Chocolate Zucchini Bread

2 1/4 c. all purpose flour
3/4 c. unsweetened baking cocoa
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 c. sugar
2 c. finely shredded zucchini
1/2 c. oil
2 beaten eggs

Preheat oven to 350.  Grease bottom and sides of two loaf pans.  Set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl combine flour, cocoa, cinnamon, baking soda, and baking powder.  Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine sugar, zucchini, oil, and eggs; mix well.  Add dry ingredients to zucchini mixture.  Stir just until moistened (batter should be lumpy).

Divide mixture evenly between the prepared pans.  Bake for 45-60 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted near center comes out clean.  Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes.  Remove loaf from pan, and cool completely on the wire rack.  Wrap and store overnight.  Makes 2 loaves (in my opinion, it's not worth it to make one loaf of quick bread ... always, always, always double the recipe to get two loaves, and either freeze a loaf or give it away.  But never ever make just one.)

I've heard it said that once you change three or more ingredients in a recipe, you can call it your own and don't have to give credit to the original owner.  If that's really the case, then pretty much everything that goes through my kitchen is unquestionably owned by the Rhymeswithsmile Empire of Middle Connecticut (LLC).  This one's no exception ...
- original recipe calls for 3 cups of flour.  I wanted it to be chocolatey, so I replaced 3/4 cup of flour with cocoa instead.
- original recipe calls for nutmeg and cloves in addition to the cinnamon.  I knew I didn't want those flavors with chocolate, so I nixed that.  Save it for cold weather and fall ... not for summer and chocolate.
- original recipe calls for nuts.  Which, in my mind, means "chocolate chips"... I actually ended up not using them (because I prefer my recent habit of eating them straight out of the package by the handful when I'm in desperate need of a dessert), but think it will be a standard addition from here on out.

Wait.  I just realized that one of my "changes" to the original recipe actually was not a change, since I didn't do it.  So, I don't know if that counts or not, but I'm going to claim ownership, OK?



This is how we celebrate the Mr.'s (er ... Dr.'s) first day of work around here ...

So proud of this guy!  Hooray, job!


A Post About Cooking Bacon

Nothing super special, just a little something that came to mind when I had a chat with Cousin Becky today (where we mentioned pigeons, bacon, and toddler habits all within 2 minutes)

Have you ever baked bacon?  I mean, instead of frying it on the stovetop?  It's my new favorite way to cook bacon, because it's less fussy than skillet frying, and I'm less likely to yelp when grease pops and hits my hand (as it inevitably will).  

Here goes ...

Before: Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line a cookie sheet with foil (to help corral the bacon grease), and lay bacon out on the cookie sheet.  I fit a whole pound on there, but it took longer to cook.  I guess if I hadn't been so hungry, I could've sufficed with half a pound of bacon on the sheet.  Or, if I had two cookie sheets, I could've split up the pound.  But you get the point. (notice the jar in the background on the white spoonrest?  Yes, that's bacon grease in there from Yesterday's Bacon, waiting to do helpful things like Fry An Egg or Re-season The Iron Skillet).  Pop the bacon in the oven.  Set a timer for 10 minutes (ish)

During: try to tidy up the kitchen a little bit, but fail.  Read a book to a toddler.  Give a cup of water to a toddler.  Try to explain to the toddler that she can't pour water on the book.  Protect dog from toddler's Tossing Book game.  Hold toddler (who has turned on the charm with her "Up, please!") and decide it's time for Quiet Time.  Change a diaper, put toddler in room, wash hands, and make it back to the kitchen as the timer is beeping.
Remove bacon from oven, turn slices over, and return to oven for another 6-10 minutes or until desired doneness is reached.  During those 6-10 minutes, lay down to rest on the couch.

After: Remove bacon from oven, and transfer slices to paper towels to drain.  Doesn't it look awesome?

Let the bacon grease cool a little bit, and then pour into a jar to await later Useful Uses Like Frying Eggs And Potatoes.

See?  So easy.  I like this way of cooking bacon, because I get Toddler Time and Nap Time squeezed in there.


Camping recipes

The lake at Marcy Dam
We made it back from a week of camping in upstate New York!  We realized once we were there that this is the first time that the three of us (four of us counting the Pumpkin, five counting the dog) had been on a family vacation together, just us.  What a blast!  Honestly, I was a little overwhelmed stressed about the thought of getting E to sleep at night, based on previous experiences ... but she was a champ, and only had one night where she woke up multiple times.
View from the summit of Whiteface Mountain,
looking down on Lake Placid
The nights were cool, and the days were comfortable.  This pregnant lady enjoyed a break from the humidity of Connecticut and the noise of the city.  I think we decided that the High Peaks in the Adirondacks will most likely be "our place" to vacation ... but we have yet to try out Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, anywhere in Canada, or the New England coast.  So we'll get back to you on that.

View from Mt. Severance, overlooking Schroon Lake, NY
We enjoyed swimming, hiking, exploring, reading maps, getting a little lost, stopping whenever we felt like it, eating ice cream (OK, I enjoyed eating ice cream.  The Mr. isn't so much into it), not showering, campfires, teaching the kiddo how to collect sticks, and talking about all the things that come to mind when one doesn't have a computer or phone to distract.  It was a really special time for us.

She loves these little sunglasses.  Seriously.
If only we could all look so beautiful.
Looking upriver towards Marcy Dam
From the top of Whiteface Mountain
On our way up a Mt. Severance
And now, as promised ... the results of the food planning for the week!

For breakfasts, we alternated between these two options:
- instant oatmeal with brown sugar, dried fruit, and/or cinnamon
- scrambled eggs with sausage and potatoes - I precooked the sausage and potatoes before we left so all that was involved was warming them up, but I used a pound of bulk loose sausage, not links or patties. Next time around, I will go with the links or patties because they're more easily contained on a griddle, and less likely to fall off of a toddler's fork onto the ground.

Lunches mainly consisted of serious snacking (since we typically had lunch once we had hiked in wherever we were going that day):
- sliced summer sausage
- sliced cheese
- crackers or baguette
- carrots and celery with hummus
- trail mix

We prepared dinners once we made it back to our campsite.  Here's what we had:
- burritos - precooked rice and beans, precooked shredded chicken, salsa, cheese, tomatoes, and peppers - should've brought some sour cream and guacamole, but I forgot.  I would do this one again.
- tortellini pasta with chopped squash and zucchini, with alfredo sauce - I used some packet of instant alfredo mix that  had in the pantry that was really easy to prepare, but it would've been just as easy to have a jar of sauce.  I'd do this again, but maybe add more vegetables, and/or some chicken or sausage.
- gourmet spinach salad - a bag of spinach, seasoned and cooked chicken, 1 chopped tomato, 1/2 c. shredded parmesan cheese, sliced carrots and celery, garlic croutons, and 1/2 c. of vinaigrette dressing - the lesson learned on this one is that while a salad is really easy to throw together at home, it isn't the easiest of camping food ... and leftovers get weird really quickly.  It was delicious though, but I probably will try to find something that's more ... confined within itself ... for the next trip.
- grilled bratwurst - this was delicious, and so easy.  Check plus for next time.
- eggplant parmesan - one (1-lb) eggplant, sliced between 1/4" and 1/2" thick (so I guess that'd be 3/8"?), sprinkled with salt and pepper and browned on both sides in olive oil in a skillet.  Top with 1 small jar of marinara sauce (I bought the smallest one I could find at the grocery store, which was somewhere around 8 -10 ounces) and 1 cup of shredded parmesan cheese.  Cover and let the cheese melt slightly before serving (though parmesan doesn't really melt like other cheeses ... it does get a little softer).  This was the best dinner we had, in my opinion.  It took all of 15 minutes to prepare (which automatically made it awesome), had few ingredients (ding ding ding!  amazing!), and was filling and delicious.  It would be super easy to do again while camping, but can also be done at home.  We served it with the rest of a baguette we had from that day's lunch.  If at home, it'd also be great with a simple salad or over some pasta.

Here's proof of deliciousness:
She cleaned her plate!  Always a good sign.

It was so good.  Have I said that enough?

We spent one day in the town of Lake Placid, which had nice sidewalks and a beach area, along with some fun shops and an energetic buzz with all the activity going on.  The kiddo grabbed Salem's leash and started walking him ... she got such a kick out of it, and we didn't let on that she was really the one being constrained in the process!

We got the chance to stop and visit a friend's parents on the last night of our vacation.  They were such sweet hosts, and kindly took the time to show us around the camp they live at, the nearby town, and the beautiful lake.  We're thankful that even though being in New England is a bit out of our comfort zone, we're still able to keep ties with friends - and make new friends in the process!

Thanks Rick and Linda for being so hospitable!  Oh, and for letting us shower ... 
And now, a question for you ... have you ever tried cooking outside while camping, or over a fire?  Do you have any suggestions for this new-to-outdoor-cooking lady?