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Archive for June, 2012

When life gives you zucchini … make Zucchini Bread!

My husband (our resident gardener) has quite the fruit & vegetable garden going this summer.  We’re getting at least six zucchini a week (from two plants) and it’s not even July.

We’ve been grilling and stir frying zucchini.  Over the weekend, I decided to try out a new zucchini bread recipe.  It’s originally from Cooks Illustrated — with just a few tweaks.  I used low-fat Greek Yogurt, which I always have on hand.  And, I added dried cranberries and toasted pecans.  It was quite delicious!

It’s best to use small zucchini when making zucchini bread.  They have smaller and drier seeds than large, which is preferred in bread.

Zucchini Bread

2 small zucchini (1 pound)

2 cups Flour

1 tsp. Baking Soda

1 tsp. Baking Powder

1 tsp. Ground Cinnamon

1 tsp. Ground Allspice

1/2 tsp. Salt

1  1/2 cups Sugar

6 Tbs. unsalted Butter, melted and cooled

2 large Eggs

1/4 cup Plain Yogurt (I used low-fat Greek Yogurt)

1 Tbs. Lemon Juice

Optional:  1/2 cup Pecans or Walnuts, toasted & coarsely chopped

Optional:  1/2 cup Golden Raisins or Dried Cranberries

Instructions:

1.  Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and preheat to 350 degrees.  Grease a 9″ x 5″ loaf pan.

2.  Shred the zucchini using large holes of box grater.  Squeeze shredded zucchini between several layers of paper towels to absorb excess moisture.

3.  Whisk flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, allspice and salt together in a large bowl.  In a medium bowl, whisk sugar, melted butter, eggs, yogurt and lemon juice together until smooth.  Gently fold shredded zucchini and yogurt mixture into flour mixture with rubber spatula until just combined.  (Don’t overmix).  Gently fold in nuts and raisins or cranberries.

4.  Scrape batter into prepared pan and smooth the top.  Bake until golden brown and toothpick inserted in center of loaf comes out with few crumbs attached, about 55 minutes, rotating loaf pan halfway through baking.

5.  Let loaf cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto wire rack and let cool for 1 hour before serving.

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My girlfriend and I co-hosted a surprise birthday party for our husbands last weekend.  (They are friends from college and celebrated milestone birthdays within a week of each other.)  So much fun!!!  But, the planning started months in advance.

As we discussed the theme and decor for the party, we decided to use chalkboards on all of the food and drink tables.

It was too expensive to buy vintage chalkboards, so I decided to make them.  It turned out to be a fairly easy project.

After reading many blogs and talking to several people that make & sell vintage chalkboards, here are my “comprehensive” directions for DIY Chalkboards

Materials:

  • Empty picture frames
  • MDF (1/4 inch) – available at hardware stores
  • Chalkboard Paint – also available at hardware stores
  • Primer (recommended;  I used gray spray primer)
  • Fine grit sandpaper
  • Glazing Push Points
  • Chalk & Soft Rags

Directions:

  1. Select the frames you wish to use.  I picked up four frames at our monthly flea market for a total of $12.   Most of us can probably re-purpose old picture frames we have around the house.
  2. Have the MDF cut to fit the size of your frames.  (Measure carefully!  You want to make sure your boards will fit snugly in the frames.  If your frames still have the glass or cardboard back, these make great patterns.)  Most hardware stores will custom cut for free.  I even went back to Home Depot twice to have the large boards cut into smaller pieces. 
  3. It’s best to prime the MDF.  I used a gray primer spray paint, since I was using black chalkboard paint.  Once the primer is dry, lightly sand the MDF with very fine grit sandpaper.  Use a soft cloth to wipe away all dust.
  4. Paint the primed MDF with chalkboard paint.  I used a disposable sponge roller and painted three coats.  (I wrapped the sponge roller and paint tray in Saran Wrap and placed them in the refrigerator between coats.  This way I only needed 1 roller and didn’t need to clean out my paint tray.)
  5. When the boards are completely dry, you need to “season” them, so you can wipe off the chalk writing and reuse your chalkboards.  Season the boards by using the side of your chalk and rubbing chalk all over the entire surface of your chalkboard.  Wipe off all chalk dust with a soft cloth.
  6. Paint, distress, wax or glaze your frames, depending on the desired look you want to achieve.  (I sprayed my frames white, using white spray paint that I had on hand.)  Be sure to paint in a well ventilated area if you are using spray paint.
  7. To secure the chalkboard MDF into the picture frames, you can use Push Points to secure the board to wood frames using a large screw driver or metal putty knife.

I ended up with four large framed chalkboards and several other non-framed boards (including a very large board that we used at the party to display messages from guests that couldn’t be with us for the party and a long skinny board with a “thank you” message).

I spent $41 on the entire project … I couldn’t have purchased one framed chalkboard for that price!

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