Double Chocolate Zucchini Banana Bread

OK guys.. this recipe is seriously A-M-A-Z-ING. I was holding my breath as I cut into the first piece thinking, “this is going to either be really good or really terrible.” I have a bad history poor results when baking with cocoa powder, especially when I am coming up with a recipe from scratch.

I was so pleasantly surprised at how rich, moist, and chocolatey this bread came out! It is super light and airy with an a little bit of banana undertone in each bite. Having trouble getting your kids (or in my case…. my husband) to eat vegetables? This is definitely a recipe to try! A little hidden zucchini never hurt anyone!

I had a few taste testers before I decided if this was post-worthy or not, and I got nothing but positive feedback! Most of the ingredients you should have around in your cabinet. I haven’t tried making it with any substitutions (for example brown sugar instead of coconut sugar), so I’m not going to promise that the taste or texture will be equivalent if you choose to switch things up. If you like chocolatey… be ready for a pleasantly easy surprise! Let me know what you think!

Double Chocolate Zucchini Banana Bread

  • Servings: 10-12
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 2 medium sized brown bananas (the gooier the better!)
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 Tbsp canola oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 cup pressed, shredded zucchini
  • pinch cinnamon
  • pinch salt
  • 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips + some extra for the top

Directions

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees

Shred your zucchini (I used a regular grater, but you can use a food processor or whatever tool you have at home). Press in-between a few paper towels to get rid of some of the extra water. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mash 2 bananas until fairly smooth. Add 1 egg, coconut sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla, and oil. Mix until sugar is well incorporated and cocoa powder is dissolved. Add flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, and zucchini. Mix together until zucchini is evenly distributed in the batter. Lastly add chocolate chips.

Grease a loaf pan with oil or spray of choice. Evenly distribute the batter and put a few extra chocolate chips on top. Bake for about 30 minutes. Put a toothpick in the center at about 25 minutes to see if it is done (you don’t want to over cook!). Likely, the full 30 minutes will be needed!

Let the bread sit and cool for at least 10-15 minutes before cutting to serve. Cover with tip foil or plastic wrap to keep for up to 5 days. Enjoy!


Prescott, AZ , We will be back!

Good morning and happy Sunday everyone! Life has finally slowed down, and I’m loving the extra free time that we have to relax, settle into our home, and truly enjoy time together (referring to Jeff, Eddie, and I!).

Yesterday, Jeff and I took a little drive to Prescott, Arizona to do some site seeing and enjoy the quaint and charming activities and attractions the city has to offer. We wanted the day to be simple and relaxing and it definitely checked both of those boxes!

Prescott is about an hour and 15 minutes away from our home as you head north on the I-17. Moving a little farther north has definitely been a change for us, but with beautiful mountains surrounding our home and family 15 minutes away, it was definitely worth the choice of leaving some of our favorite restaurants and attractions behind! While we thought it was a little chilly already, Prescott was about 50 degrees (20 degrees cooler than Phoenix!) with a light breeze and bright blue skies. What made this city different from where we already are? TREES! Trees, grass, water… it was like a little taste of Ohio, which I was happy to see!

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The first place that we stopped was recommend to us by a few different friends and alone made the trip worthwhile. Watson Lake was breathtakingly beautiful with trails surrounding the entire lake and gorgeous blue water for miles. The lake was surrounded by rock and boulders, which had pathways to follow and get closer to water if desired. Jeff and I hiked and of course took pictures along the way. We were in awe of the beautiful scenery that is tucked away so timidly, you wouldn’t know its there unless you were looking. While we didn’t bring Eddie this time, we will definitely have him join our next trip! We were happy to find two golden retrievers moseying along with their owners, excited to be outdoors in the cool weather!

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This hike can be as simple or as difficult as you make it, so if you are an avid hiker or someone just looking for a leisurely walk, this beautiful spot is appropriate for you! Just to the right of this gorgeous lake and where we parked was a second lake surrounded by more greenery and trees, but still beautiful and peaceful as ever.

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After time spent relaxing in this serene location, we headed to downtown Prescott or “the square” to grab a bite to eat and walk around the charming streets of this small, yet popular city. We were pleasantly surprised by the quantity of people out doing the same, enjoying the weather, and visiting the shops and attractions which downtown had to offer. If I’m being completely honest, the surplus of dogs out with their owners definitely added to my attraction of this quaint and eclectic square (I’ve never seen more Goldens in one city!).

Our first stop was at Prescott Brewing Company, where we grabbed a bite to eat and some locally brewed beer. It definitely hit the spot and refueled us for the afternoon! To eat, I got a hot bowl of tomato and mushroom bisque with a side of beer bread which I’m happy to say was one of the best bowls of soup I’ve ever had at a restaurant! Jeff got a big bowl of chili and we shared pretzels with beer cheese and a side of tangy mustard (this is our go to app at breweries!). We both thoroughly enjoyed our meals and our beers. I would definitely recommend this spot if visiting the area!

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After lunch we enjoyed walking around the square and stopping in a few antique shops along the way. Don’t worry, I most definitely was not leaving without an item for home! We stopped at a few more places and another local restaurant before getting back into the car to head home.

On our way back to Phoenix, we had one more very important stop to make! Rock Springs, famous for daily homemade pies at Rock Springs Cafe, is about 25 minutes from our home and houses the most decadent and delicious pies for miles. We stopped to have a quick slice (Jeff got chocolate and I had blueberry) which was the perfect topper to a perfect afternoon on the road. I highly suggest picked up a pie to bring home the next time you are in the area!


Cranberry Chocolate Pumpkin Bars

Yes… they are as good as they sound! Hi everyone! I feel like I haven’t been on here in ages, but with good reason. I have some fun updates that I will share in a later post this week, but for now… the pumpkin bars!

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These are so easy, gooey, and delicious. I have eaten one literally every day since I made them and they are the perfect ending to any meal. The base of these bars are oats, whole wheat flour, pumpkin, and banana. They are sweetened up with a little dried cranberries and a few dark chocolate chips. They only take about 20 minutes to bake and last for ~1 week covered or in a sealed container (I keep them cold in the refrigerator).

These bars would be the perfect addition to a holiday brunch or get together with family and friends. They are not too sweet and provide just the right about of pumpkin flavor. I hope you give these lovely little bars a try! Happy December friends!

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Cranberry Chocolate Pumpkin Bars

  • Servings: 12-18
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1 brown banana
  • 1/2 can pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar (not packed)
  • 3/4 cup walnuts
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 egg
  • pumpkin pie spice (about 1/4 tsp)
  • cinnamon (~1/2 tsp)
  • pinch pink salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, mash 1 banana with 1/2 can pumpkin puree. Add brown sugar and mix until it’s fairly dissolved. Stir in 1 egg, vanilla, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, and salt.

Add dry ingredients (oats, flour, baking soda, and baking powder) and mix until all when ingredients are moistened. Stir in dried cranberries, walnuts, and dark chocolate chips.

In a greased baking dish, pour batter and spread out evenly. I used a square 9×9 baking dish. If wanting thinner bars, choose a larger size dish.

Let the pumpkin bars bake for about 20-25 minutes or until the edges start to pull away from the dish. Allow at least 10 minutes for cooling before cutting into squares for serving. Store in an sealed container or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.


Columbus, OH … My favorite city

Hi everyone and happy Saturday!! A few weeks ago, Jeff and I traveled back to Ohio for a wedding. This was the first time Jeff had been back to Columbus since I graduated, so we were definitely inclined to make the most of this short trip!

As always, hitting my favorite food spots was at the top of my list. I thought I would go through some of my favorite Columbus restaurants just incase your travels take you to this wonderfully quirky and fun city! I’m going to start with breakfast and work my way up to dinner and dessert. Enjoy!

Breakfast:

Northstar Cafe

Nothing will ever replace this choice for me. Northstar was one of my favorite breakfast spots when I was living in Columbus and of course didn’t disappoint during our trip home. This cute and trendy restaurant serves food all day, but their breakfast is definitely something to brag about. Whether you are looking for savory or sweet, there is an option for everyone!

My favorite dish is the Sweet Potato and Turkey Hash, which consists of applewood smoked turkey, red pepper, sweet onion, sautéed sweet potato, and 2 sunny side up eggs. If you are looking to the perfect plate of protein and veggies, this is it! A close second is the Big Burrito which also contains roasted sweet potatoes and eggs as well as organic black beans, sautéed peppers and onions, white cheddar cheese, and house made salsa wrapped in a warm tortilla. If you have a sweet tooth, make sure to try the black cherry preserves on a warm buttermilk biscuit!

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Lunch:

Alchemy Juice Bar + Cafe

While I didn’t get to visit this yummy little spot this trip, I have had the pleasure of eating at Alchemy before. It is such a little treat! The menu is always changing, so expect something new and yummy if you become a frequent flyer.

Now… let’s talk about the toast. I am a toast fanatic. Give me a hearty piece of toast topped with delicious ingredients, and I am a happy girl! Alchemy has a unique list of yummy toast options that can satisfy any palate whether you are looking for savory or a little sweet. If you like the traditional PB and banana, I suggest you try the Banana Almond Butter toast topped with a thick spread of almond butter, sliced bananas, cacao nibs, cinnamon, and maple syrup. It is absolutely delicious!

Dinner:

Marcella’s

If you want a quaint and charming dinner with an amazing atmosphere and a delicious menu this is definitely one of my top choices! Close to night life or other charming cafes, bars, and boutiques, Marcella’s is located in the heart of the Short North. Every tim I go to this restaurant it’s packed with people waiting for a table or enjoying a drink at the bar.

This was one of my favorite spots to bring my mom when I was a student at Ohio State. The menu consists of traditional Italian dishes such as Chicken Parmesan and Spaghetti and Meatballs, as well as trendy and unique menu items such as Crispy Potato Pizza with pancetta, parmesan onions, and arugula. It is the perfect place to gather with family or friends and enjoy a great meal with good company!

Dessert:

Jeni’s Ice Cream

Whether you are in the mood for Sweet Cream Biscuits and Peach Jam or traditional Cookies and Cream, Jeni’s has a little something for everyone. If you are looking for something to liven up your tastebuds, this is definitely a place to visit. All of Jeni’s ice creams are buttery and smooth without fillers, artificial flavors, dies, or emulsifiers. If you want a pure and simply satisfying scoop of ice cream, Jeni’s will definitely check your box!

Oh and incase you were wondering…. they deliver! My mom has shipped us a holiday pack of Jeni’s ice cream all the way to Arizona, and it tasted just as good as it does in the cone!

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Eating my way through Vegas!

Well, let me just say the title of this post truly reflects how I felt after our Vegas trip. Food was a major focal point of the trip, and boy was I ok with that! We were fortunate enough to try a few amazing restaurants, and really get to see what restaurant life in Las Vegas has to offer. From breakfast to fully flavored and unique dinners we truly ate our way through this fun and fantastic city.

I’m going to walk you through 4 of our food experiences, as well as give you some general tips for eating while traveling and planning ahead. Hopefully you can use some of these tips and experiences to help plan your own fabulous trip to this city!

  • Hash House A Go Go $$ – $$$

This fun and quirky restaurant is know for its “twisted farm food”. While there are many locations, we visited the one located inside of The Linq Hotel and Casino for breakfast. Hash House serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and offers a wide variety of dishes from egg omelettes to chicken pot pie. I would highly recommend sharing because the portions are very, very large! I got the “Healthy Choice” which was an egg white omelette with 3 optional fillings (I chose mushrooms, spinach, and onions!) with a HUGE plate of fruit that accompanied the dish. Below is my mother-in-laws meal which was chicken salad between fried green tomatoes atop an extra large slice of watermelon!

  •  Giada $$$$$

This restaurant should definitely make your list if you are planning to do a fancier, upscale dinner during one of your Vegas nights! The restaurant sits on the second floor of The Cromwell hotel and casino and overlooks one of the busiest corners of the strip. The atmosphere is elegant, warm, and inviting. On the evening we were there, 2 violinists playing current music in harmony, which really set a fun and inviting tone from the second we walked in the room.


The “bread” preceding dinner was very unique and came with butter, pesto, and different toppings such as red pepper flakes to use as we pleases. I ordered the Spaghetti and subbed chicken for the shrimp. It came in a lemon, basil sauce and was extremely light, flavorful, and perfectly portioned. Jeff got the Bucatini which had a little kick from chili flakes but was nicely balanced with ricotta cheese. I would highly recommend this fabulous restaurant. Our experience was perfect from the time we stepped in, and I will definitely return during my next visit to Vegas!

  • Mon Ami Gabi $$$$

This cute French Bistro is located in Paris Hotel and Casino and is inviting, warm, and one of our usual stops when we visit Las Vegas. If you go, I would highly recommend sitting on the patio. Having a perfect few of the Bellagio fountains is such a treat during dinner, and the people watching isn’t bad either! Our service is always phenomenal and the delicious meals and warm French bread keep us coming back for more! I tend to order the same thing every time I am here (because it is so darn good!) and would highly recommend the Chicken Grand-Mere. The all-natural half chicken is succulent, flavorful, and perfectly paired with a side of mushrooms flavored with bacon. I always sub cauliflower puree for the pommes puree. Please try the cauliflower puree!!!! It is my absolute favorite side dish and is so well worth every bite!

  • heXX chocolate and confeXXions $$

Oh my goodness! If you want a little sweet treat after dinner, walk a little ways down the strip towards Planet Hollywood and you will run into heXX. If you have been to Vegas before, this ice cream, chocolate, and candy shop is located where Sugar use to be. They offer everything from ice cream sandwiches, to milkshakes and decadent ice cream flavors. Do yourself a favor and don’t pass us this sweet experience!

Tips For Not Breaking Your Bank When Traveling (with food!):

  1. Share!!! Meals tend to be quite large in Vegas. Even if you are not traveling here, ask your waiter or waitress prior to ordering how the meal portions are. If they tend to be larger, split a meal with a family member, significant other, or friend.
  2. Drink water. Even if you love to have a special beverage such as a glass of wine or champagne with dinner, it is no secret that alcoholic beverages have a price (especially in Las Vegas!). Order a beverage before dinner, but sip water with your meal to help savor that initial drink. You also want to be able to taste your food! Which a glass of wine can pair nicely with a pasta dish or a hearty steak, make sure you pay attention to all the flavors that the food actually brings!
  3. Pack snacks. Lara bars, KIND bars, fruit, mixed nuts, carrots, and dried fruit are a few of my favorite, easy snacks to pack and take with me when traveling. When  you are running around during the day, take a protein bar or granola bar with you and a piece of fruit. Munch on your snacks and you might not even be hungry for lunch!
  4. Refill your water. Places like Starbucks or other coffee shops will often times fill your water bottle if you have one saved instead of making you purchase a new one. It’s very disappointing that places mark up their bottled water (shouldn’t water be free?!), and the cost can add up!
  5. Explore the area. Often times restaurants located inside resorts, casinos, or right in the thick of where tourists want to walk, eat, and shop are the most expensive. Usually driving 10-15 minutes away from the chaos will save you a bundle on your meal! Use apps such as Yelp or ask your Uber or taxi driver where locals like to go for a nice dinner or a relaxing brunch!