Cheery Coconut

I feel like coconut is one of those love it or hate it type foods.  Whenever I happen upon coconut as a topic of conversation, I find that people either give me the “oh, I looooooove coconut!” response or I get a stank face (you know, that not-so-nice face that people probably shouldn’t make but do make when having a “hate” moment).

Anyway, I’m in the love category and I was having a hankering for it.  Since cherries were on sale (again with the sales), I decided that coconut and cherries would make a great combo.  I didn’t want to make a three-tier coconut cake with homemade cherry filling (mmmm, maybe next time) so I opted for the ever-easy bar.  These bars are pretty sweet and Lee made mention that they reminded him of an alternate version of pecan pie.  Yum.

Coconut Cherry Bars

1 1/4 cups of flour
1/2 cup of butter
1/3 cup of brown sugar

2 large eggs
1/2 cup of brown sugar
1 cup of fresh pitted cherries, chopped
1 cup of sweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup of chocolate chips
2 tablespoons of flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium bowl, combine first three ingredients using a pastry cutter until you have a fine crumb mixture.  Press into a 9×9 pan and bake for 12-15 minutes until slightly browned.

Mix together the remaining ingredients then pour over the baked crust.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes until set and lightly browned on top.

Adapted from The Kitchen Magpie.


I had one more batch of zucchini to use up and one night of dinner to imagine.  I’d seen a recipe over on Budget Bytes for zucchini boats and decided to give it a whirl with some of my leftover goods.  Here’s the absolutely delicious, nutritious, and stomach-filling result:

Zucchini Boats

3 medium zucchinis
3/4 cup tomato sauce
1 1/2 cups Quorn beef style grounds (or other vegetarian beef crumble)
3/4 cup reduced-fat shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Wash the zucchini well to remove any grit. Slice the zucchini lengthwise and, using a spoon, scoop out the flesh from the center. Leave about one centimeter of zucchini around the edges. Save the scooped out zucchini flesh in a bowl.

Place the scooped out zucchini halves on a baking sheet. Dump the reserved zucchini flesh out onto a cutting board and chop it into smaller pieces. Return the chopped pieces to the bowl and stir in the rest of the ingredients.

Refill the zucchini halves with the prepared mixture. Place in the oven and bake for approximately 20 minutes or until the cheese has melted and is slightly browned. The longer the zucchini are in the oven, the softer they’ll be so if you like firmer zucchini, bake for a shorter amount of time.

Since I’d just made a semi-traditional zucchini bread and still had some zucchini hanging out in the fridge, I decided to mix things up a little bit by adding in some chocolate to the equation.  I also wanted something that was easily portable for Lee to take into work.  Because I’m like that.  I make potent portables.  Yep.  Okay, feel free to groan there on that one.  Anyway, I thought about what else I had in the house and decided that chocolate and coconut would be a fine combination with a zucchini batter base.

Now, I DO think that it was a great combination and that these muffins were great and highly satisfying BUT I must say that I find myself drawn more to the Cinnamon Zucchini Bread.  WHYYYY?  Well, I actually enjoy a good old-fashioned zucchini bread, reminiscent of the olden days, way back in the 90s (yikes).  This recipe is more about the chocolate and coconut than the zucchini.  So just don’t expect a traditional zucchini bread flavor here and you’ll be a-okay.  With these muffins, you’ll be able to justify eating something chocolate-y because you’ll be getting your veggies in at the same time!  Right?  Right.

Chocolate Coconut Zucchini Muffins

2 cups shredded raw zucchini
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1 tablespoon instant coffee granules
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup  dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and spray a six-cup jumbo muffin pan with nonstick cooking oil.

In a medium bowl, combine the flours, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and coconut, then set aside.

In a large bowl, mix the oil, yogurt, sugars, eggs, vanilla extract and coffee granules.  Stir in zucchini.

Mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.  Stir until just combined.  Divide the mixture evenly into the six muffin tins and bake in the oven for 30 – 40 minutes or until a toothpick can be inserted in the center and then be removed clean.  Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.

Adapted from inspired taste.

I’ve been really wanting to make some zucchini bread but I’ve been putting off baking any in the hopes that some zucchini would magically appear on my doorstep.  I’m kind of in awe that the ever-abundant zucchini that always seems to overpopulate someone’s garden didn’t find its way to my kitchen this year.  I throw my hands up in mock exasperation at this lack of zucchini-giving-awaying!  Luckily I am a sale-sniffer and found some RELATIVELY inexpensive zucchini at the supermarket this past weekend.  It sat in the fridge for a few days while I decided what kind of weird science I wanted to perform.  This one is definitely a keeper.  It’s a bread that has that homegrown feel but with a little twist.

A word to the wise – please follow the directions for dividing the batter into two loaf pans!  I had a little snafu with my bread when I decided that I could will my bread batter into not overflowing in the oven.  I don’t think the batter heard me because I ended up having to put a sheet pan underneath my loaf pan in order to catch the blob of batter that was blubbling (yes, BLUBBLING) over the side.  These things happen, though, and at least I got to create a blob that could’ve starred in its own horror movie.

Cinnamon Zucchini Bread

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 bag (10 ounces) cinnamon chips
3 large eggs
3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups grated zucchini

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two 8″ x 4″ loaf pans.

In a medium mixing bowl, sift together flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt; whisk in sugars then stir in cinnamon chips.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together eggs until combined; add yogurt, oil, vanilla and zucchini until well combined. Stir in dry ingredients until just combined.

Divide batter evenly into prepared pans. Bake for 50 – 60 minutes or until a wooden skewer inserted into bread comes out with moist crumbs attached. Cover bread with foil if it gets too brown. Cool 1 hour in pan, before running a knife around outside edges and removing.

Recipe adapted from Sugar Plum

What a peach

This past weekend we found ourselves over at my parents’ house.  My brother, sister-in-law, niece and nephew were up from Florida and we were all meeting up to have a little ho-down.  Or maybe we all just chatted, ate, played, and went in the boat.  Either way, I was thinking it would be nice to bring something to the party.  I had some nice peaches ready and raring to go from the $0.99/lb. sale at the supermarket (score!).  I wanted something that was fairly easy to make AND to eat so i decided that squares were a preferable choice. I really enjoyed these squares, which were reminiscent of a lovely little crumble, and everyone else was in agreement (double score!).  I could definitely see myself substituting a variety of fruits in this recipe to accommodate the various seasons.

Peach Crumb Bars

For the Dough:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold
1 egg, lightly beaten

For the Filling:
5 cups diced or sliced peaches (about 7 peaches, peeled)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a 9×13-inch baking pan.

For the Dough: In a medium bowl whisk together the flours, sugar, baking powder and salt. Use a pastry blender to cut in the butter, then mix in the egg. The dough will be crumbly. Pat half of the dough into the prepared pan. Place the pan and the remainder of the dough in the refrigerator while you prepare the filling.

For the Filling: Place the diced (or sliced) peaches in a large bowl and sprinkle with lemon juice. Mix gently. In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Pour over the peaches and mix gently.

Spread the peach mixture evenly over the crust. Crumble the remaining dough over the peach layer.

Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until the top is slightly brown. Cool completely before cutting into squares.

Adapted from Brown Eyed Baker.

I know that I’ve been toying with your emotions with this on-again, off-again posting and there’s no excuse for being so cruel to you.  Except maybe that I break a sweat just sitting in our third-floor apartment during the summertime.  Things can get not so pretty in here and turning the oven on doesn’t help ANYONE.

There was a time, though, not long ago, when there was a lull in the hot weather and a bundle of bananas to be used.  I had the image of a cool, creamy, luscious dessert and so the banana butterscotch pie was born.  It was so rich and decadent and “I’m going to eat every little morsel of this” good that Lee and I had a piece every single night until it was sadly gone.  This recipe is a little more involved but is definitely worth it.  Totally.

Banana Butterscotch Pie
9 ounces graham crackers
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
1 tablespoon cold water
1/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cups packed dark brown sugar
1 cup whipping cream
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
pinch of salt
3 egg yolks, beaten
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 large bananas

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. To make the crust, blend the graham crackers in a food processor until they are finely ground then combine with the butter.  The mixture should stick together when pressed. Press the crumb mixture over the bottom and 1½ – 2 inches up the sides a 9-inch pie dish. Bake for 8 minutes.  Set aside to cool slightly.

Combine gelatin and cold water in a small bowl; set aside to soften.

In a small saucepan combine butter and 1 cup brown sugar; cook and stir over medium heat until it has changed to a slightly dark brown color and smells almost burnt (about 10 to 12 minutes). Immediately add whipping cream (mixture may sputter). Remove from heat and set aside.

In another saucepan heat milk just until bubbly on edges; remove from heat.

In a bowl combine remaining 1/2 cup brown sugar, cornstarch, flour and salt. Whisk in egg yolks, egg and vanilla. Whisk until fluffy (about 1 minute). Gradually stir hot milk into egg mixture. Add brown sugar mixture. Return mixture to saucepan; cook and stir over medium heat until thick and bubbly (about 15 minutes). Remove from heat; stir in softened gelatin.

Peel bananas and slice 1/2 inch thick; fold into custard mixture. Pour into baked pie crust. Take a piece of plastic wrap and cover directly the top of pie. Cool slightly. Chill 4 to 24 hours.  Serve with a dollop of whipped cream.  Mmmm.

Recipe adapted from Better Homes and Gardens.

The older I get, the more cynical I get over these grandiose displays that go on around the city.  I find the crowds that gather for things like fireworks and festivals to be almost unbearable and the thought of having to shuffle my way out of such events makes me cringe.  I still like to celebrate and have fun, though!  I just prefer gathering with friends for a nice little bbq and drinks and desserts.  And if I see some fireworks over the highway on the way home?  Well, that would be pretty perfect.

But what’s the fourth of July without a red, white, and blue-themed dessert?  A day off?  For many people, yes, but for those that have to work AND don’t get any patriotic cake?  It’s a sad, sad world.

That’s why I’ve got this one covered.  I didn’t want to get too crazy with my cake (at least not this year) so I decided to keep it  deliciously simple with a wonderful berry vanilla cake.  Yum!

Berry Vanilla Cake

2 cups cake flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 large egg
1 large egg white
1 cup (nonfat) plain Greek-style yogurt
1/4 cup milk
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup (heaping) blueberries
1/2 cup (heaping) raspberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 10-inch bundt pan.
Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.
In a large bowl, cream together the butter and the sugar until light. Beat in egg and egg white. Stir in yogurt, milk, and vanilla extract.
Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture until everything is just combined and no streaks of dry ingredients remain.
Pour about 2/3 of the batter into the prepared pan, then fold the raspberries and blueberries into the remaining batter carefully. Spread berry batter evenly over the plain batter in the cake pan.
Bake for 40-45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean and the cake springs back when lightly pressed.
Cool cake for 15 minutes in the pan then turn it out onto a serving plate before frosting.
Spread an even layer of cream cheese frosting over the cake and garnish with fresh berries (or with an enormous amount of colored sanding sugar to create an abstract American flag).

Cream Cheese Frosting
6 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
4 tablespoons butter, room temperature
3 tablespoons milk or cream
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 to 3 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar

Cream together cream cheese, butter, milk and vanilla until smooth. Gradually blend in confectioners’ sugar until frosting is thick and creamy.

Slightly adapted from Baking Bites.