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Zucchini Chocolate Chip Cookies

Zucchini Chocolate Chip Cookies

When I originally named this blog Grow.Pick.Eat, it referred to gardening and trying out recipes made from the freshly picked berries and veggies.  Now, as summer winds down, I find that it has taken on a whole new meaning:  My ass and waistline have begun to GROW, causing me to PICK out larger sized items from my closet to wear, because all I have done this summer is sit around and EAT the goodies that Bill and I have cooked and baked.

So much for the unintentional–but not unwelcome–fifteen pound weight loss that I experienced last school year.  My feeble immune system was not prepared to fend off  the aggressive and icky germs passed on to me by the six-year-olds in my classroom, so I was sick almost constantly. Also, I have a hard time eating when I am stressed and anxious, and since stress and anxiety were my constant companions for several months, I pretty much subsisted on red wine.  (Admittedly not the healthiest way to lose weight, but it was that kind of year).   Before I knew it, my pants were hanging so low that I felt like a teenage gangsta, which was not a particularly flattering look for a suburban white female who can’t even say the word “gangsta” without sounding ridiculous.  So, I went out and purchased a brand new and much smaller-sized wardrobe–and proudly left all the size tags in.

Now, however, those new clothes are feeling uncomfortably snug.  I am not even sure if I can get into my dress pants (purchased in the Juniors’ section, thank you very much), and with the new school year starting soon, I sure hope I don’t bust a seam when I sit down at our first staff meeting or bend over to tie a little one’s shoe.  And I am afraid to weigh myself on my Wii Fit, because it will yell at me for being a slacker or perhaps make a snide comment about how long it has been since I last exercised.

Therefore, this will be my last post involving baking for a while.  I really need to lay off the carb-saturated baked treats and try to cook more figure friendly dishes until I can button things again.   Tomatoes, broccoli and cabbage are coming in strong right now, and lucky for me, they are not conducive to making breads, cookies and pies.  I will focus upcoming blog posts mostly on those three veggies.  But our shriveled and spent zucchini plant gave us one last monster squash, so I dutifully made up a batch of fluffy and sweet cookies to celebrate the end of its life and the end of summer vacation.    Think I’ll pour myself a glass of red wine and find the recipe for you…

Here it is:

ZUCCHINI CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES:  http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/chocolate-chip-cookies-vi/detail.aspx

Notes:

  • I usually use half brown sugar, half white sugar.
  • Rather than finely chop the zucchini, I shred it.  With my trusty Salad Shooter, of course.
  • 3/4 cup of chocolate chips is not nearly enough.  I put in a whole 6 oz bag of them–at least.
  • This time, I added some Heath toffee pieces, because Bill saw them in the baking aisle and wanted to try them.  Mmmm.

P.S.  I am surprised that my spell check recognizes the word “gangsta.”  That makes me a cringe just a little bit.

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Zucchini Brownies??? Rock On!

Zucchini Brownie

So, yesterday I made a batch of gooey chocolate-y brownies with the help of my trusty iPod and was delighted to discover that I do indeed possess the coordination to hold and mix a bowl of dry ingredients while simultaneously doing the Cupid Shuffle. Also, I’ve found that some songs are better than others when it is time to stir the dry ingredients into the wet. Just like hitting a baseball, I feel that it helps to get the hips into the process (although I am admittedly way better at mixing batter than being a batter). Over my last couple of baking sessions, the following tunes proved to have just the right batter mixing rhythm: “Groove is in the Heart” by Deee-Lite, “Hollaback Girl” by Gwen Stefani, “Lovin’ Touchin’ Squeezin'” by Journey, most Run DMC songs, and one of Kid Rock’s classier titles, “#$%@ You Blind.”

However, I’ve found that other songs, such as many by Green Day and Buckcherry, are too fast-paced for batter mixing, and would be better suited for the frantic task of whipping egg whites and sugar into a frothy meringue.

The best thing about getting a dance workout in the kitchen is that afterwards I feel I’ve earned the right to indulge a bit on products of my labor, beginning with the batter. This is another recipe in which eggs are not used, so the batter is completely safe to eat–and extremely delicious. Just try to avoid making the same mistake that a friend and I made in our seventh grade Home Ec. class: we only ended up with one cookie from a recipe that was supposed to make a dozen, because the batter was so darn good. Needless to say, our grade on that project was less than stellar.

If you have any self-control, this recipe should make a 9″ x 13″ pan of brownies, which are a bit lighter and more cake-like than the dense, oily, chewy ones that come from a box. Nobody will have any idea that these brownies contain zucchini unless you tell them, so you can enjoy the feeling of sneaking vegetables into your unsuspecting children’s dessert! The recipe says to fold in the zucchini at the end, but I found that without the zucchini the batter became almost too dry and difficult to mix, causing me to rely on an angry Limp Bizkit song to pull me through it. So, my suggestion would be to incorporate the shredded zucchini with the wet ingredients immediately, and then add the dry to the wet.  As usual, I used white whole wheat flour and substituted unsweetened applesauce for the oil.  I forgot to buy walnuts this time, but I usually put them in unless I am baking for my Dad, who prefers nut-free foods.

ZUCCHINI BROWNIES

http://allrecipes.com/recipe/zucchini-brownies/detail.aspx

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.

Mmm…Pie…

The massive raspberry bush that towers over our garden started out innocently enough.  A friend had bought a house with an overabundance of landscaping, and he was looking to simplify by getting rid of a few of the yard’s many beds.  Bill and I went over to take a look, and returned home with a rose bush, some blanket flowers and a chunk of a raspberry plant.  The cheery red and yellow blanket flowers found a new home in our front flower bed, the rose bush went next to the house, and we transplanted the raspberry plant in a corner of our vegetable garden.

The rose bush bit the dust not long after we adopted it, but the blanket flowers are still going strong.  And to say that the raspberry bush thrived is an understatement.  If we had not taken preventative measures, it would cover our entire garden by now.  The plant sends out little creeping runners, which if left unchecked, will develop into  new canes.  As our garden is not very large, and we were tiring of constantly weeding mini raspberry canes, we came up with a plan:  We would install a barrier to keep the plant corralled within its allotted garden plot.  After looking at different options, we settled on 12″ metal flashing.  We figured in a few minutes we could dig around the perimeter of the raspberry bush, install the flashing, and voila–instant raspberry fence.

What we failed to remember was that when we moved into the house six years ago, a large tree stood only a couple of feet from the raspberry bush’s current home.  And trees have roots.  Which are very thick near the base of the tree.  So, installing the flashing became a chore that took several hours and quite a bit of sweating, sawing and swearing.

Our tricky raspberry bush still sneaks some runners under the flashing on occasion just to keep us on our toes, but they are not nearly as invasive as they used to be.  The now-restrained 4′ – 6′ raspberry canes produce a beautiful abundant crop of plump red berries each July that we use in many recipes, including the mouth-watering pie, below.  The recipe is extremely simple if you buy pre-made frozen pie crust, but if you want to make your own–hey, knock yourself out.  A slice of this juicy, slightly tart pie with vanilla bean ice cream is a heavenly combination. However, since I made the pie up north at our cottage this week with groceries and ingredients transported in a cooler, we were sans ice cream this time.  Oh well.  Guess I’ll have to make it again!

NOTE:  The first time I made this recipe exactly as written, and it was very soupy.  This time I added about 2 tablespoons of cornstarch and it was just right.  Also, in the oven I was using,  I had to bake it about 10 minutes longer than instructed.

RASPBERRY PIE

http://allrecipes.com/recipe/raspberry-pie-ii/detail.aspx

Soft and Delicious Zucchini Spice Cookies

Today’s zucchini recipe was created with the assistance of two very handy small appliances. The first is my Salad Shooter. You may recall the commercials for these things several years ago, and their little song: “Salad Shoo-TERRRRR!” The first year that I was faced with massive amounts of zucchini awaiting shredding, I knew that a hand grater was not going to cut it. So, I found a great deal on a Salad Shooter on eBay. I was particularly charmed by this model’s Transformer-like ability to morph into a hand mixer. When you have a kitchen as small as ours, it is important that appliances can do double duty and not take up too much space. For its usefulness, my Salad Shooter/Hand Mixer has earned a coveted spot in a kitchen cabinet, rather than a home in the basement with the secondary appliances.

The other appliance that was of great help in making this recipe was my iPod. I have a little iPod touch that I tend to use mainly while on my treadmill or when drowning out screaming babies on airplanes. As I began to gather the ingredients for my cookies, I noticed that my husband was lightly napping on the couch, lulled to sleep by the gentle drama of the Maury Povich show on TV. I didn’t want to wake him by changing the channel, but I also did not care to listen to the outcome of today’s baby-daddy paternity test while baking. So, I employed the drowning-out capabilities of the iPod and blissfully rocked out some Zucchini Spice Cookies.

I found this recipe online a few years ago when I was undergoing food-allergy testing and had to eliminate many foods from my diet, and then slowly introduce them back in. This recipe is egg-free and can also be made without the nuts. I understand that raisins go well with these, but I don’t do raisins–they remind me of bugs. If you like to eat batter as much as you like to eat the cookies, then this is a good choice; you can lick the bowl or the spoon without worrying about raw-egg cooties. The other thing I like about this recipe is its consistent measurements. Everything is measured by the cup or teaspoon, leading to fewer dishes to wash, and no tragedy if I mix up baking soda and baking powder. I apologize for not giving props to its creator; I could not find the orginal website for this one.

These cookies are puffy and cake-like, almost like a muffin top. The spice flavor is very mild; if you like more zip you may want to increase the nutmeg or add in some ginger. This time, I used white whole-wheat flour, applesauce instead of oil, and mixed in some walnuts. I cool them on newspaper and store them in plastic containers, separated by layers of wax paper so they don’t stick together. I cannot stop eating them, as they are perfect for dessert, for a snack or for breakfast with coffee. I also think they would be fabulous with some Vernor’s ice cream sandwiched between them…

ZUCCHINI SPICE COOKIES

 Ingredients

2 c. brown sugar (ok to use half brown, half regular sugar)

2 c. grated zucchini

1 c. oil

4 c. flour

2 tsp. baking soda

2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. nutmeg

1 tsp. salt

1  cup chopped nuts and/or raisins. Good without, too.  Or just top with a nut or raisin.

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix wet ingredients and sugar together in one bowl.

Mix dry ingredients in another bowl.  Bit by bit, stir dry ingredients into wet.  Drop by heaping spoonful onto ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake for 12 to 14 minutes—until bottom edges look golden. (Check at 10 minutes).

Makes approx. 3 dozen, depending on size of cookies.

Click ZUCCHINI SPICE COOKIES for a printable PDF of this recipe.

Strawberry Walnut Bread

Like many people these days, my husband and I have been attempting to adopt a healthier lifestyle.  Growing our own chemical- and pesticide-free vegetables and berries is helpful, but we have slowly been making other changes as well.  We’ve replaced our cleaning products with ones containing more natural ingredients, and I have been using personal care products that are free of synthetic fragrances, parabens, laureth sulfates, etc.  This past year, we have tried to do more cooking in olive oil and drench fewer things in butter.  I am all for exploring more whole-grains, but Bill is holding on to his white bread with a stubborn fury.  Even so, I am quite impressed with the progress we have made; we have recently started taking bike rides together, and I am finding that yoga may very well be my favorite form of exercise.  We have come a long way since the days when I considered Pop Tarts to be an official food group. Still, both of us retain a bit of a sweet tooth, so if we can find a way to sneak some healthiness into an otherwise indulgent dish, we are all for it, as long as the taste is not compromised too much.

Below is the recipe for a dense, moist strawberry bread.  By substituting and switching a few different ingredients, it can be made to suit various levels of fit or fat.  I went with white whole wheat flour, which is a bit of a compromise for us.  Bill doesn’t taste the “wheatiness,” and I feel better about using that than white flour.  Also, whenever I bake something that calls for vegetable oil, I swap unsweetened applesauce for it.  Just those two changes alone make me feel less guilty about consuming the occasional homemade baked goodie. Though I did not do this, I am thinking that the addition of dark chocolate chips could be justified for their antioxidant properties.  If the amount of sugar in the recipe already is an issue, though, I suppose Splenda could be used instead.  I must admit that I did cave in to Bill’s fondness for butter and sprinkled some streusel topping on this; however, it easily could be left off to save some sugar and calories.   Not being a dietician, I have no idea what the calorie count on this bread actually is, and I am quite fine without that knowledge!    This recipe makes two loaves, so I make one to keep and one to give away.  I figure that by doing that, I am cutting the calories in half.  🙂

STRAWBERRY WALNUT BREAD

Bread Ingredients:

  • 3 cups fresh strawberries, hulled, rinsed and sliced
  • 3 1/8 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/4 cups unsweetened applesauce
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1  1/4 cups chopped walnuts (or other nuts, or dark chocolate chips), if desired

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour two loaf pans.
  2. Place strawberries in a bowl and sprinkle with few pinches of sugar.  They can be mashed a bit, but not too much.
  3. Combine flour, sugar, cinnamon, salt and baking soda in large bowl and mix well.
  4. Stir applesauce and eggs into the strawberries.
  5. Slowly add strawberry mixture to dry ingredients, mixing by hand until a nice batter forms. Stir in walnuts. Divide batter and pour into pans.
  6. Top with streusel topping (optional; directions below)
  7. Bake for about 50 minutes, or until inserted toothpick comes out clean.  Let bread cool in pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Turn loaves out, and let them cool completely.

NOTE: Bread my take as little as 45 minutes or as long as 1 hour 15 minutes, so check frequently with a toothpick.

STREUSEL TOPPING

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup cold butter

Directions:

  1. Mix together flour, brown sugar and walnuts.
  2. Cut butter into mixture and stir lightly until crumbly.

Click STRAWBERRY WALNUT BREAD for a printable PDF of this recipe.