Saturday, July 26, 2014

Chocolate Banana Bread

I know when you think summer fruit you're not like, "Hey bananas." But we've always got a bunch hanging there in the kitchen getting spotty way faster than in the winter and needing to be used just as desperately as any bowl of berries. We also have a few more pleasant sleepy-in mornings than we do during the school year (thank goodness). These mornings and a batch of old bananas are the perfect summer combination. 

This week we made these into a bread. They can become muffins even easier (think 20 minutes instead of 60). 

Chocolate Banana Bread
adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Makes on loaf pan or about 12 muffins
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 60 minutes (for loaf)
Cost: $2.45 (or about $.20/serving)
bananas: .40, butter: .50, sugar: .10, egg: .10, flour: .10, cocoa: .30, chocolate chips: .80, other stuff: .15

3 medium over ripe bananas
1/2 C butter, melted
3/4 C granulated sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 C flour (I used 1/4 whole wheat and 3/4 all-purpose)
1/2 C cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 C chocolate chips

Heat your oven to 350 and spray a loaf pan generously. 

Mash bananas in a bowl. Add melted butter, granulated sugar. Mix. Add egg and vanilla. Mix. Add dry ingredients (sure, you're supposed to pre-mix these, but I never do; I just throw them in--be sure your cocoa isn't super clumpy though). 

Pour into pan and bake for 55-65 minutes (I use the 7x5 loaf pan rather than the larger size and it is on the long end. If you use a bigger one, you'll probably be on the shorter end time-wise). When a toothpick comes out clean or with moist crumbs attached, you're done. 

Cool in pan for 10-15 minutes and turn out. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Forty Clove Roast Chicken--One Pot

Gardens can be maddening. One year you get a whole bunch of beans, but the bugs get all your squash. The next year the squash might be thriving, but the squirrels carry off your tomatoes. There are the years you get too much of something to eat it all. And there are the years you don't seem to get much of anything at all.

Last year my garden was awful. It was a ton of work and barely produced anything. The squirrels discovered the tomatoes and ate every single one--or rather I should say they took a bite out of every single one. My squash just sat there looking infected with something. The raccoons knocked over all the corn, but the ears were super tiny anyway so whatevs. And for all that, I weeded and sweated. I was almost ready to give it all up. But--as so often happens with gardens--this spring gave me a funny little consolation prize. I'd planted a bunch of garlic the year before and harvested some, but before I could harvest the rest, I'd let it die back to the point where I no longer knew where it was. Then, this spring, up it popped--full, awesome, prolific, and ready for eating for absolutely no effort at all on my part. Nature can certainly be a harsh mistress, but that doesn't mean she can't be gracious when she wants to.

(yeah, I braided it cause I'm awesome)

Except, you know--what do you do with dozens of bulbs of garlic if you don't have a vampire problem in your neighborhood (which, to my knowledge, we don't)? Especially if you don't want to ward off your neighbors and friends (and, uh, spouse). Well, this Forty Clove Chicken is a great start.

You roast it for nearly an hour and a half, which takes all the edge off the garlic, while infusing the chicken with something deeply flavorful and rich. I actually ate the somewhat caramelized garlic on the side as a veggie (with no ill effect on my love life). And the chicken--I really just couldn't believe how the roasting had transformed it. I was concerned about the long roasting time--this is a cut up chicken--I was sure it was going to come out leathery and tough. Nope. Not in the slightest. Not even the small pieces of meat, like the wings and drumsticks. It was all tender, moist, and deeply flavorful without being offensive to vampires, or at least your loved ones. The other great thing was that I don't usually like my chicken with skin--mostly because the skin sucks up all the flavor and leaves the actual meat kind of boring. Not with this--the long cooking time and many garlic cloves just suffuse the meat with flavor. Seriously, it's awesome.

And even though the cooking time is a little long (especially for summer--sorry--we've had some really cool days), the prep time is about five minutes (I love you five-minute-prep-time). And even though you do need 40 cloves of garlic, you don't have to peel them (go on, do your happy dance). The peels come off during cooking or soften so significantly that they can be eaten.

Bonus: If you like garlic bread, you can press the cooked garlic into a paste, add to butter, and spread. I didn't; I just ate them. But garlic butter would be delicious.

Forty Clove Roast Chicken--One Pot
adapted from 365 Ways to Cook Chicken
serves 4
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 90 minutes
Cost: $11.20
butter/oil: .15, chicken: 10.00 (this is a humanely raised chicken--you could get for half as much if you buy a normal store chicken), garlic: 1.00, other: .05

2 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 whole chicken, cut into pieces
40 cloves garlic, unpeeled
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 C water

Preheat oven to 350.

In a Dutch oven, melt butter in oil. Add chicken and cook, turning occasionally, until golden. This takes about 10 minutes

Add garlic and stir to coat (mine were pretty crammed in there, but it got them all a bit of seasoning). Sprinkle with lemon juice, thyme, salt, pepper, and 1/4 C water.

Cover tightly and bake for 75-90 minutes (mine only took 75). Let rest for about 10 minutes after taking it out of the oven.


Friday, July 18, 2014

Five Fabulous Things to Do with Enormous Zucchini

Apparently in the summer zucchini becomes a threat. Gardening friends get a wild look in their eyes and tell you that you won't be able to leave their houses unless you take some squash with you. Oh, sure, it sounds friendly enough. Until the fasten seat belt sound won't stop beeping due to the weight of all those zucchini in your passenger seat.

Of course I can't be threatened. I couldn't pass up free food if it spit in my face. And I love zucchini season because (confession) I'm a bit of a zucchini failure myself. I've had a garden for seven years now and have never grown a successful zucchini plant. I know. I know. The shame. Zucchini is oozing out of everyone else's ears and my plants are infested with bugs or only have male flowers or the forces of the universe have lined up to otherwise spoil my zucchini. I keep planting it every year. Hoping that this--this will be the year. So far it hasn't been. But who wants to go to the store and pay for zucchini in the summer time. I always take what I get.

Recently, I was not allowed to pick my child up from a birthday party without taking some squash. I was happy to oblige. I got a tiny sweet one, a baseball bat-sized one, and two regular-sized yellow crooknecks.

Now the great thing about summer squash and zucchini in particular is that it's very inoffensive--it tends to soften up and to take the flavors of whatever it's with. Thus you can use it in bread, pancakes, fritters, muffins, even chocolate cakes. And no one will be the wiser.

Tip: If you do have a super enormous one, don't be afraid to discard the "core" of seed that is in there and just use the edges of that fat old zucchini.

Here's are my very very favorite recipes for zucchini. To be honest, I love every single squash recipe on this blog (I love them), but these are the best of the best:

1. My favorite zucchini bread.

2. Since I was shredding for the bread anyway, I froze several 1-cup serving sized bags of zucchini for later use.

3. This soup. It's summer in a pot. Super quick, fairly nutritious. Divine.

4. Latkes. Fritters. Whatever you want to call them. Even my kids will eat these. They don't know there's zucchini in them. Delicious.

5. And my favorite summer lunch--Not Really Ratatoille. I haven't posted it before because it's just so easy. And also because it's ugly. In fact, every summer when I make it again for the first time, I always see it and think, "Is this going to be any good? It sure looks ug-ly. Maybe I did some special step that I'm forgetting." Nope. It's always great. Seriously, like, plop a bowl-full in front of a friend/spouse and watch his/her face. But then it just tastes so so good. I love it plain, or on rice, or wrapped in a tortilla.

Here's what you do:
-Heat olive oil in a skillet.
-Dice zucchini and throw it in the oil with some salt. Cook until tender and browning on the sides.
-Dice some fresh tomatoes (or used canned if you don't have any from the garden). Throw those in and cook.
-Slice some black olives. Now I know this sounds weird, but just do it okay. It's actually a really fabulous compliment to the tomatoes. Throw the olives in.
-Top with cheese. Cheddar is my favorite, but Monterey Jack or Parmesan would probably be good too.
-Eat alone or over rice or in a tortilla shell.


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