Chocolate Zucchini Bread

Did you miss me?

I have missed baking, taking photos, and conversing with the people who read this blog. So where have I been?

First I was busy with finals and the end of the school semester. Then I got a job (woo-hoo!) at a coffee-shop (another woo-hoo). Finally I’ve been consuming my time with something I enjoy just as much food: being outdoors! Couple that with exercising and that is what I’ve been spending a lot of my time doing. Regarding exercising, first it was walks, then it was jogging, and recently I’ve even been running (in short sprints, for under a minute). I’m still building my stamina and my lung capacity for the rigors of running but it is definitely worth it. Along with doing Pilates and dabbling with some Tai Chi, I’ve been biking and last week I biked 16 miles! Something that has kept me motivated is the Million Minute Challenge over at SocialWorkout. Every month or so SocialWorkout does challenges, the most recent being the Million Minute Challenge, the purpose being trying to log one million workout minutes with the help of its members. So far there are over 400,000 minutes logged and I have contributed 805 of those minutes. If you’re interested you should definitely sign up. The more people who join and log their exercise minutes, the closer the goal can be reached!

Now that I’ve boasted about my newfound fitness craze, let’s move onto food-related things, more specifically chocolatey, zucchini-filled, bread formed food things.

Zucchini bread sounds strange to me. You would think it would be gross and like the equivalent of a fruit cake zucchini bread is essentially a vegetable bread. But contrary to any doubters, zucchini bread is far more delicious than a fruit cake. And I will prove that with this recipe.

When I last went to the grocery store I bought one zucchini to cut and cube in chili. Looking back I don’t know why that sounded like a good idea and as of now zucchini and chili do not sound like a good thing. But I can still be swayed. So lest the zucchini spoil I decided to make a zucchini bread, which I had eaten before but never made. I wanted another dimension to the bread so I decided to add cocoa powder. And – okay, here is the unconventional part but try to stay with me – I wanted to add avocado. Instead of using the typical fatteners for baking such as butter or oil, another option is avocado which is full healthy fats (the mono-saturated kinds, I believe). The baking stars had just aligned because I had one avocado left that had just ripened. I substituted the recipe’s fat ingredient (which was canola oil) for one avocado and the results? Perfect-o. Honestly, everything turned out pretty damn good. There is no avocado-y taste as some people would think and the bread is really moist, almost melt in your mouth kind of texture. The zucchini bread is sweet with touch of chocolate and is good to nibble on. Or to eat the entire loaf in one sitting. Just kidding about the last one, I don’t eat entire loaves of bread in one sitting, that’s asking for aches and constipation. Onto the recipe, shall we?

I adapted the recipe from Joy of Baking. I substituted canola oil for one avocado and I only had one zucchini so I halved the recipe. I also did not have allspice.

Is my version of Chocolate Zucchini Bread a winner? I would say so. But hey, I don’t want to put words in your mouth, so make it yourself and let me know what you think.


Did some drive-by’s…

Drive-by photography that is.

Pictures were taken in the driver’s seat, one hand on the wheel, the other around the camera finger-ready on the capture button. Not recommended on busy streets. Take precaution if you choose to do this. Look out for cars, people, bicyclers, ditches, potholes, and swerving off the road. Doing drive-by’s could cause an accident. Was it fun? Yes. Exhilarating? A little bit. Produce interesting shots? I’d said so. Do at your own risk.

Spicy Cilantro Hummus. And Some Geese.

Have you ever had a Mediterranean Veggie Sandwich from Panera Bread?

Here is my homemade version.

Grab some vegetables. Tomatoes, cucumbers, and red slices are a great place to start.

Smear spicy cilantro hummus on two pieces of wheat bread.

Put sandwich together and eat.

Would you like the recipe for the hummus?

Okay, I cheated a little. Instead of making my own hummus from scratch, I picked up already-made hummus at the store and then added spices. Of course you could can do the same or make your own hummus at home.

To make spicy cilantro hummus you will need one or two jalapeños and a handful of cilantro (I bought a little container at the store and used all of it  – I’d say 1/2 to 3/4 cup). Place both ingredients and hummus into a blender and blend until smooth. You may need to put more olive oil into the mix to get things moving. I added some more minced garlic for a boost of flavor.

This is a great spread! I used two jalapeños and it was the right amount of spice for me. The hummus tasted better the next day and stays good in the refrigerator for a week.

Upon making this spicy hummus I found a second use for it – as a salad dressing. I don’t like the tangy taste of most salad dressing and this hummus on top of romaine lettuce and some other sliced vegetables like red onions, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes and then sprinkled with feta cheese – it has become the only way I will eat a salad. So if you do not like traditional salad dressing try a flavored hummus instead; it might get you to eat your veggies (it did for me).

Okay on to other things, park-related things.

There is one lone goose in the park.

I like to think he is the cranky goose that no other geese wants to be around so he hangs out by himself.

But this is just a story and probably not true.

Also, look at this set of dinnerware I found at the thrift store for $5. Good find, no?

No more fast food update

Sorry everyone, I failed. Within the 9 days from starting a month of no fast food to today, I ate out 3 different times: once at Panera Bread, once at Dairy Queen, and once at Jimmy Johns.

Let’s just say the shit hit the fan and I found one source to my problem: I eat when I’m stressed out.

I can’t believe it has only been 9 days since swearing off fast food because it seriously felt longer than that. I did not miss fast food at all but I quickly felt the change in my body: I felt better, I had lots more energy, and I was choosing healthier foods to eat.

About having lots more energy, I mean LOTS! For a few days I was exercising morning, afternoon, and evening – yes because it was gorgeous outside and I wanted to get out of the house but also because I didn’t feel like I was lugging my body around. I felt lighter even though I hadn’t lost any weight.

So even though I did not complete being off fast food for 30 days the first time I’m trying again for a second time.

So starting today, Thursday April 8 2010 until Friday May 7 2010 I will start NMFF (No More Fast Food) Round Two. I think I will be even more successful this time. From the last nine days I’ve seen what triggers me and here are some tings I’ve found out about myself –

1. Stress makes me want to eat. I think this is something many people can say and it can be hard to get over. I have found that working out, exercising, moving – doing anything else that exerts energy – makes me feel SO MUCH better afterward than eating. I like the feeling I get after working out WAY BETTER than the feeling I get when I eat because I am stressed.

2. I feel awesome when I am active. The very day I swore off fast food I also picked up a Tai Chi workout DVD (something I have never tried) and I have been doing Pilates and have been going for walks and bicycle rides. I was surprised to feel the quick change in my body

3. Eating every meal either at home or that was made from home is hard. Sometimes it is just easier to pick something up some place other than my kitchen. But I wanted to do this to see the change in myself, my eating habits, and my body – so I will just have to suck it up and spend a little extra time preparing meals (which luckily I don’t mind too much :) )

4. Even though I did not complete my mission I am not discouraged. I made a decision to change something and I tried it. I did not win but I tried. And I am trying again. And I believe this time I will be successful.

So here I go for a second time.

I’m a little bummed that I failed the first time because now I have to start from the very beginning.

But I won’t get anywhere without hard work.

Honey Wheat Bread with Homemade Honey Butter

The past few days I have been craving a fresh loaf of bread. Adam really likes whenever I bake honey wheat bread so that’s what I made.

I have also been seeing around the interwebs how to make your own butter. So I did and IT WAS SO EASY! I’ll show that below too.

Recipe:

Honey Wheat Bread

Ingredients:

  • 1 package of active dry yeast (or 2 1/2 teaspoons of bread machine yeast, if using a bread machine)
  • 1 cup of warm milk (80-90º F)*
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/3 cup of honey
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour*
  • 1 and 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup of rolled oats

*Scald milk first and let sit until it reaches correct temperature.

*You can use all wheat flour if desired.

Okay, so I dumped all the ingredients in the bread machine and let it mix and rise in there (I know, I am so lazy).

If you want to do this by hand, just dissolve the yeast in the warm milk and then begin adding the other ingredients. Let rest for a few minutes in between mixing. Once all ingredients are throughly mixed, cover with a towel and let the dough sit to rise.

NOW THIS IS THE IMPORTANT PART:

You will let your bread rise initially after mixing for about an hour. Then shape your dough (into a loaf pan, a baguette, a round, rolls, whatever you please). After you have shaped your dough, let it sit for 3 -4 hours: the longer the better. Letting the dough rise for a few hours is the difference between a thick, quickly sink to the bottom of your stomach bread to a light, fluffy and soft loaf that you will want to hug.

After 3 or more hours of rising, preheat your oven to 375ºF and place your loaf in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes.

A SECOND IMPORTANT PART:

When the loaf is removed from the oven and from it’s pan, let it sit still for 5 – 15 minutes before you tear into it. I know it is hard to not slice a piece immediately after it is taken out of the oven but letting the bread compose itself from being in a hot oven and then to your kitchen table will greatly help the bread and will (hopefully) produce better slices and better taste.

THE FINISHED PRODUCT

Okay now onto homemade butter.

The only ingredients you will need is heavy cream (sometimes called heavy whipping cream) and honey. Salt is optional. I forgot to add – and this goes with the bread recipe too - use quality honey, pure grade A honey. No imitation honey. If you are taking the time to make a fresh loaf and fresh honey butter you want to use quality ingredients to get the best taste possible.

Back to making homemade butter…

Grab some heavy cream at the grocery store. I bought a pint.

Let the cream sit out for an hour or so so it reaches room temperature. I let it sit on my kitchen table for about 3 hours while I took a bike ride.

And now the fun part…

Pour the cream into a mason jar that has a secure lid (or any kind of jar that has a very secure lid), I just happened to use mason jars.

A VERY IMPORTANT PART

Whatever kind of jar you use, make sure the heavy cream only fills 1/3 of the jar – any more and the cream will not turn into butter. Since I bought a pint of heavy cream I needed to use two mason jars.

Now the fun part…

Once the cream is in the jar and the lid is securely fit, shake the jar up and down, side to side, above your head, behind your back…okay you really only need to shake it up and down, just trying to be a little funny.

Within the first 30 seconds, the cream in the jar will turn into a whipped and creamy consistency. Keep shaking.

After about 1 minute or 2, the cream will separate into butter and buttermilk. When this happens, you will hear a “sloshing” noise. Shake for about 10 -15 more seconds. Then stop.

Grab a bowl and strainer and place the strainer on top of the bowl. Pour the butter and buttermilk into the strainer and squeeze the buttermilk out.

ANOTHER IMPORTANT PART

After you have strained the butter, take the strainer over to the sink and rinse with very cold water for 30 – 60 seconds or until all the buttermilk it out. This is very important because if you do not get all of the buttermilk out the butter will go rancid very quickly.

After rinsing, you’re finished. You have just made butter! Now sprinkle some salt in there or pour your desired amount of honey and stir. Slice a piece of honey wheat bread and spread some homemade butter all while basking in the fruits of your labor. Give yourself a pat on the back for making something from scratch and enjoy the moment.

The butter should keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks. You can keep the buttermilk (I did) to make buttermilk biscuits or whatever people use with buttermilk. I put my butter and buttermilk in separate mason jars and reservd a spot for both in the fridge.

I’ll share some pictures to prove that making butter at home really does work.


This is what it looks like when the butter separates from the buttermilk.

Strain and rinse the butter.

Fresh slice of honey wheat bread with fresh honey butter. Yum!

Strolls and Bike Rides Through the Park

I haven’t posted anything new because I have been outside moving my limbs and enjoying the weather. I hope wherever you are it is as warm, sunny, and breezy as it is hear. No new recipes but here are some photos to enjoy…

The fields have been burned.

The trees are regaining color.

The daffodils have bloomed.

The motorcyclists are out and about.

NO MORE FAST FOOD

This is the chant I said to myself last night as I fell asleep. I usually eat fast food late at night and that night I had just finished a McDonald’s Hot Fudge Sundae and chicken nuggets. Just about every time I eat anything not homemade I always complain about feeling sick afterward. Literally every time. You would figure that after a couple of times I would learn to stop eating foods that make me feel sick but I haven’t. It is oh so sad.

Since last night I’ve decided to not eat fast food for a month. I will start today March 30, 2010 and go until April 30, 2010 – the last day of April. So I am actually doing a little more than a month but hey, I don’t like to gloat : )

Here is the assignment:

  • Absolutely no fast food. Even a soda or a cup for water, I will not consume a thing from any fast food eatery during this period.
  • IF someone invites me to a sit-down restaurant (this is very unlikely but it it always good to plan ahead) I will ONLY order something that in unprocessed, such as a salad, fruits or vegetables.

Okay, that is it. And I am ready to begin!

Anybody else out there who has sworn off fast food? For forever? Or for a month, a week, or a day? I would like to hear from you if you have! Comment below!

UPDATE: I forgot to add a link that sort of got me thinking about this – The Great Burrito Challenge: Fast vs. Fresh.

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