You know, there are days when I just marvel at how much my life has been enriched by joining the world of blogging. I’m amazed at how many positive experiences this little outlet for self-expression, culinary creativity and the occasional star-struck reference to my favorite soap opera has brought my way.
At the forefront, of course, is YOU–the readers and commenters. What an inspiring group of compassionate, intelligent, witty and loyal people you are! Thank you for coming back here on a regular basis; thank you for your thoughtful comments (I am, literally, thrilled every time I see one appear at the end of a blog entry–and they keep me coming back here, too); and thank you for your feedback and knowledgeable advice (I’m so excited to start cooking from my recently-acquired cookbooks, courtesy of your suggestions–yay Crescent Dragonwagon!). Truly, a blog is a sorry, desolate place without its readers.
Along the way, I’ve also discovered many other blogs and bloggers, and what a revelation that has been. I was dumbfounded the other day when I realized there are now approximately 150 blogs on my Google Reader, and I seem to discover new and intriguing blogs every day (and I promise, they will all eventually make it to my blog roll). Where were all these talented writers hiding before the advent of blogs? Whether primarily for the recipes or mostly for the prose, I delight in reading every one and perk up each time Google informs me of a new post by a favorite blogger. Lately, I’ve been a bit remiss with my own comments on other blogs, but please know that I do read regularly and am enjoying all your posts!
Speaking of great bloggers, yesterday I had the unique pleasure of actually meeting another Toronto-area blogger, Giz from Equal Opportunity Kitchen . As you’d expect from her posts, Giz is witty, sharp, and very, very funny. We chatted like two teenaged chums who meet up again at the 10-year high school reunion, gabbing and giggling and catching up on what we’ve been doing over the past decade. In fact, our conversation flowed so smoothly and effortlessly that we were on our way out the door of the coffee shop before we realized we hadn’t even touched on the topic we’d ostensibly met to discuss–Giz’s “slimdown challenge” to me from a while back! Thanks, Giz, for a great start to my morning!
As many other bloggers have noted, blogging also forces enourages one to try out new recipes. In her recent 100th post, VeggieGirl mentioned how each blog entry represents a new recipe (can it be that the HH and I have eaten 186 new dishes–not counting all those that don’t make it to the blog–since last October??). And part of this impetus to cook novel food arrives in the form of blog events, another aspect of blogging that I thoroughly enjoy.
These days, it seems there’s a new blog event posted almost daily; I sorely wish I could participate in all of them. Unfortunately, my schedule at the moment prohibits too much experimentation in the kitchen. It’s currently end of semester at the college and my marking, like all the ripe, luscious seasonal fruit, is at its peak. I’ve got a stack of papers on my desk that just might trump the CN tower as the world’s tallest freestanding structure. And while preparing foods for blog events is admittedly more colorful than marking essays (which involves only black and red, after all), it wouldn’t do to set aside the former for the latter (well, not too often, anyway).
Still, when I read about the Healthy Cooking: Eat Well, Live Well event hosted by Mansi at Fun and Food, I knew I had to submit something. After all, isn’t the very raison d’être of this blog, more or less, “to create healthy, delicious foods”? (That, and to provide The Girls a forum in which to air their observations and opinions, of course).
(“Thanks, Mum, we appreciate that. You know we HATE having our opinions squelched.”)
I thought about what to prepare, but my mind came up blank. Then, while attempting to clear the non-marking clutter (eg., half-filled tea mug, empty water bottle, digital camera, sticky notes with recipe ideas, cookbooks previously used for blog entries, magazines previously used for blog inspiration, my checkbook, Bram Stoker’s Dracula [the novel, not the vampire], stray Chaser hairs, my journal, an anniversary card from the HH, and my calculator) off my desk the other night, I came across June’s issue of Cooking Light. Where have I been living, under a rock or something? I mean, I’m aware there’s such as thing as zucchini bread, the moist and delectable quick loaf that’s a staple in many a baking household. I am also aware that your classic carrot cake is often studded with bits of juicy pineapple. But zucchini and pineapple? Together? It just never occurred to me. Yet there it was, staring at me from the pages of Cooking Light.
The funny thing is, the magazine’s recipe was a “lightened-up” version of an older, original recipe, that contained 3 eggs, 1 cup oil, and 2 cups sugar. The Cooking Light version cut back to 2 eggs (plus an additional 1/2 cup chemicals made to taste like eggs), 2/3 cup oil and 2 cups (2 CUPS!!) white sugar. Granted, the recipe yields 2 loaves, but still–an entire cup per loaf? Seemed a bit excessive to me.
And so, I decided to lighten the already-lightened version. (Is that sort of like asking Michael Jackson to bleach his skin?) Seemed to me I could accomplish a fine job of it by reducing the oil even more, and most definitely by reducing the sugar and replacing it with natural sweeteners instead. My recent avocado kick provided yet another brilliant twist. My ratiocination went something like this: zucchini is green. Avocado is green. Why not add some more green to the green, and use avocado purée instead of egg in this recipe? Along with the Omega-3’s in the flax seeds, the avocado provides a good dose of monounsaturated fats to the batter, allowing me to reduce the oil even further. And so, my own idiosyncratic variation of zucchini-pineapple loaf was born.
The bread is fragrant with cinnamon, sweet with pineapple and soft, melting bits of chopped dates throughout. The zucchini contributes a certain depth of flavor and even more moisture–in fact, this bread treads the very limits of moistness; any more moist, and it might not qualify as a solid. The flavors meld and intensify once the bread is cooled and rested, so it’s even more tasty the morning after it’s made. And like blogging, it will enrich your day with a healthy dose of sweetness and discovery.
Zucchini and Pineapple Mini Loaves
A healthy, hearty version of a heavier standard, this bread mixes up easily and is a great recipe for using up leftover zucchini, pineapple, or overripe avocado.
5 ounces (150 g.) finely grated zucchini (fresh or previously frozen)
1/4 cup (60 ml.) avocado purée (fresh or previously frozen)
1/2 cup (100-120 g.) very well-drained crushed pineapple (drain first and then measure)
1/2 cup (90 g.) Sucanat (unrefined brown sugar)
1/4 cup (60 ml.) pure maple syrup
2 Tbsp. (30 ml.) finely ground flax seed
2 Tbsp. (30 ml.) sunflower or other light-tasting oil
1/2 tsp. (2.5 ml.) apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. (5 ml.) pure vanilla extract
generous 1/4 cup (35-40 g.) chopped dried dates
3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. (125-130 g.) light spelt flour
3/4 cup (90 g.) whole barley flour
1 tsp. (5 ml.) baking powder
1 tsp. (5 ml.) baking soda
2 tsp. (10 ml.) cinnamon
1/4 tsp. (1.5 ml.) sea salt
Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C). Lightly grease 8 mini-loaf pans or muffin cups, or line with paper liners.
In a medium bowl, combine the zucchini, avocado, pineapple, Sucanat, maple syrup, flax, apple cider vinegar, vanilla and chopped dates. Stir to mix well and set aside while you prepare the dry ingredients, or at least 2 minutes.
In a large bowl, sift together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Stir or whisk to distribute the leaveners and cinnamon throughout.
Pour the wet ingredients over the dry and stir just to blend (don’t worry if a few dry spots remain here and there). Using a 1/3 cup measuring cup or large ice cream scoop, fill each tin about 3/4 full.
Bake for 15 minutes, then rotate pan and bake another 10-15 minutes, until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in pan for about 5 minutes before removing to a cooling rack. Makes 8 loaves or muffins. Store in airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days (these taste even better the 2nd day). May be frozen.
[This recipe will also appear in my upcoming cookbook, Sweet Freedom, along with more than 100 others, most of which are not featured on this blog. For more information, check the “Cookbook” button at right, or visit the cookbook blog.]