Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Dark Chocolate Zucchini Bread

My garden has kept me incredibly busy this summer. It has been a mild summer, but a little dry. That means I've watered more than I'd like. It's all been worth it though.
I planted one zucchini plant, knowing I've only gotten those to produce once ever. It took forever, but I finally got some. I think I have picked 5 or 6 now. They have all been small, but so flavorful. Besides the goal of growing the veggies, fruit and herbs, I had a goal to not let anything go to waste. I am happy to say that if it made it out of the garden, it got eaten or used in a recipe.
Since neither of us like zucchini plain or by itself, I have used all of them in a recipes and we love them!
Here is one of our favorites.
Ok, so there isn't a zucchini here. In fact, I've failed to get any of the before shots of the zucchini. But this is a picture of my very first harvest of the year. I felt like a total green thumb when I hauled this in before Memorial Day.
Here's the goods! This has to be the most amazing dessert bread I have ever eaten. Dark Chocolate Zucchini Bread. Oh. My. Word.
I'll share the recipe, cause it is so good. I recommend making mini loaves or even muffins. I would also recommend baking for longer than suggested or until you can pull a toothpick out clean. I altered the recipe by using Hershey's Special Dark powder. Here you go:
1 1/2 cups shredded raw zucchini

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1/2 cup canola oil

1/2 cup granulated white sugar

1/2 cup light brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

3/4 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°F with a rack in the center of the oven. Grease (spray some Pam on there) a 9x5x3 inch loaf pan.

Grate the zucchini, using a medium sized grater, and set aside. You do not need to squeeze the zucchini dry. In a large bowl whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and allspice. Set aside.

In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the oil, sugars, eggs, and vanilla extract until well blended (about 2 minutes). Fold in the grated zucchini. Add the flour mixture, beating just until combined. Then fold in the chocolate chips. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake a toothpick/cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean (about 55 to 65 minutes). Place on a wire rack to cool for about 10 minutes, then remove the bread from the pan and cool completely.

Cinnamon Zucchini Bars

Yes, another zucchini recipe. As much as I like dark chocolate, I think this might be my favorite of the two. This makes a huge sheet cake pan full, so I would recommend making this if you have a crowd to please. With the subtle cinnamon flavor and not even a hint of zucchini, it is sure to please.

Most, if not all, of my cooking and baking is done with almond milk. Almond milk used in this frosting does not require refrigeration. It also makes it milk free, which is good for my lactose intolerant tummy. Sometimes almond milk is the tiniest bit thinner than 2% or whole milk and you may have to compensate by adding a touch less or more powdered sugar as in this case.
The original recipe says this should be more dense than it turns out. It really does turn out like cake, but still wonderful! Next time, I will add an extra egg to the batter and double the cinnamon in both the batter and frosting.
Here is the recipe I used:

1 1/4 c. butter, softened

3/4 c. sugar

3/4 c. brown sugar, packed

3 eggs

2 tsp vanilla

2 1/2 c. flour

1 Tbsp baking powder

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

2 c. zucchini, grated

2 c. powdered sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

2 Tbsp butter, melted

1 tsp vanilla

2 Tbsp milk

Cream butter and sugars. Add eggs and vanilla. Mix in flour, cinnamon and baking powder. Blend in zucchini.

Pour into greased jelly roll pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Cool.

Prepare frosting. Add more milk if necessary to get right consistency. Spread over cooled bars.

Sweet Pickles

Canning anything is something that has always intimidated me.  As I started to get an abundance of cucumbers from the garden, I decided to dive in and learn some canning.  My first venture was refrigerator sweet pickles.  They are so easy and I love them!

The recipe can be doubled or tripled or whatever you need to make all the pickles you need.  There is something even better about this recipe.  The pickles are good in the fridge for three months and so is the juice.  That means for three months you can continue to refill the jar with cucumber slices, if you eat them as fast as we do.

Here is what you will need for a small batch:

3 cups cucumber slices (I use a mandolin)
1/2 white or red onion, chopped or sliced
1 cup distilled vinegar
1 1/2 cup white sugar
2 tsp salt
1 tsp celery seed
1/2 tsp cracked black pepper

Whisk everything together except cucumbers and onions until the sugar has all dissolved.  Put your cucumbers and onions in the jar and pour the liquid mix over them.  Don't worry if the liquid doesn't fully cover the veggies.  They will soften some, bend and you will find it all works out.  Leave in the fridge for 24 hours and eat! 

I love these on burgers, sandwiches and as a snack.  I'll be trying some dill pickles next.