Zucchini Bread

We are still enjoying the bounty of our CSA share every week. Honestly, I’m not sure what I’ll do with one more cucumber or squash (although my oldest is enjoying the pickles immensely.  Maybe I’ll post about those, too.)  The zucchini, however, doesn’t present a problem. I just keep making bread and sticking it in the freezer. I know there are other great things to do with zucchini – like roasting it – have you done that?  Yum.  But, I really like having loaves of bread stuck away for the future.

 

This particular recipe is a hybrid of about 3 other recipes that I kept toying with…and while I’m not going to say it’s “healthy,” I will say it is considerably healthier than any of the original recipes.  I cut the oil down by more than half and substituted applesauce. I nearly doubled the zucchini and reduced the sugar by about half as well.  (I omitted the walnuts…though that would be some extra protein and good fat…you could certainly add them in if that floats your boat.)

 

It freezes very well and also keeps in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks. If you have an abundance of zucchini, I recommend making a double or triple batch for the freezer. The last time I made it I had left over batter that wasn’t quite enough for a loaf, so I made muffins.  They had all disappeared by the next morning. I only ate one. No one else is talking, of course. Suffice it to say, next time I’m making more muffins!

 

A lot of zucchini recipes will give you elaborate instructions for getting all the water out of the grated zucchini. I’m pretty lazy about stuff like that (see tomato sauce) and really don’t want to spend the time wringing water out of vegetables. So I don’t. I grate all the zucchini a day or two ahead of time, layer it lasagna-style in a bunch paper towels in a big Tupperware container and stick it in the fridge. The paper towels soak up most of the liquid and the zucchini is crisp and cold when it’s time to go into the batter. It seems to work out just fine.

 

 

This recipe has proven to be pretty flexible…so if you want it sweeter, add a little more sugar….moister, add more oil or applesauce. As long as the ratios stay pretty close it really turns out every time. So consider this a template for your own experimentations…enjoy!

 

Almost-Healthy Zucchini Bread

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

3 teaspoons ground cinnamon

3 eggs

1/2 cup applesauce

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 cup white sugar

1 cup brown sugar

3 teaspoons vanilla extract

2-3 cups grated zucchini (I use three)

Grease and flour two 8×4 inch loaf pans. Preheat oven to 325°. Sift together flour, salt, baking powder, soda, cinnamon in a bowl. Beat eggs, oil, applesauce, vanilla and sugars together in a large bowl. Add sifted ingredients to the creamed mixture and beat well. Stir in zucchini until well combined. Pour batter into prepared pans.  Bake for 50 minutes (up to 60…use tester until it comes out clean.) Cool in pan on rack for at least 15 minutes, then remove and cool completely.

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Asparagus Tart

I think I promised someone I would post this recipe after Easter. As you can see, I’m really on top of my to-do list!

We had a lovely Easter potluck at my aunt’s house and one of the things I took was this tart.

So easy and delicious…and pretty!

Just a few steps…blanching asparagus, then a quick ice bath:

Roll out and pre-bake some puff pastry:

Spread the cheese mixture all over the pastry:

Lay out the cooled asparagus:

And it is ready for the oven. Really, it’s that easy.

I originally pinned this recipe on Pinterest as part of my “Holidays: Easter” board. And I’m happy to have it in my repertoire for it’s simplicity and because I love asparagus and having a new way to use it.

This tart is perfect at room temperature, so great for summer when you want don’t want to be serving things hot.

Asparagus and Cheese Tart  from FoodNetwork

  • 1 pound asparagus, trimmed
  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry (about 1/2 pound), thawed
  • All-purpose flour, for dusting
  • 1 cup grated fontina cheese (about 3 ounces)
  • 1 cup grated gruyere cheese (about 3 ounces)
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 3 tablespoons whole milk (or almond milk)
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

Fill a large bowl with ice water. Bring about 1 inch of water to a boil in a large skillet. Add the asparagus; cook until bright green and crisp-tender, 2 to 5 minutes, depending on the thickness of the asparagus. Drain and transfer to the ice water to stop the cooking; drain and pat dry. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

 Roll out the puff pastry into a 10-by-16-inch rectangle on a floured surface. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet and prick all over with a fork. Bake until light golden brown, about 12 minutes. Let cool slightly on the baking sheet.

 Meanwhile, mix the fontina, gruyere, shallot, egg yolks, milk, nutmeg and a pinch each of salt and pepper in a bowl until combined. Spread the cheese mixture evenly over the puff pastry, leaving a 1-inch border on all sides. Toss the asparagus with the olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste. Arrange the asparagus on the tart and bake until the cheese mixture is slightly puffy, 15 to 20 minutes. Sprinkle with the lemon zest. Serve warm or at room temperature.

St. Patrick’s Day Feast

I’ve never made corned beef before…what better excuse than March 17?

Of course, I intended to buy a plain brisket and do the 10 days of curing myself. But let’s all remember for a moment what a tremendously gifted procrastinator I am. Right. So that means instead of curing a brisket for the past 10 days I was out this morning going from store to store to find one that someone else had brined for me. And luck was with me!

A corned beef brisket, rubbed with spices and simmering in broth

So for those of you who have also never made one of these delights, the corned beef comes brined or cured in a solution, but uncooked. I added spices and seasoned the broth and then it was submerged and simmered in the mixture for several hours. I’ll admit that this Texas girl hesitated a moment before dropping that pretty brisket down into a pot of liquid to be boiled…but I managed. And I’m glad I was able to overcome.

Here it is, resting, after being removed from the broth

I threw some vegetables in the broth after it was finished cooking…carrots, potatoes, turnips. I know, I know, what about the cabbage? Don’t worry, there was cabbage; but I could NOT bring myself to throw it into a pot of liquid to be boiled. It got its own special treatment.

Anyway, back to that corned beef. Huge hit with the boys, for sure.

My delightful mother was over for the afternoon and stayed for dinner. In fact, if it hadn’t been for her help with the kiddos, dinner probably still wouldn’t be ready. Anyway, she tries to not eat too much red meat, so I wanted to make sure she could fully join in our St Patty’s celebration. After all, it’s her mother’s family who brings the Irish into our line. So there was also Shepherd’s Pie (with turkey instead of beef.)

I think my favorite part of dinner was the beer bread. Mmmmmmm. And I don’t even like beer.

It was that perfect almost-crunchy on the outside and wonderfully soft on the inside. And it was a mix. As in, it came in a bag and I poured it in a bowl and dumped in one bottle of beer and stuck it in the oven…and an hour later the house was full of this smell:

An "action shot!" My mom doing the slicing...and keeping my 5-year-old from eating the entire loaf.

All in all, it was a pretty good nod to some Irish culinary traditions…and it was an even better evening with family around the table.

Oh right – the cabbage. I almost forgot. Sautéed in butter until it is nice and tender and just a touch sweet. Perfect. I just can’t boil it – I have awful flashbacks to the cabbage soup diet fad.

So there it is with all its browned-butter goodness

My five-year-old was pretty stoked about the beef…and the bread…but he’s so weird about potatoes. He doesn’t like them. So he was less than thrilled with the Shepherd’s Pie…and don’t even mention the cabbage. Mostly he was excited about the hats.

And the light-up shamrock earrings that I was wearing. No, there’s not going to be a photo of those.

Last, but not least, there was a cake. A falling-apart cake. Good thing it was yummy since it was broken. A broken Irish Spice Cake.

It didn’t start out broken. It started out boiling on the stove top.

Then a bunch of flour got added. It was all poured into a pan and baked for almost an hour. Then I set it on the counter to cool. It was still in the pan. Then I left. I went to T-Mobile to see if I could get another phone because mine died today. None of the buttons would work. It was beeping at me all day – telling me every time I got an email or a text message – but it wouldn’t let me look at them. All day. My phone was taunting me. So I went and got another one. But I should have taken the cake out of the pan first.

By the time I got home, the top part had cooled way more than the rest of the cake and shrunk a little. So when it got turned upside down it split apart.

Don’t be like me. Don’t let technology ruin a perfectly good spice cake.

OK, maybe “ruin” is a little strong. Because, of course, we still ate it. And it was awfully good.

I mean, really, once it was all sliced up you could hardly tell. I was wishing I had thought to make some Irish coffee to go with it, though. That would have been a good idea.

Here’s a bunch of information that we read through today so I could answer my son’s questions – he asks a lot of questions – about why he was wearing green and why we were searching for corned beef and why Daddy brought home silly hats.

And here are some other links of potential interest:

The Shepherd’s Pie recipe that was a guideline for ours.

The Corned Beef and Vegetables recipe that was a guideline for ours.

The Broken Irish Spice Cake recipe.

And the Beer Bread Mix. Highly recommended. In fact, I think my mother was successful in keeping  my oldest out of it after his third piece…which means there must still be some in the kitchen somewhere. I think I have to go.

Hope you had a wonderful St. Patrick’s Day!!

Holiday Bread: Remix

There is always some left over pumpkin in the house after the holidays. I usually ignore it. And sometimes I make these muffins.

But this year I made another batch of my mother’s holiday bread, with a twist.

I keep bananas in the freezer. Sometimes we use them in smoothies. But this winter we haven’t been eating many smoothies, so they have kind of piled up in there. I smashed one of them up and threw it into the batter.

And I’m kind of over cranberries for awhile. So I used blueberries. And I went up on the baking soda.

And instead of baking it in a loaf pan, I poured it into a 9×9 square pan. It was a little more like cake. It was also super yum. Reminiscent of the holiday favorite, but different enough for January. I’m so happy about the extra loaf waiting in the freezer. Think it will make it until February?

MY MOM’S CRANBLUEBERRY BANANA PUMPKIN BREAD

2 slightly beaten eggs

2 cups sugar

½ cup oil

1 cup solid pack pumpkin

2 ¼ cups flour

1 TB pumpkin pie spice

2 tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

1 banana, smashed

1 cup chopped cranberries blueberries

Combine eggs, sugar, oil and pumpkin – mix well.  In a large bowl mix flour, pie spice, soda and salt.  Make well in center and pour pumpkin mixture in – mix just until dry ingredients are moist.  Stir in banana and blueberries.  Spoon batter into 2 greased and floured 8x 3 ¾ x 2 ½ in. aluminum loaf pans.  Bake for 45-50 minutes at 350. (Adjust time to 35-40 minutes for mini loaf pans. Test center until done.)

Holiday Baking: Two Breads and a Cookie

You know the thing you have to have or it just isn’t Christmas? That’s what this post is about. Every year around Christmas my mom would make Cranberry Pumpkin Bread. Nothing super-wham-a-dam fancy…just a nice, basic holiday bread…but it is so “Christmas” for me.

She would make huge batches of it…some to keep and some to give away. I can vividly remember eating it for breakfast well into January…toasted with big globs of butter on it.

I decided I was going to make multiple batches of it this year to give to my son’s teachers and to use for our family holiday goodie swap. Which was a good decision because it is so easy to make.

I just love that pumpkin color. And then when you add the bright cranberries…it screams “holidays” to me.

I baked one batch in some mini-bundt cake pans so they would look a little bit like wreaths. And if I were a better blogger, I would have remembered to take a photo of the cute little loaves BEFORE I wrapped them up as gifts. But I’m not, so I didn’t.

But you probably still get the idea, right?

Clear plastic baggies, some snowflake stickers and ribbons…

…and how cute are those little Christmas-themed brads on the gift tags? I found them in the scrapbook section at the craft store. Voila! Teacher gifts.

For my family party I baked the pumpkin bread in mini loaf pans and I also added some gingerbread cakes. I had never made this recipe before…but I figured if it didn’t work out, I could just give them the mini loaves and they wouldn’t know the difference.

This recipe is a little different from other gingerbread I’ve seen. It has crystallized ginger in it…which means the ginger flavor is more pronounced than usual. Which is great if you like ginger…and not so great if you are like my husband who said, “Too much. It’s bitter or something.”

There’s the batter, dark with molasses, and the ginger and chocolate chips being added at the end. I knew they wouldn’t be very sweet because there’s not much sugar in them…perfect batter for tea cakes. To be eaten with coffee or latte or hot cocoa or tea or whatever other hot beverage you prefer. Or even Mountain Dew, as my father suggested.

He loved them, by the way. Of course, now that I’ve shared the Mountain Dew pairing advice, you are probably skeptical about his taste. 

One thing we can all agree on – they are cute little cakes.

Once paired with the mini loaves of pumpkin bread, my family swap gifts were ready.

And I got to use more of those cute little brads on these tags, too.

That’s two breads. One old. One new. Both yummy. (Unless you are my husband, and then just one is yummy.)

Now for the cookie.

This is also a holiday tradition from my childhood. And my father’s childhood. And it’s him who makes them every year.

That’s another tradition I remember vividly…my mother trying to be nice about the mess he always made in the kitchen…she wasn’t always very successful and he always made a mess!

I’ve rarely gone without these cookies in December. Even when we lived in Seattle, I would get a little tin of them in the mail.

Aren’t they cute? You can practically pop a whole one right in your mouth. And I don’t know about you, but that’s a plus in my book. They also have a fun sort of surprising ingredient. OK, it’s not so surprising if you know the name of the cookie. Pfeffernüsse.

Well, these are a version of pfeffernüsse, anyway. Roughly translated (German, Danish, Dutch) into “peppernuts.”  There’s no shortage of different versions of these little cookies – they’ve been around forever and each family tended to have their own spin on them. More typical is the peppernut that is in a small ball, rolled in powdered sugar. My family’s version puts the powdered sugar in between in the form of icing. But they all have pepper in them. That’s right. Ground black pepper. A delightful foil to the sweet, nutty flavor of the molasses.

My father remembers getting a tin every year from his grandmother. We’ve always had them. Just isn’t Christmas without them.

MY MOM’S CRANBERRY PUMPKIN BREAD

2 slightly beaten eggs

2 cups sugar

½ cup oil

1 cup solid pack pumpkin

2 ¼ cups flour

1 TB pumpkin pie spice

1 tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

1 cup chopped cranberries

Combine eggs, sugar, oil and pumpkin – mix well.  In a large bowl mix flour, pie spice, soda and salt.  Make well in center and pour pumpkin mixture in – mix just until dry ingredients are moist.  Stir in cranberries.  Spoon batter into 2 greased and floured 8x 3 ¾ x 2 ½ in. aluminum loaf pans.  Bake for 1 hour at 350. (Adjust time to 40 minutes for mini loaf pans. Test center until done.)

CHOCOLATE GINGERBREAD TEA CAKES

2 1/4 cups white whole wheat flour (or 2 cups all-purpose flour)

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1 1/2 tsp. ground ginger

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. each cloves and nutmeg

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

3/4 cup molasses

1/4 C. water

1 large egg

1 C. buttermilk

1/2 cup diced crystallized ginger

1 cup mini chocolate chips

Grease and flour a mini muffin pan. (Or a 9×9 pan) Preheat the oven to 350°. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. Melt the butter in a heatproof measuring cup. Add the molasses to the cup, and pour into the dry ingredients, mixing to moisten. Add the water, stirring until everything is moistened. Whisk together the egg and buttermilk. Stir into the batter until it’s evenly combined. Stir in the crystallized ginger and chocolate chips. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and bake for 15-18 minutes, depending on the size of your muffins (30 to 35 minutes for a 9×9 pan) or until the cake just begins to pull away from the edge of the pan. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack.

PFEFFERNÜSSE (PEPPERNUTS)

1 cup sugar

1 cup molasses

1 cup butter (1/2 lb.)

1 cup hot water

1 tsp. baking soda

1 scant tsp. ground black pepper

1 scant tsp. cloves

1 scant tsp. ginger

1 scant tsp. salt

about 5 cups flour

Put baking soda in hot water. Cream sugar, molasses, butter together. Add soda water mixture. Mix well. Add sifted dry ingredients (pepper, cloves, ginger, salt.) Then add enough flour for a spoon to stand. (Usually about 5 cups.) Let batter stand overnight in refrigerator.

Roll and cut into small circles. Bake 6 minutes at 400 degrees.

ICING

½ cup soft butter, margarine, or shortening

1/8 tsp. salt

About 3 cups sifted confectioners sugar

About 1/8 – 1/4 cup milk or light cream

1 ½ tsp. vanilla extract

Mix butter, salt, vanilla and 1 cup sugar at medium speed. Add milk and rest of sugar alternately until very smooth. Spread icing on half of cookies and make into sandwiches.

Back with The Daring Kitchen…

I’ve been away from The Daring Kitchen for a little while…there was the oven issue, sick kids, me feeling lazy…but I’m back! So let’s get to it:

Our hostesses this month, Evelyne of Cheap Ethnic Eatz, and Valerie of a The Chocolate Bunny, chose delicious pâté with freshly baked bread as their June Daring Cook’s challenge! They’ve provided us with 4 different pâté recipes to choose from and are allowing us to go wild with our homemade bread choice.

I think pâté is kind of like cilantro…people seem to either love it or hate it. I don’t know many who are on the fence. We fall in the love category. Well, with the pâté anyway. I also love cilantro. Everyone else in my house makes a face over it.

Pâté was a regular feature at the wine tasting evenings of our past. But I’ve never made it. Never even thought about trying to make it. My dear friend Erica, hostess of the best wine tastings, was so excited to hear I was going to give it a try and immediately made a request for a mushroom pâté she’s been wanting to have with Thanksgiving dinner. Another great reason to get back to The Daring Kitchen challenges.

The recipe for the mushroom pâté called for three different kinds of mushrooms. I used two different kinds and one of them had to be purchased dried and reconstituted.

You can hydrate dried mushrooms in hot water for about 30 minutes or boiling water for just 2 or 3 minutes. You don’t want to leave them in water too long or they get unspeakably soggy. (One ounce of dried mushrooms will turn into about 3-4 ounces of re-hydrated mushrooms. Remember that when you see the price on those packages of dried mushrooms!)

I also used some fresh cremini mushrooms.

Cremini are baby portabellas. And one of my favorites.

The sautéed mushrooms get mixed in a food processor with cream cheese and goat cheese and spices…

…and then into the refrigerator so the cheeses can set back up and create a stiffer pâté.

I’m aware that pâté can look like cat food. I get it. I do. But really, if you love mushrooms, this recipe is worth a try. And it is so flexible you can change the flavors as you like.

The other part of the challenge was to make homemade bread to go with the pâté. “No problemo,” I thought. And it went very well…until the last rise. Which it kind of didn’t. The flavor was right, but it wasn’t as fluffy as it should have been. Also, there is the possibility that I put the bread in the oven before it was fully preheated. I had a fever. I wasn’t really paying attention.

Starter dough…which rests at room temperature for at least 14 hours.

Finished dough in thirds, resting. These ovals were supposed to be rolled into three baguette loaves, but my pans weren’t long enough so I cut them in half.

Ready for the final rise.

Oh, and there was a whole other pâté, too. Liver and pork, three ways.

Whew!

Here are the recipes:

Mushroom pâté from Emeril

Pâtés and baguettes on The Daring Kitchen site.

Enjoy!

Oh, and Happy Father’s Day.

UPDATE: The liver pâté was overwhelming. And not in a good way. I had to substitute beef liver for pork liver (which I could not find anywhere) and it was just too strong. The texture didn’t really work either. So I don’t recommend the substitution but, our dog Hannah love, love, loved it. And the not-so-fluffy bread wound up in freezer bags in tiny cubes labeled “For The Ducks.” So, it was a good week for the animals.

Pumpkin Muffins

Do you ever grab those little breakfast muffins in the bakery at your grocery store? Are you ever jolted by how super-sweet they are? I like the idea of muffins for breakfast, but I don’t like them to be too sweet. And no, I’m not a fan of those all-bran-sawdust muffins, either. Disclosure: I’m a savory-breakfast kinda girl. But, I made these this morning, and with a few tweaks, they will be a perfect breakfast muffin.

Pumpkin isn’t just for the fall, right?

So, the biggest tweak is that I don’t think they need as much chocolate as the original recipe calls for… 1/2 an ounce per muffin tasted like a lot to me. Or maybe those teeny-tiny chocolate chips would be a better choice. I’m inclined to leave them out altogether. Disclosure: I’m not a huge, huge chocolate fan. Now don’t freak out, I didn’t say I DON’T like chocolate, just that I’m not nearly as crazy about it as I know some of you are.

Anyway, I found myself wishing for a little lemon zest flavor to lighten them up a bit and maybe even some poppy seeds. Oh, and cranberries. But I thought, “Do pumpkin and lemon flavors even go together? Can I do that?” Then I remembered a fabulous Christmas gift from my mother. This book. In the back of this book is a huge grid of “Classic and Contemporary Flavor Combinations.” Basically you can look up one flavor and follow its line across the grid to see where it best matches up with berries, nuts, citrus, fruits, chocolate, spices and even some vegetables.  And guess what? Pumpkin and lemon were paired. I’m going to take that as one vote for my tweaking plan.

But if you have to have a daily chocolate fix, these wouldn’t be a bad way to get it.

Pumpkin Muffins

adapted from relish!relish!

1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup sugar

2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

1 cup pumpkin puree

1/2 cup butter, melted

6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips Tweak: replace chocolate chips with dried cranberries.  Add 1 TB lemon zest and 1 1/2 TB poppy seeds.

Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl. Break eggs in another bowl and stir. Add pumpkin and butter to eggs. Stir in chocolate chips. Pour over dry ingredients and gently fold in until all moistened. Do not over mix. Pour in lightly greased muffin pan and bake 22 minutes at 350°. (Be sure to check with cake tester as the batter is a little dense.)

These will also freeze well after cooled completely. Wrapping each muffin in plastic wrap before storing in a large freezer bag will help prevent freezer burn.