Monday, August 26, 2013

Summer Bucket List - Zucchini Bread

Land-O-Lakes had a challenge to create a summer bucket list for the last few weeks of the season. It seemed like a great way to celebrate the coming end of the hot, humid weather to me! So, I scurried off to Pinterest and created a special board just for the challenge. I'll try to write up everything I manage to try, provided I don't get distracted by other shiny ideas.

Right now I want to share my zucchini bread recipe. Tomorrow my Tuesday afternoon gaming group at the Wizard's Guild/Universe of Super Heroes starts meeting again. Since I know how famished the girls usually are after school, I thought I'd take in something they can snack on. And really, this is the time of year for zucchini bread, even if I did cheat tonight and use the frozen stuff because it was already grated.

With the exception of my mom, everyone who's ever tried my bread loves it. It must be one of the few things I really get right. (And it's not that mom doesn't like it, she's just more partial to pumpkin bread, which was part of her Christmas present last year.) And it's really very easy to make. I mean, I use the recipe in the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook! But I've learned a few things over the years that make mine really moist and tasty and I wanted to share them with you today.

First of all, if you don't have one of BH & G's cookbooks with the Zucchini Bread recipe in it, you can also find it online. Very nice for pinning to my Summer Bucket List board.

Melinda's Easy Zucchini Bread
3 cups flour (1 1/2 cup all-purpose and 1 1/2 cup wheat?)
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 eggs, beaten slightly
2 cups finely shredded zucchini and/or summer squash
1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
1 cup totally mix-ins (raisins, cranberries, nuts, chocolate chips, etc...) (Optional.)

Preheat oven to 350 and grease two loaf pans. Set aside pans. In a large mixing bowl, combine everything from the eggs on down to the mix-ins. Stir well and set aside while you mix the rest of the ingredients in a medium sized bowl. Add contents of the smaller bowl to the larger one and stir well. Stir in the mix-ins as well.

Divide batter between the two loaf pans - it'll be about 2 1/4 cups each. Bake for 45-55 minutes until a tester inserted in the middle of the loaf comes out clean. Let cool on wire racks for 15 -30 minutes before gently turning the pan over to let it release the loaf.

Secondly, this recipe works wonderfully with yellow summer squash as well. You can mix it with the zucchini or use it on it's own.

Thirdly, here's a gratuitous, badly lit pic of my two loaves. It's badly lit because, well, that's our kitchen in that area at night AND I'm using one of the girls' video camera for a camera camera. Sorry.

Fourthly, toss the walnuts. Seriously. Don't use 'em. There are so many other fun, tasty, and interesting things to add in their place. My family's personal favorite is chocolate chips, which was the add-in in the upper loaf above. My favorite is raisins or cranberries, and since I've been on a cranberry kick lately, that's what the bottom loaf contains. The only dried fruit that I haven't liked so far is dried dates. They just don't have enough flavor to either add anything to the taste or to stand out on their own. Oh, and I've been known to mix fruit and chocolate. We all win!

Fifthly, you can make it healthier by substituting half whole wheat flour and half of the sugar with a sugar baking substitute. I used a stevia blend in these loaves, although we were out of whole wheat flour. If I hadn't been feeling so lazy, I might have ground up some oats and tried an oat flour instead.

Also, I love to add some extra fiber to the mix. If you can find it, Beneful makes powdered, unflavored product that's perfect for adding to foods. For two loaves - a double batch - I use between 1/3 and 1/2 cup of the stuff. The bread sticks with you longer and slows down the sugar absorption, which is just the thing for diabetics like me.

Sixthly, have fun with the spices. The actual recipe calls for cinnamon, but I forgot that I used the last of it a week ago making zucchini bread. So I ground up some cardamon and used that instead. Since cardamom can have a strong flavor, I figured out the total of cinnamon and nutmeg needed and then halved it. One half was cardamon and the other was nutmeg. I've also used ground ginger to good effect.

Seventhly, don't hesitate to freeze loaves for later eating and gifting. We love pulling a loaf out of the freeze come January. I usually wrap them in cling-wrap and then place them in gallon bags. You can get about two loaves to a bag. If you're thinking of gifts, you might want to bake them in a small, disposable aluminum pan. You can leave it in the pan to freeze.

If you want to gift zucchini bread but don't want it to be frozen for that long, just chop/shred the zucchini and freeze it in pre-measured portions. Since I usually do at least a double batch, I freeze two cup allotments.

Finally, I pretty much always make a double batch. And very little of it goes to waste. Also, I've been using glass loaf pans and have discovered that, in our oven, 45 minutes is all it takes. The 50 minutes listed in the recipe was just 5 minutes too much.

And there you have it! Tryllyam's Tips for Zucchini Bread. Go! Bake! Enjoy!

Now, to finish out that bucket list...

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Kitten Update

I'm working on a couple of actual, honest-to-goodness posts. Really. It's just been a really long month and a half. However, I wanted to put sometime up new for you to look at, so here's an updated pic of of Lilly Mathilda. :-D She's pretty much doubled in size since we got her, tears around the house like a whirlwind, and snuggles on me at night to sleep. I'm seriously even more in love with her.

She's totally spoiled, getting a partial can of moist food morning and night. And you should see how excited she gets when she knows its food time. I've taken to feeding her on my desk while I work on the computer.
And here she is curled up on my work table, napping. The little pillow is there for size comparison. If you care to scroll down to the bottom of the previous post, you'll see her standing on the same little pillow.

So, hopefully that'll put a smile on your face for now. I still need to do a post on the comic convention that we went to in Marietta last month.