Chocolate Lava Cakes

This past weekend was so fantastic! We left for Utah on Thursday night and were back by late Monday night, so it was a whirlwind of a trip, but it was wonderful to be able to see so many friends and family and to see Shyla and Jason get married. The entire time we were there we were so busy that I forgot to take my camera with me every single day (um…fail!), but I’ll be sure to post pictures sometime later this month when I can steal a few from my mother-in-law. The wedding was so beautiful (and so was the bride!) that I wish I could post pictures right now, but I guess it will just have to wait.

Anyway, now that I’m back and Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, I wanted to post a yummy dessert recipe that is the perfect end to a romantic dinner at home. Brinton and I rarely go out for Valentine’s Day, but eating in doesn’t mean that dinner and dessert have to be boring or less special! Chocolate lava cakes look so fancy and complicated, but they are really so simple to make. Also, did I mention they are amazingly delicious? Because they are. Oh my goodness, yum!

Chocolate Lava Cake Header 2

Don’t these look fantastic?! Okay, let’s get to the recipe.

What You Need:
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup salted butter
3/4 cup sugar
4 eggs
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
cooking spray
4 ramekins, 6 to 8 oz each

The How To:
Preheat the oven to 450°F.
1. In a microwaveable bowl or double boiler, melt the butter and chocolate together. If using a microwave, melt the chocolate in only 30 second intervals, stirring after each time in order to make sure the chocolate isn’t burning and the mixture is nice and smooth.
2. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs with the sugar and vanilla until well blended.
3. Pour the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture and blend.
4. Add the flour and mix until well incorporated and there are no lumps.

Chocolate Lava Cakes Step by Step
5. Spray your ramekins with cooking spray (I used coconut oil spray) and divide the batter equally into four ramekins (they should be between 2/3 and 3/4 of the way full).
6. Put the ramekins in the oven for 10 minutes. Do not overcook! If necessary, watch the cakes in the oven for the last few minutes. If you overcook these, the insides will just be cake instead of yummy lava. It’s better to undercook them and have to pop them back in the oven for a minute or so than to overcook them and end up with regular old cakes. The center of the cakes should jiggle slightly when you take them out of the oven.

Chocolate Lava Cakes After Baking
7. Once out of the oven, allow the cakes to rest for just a few minutes. Gently run a knife around the edge of the cake to loosen it from the ramekin. Place a dish over the top, and flip it upside down. If you greased the ramekin enough, the cake should easily slip onto the plate.
8. Garnish with powdered sugar and serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Fresh fruit tastes yummy on top too!

Chocolate Lava Cake

These cakes really are fantastic. You can even prepare the batter ahead of time and store the ramekins in the fridge until ready to bake to make this a quick dessert!

Let me know if you make these yummy cakes and how they turn out for you! Happy Valentine’s Day!

Linking up with Linking up with Tuesday’s Table and Lou Lou Girls!

Stuffed Peppers with Quinoa and Zucchini

I love stuffed peppers. As a kid this was always one of my favorite dinners that my parents used to make. The peppers were always so delicious, so filling, and I used to fight my sister to be able to eat the left over stuffing!

When my husband and I were first married, I started making my own version of stuffed peppers by using good old Rice-a-Roni as the base of my stuffing. Now, don’t get me wrong. I love Rice-a-Roni…a lot, but the “health conscious” side of me knows that there are healthier options out there that are just as delicious. I finally decided to experiment a bit with quinoa as an alternative, and though I used to always add some kind of ground beef or sausage, I decided to make a vegetarian version this time.

Let me tell you–these turned out so delicious there weren’t any leftovers!

Quinoa Stuffed Peppers Header 2.jpg

What You Need
3 cups cooked quinoa
6 to 8 red bell peppers, tops removed and diced, bell pepper cavities seeded
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 to 3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 small onion, diced
1 small to medium sized zucchini, diced
1 cup corn kernels
1 can dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 small can petite diced tomatoes
salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 teaspoon chili powder, to taste
1 cup cheddar cheese
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

The How To
Preheat your oven to 350º F.
1. Cook the quinoa according to package directions to yield three cups.
2. While the quinoa is cooking, prepare the bell peppers by chopping off the top, removing the stem, seeding the pepper cavity, and dicing the cap.
3. In a saute pan over medium high heat, heat the olive oil until hot. Saute the garlic until lightly browned. Add the onions, zucchini, and diced bell pepper caps. Cook until onions are semi-translucent and the other vegetables are slightly softened.
4. Salt and pepper to taste and add the chili powder as well.

Sauteed Vegetables for Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

5. Add the corn first, then the beans, the tomatoes, and finally, fold in the quinoa.

Quinoa and Bean Stuffing for Peppers

6. Stuff the bell peppers with the stuffing mixture. Place upright in a baking dish, and top generously with cheddar and feta cheeses. Note: you can add a quarter to a half inch of water in the bottom of your baking dish if you would like to help prevent sticking and to help “steam” your pepper to help it cook a bit more quickly, but it is completely optional. Don’t add too much–you don’t want your peppers to boil at the bottom and cook unevenly.

Quinoa Stuffed Peppers Topped with Feta

7. Bake for 30 minutes, until the pepper is cooked and the cheese is brown and lovely on top.

Quinoa Stuffed Peppers Right Out of the OvenQuinoa Stuffed Peppers Close Up

They look delicious, right?! I promise you, they are. What are you waiting for? Get in the kitchen!

Quinoa Stuffed Peppers Dinner Plate

I paired these delicious peppers with a simple salad: mixed greens with spinach, topped with fresh berries, more feta (because, yum!) and a simple balsamic vinaigrette.

Quinoa Stuffed Peppers Dinner Plate 2

Note: I mostly just threw things together, but just before making the peppers I decided to google “quinoa stuffed peppers” to see what other people put in their stuffing and I stumbled across a recipe on one of my favorite food blogs, Damn Delicious. I’ve mentioned this blog here in the past (because everything is so amazing!) and from the looks of it, the recipe was sure to be a winner. I got the idea for the corn and the feta from that blog, but I pretty generously adapted the recipe to fit my taste and what I had on hand. You can check out the original recipe here, if you are interested.

Also, you may find that the recipe makes more stuffing than will fill 6 or 8 peppers. It really depends on the size of the peppers and on the size of the other veggies you use. If you have extra stuffing, it keeps as leftovers very well and would also be delicious all on its own if you don’t want to buy more peppers.

I hope you all enjoy these when you make them! Let me know how they turn out for you!

Linking up with Linking up with Tuesday’s Table and Lou Lou Girls!

Nine Alternatives to Birthday Cake

My 26th birthday is this week, and it has gotten me thinking about how I want to celebrate! I always love the idea of cake, but I’m actually not that big of a fan of eating it. I do get a good cake craving every now and then, but in general it usually isn’t my first pick. I’ve also been trying to make healthier choices this year, so I thought it might be fun to brainstorm some birthday cake alternatives and share them with you all! Don’t get me wrong…not all of these choices are going to be healthier options…but some are!

Most of these pictures are from Pinterest or Instagram, and I’ll link to the website that they came from if they are not my own. I would have loved to make everything myself and take my own pictures but I didn’t have the time to do that (plus if I made and subsequently ate all of these things, it definitely wouldn’t be healthier than birthday cake!)

Fruit Pizza

Chocolate Avocado Mousse

Chocolate Avocado Mousse

via me, Maria Simply Smiling (recipe coming soon!)

Chocolate Covered Strawberries

Angel Food Cake with Fruit and Fresh Whipped Cream

Pudding Cups

Mini Pies, Cheesecakes, or Crumbles

via me, Maria Simply Smiling (recipes here and here)

via me, Maria Simply Smiling (recipes here and here)

Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes

Ice Cream in a Cookie Bowl

Cinnamon Rolls

via me, Maria Simply Smiling (recipe coming soon!)

via me, Maria Simply Smiling (recipe coming soon!)

I hope this gives you all a few new ideas for ways to celebrate your birthday other than with cake! Do you have anything to add to the list? I haven’t decided what I’m going to celebrate my birthday with yet, so let me know in the comments!

Linking up with Linking up with Tuesday’s Table and Lou Lou Girls!

Feta Frittata

Usually around here I focus on posting dinner or dessert recipes, but my go to breakfast lately has been frittatas. I love them! They are so simple to make and a great way to use up any extra veggies you have in the fridge. I’ll keep this post short and sweet (since somehow my posts I had scheduled for earlier this week got deleted!) and get right to it!

Feta Frittata Header

What You Need:
Olive Oil, butter, or non-stick spray to coat the pan with
Garlic, minced
Onion, diced
Zucchini, chopped
Two eggs, beaten with a splash of milk
A handful of feta cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Sour cream or plain Greek yogurt, as a topping
Salsa, as a topping
Scallions or chives, as a topping

The How To:
This recipe is pretty straight forward.
1. Over medium heat, coat the pan with olive oil and saute the garlic until golden brown.
2. Add the onion and zucchini and cook until translucent and slightly softened.
3. Pour the eggs, beaten with a splash of milk, over the vegetables.
4. Allow the eggs to cook for just under a minute and add the feta cheese. Salt and pepper to taste, but be aware that the feta will add a lot of saltiness, so don’t go crazy.

Feta Frittata Step by Step

5. Cook the frittata over medium to medium low heat. You want the eggs to solidify as much as possible before flipping it so you don’t have a huge mess when you turn it over!
6. Flip it and allow the frittata to finish cooking all the way through until it is nicely browned. I love the way the feta browns and gets all crispy and salty. Yum!
7. When it’s finished cooking, top the frittata with salsa, a dollop of sour cream, and chopped scallions. Enjoy!

Feta Frittata

This recipe (if you can even call it that–it’s so simple!) is incredibly flexible, so substitute whatever veggies or cheese you have on hand or whatever you enjoy most. Serve this with a side of hashbrowns for a delicious breakfast!

Sorry things are a little out of order this week on the blog. I know I usually post my recipes on Tuesdays, but like I mentioned above, I had a little computer glitch. Thanks for your patience!

Linking up with Tuesday’s Table and Lou Lou Girls!

Zucchini Lasagna

If you are a regular reader of my blog I’m sure you have noticed by now that I love zucchini. It’s so healthy, versatile, and it’s relatively inexpensive. This recipe is fantastic because it’s a healthy, veggie packed, low carb lasagna option. Oh, and did I mention it’s delicious? Because it is. It’s so good!

Zucchini Lasagna Header

Since having gestational diabetes during my last pregnancy I’m more aware of my carb intake and always looking for ways I can swap ingredients in recipes for low or lower carb options. The zucchini in this recipe replace regular lasagna noodles so well that I don’t even miss my regular lasagna recipe. It’s also nice to get more veggies in my meal and be able to save my carbs for a yummy, crusty, crunchy piece of bread to sop up the extra sauce. Yum!

Also, don’t be fooled…I know I usually post quick and easy, 30-minutes or less dinner recipes, but this meal is kind of time intensive. It isn’t difficult! It just takes a while to make. Save this for a night when you have plenty of time and are in the mood to cook.

What You Need:
1 lb mild or medium Italian sausage
about 2 teaspoons (3ish cloves) of minced garlic
1/2 onion, diced
2 Tablespoons Italian seasoning
1 28oz can diced tomatoes
1 14 oz can tomato sauce
3 to 4 medium zucchini, sliced longways (about 1/8″ thick)
salt and pepper to taste
15 oz part skim ricotta
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 egg
4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

The How To:
Preheat your oven to 375°F.
1. If the sausage has casing, remove it and begin to cook over medium high heat until the sausage is cooked through and there is no pink left. *Note* If you want to keep this recipe strictly vegetarian you can replace the sausage with diced portabella mushrooms, but be sure to drain the excess liquid so the lasagna doesn’t become watery.
2. Once the sausage is cooked through, drain the excess fat until there is only about a tablespoon left. If you would like to remove the sausage from the pan you can, but I like less clean up, so I left the sausage in the pan for the next step.
3. Saute the garlic until lightly browned and then add the onions. Stir all together and cook until the onions are somewhat translucent.
4. Once the onions are translucent, add the sausage back to the pan if you removed it, and then add the diced tomatoes as well as the tomato sauce and Italian seasoning. If you purchased tomatoes and tomato sauce already with Italian seasoning, you can leave out the extra seasoning according to your preferred taste. Allow the sauce to simmer over medium low heat while you prepare the zucchini.
Zucchini Lasagna Sauce

5. Slice the zucchini longways so that they are about 1/8″ thick. Your life will be one thousand times more simple if you have a mendolin slicer, but I did not, so I cut my zucchini in half and used my wavy slicer (does that have an actual name?). The goal is to make the slices thick enough that they don’t just disintegrate into mush, but thin enough that they will cook all the way through and act like noodles. It can be tricky, I know. Don’t worry. You’re doing great!
Sliced Zucchini

6. Lightly salt the zucchini slices as you go. This will not only season the zucchini but will also help the excess water come out. I put my slices on a bed of paper towels and then soaked up the excess water by gently pressing the slices.
7. Brown the zucchini in a pan. If you cook the slices before putting them in the lasagna, most of the excess water will be cooked off beforehand. This makes a much more delicious (and significantly less soupy) dinner. Trust me. I know it seems like a time consuming step, but it really does make it worth it. You can also add pepper at this point, if you prefer.
8. Once your zucchini slices have all been cooked off, mix the ricotta, Parmesan, and egg together in a bowl until well blended. Ta-da! You are ready to layer!
9. Start with a layer of sauce at the bottom of your baking dish or disposable pan (hello easy clean up!). Follow with zucchini slices, then a thin layer of the ricotta mixture, and then some mozzarella cheese. Continue to layer until you run out of ingredients. My lasagna usually consists of sauce, zucchini, ricotta, mozzarella, sauce, zucchini, ricotta, sauce, and mozzarella to top it off. Also, sorry! I forgot to take a picture of my ricotta layer. But I’m sure you get the idea.
Zucchini Lasagna Layers

10. Cover your baking dish in tinfoil and then bake at 375°F for 45 minutes, then bump the temperature up to 400°F and bake uncovered for another 10-15 minutes until the mozzarella on top is browned and bubbly to your liking.
Baked Zucchini Lasagna

Enjoy! You will probably want to dig in right away, but if you have the time to allow it to rest for about 10 minutes, you may come out with a slightly more structured slice of lasagna than I did. Ha, I didn’t want to wait–I was starving!

Plated Zucchini Lasagna

Also, don’t you worry if it kind of falls apart. It may not look like the most amazing thing you have ever cooked, but I can promise it will be among the most delicious! I hope you love it! Let me know if you try it out or if you have any questions.

Happy cooking!

Linking up with Tuesday’s Table and Lou Lou Girls!

Quinoa Spinach Wraps

Something I loved about having my in-laws in town at the end of last year is that I got to enjoy two weeks of my mother-in-law’s yummy cooking. She is definitely more focused on healthy eating than I am, which makes this the perfect time to add some new recipes to my collection that not only taste great but are actually good for me too. I have my usual go-to favorites, but it’s always so nice to revamp the same old recipes every now and then to add some variety! She made these delicious quinoa spinach wraps for us for dinner while she was here, and was generous enough to allow me to share the recipe here with you all!

Quinoa Spinach Wraps Header

Look at these wraps. Oh my goodness. So good. I know you’re going to love them as much as we do.

What You Need:
1 1/2 cups quinoa, rinsed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
kosher salt and black pepper
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 15.5-ounce cans pinto or black beans, rinsed
3/4 cup low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 10-ounce packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed of excess liquid
16 average sized tortillas or wraps (if you want to get fancy, see my homemade tortilla recipe here)
12 ounces sharp cheddar, grated (about 3 cups)
salsa, sour cream, and sliced avocado, for serving

The How To:
1. Cook the quinoa according to the package directions. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.

2. Add the garlic and onion. Cook until the garlic is browned and the onions are softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the chili powder, salt and pepper to taste, and cook, stirring until fragrant, about 1 minute.

3. Add the beans and broth. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has been absorbed, 2 to 4 minutes more. Fold in the spinach and the quinoa.

4. Layer the tortillas with the cheddar cheese, followed by the quinoa, spinach, and bean mixture, and top again with more cheddar.

5. Roll them up into burritos. Once they are rolled, heat a tiny bit of oil or nonstick spray over medium to medium high heat, and brown off all sides so the burritos become delicious and crispy.

6. You’re done! Serve them with salsa, sour cream, and avocado. Delicious!

Quinoa Spinach Wraps Close Up

Tip #1: Some tortillas or wraps roll up more easily when warmed. You can heat one at a time in a dry skillet over medium heat for a few seconds until pliable, or heat several at a time between two pieces of damp paper towels in the microwave on high for about 10 seconds.

Tip #2: You can use regular sized tortillas, or fajita sized if you want the recipe to go a little further. The serving size when using a regular sized tortilla would be one burrito, while the serving size when using the smaller tortillas would be two burritos.

Quinoa Spinach Wraps Plate

Something I absolutely love about this recipe is that you can wrap each little burrito individually in tinfoil (before making them crispy!) and then freeze them for quick and easy meals. My mother-in-law says she will just grab one or two out of the freezer when she needs a quick dinner, unwrap it from the tinfoil, and heat it in the microwave for a minute or two, just until the middle isn’t frozen anymore. You can eat it just like that, or heat it in a pan like you normally would for some extra crispiness. Quick, easy, delicious, filling, and pretty darn healthy. Um, yum.

Let me know if you try the recipe! I love to see and hear about how you make it yours. Happy eating!

Linking up with Tuesday’s Table and Lou Lou Girls!

Mini Bacon Cheddar Corn Muffins

I know, I know…’tis the season for all things pumpkin, apple, and spice. But let’s face it y’all–it’s bacon season all year long. Plus, it’s football season now too, and even though I really don’t care much about football I know a lot of you do! These little bites of yummy goodness would make the perfect game time snack to munch on. If you go crazy eating them, they could even be dinner! Not that that’s what happened last night…I’m just saying.

Bacon Cheddar Corn Muffins Header

What You Need:
1 box Jiffy corn muffin mix
1 egg
1/3 cup milk
4 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
2 long scallions (green parts only), sliced thinly

The How To:
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. Prepare the corn muffins according to package directions by adding the egg and milk and mixing well to make sure there are no lumps. Let the batter rest for about 5 minutes.
3. While the batter is resting, cook the bacon until crispy and then chop/crumble it up. Slice the scallions, and shred the cheese if it isn’t already pre-shredded.
4. Mix into the batter all the cheesy, bacon-y, scallion-y goodness.
5. Fill a mini-muffin* tin until each cup is just slightly under filled. Bake for 10-12 minutes for mini muffins, or 15-20 minutes for regular sized muffins.
*This recipe will make 12 mini muffins, or 6 regular sized muffins.

These are yummiest when they are hot so you can cut them open and slather them with butter. So good! Probably not at all good for you…but sometimes you just have to indulge a little. You can also add in any other mix-ins you might like–just remember to not go too crazy because otherwise there wont be enough corn muffin mix to hold everything together.

Muffins in panMuffins in pan close upMuffins

Let me know if you make these and how they turn out for you! Enjoy!

Linking up with Delicious Dish TuesdayTuesday’s Table, Lou Lou Girls, and Hot Momma’s Kitchen!