Chocolate Chip Zucchini Cake

Happy Anniversary!  Last November I stared this little cooking blog focusing on all the recipes I have floating around my kitchen.  I’ve shared some of my favorite recipes, found a few that didn’t really cut the mustard, and have had so much fun sharing wonderful food with you!  To celebrate, let’s have some chocolate cake!

This recipe is from a Penzey’s Catalog.  (Unfortunately, I’m not sure which one..)

No substitutions were made, but I did half the recipe.

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Chocolate Chip Zucchini Cake

1/2 c butter, softened
1 3/4 c sugar
1/2 c vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 c all-purpose flour
2 tblsp cocoa powder (natural or dutch)
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 c buttermilk
2 c peeled, shredded zucchini (1 medium)
2 c semi-sweet chocolate chips

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Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large mixing bowl cream together the butter and sugar.  Beat in the oil, eggs and vanilla.  Combine the dry ingredients in a separate bowl and add to the creamed mixture alternately with the buttermilk.  Stir in the zucchini.  Pour into a greased 9×13-inch pan.  Sprinkle with the chocolate chips.  Bake at 350 for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack.

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cartoon-strawberry-9This is a very light, moist cake, and the zucchini is not noticeable at all.  This cake would be an easy way to sneak some veggies into a child or husband’s diet. 😉

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Cinnamon Graham Cracker Ice Cream

Husband got me the ice cream maker attachment (for our Kitchenaid Mixer) for my birthday!!  We’ve been wanting one for awhile and what better occasion than my birthday?? 😉  My first batch was pretty bad, I hate a learning curve.  This is my second attempt.

This recipe is from the Penzey’s catalog.

No substitutions were made.

cinn graham ice cream 1

Cinnamon Graham Cracker Ice Cream

1 3/4 c heavy cream
12 oz nonfat plain Greek yogurt
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
4 tblsp honey
4 tblsp maple syrup
3/4 tsp cinnamon
2 large rectangular graham crakers, broken into pieces
2 1.4 oz bars chocolate-covered toffee, broken into small bits

Beat the heavy creak in a large bowl until thick (2 to 3 minutes).  Fold in the yogurt, vanilla, honey, maple syrup and cinnamon.  Pour into your ice cream maker.  Add the remaining ingredients a couple of minutes before the ice cream is fully thickened.  Pour into a 1.5 quart freezer safe bowl with a lid and chill until hardened.

If you don’t have an ice cream maker, you can put the original mixture into the freezer-safe bowl and freeze for 2 hours.  Then, stir the mixture and add the graham cracker and toffee bits.  Continue to stir it every 2 hours, for up to 6 hours.  Then chill until hardened.

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cartoon-strawberry-9My second batch came out better than the first.  I love the consistency and texture of this recipe, but the tartness from the yogurt is pretty strong.  I’m thinking its because of the brand?  Third batch is coming soon!

Quick Barbecue Chicken

I’m feeling the need to use up all the food in my house before I go and buy anything else.  Or at least to find recipes that fit the ingredients I have on hand.

This recipe is from Cooking Light, September 2008.

Substitution made, noted below.

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Quick Barbecue Chicken

1 tsp sugar
1 tsp chili powder
2 tsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp cumin
1/8 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
2 (8 oz) bone-in chikcen bread halves – I used boneless, skinless chicken breast
Cooking Spray

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Prepare grill.

Combine first 9 ingredients in a bowl, stirring well.  Loosen skin from chicken by inserting fingers, gently pushing between skin and meat; rub spice mixture evenly under skin over meat.  Lightly coat skin with cooking spray.  Place chicken, breast side down, on a grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill 30  minutes or until a thermometer inserted in the thickest part registers 165 degrees, turning twice.  Let chicken stand 10 minutes.  Remove skin and discard.

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Since I used boneless, skinless chicken breasts, here’s what I did.

Using a grill pan, heated to med-high heat.  Brushed spice mixture on both sides of chicken breasts. Cooked breasts in grill pan, for a total of 20 minutes.  Served with sweet potato fries and steamed broccoli.

cartoon-strawberry-9These spices compliment each other very well, and so easy to throw together.  I made green salad and topped it with the leftover chicken for husband and I the next day.  This rub would also be great on pork chops or steak.

Mexican Chocolate Cookies

When husband and I were dating, there was a coffee shop near his home where he would always order a Mexican Mocha.  I was hoping these cookies would remind him of those mochas.

This recipe is from Cooking Light, December 2009.

I made one slight substitution, noted below.

Mexican Chocolate Cookies 1

Mexican Chocolate Cookies

5 oz bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped – I used a combo of unsweet, bittersweet and semi-sweet. It’s just what I had on hand.
3.4 oz all-purpose flour (about 3/4 c)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
Dash of black pepper
Dash of ground red pepper
1 1/4 c sugar
1/4 c butter, softened
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract

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Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place chocolate in a small glass bowl; microwave on high 1 minute or until almost melted, stirring until smooth.  Cool to room temperature.

Weigh or lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife.  Combine flour and next 5 ingredients (through ground red pepper); stir well with a whisk.

Combine sugar and butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended.  Add egg; beat well.  Add cooled chocolate and vanilla; beat just until blended.  Drop dough by level tablespoons 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.  Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes or until almost set.  Remove from oven.  Cool on pans 2 minutes or until set.  Remove from pans; cool completely on a wire rack.  Dust with powdered sugar before serving.

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cartoon-strawberry-9The pepper in these cookies adds a great little kick!  But to get the flattened crinkle cookie, I had to pull the sheets out of the oven about 2 minutes before the baking was done and flatten them with the back of a spoon.

Cinnamon Raisin French Toast

My last post told you about the wonderful Cinnamon Raisin Bread from “The Bread Bakers Apprentice”.  The day after it was baked, husband and I were talking about how good it might be as french toast.  It happened that same night as our dessert.

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Cinnamon Raisin French Toast

2 eggs
1/2 c milk or heavy cream (or a combo of both)
2 tsp cinnamon sugar
1 tsp vanilla (I’m usually heavy handed when pouring vanilla)
pinch of salt

Combine all ingredients, whisking to incorporate well.

Cut two thick (1 inch) slices of the cinnamon raisin bread and place in a shallow baking dish.

Pour egg mixture over the bread.  Refrigerate and let soak for 1 hour, turning after a half hour to be sure bread is soaked through.

Heat skillet on med-high heat, melting 1 tblsp of butter.

Cook till both sides are golden brown and serve with powdered sugar and maple syrup.  Or a scoop of vanilla ice cream if you’re so inclined…

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Cinnamon Raisin Bread

I would really like to better my bread making skills.  Which means I wanted to find a good instructional book and I also need (no pun intended) to bake a lot of bread.

The book I purchased was “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice – Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread”, by Peter Reinhart.  This book covers it all.  Differences in types of flours, weighing vs measuring your ingredients, tools and wonderful recipes.

I decided to start with the Cinnamon Raisin Walnut Bread and see how it goes.  The only substitution I made was pecans for walnuts.

cinnamon raisin bread 1

Cinnamon Raisin Walnut Bread

3 1/2 c unbleached flour
4 tsp granulated sugar
1 1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp instant yeast
1 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 large egg, slightly beaten
2 tblsp shortening, melted or at room temperature
1/2 c buttermilk or whole milk, at room temperature
1/4 c water, at room temperature
1 1/2 c raisins, rinsed and drained
1 c chopped walnuts – I used pecans

Stir together the flour, sugar, salt, yeast and cinnamon in a mixing bowl (or in the bowl of an electric mixer).  Add the egg, shortening, buttermilk and water.  Stir together with a large spoon (or mix on low speed with the paddle attachment) until the ingredients come together and form a ball.  Adjust with flour or water if the dough seems to sticky or too dry and stiff.

Sprinkle flour on a counter, transfer the dough to the counter, and begin kneading (or mixing on medium speed, switching to the dough hook).  The dough should be soft and pliable, tacky but not sticky.  Add flour as you knead (or mix), if necessary, to achieve this texture.  Knead by hand for approximately 10 minutes (or by machine for 6 to 8 minutes).  Sprinkle in the raisins and nuts during the final 2 minutes of kneading (or mixing) to distribute them evenly and to avoid crushing them too much.  (If you are mixing by machine, you may have to finish kneading by hand to distribute the raisins and nuts evenly.)  The dough should pass the windowpane test and register 77 to 81 degrees.  Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it to coat it with oil.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

The most reliable method to determine when gluten development is sufficient is called the windowpane test, sometimes referred to as the membrane test.  This is performed by cutting off a small piece of dough from the larger batch and gently stretching, pulling and turning it to see if it will hold a paper-thin, translucent membrane.  If the dough falls apart before it makes this windowpane, continue mixing for another minute or two and test again.

Ferment at room temperature for approximately 2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size.

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Divide the dough into 2 equal pieces and form them into loaves.  Place each loaf in a lightly oiled 8 1/2 by 4 1/2-inch pan, mist the tops with spray oil, and cover loosely with plastic wrap.

Forming the loaves: Flatten the measured piece of dough with your hand, folding in the edges to make and even-sided rectangle about 5 inches wide and 6-8 inches long.  Working from the short side of the dough, roll up the length of the dough one section at a time, pinching the crease with each rotation to strengthen the surface tension.  the loaf will spread out as your roll it up, eventually extending to a full 8 to 9 inches.  Pinch the final seam closed with the back edge of your hand or with your thumbs.  Rock the loaf to even it out; do not taper the ends.  Keep the surface of the loaf even across the top.  Place the loaf in a lightly oiled loaf pan.  The ends of the loaf should touch the ends of the pan to ensure an even rise.

Proof at room temperature for 60 to 90 minutes, or until the dough crests above the lips of the pans and is nearly doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with the oven rack on the middle shelf.  Place the loaf pans on a sheet pan, making sure they are not touching each other.

Bake the loaves for 20 minutes.  Rotate the pan 180 degrees for even baking and continue baking for another 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the oven.  The finished breads should register 190 degrees in the center and be golden brown on top and lightly golden on the sides and bottom.  They should make a hollow sound when thumped on the bottom.

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Immediately remove the breads from their pans and cool on a rack for at least 1 hour, preferable 2 hours, before slicing or serving.

Another trick that adds flavor is to brush the tops of the baked loaves with melted butter as soon as they come out of the bread pans, and then roll them in the cinnamon sugar.  When they bread cools, the top will have an additional sweet and crunchy flavor burst.

cartoon-strawberry-9I used my mixer for kneading the dough and then kneaded in the raisins and pecans by hand.  My bread didn’t quite pass the windowpane test, but it was close.  In the future, I would knead the dough a little longer.  Mixing in the raisins and pecans was a bit messy, but fun!  And the smell of melted butter poured over hot bread?  Pure heaven.  This recipe made two loaves, so I was able to give one away for a yummy birthday present.  This bread is worth the time and effort needed.

Oh, and then husband and I made french toast with this bread… (coming on Friday)

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Cinnamon Baked French Toast

Oh the second week of February.  Valentines Day and husbands birthday, all within two days of each other.

This year we weren’t going to be together for dinner on Valentines, so I wanted to make a special breakfast to share before he went off to work.  After some searching on The Pioneer Woman Cooks, I knew this is was the perfect dish for our special breakfast.

Click HERE for a link to the recipe.

No substitutions were made.

french toast collage 1

Cinnamon Baked French Toast

French Toast
1 loaf crusty sourdough or french breach
8 whole eggs
2 c milk
1/2 c whipping cream
3/4 c sugar
2 tblsp vanilla

Topping
1/2 c all-purpose flour
1/2 c firmly packed brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick cold butter, cut into pieces
fresh fruit (optional)

Grease a 9×13 pan with butter.  Tear bread into chunks and evenly distribute in the pan.

Mix together, eggs, milk, whipping cream, sugar and vanilla.  Pour evenly over bread.  Cover tightly and store in refrigerator for several hours or overnight.

In a separate bowl mix, flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt.  Add butter pieces and cut into the dry mixture until it resembles fine pebbles.  Store in a ziplock in the fridge.

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When you’re read to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Remove casserole from the fridge and sprinkle crumb mixture over the top.  (If you’re adding fruit, add before the crumb mixture.)  Bake 45 minutes for a softer bread pudding texture.  Bake 1 hour for a firmer less liquid texture.

Serve warm with butter and maple syrup.

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cartoon-strawberry-9This casserole is beyond good.  I added fresh blackberries and raspberries.  It was a perfect Valentine’s breakfast to share with husband.  Then I had the pleasure of having a second Valentine’s breakfast with a wonderful friend.  She said this casserole is “life changing”.