Orange Essence Zucchini Bread

Zucchini is one of the most abundant fall vegetables here in the US.  And zucchini bread is one of the most popular ways to use it up, especially when your garden produces an abundance of overgrown, deep green squash.  While I don’t have a garden (just a few tomato plants on my patio), one of my associates at work has generously shared this years zucchini crop.

Quick breads often seem more like cake than bread, and I’m ok with that.  Classic zucchini bread is so comforting and delicious!  However, I wanted my zucchini bread to really stand apart, so I started baking.  And baking.  And baking.  I don’t know how many loaves and muffins I’ve given away in my quest for the perfect bread, but it’s been a lot!  However, it has been well worth it because I really do believe that this is the best zucchini bread I’ve ever had.  It’s subtly sweet with just a hint of orange while still maintaining that classic zucchini bread flavor.  If you like to drizzle yours with a sweet glaze, I’ve included directions for a quick orange glaze that perfectly compliments it.  I hope it’s your new favorite!

Ingredients:

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 teaspoons cinnamon
3 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
zest from 1 large orange
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups grated zucchini
1 cup chopped walnuts or unsalted pistachios (optional)

Orange Glaze (optional):
1 cup confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon fresh squeezed orange juice
¼ teaspooon orange zest

Makes about 2 full-sized loaves, 4 mini-loaves, or about 24 muffins.
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Directions:

Prepare your loaf pan or muffin tins.  I highly recommend using parchment if you’re making loaves because, for some reason, this bread seems to stick to my stoneware EVERY time if I don’t.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 C)

Using a vegetable peeler, peel the zest off the orange being careful to get as little white pith as possible.  Toss the orange peel and the granulated sugar into a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulverize until the peel is very finely minced into the sugar.  Set aside.Orange Sugar 1.jpg

Sift flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon together in a bowl.  In a separate bowl, beat eggs, oil, vanilla, brown sugar and orange sugar together.  Add sifted ingredients to the wet mixture and beat will.
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Stir in the zucchini and nuts until well combined.  Pour batter into prepared pans.

Bake for 40-60 for a loaf pan.
Bake approx 30 minutes for muffins.

Test doneness by inserting a toothpick or small tester into the middle.  When it comes out clean, it’s done!

Allow bread to cool in pans for about 20 minutes (not necessary for muffins using liners), then turn them out and let it cool completely.

To prepare optional glaze: whisk sugar, orange juice and zest in a bowl until smooth.  Drizzle over bread.

Enjoy!
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America’s Test Kitchen Banana Bread

I have been baking banana bread as far back as I can remember.  It was one of the first things I learned how to make by myself when I was a kid.  I remember pulling the steaming loaves out of the oven and being so proud of my creation!  They never lasted long, and to this day, banana bread is one of my favorite comfort foods.

This recipe is not the same recipe I used growing up.  It is a creation of America’s Test Kitchen and was introduced to me through a foodie friend at work who generously shared the banana bread she had made with the rest of the office.  Although I wasn’t fast enough to snag a piece out of her bread from the break room, she did provide me with the recipe.  After hearing the comments around the office, I knew I had to make it for myself. Seriously, this is the most banana-y banana bread I’ve ever had and it is so incredibly moist!  Don’t scoff at the little bit of extra work with the bananas because THAT is what makes it so incredible.  Just do it, you will be rewarded!

When selecting bananas, be sure to use those that are heavily speckled, or even black.  If you are one of those people who freezes bananas, this is YOUR recipe!! The darker the banana, the sweeter and more developed the banana taste will be.  A lot of grocery stores will even sell these “overripe” bananas at a deeply discounted price.  Yes, those mushy, black banana’s seem really gross, but trust me, you’ll be hoarding them in your freezer like they are gold once you’ve seen (and tasted) what they can do.

Ingredients:

1 ¾ Cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp table salt
5 large very ripe bananas, peeled
8 Tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 Large eggs
¾ cup packed light brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped (optional)
2 tsp granulated sugar

**Note:  The photo below shows baking powder, which is NOT in the recipe…my mistake!

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spray an 8 ½  by 4 ½ inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray.

Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl.

Place bananas in a microwave safe bowl.  I used a round casserole dish with a lid.  You can use plastic wrap with a few cut steam vents to cover if you don’t have a lid, but personally I avoid putting plastic in the microwave.  

Microwave on high power until bananas are soft and have released most of their liquid, about 5 minutes.Transfer bananas to a fine mesh strainer placed over a bowl and allow them to drain, turning the bananas occasionally for about 15 minutes.  You should end up with ½ – ¾ cup of liquid.  

Transfer liquid to a small saucepan and cook over medium-high heat until reduced to about ¼ cup.  Liquid should be light caramel color and thick, almost as thick as syrup.  I stirred mine pretty vigorously and ended up with some bubbles, but you get the idea.

Remove from the heat and stir this reduced liquid back into your mashed bananas and mash everything together with a potato masher.  The original recipe says “mash until fairly smooth” but mine never made it to that point…it stayed semi-lumpy.  I’m sure whatever stage of lumpiness your bananas end up is just fine.

Whisk in melted butter, eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla.


Pour banana mixture into your flour mixture and stir until just combined.  Do not over stir. Some flour streaks are okay.  Gently fold in walnuts if you’re using them.

Scrape batter into prepared pan and sprinkle granulated sugar evenly over the surface.

Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean, approx 55-75 minutes.  Cool bread in the pan on a wire rack for about 15 minutes, then remove loaf from pan and continue to cool on a wire rack.

**Note:  I used a mini loaf pan and a muffin pan instead of the larger, single loaf pan.  I started checking them at 30 minutes.  The muffins were slightly drier than the loaf and I would probably turn the oven down a few degrees the next time.

***Variation:  I added ½ cup of flaked coconut to the muffins and they were SO good!

Slice loaf and serve slightly warm or room temperature.  Enjoy!

Cider Brined Pork Roast with Roasted Veggies

I have to admit, this is not my recipe although I have made  a tweak or two.  This recipe originally came from Bon Apetit Magazine.  My boss made this for a dinner that we were hosting and it was so mouth watering and tender and delicious I had to make it myself and it’s become a favorite in my household.  In true Janna fashion I’ve added alcohol to the recipe.  Note-  The pork in this recipe will need to brine for at least 12 hours.  ~Janna

8 servings

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Ingredients:
1 C packed brown sugar
1 C kosher salt
8 bay leaves (divided)
2 tsp Coriander
1 tsp black peppercorns plus more freshly ground
24 oz unfiltered apple cider
1 12oz bottle of hard apple cider
1 8 bone pork loin roast (about 5lb), chine bone removed, rib bones frenched and tied with kitchen twine
3 Yukon gold or russet potatoes pealed (or just scrubbed) and cut into about 1 inch chunks
1 medium yellow onion, cut into 1 /12 inch chunks
1 large beet peeled and cut into 1 1/2 inch chunks
4 Tbs olive oil (divided)

Bring brown sugar, salt, 2 bay leaves, 1/2 tsp of ground coriander, 1 tsp black peppercorns, and 2 cups water to a boil in a medium sauce pan.  Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until sugar and salt dissolve, about 4 minutes.  Transfer brine to a large bowl and add apple cider hard cider and 2 cups ice.  Let cool.

Place pork and brine into a large 2 gallon zip top bag, seal bag and refrigerate for 12-24 hours.

Remove pork from brine and pat dry with paper towels.  Let sit at room temperature for 1 hour.

Toss potatoes, onions and beets in 2 Tbs olive oil in roasting pan, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and set aside.

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Place oven rack in lower third of oven and preheat to 375 degrees F.  Season pork with black pepper and 1 tsp of coriander.  add remaining olive oil to a large skillet over high heat.  Sear pork until browned on all sides.

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Transfer pork to a roasting pan and surround with vegetables.  Tuck remaining bay leaves into the kitchen twine over top of pork.  Wrap bones in foil to prevent burning, roast pork  until an instant read thermometer reaches 145 degrees Fahrenheit.  when done, let roast sit for 30 minutes before slicing.  Vegetables may need to be roasted for additional time while pork is resting.
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Maple Glazed Salmon

My family LOVES salmon so I’m always trying to find different and intriguing ways to prepare it.  This recipe is a take on my Brown Sugar Glazed Salmon, but since I was out of brown sugar I used real maple syrup and the outcome was amazing!

**Please try to find fresh, wild caught salmon.  It does make a difference and farmed salmon is really gross!!  (If you have ever visited a salmon farm you know what I’m talking about…Blech!!)

I could not find fresh, never frozen salmon so I used a frozen filet, which is fine as long as you thaw it thoroughly before you cook or you’ll get soggy, watery salmon!  Enjoy!  ~Janna

Ingredients:
1 Salmon filet (any kind of Salmon will work), skin on.   (My fillet was about 2 lbs and I cut it into 6 large pieces which gave me 6 5 1/2 oz portions.)
2 Tbs olive oil
2 Tbs real maple syrup OR brown sugar
3 Tbs Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp soy sauce
1 Tbs fresh grated ginger
1 Tbs water
Salt and pepper

Directions: 

Combine all ingredients, except salmon, into a small saucepan and whisk. Bring to a low boil, stirring constantly so the bottom doesn’t scorch.  Turn down and keep warm.
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After cutting salmon into desired portions, pre-heat an electric grill (George Foreman type) and spray with non-stick cooking spray.  You can also use an outdoor grill, if desired.  Rub each salmon portion with a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Grill salmon about 7 minutes on each side.  Once you put salmon on grill, refrain from moving it around!  It may break up the salmon and you wont get those pretty grill marks!DSC_0177

I plated my salmon on top of a simple green salad of iceberg lettuce, chopped green onion and tomato.  Add the warm glaze to salmon and drizzle some on the salad just before serving.  It’s that simple!!  ~Janna
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White Chip Coconut Cookies

If you love coconut as much as I do, this is the cookie for you!  Sweet and chewy, they stay soft, AND they freeze incredibly well.  Just bake a batch and you will see.  ~Joanie

Ingredients:
1 ⅔ cups all-purpose flour
¾ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
¾ (1 ½ sticks) butter, softened
⅔ cup packed brown sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 ½ cups white baking chips
1 ½ cups flaked coconut plus extra for topping
1 cup chopped candied pineapple (optional)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 F. 

In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat butter, sugars and vanilla until creamy.  Beat in the egg, then gradually stir in the flour mixture.  Stir in white chips, coconut and chopped pineapple (if desired).
 

Drop by rounded tablespoon onto un-greased cookie sheet.  Mine were about 1 inch.  Top with a pinch of coconut.

Bake approx 10 minutes or until edges are slightly brown and coconut is toasted.  Consume by the handful.  Makes about 4 dozen.