Zucchini – What To Do With All Of Them? – Bake Bread

zucchini

What to do with all that zucchini!

Zucchini grow fast and furious beneath the red hot sun of latter-day summer. Tender, small zucchini are delicious in main dishes. But many of us wind up on the receiving end of zucchini large enough to serve as baseball bats.

One way to get the kids and family to eat their zucchini is to turn them into yummy zucchini bread that can be served with a meal or as dessert.

This recipe has lived in my recipe box since my daughters were teenagers. One of their friends decided to try her hand at baking. Joan’s Zucchini Bread was the successful result. Many loaves of it have been baked at our house since then. My daughters now bake it for their own children.

Joan’s Zucchini Bread

Bake at 350 degrees in two greased and floured 8″ X 5″ loaf pans

Ingredients:

3 eggs, well beaten

2 cups sugar

1 cup vegetable oil

3 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons cinnamon

3 teaspoons (3 t. = 1 Tablespoon) vanilla

2 cups grated zucchini

1 cup raisins

1 cup nuts or dates

Directions:

This batter can be mixed by hand or on low speed with a mixer.

Stir all ingredients together, except zucchini, nuts, and raisins. Mix until well blended.

Add zucchini, nuts, and raisins. Mix well.

Turn batter into two loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 45-55 minutes. Allow bread to cool on a rack.

notebook-vegetablesNOTE: When I wrote for the food editor of a newspaper, I interviewed a lovely woman at her farm market. She casually mentioned that she had 101 ways to use zucchini. I used that quote in my article. Oh boy!

Everyone that read the article visited her stand and wanted her recipes. She finally grew weary of the requests and put together a little cookbook called – you guessed it – 101 Ways to Cook Zucchini. Happy ending for all…

Fun Facts About Zucchini: Source: http://www.foodchannel.com/articles/article/top-10-zucchini-fun-facts/

The world’s largest zucchini on record was 69 1/2 inches long, and weighed 65 lbs. Bernard Lavery of Plymouth Devon, UK, grew the humongous veggie.

One zucchini has just 25 calories (compared to a baked potato, for example, which has 130 calories).

A zucchini has more potassium than a banana.

(photo of Zucchini courtesy of dan at freedigitalphotos.net)

(photo of Notebook Among the Vegetables stock photo courtesy of marin at freedigitalphotos.net)

A FISH TALE

fish market

Have you ever stood at the seafood counter and wondered about that piece of fish you’re about to buy? Ever think about where he was swimming, or how long he lived before he ended up here?

No? Neither have I. Except – for the time my husband brought home the big one he’d caught at the seashore. That big guy became part of our family’s folklore.

(This story appeared in The Philadelphia Inquirer in 2004)

Writing the last chapter in a bass’ long biography
A thrilling catch is almost – almost – too good to eat.

By Judy Harch

Before me sat a culinary masterpiece.

The star of the show was a grilled-to-perfection striped bass steak. Fish doesn’t taste any finer than when it has been plucked fresh from the salty waters of the Shore and immediately prepared for consumption.

After relishing every bite, I washed it down with a major dose of guilt.

My husband, Chris, and a fishing buddy had arrived home brimming with excitement after a good day’s catch off the beaches of Ocean City. As they pulled into our driveway, the rumble of thunder gave way to cracks of lightning.

But they were on a mission. They lugged their prized catch, a 41-inch monster of a bass, to the backyard and with surgical precision performed the work of experienced butchers.

Well, sort of. The standard knife was not working on this baby. With a sense of urgency, they resorted to a hacksaw, as Mother Nature announced her ever-louder proclamation from the skies concerning who is really in charge.

As I anticipated a delicious meal, my delight became tainted. Chris excitedly explained that his big, fat fish had been quite an adventure. As he reeled in his catch, he had noticed something sticking out of the bass’ belly. It was a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service tracking tag.

While he inspected it, a crowd of children on a school day trip gathered around the fascinating find. One little boy asked to please have his picture taken with the fish and the guy who caught it. (Ah, your 15 minutes of fame. You never know when it will happen.)

Before placing the fish steaks on the hot coals of the grill, Chris decided to call the phone number on the tag to report his find.

The woman at the Wildlife Service asked my husband a litany of questions about where he had caught the fish, its length, girth and weight. She thanked him for the call and told him that he had won the reward of a hat or fish pin. He chose the hat. She promised to send him a report of the fish’s “tracking history.”

When Chris related the conversation to me, I began to feel a personal connection to the fish. It’s so much easier to eat an anonymous animal. But this bass had a history in which we had become a chapter. My husband was responsible for the fish’s final fight with his perpetual nemesis, the angler.

In my husband’s defense, I must tell you that he is basically a catch-and-release fisherman. But in late spring, when striped bass migrate into the Delaware Bay and the Atlantic surf, he always brings home a few. We eat them relatively guilt-free.

This big boy, unlike the others, had an identity. He was destined to become part of our family’s oral history, to be recounted to all those who listen to fish tales. When the bass’ personal history arrives from the Wildlife Service, the story can be further embellished.

Of course, on that stormy day, as the fish lay before us on our plates, it was a done deal. It would have been a travesty to not eat him after he had given up his life.

I can tell you, though, the next time Chris dons his new U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hat, he won’t be keeping any fish that arrives at the end of a hook sporting a pink tag.

Guilt has a bitter aftertaste.

***

(P.S. My husband wouldn’t ordinarily keep a tagged fish, but this one was bleeding badly because it most likely had been previously tangled in a commercial fishing net.)

fisherman at sunrise

UPDATE: My husband still gets up at dawn, packs up his gear, and heads for his favorite fishing spots. He’s never brought home another tagged fish – thank goodness!

(Image of Fish Market Stock Photo courtesy of franky242 at freedigitalphotos.net)

(Image of Silhouette of Man Fishing Stock Photo courtesy of nuttakit at freedigitalphotos.net)

My Family’s Favorite Chocolate Cake

chocolate cake-pink frosting 004Deep Chocolate Cake with Strawberry Frosting

If she’s lucky, every grandmother has that one recipe her grandchildren love. For me, it is this delicious, moist chocolate cake recipe passed down from a home economics teacher – back when my grands were just a “twinkle in my eye.”

When you read the recipe, don’t think I’ve made a mistake. It is a strange one. There is only one egg in it. Stranger yet, you add a cup of boiling water to the ingredients. Honest – it works. The cake is incredibly moist. Often, chocolate cake recipes produce a dry cake. Not this one!

The cake shown here was iced with my strawberry frosting (see Dessert Recipes – Buttercream Frosting). But the request I most often receive includes chocolate frosting. Apparently, there is no such thing as too much chocolate….

My Family’s Favorite Chocolate Cake   chocolate hearts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Ingredients:

2 cups flour

2 cups sugar

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup boiling water

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup buttermilk or sour milk (1 cup regular milk with 1 tablespoon lemon juice added. Allow to stand 5 minutes)

1 cup vegetable oil

1 egg

Directions:

In a mixer bowl, place flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Blend on low.

To dry ingredients, add 1 cup boiling water (add slowly on low speed). Then add vanilla.

In a separate bowl (or large measuring cup), mix together buttermilk, oil, and egg. Add to mixer. Beat on low speed to mix all ingredients well. It is best to scape the bowl well, especially along the bottom. Then mix again on medium speed until well blended. Batter will be thin.

Choice of pans: (grease and flour pans well)

13″ X 9-inch – bake 35-40 minutes

Two 9-inch pans – bake 30 minutes

*10-inch tube pan – bake 50-55 minutes

Test for doneness with a cake tester. The cake may seem a little moist, kind of like a brownie, but it is best not over-baked. Cool cake in pans for about 20 minutes. Remove to a rack to cool.

*I’ve never made this cake in a tube pan. My crew likes that extra layer of frosting.

FUN FACTS About Chocolate: (Source: http://morkeschocolates.com/chocolate-facts/)

The average American consumes more than 10 pounds of chocolate every year.

       choc. easter bunny
76% of Americans say the ears of the chocolate bunnies should be eaten first.
5% think chocolate feet of the bunnies should be eaten first.
4% think chocolate tails should go first.

(photo of chocolate hearts courtesy of nokhoog_buchachon at freedigitialphotos.net)

(photo of chocolate Easter bunny courtesy of Jeroen Van Oostrom at freedigitalphotos.net)

TIME-TRAVELING GRANDMOTHER

bobby rydell

Today’s zealous Taylor Swift fans have nothing over the teenagers of my generation. Way back then, we were crazy for those South Philly crooners – Frankie Avalon, Fabian, and Bobby Rydell.

I was 15 years old when I went to a local dance hall and saw Bobby Rydell perform live. You don’t forget moments like that.

When Chicken Soup for the Soul was asking for stories about grandmothers’ experiences, I flashed back to that special night. Time has a way of warping memories. As I sat at my grandson’s 8th grade graduation, imagine how I felt when Bobby Rydell, himself, sat in the pew right in front of me! I was instantly fifteen again.

The moment was incredibly poignant as I realized my “little” grandson was old enough to feel the same emotions I had. Wasn’t it just yesterday that I rocked him in my arms?

Here is the story I had published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Grandmothers in 2011.

TIME-TRAVELING GRANDMOTHER

By Judy Harch

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.
~ Marcel Proust ~

The band of earnest 8th graders decked out in royal blue cap and gowns gathered in the vestibule at St. Mary’s church. The pews quickly filled to capacity as the organist played and church officials took their places. It was graduation day for our grandson, Joey.

Although engulfed in a sea of blue, I immediately spotted him looking impossibly grown up at 15. A grandparent’s vision may get fuzzy with age, but somehow we always manage to scope out that one special child at a group event. Through misty eyes, I tugged on my husband Chris’s arm and said, “Look at him. He’s so handsome.”

Our eldest grandchild seemed to be moving through each new life passage at warp-speed. I’ve always suspected that we unconsciously measure time against our age. The older we become, the faster the wings of time beat.

Chris smiled in agreement, and then said, “Now, don’t forget. You promised to behave.”

I knew exactly what he was talking about and it wasn’t our grandson.

Chris was worried about Bobby Rydell. More precisely, he was worried about my reaction to Bobby Rydell. The very same heart throb from the late 1950s was parked on the pew directly in front of me. I’d heard through the grapevine that his grandchild was also graduating that day. Be still my heart, I thought.

“I’ll try. I really will,” I answered. “But it’s a tall order, you know.”

He knew. Chris and I grew up together in a small town in southern New Jersey. As Bobby Rydell’s career moved skyward, he made appearances at local venues in our area. I was fifteen when I saw him in person. I remember standing by the small stage with a throng of overzealous girlfriends screaming Bobby’s name as he snapped his fingers, wiggled his hips, and belted out “Kissin’ Time.” We were all deeply, madly in love with the skinny South Philly kid with a massive pompadour and wide smile. It was a mob scene at the edge of the stage. I hadn’t a prayer of capturing his attention.

So, there I sat many years later, within shoulder-tapping distance, staring at the back of Bobby Rydell’s head. Sure, he looked older. The pompadour was gone. But I saw that mischievous trademark smile as he turned sideways. What to do? I was dying to talk to him. How many times in life does the opportunity for a do-over come along? He was literally a captive audience.

Chris, a quiet, reserved man in public, glared at me. He didn’t have to say a word. After many years of marriage, I could read his mind. I didn’t like what it was saying.

The processional began. A reverent hush fell over the gathered families. Everyone stood to honor the class of graduating students. They made their way down the center aisle to a lightshow of camera flashes. I saw my Joey walking sure and proud. I instantly turned back into a woman of a certain age in awe of her grandchild. But every time I looked at Bobby, I traveled backward through a time tunnel.

As I sat through the formalities, intently listening for my grandson’s name to be honored, I had an epiphany. I suppose I will forever think of my grandchildren as just that – children. But the rush of teenage angst that overwhelmed me at the sight of my teen idol, took me back to fifteen. I suddenly remembered with great clarity how intense each emotion feels at that age. And here before me stood my 15-year-old grandson, the one I stubbornly still viewed as a sweet, blue-eyed baby boy.

I silently made a promise to myself that day. I would remember to respect the feelings of each grandchild as they became a person reaching toward adulthood while making their way through the rough passage of the teen years.

If we’re lucky, the crazy mix of part child and part grown-up defining those years remains in us, giving us permission to act silly now and again. Hmmm…After all the pomp and circumstance had ended, Bobby Rydell was still sitting in front of me.

Chris looked at me. “You’re not?” he said.

Seize the moment, resounded in my head. “Yeah…I am.”

I caught the eye of Bobby’s daughter-in-law, who was seated next to him, and whispered, “Is it okay?”

She smiled and nodded, obviously having been through this situation before. That’s all I needed. She whispered something in Bobby’s ear and he turned around, looking me right in the eye. Zap – fifteen again! I said something inane about seeing him forever ago at a dance hall in South Jersey. He smiled knowingly and wistfully said, “Oh yes, that was a very long time ago, wasn’t it.”

I wonder if he was having his own epiphany that day.

UPDATE: My adorable “little” grandson is now a college graduate embarking on Stage Two of life. Me – I still remember fifteen as if it were yesterday!

(photo of Adoring Fans with Singer by photostock courtesy at freedigitalphotos.net)

Old-fashioned Hot Milk Sponge Cake

berries

It’s August. Summer’s bounty of delicious fresh fruit is in high season. My “go to” cake for this time of year is an old-fashioned hot milk sponge cake. This recipe calls for 4 eggs, but the good news (calorie-wise) is that it only has 2 tablespoons of butter in it.

This tried and true recipe is simple to make and absorbs fruit juices like its namesake – a sponge. The original recipe calls for a 13″ X 9″ pan. In that size pan, this cake tends to bake high in the middle and lower around the edges, which means that by the time the center tests done, the outer edges are dry. To resolve that, I bake the cake in two 8″ pans. They can be round pans or square. It’s your preference.

Serve the cake sliced as is or split each piece in half horizontally to open up that sponge. Spill a generous helping of your favorite fruit with juices over the cake.

sponge cake with peaches 002-copy

Sponge Cake with Fresh Peaches

Ingredients:

1 cup milk

2 Tablespoons butter

4 eggs, beaten

2 cups sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

Directions:

Preheat over to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 8″ pans (or a 13″ X 9″ pan)

Place milk and butter in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Remove from burner. Allow to sit while preparing the rest of the batter.

In a mixer bowl, beat eggs, add sugar gradually. Beat on medium until well blended. Add vanilla.

With mixer running on medium, add boiled milk/butter mixture to bowl – slowly in a stream to temper the eggs (don’t want the eggs to cook from the hot milk!). I pour the milk/butter into a large measuring cup with a pouring lip, which helps to pour slowly.

When well blended, add flour and baking powder. Beat on low until blended. Pour into prepared pans.

Bake 25-28 minutes in 8″ pans (my preferred way to bake this cake)

Bake 30-35 minutes in 13″ X 9″ pan (I included this for those of you who want to try it out)

Note: My Hot Milk Sponge Cake recipe is featured in a beautiful cookbook called Jersey Fresh, published by the New Jersey Department of Agriculture (in 2001) along with the recipe for fresh strawberry topping, which is on this blog under Strawberries and Pound Cake. Substitute your favorite fruit for strawberries.

Fun Facts about Sponge Cake: 

The opening words of Jimmy Buffet’s hit song, “Margaritaville” are: “Nibblin’ on sponge cake…” (Source: http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=1955)

A sponge cake has a firm, yet well aerated structure, similar to a sea sponge. That’s why it is called a “sponge cake.” (Source: http://mobile-cuisine.com/did-you-know/sponge-cake-fun-facts/)

(Photo of Fruits Collection courtesy of Robert Cochrane at freedigitalphotos.net)

“NOTHING TO FEAR BUT FEAR ITSELF”

panic switch

If Only It Were That Easy!

I wrote commentary essays for The Philadelphia Inquirer for almost 10 years. It amazes me to reread my old stories and realize that many of them are timeless. In this case, the world’s woes have not changed – just morphed into bigger woes.

If you are a news junkie, you know what I mean. With the 24/7 news cycle on an endless number of television stations, fear thrives. I know this story sounds like it’s told by a “Debbie Downer,” but it is told partly as the true state of affairs – and partly tongue-in-cheek (the food part – we have to eat something!).

(A version of this story appeared in The Philadelphia Inquirer in November 2002)

Easy to feel hamstrung by headlines these days
Violence in the Middle East. Carjackings. Local burglaries. Listeria. What can a news junkie do to get away from it all?

By Judy Harch

I think I need a time-out.

As an admitted news junkie, I may have overdosed lately. Fear has wrapped itself around me like a boa constrictor, threatening to suck the very breath of life out of me. Every trip out my front door now requires a few moments of thought. Do I really need to run this errand? I could be risking my life.

We got about five minutes of peace from the horrific sniper attacks before the news media began reporting stepped-up terrorist activity around the world. Americans have long since lost their belief that their homeland is safe from the daily battlegrounds of the Middle East. Terror now resides right outside the door in the form of chronic fear.

Recently, the media reported two carjackings in my area’s supermarket parking lots. Fortunately, the crimes ended with no physical injuries to the cars’ owners. But the venomous fear of what could have happened lingers long after. It forces questions into our minds, questions without simple answers.

After learning of those carjackings, I found myself worrying that I do not own an ATM card or carry credit cards in my wallet. I fear that I could anger a carjacker. What if he didn’t believe me? What if he thought I was holding out on him? Should I change my lifestyle just in case my car gets hijacked?

I had been living under the illusion that no one would want my grandma-looking Buick. That was until recently, when a friend reported that her jalopy of a van was stolen from a local shopping center. It was recovered in another town. Apparently the thief just wanted the van to transport himself to where he could “trade up.”

Fear has crept into my community. We are feeling the growing pains of rising crime. Burglars apparently think we are easy pickings. They’re not slipping into our homes in the dead of night. Brazen daytime break-ins are occurring. A few years ago, our neighbor’s home was broken into at 5 in the afternoon. She was terrified to think that one of her children was normally home at that time. But on that day, the house was unoccupied.

That incident was enough to drive many residents of my street to install burglar alarms in their homes. Even the term home invasion, which is used by the news media, strikes terror in my heart.

What to do? For many of us, comfort comes from food. Ha. There’s another can of worms. Fear begins early each morning. As I reach for that cup of coffee, I wonder how much damage I’m doing to my body as I supercharge it with a 12-ounce mug of caffeine. There’s always decaf. But I’ve heard the health reports. Experts aren’t so sure that the chemical process to strip away caffeine is entirely safe, either.

If I reach for the phone to commiserate with a friend on this sorry state of affairs, do I use cellular? There are studies about brain cancer from cell-phone use.

As my day winds down, the big decision about what’s for dinner awaits. Beef? Hmmm… mad cow disease. Chicken? Forget it. Don’t want to risk listeria. Well, there’s always vegetarian. Eggs? Don’t forget about salmonella. OK, how about good ol’ fresh vegetables? Oh, wait a minute. What about E. coli?

These days, I even gaze suspiciously at my glass of water. We draw our water from a well. Can’t help but wonder: Is a chemical cocktail invisibly swimming around in there?

Franklin Roosevelt said, “There is nothing to fear but fear itself.” Yeah, well, I wonder how he’d feel fighting the fear factor in the age of 24-hour news coverage.

UPDATE: There is a cure for this addiction – turn off the news! But I probably won’t do that…

scared lady watching TV

(Image of Relax-Panic Switch courtesy of Stuart Miles at freedigitalphotos.net)

(Photo of Scared Lady While Watching TV courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at freedigitalphotos.net)