Zucchini Bread

I’ve had a tough time this week (still with the left sided chest pain that hurts like a mutha-) so I haven’t been blogging.  The other part is that due to said pain, I haven’t been doing anything blogworthy to mention.

Well today I woke up bound and determined to get out of the “rut” I’m in.  I thought I would make zucchini bread for breakfast since we have a bunch of zucchinis from the garden.  I was a little afraid the grating of zucchini would hurt, but it wasn’t bad at all.  (Seriously, my BONES are healing just fine, it’s the breathing deep part that’s the problem. And I’m trying to compensate by short, shallow breaths instead).  The zucchini was a little more watery than I’m used to zucchini being (maybe because it’s fresh out of the garden?) and I couldn’t find an 8×4 loaf pan in the kitchen.  Sure, we have a 10×5, we have a 7×3, but no 8×4.  So I took the Pyrex glass loaf pan (7×3? I don’t know) and poured the batter in. There was more batter than dish, but I just filled it to the top because I wasn’t sure if I should leave room or not.

Answer: Yes, I should.  Seriously, why do I try baking? Half the time I follow the recipe wrong, or mess it up somehow.  It started overflowing the glass dish and making a big messy puddle on the bottom of the oven.  By that point, all my resolve in trying to get out of my “rut” was wearing off, as my pain was just getting worse and worse.  I turned off the oven in mid-bake, got a spoon, and finished the rest of the batter off as breakfast instead.  Having that in me, I popped 4 more ibuprofen (I figured that qualified as food, right?) and called it a morning, crawling back into bed.

Hubby found me at noon, having come home for lunch, and very nicely decided to attempt to keep baking the loaf to see if he could get it to come out decently.  And, after 1 1/2 hours total baking, it did, though it doesn’t look pretty.  That’s the last time I try to cook anything until I’m feeling 100%.

But it tastes just fine, though a little more sugary than I would prefer (and that’s saying something as I luff me some sugar).

K keeps coming up with ideas “to keep busy,” but I’m just not feeling it.  We were supposed to can the blueberries last weekend, yet they are still sitting on the refrigerator shelf, getting more overripe by the day 😦

I’m having a tough time.

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Bountiful Blueberries

How delish does this look?

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Ok, besides the fact that my husband put more than a healthy-sized pat of butter on, these were great!  K and I went blueberry picking on Saturday, which was rough on me, but I’m really trying to push myself here.  Sunday morning, he whipped up a batch of homemade blueberry pancakes with the freshest berries, buttermilk I made from making butter last week (from local cream!), eggs from the local farm, and of course, my butter! We topped them off with the local maple syrup we bought during sugaring season last March and chowed down.  Not the healthiest meal ever, but it was great!

Just before Indian Ladder closed on Saturday we headed over to pick the berries.  We wanted to get raspberries too, but due to all the rain we have there are slim pickins’.  This is the second year in a row Indian Ladder hasn’t had a good raspberry crop.  (I did pick one huge one off the bush/vine/whatever you call it and it was AWESOME.  IMG_0518

The blueberries on the edges of the field were perfectly sweet – no sourness to them at all.  I admit I’m not a huge blueberry fan (any red berry I love!) but I did my fair share of eating.  For the most part though, I just stood there, holding out the quart bucket for K to dump picked blueberries into – it was too hard for me to pick – even though blueberries are the easiest ones to pick IMHO – they’re right at the perfect level for me.

Mixture of ripe and unripe blueberries

Mixture of ripe and unripe blueberries

Other blueberries even closer up

Other blueberries even closer up

View of the Helderberg Escarpment from the blueberry field

View of the Helderberg Escarpment from the blueberry field

This view makes me so serene. I love picking berries here. Last night, I just stood in the field, inhaled the fresh air, and listened to the quietness of it all.

Man on the Moon, JFK Jr. and Me

I’m a big sentimental mush ball.  I’m a girl who made “memory boxes” for each year growing up, with all sorts of scrapbooky stuff (this was before I even knew about scrapbooking) that just stayed in shoeboxes instead.  Dates and anniversaries are pretty important to me.  And I realized this morning that 10 years ago yesterday I took off on my month-long backpacking trip around Europe.  I did it alone.  Made lots of friends along the way, but I was alone.

Back then all I had was a couple of disposable cameras and I wasn’t really good about taking pics.  I started off in Paris, went down to Rome, Pisa, Naples, then headed over to Berlin, Vienna, Budapest, Switzerland (mostly Lauterbrünnen), and finally Barcelona.

I look over my old pics now and laugh.  They’re pretty bad.  And I didn’t take one pic in Budapest? What was I thinking?

I backpacked Britain in 2004 and was much better by then, thank goodness.

So in honor of my little trip, in which I learned a whole lot about myself, here are a few of my very crappy pictures. 🙂

La Maison hostel

La Maison hostel

Aww, you can see my cheap purple backpack in this pic!

Located on Rue Dutot, I have no idea if this place still exists.  The website says so, but it’s under construction.  Anyway, it was my first experience with hosteling and I had two roommates whom I liked very much.  We would go get bottles of red wine and long baguettes (how cliche!) and drink in the stairwells.

Obligatory picture of Arc de Triomphe

Obligatory picture of Arc de Triomphe

I loved Paris, but hated being there alone.  I always swore I would go back with a significant other.  It was so full of romance to me.  And ze french boys were very nice. 😉

I enjoyed Rome, Pisa, and Naples very much, but I never got to Vatican city nor saw the Colosseum. 😦

Sunset over the Spanish Steps

Sunset over the Spanish Steps

I took a drinking tour one night, and made some great Canadian friends.

Rome-ing in the Dark Tour

Rome-ing in the Dark Tour

"Leaning" Tower of Pisa

"Leaning" Tower of Pisa

Here’s my infamous Pisa shot. I suck at taking pictures so badly I made the leaning tower look as if it’s standing straight up.  Can you believe when I was younger I wanted to be a photojournalist?

Niice.

Brandenburg Gate

Brandenburg Gate

I HATED Berlin.  I stayed in a pretty funky hostel, but it was located in the formerly Eastern part, which wasn’t very nice at the time.  I took a tour through the hostel and the guide was a snotty college kid who hated Americans.

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Me at Checkpoint Charlie

Man, at the time I was having some weight issues, or so I thought. Now I’d give anything to be back there!

Summer Palace

Summer Palace

It’s been 10 years, but I’m pretty sure this is Schlloss Schönbrunn in Vienna.  Vienna is a city in which I could definitely live.  I loved the Panda Hostel, where I stayed, and the owners were really nice.  Made some good friends there too, who I traveled with afterwards.

Me and Kim

Me and Kim

But my favorite place was Lauterbrünnen in Switzerland. I loved it so much I told my future husband (we weren’t even dating at the time) to go there when he went backpacking with friends the following year. So now we’ve both been there, but separately. 🙂

Lauterbrunnen

Lauterbrunnen

I stayed in Valley Hostel, which was so quaint and run by the nicest elderly couple. It was the first time I’d ever seen a duvet too, and I had no idea how it was used, so I used it like a sleeping bag, lol!

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Sigh…memories…the day I left was the day JFK Jr. and his wife died.

Have you ever traveled to Europe (backpacking or not?) What is your favorite memory?

Like a Hot Knife Through Buttah

As you know, I’ve been really bored lately.  I’m not well enough to do much, but I’m well enough to get really bored, easily.  Looking at my yogurt butter recently, I noticed it had partially hydrogenated oils in it.  Oh hell no.  ::finger wag::

I originally picked up Brummel & Brown because I compared the calories and fat in it with similar butters and spreads.  But as we all can attest to, calories and fat don’t tell you the whole story.  So what is the whole story?

What the heck is hydrogenation?

Hydrogenation occurs when you add H2 (hydrogen) to heated oil.  If you fully hydrogenate you create a solid fat out of the oil.  But if you only partially hydrogenate you get a semi-solid – the consistency of butter.

Except it’s a lot cheaper than butter.

Partially hydrogenated oil are trans fats, and are pretty much poison for your body.  Think arsenic or cyanide-type poison.  Sure, it won’t kill you immediately, liked those will, but it helps lead to coronary disease by lowering good cholesterol and raising bad cholesterol.

And it’s EVERYWHERE.  Most of it is partially hydrogenated soybean oil.  Luckily, lots of things say nowadays that they have ZERO trans fats, but you know what? A product can have up to 0.5 grams (500 mg) of trans fat in a standard serving and still claim 0% trans fats.  So all a company needs to do is change its serving size to make sure the amount of trans fat is less that 0.5 g and it can plaster that nice fat 0 all over.   Nice labeling system, huh?

There’s no maximum daily recommended amount of trans fats.  You are just recommended to get as little as possible.  Unlike saturated and unsaturated fats, unlike even cholesterol – there’s no guidance out there that you should only get so much a day.  Nope, they don’t want to even give you a limit. That’s how bad it is for you.

And don’t forget, if you go out to eat, unless there’s a trans fat ban in your town, most restaurant breads and fried foods are loaded with trans fats. It’s really hard to get away from it.  So, you can see why I’m pretty wary.  I don’t have any heart disease, nor a family history of it, but I do want to stay as healthy as I can.

So I started looking at different kinds of spreads and butters out there.  I like spreads, because they’re easier to use. Nothing worse than shredding your piece of bread with a rock hard pat of butter.  But looking through each one, there was all this crap added.  In frustration, I decided to start looking at sticks of butter.  Better options there.  Ingredients in Land o’ Lake (regular, not light) butter?  Sweet Cream.  Salt.  Beautiful.  But then it had: Natural Flavors.
What is a natural flavor?

Under the C.F.R. (that’s the Code of Federal Regulations) a natural flavor is “the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional.” (21 CFR 101.22).

But that doesn’t mean they’re actually natural, it just means they’re derived from a natural product.  Natural flavorings are most often made from chemicals, but they are considered derived from a natural product because they taste like an apple, or lemon, or something that can be found in the natural world.

Now what are they trying to make my butter taste like?

So my frustration continued and I finally decided to just make my darn butter myself.  Then I would know exactly what went into it.  How hard could it be?

To tell you the truth, not hard at all.

I bought a pint of Battenkill Creamery heavy cream.  There was my ingredient for butter.  Solely cream.  No natural flavoring, no artificial coloring, no trans fats.

I poured it into my Kitchen Aid mixer bowl.  Hard so far, isn’t it? 🙂

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Then I put on the splash guard (just in case, but it didn’t really splash that much) and put on the wire whisk, and started the KA on high.  I thought it would only take a few minutes, but five minutes later I still only had whipped cream.

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Mmm, yummy…

I kept the mixer on high for awhile longer, but I started wondering if this was going to work and if I bought the right cream.  But soon it started turning …curdled?  I don’t know what you call this.

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It was getting sort of crumbly, turning into butter and separating from the buttermilk.  Then it started turning into real butter!

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I poured all the buttermilk into a pyrex and plan to make some buttermilk pancakes for my hubby this weekend!

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Apparently two cups of cream leaves you with 1 cup butter and 1 cup of buttermilk.

I poured out all the buttermilk I could, then rinsed the butter. You don’t want any buttermilk left in the butter – it’ll turn the butter rancid quickly.  So I squeezed it all together, then poured some ice water into the bowl, rinsed, and repeated – three times.  It’s interesting to note you don’t have to worry about the water – it will not mix with the butter!

And at the end – real butter!

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How does it turn butter yellow when the cream is white?  Hmm…things that I ponder 🙂

I was thinking I should make whipped butter to make it easier to spread, but it wasn’t that hard anyway.  We’ll see how it firms up in the fridge.

I also made unsalted butter, but you can add 1/4 to 1/3 tsp of sea salt per cup of cream to make salted butter if you want.

The whole thing took me about 15 minutes – definitely doable on a continuing basis.  And I know exactly what went into my butter – CREAM!

Butter, Butter Everywhere

Guess what I’m going to try to make by hand tonight?

I’ll let you know how this turns out!

What I Did This Weekend

Man, I ramped up the activity level 150% this weekend and right now I’m paying for it.  But, it was fun for the most part anyway.

K and I went out to dinner for the first time in over a month Friday night. Not only dinner, sushi – it’s been too long. We tried a new roll called a Tournador roll (I’m sure Ichiban just made it up) that had softshell crab and cucumber wrapped up in spicy tuna wrapped up in a soybean wrapper. Got that?  We also got a couple pieces of tako nigiri sushi, and crab rangoons.  Add a couple of bottles of sake, and it was a good night!  I’m so mad I forgot to bring my camera, but I managed to grab a pic of the sake bottles the next day at least.

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After dinner, we went back to the house to rest a bit (for me) but then we went to see the new Harry Potter movie. Holy cow, dinner and a movie on the same night?  Now I’m just gettin’ crazy!

So, what did you think of the movie?  I love the Harry Potter books but I didn’t love this movie.  It was missing something, but I’m not sure what.  I could say what most people are saying – too much emphasis on the “young relationships” but I didn’t begrudge that – I just thought it needed more of something else.  More Alan Rickman?  I melt with that voice 🙂

Saturday we took Zöe-cat to the vet to get her stitches taken out.  Poor thing had surgery a couple of weeks ago because the vet THOUGHT she had a blockage in her colon…but um, she didn’t. I’m currently very unhappy with said vet, so she’s very lucky she didn’t try to charge me for taking out her stitches. (On a side note, I don’t think I ever need to go to a doctor/vet to get stitches taken out again.  I can use a scissor and pull them out just as easily as a tech).  I’m looking for another vet, but one thing I’ve loved about the one we have is that it’s a practice solely focused on cats.  Still, $1000 for a surgery my cat turned out not to even need?  And in the end, it’s not even the money, it’s that my cat underwent unecessary sugery – poor thing. She looks quite pathetic with her belly, side and paw shaved.

After we dropped the kitty off at home we headed to our local deli to get lunch and picked up these for a treat!

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That’s right, zucchini flowers are in season! Anna and Mo (short for Modesta), two lovely Italian ladies that run the deli with their family, have hundreds of zucchini plants and this time of year sell them in bunches for $2 each.  Can’t get more local than the backyard! K and I bought a bunch and enjoyed them that night.

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The flowers were a little wilty by nighttime.

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We cut the stamens out (pollen doesn’t taste very good), then dipped them in our homemade batter, then fried them.

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A little parmesan cheese, a little pepper, and it’s delish!

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Today was Farmer’s Market today, so of course we hit that up and came home with this:

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  • 1/2 gallon of low-fat milk from Battenkill Creamery
  • 1/2 gallon of apple cider from Migliorelli Farm
  • 1 loaf honey wheat bread from Our Daily Bread
  • 1 pint blueberries from Migliorelli Farm
  • 2 ears of  corn from Barber Farm
  • 1lb chicken sausage from Coopers Ark Farm
  • 1 small fresh mozzarella from Hemour Farm

We enjoyed more fresh mozzarella, basil and tomato with oil and balsamic vinegar for lunch. Yum!

Later on today we went to the garden and finally got the sugarsnap peas properly staked with chicken wire we bought at the hardware store yesterday.  They’re almost done, so there was no real point, I guess, but we picked a few more and we can always reuse the wire and stakes next year.  We looked for more zucchini but they don’t appear to be growing right. We picked one, but the end was all yellow and bad.

Then I thinned some of the carrots out. We also pulled one of our garlic stalks to see how far along the garlic is.  It was small, but usable, and we still have 6 left in the garden.

We used the garlic scapes from last week and made a great steamed mixed vegetable side dish with dinner tonight.

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Baby carrots!

Garlic

Garlic

Sugarsnap peas and partially bad small zucchini

Sugarsnap peas and partially bad small zucchini

Look how yummy!

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A Garden in July

Today has been kind of crappy.  I could barely drag myself out of bed until around noon, because I felt so poorly 😦 I tried to survive on 500mg of Tylenol this morning, but it wasn’t until I took 400mg MORE of Advil that I felt good enough to move.  So sad.

I wanted to share a pic of my dinner from yesterday. I had a breaded chicken cutlet with grilled zucchini.  Nearly the whole thing was local, with the exception of the olive oil and the breadcrumbs.

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The eggs used to coat the chicken with breadcrumbs AND the chicken cutlets themselves came from the same farm 🙂 The zucchini was from our garden! The entire meal was delish.  Normally I would probably have a starch with this, but I haven’t been eating as much lately.

After dinner we went to the garden because it desperately needed to be watered…we’ve actually gone 3 days with rain! First time all summer I think.

Corn

Corn

The corn isn’t looking very green 😦

Green bean plants

Green bean plants

Look at the baby green bean in the picture below!

Baby green bean

Baby green bean

Gorgeous looking pepper

Gorgeous looking pepper

I’m guessing this is one of our Cubanelle peppers.  Doesn’t look like a jalapeño to me 🙂

Carrots

Carrots

Aww, look at my husbands lovely white feet.  And the beautiful carrot tops we have 🙂

Golden Chard

Golden Chard

The chard is not looking so good 😦

Brussels Sprouts

Brussels Sprouts

Brussels Sprouts look to be doing well though. I still don’t see any of the stalks growing though.

Sugarsnap peas

Sugarsnap peas

Here is the MESS of sugar snap peas that I tried to stake but failed miserably at. Hopefully I can get it looking better this weekend.

Close up

Close up

Here’s a close up of the sugarsnap peas. I’m fascinated with these (and the green beans) because I never knew how they grew before.

Tomatoes

Tomatoes

Can’t wait for all the tomatoes from these plants!

Close up

Close up

Look at that beautiful green tomato! I am hoping to get many many pounds to make tomato sauce AND salsa this fall!

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The zucchini plants aren’t looking too hot. We got about 12 zucchini in one week a few weeks back and not much since. But K says they will continue to reproduce through the summer. Hope so!

Zucchini

Zucchini

There’s a zucchini hiding in there!

And finally, here’s a picture of the formerly neat lettuce beds. They’ve gone to seed and we’ve let them go wild.  We need to turn them over and replant for the fall, since lettuce don’t do well in the heat of the summer.

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Things are looking pretty good I think.  I just want the tomatoes to turn out ok.