Saturday, September 13, 2014

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread

I am a so-so fan of quick breads.  Some are really good while others seem very one-note to me and don't appeal to me that much.  The ones I like most are moist in the center with a crust on the outside and contain some type of ingredient (either nuts, chocolate, fruit, or a cream cheese ribbon like a friend of mine adds to her breads) to break things up a bit. 

My absolute favorite quick bread is filled with zucchini and semi-sweet chocolate chips.  It is sweet and gooey with chocolate, and while you can see the zucchini, the texture of it does not come through.  It just makes the batter oh-so-moist.  I have substituted blueberries for the chocolate, and it was yummy that way as well although I remain partial to the chocolate version.  This bread is fabulous as a snack, dessert, or even for breakfast, and one loaf will last, well wrapped on the counter, about a week.  The bread also freezes really well, and since the recipe makes two loaves, I make a batch every week or so and freeze the extra loaf for later.  I also freeze shredded zucchini in three cup increments to use to make this bread when zucchini is not in season.  

The recipe comes from Very Best Baking and is very similar to another favorite of mine from that site, Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins.  

So, if you're overrun with zucchini this time of year or just find a great deal on it at the farm market, whip up a batch and try it for yourself.  This bread is also a great way to use eggs when you find yourself with too many to handle. 

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread- makes two loaves

This bread is from Very Best Baking, and I do not alter the ingredients at all except that I add regular size chocolate chips rather than mini.  For a picture of it with mini chocolate chips, click the link to the original recipe.  The recipe calls for baking 60-70 minutes, but I usually begin checking it after 55 minutes to ensure that it does not over bake.  It is usually ready around the 60 minute mark.   

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour 
1 1/4 cups whole-wheat flour 
2 teaspoons baking soda 
1/2 teaspoon salt 
1/4 cup butter, softened 
3/4 cup granulated sugar 
3/4 cup packed brown sugar 
4 large eggs 
3/4 cup vegetable oil 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
3 cups shredded zucchini (about 3 medium zucchini) 
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350ยบ F. Grease and flour two 8 x 4-inch loaf pans.
Combine all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour, baking soda and salt in medium bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar in large mixer bowl until well combined. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in oil and vanilla extract. Stir in flour mixture just until moistened. Fold in zucchini and chocolate chips. Divide mixture between loaf pans.
Bake for 60 to 70 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in centers comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes. Run knife around the edges of pans. Remove from pans; cool completely on wire racks. 

Printable Version


Sunday, September 7, 2014

Freezing Crowder Peas

I grew up eating field peas all the time.  My family (and practically every other family I knew) put up field peas and snaps to have during the winter months.  The field peas I grew up with (I don't know the exact variety) were green when fresh but brown and creamy when cooked and produced a richly flavored broth.  I love them served with other veggies and meat, but I can make a meal out of them alone.  

This year, I have not been able to get any peas from back home, but I stumbled across crowder peas at the farm market yesterday.  Crowder peas cook up similar to the peas I usually put up but they are a little larger in size and are tighter together in the pod which means they have dips and dimples.  

I bought a bushel basket of crowder peas and spent yesterday evening shelling them, and this morning was spent blanching them and readying them for the freezer.  Now when the few quarts of field peas we have left from last year run out, we will have yummy crowder peas in the freezer to take their place.  

My favorite way to cook field peas is to place them in a pot, cover them with water, and add a little bacon grease or olive oil to the pot.  I bring them to a boil and then reduce them to a simmer, allowing them to simmer uncovered until they are tender and creamy but not falling apart (anywhere from 30-45 minutes).  Then I season them with salt and pepper and simmer them a few more minutes.  You can also get fancy with a chunk of country ham, a ham hock or small ham bone, or other meat seasoning of choice.  The simpler the better for me though.  Served with crunchy fried cornbread to dunk or spooned over cornbread or rice (with maybe a sliced tomato on the side), they are a meal all their own.  

Freezing Crowder Peas (or other field peas)- makes approx. 7 quarts

1 bushel field peas in the shell (30 pounds)
freezer container or bags (quart size or other size of choice)

Remove the peas from the shells, discards shells, and wash peas thoroughly.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Place peas into boiling water in several batches.  Blanch each batch for 2 minutes.  Remove peas from boiling water and place in an ice bath until cool.  Drain peas to remove excess liquid.  Fill quart bags or containers, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.  Place containers in the freezer.   

Printable Version

Monday, September 1, 2014

Muscadine and Scuppernong Jam

When we moved onto this property several months ago, there were three sets of established grapevines.  One set is growing up and over an arbor and has a mixture of muscadine (purple) and scuppernong (bronze) grapes.  One is trellised and we think grows bronze grapes, but it is so overgrown that there are only a few grapes on it this year.  Our plan is to cut it back later this year and allow it to come back out over time.  The third is a single vine of Concord grapes left over from a trellis that the previous owner attempted to cut down.  They weren't completely successful, and this lone vine remains.  We got plenty of grapes off of it this year and made Concord grape jam with this recipe, and my in-laws took lots with them to make jam too.  

Recently the muscadine and scuppernong grapes were ready to pick from the arbor.  We went out on a Saturday morning and picked almost 25 pounds of grapes.  As we picked them, we separated them into containers by color.  We set aside two gallons in the freezer to reserve for pie filling which we will make a later date, and we made jam with the rest.  We used the same recipe for the jam that we use with Concord grapes, the only difference being that the skins of the muscadines are thicker and don't break down as easily.  Therefore, you end up with a less chunky jam with fewer pieces of skin.  The pulp still gets used.


In all, we made 27 half-pints of jam that day (three batches).  The grapes produce a lighter colored jam than Concord grapes and look like jewels in the sun.  The only warning I would offer is that there are tiny specks of pulp that are browner in color and those show up more in the lighter jam.  If you wanted to eliminate that, you could put the pulp in a jelly bag and let it drain, but then of course you would be making jelly and not jam.  I personally prefer the texture of jam and the idea that I'm using the whole fruit rather than just the juice.  

I'm not sure exactly what we plan to do with all this jam.  I love peanut butter and jelly sandwiches but using this much jam (for us) would be a feat.  We may sell it or give it as gifts.  I'm sure we'll figure out something.  :)

For the recipe, use the same recipe as for the Concord grape jam.  You will still pulse the skins in the processor separately from the pulp, and you will push as much of the pulp and skins through the sieve as possible.  You will probably find that not as much of the skins go through.  Feed the rest to the chickens or compost them.  The purple grapes produce a light pinkish lavender jam, and the bronze produce a golden yellow jam.