HEALTHIER ZUCCHINI BREAD!

zucchini bread textThey’re out there and they’re coming – those overzealous gardeners who plant way too much zucchini. You can hear the pleading in their voices – “You want some zucchini? We have lots!”

Or maybe you ARE the overzealous gardener. Either way, zucchini abounds and it needs to be dealt with. Yes, you can stir-fry, stuff, and spiralize it, but one can only eat so much zucchini.

My suggestion is to make a healthier ZUCCHINI BREAD and freeze the loaves so you can enjoy your bounty months from now.

This recipe is packed with zucchini, but let’s not get crazy – I said “healthier”, not “healthy”. Even though I swapped the vegetable oil for olive oil and the whole eggs for egg whites, there’s still sugar in the bread so bear that in mind when slicing out the portions.

Note:  This recipe makes 20 muffins.  While it’s a little more work to grease, fill, and remove the muffins from a muffin pan, the benefits are portion control, ease of grabbing however many you want from the freezer, and the whole muffin is basically an end piece (my favorite part of quick breads).zucchini bread3

2nd note:  I noted both weight and cup measurements. Weighing dry ingredients is a far more accurate way of measuring than using measuring cups, but I included cup measurements for those of you who don’t have a scale. (Put digital kitchen scale on your wish-list!)

HEALTHIER ZUCCHINI BREAD – make 1 loaf or 20 muffins

  • 7½ oz (1½ cups) all-purpose flour
  • 2¾ oz (1/2 cup) whole wheat flour
  • 1 T ground cinnamon
  • 1½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1½ tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1½ pounds zucchini
  • 4 egg whites
  • 8¾ oz (1 + 1/3 cup) dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 T distilled vinegar
  • optional: 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped & lightly toasted

Preheat oven to 375º Fahrenheit. 

In a medium sized bowl, blend the flours, cinnamon, salt, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, and walnuts, if using. Set aside. zucchini bread13Using the large holes of your grater, shred the zucchini. (You can use your food processor or do it by hand.) You’ll have about 5 cups of zucchini. Take a handful of the zucchini and place it in the center of a clean tea towel. Gather the edges together and twist the ball firmly to extract as much liquid as you can. Do this with all the zucchini. (It’s better not to put too much zucchini in the towel at one time.) Discard the liquid, unless you can think of a use for it.zucchini bread15 In a large bowl, beat the egg whites, sugar, oil, vanilla, and vinegar by hand.zucchini bread14 Stir in zucchini.zucchini bread4 Pour in the dry ingredients and gently blend until the flour is incorporated – there can be some flour showing. (Over mixing quick breads can lead to a tough loaf.) zucchini bread5Pour batter into an oiled metal (or glass, if you don’t have metal) loaf pan and smooth top. zucchini bread6Bake 60-70 minutes (mine took 65 minutes), until a toothpick comes out clean.zucchini bread7 Let sit in the pan for 20 minutes before removing to a wire rack. zucchini bread8The loaf needs to cool at least 1½ hours to firm up before slicing. Honestly, try and restrain yourself – you’ll get nicer slices if you wait.

 

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CLOUD BREAD: Gluten-Free & Light As A Feather!

cloud bread text

Never heard of Cloud Bread?  Neither had I until googled a bread question and happened to see this term. Intrigued by the name, I clicked the site and read about Cloud Bread. I assumed this was something the blogger made up, but then I googled “cloud bread” and found it’s a thing. Who knew?!

Cloud Bread is a gluten-free alternative to grain bread. In its basic state it’s made with just 3 ingredients: eggs, cream of tartar, and yogurt. I see no reason not to add spices or cheese to jazz it up, although I haven’t tried doing this.

It’s easy and quick to prepare, which is always a bonus. BUT, don’t expect it to be quite as sturdy as wheat bread. That being said, it held up which I made an avocado/tomato/cheese sandwich:cloud bread1

CLOUD BREAD – makes about 8, depending on how you ladle the batter

  • 3 eggs
  • 1/8 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/4 cup plain yogurt

NOTE: You’ll need to line a cookie sheet with parchment. The parchment should lay flat, so if your cookie sheet has a rim, cut the parchment to fit inside.

Preheat oven to 300º Fahrenheit.

Separate eggs, putting whites in the bowl of your electric stand mixer, and yolks in a small bowl.

Into the yolks, whisk in the yogurt. Set aside. cloud bread6Turn your electric mixer on medium to break up the whites. When the whites begin to foam, add in the cream of tartar. cloud bread7Increase mixer speed to high and beat whites until stiff peaks form. cloud bread8Pour the yolks/yogurt into the beaten whites and turn on mixer to very low. Beat until the yolks are blended into the whites – this won’t take long. Don’t overbeat – you don’t want to deflate the whites. cloud bread9On a parchment lined cookie sheet, ladle out the batter into whatever shape you want, making them about 1/2″ thick. Space them at least 1″ apart.cloud bread4 Bake in 300º F oven about 25 – 30 minutes (mine took 25 minutes) – until beginning to brown. cloud bread3Place the Cloud Bread still on parchment on wire rack. After about 5 minutes, remove bread from paper to wire rack to completely cool. They should really rest at least an hour before using, in order to set. Store in fridge.

SWEET POTATO CORNBREAD – A New Tradition!

sweet potato cornbread textSWEET POTATO CORNBREAD

  • 1½ lbs sweet potato (either 1 big one or 2 smaller ones)
  • 7½ oz (1½ cups) fine grind cornmeal
  • 2½ oz (1/2 cup) all-purpose flour
  • 1¾ oz (1/4 cup) dark brown sugar
  • 1 T baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1¾ tsp salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk (whole milk is best, but I’ve used nonfat)
  • 8 T + 1 T butter, divided

Preheat oven to 425º Fahrenheit.

Cook the sweet potato – either in the microwave or oven – until it’s easily pierced with a knife. (Don’t boil it – it’ll take on too much water.) Let cool enough to handle.sweet potato cornbread7 Split in half lengthwise. sweet potato cornbread6Scoop out the insides, measuring out 1½ to 1¾ cups, and mash. sweet potato cornbread8The skin and remaining insides are not going to be used.

In a medium bowl, beat the eggs. Whisk in the milk and mashed sweet potatoes. Melt 8 T butter, then whisk into the sweet potato batter. sweet potato cornbread1In a separate bowl combine the cornmeal, flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. sweet potato cornbread9Pour the dry ingredients into the wet and gently mix together just until the flour is incorporated. (Don’t over-mix.) Over medium-high heat, melt remaining 1 T butter in a 10″ non-stick or cast iron skillet until bubbling. sweet potato cornbread2Pour in batter, spreading out evenly. Sweet potato cornbread3Bake at 425º F 25-30 minutes – until toothpick comes out clean.sweet potato cornbread4You can eat it plain, or top with butter, maple syrup, honey, etc.

 

ITALIAN LOAF: No Need To Knead!

italian loaf textWho doesn’t love a warm loaf of Italian bread? Well, now you can make one just as good as any bakery….for pennies!

I’ve adapted America’s Test Kitchen Italian Loaf recipe to make it even easier and, IMO, tastier. The process in a nutshell: the day before, mix the ingredients in a bowl (no kneading!!!), cover, then at least an hour before serving, bake. You’ll never want to buy bread again.

Note: I highly recommend weighing your flour rather than using measuring cups – there’s too much variety, depending on how you pack in the flour.

Note: You’re going to need a 3 or 4 quart saucepan, or a Dutch oven, with lid. Make sure the handle and lid knob can withstand 500º Fahrenheit. I prefer using the 4 quart saucepan because it’s smaller in diameter thus producing a taller loaf.  However, if you prefer a squatter but wider loaf, use a Dutch oven.

ITALIAN LOAF – makes 1 round loaf

  • 15 oz (about 3½ cups) all-purpose flour
  • 1½ tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp dry active yeast
  • 9 oz water
  • 3 oz (3 T) beer (I prefer a pale beer)
  • 1 T white distilled vinegar

The day before you plan on serving the Italian Loaf, prepare the dough.

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, salt, and yeast. Add in the water, beer, and vinegar. Mix with a spoon until all the flour is incorporated. italian loaf14Cover bowl with a plate or tea towel and let the dough rest on the counter 8-18 hours (the longer, the better flavor). You’ll notice a significant change to the dough – it will become wetter and bubbly:italian loaf15

About 2 hours before serving, preheat the oven to 500º Fahrenheit, rack in the middle position. As it gets close to 500º F, place the saucepan (or Dutch oven) with lid into the hot oven to heat it up.

When oven reaches 500º F, empty dough onto a floured surface. Fold it onto itself a few times to firm it up. italian loaf3Cut a piece of parchment paper big enough to line the saucepan with corner ‘ears’ sticking up. Rub paper with a light coating of vegetable oil. Place dough in center of paper and rub top of dough with a little oil. Remove hot saucepan from oven and lift paper and dough by the corners into the hot pot.

Make a 1/2″ deep slash across the center, edge to edge. (I use kitchen shears rather than a knife.)italian loaf9Cover with lid and place in oven.  italian loaf10Bake at 500º F for 1/2 hour. Remove pot from oven and turn out the loaf. Discard the paper and replace the loaf in the hot pot. Put the pot without the lid back in the oven. italian loaf8Bake about 10 – 15 minutes (I only need 10 minutes), until temperature of loaf is about 109º F. If you don’t have a thermometer, do a visual check – the top should be browned. Remove the loaf and the bottom should be browned, too. italian loaf7Remove loaf from pan to a wire rack to cool. Let loaf cool at least 20 minutes (this takes some will-power) before slicing in order to get a cleaner slice.italian loaf13

“HAM” & CHEESE LOAF – Vegetarian Version Of A Fan Favorite!

ham loaf textSome people become vegetarians because they don’t like meat and/or it upsets their body. Not me. I grew up eating some sort of animal everyday – sometimes three times a day and loved it. So when I decided, for humanitarian reasons, to become a vegetarian, it was quite an adjustment.

I found that the key to not falling off the vegetarian wagon is to eat really good food. This is why I started my blog – to help others find delicious alternatives. Vegetarians don’t have to subsist on rice & beans and salads alone.

I’ve been a vegetarian so long now that I rarely miss meat, but when I do, I have my go-to fake meats. There are lots of them out there – some fabulous…and some not.

Which brings me to my “HAM” & CHEESE LOAF. The original recipe used real ham. I’ve found several good fake ham products out there that I substitute for the real thing. Now, let’s be honest – if I were to merely eat the “ham” (quotation marks denote imitation) on it’s own, it wouldn’t be worth the bother. But when I add it to casseroles or, in this case, the sandwich, it serves to give the illusion of ham (without the quotation marks).

Note:  For those of you opposed to imitation meats, just leave it out – it’s still a good sandwich.

“HAM” & CHEESE LOAF

  • 1 cup water
  • 2¼ tsp yeast
  • 2 T butter, soft
  • 1 cup (4-3/8 oz) rye flour
  • 2 T sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp caraway seeds
  • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
  • about 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 8 oz fake ham, cut into 3/8″ – 1/2″ pieces
  • 4 oz cheese, cubed – I prefer medium cheddar
  • 1/2 cup dill pickles, cut into 1/4″ pieces
  • egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 T water)

Heat the water to 100º – 104º Fahrenheit. Stir in the yeast and let proof about 5 minutes. ham loaf1Put the rye flour, sugar, salt, caraway seeds, mustard, and 1 cup of the AP flour into the workbowl of a food processor. ham loaf2When the yeast is proofed, turn on the machine and slowly pour in the yeast water. ham loaf4When it’s mixed, add in remaining flour a little at a time, until dough starts to pull away from the sides. You may or may not need all of the remaining cup of flour. ham loaf14Empty dough into greased bowl, flipping dough ball so entire ball is greased. Cover with tea towel or plate and let rise 1 hour.

Place dough on floured parchment paper that lays on top of a tea towel (so the parchment doesn’t slide). Roll dough out into a rectangle, about 14″ wide X 7″ tall (it doesn’t need to be exact).ham loaf6Spread on the “ham”, cheese, then pickles down the center of the dough. Make 1½” cuts along both sides – cut the same number for both sides.ham loaf7Fold in one end, then grab the first dough tabs and twist them together, pinching to make sure they stay. ham loaf9Keep doing this for all the tabs.ham loaf10 Slide the parchment onto a large, rimless cookie sheet. Cover loaf with the tea towel and let rise 30 minutes. At this time, preheat oven to 375º F. 

When dough has risen the 30 minutes, brush with egg wash and bake at 375º F for about 25 minutes, until golden brown. ham loaf12Remove to rack and let set about 15 minutes before serving.

 

FAT-FREE BLUEBERRY MUFFINS – Easy As Pie…or Muffins!

blueberry muffin nonfat text2Being the loving husband his is, my friend, George, was whipping up a batch of fat-free blueberry muffins for his wife, Kathy, while we were visiting. I was curious about his recipe and what was used instead of the fat.

Turns out he uses a boxed mix. Sigh!!!  Besides being costly, boxed mixes contain 12-letter ingredients that can only be pronounced by a chemist. I knew I could do better! All I had to do was come up with an easy, tasty, and fat-free muffin. Piece of cake….or muffin!

After several batches, I had a winner. I’m not going to lie and tell you this Fat-Free Blueberry Muffin is the same a the full-fat kind. It’s not. It has a spongy texture – which isn’t a bad thing…just different than the crumbly texture of regular muffins. But if you’re watching your cholesterol and calories, this works great.

NOTE:  The calorie count per muffin is between 125 – 140, depending on how much sugar you sprinkle on top.

ADDITIONAL NOTE:  When I’m making something that only calls for an egg yolk (custards, cookies, etc), I always freeze the unused egg whites.  This is a perfect recipe to use them up. Conversely, I believe you can freeze unused egg yolks, but I’ve never actually tried it.

FAT-FREE BLUEBERRY MUFFINS – makes 12 muffins

  • 2 cups (9 oz) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1¼ nonfat milk
  • 1 T lemon zest, packed into spoon
  • 1/2 cup + 1/4 cup sugar, divided
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup small blueberries (I use frozen)

Preheat oven to 400º Fahrenheit.

Grease well a 12-cup muffin tin with vegetable oil.

In medium bowl combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. blueberry muffin nonfat5In a larger bowl combine whites, milk, zest, 1/2 cup sugar, and vanilla.  Beat with an electric mixer on low, a hand-crank egg beater, or whisk until bubbles form on top – it takes about 30 seconds. blueberry muffin nonfat3Pour the dry ingredients into the wet and gently combine, until most of the flour is incorporated. Don’t overmix or you’ll get tough muffins. blueberry muffin nonfat6Add in the blueberries and fold in, just to combine. (Frozen blueberries – which I use – tend to bleed.)blueberry muffin nonfat7 Pour the batter into the prepared muffin tin, dividing batter equally. (An ice cream scooper is perfect for this.) Sprinkle about 1 tsp of sugar onto each. blueberry muffin nonfat9Bake in preheated 400º F oven for about 16 minutes, rotating them halfway through to cook evenly. They should be firm with slightly browned edges.blueberry muffin nonfat8 Remove from oven and let set in tin about 2 minutes. To remove, run a rounded knife around sides, then start pushing in around the bottom with the knife to help release the muffin. blueberry muffin nonfat4 Set muffins on a wire rack to cool a bit before eating.

 

SUBWAY ROLLS: Homemade Bread Is So Worth It!

subway rolls textI admit that I may be a little obsessive about making things from scratch. I make my own tortillas, pasta, yogurt, desserts, and most breads. The reason? As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become a firm believer in “you are what you eat”.

Take a look at the ingredients list of any prepared food and you’ll notice all kinds of unpronounceable words that would seem right at home in a chemistry lab. I don’t want that stuff in my or my family’s body. So I cook.

Learning to do anything new takes time. But the more you do it, the faster and easier it becomes, especially if you have the right tools. You also have to plan. Time needs to be allowed for hands-off cooking such as the 12 hours it takes for yogurt to develop, the simmering time for a stew, or the rise-time for yeast doughs.

Preparing a yeast dough only takes a few minutes – which includes the knead time…IF you have a food processor. If you don’t, it takes about 10 minutes (and more work). (New food processors can be expensive. Check out thrift stores – they’re a bargain there!) I know you can buy a package of 6 subway rolls in the supermarket for cheap, but there’s something very satisfying, as well as healthy, about baking your own bread. Give it a try!

SUBWAY ROLLS – makes 6

  • 1½ cups water
  • 2¼ tsp dry yeast (any kind)
  • 3½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 T sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • about 2 T milk (any kind)
  • about 1/4 cup topping blend of your choice (dried minced onion, hard cheese such as Parmesan, garlic powder, poppy seed, sesame seeds)

Heat 1½ cups water between 100º F – 104º F. Stir in the yeast and let proof for 5 minutes.

Into the workbowl of your food processor, put 3 cups flour, the sugar, and the salt. Turn on machine, the slowly drizzle in the proofed water through the pour tube. Add extra flour 1 T at a time, as needed, to get the dough to pull away from the sides but not be a hard ball. When you’re happy with the look of the dough, run the processor another 30-45 seconds more to knead.moo shu10 Empty dough into a greased bowl, flipping dough to grease both sides. subway rolls4Cover and place in a warm area to rise – about 1 hour. subway rolls5Pour dough onto floured board and cut into 6 pieces. Shape into a 2″ x 5″ rectangle and place on a parchment lined (or greased) cookie sheet. Cover with tea towel and let rise while you preheat the oven to 425º Fahrenheit – this will take about 1/2 hour. (If you have a portable oven thermometer, use it! Internal oven thermometers are often wrong.) subway rolls6While dough is rising, mix together your topping blend. (I like to use 2 T Parmesan, 2 T dried minced onion flakes, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, and 1/8 tsp salt.) subway rolls7When oven is hot, one by one, gently brush milk onto top of dough then sprinkle on topping. Lightly press down on topping to make it stick. subway rolls1Bake at 425º F about 15 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through. You’ll notice significant rise to the rolls after a few minutes. When golden brown, remove from oven to a wire rack. subway rolls2Let cool before slicing.