Gluten Free Zucchini Brownies

Gluten-Free Zucchini Brownies

These brownies are everything you want in a brownie. Sweet, moist and very tender. The fact they are also flour and gluten-free is a nice bonus for those who can’t have gluten.

You might think, when you read the ingredients, that I left something out. I didn’t. They baked up beautifully and had a wonderful texture.

I made them for a dinner with friends and everyone liked them, a lot.  I think the next time I make them, I might also add some chopped nuts.

Gluten-Free Zucchini Brownies

1½ c. shredded zucchini
1 c. almond butter- but you could use peanut butter instead
1 c. chocolate chips
1/3 c. honey – but you can use 1/2 cup if you want a sweeter brownie
¼ c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 egg
1 t. vanilla
1 t. baking soda
1 t. cinnamon
½ t. allspice
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9×9 inch pan, set aside. Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and stir until well blended. Pour batter into pan and spread evenly. Bake 25-30 minutes, or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool before cutting. Makes 16.

Spiced Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes

Spiced Chocolate Zucchini Cupcake

It’s that time of year. Zucchini time. Maybe I should call it, “What do I do with all my zucchini time?” Zucchini and other summer squash are in abundance right now. This recipe is another, tasty way, to use them.

These are wonderfully spiced, moist cupcakes. Instead of frosting them, I decided to top them with melted butter and cinnamon sugar.  It’s something I’ve done with muffins, in the past. I didn’t see why I couldn’t do the same thing with cupcakes.

It was a really good idea. The cupcakes were baked to take to a cookout, and in the heat, frosting would have melted. Besides, not everyone likes frosting.

As an added bonus- it is a another recipe using zucchini, and that is never a bad thing.

Spiced Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 t. baking soda
½ t. salt
1 t. cinnamon
½ t. nutmeg
Pinch of cloves
¼ c. unsweetened cocoa
½ cup butter, softened
½ cup olive oil
1½ c. sugar
2 eggs
½ c. buttermilk
1½ t. vanilla
2½ c. grated zucchini
1 cup chocolate chips
Topping:
½ c. butter, melted
½ c. sugar
2 t. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour 24 muffin cups or use paper liners. Mix together the dry ingredients. Set aside. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, olive oil and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the buttermilk and vanilla. Beat in the flour mixture, just until incorporated. Stir in the grated zucchini and chocolate chips. Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the top of the cupcakes spring back when lightly pressed. Cool in pans over a wire rack for at least 10 minutes or until cool enough to handle. Dip top of cupcakes in melted butter, then dip in the cinnamon sugar. Place on rack to finish cooling off. Makes 24.

Giant Zucchini Bread

Zucchini Bread

Let me be clear. The bread is normal size- the zucchini are giant. Even the most diligent of gardeners will have a few zucchini get away from them.

Zucchini seem to go from too small to gigantic in the blink of an eye. A friend just brought me a bag of really big zucchini.

This time of year I get a lot of questions about overgrown zucchini.  People seem to think there is nothing you can do with them. That’s not true. Even older squash can be eaten in all sorts of ways.

You can determine if the skin is too tough to eat by trying to pierce it with a fingernail. If you can easily poke the skin- it is tender enough to eat. If it isn’t, just peel before using.

Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise and look at the seed cavity. If the middle looks spongy, hollow or if the seeds are developing scoop out the middle and discard. The remaining zucchini can be cubed or sliced and added to stews, soups, stir fries and all sorts of dishes.

One of my favorite things to make with the bigger zucchini, is zucchini bread. I shred up a whole zucchini and portion it out in amounts I will need for my bread. I freeze what I won’t be using that day. It is really nice in the dead of winter to be able to make zucchini bread. Here is the recipe I use. It is a favorite and makes 2 loaves, which is a bonus.

Zucchini Bread

3 c. flour

3 eggs

2 c. sugar, I use less

2 c. shredded zucchini

1 c. oil

1 c. chopped nuts or raisins, optional

½ c. sour cream or Greek yogurt

1 t. each vanilla, cinnamon, salt and baking soda

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease 2 (9×5 inch) loaf pans. Set aside. Place flour in large bowl. Beat eggs and add with remaining ingredients to flour, mixing well and scraping bowl. Pour batter into prepared pans and bake 1 hour , or until browned and toothpick in center emerges clean. Cool in pans on wire rack. Freezes well. Makes 2 .

Raspberry Liqueur

Raspberry Liqueur

I make a lot of different liqueurs. Raspberry liqueur is probably one of my favorites. It reminds me of a warm summer afternoon.

I love raspberries. My parents had a row of raspberry bushes at the back of the yard, so I grew up enjoying them fresh. I preserve raspberries to enjoy all year long.  I freeze berries, make jams and jellies and dehydrate some.

I also enjoy  using some to make homemade raspberry liqueur. You just start with alcohol – I  most often use vodka – then you add raspberries. I sweeten it later on, but you can leave it unsweetened, if you prefer.

Its beautiful color and great flavor make it nice for sipping, or used in mixed drinks. Think of it as just another food preservation method. Here is the recipe, in case you want to make it. Makes a great gift, too.

You can use fresh or frozen berries.

Homemade Raspberry Liqueur

1 lb. raspberries*
3 c. vodka, you could use brandy
1 ¼ c. sugar
Combine fruit and vodka and let stand 2 -4 weeks. Stir in sugar and age 3 months. Strain and filter. Makes 3-4 cups.

*You can use frozen berries, too.

Fresh Blackberry Scones

Fresh Blackberry Scones

I was recently given some beautiful blackberries. I decided to make scones with some of them. Warm from the oven, with a cup of coffee or tea, these are hard to beat.

The secret for tender scones is not to over work the dough. The dough for these scones is scooped onto a baking sheet, rather than being rolled and cut out. Stir  until ingredients are just combined. Plus, you don’t want to mash the berries. This recipe could not be any easier to make. The dough can be prepped in the time it takes to preheat the oven.

While scones are traditionally served for breakfast or brunch, I often use them as a dessert. These scones make a great shortcake.

For shortcakes, just split scones add fill with some seasonal fruit, sweetened, if you like. Top with ice cream or whipped cream. Easy dessert and perfect end to a summer dinner.

Here is the recipe for the scones.

Fresh Blackberry Scones

 2 c. flour

1/3 c. sugar

1 T. baking powder

¾ t.  salt

6 T. chilled butter

2 c. blackberries, fresh preferred, but you could use frozen

1 t. orange zest

2 large eggs

1/3 c. heavy cream or half and half

Mix dry ingredients together in bowl and cut in butter to resemble coarse crumbs. Toss in berries and zest. Beat together eggs and cream and stir into flour mixture. Mix very gently to avoid bruising berries. Use 1/2 cup ice cream scoop to scoop batter onto a baking sheet.  Sprinkle with a little extra sugar, if you like. Bake in a preheated 375-degree oven for 22-24 minutes. Makes 10-12.

Streusel Peach Muffins

Streusel Peach Muffins

I can’t get enough of peaches these days. I have been eating them fresh, making preserves, freezing peaches and cooking with them. This recipe is one of my favorites.

I hadn’t made them in a long time, so I decided today was the day. Now I remember why I liked them so much. Perfect crumbly texture, not too sweet, and that streusel topping.

They can be for more than breakfast, too. Split, topped with sweetened fruit and ice cream, these muffins make a great “shortcake” dessert.

While they are really great warm from the oven, these muffins are still fine the next day, or even the day after that, assuming they last that long. They freeze, well, too.

Streusel Peach Muffins

Streusel topping:
1/3 c. flour
1/3 c. brown sugar
½ t. nutmeg
4 T. cold butter

Batter:
2 c. flour
½ c. sugar
¼ c. brown sugar
1 T. baking powder
1 t. cinnamon
½ t. nutmeg
½ t. salt
½ c. cold butter- 1 stick
2 eggs
¾ c. half and half or buttermilk
1 t. vanilla
1 c. finely chopped fresh peaches, about 1 large
½ c. finely chopped pecans, optional

Heat oven to 375. Line 15 muffin tins with paper liners or grease them. Set aside. Make streusel by mixing together flour, sugar and nutmeg in a small bowl. Use your fingers, or a pastry blender, to cut the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs. Set aside. Make batter: In medium bowl combine flour with sugars and other dry ingredients. Mix well. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. In small bowl beat eggs and add half and half and vanilla. Stir into flour mixture and fold in until just mixed. Mixture will look lumpy. Fold in peaches and nuts, if using. Scoop batter into prepared tins, filling about ¾ full. I get more than 12 from this recipe- normally about15, but it depends on how full you fill them. Sprinkle the tops with streusel. Place muffin tins on a baking sheet and bake for 20 or until golden brown. Cool a little before serving, if you can wait.

Cream of Fresh Tomato Soup

Cream of Fresh Tomato Soup

Tomatoes are in season and I am loving it.  I have been enjoying tomato sandwiches, tomato salad and fresh tomato sauce.

This is a great recipe for some of those tomatoes. A simple soup, with lots of flavor, it is a favorite of mine. So much better than the canned tomato soup of my childhood.

I enjoy it served hot, but this soup can also be served cold. On a  hot day, this soup, served chilled, is a wonderful change from a salad with dinner.

I prefer to use fresh tomatoes, but I have used my home canned tomatoes, in a pinch.

If you want a stronger tomato flavor- use a couple extra tomatoes.

Cream of Fresh Tomato Soup

 3 medium-sized ripe tomatoes

1 small onion, chopped fine

1 rib celery, chopped fine

3 whole cloves

1 small bay leaf

3 T. butter

3 T. flour

1 t. salt

3 c. milk or half and half

Peel and chop tomatoes. Place tomatoes in saucepan with onion, celery, cloves and bay leaf. Bring mixture to a boil; reduce heat and cover, simmering 15 minutes. Melt butter in a large saucepan then stir in flour and salt. Cook mixture until bubbly. Add milk and cook until thickened, stirring constantly. Puree tomato mixture through a strainer, food mill or in a blender or processor. Add to milk mixture and heat through. Serves 6.

Preserving Basil

Fresh Basil

This time of year, I am looking to preserve as many herbs as I can, to enjoy year round. Basil is one of my favorites. I grow, and use, a lot of it. I am doing a major harvest of basil today. Some will be frozen in olive oil, some dried, and some added to vinegar.

None of the preservation methods is difficult. Basil can be tricky to dry, though. Unlike a lot of herbs, basil does not air dry well. I have a dehydrator, but if you don’t have one, you can still dry your basil successfully. Believe it or not, you can dry basil, and other herbs, in a microwave. Directions follow.

So I am off to harvest my basil. One thing is sure- my house will smell really good today.

Freezing in Oil

To use basil in pesto sauce, dried just won’t do. You can easily freeze your basil in olive oil and have it ready whenever you want it. Just place clean basil leaves in a blender or food processor and add olive oil. It is important that you use olive oil because it freezes solid. While the machine is running pour in oil until basil is blended. I use very little oil for two reasons. It takes up less room in the freezer and I don’t need so much oil. I can add more oil when I use it, but this way if I am doing a big batch i don’t go through all my oil. Once the mixture is blended pour or spoon it into ice cube trays and freeze. Once frozen solid pop out the basil cubes and put in freezer bags and return to the freezer.You can also freeze chopped basil without the oil. I like it better in the oil, but I freeze other herbs by just chopping them up and freezing them.

Frozen Basil Cubes

Frozen Basil Cubes

Process basil and olive oil until smooth

Process basil and olive oil until smooth

Spoon mixture into ice cube trays and freeze

Spoon mixture into ice cube trays and freeze

Microwave Drying

If you don’t have a dehydrator you can dry herbs in your microwave. It only takes a couple of minutes per batch. Just place a handful of fresh, clean basil leaves in a linen-type kitchen towel. Fold the towel over the herbs and place in the microwave. Be sure to put a raw potato in with the herbs in the oven. If you only put the herbs in, it is like running the oven empty and can damage the microwave. Just put the potato off to the side. If you do several batches you will have a baked potato. ? If you have a turntable, just cook on high for 2 minutes. Check and see if they are dry- you might need a little more time. I need about 2 1/2 minutes in my microwave. Better to put them in for 15 more seconds at a time than to over dry them. If you don’t have a turntable microwave on high for a minute. After the first minute turn the herbs 1/4 turn and cook 15 seconds, turn again and cook another 15 seconds. Repeat four times in all. You can dry other herbs in the microwave. Small leaved herbs like thyme are done even faster. Remove the herbs from the oven and allow them to cool. check if they are dry enough and return, wrapped to cook longer if needed. Store in containers in a cool place.

Microwave dried basil on the left and fresh basil on the right

Microwave dried basil on the left and fresh basil on the right

Place fresh basil on a towel and fold towel over the herbs

Place fresh basil on a towel and fold towel over the herbs

Place in microwave with a potato

Place in microwave with a potato

All microwaves are different. Some will take longer and some even less time. Watch your herbs carefully. While I have never seen it happen I was told once that theoretically, they could catch on fire if left in too long. Urban legend perhaps, but just be careful.

Herb Vinegar

When I grow basil, I try to keep the blossoms pinched off. Better for leaf production. But by this time of year some are blooming. Rather than dumping the blossoms you can use them to flavor vinegar. Just snip off the blossoms and place them in a sterilized bottle or jar. Use several sprigs of basil flowers for every 2 cups of vinegar. Make sure the vinegar is at least 5% acidity. I like to use different vinegars for different herbs. I often use cider vinegar, red wine vinegar (for purple basil)  and white wine vinegar. Leaves can be used, too. Vinegar should be heated up to 190 degrees- or just below the boiling point.  Close up the jar and store in a cool place (50-70 degrees) for a couple of weeks. Before using  strain out the herbs and filter- I use coffee filters  or you could use cheese cloth. Store in a pretty bottle, if you have one. They can be kept for up to a year when stored in the fridge.

Basil blossoms in vinegar

Basil blossoms in vinegar

Snip off basil blossoms

Snip off basil blossoms

Place blossoms in a jar or bottle

Place blossoms in a jar or bottle

Fresh Peach Chutney

Peach Chutney

Peaches are is season and I am loving it. Besides eating them fresh, I have been enjoying them in all sorts of dishes. Peach jam, peach ice cream, peach scones…. the list goes on.

This chutney is one more way to take advantage of peach season. Chutney is a dish that walks the line between savory and sweet. I made this batch a little spicy. The heat pairs well with the sweetness of the fruit. Feel free to adjust heat to suit your own taste.

You can serve this chutney like a relish, on the side. Or, use it like a sauce, adding to meats when cooking. Another option is to use it as a glaze, brushing it on meats while baking or grilling. A vegetarian option is brushing it on grilled portobello mushrooms or eggplant slices.

I have served chutney with a cheese board, too. Fun and easy addition to the appetizer menu.

So here is the recipe.

Fresh Peach Chutney

5 medium peaches, peeled, pitted and diced

1 medium onion, peeled and chopped fine

½ c. cider vinegar

½ c. sugar

½ c. water

2 T. honey

2 T. lemon juice

2 T. minced garlic

1 T. soy sauce, or a little more to suit your taste  

½ t. red pepper flakes, or more for a spicier chutney

1 T. cornstarch

2 T. cold water

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan, except cornstarch and the 2 tablespoons of cold water, and cook over medium heat until peaches are tender and onion is translucent, about 15 minutes. Stir occasionally to avoid burning. Combine cornstarch with the cold water and stir until smooth. Slowly add to simmering chutney while stirring constantly. Mixture will thicken. Adjust seasonings, if needed. Makes about 3 cups. Will keep in fridge a couple of weeks- can be frozen.

Serve with pork or lamb. Great with duck or chicken, too. You can also serve as an appetizer with cheese and crusty bread.

Canning Tomatoes

Crushed Tomatoes

I love my home-canned tomatoes. They taste so much better than anything than comes in a can. Worth the effort.

You have options when canning tomatoes- crushed, juice, sauce- and more. The one option you won’t see for home- canned tomatoes is diced. There is a reason for that. When tomatoes are canned commercially, calcium is added to keep them firm. That is why commercially canned diced tomatoes hold their shape. Home canned diced tomatoes will just cook down, get very soft and not hold their shape. Canning tomatoes whole will give you a firmer end product, if that is what you want.

I have been asked several times in  canning  classes, if it is safe to can yellow or orange tomatoes. We have all heard that yellow and orange tomatoes are lower in acid, so are they still safe to can? The answer is yes, they are safe to can.

Why?

In spite of you might have been told, orange and yellow tomatoes are not acid free or low acid.

Truth is, that yellow and orange tomatoes have just as much acid as red tomatoes.

Well, for the most part at least. In terms of acidity or Ph, yellow and orange tomatoes are about average. Some cultivars have more, some less.  Bottom line is that all tomatoes are safe to can- as long as you acidify them.

Adding salt is optional, and is for flavor only. Use canning/pickling salt or non-iodized salt when canning.

Here are some popular canning recipes to get you started.

All follow the NCHFP (National Center for Home Food Preservation) recommended procedures.

Crushed Tomatoes

Peel and core tomatoes , trim off any bad spots and quarter. Place about 1/4 of your prepared tomatoes in the kettle and cook, stirring constantly over high heat. Use a potato masher to crush tomatoes and extract juices. Once they are boiling add remaining tomatoes, stirring constantly. You don’t need to crush these tomatoes. Bring to a boil and boil for 5 minutes. In clean, hot jars add needed acidity listed below. You can also add 1 teaspoon of canning salt per quart if desired. Ladle in hot tomatoes, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Wipe jar rims clean and adjust lids. Process in boiling water bath. Pints 35 minutes, quarts, 45 minutes. 1,000-3000 ft over sea level add 5 minutes. Twenty-two pounds of tomatoes will yield about 7 quarts of tomatoes.

Whole Tomatoes in Juice

Use any extra tomatoes to make juice. I use tomatoes that are too big to can whole, or those that have blemishes that need to be trimmed. Cut up clean, unpeeled tomatoes in a kettle and cook, stirring often until tomatoes are mushy. Strain mixture, pressing on solids or run through a food mill or tomato juice extractor. Set aside,. Place peeled, whole tomatoes in kettle and add enough tomato juice to cover them. Heat to a simmer and simmer gently 5 minutes. Add lemon juice or citric acid to jars, using amounts listed below. Add salt, if desired. Add tomatoes and cover with hot juice, leaving 1/2 -inch headspace. Wipe rims and adjust lids. Process both pints and quarts 85 minutes in a boiling water bath.

Tomato Juice

Wash, stem and trim bruises off tomatoes. Cut into chunks. Add about 1 pound of tomatoes to kettle and bring to a boil while crushing. Continue to add additional cut up tomatoes slowly, keeping mixture boiling. This will keep the juice from separating later. Simmer an additional 5 minutes once the tomatoes have all been added. Press mixture through a strainer , sieve or food mill to remove seeds and skins. Add lemon juice or citric acid to jars according to directions listed below. Add salt if desired. Return juice to boil and add to prepared jars leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Wipe rims and adjust lids. Process n a boiling water bath pints 35 minutes and quarts 40 minutes. Add 5 minutes processing time at elevations between 1,001 and 3,000 ft.

Tomato Sauce

Prepare as for juice. After juice is made return to pot and start cooking down to desired thickness. You’ll lose about 1/3 of the volume for thin sauce and 1/2 of the volume for thick. Add lemon juice or citric acid to prepared jars as described below. Add salt if desired. Add boiling sauce leaving 1/4 -inch headspace. Wipe rims and adjust lids. Process in a boiling water bath 35 minutes for pints and 40 minutes for quarts. Add five minutes at 1,001-3,000 ft. elevation.

Acidity and Tomatoes

Tomatoes must be acidified before canning. When canning either whole, crushed or juiced tomatoes you must add either 2 T. bottled lemon juice per quart or 1/2 t. citric acid . For pint use 1 T. lemon juice or 1/4 t. citric acid. You can also use 4 T. (5%) vinegar per quart, but it will alter the flavor and is not recommended. You can add a little sugar to offset the flavor, if you like.