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There’s something about quick breads that are so homey, so warm, so feel-good GOOD.  Zucchini bread is obviously no exception and is one of my favorite quick breads (in a long list of favorites).  Unless a specific request is made, you will pretty much always see some form of chocolate chips in my quick breads.  Or at least the ones made with zucchini.  Or pumpkin.  Or banana.  ANYWAY.  This recipe adds in an extra dimension of crunch by using walnuts but please feel free to omit either the walnuts or the chocolate chips or both.  This bread will soldier on without either of those ingredients and still manage to kill your brain with deliciousness.

Zucchini Bread

3 large eggs
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
2 cups grated zucchini
1 cup (8 ounces) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped walnuts
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Generously grease two 8 x 4-inch loaf pans.

In a large bowl, mix butter with sugar until combined. Add eggs, one at a time.  Mix in grated zucchini and vanilla.

In another large bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Use a whisk to mix well.  Stir in walnuts and chocolate chips.

Add dry ingredients to egg mixture and mix until just combined. Divide batter into prepared pans. Bake for 60-70 minutes, or until tester comes out clean. Set pans on wire rack and let cool about 10 minutes, then turn loaves out onto rack to cool completely.

Lightly adapted from Once Upon A Chef.

Playing Vegetable

In a time of sugar, sugar, and more sugar, I give you a relatively healthy indulgence.  These zucchini carrot bars carry their own weight, needing no frosting or other adornments.  They’re sweet enough to rest nicely among your taste buds and delicious enough to want seconds and thirds.  Don’t worry, though, I have some real sweet treats in the works for you.

Carrot and Zucchini Bars

2 eggs
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups shredded carrot
1 cup shredded zucchini
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, brown sugar, oil, applesauce, honey, and vanilla.  Stir in the carrot and zucchini.
In another bowl combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda, ginger, and cinnamon.  Whisk to blend together.  Stir in walnuts.
Add the flour mixture to the wet mixture. Stir until just combined. Spread batter into a lightly greased 13x9x2-inch baking pan.
Bake about 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack.

Recipe adapted from Real Mom Kitchen.

Contains Nuts

Peanut butter and chocolate are close contenders in my world of sweet treats. There are times where I can get such a craving for peanut butter that a spoon is the only thing I need to cure all foreseeable troubles.  But then there are those times where a nice little serving of creamy, dreamy chocolate is just the thing to make me swoon.  Though I have to say (I’m sorry, dear chocolate) peanut butter usually pulls ahead in my book.  These blondies feature my wonderful weakness and they are wonderfully wicked.

Peanut Butter Blondies

Ingredients
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup natural peanut butter
3/4 cups light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions
Preheat oven to 350°F.  Spray an 8-inch square baking pan.

Stir together butter and peanut butter until well blended.

Stir in brown sugars.  Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.  Stir in vanilla.

In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt.  Stir in chocolate chips.

Add to peanut butter mixture; beat until blended.

Transfer batter to prepared pan.

Bake until toothpick inserted 2 inches from edge of pan comes out with moist crumbs attached, about 35-45 minutes. Transfer pan to rack and cool completely.

Adapted from yumsugar.

I admit that I’m way behind on my posts.  There are things that I’ve been making that Lee tells me DEFINITELY need to go on the blog but then I go and forget to take a picture of them.  Not cool.

I did, however, make sure to take some pictures of a more recent baked construct for one of my best friends (in the whole wide world).  Mostly I remembered because there were plenty of sparkly things on it that kept catching my eye.

I think that maybe he liked his cake, don’t you?  Even though it turned out a little lopsided because I didn’t use 10″ pans like a good girl but instead overfilled my 9″ cake pans.  Whatever.  It was still absolutely heavenly.

Bestie Birthday Cake

1/2 cup good quality semisweet chocolate
1 1/2 cups hot brewed coffee
3 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 300°F. and grease 2 10″ round cake pans. Line bottoms with rounds of wax paper and grease paper.

Finely chop chocolate and in a bowl combine with hot coffee. Let mixture stand, stirring occasionally, until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.

Into a large bowl sift together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In another large bowl with an electric mixer beat eggs until thickened slightly and lemon colored (about 3 minutes with a standing mixer or 5 minutes with a hand-held mixer). Slowly add oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and melted chocolate mixture to eggs, beating until combined well. Add sugar mixture and beat on medium speed until just combined well. Divide batter between pans and bake in middle of oven until a tester inserted in center comes out clean, about 1 hour.

Cool layers completely in pans on racks. Run a thin knife around edges of pans and invert layers onto racks. Carefully remove wax paper and cool layers completely. Cake layers may be made 1 day ahead and kept, wrapped well in plastic wrap, at room temperature.

Avocado Buttercream

4 ounces of avocado meat, about 1 small to medium, very ripe avocado
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 pound powdered sugar, sifted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Peel and pit the soft avocado.  If the avocado has brown spots in the meat, avoid those spots when you scoop the meat into the bowl.

Place the avocado meat into the bowl of a stand mixer fit with the whisk attachment.  Add lemon juice and whisk the avocado on medium speed, until slightly lightened in color and smooth, about 2-3 minutes.

Add the powdered sugar a little at a time and beat.  Add vanilla extract until combined.  If not using right away, store in the refrigerator.

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

3 sticks of softened, unsalted butter
6 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons milk

Beat butter until smooth and creamy.  Slowly add powdered sugar until fully incorporated.  Add vanilla and milk and mix.  If mixture is too dense, add more milk to receive desired consistency.

To Assemble Cake:

Spread avocado buttercream between cake layers.  Spread vanilla buttercream frosting up and over top and sides of cake. Cover and chill. Bring cake to room temperature before serving.

Chocolate cake recipe found from Slow Like Honey.

Avocado buttercream recipe found from Joy the Baker.

Inspiration for cake decoration from Sprinkle Bakes.

There are those weekends where I want to feel a real comfort, a comfort of memories and smells.  Those are the weekends where I break from bagels and cream cheese for breakfast and make some lovin’ from the oven.

I really love making coffee cakes because they’re relatively easy and don’t require any elaborate presentation.  They’re hearty and rustic and wonderfully satisfying.  The recipe below isn’t one of my FAVORITES but I’m certainly glad that I tried it.  I hope you do, too!

Coffee Coffee Cake

Streusel
1/3 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 tablespoon fine instant espresso powder
1/2 tablespoon cocoa powder
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Cake
1 1/3 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 tablespoon fine instant espresso powder
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 cup non-fat plain Greek yogurt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9” springform pan.

For the streusel, combine all the ingredients and set aside.

For the cake, sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and espresso powder.

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 – 4 minutes. Add vanilla and mix. Scrape down the bowl. Add eggs and yolk one at a time and continue to beat until mixture is light and creamy. Lower the speed and add flour mixture in three additions, alternating with yogurt in two additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.

Spread half the cake batter evenly in the prepared springform pan. Sprinkle with about 2/3 of streusel mixture, leaving a clean 1/2” border of cake batter around the edges. Top with remaining batter, smoothing it out to the edges. Finish with the remaining streusel, pressing gently into the surface.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 34 – 38 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

Recipe adapted from pastry studio.

Grape Escape

You know, you really don’t see a lot of baked goods with grapes as an ingredient.  I’ve never baked with them before and had never really put much thought into baking with them, and I wondered why.  Other fresh fruits are mainstays in baking, so why not grapes?  Is it their taste, their texture, their water content, their direct link to raisins?  Maybe all of the above?  I still don’t know.  Whatever the reason, I decided to up my baked goods tally by one and experiment with this pretty normal food.  The result was a fantastically different cake, one which Lee was more than happy to eat and swoon over.

Grape Cake

1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons honey
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup fat free ricotta cheese

2 cups black seedless grapes
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 tablespoon flour

Preheat the oven to 350. Spray a 9-inch springform pan with canola oil.  Line the outside bottom of the pan with tin foil.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together. Mix in the honey. Add the eggs one at a time, followed by the vanilla.  Stir in the ricotta cheese.

Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture and stir just until incorporated.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 15 minutes. During this time prepare the fruit, toss the grapes with 1 tablespoon of sugar and 1 tablespoon of flour. Once the 15 minutes are done pour the fruit on top of the cake and distribute evenly, pressing down gently on the grapes. Bake for and additional 25 to 30 minutes.

Recipe comes from I’ll Have What She’s Having.

Lately I’ve been trying to use up ingredients that have been hanging out in my cupboards or refrigerator, patiently waiting for something great to happen to them.  I ended up buying a container of ricotta to use for my morning breakfasts one week (toast, ricotta, honey, berries – try it!) but only put a dent in it.  The solution for me was to make some fluffy and absolutely delicious ricotta cookies.  They’re light and rich and beautiful all at once.

Chocolate Chip Ricotta Cookies

1 cup part skim ricotta cheese
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk chocolate chips
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

In a bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar, stirring until well blended and slightly fluffy. Mix in the egg and vanilla.

To the wet mixture, add the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt, mixing well to combine. To this mixture, add the three types of chocolate chips, again stirring until well blended.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the freezer for 20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Once chilled, use an ice cream scoop to place golf ball sized pieces of dough on baking sheets covered with parchment paper or cooking spray. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the edges are lightly browned.

Makes about 12 cookies—more like 24 if you don’t make them as gargantuan-sized as I do.

Recipe adapted from La Kocinera.

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