Mexican Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes with Cocoa Tajín Buttercream

Cinco de Mayo dessert anyone?  Or just an excuse to eat these slightly spiced, crazy moist, chocolate cupcakes with even more chocolate buttercream, laced with chile lime seasoning.

Mexican Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes with Cocoa Tajin ButtercreamThese are a lot easier than they sound!  The key is a jazzed up boxed cake mix.  Add in shredded zucchini to call it a vegetable and you’ll feel less guilty. (wink wink).

These are crazy moist cupcakes so when they come out of the oven you might see some crumbs on your toothpick.  What you’re actually going to look for is when the cupcakes start to pull away from the side of the cups in the pan.

moist chocolate cupcakesSee how they’re just pulling away right there?  And dry looking around the edge?  It’s OK that middles are bit glossy, as long as they are set.  This is how you want these.  It also makes them still fabulous if you make them a day ahead…which I almost always do.

For the buttercream, I’m pretty lazy.  I melt my chocolate in the microwave for goodness sake.  It really has very few ingredients so it comes together quickly, especially if you have a stand mixer.  If not, a hand held electric mixer will be fine.

Cinco de Mayo CupcakesSprinkle a little Tajín on top and you’re good to go!  By the way, I live in Southern California, where Taíjn is in every grocery store.  It’s a Mexican chile lime seasoning.  You might have to find it in the international section of your grocery store depending on where you live. 

TajinAnd no, this is not a sponsored post, just an ingredient my family enjoys.

Mexican Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes with Cocoa Tajín Buttercream
Yields 18
Slightly spiced chocolate cupcakes! Zucchini makes these ultra moist. These are topped with a cocoa buttercream and sprinkled with Tajín chile lime seasoning.
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
30 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
30 min
For the cupcakes
  1. 1 boxed chocolate cake mix (I used Betty Crocker Devil's Food)
  2. The ingredients listed on the box (my mix, listed above, asked for 1 1/4 cup water, 1/2 cup oil and 3 eggs)
  3. 1 large zucchini, grated
  4. 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  5. 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  6. 1/2 teaspoon salt
For the Cocoa Buttercream
  1. 1 cup dark chocolate
  2. 1/2 cup unsalted butter (room temp)
  3. 2-5 Tablespoons heavy cream
  4. 1 teaspoon vanilla
  5. 1 pound confectioners sugar
  6. 1/2 teaspoon ancho powder
  7. 1/2 teaspoon Tajín
  8. 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  9. extra Tajín for sprinkling on top
  1. Start the cake mix by preheating your oven to the temperature given on the box. Then shred the zucchini. If you have a food processor you can make really fast work of this.
  2. Make mix according to package directions with the egg, oil and water, but add the spices to the mix before mixing. Gently fold in the zucchini until evenly mixed.
  3. Pour into a greased cupcake pan about 2/3 - 3/4 full. Bake according to package directions but start checking them early. Mine take 14-19 minutes. You're looking for the edges of the cupcakes to look slightly dry and just starting to separate from the sides of the cupcake pan. There might be glossy spots on top but there shouldn't be any puddles or jiggles.
  4. Meanwhile, start the buttercream. Combine the butter, 2 Tablespoons cream, sugar, vanilla, and spices with a mixer. Cut up the chocolate (if not using chip form) and microwave 30 seconds at a time until melted, stirring in between each interval.
  5. Once the chocolate is melted, add it to the buttercream mixture and beat until fluffy and smooth. You might need to add more cream in, a tablespoon at a time, until it smooths out. I've used up to 5 tablespoons total, but never needed more than that. Some days it just comes together with less liquid than other days.
  6. Once cupcakes are completely cooled, spread frosting over the top. Then lightly sprinkle Tajín over cupcakes. Use a light hand from a foot or two high for more even sprinkling. A little goes a long way here.
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It’s Almost Summertime! Paleo Chocolate Mocha Ice Cream Sandwiches are Back!

A Paleo version of an ice cream sandwich for one. Chocolate mocha ice cream sandwich.

I posted this last summer on my old personal blog before I started this blog that is pretty much dedicated to my food.  It’s going to be in the eighties this week and quickly climb into the nineties this weekend.  I think it’s totally OK to make ice cream sandwiches under those circumstances, even if it is only April.

I LOVE ice cream sandwiches, but I’m trying to control myself more lately.  Hence the invention of these lovelies.

Paleo Chocolate Mocha Ice Cream Sandwich

This is a recipe for 1!  I find that helps me not over eat them…because I could eat a whole box of ice cream sammies from the store and not bat an eye.

chocolate mocha ice cream sandwich

For the mocha cookies:  (these cookies were inspired by

1/2 C almond flour

2 Tablespoons tapioca starch

1 Tablespoon maple syrup

1 Tablespoon coconut oil

1 Tablespoons chocolate chips (minis work well) or chopped dark chocolate

1 teaspoon cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon instant espresso powder


Preheat the oven to 350°.  Mix all the ingredients. I find it easier to just get in there with my hands.  😉  Then divide the mixture into two equal balls.  Pat balls down gently on a silicone baking mat on a cookie sheet.  These should be about 4 inches across.  They’re slightly thicker than I normally make cookies because they need to hold up in ice cream sandwich territory.

Bake for 13-15 minutes.  You’re looking for golden edges and solid but not hard cookies.


Meanwhile, make the filling:

1 frozen banana

1 Tablespoon cocoa powder

1 teaspoon instant espresso powder

1/2 Tablespoon raw honey


I like to sit the frozen bananas out for about 10-15 minutes to slightly thaw.  I find they blend easier that way.  Slice bananas and place in food processor.  Add in the other ingredients.  blitz until smooth and creamy like ice cream.  If it seems too soft at this point, put it in the freezer for a few minutes to firm it up.  Don’t leave it too long though.  This stuff gets really hard. 

Once your cookies are cooled and your ice cream is ready, slather a generous amount of the ice cream onto one cookie and top with the other cookie. 

You can either enjoy right away or wrap with plastic wrap and place in freezer until ready to consume. 

Paleo Chocolate Mocha Ice Cream SandwichDon’t rush through this one.  Sit and enjoy slowly.  Not so slowly the ice cream melts, just slowly enough to actually savor each bite.

Immunity Upgrade Juice

I noticed some kids at the school are starting another round of going out sick.  Our weather has been up and down, probably breeding germs extra well.  I’m heading off our family’s impending sicknesses with this immunity boosting juice.  Hopefully we’ll be upgraded to ‘no sickness’ territory.

immunity boosting juice

This is full of vitamin C from citrus, kiwi, and strawberries.  In addition, the cruciferous vegetables are loaded with antiviral and antibacterial agents.

immunity boosting juice

If you have a juicer and a round of summer colds coming on (or any other type of cold), get juicing. 

ImmunoUpgrade Juice
Yields 2
An immunity boosting juice!
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Prep Time
5 min
Prep Time
5 min
  1. 3 strawberries
  2. 1 large orange, peeled
  3. 2 apples
  4. 3 kiwi (peeled)
  5. 1 cup broccoli chunks
  6. 1 cup cauliflower chunks
  1. Put it all in the juicer and let it keep you well! I like to refrigerate before drinking. Just stir to mix it up as it will separate while sitting.
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7 Healthy and Quick Snacks I Love

7 things I reach for time and time again to satisfy my need for snacks without sacrificing health or flavor.

7 quick and healthy snack ideas

Sometimes when I see snack ideas I think, “That’s not a snack.  That’s a small meal!”  A snack for me has to not only be small enough to be a snack, but it also has to be quick.  It does need to be satisfying, but if it isn’t something I can just grab and go, then it better take less than about 3 minutes to make. 

I am not going to make meatballs from scratch, no matter how easy, for a snack.  I’m not going to bake something for 20 minutes as a snack.  I am not going to spend half an hour chopping vegetables for a salad ‘snack’.

So what are the healthy things I turn to time and time again? (We’ll ignore the unhealthy things today 😉 )

1- Trail mix packs. 

healthy quick snacks

I found these at Trader Joe’s.  They are individual sized packs and they have a variety of types.  I like the Happy Trekking as well.  I always have one of these in my purse for sudden hunger or when I’m out running errands and don’t have time to eat without running through a drive through.  They are quite filling and keep me going until I can get home for a late lunch.


2-  Romaine Spears or Wraps

avocado bacon lettuce spears

I make these with just about anything in them: lunch meat, previously chopped veggies, leftover taco filling, or my favorite, avocado and uncured bacon.  I use leftover bacon that just ‘recrisps’ in a pan while I get the romaine out and the avocado chopped.  They almost always have salt and pepper on them too.

Just for today I made this with non-leftover bacon to see how long it would take.  I put half a strip in a pan to sizzle while I got out the romaine and chopped half an avocado.  Then my bacon was pretty much done.  Chopped it and sprinkled on top.  4 minutes, not rushing. 

To keep these healthy you really want to focus on buying good quality, no nitrate bacon.  Also, use just enough to taste, don’t make it the main flavor. 

PS- My 8 year old would like you to know that she likes bacon cheddar in hers.  I am cutting out more and more dairy due to hormonal issues so no cheddar for mine. 


3-  Mandarins

seedless mandarin oranges

This one is new to my repertoire.  I’ve historically not really liked oranges as snacks due to their messiness, but these are really minimally messy while peeling and also peel pretty easily.  In addition, they are more portable than many snack ideas that involve fruits or veggies. The seedless ones are fabulous and they smell great too!


4-  Fresh Veggies

how to get your family to eat more fresh vegetables

I know, you’re thinking, but chopping those takes a long time! That breaks all your rules!  You’re right.  Except for this one case.   A couple of years ago, when I first started trying to get the family to eat more veggies, I started this new afternoon thing.  I put out a tray of fresh veggies every day at 4 pm.  This is the snack everyone in the family can have.  They cannot ask for anything else, cannot complain of being hungry, cannot ask me about dinner…You see where I am going with this?

This veggie platter has been one of the best things I ever did to get my family to eat more veggies.  They cannot have fruit for snack at this time. (We already eat plenty of that. The point was to add in veggies)  They can use homemade dressing or garlic salt on it (we currently have ranch and Italian) and they can eat as many as they want.  I figure if they’re spoiling their appetite by eating too many veggies, I’m OK with that.

At first they picked out a lot of new veggies to try and got adventurous.  It was fun.  We discovered that we like raw beets!  There are usually mushrooms, cucumber, and celery on this plate too, but we’re currently out.  I need to refill the plate soon.

So how is this a quick snack?

I don’t make this when I’m hungry for a snack.  I make this plate every Monday right before I start dinner. At dinner time I cover what’s left and put it in the fridge.  One large plate lasts 3-4 days before I need to refill it.  Something funny happened when I started putting this out to get my family eat more vegetables.  I started eating more too. 😉  Sometimes, on my most lazy days, I just reach under the wrap in the fridge and just grab a handful of whatever is on that plate for my snack.  It may not be what I’m craving at the moment, but I often reach for these when I’m deciding on something else that I never end up eating because these filled me up.  They’re quick because they’re already made.  Shhhhh.  Don’t tell my kids I’m eating them all day long.


5-  Good Ol’ Apples and nut butter

apples and nut butter snack

Sometimes I like sunflower butter, sometimes almond butter, sometimes peanut butter.  These slice fast, and with a scoop from your jar you have a snack in less than 2 minutes.  Just make sure your nut butter has just nuts, no added sugar or other nasties.


6-  Berries

berries for snack

Don’t tell.  Sometimes I buy one of those small containers of raspberries, or blackberries, or a little green basket of strawberries at the farmer’s market, and keep it just for one single snack for myself.  Straight antioxidants!  By the way, this picture came from this post (not my own) about the health benefits of berries.  It’s just soooo pretty!


7-  Olives

olives for snack

Just drain and eat. Seriously easy.  If I am craving something salty I’ll eat the green ones.  Loaded with healthy fats, it doesn’t get much quicker than this.

I’d love to know what fast and healthy snacks you reach for!  Leave them in the comments below please.  I’m always looking for new ideas.

Simmered Tuscan Chicken

Lots of vegetables make this simple chicken dish a one pot meal and comfort food all at the same time.

This is one of those easy dishes that is chock-full of veggies and the whole family eats.  In fact, my youngest (8) gets 2-3 servings every time I make it and it is the only dish in which she eats green beans.  She doesn’t even blink twice, just scarfs them down.  The veggie hating husband picks out his green beans, but there are still potatoes, tomatoes and lots of bell peppers for nutrition in there.

Simmered Tuscan Chicken -

I am going to apologize now for the less-than-great-quality photos.  I somehow accidentally deleted my pics for these.  I swear that delete button is right next to the rename button and it makes things disappear so easily.  🙁  I ended up having to pull these from my Instagram feed, which I don’t know how to do other than to take a screen shot.  Screen shots aren’t the highest quality images out there. 

This does take an hour to make, but a lot of that is simmer time.  There’s plenty of time to clear off the table and throw a side or two together while this is going.  Maybe switch the laundry and water the garden too.

First thing, cut your chicken breasts up and start them sauteing in olive oil in a large skillet with a lid or a wide shallow pan.  While that’s going, start chopping those vegetables.  Look at all those colors!

veggies for simmered tuscan chickenOnce the chicken is lightly browned, you add some garlic and then add the red potatoes (I love not peeling potatoes!) and the bell peppers.  Work on something else for about 5 minutes while these are softening a bit.  Then add in canned Mexican style tomatoes and the cut up green beans.   I used haricot verts here.  They’re so tender.  Then reduce heat to medium and cover.  Let it go for about half an hour.  When the chicken is all the way done and the potatoes are tender you are ready to serve. 

You can dish this up in a bowl with the liquid- almost like a stew, or scoop it with a slotted spoon like I did here to plate with sides. 

simmered tuscan chicken

It just occurred to me that this could be a one pot meal.  It has carbs, veggies and meat.  Nothing else needed!

Simmered Tuscan Chicken
Serves 4
Chicken and lots of veggies make this a very healthy comfort food dish.
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Total Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr
  1. 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  2. 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  3. 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  4. 5 large red potatoes, cube
  5. 1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
  6. 1 28 oz can Mexican style stewed tomatoes (or two 14 oz cans)
  7. 1 Tablespoon Italian seasoning
  8. 1 Tablespoon butter
  9. 1 teaspoon dried basil
  10. 12 oz haricot vert or green beans, cut into 1"-2" pieces
  11. salt and pepper to taste
  1. In a large skillet, saute the cubed chicken in olive oil until lightly browned. Add garlic and saute one more minute.
  2. Meanwhile, chop the other vegetables. Add in potatoes and bell peppers when the chicken and garlic are ready. Stir and cook about 5 minutes more.
  3. Add in canned tomatoes, herbs, butter and green beans. Stir to combine and reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and let it simmer for about 30 minutes.
  4. When the chicken is cooked through and the potatoes are tender it is ready to enjoy.
  5. Taste and adjust salt and pepper if necessary.
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Easter Pins I’ve Made

What’s on my Easter Pinterest board? Not your standard ham! Cocktails, desserts, bunny rolls and more!

I’ve been roaming Pinterest to see what I’ve pinned for Easter ideas.  There’s always too much to choose from! I ended up having to create an entirely new Pinterest board dedicated to Easter.

Here are the favorites I’ve narrowed it down to so far.  I’m staying away from the main dish as everyone seems to have their traditional ‘must make’ main dish.  Side dishes tend to be a bit more changeable.

And by the way, you can find the link for these and more Easter items (cocktails, decorations, etc…) on my Easter Food Pinterest Board.  You can also click on the hyperlinks in the post.

Pinterest Easter Food Board

This Chilled Spring Pea Soup from Just A Little Bit of Bacon could be a first course for a fancy brunch or served on its own. 

chilled spring pea soupAnd these cute fruit shapes from Living Locurto would be great for kids!

Easter Shaped FruitSpeaking of cute bunny shaped food, these bunny shaped rolls from Plated Cravings look way easier to make than I would have thought.

Easy Easter Bunny RollsI must be on a bunny kick, because what do bunnies eat?  Carrots!  And these honey garlic roasted carrots from Carlsbad Cravings look sooooooo good.

honey garlic roasted carrotsHow about dessert?  These pistachio cookies are a change from the normal, but the pastel green totally fits Easter.

pistachio cookiesAnd these carrot cake cookies with cream cheese frosting from Two Sisters Crafting look to die for!

carrot cake cookies with cream cheese frostingJust a disclaimer – I have not tried any of these yet, just thought I’d share what’s jumping off the screen at me lately. 

Menu Plan Monday – The First Week of April

This is Spring Break for my kids, so the breakfasts are a little more extravagant than normal.  I’ve also had to back off how many times I assign leftovers to lunches.  My kids and hubby prefer leftovers to sammies, but they’re eating more.  I need to start making larger recipes and doubling recipes.  My son officially (as of today) has bigger feet than I do.  He eats a lot. 

Here’s the quick and dirty menu for the week:

menu plan april

What’s on your menu for the week?