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Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes with Hazelnut Cream Frosting


Posted by Mariah | Posted in Desserts | Posted on 01-02-2011

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I’ve always been a chocolate fiend, and I’ve certainly never let the old vegan diet stop me from my chocoholism (cheeseaholism is a whole nother story). The recipe for the cake part of these cupcakes is essentially what comes up number one if you Google “vegan chocolate cupcakes.” The recipe comes from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World, which is written by two of  my favorite vegan recipe authors, Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. While the cupcakes bake up moist, chocolaty and delicious, the frosting part of this recipe is what’s really unique. It’s made with fair trade, organic cocoa powder, buttery spread, powdered sugar and hazelnut milk. It definitely has a Nutella flavor, which my kids absolutely love! Tip: If dealing with nut allergies, just use soy or rice milk in place of the hazelnet. It won’t be Nutella-y, but it will still taste great!

Cupcake Ingredients:

1 cup hazelnut milk
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract, chocolate extract, or more vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder, Dutch-processed or regular
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F and line a muffin pan with paper or foil liners.
  2. Whisk together the soy milk and vinegar in a large bowl, and set aside for a few minutes to curdle. Add the sugar, oil, vanilla extract, and other extract, if using, to the soy milk mixture and beat until foamy. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add in two batches to wet ingredients and beat until no large lumps remain (a few tiny lumps are OK).
  3. Pour into liners, filling 3/4 of the way. Bake 18 to 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely.

Frosting Ingredients:

1/2 cup Earth Balance Buttery Spread, softened and cut into chunks
2 cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup hazelnut milk
1/3 cup and 1 Tbsp. organic cocoa powder

  1. Cream the butter, vanilla, sugar and hazelnut milk together until smooth.
  2. Add cocoa and mix until smooth.
  3. Spread over cooled cupcakes.
NOTE: You may add more powdered sugar if you want a thicker frosting.

Trail Mix Cookies


Posted by Mariah | Posted in Desserts | Posted on 10-02-2010

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Trail Mix Cookies

I got the idea for these cookies out of pure necessity. I bought a HUGE bag of trail mix for my kids and, well, they didn’t like it! Being the master of mixing all things healthy into everything from cupcakes to pizza, I thought to myself, “I’ll bet they’d like this a whole lot better mixed into some cookies.” And, viola, I had my new recipe.

I basically took the tried and true oatmeal cookie recipe right off the Quaker Oats package lid and altered it slightly, using a little less oatmeal and 1 1/4 cups of trail mix. I got my trail mix at Roots Market, and it contained peanuts, almonds, craisins, raisins, pumpkin seeds, carob chips and dried apples.

The kids gobbled them up, and then I took some into work for the real taste test. Here’s one review:

“Very good. Crunchy and chewy all in one. And it doesn’t taste like a healthy cookie. (I have made some that aren’t very good — not a lot of flavor.) But these have a lot going on.”

So there you have it. Crunchy. Chewy. Non-healthy tasting and they used up my unwanted trail mix!


1 cup butter, softened
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon (optional)
1/2 tsp. salt
2 1/2 cups old fashioned Quaker Oats
1 1/4 cups trail mix

Trail Mix Cookies


1. Heat over to 350 degrees F.

2. Beat together butter and sugars until creamy.

3. Add eggs and vanilla; beat wel.

4. Add combined flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; mix well.

5. Stir in oats and trail mix; mix well.

6. Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet.

7. Bake 10 to 12 minutes until golden on the edges. Middle should be soft. Allow to sit on baking sheets for one more minute.

8. Remove to wire rack to cool.

Makes about three dozen cookies — IF you don’t eat the dough. :)

Grilled Ahi Tuna Steaks with Kale


Posted by Mariah | Posted in Desserts, Main Dishes, Pastas, Salads | Posted on 01-02-2010

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Last week I passed a mini milestone on Twitter — 400 followers. To celebrate, I sent out a tweet to say I would create a custom, healthy recipe for follower 400. Healthy mom, @PickleSugarPlum, was the winner! I sent her a message to see what she liked, and she sent me back a pretty tall order that provided me with a nice challenge for this week’s post! Here were some of her criteria/preferences:

  • Something yummy and not $$
  • CHOCOLATE,meat=fresh grilled tuna, sushi, chicken, seafood veggies=carrots, peas, st’m'd broc, romaine, fresh spinach NO: pork, rice, fungus
  • I prefer fresh over canned, so things that are in season or readily available are best…year round options are even better! :)

I also wanted to find a dish that she could make once and then use for a couple other meals during the week. I decided to update one of my favorite grilled tuna recipes for @PickleSugarPlum by using fresh cilantro instead of basil. This recipe comes from the book How to Grill by Steven Raichlen. The reason I used cilantro is that this recipe is just the first in two recipes I’m going to create for @PickleSugarPlum, and cilantro will go better with the next recipe.

Depending on the size of her family, she should have some leftover tuna from this recipe, which she can use for the next recipe I’ll create.

As luck would have it, we were celebrating Sophia’s half birthday when I made this dish and she loves fish! So, paired with my homemade Mac n’ Cheese recipe, this turned out to also be the perfect birthday meal. In fact, my family declared it “the meal of the year” and both kids gobbled up every bite, including the kale. (Incidentally, this dish would probably go really well with the Spicy Peanut Pasta Salad featured in the Mac n’ Cheese post!)

Thanks again to @PickleSugarPlum for the inspiration AND the opportunity to update an old favorite. I’m looking forward to the next recipe … tomorrow.


4 tuna steaks (3/4 to 1 inch thick; 6 to 8 ounces each)
1 bunch fresh cilantro, washed and stemmed
4 cloves garlic
3 strips lemon zest
Juice of 1 lemon (3 to 4 tbsp.)
1 tbsp. white wine vinegar
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil (if not trying to cut down on fat, you can use 1 cup)
1 tsp. coarse salt
1 tsp. black pepper

For the Kale:

NOTE to @PickleSugarPlum: You can substitute fresh spinach if you’d rather have that than kale. :)

1 bunch fresh kale, stemmed and chopped
1 clove garlic, diced or pressed
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. dark sesame oil

Directions for Kale:

1. Heat oil on medium heat for one minute. Add garlic and toast until brown, stirring constantly.

2. Add kale and saute for five minutes until kale is wilted.

3. Sprinkle with sea salt. Add more salt to taste if needed.

4. Arrange on plate to serve under grilled tuna steaks.


Directions for the Grilled Ahi Tuna Steaks

1. Trim off any dark or bloody spots from the tuna, then run under cold water and blot dry with paper towels. Arrange steaks in a container.

2. Combine the cilantro, garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice, vinegar, oil, salt and pepper in a food processor and puree until smooth. Pour this mixture over the tuna and let marinate in the refrigerator, covered, for 30 minutes to two hours, turning the tuna steaks several times.

3. Preheat your grill to high heat. When ready to grill, brush and oil the grill gate.

4. Drain the tuna steaks and arrange on the grill. Grill until cooked to taste, two to three minutes per side if rare, four to six minutes per side for medium, rotating the steaks 45 degrees after two minutes to create cross-cross grill marks.

5. Transfer the steaks to plates or a platter and let rest for three minutes, then serve with kale.

Oatmeal Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bars


Posted by Mariah | Posted in Desserts | Posted on 06-12-2009

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Oatmeal Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bars

If you’re looking for a new holiday treat — and a healthier one at that — you’ll love these unique pumpkin-spiced bars. They manage to be soft, moist and chocolaty, while packed with whole grain, fiber and vitamins! My son, Gus, brought them to school for his birthday treats and the kids gobbled them up … none the wiser about all the healthy stuff in them. Best of all, these cookies are very easy to make — squeeze them in between shopping trips and decorating.


1 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
3 cups rolled oats
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 cup roasted squash* or one can pumpkin puree
1 Ghirardelli Semi-Sweet Chocolate Baking Bar, crushed


1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. Cream butter and sugars.

3. Beat in egg, vanilla and squash.

4. Add flour, salt, oats, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg.

5. Stir till combined.

6. Stir in crushed chocolate.

7. Spread in a greased jelly roll pan.

8. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the pan comes out clean.

* Directions for roasting a squash:

1. Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Save the seeds for toasting!

2. Set both halves face down on a baking sheet with a rim.

3. Pour enough water onto the baking sheet to cover the bottom with water.

4. Roast for 40 minutes, or until squash are tender.

5. Allow to cool, then use or store in an airtight container in the fridge for later.

Pumpkin Bars with a Healthy, Suprise Twist


Posted by Mariah | Posted in Desserts, Uncategorized | Posted on 03-11-2009

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Pumpkin bars are practically a fall rite of passage, but many of the recipes for these seasonal treats are loaded with sugar, fat and very little nutrients because they are made with canned pumpkin. Not these. I took the famous Paula Deen pumpkin bar recipe and gave it a healthy makeover with less egg, sugar and oil, but all of the flavor and then some.

The secret ingredient in these bars is (drum roll please): roasted squash! I received about eight gorgeous acorn squash from my coworker, Marie Iverson, whose husband grows them on his farm. I roasted about half of them up one afternoon, then saved all of the squash filling for bars, soups and side dishes.

This tastes just like the canned pumpkin kind of bar, but better! The squash flesh is so sweet and flavorful, you can eat it plain and be completely satisfied. Best of all, when you use fresh, locally grown squash, the bars taste better and add lots of vitamins, minerals and fiber to this treat! I added whole-wheat flour to the recipe for added fiber and nutrients.

The bars were a huge hit with my family and coworkers, who all agreed that they were so flavorful, they didn’t miss the cream cheese frosting! For those pumpkin bar purists out there, I found a lower calorie/fat frosting recipe that will work nicely with these bars and no one will know the difference!

NOTE: You will need to roast one medium-sized squash before starting this recipe. This takes about an hour or so with prep included, so I roast my squash well before I make the bars. Directions for roasting are at the bottom of this post.


3 eggs
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 cups roasted acorn squash* (butternut will work just as well)
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. freshly ground ginger
1 tsp. salt
1 dash nutmeg
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda



1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Using a hand mixer, combine the eggs, sugar, oil, ginger and roasted squash until light and fluffy. (Use electric mixer at medium speed.)

3. Combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and baking soda.

4. Add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture and mix at low speed until thoroughly combined and the batter is smooth.

5. Spread the batter into a greased 13 by 10-inch baking pan.

6. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the pan comes out clean.

7. Cool and cut into bars.

* Directions for roasting a squash:

1. Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Save the seeds for toasting!

2. Set both halves face down on a baking sheet with a rim.

3. Pour enough water onto the baking sheet to cover the bottom with water.

4. Roast for 40 minutes, or until squash are tender.

5. Allow to cool, then use or store in an airtight container in the fridge for later.

Peanut Butter Fudge Brownies: Baking With Kids


Posted by Mariah | Posted in Desserts | Posted on 21-09-2009

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Peanut Butter Fudge BrownieWhen I got home from a conference last night, my daughter, Sophia, had something on her mind. Fudge. She was dying for me to make our family fudge recipe. I didn’t have a candy thermometer, so we compromised with this Peanut Butter Fudge Brownie recipe and she wasn’t disappointed!

Sophia and her brother, Gus, helped me make the brownies this afternoon. Now, let me tell you, baking a new recipe with kids is tough. The first ingredient you have to have is patience. And, with my kids, I need to have eyes in the back of my head. As you can see from the video, they love to taste test along the way!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P_A8nMtyqWU]I have a few tricks up my sleeve when it comes to kids helping out. First, the hand mixers. As I’ve said in an earlier post, this is a must-have utensil because it’s interactive and keeps the kids engaged, though it takes some practice to get used to it. Gus is four and he’s got it down pretty well.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T1bFdgmS_So]My second trick for cooking and baking is to get a plastic “kid knife.” Kids can use these quite safely to cut anything from butter to veggies. Finally, we use a coffee cup for cracking eggs. This way, the shells are easy to fish out (though in this recipe I used crunchy peanut butter, just in case).

This recipe was sourced from the Southern Food section on About.com and is by Diana Rattray.


Chocolate Batter:
2 cups sugar
1 cup butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa, unsweetened
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt

Peanut Butter Batter:
3/4 cup natural peanut butter
1/3 cup butter, room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla


1. Grease and flour a 13×9-inch baking pan.

2. In mixing bowl, cream 2 cups sugar and 1 cup butter until light and fluffy. Add  vanilla and 4 eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.

3. Gradually add 1 1/2 cups flour, cocoa, baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. to the creamed mixture. Mix well. Stir in peanut butter chips.

4. In a small bowl, cream peanut butter and 1/3 cup butter.

5. Add 1/3 cup sugar and 2 tablespoons flour; blend well.

6. Add 2 eggs and 1 teaspoon vanilla; beat until smooth.

7. Spread half of the chocolate mixture in prepared baking pan.

8. Spread the peanut butter batter over chocolate batter.

9. Spread remaining chocolate batter over top.

10. Gently cut through layers with a knife to create a marbled look.

11. Bake brownies at 350° for 40 to 50 minutes, or until top springs back with lightly touched in center with finger.

12. Brownies should begin to pull away from sides of pan.

13. Cool completely in pan.

Zucchini Birthday Surprise


Posted by Mariah | Posted in Desserts | Posted on 06-08-2009

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Sophia's Birthday Cupcakes

What better way to celebrate a late July birthday than with fresh from the oven/garden chocolate zucchini cupcakes! Because I knew I was catering to LOTS of kids, I made this cake with (gasp) processed, granulated sugar! The next day, I learned from Nita from the Cedar Falls farmer’s market that you can get raw sugar locally (at Roots Market in Cedar Falls for those Cedar Vallians) and also use other sweeteners such as sorgum, molasses and agave as a sugar substitute. But, the point here is that one of the primary ingredients in this cake was zucchini grown and nurtured by our neighbors, Kristin and Jesse. And, incidentally, the eggs and milk also came from local producers.

Here’s the recipe, which combines the Hershey’s Perfectly Chocolate Cake recipe with some of my own modifications and, zucchini, of course!

Birthday Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes


2 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup HERSHEY’S Cocoa
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups grated zucchini


1. Heat oven to 350°F. Line muffin tins with cake papers.

2. Combine all dry ingredients

3. With a mixer, beat together the butter and the sugar until they are smoothly blended. Add the eggs to the butter and sugar mixture one at a time, beating well after each addition. With a spoon, stir in the vanilla, orange peel, and zucchini.

4. Alternately stir the dry ingredients and the milk into the zucchini mixture, including the nuts with the last addition.

5. Bake 17 to 20 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely.

Butter Cream Frosting
I used this recipe from Wilton.