For Sweetness

Sometimes it’s hot and you still need to turn the oven on and BAKE things.

Sometimes you read 2 dozen recipes and none of them are the one you want to use.

Sometimes you want to slap yourself in the face for not being better to yourself.

Sometimes you just need a little sweetness in your life. (But not toooo much.)

And sometimes, you have too much zucchini.

Yes, I’m talking to you, because I didn’t plant any this year. (But if you have extra, I’ll take it off your hands…)

This recipe was born from all of these sometimes. It’s not zucchini cake, which is what most of the world is really making when they say “zucchini bread.” It’s a bread for toasting in the morning, or putting a scoop of ice cream onto in the evening without getting a totally insane sugar high that prevents you from going to be bed at a decent hour.

It’s chocolatey and subtly spiced, with a moist but toothsome crumb.

And! It makes 2 loaves! That means there’s one for you and one to take down the street to the neighbor who keeps mowing your lawn for you out of the blue, or to leave for your house-sitter to ensure the pets are well loved while you are half a world away.

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 Tbsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cup sugar
3 eggs
10-12 oz zucchini, grated. (about 2 cups)
1/4 cup oil
1/2 cup any type of plain yogurt
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup or so of water

Preheat oven to 375ºF.

Whisk together all the dry ingredients, including the sugar. In a separate bowl, mix together the eggs, oil, yogurt, and applesauce until smooth. Add the liquid to the dry and mix until just a bit of dry flour remains. Then add in the zucchini. Mix it all in, adding just a bit of water at a time as needed to make it easy to work with. You don’t want it to be too wet.

Divide into loaf pans prepared with baking spray, butter and flour, or parchment paper.

Bake for 35 minutes, then rotate and bake for 10 to 15 minutes more, or until it passes the toothpick test. Let cool in the pans a bit, then turn out onto a rack to cool the rest of the way before slicing. Stores great in the freezer in individual slices or whole loaves.

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Biscones

It’s been gorgeous here in Seattle.

Warm enough for BBQs and rose on the deck at sundown. Warm enough for all day picnics and (almost) lake swimming.

I’m sure it won’t last for long. It never does.

Since I’ve been training again for a triathlon that is coming up in June, I’ve been trying to eat better, mostly so I will look hot in my wetsuit. So far, I’ve had mixed results. I can easily eat a salad for lunch most days…but others I must have potato chips and PB&J. And cookies. And there was that pie that I made twice last week.

Moving on.

I have been trying very hard–last week I ran almost 6 miles to an event at our synagogue (Then I devoured 4 pieces of pizza and 3 s’mores.)–and I have discovered that it’s all about balance. Balance healthy things with things that make you feel like you did something naughty. Balance an extra scone on the edge of your plate covered in salad and lean proteins.

These scones are the payoff for an extra 20 minutes on your bike. They’re light and flaky like a biscuit, but just dense enough that a couple are plenty satisfying. They make a good breakfast for a busy morning, and are equally at home on a decadent brunch buffet as a counterpoint to sweeter fare. Or you can eat them for lunch, or a snack, or eat them with soup for dinner…Basically they’re good anytime.

These babies inspired a small family altercation at our Mother’s Day Picnic, they’re that good. Just saying.

 Potato, Cheddar and Chive Scones

makes about 12 scones

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt + big pinch
1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
6 oz small potatoes
3 Tbsp chopped chives
3.5 oz grated cheddar cheese
2/3 cup whole milk or buttermilk
1 egg yolk
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, cold
olive oil for frying potatoes

Preheat oven to 400ºF.

Wash the potatoes and remove any bruised spots, but leave the peels on. Slice them thin, and if the potatoes are bigger than about 1 1/2″ across, cut the slices in half. Heat about 1 Tbsp olive oil in a heavy skillet and then add potatoes. Toss on a big pinch of salt, and fry the potatoes, stirring occasionally, until they start to brown and are tender all the way through. Set aside to cool while you prepare the remaining ingredients.

Cut the butter into about 20 cubes, 1/2″ or so big. Set aside. Mix together the egg yolk and milk in a small bowl and set aside. Grate the cheese and chop the chives and set aside. Lastly, roughly chop the cooked potatoes into small pieces.

In the bowl of a stand mixer or another large metal bowl, stir together the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda, and black pepper. Toss in the butter and either mix on low or use either your fingers or a pastry cutter –cut in the butter until the chunks are about the size of peas. Add the egg yolk mixture and mix just until there are no longer visible puddles of liquid on the surface. Next, add in the remaining ingredients and mix until the dough starts to clump together.

Dump the dough onto a lightly floured surface, and use your hands to gather it all together into a ball. Knead it gently a few times if necessary until it holds together, then pat the dough out with your hands to about 3/4″ thick. Using a 3″ circle cutter, cut the scones by pressing straight down and lifting the cutter straight back up. This keeps the layers of fat from smooshing together on the edges so they rise up nice and tall. Place the scones on a parchment lined sheet pan about 1″ apart and repeat with the remaining dough.

When you can’t cut any more circles, gently scrunch the dough back into a ball and press out flat again. You don’t want to mash it all together, or the fat will start to melt and the gluten in the flour will activate too much and the scones won’t be as tender. Repeat as necessary until you get 11 or 12 scones. Bake for 10 minutes, then rotate and bake for about 10 more or until the tops are lightly golden and the bottoms have a good firm golden crust.

Sweet Mourning

This weekend I got some time to myself. Just me and a friend and a few sad bee carcases.

I know, it’s a little morbid. But you have to be realistic when you keep bees. You will inevitably kill a few by accident in the process, and sometimes, you lose a whole hive.

One of the hives I keep with my friend Meghan didn’t survive the winter. Our theory is that they got chilled when the roof of their hive body sprung a leak of sorts and the walls of the wooden boxes they called home became damp and mildewy. Meghan also said she suspects the queen was never very strong to begin with, and that she thinks she died back in November. It’s taken till recently for the last of the colony to die off in the cold, lonely winter.

It made us both a little sad, but it also made us a little bit happy because there was still some honey in those combs!

The harvest took us longer than we expected due to problems with mold on some of the combs, so mid-harvest I had to head home to eat lunch with my favorite people. As a result I didn’t get to see how much honey there was in the end. I did however get to sneak away with a little jar of sweet goodness. We all sampled it with our lunch and it was very good indeed.

I said a little thank you to the bees who gave their lives to provide us with something so amazing, and I said the same little thank you yesterday morning when I poured a tiny drizzle over the pears I sauteed to go with our breakfast–a bread pudding made of leftover wacked out sourdough.

Friday night I took a loaf of sourdough out of the freezer for our Shabbat bread. A pretty miserable loaf of sourdough at that. When I originally baked it on Monday, I baked it in a hurry, which is ironic considering it took three days to actually make the bread itself. In my haste to get it in the oven on time for dinner guests after arriving home late to start our meal, I forgot to slash the tops. It was like adding insult to injury–the bread was slightly underproofed. It baked up flavorful but on the dense side, and the crust never really browned, just toughening up as it went along. It was so weird.

It did make killer bread pudding though. I mixed it up Saturday night and popped it in the oven first thing Sunday morning: I cut off most of the offending crust (the top part was OK, and I like the chewiness of a little bit left in a bread pudding) and cut it into rough cubes, poured on some custard and let it soak overnight. It’s the closest you can get to a decadent breakfast that makes itself. I will spare you the pictures. It wasn’t pretty in the least.

This isn’t a traditional bread pudding. It’s eggier to satisfy a morning hunger, and it’s less sweet than usual to make room for the sweetness of the pears I set alongside. I hope you’ll give it a try next time you have an ugly loaf of bread sitting around, offending your sensibilities.

It was the perfect thing to eat before a trip to the Sunday Farmer’s Market. A trip that was made (mostly) in the sun.

And yes, we still ate a huge muffin as a snack.

Cardamom Breakfast Bread Pudding with Sauteed Pears
makes one dish about 9″x 13″ or a comparably sized pan, serves 6-8

For the Bread Pudding:
1 loaf sourdough bread, crust removed (or mostly removed)
6 eggs
2 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup cream or half & half (you can use all milk if you like, it will be less rich)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 Tbsp ground cardamom
1/2 Tbsp ground cinnamon
pinch salt
butter to grease the pan
1 cup raisins or other dried fruit cut into small pieces, optional

For the Pears:
6 small–or 4 large–firm pears, such as Bosc
1/2 cup honey, more or less to taste
2 Tbsp butter

Make a day in advance for the most satisfying results. Bake in an oven preheated to 375ºF.

Cut the bread into thick slices and then into cubes about 1″ in size. Set aside.

Mix the eggs, milk, cream, sugar, spices and salt in a large bowl. Add the bread and, using a large spoon or your hands, turn to coat all the bread evenly with the milk mixture. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

In the morning, turn on the oven (375ºf) and grease your pan. Pour in the bread mixture, stirring well one more time before doing so. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until completely set. It might take longer if you bake it in a deeper pan.

While the pudding bakes, core the pears (peel if you like) and cut into eights. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and add the butter to the pan. Once the butter is melted, add in the pears and let brown for a few minutes before adding the honey. Stir to coat and then turn down the heat and continue to cook until the pears soften but before they turn to mush. Turn off the heat if your pudding still needs a while to bake. Cover, and reheat briefly over medium heat if need be before serving.

Once the pudding is set, take it out of the oven and let sit for about 5 minutes before serving to allow the custard to set a touch more and to bring down to an edible temperature. Serve everything warm.

Break the Cycle

Sometimes we have leftovers. Like, a lot of leftovers.

Sometimes we don’t have any.

Why is there such a weird cycle of this? It drives me crazy because when there aren’t any leftovers it means I have to either eat plain old salad for lunch or make something new. Or else it means that there isn’t anything for Joe to take to work.

I hate that.

But what I hate even worse is when we have a lot of leftovers and things get forgotten about or ignored (because there are better leftovers in a different container) and then go bad as a result. You can’t feed everything to the chickens, you know.

One thing that’s always kind of an oddball leftover is oatmeal. Oatmeal? I’m not really sure how we end up with leftover oatmeal on a regular basis but I can tell you that I’ve had it in the fridge half a dozen times this Winter.

Good thing Winter is almost over and we can stop eating oatmeal as often because we’ll feel like eating fruit salad instead. Spring is coming. We’ve got flowers blooming, and I’ve been pulling radishes and pre-sprouting pea seeds in the oven like they were a bread dough to coddle.

But until Summer is actually here and we’re eating fresh fruit and yogurt everyday, I’ve figured out what to do with that leftover oatmeal that isn’t “feed it to the chickens” (or now, the worms in the worm-bin).

Waffles!

Yes! I love waffles. We eat waffles at least once a week and it’s still one of those breakfasts that the boys consistently get super excited about, as if I never make them or something.

And as an added bonus, these waffles are pretty healthy. There’s a bit of applesauce in there for sweetness, which also makes it so there’s no added oil or butter like a lot of waffle batters. So, they’re relatively low fat and almost entirely whole grain.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They are, however, 100% entirely delicious. And they make a breakfast hearty enough to fill you up so that you can go out and garden for a while, or splash in puddles.

Oatmeal and Applesauce Waffles
makes 8–8″ waffles in a Belgian waffle iron, batch easily splits in half

3/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 heaping Tbsp Baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 eggs
1 2/3 cup milk, any will work
1 cup unsweetened (not chunky) applesauce
2 cups cooked, cold, rolled oats

If you decided to halve the recipe, use one whole egg and one egg white.

While the waffle iron heats up, whisk together all the dry ingredients. Next whisk in the eggs, milk and applesauce. Once the batter is an even consistency, add in the oats and use the whisk to break them up, then whisk them in. It will still be kinda chunky from the oats, but that’s a good thing.

Cook however you like to cook your waffles. It would probably also make excellent pancakes, though I haven’t tried that yet.