a sort-of healthier zucchini bread

The boy refuses to eat summer squash solely because his mom grew it when he was a kid and he was forced to eat it all summer. Unfortunately, zucchini and squash are neglected vegetables and have a bad reputation. I think this is because when we (we = the world at large) were kids, our mothers cooked the living hell out of them, then salted them abundantly; so all we remember is an unpalatable salty mush, the memory of which sticks with us for the rest of our ever lovin’ lives. But honestly, both zucchini and squash are really tasty when prepared correctly. Raw zucchini sliced paper-thin and tossed with a lemony vinaigrette is excellent and tasty.

So a few years back, about this time of year to be exact, I stumbled upon a zucchini bread recipe. I don’t even remember where I saw it; it might have been on Serious Eats. Anyway, this is that time of year when everyone’s kitchen garden is overflowing with zucchini and nobody knows what to do with all of them, so you find yourself with armfuls of them knocking on the neighbor’s door. So what to do with them? Make bread!

Here’s the thing that people who don’t like zucchini fail to realize: you can’t really taste the zucchini in the bread. So I know your next question will be, then why bother eating it? Well, zucchini is good for you. Chock full of vitamins C and B6 and fiber. Give it a try.

The original recipe for this bread called for 1 ¾ cups of sugar, which seems like a lot. Wait – that IS a lot. My God, I can’t even imagine ingesting that amount of sugar, even split into two loaves. I’m not about to get all High and Mighty on you regarding sugar, because I use it – in moderation – in all its many mutations: brown, molasses, Turbinado, honey (I’ve yet to hop on the agave nectar bandwagon, and probably won’t). I won’t cut sugar out of my diet completely – I will still use it in my cooking and baking and morning coffee, albeit in moderation. But, seriously? One and three quarters cups of sugar?? My teeth ache just thinking about that. So I’ve tried to adapt this recipe to make it include less sugar yet keep it palatable. The end result is good, but be warned that it is not sweet – if you prefer it to be sweeter, by all means add more sugar, I won’t stop you. I’ll just wrinkle my nose and give you the stink eye, but that’s about it.

I’ve also added whole wheat flour to the mix. You could replace all of the flour with whole wheat flour, but I wouldn’t recommend it. A few years ago, when I started using whole wheat flour in my baking, I did some trial runs on pizza dough, and lemme tell you right now: 100% whole wheat pizza dough tastes like cardboard. Don’t believe me? try it. You’ll be playing Frisbee with that pizza crust. My remedy is to mix it half and half with unbleached all purpose flour.

I’m not going to excuse the addition of oil. You need oil in your diet; and I know it seems like a lot, but it’s not like you’ll be eating both loaves of this by yourself in one sitting. You’ll be hacking a slice off for a snack or for breakfast, but not eating the whole thing yourself… right? Right. I’ve also added walnuts (good source of omega-3 fatty acid) and dried tart cherries, which are not only delicious but are a fantastic antioxidant. Plus, I like the flavor combination of the cherries with the chocolate chips. Okay, I also don’t have an excuse for the chocolate included in here, other than it tastes good. Just don’t use milk chocolate; semi-sweet is better for you, and dark is best.

Zucchini Bread adapted from several sources
Makes 2 loaves

. 3 eggs
. 2/3 cup vegetable oil like Canola
. 1 cup sugar
. 2 cups zucchini, grated on a box grater
. 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
. 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
. 1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
. 2 teaspoons cinnamon
. 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
. 1 teaspoon baking soda
. ½ teaspoon baking powder
. 1 teaspoon salt
. ½ cup chopped walnuts
. ½ cup dried tart cherries
. ½ cup semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Line two loaf pans with parchment (or grease and flour them if no parchment available). I only have one loaf pan, so I also use a 6 inch round cake pan, because that’s what I have handy.

3. In a large bowl, beat the eggs with a whisk. Mix in oil and sugar, then add the zucchini and vanilla.

4. In a medium bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, baking powder, salt, nuts, chocolate chips and cherries. Stir this into the large bowl and mix gently. Divide the batter into prepared pans.

5. Bake loaves for 50 minutes (check it at 45 to be sure – don’t overcook), until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean.

6. Let cool on a baking rack before unmolding and cutting yourself a slice.

Pac Man Zucchini Bread goes in for the kill.


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