Author Archives: Celeste Beck

Whole Grain Chocolate Chip Zucchinni Bread

Healthy zucchini bread

This recipe makes 2 loaves – one for eating right away, and one for freezing. I tweaked some other recipes until I developed this one. I like this recipe because it is lower in sugar and fat compared to many zucchini breads, and it is made with whole grains. I feel like I can enjoy it on a regular basis, rather than a treat to be eaten only once in a while. Enjoy!

INGREDIENTS

4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
¾ cup brown sugar
2 ¼ tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup dark chocolate chips (at least 60% cacao)
2 tsp vanilla
2 large eggs
4 Tbsp butter (melted)
2 cups applesauce
3 cups finely shredded zucchini

Ingredient Substitutions (If you don’t have the above ingredients on hand, you can use the following substitutions):

4 cups whole wheat pastry flour = 2 cups regular whole wheat flour mixed with 2 cups white flour
¾ cups brown sugar = ¾ cups coconut sugar

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. Combine flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and chocolate chips in a large bowl. Mix together well.
  3. Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat. While the butter is melting, combine the wet ingredients in a separate bowl from the dry ingredients – vanilla, eggs, applesauce, and zucchini. Gradually stir the melted butter into the wet ingredients.
  4. Combine the wet and dry ingredients by pouring the wet ingredients into the larger bowl with dry ingredients. Stir well with a spoon until all ingredients are combined into a batter-like consistency.
  5. Lightly grease two 9×5-inch loaf pans. Pour the batter into the prepared pans.
  6. Place pans on middle oven rack and bake for 45-55 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.

STORAGE: After bread has completely cooled, wrap loaves that you would like to freeze in tin foil, and then place them in tightly sealed plastic freezer bags, being sure to press out all of the extra air before sealing. You can freeze this type of bread for 2-4 months to retain full flavor and nutritional quality. If it is frozen for a longer period of time, it will still be safe to eat, but some of the quality may be diminished. When you are ready to eat the frozen bread, allow it to thaw completely, and it is ready to slice and serve for any meal or snack!

 

 

The Easiest Way to Preserve Tomatoes!

How to freeze tomatoesI love tomato season, when you can get fully ripe, fresh tomatoes from your garden! This year I only had a few tomato plants in my garden, but I have been able to benefit from local farmers’ larger crops. I recently bought a full bushel (54 lbs) of locally grown, ripened on the vine tomatoes for $16! They were much cheaper, and MUCH better tasting than ones you can buy in the store! Which is why it was worth it to buy so many tomatoes in bulk, and preserve them for later use during the year.

I will just say that I am not big into canning. It can be hot, messy, and time consuming. When I was completing my Master Gardener certification in 2014, I learned from two of my fellow, more experienced gardeners (who were tending a tomato bed with me for the season), that the easiest way to preserve tomatoes is to freeze them! Before that, I had never thought of freezing tomatoes before. So I called my local food preservation extension office, who confirmed that you can freeze tomatoes for up to one year while retaining full nutritional value. So easy!!! I have frozen a lot of tomatoes since then. Here are the simple steps below:

How to Freeze Whole Tomatoes – 3 Steps:

  1. Wash tomatoes with lukewarm water. Remove any green stems. Do not cut them – leave whole. 
  2. Place tomatoes in a single layer into a gallon-sized freezer bag, or other freezer safe container and seal. If using a ziplock bag, remove as much air as possible before sealing. (If the tomatoes are placed in a single layer in the bag, they do not stick together when frozen. However, if you want to fill a bag or container with tomatoes stacked on top of one another, you should freeze the tomatoes on a cookie sheet before putting them into the freezer container to prevent them sticking together during freezing.)
  3. Label and date the container (frozen tomatoes should be used within one year to retain maximum nutritional value). Place in freezer. Voila – you are done!

freeze tomatoes, easiest way to preserve tomatoes

 

Other options for freezing tomatoes:

You can peel the tomatoes before freezing (skins remove easily if you blanch whole tomatoes in boiling water for one minute, then place the tomatoes in ice water.) You may dice, puree, or cut the tomatoes in slices (freeze slices separately on a cookie sheet, and then stack with parchment paper between them), depending on how you would like to use them in recipes later.

 Is blanching necessary?

(Some other sites will say that you do, but no, you don’t have to blanch tomatoes before freezing. Check out this article from Michigan State University’s research-based extension office, which explains that you CAN blanch to help remove skins before freezing, but otherwise it is unnecessary if you want to leave the skins on.)

How do you Use Frozen Tomatoes?

When you are ready to use your whole, frozen tomatoes, thaw them slightly and cut out the top centers where the stem was attached, while they are still slightly frozen and hard. (If you wait until they are completely thawed before cutting out the centers, the tomatoes will become mushy and will be difficult to work with, so handle them before they completely thaw!) Previously frozen tomatoes are best in tomato sauces or soups, because as I just mentioned, the cell structure breaks down and they become quite mushy when completely thawed. A link to one of my favorite recipes using frozen tomatoes is below. I make this recipe throughout the winter when fresh garden tomatoes are long past being available.

Recipe Links

Best Garden-Fresh Tomato Soup

Make-Ahead Breads

how to freeze bread, homemade wheat bread, preserve homemade breadWHY SHOULD I PRESERVE BREADS?

Do you ever wish you had fresh, homemade bread, but don’t have all that time to spend in the kitchen to make it? I sure do! Freezing is a great way to enjoy wholesome baked bread, with ingredients that you love, even on a busy day when you don’t have time to bake. On a day when you do have time to bake, you can simply make extras, and freeze the loaves that you don’t need for another, busier day. If you are making zucchini bread, this is also a great way to use extra zucchinis from your garden, or extra ones you may have in your refrigerator, without having to eat all the bread at once.

HOW TO FREEZE BREAD

You can store your favorite, wholesome bread for another day by freezing it. The main thing is to wrap your bread snugly to prevent moisture loss, or freezer burn. To freeze your bread, follow these simple steps:

1. Wrap bread in tin foil. I just place my bread on a large sheet of tin foil, and wrap the edges around the bread snugly.

2. Place the bread, now wrapped in tin foil, in an airtight freezer bag. I like to use a gallon-sized ziplock bag. Be sure to remove all the air possible from the freezer bag before sealing. This will minimize moisture loss, or freezer burn.

3. Label and date your freezer bag so that you know when you need to use your bread by! 

bread wrapped in tin foil, store bread, freeze zucchini bread

HOW LONG CAN I STORE FROZEN BREAD?

According to research-based guidelines, there are different suggested freezing times (to retain highest food quality), depending on the type of bread you make. It won’t be unsafe after these timelines if frozen properly, but the nutritional and taste quality may go down after that, which defeats the whole purpose of preserving your bread! Here are some guidelines for freezing times if you want to retain full nutritional quality (which we do!):

  • Quick breads (zucchini, gingerbread, nut and fruit bread): 2-4 months
  • Yeast breads (bread, rolls, and any others that are slow rising with yeast): 6-8 months

HOW TO USE FROZEN BREAD

Frozen bread is so easy to use, and it will save you a ton of time on a busy day, but still give you a nutritious snack or meal addition! Simply remove the bread from the freezer, and allow it to thaw while still wrapped in the tin foil and freezer bag (to retain moisture while thawing). After thawing, you can eat it at room temperature, or heat the loaf up for a few minutes in the oven while still wrapped in just the tin foil (this should be obvious, but be sure to REMOVE the plastic bag before putting it in the oven!).

I usually make 4 loaves of whole-wheat bread at a time, and I use this method all the time to freeze the extra loaves. This way I can have fresh homemade bread for my family on a regular basis, without having to make it each time. Here are some of my favorite go-to recipes below. Enjoy also experimenting with your own favorite recipes!

FAVORITE NUTRITIOUS BREAD RECIPES

Whole Grain Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread

Best Homemade Wheat Bread (MAKE THIS A LINK TO RECIPE PAGE)