Build Me Up Brown Sugar Zucchini Bread

or the breakfast bread of garden champions.

I like a challenge.  So this week I took on a food that my hubby is not very fond of in an attempt to change his mind - zucchini bread.  He was persuaded to try it by the aroma that filled the house when he got home and the taste test certainly did not disappoint.  I win!  *resounding applause fills the house*

Now, I was never a fan of zucchini bread growing up but it was more on principle since it was threaded with unnerving flecks of green that I did not believe had any place in bread.  I have since made my peace with the presence of the offending vegetable and decided that it was time to convince others to do the same.  This recipe has a nice hint of the earthiness of zucchini without it being overwhelming, if you really want the zucchini flavor you may want to increase the volume in this recipe but I haven't tested the bake times and texture with that adjustment so you do so at your own risk...  The brown sugar really provides a nice richness to the bread and a hint of molasses undertone that really adds to the aromatic appeal while it is baking.  You can add any number or type of mix-ins to the base recipe if you like nuts or other type of flavored "chips" aside from semi sweet chocolate, just try not to make it too crowded or the ingredients will start to battle each other (and nobody wants to be a part of an ingredient throw down, everyone loses in the end and the kitchen is just a disaster).  This is excellent as either breakfast or dessert, I highly recommend warming it a bit when enjoyed after it has cooled and been stored as it restores it to its fresh out of the oven glory nicely.  Check it out:

Flour - 3 cups
Salt - 1/2 tsp
Baking Soda - 1 tsp
Baking Powder - 1 tsp
Cinnamon - 2 tsp
Nutmeg - 1/2 tsp
Vanilla - 3 tsp
Egg Beaters - 3/4 cup
Vegetable Oil - 1 cup
Sugar - 1 1/4 Cups
Brown Sugar - 1 cup
Zucchini - 2 cups grated (about 2 medium sized)

Optional per loaf, to "build it up":
Mini Chocolate Chips - 1/3 cup
Dried Cherries - 1/2 cup

Hardware: 2 loaf pans, greased and floured
Preheat oven to 325 F

1. Mix in a large bowl: flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg.

2. Make a well in the center and beat the following together within that well: egg beaters, vanilla, vegetable oil, sugar, brown sugar.

3. Mix all the ingredients in the bowl together until well blended.  Stir in the grated zucchini.  I like to separate the batter at this point and make two different variations.  I pour half the batter into the first pan and then add the optional cherries and chocolate chips into the remaining batter before pouring it into the second pan.

4. Bake for 50-60 min, until a toothpick comes out clean in the center. Place on cooling rack for 20 min to set.  Store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks (if it isn't devoured sooner).


Slow and Comforting Vegetable Soup

or how I survived the loss of our fridge, a freezer and pantry based soup

So, balancing our new little angel and our temporary financial constraints of me being off work for FMLA to care for her has been challenging.  Add into that the time it took me to heal, the time it took to develop a new routine, and a few unexpected events and you have a recipe for a seriously delayed return to my beloved cooking blog.  Fortunately I have been cooking, so once things sort themselves out a bit more I do actually have recipes to share.  Today's recipe comes to you straight from our most recent unexpected event - the untimely demise of our fridge's control panel.  We have been without our full size fridge and freezer for five days now and let me tell you, it has certainly made me creative in using up what we have on hand.

This recipe quite honestly surprised me, I had my doubts up until I had a bowlful in front of me.  It started with a turkey I made yesterday that had been residing in our freezer before the catastrophic event.  Said turkey yielded a tasty stock overnight in the slow cooker.  The 101 F day outside today kept me away from the stove, so it made perfect sense to carry on in the slow cooker for dinner tonight as well.  I raided the remaining freezer vegetables we had in our small back up freezer outside (I had to clear out more room for breast milk storage for our little one), then I raided the pantry.  What I came up with is not really a standard vegetable soup mix, but it definitely did the trick.  And nothing perks up a frustrating day like an easy comfort food dinner.  The key to the broth balance in this soup is the starch from the cannelloni beans and tortellini, it adds a nice touch to the light tomato base that is started by the stock and crushed tomatoes.  You can of course mix up the vegetables based on what you like or have on hand, but I suggest sticking with the starch providers for optimal results.  Check it out:

13 oz (1/2 of a large can) crushed tomatoes
2 quarts turkey, chicken, or vegetable stock
1/2 bag frozen peas
1/2 bag frozen green beans
1/2 can drained cannelloni beans
1 tsp celery salt
1 tsp Italian Spice Blend
1/2 tsp dried basil
2 tsp dried minced onion
1 tsp chicken seasoning
1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 1/4 cups dried four cheese tortellini
Parmesan cheese

Hardware: slow cooker (crockpot)

1. Pour the first five ingredients into the slow cooker and stir well to combine.

2. Add in all of the seasonings and onion then stir again.  Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours.

3. When there is an hour left in the cook time, stir in the tortellini.  Cover and cook for the remaining hour.

4. Stir well and serve topped with a bit of shredded or shaved parmesan cheese.