Chocolate Zucchini Bread (or is it cake…?)

Bread…cake…bread…cake…

So confusing! And no one cares! Not after biting into this moist, chocolaty,  cake-like ‘bread’.

So here it is, high summer. Zucchini coming out your ears. I know lots of you started gardens this year because of all the free time you had per the Covid-19 crises. I’m not a huge fan of it (zucchini or the flu) and even I have 3 plants! (this comes from having a son working at a nursery).

With zucchini plants, often times you don’t find out you even have a zook until its the size of a baseball bat! What to do with those giant things?

Make chocolate cake of course! (duh)

Just call it bread, so it sounds healthier. I mean, after all, zucchini. Its a vegetable, so it has to be healthy right? (hmm)

This a very simple recipe I pinched years ago from the “just a pinch” website. It was posted by Missy Wimpelberg. Thank you Missy! Its amazing really. The zucchini just seems to melt into the cake, keeping it moist but not tasting ‘veggie’.

First, lets talk zucchini. Its a very watery vegetable. First you peel it, then cut it open, scooping out the seeds.

Then you grate it, using a box grater. Using a tea towel, squeeze out the liquid, as much as possible without turning it to dust.

That’s not so hard right? The rest just falls together.

Lets assemble the ingredients!

CHOCOLATE ZUCCHINI BREAD

  • 2 cups grated zucchini, grate, measure, then squeeze
  • 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup baking cocoa
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 lg egg
  • 6 Tbsp. butter, melted
  • 1/4 tsp. instant coffee granules. (or espresso powder)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup of chocolate chips
  1. Preheat the oven to 350. Put on some music. Get a cool drink. Grease an 8×4 bread pan. I use Crisco for this. You might want to spray it. Potaytoes-potaatoes.
  2. Get the zucchini ready if you haven’t already.
  3. In one bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients, like the flour, cocoa, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. What? Not the sugar? No, thats considered a liquid, weird but true. Not the espresso/coffee? Nope, that blooms its flavor in the melted butter later. Trust me, or rather, trust sweet Missy. Whisk the dry stuff in a bowl and set aside.
  4. Now the wet stuff. In another bowl, beat together the sugar and eggs until smooth. I use a hand mixer for this. Then add in the melted butter, instant coffee/espresso and vanilla. Beat until smooth. Slowly add the zucchini to the egg/sugar mixture.
  5. Add the flour mixture to the zucchini/sugar mixture. (in other words, add the dry stuff to the wet stuff). Add it in about 3 additions, don’t just dump it in all at once. (what was that? Too late?) Add the chocolate chips and mix just until everything is moist and mixed. Not beating it to death. We aren’t really making bread per say. We don’t need all that gluten you get from mixing.
  6. Pour, scoop, the batter into the prepared man, smoothing out the top. Pop into the preheated oven and bake for at least 50 minutes. Test it with a skewer and see if its done. Also don’t forget the touch test, gently pressing the top of the bread to see if its solid. If not, pop back into the oven for another 5-8 minutes. I hate going through all this just to have it sink in the middle from under cooking. Let cool 5 minutes, loosen the cake from all edged and sides of the pan and gently turn upside down. Let it cool completely on the rack.

There you have it. Simple really. What was that? The icing? Oh yes. Well, I do have a favorite wonderful, shiny glaze I like to use. This one isn’t it.  Sometimes I’m just in a hurry. I know you understand this. So here is my hurry chocolate icing.

You need only 3 things.

  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 2 Tbsp. light corn syrup (I don’t really measure this, just pour out two bloops, eyeballing it for Tablespoon size.
  • 2 Tbsp. butter.

Put these 3 things in a glass container and melt in the microwave, stirring every 20 seconds or so. Just until it is nice and smooth. Mix a bit more, to make sure all the chocolate is melted, then pour over the bread. Its not too thin, not too thick. If you want a thinner drizzle, don’t use the chocolate chip glaze here. Try something else.

Steak and Pepper Pasta

Hello friends, family and sweetie pies! Or wait. Maybe my friends and family are sweetie pies?

I hope you are all doing well. Using squirt bottles in lieu of toilet paper? Making do with cloth napkins instead of paper? How about making sourdough bread because you and the rest of the country are out of yeast? I’ve been to 5 stores in the last 3 days and none of them had yeast. Really? Like a sweet friend of mine pointed out, the shelves are stocked full of bread. So why the run on yeast?  Its a mystery.

Luckily I have Tiffany Bubbles and her bestie, Dazzle, my two sourdoughs, in the fridge. I’ve got one on the counter, being fed. They make ‘Dazzling’ sourdough breads! Nothing beats fresh sourdough bread, I’m hear to tell ya’.

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Here are my pets after feeding time. Napa was renamed “Dazzle” since this picture. She is a little slower than her older sister, Tiffany Bubbles. But I keep reminding her, its not a competition.

Anyway…

Lets get in the ‘wayback machine’ and revisit an old recipe that is a personal favorite. Not a family favorite. But definitely a personal. Its kind of strange, I will tell you that upfront. The sauce is just sherry and Parmesan. Sherry, as in the booze.

Its supposed to have another key ingredient that I leave out because of fear.

Pimento.

In the original recipe, you add a bottle of pimentos. I’ve never cooked with it. Its weird and red. It belongs stuffed in green olives, which I also never ate, because ew, pimento! Did I give it a chance?

No.

Will it end up like avocados, which I also feared and disliked until I was in my 30’s when we suddenly had a love affair and have been making up for lost time for ever since?

Maybe.

But I wasn’t going to let some little red bug-like pimentos stop me from trying a pasta recipe! (You, in your fearlessness,  may want to add the red stuff near the end.  But not this gal. I’m good, just as it is.)

The recipe was in a book with recipes from the back of boxes, bottles, jars, etc. It was a dish served in Colorado during the Olympics there about a hundred years ago (Okay, 1976. Just feels like a hundred years. I was in high school, jeez!

It is pretty simple, if you have some sherry around. Really, you must have sherry. It is a key ingredient. Even half sherry and half white wine would work well.

You need some steak. I usually use a sirloin steak. You could use skirt steak. Whatever gets your carnivorous boat to set sail. Sailing out into the lagoon of dinner, in a sea of pasta. Oh dear, I must be hungry.

Of course, hello to you vegetarians out there! Just leave out the steak and add mushrooms or zucchini or …? (which reminds me, we are about to be inundated with zucchini from the garden. Dang if they don’t grow so fast!)

zucchini

The original recipe calls for slicing the meat and sauteing the slices in butter. Which I did, like a good girl. But I found the meat would turn gray and kind of simmer.  To eliminate that, I would have to saute the slices in several small batches. Ugh! Then I found its so much easier to just cook the whole steak and then slice.

So no pimento and don’t preslice the steak. Other than that, I think its true to form.

This fed two of us with some leftovers. And leftover pasta on its own. I added cooked pasta, mixing it in until it looked just right. Not too dry. I used to just dump pasta in and mix, then found out that sometimes it was too much pasta-to-sauce ratio. “When in doubt, portion the pasta out.”

IMG_0702
I was so excited to eat it, I forgot to take a picture, so here are the leftovers. The picture really doesn’t do it justice. Its more wonderful than it looks. Like many of us.

Steak and Pepper Pasta

  • 1 lb. sirloin steak
  • pasta, about 12 oz.
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 2 large cloves garlic, (presses in garlic press. Only 2, really?)
  • 3 large onions, cut in half and sliced thinly
  • 2 small green bell peppers, chopped (but whose to stop you using orange or yellow?)
  • 3/4 cup (or more) dry sherry (I sometimes mix sherry with white wine)
  • 2 tsp salt, some pepper
  • Parmesan, lots
  • Olive oil
  1. Start the water for the pasta because it seems to take forever to boil. Cook pasta when boiling. In the meantime, while waiting for the watched pot to boil…
  2. In a skillet, melt 2 Tbsp. of the butter and saute the onions and peppers until crisp tender. (8-10 min.)  Another option (Yikes, more tweaking!)  is to caramelize half the onions,  then add in the rest of the onions and peppers when the caramelizing is almost done. I like to mix in textures . Set the veggies aside.
  3. In the same skillet, melt the rest of the butter (2 Tbsp.) in a skillet and cook the steak. I just season with salt and pepper. Flip, repeat. When reaching desired done-ness, remove from pan and place on a platter. This will be sliced thin when its time to serve.
  4. Add the garlic to the pan and saute a minute more.  Add sherry and seasoning. (Sometimes I would add some Lawry’s here or some other kind of seasoned salt.)
  5. Toss in some- lots- of Parmesan cheese to taste I mix in some to the whole batch, then more to each plate. The cheese and the sherry are the main hero’s here.
  6. Scoop out into a pasta bowl and add more Parmesan. (or even Romano, whatever you have.)

Dig in!

p.s. Here are some other ways to tweak. Add strips of kale or swiss chard to the veggies when sauteing. How about some sliced mushrooms or a diced tomato you have laying around because you thought you would need it on taco night and then forgot to use it?

 

Cheater Caramel Monkey Bread

Good morning friends, family and sweetie pies! (pick whatever category works for you!)

Lets be honest, who doesn’t love monkey bread? My monkeys all love it and so does mama monkey. But every once in a while I crave the monkey bread without all the work. Making the dough ahead of time, dipping each individual monkey bite into melted butter and sugar. Mind you, most of the time I love it. But just sometimes…

So here it is, my monkey friends, in all its cheater glory. No dough to make. No dipping. Just melting, cutting, layering, pouring, baking, eating, eating, eating…

Years ago I was visiting my mother. I mentioned that I was going to purchase a specific monkey bread pan because I had been using oversized bundt pans and loaf pans to make monkey bread.

“Oh wait, I think I have one,” she said and she began rummaging through the cupboards of her spotless little kitchen. Continue reading “Cheater Caramel Monkey Bread”

Mashed Potato and Chive Bread

Hello to you all! I am still amazed and impressed at how many people are baking their own bread now. Many are trying their hand at sourdough for the first time. Maybe because they have the time. (Unless you are in the trenches, working at hospitals, slogging it out at grocery stores, bless your hearts, every one!). Or maybe because they can’t get their hands on yeast. I have been making loads of sourdough and today just broke out the yeast for a change. But its like gold these days. I’m getting nervously low. Anyway, I had leftover mashed potatoes. I have chives in the garden. Soooo…

Lets get those guys together! Continue reading “Mashed Potato and Chive Bread”

Maple Pecan Scones

 

Hello ya’ll. Can I use that expression? No, I’m not from the south. Unless you count Southern California, then YES! I am a southerner! So, I hope ya’ll are not going too crazy in these crazy times. I hope ya’ll are taking time to learn something new, or treating yourself to, oh, I don’t know, maybe some scones warm from the oven.

My solution to this madness around us is to bake, then bake some more. Weed a patch of the garden, then bake. Wash something, then bake. And yes, I don’t fit into any of my work clothes anymore. But I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. The bridge with the banner saying, “Welcome back to Work Ya’ll!” I hope you are finding something to help your brain get through this without any damage to it.  Oh, my hubby let me cut his hair yesterday! (I was just thinking my hair looks like a throw back to the 70’s.) We have a Wahl kit and I watched videos. I’m certainly no threat to any hair dressers out there, bless each and every one of you, but he doesn’t have to go around wearing a hat to hide any damage I might have done. Not too bad. Now if my shaggy son would let me near him. He’s looking something like Big Foot these days. Tall and shaggy! Lets get those hairdressers back to work ya’ll! Continue reading “Maple Pecan Scones”

Chocolate Cake the Trendy New Old Fashioned Way

Hello out there from sunny SoCal!

I miss you all.

I am constantly amazed and impressed by how many people are going back to their ovens, rediscovering the joys and immense satisfaction of pulling your own loaf of bread out of the oven. Inhaling the fruity, bubbling aroma of a fresh pie, slicing in to a still warm coffeecake, stacking up a batch of homemade cookies.  Good job and applause to all! I hope you are enjoying the process as much as the results. This is one good thing about self isolation. We finally have the time to do that baking we always dreamed of. Or maybe we are using it as an excuse to not actually go clean out the garage/closet/shed/garden. “sorry hon, can’t help. I’m in the middle of rolling croissants. You know I’d love to help you replace the toilet…”

For being isolated, I see a lot of people on the road, enjoying parks, shopping, cruising the beaches on their bikes. its lovely weather and we here in OC aren’t really suffering from the virus as much as other areas. (Most of us think we already had it in Jan. anyway.)  Very thankful for that.

I had a request for gluten free brownies, so I made a pan, which turned out wonderful, thank you King Arthur for your recipe. So, since the oven is on anyway, why waste all that heat? I whipped up another small chocolate cake, gluten filled.

Whats to like about this cake? Continue reading “Chocolate Cake the Trendy New Old Fashioned Way”

Hummingbird Coffeecake

Half a coffeecake for now, half in the freezer for later!

Welcome to a Pandemic Quarantined bakers petite kitchen! Or maybe you have one of your own? Apparently loads of people who hitherto (yes, hitherto) have not had time to bake are now shoveling breads and pastries in and out of their ovens at breakneck speeds.  I figure this must be the case since flour shelves (and yeast and baking soda and …) were empty in every market and online for so long. This is a good thing. Bake away! Go wild! Try something new! I myself been turning out loaves of sourdough, challah, cookies and cakes faster than we can eat them. Thank goodness for freezers!  Even my  youngest made a loaf of Japanese milk bread and just yesterday a pan of peanut butter brownies from the back of the Bobs Red Mill label. All delicious I might add!

Baking is therapy. Its zen. Its soul filling.  It’s comfort brought by working with your hands to creating something new and unique. Because each batch of anything you make is unique, brought into this world, created by you to fulfill its destiny!  It’s knowing that this thing you create will nourish your family (or at least put a smile on their faces).  Measuring and chopping, toasting and mixing. Listening to music. Or getting a child to help in the kitchen. Is this goo really going to end up brownies? Is this lump of dough really going to bake into bread?  There’s a lot of faith in baking and cooking too. Spiritual.

But then the flour bucket runs low.

Chaos! Mayhem! Neighbor turning against neighbor! Fire! Explosions! Screams in the night!

Oh wait. That was Die Hard I watched the other night with son. Retro 80’s movie night. Ah-hem. Now its just nail biting anxiety. What if I feel the need to bake? What if we run out of bread? (In the back of my mind a voice was heard saying “that might not be a bad thing ms Hippy-hippy-shake!) Continue reading “Hummingbird Coffeecake”

Pecan Sticky Buns

 

An older picture when I made some in a flower shaped pan. It made about 6-7 large sticky buns in this pan. Yum!

Dusting this recipe off, giving it a face lift.

Slurry. What a funny word. Slurry-slurry-slurry! Like a cross between hurry and sloppy. Or blurry and sloshy. But in this case it is a cross between ambrosia and delight.

I know I have posted about sticky buns before. But really, can we ever get enough of sweet and nutty sticky buns? It’s a Christmas tradition around here to have them for breakfast along with a savory dish. So needless to say, I have tried many a recipe and have lots of experience with these to speak from.

If you want homemade-from-scratch sticky buns you have 4 steps.

Make the dough.

Make the slurry and cinnamon sugar filling.

Form the buns.

Bake.

If you want a large amount of sweet dough, I have the recipe here.

If you want quicky-sticky buns, go here.

But for now I will give you a reduced dough recipe and my favorite slurry, which is the sticky gooey stuff upon which the rolled up dough sits and bakes. Continue reading “Pecan Sticky Buns”

Puff Pancakes

Puff Pancake in a 12″ Iron skillet

I have heard of puff pancakes forever but never bothered to try them. i believe another name for them is ‘Dutch babies’. Now that I’ve tried them, I think they are the best breakfast food ever and we should eat them every day for breakfast. Every. Day. It isn’t sweet on its own but has a salty buttery goodness from all that melted butter. The iron skillet is, no surprise, wonderful, heating evenly and giving it a golden crust of perfection.

It took very little time to make. Even less effort and it almost tastes like a crepe. Cut it into 6 or 8 slices, fill it with jam or syrup or cheese or nutella with sauteed bananas or berries or whatever. Or even eat with just a sprinkle of powdered sugar. You know, like crepes.

preheat oven to 425 degrees.

you will need:

4 Tbsp. of butter

1/2 cup of flour

1/2 cup of milk

2 eggs

 

a pinch of nutmeg

 

Melt the butter on the stove top in the cast iron skillet.

In the meantime, mix the rest of the ingredients in a mixing bowl until just mixed. No need to get rid of all the lumps. They go away on their own.

Once the butter is bubbly, pour in the batter and pop into the oven.

In 15-20 minutes it will be golden brown and puffy. Take it out of the oven (carefully) and sprinkle it with powdered sugar. Pop back into the oven for just a few minutes more then take out. It will sink, leaving a high edges almost like a lumpy pie crust. Slice it, fill it, eat it. Eat some more. And when no one is looking, eat the rest.

Then make it tomorrow and invite me!

Fork? Whose kidding who. I just picked it up and ate it like a slice of pizza.

 

Bourbon Street Chicken

Here is an example of substitutions and making due. When this recipe calls for apple juice, and we hadn’t any, I found a bottle of Marinelli’s left over from some holiday or other! Bubbly apple juice but still apple juice, am I right?. Out of soy sauce? How about liquid amino’s? Those work almost the same, just stronger so I used less.

I haven’t posted anything new on here in quite a while, if you count almost forever quite a while. I woke up today with energy for the first time on over a week, (been nursing a cold) and had to start the day with something new. So it was puff pancakes (aka Dutch Babies) which I had never tried and now I never want to live without. That recipe I already posted.

Then for dinner it was just a twist on something old, so not exactly new. But it turned out great and after I realized I had never posted it, well… I felt the need to share with my buds, my fam, my peeps.

I took a long cut on this and soaked the chicken bits in egg whites whipped with corn starch, to give it a bit of crunchy coating. But it took frying it up in 4 batches which was pretty time consuming. Plus I discovered something about coconut oil. We have always loved coconut oil, ever since I found out it is a miracle cure for your dogs fur and eyes. We put it in the dogs food. Then we use it in all kinds of sautee and baking. But Dave, in his brilliance (and desperation) discovered the wonders of frying in coconut oil! While in Australia recently, he wanted to make tacos for his friends there and the only oil they had was coconut oil. Turns out corn tortillas fried in coconut oil come out light and super-uber crispy! The part I discovered was the spattery mess it makes! It goes beyond spattery. Is there a word for it? The kitchen had a coconut oil sheen over it, like the ocean on a summers day after tourists, slathered in coconut sunscreen have finished swimming for the day. (only mine was easier to clean).

Well, I lugged out the rice cooker for some rice. I rummaged in the fridge and found a zucchini, half a red bell pepper and an onion, which I sliced and diced. I fried the chicken and made the sauce. Then assembled.

I used the same skillet that I fried the chicken in to saute the veggies briefly, until crisp-tender. Then I dished up rice, veggies, chicken and sauce. I hope you enjoy.

BOURBON STREET CHICKEN, RICE AND VEGETABLES

you will need:

as much chicken as you care to use. I had about 1 1/2 lbs of chicken breast meat. Thigh meat would work well here too. Dice the meat bite size.

1/2 cup apple juice (or pineapple juice)

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup ketchup

2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup water

2/3 cup soy sauce, tamari sauce or, in my case, 1/3 cup Bragg Liquid Aminos. Its stronger than soy sauce so I use less.

a pinch of red pepper flakes…or…

1 Tbsp. A1 sweet chili garlic (Optional and only because I had it on hand, but yummers!)

oil of your choosing. I used coconut (in case you skipped down and missed the whole coconut story)

vegetables of choice, slivered or cut into bite size pieces. Zucchini, mushrooms, bell peppers, onions, broccoli…

Now, saute your diced chicken in a Tbsp of hot oil. brown on all sides. you will probably have to do this in batches.

You do not need to coat it like I did. But if you want to, I used 2 egg whites and about 2 Tbsp of corn starch whipped together and soaked the chicken in it for about 10 minutes. Then I fried it in at least 1/4 cup of coconut oil or more. Who measures? I just dolloped it in with a big spoon. Fry the chicken in batches. And it spattered. All over the kitchen. The counters, the floor, the stove, other pots and of course, me. Once they were done, I held them in a warm oven on a cookie sheet until I was ready.

Anyway, while that cooks, put all the sauce ingredients into a saucepan and heat until it thickens up and is warm.

When the chicken is done, add whatever vegetables you have chosen to the messy but empty skillet and saute them until crisp tender.

Now I put the chicken in a mixing bowl and poured some of the sauce over it, mixing it in to coat.

Then each pasta bowl got some rice, a scoop of vegetables, a scoop of chicken and extra sauce poured over the whole thing. Then topped with scallions.

Fabulous!

PS. now that I think of it, toasting some sesame seeds to sprinkle on top would have been a nice touch. Or just sprinkle with Trader Joes “everything but the bagel” topping. (Which I put on soooo many things folk! Love that stuff! Chicken, focaccia bread, vegetables…)