Friday, September 14, 2012

September 14, 2012

Hannah's cast is almost off (we hope!). She returns to the doctor on Monday morning, and hopefully he will tell us that she is ready for action again!  Monday cannot come soon enough...not being able to run cross country, and sitting on the sidelines for soccer practices and games is really getting her down.  But, I pray that by the time I write another entry she will be wearing two cleats again!

This week we made a lot of meals with freezer and pantry ingredients, and some of our favorites, so we didn't try out any new dinner menu items.  I did find a few great ones for the week ahead, including some side dishes, so we'll see what pans out.

What we did try this week is so indicative of the time of year.  Sort of the last dance between summer and recipe with raspberries that reminds me of summer, one recipe with pumpkin which is definitely autumnal, and zucchini which is sort of a mix of both seasons.  The raspberry bars were outstanding, and I think would work with any kind of berry and I would like to try them with peaches!  The baked pumpkin doughnuts were delicious fresh from the oven, so you may think about making a half recipe.  The kids did enjoy them over the days following, but they were definitely best fresh.  And as for the chocolate chocolate chip muffins - no one was able to guess there was zucchini in them! My kids did know there was zucchini in the ingredient list, and they were skeptical, but after the first bite they quickly became believers!  We even made them twice this week (I kept giving them away, and I made a few changes for the better the second time I made them).

As summer moves to fall...bring on the pumpkin and apple recipes, as well as the stews, casseroles and slow cooker meals!

New Recipes
Raspberry Crumb Bars
Baked Pumpkin Doughnuts
Chocolate Chocolate Chip Muffins (shhh!  it has zucchini inside!)

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Muffins...with secret ingedients!

* 2 cups all purpose flour
* 1/2 cup cocoa powder, dutch process if possible
* 1 tsp baking soda
* 1/2 tsp baking powder
* 1/2 tsp salt
* 1 cup packed brown sugar
* 1 stick of butter, room temperature (1/2 cup)
* 1 tsp vanilla extract
* 1 tsp espresso instant coffee granules
* 3 large eggs
* 2 cups unpeeled grated zucchini
* 1 cup chocolate chips

1. Preheat the oven to 350 and grease your muffin pans.  This recipe will make between 16-20 muffins.
2. In a large mixing bowl whisk together the first five ingredients (flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt).  Set aside one cup of this flour mixture, and leave the rest in the bowl.
3. With a hand mixer, cream the butter and sugar.  Once light and fluffy, add in the vanilla, espresso, and eggs, mixing well at each addition.
4.  Add the flour mixture to the batter.  Mix until combined.  The batter will be very thick - so don't be woried.
5. Place the chocolate chips and zucchini in a bowl; toss the reserved cup of flour mixture to the zucchini and chocolate chips.  Fold this into the muffin batter, but don't over mix.
6. Fill each muffin cup about 2/3 full.  You will fill between 16-20 cups.  Bake for between 15-17 minutes.  When you test the muffins for "done-ness", keep in mind there are chocolate chips in them, so if you see chocolate on your tester, don't assume the muffins need to continue cooking.  You don't want to overcook these as they may dry out.
7.  These are best enjoyed warm, but will hold up for a few days in an airtight container.  If you want to turn these into cupcakes, just add frosting!

After your butter has softened and you've added it to the mixing bowl, use the wrapper to grease your muffin tins!  This is a great trick; you don't need to use spray, and you don't waste anything.  I have found there is enough butter left on the wrapper to grease two muffin trays.  And, for the future, when you use a stick of butter but don't need to grease a pan, you can freeze the wrapper flat, and take it out of the freezer when you do need to grease a pan!  Just take it out a few minutes before you need to use it so that it can warm up and be pliable.

Also, here are a couple of thoughts about the ingredients.  I always advocate the use of dutch process cocoa when a recipe calls for cocoa powder.  I have found the deepest chocolate flavor to be with Hershey's Special Dark cocoa powder.  This can be hard to find (there is actually only one grocery store around me that carries it), so when I need to buy it, I usually buy 2 to keep on hand.  And as a non-coffee drinker, you might imagine my suspicion when a recipe calls for coffee or espresso powder and claims the coffee taste will be unnoticeable.  However, I am now a believer.  The espresso powder enhances the chocolate flavor.  If you don't have any on hand, you don't have to go and buy some, just omit it from the recipe.  But, if you live close to me, call me up and I will happily lend you a teaspoon or two!  I have a few chocolate recipes that call for it which is why it is in my pantry.

We made these twice this week. The first time I shredded the zucchini in my food processor, and baked them for 20 minutes.  The kids loved the flavor, but I found the 20 minutes to be too long and they seemed a little dry.  The second time I made them, I grated the zucchini with my box grater and baked them for 16 minutes.  The zucchini melted into the batter and seemingly disappeared, and the bake time seemed better.  They were cooked but not over-baked.  I thought they were clearly moister the second time I made them.  I think that was due not only to grating the zucchini but also because of the shortened baking time.

Baked Pumpkin Cake Doughnuts

* 1/2 cup vegetable oil
* 3 large eggs
* 1 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
* 1 1/2 cups sugar
* 1 1/2 tsp of pumpkin pie spice
* 1 1/2 tsp salt
* 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
* 1 3/4 cup + 2 tbsp all purpose flour
* cinnamon sugar for dusting the doughnuts

1. Preheat the oven to 350.  Lightly grease your doughnut or muffin pan.
2. Beat everything except the flour together, until smooth.
3. Add the flour, mix just until fully incorporated.
4. Fill each cup about 3/4 full.  If using a doughnut pan, bake 15-18 minutes.  If using a muffin pan, back 23-25 minutes.
5. Let the doughnuts (or muffins) cool for a about five minutes, then sprinkle them with or roll them in the cinnamon sugar.  These are best enjoyed warm, but can be stored at room temperature for up to three days.

You might try rolling these in sugar and pumpkin pie spice instead of cinnamon sugar!

Raspberry Crumb Bars

* 6 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
* 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
* 1 3/4 cup flour, divided
* 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
* 1/2 tsp salt, divided
* 1/2 tsp baking powder
* 1 cup confectioners sugar
* 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
* 2 eggs
* 10 oz raspberries, washed

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line an 8x8 pan with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on each side. Grease the paper and pan.
2. Make the topping: In a medium brown mix together the melted butter, brown sugar and 1/4 tsp salt.  Add one cup of the flour and mix until large moist crumbs form.  Place the topping mixture in the refrigerator until ready to use.
3. In a large bowl, cream the softened butter, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  On low, add the additional 3/4 cup flour, baking powder and 1/4 tsp salt to the bowl.  Mix until well combined.  Spread the batter evenly in the pan.
4. Sprinkly the berries on the cake batter, following with the crumb topping.
5. Bake until golden and a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the middle of the bars, approximately 40-45 minutes.  Cool completely in the pan.
6. Lift out the bars by the overhanging parchment paper and cut into 16 squares.  These will keep at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 3 days (if they last that long!).

Mine were ready at 41 minutes!  Everyone loved these.  You can easily replace the raspberries with blackberries, fresh blueberries, even strawberries!  Peaches might even work, too - I just may need to try that.  While we had these for Sunday night dessert, I think they would make a wonderful addition to a brunch!