Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Zucchini Bread

I love the summer. The hotter, the better, especially if I'm lounging in the pool or hanging out in my backyard with a glass of wine in my hand. This month's What's Baking theme is "Bake Your Happy Place." My happy place is my backyard. It's secluded, has a pool, nice flowers, and a huge maple tree hangs overhead for shade. Don't forget the swing and adirondack chairs. The only thing it's lacking is a big beautiful garden. I love vegetables from the garden, but unfortunately I don't have a green thumb. Lucky for me, my cousin does. She has a gorgeous garden in her backyard, and she dropped off a few large zucchinis for us. My Backyard = My Happy Place and since zucchini comes from the backyard, I decided to go with it. I made two loaves of traditional zucchini bread and was thrilled with the results. You can mix it up by adding white chocolate chips, pecans, craisins, or pineapple; the choices are endless This is the perfect treat to enjoy in my happy place, my backyard.

Zucchini Bread
source: adapted from Simply Recipes

2 eggs (beaten)
1 and 1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups grated zucchini
2/3 cup melted butter (cooled)
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
pinch of salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
1 cup raisins (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spray two loaf pans with nonstick baking spray.
Mix together eggs, sugar, vanilla, zucchini, and melted butter. 
In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger.
Add the flour mixture to the zucchini mixture and mix until combined with a wooden spoon.
Fold in the walnuts and raisins if using.
Divide the batter equally between two loaf pans.
Bake for 1 hour (mine was done at 45 minutes, so check around the 40-minute mark). 
Cool bread in pans for 10 minutes and then turn out onto wire racks to cool completely.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Pizza Pasta Salad

I love cookouts, but I get sick of the same old side dishes: pasta salad, macaroni salad, potato salad, etc. My coworker recently made a pizza pasta salad for a work potluck, and I fell in love with it. It was simple and delicious. I decided to make it instead of my old standby of macaroni salad for a recent family cookout. I was afraid my family would miss the macaroni salad, but this pasta salad got rave reviews. So if you're looking for a quick and easy side dish for a cookout or party, look no further than this recipe.

Pizza Pasta Salad
Source: Adapted from Taste of Home

1 pound any shape pasta
1 to 1 and 1/2 cups of your favorite Italian dressing (I used Ken's light Italian with Romano and red pepper)
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
4 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese, cubed
4 oz. cheddar cheese, cubed
3/4 cup chopped or sliced pepperoni
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
chopped fresh basil or green onions for garnish (optional)

Cook pasta according to directions on package. Drain and set aside to cool. Once pasta has completed cooled, add dressing, seasonings, cheese, pepperoni, and tomatoes. Mix well. Refrigerate for at least 2 to 3 hours before serving to allow flavors to meld. Top with chopped fresh basil or green onions, if desired.