Spiced Zucchini Nut Bread


Spiced Zucchini Loaf in Oven

One of my favorite nut loaves is zucchini bread. What’s hard for me to accomplish is producing a moist, flavorful loaf that doesn’t go overboard with spices. I believe that I’ve struck a balance that you’ll love to eat for dessert, for breakfast with coffee or tea or just as a healthy snack!

In this recent attempt I’ve adopted a recipe I found online that actually calls for a tablespoon of curry. You’ll see below that I have omitted this ingredient and made some modifications in hopes of getting a pure winter-spiced loaf.

INGREDIENTS
3 cups grated zucchini (skins on) – You may substitute grated carrots up to 1.5 cups
2 cups white all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts, plus a few to sprinkle on top
2/3 cup raisins
zest of two lemons or oranges (optional)
1/2 cup crystallized ginger, finely chopped (optional)
1/2 cup unsalted butter or substitute
1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 cup cane sugar or brown sugar
2 tablespoons honey or rice syrup
1/2 cup yogurt
1/4 teaspoon allspice
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

You’ll need (2) 1 pound loaf pans (5 x 9 inches)

INSTRUCTIONS
In a small bowl (#1) combine the walnuts, raisins, lemon zest, and ginger. Set aside.

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Butter or oil the two loaf pans and set aside. You can also line the pans with a sheet of parchment paper. If you leave a couple inches hanging over the pan, it makes for easy removal after baking.

In a large mixing bowl (#2), beat the butter with a fork until smooth (it helps to leave the butter out to get room temperature). Add the sugars and beat again until mixture comes together and is no longer crumbly. Add the 3 eggs and beat well until blended. Stir in the vanilla, yogurt and then the zucchini (& carrots).

In a separate bowl (#3), combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice. Add these dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in two batches, stirring between each addition.

Use a large wooden spoon to fold in all but 1 cup of the walnuts, raisins, lemon zest, and crystallized ginger mixture careful not to over mix.  Set aside 1 cup of this nut mixture to sprinkle on the tops of the zucchini loaves before baking. Mix the batter just enough so that it’s thoroughly blended.

Divide the batter equally between the two loaf pans. Cover the tops with the nut mixture and press down into the batter with your fingers – this will assure even baking and makes sure the nut mixture will bake into the loaves.

Bake for about 50-60 minutes on a middle oven rack.  Check by sliding a dry knife or wooden skewer into the center of one of the loaves. If it comes out clean, remove from the oven and cool the zucchini bread in the pan on a wire rack for about ten minutes. Run a butter knife around the edges to loosen, turn upside-down and separate from baking tins. Set loaves on wire racks to finish cooling.

Makes 2 loaves.

If you have any results or suggestions to share please post them below! Thanks and happy baking!!

Chris

Caramelized Onion and Gouda Bread


Two of my favorite flavors combine to make this bread so delicious, it’s dangerous. Warning: Do not bake this bread around gluten-free friends!

The savory aroma of onions and cheese will waft from your kitchen with this delicious recipe. Don’t count on having leftovers. You’ll see why when it hits the table and disappears in front of your eyes!

INGREDIENTS:

Caramelized onion and gouda cheese bread.

3/4 Cup Milk or Substitute Almond or Rice
1/2 Cup Filtered Water
1 Egg
4 TBS Softened Butter or Olive Oil
1-1/2 tsp Sea Salt
2 1/2 Cups All-Purpose White Flour
1 1/2 Cups Whole Wheat Flour
3 TBS Raw Cane Sugar
1 Large Onion
2 Cups Grated Gouda Cheese
3 tsp Quick-Rise Yeast

Prepare by chopping the onion and sauteing with 2 tbs olive oil over medium high heat for one minute or until translucent. Then reduce heat to low and caramelize. This will take 15 – 20 minutes. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine 1-1/2 cups flour, sugar and yeast. In a small saucepan, heat the milk, water and cubed butter to 120-130 degrees. Add to dry ingredients; beat just until moistened. Add egg; beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough.

Turn onto a floured surface; knead until a uniform ball of dough is formed. Then add 1/3 of caramelized onions to dough and knead to incorporate (about 1 minute). Repeat until all of the onion is kneaded into dough and add one cup of grated cheese – about 5-6 minutes total.  Cover and let rest for 10 minutes.

If making loaves, divide dough in half. Shape each into a long rope. Place ropes on baking sheet (I like to spread sesame seeds between the sheet and the bread to keep it from sticking). Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 25 minutes.
Bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pan to a wire rack to cool. Immediately sprinkle remaining cheese on loaves and watch it melt.

Bread Machines: I Love ‘Em


I just read a blog titled Bread Machines: Love Them or Hate Them and reflected on this sentiment. Does it have to be completely hand made to be appreciated?

This was a concern of mine many years ago when I bought my first bread machine. I would take my fresh bread to pot lucks in Santa Cruz and get asked if I used a bread machine. When I said yes, they would say, “Ohhhhh, I see”, like it didn’t count. I was stigmatized.

But, that soon wore off and I went crazy experimenting with all kinds of recipes, beer bread, cheddar and chives, garlic herb bread, whole wheat – multi-grain and of course challah.

Challah is the holly grail of bread making for many reasons. First, it’s similar to making a teapot in ceramics. There is tradition in making both and they each take a great deal of time, attention and practice for a fine result.

I have actually been asked if challah that I made came out of my bread machine! Well, yes but, I did the braiding, brushing with egg mixture and put the sesame and poppy seeds on by hand.

And here’s where I found my belief that bread machines are not to be hated. Because I learned how to make bread using one.

Since I had no bread baking experience before (except for a short stint as a baker at the Santa Cruz Bagelry) this was my teacher. I tried and I failed, sometimes spectacularly – think I love Lucy but, with bread everywhere. Then I learned the process of yeast creating tiny air pockets of carbon dioxide and why it needs to be punched down for a second rise before being baked.

So, today I made challah for a dinner party – with my bread maker. It came out wonderfully and was a big hit at the table. I could have done it all by hand, yes. But, like many tools, the bread maker saves me time and this is the part I love.

Who wouldn’t love to wake up in the morning to the smell of fresh bread wafting out of your kitchen? That’s how I woke up this morning.

And that’s why I love my bread maker.

Healthy Living Starts In Your Back Yard – Juicing


JUICING COMEBACK
Juicing fruits and vegetables has enjoyed a renaissance over the past few years. People have been discovering the health benefits of drinking freshly made juice as the population ages and the Baby Boomer generation reaches their twilight years. Many of us, young and old, are looking for ways to stave off disease and increase our vitality. But, do we go to the supermarket to buy our fruits and veggies that will go into our juicer?

We can, but we would miss out on a great opportunity to get these vital nutrients and minerals from our own backyard. For many of you who already grow lettuce and tomatoes as staples, adding carrots, beets and celery may not be a big stretch. If you don’t already have a garden set up, there’s some start-up work involved, however the benefits are enormous.

BUILDING BLOCKS TO JUICING
Carrots and apples are the foundation of most juicing concoctions, and for good reason. Carrot juice is one of the richest sources of  A, D, E, G, K and B complex vitamins and includes calcium, copper, magnesium, potassium, sodium, phosphorus, chlorine, sulfur, and iron (1)

Vitamin A is an important nutrient that is responsible for the proper functioning of the eyes. A diet lacking in vitamin A causes the eyes to loose their ability to focus, especially in low light environments (1)

As adults we need approximately 5,000 IUs of vitamin A per day (although the liver, kidneys, lungs and skin do store vitamin A) and an 8 ounce glass of fresh squeezed carrot juice has nearly 50,000 IUs! The deeper orange colored carrots contain the most carotene, which is converted to vitamin A by the liver. And if you are pregnant then you’ll need even more – 6,000; if you’re breast feeding, 8,000.

Vitamin E has been linked to the prevention of cancer cells replicating in the body. It is also a vital nutrient for the proper growth of healthy skin cells in the body.

ANTI-CARCINOGENIC PROPERTIES
Apples too are packed with cancer-fighting compounds. Polyphenols and pectin in apples have an anti-carcinogenic effect on the stomach, preventing development of cancerous tumors (American Research Center US Apple Association). Apple juice also makes our bones and joints stronger, which is especially useful for women during menopause (3).

Thomas B. Shea from Center for Cellular Neurobiology in Neurodegeneration Research University of Massachusetts and his research team conducted a series of laboratory studies in 2009. Mice receiving a dose equivalent to 2 cups of apple juice a day for 1 month showed reduced production of protein fragments called beta amyloid, which is responsible for the formation of “senile plaques” found in brains of people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease (3).

Apples help the body prevent anemia, stomach and intestinal disorders, gout, rheumatism, arteriosclerosis, avitaminosis, diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular, circulatory system, kidney and liver diseases, chronic colitis, prevents formation of uric acid in the body. Additionally, apple juice has anti-microbial, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties.

SUGAR CONTENT
Carrots have an abundance of carbohydrates, which convert to sugars in the body. Care must be taken if one is diabetic or on a particular diet when mixing with apples that contain very high levels of natural sugar or fructose (17g/138g apple). The juicing process itself removes the pulp of the fruits and vegetables. The pulp contains fiber which helps to regulate the body’s absorption of sugar.

One option of decreasing your sugar intake is to use green apples, which contain very low amounts of sugar. Reducing portion size is also helpful in controlling calorie intake from sugar.

HEALTH BENEFITS
Interestingly, combining both apples and carrots together in your juicing routine compounds their health benefits. Anti-inflammatory, anti-aging and micro-nutrients are enhanced when taken together. Mixing vegetables with fruits when juicing is encouraged, as the sugar content of fruits tends to be higher. Mixing your fruits and vegetables is fun, delicious and the possibilities are endless.

JUICING RECIPES
Try various combinations that suit your particular tastes and nutritional needs. Carrots and apples are surefire building blocks to your juicing recipes. Taken together in 4:1 or 3:1 ratios, is a simple and easy to prepare juice that is delicious to drink. Kids and picky eaters will love it because of the natural sugar content and wholesome flavor.

Adding one ingredient at a time is a sensible way to add variety and nutritional value to your new juice blends. Try adding a dozen sprigs of parsley or cilantro for an extra nutritional kick . Parsley is extremely high in vitamins A and C as well as in calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, potassium, sodium and sulphur (5). Ginger, known also as the “Man Root” is a good source of Vitamin C, Magnesium, Potassium, Copper and Manganese. Adding just a tiny amount can spice up a juice, so go easy at first. Celery, fennel and cucumbers are good additions to the above as they are good choices for those just starting out with a juicing regimen. Other juicing ideas include a combination of tomatoes, beets, cabbage and spinach (6).

BACK YARD JUICER
And finally, all of these can be grown by you – in your own back yard. The freshest possible produce is locally grown. If you already have an apple tree than your half of the way there. I bet if you look closely, one of your neighbors has one and they just drop on the ground come summertime. Carrots are quite easy to grow in most climates and children love to pull them out of the ground and eat them right away. Parsley, cilantro, mint and other herbs can be grown in window sills and on porches when back yards are not available.

Enjoy the fun and health benefits of juicing your own vegetables and fruits; growing, harvesting, juicing and then drinking – a locavore’s delight!

Sources:

1. The Wonders of Carrot Juice by John B. Lust

2. Sugar Content of Apples by http://www.whfoods.com

3. Apple Juice Benefits by Woman’sPassions.com

4. Help With Cooking

5. Health Benefits of Parsley by ezinearticles.com

6. Delicious Juicing Recipes by healingdaily.com

Winter Squash Apple Sage Lasagna


Winter Squash Apple Sage Lasagna
Makes 8-10 servings; Prep time 45 min. Perfect for freezing!

I’ve come up with a healthy, meatless alternative to the basic marinara sauce lasagna with a uniquely savory taste. Perfect when you get those winter-time cravings for comfort foods. This recipe combines the subtle flavors of apple, sage and nutmeg bathed in a rich white sauce. Try with white wine and a side salad for an elegant, easy to heat up meal idea.

1 pkg No Boil TJ’s Lasagna Noodles
1 12 oz. Jar TJ’s Alfredo Pasta Sauce
6 cups steamed Kabasha squash sliced into small, flat pieces
2 cups thinly sliced white mushrooms
1 cup or two small thinly sliced zucchinis
1 small thinly sliced yellow onion
1 bunch thinly sliced and washed Swiss chard
1 tsp crushed garlic
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground sage
1 tbs brown sugar
4 tbs Earth Balance Butter Spread
3 tbs olive oil
6.5 oz. Field Roast Vegetarian Smoked Apple Sage Sausages (2)
16 oz. TJ’s Mozzarella
3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

Add 3 tbs butter spread to large pan on medium heat until melted. Sprinkle 1/2 tsp of each nutmeg and sage. Salt and pepper to taste. Turn stove top to low and stir for 1 minute. Add garlic and stir additional minute. Toss in Swiss chard and cook until reduced in size by 1/2 (about 5 min.) Set aside.

In same pan, add 1 tbs olive oil and saute onion over medium-low heat until translucent but, not yet caramelized. (about 5 min.) Set aside.

Continue this process with mushrooms and zucchini with remaining olive oil.

Add 1 tbs butter spread to the pan over medium heat and add the remaining nutmeg, sage and salt\pepper to taste. Stir briefly and add contents of Alfredo sauce. Pour 2/3 cup water to jar, tighten lid and shake vigorously, then add to pan. Heat well just before simmering and set aside.

In an 11 x 9 inch oven safe lasagna dish, add enough Alfredo sauce to just cover bottom and layer with half of steamed squash. Then continue as follows;
Layer 1: Pasta, sauce, squash & crumbled sausage, both cheeses, sauce.
Layer 2: Pasta, sauce, mushrooms, zucchini, both cheeses, sauce.
Layer 3: Pasta, sauce, Swiss chard & onions, both cheeses, sauce.
Add final layer of pasta and spread remaining sauce and cheeses to completely cover top layer of pasta. Areas not covered will turn dark brown or could burn.

Place in preheated 375 degree oven. Cover loosely with aluminum foil and bake for 50-60 min. or until bubbling. Remove foil and bake for 5 minutes more, just until cheese is melted and slightly golden. Remove from oven and let cool for at least 5 minutes before serving.

It's All In The Broth


Veggie Broth – A Step-By-Step Recipe

How many of you out there have made your own veggie broth from scratch?
Hmmmmm, I don’t see many hands. Okay then, let’s get started!

First, I’d like to preface by saying that when I first made my own broth from scratch, it was only because someone whom I trusted in the kitchen had made hers and swore by it. So, I can tell you that this is your foundation to great soups and other dishes.

For your veggie broth to be successful, you’ll need to have – well, um… veggies of course. As you make your meals for the week a’choppin’ up broccoli, carrots, onions and the like save – don’t compost those end pieces. Place them in a bag and keep them in the fridge (up to a week) until you’re ready.

Ideally you want to have a mixture of the following;

  • onions
  • carrots
  • celery
  • zucchini
  • brocolli

But, actually any veggies you have on hand will do the trick. I do recommend that you add onion AND garlic to your broth. Why? Well, it just adds so much flavor! So, if you’re shy one or two ingredients, you can suppliment from your fridge. Just cut off the ends of any of your veggies and chop real small.

2 parts water to 1 part veggies

When your done chopping veggies, get an 8 qt. pot and place the veggies and water inside and bring to a boil.

I like to add my dried herbs at this point. You can go crazy but, I usually add a tsp. each of the following;

  • Marjoram
  • Rosemary
  • Basil
  • Thyme
  • Oregano
  • Celery Seed

Salt and pepper to taste (for a benchmark I would add 1 tsp. of each)

Turn down immediately and place a tight fitting lid on top, reduce head to low. Set timer for 1 hour and walk away. Nothing to see here!

The lid will be suctioned tight to the pot. Lift off and pour everything into a fine mesh strainer over a pot. Take a wooden spoon and mash the cooked veggies against the mesh. This extracts the broth and some of the pulp into the pot. Scrape from underneath the mesh strainer and add to the broth.

If you have a compost add the leftover veggie mash to it now. Otherwise you can throw it out in the garden or if you must in the trash.

Now the veggie broth is finished and you can go ahead and make your soup or other dish that calls for broth or, what I like to do, is pour it into a container and freeze it for later use.

Next post I’ll cover making chicken and fish stock.

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