Friday, October 15, 2010

Food For Thought

Today Blogger was acting a bit wonky .... grrrrr.  So, if this post looks weird (i.e. pictures randomly placed or huge spaces between text) it wasn't me. :)  Hopefully when you read it, it all makes sense.


Happy Friday!  My weekend is starting a little earlier this week ... and so Food For Thought is coming a day early.  The kiddos are off of school today and I am off to play.  Not that this writing is much work, but it does require some attention to detail, and somehow that doesn't seem to happen when every 8.36 seconds someone is asking me a question or saying, "Watch this, Mom!"  So I hope you will understand :) and I'll have something interesting for you to read on Monday.  Pinky promise! :)


One show we love to watch with the kids is Iron Chef America.  The kids have been known to battle it out in our own kitchen stadium (i.e. the basement) complete with secret ingredients, points of plating and celebrity judges.  Brett and I enjoy seeing the interesting ingredients that the chefs work with and the amazing dishes they are able to prepare.  It's a show for the whole family!

Now ... I'm sure you have been on the edge of your seat waiting and wondering what my secret ingredient was last week.  Am I right, or am I right?!?  Well ... wait no longer.

This week's Food For Thought post is ... Hidden Veggies!

Specifically, I will be showing you how to hide zucchini and eggplant in three different dishes ... delicious, healthy dishes that your kids will love, too!  Ready to be fooled?  And wowed?  Here we go!

My kitchen buddy.
I have a terrific food processor that I use to grate and puree the veggies found in these recipes.  If you don't have a food processor (I'm so very sorry...) you can also use a cheese grater to grate the zucchini and a blender for the eggplant.  However ... I highly recommend having a food processor in your kitchen.  Still not convinced?  Then you need to brows here. :)

The first recipe I will share with you is one of my kids' favorite breakfast items.  Aaron actually chose to plant a zucchini plant so that I could, and I quote, "make zucchini bread."  That's my boy!

Zucchini Bread
(This recipe is from my mom ... with some tweaking.)

Veggie goodness!
4 cups zucchini, grated
3 cups flour (I use half white/half wheat)
2 cups sugar
1 1/4 cup apple sauce (in place of oil)
4 eggs, beaten
1 T. vanilla
1 T. cinnamon
1 1/2 t. salt
1 1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. baking powder
1 cup nuts, chopped (optional)

Ready for baking
In a large mixing bowl, combine all the dry ingredients.  Add zucchini, apple sauce, eggs and vanilla.  You can use a mixer, but I find that the zucchini strands get tangled up.  I chose to use a spatula and a little elbow grease (i.e. stir, stir, stir).  When it is well mixed, you can add the nuts.  I like my zucchini bread sans nuts, but it's also good with walnuts if you like something crunchy mixed in.

Prepare 2 loaf pans by greasing only the bottoms with shortening.  Pay close attention to the corners and bottom edges.  Pour half the batter in each pan and bake at 325 degrees for one hour or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  I have a great cake tester from Pampered Chef I use all the time. Just so you know! :)
Still warm!

Let the bread cool for about 10 minutes on a wire rack.  You will want to run a butter knife around the edge of each pan prior to turning out to cool.  When the breads are cool, wrap one up in a freezer bag and save for later and cut into the other one.  Yummy!

Chocolate Zucchini Cake
(This recipe is from Epi.  I made it for Brett's birthday and Norah has requested it for hers.)

2 1/4 cup flour (half white/half wheat)
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 stick butter, room temperature
1/2 cup oil
2 large eggs
1 t. vanilla
1/2 cup buttermilk*
2 cups zucchini, grated
1 cup chocolate chips
2/3 cup walnuts, chopped

*For buttermilk, you can add 1 teaspoon lemon juice to regular milk and let it curdle a bit before adding to the mix.

Now you see 'em ...
Combine flour, sugar, salt and baking soda.  In a different bowl, cream together butter, sugar and oil.  Add eggs one at a time to the sugar mixture until well beaten.  Add vanilla.  Mix in dry ingredients and buttermilk and then add zucchini.
Now you don't!

Prepare cake pan by greasing it with shortening and then dusting it with flour.  I chose to use a bundt pan ... just because. :)  Pour the batter into the cake pan and sprinkle the chocolate chips and nuts on top.

Bake the cake at 325 degrees until the cake tester comes out clean, about 50 minutes.  Cool the cake completely before turning it out on your cake plate.

Bagged and ready.
Now for decorating!  I wanted to drizzle chocolate over the top of the cake and then sprinkle additional walnuts over that.  To melt the chocolate, I put about one cup chocolate chips in a ziplock bag and set this in a pyrex (microwaveable) measuring cup.  I then melted the chocolate in the microwave at 30 second intervals, checking after each beep to see if it was melted yet.  Chocolate can burn rather quickly, so while this might seem tedious, it's worth it.

Just toss the bag when done!
When the chips were melted, I had a handy little decorating bag!  I simply snipped one corner of the ziplock bag and then squeezed a steady amount over the top of the cake.  Then I tossed a few nuts on top and voila!  Dessert is served!


We enjoyed this cake warmed up a bit with vanilla ice cream on the side.  You would never know that there was something green in there! :)

Mouth-Watering Pasta Sauce
(This recipe I made up ... with inspiration from my neighbors.)
This was the secret addition to last week's pasta sauce in the Italian Flag Spaghetti Pie.

Veggies to roast:  Zucchini, Eggplant, Peppers and Onions
Olive oil
Salt & Pepper
4 oz. can tomato sauce
Favorite pasta sauce (I like Barilla.)
Ready to roast.
Take the veggies (in this case I just had eggplant on hand) and cut them into cubes.  Place them in a single layer on a cooking sheet and drizzle with a little olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and then toss them around with your hands so they are well coated.  Pop them in the oven on broil.  Stay near by and check them regularly.   You are looking for the veggies to have an all over, even browning.  You will also start to smell the veggies ... a warm, savory smell.  Yum!
Roasted to perfection!
 When the veggies have cooled, transfer them to the food processor.  I added the tomato sauce as a little liquid to help puree the veggies until they were smooth.  Give them a whirl until they are a nice creamy consistency.  The finished product doesn't look terribly palatable, but don't be fooled.  It is delicious!  This lovely, creamy, rich, veggie-fortified blend is a wonderful addition to any pasta sauce.  You don't necessarily taste the vegetables, but there is a wonderful round flavor that you don't get with plain 'ol pasta sauce.  I currently have two batches in my freezer waiting to be added to my next pasta meal.   Shhh ... don't tell the kids! :)
Before ...

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