Chocolate Chip Zucchini Cake

This is the BEST zucchini cake I have ever had! And it doesn’t even have frosting. Crazyyy!

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Cake - a great summer dessert with some chocolate for good measure | thepajamachef.comI never had zucchini anything until I met Ben. He opened up a whole world to me! Zucchini muffins, bread, cookies, pasta, cake… well, I guess he opened up basically a whole new world of sweets [with the addition of some veggies so you can pretend to be a little healthier]. HA! The first summer after we were married, we were served zucchini cake for dessert by some of our new church friends. This chocolate zucchini cake was amazing… and had the best, thickest chocolate frosting ever. It was positively scrumptious!

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Cake - a great summer dessert with some chocolate for good measure | thepajamachef.comProblem was… every time I made zucchini cake after having hers, I wanted layer upon layer of chocolate frosting. But sometimes that’s too much work. Or you don’t want to wait for the cake to cool completely before that. Or you want to be able to eat the cake for breakfast. Or ___ [insert other “problem” here]. SIGH. But guess what guys?!? Once I discovered THIS cake, my problems were solved. Hallelujah!

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Cake - a great summer dessert with some chocolate for good measure | thepajamachef.comThis zucchini cake, aptly named Chocolate Chip Zucchini Cake, is equally chocolately yet requires not one layer of chocolate frosting because of the abundance of chocolate chips used to top this masterpiece. Genius, I say! Alright, so there aren’t mountains of chocolate chips on top of this cake, but there ARE enough to enjoy in just about every bite. The middle pieces have more so I recommend eating those yourself. Or, you know, not being selfish like me and sharing with those you love. I’m so nice! Each bite though, no matter if it comes from the side or the middle, is unbelievably soft and melts in your mouth. Buttermilk in cakes is fabulous, I think! It also has a teensy bit of warm spices to intensify the chocolate flavor even more. Hope you enjoy this cake as much as we did… and don’t forget to eat your veggies! :)

one year ago: Dark Chocolate Chunk Peanut Butter Blondies – with vegan and gluten free options!
two years ago: Eggplant Potato Frittata
three years ago: Baked Flounder
four years ago: Lavender Lime Scones
five years ago: Tasty Corn

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Cake

  • Servings: 18
  • Time: 60 minutes
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from What Megan’s Making

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 2 cups peeled, shredded zucchini [1 medium]
  • 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9×13 inch pan with cooking spray and set aside.

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and cloves.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar. Beat in the oil, eggs and vanilla. Add the flour mixture to the creamed mixture alternately with the buttermilk. Stir in the zucchini. Pour into prepared pan. Sprinkle with chocolate chips.

Bake for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack. Enjoy! This is also great with ice cream.

Costa Rican Rice and Beans with Fried Eggs

Take an easy, frugal, staple meal up a notch with some new seasonings and a couple fried eggs. Great for dinner, lunch, OR breakfast!

Costa Rican Rice and Beans with Fried Eggs | thepajamachef.comBen and I eat rice and beans quite a bit. Usually white rice and black beans. Sometimes with a bit of butter, taco seasoning, salsa, veggies, and/or cheese. The combo varies quite a bit. It’s a great dinner that’s cheap, healthy, and fast. Win win win! Sometimes I like to mix it up though, so I’m always on the look out for new variations of this great meal. It seems every culture has their take on this meal… this is Costa Rica’s. I’ve never been there [but would love to go!] so I don’t know how authentic it is… but it is sure delicious!

Costa Rican Rice and Beans with Fried Eggs | thepajamachef.comWhat sets this version of beans and rice apart from the competition is two-fold.

  1. Instead of our usual “burrito bowl” style beans and rice mixture, after all the ingredients are prepped, everything cooks together on the stove for a little bit. This maximizes the flavor… namely the tomato-y sauce with cumin, garlic, and Worchestershire sauce [props to you if you have the authentic Salsa Lizano!]. It is so good, you guys!! This sauce makes the rice and bean mixture almost creamy, and very very flavorful.
  2. The fried egg on top. Ohhh man. Runny yolks + a creamy-esque mixture = heaven!

You’ve gotta try this! SO good. It’s not spicy or anything… just good, rich flavors. Worth the extra work for sure!

one year ago: Easy Crockpot French Dip Sandwiches
two years ago: Kale Pesto Pasta
three years ago: Fresh Tomato and Mozzarella Crostini
four years ago: Brown Sugar Fruit Dip
five years ago: Butterscotch and Chocolate Yellow Cake

Costa Rican Rice and Beans with Fried Eggs

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 40 minutes
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from Fine Cooking

  • 1 cup long-grain white rice
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced [about 1 cup]
  • 1/2 medium red bell pepper, diced [about 1/2 cup]
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 cup tomato sauce
  • 15 ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 3 tablespoons Salsa Lizano; more to taste [or 3 tablespoons Worchestershire sauce + a dash of molasses if you can’t find Salsa Lizano]
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 large eggs [2 per person]
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Directions:

Prepare rice according to package directions. You can use water or chicken/vegetable broth for the liquid, whatever you prefer. Keep covered after it is cooked.

While rice is cooking, heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and bell pepper, and cook until soft, about 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another 30 seconds until fragrant. Stir in cumin and cook another 30 seconds or so. Stir in tomato sauce, mixing until well incorporated. Add black beans and 1 cup of water or broth, stirring until combined. Reduce heat to medium-low then simmer until most of the liquid is reduced, about 4-5 minutes. Fold in rice and mix well, then add Salsa Lizano [or Worchestershire/molasses combo], and season to taste with freshly ground black pepper. Cover and reduce heat to low.

Heat another skillet over medium high heat. Grease with cooking spray, then fry eggs to desired doneness. I like mine over medium, so I crack the eggs in the hot pan, season with salt and pepper, and cook about 3-4 minutes until whites are set, and the edges of the yolks are just beginning to set.

To serve, place a spoonful of rice and beans mixture on a plate or bowl and top with two fried eggs. Sprinkle with cilantro and enjoy!

Menu Plan

Menu Plan | thepajamachef.com

Week of July 27

Monday: pasta leftovers… we went to Maggiano’s on Saturday. getting a free dish to take home is so fun!
Tuesday: free dinner at Pollo Tropical! they’re opening a new location nearby & we were invited to try ’em out the first night. fun!
Wednesday: chicken & kale caesar wraps
Thursday: chicken tacos
Friday: baseball game!
Saturday: grilling out
Sunday: pizza… it’s been on the menu for a few weeks & we haven’t made it yet! oops.

Indian-Style Chicken Curry with Chickpeas and Raisins over Spiced Couscous #bookclubcookbookCC

Fragrant, rich chicken and chickpea curry incorporates great flavors to make an amazing dish! Serve it over spiced couscous for a special treat. 

Indian-Style Chicken Curry with Chickpeas and Raisins over Spiced Couscous | thepajamachef.com #thebookclubcookbookCC

Happy Friday! I joined a new blogging group… the Book Club Cookbook Cooking Crew. And guess what! YOU can join us. Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Camilla organized a group of bloggers to read through some great books and make some great recipes inspired by them. We are using The Book Club Cookbook as our guide and inspiration… you can read more about the club on her blog, but here’s the gist. Each month, one blogger serves as hostess to choose a book and a recipe from the cookbook. From there, we can make the chosen recipes OR draw inspiration from the selected book to create a recipe. Camilla is our July hostess and she chose Jhumpa Lahir’s Interpreter of Maladies for our book of the month, and invited us to make curry and lassis with her. At the end of the month, you can win a copy of the cookbook so you can follow along! Go to Camilla’s blog to enter now! :)

On with the recipe though! Have you ever heard of Jhumpa Lahir’s Interpreter of Maladies? I had not, and was surprised when I picked up a copy at my local library. It’s actually a collection of short stories centering on the themes of family, home, marriage, belonging, and more. Many take place in America, but I thought some of the most interesting stories were set in India. You don’t think about adaptations to new life in your own country… this book is just lovely! The first and last stories were my favorites, but they are all good. Have you read this book before? If not, you should pick it up! I highly recommend it.

Food is an integral part to all of the stories, and nearly each one mentioned curry! An Indian classic for sure, with as many variations as there are people. One of the recipes Camilla chose for us to make this month was a hard boiled egg curry. It sounds SO interesting. But Ben hates hard boiled eggs with a passion, so that’s a no go for us [and I don’t think I could eat a whole batch alone]. Instead, chicken curry it is!

Indian-Style Chicken Curry with Chickpeas and Raisins over Spiced Couscous | thepajamachef.com #thebookclubcookbookCC

This is one of my very favorite curry recipes, and actually is the one that made me love Indian food! Ben and I have made this recipe a handful time over the past few years… it is absolutely delightful each time! Every bite is rich and flavorful, and your kitchen will smell absolutely wonderful while you’re cooking. Ginger! Garlic! Garam masala! Mmm, mmm, mmm. The tomato and coconut based curry sauce is fabulous over the chicken and chickpeas and plump, juicy raisins… and the flavors are magnified since it’s not just served over regular ‘ole rice, but instead over a spiced couscous that is just bursting with more raisins and rich spices. Yes, it’s a lengthy recipe with quite a few ingredients… BUT it is oh-so-good. A great dish for company, a great dish to make on a relaxing night at home. It’s just as fantastic as anything you could get at a restaurant, but easy to make at home with accessible ingredients too. Make it this weekend! :) Enjoy!

Indian Spiced Peas | thepajamachef.com

And oh! If you’re looking for an easy side dish to serve with this, try these easy Indian-spiced peas. No real recipe… just mix together a teaspoon or two of coconut oil, a 10 ounce bag of frozen peas, and a teaspoon each of curry powder and garam masala in a skillet. Cook over low heat until hot, then mix in a about a 1/4 cup of coconut flakes. Ahhhmazing! Next time I might toast the coconut to make it even better. Yum!

one year ago: Ginger Ice Cream
two years ago: Mom’s Potato Salad

three years ago: Mediterranean Feta Dip
four years ago: Lemon Crinkle Cookies
five years ago: Big Thumbs Up Bite Size Soft Pretzels –> yes! my blog is FIVE! :)

Indian-Style Chicken Curry with Chickpeas and Raisins over Spiced Couscous

  • Servings: 6
  • Time: 60 minutes
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from Jenna’s Everything Blog – go to either post for great step by step photos if that’s your thing!

Ingredients:

for curry

  • 2 tablespoons curry powder [I used a sweet curry powder]
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 4 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1 serrano chili, minced – remove seeds to reduce heat… or not, your call
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 1/4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 – 15 ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 – 15 ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts [I’ve also used chicken thighs]
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 1/3 cup coconut milk
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

for couscous

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 teaspoon garam masala
  • 3 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1 package Trader Joe’s Harvest Grains Blend [I forget what size it is…about 18 or 20 ounces I think] — can also substitute 1 pound Israeli couscous plus a couple tablespoons quinoa and orzo — or an equivalent amount of rice [I’ve made it all three ways!!]

Directions:

Set a small skillet over medium heat. Pour in curry powder and garam masala, then stir constantly for about 1-2 minutes to toast spices, until fragrant. Remove from heat and transfer to a bowl.

In a Dutch oven or other large pot, heat 3 tablespoons oil over medium high heat. When hot, add onions and season with salt. Stirring occasionally, cook for about 15 minutes until onions are browned and caramelized. If you have you more time, cook the onions on medium-low heat for a longer amount of time to caramelize them more. But either way works!

After onions are cooked to your liking, add garlic, ginger, and chili pepper. Stir and cook for about a minute, then add in toasted spices and tomato paste. Pour in the chicken broth and crushed tomatoes, stirring to mix everything up. Add chickpeas, chicken, and raisins. Make sure the chicken is submerged as much as possible. Bring to a simmer, then cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer for about 15 minutes, until chicken is just about done.

Meanwhile, prepare couscous while chicken is cooking.

In a saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add diced onion and cook for about 5-6 minutes, until soft. Stir in garam masala, cooking for about 30 seconds until fragrant. Add chicken broth, butter, and raisins. Stir and bring to a boil. Add couscous [or other grain], bring to a boil again, and cook for about 10-15 minutes until fully cooked. Liquid should be absorbed but exact time depends on what grains you use. Season to taste with salt or additional garam masala then set aside to serve with curry.

When chicken is fully cooked, remove to cutting board and chop it up into bite-sized pieces. If the chicken isn’t fully cooked, it will finish cooking in the sauce.

Return chicken to pot, then stir in coconut milk and peas [if using]. Cook for about 5 minutes, then add in half of the cilantro.

Serve curry over couscous, with additional cilantro on top. Enjoy!

SRC: Dijon Balsamic Orzo Salad

This orzo pasta salad is filled with all of my favorite flavors… dijon mustard, balsamic vinegar, tomatoes, basil, and garlic. Simple and sophisticated, this dish can fill all your summer party needs!

Dijon Balsamic Orzo Salad | thepajamachef.com | #summer #tomatoes #salad #secretrecipeclub #healthy

Ben and I moved to a new house this spring. Though we’re still in Nashville, we are on the other side of town, and as such, have had to get used to new everything. New grocery stores, new commutes, new running paths(!!!), new neighbors… and a new farmer’s market. Our local market is only a couple years old, and as such, is still pretty small. BUT size does not equal quality. Quality > quantity, ya know? Last weekend at the market, I couldn’t resist ALL the lovely tomatoes that have started to pop up. They’re juicy and sweet and oh-s0-pretty. And what better dish to celebrate summer tomatoes than a pasta salad?

Dijon Balsamic Orzo Salad | thepajamachef.com | #summer #tomatoes #salad #secretrecipeclub #healthy

This orzo and tomato pasta salad comes together, as its name implies, with a fantastic dijon-balsamic dressing. It’s funny, I found this recipe on Heather’s blog, Join Us, Pull Up a Chair. She’s my Secret Recipe Club assignment for the month of July… and her family didn’t care for the salad very much due to the tanginess of the dressing. But I made it anyway. HA! I read the recipe before the blog post so that explains it. And the dressing was tangy, for sure. I adjusted the proportions a little but the balsamic and dijon flavors are pretty prominent and strong. If the dressing is too tangy for your taste, add more extra virgin olive oil, or add some honey. Ben and I thought it was perfect, a great pairing with the sweet tomatoes and fresh basil. MMM!

Dijon Balsamic Orzo Salad | thepajamachef.com | #summer #tomatoes #salad #secretrecipeclub #healthy

One of the reasons I love participating in the SRC is getting to check out the blogs of other foodies. There’s always SO many good recipes to choose from. Heather started her blog several years ago as way to organize all her recipes because they were taking over her office. I can relate to that! Some of the other recipes I found on her blog that I can’t wait to try include snickerdoodle biscotti, Kung Pao chickpeas, cranberry hootiecreeks [what an awesome name for a cookie!], and cranberry vanilla shortbread cookies. If any of those recipes sound up your alley, be sure to check out Heather’s blog! I’m sure you’ll love it as much as I do. And don’t forget to make this dijon balsamic orzo salad, stat! Enjoy!

one year ago: Spicy Peanut Noodles with Kale and Edamame
two years ago: Ginger Banana Waffles
three years ago: Minty Asian Slaw
four years ago: Lemon Crinkle Cookies

Dijon Balsamic Orzo Salad

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Time: 30 minutes
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slightly adapted from Join Us, Pull Up a Chair

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces orzo pasta [another small shape would work too]
  • 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 – 15 ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons whole grain dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced [if you really like garlic… if not, use 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder]
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, cut into a chiffonade

Directions:

Cook orzo according to package directions. While orzo is cooking, toss tomatoes and chickpeas together in a medium bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, vinegar, mustard, oregano, and garlic. When pasta is cooked, drain and then place in bowl with the tomatoes. Stir together, then pour dressing and toss to coat. Season with pepper to taste, then stir in basil or use as a garnish.

If the dressing is too tangy for your taste, add more extra virgin olive oil, or add some honey.

Salad tastes great warm, at room temperature, or cold. Also, it doubles easily! Add other veggies or some cheese if desired.

Click below for more recipes from this month’s edition of the Secret Recipe Club!