Zucchini Bread

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One of my favorite things to harvest from my summer garden is zucchini. We turn it into zucchini fritters, saute it, make zucchini breakfast pancakes, use ribbons of it to sub for pasta, and of course, zucchini bread. I love the simplicity of quick breads, and the healthy-ish nature of zucchini bread. My favorite way to enjoy it is warm with a little butter, but I also found it’s delicious with pear butter. Whenever I make a loaf, it’s gone so quickly I wonder why I didn’t make two.

Here in Portland, OR, the weather suddenly became Fall about 2 weeks ago; right on schedule I suppose. This means the squash plants are quickly winding down, so I may only get a few more small zucchini.

This recipe works equally well in loaf or muffin form, although I like to add fresh cranberries when I make it into muffins. (See variation below)

(Yield: one 8×4 inch loaf or 10 muffins)

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Scallop or pattypan squash, zucchini, and cucumber

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups mixed flours (1/2 – 3/4 cup all purpose flour, plus almond flour, ground flax, whole wheat, spelt, millet, etc.)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 3/4 cup white or brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups grated zucchini
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
  • (optional) zest of one lemon
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mixed flours

Steps:

1. Grease bottom and sides of 8 x 4 loaf pan. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a medium mixing bowl combine the flours, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg, and set aside.

3. In another medium mixing bowl combine sugar, shredded zucchini, oil, egg, and lemon zest (optional). Mix well and then add the dry mixture to the wet mixture. Stir just until moistened, and fold in chopped nuts.

4. Spoon batter into greased pan and bake for 55 mins. or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for at least 10 mins. Slice and serve; or remove from pan and let cool completely if you wish to store it or gift it. Wrap with foil or plastic wrap.

Cranberry Zucchini Muffin Variation:

Measure about a generous 1/2 cup of fresh (or slightly defrosted) cranberries, cut them in half, and mix with a tablespoon of sugar. Add cranberries to batter with chopped nuts (above). Grease or line a muffin pan and fill cups. Bake at 350 for about 20 mins. or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Yield: 10 muffins.

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Cranberry and Zucchini Muffins

(Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook 1996)

 

Oatmeal Buttermilk Date Muffins

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Buttermilk makes so many breakfast baked goods taste better. When a pancake recipe calls for milk, I almost always use buttermilk instead, because it creates such a moist tender crumb. In this recipe, the buttermilk plays a special role, by plumping the oats, which results in a surprisingly light pastry. The dates add a sweet chewiness, so be sure to use a good quality fresh date (not hard or dry) and hand chop it.

(Yield: 12 muffins)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cupped rolled oats
  • 1 cup buttermilk (I mostly see 2% fat in the groceries here, so that’s what I use)
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) softened butter
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup of mixed flours (I used 1/2 cup a.p. flour + 1/2 cup spelt)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/3 – 1/2 cup chopped dates

Oatmeal buttermilk muffin batter

Steps:

  1. In a small bowl, combine the oats and buttermilk and allow to soak for 1 hour. (Full disclosure: I could only spare 40 mins. this morning, and they still came out great!)
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and grease or place liners in a muffin pan.
  3. With an electric mixer, in a large bowl cream the softened butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, and baking soda. Stir dry ingredients into the butter mixture, alternating with the oat mixture. Fold in the dates.
  5. Fill the muffin pan and bake for 20 mins., or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for 5 – 10 mins. on a wire rack and then serve with butter.
  6. Enjoy!

 

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(Adapted from The Cook’s Encyclopedia of Cookies recipe)

Fruit leather

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Fruit leather is an easy way to use up leftover fruit and to preserve a sweet bit of summer! You can use almost any fruit, and it doesn’t require any special equipment. I like to make fruit leather in the summer when the berries are plentiful, and then stash it away for the winter, when we’re all missing those beautiful fresh local berries!

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups of pureed fruit(s), such as strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, cherries, peaches, or pears
  • 1/4 cup sugar, agave, or honey
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons of lemon juice to preserve flavor and color

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Steps:

  1. Preheat oven to 175* (or the lowest temp you can set your oven to). Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. (Wax paper would probably work too.)
  2. Puree the fruit and optionally strain the seeds out. Place pureed fruit in a small pot with sugar and lemon juice.
  3. Bring fruit to a boil over medium heat, then let it simmer for about 5 mins., and turn it off.
  4. Pour fruit onto parchment paper and use a rubber spatula to spread it evenly across the pan.
  5. Place pan in oven for at least 90 mins. It’s done when you can touch it and it doesn’t leave wet marks on your fingers. If your pan is small or you use an ample measure of fruit, it can take several hours to dry. Don’t worry; it will eventually dry out. And even if you accidentally let it go too long, it will still make a tasty fruit chip!
  6. Remove pan from oven and cool. When it’s cool, trim away excess paper. Then cut into squares or strips, leaving the paper backing in place to keep the fruit pieces from sticking to one another. Store in a ziplock bag in your pantry or cupboard.
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Raspberry fruit leather

 

 

Pear Butter

My daughter refers to my pear butter as “Beau bear cheek butter,” because it’s as silky smooth and delicious as her baby cousin’s cheeks! But you don’t have to just take our word for it — pear butter is easy to make at home on your own! Since it cooks down quite a bit, I recommend making a batch when you have at least 4 pounds of pears, but you could easily cook more. I also enjoy spicing it up quite a bit, with vanilla bean, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, etc., but you can use as much or as little of these as you like, or have on hand.

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Ingredients:

(makes about 5 half-pint jars)

  • 4 – 5 pounds of ripe pears, peeled, cored, and quartered (this produced 7 cups puree)
  • lemon juice to prevent the cut fruit from browning (optional)
  • 1 1/2 cups – 2 1/2 cups of brown sugar*
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ginger

* Note: White sugar works fine too, or you can do a mix of brown and white sugars. I recommend starting with the smaller quantity of sugar and then adding it by the 1/2 cup as needed.

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Steps:

  1. Place pears in a large pot with optional lemon juice, and cover with water. Cook over medium heat for 45 mins. to an 1 hr.
  2. When pears are soft but before they break apart, strain pears and puree in blender or food processor. Pour out the cooking water. Return puree to pot. (Although I started with the pear pieces in a crockpot, I ended up transferring the puree to a big dutch oven on the stovetop, which reduced the liquid a lot faster.)
  3. Add spices and sugar to puree and stir. Heat to a low bubbling simmer and stir occasionally until mixture thickens. This will take about an hour, but depends on the surface area of your pot, and level of heat. The butter will be smooth, and drip slowly from a spoon when it’s done.
  4. While pear butter is cooking, prep your canning jars, lids, and rings according to manufacturer’s instructions. Heat a large pot of water to a boil.
  5. When the pear butter is done cooking, pour into jars leaving about a 1/4 inch of head space. Place lids and rings on jars and lower into the pot of boiling water. Make sure the water covers the lids and boil jars for about 5 mins. Remove from the water and let cool on a rack.

 

Raspberry Crumble Muffins

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I’ve described these muffins before as part recipe and part invention, but totally delicious — which is all accurate! These are buttery, soft, a bit crumbly, and definitely fruity, thanks to a generous amount of raspberries. Frozen raspberries actually work best, since they don’t turn into mush when you fold them into the batter. They are definitely best enjoyed the day they’re baked, (the crumb topping wants to go soft during storage), but we often slice and toast them lightly on subsequent days and they’re still quite good. (Yield ~ 10 muffins)

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups of mixed flours*
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 sugar (white or brown or a mix)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 a stick) of melted butter
  • 2/3 cup of buttermilk (regular milk is ok, but buttermilk makes a moister cake)
  • 1 1/4 cups raspberries (preferably frozen)
  • 1 egg

Topping:

  • 3 tablespoons all purpose flour; or a mix of ap flour, almond meal, or oats
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped pecans
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

*I like to mix all purpose flour with whole wheat, almond meal, ground flax seed, and/or millet or spelt flour. You can use whatever you have on hand. I often start with 1/3 – 1/2 ap flour, and then add the others to reach the total amount needed. I find using some ap flour helps create a tender light crumb.

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Steps:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease or place liners in muffin pan.
  2. Whisk all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl, including the sugar.
  3. Melt butter (for both the batter and the topping) in a small pan or your microwave.
  4. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the egg, buttermilk, and 1/4 cup of melted butter and mix just until combined.
  5. Gently fold frozen raspberries into batter, and then spoon batter into muffin cups until they’re nearly full.
  6. To make the topping, combine all of the dry ingredients in a small bowl, and then add the melted butter with a fork until it forms a crumbly mixture. Distribute the topping among the muffin cups.
  7. Bake for 25 mins. or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.
  8. Let pan cool on a rack for at least 5 – 10 mins. and then remove muffins and serve.

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