8.22.2013

Zucchini Cakes

Another way to bake with zucchini. AND IT ISN'T BREAD!!!

I found these chocolate zucchini cakes at Martha Stewart, and decided to adapt them, Tiny Gardener Style.


Chocolate Zucchini Cakes
1 egg
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup shredded zucchini
1/2 cup melted coconut oil (you can use butter here)
3 Tbs plain greek yogurt (or sour cream)
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate chips, divided
38 walnut halves (or pieces)
 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Preheat your oven to 350.

Melt half of the chocolate chips either in the microwave or in a double boiler. I do the double boiler because I am notorious for burning chocolate. Allow to cool slightly.

Mix all your wet ingredients together in a mixing bowl, then add in the melted chocolate. Remember, sugar is a wet ingredient!

Mix your dry ingredients together, including the non melted chips. Pour the dry stuff into to wet stuff, and mix until just incorporated.

Pour ONE Tablespoon of batter into each compartment of a mini-muffin tin. Top each batter cup with 1 walnut half.

Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

I got exactly 38 mini cakes. Holy crap, they are good.

**Update** I put these in the fridge so that they wouldn't go bad before we ate them all. I pulled one out just now, and it was almost fudge like! Yay!



I put the recipe into a recipe generator thing, and it turns out, each little cake is 75 calories, so go ahead and indulge in a couple! They are super nice, not too sweet, and a couple satisfied my sweet tooth.

















Laundry Soap Sagas

I thought it would be a really awesome thing to try homemade powdered laundry soap because I saw it on, where else? Pinterest!

In all honesty, the lady who made the blog post did a great job and made me think that I would really prefer her powder soap over my own liquid soap.  Basically her recipe called for the same ingredients as my soap, but instead of melting everything in water, you just grind it all up in a food processor until it is super fine.

The problem? I wash every thing in cold water to save energy, money, the environment, etc. The powder soap doesn't dissolve in the cold water and doesn't effectively clean the clothes. I hung our laundry out to dry, and I could still smell the sweat and deodorant in Husband's shirts. It was kinda gross and super annoying that I had to waste time and energy rewashing the clothes.

Not only did the powder not do a good job, it also doesn't last as long... I went through half a batch before I gave up, and that was only about a week. My liquid batch lasts me over 3 months.

So here I am, making laundry soap. Liquid laundry soap. Is it kind of a pain? You bet. Is it worth it? You bet.

8.14.2013

Zucchini Bread

Ok, I know... Everyone and their mother, and sister, and cousin, and neice have all made some version of zucchini bread. Some are awesome, some are not. I am now in full swing of zucchini hell madness, so I am eager to get these put up in some form or another.

Just a little caveat about putting up zucchini- I have tried that whole, shred it and freeze it and bake it later thing. That does not work, at least for me. The zucchini loses all body it had by turning its high water content into ice, making your later to come breads watery and gross. So bread is my favorite way to preserve the abundant squash.

I tried about 10 different recipes before coming up with my own modified version (doesn't everyone have one?) and I am pretty happy with the results. This one has a tender crumb, enough spice for me (I often double the spices in recipes like this, so just know, I already did that for you), and is sweet enough that I can eat a slice for dessert. I went a little nuts today, and I made 3 mini loaves and 3 large regular loaves.




 Zucchini Bread
Makes 2 loaves

3 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil (watching your calories? Sub in applesauce or mashed bananas)
2 cups sugar (you could also sub in honey for this at 1/2 the amount, so 1 cup, just make sure to add a little more flour so the batter isn't to liquidy)
2 cups shredded zucchini (don't fret if you have a little more or less than 2 cups. It will be fine.)
~~~~~~~
3 cups all purpose flour (You can substitute up to 50% whole wheat flour if you like)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 Tbs cinnamon (if you lost your T measurement, this is 3 tsp)
1 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
1 cup chopped nuts (use what you have, today I used walnuts, almonds, and pecans)
~~~~~~~
Preheat your oven to 350 and prepare your loaf pans. I use glass pans lined with parchment, always. 

Combine all your wet ingredients in a mixing bowl.

**See Note Below**
 Add in your dry ingredients and mix until thoroughly combined, but don't overdo it.  Divide your batter evenly amongst your 2 loaf pans. Or your mini loaf pans. Which ever you like.

Bake at 350 for 40-60 minutes or until a wooden skewer or knife comes out clean. Allow to cool in pans for 10-15 minutes, then turn out into a cooling rack. You can slice it hot (be careful!) or room temp, but make sure to enjoy with a smear of butter. Yum!

**My little note** A lot of recipes say to sift all your dry ingredients together in a bowl, then add in increments, blah blah blah. I don't do that, but I do know that cinnamon does NOT mix into wet ingredients well, so I put everything onto one of those flexible chopping mats, stir everything together with a fork, and then dump it in my mixing bowl. It only adds one more thing to wash, but makes sure that your spices and salt are evenly distributed in your batter. I also mix my nuts into the dry ingredients first for the exact same reason.

Hey! Add some variation and toss some shredded carrots in this one. Yummy!

8.12.2013

Effing Varmin

Last year, which was sadly named The Year of the Groundhog, we did major battle battle with bastard groundhogs. I think our neighbor ended up, uh, getting rid of, over 12 of them, not to mention several possums and raccoons.

This year, we thought we had that groundhog problem in the history books... Well, not so much. A few days ago, we had a groundhog sighting in the driveway, and then again yesterday. We set the trap out in the neighbors yard to try and get him. No luck.

This afternoon, I spotted him in my yard munching on tomatoes, which I promptly threw on some clothes and chased him off with a shovel. I came back in, took a shower, then as soon as I got out, he was back there again literally picking my green beans. I gathered up the trap and reset it in my yard, in the path to the tomatoes and the beans... Its now been like, a week, and still nothing. Maybe my chasing after him with a shovel scared him off. 

So, not only do we have groundhogs again, we are doing battle with sparrows. A LOT of sparrows. They really enjoy chicken feed, just in case you didn't know. I switched the girls over from crumbles to pellets in hopes of thwarting the tiny beaked bastards from eating it as much. It isn't perfect, but its better.

And then we have the mice. Since I changed the girls over from a typical upside-down gallon water thing to a tub of water, I have at least one dead mouse a week in there. Gee, its such a pity they can't swim...

8.08.2013

First Eggplant

I know everyone is drowning in zucchini just about now, myself included, and we are FINALLY starting to get other vegetables. Eggplant to be exact.

By the end of the weekend, I should have 6 or 7 more of these beauties! This one weighs in at exactly 1 pound. This is the Listada de Gandia eggplant from Baker Creek. Not only are they super awesome looking, but they taste great too. Not too bitter, and the skin isn't tough so you can leave it on when you cook with it. It does lose some of it's color striation when cooked though...

I think for our first meal with it, I'm going to grill it up simply with zucchini, slice up a tomato, and put it all in fresh ciabatta bread with some basil and mozzarella. Yum!

8.07.2013

Kale and Mushroom Pasta

I am really on a mushroom kick lately. The kale this year is excellent, as the summer hasn't been hot enough to make it go bitter, and it is just growing like crazy! Delish! Last week I made a mushroom and kale lasagna, which was totally killer. This week, I was inspired by a post on, what else? Pinterest! It was actually a mushroom stroganoff recipe that I made my own. I didn't use sherry or Worcestershire, and I added kale. Yum!

Just a couple of notes before I get into it... If you don't like kale, substitute whatever greens you like. Vegan? Don't use sour cream. Meat eater? Add some sliced beef or chicken. Dont have fresh pasta? Use your favorite dried pasta. Don't like garlic? Leave it out. My recipes are NOT rules, just guidelines. We like a lot of "stuff" in relation to our pasta, so this was enough for 2 of us. Have more family members? Add more pasta, more greens, etc... Just go with the flow. 
 

Kale and Mushroom Pasta
This will take about 30 minutes, and I made enough for 2 VERY hefty servings. If you are feeding more people, just add more pasta. 

1 pound cremini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1/2 pound shitake mushrooms, cleaned and sliced (remove the stem on these, they are very tough)
1 large onion, sliced thin
8 oz fresh kale, cleaned and chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
4-5 large sprigs of thyme
4-5 fresh sage leaves
1 T steak sauce (ordinarily I would use Worcestershire sauce for that umami goodness, but I didn't have any. I had to improvise)
1 cup sour cream (I used light. The brand I chose didn't have added sugar, so I was cool with it.)
8 ounces fresh pasta (Don't fret, dried pasta is good too!)
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Do this first so that your pasta can cook while you are making the "stuff."
 
Saute your onions and garlic in olive oil over medium/med-high heat until golden brown and fragrant.
Add your sliced mushrooms and chopped herbs, salt and pepper to taste.

The mushrooms should give off enough water to cook the kale... Add in the steak sauce or Worcestershire and stir into the mushrooms. Add in the chopped kale, cook until bright green and chewable, but not mushy. Then, add in your sour cream.
Stir everything together and let the flavors gently simmer on medium-low heat while your fresh pasta cooks. A few notes here... Fresh pasta from the freezer will cook in about 2 minutes of rapidly boiling water. Whole wheat fresh, about 3 minutes. Dried pasta, about 10 minutes. Just time this accordingly. Fresh pasta will float when it is done, so that is your signal and you don't have to burn your fingers doing a taste test.
 

Fish out or strain your pasta, toss it with the saucy goodness, and serve in a big bowl. If you want it saucier, add in some starchy pasta pater before your strain your pasta. Top with some parmesan cheese if you are feeling feisty, and enjoy!

8.05.2013

Opie!

Or to be correct, O.P... as in Outside Punkin. Yeah, We kind of have an outside cat.



There are lots of stray and feral cats around our neighborhood, so when one decides to be brave enough to come up to me and let me pet them, I like to say I've adopted them.

We call him O.P. or Opie, because he is orange, and Punkin is orange, but this guy lives outside. So, Outside Punkin is his name. He likes to hunt mice in the garage during the day, and lounge in the shade, and eat treats. He is a little sweet heart!