Black Forest Cupcakes (Very Fudgy!): Recipe #212

The normal chocolate-cherry combination typical of German black forest cake isn’t my favorite flavor medley, but with apricots and the extreme fudginess of this recipe, I could eat these black forest cupcakes all day long! It’s a modification of our chocolate zucchini cake recipe, only fudgier. Hope you enjoy this decadent and healthy plant-based treat. πŸ™‚

This is part of our 1,000 Food Experiments to create sustainable meals for our family and hopefully yours.

Ingredients ($8 for 12 cupcakes and 24 mini cupcakes)

Cupcake batter:
1 cups white flour – $0.16
2 cup whole wheat flour – $0.32
3/4 cup cocoa – $0.83
2 tsp baking powder – $0.03
1/2 tsp baking soda – $0.01
1/2 tsp salt – $0.03
3/4 cup brown sugar – $0.39
1 1/4 cup dark chocolate chunks – $1.25
1 cup soy milk – $0.28
3/4 cup canola oil – $0.56
3 eggs – $0.87
1 tbsp vanilla – $1.00
2 cups grated zucchini – $1.40

Icing:
2 tbsp apricot jam – $0.16
1 tbsp soy milk – $0.02
1/2 cup icing sugar – $0.44

Directions for Black Forest Cupcakes

1. Make the batter base: In a large bowl, mix the flours, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt, brown sugar, and chocolate chips. Stir to combine. Add in the soy milk, canola oil, eggs, and vanilla and mix well.

Grate and add the zucchini to the chocolate batter, and fold it in with a spatula until the zucchini is evenly distributed throughout the batter.

2. Pour the batter into cupcake tins lined with cupcake wrappers – we filled 3 tins to make 12 large cupcakes and 24 mini cupcakes. Bake at 350F for 20 mins (large cupcakes) and then 9 mins (mini cupcakes).

Make the icing by mixing together all the ingredients for that, adding more icing sugar if you want it thicker.

3. Cool on a wire rack and enjoy your black forest cupcakes just as they are, drizzled with icing, or topped with non-dairy ice cream!

Sustainability Score (explained here)

  • Time to make: 3 = <1 hour
  • Servings: 3 = lots of leftovers
  • Cost per serving: 3 = <$5
  • Deliciousness: 3 = when are we having this again?
  • Environmental impact: 3 = minimal damage
  • Nutritional value: 2 = healthy-ish
  • TOTAL: 17/18

If any of you amazing home chefs tried it, or have other recipes you’d like us to experiment with, please let me know. Wishing you and your family a healthy, happy day!

Moist Banana Zucchini Cake: Recipe #204

What happens when you play with mixing banana bread and zucchini cake recipes? A very moist, flavor-balanced breakfast cake studded with both raisins and chocolate chips. This banana zucchini cake disappeared in 24 hours, feeding 5 of us for 2 breakfasts. Hope you enjoy it!

This is part of our 1,000 Food Experiments to create sustainable meals for our family and hopefully yours.

Ingredients ($4 total for one loaf)

2 eggs – $0.58
3/4 cup brown sugar – $0.39
2/3 cup canola oil – $0.50
2 tsp vanilla – $0.40
2 tsp cocoa – $0.07
1 ripe banana, mashed – $0.19
1 large zucchini, grated – $0.78
1/2 cup raisins – $0.50
1/2 cup chocolate chips – $0.50
1 1/2 cups self-rising flour (or 1 1/2 cups flour + 2 tsp baking powder + 1/2 tsp salt) – $0.25

Directions for Banana Zucchini Cake

1. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and brown sugar together until they’re light and fluffy. Add in the oil, vanilla, and cocoa and mix well, then add in the mashed banana and zucchini.

Stir in the raisins and chocolate chips, then slowly add in the flour mixture. Make sure it’s fully incorporated and the batter has no flour lumps in it.

Pour the batter into a greased loaf pan.

2. Bake at 350F for 45 minutes. It will be deep golden and springy on top when you lightly touch it with your finger, and a knife inserted into the cake will come out clean. Cool for a few minutes then cut into it and enjoy.

Cover your banana zucchini cake tightly with plastic wrap and store it in the fridge for a few days – if it doesn’t get all eaten up.

Sustainability Score (explained here)

  • Time to make: 2 = 1-3 hours
  • Servings: 3 = lots of leftovers
  • Cost per serving: 3 = <$5
  • Deliciousness: 3 = when are we having this again?
  • Environmental impact: 3 = minimal damage
  • Nutritional value: 2 = healthy-ish
  • TOTAL: 16/18

If any of you amazing home chefs tried it, or have other recipes you’d like us to experiment with, please let me know. Wishing you and your family a healthy, happy day!

Ratatouille for Summer: Recipe #190

We’ve watched the Pixar movie Ratatouille at least a dozen times, but have never worked up the courage to actually make the film’s signature dish. Finally, after 190 of these food experiments, Megan and I decided to give it a go. The hardest part is all the slicing of the vegetables. Other than that, it’s easy and fun to put together this healthy French delicacy.

This is part of our 1,000 Food Experiments to create sustainable meals for our family and hopefully yours.

Ingredients ($10.50 total)

Sauce:
2 tbsp olive oil – $0.20
1 onion, chopped – $0.50
4 cloves garlic, minced – $0.15
1 green pepper, chopped – $0.69
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes, blended – $1.59
8 fresh basil leaves, chopped – $1.10
Salt and pepper to taste

Veggies:
2 large zucchinis, sliced – $1.16
3 tomatoes, sliced – $2.97
6 small potatoes, sliced – $0.90

Herbed oil:
4 tbsp olive oil – $0.40
1 tsp thyme – $0.28
1/2 tsp oregano – $0.14
1/2 tsp basil – $0.14
1 tsp garlic powder or fresh chopped garlic – $0.28
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions for Ratatouille

1. Make the sauce to go under the layered vegetables: In a large pan that will be safe going into the oven (no plastic handles), heat the 2 tbsp olive oil over medium high heat. Cool and stir occasionally until soft and a bit golden, about 5 minutes.

Add in the garlic and green pepper, and cook for a few minutes more. Then add in the blended tomatoes and basil, and stir to combine. Let it simmer gently for a few minutes, then remove from heat to cool a bit while you’re chopping up the vegetables.

2. Prepare the veggies: thinly slice the zucchini, potatoes, and tomatoes, and put them in a large bowl. Make the herbed oil by mixing together the 4 tbsp olive oil with the thyme, oregano, basil, garlic, salt and pepper in a small dish.

3. Assemble and bake: arrange the vegetables in mini staggered stacks of 3: one slice zucchini, one slice potato, one slice tomato, and repeat. Start around the edge of the pan to make a circle, then make another inner circle inside the outer circle, and so on until all the tomato sauce is covered up tightly by stacked vegetables. We added an extra slice of zucchini to each stack since we had leftovers.

Once you’re happy with the layout, spoon the herbed oil evenly over the top of all the vegetables. Cover the pan with foil and bake at 375F for 40 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for 20 more minutes. The veggies should all be nice and soft. Cool for a few minutes and serve your ratatouille warm in bowls with fresh crusty bread. Bon appetit!

Sustainability Score (explained here)

  • Time to make: 2 = 1-3 hours
  • Servings: 3 = lots of leftovers
  • Cost per serving: 3 = <$5
  • Deliciousness:  3 = when are we having this again?
  • Environmental impact: 3 = minimal damage
  • Nutritional value: 3 = optimal nutrition
  • TOTAL: 17/18

If any of you amazing cooks tried it, or have other recipes you’d like us to experiment with, please let me know. Wishing you and your family a healthy, happy day!

Chocolate Zucchini Cake with (Vegan) Cream Cheese Frosting: Recipe #189

It’s zucchini season again in California, so we’re back to our favorite zucchini fritters and creamy zucchini pasta. But wait, zucchini chocolate cake too? How versatile is this vegetable? I think this is my new favorite way to eat chocolate cake. Many thanks to Isa for inspiration.

This is part of our 1,000 Food Experiments to create sustainable meals for our family and hopefully yours.

Ingredients ($12.50 total)

Cake:
2 cups white flour – $0.32
1 cup whole wheat flour – $0.16
1/2 cup cocoa – $0.55
2 tsp baking powder – $0.03
1/2 tsp baking soda – $0.01
1/2 tsp salt – $0.03
3/4 cup brown sugar – $0.39
1 cup chocolate chips – $1.00
3/4 cup soy milk – $0.28
3/4 cup canola oil – $0.56
3 eggs – $0.87
1 tbsp vanilla – $1.00
2 cups grated zucchini – $1.40

Frosting:
1 cup vegan cream cheese – $4.99
1 cup powdered sugar – $0.88
1 tbsp soy milk – $0.02

Directions for Chocolate Zucchini Cake

1. Make the batter base: In a large bowl, mix the flours, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt, brown sugar, and chocolate chips. Stir to combine. Add in the soy milk, canola oil, eggs, and vanilla and mix well.

2. Grate and add the zucchini to the chocolate batter, and fold it in with a spatula until the zucchini is evenly distributed throughout the batter.

3. Pour into a greased bundt ban. Bake at 350F for 45 minutes. Cool for 5-10 minutes, then loosen the edges and turn the cake out onto a plate. Make the cream cheese frosting by mixing together the cream cheese, powdered sugar, and soy milk. Add extra powdered sugar if desired to thicken it up some more.

Serve the cake warm with a dollop of frosting. Enjoy!

Sustainability Score (explained here)

  • Time to make: 3 = <1 hour
  • Servings: 3 = lots of leftovers
  • Cost per serving: 3 = <$5
  • Deliciousness:  3 = when are we having this again?
  • Environmental impact: 3 = minimal damage
  • Nutritional value: 2 – healthy-ish
  • TOTAL: 17/18

If any of you amazing cooks tried it, or have other recipes you’d like us to experiment with, please let me know. Wishing you and your family a healthy, happy day!

Vegan Malai Kofta: Recipe #184

Malai kofta is a classic Indian comfort food – think of tender dumplings in a creamy sauce. This recipe is a plant-based delight that blends cashews, coconut milk, and spices to create a rich sauce without all that dairy in it. The dumplings have garbanzo beans, almonds, and zucchini in them, and we added some peas and rice noodles to round out a complete and satisfying meal. Thanks to Isa who inspired this vegan malai kofta.

This is part of our 1,000 Food Experiments to create sustainable meals for our family and hopefully yours.

Ingredients ($15 total for 6 servings)

Kofta:
1 can chick peas – $0.99
1/2 cup ground almonds – $0.63
1 large zucchini, grated – $0.58
1 tsp cumin – $0.28
1 tbsp ginger – $0.70
1 tsp garlic powder – $0.28
1/2 tsp salt – $0.03
Pepper to taste
1 cup ground up Hawaiian sweet rolls or other breadcrumbs – free

Sauce:
1 cup cashews, soaked for 2 hours – $2.00
2 cups vegetable broth – $1.00
1/2 large onion, chopped – $0.25
4 cloves garlic – $0.15
1 tbsp ginger – $0.70
1 tbsp curry powder – $0.70
1 tsp cumin – $0.28
1 can coconut milk – $1.99
1/4 cup crushed tomatoes – $0.20
1 tsp salt – $0.05
1 lemon, juiced – $0.20

1 tbsp coconut oil to cook kofta – $0.55
1-2 cups frozen peas – $1.00
1 package fresh pad Thai noodles – $2.99

Directions for Vegan Malai Kofta

1. Make the kofta: mix all the ingredients in a medium bowl, stir well to combine, and refrigerate the mixture for half an hour to firm it up. Shape them in your palm into about 18 oval shaped balls. Return to the fridge until you’re ready to cook them.

2. In a blender, add all the sauce ingredients and blend together until relatively smooth, then pour it into a large pan.

3. In a large pan, heat the coconut oil over medium high heat. Cook the kofta for several minutes, turning them around gently with a form to brown as many sides as possible.

Add the peas and fresh pad thai noodles to the sauce and warm to a boil. Follow package directions for how long the noodles need to cook.

Serve your vegan malai kofta in bowls over top the noodles and curry sauce. Enjoy it hot from the stove. You’ll be left with a very warm and happy tummy.

Sustainability Score (explained here)

  • Time to make: 3 = <1 hour
  • Servings: 3 = lots of leftovers
  • Cost per serving: 3 = <$5
  • Deliciousness:  3 = when are we having this again?
  • Environmental impact: 3 = minimal damage
  • Nutritional value: 3 = optimal nutrition
  • TOTAL: 18/18 (maximum score!)

If any of you amazing cooks tried it, or have other recipes you’d like us to experiment with, please let me know. Wishing you and your family a healthy, happy day!

Creamy Zucchini Pasta Primavera: #139 of 1000 Sustainable Food Experiments

My daughter Megan found this recipe in the book Eat Fresh Food, which is aimed at teen chefs. It’s a fantastic plant-based pasta dish where you use blended zucchini with basil as a cream sauce, and boil some other veggies in with the pasta. I’ve been making pasta for decades and this was a wonderful surprise to me!

This is part of our 1,000 Food Experiments to create sustainable meals for our family and hopefully yours.

Ingredients ($7.50 total for a large pot)

3 zucchini, ends trimmed – $2.33
2 garlic cloves, peeled and cut in half – $0.08
1 tsp salt – 0.05
3/4 cup water – free
4 large basil leaves – $1.09
2 tbsp olive oil – $0.50
1 orange bell pepper, sliced – $0.99
1 yellow bell pepper, sliced – $0.99
1 bunch mixed chard, collards, and kale, destemmed and chopped – free from the farm
Handful of brussels sprouts, ends trimmed – free from the farm
1 lb fusilli or other short pasta – $1.49
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional nutritional yeast or pecorino romano cheese for sprinkling on top

Directions

1. Gather, wash, and chop all your ingredients. In a medium pot over medium high heat, boil the zucchini, garlic, salt, and water together. Lower the heat and cook for 15 minutes until the zucchini is tender. Pour into a blender, add the basil and olive oil, and blend together until smooth. 

2. Fill a large pot with water and bring it to a boil over high heat. Add salt as desired – I put in a small handful – then add the pasta, bell peppers, and brussels sprouts. Cook for 8 minutes, then add the greens and cook for 2 more minutes. Drain the pasta and veggies with a colander and return to the pot.

3. Pour the zucchini sauce over the pasta and give it a good mix. Serve hot. It’s delicious as is, but some of us sprinkle nutritional yeast over top and some of us sprinkle pecorino romano cheese. Enjoy! The extra leftovers also freeze well as leftovers for school lunches.

Sustainability Score (explained here)

  • Time to make: 3 = <1 hour
  • Servings: 3 = lots of leftovers
  • Cost per serving: 3 = <$5
  • Deliciousness:  3 = when are we having this again?
  • Environmental impact: 3 = minimal damage
  • Nutritional value: 3 = optimal nutrition
  • TOTAL: 18 – maximum score!

Experiment Outcome: This recipe gets added to our Family Favorites! πŸ™‚

If you tried it, please let me know how it came out for you. Wishing you and your family a healthy, happy day!

Yellow Zucchini Muffins: #126 of 1000 Sustainable Food Experiments

I like to use green zucchini in tomato sauces and stirfry dishes, but I never know what to do when we get yellow zucchini in our farm box. So I thought I’d grate it up and put it in muffins. Hidden vegetables! These muffins also have oats and cinnamon in them, and will make your house smell delicious.

This is part of our 1,000 Food Experiments to create sustainable meals for our family and hopefully yours.

Ingredients ($3.50 for 12 muffins = 30 cents/muffin)

1 1/2 cups flour – $0.24
1 1/2 cups rolled oats – $0.18
1/2 cup packed brown sugar – $0.26
1/2 tsp baking powder – $0.01
1 tsp baking soda – $0.02
1/2 tsp salt – $0.01
1 tsp cinnamon – $0.28
2 yellow zucchini (1 cup), grated – $1.16
2 eggs, beaten – $0.58
1 cup soy milk – $0.37
1/3 cup canola oil – $0.22
1 tsp vanilla – $0.20

Directions

1. In a medium-sized bowl, mix the flour, oats, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Separately, grate the yellow zucchini.

2. Add the grated zucchini to the oat and flour mixture, and mix well. Then add in the eggs, soy milk, canola oil, and vanilla. Stir just to combine, do not overmix. Fill 12 lined muffin cups with the batter.

3. Bake the muffins at 350F for 20-22 minutes, until the top springs back when you press on it and a skewer inserted into the middle of the muffin comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack and enjoy warm, or store in the fridge or freezer in an airtight container.

Sustainability Score (explained here)

  • Time to make: 3 = <1 hour
  • Servings: 3 = lots of leftovers
  • Cost per person: 3 = <$5
  • Deliciousness: 2 = decent meal (I’m not a huge cinnamon fan so I skewed this one)
  • Environmental impact: 3 = minimal damage
  • Nutritional value: 1 = eat rarely (sugar, refined flour)
  • TOTAL: 14/18

If you tried it, please let me know how it came out for you. Wishing you and your family a healthy, happy day!

Turkey Chili with Zucchini: #54 of 1000 Sustainable Food Experiments

We used to have a game when I was a kid: if you could have one last meal before you died, what would it be? My answer was always a bowl of homemade chili. It’s still one of my favorite dinners on a day that’s either cold outside or needs cheering up inside.Β 

This is part of our 1,000 Food Experiments to create sustainable meals for our family and hopefully yours.

Ingredients ($16.50 total for a very big pot of chili!)

2 tbsp olive oil – $0.20
1 onion, chopped – $0.50
4 cloves garlic, minced – $0.15
1-2 tbsp chili powder, to taste – $1.40
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce – $0.10
Salt and pepper to taste
1 lb organic ground turkey – $5.69
1 can crushed tomatoes with basil – $1.59
3 large zucchini, sliced – $3.49
3 cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed – $2.97
3 cups cooked rice – $0.36

Directions

1. Gather all your ingredients. Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 5-7 minutes until translucent. Add garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes until it begins to turn golden, then mix in the chili powder as well as salt and pepper to taste.Β 

2. Add the ground turkey and stir to mix well and start to cook the meat, about 5 minutes. Add the sliced zucchini next. Blend the can of crushed tomatoes in the blender for extra smoothness, then add to the pot as well as the beans and the Worcestershire sauce. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to medium low, and simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally (you can simmer longer if you have time, up to 1-2 hours).

3. When it’s all nicely coming together and you’ve checked the taste (add more salt, some sugar, some vinegar, or more chili powder if needed), mix in the cooked rice and serve. This pot lasted us for two dinners, including going back for second helpings.

Sustainability Score (explained here)

  • Time to make: 3 = <1 hour
  • Servings:Β  3 = >6 servings
  • Cost per person (prices based on Trader Joe’s/Costco): 3 = <$5
  • Deliciousness: 3 = when are we having this again?
  • Environmental impact: 2 = moderate impact
  • Nutritional value: 3 = optimal nutrition
  • TOTAL: 17/18

If you tried it, please let me know how it came out for you. Wishing you and your family a healthy, happy day!

Zucchini Fritters: #47 of 1000 Sustainable Food Experiments

These veggie-packed treats are a bit like savory pancakes, and a great side dish for a weekend lunch. Whenever we get farm-fresh zucchini, it’s a toss-up between making these fritters or zucchini muffins. Either way, getting green stuff into kids is a good thing!

This is part of our 1,000 Food Experiments to create sustainable meals for our family and hopefully yours.

Ingredients ($4 total for about a dozen fritters)

1 lb or 2 medium zucchinis – $2.33
1 tsp salt – $0.05
1/4 cup flour – $0.04
1/4 cup nutritional yeast or pecorino romano cheese – $1.00
1 egg – $0.31
olive oil for frying – $0.20

Directions

1. Grate the zucchini, place in a colander, and mix with the salt. Let it sit for about 15 minutes so the water drains out of the zucchini, then squeeze it by hand to get rid of any excess moisture.

2. Put the zucchini in a medium bowl and add the rest of the ingredients (except the cooking olive oil). Mix to combine well. It will be a thick batter.

3. Heat the olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, drop the batter into the pan by tablespoonfuls, and flatten slightly with the back of your spoon. Cook for 2 minutes or until brown, then flip them like pancakes and cook for 2 minutes on the other side. Place cooked fritters on a paper towel to soak up any excess oil, then serve hot.

Sustainability Score (explained here)

  • Time to make: 3 = <1 hour
  • Servings:  3 = >6 servings
  • Cost per person (prices based on Trader Joe’s/Costco): 3 = <$5
  • Deliciousness: 3 = when are we having this again?
  • Environmental impact: 3 = minimal damage
  • Nutritional value: 3 = optimal nutrition
  • TOTAL: 18/18 (maximum score!)

If you tried it, please let me know how it came out for you. Wishing you and your family a healthy, happy day!

Garlic Eggplant with Zucchini: #11 of 1000 Sustainable Food Experiments

In my 10 years of practicing tai chi, we ate at a lot of Chinese restaurants after class. My favorite dish was always the garlic eggplant, so I thought I’d try recreating it here. Bonus challenge: my husband says he doesn’t like eggplant. Maybe this dish will change his mind?

This is part of our 1,000 Food Experiments to create sustainable meals for our family and hopefully yours.

Ingredients ($5.86 total)

1 medium eggplant, chopped – $2.49
1 tsp salt – $0.02
3 medium zucchini, chopped – $2.49
1 tbsp cornstarch – $0.10
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil – $0.30
4 cloves garlic, minced – $0.14
3 tbsp soy sauce – $0.15
1 tbsp sugar – $0.06
1 tsp cornstarch dissolved in 1 tbsp water – $0.03
1/2 tsp ground ginger – $0.08

Directions

1. Coat the chopped eggplant in the salt and let sit for 1 hour to drain the water out of the eggplant and prevent it from being chewy.Β 

2. Pat the eggplant dry with a paper towel, combine with the zucchini, and toss the vegetables with the cornstarch to coat.

Heat the toasted sesame oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes until the garlic starts to turn golden.

3. Add the vegetables and stirfry for 8-10 minutes until soft and starting to brown. Meanwhile, mix the soy sauce, sugar, ginger, and dissolved cornstarch in a small bowl.

Once the vegetables are done, add the sauce to the pan with the veggies and stir for another minute or so to thicken the sauce. Serve hot as a tasty side dish.

Sustainability Score (explained here)

  • Time to make: 3 = <1 hour
  • Servings:Β  2 = 4-6 servings
  • Cost per person (prices based on Trader Joe’s/Costco): 3 = <$5
  • Deliciousness: 2 = decent meal
  • Environmental impact: 1 = minimal damage
  • Nutritional value: 3 = optimal nutrition
  • TOTAL: 14/18

If you tried it, please let me know how it came out for you. Wishing you and your family a healthy, happy day!