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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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.

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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