-year-old.  I felt like a kid myself again.  I was secretly frustrated that he couldn’t walk faster, or even run, with those tiny little legs.  It pained me to have to give in and call it a night when he started to get tired and cold after only 45 minutes of candy collecting.  DAMN IT, I thought.  I WISH I could pass for a kid so I could go back out by myself for 3 hours and CLEAN UP.  It didn’t matter that I was an adult and could just as easily go buy BAGS of candy and chocolate any time I wanted.  Where’s the excitement in THAT?!  I wanted FREE candy and chocolate.  I wanted to be surprised by my score.  I wanted every shape, size and type of Halloween treat known to man!  It’s the thrill of the pursuit that excites me!

I had been waiting patiently since I became too old to trick-or-treat.  Waiting for the day when I would have my very own minions to do my dirty work.  That day has finally arrived, my friends.  My boys are now old enough to really hustle (they are ages 4 and 6).  I’ve been pumping them up for this night for weeks.  I know which ‘hoods I want to hit and the most efficient way to navigate through them.  I know exactly what we’re going to wear to stay dry and warm but still be able to run with ease.  I know precisely what I’ll be making for dinner to keep us full for hours, but not so full that we feel sluggish.  This dinner will be like what an athlete eats before a marathon.  They will each be given a small bucket (so as not to weigh them down) to collect candy in and when their buckets get full, I will be carrying a giant duffle bag over my shoulders that they will periodically dump their spoils into before heading back out for more.  We will be leaving the house right at dusk.  Unless someone breaks a bone or suddenly comes down with the flu, we will be out until the lights start going out on the houses.  Rain will not deter us.  If one kid starts whining but the other wants to continue, the whiner will be sent home with dad and the mission will continue.

I will not be pitting my kids against each other because that’s unfair and cruel.  I will not make them feel bad for getting sore or tired and wanting to give up.  Luckily, I’ve learned from my dads many parenting mistakes.  Like every year, we will have an AMAZING, MAGICAL, CRAZY night filled with love, laughs and tonnes of chocolate.  At the end of it we’ll do what we do every year; dump out our loot onto the middle of the living room floor and roll around in it before picking our favourites to gorge on.  Then after the kids go to bed my husband and I will continue to eat junk until we feel thoroughly disgusted with ourselves. This has become our family tradition and I wouldn’t want it any other way.  Haha.

I cherish the holidays, while the kids are still young, more than anything in the world.  While the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus are still alive and well; and more than any other holiday, I know my days of trick-or-treating on Halloween with my babies are numbered.  One day they will declare that they are too old to go trick-or-treating or they just want to go out with their friends and it will break my heart, although I’ll never let it show.  I know that part of life is learning to let go, but this will be a hard one to let go of.  So for now I’m going to make every Halloween ‘THE BEST HALLOWEEN EVER!’ for them and for me.  Some day soon all the magic and wonder and excitement they feel on Halloween will be gone.  For a short time I get to experience all that though their eyes again.  I’m so incredibly grateful for that.  I want to enjoy it for as long as I can.

So HAPPY HALLOWEEN everyone!!!  Hope it’s your best one EVER!!!  …and save the guilt for tomorrow!  (;

The boys playing dress-up

The boys playing dress-up

Orion as Spider Kid

Orion as Spider Kid

Orion my little turtle

Orion my little turtle

Cassius as Batman in Action

Cassius as Batman in Action

Cassius the Wizard

Cassius the Wizard

Cassius at Stanley Park Ghost Train

Cassius at Stanley Park Ghost Train