Heirloom Zucchini Bread

I have fond memories from my childhood of my mom making zucchini bread. Zucchini is a huge crop in Utah during the summer and many variations of breads and cakes and casseroles and side dishes abound. When I get my hands on zucchini it is going into either mom’s zucchini bread or dad’s zucchini saute. Both are amazing. Both mean summer time.  True story: Once when I was 14 I wanted zucchini bread pretty much more than my first kiss. So I opened the fridge and found to my delight that we had some zucchini. So I got it out, shredded it up, found mom’s recipe and whipped up some zucchini bread. And the only flaw was that I had grated up a couple of cucumbers rather than zucchinis. It was atrocious in flavor, texture, and smell. Try to avoid this fatal error.

 

Heirloom Zucchini Bread

2 cups white sugar

1 cup of softened butter

3 eggs

3 cups flour

1 t. salt

3/4 t. ground allspice

3/4 t. ground nutmeg

3/4 t. baking powder

1 T. vanilla

2 cups of shredded zucchini

1/4 cup milk

 

In mixing bowl cream butter, sugar, and eggs. Once creamed to a soft texture, add vanilla, and mix. Then in small bowl combine flour, salt, baking powde,r nutmeg, and allspice then mix well. Add the finely shredded zucchini* and finally milk to loosen the batter if it is too thick (it should be like thick cake batter).

Bake at 350 degrees for about an hour, or until you can smell it. It should softly crack on top and be golden brown. Table butter or tub butter would be a great spread for this fresh bread, the saltiness of the butter on the soft warm bread is beyond all definitions of tasty.

* To prep zucchini, scrub it under warm water and then dry. You can process it in a food processor using the shredding insert, or you can shred it by hand, which is what I prefer. I do a fine shred which works well. You can drain off the excess liquid if you are concerned about it, and you do not need to peel the zucchini to use it.

I enjoy this recipe as it has spices but not cinnamon, which is a nice switch from the ever present cinnamon. You can also toss some chocolate chips in for variety if you are in the mood for chocolate. But it doesn’t need any help 😉 .

 


Not-from-a-can Biscuits

I was going to make a salad for dinner tonight, but then I thought, “Why?” So I made biscuits instead. Obvious decision, right?

Mmmm. Biscuits are one of the simplest, most delicious breads you can make. No really, everyone should make biscuits at least once. If you are up for a little excitement, bake up one of the can biscuits, and one from scratch and have a little beauty pageant. Homemade biscuits are big and fluffy and sweet and salty and can biscuits are flat and have a weird after taste and an off yellow color.

One reason biscuits are so simple is that they don’t require any unusual ingredients. Most home cooks, even the most inexperienced will have the ingredients on hand, which makes them perfectly convenient.

Ingredients:

2 cups flour

1 t. salt

1 T. sugar

1 T. baking powder

1/2 cup softened butter (or margarine, or shortening)

3/4 cup milk

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In large mixing bowl (or kitchenaid bowl) combine dry ingredients…flour, salt, sugar, baking powder. Once combined take the softened butter, cut it in half, then in half again, then toss it into the dry ingredients. Now, cut the butter into the flour. The point of doing this is to create little balls of butter (or shortening or margarine) that are coated in the dry ingredients, then when you smash it all together and roll it out, you will have a very soft dough, which will translate into fluffy biscuits. Cutting is simple. take two knives and simply start cutting the butter into lots of little pieces until you get a grainy texture throughout the mix. In a kithenaid, you can put your paddle attatchment to work and have the right texture on low speed in just a couple of minutes. Now, drizzle the milk over the flour and butter mixture, and toss then, press into a soft ball. Remove from the bowl and roll out on a lightly floured surface. You want it to be rolled to about 3/4 -1  inch thickness. then, take a round cup, or biscuit cutter, whatever, and cut biscuits into the dough. Bake for about 10 to 12 minutes.

Easier than pancakes. Now, blend up a stick of butter and 1/4 cup of honey. See? Now I’m your best friend. You just made honey butter and your life will never be the same again. Slather it on a biscuit. Plan to serve this for your next birthday it’s better than cake.


Blueberry Dreams Muffins

I’m in love with blueberries. There I said it. I have lots of blueberries in my home, due to this unhealthy fetish, and when afternoon hits, it’s time to play.

And our love child was born. Blueberry muffins. Big, soft, fluffy, sweet, delightful blueberry dreams.

 

Ingredients:

4 eggs

2 cups white sugar

2 sticks of softened butter

1 t. vanilla

4 cups of flour

1 t. baking soda

1 t. salt

1 1/2 c. sour cream

1/2 c. heavy whipping cream

2 cups of blueberries

In a large bowl, mix the eggs, sugar, and butter until soft and creamy. Add the vanilla and stir until combined.

Next, add the flour, soda, and salt, and gently fold together. Once slightly mixed in, add the sour cream and whipping cream and fold until just combined, toss in the blueberries and once again, gently fold them in.

Bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes. Slather with butter spread and eat them all. Say a prayer of thanks for blueberries. I did.


Pie Crust

First, a pie crust. Pie crust is simple.

2 cups flour

1 t. salt

1 T. sugar

1 cup shortening

1 egg

1 t. apple cider vinegar

3-4 T. cold water

Crack the egg into a small bowl. Add the vinegar to the egg and gently whip them together. In a large bowl, mix together flour, salt, and sugar. then plop the shortening in the bowl (it does NOT have to be measured perfectly, just approximate). Using a pastry blender (or a couple of butter knives) start “cutting” the shortening into the flour. It will become more and more of a clumpy grainy texture as you cut it in, and that is the idea. You are creating little flour coated balls of shortening so that when you roll your crust out it will smash the little balls together, which will turn into a flaky wonderland when baked. So imagine making little tiny balls of shortening that are coated in flour to smash into a big flaky mess. Yum. Once it is cut in and the little pieces are smaller than peas,you will add in the egg and vinegar mixture. Finally, it is time to add the water. You want COLD water to prevent the shortening balls from melting or becoming too soft, again for the flakiness. add the cold water and very gently fold it into the dough until a loose and clumpy ball of dough comes together. be careful not to really “mix it” into a dough because again, it will hurt the little balls of shortening. It sounds hard, but it really truly isn’t. Just be gentle with it and mindful of the texture and you’re well on your way.

Once the clumpy soft ball comes together it’s time to roll it out. this recipe makes two pie crusts, perfect for two open faced pies, or one pie with a top crust as well.


Waffles

These are a very simple and very gratifying comfort food. Breakfast, lunch or dinner, good waffles are a great way to fill an empty tummy.

2 cups of flour
1/2 t. salt
1 T. brown sugar
4 t. baking powder
2 eggs
1/2 cup (one stick) of melted butter
1 3/4 cup of whole milk

In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients together. (Generally when baking anything, this is a good first step), then to the bowl add the eggs, butter, and milk and whisk until smooth.

Pour into a hot (HOT) waffle iron.

One mistake people seem to make with waffles, pancakes, even meats is to attempt to bake or cook them in a cool or warm skillet. The hot skillet, or waffle iron, will seal the outside of the food and help to keep it moist. It will also make pancakes and waffles less likely to stick and fall apart and keep your meats fresh and moist rather than tough and dry.  

Once the waffle is cooked through, pull it and top with butter, syrup and fresh fruit. I like blueberries.


Homemade Pizzeria Crust

I was tired yesterday, and I really didn’t want to fuss with a formal and boring meal.

Of course that led me to the well known place of not knowing what to make, so I kind of piddled around all afternoon working hard not to even consider the fact that five ravenous people would soon be calling for my head.

It was around 4:30 before I remembered the brick of mozzarella cheese tucked away in the back of the fridge and realized that BBQ Chicken pizza sounded really good. Not to mention simple.

So I set out to make a pizza crust, doubling the recipe to avoid any surprisingly hungry children crying for more. Which seems to be happening more and more lately.

About half way through cooking the chicken breast, I discovered a forgotten package of pepperoni tucked into the back of the fridge. And that’s how our awesome pizza night turned into a buffet of sorts.

First, heat your oven to 450 degrees, or hotter if you can. There are two reasons home made pizzas don’t work. The first is the pan used. Most pizzerias bake their pies in hot stone ovens or on open mesh conveyor belts. This gives the crust it’s uniform crispiness. You can acheive this at home most easily by purchasing a pizza stone. Pampered Chef’s in my experience, are the best. But, work with what you’ve got. If you only have metal, prebake your crust without toppings to make sure it gets done in the middle.

Second, cook at a high temperature. Most pizza parlors bake at or above 500 degrees. My crazy oven actually bakes at that temp, so sometimes I do mine at that heat. But, in all honesty it scares me a little, so usually I’ll cook them at 450. Most home ovens top out at 450 degrees anyway, so it’s a good benchmark.
Cooking at such a high heat gives you better results and more authentic crust. If you don’t understand what I just said, heaven help you. There is nothing in this world better than authentic style pizza.

And now for my crust recipe. Super simple, especially if you own a Kitchenaid style mixer. This recipe is for a single crust. If you want to make two pizzas, or one pizza and a garlic bread, or dessert pizza, double it.

1 cup very warm water
2 1/4 t. yeast
2 cups flour
1 t. salt

In your mixing bowl, pour one cup of the nearly hot water.

To that, sprinkle 2 1/4 t. yeast, one cup of flour and, 1 t. of salt. Don’t mix it, let it sit for a few minutes to allow the yeast to get going. When it has begun to smell yeasty, you are ready to move on.

Mix the flour and salt into the warm water until a thick but sticky dough forms. After the dough hits the sticky but very soft stage, you are going to add the final cup of flour, and then allow the mixer to knead the dough until it becomes soft and smooth, like chewing gum.

Once you have achieved this state, simply dust the dough with flour and cover with a plate while you work on your sauce. That’s it. Pizza crust is the easiest thing ever, and so multipurpose. If you want to play around with it you can, you can add a T. of olive oil, herbs, parmesan cheese, sugar, whatever you can come up with, in small quantities.