Chocolate Chunk Bread

I tend to do things despite knowing they’ll have a bad outcome.

For one, I have to listen to a song I love, loud. In the car, on my iPod, even at our apartment, it has to be turned all the way up. Never mind that some are ballads that make Roo question our relationship.

It may have to do with my yelling, “Oh my God! So much feels!” when they come on.

And they’re all by Rihanna.

Texting while drinking is another; sending messages to people I haven’t talked to in years.

Do you think they want to read ‘Let’s catch up!!!!!’ at 1 a.m with five exclamation points? If they do, well, that’s why I haven’t talked to them for so long. Weirdos.

But the worst is watching reruns of Gossip Girl during my lunch break. (Um, I watch it for the music and fashion.)

Sometimes, I get caught and am forced to bribe my coworkers with baked goods. It’s the only way to keep them from telling me who Gossip Girl is.

Please don’t tell me who Gossip Girl is.

Wait, is it Little J?

No no! Don’t tell me!

Here, have some bread.

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Butternut Squash Cake with Dark Chocolate and Dried Cranberries

I’ve mentioned it quite a bit this month that some items in our CSA has been more difficult to get through than others.  Produce like kale and onions were used within a day or two, while squashes and sweet potatoes have found practically a permanent residence on the shelf next to our Keurig.

I’ve honestly never made a cake with butternut squash before, but being related to pumpkin, I figured why not do a twist on a cake that I love so much this time of year.  Also, I had such good luck with my sweet potato cake, that I was hoping I’d ride on that recipe karma to something fantastically unexpected.

Yes, I always have high expectations.  That’s how I roll.

I’m glad that I took the chance, as this cake is incredibly moist, lush, with bits of chocolate speckled through the batter, yet countered beautifully with the bright, tart cranberries.  It’s something that I look forward to making again, especially since squash season is far from over and warming our apartment with an oven baking a cake is far better than turning on the radiator (hello humidifier, please jump into my trunk at Target because our heater hates my hair).

Adapted from Sweet Potato Spice Cake with Dried Cranberries

This makes two cakes, but can be easily halved.  The batter is especially thick and when the original recipe is used (for the two cakes), it is a large amount, therefore making one cake should be considered especially when not using a stand mixer.

Ingredients

5 cups of butternut squash “moosh” (1 large butternut squash) *Peel, de-seed and cut your squash into chunks and place on a microwave safe plate.  Cover with a paper towel and microwave until very soft.  (This took me about 10 minutes.)  Mash the chunks until very smooth, thus “moosh.”

One and a half cups of sugar

2 flax seed eggs (2 tablespoons of ground flax seed, mixed with 6 tablespoons of water, set aside for ten minutes)

1 cup of unsweetened unflavored almond milk (or another non-dairy milk)

Three quarters of a cup of mild tasting olive oil (if you are halving this recipe, you will need 6 tablespoons of olive oil)

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

4 cups of white whole wheat flour

1 heaping tablespoon of baking soda

1 heaping tablespoon of baking powder

1 tablespoon of ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon of ground nutmeg

1 cup of dried cranberries (I love it when the dried cranberries plump up in a cake, so yes, 1 cup it is)

Quarter to a half cup of chocolate, chopped

Quarter cup of turbinado sugar, for sprinkling (you can use regular sugar)

Equipment

1 large sized mixing bowl (the biggest one you have, seriously)

1 medium sized mixing bowl

A spatula

A whisk

Two 9″ cake pans

Parchment paper (optional) or grease your pan (with butter, like Earth Balance, and dust with flour)

Place the oven rack in the middle position in your oven.  Preheat your oven to 350F.

In the medium sized mixing bowls, add the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Whisk the ingredients together, till combined.

In the large sized mixing bowl, add the butternut squash “moosh,” flax eggs, sugar, almond milk, olive oil and vanilla extract.  Stir till combined.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet, in increments.  Stir till combined.  Fold in the dried cranberries and dark chocolate.  The batter is going to be extremely thick and you’re going to question my sanity.  Trust it.

Spoon out the batter into your pans.

Bake for about about 35 – 45 minutes.  At the 30 minute mark, sprinkle the turbinado sugar over the tops of the cakes.  At the 35 minute mark, use a cake tester (like a toothpick), and insert into the middle of the cake.  If it comes out with a little bit of crumb, it’s done.  If not, put it back in the oven for another five minutes, and check again.

When done, remove from oven and allow to cool to room temperature before serving.

Zucchini Cake with Dried Cranberries and Dark Chocolate

It finally happened.

I turned 30 over the weekend.

In all fairness it was probably one of the best birthdays I’ve ever had.  Roo planned the entire evening in advance; letting me know that there was going to be a party, but who was coming, and where we’d be going, was going to be a surprise.

At first I thought this would drive me crazy as I’m a total control freak, but you know what?  It was lovely to have someone other than myself plan my birthday party.  No one else had ever done that for me before (except my mother, when I was a child), and it was kind of great.

We spent most of the actual day in bed.  We watched the sparrows who have taken over our front porch, come back and forth with bits of twine, flying up into the cracks of wood, making nests for future generations of home invaders.

I made a lazy breakfast around noon – eggs over easy, fried bacon, and toasted everything bagels with chive and bacon cream cheese.  It was exactly what I needed.  In fact, Roo commented that we hadn’t had a “fatty breakfast” like that in ages.  And it’s true.  When he told me his cholesterol results months ago, I went into “heart healthy” overdrive.  Cakes were to be made with eggs whites and olive oil.  Steak was no longer allowed in our household.  And butter went into permanent hibernation in our freezer.  I don’t know exactly how much damage I did to his arteries from that breakfast this weekend, but it was my 30th.  I think I was allowed to be a little selfish, and Roo never argued.  Killing with kindness indeed.

The day after my birthday however, was probably one of the worst “day afters” I’ve had since I’ve lived in Ireland.  I again spent most of the day in bed, but it was to spoon my pillow and vow that I would never let my so-called-friends order shots for me called, “blueberry pancake” or “the homecoming” ever again.  And what’s really strange is that when you’re feeling like that, you want nothing but the fattiest, greasiest meal to “cure” you.

When I was finally able to sit upright, Roo asked me what I wanted for dinner.  I replied, “A Whopper, with cheese.”  Thankfully he convinced me to come up with something better.  We ended up ordering steak and cheese subs from Moogy’s.  Oh, and there were curly fries. And chive fries. Oh, chive fries.

But with that weekend of utter indulgence, I needed to get us back on track with food items that weren’t deep fried or may have been named “Bessie” the week before.  We went back to our normal routine, having oven roasted fish and lots of braised kale this evening.  And like clockwork, when House came on – which I always insist we watch – I grew antsy and went back to the kitchen to work on something to make for tea when I would come home after work this week.

This cake is one of my favorites.  It’s made with egg whites and olive oil and we haven’t missed all that butter that’s traditionally made with its cousin, banana bread.  It’s also easy to substitute a lot of the mix-ins for whatever you like. I’ve even thrown in shredded coconut.  Dried cranberries and dark chocolate are my favorites, but you could go with chopped nuts, or maybe some dried cherries.  If you try something else, please let me know!

Adapted From Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients

3 egg whites (you can also use 3 large eggs)

1 1/2 cups of sugar (this yields a not too sweet cake, if you’d a sweeter cake use 2 cups)

1 cup of olive oil

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 cups of grated zucchini (you can use 2 cups, I just tend to grab two large zucchini and grate it all, which usually comes to about 3 cups)

2 cups all purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour (if you don’t have whole wheat flour, you can use 3 cups all purpose for the total flour used)

3 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

2 cups dried cranberries (I love dried cranberries that plump up in cake, if you’re not that much of a fan, use a cup)

1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips (I use Ghiradelli 60% cacao)

Equipment

9″ cake pan

Food processor or hand grater

Two large bowls

Spatula

Whisk

Parchment paper, or butter and flour to grease your cake pan

Place the oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 350F.  Line the cake pan with parchment paper, or butter and flour the cake pan.  I highly recommend the parchment paper as it’s easy clean up.  I have not made this recipe using butter and flour, so I can’t say whether or not the cake will get stuck in the pan.  With parchment, it’s lifts right out.

With a food processor or a hand grater, grate the zucchini until you have 2 -3 cups worth.  If you have two giant zucchini, and end up with 3 cups, it’s safe to use all 3, as I have in the past.  If you only end up with 2 cups, it’ll be just as delicious.  Set aside.

Mix the egg whites and sugar.  Add the oil and then the vanilla extract.  It will look like an oily mess at first, but keep going, it’ll eventually come together.  Take your spatula and be sure the scrape the bowl.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour(s), cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, baking powder, and salt with a whisk.  Add the cranberries and dark chocolate.  Stir to combine.

Add the zucchini to the wet ingredients.  If it freaks you out to not squeeze out the excess liquid from the zucchini, then by all means, squeeze away.  If there’s anything to be learned from me, is that I’m lazy.  And thankfully lucky because the cake always turns out great without doing anything to the zucchini after grating.  Stir the zucchini in to combine.  Take your spatula and scrape the bowl.

In increments, add the dry ingredients to the wet.  I usually add the dry to the wet in two parts, but go with what you’re comfortable with.  I add the dry ingredients, then stir until they’re just combined, and then add the second half, and stir till combined again.  Again, take your spatula and scrape the bowl to ensure that all ingredients (ie there isn’t a wet pool underneath everything else at the bottom of your bowl) are combined.

Fill the cake pan with the batter.  Place into the oven and bake for 45 – 55 minutes.  For me, the cake is fully baked at the 50 minute marker.  But our oven is a bit small and runs rather hot.  Around 45 minutes, check with a chopstick, toothpick, or even a knife, to see if the cake is done.  There should be a little bit of crumb hanging on, but not actual wet batter when you remove it from the cake.  Check every three – five minutes until the cake is done as you do not want to over bake this cake.

As usual, I can never wait for the cake to cool for me to eat it.  I’ve cut into it when it’s hot, and it’s delicious.  It’s also delicious the next day.  And the next.  If you’re a purist and must wait till it’s cooled, do so on a wire rack.  Or devour immediately.  Those who do, never judge.