Friday, March 06, 2009

Chocolate Hidden Vegetables

Exactly what our family is undertaking is a bit blurry for lack of a common mission when we began. Long before I started reading books and acquiring resources from Powells, this whole process started as more of a realization that our food bill was too high, the family was getting stressed, and the result was that what little time we had for each other was caught up in being sick or grumpy. When I had experienced the same dissatisfaction with my own life, I started making cookies. My son and I had lots of fun, a few flour fights, many dirty, sticky fingers and faces, and the end result were a couple dozen treats to either share with others.

Our wonderful neighbors had given us some zucchini they had grown in their backyard garden and I had a recipie for chocolate zucchini bread. I figured why not? Barracuda and I spent the afternoon making chocolate zucchini bread and later that evening gave one of the loaves back to our gracious nieghbors. They loved it, Barracuda loved it, and I was once again smiling.

Jules was a hard sell on this concept at first. He grew up in a household of fried ham, cheese, and mayonnaise sandwiches (I kid you not, I've eaten them!). Name brands not vegetables were the norm and his mom was admittedly "not a great cook." The idea of making food wasn't a bad one, it just couldn't match up to Keebler.

Keebler was inherently great also because it did not contain vegetables. Veggies are good for you, not good tasting. Needless to say, Jules was not informed there was zucchini in the bread until after he ate it, loved it, and wanted more. The zucchini was mentioned only when I expressed a desire to take the extra loaf back over to the neighbor since they were the reason we had such yummy chocolate bread. Grudgingly, Jules agreed with the promise more dessert was on its way to replace the gift. The vegetable turning point had occurred. Jules explained excitedly to the neighbors how the bread contained zucchini but actually tasted good!

From that point on, when we ran out of a prepackaged snack I wouldn't run to the grocery store to acquire more. Barracuda and I would make it for the family to enjoy. However, it took a while before we stopped purchasing all snacks at the store when we went grocery shopping. With the help of the internet, recipes for everything from Nutrigrain bars to Granola bars to more dessert cookies and breads than I could ever have come up with on my own filled our void in sweet tasty munchies. Soon after, I began making dinner every night and planning for Jules and Barracuda to have meals ready when I was at work. With readily available food which was good (and ridden with hidden veggies) there was no need for take out. As our homemaking progressed the grocery trips became further and further apart and the veggies more and more visible.

At this point we are not yet producing our own dairy products (though I'm considering starting to make butter next month), pasta, tortillas, or sandwich bread (another endeavor for next month). Mainly because I haven't found an effective way to do it. I've heard that pasta making is just plain arduous and I don't have any of the proper equipment. As much as I'd like to get there, it will be sometime in the future. Tortillas fall into this category too. Our household doesn't have a tortilla press (though this may be like a rice cooker - completely unnecessary!) and I haven't yet found a effective way to start producing them at home. However, I've acquired a simple butter recipe as well as a great bread website!

As for the dairy, well, this just plain freaks Jules out. That coupled with my knowledge of how difficult hard cheese is to create, we don't have the aging or packaging capabilities in our little house (900 sq ft), and local cheese is nationally renowned. So, we will buy it locally, support locally, and are just as happy about that. Ice cream is also a local treasure around here and we don't eat enough to go through the purchase of a crank, supplies, and time. I have worked at a dessert shop which handmade ice takes quite a while to produce hard ice cream and our freezer isn't cold enough. Cottage cheese, yogurt, cream cheese, and the like are on the horizon. But first, I'll figure out butter.

Chocolate Zucchini Bread

1/4 cup cocoa powder
3 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups grated zucchini
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips (optional)

I always make it with raw sugar and whole wheat flour. With the moisture of the oil, eggs, and zucchini it doesn't come out hard and dry at all. The cocoa powder also helps a ton here with taste. Jules had no idea and other probably won't either. I love the chocolate chips; Jules doesn't. They appear to be hit and miss with people.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 9x5 loaf pans. Combine eggs, sugar, oil, grated zucchini, vanilla and chocolate; beat well. Stir in the flour, baking soda, and cinnamon. Fold in chocolate chips. Pour batter into loaf pans. Bake 60-70 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

3 thoughts:

Anonymous said...

Yum. This looks good. Thanks for posting!

One thing I sometimes think about eating sweets is that I would eat fewer of them if I had to make them all myself. It's pretty time-consuming, and I'd (usually) rather make dinner from scratch. Have you found that to be the case?

Granola Girl said...

One loaf will usually last us about a week or so. On one of my days off I'll make up a batch and then when we run out, we run out. It seems like we don't over-eat it if there is something of substance (zucchini, pumpkin, carrot, etc) in it. This could also just be wishful thinking :)

Jennifer said...

Yummy, homemade goodies will beat Keebler anyday! I'm printing your recipe so I can try it myself this summer. My kids expect my annual zuchinni brownies each year, but the picture in your post just looks delicious! :)

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