Sunday, August 29, 2010

(World's Largest) Zucchini Chocolate Chip Bread

Grandma and Grandpa Russell visited recently and left us with loads of fresh veggies from their garden, including this impressive specimen. After roasted zucchini and grilled zucchini, it was time for my favorite variation--chocolate chip zucchini bread. I had to spoon out some of this particular zucchini's seeds, which were as big as a pumpkin's, but then it shredded easily in my Cuisinart food processor. This one giant zucchini yielded 10 full cups. This recipe uses 3 cups of shredded zucchini per batch, which is great if you're swimming in zucchini in your garden right now. I also substituted some whole wheat flour for white flour and applesauce for oil. A double recipe made two loaves of bread and three dozen average-sized muffins. The finished product is dense but moist and soft. They also freeze and reheat well and are a great way to get little ones to eat their veggies. Ben, my baby, only has four teeth for chewing but refuses pureed veggies so these are great (I pick out some of the chocolate chips so he's not getting too much sugar). And I love them in the morning with a hot cup of coffee. I've got a couple dozen in the freezer now so will be enjoying them into this fall as the weather (hopefully!) gets cooler.

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread (or muffins)
6 eggs
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
3 tsp vanilla
1 cup canola oil
1 cup unsweetened apple sauce
6 cups grated zucchini
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
3 tsp cinnamon
2 cups whole wheat flour
4 cups white flour
3 cups semisweet chocolate chips

1.) Preheat oven to 350'. Grease two bread pans and line with parchment paper, greasing the parchment paper as well. Line with paper cups or grease three, dozen muffin pans. I prefer muffins over loaves since I can take just one muffin out of the freezer for myself instead of having to wait for a whole loaf to thaw. But loaves are nicer to give away to friends or to bring out for company.
2.) In a large mixing bowl, mix eggs, sugars, vanilla, oil and applesauce.
3.) Add zucchini to wet mix.
4.) In a separate bowl mix all dry ingredients minus chocolate chips. Add dry to wet mix in batches.
5.) Fold in chocolate chips with rubber spatula, scraping bottom and sides of bowl and beater as you work.
6.) Pour out batter into bread pans and muffin tins.
7.) Bake muffins 17-20 minutes. Bake loaves 45-50 minutes.
8.) When cool, turn out of pans. Freeze in bags or store in airtight containers a few days.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Roasted Tomatoes with Feta and Pesto Farfalle

Phew. Sorry it's taken me so long to get up such a simple recipe. Seems a little anticlimactic. If you had a chance to make pesto or see some in the freshly-prepared section of your grocery store here's a quick, easy dinner or lunch. I wasn't sure how Lincoln, my almost-five-year-old, would take to pesto, but he asks for green pasta for dinner three out of five nights. Which is good since I used up the rest of my basil in the garden this week to make more. This stuff is like gold though with the ingredients--fresh basil, olive oil, fresh grated Parmesan cheese and pignoli aren't the cheapest things in the store. Luckily, the flavors are so intense a little goes a long way. If you have some leftover grilled or rotisserie chicken from a previous meal, that would go great in here too.

Roasted Tomatoes with Feta and Pesto Farfalle
5 cups farfalle, cooked and drained, still hot
5 Tb pesto
1 small package grape tomatoes
feta cheese crumbles
oil, salt, pepper

Wash grape tomatoes and toss in 1 Tb olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven at 400' for 10 minutes or so, until they split and pop and start to darken. Remove from the oven. Toss the pasta in the pesto lightly to coat. Add the grape tomatoes and toss. Add feta cheese to taste and toss very lightly. Salt and pepper to taste.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Harvest that basil--pesto

The last few years I've planted basil and I've always been disappointed...because I underestimate how much I'm going to want! You don't need a lot of ingredients to make food taste good when you have fresh herbs like basil on hand. And Lincoln will eat anything if it has fresh basil from the garden on it. In fact, I tell him some things are basil just because they're green to get him to eat them. I know, I know. You gotta do what you gotta do.

That said, all good things must come to an end. With dry August heat and the leaves getting bigger (and therefore starting to tend toward bitterness), and some plants going to seed, I decided it was pesto-making season. So here's my recipe for making pesto. If you don't have 8 cups of basil leaves on hand, you can easily modify this to what you do have around. If you don't have pine nuts (also called pignoli on some labels), you can use walnuts, although I'd play with the ratios since walnuts to me can have a stronger flavor. You can also leave out nuts altogether. Toasting the pignoli ahead for just a minute or two until brown wakens their flavor and texture. Fresh lemons are best.

Take care to wash your basil well since none of this is cooked and you'll be eating it basically raw. I found some interesting critters curled up inside my leaves. There are better ways to get your protein! Unless, of course, you're trying out for that survivor guy show.

Recipes for what to do with your pesto will follow.

8 cups fresh basil (lightly packed into the cup)
2/3 cup fresh grated parmesan
1/3 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
3 garlic cloves
juice of two lemons
1 Tb of sea salt
approximately 8 Tb of olive oil

1.) Harvest the largest stalks of basil, leaving any smaller stalks for tomato salad for the rest of the summer. :-)
2.) Thoroughly rinse each stalk and leaf with cold water, removing damaged leaves and garden pests.
3.) Remove the leaves, discarding any of the woody stalks in a grocery bag with the damaged leaves and pests (I seal these up at the end and toss them in the outside trash so no little nature visitors surprise me in my kitchen later).
4.) Thoroughly dry by rolling in a clean kitchen towel, pinching together the ends and shaking out excess water. Use a second dry towel, repeating the process if needed.
5.) Meanwhile, lightly toast your pine nuts. You can also omit them or use walnuts. Juice your lemons and measure out your olive oil and cheese. Peel your garlic.
6.) Begin to pack as much of the basil into your food processor as you can, using the chopping blade. Pulse until you break down some of the leaves and can fit in all 8 cups of the basil. You can start adding the lemon juice and olive oil to help the process.

8.) Toss in all remaining ingredients and pulse until a smooth consistency. If it's too dry, add a LITTLE more oil, 1 tsp at a time. You can't go back once you add too much oil and in my mind there's nothing worse than oily pesto.
9.) To freeze, spoon the pesto into ice cube trays (each slot is about 1 Tablespoon of pesto). Cover with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap down into the pesto to keep it from discoloration or freezer burn.
10.) When frozen, turn out into a freezer bag, label and store away to use later. Makes about 18 Tbs.

Sorry, could not get this durn picture to rotate in photo imager. Probably a user error. :-)
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