Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Zucchini Bread

I've only recently started cooking with zucchini. My mother never cooked with zucchini, probably because Daddy didn't grow it in the garden, so I never did either.

But last year, my brother-in-law, Billy, gave us an enormous supply of the green squash and I used it in several recipes from soups to casseroles.

This year, when he gave us another huge batch of both yellow squash and zucchini, I decided to try something new.

With one of the way oversized zucchinis, I made zucchini bread last week.

I had only had zucchini bread once before. Someone offered me a slice, I tried it and did not like it. Not one bit. So I never tried it again.

But many people love zucchini bread, so I decided to give it a try with my own recipe.

I first looked at recipes online and ended up drastically altering a recipe from Paula Deen's Web site. I cut the sugar, added brown sugar and used 1 cup of whole wheat flour, for starters.

Because I had never made zucchini bread before, I had to ask a co-worker if I was supposed to peel it before grating; she told me no. But I do remember reading a recipe review that said the cook had peeled her zucchini so her grandson wouldn't see the green flecks in the bread and she could continue referring to it as cinnamon bread! Oh the things we do to get our kids to eat vegetables.

I didn't peel my zucchini before grating, and I loved the bright green flecks in my lovely bread, tinted slightly a lovely shade of brown from the brown sugar and wheat flour.

I wasn't sure how the bread would go over at my house, but I was happy that my husband loved it as much as I did. We both enjoyed it for breakfast several days.

If the idea of zucchini in a quick bread doesn't appeal to you, please think again. There's nothing yucky about this bread, only a lot of yum!

Zucchini Bread
  • 2 1/4 cups self-rising flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil (I use canola)
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 cups grated zucchini
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix flour, nutmeg, cinnamon and sugars.

In another bowl, mix oil, eggs, water and zucchini. Combine the two mixtures and fold in nuts.

Pour into 2 prepared loaf pans and bake at 350 for 50-60 minutes or until tester comes out clean.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Sweet and Salty

If you watch the Food Network or read any food magazines, you have more than likely heard of fleur de sel, or French sea salt. The literal translation is flower of the sea.

Over the last year or so, celebrity chefs I follow have been making desserts that combine both sweet and salty, using fleur de sel. I love the combination of chocolate and salt, especially in the form or chocolate dipped pretzels, so the idea has always intrigued me.

I've seen numerous recipes for fleur de sel caramels and even bought some at a gourmet cooking store. The caramels were delicious.

I hadn't really planned on trying these recipes or even purchasing expensive fleur de sel, which is abundant on the Internet by the way, but some fell into my lap, so to speak. My sister and her family were in France this year and brought me a pretty little jar filled with the delicate, hand-harvested fleur de sel.

I thought I would make caramels, probably using the recipe I watched Ina Garten make on her Food Network show. But one day, while reading some food blogs, I stumbled across Salted Double Chocolate Chunk Cookies at Annie's Eats. The cookies looked delicious, and I had the ingredients on hand, so I made them.

The recipe is simple and straight-forward and mixes up quickly. As soon as the cookies started baking, my house smelled like a chocolate shop! I loved it.

I was unsure of adding the salt to the top of my beautiful cookies, so I only sprinkled it on a few, and I tried to be light-handed. Maybe I sprinkled too much, I don't know, but I thought they were a little too salty. But after I brushed off part of the salt, I enjoyed my cookies. But I'll be honest, I enjoyed the ones without the salt on top even more.

If you're curious about fleur de sel, like I was, give this recipe a try and see how you like it. Just go easy on the salt. But if you'd just like a good chocolate cookie recipe, try this one and omit the salt on top.

Salted Double Chocolate Cookies

Yield: About 24 cookies

  • 8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 4 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp. fleur de sel (sea salt), plus more for sprinkling*
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 12 oz. semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (I used semi-sweet chocolate chips)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Combine the 8 ounces chocolate chips and butter in a microwave safe bowl and cook for 30 seconds. Stir. If chips aren’t completely melted, cook another 15 seconds.

In another mixing bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder and salt. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the eggs, brown sugar and vanilla. Beat on medium-high speed until the sugar has completely dissolved, about 4-5 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and add the melted chocolate mixture, blending until incorporated.

Add in the dry ingredients and mix just until combined. Fold in the remaining chocolate chips with a spatula. Drop heaping tablespoons of dough onto the prepared baking sheets, about 2-3 inches apart or use a dough scoop.
Bake until the cookies are just slightly soft in the center and crackly on top, about 10-12 minutes.

Sprinkle lightly with additional salt if desired and let cool on the baking sheets 10 minutes.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

*If you don’t have fleur de sel aren’t planning to use salt for the top of your cookies, it’s fine to omit the salt and baking powder from the recipe and use self-rising flour instead.

Adapted from annies-eats.com

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Add a little GREEN

It's been four years since I shared my sister's version of Chicken Tetrazzini in this column, and now I'm pleased to give you Susan's latest version of the dish.

In the 2006 column, I told the story of how Susan first tried the recipe when a neighbor in Silver Spring, Md., brought over the dish after the birth of Susan's first daughter. Susan got the recipe from her neighbor and eventually adapted it, coming up with her own homemade sauce to replace the can of cream of chicken soup the original recipe called for.

I've made Susan's version of Chicken Tetrazzini many times for my family because they like it so much. And I know my readers made it, too, because so many of you e-mailed me or stopped me at the grocery story to tell me how much your family loved it.

Well, dear readers, Susan's newest version of this recipe is even healthier!

While our mother was sick earlier this past winter, Susan and her girls visited often, and many times, she would come with food for her and the girls because we knew we wouldn't have time to cook during her visits. During one of the weekend stays, Susan brought some frozen, individual servings of her Chicken Tetrazzini Florentine, made with spinach, as the name suggests, and whole wheat spaghetti. One of the servings didn't get eaten, so she left it behind for me.

I let it sit in my freezer for several weeks mostly because I wasn't sure if I'd like the change. But when I finally tried it, I was pleasantly surprised and actually craved it a few weeks later. So earlier this summer, I made Chicken Tetrazzini according to Susan's old recipe, but I used whole wheat spaghetti. I poured half of the prepared recipe in a small casserole dish, and to the other half, I added a half box of cooked and drained spinach. I made it both ways because I was pretty sure my children wouldn't try it if they saw green stuff in the tetrazzina. I was right, of course.

I made the tetrazzina again Sunday morning. I had cooked the chicken the day before in my slow cooker. This time I made a double recipe. I made the first the traditional way, but using whole wheat spaghetti; the second was made with whole wheat spaghetti also and spinach. My husband and I thoroughly enjoyed the florentine version when we got back from church. We each had a congealed fruit salad as our side dish.

So now I have lots and lots of Chicken Tetrazzina and Chicken Tetrazzini Florentine left in my refrigerator. I plan to follow my sister's lead and divide it by serving size, wrap it up and freeze it.

Chicken Tetrazzini
  • 8 oz. box whole wheat spaghetti or linguine, cooked and drained
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 can heated chicken broth (I use reduced-fat, reduced-sodium)
  • 1 1/2 cups heated milk (skim or 1 percent OK)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese or a blend
  • 3 cups cooked, diced chicken breast*
  • 1 10 oz. package frozen spinach, cooked and drained or squeezed to remove excess water
  • Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Start spaghetti cooking while you prepare this recipe. Break spaghetti roughly into thirds before dropping into boiling water.

Melt butter in large pan. Stir in flour and cook over medium heat 1 minute, whisking constantly to avoid sticking. Slowly whisk in chicken broth and milk (I heat together first in microwave in 4-cup Pyrex bowl for 4-5 minutes). Cook and stir until slightly thickened. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt. Stir in cheese until melted. Remove from heat. Add chicken, cooked spaghetti and spinach; stir to combine.

Pour and smooth in 9X13-inch baking dish. Top liberally with grated Parmesan cheese.

Bake at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes, until heated through and lightly browned on top.

Can be frozen before baking; in fact, I often make a double recipe so I can freeze a second meal. If frozen, thaw in refrigerator overnight before baking, for best results. Also good with turkey.

*I cook boneless chicken breasts in the slow cooker. Just sprinkle a little (maybe 1/2 teaspoon) dry Italian dressing mix over chicken and add about a 1/4 cup of water. Let cook on low about 5 hours or until cooked through. The chicken will be very tender if cooked this way.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Boiled Peanuts

About this time of year, my family starts looking in the classified section of the newspaper and just asking around to see who has freshly-dug peanuts for sale.

We love to make boiled peanuts a few times each fall.

If you've never made your own boiled peanuts, it's very easy. Your house will smell like boiled peanuts for a few days, but we think it's worth it!

Boiled Peanuts
  • 5-6 pounds freshly-dug peanuts in shell
  • 1/2 cup of salt
  • Water
Wash peanuts to get off remaining dirt. Place in large pot and fill with water. Bring to a boil. This might take as long as 30 minutes. Let boil for an hour. Occasionally stir peanuts, and add water if needed. After an hour, turn off heat and let sit for about 3 hours to let salt soak in.

Drain water and store peanuts in the refrigerator.