Peony 'Sarah Bernhardt'

Peony 'Sarah Bernhardt'

Monday, October 5, 2015

Decadent Chocolate Zucchini Bread

Good morning gardening friends,

Zucchini season is coming to an end as the cold Autumn weather takes hold. I imagine we have a couple more weeks to harvest zucchini. Are you sick of it yet? This week I harvested three large zucchinis. With the cooler weather I am baking and using the oven again which is a welcome autumn treat! On this week's menu is zucchini lasagne, zucchini risotto, zucchini cornbread, and minestrone soup.

However, my crowning glory of most delicious zucchini dishes was yesterday's chocolate zucchini bread. Its moist, crumbly, rich, slightly sweet texture was more like cake than quick bread. I cannot rave enough about just how delicious this chocolate zucchini bread is!! That's right, double exclamation point. This chocolate zucchini bread is so moist it will bring a tear to your eye.

Not only did I used up a lot of zucchini, I got to dust off my kitchenmaid stand mixer and use it for the first time since spring. Autumn begins the baking season for me and my husband couldn't be happier. Yesterday he came home from a 2 day trip, walked into the house, smelled and saw the warm zucchini bread and started salivating. He said to me "I didn't know you had any cake mix." Fool, when have I ever made a cake from mix! I am a from scratch baker.

This recipe is so simple and super fresh taste you would never get from a box of cake or quick bread mix. I hope you will try this amazing chocolate zucchini bread recipe I just made up yesterday. You will not be disappointed. Enjoy!


2 cups all purpose white flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp allspice
2 sticks butter
2 cups brown sugar
3 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup apple juice
2 cups grated zucchini

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees
2. Use a sifter to combine first seven ingredients. Mix in large bowl and set aside.
3. Use stand mixer or hand mixer to beat together butter and sugar. Add eggs and continue mixing. Add vanilla extract and apple juice. Mix until well incorporated.
4. Combine dry and wet mixtures. Mix well for a few minutes.
5. Stop mixing. Stir in zucchini until well incorporated.
6. Grease a loaf pan with butter or nonstick cooking spray.
7. Pour batter into prepared pan.
8. Bake uncovered for approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes--until a toothpick comes out clean.
9. Let cool before removing from pan.

Fall Clean Up

Good morning gardeners!

Autumn leaves are falling, mornings are crisp and cool, pumpkins are popping up on porches, and flocks of honking geese are flying overhead. Happy October! I am enjoying all the sights, sounds, smells, textures, and tastes of the season. Several times a week soup is bubbling on my stove and casseroles, muffins, and cobblers are baking in my oven. Planting bulbs, garlic, and cover crops are on my gardening agenda.

As the summer harvest is coming to an end, I am culling and composting tomato, cucumber, squash, and bean plants. Where there are not winter crops planted, I sow a crimson clover cover crops. Fall planted cover crops help build the soil in my edible raised beds for planting next spring. My organic strategy in the food garden is to rotate crops, remove diseased & pest infested plant material, apply compost and compost tea several times a year, use organic fertilizers, plant companion plants for a biodiverse garden and plant cover crops. I find this organic regime is the key to my productive, healthy garden.

While I clean up my food garden, it is another case in my ornamental garden. We are trained to rake up leaves, clean up debris in the fall. We are taught debris harbors pest and disease and a healthy garden is a clean garden. So-called "debris" like leaves and other plant material is actually wonderful organic matter. Mother nature turns this fallen organic matter into nutrients in the soil. Soil is teeming with life that works on composting and building our soil.

I say rake up the leaves on your sidewalk, paths, and lawn, and just leave the fallen leaves on the soil in your garden beds. In early winter once all the leaves in my garden have fallen, I rake them around my plants and spread on top a layer of bark mulch. My garden looks clean and neat but I've left all the organic matter on the soil. This mulched area provides excellent habitat for overwintering beneficial bugs and microscopic soil life.

Many flowers that have lost petals are now an excellent source of food for birds. The bare pods that are left behind look pretty and are packed with nutritious seeds. I leave my sunflowers, rudbeckia, and echinacea all standing in the garden during fall and winter. The birds are working hard to pick them clean of seeds. It is super fun to daily watch blue jays hang upsides down from sunflower heads removing seeds.

Happy Autumn gardening friends! Jolie