Thursday, July 26, 2012

Olympic snacking: chocolate chip zucchini snack cake

Summer is waning.  The days are getting ever so shorter.  The poor drought-stricken landscape is golden, brown and crunchy.  The neighborhood pools are quiet with everyone finishing up their school breaks on vacation or checking everything off the list they meant to do this year.  My kids aren't school kids anymore, but I still get the same little panic that I've left something undone and not maximized every day.  It used to be about a craft project, a trip to the zoo or a play date but there always felt like there would be next year.  Now it's just simply about time together doing anything or nothing and I know there won't always be next year.  I've run out of time with Kelly and I'm a serious short-timer with Sara.  Little tears will well up over the chapters that have closed, but then there's the smile of knowing that their happiness in their new lives is just where all the energy needs to go.  And I'm thankful for all the time, even though there never seemed to be enough.  And I'm thankful for my almost daily yoga practice.  Deep, cleansing breaths and so much sweat pouring off with the summer heat wrings it all out.

So it's all good.  Greg's extended a business trip to California to include a couple of days in LA to see Kelly.  Sara and I have been enjoying a little break in my work schedule back at home.  We hit the road to do a little Ikea shopping for her apartment-style dorm living this year at Duke which is always a good trip.  Apparently it actually rains in Ohio and a storm had rolled through that morning, leaving Ikea with limited power.  Let me tell you that the lighting section at Ikea is much more inspiring when the lights are actually on.  It's still ridiculously hot here in Indiana (and dusty), but another day this week Sara and I got on our bikes and headed down the Monon (local rail trail) for brunch anyway.  If we continued to wait for a cooler day, we'd be going on that trip when she's home at Thanksgiving.  We loved Taste at 52nd and College, a breakfast and lunch place everyone raves about and for good reason.  We're trying to find a date for lunch before she goes back to school...


And of course even though I'm posting at a paltry rate, we're still cooking and baking with all the amazing and abundant produce at the markets (someone is irrigating).  Baked a peach pie last week and I'll have to check if I've ever shared my recipe for what truly is one of my favorite foods on the planet.  My intention is to post three times a week, but my reality hasn't allowed that for a while.  I'm still here.  


So anyway, tonight I'll give you a little twist on possibly the best baked good recipe I've ever created all on my own.  That list is pretty short.  Baking is a science.  Baking needs measurement and accuracy.  Somehow the first time I tried to make my banana oatmeal snack cake it just worked.  We bought a couple of large zucchini solely for the purpose of baking them into something.  You know the ones that people just give away because they are too big and getting a little seed-y?  Well, I don't know anyone actually growing zucchini this year so we buy it and all manner of squash every week at the farmer's market.  I had more than my fair share of a chocolate zucchini quick bread at work a couple of weeks ago (with cream cheese icing, no less) so this is where it all comes together.  I'm not a chocolate girl, so the little mini chips are just enough for me.  The chocolate batter of the quick bread was yummy, but with the chips that's just way too much chocolate most days.  I asked Sara if she thought substituting zucchini for bananas in my snack cake would be good and of course she said, "I don't know, let's try it and then you can blog about it".  She's always reminds me when my readers are probably missing me.  Maybe because a lot of you are her friends!  


And sure enough my King Arthur Flour delivery from Vermont showed up this afternoon on my doorstep so I had a fresh supply of cake enhancer.  Perfect!  I also ordered their espresso powder after reading how they loved to use it just to enhance the mocha flavor of a chocolate baked good.  Sold.
When we were mixing the batter and Sara added in the zucchini, the texture with the creamed butter and sugar along with the eggs, yogurt and vanilla was super weird.  Almost like I had added baking powder.  See that's the chemistry stuff you start to know so you can actually write your own recipe.  As soon as the dry ingredients were blended in the texture improved and I could tell it was going to work.  I grated the zucchini in my food processor and then rolled up the lot of it (okay, that's super British, but I've been all about the NBC pre-Olympic coverage today) in a tea towel to soak up the extra moisture for an hour or so.   Paper towels would work too.  Just make sure you've got most of the moisture out.  Sara was pleased to see the baking made the zucchini melt into the cake.  The raw zucchini when she was "cleaning" the beater and the bowl was not as yummy.  You can add more chocolate chips or some toasted walnuts.  Sunflower seeds might be kind of nice too.  


Have a snack and turn on the Olympics these next two and a half weeks!  I dare you not to get all choked up when they raise the flag and play the national anthem (of whatever country you are from, because a bunch of you are from other countries and I love that you read my blog!).  


my piece of snack cake for the evening


Chocolate Chip Zucchini Snack Cake

1/2 C unsalted butter
1 C brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp espresso powder
1/2 C plain nonfat or 2% Greek yogurt
3 C grated zucchini, drained and towel-dried
1 C flour
1 C wheat flour
1 C oats
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp kosher salt
3 T King Arthur Flour cake enhancer
1/2 C mini chocolate chips
1/2-1 C chopped toasted walnuts (optional)


Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 9x13x2 pan with cooking spray and set aside.  In a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in eggs one at a time.  Beat in vanilla, espresso powder and vanilla, scraping down the sides.  Blend in zucchini.  In a separate bowl whisk together flours, oats, baking soda, salt and cake enhancer (if using).  Stir flour mixture into zucchini mixture until well combined.  Stir in chocolate chips and toasted walnuts as desired.  Spread batter in prepared pan and smooth top.  Bake 28-35 minutes or until tester comes out clean. 

forgot to grab the camera for process pictures, but here's the batter in the pan

and here's the bonus photo from Sara and my Indianapolis Star
women and the Olympics photo shoot in case you missed the paper on Sunday

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