Chocolate Zucchini Snacking Cake


   I should call this Double Chocolate Zucchini Snacking Cake due to the fact that it contains both cocoa powder and then chocolate chips in the topping.
     Although I’d like to say this is a somewhat healthy dessert—it contains zucchini, dark chocolate cocoa powder, and omega-3 rich nuts, and no added frosting—I’d be really stretching the truth. On the other hand, it does have a few redeeming values and it makes just a small 8x8-inch pan full of cake. But, be WARNED — this cake is moist and fudgy and it’s hard to be satisfied with just one small piece! We ate it warm from the oven . . . but it was just as good later, too.

Chocolate Zucchini Snacking Cake    Makes one 8x8-inch cake
¼ cup (½ stick) softened butter
¾ cup (½ cup + ¼ cup) + 2 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ cup buttermilk
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (dark chocolate preferred)
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon (high oil cinnamon preferred)
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup grated zucchini (peel left on but seeded if larger)
½ cup semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips
½ cup chopped pecans (or use walnuts if preferred)
  1. Preheat oven to 350° for a metal baking dish (325° for a glass dish).
  2. In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar.
  3. Add the oil, egg, vanilla and buttermilk; mix well.
  4. Add the flour, cocoa, baking soda, cinnamon and salt and mix well.
  5. Fold in the zucchini.
  6. Pour into a sprayed or greased 8x8-inch baking pan.
  7. Sprinkle top with chocolate chips and pecans.
  8. Bake in a preheated 325° oven for about 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  

     
    Note: Since I wanted to serve warm cake I actually made it ahead and set it in the refrigerator. Prior to baking, I pulled it out of the refrigerator, allowed it to partially come to room temperature and then baked it right before dinner.
Recipe without photos . . .
Chocolate Zucchini Snacking Cake    Makes one 8x8-inch cake
¼ cup (½ stick) softened butter
¾ cup (½ cup + ¼ cup) + 2 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ cup buttermilk
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (dark chocolate preferred)
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon (high oil cinnamon preferred)
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup grated zucchini (peel left on but seeded if larger)
½ cup semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips
½ cup chopped pecans (or use walnuts if preferred)
  1. Preheat oven to 350° for a metal baking dish (325° for a glass dish).
  2. In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar.
  3. Add the oil, egg, vanilla and buttermilk; mix well.
  4. Add the flour, cocoa, baking soda, cinnamon and salt and mix well.
  5. Fold in the zucchini.
  6. Pour into a sprayed or greased 8x8-inch baking pan.
  7. Sprinkle top with chocolate chips and pecans.
  8. Bake in a preheated 325° oven for about 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.                                                                                     Note: Since I wanted to serve warm cake I actually made it ahead and set it in the refrigerator. Prior to baking, I pulled it out of the refrigerator, allowed it to partially come to room temperature and then baked it right before dinner.

Herbed Pork Tenderloin . . . part of a protein platter

Immersion in a mixture of lemon, oil, mustard and fresh herbs adds flavor to this pork tenderloin and creates a tasty, tender meat dish that was perfect on a protein-based snack platter that I recently put together. Besides pork, the platter contained, Cheddar cheese slices, red beans and hard cooked eggs. Condiments included flavored olive-oil based mayo and Dijon mustard.

Herbed Pork Tenderloin
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 2 lemons – ⅓ to ¼ cup
¼ cup olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 ½ teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 pork tenderloin
Additional Kosher salt and coarsely ground black pepper
1 to 2 tablespoon olive oil
  1. Combine lemon zest, lemon juice, ¼ cup olive oil, garlic, rosemary, thyme, mustard, and and 1 teaspoon salt in a 1-gallon resealable plastic bag.
  2. Add the pork tenderloin and turn to coat with the marinade. Squeeze out air and seal the bag.
  3. Marinate the pork in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours, but preferably overnight.
  4. When ready to finish—preheat the oven to 400°.
  5. Remove tenderloin from the marinade; discard marinade but leave the herbs that cling to the meat.
  6. Generously sprinkle the tenderloin with additional salt and pepper.
  7. Heat 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Sear the pork tenderloin on all sides until it begins to brown.
  8. Transfer to a roasting/baking pan with a rack insert, and roast the tenderloin for about 20 minutes minutes or until the meat registers 140° at the thickest part.
  9. Remove tenderloin from oven and  cover tightly with aluminum foil. Allow to rest for 10 minutes.
  10. Slice into thin diagonal slices.
  11. Serve warm, at room temperature or chilled.
    Protein Platter includes red kidney beans, Cheddar cheese slices, Herbed Pork Tenderloin with flavored mayo and Dijon mustard, and hard cooked egg wedges sprinkled with salt, pepper & paprika.
Recipe without photos . . .
Herbed Pork Tenderloin
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 2 lemons – ⅓ to ¼ cup
¼ cup olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 ½ teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 pork tenderloin
Additional Kosher salt and coarsely ground black pepper
1 to 2 tablespoon olive oil
  1. Combine lemon zest, lemon juice, ¼ cup olive oil, garlic, rosemary, thyme, mustard, and and 1 teaspoon salt in a 1-gallon resealable plastic bag.
  2. Add the pork tenderloin and turn to coat with the marinade. Squeeze out air and seal the bag.
  3. Marinate the pork in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours, but preferably overnight.
  4. When ready to finish—preheat the oven to 400°.
  5. Remove tenderloin from the marinade; discard marinade but leave the herbs that cling to the meat.
  6. Generously sprinkle the tenderloin with additional salt and pepper.
  7. Heat 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Sear the pork tenderloin on all sides until it begins to brown.
  8. Transfer to a roasting/baking pan with a rack insert, and roast the tenderloin for about 20 minutes minutes or until the meat registers 140° at the thickest part.
  9. Remove tenderloin from oven and  cover tightly with aluminum foil. Allow to rest for 10 minutes.
  10. Slice into thin diagonal slices.
  11. Serve warm, at room temperature or chilled.

Sliders — the beef and the buns!

Sliders – my idea of a perfect hamburger. Eat just one for a light meal or try several, varying the flavor components (we’ve provided two variations below). But the real secret is a good, soft bun that perfectly fits the beef patty. I found the “perfect” bunrecipe (and slider recipe, too) at King Arthur’s website. Of course, I made a few changes along the way but have to give them the credit for these great recipes.
Regular Slider, Mushroom & Swiss, and Cheddar-Bacon sliders are kept warm in a chafing dish.

Beef Sliders      Makes 2 ½ to 3 dozen
2 to 2 1/2 lb. lean (81%) ground beef
1 cup finely chopped onion
½ teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon dry mustard
  1. Combine all ingredients.
  2. Flatten mixture in a large jelly roll type cookie sheet until it’s ½” thick.
  3. Use a 2″ round biscuit cutter to cut patties; the burgers will be flattened as the cook causing them to increase in size so they fit their custom-made buns. Burger patties can be made ahead and refrigerated at this point.
  4. When ready to grill— Preheat griddle to 350°. Place patties on the griddle and grill 2 to 3 minutes per side.

Variations:
Cheddar-Bacon Sliders — add ⅓ slice of fried bacon + a slice of Cheddar to each burger.


Mushroom-Swiss Sliders — add a teaspoon of sautéed mushrooms and a slice of Swiss to each burger.
Barry sautés the mushrooms for the Mushroom-Swiss Burgers.
Slider Buns      Makes 30 to 36
3/4 to 1 cup water heated to 120° — For best results (a smooth, slightly soft dough), use the smaller amount of water in summer (or in a humid environment), the greater amount in winter (or in a dry climate); and something in between the rest of the time.
2 tablespoons softened butter
1 large egg
3 ½ cups+ all-purpose
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 ¼ teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon instant yeast
                       
Toppings
3 tablespoons melted butter
Sesame seeds, optional
  1. Add all ingredients and mix in a Kitchen-Aid mixer.
  2. Once mixed, change to the dough hook and knead until dough is smooth and not sticky, adding more flour as needed. 
  3. Add dough to a bowl that has been drizzled with vegetable oil, turn and then cover with a towel; let it rise for 1 to 2 hours, or until it's nearly doubled in bulk. (For a faster rise, add to a warm oven set on low (about 190°).
  4. Gently deflate the dough, divide it in half. Working with one piece of dough at a time, roll it out into a large round, about ¼ to ½” thick.
  5. Using a 2” round cutter, cut approximately 15 to 18 sliders. Even if you do a really good job, you’ll end up with about 20% of the dough being scrap. You can let dough scraps relax for 15 minutes and then roll and cut it again; or you can simply shape it however you like.
  6. Place buns on a lightly greased or parchment or silicon-lined baking sheet; space them fairly close together — you don’t want them to rise and crowd one another; but baking buns close together helps them stay soft – and a slider bun should be soft.
  7. Cover and let rise about an hour. They won’t get very puffy, and that’s OK; you don’t want tall dinner rolls, you want relatively squat slider buns.
  8. Preheat oven to 375°.
  9. Brush the buns with the melted butter and top with sesame seeds if desired.
  10. Bake the buns for 9 or 10 minutes, until they’re a light golden brown.
  11. Remove them from the oven, and cool on a rack.
Recipes without photos . . .
Beef Sliders      Makes 2 ½ to 3 dozen
2 to 2 1/2 lb. lean (81%) ground beef
1 cup finely chopped onion
½ teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon dry mustard
  1. Combine all ingredients.
  2. Flatten mixture in a large jelly roll type cookie sheet until it’s ½” thick.
  3. Use a 2″ round biscuit cutter to cut patties; the burgers will be flattened as the cook causing them to increase in size so they fit their custom-made buns. Burger patties can be made ahead and refrigerated at this point.
  4. When ready to grill— Preheat griddle to 350°. Place patties on the griddle and grill 2 to 3 minutes per side.
Variations:
Cheddar-Bacon Sliders — add ⅓ slice of fried bacon + a slice of Cheddar to each burger.
Mushroom-Swiss Sliders — add a teaspoon of sautéed mushrooms and a slice of Swiss to each burger.

Slider Buns      Makes 30 to 36
3/4 to 1 cup water heated to 120° — For best results (a smooth, slightly soft dough), use the smaller amount of water in summer (or in a humid environment), the greater amount in winter (or in a dry climate); and something in between the rest of the time.
2 tablespoons softened butter
1 large egg
3 ½ cups+ all-purpose
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 ¼ teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon instant yeast
                       
Toppings
3 tablespoons melted butter
Sesame seeds, optional
  1. Add all ingredients and mix in a Kitchen-Aid mixer.
  2. Once mixed, change to the dough hook and knead until dough is smooth and not sticky, adding more flour as needed. 
  3. Add dough to a bowl that has been drizzled with vegetable oil, turn and then cover with a towel; let it rise for 1 to 2 hours, or until it's nearly doubled in bulk. (For a faster rise, add to a warm oven set on low (about 190°).
  4. Gently deflate the dough, divide it in half. Working with one piece of dough at a time, roll it out into a large round, about ¼ to ½” thick.
  5. Using a 2” round cutter, cut approximately 15 to 18 sliders. Even if you do a really good job, you’ll end up with about 20% of the dough being scrap. You can let dough scraps relax for 15 minutes and roll and cut it again; or you can simply shape it however you like.
  6. Place buns on a lightly greased or parchment or silicon-lined baking sheet; space them fairly close together — you don’t want them to rise and crowd one another; but baking buns close together helps them stay soft – and a slider bun should be soft.
  7. Cover and let rise about an hour. They won’t get very puffy, and that’s OK; you don’t want tall dinner rolls, you want relatively squat slider buns.
  8. Preheat oven to 375°.
  9. Brush the buns with the melted butter and top with sesame seeds if desired.
  10. Bake the buns for 9 or 10 minutes, until they’re a light golden brown.
  11. Remove them from the oven, and cool on a rack.

Party Fare—Fresh Spinach & Artichoke Filling in Crispy Wonton Cups

I love both the flavors + the crisp crunch paired with the creamy goodness of these yummy appetizers. Both the filling and cups can be made ahead. Just fill the wonton cups right before your guests arrive. Since the cups are crisp, they hold up well without getting soggy.

Fresh Spinach & Artichoke Cups in Crispy Wonton Cups        Yield: 18 to 24 cups
2 to 3 large handfuls of fresh spinach, blanched and chopped (or one package of frozen spinach)
1 (14 oz.) can artichoke hearts in water, drained and chopped
½ cup mayonnaise
½ cup sour cream
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon hot sauce (such as Tabasco®)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon garlic powder
½ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Salt and pepper
----
Wonton Cups (recipe follows)
Paprika for sprinkling, if desired 
  1. Blanch spinach in salted boiling water for 30 seconds. Remove and let cool on a few paper towels. Use paper towels to press out as much liquid as possible. Chop.
  2. Drain artichokes and roughly chop. Once chopped, also press them with a few paper towels to remove extra liquid.
  3. Mix spinach and artichokes with other filling ingredients. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired. Extra mayonnaise, sour cream and/or cream cheese can also be added to this recipe to stretch the finished amount. This mixture can be made ahead and refrigerated
  4. When ready to serve — Fill cups with a heaping teaspoon of chilled mixture, and lightly sprinkle with paprika if desired.

Wonton Cups
Wonton Wrappers (also referred to as Skins; they come in various sized packages; use what you need and refrigerate or freeze extras)
Pan release
  1. Lightly spray cups of mini muffin tins with pan release; add a wonton wrapper to each cup. Shape each wrapper so it conforms to the cup and lift the peaks so they stand in the air.

    I use a wooden tamp to make sure that the excess wrapper is pleated to the edge of each cup. If this is not done, the excess skin may be in the way when the cups are being filled.
  2. Bake wrappers in a preheated 350° for about 12 minutes, watching carefully so that the do not burn.
  3. Remove cups from tins and set on a cooling rack.
  4. May be made several days ahead. Store in an airtight container.
Recipes without photos . . .
Fresh Spinach & Artichoke Cups in Crispy Wonton Cups        Yield: 18 to 24 cups
2 to 3 large handfuls of fresh spinach, blanched and chopped (or one package of frozen spinach)
1 (14 oz.) can artichoke hearts in water, drained and chopped
½ cup mayonnaise
½ cup sour cream
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon hot sauce (such as Tabasco®)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon garlic powder
½ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Salt and pepper
----
Wonton Cups (recipe follows)
Paprika for sprinkling, if desired 
  1. Blanch spinach in salted boiling water for 30 seconds. Remove and let cool on a few paper towels. Use paper towels to press out as much liquid as possible. Chop.
  2. Drain artichokes and roughly chop. Once chopped, also press them with a few paper towels to remove extra liquid.
  3. Mix spinach and artichokes with other filling ingredients. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired. Extra mayonnaise, sour cream and/or cream cheese can also be added to this recipe to stretch the finished amount. This mixture can be made ahead and refrigerated
  4. When ready to serve — Fill cups with a heaping teaspoon of chilled mixture, and lightly sprinkle with paprika if desired.
Wonton Cups
Wonton Wrappers (also referred to as Skins; they come in various sized packages; use what you need and refrigerate or freeze extras)
Pan release
  1. Lightly spray cups of mini muffin tins with pan release; add a wonton wrapper to each cup. Shape each wrapper so it conforms to the cup and lift the peaks so they stand in the air.
  2. Bake wrappers in a preheated 350° for about 12 minutes, watching carefully so that the do not burn.
  3. Remove cups from tins and set on a cooling rack.
  4. May be made several days ahead. Store in an airtight container.

You can’t believe how fast it disappears! — JAZZABELL . . . very spicy and incredible

    Barry loves this sweet and spicy sauce. He first tasted it at a friend’s home and went on about it so much that she often makes a batch just for him.
     Research indicates that this sauce (also referred to as Jezebel) was a Southern staple back in the 50s and 60s so I guess you might say it is an “oldie but goodie.”
     This palate pleasing sauce is always a hit at parties and is a quick fix appetizer as once made, you just pour it over whatever size of cream cheese block that the situation warrants. (I’ve even shaped the block of cream cheese into seasonal leaves or Christmas tree shapes.)

JAZZABELL
1 (18 oz.) jar apricot preserves (or use pineapple or peach preserves)
1 (18 oz.) jar apple jelly
1 to 2 tablespoons dry mustard
1 small (2.5 oz.) jar horseradish
1 tablespoon cracked black pepper

For serving:
2 to 3 large (8 oz.) cream cheese blocks
Assorted crackers 
  1. Combine all ingredients and refrigerate. Keeps for weeks in refrigerator. 

  2. To serve: Pour sauce over cream cheese and serve with crackers.
Recipe without photos . . .
JAZZABELL
1 (18 oz.) jar apricot preserves (or use pineapple or peach preserves)
1 (18 oz.) jar apple jelly
1 to 2 tablespoons dry mustard
1 small (2.5 oz.) jar horseradish
1 tablespoon cracked pepper

For serving:
2 to 3 large (8 oz.) cream cheese blocks
Assorted crackers 
  1. Combine all ingredients and refrigerate. Keeps for weeks in refrigerator. 
  2. To serve: Pour sauce over cream cheese and serve with crackers.