Savoring Summer: Summer Squash Bread

“I’m only one person….”

Since we were away for most of August, we had asked someone to pick our garden for us, not wanting the vegetables to go to waste. Unfortunately for our friend, her singleness prevented an ability to keep up with the glut of summer squash and zucchini that our garden tends to yield this time of year. When I am home, I pick these vegetables while they are still small and tender and use them in salads or sautes. When I want to make stuffed zucchini or squash, I allow them to grow to a larger size for adequate stuffing. When one returns home from over three weeks away and finds summer squash the size of a baseball bat, well, there’s really only two things one can do… make soup and bake!

So, I chopped up much of the summer squash and zucchini and made a delicious soup in my largest crockpot of summer squash, zucchini, kale and tomatoes, but I still had enough summer squash left to create 4 grated cups worth, so I went to work creating a recipe around the four cups of summer squash.

I wanted something that would go with the soup so I opted to make a cornbread type dish, only a summer squash bread. I didn’t want it to be sweet like a cake but I also didn’t want it to be too dry. Like a cornbread, I wanted it to be something we could lather some vegan butter on and have with the soup as something a bit more filling, since the soup would be all vegetables, but I also wanted it to be something that could be eaten on its own, since I presumed there would be leftovers.

As I worked on the recipe, I needed to keep in mind that I had four cups of the summer squash to use, so I decided it would need an 11 by 15 pan, which I lined with parchment paper. Then I opted to use a combination of a gluten free flour blend with another gluten free flour to combine the lightness of a rice flour blend with the hardiness of a straight gluten free flour. For the liquid, I used eggs and safflower oil but I also added unsweetened orange juice to react with the orange juice for rising and also to add some additional flavor. For the sweetener I used Agave because I could use a lot less than sugar, and I added some spice for the final touch.

The result was a bread that the family enjoyed with the soup and which friends enjoyed the next day on its own.

Summer Squash Bread

Ingredients:

2 cups gluten free flour blend

1 cup sorghum or millet flour

1 tsp baking powder

2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp sea salt

2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or you can use any combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and allspice)

4 cups shredded, loosely packed summer squash

1/2 cup beaten eggs (usually two large eggs; can also just use egg whites)

3/4 cup safflower oil

3/4 cup unsweetened orange juice

3/4 cup agave

Baking Instructions:

  1. Line a 9 x 15 pan with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mix the gluten free flour blend with the sorghum OR millet flour, the baking powder, the baking soda, the salt and pumpkin pie spice. Set aside.
  3. Mix the grated squash with the beaten eggs, oil, unsweetened orange juice, and agave.
  4. Mix the dry ingredients into the wet and blend well.
  5. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 30 to 35 minutes until the bread has puffed and is golden, pulling away from the edges and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

 

 

Creative Cooking: Prunes and Beets

“It’s so beautiful!”

My son has always been afraid of thunderstorms, despite everything my husband and I have done to convince him that he has nothing to fear.

Last week, however, we had a three day heat wave; and one night the hot temperatures brought severe thunderstorms. As I was driving home from a meeting, I noticed that the heat was causing an electrical storm to light up the sky a few miles away. I rushed home, yelled at my children to hop into the car, and drove back up to the main road.

As my son watched the “lights” in the sky, he commented on their beauty and suggested we put on some Beethoven to match the rhythm of the lightning. After several minutes of watching, he didn’t want to return home, though, finally, reluctantly, he did allow me to drive home.

As we drove, I asked him what he thought about thunderstorms now, and he said he never realized they could be so beautiful.

His reaction to the lightning storm is similar to what I hear people say about unusual foods like prunes and beets. So often, people “don’t like” them without having tried them. They think they know enough to make a finite decision about them, when really they don’t.

Prunes are high in fiber and don’t cause the same types of spikes in sugar levels while delivering a wonderful sweetness to anything you put into them. Beets are high in vitamins and minerals and fiber, and like prunes, have a naturally sweet taste. As such, both prunes and beets are great additions to desserts. Below are a muffin and a bread recipe I just recently created for the fun of it.

Banana Beet Bread

Ingredients:

1 cup mashed ripe bananas (ripe means they’re spotted brown on the peel)

3/4 cup roasted chopped beets (about two; roasting beets brings out their flavor more; then I just chopped them up in the food processor — you can also now buy the beets already cooked up in packages in the stores if you don’t want to cook them yourself!)

1/2 cup safflower oil

1/2 cup Agave

1 egg

2 cups gluten free flour blend of your choosing (I used a combination of flours which mixed garbanzo bean, sorghum, and brown rice flours with potato starch and tapioca flour)

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp ginger

1/4 tsp cloves

1/2 tsp baking soda

2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

Baking Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9 x 5 pan with parchment paper so that the paper is sticking out of the pan for lifting purposes.
  2. Combine the bananas, beets, oil, agave and egg. Put aside.
  3. Mix the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet with the apple cider vinegar and quickly mix everything together until the dry ingredients are completely moistened.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and let it sit for about five minutes before putting it into the oven.
  6. Bake for 35-40 minutes until the bread if puffed, a golden red hue, and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  7. Cool for five minutes on a wire cooling rack in the pan. Then use the parchment paper wings to remove the bread from the pan. Cool for another 10 to 15 minutes before removing the parchment paper and allowing the bread to cool completely.

Breakfast Prune Muffins

Ingredients:

9 ounces of pitted, chopped dates

2 tbsp garbanzo bean flour

1 cup gluten free rolled whole oats

1 cup boiling water

2 tbsp ground golden flaxseed

6 tbsp water

1 cup gluten free oat flour

1 cup garbanzo bean flour

2/3 cup potato starch

1/3 cup arrowroot starch

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp allspice

1 tsp ginger

1 cup blueberries

1 cup Enjoy Life mini chocolate chips (optional, but my children like it with them when I make them as a snack food for afterschool)

Four 6 inch bananas (comes to about 1 1/4 cups mashed)

1/2 cup safflower oil

2 tbsp apple cider vinegar

Baking Instructions:

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line 24 muffin cups with cupcake liners or grease them so the muffins won’t stick to your pan.

2.  Put the prunes and flour into a food processor and finely chop the prunes into tiny pieces. (This will distribute the prunes throughout your batter.)

3. Mix the finely chopped prunes with the oats in a bowl, and pour the boiling water over them, pushing the prunes and oats down into the water so they are covered. Let sit.

4. Whisk together the flaxmeal with the water, and set aside.

5. Whisk together the oat flour, garbanzo bean flour, potato starch, arrowroot starch, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, allspice, and ginger.  Stir in the blueberries and chocolate chips and set aside.

6. Mash the bananas and mix with the oil and the prunes and oatmeal mixture and the flaxmeal mixture.

7. Make a hole in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients along with the apple cider vinegar. Mix up quickly just until the dry ingredients are moist.

8. Evenly scoop the muffin batter among the 24 muffin cups and bake for 15 minutes or until the cupcakes are golden and puffed and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

9. Remove the muffins to a wire rack and cool completely.  These keep well in a tightly covered tupperware container.

The Skinny on Fat: Substituting for Oils and Butter

website skinny fat

I was twelve years old and as round as a basketball. 

Then, to my surprise, adolescence kicked in, lengthening my body’s height, which thinned my waistline.  Suddenly boys thought I was interesting, and I began to think they weren’t so bad, either.

So, when Keith asked me if he could walk me home from school, I said, “Yes.”  I don’t recall what we talked about, if we talked at all.  I do, however, clearly remember that pivotal moment when we stopped at the center of the bridge to watch the trucks rumble past underneath.

We had been standing side by side, when he suddenly stepped in front of my view, facing me.  Since I only came to his chest, I had to look up to see his face.  He smiled down at me and slowly lowered his head.  I was about to receive my first kiss, and the only thing I could think was “But I have gum in my mouth!  You can’t kiss someone with gum in your mouth!”

I learned, though, that yes, you can actually be kissed while you have gum in your mouth!  But more than that, my first kiss subtly reinforced to me the notion that no fat was good.

The reality, though, is that not all fat is bad.  My husband just told me about a recent study that was published which actually revealed that people with a little bit of fat on their bodies live longer and healthier than skinny folks.  Go figure!

The purpose of fat in baking

And when it comes to baking and cooking, fat plays a pivotal role.  In cooking, fats such as butter, oil, and shortening add flavor, help transfer heat, are needed to deliver certain vitamins into our bodies, and bind foods which normally would not mix well.  In baked goods, fat makes the difference between a crispy or chewy cookie, between a light or dense cake, and between a hard or flaky scone.

What’s important to remember is that you don’t need to use as much fat as any recipe calls for, nor do you have to use the fats which aren’t as good for you or which you’re allergic to and can’t eat

You can cut down the fat

I’ve learned that most recipes call for twice as much fat as you really need, so if you simply want to cut down on the fat, just reduce the amount in any recipe by ¼ to ½ and check if you can taste or see the difference.

You can substitute “good” fat

If you’re trying to decrease your use of the “bad” fats such as butter, feel free to substitute a “good” fat.  The “good” fats such as olive oil or avocado oil or safflower oil, essentially plant based fats, are easily substitutable in recipes.  As well, if you have a dairy allergy, the vegan “butters” work very well in traditional recipes.  What you need to remember, though, is that liquid fat should be replaced by another liquid and a solid fat by another solid.  If your recipe calls for you to cream butter and you try to replace it with canola oil, you should expect to have some problems with the substitution.

You can eliminate the fat

For anyone who does need to avoid fat altogether, though, you, too, can still bake those goodies you long to eat.  Fruit and cooked vegetable purees work wonders in many recipes, as does yogurt or buttermilk, presuming you have no dairy allergy.  The tip to keep in mind when using such substitutions is to use ½ as much of these products for the amount of fat called for in a recipe.

Paula’s Low Fat Date Bread Recipe

Ingredients:

1 cup finely chopped dates

1 cup boiling water

1/2 cup Agave or honey

1/4 cup egg whites or 1 tbsp ground flaxseed mixed with 3 tbsp water 

2 tbsp plant based oil

2 1/2 cups 100% whole wheat flour or 2 cups whole grain gluten free flour blend

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp gluten free baking powder

1 cup your choice of finely chopped nuts, mini chocolate chips, or dried fruit*

Baking Instructions:

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare a 9 x 5 loaf pan to your liking. (I would use “If You Care” parchment paper, but you can spray it with Pam spray or coat it with butter or oil.)

2.  Cover the chopped dates with the boiling water and let sit for at least five minutes.

3. Mix the flour with the baking soda, salt, and baking powder.  Stir in the nuts, chips, or fruit.  Set aside.

4.  Add the Agave, egg whites, and oil to the date-water mixture.

5. Quickly mix the dry ingredients into the wet and pour into prepared loaf pan.

6.  Bake for 40-45 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean.  Bread will be golden brown.

* Since I have a nut allergy, I like to use the Enjoy Life allergen free mini chocolate chips, but I have occasionally added other chopped dried fruit like apricots and dried plums.