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Fantastic Zucchini Bread

I will begin this post with an appropriate anecdote from this month’s Reader’s Digest, which is THE magazine to turn to for anecdotes–or articles short enough so that one’s legs don’t fall asleep reading them while sitting on the john.

I visited my daughter bearing gifts: summer squash from my garden. 

“What should I do with them?” she asked. 

“Whatever you would do with zucchini,” I said. 

“All right, we’ll give them to our neighbor.”

–Harold Silver, Neenah, WI

Those of us who grow zucchini or other prolific vegetables are all too familiar with this seasonal situation. Unfortunately, Bill and I don’t know our neighbors.  Yes, we have lived in the same house for six years, but the people on our street either keep to themselves or are so blatantly nasty that we have come up with creative derogatory nicknames for them.  The only neighbor that we do know–that is, we exchange pleasantries with him over the fence on occasion–has his own vegetable garden, which gives him the right to be exempt from our offerings.  So, our solution for getting rid of excess produce is to either:  a) force it upon friends and family or b) arrange the veggies in a basket on a little folding table near the sidewalk with catchy advertising, such as: “Free Organically Grown Monster Zucchini.”

We quickly discovered that people would more readily accept vegetables–especially weird or grotesquely sized ones–if accompanied by a recipe sheet.  The summer that spaghetti squash ran rampant all over our fence, we gave them away along with the eloquently titled sheet: “What the #@&! do I do with Spaghetti Squash?”  Our zucchini was presented with a paper entitled, “Zucchini is Fun!”  Both recipe pages were illustrated with clip art portraying chipper and wholesome people from the 1950s.  I felt that this would invoke nostalgia for a simpler time, when apron-clad cooking with home grown vegetables was the norm.

Included on the “Zucchini is Fun” page is the recipe below for zucchini bread.  After testing a few different recipes the first year that we had our garden, we chose to add this one to our permanent collection.  It makes two moist and flavorful loaves, and is delicious plain, or topped with butter, margarine, peanut butter, or jam.  A big tasty chunk for breakfast, along with a caffeine-laden cup of coffee, is a great way to start the day!  Alternately, the recipe could make 24 muffins, or mix and match to make one loaf and 12 muffins.

Forgive me, but I do not remember where this recipe originated:

FANTASTIC ZUCCHINI BREAD

Ingredients

  • 3 eggs
  • 2 c. brown sugar
  • 1 c. oil or unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 c. raw zucchini, grated
  • 3 c. flour
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 c. chopped walnuts (optional)

Directions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Combine all the “wet” ingredients and the brown sugar in a large bowl, and combine all the dry ingredients in another bowl.
  3. Slowly add the dry to the wet, stirring well after each addition.
  4. Add chopped walnuts, if desired.
  5. Pour into two greased loaf pans.
  6. Bake loaves for approximately one hour.  I begin checking for done-ness with a toothpick at about 45 minutes, and will sometimes cover the loaves with foil to keep them from browning too much while the center finishes cooking.  Muffins take about 20 minutes.

Click FANTASTIC ZUCCHINI BREAD for a printable PDF of this recipe.

Super Sneaky Zucchini Apple Pie

Forgot to take a picture of the whole pie, but managed to get a pic of a slice before we devoured it all!

Many people have a mental block when it comes to zucchini. Take my dog sitter, for example. I had baked up a batch of perfectly delicious zucchini muffins and offered her one. She declined, stating that she hated zucchini. Now, hate is a pretty strong emotion for such an unassuming vegetable, and both my husband and I sensed that she had never experienced the yummy versatility that zucchini can offer. My husband started his persuasion technique with the tried and true, “But you can’t even taste the zucchini!” She looked at him dubiously. I followed up by asking her if she liked banana bread and carrot cake. When she said that she loved both of those, I explained that the muffin was similar. After a bit more coaxing, she took a bite, and was a very happy zucchini convert. In the future I may just refer to them as Cinnamon Muffins when sharing them with zucchini-phobes.

If you don’t have twenty minutes to talk your guests into trying baked zucchini products, but you have zucchini covering your countertops and must sneak them into food at every opportunity, then I have discovered an ideal recipe for you: Zucchini Apple Pie. Faced with a freshly picked monster zucchini last week, I found this recipe that would use a large quantity of zucchini and give me an easy dessert to top off a barbecue with friends.

However, I was not sure how well the pie would go over if I explained what was in it. So I didn’t. I made coy comments, such as “Bill made pickles today, and I did some baking. Now the kitchen smells like a weird combination of pickles and apple pie.” Then, when I brought out the pie, everyone assumed it was apple pie and eagerly dug in, giving it rave reviews, including, “This is the best apple pie I’ve ever had!” At that point, my husband gleefully broke the news that there was not a single apple in the pie, just zucchini. Nobody believed him. At all. So I had to fess up and show them the recipe.

Don’t they look like apple slices???

It was truly fabulous! Actually, it was a combination of two recipes. I followed this Zucchini Apple Pie recipe, but since I only had one deep-dish frozen pie crust on hand, I didn’t put a top crust on it. Instead, I made the crumb topping from this Cinnamon Crumble Apple Pie recipe. The final result tasted very similar to my husband’s favorite brand-name Dutch apple pie, which he will no longer allow himself to eat because it contains trans-fats. So, now we have a tasty alternative!

At the same barbecue, I tried out this Cucumber Zucchini Salad recipe as well.  It was also a winner, crisp and refreshing, and I was asked to bring it to another event the following weekend.

A nice summer side dish!

And, after trying several pickle recipes over the years that we haven’t much cared for, we like this one: Homemade Zesty Dill Pickers and Peppers, and so did our guests. It makes a flavorful, crunchy refrigerator pickle.

Well, what are you waiting for?  Time to get busy with those zukes and cukes!

The Neglectful Gardener Makes Stuffed Zucchini Cups and Oven Zucchini Chips

The main garden, thriving with little care

This summer is cruising by so quickly that I can’t believe that July is almost halfway over!  Many exciting things have been happening in the garden, such as plants inconveniently producing berries and oversized vegetables while we were out of town, and octopus-like weeds popping up everywhere to mock our neglect. We returned home from our cottage a few days ago to find that our beloved raspberries, overripe from not being picked, had become fodder for flies.  Luckily, we caught the zucchini before they developed enough to become self aware.  The weeds continue to grow, since I have been too busy (i.e. lazy) to do anything about them.

The first night back, my husband rooted around and emerged from the garden with a monster zucchini, some semi-normal sized zucchini, several cucumbers, and one single pathetic raspberry.  The decimation of the raspberries saddened me, because our homemade raspberry jam is one of my favorite treats from our garden. I was afraid that we wouldn’t be able to make it this year.  However, I had the foresight to pick and freeze about two cups of raspberries before we left for vacation, so now I am slowly adding to that amount each night as fresh berries ripen.  We should be able to squeak out a few jars of jam, but probably won’t have enough for raspberry pie–another one of my favorites.  Sigh.

I knew that leaving the garden unattended for a long stretch of time wasn’t the most responsible choice, but with temperatures forecasted in the 90s, we sure as heck weren’t going to sit around our sweltering backyard and watch things grow when we could be at a cabin on the lake.  So, we sacrificed raspberry pie for up north.  As my husband said, “You can buy a raspberry pie, but you can’t buy the up north experience.” So true.

The rest of the garden is doing its thing.  The tomato plants are flowering and becoming unwieldy (as we are behind on the staking), and new plants are emerging from last year’s unintentional reseeding.  We’re getting some peppers in, and best of all, we will be having corn on the cob tonight because I actually managed to pick the first two ripe ears before the local wildlife ravaged them!

Corn for dinner tonight!

So now that we are finally able to harvest some stuff, I thought I’d pass along two new zucchini recipes that we tried. The first one successfully used up a monster zucchini.  (I still have one more lurking in my vegetable crisper, awaiting its fate as zucchini bread or spice cookies).

If you like stuffed peppers, this recipe is along the same lines.  In fact, you could stuff them with the filling that you usually use in peppers.  We made the recipe pretty much as directed and thought it was a keeper.

Stuffed zucchini cups

Meat, Tomato and Mozzerella Stuffed Zucchini Cups:

http://www.kalynskitchen.com/2009/09/recipe-for-meat-tomato-and-mozzarella.html

I think this second one is going to be made on a frequent basis this summer as my go-to savory zucchini recipe.

Zucchini chips

Zucchini Oven Chips

http://www.health.com/health/recipe/0,,10000001087041,00.html

We whipped this up as an evening snack recently, and it was sooooo good.  Simply slice a normal sized zucchini into chips, dip in milk and a seasoned breadcrumb mixture, and bake the slices in a 425 oven for half an hour on a nonstick baking rack.   I didn’t have breadcrumbs on hand, so I pulverized some Parmesan/garlic croutons in my little food processor to use instead.  Also, it seemed like these would be good with a dip–like the zingy dip served with Bloomin’ Onions at Outback Steakhouse.  Since we were out of horseradish, my husband improvised and came up with his own tasty dip. I’m giving you the closest approximation to his measurements that I can, since he was in mad scientist mode and measured nothing.  So, I suggest starting with minimal spices, tasting it as you go and adjusting accordingly.

Zippy Dip

  • 1/3 cup sour cream (or lite sour cream)
  • 1/4 cup mayo (or lite may0)
  • capful of white vinegar

Approximately 1/4 tsp of each of the following, or to taste:

  • chili powder
  • ground cayenne
  • paprika
  • garlic
  • dried minced onion

Mix sour cream and mayo together.  Add a capful of white vinegar and spices and stir until combined.  Taste, and add another capful of vinegar if you want more zip.  Add more of any spices you desire.  Mix well.  Serve with Zucchini Chips or other veggies.

Click ZIPPY DIP for a printable PDF of this recipe.