Peanut Butter & Chocolate Crumble Bars

Welcome back to another Fantabulous Friday where you get the recipe to an awesome dessert! This is what I made for the boys this week and it was a hit!

*FYI: This recipe can easily cut in half. Since we are not huge dessert eaters (they would like to be, I assure you) half of a recipe is perfect because it gives us a taste, maybe a bit leftover for later, and then no extra to go to waste.

Peanut Butter & Chocolate Crumble Bars

(Full Recipe)

1 cup butter, softened

1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar

2 cups old-fashioned oats

2 cups flour (I used  a 1/2 unbleached & 1/2 whole wheat mix)

1 tsp. baking soda

1 pkg (8 squares) semi-sweet chocolate baking squares

3/4 cup creamy peanut butter (can substitute crunchy)

HEAT oven to 350*F.

BEAT butter and sugar in large bowl with mixer until well blended. Combine oats, flour, and baking soda, then add to sugar mixture; mixing well.

PRESS 3 cups of crumb mixture onto bottom of 13×9-inch pan sprayed with cooking spray. {I used the butter paper to grease pan liberally. A great use for any extra softened butter that sticks to the paper. Also just a good way to utilize everything without any waste. Cool, huh?}

MICROWAVE chocolate in small microwavable bowl on HIGH 1 1/2 minutes or until melted, stirring after 45 seconds. Stir in peanut butter. Carefully spread over crust; sprinkle with remaining crumb mixture.

BAKE 22 to 25 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Cool completely.

Yeah, I'll be licking that... :)


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Meatball Soup

What is it about a meatball that just makes me smile? Does anyone else feel this way, or am I weird? I just really love meatballs. There really are so many ways to make them and eat them. This soup, for example, is yet another awesome way to enjoy meatballs.

This soup is pure comfort food and I am sure that you will think so, too. I found this recipe in Deceptively Delicious and it has remained one of my favorites. Even though I don’t normally keep purees in my freezer, this soup is still a sinch to throw together because the carrot and sweet potato can easily be steamed or cooked in the microwave and then pureed. An alternative is also to just finely chop up the two vegetables, raw, in a food processor, and then throw it into the soup (separately, of course.) That works just as well :)

Meatball Soup

3 ounces whole-wheat pasta shapes, such as bowties or wagon wheels

Nonstick cooking spray

1 tbsp. EVOO

1 small onion, chopped

1 (28 ounce)  can whole peeled tomatoes, with the juice

1/4 cup carrot puree

1 1/2 tsp. salt

3 cups beef or chicken broth


3 slices whole-wheat bread, cubed

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1/4 cup milk

2 tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

1/4 tsp. pepper

1/4 tsp. paprika

1/2 lb. lean ground turkey

1. Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted water according to directions until al dente. Drain and set aside.

2. Coat a large pot with cooking spray and set it over medium-high heat. When the pot is hot, add the oil and then the onion and garlic. Cook, stirring often, until the onion is softened but not browned, 3 to 4 minutes.

3. Puree the tomatoes and their juice with the carrot puree in a food processor or blender, then add to the pot along with 1/2 tsp. salt. Add the broth, reduce heat to low, and simmer, covered, for 10 to 15 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, put the bread in a large bowl. Add the egg, sweet potato puree, milk, parmesan, 1 tsp. salt, the pepper, and paprika, and let soak until the bread is very soft. Stir to break up the bread, add the ground turkey, and mix until smooth. Form into *mini-meatballs 1/2-inch in diameter. {*Or you can cheat like I sometimes do and use pre-made turkey meatballs :)}

5. Add the meatballs to the pot. Simmer, covered, until the meatballs are no longer pink in the center, 12 to 15 minutes. Stir in the pasta when ready to serve and eat. Sprinkle with Parmesan.

6. Enjoy all that yumm,y wholesome goodness!
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Pantry Makeover

I am determined to have a healthier lifestyle, and to teach my kids to have one as well. I am pretty sure I’ve been on the right track all these years, but like all people, we back slide occasionally. That’s not really what this post is about though.

In order to eat healthy you must have a healthy kitchen. What does that mean? Well for starters that means making some basic changes in your pantry such as throwing out the junk food, and not buying anymore. It’s a fact that if there isn’t any junk in your pantry then you can’t eat it.

We all like to indulge once in a while (key words: once in a while). I’d indulge every day – let’s be honest, peeps – but we need to re-condition ourselves to that once in a while indulgence. Plus let’s not forget that an indulgence still must be kept in moderation. We can’t be eating 1/2 of a 1 lb. chocolate bar all in one sitting just because it’s our day to indulge. That’s another reconditioning issue. Moderation is also key.

So there are lots of ways to get that indulgence fix without buying those Oreos. I know, we love Oreos, but it’s full of refined white sugar, lots of big worded ingredients we can’t pronounce, and toxic preservative chemicals. Let’s not, shall we? The best indulgences are the ones worth earning- so make it yourself. From scratch. The ingredients will all be better for you because you’ll know every single one that goes into it, and you’ll feel better about indulging.

Ok, so this post isn’t entirely about cooking or baking healthy snacks either. Sorry, no teasing intended. But back on track about having  a healthy kitchen. You’ve already determined to throw out the junk. What does that leave you with? Well, for some people that leaves a lot of empty space in their pantry. What shall you fill that space up with?

As I was cruising around on Pinterest one day, I clicked on a recipe that took me to a blog where I clicked again and then I clicked some more. What I ended up with was a great 20 page free downloadable e-book from Pure Vitality. This website is such a great resource for so many reasons, and it also has lots of great recipes for those little indulgences, among many, many other things.

When I downloaded the e-book I fell in love. Much of it was a no-brainer to me, but I loved the idea of having a pantry makeover so help make my life in the kitchen a little easier. It’s a simple organization tip that will definitely make your life easier too. Many people don’t cook as much from scratch because they find it overwhelming, but I have found that having  plan makes all the difference.

A plan can be many things, but for me it starts out with first deciding what I’ll be cooking for my family dinners. The next step is to make out a list for the grocery store. I often will search out coupons and compare them with ongoing sales at my grocery store, but even if there isn’t a lot of money-saving going on, you can still pinch your pennies and stay within budget. The best way to do that is to stick to your list and don’t deviate. Plan for an indulgence or two and shop accordingly. This is a two-fold reward because not only will you get to eat a treat, but chances are half of those ingredients will remain in your pantry for future recipes.

The next step is to have healthy foods and ingredients readily available. This can mean making some hummus and having carrot and celery sticks available for impromptu dipping and snacking, as opposed to grabbing a bag of partially hydrogenated potato chips, or super-fattening and artery-clogging store-bought cookies (see how I did that?). It can also mean planning meals in a snap will literally be just that, a snap. If your pantry is stocked with brown rice, dried beans, legumes, etc. then you are on your way to a healthier lifestyle.

True, dried beans are not a snap. But it is pretty easy to spy them in your pantry and decide to let some soak overnight for tomorrow’s dinner. Yes? See, this really isn’t that hard. You’re getting the hang of it. Awesome.

So I already have these storage jars. Actually, I’ve had them for years. I keep my organic sugar, popcorn kernels, and brown rice right on the counter top. But obviously, I’m going to need a lot more of these babies if I am going to do a pantry makeover. And remember: use glass not plastic! (Or at least use BPA-free plastic.)

The picture at the top comes from Pure Vitality. When my pantry grows up it wants to be just like that one :) Click the link here to read all about how you can have a healthy kitchen, too, and you just might be inspired to makeover your pantry as well.

Have an awesome, healthy day!

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Maple Mustard Chicken

This is some seriously awesome chicken.  Truly.  Awesome.  I got {adapted} this recipe from the  I ♥ Trader Joe’s Cookbook which should really come as no surprise to anyone who’s been reading my posts, because we all know how much I DO Trader Joe’s. {If only I’d had the idea for this cookbook first!} If you have been wanting to taste some awesome, savory chicken, then this is the recipe for you. Super easy; super yummy!

Maple Mustard Chicken

1/2 cup Dijon mustard

1/4 cup maple syrup*

1 tsp. rice vinegar*

1 1/2 lb. boneless chicken thighs*

salt & pepper

1. Preheat oven to 450*. Whisk together mustard, maple syrup, and vinegar {*I only had white vinegar so I made a 3 parts vinegar to 1 part water ratio. Worked fine. I also only use pure maple syrup}.

2. Put chicken thighs {*I used 2 very large boneless, skinless breasts, cut into pieces. Served 3} into an oven safe dish and salt & pepper them. Then pour the maple mustard mixture over them, turning the chicken in the mixture so they are fully coated.

3. Put the dish in the oven and let bake for 40 minutes, or until a meat thermometer reads 165*F. Baste the tops of the chicken with the sauce half way through baking time. Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes before serving. Sprinkle some rosemary and parsley over the chicken before serving. Don’t forget to spoon the sauce over each serving.


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Zucchini Tomato Feta Spaghetti Frittata

In my search for great vegetarian dishes I came across two different frittata recipes. One called for linguine and greens (any kind such as collards), and the other, zucchini and tomato. Well, they both sounded so good that I just couldn’t decide. So instead of choosing I simply adapted both recipes and combined them into one fantastic frittata!

Zucchini Tomato Feta Spaghetti Frittata

1 Tbsp. EVOO

1 small onion, diced

2 large zucchini, or 3 smaller ones sliced about 1/4 inch thick

1-2 large tomato, sliced

1 Tbsp. fresh Thyme leaves (or 1 tsp. dried)

Salt & Pepper

9 large eggs, slightly beaten

1/2 cup milk

1/4 cup feta, chopped up

1/4 grated parmesan cheese

1 1/2 cups cooked whole wheat  spaghetti or linguine

Pre-heat oven to 425*. In a 10-inch oven-proof skillet over medium heat, warm oil. Add zucchini, onion, and thyme and cook, covered, stirring often, until tender but not browned, about 8 to 10 minutes. {I browned mine anyway because that’s how I roll and it turned out great. So don’t panic if your stove top is hotter than any other in the whole world, like mine is.} Uncover, and cook until all the liquid in the pan evaporates. Season with salt and pepper, remove skillet from heat.

In a large bowl, whisk eggs and milk. Add parmesan cheese and whisk briefly again. Stir in noodles. Pour egg mixture over zucchini. Use a fork to gently combine the vegetables with the noodles {You could cut the noodles up into smaller pieces before to make this easier. I didn’t because I like to make things difficult for myself. It still turned out fine} and to allow the beaten eggs to coat the bottom of the pan. Top with feta cheese and tomato slices.

Place skillet in oven and allow egg to cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or until egg mixture is fluffy, slightly browned, and center is set. You can set the broiler on the last few minutes.

Remove from oven; gently slide a heatproof spatula around the edges and underneath to loosen from skillet. Serve immediately.

There are so many ways to make a frittata!

I hope you enjoyed this week’s Meatless Monday recipe :)

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Chocolate Zucchini Snack Cake

Most people love Fridays simply because it’s the end of a work week and the beginning of some down time. I agree, but I also love Fridays because that’s when I get to share an amazing dessert recipe. Fantabulous Fridays are great because it pushes me to find new dessert ideas for my family. Plus it gives me a little something different to focus on in the kitchen :) 

There are a few ways you can make this dense snack cake. In place of carob powder you can use unsweetened cocoa powder, and for a richer chocolate flavor without extra calories you could add 1 tsp. of espresso powder. THe following is how I made it.

Chocolate Zucchini Snack Cake

1 1/2 cups flour (1/2 unbleached white & 1/2 whole wheat)

3/4 cup carob powder

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1 cup sugar

3 eggs (or 2 eggs + 2 egg whites)

1/3 cup EVOO

2 cups shredded zucchini

two 6-0z. containers low-fat vanilla yogurt

1/4 cup dark chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350*. Grease a 9-inch square metal baking pan and line bottom with parchment paper; grease parchment paper.

2. In a medium bowl combine the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt. In a larger bowl, combine sugar and eggs; beat at medium-high speed for about 3 minutes. Whisk in the olive oil. 

3. Stir in zucchini. Batter will begin to get a little foamy. Awesome. Stir in the flour mixture, combine. Add yogurt and chocolate pieces; mix in well.

4. Transfer to baking pan. Bake until springy to the touch, about 35 minutes; let cool slightly. Serve with whipped cream or additional yogurt.

This cake is awesome because it is a healthy and tasty alternative to boxed mixes. If you decide to use the espresso powder in place of the chocolate chips, you’ve just increased the chocolate flavor without adding any more calories. You can also eat it while it’s still warm, which is great for those of you who just can’t wait to dig in!

2 cups of zucchini have only 64 calories, vitamins A & C, and 20% of your daily fiber.  Vitamins and fiber in a chocolate cake? Not bad.

Dark chocolate is a potent antioxidant and it helps lower blood pressure. You may get a few extra calories out of it, but when eaten in moderation, those calories are outweighed by the benefits and added flavor.

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Rice Balls

This recipe came from Deceptively Delicious, the first cookbook by Jessica Seinfeld which incorporates vegetable purees into food. There was a time when I had many purees in my freezer, ready to go, but now that my boys are older and capable of eating vegetables, I find that now I only prepare the recipes that I really love, and consequently, make only the purees I need.

These rice balls are great because they are super tasty and fun, and they pack 1/2 cup of sweet potato puree and broccoli (you can also choose to use spinach or butternut squash). This recipe does call for chicken, but it can easily be left out for a vegetarian alternative.

*My pictures were horrible. Proof that I’m still not good at frying, forming balls of anything that remain balls, and especially frying any food that comes in the form of a ball. I realize this has nothing to do with the overall taste, but still it is no fun when I don’t have an awesome picture to share. So here’s a picture of the pre-breaded and fried balls :)


Rice Balls

1/2 cup short grain brown rice (or 1 cup cooked leftover rice)

Nonstick cooking spray

3 tsp. EVOO

1/4 lb. chicken cutlets, rinsed and dried

1 1/4 tsp salt

1/8 tsp pepper

1/2 cup sweet potato *puree

1/4 cup grated *cheddar cheese

1/4 cup buttermilk

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1/2 cup spinach or broccoli or butternut squash *puree

 1/2 cups whole wheat cracker crumbs or *breadcrumbs

1. Cook rice if starting from scratch. Meanwhile, coat a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray and set it over medium high heat. When the pan is hot, add 1 tsp oil. Sprinkle the chicken with 1/4 tsp salt and the pepper, and cook until no longer pink in the center, 4 to 5 minutes per side. {I simply put the chicken pieces in chicken broth and poach until done.}

2. Cut the chicken into chunks and place them in a food processor or blender. Add the sweet potato, cheese, 1 tsp salt, and the buttermilk, and blend until smooth. *For the cheese  I used raw organic sharp white cheddar. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and stir in the cooked rice. Roll the mixture into 1-inch balls and place them on a sheet of waxed paper or foil.

3. In a shallow bowl, beat the egg and vegetable puree of your choice with a fork. Put the crumbs into a separate bowl. One at a time, dip the rice balls in the egg mixture, then roll them in the crumbs to make an even coating.

4. Coat a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray and set it over medium high heat. When the pan is hot, add the remaining 2 tsp of EVOO. Add the rice balls and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, turning occasionally and spraying with cooking spray, until browned and crisp all over. Serve warm.

*If you are not familiar with pureeing vegetables you can use these simple tricks. For the sweet potato I simply forked a spud and microwaved it until done. Half of a large potato should equal 1/2 cup. Just throw it in the food processor until smooth. The same for the broccoli: cook until done, drain and puree. I then measured out the 1/2 cup amount, but it was approx 1 cup broccoli florets, cooked down in some chicken broth.

Here is what they should look like, courtesy of Food Network, depending on the puree you choose for the egg mixture. Using spinach or broccoli will give the rice balls a bit of a green hue, but otherwise undetectable in taste. 

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Crispy Honey-Mustard Chicken Tenders

This is an exceptionally easy and flavorful meal for you chicken lovers out there. So easy in fact, you could have a complete meal on the table in 30 minutes!

Crispy Honey-Mustard Chicken Tenders

4 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips

Oil for frying (I use EVOO)

1 cup Panko

1/4 cup sesame seeds

*Optional: 1/2 cup almonds, finely chopped

1/2 cup Dijon mustard

1/2 cup honey

1 tbsp. dried chives, or 3 tbsp. fresh, finely chopped

1 tbsp. hot sauce

2 eggs

Salt & Pepper

1. Heat oven to 275* to keep cooked tenders warm and crispy. Place baking sheet in oven to preheat.

2. In bowl combine mustard, honey, and hot sauce. Remove and reserve about 1/3 for later. Beat the eggs into the 2/3 sauce mixture, then coat the chicken tenders. Salt & pepper to season.

3. Combine Panko, sesame seeds, and *ground nuts.

4. In large skillet, heat a layer of oil over medium-high heat. Coat the tenders in the Panko mixture and fry, turning, in 2 batches until deep golden. Transfer to the hot baking sheet in the oven.

5. Serve the tenders with a drizzle of the reserved honey-mustard sauce, or divide sauce into small bowls for individual dipping.

You could serve just about any sides with this quick, easy meal. Since the hubby is out of town again I decided to make it appealing for the boys by making Trader Joe’s organic macaroni shells and white cheddar cheese, and lima beans steamed in chicken broth. *Have your sides already on the stove, cooking, before you begin frying the chicken and you will have no problem getting this meal on the table in about 30 minutes :)

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Zucchini Fritters

Welcome to my first Meatless Monday post! This recipe came from Pinterest and I dreamed about it all the days leading up to when I actually made it.

It was AH-MA-ZING! 

This awesome recipe also came with a great sauce. You must try it! This is such a great meal for those days you want to go meatless. I’m not big on fried foods, but once in awhile is a treat, and this meal almost makes up for the fact that it’s fried :) Serve with a salad.

Zucchini Fritters

Vegetable oil for frying

3 cups grated zucchini

1 cup diced onion

2 eggs

1 cup flour (I use 1/2 all-purpose, unbleached & 1/2 whole wheat mix)

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. chili powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. pepper

*Pour oil into skillet about 1/2 inch deep and turn heat to medium. While oil is heating up combine zucchini, onion, and eggs in a large bowl. Give the mixture a good stir.

In a smaller bowl combine flour and the remaining ingredients. Then add to zucchini and fold in until mixed well.

Drop batter by heaping tablespoons, frying about 6 fritters at a time.  Cook on each side about 2-3 minutes, depending on how crispy and brown you want them. When the centers are firm, remove from oil and drain on a plate lined with paper towel.


Chili Lime Aioli


1 cup prepared mayo

juice from half a lime (about 1-2 ounces)

1/2 tsp. chili powder (add to taste)

1/4 tsp. garlic powder

*Simply combine the ingredients, stirring well. Refrigerate until slightly chilled to take the mayo taste out. Serve with fritters :)


Now I’m thinking of all kinds of fritters….Corn Fritters, Cheese and Broccoli Fritters, Apple Fritters, even a Coconut Chicken Fritter. The possibilities are truly endless. I hope you enjoy  :) 

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St. Patrick’s Day Cupcakes

It’s Friday again and you know what that means………….

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, for dessert night this week I have made green cupcakes. Not your usual dessert night fare, I admit, but the boys don’t mind, I assure you, and it was a simple and fun treat to make without a lot of fuss.

St. Patrick’s Day Cupcakes

1 & 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 pkg. instant pistachio pudding mix

3/4 cup mini semisweet chocolate pieces

2/3 cup sugar

2 & 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

2 eggs, beaten

1 & 1/4 cups milk

1/2 cup cooking oil

1 tsp. vanilla or 1/4 tsp. almond extract

1/2 a can of cream cheese frosting (1 cup)

Green colored sugar

1/2 cup candy-coated milk chocolate pieces

1. Grease muffin cups or line with paper baking cups. In a large mixing bowl stir together flour, pudding mix, chocolate pieces, sugar, baking powder, and salt. In a small bowl combine beaten eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla. Stir into flour mixture just until combined. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full.

2. Bake in a 375* oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack. Frost with *cream cheese frosting; sprinkle with green sugar, then milk chocolate pieces.

This recipe came from BGHG.

Yield: 18 cupcakes; Prep: 20 mins; Calories: 285

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