Zucchini Bread

When I first met Rob he pretty much ate things from a can or a box or from the freezer.   He liked some of the things his mom and Grandmother made but to hear him talk, it wasnt much.  He was a hugely picky eater and it was pulling teeth to get him to try anything new.  He always complained when I would make him try things.   The boys are the opposite.  I made them try new things all the time, from when they were little all the way up until last night.  HAHA.  They have such a wide palate it is scary.

Once Rob started really trying new things though.. a whole new world opened up for him.  He will eat so many new things.. one of his favorite desserts is this.  He was always weirded out by the fact it is sweet and has a vegetable in it.  I love it.  My mom used to make it when I was a kid.  I dont have her recipe but I did find this one and I love it. 

Yield: 2 loaves

3 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp baking powder
3 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 tbsp vanilla
1 cup oil
3 1/2 cups grated zucchini with the fluid drained off

Cast of Characters

Start off by grating up the zucchini.
Measure your dry ingredients into a bowl and mix together.

Crack the eggs into a bowl.

Add the sugar and oil.
Mix together the egg, sugar and oil.
Spray the loaf pans.

Pour the egg mixture into the dry ingredients.

Then add the zucchini which you can squish all the excess water out of.

Mix all together.

Divide into the two pans.
Bake at 350 for one hour or until toothpick comes out clean.  Take out of the pan after 10 minutes.

So yummy, and the edges get slightly crunchy!  One of my favorite sweet breads..


Gingerbread Cheesecake

I realized as I was looking over my blog posts that I have very few sweets on here.  This is to help alleviate this travesty.   I have had this recipe for years.  I think my Mom got it from a magazine and then gave it to me.  I have made it 5-6 times and it is always a huge hit.  I dont make it often cause I would eat it all by myself.  I adore anything with molasses, ginger or cinnamon.. and this has all three!!  I think cheesecake is heaven on earth anyway but this is a crossing of two forms of greatness.

Making cheesecake can be tricky.  You can over cook it and it is dry, under cook it and it is mucky (Robs favorite word, mushy and yucky mixed), or have it crack or the crust be too crumbly.  I personally dont really need much crust but Rob and the kids love crust.   For me a dusting to keep it from sticking to the pan and we are good.  Rob especially, want the crust almost as thick as the cheesecake portion. 

There are some tricks to helping with the cracking issue.  Here is what I have learned and they work for me everytime.  When you are done mixing the batter, beat the bowl on the counter to bring up any air bubbles, hence using metal bowls.  Bake at 300, it may take a bit longer but the cake sets better.  When it is done, dont take it out of the oven, turn the oven off, open the door partly and let is stay in the oven for 40 minutes so that it cools slower.    Now that being said, who knows if these are all the reason why my cheesecakes dont crack but it works for me.  HAHA 

As you know if this isnt your first time reading my blog, I am on Weight Watchers.  And I love dessert.  And they dont mix well.  Which sucks.  BUT being the good girl I am, I put it in the recipe builder on WW.com and cringed the entire time.  For 1/16th of a 10 inch cake, it was 6 points.  Which isnt bad.  I used low fat cream cheese and a slight change in the crust to bring the points down but for the most part I left it as is.  If you do any tweaking (which you know I am a strong advocator for) let me know of your result in a comment!   This originally had a gingersnap crust (which is heavenly) but in an attempt to make it a bit healthier, I changed it up.

yield: 1 10 inch cheesecake   serving 1/16th    WW points  6
16 saltine crackers
4 whole graham crackers (try flavored if you want)
3 tbps sugar
1/4 cup butter
24 oz cream cheese at room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
3 eggs at room temperature
1 tbsp flour
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup molasses

Cast of Characters

First preaheat your oven to 350.  In a food processor, grind up your crackers into fine crumbs.  I use saltines because they are lower in points and less sugar then graham crackers. They cut down on the intense sweetness.  Rob, the crust king, even likes it this way.

Put them in a bowl with the 3 tbsp sugar.  Melt your butter and pour into the cracker and sugar mixture. 

Mix the butter in thoroughly. 

Press into a 10 inch springform pan, making sure you go up over the lip of the springform and bake for 15 minutes in the 350 degree oven.

When the crust comes out turn the oven down to 300.  Take the 24 oz of cream cheese and the 2/3 cup of sugar and put it in your kitchenaid, or with a hand mixer, beat on medium speed for about 30-45 seconds stopping once to scrape down the sides.

Add the eggs one a time, mixing for about 10-15 seconds between.

Add the flour, spices and the molasses. 
Mix for about 30 seconds more, scraping down sides.

One last final mix to make sure you are fully combined, pound on the counter until bubbles are released and then scrape into the pan.

Smooth the top and put in the oven on the middle rack.  I know alot of people like to foil wrap it and put it in water.  I have never had luck with that and found this works just fine. 

Bake for about 50 minutes and check for done ness.  I have no particular way to explain how I know it is done other then the center is not giggly and it looks dull rather than shiny and doesnt feel spongy when touched lightly.  Once you have determined it is done, turn off the oven, prop open the oven a good 5-6 inches and leave in for 40 minutes to an hour.
Run the knife around the edge and losen the pan.  Take off the ring and you can present this way. 

Then garnish as you like.   I like strawberries with just about everything.

Trying to take this picture made me realize how badly I need a new camera.  I dropped it yesterday, for like the 10th time and this was the best of the 9 pictures I took. 

But about the cheesecake…… 1 1/16 is not enough of this yumminess but it is also just the right amount.  This is incredibly rich and flavorful.  It is sweet and has the bite of the ginger and molasses without being too sweet.  I served this when Rob and Nik were having the guys over and it was a huge hit.   It has always been a hit in this house so I shouldnt have been surprised that it went quickly.

Happy Baking!!

Banana Bread and the Power of Family

Most recipe books will have one or two recipes for Banana bread.  It is one of
the original recycling ideas in my mind.  It uses something that some would consider having gone bad.   In my house, if the banana has a bit of brown on it, it is relegated to banana bread.  I am the only one who will eat them once they are even slightly less than yellow.  Hell Aaron prefers them slightly green! 

Banana bread is one of the most frequently made quick breads so when I was trading recipes with a friend this was one of the ones she told me about.  I met Janice 8 years ago and as we are both foodies and love to cook we hit it off quickly.  She is Italian and I love how she says thing like mozzarella and ricotta.  We would get together and cook and chat and go shopping.  But most of all we talked of family, and cooking and food.

One day when we were over she told me she had to make some banana bread to use up some over ripe bananas so I told her how I had always used the banana bread recipe my mom had in her Betty Crocker cookbook.  It was yummy and my favorite.  Janice told me of her moms recipe.  She had been making it for years and it was very much a family favorite.  I asked if she would share, knowing that alot of cooks dont share family recipes.  She said sure.

Then she started making it.  I was skeptical.  The method was odd but I figured what the heck, I would atleast try it.  I dont want to spoil the surprise by telling what the secret to this bread is but let me tell you, I have never ever, nor will I ever, use another recipe.   The chunks of banana and the wonderful flavor and richness has made this my family favorite.  With me being in school I dont get to bake or cook as often as I would like but the kids like it so much they make it all the time.  In fact for this blog update, Nik is the one making it, I am the camera lady and he is the baker.

When I told Janice I wanted to post this on my blog and I was wondering is she would mind, she reminded me that this was her moms recipe.  Janices mom died a few months ago and Janice was still reeling from the pain of it.  I was so happy to be able to honor her mom in this way.  You see, I feel that there are certain things that bond you together.  For Janice and her mom, one of the things that bound them was the love of cooking and baking and being in the kitchen.  Maybe it was the Italian in them but when Janice talks of food, she talks of family. 

I have found that is the same in my life.  My mom and I have had an odd relationship over the years and have gotten much closer in the last couple.  One of the things we have always been close about was cooking.  I can remember baking dozen upon dozens of cookies just about once a month.  I mean like 20-30 dozen cookies!  And canning hundreds of jars of tomatoes, relish, corn, and beans with her in the summer.  We made dinners and bake cakes and still call each other up when we have made something particularly awesome. 

 Janice and her mom Janet Angiollo were like us.  Food bound them together.  I am working on that tradition with my boys.  And I love teaching to cook.  I am teaching the boys and teaching Aarons girlfriend Corrie too.   Janice learned at the hands of her mom and she taught whomever would listen, just like me.  So this recipe and it is odd, fun and amazingly  moist outcome are a true tribute to one special lady, Janet Angiollo.  I know she is looking down on Janice with pride at the great woman she raised and the traditions she is passing on, to her kids and to her friends.

1 large loaf    recipe by: Janet Angiollo

3 ripe bananas
1/4 cup softened butter
1 cup sugar ( I use half white and half brown)
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda

The Cast of Characters (for a triple batch, we had a ton of bananas) Ignore the oil.. Nik had that out and I wasnt thinking and got the ingredients all arranged.  HAHA  I am not perfect..

Preheat your oven to 350.  Prep your pans by greasing them.  PUT YOUR MIXER AWAY.  This is important!  You MUST do this part.

Break your butter up into small chunks.
Then your bananas. 

Sprinkle your sugars over them.

Add your vanilla on top of the sugar.

This time I added a touch of cinnamon.  I dont always and it isnt in the recipe, but I was feeling cinnamon-ey. 

Sprinkle the soda around.

Then the flour, still not mixing it.

Then the egg (or for this case the eggs since it is tripled). 

Now that you have all your ingredients in place, layered on top of each other, here comes the most important step.  You ready for it? 

Go wash your hands again.  And yes I said again, cause I KNOW you washed them before you started!

Now comes the fun part.  This is why you dont need a mixer.  You get to use your hands.  This seems to make the difference.   I was so weirded out the first time I made this recipe at home I used my hand mixer.  It was good but not great.  The banana was all thoroughly mixed and just wasnt the same. 

Mix until it is all combined and then mix a bit more breaking up some of the larger chunks of banana and make sure that the butter is not in large pieces.

Pour into prepared pan(s).

And bake until golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean, about 45-60 minutes depending on your pan size.

Let warm slightly before you remove from the pan and slice in thick slices.  Serve with butter, or jam or plain.   Just look at those fantastic chunks of banana in it.  So good….

 This is true comfort food.  And elicits memories of cooking with my mom, and Janice and now my kids.  This is a fun recipe and one that is very easy to make with your kids.  We have done a couple of variations too.  We substituted the butter with peanut butter and made Elvis bread, get it PB and Banana!  You can sub 1 of the ripe bananas for 1/3 cup of crushed pineapple.  As mentioned above we add cinnamon sometimes.  Make this the way you like but remember two important things, never use a mixer and that family cooking is the most gratifying and tasty way to cook. 

Happy Baking!!!

And thank you Janet!

Chocolate Chunk Chile Mango Cookies

Big Name for a Huge Flavor.  I was sitting innocently at lunch last week and was checking my email and Rob sent me a Facebook link to a Trader Joes site where they use TJ items and make yummy things like this.  I started planning my TJ trip at lunch that day.  After class that night I went and got the chocolate and the mango.  And it sat on the counter until last night.. 5 long nights it sat and stared at me…. begging me to bake them. 

I of course made the mistake of adding to my recipe builder on Weight Watchers.  Not good.  Not good at all.  If they worked out according to the recipe and the amount you were supposed to get.. it would be 4 points per cookie!!  4!! for each cookie.  Undaunted, I knew they needed to be made.  It was something that I had to do.  I mean.. fruit, chocolate, and chili.. what more could be said. 

So last night I got the help of my twin monkeys…  you remember these two right?

and we went to work making these cookies as is.   Somethings I will tweak so I can have them more often but I am trying to not do that with sweet things.  I need to cut back on my sweet tooth.  It is why I am on WW and why it is hard for me to lose it.  So I will make these as a treat, and only infrequently!  The rest of these will go to work tomorrow.. well the few that are remaining.  I have had half my daily points today in just cookies.   Not good!!

In my defense, we had to rush Rob to the ER last while I was making said cookies.  He had a fever and with cancer, that is a bad thing, so his oncologist said get him in to the ER.  The kids had to bake the last two pans..  and my nerves have been shot ever since waiting for the labs to come back.   

6 oz of dark chocolate  (on the TJ bar shown I used 15 squares)
1 bag of chile mangos (if you don’t like spicy you could use 8 oz of dried mango)
1 cup softened butter
1 cup white sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp hot water
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
3 cups flour

Cast of characters

Next step is to set the boys/men up to do some heavy chopping.  Nik to dice up the mango and Aaron to chunk up the chocolate.  

At first I was annoyed that the chocolate was splintering and not chunking nicely but once the cookie cooked it was nice to have a little nugget or sliver here and there throughout the cookie. 

While those are being chopped and diced, cream the butter and sugars.

This is what your chocolate and mango will look like..   a bowl of spicy heaven..

Add the salt, vanilla and eggs and mix to incorporate.

Add the baking soda to the hot water and then add to the mixer along with the flour.

Mix 5-6 turns or until about 1/2 way mixed, scrap down your side and then add the mango and chocolate.

Mix until incorporated. 

Drop by spoonful onto a parchment lined cookie sheet or use your well-loved Pampered Chef stoneware.. lol  As you can see ours are well used.  I love how I can cook anything on them and the flavors dont mix.

And the finished product.. ready for a nice study break…..

I have to say, I really liked these cookies.  The mango has a sweetness that works so well with chocolate and the spiciness is just an added bonus.  I can say I would love these without the spicy mango (meaning just dried mango) and other than being a bit crisper than I normally like, these are so rich and flavorful I will be adding these to The Box.   I think I might work to make them a bit less crunchy though. These would be amazing with a bit more chewiness to them.   

Oh and in the end it made 80 cookies, so I corrected it in my WW recipe thing and for 2 cookies it is 5 points.. that was a bit better!!  Enjoy!

Happy Baking!!