Friday, August 29, 2014

Zucchini Chocolate Chip Muffins

I've been trying to make a conscious effort to eat healthier which is why lately I've been using zucchini to justify all things baked goods.  I also use baked goods on the regular to justify my chocolate addiction, so this recipe is really a win-win.  But fo cereal, aside from begging every single person I know to take six pound zucchinis off my hands I've grating them up and tossing them in zucchini bread, zucchini brownies and now these zucchini chocolate chip muffins because everything is better in single servings, plus don't forget they're "healthy" so you can really eat two or three.

But don't worry, I've been eating zucchini the real healthy way too, slicing these bad boys and either roasting or sauteing them as well.  I've got another 10 months until wedding bells ring but only a couple until the hunt for the perfect white dress takes place and I'm hoping to have a good start on being in wedding dress shape by then.

These muffins honestly aren't the healthiest thing I could be eating, but they're a smarter option for satisfy a sweet tooth and because they're already separated into servings, you can easily freeze them and pull one or two out to thaw every few days instead of chowing down for a week straight.

If you want to try lightening them up a little more, consider halving or skipping altogether the chocolate chips and/or streusel topping.  I ended up only using about two-thirds of the topping on mine.  I'm warning you now though, you will risk getting your chocolate fix from these muffins if you omit the chocolate chips and might find yourself eating them out of the bag instead anyways!

Happy Labor Day weekend everyone!

Yields 22 muffins.


Brown Sugar Oat Streusel
  • 1 1/3 cup oats (old fashioned or quick)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cold
Zucchini Muffins
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 cups grated zucchini
  • 4 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Grease or line muffin tins.
  2. In a medium bowl, add oats, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon and butter for the brown sugar oat streusel.  Using your hands, combine ingredients until they are well mixed and crumbly.  Set aside for later.
  3. In a different medium sized bowl, whisk together eggs, brown sugar, granulated sugar, canola oil, applesauce, zucchini and vanilla extract.
  4. Using a large bowl and large rubber spatula, combine flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and chocolate chips.
  5. Pour the wet ingredients into the large bowl with the dry ingredients and mix with the rubber spatula until just combined.
  6. Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup, transfer batter into prepared muffin tin.  Top each muffin fully with crumbled streusel mixture.
  7. Bake for 5 minutes at 425 degrees before lowering the temperature to 350 degrees for an additional 14 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let cool for 5 minutes before removing from muffin tin.
Recipe adapted from Sally's Baking Addiction (also includes bread version).

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Skillet Chicken with Cherry Tomatoes and Garlic

It's the last Wednesday in August so you know what that means, the last installment of Tomato Month!  We've already brought you a salad, a pasta and a sandwich, so now I'm coming at you with this Skillet Chicken with Cherry Tomatoes and Garlic.

One thing that having a garden has really helped me with is eating more seasonable produce.  You're basically forcing it on yourself because, well, it pops up in your garden right when it's in season.  Besides when you grow it yourself, there are just so many other benefits to eating seasonably; from lower prices to having it likely grown locally so you're probably helping small businesses and farmers (especially if you hit up the farmer's market on the regular) while also reducing your produce's carbon footprint.

This dish is really a great way to maximize on seasonable produce right now.  Raise your hand if you have tomatoes coming out of your ears.  Yup, me too.  And while I love just popping cherry tomatoes in my mouth as a snack or tossing them in a salad, it's great to mix up the flavors a little bit and this skillet chicken definitely delivers on flavor.  The seasoned chicken tastes totally delicious and every time you bite into a cherry tomato it's like a miniature explosion of juices in your mouth.  Not only is it tasty but it definitely falls into the healthy category and takes minimal time and effort to make so it's a perfect weeknight dinner option.

Hope you enjoy!

  • 2 large chicken breasts (I cut mine in half so they would cook better)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  1. Spray large skillet with non-stick spray and set over medium heat.  Sprinkle chicken breasts with 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper.  Add chicken to heated skillet and cook until golden and cooked through, about 15 minutes depending on size.  Try to only flip chicken once.  Remove from skillet and set aside.
  2. Add olive oil to same skillet and heat over medium.  Add garlic and tomatoes and stir until garlic is golden, 1-2 minutes.  Add water, vinegar, Italian seasoning, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper.  Continue stirring until tomatoes are softened, 2-4 minutes.
  3. Spoon tomato and garlic mixture over chicken breasts and enjoy!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Kelsey's Sunday Brunch

I hate to break it to you guys but summer is quickly coming to a close.  One week until Labor Day say what?!  While I will be sad to see summer go, I'm really excited to get this coming year rolling!  Plus, let's be real, fall is one of the best times for cooking and baking with pumpkin in everything and big batches of chili.

Instead of thinking about all the things I didn't check off my summer to-do list, let's stick with the positive and I'll share a few things about this fall that I'm looking forward to:
  • Football: Nothing beats downtown Madison like a Badger football game day, not to mention I become obsessed with my fantasy football teams.
  • Wedding planning: There should be lots to do including engagement photos and dress shopping.
  • Moving: Although putting all your stuff in boxes just to unpack it again a few days later is a hassle, it also feels really good to get a fresh start in a new place sometimes. Plus I get to have my big sister as a roommate again!
  • Applying to law school: Scary and exciting all at the same time.
Lately I've been putting some thought into what we are going to be putting on our wedding registry.  In terms of what I'm going to be asking for to have in my grown-up kitchen I've been considering which brands and materials to pick and found these articles on the best materials for pots and pans and metal, glass, ceramic and silicone pans: when to use each very helpful.  It feels like such a big decision because they are pieces that I know I will be using for many years to come!  Any product suggestions that you love?

Last week my two big sisters and I cashed in Groupons we had bought to do a Paint Nite event.  The events are held at various alcohol establishments (ours was at Fisher King Winery) and there is a teacher who coaches everyone through the same painting over the course of a couple hours.  It ended up being a really fun girls night!

One of my favorite hobbies besides cooking is crafting.  In elementary school I learned how to knit at The Sow's Ear, a local yarn store and coffee shop.  I've enjoyed knitting every since and recently started working on my first project for the fall, this cute little baby pumpkin hat.

If there's any other knitters out there I wanted to share with you this new pattern by Tanis Fiber Arts for the Lady Sunnyside cardigan.  She has a code on her blog for a free download of the pattern that expires tomorrow night!  I've never had the guts to try making a sweat but I'll be stashing this one away for when the time comes.

Don't forget to follow along with me on Twitter (@kraespencer) and Instagram (@krspencer2).

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

BLT Grilled Cheese Sandwich

After April's Warm Tomato, Arugula and Bacon Panzanella Salad and Brittany's Caprese Pasta, Tomato Month continues with my take on the theme, a BLT Grilled Cheese Sandwich!

I'm going to start out by being straightforward with everyone, I know I'm calling this a BLT sandwich but I' didn't put any lettuce on it.  Leafy green lettuce and a hot skillet just don't go together too well so I chose to replace it with a different green food and that's where the avocado steps in.  Because the BLT was ultimately the inspiration for this sandwich I chose to keep it in the name, and because BAT just doesn't have the same ring to it.

The tomatoes I used in these sandwiches are fresh picked from my garden this past weekend.  It just feels so rewarding to be able to eat something that you have been taking care of and growing.  The tomatoes add a nice, fresh juiciness, and the avocado a gentle softness that helps balance out the crunch of the bacon and grilled bread.  We were really happy with how this sandwich turned out and I'm already thinking about how I'll be making it again accompanied by tomato soup once the weather cools off.


Makes 2 sandwiches.

  • 4 slices of sourdough bread
  • 6 pieces of turkey bacon, cooked
  • 4 slices sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 large tomato, cut in 4 slices
  • 1 avocado, mashed
  • Butter
  1. Butter the outsides of two slices of bread.
  2. Begin layering ingredients evenly on each slice, starting with one slice of cheese, then spread mashed avocado, place bacon strips and tomato slices, finally topping with another slice of cheese.
  3. Butter the outside of last two slices of bread and top the sandwiches.
  4. In a skillet preheated over medium heat, grill sandwiches for about 5 minutes on each side, or until cheese is melted.  If bread begins to burn before cheese is melted, lower heat.
Two Years Ago: Peach Almond Galette

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Brittany's Sunday Brunch

Good morning, Sunday brunchers! Nothing too exciting to report, so I'm just going to list random things that have happened or have been on my mind.
  • I love everything mini! Our wedding venue has the option of serving mini almost anything as a late night snack. Just picture mini quesadillas and mini burgers with mini pizza slices. I'm dying here. So, spend the money on late night snacks or on more and hot appetizers? That is the big question on hand.
  • And now, to continue with the everything mini theme that I'm currently gushing over. I used my petite loaf pan for the first time this week. I got it as a gift and I'm so in love! Look at how cute these banana breads are! I can't contain myself.

  • Want the banana bread recipe? Find it here! Using a petite loaf pan too? The full recipe will make 9 mini loafs but reduce the cooking time to 25-30 minutes.
  • I can't stop there! So when making my mini loaves, I couldn't help but use mini chocolate chips with my mini spatula. Seriously, don't laugh at me. That mini spatula comes in handy more often than not! Trust me, now when you're in the kitchen trying to scoop out the last of your pasta sauce from the jar, you will be wishing you had my mini spatula. [I found mine at a local store, Orange Tree Imports, but I've seen them at Williams-Sonoma and every once in awhile at Target]. 

And as we said this morning in yoga class...


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Caprese Pasta

If you haven't heard from last Wednesday's post, August is tomato month at Badger Kitchen! Get excited gardeners, farmer's market goers, and tomato enthusiasts. This month we're featuring delicious recipes where the tomato has the starring role. This time of year, we find ourselves with tomatoes up to our ears! So look no further to find your next exciting recipe before you decided to cut that tomato up to just toss it into your side salad. C'mon now, your tastebuds are craving something new!

When I found this recipe at How Sweet It Is, I knew exactly how I was going to use it. I made it on a Sunday afternoon because it's a pasta dish. And pasta dishes warm up nicely as leftovers. So, it was going to be my go-to lunch for the coming work week. Yum, my lunch breaks were the highlight of the day. Oh and I had some gakwers this week as the aroma of basil filled the break room. 

Basil has to be one of my favorite fresh herbs. So delicious and it really is one of the main elements in this dish. Well, it is caprese pasta, after all. But surprisingly, my favorite part of this dish is biting into one of the juicy tomatoes. Just cooked enough, they add a refreshing burst of goodness amongst the mozzarella and noodles. 

1/2 box noodles
1 c. pasta sauce
1/3 c. half and half
1/3 c. parmesan cheese, grated
4 oz. mozzarella cheese, grated
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved or left whole (whatever your liking is!)
1 bunch fresh basil leaves, chopped
Extra cheese for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Boil pasta, following directions on box.
3. Heat pasta sauce, half and half, and parmesan cheese in a saucepan over low heat. Stir occasionally.
4. Once pasta is done cooking, drain and place in a large bowl. Add mozzarella, sauce, tomatoes, and basil. Toss to combine. 
5. Place into a buttered 8X8 dish and garnish with more cheese, if desired. Cook in the oven for about 20 minutes. I love some extra crispy bites of cheese and noodles so I also broiled my dish for about 5 minutes at the end. 

Enjoy right away or as leftovers!
- Brittany

Sunday, August 10, 2014

April's Sunday Brunch

I know this is supposed be "Sunday brunch" and it is way past brunch, but maybe you are having breakfast for dinner. I've been super busy almost every weekend and most days off these past few weeks and I have a lot to share with you!

The boyfriend and I went to Door County (summer bucket list, check!). It was so much fun! His parents drove us all the way up the bay-side to the tip of door county! We saw goats on the roof at Al Johnson's.

We stopped at so many little shops on the way we didn't actually eat at Al Johnson's. Samples galore! We also got ice cream at Wilson's. So cute.

We pulled over at a random pick your own cherries place and picked cherries! Sour cherries! It was amazing. Couldn't have picked a better time to go to Door County. Sour cherries are pie cherries are really special because they spoil pretty quickly after being picked and aren't grown too many places.

Did I mention that that huge bucket of cherries was probably 5 or 6 pounds and it only cost us 9 bucks! We pitted and froze most of them. I'm also working on some grown up maraschino cherries, recipe to come!

There will be a pie eventually as well. My first attempt was sort of a delicious soupy disaster. Not blog worthy...yet!

On Sunday the boyfriend and I went to Whitefish Sand Dunes State Park. It was awfully pretty. Sadly the water was way to cold on the lake side of Door County to swim. We headed to Cave Point County park just around the corner and managed to see a little bit of its beauty before it started storming.

I want to go back when there isn't an approaching rain storm. Imagine how beautiful everything would be on a bright clear day! Nature is just so awesome and beautiful. Am I right?

This past weekend was the MS Bike ride. I've done it the past 4 years now. My mom and sister-in-law rode this year. Everyone was worried about my mom riding 100 something miles in two days, but she proved us all wrong and rode like a beast.

That is my dad in the picture above. We all love the shit out of him, and ride for him and all the other people impacted by MS. It was really special to be able to ride with my family and show our support. Just amazing.

The past three weeks have been busy and there is no sign of things slowing down. I move in three days. I'm totally unprepared. There are a billion birthdays just around the corner. School starts soon. It is crazy but oh so very fun.


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Warm Tomato, Arugula and Bacon Panzanella Salad

Its tomato season just about, before you know it tomatoes will be coming out of your ears. Don't worry though because this month on the blog its all about tomatoes!

This is a really simple recipe to throw together. You could even cut it down and make it for one person because the leftovers don't keep. Soggy bread problems, ya know? Speaking of bread problems, this is the perfect salad for day old bread. You want the bread to be a bit dried out so it takes its time absorbing the dressing.

This recipe can really be adjusted to your own tastes as well. Add as much or as little arugula or basil as you want. Play around with it a little bit. Trust your instincts! Add more tomatoes if you want. It is your salad after all. This is just a good foundation to build off of.

I love me some roasted tomatoes. They get all jammy and soft. Delicious. This recipe creates that feeling without having to turn the oven on. The tomatoes get fried up quickly in some bacon fat and they leave behind all their juices in the pan that will make up the bacon dressing eventually.

Surprisingly the bacon isn't over powering as you might expect. It gives just the right amount of salty bacon flavor and crunchy topping.The vinegar and mustard add nice balance to the dressing. You could easily use green onions or shallots in replace of the leeks. I just happened to have bought leeks the day before at the farmers market. 

Overall this is a really easy and beautiful salad to throw together for friends. The crispy bread with the juicy tomatoes and rich bacon and spicy arugula go so well together. Try adding some mint for a little extra freshness with the basil. More tomato recipes to come this month! Enjoy!


1 french baguette or french round, cut into 1 inch cubes 
6 slices smoke bacon (3 ounces), cut into 1/4 inch pieces
1 1/2 pints tomatoes, halved
1 leek, sliced

1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste

2 handfuls of arugula
Handful of basil

Buratta, mozzarella or goat cheese to serve

  1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Spread bread in one even layer on a rimmed baking sheet and toast bread in oven for 15 minutes or until the bread is crispy, but not browned. Meanwhile, fry bacon over medium heat, until crispy. Using a slotted spoon, remove bacon from pan, reserving 1 tablespoon of bacon grease. Add the halved tomatoes, cut side down to the pan, cooking over medium heat for 3-5 minutes or until softened and slightly caramelized. Remove the tomatoes, using a slotted spoon again, and set aside. 
  2. Over medium heat, add a tablespoon of oil to the pan and saute the leeks until softened and lightly golden, about 5-7 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, remaining olive oil and dijon mustard. Whisk it all to combine (it will be thick and clumpy, that is okay). Season to taste with salt and pepper. 
  3. In a large bowl, add half the bread and top with half the tomatoes, arugula, basil and dressing. On top of that add the remaining bread and vegetables and dressing and toss to combine. Serve immediately and garnish with some bacon, buratta (or cheese of your choice) and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Kelsey's Sunday Brunch

  • I had my first post accepted to Foodgawker last week!  If you're not familiar with the site, food bloggers submit photo content from their sites and only the most appealing pictures are accepted for their online gallery.  I guess this is a sign that my photography must be improving!  If you're looking for some other similar sites where you can drool over pictures of food, check out TasteSpotting and FoodEpix too.
  • Madison has a pretty good food cart scene, especially during the summertime.  One of the regular locations for the carts is conveniently on the Capitol Square where I work.  Every once in a while I treat myself to lunch from the carts.  My favorite is a wrap and salad cart called Good Food, but I also really enjoy Melted, who serves fancy grilled cheeses.  Some of my favorites might just be the inspiration for some future recipes.
  • I know I've discussed before how my garden is somewhat of a zucchini making machine, and it doesn't look like it will be slowing up anytime soon.  Here are ten delicious zucchini recipes I just might have to try.
  • If you live in the Madison area, be sure to check out Pope Farms Conservancy this week.  The sunflower field should be in full bloom in the next few days and it makes for a great photo opportunity.  There's also miles of hiking trails and a great view of Madison.
  • Wedding planning is in full swing in my neck of the woods.  We've set a date, booked a reception venue and reserved the DJ.  Exactly 11 months from today I will be marrying this guy!
  • I plan on buying an iPad at some point in the next year.  I saw this DIY cutting board recipe holder which will be perfect for when I have online recipes I'm making. I started keeping an eye out for a cheap paddle shaped cutting board at thrift shops and ended up finding one for $3 in the clearance section at Marshall's.  Score!
  • Congrats to April for spending today and yesterday biking the MS 150.  You go girl!
Don't forget to follow along with me on Instagram (@krspencer2) and Twitter (@kraespencer)!


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