Friday, June 28, 2013

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread

Greetings from New York City!  I've been here this last week attending Teachers College at Columbia University.  This probably doesn't mean anything to you unless you're one of my teacher friends.  Pretty much, it's the coolest literacy professional development taught by the best gurus in the country.  Plus, it's in New York, which makes it an even greater adventure!  So, I've spent the week figuring out the subway, attending classes, and eating too many delicious bakery treats.
I have to stop here and make a side note about some of my favorite treats and eats:

Have you heard about the banana pudding from Magnolia Bakery?  People are always raving about it.  I've made a version of it at home before and couldn't imagine that it would be that amazing, but, lo and behold, it was.  What is it about softened vanilla wafers that is so good?  It seems like a weird thing to taste good, but they do.  They really do.   

Second favorite treat thus far:  chocolate chip walnut cookie from Levain Bakery.  These are more like cookie mounds.  Typically I like cookies on the flat side and without nuts, and, actually, cookies aren't usually my treat of choice, but I'll make an exception here; the mound was substantial with an awesome texture and the nuts didn't ruin it at all.  It was very different from a typical cookie and I liked it.   

One more food fave:  Shake Shack.  Everyone and their brother has recommended this place and now I get it.  I went to the original location in Madison Square Park.  It was lovely: strung with lights, outdoor seating, just a cool vibe all around.  While I wasn't overly impressed with the fries (probably a good thing), the burger was one of the best I've ever had.  And I've sampled my fair share.  They are made with high quality beef and I feel like I could tell.  I also had a creamsicle shake which was fantastic. 

Here's a pic in Columbus Circle after a walk through Central Park.  I saw fireflies for the first time.  After I realized I wasn't hallucinating, I was amazed! Those things are magical.  Why do we not have them in Seattle?!

Didn't mean to make this a NYC post, but I just couldn't help myself.

OKAY, on to zucchini bread . . .

Or should I say bikini bread?  When my niece Grace (now 13), was much younger, she used to talk about the big 'bikini' they grew in the garden.  I can't help but think of her any time I make something with zucchini.  I found this recipe a few years back when I was the recipient of some of the 'bikini' from the garden.  So, if you're looking for another way to use up zucchini, make this yummy bread!  The orange zest really makes the recipe so don't leave it out.  Also, I've adjusted the recipe to include more zucchini.
Note on Zucchini:  When I first made this I wasn't sure if I should leave the peel on or not, so here's a tip for prepping the zucchini.  Wash, dry, cut off the ends, leave the peel on, and use a box grater to grate the zucchini. 


  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2-3 cups grated zucchini
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest

Preheat oven at 350 degrees F.

Grease two loaf pans.
Sift together flour, baking powder, salt, spices and baking soda.
In a large bowl, beat eggs with a whisk until light and fluffy.

Add sugar, and continue beating until well blended.

Stir in oil, vanilla, zucchini, chocolate chips, and orange zest.

Stir in sifted ingredients.

Pour into prepared loaf pans.

Bake for 50 minutes, or until a tooth pick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Remove loaves from pans and cool.

Source:  Paula Deen

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Chocolate Caramel Corn

I made this as a little end-of-the-year thank you for the volunteers in my classroom.  I made caramel corn and then sprinkled and drizzled it with lots of delicious things.  It turned out tasty and was very easy.  You do need to make sure you leave yourself enough time to let the caramel corn cool and set and then the chocolate dry and set.  Other than that, this is a piece of cake and makes for a great little homemade treat/gift.      

  • 12-15 cups popped popcorn
  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 ounces milk or dark chocolate, melted
  • 3/4 cups sliced almonds
  • 1 1/2 cups mini marshmallows
  • 4 ounces white chocolate
Preheat oven to 200 degrees.
Over medium heat, melt butter. 

Note:  Use a pan a little bigger than you think you'll need.  When you add the baking soda, the mixtures grows a bit so you'll need space. 

Add brown sugar, salt, and corn syrup and boil for 5 minutes.

Remove from heat; stir in baking soda. Stir well.

Pour over the pop corn. Stir to coat well.

Bake in large roaster or pan for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.

Spread on waxed paper to dry.

Allow caramel corn to cool and dry for a few hours.

Drizzle melted milk chocolate over caramel corn. 

Note:  I put the melted chocolate in a plastic Ziploc bag and cut a very small hole in the corner of the bag which made for easy drizzling and clean up. 

Sprinkle with almonds and marshmallows. 

Drizzle melted white chocolate over mixture in the same way. 

Caramel Corn Source:  Paula Deen 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Sophie's Ruffle Cake

I've been wanting to make a ruffle cake for a while and my niece Sophie's birthday was the perfect opportunity.  I knew she would appreciate the girly ruffles.  She requested white cake and chocolate frosting.  So I made yellow butter cake with malted chocolate frosting and added marshmallow filling.

This video was very helpful with learning how to make ruffles.  Be sure to start with a crumb coat on the cake so the frosting has something to adhere to.  The good news is that if your first ruffles don't turn out very well, you can scrape them off and start over.  I did.  I was pretty pleased with the results.  I feel like the ruffles make it look like you really know what you're doing, even if you don't, which I don't.



When assembling cake, brush each layer with simple syrup in order to keep the layers moist.

The simple syrup is brushed on each layer when assembling the cake to keep it moist.  If you want, you can steep a vanilla bean pod in the syrup to add a little extra special flavor. 
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • vanilla bean pod (optional)
Combine the water and sugar in a small saucepan.
Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook until the sugar dissolves, stirring occasionally.
Remove from the heat and let cool before using.      
NOTE:  I made two yellow butter cakes and split each layer in half.  This made for a pretty tall cake.  You could make one and split it into third or fourths, depending on how skilled you are at splitting cakes. 
Happy Birthday, Sophie!