Amazingly Good Zucchini Bread…

Ok, I know I’ve been sort of MIA lately…it’s been a busy couple of weeks (translation: I started teaching voice lessons last week and have 12 freshman girls…it’s not the easiest thing in the world trying to  get someone to open their mouth wider when they obviously think you’re the biggest loser that ever walked the earth…).  But anyway, here I am, back to normal (hopefully) and blogging on a regular basis again!  Let me just take a couple of seconds to tell you about this bread…it’s seriously good.  I was browsing allrecipes.com for zucchini bread and just wasn’t feeling all that impressed with the recipes.  They all sounded pretty boring to me.  So I finally just closed my eyes and picked one (sort of) and ended up with this recipe.  I’m SO very glad I did, because this turned out to be really, really good!

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The inside of the bread was soft and incredibly moist, with just a hint of spice (I don’t like an overpowering amount, so this was just right!), and the top of the loaf had sort of  a crust on it that was crumbly and delicious – the top crust was by far my favorite part!  I can tell you with complete honesty that I will most definitely be making this recipe over and over again!  It’s just perfect for Fall….or for those of us who just have to pretend it’s Fall since it’s still a blazing 95 degrees outside…ugh.

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Zucchini Bread
-allrecipes.com

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
2 1/4 cups white sugar
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups grated zucchini
1 cup chopped walnuts

Grease and flour two 8 x 4 inch pans. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Sift flour, salt, baking powder, soda, and cinnamon together in a bowl.
Beat eggs, oil, vanilla, and sugar together in a large bowl.  Add sifted ingredients to the creamed mixture, and beat well. Stir in zucchini and nuts until well combined.  Pour batter into prepared pans. (I sprinkled a little brown sugar over the top before baking and it helped to create the nice crust!)
Bake for 40 to 60 minutes, or until tester inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool in pan on rack for 20 minutes. Remove bread from pan, and completely cool.

**Note: This recipe makes two loaves – I cut it in half and came out with one perfectly sized loaf.

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Quiche!

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In the town where hubby and I grew up, there is a small little restaurant called The Purple Turnip that serves really good “chick food”.  If you were to go for lunch on a weekday, you’d see 90% women – teachers, old ladies, business women and “ladies-who-lunch”…of course there will be the occasional male, but chances are he was dragged there by his wife.  Their biggest seller? Quiche.  It’s SO good.  It’s different every day.  Sometimes it has broccoli, sometimes spinach, sometimes asparagus…but it’s always totally delicious.  Naturally, everytime we’re visting home, I always want to go to Purple Turnip. Quiche, followed by out-of-this-world tiramisu. Perfect.

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Recently, I had a major hankering for quiche, and since an hour’s drive to Purple Turnip wasn’t in our near future, I decided to just make my own awesome quiche.  And boy was it good!  I was really pleased with the way it turned out – light and fluffy and filled with tons of asparagus, mushrooms and bacon…YUM! I will most definitely be making this one again!

Quiche with Asparagus, Mushrooms and Bacon

1 9-inch pie crust
7 large eggs
3/4 cup half and half
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and chopped
1 small can sliced mushrooms, drained (you can use fresh, I just happened to have canned on hand)
4-6 slices bacon, cooked and diced
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Press pie crust into a pie plate and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, half and half and salt and pepper. Add the chopped asparagus, mushrooms, bacon and cheddar cheese and stir to combine. Pour into pie plate and bake for 50-60 minutes, or until quiche is set (the center might still be slightly jiggly- that’s ok). If it starts browning too soon, cover it with a foil tent. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving.

*I like my asparagus slightly crisp, so I don’t cook it before putting it in the quiche; but if you like it really tender, you can blanch it in some boiling water for about 5 minutes before adding it to the egg mixture.

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Catching Up…Classic Banana Bundt Cake

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I didn’t get a chance to make this in time for last week’s TWD, but I sure wasn’t going to let this recipe pass me by!  I knew as soon as I got the chance, I needed to make this cake. Luckily, my friend Courtney was coming to visit last week, which gave me a great excuse to bake it.  Honestly, I wasn’t expecting much more than a regular old banana bread out of this cake – and it was, actually, very similar to banana bread…but SO much better! This will be my go-to recipe for banana bread now (I thought it was closer to a bread than a cake).  Courtney, hubby and I all loved it. It was so good, I’m making it again for my mother, who is coming to house sit and dog sit for us while we’re out of town this week. I know she’ll love it with her coffee!

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This cake was chosen (last week) by Mary of The Food Librarian. She has a great blog – be sure to check it out and get the recipe for this! You won’t be sorry!  Come back tomorrow for my (regularly scheduled and on time!) TWD post – Brownie Buttons.  So cute!!

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Strawberry Scones…

I actually made these scones months ago….these pictures have been sitting in my “to blog” file for ages now. I don’t know why I’ve waited until now to finally post them; I guess I just didn’t notice them or something. Silly me! This recipe comes from Katie over at Good Things Catered, and since she posted them (probably over a year ago) it seems like everyone has made them (she has that affect on people!). Yes, this is the same Katie from whom I got the famous “Easy Cheesy Beer Bread” – she’s good, I’m telling you!

These scones are full of fresh, juicy strawberries (thus their name, “Juicy Strawberry Scones”) and not overly sweet, so they’re perfect for breakfast or brunch with your coffee. I loved them smeared with melty butter as a late night snack! I even sent some to my hometown for my Great Grandmother, Baba to try, and she loved them! She really enjoys things like that, so I was thrilled when I heard back that she really enjoyed them. Give these a try for your next breakfast party, or even just a plain ‘ol Saturday morning…they’re perfect for any occasion!

Juicy Strawberry Scones
-Good Things Catered

2 1/4 – 2 1/2 c. all purpose flour (depending on how ripe your strawberries are)
1/4 c. granulated sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick (8 Tbsp) butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
1 egg
1/4 c. yogurt
1/4 c. milk
2 tsp orange zest
1 c. fresh strawberries, diced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheet with parchment.
In small bowl, combine egg, yogurt, milk, zest, whisk to combine thoroughly and set aside. In large bowl combine flour, sugar, powder, salt, and whisk to combine.  Using pastry cutter or two knives, cut butter into flour until all pieces are smaller than pea-sized.
Add strawberries, and toss to coat. Add wet ingredients to dry and mix in lightly with fork until dough just comes together.
Turn dough out onto well floured work surface and pat into large ball. Cut dough in half. Shape half of dough into flat disk shape and cut into 8 slices.
Place on baking sheet and repeat with other half of dough. Sprinkle tops of scones with sugar and place in the oven.
Bake until turn slightly brown, about 25 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool on baking sheet for 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool (or eat right away!) Enjoy!

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Jam! Jam, Jam, JAM!

LOOK! Look what I’ve been doing today!! I’m so proud of myself…homemade jam!!! This is something I’ve been wanting to do for a while now, but always thought it would be too difficult. Luckily, my good buddy Tabitha talked me into it! She makes her own jam all the time and said it was no big thing. So, after about a thousand phone calls to Nana and a quick prayer- I had six beautiful jars of homemade peach jam (well, actually they’re preserves, but we don’t need to get technical…)!

This has been such a fulfilling year for me as far as overcoming obstacles in the kitchen – I tackled my fear of yeast, bought and used a pastry bag numerous times, and made homemade preserves – just like my great-grandmother did! I felt almost as if I were chanelling Baba while I was spooning hot peach-y goodness into jars this afternoon. I know she’d be proud of me, making my own preserves. I know I am!

Ok, I know I’m making a huge deal out of this, but the truth is, making your own jam/jelly/preserves is really easy (just make sure you have your grandmother on speed-dial…just in case, ya know?). I bought a little package of Sure-Jell (as Tabitha advised) and (sort of) followed the directions that came with the box. I started with ten ripe peaches that I got at the Dallas Farmer’s Market yesterday, boiled them for about 2 minutes so the skin would peel off easily, cut them into little chunks, thew them in a pot with 2 cups of sugar and the juice of 1 1/2 lemons, brought it to a rolling boil, turned the heat down, added half a packet of the Sure-Jell pectin, stirred it all together and cooked it for about 5 minutes more, then spooned it into 6 sterilized jars and put the tops and lids on tightly. And voila! Peach preserves! If you’re freaking out (like I was) about sterilizing the jars and lids – don’t. It was totally easy. I just brought a big pot of water to a boil and carefully added the jars with a pair of tongs, let them boil for about 5 – 7 minutes, carefully removed the jars and set them on a clean kitchen towel to dry, then added the lids and tops for 30 seconds or so, removing them with the tongs and setting them on the towel as well. And that’s it! I really hope all of these (very informal) instructions haven’t been confusing in any way – if so, please let me know and I’ll try to re-word it a little better for you!

This was really so much fun – I really enjoyed making these preserves today. And I absolutely cannot wait to spread these on some homemade biscuits tomorrow….I’m thinking breakfast-for-dinner!! Yippee!!!

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Saturday Morning Muffins…

Do you love warm, fragrant blueberry muffins on Saturday morning? Ok, I know – who doesn’t, right? Well, we’re all in luck because these just happen to be the most perfect, delicious, easy blueberry muffins – PERFECT for Saturday morning (or Sunday…whatever)! And I’m sure none of you will be surprised when I say it’s an Ina Garten recipe – we all know my love for Ina.

These aren’t just your regular, run-of-the-mill blueberry muffins. These muffins have a gorgeous, buttery, golden crumb topping that really send them over the edge. I couldn’t get enough of them! All you need is a cup of coffe and a couple of these bad boys and you’ve got yourself a perfect start to the weekend. Guaranteed. :-)

Blueberry Streusel Muffins
-Barefoot Contessa, Back To Basics

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups buttermilk, shaken
1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
2 extra large eggs
2 cups fresh blueberries (2 half-pints)

For the Streusel Topping
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, diced

Preaheat oven to 375 degrees. Line muffin tins with liners. Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a large bowl and blend with your hands. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, butter, lemon zest, and eggs. Stir the buttermilk mixture into the flour mixture with a fork, mixing just until blended. Fold the blueberries into the batter. Don’t overmix! With a large spoon, scoop the batter into the prepared cups, filling them almost full.
For the topping, place all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and pulse until the butter is in very small pieces. Pour into a bowl and rub with your fingers until crumbly. Spoon about 1 tablespoon of the streusel on top of each muffin. Bake muffins for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown.

Hope you all enjoy your Father’s Day weekend and Happy Baking!

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Yes, I know my use of an exclamation mark in the title is probably a little over-the-top for muffins, but it seems like lately, I’m in a constant state of excitement, so I figure I get a free pass. Why am I so extra perky, you might ask? Well, for a couple of reasons – #1.) As I type this, there are two men installing a beautiful set of French doors in my dining room where there used to be a big, ugly, non-functioning behemoth of a sliding door before. That excites me. Big time. And #2.) it has finally stopped raining long enough for me to arrange my patio furniture and get the pool swim-ready. I now have a beautiful, tropical (ish) backyard getaway, perfect for al fresco dining with my hubby, followed by a long, leisurely dip in the pool – summer is here!! And finally, #3.) This week is the last week I have to teach voice lessons – after Thursday, I’m done, baby! Woo hoo!! So, now it’s probably a little easier for you to understand my over-excitedness for all things lately – including mango muffins.

This week’s recipe is Fresh Mango Bread, chosen by Kelly of Baking With the Boys. This is the second time I’ve made Dorie’s mango bread, so I decided to make muffins this time around. Plus, muffins are easier to just grab and eat at a brunch (I served them at Mother’s Day Brunch). I was surprised at the amount of muffins I got out of one recipe – at least 20 – there may have been more, I can’t remember. Everybody really enjoyed these – in fact, everyone took a few home for later, which I always count as a compliment! Besides cutting the mangos being a giant pain in the butt, I always enjoy making this recipe because everyone seems to really enjoy it. A great summer recipe!

If you’d like the recipe for these little beauties, head on over to Kelly’s blog – she’ll post the recipe for you! Happy summer!

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For Mommy, Part II

Some of you may remember my post “For Mommy” from last year – well, this is part 2. Mother’s Day brunch a year later. This year for Mother’s Day, I had the whole family over for brunch at my house. It was such a treat to have everyone over – I spent the whole day before baking all kinds of goodies and had my house fixed up just like I wanted it. This house is perfect for entertaining, and I do it as often as I can. There was tons of great food on the menu – my mother brought her breakfast casserole (eggs, sausage, croutons and lots of other good stuff), Nana brought a big fruit salad with a marshmallow cream/sour cream topping (we call it fruit gravy), my sister brought her Bruschetta cups (phyllo shells filled with tomato, basil, onion, mozzarella and mayo- really good!), and I fixed mango muffins, a lemon tart as part of my mom’s gift, mimosas, coffee, and from-scratch cinnamon rolls. Yes, that’s right- I, Amy-Scaredy-Pants, put on my Texas A&M apron, rolled up my sleeves and overcame my well-known fear of yeast. This is big, people.

(And sorry – the pictures are nothing short of disastrous. I forgot to take pictures until I realized too late that there was no natural light left….)

For too long now, the Pioneer Woman‘s Cinnamon Rolls have taunted me, made me drool all over myself, and made me ashamed that I was scared to attempt something so beautiful. I decided enough was enough – it was time to put my fears aside and attempt the unthinkable – yeast. What better dish to serve at brunch? Warm, gooey, chewy cinnamon rolls. I imagined my whole family taking a bite and instantly getting down on their knees, proclaiming me the greatest cook (greatest person, really) of all time. Joel would want to marry me all over again; my Daddy, brother-in-law and Grandaddy would declare I was the best wife a young man could ever hope for; and my mother, sister and Nana would all secretly wish they were as gifted as I in the arts of home-making. Yes, it could happen. It would happen. And all because of these cinnamon rolls.

Ok, so that stuff probably wouldn’t happen. But these were excellent cinnamon rolls. And honestly, they weren’t hard at all. I just followed the directions as closely as possible, and poof – yummy cinnamon rolls! The icing is really what makes these so darned tasty. That was by far my favorite part. I will most definitely be making these again…and again….and again. So thank you, Pioneer Woman, for helping me overcome my fear of yeast. Who knows what else I’ll try now? Do I dare attempt Brioche again?……………….um, maybe next year.

(Sorry for the blurry picture)

The Pioneer Woman’s Cinnamon Rolls
-I used half of this recipe and got about 4 pans of rolls
For the Dough:
4 cups whole milk
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sugar
2 packets active dry yeast
8 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon salt
1 1/2-2 cups melted butter
1 cup sugar
generous sprinkling cinnamon

For the Icing:
7 tablespoons melted butter
2 lbs powdered sugar
2 teaspoons maple flavoring
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup melted butter
1/4 cup brewed coffee
1/8 teaspoon salt

Mix milk, vegetable oil, and sugar in a pan (large soup-pot type). “Scald” the mixture (heat until just before the boiling point.) Turn off heat and leave to cool 45 minutes to 1 hour.
When the mixture is lukewarm to warm, but NOT hot, sprinkle in yeast. Let this sit for a minute so the yeast gets all warm and moist and happy. Then add 8 cups of all-purpose flour. Stir mixture together. Cover and let sit for at least an hour.
Now add 1 more cup of flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir mixture together. At this point, you could cover the dough and put it in the fridge until you need it—overnight or even a day or two, if necessary. Just keep your eye on it and if it starts to splurge out of the pan, just punch it down. Or, of course, you can just go ahead and make the rolls.
Sprinkle surface generously with flour. Take half the dough and form a rough rectangle. Then roll the dough thin, maintaining a general rectangular shape. Rectangle should increase in both width and length as you roll it out.
Now drizzle melted butter over the dough. Don’t be shy; lay it on thick, baby. Sprinkle sugar over the butter, followed by a generous sprinkling of cinnamon.
Starting at the opposite end, begin rolling the dough in a neat line toward you. Keep the roll relatively tight as you go. Some of the butter/sugar/cinnamon mixture may ooze out toward the end, but that’s no big deal. Next, pinch the seam to the roll to seal it.
Spread 1 tablespoon of melted butter in seven round, foil cake or pie pans. Then begin cutting rolls approximately 3/4 to 1 inch thick and laying them in the buttered pans. Repeat this process with the other half of the dough. This recipe makes approximately seven pans of rolls (56 rolls)
Let the rolls sit for 20 to 30 minutes to rise, then bake at 400 degrees until light golden brown, about 15 to 18 minutes.
While the rolls are in the oven, make the deliciously sinful maple frosting. To a mixing bowl, add powdered sugar, maple flavoring, 1/2 cup milk, 1/4 cup melted butter, brewed coffee, and salt. Stir until mixture is thick but pourable. Taste and adjust as needed.
Generously drizzle frosting over warm rolls after you pull them out of the oven. And take a walk on the wild side. Don’t be afraid to drown them puppies. Be sure to get frosting around the perimeter of the pan, too, so the icing will coat the outside of the rolls.

Make these for your mom sometime, trust me, she’ll thank you!

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Sticky Buns in a Hurry…

When Jessica was staying with us for the weekend, I wanted to have something really good for breakfast. So, naturally, the first person I turned to was Ina Garten. I love this woman. Especially her new cookbook – Back to Basics. She has a great recipe in her new book for Easy Sticky Buns that uses frozen puff pastry – perfect!

These were so good and SO easy – they came together in about 40 minutes total! That way I didn’t have to get up at the crack of dawn….eeeeexcellent.

Easy Sticky Buns
-Barefoot Contessa – Back to Basics

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 cup pecans, chopped in very large pieces
1 package (17.3-ounces/ 2-sheets) frozen puff pastry, defrosted

For the filling:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 cup raisins (I left them out – yucky!)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place a 12-cup standard muffin tin on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the 12 tablespoons butter and 1/3 cup brown sugar. Place 1 rounded tablespoon of the mixture in each of the 12 muffin cups. Distribute the pecans evenly among the 12 muffin cups on top of the butter and sugar mixture.

Lightly flour a wooden board or stone surface. Unfold 1 sheet of puff pastry with the folds going left to right. Brush the whole sheet with the melted butter. Leaving a 1-inch border on the puff pastry, sprinkle each sheet with 1/3 cup of the brown sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons of the cinnamon, and 1/2 cup of the raisins. Starting with the end nearest you, roll the pastry up snugly like a jelly roll around the filling, finishing the roll with the seam side down. Trim the ends of the roll about 1/2-inch and discard. Slice the roll in 6 equal pieces, each about 1 1/2 inches wide. Place each piece, spiral side up, in 6 of the muffin cups. Repeat with the second sheet of puff pastry to make 12 sticky buns.

Bake for 30 minutes, until the sticky buns are golden to dark brown on top and firm to the touch. Be careful – they’re hot! Allow to cool for 5 minutes only, invert the buns onto the parchment paper (ease the filling and pecans out onto the buns with a spoon) and cool completely.

Give these a try this weekend…say, Valentine’s morning, maybe? A little breakfast in bed, perhaps? Hmmm?? :-) Enjoy!

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Before I go into my TWD post, as originally planned, I thought I’d take a minute or so to get everybody in the proper “pumpkin-y” mood. I love pumpkin – every year around the middle of September, I start drooling over all the pumpkin recipes I’ve yet to make – there’s a lot of them out there, but hey, all I got is time, people! :-)  In fact, I’ve got my eye on a sinfully delicious looking pumpkin cheesecake recipe that’s just calling my name. Sure, there is lots of new, uncharted territory when it comes to pumpkin recipes; but what about the old stand-by ones? The ones you can’t help but make every single year as soon as there’s the slightest hint of a nip in the air? (except not really in Texas…..there isn’t an actual “nip” in the air until about Thanksgiving, and you’re lucky if you even get one then!) The ones like the pumpkin muffins my mom would make for me in the Fall when I would come home from college for the weekend. Ahhh, pumpkin muffins – one of my great loves. Moist, fluffy, full of spice,packed with pumpkin and dripping with melty butter….does it get any better? I think not! Which is why I was so very excited when Kelly of Sounding My Barbaric Gulp (interesting blog name, no?) chose Pumpkin Muffins for this week’s TWD recipe. God love her!

Usually when I make pumpkin muffins, I like to use either my mother’s recipe or one from allrecipes.com (Downeast Maine Pumpkin Bread), but I was more than happy to give Dorie’s recipe a shot – I mean, let’s face it, everything I have ever tried of hers’ has been a complete success (unless I did something to screw it up). And really, her recipe was almost exactly the same as my mother’s…cinnamon, nutmeg, pumpkin puree, sugar…all the usual ingredients. The only big difference is that she adds walnuts (which I love) and raisins (which I do not love and gladly omitted) to the batter and tops them with sunflower seeds (which I didn’t have so I left out). So, by the time I finished omitting most of Dorie’s different-from-everybody-else’s ingredients, these were almost identical to the one’s I love so much. Perfect!

Now, its just not Fall until you’ve made pumpkin muffins, so if you haven’t and you’d like the recipe, just head on over to Kelly’s blog and then make these as soon as possible! Otherwise you’re only cheating yourself out of the complete “Fall Experience”.

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