Chocolate and Zucchini???

>> Saturday, September 29, 2007

So now that the summer is over what the heck do we do with all those over sized zucchini? Good question! I saw one the other day it must have weighed 20 lbs. OK that may be exaggerating a bit but it was big.

Well here's something I saw in my local paper, once again, in Lee Whites column, A La Carte. Chocolate Zucchini Cake. Its delicious. It has cocoa powder in place of some of the flour and a touch of cinnamon that adds just a hint of spiciness. I was thinking next time I might add some fresh grated ginger!
Even my kids enjoyed it. And Abe has actually NEVER let anything green pass his lips! Of course, he had no idea anything green was actually in it. I love when that happens. Somewhere I also have a recipe for spinach brownies, that i have yet to try!

Here's Abe being my little helper. What a guy!

I decided to make them into cupcakes(because I love cupcakes). But the recipe calls for regular cake pans, and I imagine a bunt pan would work too.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake (or cupcakes)

created by Carol Cornwell of Wolf Island, Ontario.
Yield: 2 cakes or 24 cupcakes

2 1/4 cups all- purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
7 cups grated zucchini, squeezed and drained for about 30 minutes
1 cup plus 2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 lb butter
1 cup light brown sugar
5 eggs
1 teaspoon espresso powder (or 2 Tablespoons brewed coffee)
1 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon chai powder (optional)

preheat oven to 350 degrees.
grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans or muffin pans.
Whisk flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon,
and salt in large bowl and set aside.
Toss grated zucchini with 1 cup granulated sugar in colander set over
large bowl; drain for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, melt butter in large skillet
over medium-low heat, stirring frequently; cook until golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes.
Transfer to large bowl; cool for 10 minutes, then whisk in remaining granulated sugar and brown sugar. Add eggs one at a time, whisking thoroughly before adding the next; add coffee and vanilla. Add flour mixture, stirring until almost combined then add zucchini.
Divide batter evenly between pans. Bake until tooth pick comes out clean, 40-50 minutes in cake pans or 20-25 minutes in muffin tins. cool for 10 minutes and remove from pan. Enjoy warm or at room temp.

And here they are all ready for Halloween!


A Bushel, A Basket...

>> Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Cyndee just kinda laughed at me..."You wanna buy how many tomatoes?"

I had just finished reading my favorite new book by Barbara Kingsolver, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I had never given much thought before to where our food comes from or how buying close to home can effect so many people both locally and globally. I had never given much thought to it until I read this book.

Which is why I found myself at our local farmers market buying two bushel baskets of tomatoes, a bunch of bell peppers at $.83/lb (not $3.99 like at the grocery store) and 14 beautiful ears of corn. All of which are either in my freezer or in the process of being in my freezer for the upcoming winter. I only wished I had started earlier in the season, but there's always next year.

So for the corn I used these directions. It was so easy I wondered why I hadn't figured it out sooner and why everyone doesn't do this.

All I did to the peppers was brush them with a little olive oil and grill them. Threw them in Ziploc bags and threw them in the freezer. Now we can have locally grown peppers, that cost a fraction of the price I would normally pay, all winter long. We will use them as a topping on homemade pizza, in pasta, and they will be great in veggie quesadillas.

But the best thing of all is the tomatoes. I bought two big baskets of the most glorious fruit the summer has to offer (in my opinion). I recently discovered , through my Cooking Light magazine, how to roast tomatoes. They were delicious. I served them bruschetta style with goat cheese and fresh mozz. Everyone seemed to really like them. Then I was reading one of my favorite blogs one day, The Perfect Pantry, and came across this recipe for roasted tomatoes. Oh My God, they are even better! You roast them at 200 for 10 to 12 hours! They are amazing!! The flavor of the tomato quadruples. You just have to plan ahead and make sure you will not be needing your oven for anything else that day, because they do take ALL day to roast. Anyway, this is what I will be doing with most of my many tomatoes I purchased at the local farmers market. I will roast them to perfection and then throw them in the freezer. We will use them on pasta, with fresh basil, Parmesan cheese and olive oil. On bread with fresh mozzarella. Or maybe a roasted tomato basil soup, wouldn't that taste good in January? This morning I had them with scrambled eggs. The possibilities are endless!

Someday I hope to live on enough land that I can have my own vegetable garden, and fruit trees, and chickens for farm fresh eggs. But until then I am happy to support our local farmers that make it possible for us to be able to taste summer all winter long!

Here is another wonderful tomato recipe in case you don't want to freeze them all. It is from our local paper, Harbor News. Every week there is a column called A La Carte written by Lee White. I can always find seasonal yummy recipes here.

Skillet-seared tomatoes with Gruyere (or Parmesan)
From Molly Helms of East Lyme:

2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
5 ripe tomatoes, halved
2 Tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup shredded Gruyere or Parmesan cheese

Oil skillet. Place tomatoes cut side down in hot skillet and cook about 10 minutes. Turn tomatoes over and divide parsley, garlic, sugar, salt and Gruyere onto the 10 tomato halves.
Cover and cook until the cheese is melted. Enjoy!!


Letting Go...

>> Monday, September 24, 2007

"Mama, don't leave me" Is what I heard (what everyone heard) as I was walking out the door of Abe's preschool. I was dropping him off for his first day. All the way in the parking lot I could hear the screams. This was nothing new for me, I had done it before. Caleb probably screamed for the first two weeks of preschool. I can remember the first day dropping him off. It was too hard for me to go home without him so I went to R.J. Julia's and bought a cookbook. Every time I use that cookbook it takes me back to Caleb's first days of school, of my first days of letting go.
It isn't an easy thing to learn how to do, letting go, but its a mandatory thing. So I drove out of that parking lot of Abe's school knowing he would be okay. I knew he would find his niche just like Caleb had three years ago.
When I went to pick him up and we started to walk home he said to me "Mama, I want to stay with my teacher". So turns out I was right, he had a wonderful day. He painted and played, had a snack and even took a bathroom break twice all by himself. Pretty good for a kid who was just officially potty trained the week before.

So now its been a couple of weeks since his first drop off. I wish I could say it was up hill from there, but it wasn't. The second drop off went so bad he had me in tears as he was gripping my t-shirt and begging me not to leave him. But every time I go back to pick him up he has had a great day.
Today was the best drop off of them all, no tears from either one of us!
I know I have many more years of this ahead of me, letting go. I honestly can't imagine putting Abe on the school bus and my youngest being in school all day. What will I do with myself? I guess I better start thinking about it now. But I know it will be good for both of us to spread our wings!


Thankful For The Bounty

>> Thursday, September 13, 2007

So we are coming to the end of a season and the beginning of another. I have to say fall is my absolute favorite time of year. I am so grateful to be living in New England when the air turns cool and the leaves show their beautiful colors.
But I am also grateful for all the wonderful nourishment the warmer months provide us with. I have been reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. It has really made me think about where my food comes from. The book is about a family that took a year of their life and only ate food that came from their own neighborhood. Now I know this is not a new concept but it is certainly one that we as a nation have gotten away from. I think people are slowly becoming more aware of this concept again, or at least I am.
Eating foods only in season at their peak flavor is certainly not a concept I grew up with. I never even thought about how there could be Strawberries in the grocery stores in February.
But now that I am becoming more aware of our food and where it comes from I am very thankful for the local farmers markets that provide us with such a beautiful bounty.
The thing that I look forward to the most is the big, ripe juicy tomatoes. Last night for dinner we had a wonderful no cook tomato sauce.

You take about four good size tomatoes ( you can also use cherry tomatoes) and dice them into medium size pieces. Add about three cloves of minced garlic and a hand full of fresh basil, slivered. Pour over a good amount of olive oil (this helps coat the pasta) and salt and pepper to taste. You let this sit in a bowl on your counter for a good part of the day. Then when you are ready to eat you cook up a pound of pasta and combine the tomato mixture with the hot pasta. The flavors have all melded and the hot pasta combines with the olive oil and it is delicious! I also sometimes add fresh mozzarella or chunks of brie cheese in at the end, it kind of takes it to that next level of goodness! And there you have a wonderful end of summer meal from beautiful local produce!


Once Upon A Knitter

>> Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Flour, sugar and eggs are not my only means of creativity. I also like to use fiber, yarn to be more specific. To walk into a yarn store for me is like walking into heaven. The textures and colors and possibilities that lie within those four walls are overwhelming.
My aunt tried to teach me at a young age how to knit, but I never really picked it up. It wasn't until about a year ago that my good friend Sopha reintroduced me to good ol' knit and purl. I picked it up pretty quick at that point. I think I had retained more than I thought from when I was young.
I'm by no means an avid knitter, and tend to put down my work more than I pick it up. But once I get into a groove of a project I love it. I find it very relaxing and therapeutic.
I am always finding these beautiful yarns and wanting to start something new before I finish what I am working on. That being said I have completed three scarves (a good way to practice my knit and purl), two baby sweaters, and I am working on my first pair of socks(have been for a while now).

This is my first baby sweater. Must say I was shocked when it actually resembled something a baby would wear! I knit it for my friend Sophas third child (yes, Sopha- you do have three kids). I found the buttons in a cute little yarn store in New York. They kind of inspired the colors for the sweater. Sorry Tyler, I hope the colors aren't to feminine for you little guy! But when your a baby you can wear anything!
I was very intimidated at the thought of knitting socks, thought it would be better left to the professionals! But once I started and carefully followed the pattern I actually knit a sock. I have to give some of the credit to A great site when you need to look up an abbreviation or learn how to do a certain stitch (or do you call it a knit- guess I'll have to look that one up too).

I'm still in the process of finishing the second sock. I decided to use the opposite colors, so the foot and the cuff will be green. It kind of gives the pair a funky look. I'm hoping now that the kids are back in school I will have more time for my newly found passion.


You Want What Kind of Cake???

>> Monday, September 03, 2007

You know what they say...Food is love, or at least it is in our house. Well it is! I know that's not a "healthy" way of looking at food, but in our house on our Birthdays we celebrate with our favorite foods.
Cyns Birthday is so predictable. Every year we have the same foods. She likes what she likes. Now mine on the other hand, ya never know. I'm the type to want to try something new and exciting.
This year for Cyns we had her favorite breakfast, Eggs Benedict. I have to say it is pretty good.
Poached eggs, Canadian bacon, hollandaise sauce on English muffins.

I got to try out my new silicone egg cups. They're really neat and work great. You just spray the cups with cooking spray, float them in water and simmer , covered for 4-5 minutes and voila perfect poached eggs!

For lunch we went kinda crazy and just had clam dip and chips! This is something we have been eating in my family for as long as I can remember. In fact My mother tends to make it for all the family get togethers. It's not much of a lunch I know but it is one of her favorites, seems like it's a lot of peoples favorites! Every time I bring it somewhere people are always asking me for the recipe. So here it is in all its simplicity. I forgot to take a picture of the finished dip (I'm still kinda new at this whole taking pics. of my food/blogging thing) but I think you get the idea.

Easy Peasy Clam Dip

1 8oz. package Cream Cheese
1 can minced clams

Drain the juice from the clams into a separate bowl and set aside.
Mix cream cheese with minced clams.

Add as much reserved clam juice to get desired consistency for dip
enjoy with your favorite potato chips (we prefer Ruffles).

OK, so I also forgot to take pictures of the amazing food we had for dinner from Pasta Vita.
But anyone who lives around here knows how great their food is. I highly recommend it to anybody for a celebration dinner that you don't have time to prepare yourself.

But the whole reason for the day (as far as Cyns concerned) is the cake! Cyndee has always wanted the same birthday cake, chocolate bunt cake. Now this isn't some wonderful old fashioned make it from scratch recipe. NO No NO. Couldn't be. Just because her partner loves to make beautiful homemade birthday cakes for those she loves, her favorite cake has to be from a box! And she doesn't like any kind of frosting on it. So there is absolutely no means to being creative here. She doesn't even like to have ice cream with it. I complain every year, "Don't you wanna try something new?", "How about something homemade?". But the answer is always the same "No, I want My birthday cake." So here it is in all its glory. And I must say it is pretty good for a box cake. Though frosting would be nice!

Cyns Favorite Chocolate Fudge Bundt Cake

1 package choc. fudge cake mix (the chocolatiest you can find)
1/2 cup oil
3/4 cup water
4 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 cup chocolate chips

mix first four ingredients together until well blended. Fold in sour cream and chocolate chips.
Pour into prepared*bundt pan. Bake @ 350 for 50-60 minutes.

* whenever I make a chocolate cake I spray the pan with cooking spray and then dust it with cocoa powder instead of flour. This way it just blends into the cake!

And that's Cyns birthday full of food in a clam shell, I mean a nut shell. Maybe next year I can talk her into a chocolate gnache filling for her cake and a nice caramel drizzle on top!


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