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

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Soil Composting – Sustainable Means Local


Compost Bin

What does it take to build your own rich, organic soil and do it sustainably?

Many of you have heard of composting or may even have a bin out in the garden. But, is this system meeting your needs or do you find yourself making runs to the local garden store for a few bags of soil? Chances are that these bags came from many hundreds of miles away. A more sustainable system would be to make use of a local composting facility. That is, if there is one near you.

If you live in or near Sonoma, than consider yourself lucky. Sonoma Compost operates the Organic Recycling Program on behalf of the Sonoma County Waste Management Agency. They accept yard trimmings and vegetative food discards that are placed in curbside containers by local residents. Yard trimmings are also delivered directly to their site by landscapers, tree trimmers and the public.

Sonoma Compost’s program has already reduced 1,200,000 tons of yard and wood debris, then converted it into organic compost, mulch, recycled lumber, firewood and bio-fuel.Compost Bins

If you don’t have a composting facility in your area, here’s what can individuals do to produce sustainable, organic soil in their backyards or community gardens.

Backyard Compost Bins: Composting is nature’s own way of recycling and helps to keep the high volume of organic material out of landfills and turns it into a useful product. On-site composting reduces the cost of hauling materials and is generally exempted from solid waste regulations. Large scale facilities can handle more material and potentially produce a more consistent product.

Bokashi: This system relies on fermentation to decompose the matter rather than putrefaction, so no offensive odor is produced. In about 10 days, you can bury the nutrient-rich matter in the garden or empty the Bokashi kitchen compost bucket into your compost pile to help improve physical, chemical and biological environments in the soil.

Worm Bins: Vermiculture, or worm composting, allows you to compost your food waste rapidly, while producing high quality compost and fertilizing liquid. Best of all, it’s self-contained and nearly odorless.

The concept of a city run composting facility may not seem sustainable; especially if you consider that trucks burn fossil fuel to haul their loads through neighborhoods, causing air pollution, traffic and more wear and tear on the roads. Then, individuals make separate trips from the suburbs to the local composting center transporting soil back to their homes. The inefficiency of this system is obvious but, may be a means to an end.

I believe that the benefits to having a city-run composing program would outweigh the downside of having none at all. Once a program is up and running, people can utilize the service to enrich their backyard gardens, urban farmers would benefit greatly and there’s the benefit of a reduction in the volume of organic waste going to the landfill.

The following improvements could make this centralized composting system more sustainable:

1. Upgrade the trucks to bio-diesel or other renewables,
2. Encourage community involvement in home composting systems,
3. Run composting workshops,
4. Work with local entrepreneurs to start small, community-based composting stations in their neighborhoods.

To some, it might not seem that difficult to divert your organic waste to a compost bucket to your backyard, but many perceive it to be too time-consuming. There’s also a cultural barrier connected with the formation of soil: some perceive it to be dirty and smelly. Strangely though, many people also view composting as a socially-responsible effort rather than a common sense one, since they do not use the resulting soil in a garden.

With a little effort and a change in behavior, you could be producing many cubic feet of rich, organic compost in your very back yard. The qualitative benefits include a more abundant and productive garden for you and your family. This equates to better health and nutrition. Quantitatively, you are helping to divert from landfill, more than 25 percent your household’s waste and food scraps. In 1996, The Composting Council analyzed backyard composting programs and concluded that the average household in the study composted an average of 646 pounds per year, which amounted to more than 12 pounds every week.

Your family, your community and your tomatoes will thank you for it.

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.

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