Zucchini-Basil Soup

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This recipe is simple and good. It’s the recipe you’ll want to use for all those giant zucchinis that are flooding your harvest baskets right about now. Add a handful of basil, onions, a few cloves of garlic and some butter and you’re good to go.

Sometimes I'll garnish my bowl with some cooked leeks or whatever happens to be growing in the garden for a little texture, but I usually eat it as-is, straight out of the pot, accompanied by thick slices of toasted sourdough bread drizzled with olive oil.

I should also mention that I make a double batch and have written the recipe as such because this soup keeps well in the refrigerator. Matt and I like to eat it cold for lunch the next day, especially if it's hot outside. If you want less or have less zucchini, feel free to halve the amounts.

Zucchini-Basil Soup
4 pounds zucchini and/or yellow crookneck squash
1 large onion, roughly chopped
4-6 tablespoons butter (yes, you can use less or sub for olive oil)
5-6 cloves garlic
4 cups water or broth/stock
1 handful of basil leaves, rinsed
Salt to taste

Rinse zucchini and remove ends. Slice lengthwise, and chop into 1-inch pieces. Set aside.

In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic cloves, and cook until softened (about 5 minutes). Add the chopped zucchini and/or squash, and a pinch of salt, and cook for another five minutes. Add the water or broth/stock.

Bring up to a boil and reduce heat to simmer. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until zucchini is tender (about 25 minutes). Remove from heat.

Add the basil leaves. Puree using an immersion blender until completely smooth. Taste and add salt as necessary. Pour into bowls and serve warm with bread or crackers.

Note: Soup tastes amazing hot or cold.

Honey-Sweetened Sourdough Muffins

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Over the past few months, I’ve been getting to know my sourdough starter bit by bit, and I’m doing it in a really “intuitive” way, meaning I mostly eyeball it with my timing and ingredient amounts rather than weighing things out on a scale and being precise with hydration or flour ratios. I’ve kept my starter on the counter, fed it twice per day, and when it’s not used for bread, I try to find something enjoyable to do with the discard. I’m baking bread nearly every day because, as someone who learns by doing, I know it’s the only way I’ll ever improve my skills. As a result, I’ve got bread coming out of my ears. I’m baking more than we can eat and giving most of it away to any family member or friend I can.

With two feeds per day, I’m learning a whole lot about sourdough and the way we enjoy it. Mostly my loaves turn out edible and beautiful in a rustic sort of way, but there are occasional duds. Even with this many feedings, it’s rare that I’ll throw that precious discard down the sink. Mostly it goes into sourdough dutch babies, pancakes or muffins, and I’m always looking for other easy ways to use it because that’s a whole lot of good quality flour down the drain if you can’t find a way to bake and eat it. 

I eventually plan to learn how to make all-things sourdough: pie crust, bagels, pastries, crackers, quickbreads… but for now, while I’m still focused on learning how to make basic bread and feeding my starter this often, I’m just looking for solutions that can be accomplished quickly and easily with a napping baby and a 4-year-old underfoot.

That said, I’d like to share a recipe for sourdough muffins that I’ve been using nonstop this summer for my discard. It uses all-purpose flour and cornmeal for a light, yet robust muffin that won’t get soggy with berry add-ins. Plus, they’re lightly sweetened with a bit of honey. Delicious.

SOURDOUGH MUFFINS
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup cornmeal
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup sourdough discard
¼ cup milk
1 egg
¼ cup melted butter or oil
½ cup honey
2 cups berries, fresh or frozen


Preheat oven to 375F. Grease a muffin tin. Set aside. 

Dry ingredients: In a medium bowl, sift together the all-purpose flour, cornmeal, salt, baking soda and cinnamon. Set aside.

Wet ingredients: Whisk together the sourdough discard, milk, egg, butter/oil, and honey in a large bowl until well combined. Add the dry ingredients and stir until combined. 

Fold in the fresh berries. 

Fill the wells of a standard sized greased muffin tin with batter until ¾ full. Place in preheated oven for 25 minutes or until the tops are golden brown. Remove from oven and then remove muffins from muffin tin and place on a cooling rack until room temp. Store in an airtight container. Muffins will last for a couple days on the counter, a couple weeks in the fridge or a couple months in the freezer.

Enjoy!

Chewy Ginger-Molasses Cookies

I usually only dip them in white chocolate, but sometimes I’ll decorate them with royal frosting if I’m feeling fancy.

When I first stumbled across the recipe for these delicious chewy ginger cookies, I had no idea they would become my favorite Christmas cookie of all time. At the time, I was working as the blog editor for a stationery and paper goods company in Portland, and I was looking for a recipe idea that would pair well with the holly tags that were eventually featured in this post. I loved the idea of creating white space on a ginger cookie for decorating, but it never occurred to me how well the flavors of rich, earthy ginger and molasses would pair with the creaminess of the white chocolate.

Don’t get me wrong: you can eat these cookies in their plain form. They make for a delicious ginger-molasses cookie experience, but please do try them with the white chocolate if you feel so inclined. I promise, it’s worth the extra effort.

A word about white chocolate chips: I’ve tried several brands, but certainly not all. The brand I keep coming back to in terms of flavor is Ghirardelli. They’re not sponsoring this post or anything - don’t worry. They just have a good, true flavor without any weird aftertastes, and they melt perfectly.

chewy ginger-molasses cookies

Chewy Ginger Cookies
dipped in white chocolate

2¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
¾ cup (1½ sticks) butter, softened
½ cup sugar
½ cup packed light-brown sugar
1 large egg
¼ cup molasses
2 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup sugar in the raw (or regular sugar)
3 cups white chocolate chips
Wax paper or parchment

Instructions
Sift the flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg together in a large bowl, making sure the ingredients are well combined. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides and add the egg until incorporated. Add the molasses and vanilla extract and beat, scraping down the sides, until everything is mixed together.

Slowly add the dry ingredients and beat until just combined. Remove bowl from stand mixer, and scrape the sides down with a spatula. Cover and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Line your cookie sheet with a silpat mat and preheat oven to 375F. Place ½ cup raw sugar in a bowl and set aside. Remove dough from refrigerator and, using your hands, roll balls that are 1½ to 2 inches in diameter with the dough. Place dough balls in the bowl with the raw sugar until evenly coated. Place balls on cookie sheet, leaving 2 inches space between each ball. Lightly flatten each ball into discs and place in the preheated oven. Bake for 12-14 minutes, or until the edges are just turning golden brown. Remove from oven and place on a cookie rack to cool.

Once cookies have cooled completely, melt the white chocolate chips in a heat-safe bowl in the microwave for 1 minute. Remove and stir until creamy and smooth. The chips should be completely melted, but if not, place back in the microwave for another 10 seconds.

Tear off a length of wax paper and place it on your counter. Dip cookies into the melted white chocolate chips, one by one, scraping the excess off the bottom as you remove it from the bowl. Place on wax paper and allow white chocolate to set until completely hardened.

Optional: after the white chocolate has hardened, decorate your cookies using royal icing/frosting

P.S. I always double this recipe. And although I usually always dip them in white chocolate, I only bother to frost them with royal icing if I’m feeling fancy.

Recipe adapted from Cooking Classy.

Zucchini Bread

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Our zucchini harvest season is winding down, but we still have a few large specimens awaiting their fate on the kitchen counter. If the zucchini is small and tender, I’ll usually eat it without much ado: lightly sautéed and seasoned with salt and pepper. The larger ones, however, have a tougher skin, larger seeds and not as delicate of flavor, so those are usually reserved for batch after batch of zucchini bread which I’ll freeze and eat, or give away to friends and family throughout the year.
 

My zucchini bread recipe stems from a recipe given to my husband by his family. I’ve experimented and tweaked some things here and there, and have come up with my own well-worn and loved variation. Every kitchen witch has their own method, after all.
 

For me, the chopped dates are essential. The original recipe calls for chopped nuts, which are also delicious, but I reduce the sugar from its original 2 ¼ cup down to 1 ½ (or less), so the dates give it a little added sweetness. The real magic in the dates, however, is in their texture. They almost melt into the bread while it’s baking. 

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INGREDIENTS
1 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cup sugar (I usually only use 1 cup)
3 eggs
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups grated zucchini
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped dates
 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease two standard-sized loaf pans.

Cream together the butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time until fully incorporated. Mix in the vanilla and grated zucchini.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, ground cinnamon, grated nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Add to the wet ingredients and stir until just combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Fold in the chopped dates.

Divide the batter evenly between the two loaf pans and place on the center rack in preheated oven. Bake for 60 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Let loaves cool for 20 minutes before removing from loaf pans. Serve immediately or store in aluminum foil. Loaves can be frozen and thawed at room temperature when ready to serve.

 

Chocolate Nut Butter

This three-ingredient chocolate-hazelnut spread is an indulgent, yet healthy(ish) staple in our kitchen. We make it all the time, usually with hazelnuts, but sometimes we’ll change it up and use almonds or peanuts instead. No matter which variety of nut you go with, the technique is basically the same, but the flavor is different. We also play around with the chocolate. I usually go for a higher quality dark, but it’s delicious made with milk chocolate too.


Chocolate-Nut Spread Recipe

  • 16 oz raw, unsalted nuts
  • 8 oz chocolate, chopped
  • pinch of salt

Preheat your oven to 400F. Place nuts on a cookie sheet in a single layer and roast for 10-15 minutes, checking occasionally, until the nuts turn golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes.

(Optional Step: place hazelnuts in the center of a large tea towel or flour sack towel. Pick up the sides and secure. Shake vigorously to remove the skins.)

Place nuts in food processor with a pinch of salt. Process until pasty nut butter has formed.

Place chocolate in a double broiler until fully melted. Add to food processor with nut butter and continue to pulse until chocolate nut butter has reached desired consistency.

Jar up and store in the cupboard for up to two weeks. Alternatively, store in the fridge for up to a month or two.

*note: if you purchase roasted, salted nuts, just skip the step where you roast your nuts in the oven.

 

Delicious ways to use this chocolate-hazelnut spread:

  • on toast
  • in a smoothie
  • in crepes with berries or bananas
  • with granola
  • in baked goods, like muffins or quick breads
  • with fruit on crackers
  • stirred in oatmeal
  • on a spoon