Sunday, July 25, 2010

Zucchini Bread

I've been planning to make zucchini bread for a few days, and today when I actually made it I realized I bought too much (YAY!) and I can grill the other squash or make a side dish for dinner out of it. I love zucchini basically any way you make it, and that's part of what I love about it--it's so versatile that it can be grilled or baked or used in soup or even baked into a sweet, cinnamon flavored bread like this one.

I haven't had zucchini bread in a long time. My grandma used to make it when I was little, but I don't remember the last time we had any around. This variation was made with brown sugar and was slightly sweeter than I remember. It turned out pretty heavy, but I thought it was still okay.


Ingredients:
3 eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 2/3 cups packed brown sugar
2 cups grated zucchini
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
Directions:
In a large bowl, beat eggs well. Add oil, brown sugar, zucchini, and vanilla; stir well. Blend in flour, cinnamon, baking powder, soda, and salt. Pour batter into greased and floured 9 x 5 inch loaf pan.
Bake at 325 degrees F (165 degrees C) for 1 hour. Cool.

Friday, July 23, 2010

They Came!

My books for next year (well, some of them) came today! :)

They're so pretty...

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Moving On To a More "Governess-Heavy" Novel

Last night I finished Lady Audley's Secret. I really enjoyed the novel, but like with Vanity Fair, the woman was not really a governess for much of the book at all. Without giving away too much of the plot, I will say that Lady Audley's secret was definitely a good one. Though perhaps slightly too drawn out at times, Braddon included many clues within the novel that tied up nicely at the end. Also, the final twist of the book was incredibly well done and something that I really appreciated. In Victorian literature, I sometimes find the plots a little bit predictable, but I think it's important to realize that many of today's books and movies are loosely based on these older novels, and also that in our society today we've been trained to "expect the unexpected."

One of my criticisms of Lady Audley's Secret is not as much a critique on the book itself as of the quote that I posted in another of my posts about the book: "Lady Audley's Secret (1862) subtly undermined the Victorian myth that female self-assertion was a form of insanity." For much of the book I saw Lady Audley as incredibly powerful because of her sexuality and able to use that to her advantage, but by the end I thought that rather than sticking with that she caved and let them call her insane. A part of me wished that I had seen a bit more of her power as a female shine through regardless of the pain that may have caused for other characters.

Though they haven't necessarily been as "governess-heavy" as I'd hoped, in both Lady Audley's Secret and Vanity Fair I've been able to consider how women rose to a higher position after holding a situation as a governess. This morning I started Uncle Silas by Sheridan La Fanu, a novel that I think will focus much more on the role of the governess since it is told from the point of view of her charge.



So far I'm really liking the style and the plot seems to already be captivating. I'm excited to keep reading :)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Sun Dried Tomato, Basil, and Feta Scones


Today I realized my banana bread has gone bad, and my cobbler is gone. I needed to bake something else, and I wanted it to be something that I could eat for breakfast but I would also consider eating with my dinner or as a snack, and something that wasn't too bad for me.

I landed on these delicious sun dried tomato, basil, and feta scones that I found when I was browsing foodgawker, my new favorite website, last night. I got the recipe from a blog called A Big Mouthful: Adventures In Food.

The scones turned out very tasty, but I think just for me personally I would use a little more basil and feta next time and a little less sun dried tomato, but that's just because I'm not a huge sun dried tomato fan. I think they'd be really good with soup or a salad, and I probably will eat them for breakfast as well.


Ingredients:
3 cups all purpose flour
2 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
8 Tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 1/4 cup buttermilk
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
3/4 cup sun dried tomatoes, well drained of oil and roughly chopped
1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
Directions:
Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F.
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar and salt.
Cut in the butter piece by piece. Using a pastry cutter, cut in butter until it becomes the size of small peas, and is well incorporated. Refrigerate for 20-30 minutes.
Remove the flour mixture from the refrigerator and gently mix in the buttermilk, feta cheese, sun dried tomatoes and basil, making sure to not overmix. You will have a sticky dough. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and roll out to a thickness of 1 inch. You can either cut the scones into triangles or use a cookie cutter to make circles. Place onto parchment-lined pans.
Bake for 15 to 17 minutes, or until they are puffed and browned on top.


Friday, July 16, 2010

Mini-Vacation

The surroundings and drink of choice (yummm, piƱa colada) changed a bit today, but the book stayed the same.


Fun day at Soak City with my mom, and still managed to get a little reading in. :)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Another Thesis Read


"Lady Audley's Secret (1862) subtly undermined the Victorian myth that female self-assertion was a form of insanity."


Loving the book I'm currently reading for my thesis; it's giving me a new perspective on how I might center the project.

Blackberry Cobbler

This morning I realized three things:
1. It feels like it's been forever since I baked something (when really it was just last Saturday)
2. I have quite a bit of milk left that is slowly going bad
3. If I don't bake these blackberries into something like I planned, I'm just going to eat them all

As a solution to that problem, I made a blackberry cobbler. I've never made cobbler before, but I've had it quite a few times so I knew what it was supposed to taste/look/feel like. In the early stages of this little endeavor, though, I was a little bit nervous. Who knew cobbler was so liquidy before it bakes? The end result, though, if I do say so myself, was perfect. I rarely say that about anything I make (let alone bake), but this was really that good.


Ingredients:
1 cup butter or margarine, divided
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 1/2 cups self-rising flour*
1/3 cup milk, room temperature
2 cups fresh or frozen blackberries
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons sugar
Directions:
In a 10-in. round or oval baking dish, melt 1/2 cup butter; set aside. In a saucepan, heat sugar and water until sugar melts; set aside. Place flour in a mixing bowl; cut in remaining butter until fine crumbs form. Add milk, stirring with a fork until dough leaves sides of bowl. Turn out onto a floured surface; knead three or four times. Roll out to an 11-in. x 9-in. rectangle 1/4 in. thick. Spread berries over dough; sprinkle with cinnamon. Roll up, jelly-roll style. Cut into 1/4-in. thick slices. Carefully lay slices in baking dish over butter. Pour sugar syrup around slices (syrup will be absorbed). Bake at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes. Sprinkle sugar over top and bake 15 minutes more. Serve warm or cold. (*If self-rising flour is not available, use 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour plus 1/4 teaspoon salt and 2-1/4 teaspoons baking powder.)

I cut out a piece and tried it almost right out of the oven, and it was fantastic. I think it could easily be served hot or cold, and a dollop of whipped cream or ice cream certainly couldn't hurt...though you definitely don't need it.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Comfort Food

I've been a bit of a couch potato today, but I still got of miscellaneous to-do list items done. I did make some tasty breakfast to go with my morning (or actually more like afternoon today) coffee.

I bought a bunch of bananas last week, thinking I'd eat more of them than I actually did, but also knowing that whatever I didn't eat I could definitely bake into something instead. That's basically what inspired this cream cheese banana bread, a little variation on the regular banana bread recipe that I usually use. Banana bread has always been a sort of comfort food for me...my mom and grandma made it sometimes when I was little, and Elyse makes it pretty often and always gives me a pretty generous hunk. To make a long story short: I love banana bread. I like the "reduced fat" kinds, I like it with chocolate chips, I don't mind it with pecans or walnuts, and I love it plain. Today, I tried this cream cheese kind, with a thin strip of cinnamon and brown sugar running through the center.


Ingredients:
1/2 cup margarine, softened
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 1/4 cups white sugar
2 eggs
1 cup mashed bananas
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Directions:
Cream the butter or margarine and cream cheese together. Gradually add the white sugar, and continue beating until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in the mashed bananas and vanilla. Add flour, baking powder, and soda; mix until batter is just moist.
In a small bowl, mix together brown sugar, and cinnamon.
Divide 1/2 batter into two greased and floured 8x4 inch loaf pans. Sprinkle brown sugar mixture over batter in pans, and top with remaining batter.
Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 55 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Cookie Dough Cupcakes

There's not much more I can say about these than that they are the best cupcakes I have ever had. I'm sorry it even took me this long to post them (I made them while I watched Cupcake Wars on Tuesday night), because that means it was possibly a few days longer before some people in the world knew about them. I originally found the recipe here.

Make some cookie dough (from scratch is obviously going to be the best, but break and bake could easily work too), and freeze it. We're talking rock solid.

Fill cupcake trays 2/3 full with cake batter--I used yellow cake, but I think any kind would probably be delicious. Place a tablespoon sized cookie dough ball in the top center of each. There's no need to push it down or anything, just set it there.


Bake for 18 minutes, or until when you stick a knife in the cake part, it comes out clean.


Let them cool (or hey, don't all the way, that's delicious too!), frost, and enjoy the delicious, gooey, cookie dough mess.



I also made these garlic rolls (actually before I made the cupcakes), but I felt like the cupcakes took precedence. These turned out pretty delicious too though.


Ingredients:
3/4 cup +1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/3 cup water at room temperature (70 to 90 degrees)
5 1/2 teaspoon olive oil, divided
4 large cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 packed tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Directions:
1. Whisk together flour, sugar, and yeast in a small bowl. Whisk in salt last (preventing direct contact with yeast). Make a well in the center and pour in water. Stir together to moisten the flour, just until dough begins to form, about 20 seconds. The dough will look shaggy and bumpy, not smooth.
2. Pour 4 teaspoons oil in a 2-cup sized bowl or cup (bigger if you are increasing recipe size). Place dough in and turn to coat. Cover tightly and rest on the counter until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
3. Place a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F at least 30 minutes before baking. Meanwhile, stir together 1/2 teaspoon olive oil, garlic, and kosher salt in a large bowl (you’ll see why later). Set aside.
4. When the dough is ready, place it on a board and gently press into a 10″ x 6″ rectangle. There will be left-over oil in the cup/bowl that the dough was rising in. Spread that oil over a baking sheet.
5. Spread half of the garlic mixture across the rectangle dough.
6. Create a roll, and cut into smaller rolls and lay on baking sheet with about 2″ space in between. Bake for 12 minutes or until golden. Meanwhile, add the remaining teaspoon of olive oil and parsley to the garlic mixture. Stir.
7. When garlic rolls are done baking, toss in the garlic and parsley mixture and serve immediately.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Red, White, and Blueberries!

Happy Fourth of July! :) I've got lots of little red, white, and blue treats for today. I'll post them now before it's off to the waterpark with my little cousins before their birthday party.

I made both of these next recipes to take to their party. The first I have been saving for a few weeks now, just waiting for this weekend to use it since it's so festive. Here's my red, white, and blueberry cheesecake. It was my first try with phyllo dough, but I think I did okay (if after we cut it tonight it turns out I didn't, I'll make sure to report back).


Ingredients:
8 sheets phyllo dough
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese
1/2 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
2 cups fresh blueberries
1/2 cup strawberry jelly
Directions:
On a flat surface, place one sheet phyllo dough. Brush it with melted butter or margarine, and cover with another piece of phyllo. Repeat until all 8 sheets are used. Using kitchen scissors, cut layered phyllo into a 12 to 13 inch circle. Carefully press circle into a greased 9 inch pie plate; gently fan edges. Bake at 425 degrees F (220 degrees C) until edges are just golden, 6 to 8 minutes; cool slightly on a wire rack.
In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs until well combined. Fold in 1 cup of blueberries. Pour filling into prepared crust.
Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) until set, 40 to 50 minutes. To prevent over browning of crust, gently cover pie with foil for the last 25 minutes of baking. Cool completely on a wire rack.
In a small bowl, beat jelly until smooth; spread over cheese filling. Arrange 1 cup blueberries on top in a star pattern.

You could definitely also just leave this as a blueberry (or whatever kind of fruit you had on hand to use) cheesecake, and I think it would be comparably delicious.


The next thing I made was a blueberry pie from a Weight Watchers® recipe my mom had. At first, I wasn't as excited about this one, but I ended up making my own graham cracker crumb crust and using the leftover crumb mixture as the topping, and now I'm really excited. I can't wait to try this one (I think I'll actually be tasting it before the cheesecake!).


Ingredients:
5 cups blueberries
1 graham cracker crust
3/4 c packed brown sugar
3T flour
1/2 t. vanilla extract
1/4 t. grated lemon rind (I used lemon juice)
1 (8 oz.) carton low-fat sour cream
1/4 c. dried breadcrumbs
1 T granulated sugar
1 T butter or margarine, melted
Directions:
Preheat oven to 375*. Place blueberries in crust. Combine brown sugar, flour, vanilla extract, lemon rind, and sour cream. Mix well and spread over blueberries. Combine breadcrumbs, sugar, and butter or margarine to make topping. Bake at 475* for 40 minutes or until set and crumbs are lightly browned, let cool for 1 hour.

Finally, this morning I made my brothers and I some red, white, and blueberry pancakes for breakfast. I'm a firm believer that pancakes taste 10x better when made from scratch rather than from a mix (which is not to say I don't believe in the magic that is Bisquick, but still...), and I think this is the best recipe I've found for pancakes so far, at least when you're adding fruit.


Ingredients:
11/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted, plus more for serving
2 cups fruit (today I used sliced strawberries and blueberries)
Pure maple syrup, for serving
Directions:
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, milk and vanilla. Preheat a nonstick griddle over medium heat.Whisk the wet ingredients into the dry. Stir in the melted butter. The batter should be thick and smooth. Fold in the strawberries.Spoon the batter onto the griddle 1/4 cup at a time. Cook the pancakes until set and thoroughly bubbly, about 3 minutes. Flip them with a spatula and cook until golden brown, about 2 minutes more. Serve with butter and maple syrup.



Have a safe, fun, food-family-and-friend-filled holiday! :)

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Happier Reading


Since I finally finished Vanity Fair, I've moved on to reading Anne Bronte's Agnes Grey as my current thesis reading. This book is so much more enjoyable for me; first of all, the main character actually wants to be a governess. This is also my first experience with any of Anne's work, and now I can officially say that she, Charlotte, and Emily are all wonderful writers. I'm a little more than a third of the way through the book, and I'm already back to being engrossed in my thesis topic.

Lemon Bars and Ice "Cream"

Phew. I'm home for the weekend so I finally have a little bit more time (and ingredients) on my hands. Hopefully you'll be seeing quite a few updates this weekend.

Luckily, I took a picture of these when I did, because they're completely gone now--the recipe yields an entire pan and I made them yesterday afternoon, so they were pretty well received. These lemon bars were quite tasty, with [I think] just the right amount of lemon. I cut some of them into regular squares, but I thought this flower looked cute and summery :)



Ingredients:
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup butter, melted

4 eggs
2 cups white sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
5/8 cup lemon juice
Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a 9x13 inch pan.
In a medium bowl, stir together 2 cups flour and brown sugar. Blend in the melted butter. Press into the bottom of the prepared pan.
Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes, or until golden. In a large bowl, beat eggs until light. Combine the sugar, baking powder and 1/4 cup of flour so there will be no flour lumps. Stir the sugar mixture into the eggs. Finally, stir in the lemon juice. Pour over the prepared crust and return to the oven.
Bake for an additional 30 minutes or until bars are set. Allow to cool completely before cutting into bars.

I don't know if you can really consider this on baking, but I "stumbled upon" this idea online, and given my love for banana ice cream I couldn't resist seeing if it would really work. This banana ice "cream" is made from just bananas, which were frozen, pureed, and then frozen again. It was pretty good, and it definitely worked to get the right consistency of ice cream, but next time I'd consider adding maybe just a little bit of skim milk and a pinch of sugar. You could definitely add some chocolate chips, other fruit, or a spoonful of peanut butter too to give it some variation.