Friday, August 28, 2009

Food Friday: Zucchini Bread

My world is being consumed by zucchini. No really, it is. After finally using up all my zukes (and giving some away), I was feeling pretty great about the fact that I have not had to throw any away. But then I went out into the garden yesterday, and picked SIX more that were ripe. Ugh. I am just barely keeping up. So, I was searching for more zucchini recipes when Justyn came home and said, "Honey, I'm sorry, but I just can't eat anymore zucchini."

So I said, "Well, what do you mean? Like, are you tired of having it a certain way?" His response was, "I'm tired of having it sliced, diced, sauteed, and grated. I'm tired of having it for breakfast, for lunch, and for dinner." And of course I panicked... I mean, I just picked a ton more from the garden! (Incidentally, he must've seen them all lined up on the kitchen counter and freaked out.) Anyway, I said, "What about zucchini bread?" And he said, "Yeah, that's fine." Whew.

Even if you don't like zucchini, you should consider this recipe. It's really easy, healthy, and tastes nothing like zucchini. I originally found this recipe on All Recipes, but have modified it quite a bit to make it healthier. You can find the original here. This recipe makes quite a bit, so you may want to cut in in half. Or, you can do what I do and freeze some. To freeze, just wrap the completely cooled loaf/muffins really well in wax paper or aluminum foil. Remove from the freezer the night before you want to eat it.

Zucchini Bread
adapted from All Recipes

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
3 eggs
1 cup applesauce
2 1/4 cups turbinado sugar (raw sugar - you can use white if that's all you have)
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
2-3 cups grated zucchini (anywhere in between is fine... it's a forgiving recipe)
1 cup chopped walnuts

1. Grease and flour two 8 x 4 inch pans. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
2. Sift flour, salt, baking powder, soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves together in a bowl.
3. 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.
4. 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.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Food Friday: Zucchini Patties

I'm going to apologize in advance for the onslaught of zucchini recipes coming your way. Look, I've got a boatload of the stuff, and I've got to figure out some way to use it, so what do you expect? However, just because these recipes all happen to have zucchini in them, doesn't mean I've lowered my standards. They're all good, I promise.

I actually discovered this recipe last fall when my mom and I were discussing ways to use up excess zucchini. You see, Nashville recently got their first Trader Joe's, and if you've ever bought produce there, you know that their zucchini usually comes in packages of 3 together. Well, my mom was complaining about this issue, saying that sometimes she only wanted to buy one zucchini. And of course, at that point, I was like, Why? You can do lots of different stuff with zucchini. And I proceeded to send her a million recipes that called for zucchini in some form or fashion. Anyway, this was one of them. You'll be seeing the rest of the recipes I sent her in the coming weeks! Mwa ha ha ha!

I've made some slight changes to the recipe I found here. Also, I think you could probably bake these if you wanted to skip the frying (which, let's be honest, is not healthy no matter how many vegetables are involved.) But, that being said, don't forget I'm from the South and I like to fry things once in a while. So that's what I did. These are super easy and really tasty. I have made them as a side dish for dinner (to accompany salmon and rice) or my favorite so far is for breakfast on top of an egg with some avocado and salsa. MMMMM. It's damn good.

Zucchini Patties
adapted from AllRecipes
2 cups grated zucchini (a small-medium zucchini usually yields about 1 cup grated, FYI)
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
salt to taste (I use about 1/2 teaspoon)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1. In a medium bowl, combine the zucchini, eggs, onion powder, flour, Parmesan cheese, Cheddar cheese, and salt. Stir well enough to distribute ingredients evenly.
2. Heat a small amount of oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Drop zucchini mixture by heaping tablespoonfuls, and cook for a few minutes on each side until golden.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Mt. Hood Scenic Loop

We have had an influx of visitors this summer, and by influx, I mean it's been unreal. We had 8 (yes, count them = EIGHT) weekends in a row where we either had visitors in town or were out of town ourselves. That, paired with major changes going on in the house (new electrical, new HVAC, hot water heater, insulation, etc.), has made this summer absolutely crazy. I don't know how I ever found the time to work a full time job, seriously.

But I'm not complaining... no sir. It has been wonderful having people come visit. Honestly, our friends and family have really stepped up to the plate and gone out of their way to come see us in our new city. It's been overwhelmingly emotional, and I love it. It's scary when you move away, you know? You never know if people will keep in touch, and will come see you. And when they do, it's totally awesome. The other thing that has been great is that it's given us lots of chances to explore parts of Oregon. For the first couple of visitors, our standard tour involved driving to the coast (which is awesome), but pretty soon that gets old and you need something new. So our favorite destination lately has been the Mount Hood Scenic Loop. Here's a little photo tour for you:

This is the view from the Vista House at Crown Point, along the old Historic Columbia River Highway (part of which follows the path of the original Oregon Trail - cool, huh?) Maybe you remember that sometime about a year ago I said the Columbia River Gorge wasn't that impressive... or maybe you don't. But in case you do, I take it back. All of it. Let's just pretend it never happened.

Traveling along the scenic loop, you pass several waterfalls right in a row (probably all within 3 or 4 miles of each other). The first one is called Latourell Falls, and it's really pretty. Plus there's a cool old bridge right by the trailhead, and there's some cool neon green algae-looking stuff growing on the rocks. It drops 249 feet off a cliff with no tumbling, which is pretty rare for this area. It's a lovely stop to make if you're traveling that way, and it's an easy walk from the road.

The next waterfall we stopped to see was Wahkeena Falls, which means "most beautiful" in the local Native American language. This waterfall is definitely worth seeing... it's very different from the others because it sort of cascades or tumbles down, rather than just dropping straight from the top. This one is a little more of a walk up from the road, but still pretty easy and worth a stop.

You'll pass a few other waterfalls in this area, including Horsetail Falls, Sheppard's Dell, and Bridal Veil Falls. We didn't stop at them all, because we were on a mission. But, if you like waterfalls, this area is a jackpot. But first, the crowned jewel of waterfalls in this area, I give you Multnomah Falls. At a total drop of 620 feet, it's the second-highest year-round waterfall in the country, something we Oregonians are very proud of. Other people like it too; nearly two million visitors come to gawk at it every year.

After these stops, it's a short drive to Hood River, the windsurfing (and kiteboarding) capital of the world. We stopped at the waterfront and watched the surfers for quite a while, and it looks so fun. I'm definitely adding it to the list of things to try, water phobia or not. Hood River is also home to the Fruit Loop, a scenic drive/bike route that takes you around to several local farms where you can pay a very small feel and pick your own fruit. Mmmm. And best of all, check out the backdrop:

After seeing this, how can you not want to drive up to the mountain? So... we did! It's an absolutely beautiful drive up to Mount Hood, and by the time you get there, you're definitely hungry. So, stop in at Timberline Lodge and visit the Blue Ox Bar for some yummy pizza and a local microbrew. And, here's a tip: skip the farmer's market brunch they offer. It looks yummy, but at $20 per person, I'd rather load up with my own goodies from the farmer's market.

Anyway, Timberline is a really cool stop, and the lobby even has some movie props from The Shining, which was filmed there. It's also a good starting off point for hiking a portion of the Timberline Trail, which we followed for a couple of miles. Along the trail, there are some beautiful views of Mount Jefferson (Oregon's second highest peak) in the distance.

Personally, I think Mount Hood is much prettier from far away. Once you're on it, it's kind of sandy and bald looking. But hey, that's just me.

On our way back to Portland, we decided to stop and do another hike up to Mirror Lake. It's a pretty easy hike (3 miles out and back), mostly shaded, and takes you through some beautiful forest.

It's a popular hike, though, and was somewhat crowded when we went on a weekend. I'd suggest going early or waiting until late afternoon to go. Take a lunch, and eat on the water! But watch out for mosquitoes!!

It was a beautiful way to spend a summer day, and I'd highly suggest this to anyone wanting to get out of the city for a while. I do wish we'd stopped in Hood River longer, so maybe next time we'll do that... and who knows? Maybe you'll see pictures of me on a kiteboard before you know it!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Food Friday: Heirloom Tomato Salad with Lemon Cucumbers

Heirloom tomatoes are one of my absolute favorite things about summer. There are so many kinds, colors, shapes and flavors! Some are purple, or orange, or multi-colored... some even have stripes! I don't know why this fascinates me, but I simply cannot walk by a stand with heirloom tomatoes and not buy some. I think part of the reason is that I just love colorful salads, and how often do you have an excuse to put something purple in your salad??

So of course when I saw these, I just had to buy them. I intended to make a tomato & mozzarella salad, but then I remembered that I had a ton of lemon cucumbers to use, too. I have made tomato & mozzarella salad (its proper name is Insalata Caprese for those of you who want to sound gourmet) lots of times before, and it suddenly occurred to me that cucumbers (lemon cucumbers, especially) would be an interesting addition to the recipe.

So, I sliced it all up (actually Justyn sliced it all up) and tossed it with some olive oil and freshly chopped basil, and there you have it! A perfect summer salad. One quick note: I think technically you're supposed slice your tomatoes, cheese, etc. into round slices about 1/4 inch thick, arrange prettily onto a plate and drizzle with olive oil, etc. But, we just chopped ours into chunks and tossed it all together. Do what you like... there are no rules.

Heirloom Tomato Salad with Lemon Cucumbers
3-4 medium to large heirloom tomatoes, very ripe
2 lemon cucumbers (or regular would work here, too)
fresh mozzarella (you can buy it in one big chunk or little 1 inch balls)
1/4 cup freshly chopped basil
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
sea salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

Chop the tomatoes and cucumber and toss into a bowl. Drain any liquid that may accumulate in the bottom of the bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle basil into the mixture. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Toss and enjoy!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Zukes & Cukes

My dear, dear friends. I have excellent news. The zucchinis are BACK! Woo hoo! Check out how glossy and beautiful they are!

For those of you who have always had faith in me even during my failures, I want to thank you for not losing hope. For those of you who did doubt me after last week's devastating casualties, let this be a lesson to you. I am a resurrector, a gardening goddess, a miracle worker, if you will (at least for this week.)

In other news, I have lots and lots of cucumbers! If you were curious when I mentioned lemon cucumbers, here you go. Looks like a lemon (sort of) but tastes like any ol' cuke.

Here's one after it was sliced into a bowl and sprinkled with salt. Right before I ate it.

I'm also growing another type of cucumber called "straight eight". You can see where it gets its name:

Except I don't know what happened to this one.
Another gardening lesson I've learned is that things grow in funny shapes. These aren't your local supermarket cukes, people. Of course, they're better. 'Cause I grew 'em.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Rose Garden

Ah, summer. It's in full swing, and I love it. There's a big secret here in the Pacific Northwest, and I've talked about it before. The secret is that the winters aren't as bad as anyone says they are, and even if they were, the summer weather would totally make up for it. It's cool in the evenings (65 - 70 degrees), warm during the day (mid-80s), no humidity, and no bugs. When I talked about this before, I only had a hunch that all the boo-hooing about the winter rains was just a front to keep people from moving here. I'm now absolutely convinced that is the case.

This is one of my favorites... reminds me of a candy cane.

Anyway, one of the absolute best places to visit during the summer in Portland is the International Rose Test Garden. Remember how I told you that one of Portland's nicknames is "City of Roses"? Well, here it is in full force: in a space of about 4 acres, there are over 7,000 rose plants of about 550 different varieties. The rose garden is tucked into beautiful Washington Park, a fantastic place to spend an afternoon if you want to be outdoors.

Why is it called a "test" garden, you ask? Well, it's just that: new varieties are sent here from all over the world to test them out... see how they grow, check for diseases, color, and fragrance. It started as a safe place to send roses for safe-keeping during World War I, because people didn't want their roses destroyed during the bombing in Europe. Which, I think is, didn't they have other more important things to worry about than what would happen to their rose bushes? Weird.

The roses bloom off and on from April through October, with the peak coming in June/July depending on the weather. I highly recommend going before summer is over. I went in August last year, too, and there were still plenty of roses to enjoy. Plus, it's free, it's outside, and there's a pretty great view of downtown Portland with Mount Hood in the background. Here are some tips: parking kind of sucks, but be patient. Lots of people are coming and going, so you can easily snag a good spot if you keep your eyes open. Or, you can take MAX (Red Line or Blue Line) if you don't want to drive. Also, there's not much shade there, so wear sunscreen, and if it's a hot day, I wouldn't recommend going in the middle of the day. It can get pretty hot up there.

I mean, really, everywhere you turn there is an amazingly beautiful rose. I took so many pictures when I was there. And oh they smell so good. The whole place is so fragrant, and every rose I see beckons for me to put my nose right in and take a whiff. Mmm!

And with that, here are some more pictures for you to enjoy! This is just a small sampling of the beauty you will see there. I couldn't post all my pictures, because then you wouldn't go, would you?

The black rose. Yep, that's right. BLACK. (Apparently this is as close as they can get.)

Another black rose (which is really just dark red if you ask me.) Did you know there's no such thing as a blue rose?

If you're lucky like me, there will be a lady there playing her harp.

So go! And, while you're there, hit up a short hike in Washington Park or over at the Hoyt Arboretum. I highly recommend the Redwood Trail. And don't forget your camera! If you're not into hiking, then visit the Oregon Zoo, or the Portland Children's Museum instead. There's plenty for everyone!