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Saturday, July 14, 2012

Amazing zucchini muffins (with a little bit of lemon)

There is a story that says that if you live where people are the salt of the earth, in the middle of summer, you better keep your doors locked. Not because these salt-of-the-earth neighbors are going to rob you, but because they are likely to drop off a big bunch of zucchini on the seat of your car or in your entryway, making eating it all it your problem.

I would like to think that my neighbors are the salt of the earth, but as of yet I haven't had any wayward zucchini harvests appearing in or on any of my property. (I also haven't been abandoning zucchini on anyone else's doorstep, either, though. The one time I tried to grow it bugs ate the teeny little seedlings down to nothing overnight.). However, it seems that even the farmers need to offload zucchini in great quantities.

My Abundant Harvest box has been... shall we say... generous in its helpings of zucchini and summer squash for quite a few weeks now. It is,,, shall we say... a challenge to keep up with it all.

My kids, who aren't the greatest veggie eaters, won't eat zucchini in any form except zucchini bread and zucchini muffins. (I'm not exaggerating. They even turned their noses up at chocolate chips cookies. Okay, Zucchini Chocolate Chip cookies, but those things are really really good and still they won't eat them).

So, zucchini muffins it is.  Except how many time can I make them without losing my mind?

So I put a little twist on the muffins this week... lemon. Lemon and zucchini go great together, and that is especially true in muffins. The lemon zest in these gives them a whole new life, and really sets them apart from ordinary zucchini muffins. This is most likely going to be the only way I make them from now on! I really like the lemon addition, so in my opinion, more is better. I used the zest from 1 lemon the first time I made these, and doubled it the send time. It was doubly delicious!

Zucchini muffins 

3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2/3 cup butter, melted
1 1/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla 
zest from 2 lemons
3 cups grated zucchini (about 3 medium-large zucchini)

Preheat the oven to 350.

Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt and set aside. Using a mixer, beat the eggs and sugar together. Add the vanilla, lemon zest, and butter. Add the zucchini and then slowly add the dry ingredients until combined.

Grease your muffin cups with a little bit of butter. Fill the muffin cups pretty much all the way (these muffins grow tall nicely, and don't really spill over the pan... so it's okay to fill the cups all the way). 

Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until nice and tall and golden brown. A toothpick should come out clean. Let them sit in the muffin pans for a few minutes and then take them out to cool completely.

The original recipe (from Stephanie's Kitchen) said that it makes 12 muffins, but I got 15 out of it, and they were still nice and tall and full.


Friday, July 6, 2012

Dilly Beans

What happens when you take a man who loves pickles and introduce him to a woman who loves pickles?

They get married and have three (adorable) children, and not a single one of those (amazing) children will touch a pickle.

Which means, of course, more for the man and the woman.

I like to make dilly beans for lots of reasons.

1.  I get TONS of green beans in my Abundant Harvest box during the summer. Almost too many to eat. And since green beans aren't acidic, preserving them is a little tricky...

2.  Unless you add lots of acidic vinegar.

3.  Dilly beans are delicious pickles that taste great all year long. And that's lucky, cause they last in jars all year long!

4. If you want to make something that really looks like you are a fabulous homemaker who shirks no duty and leaves no chore undone, these fit the bill. They just look the way canned food should look.

I'm personally not much of a Bloody Mary gal, but I hear that they are a fabulous addition to a bloody Mary. I believe it.

They are also a fabulous addition to a salad, or just on their own.  I love to eat them nice and cold straight out of the fridge. 

Here is the easy peasy way to make dilly beans and keep your green beans all year long. (I got this recipe form the cookbook "Put 'em Up" by Sherri Brooks Vinton)

Dilly Beans

4 pounds of green beans
5 cloves garlic
5 sprigs dill (about a cup altogether)
2 tablespoons dill seed
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
4 cups white vinegar
2 cups water
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons salt

First, trim the beans. You want to take off the tip and the tail, and you want to make them about an inch shorter than your jar. (There needs to be room for the liquid to cover them by a half inch, and leave a half inch of headspace in the jar).

Put a clove of garlic and a sprig of dill in each jar. Divide the dill seed and peppercorns evenly between all the jars. Pack the trimmed beans tightly into the jars, so they are standing up nice and neat.

Combine the water, vinegar, sugar and salt in a non-reactive pan and bring to a boil. Pour over the the beans to cover them by a half-inch. 

To can the jars, make sure to release any trapped air bubbles. Wipe the rims clean, place the lids, and screw on the bands. Boil for 15 minutes. Let the jars sit int he hot water for 5 minutes, and then let them sit undisturbed for 24 hours. 

These will keep for a year.

Monday, July 2, 2012

chocolate peanut butter bars

There are times when I wish I lived in America's heartland. I would love to have a huge yard and plenty of space around my home. I would have a long driveway and a big swath of lawn in front of my house. The house would be up on a little hill so the view from my big front porch would be beautiful. Maybe I would be overlooking some sort of river or lake.

My backyard would have lots of trees. In fact, I would like to have a little bit of woods back there. Somewhere the kids could wander and built forts and make tree houses and have adventures. I would also like some space for entertaining. Maybe a little patio surrounded by flowers, and containing a huge ding table and some comfy chairs for lounging and reading.

Of course, in my dreams, in America's heartland I can have all this for... oh say, the exact same price of the little parcel I have in Southern California. And since there would be actual precipitation (I'll order some summer thunderstorms, please), everything would be lush and green and beautiful.


I can't have all that and have the ocean, too, can I?

So for now, I'll stay right here in sunny (though dry) southern California. I will spend the summer taking my kids to the beach. They wander and build sandcastles and make moats and dig pits and go boogie boarding. They find sea shells and sea glass and dig for sand crabs. They find clams and then watch as the clam sticks that thing (stomach? tongue? Tiny little clam arm?) out and eats the sand crabs they feed it. They poke at sea anemones and squeal over sea slugs. They throw frisbees and footballs and whip each other with towels. They swim out way too far in the cold ocean and then come and lay on the hot sand.

And then, finally, when they are sun-kissed and worn out; when they are exhausted from running and jumping and swimming and floating; when they have raced against each other in the ocean, and raced together against the ocean that tries to destroy their sand castle faster than they can build; only then can I convince them to come close and sit and take a break.

I have to make sure, then, that I have a little treat for them.

These bars taste just like eating a Reese's peanut butter cup. They are rich and to die for. I am warning you now, make sure you have plenty of people to share these with, or you may end up eating the whole pan by yourself!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Bars

  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 1/4 cup peanut butter, divided
  • 1 cup butter, melted
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips

Mix together the graham cracker crumbs, 1 cup peanut butter, melted butter, and powdered sugar. Press it into the bottom of a 9x13 pan. Put this in the fridge for at least half an hour. 

Melt the chocolate chips on a double boiler (or in the microwave). Stir in the remaining 1/4 cup peanut butter. Spread the chocolate mixture evenly over the peanut layer and allow to cool.

Cut into bars and enjoy!