: Double Chocolate Zucchini Loaf

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The beginning of this moist and sweet morsel began with a journey just down the street.

We’ve been living here a year now and we have stopped at just about every Farmer’s Market… except for the one that is literally 1 minute away. It always looked so tiny and I assumed they must not have much there for variety.

Wrong I was.

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Morse’s Farm Market, Berwick, Nova Scotia

Quaint isn’t it?

This place is full of beautiful fruit and veggies and they have such friendly service…which can be found pretty much everywhere here in the Valley. But I was pleasantly surprised at how much they had in this small store. Besides produce, they had some baked goods and some lovely local honey and jams. They had the best garlic I have ever purchased – you can’t get fresh, juicy and sharp garlic like that at a grocers. They also had beautiful zucchini and pumpkins available. This time, I took home the zucchini. Next time, pumpkins I think.

Lately I had been thinking about making my first ever zucchini loaf. When I seen the offerings at Morse’s Farm Market I was determined to just do it.

My Aunt Lorraine makes wickedly good zucchini loaf. When I was a kid, whenever we visited, she had a loaf made and ready to cut into. Always. I don’t think we visited even once that she was without her signature dessert. It was something I looked forward to on the road trip to my Aunt and Uncle’s.

I remember the first time I found out I was eating zucchini loaf. I was shocked. I thought it was banana bread.

My Aunt’s version is a straight up traditional zucchini loaf. Some recipes add chocolate chips and nuts to them. I didn’t want nuts in mine, and instead opted for more chocolate… why not!

So, after perusing through dozens of recipes, I borrowed a little from here and there. I found Paula Deen’s chocolate chip zucchini bread inspiring. My recipe is heavily influenced by hers.

My kids watched me grating the zucchini and preparing the batter, and asked, doubtfully, “the zucchini…is going….in there?”

Yes, and I promised them it would be delicious.

…They almost looked anxious.

Once they seen the finished gooey chipped, chocolatey loaves, they forgot all about the healthy ingredient hidden inside. They loved it even though they “HATE zucchini!”

This makes 2 scrumptious loaves (if I do say so myself).

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Ingredients:

2 cups grated zucchini (1 large zucchini )

3 cups flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

2 cups white sugar

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

3 eggs, beaten

3/4 vegetable oil

2 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup cocoa

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Method:

Grate zucchini and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium bowl, sift flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spices and set aside.

In a large bowl, beat eggs with sugars, vanilla, and oil. Beat in cocoa until well blended.

Slowly pour flour mix into the large bowl, mixing the dry and wet ingredients well (if it looks a bit dry at this point, don’t fret. Don’t add water as the zucchini adds a lot of moisture) . When combined, blend in the zucchini followed by the chocolate chips.

Pour into 2 lightly greased and dusted 9×5″ loaf pans. Bake in center of oven for 50 minutes or until fork comes out clean.

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This is easy to make and tastes great, lots of chocolate flavour with subtle warm spice. Lovely with Chai tea!

: Nova Scotian gingerbread cake

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By mid-morning I was surprised to look out my patio doors and see it snowing. We were expecting slight flurries, but not actual accumulating snow.

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I knew my warmth-loving- shovel-hating husband would be at work when one of his co-workers broke the news to him. I can’t help but chuckle a little. How fortunate he fell in love with this Canadian gal before he spent a full winter here.

But all joking aside, virgin snow is wonderfully beautiful. It’s romantic. It’s magical. And all this is more true when you are inside, looking at it from a comfortably warm vantage point.

I recently bought this recipe book, “Out of Old Nova Scotia Kitchens”. I had been meaning to try the gingerbread recipe. Not the German gingerbread cookies, but the cake. Today seemed like a good day.

recipe book

Shakespeare once said, “ had I but a penny in the world, thou shouldst have it for gingerbread”

If Shakespeare swooned over it, it should suffice in lifting my guy’s spirits.

I remember the first time we ate gingerbread together. It was at the Sou’Wester restaurant at Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia.  If you are ever there, try a piece. It’s excellent! Especially if it’s a blustery day at the old lighthouse.

Interestingly, gingerbread is a very old recipe. It is thought to have been brought back to Europe in the 11th century, by the Crusaders, after they obtained it in the Mediterranean. Before that, it is not certain where it originated from. This particular one was perfected by our Nova Scotian Grandmothers.

start by creaming together sugar, butter & shortening

start by creaming together sugar, butter & shortening

molasses

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pan lined with greased parchment paper

If there was any fault I found with this recipe, it is that I had to bake it 10 minutes longer than suggested. And because I took it out prematurely, the center fell. I got over that when I tasted it.

It is a balanced, moist, and dense cake. Though laden with molasses and white sugar, it does not taste terribly sweet as one might expect. As far as a sweetener goes, molasses is a good choice that you can feel less guilty about. It’s got vitamin B6, potassium, iron, and other vitamins and minerals.

This cake is best served warm with whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Ingredients:

¼ cup butter

¼ cup vegetable shortening

½ cup sugar

1 egg, beaten

1 cup molasses

2 ½ cups sifted flour

1 ½ tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

1 tsp ginger

1 tsp cinnamon

½ tsp cloves

1 cup hot water

Method:

Cream the butter, shortening, and sugar until fluffy.

Add the egg and molasses, mix well.

Sift together flour, baking soda, spices, salt, and add to creamed mixture. Lastly, add the hot water and beat until smooth.

Bake in a greased, 9×9 inch pan in 350 degree oven for 45 minutes, or until done.

: Pumpkin Cheesecake with Candied Pecans

my pumpkin cheese cake

With all these pumpkins I have been roasting since Halloween, it triggered a memory. I made this delicious cheesecake a couple years back. This is my adapted version of Paula Deen’s pumpkin cheese cake.

Undoubtedly this was the BEST cheesecake I’ve ever turned out. The flavours are rich and complimentary and the texture not too dense nor to fluffy. But one of the people I shared it with made it a very special memory.

We lost our Dad this year, who fought a short but courageous battle with Leukemia.

After beholding the finished creation, I recall calling my parents and telling them, “come on over! I made cheesecake!” I am glad we spent that day together. I am pleased that Dad enjoyed my cake. And that I was proud enough to take  this picture that I will always cherish.

dad eating pumpkin cheese cake

Just because I use light cream cheese as an ingredient, that doesn’t  make this anything less than a very sinful dessert. But you know what they say, a waist is a terrible thing to mind.  Or something like that.

* I adapted this Paula Deen recipe to be a smidgen ‘lighter’ and also to have a bit more spice. If you have a delicate palete to spice, you can follow her recipe instead.

Ingredients (crust):

2 cups graham cracker crumbs

3 tablespoons brown sugar

½ tsp cinnamon

½ cup melted butter

Ingredients (filling):

3 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, at room temperature

2 cups pureed pumpkin

3 eggs plus 1 egg yolk

1/4 cup sour cream

1 cup sugar

1/2  cup brown sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp ginger

1/4  teaspoon nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon cloves

2 tbsp all-purpose flour

1 tsp vanilla extract

½ cup candied pecans for topping

Method:

Preheat oven to 350 °.

To prepare crust, combine crumbs, sugar and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon in a bowl. Add melted butter. Toss with a fork to coat all the crumbs. Pour and press down into a 9-inch spring form pan. Set aside.

Meanwhile, beat cream cheese and sugars until smooth. Add pumpkin puree, eggs, egg yolk, sour cream, and the spices. Add flour and vanilla. Beat together until well combined.

Pour into crust. Spread out evenly and place oven for 1 hour. Remove from the oven and let sit for 15 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 hours. Before serving, place pan on cake stand after loosening sides with a knife or frosting spatula. Release spring form. Garnish as desired.

Emeril Lagasse’s  Burbon whipped cream for garnish: Mix together 2 cups sweetened whipped cream and a dash of bourbon. Just for subtle flavour. That’s it.

For chocolate cream garnish: combine  ¾  cup half-and-half and 1 tbsp butter in a medium pot, over medium heat. Melt and heat until a thin skin forms then add 8 oz chocolate chips and ¼ tsp vanilla. Keep stirring and when all chocolate melts turn off heat and allow to cool. Set aside in a container and gently warm it before drizzling on cheesecake just before serving. Top with a dollup of burbon whipped cream.

my pumpkin cheese cake slice