Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Chocolate (zucchini) Cake

Hiding veggies. Yep. You can even hide them in cake. Just don't let the kids help you bake it. :) If you're like me, you grew zucchini last year, shredded tons of it expecting to make bread over the winter, stuck it in the freezer and forgot. Oops. This recipe will use it up fast. Don't let the idea of making a cake from scratch scare you. It's easier than you think. (just like the bread) Remember, I'm a simple girl. If it was too hard or time consuming I probably wouldn't do make it. But let me tell you, it tastes far better than anything from a box. And you gain some self confidence when you say you made all by yourself and really mean it (not like that refrigerated cookie dough that we all feel just a little guilty about).

When you cook or bake from scratch there is the added benefit of knowing precisely what is in the mix. If you are the individual responsible for shopping and putting food on the table and in the bellies of your loved ones, you are the gatekeeper. The security guard who determines what gets in and what does not. Is it safe? Is it healthy? What do they need to avoid? Who do we keep out? Hydrogenated oils? High fructose corn syrup? High cholesterol foods? Who gets invited in? Spinach? Fruits? Farm-raised chicken? Garden tomatoes? Local cheese?

Here is simply grand way to sneak in that healthy zucchini we want to let in (that nobody seems to know what to do with) and leave everyone asking for more.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake Recipe
(i didn't come up with this recipe, you can click on the link for the original source. i do change it a bit. it's supposed to be in a bundt pan with a glaze. i don't own a bundt pan. i use a regular cake pan and chocolate frosting. it's nice with whipped cream and fruit, too.)

2 1/2 cups regular all-purpose flour, unsifted
1/2 cup cocoa
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup soft butter
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups coarsely shredded zucchini (use all the liquid from your zucchini. if you drain it, your cake will be dry. trust me. i tried it once. you need every bit of that juice to make the cake nice and moist.)
1/2 cup milk
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional. my kids are picky and won't eat the nuts)
Preheat the oven to 350°F.

1 Combine the flour, cocoa, baking powder, soda, salt, and cinnamon; set aside.

2 With a mixer, beat together the butter and the sugar until they are smoothly blended. Add the eggs to the butter and sugar mixture one at a time, beating well after each addition. With a spoon, stir in the vanilla, and zucchini.

3 Alternately stir the dry ingredients and the milk into the zucchini mixture, including the nuts with the last addition.

4 Pour the batter into a greased and flour-dusted (or sprayed)regular cake pan - use what you have. Bake in the oven for about 50 minutes (test at 45 minutes!) or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean.

5 Frost

Cut in thin slices to serve. Makes 10-12 servings.

Hope you guys enjoy! I'll be making this for Easter.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Let it Rise... or not.

I have been getting a lot of requests from friends and family for recipes lately. Some are looking to eat better, fresh foods, less packaged foods. Trying to cook from scratch. When Bruce and I first got married (okay, for the first years of our marriage) I could only cook something if it came in a box with directions on the back. And even then, the results were a iffy. My husband is a keeper - I don't think he complained once. :) It's been a long road, but I'm a pretty decent cook now.

I think Jack was a baby when I started baking bread. It was a simple goal: to make edible homemade bread. Nothing huge. Nothing fantastic like 'lose 20 lbs' or 'only eat local' or 'turn off the fridge' or 'learn to ride a unicycle'. Nope. I'm a simple girl. It was easy, too. I liked the slow pace, the patience. A little work now, wait a while, come back later, knead the dough, wait, come back, etc. I found it enjoyable.

Bread is simple. Water, flour, yeast, salt. Then I read the label on store bread. It must have 20+ ingredients! High fructose corn syrup, caramel coloring, and more. I couldn't believe it. That was really what got me started making my own food and buying less pre-packaged things. In Michael Pollan's popular book 'In Defense of Food' he suggests to read food labels and never eat anything with more than 5 ingredients. (It's a great book. If you're confused about food, the way to eat, what the right choices are, hope to shop. Read this. Seriously. It's fantastic. I can't say enough good things about it.)

Well, here it goes. These bread recipes are not my own. I've scavenged these from the internet and wrote them in my recipe book years ago. The original sources are lost (sorry), but it's bread. It's pretty basic. I'm not sure anyone can really claim it. ;) *if you plan on making a lot of bread, don't buy the packets, buy the jars.

NO-KNEAD FREE FORM LOAF BREAD (good for us lazy folk)
Makes 4 1-lb loaves (I makes 2 2-lb)

3 C lukewarm water
1.5 T granulated yeast
1.5 T sea salt
6.5 C unsifted, unbleached flour

1. Heat water to 100 degrees (I've never actually measured this, I just make sure it's warm)
2. Add yeast and salt to water in large bowl
3. Mix in flour - don't knead! the dough stays wet and conforms to container
4. Cover loosely (set a lit on top - don't use a screw top, it could explode from the trapped gases)

Refrigerate for at least 3 hrs before shaping (it can sit overnight).
You don't need to monitor the rising.

5. Sprinkle pan with cornmeal or spray with nonstick spray.
6. Sprinkle surface of dough with flour
-cut off section, gently stretch dough.
7. 20 minutes before baking preheat oven to 450 degrees F. with broiler tray on lower shelf.
8. Dust top of loaf with flour and slash with knife
9. Put in oven. Pour 1 C of hot water in broiler pan. Bake 30 min.
*bread will 'crackle' or 'sing' when done. put on rack to cool.
-extra dough can keep in fridge for up to 2 weeks.

I always makes this as 'Italian Herb Bread'. I mix up herbs - sea salt, pepper, rosemary, basil, garlic, oregano - in a small bowl and sprinkle it on the bread. I like to roll the dough in it so it gets evenly covered. Yum! Enjoy with real butter hot out of the oven.

I'll get the recipes for pita bread, hummus, pesto, crackers, chocolate zucchini cake (fabulous!), pizza dough, and more up in the coming weeks.


Wednesday, March 24, 2010


It's spring. FINALLY. I am feeling refreashed physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I'm eating lots more fruits and veggies (green smoothies are a great way to do this) I've been getting in more yoga and cardio and outside play time with the kids. The weather has been nice enough to start walking to pick Carlie up from school. Well, a few days a least. :)

I've been behind on my Bible reading this year and I'm really disappointed. I haven't given up, but I'm not happy with myself. I committed to reading the Old Testament this year (I read the New Testment last year) and fell behind by and entire book when when my husband had surgery last month. Not to make excuses, but it was supposed to be outpatient surgery and was not. And then he ended up in the ER twice that same week. Thing were pretty rough there for a while. The Lord and I were on close speaking terms, but I wasn't spending a lot of time in His Word. ;)

Since Bruce and I share youth leader duties at church I usually spend a lot of time reseaching and planning lessons, too. It's something I really enjoy. (Weird, I know. But I always I enjoy digging into my Bible and finding ways to tie the lessons together and link the Bible to the students lives and make it 'current' for them.) This year we used purchased lessons and they were a real blessing with all the time we've had to devote to doctor appointments and such. But I missed my study time. I didn't realize how important it is to me - it makes me feel grounded. I'm slowly catching up on my Bible reading. I'm still behind, but not quite so far.

Bruce and I have been spending a lot of time listening to the late, great Rich Mullins. As a poet, singer, songwriter ~ he was a master. The man behind the music was nothing short of inspirational. Incredibly successful (in the commercial sense) and always humble, chosing to give away all he had to live a simple life. He had an amazing faith in the Lord and it just poured out in all he did. But why are people so struck by him? I imagine it's because Rich and people like him, are the closest we'll get in this world to seeing Jesus in action. He had the heart of a servant, didn't care what this world thought of him, rejected materialism, treated everyone with love, didn't stray from the gospel and didn't apologize for it. And people loved him for it. Huh, sound like anyone else you know?? There are a ton of Rich Mullins videos on youtube - songs, interviews, stories, you name it.

Here are a few Rich Mullins quotes:
"Never forget what Jesus did for you. Never take lightly what it cost Him. And never assume that if it cost Him His very life, that it won't also cost you yours."

"We do not find happiness by being assertive. We don't find happiness by running over people because we see what we want and they are in the way of that happiness so we either abandon them or we smash them. The Scriptures don't teach us to be assertive. The Scriptures teach us—and this is remarkable—the Scriptures teach us to be submissive. This is not a popular idea."

"Christianity is not about building an absolutely secure little niche in the world where you can live with your perfect little wife and your perfect little children in your beautiful little house where you have no gays or minority groups anywhere near you. Christianity is about learning to love like Jesus loved and Jesus loved the poor and Jesus loved the broken."


Monday, March 15, 2010

Run Free

Carlie walked in the bedroom and said, "Mom, Jack's outside naked." Swell.

We are potty training so he spends a lot of his time running around naked or only partially clothed. In this case he was wearing a pair of socks. Jack and I had been hanging out in the house while Carlie was still playing outside. She came in to ask me a question (which I promptly forgot during the naked pandemonium which ensued thereafter). He had been talking to me until his sister came in the house. I guess he saw his opportunity and ran with it.

It was brisk and breezy today with the high temps only in the low 50s. A little chilly for streaking. :)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Happy Birthday, my girl!

My girl turns 6 today. It does not quite seem possible. Bruce and I have only been married for... oh shoot! It'll be 8 years in May! Where did all this time go?? When did my sweet little peanut go from being a tiny little preemie to nearly finished with kindergarden? An animal lover, a budding vegetarian, a growing reader, music lover, she has a deep love for dresses and mudboots alike. She loves fairies and princesses and feeding our chickens and collecting rocks, herbs and wildflowers. She hates spiders but will chase down a snake. She's loving, kind, smart as a whip, brave, and funny. She still does not sleep through the night, has vivid dreams, and rarely stays in her own bed. She is still tiny as can be but do not, under any circumstances, tell her that she is short! What she lacks in sizes she more than makes up for in spunk and personality.

Happy 6th Birthday to my beautiful Carlie.