Saturday, September 11, 2010

Chocolate Zucchini Bread

This summer, now that I'm retired and have more time, Michael and I have been able to go to several different Farmer’s Markets and enjoyed all the fresh fruit and vegetables that we’ve found. During one of our last trips to the local market I picked up a couple of zucchini. I’ve only baked with zucchini once, a long time ago, and was getting the urge to bake with it again. So I searched my recipes and found this one for Chocolate Zucchini Bread.

I imagine this will be the one of the last times that I’ll be able to purchase zucchini or other summer fruit and vegetables. The market was in transition….along with the zucchini, tomatoes, corn, beans and cantaloupe, they had pumpkins and some of the early fall apples. I love the fall, it’s my favorite time of year, and I also love the fall produce, but here in Ohio, there isn’t a lot to choose from. I’ll really miss the summer harvest…..

Chocolate Zucchini Bread
Print Recipe

3 large eggs
2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons natural cocoa powder
2 cups zucchini, grated
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
2/3 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
2 teaspoons flour
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350. In a large mixing bowl, combine eggs, sugar, oil and vanilla extract. Mix until well blended. In a small saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons butter, add 6 tablespoons cocoa powder and blend together until smooth. Set aside to cool. Peel and grate the zucchini. Add zucchini and cooled cocoa mixture to the large mixing bowl and blend well. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Add dry ingredients to the batter. Stir only enough to blend in all the dry ingredients. In another small bowl, coat the chocolate chips with 2 teaspoons flour. This helps prevent them from sinking to the bottom of the pan. Add the flour-coated chocolate chips to the batter. Spoon the batter into two generously greased and floured 9x5x3 loaf pans. Bake for 60-70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 5-10 minutes. Remove from pans and continue to cool on a wire rack.

Prep time: 15 minutes
Baking time: 60-70 minutes
Yield: 2 loaves

Mix together the eggs, sugar and oil.

The vanilla should have been mixed in with the other ingredients but I forgot so mixed it in next. At least I didn't forget to put it in at all.

I don't have pictures of the next step where the recipe says to melt two tablespoons of butter and then mix in the cocoa. When I did this the cocoa ended up in large clumps, not smooth at all and then it was difficult to mix in the rest of the ingredients. Next time I make this, I'm just going to add the melted butter to the liquid ingredients and the cocoa to the dry. I wouldn't think it would matter and would definitely mix in better.

Add peeled and grated zucchini and the cooled cocoa mixture to the large bow. See how awful the cocoa butter mixture did? Maybe I did something wrong but I just didn't like how it turned out.

I took a whisk to mix the dry ingredients together.

Add dry ingredients to the large bowl and stir only until blended. You don't want to overmix the batter.

In a small bowl coat the chocolate chips with the 2 teaspoons of flour. This is supposed to keep the chips from sinking to the bottom of the pan.

Add chocolate chips to the batter.

When I first started baking, I used to grease and flour my baking pans... a job that I didn't like at all. Then Bakers Joy and soon after that,  Pam Baking spray came out and I rarely do the grease and flour thing now. The baking spray makes life so much easier.....I love that stuff!

Spoon the batter into two generously greased and floured 9x5x3 loaf pans. When I first put the batter together it wasn't thick but by the time I sprayed my pans (I usually do this step first) it was. Time for the oven!

 When done, remove from oven and cool in the pans for 5-10 minustes.

Remove from pans and allow to cool.

Or at least try to.... If you're like me, you have someone who, as soon as he got a whiff of chocolate while the bread was baking, kept asking if it was done yet and was hovering around me as I removed the bread from the pans. He couldn't wait for the bread to cool before digging in.

I really liked this chocolate zucchini was nice and chocolately and also, due to the zucchini, moist. The only things I didn't like, one that I've already mentioned is the mixing in of the cocoa....I'm definitely doing that differently. Another thing is I didn't like the flat time I make this, I'm going to either put all of the batter in one of the 9x5 pans or use two 8 1/2x4 loaf pans instead.

Sheryle on Foodista

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Grilled Chicken & Mozzarella Ravioli with Alfredo

I was in Costco about a month ago and was looking in their refrigerated food section when I came across a container of Grilled Chicken and Mozzarella Ravioli. I’ve purchased ravioli before but have only been able to find beef or cheese filled and once in a while spinach and cheese but never anything that looked this good. So I purchased it, took it home and put it in the freezer to use later.

I kept thinking about this ravioli and wondering how I would serve it…as much as I love red sauce, it just didn’t sound like it would go that well with this ravioli. A few weeks later, I decided on Alfredo….this would be wonderful served with an Alfredo sauce. I’ve never made Alfredo sauce before so now had to search for a recipe. I pulled out my trusty Fannie Farmer Cookbook, which is my favorite cookbook, and searched for the sauce, then went online to look too. Eventually I decided on the one in the cookbook.

from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, by Marion Cunningham

Print Recipe

1/4 pound unsalted butter, melted
1 cup heavy cream, warmed
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Salt to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Have a large bowl warmeed and ready before you cook the noodles. Drain the cooked noodles and put them into the bowl. Quickly add remaining ingredients, tossing briskly to coat all the noodles, and serve at once. Serve over 1/2 pound noodles, 1/4 inch wide.
Makes enough for 4

This was actually two separate containers of ravioli so I was able to have it for two different meals.

This is my favorite's full of scraps of paper, clippings and a few actual bookmarks, making it easy for me to find my favorite recipes and "how to" instructions.

First thing I did was put a pan of water on to boil for the ravioli, then prepared the ingredients for the alfredo...melted butter, grated cheese and warmed milk.

Then while the ravioli cooked, I filled a bowl with hot water.

Just before the ravioli was ready to drain, I poured the water out of the bowl and dried it.

Drain the ravioli and place it in the warmed bowl.

Add the cheese, butter and warm cream, pepper and salt, to taste and gently combine....try not to break up the ravioli.

This was easier to make than I expected and good but not as good as I had anticipated. The ravioli itself was delicious but the alfredo, although it had a nice flavor, wasn’t as creamy as I would have liked.* This is the first time that my favorite cookbook has ever failed me! I may try this again and adjust the amount of butter and cream that I use or may just try to find a different Alfredo sauce recipe…..anyone have a good one you would like to share? So the Grilled Chicken and Mozzarella ravioli is a winner, I'll definitely buy that again, but this Alfredo recipe isn’t.

Michael had his own opinion regarding the Alfredo…when I had my back turned, he added this after my negative comment……* But for the rest of us, it was just fine.

Sheryle on Foodista

Friday, September 3, 2010

Baked Ziti

This recipe is one of my favorites! I’ve had this for a long time…so long that I can’t even remember where I got it. I discovered this recipe back when I first started cooking….up until this time if I wanted an Italian type meal, I usually made spaghetti, which I do love but sometimes you want just a little bit more. I was happy that this was so easy….everything could be purchased already prepared. A jar of sauce, a bag of shredded mozzarella and that green can of Parmesan…..I knew how to cook pasta, and the Ricotta just needed to be removed from the carton. Easy, easy, easy…I loved it! Not only was it easy, it was good and it was good enough to impress dinner guests too.

Many years have passed and my cooking skills have improved but I still go back to this recipe. Now, I usually make my own sauce, add either Italian sausage or ground beef, shred my own mozzarella and use freshly grated Parmesan Reggiano. But when pressed for time or when I just don’t feel like putting too much energy into dinner, I will use a jar of sauce and doctor it up a bit and buy pre-shredded mozzarella, although I still insist on using freshly grated Parm. In other words this recipe can be used no matter where you stand with your cooking skills….from novice to someone who has cooked for years.

Baked Ziti
Print Recipe

1/2 pound ziti pasta (or other small pasta)
1 container ricotta cheese (15 oz.)
3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (12 oz.) divided
3 cups spaghetti sauce, divided
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 pound Italian Sausage, browned (not in original recipe..see Notes)

Preheat the oven to 350 . In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the ziti until just barely tender; drain and place in a large bowl. Mix the ricotta cheese and half of the mozzarella cheese with the ziti. Grease a 9x13 baking pan; cover the bottom of pan with half the spaghetti sauce. Spoon the ziti mixture into the pan; cover with the remaining spaghetti sauce. Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese and top with the remaining mozzarella cheese. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until cheese melts and is slightly golden.

Notes: This recipe calls for store bought sauce but I'll sometimes use my own homemade. When I use sauce from a jar I'll sometimes use it straight from the jar but usually will doctor it up...for my blog post, I browned 1 pound of Italian Sausage while I prepared the rest of the recipe. The way I make it is determined by how much time I how much time I want to spend cooking.
  In case you don't know what ziti looks like. This is a one pound box so I used half.

Cook ziti....undercook it a little because it will cook a little more while in the oven. Drain and place in a large bowl.
Since I was adding Italian sausage, I browned it before putting together the other ingredients.

This is one of my favorite prepared sauces. Choose whatever you like...use it straight from the jar or add other ingredients and/or spices or you can even use your own homemade sauce. Just use whatever you like or what is easiest for you.

I added the sauce to the Italian sausage and let it simmer while preparing the other ingredients. If you are using sauce straight from the jar, it doesn't need to be heated.

Mix together ziti, grated mozzarella and Ricotta.

Place half of the sauce in the bottom of a 9x13 dish.

Add ziti, cheese mixture on top of the sauce.

Add remaining sauce.

Next, I added the mozzarella cheese on top of the sauce then looked around and noticed that my Parmesan cheese was still sitting on the counter. It should have been added before the mozzarella.....Ooops! Sometimes cooking and taking pictures at the same time is a little much for me and I'll miss a step from time to time.

The missing Parmesan.

So, I added the Parmesan last. That's what I like about cooking....some things don't have to be done in the exact order and the dish will still be good.

Thirty minutes later.......

I let it rest for about 10 minutes and then we dug in.  Add some bread and a salad and there you have it, an easy and good meal.

Sheryle on Foodista
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