Healthy Zucchini Bread

 Zucchini is one of those funny vegetables that either tastes amazing or super gross.  Unfortunately for me, growing up, I only ever had my share of yucky tasting zucchini.  This pretty much meant that I would try and feed my mom’s zucchini to my baby sister, or hide it under the rest of my food.  I did this for years until I went over to a friends house and they served zucchini bread for dinner. AND BOOM, just like that, my life was completely changed.  What made zucchini watery and gross, made the moist-est and sweet bread, and hey, it was a serving of vegetable too, technically.  
I went home and gushed to my mom about this amazing bread that I had eaten at my friend’s house, and how it was made from zucchini.  My mom, of course, was not impressed and wanted to actually taste this thing I was talking about for herself.  So, I went online and clicked on the first recipe I found (I’m pretty sure it was Allrecipes) and made my family some zucchini bread.   Needless to say, they fell in love with zucchini bread, just like me, and since then, it’s been one of our favorite after school snacks and the perfect dessert to complement a meal.


The zucchini bread recipe that I found that first day, has been modified and tweaked for over so many years, that I’m not even sure it resembles the same recipe that we started out with. I find that zucchini bread tends to be very sweet, and in some cases, just wayyy too sweet for my diabetic family.  During the period in which I was trying to create a healthier zucchini bread, my dad became lactose intolerant, and I figured that I should probably make a dairy-free zucchini bread recipe.  Luckily, oil based breads are actually more moist than breads made with butter since the oil is liquid and has an easier time encasing the flour particles (this is what prevents gluten formation, and tough baked goods).  So, this zucchini bread recipe is not only dairy-free, it is also low sugar, uses more zucchini than what would normally be called for a higher dose of veggies, and is still pretty much the most delicious bread ever.


I would recommend definitely keeping this recipe as a bread and baking it in a loaf pan, instead of a cake tin or muffin tins.  What makes this recipe over-the-top amazing is the delicious, golden crust that forms on top of the zucchini bread.  This crust only forms if its been baked for awhile, which wouldn’t be the case for cake layers or muffins. One thing that I can’t stress more than enough is DO NOT drain the shredded zucchini!  The water in the zucchini is what creates a moist and fluffy bread.  I made zucchini bread with my friend once and we were both curious as to what would happen if we squeezed all the water out of the zucchini before we put it into the batter.  Oh man, we were eating rock hard zucchini bread for days after. Haha, so please, learn from my mistake!

The key to good zucchini bread is all in the eggs.  You want to make sure to beat as much air as you can into the eggs before combining it with the rest of the wet ingredients!

DIFFICULTY LEVEL: Easy TIME: 20 min prep + 1 hour cook time


HEALTHY ZUCCHINI BREAD | Makes 1 loaf (8-10 slices, depending on how thin you slice them)

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 tsp salt
  • 2/3 tsp baking soda
  • 2/3 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil (or any other neutral tasting oil)
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 1/2 cup grated zucchini (do not drain!)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 325 (F).
  2. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, mix together flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon.
  3. Crack eggs into a large mixing bowl and whisk until air bubbles appear on the surface and eggs are well beaten.
  4. Then, add in vanilla extract, vegetable oil, and sugar.  Mix well.
  5. Combine dry ingredients into wet ingredients a little bit at a time.  This mixture should be thick and hard to mix.
  6. Finally, add in grated zucchini and mix well.  At this point, the mixture should be much easier to mix because of the moisture from the zucchini.
  7. Bake for 1 hour and then check to see if bread is done.  If not, keep adding an extra 5 minutes of baking time.  In my experience, depending on humidity and oven circulation, bread can take between 60 minutes and 75 minutes to bake.
  8. Cool bread before slicing.
  9. Zucchini bread will keep fresh for up to 4 days in an airtight container.

Enjoy!

Healthy Double Chocolate Banana Bread

 Double chocolate banana bread:
Yesterday was July 4th, and today I’m wishing that it was the weekend again. Not just because I spent the weekend soaking in the sun, baking up the storm, and eating as much food as humanly possible, but also because there is a lovely construction crew outside of my window.  They start promptly at 7am every day, and the construction workers are NEVER late. Seriously…like not even 7:02 am…please give me those extra 120 seconds of sleep. All that aside, I’ve seriously got some weekday blues.


I don’t know about you, but when I’m feeling down, or when things suck, I can always find comfort in chocolate and some mindful meditation. But, I don’t always want to eat an entire bar (or two) of chocolate myself, and some times, I want to wallow in pity while still eating healthy.  This is the genius creation that I came up with, vegetarian, low in sugar, high in chocolate, and packed with lots of fruit – I give you double chocolate banana bread! It’s super chocolatey without being overwhelmingly sweet, and just a hint of banana comes through.  It’s basically the best way to show Monday (or any day) who’s the boss. You will be the envy of everyone at the office, eating your double chocolate banana bread, sipping your tea/coffee and basically kicking ass. You got this.


DOUBLE CHOCOLATE BANANA BREAD | Makes 8-10 servings
INGREDIENTS

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup ripe bananas mashed (~ 2 bananas)
  • 3/4 cup neutral tasting vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder (I use Hershey’s special dark)
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cup dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 350 (F) and grease a 9x5x3 inch bread pan
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine eggs, sugar, oil and bananas. Whisk everything together until creamy.
  3. Add baking soda and salt to wet mixture and incorporate thoroughly.
  4. Add in cocoa powder, chocolate chips, and flour and mix in until there are no more streaks of flour in the mixture
  5. Pour mixture into bread pan and sprinkle top with more chocolate chips if desired.
  6. Bake for about 60 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Run a knife around the edges of the bread pan so the loaf will come out clean when it’s cool.
  7. Bread will keep for 5 days in an air tight container or up to a week in the fridge.  Baked bread can also be sliced and frozen. Simply pull slices out a couple hours in advance and you’ll have a nice chocolatey treat waiting for you 🙂

Enjoy!

Old-fashioned Buttermilk Biscuits

As a kid, did you ever pretend rocks were “cookies” or “cakes” while playing outside in the yard? I remember that my sisters and I would always throw extravagant tea parties full of “mud pies” and “rock cakes”, and then come home covered in mud and pebbles, much to my mom’s annoyance (sorry, mom!). Well, I’m not sure if it was because I missed these tea parties so much, or if I was just a terrible baker, but for the longest time, my biscuits were truly as hard and tough as rocks.
I recently tried my hand out at making biscuits again because I’ve had a hankering for some biscuits and homemade jam (more to come on the jam!). After scouring the internet, I came across Bon Appetit’s buttermilk biscuits but then realized that I didn’t actually own a food processor… which you know, like any good cook does, I proceeded anyway. Turning this food processor needing recipe into one that doesn’t has been quite the adventure (picture 3 butter knives in each hand whirring in circles in an attempt to simulate a food processor, among other hilarious ideas).
I promise you the final recipe does not require 6 arms and it definitely can be done in under 20 minutes.  Pair them with jam, butter, honey, gravy or honestly just plain, everyone will be happy. Trust me, give them a go!

IMPORTANT: Do NOT over work this dough, otherwise biscuits will turn out like my childhood rock cakes. Also, frozen butter is MUCH easier to grate and will not melt into the dough while you are working with it. Cold butter is essential for creating pockets of steam while baking ==> soft and fluffy biscuits.

OLD-FASHIONED BUTTERMILK BISCUITS | Modified from Bon Appetit | Makes 12
INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) of butter – frozen
  • 1 tbsp butter – melted (for brushing on top of biscuits)
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup buttermilk

DIRECTIONS

  1. Using grater, grate 2 sticks of butter on the coarser setting. If you don’t have a grater, simply take a knife and chop the butter into 1/4 inch cubes. Put butter back into freezer if it is starting to melt.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and baking soda. Mix well with a whisk.
  3. Place grated butter into flour mixture. With hands, gently work butter pieces into flour until mixture looks like coarse sand and the largest pieces of butter are smaller than peas.
  4. Make a well in the mixture and pour buttermilk in well. Use spatula to incorporate dry and wet ingredients until a shaggy dough as formed.
  5. Turn dough onto floured surface and pat into a 1″- thick square. Using a knife or bench scraper, slice dough into four equal pieces and place on top of each other (this creates more flaky layers!). Gently press to flatten the layers.
  6. Roll dough into a rectangle 1″-thick. Take knife or bench scraper and cut into 12 equal slices – there should be no leftover scraps.
  7. Place dough pieces on an ungreased cookie sheet and place in freezer for 15 min.
  8. Preheat oven to 425 (F).
  9. Right before baking the biscuits, liberally brush the top of each biscuit with melted butter
  10. Place biscuits in oven and reduce heat to 400 (F). Bake for 20-25 minutes until biscuits are golden brown.

Enjoy!

Julia Child’s Banana Bread

 Have you ever felt so sad, that it seemed like your heart gained an additional 100lbs and your stomach dropped to the bottom of the ocean, deep, deep down, unable to be saved? I received this kind of news the other day, heart-wrenchingly painful, and almost too much to stomach. But I realized that the point of hearing this news, was to help lighten the burden, so one person wouldn’t have to carry it all. After all, 10 people carrying one burden is so much easier than just one person carrying it all.


So, instead of running away from this news, I gave thanks for being surrounded by wonderful people in life and the chance to help make things right. Still, we can’t help but still feel sad and at some points, helpless. At times like these, I always find myself drawn back inside the kitchen, as if I could use the heat and warmth of the oven to ward away the bad news. Baking is an escape, yet at the same time, an activity that helps me think, process and reflect on the news that I have heard and figure out the best actions to take.


Today, it felt like the only person that I could turn to was Julia Child and her delicious banana bread (with just a couple modifications!). For me, banana bread has always been the perfect balance between elegant and homey. Bananas are not used as a typical baking ingredient, making them a little bit fancy, but a dash of vanilla and a handful (okay, maybe two or three handfuls) of chocolate turn it into one of the best comfort desserts in my opinion. There’s nothing better than sinking your teeth into fresh and fragrant banana bread, and discovering molten pockets of luscious chocolate. Today I made this, for Julia Child, for the people that I love, and for me. A small piece of comfort in an entirely shaky and unknown world.


MOLTEN CHOCOLATE BANANA BREAD | modified from bon appetit
INGREDIENTS

  • 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup mashed ripe bananas (about 2 large, I find mashing them with a fork on a plate is easiest)
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chocolate chunks (not chips!)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 350° and oil a 9x5x3″ loaf pan
  2. Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl, add chocolate chunks and make sure individual chocolate pieces are coated in flour (this will ensure they don’t sink to the bottom of the loaf pan while baking)
  3. Whisk eggs, sugar, bananas, vanilla and oil in a large bowl until smooth
  4. Add dry ingredients to banana mixture and stir just until combined
  5. Scrape batter into prepared pan and smooth top
  6. Bake for 60-70 min or until a toothpick/fork/skewer inserted into center of loaf comes out clean (be careful not to overbake, or bread will be dry!)

Let cool (if you can!)
Enjoy