: 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.

morse's

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!

: Lobster Chowder

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This is how I make lobster chowder. Some other recipes may add corn, or wine, or a variety of seafood. But mine is done simply. With the world’s best lobster, one doesn’t need to add much more.

Nova Scotia is also world renowned for its scallops, so I add some of them. Lobster and scallops are a Christmas Eve tradition in our house, much like many other Atlantic Canada households.

Every Christmas eve we have a lobster supper, and I make chowder to accompany it.

We begin with steaming our live lobsters, partly because they are cheaper if you buy them live, and also they taste better when freshly steamed. My husband steams and shucks the lobsters, while I prepare the rest of the ingredients.

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To steam a lobster you need to put about 2 inches of water in a deep pot with 1 tsp salt (or you can use sea water). Since the lobster will continue to cook in the chowder, you do not want to over steam them. Slightly undercooked is better, so steam your 2 lobsters for 10 minutes, with a tight lid in place.

Shuck the lobsters over a mesh strainer covering a bowl. The juices from the lobster, collected in the bowl,is saved and added later to the stock.

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Ingredients:

2 lobsters, steamed and shucked (you can buy them cooked if you prefer)

½ lb baby scallops (or more, this is a matter of preference)

I large potato, diced (about 1 cup)

1 small onion and one shallot, minced (about ½ cup)

2 stalks celery, diced

½ tsp ground cayenne pepper

½  tsp ground paprika

Fresh dill, chopped (about ¼ cup)

1 cup chicken stock

Reserved lobster juices

2 cups 10% cream (blend cream)

½ cup 10% cream whisked with 1 tbsp corn starch

2 tbsp butter

Method:

Heat the butter in a small stock pot and add onions, celery, and shallot. Cook until they begin to soften then add stock, lobster juices, and potatoes. Cook on medium heat for 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low (#3 on the dial) and add cayenne pepper and paprika.

Add scallops and dill and cook another 5 minutes until scallops begin to look more opaque.

Add lobster and the 2 cups of cream, and cook for a final 5 minutes, turning heat back up to medium for the last 2 minutes of cooking. At this time, stir in the remaining ½ cup of cream-cornstarch mixture, to slightly thicken.

Remove from heat and let cool in pot. Chill for a few hours in the fridge, then reheat gently before serving. Add a dash of Tabasco sauce or freshly ground pepper just before serving.

Serves 6.

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ready to add the cream

initially cooked in stock, now ready to add the cream

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Daddy, mines all gone. Can I have some of yours?

Daddy, mines all gone. Can I have some of yours?

: Feeding the hungry. A crime?

I recently came across this disturbing news article about an elderly man and 2 pastors arrested in Florida. They were charged for feeding the homeless. Public food sharing is a crime in Fort Lauderdale.

Sounds too ridiculous and inhumane to be true, but it is. To clamp down on the homeless and do-gooders that feed them, the law bans anyone from sharing food in public places…Cancel that romantic picnic on the beach.

It’s unimaginable that we have come to this point in society. How can a governing body find fault in caring for the needy? what harm is in that?

Martin Luther King said,

“There are just laws and there are unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that an unjust law is no law at all… One who breaks an unjust law must do it openly, lovingly…I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and willingly accepts the penalty by staying in jail to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the very highest respect for law.”

While homelessness and hunger is more of an serious issue in the USA, we certainly have this in Canada too.

Having once worked in a social assistance office, I have seen first hand the meager amounts that are doled out to the poor. They really do feed from our crumbs. There was a time in my life when I had to use a food bank to supplement the little food I could afford.

Food banks receive what we are willing to part with –  a lot of damaged goods, near or passed expiration, highly processed foods. Rarely does a person with little means enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables. Rarer still are special holiday foods, ones from years past when they used to enjoy them in a warm home, in the bosom of their family. For the very poor, like in the story Little Match Girl, those are all but memories.

Perhaps as the holidays draw near, those of us who can do more, should (I include myself here). When we do our Christmas baking we can make some extra cookies or a nice cake and donate it to a shelter. Or buy an extra turkey for a neighbour who is down on their luck.

Just in case these generous men have inspired you to act, here are links to some worthy organizations:

http://www.shelternovascotia.com/

http://outofthecoldhalifax.org/

http://www.raisingtheroof.org/

http://www.feednovascotia.com/

: autumn hospitality

The honour system in use at Wheaton's farm.

The honour system in use at Wheaton’s farm.

Thanksgiving weekend we all jumped in the car to take in the Fall beauty. And to avoid cleaning the house. You couldn’t have asked for a better day. The sky was blue. The weather called for just a light sweater. And the colours, while not yet at their peak, had left their mark on nearly every tree.

First we headed over to Wheaton’s in Berwick – the original location as well as their homestead. During our last time shopping there we had noticed they had pumpkins in the parking lot  for $1, along with a lock box to drop your money. It’s refreshing to see the honour system still being used.

Even though it was Thanksgiving and their stores were closed, the pumpkins were still there, greeting us with their cheery orangeness. As was the lock box, so I made my purchase.

As we left, I imagined the Wheaton family somewhere inside their farm, enjoying their holiday. It’s a testament to the kind of family business when people can drop by during a holiday and not get turned away or met with suspicion.

All over Berwick we notice a real spirit of sharing this time of year. My fridge is full of apples right now because prices are so low during the harvest. They are practically given away. In fact, ‘giving away’ of one’s bounty is something witnessed regularly here. Whether it’s for corn boils, Halloween parties, or bins of free apples outside a workplace, neighbours share what they harvest.

berwick pumpkins

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beautiful October colours

berwick horses

: maritime fish cakes

fish-cakes

Long ago our early settlers were over the moon to find out the Atlantic was teaming with cod. One of their favorite things to do with it was to make fried fish cakes. It’s still a comfort food found all around our coasts. It’s no fuss, no muss kind of dish.

fish cake ingreds

gather ingredients

first you mash your fish and potato

first you mash your fish and potato

But it all starts with salted cod. This fish has enough salt on it to make a lemon pucker. It’s enough salt for dooms-day preppers to store it indefinitely. You will need to soak this overnight to remove most of the salt. You will never remove all of the salt, so I advise you do not add any to your cakes.

You should drain the water after the first hour or 2 of soaking. Then fill your bowl back up with fresh water. When you are ready to make the cakes, give the fish a thorough rinse and drain well.

Fish cakes taste really good the next day, so left overs can easily be packed in tomorrow’s lunch. Stick ‘em in a snack container along with a container of tarter sauce for dipping, some celery sticks, and you have yourself a nutritious school lunch. They also make a great breakfast.

Ingredients

4 large potatoes, peeled, and boiled.

1 lb. salt cod, soaked overnight and drained.

1 tbsp minced red onion

2 tbsp fresh minced chives

2 tbsp finely chopped fresh dill

1 tsp old bay seasoning

½ tsp ground black pepper

2 eggs whisked with 1 tsp milk

½ cup bread crumbs

Dill and chives for garnish.

Method

After cooking the potatoes and cod, let them come to room temperature. Then flake/mash these together with a fork. (Some people pulse these in a food processor but I find mixing by hand makes a nicer texture).

Add in the spices, dill, onions, and chives and mix well. Form into small balls and flatten each to aprox 3” in diameter and aprox 1“ thick.  Gently place in a shallow bowl which holds the whisked egg, turn and coat the other side. In a shallow pan, holding the bread crumbs, gently flip to coat the patty in crumbs. Take care not to coat thickly with crumbs, you just want a thin, even coat. Place patties on a lined baking sheet and place in fridge for ½ hour to get cool- this will make them firm so they will not crumble during cooking.

In the meantime, prepare a large platter with paper towel to absorb the oil from the fried cakes. Fill a medium skillet to about ½ “ of vegetable oil and heat over med-high heat. Take the patties out of the fridge and begin frying them 4 or 5 at a time in the skillet. After a few minutes, flip to brown the other side. It takes about 3 minutes on each side, until it’s nice and golden.

Remove with a thin spatula or tongs onto the paper towel. This makes about 2 dozen cakes and feeds my family of 6, with a few left over for next days lunch.

lovely left-overs

lovely left-overs