Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Lemon-Zucchini Bread

I can't believe it's been 3 weeks since my last post!  We took a little vacation to the Colorado mountains with friends recently and enjoyed some beautiful, warm weather and lots of fun activities which I'll share at the end of this post.

It seems the warmth followed us home. Are you having the same heat-wave that we are?  The past week has brought unseasonably warm and dry weather to the Midwest.  It's been in the upper 80s to mid 90s Fahrenheit!  Needless to say, my zucchini and tomato plants are loving the heat.

Trying to make good use of my zucchini bounty, I made this recipe that I had seen online recently that combined zucchini with my other love - lemon.  The original recipe calls for glazing the zucchini bread with a drizzle of lemony frosting, but trying to keep it more calorie-friendly, I omitted that step. I will include the glaze in the recipe in case you'd rather it be a little sweeter.

I pulled out my late mom's old Ekco loaf pans which made some lovely golden loaves.

The bread turned great!  It was so moist I was happy I didn't glaze it. I loved seeing all the beautiful flecks of green zucchini and yellow lemon zest inside.  It was pretty hard to keep myself from eating slice after slice while taking these photos ;)

Here's a tip for those of you who do grow zucchini, or have a friend or neighbor that gifts you bags of it. Freeze fresh zucchini for your fall and winter baking projects or for the next time you're craving zucchini fritters!  Simply grate the zucchini on a box grater, or use the grating attachment on your food processor.  Remove as much excess moisture as possible by putting it in a clean tea towel and ringing it, or use a potato ricer, which is my preferred method.  After squeezing out the moisture, you can simply tap out the grated zucchini patty from the potato ricer and freeze it until firm, then place it in plastic zipper bags to use whenever you like.

Back to the little trip we took the second week of September!  We have good friends who have a home in Edwards, Colorado which is just west of Vail.  We had glorious sunny and warm days which were spent golfing, hiking and river rafting.  It was my first time river rafting and it was quite a scary an exhilarating experience! We used an outfit located on the Colorado River in Glenwood Springs, which was about an hour drive from Edwards. Driving through Glenwood Canyon is a spectacular ride which I highly recommend.  There are also lots of beautiful hiking trails if you're not into rafting.

Since you do get entirely soaked while going through the rapids I couldn't film the raft ride but if you want to get a little idea of what it was like, take a look at the Rock Garden's website here.  We had an experienced helmsman who was great.

One day, we walked through the Village of Vail and had lunch.  The village is so picturesque and was modeled after European ski towns.  If you look carefully, you can see someone tending the flowers outside the middle floor in the upper-right photo.  Every hotel and business prides itself on its floral displays.

I hope you enjoyed my short Colorado mountain tour and please also enjoy this lovely zucchini bread!

Lemon-Zucchini Bread

Printable Recipe 

Makes two 9×5″ breads

4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
4 eggs 1 cup neutral-flavored oil
1-1/4 cup sugar
1 cup buttermilk (or substitute sour cream or Greek Yogurt)
4 Tablespoons lemon juice
Grated zest of 1 lemon, preferably organic so you're not eating pesticides
 2 cups grated, unpeeled zucchini with excess moisture pressed out

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Grease and flour 2, 9×5″ loaf pans and set aside. Blend together flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl and set aside.

In a medium bowl, beat the eggs well and then blend in the canola oil and sugar. Mix in the buttermilk, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Add the zucchini and mix to distribute evenly. Add zucchini mixture to the dry ingredients and gently mix just until blended together. Don’t overmix.

Pour batter into prepared pans and bake at 350 degrees for about 35-45 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Start checking after 35 minutes as some ovens are hotter than others.

Cool in pan 10 minutes, then remove to a wire rack and cool completely.

If desired, you can glaze the breads after they are cool:

1 cup powdered sugar
2 Tablespoons lemon juice, more or less to get desired thickness of glaze
1 teaspoon lemon zest

In small bowl, mix powdered sugar, lemon juice and zest until well blended. Spoon glaze over cooled loaf. Let glaze set, then serve.

Adapted from this recipe.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Cherry Tomato and Burrata Bruschetta

Before tomato season is a thing of the past,  I hope you can try this simple and delightful appetizer.  It is a perfect way to use all of those cherry tomatoes growing like crazy in your garden. Right now, my cherry tomatoes are ripening so quickly that we can barely eat them all.  Sweet Million and Sun Sugar have been very prolific varieties for me here in SE Wisconsin.  Don't worry if you only have regular tomatoes either!  Just cut them into small pieces and let the seeds and juice drain before using.

There are endless versions of bruschetta with tomatoes on the internet but this recipe (or more of a technique) was passed along to me by a good friend and we have enjoyed it several times in the past few weeks. This is not original or unique - just delicious!

All you need is some really good, ripe tomatoes, a sliced and toasted baguette and a ball of burrata cheese, which is a type of soft cheese made with mozzarella and cream.  It's so good! My grocery store sells the BelGioioso brand.

If you don't grow tomatoes yourself, perhaps you can find some good, locally grown tomatoes at the farmers' market nearby.  Slice the tomatoes into small pieces and squeeze out as much of the juice as you can.  Add a little aged balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil and toss.

Let your guests help themselves and add as much cheese and tomatoes as they like! Our whole family loves it - even the young grandsons, although their favorite part is the baguette toasts and cheese ;)

Bon appetit!

Cherry Tomato Bruschetta with Burrata

Printable Recipe

Makes about 18-20 Bruschetta, depending on how large a baguette you are using.  Adjust the amount of tomatoes accordingly.

1 large French Baguette (I like Costco's baguettes)
About 2 pints of cherry (or 2-3 large) tomatoes
1 ball of Burrata cheese
Fresh basil leaves
Aged Balsamic
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper to taste

Heat the oven broiler to low (or set oven to 375).  Slice the baguette diagonally into between 1/4 and 1/2 inch pieces.  Arrange on a baking sheet. Brush slices on both sides with olive oil and sprinkle with finely grown pepper on one side. Toast in the oven for about 3-5 minutes per side, depending on your oven.  Watch carefully, so they don't burn, especially if you are using the broiler.  Allow to cool.  The baguette toasts can be made ahead.

Slice tomatoes into small pieces and remove as much of the seeds and juice as you can. A little juice and seeds left is fine. Place them into a small bowl and drizzle with aged balsamic vinegar and salt & pepper to taste.  Add some sliced basil before serving.  

On a serving platter, arrange the baguette slices, around the outside, and place the tomatoes and Burrata cheese in the center. Allow your guests to serve themselves.