Friday, October 1, 2010

Making Summer Linger

After a Summer season that was as amazingly warm, sunny and generally enjoyable as this year's was, I'm unwilling to resign myself to the shortening days and cooler winds that are gracing us now. I've already been asked by a few family members for Christmas gift ideas (!) - not that I don't have any, mind you (new camera, anyone?? Preferably one that doesn't eat my shots??) but it's only October first! There are still some tomatoes and beans desperately clinging to the vines, my carrots and beets are still happily nestled in the soil and I'm sure I can get one last crop of rhubarb out of the year before the blitz of frost hits and ruins the rest of the plant life.

I did have to put my cucumber garden to rest last week, though. A few fairly cold snaps overnight sapped the last dregs of energy from the plants, and it was all I could to to grab the last few fruits off the vines before they wilted into sacs of mush. Even so, I again wound up with more veggies than I knew what to do with, or wanted to make pickles out of. To add to the glut, my stepdad finally decided to cut down the 5-foot-long zucchini (no, I'm not exaggerating!) for seed, but only used about a third of it, leaving the rest on the counter for the fruit flies (gee, thanks for that). 

So I did what any logically minded baker would do with the overflowing crisper drawer's stash - I baked cake! Well, to be technical about it, I baked a cake and muffins, but you get the drift. Yes, I used cucumber in muffins - and not only that, but my version of Awake at the Whisk's recipe also had some dates, almonds and a whack of lemony flavour too! I figured that lemon and cucumber worked well in fresh, cooling Summery applications, so it was only logical to pair them (with some ginger for good measure) in a baked good too. What drew me to Amber's recipe was not only the use of cucumber in cake, but the fact that her recipe was also flour free. In place of typical "powdery" all-purpose or whole wheat flour, farina (AKA Cream of Wheat) stands in. I was unsure what to expect from the mixture, never having even made farina as a cereal before, but what did I have to lose? The cucumbers wouldn't last long anyway, even if I saved them from their firey fate.


What emerged from the oven was way past anything I could have imagined. Grainy on the surface, but super-moist, tangy, and perfectly sweet from the fruit and touch of sugar on the inside, they became a hit at the office I brought them to - and the "secret ingredient" was only evident by the freshness it lent to the mixture.

Cucumber Cuppies
Makes 12
1 cup farina (Cream of Wheat)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
2 cups (squeezed dry) coarsley grated cucumber (about 14 oz)
1 egg
1 tbsp canola oil
3/4 cup sugar
zest of 1 lemon
1/4 cup shredded, sweetened coconut
1/4 cup ground almonds
1/4 cup diced dates
  1. Preheat oven to 350F, line 12 muffin cups with paper liners.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together farina, cinnamon, ginger, baking soda and baking powder. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl combine cucumber, egg, oil, sugar and lemon zest, blending well.
  4. Stir in dry ingredients, coconut, almonds and dates until just combined.
  5. Bake for 25 minutes, then cool in the tins 10 minutes before turning out.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 106.4
Total Fat: 3.2 g
Cholesterol: 17.7 mg
Sodium: 6.7 mg
Total Carbs: 18.9 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.0 g
Protein: 1.6 g
 
Far more "traditional" (at least in contrast to the cucumber muffins!) was the second veggie bake I whipped up. Faced with the rather rude looking Summer squash staring at me from the countertop, I finally crammed the whole thing into my food processor, grating it into oblivion, and baked it right into a pan of dense, moist cake that would be insulted should you want to gild it with anything but a generous scoop of French vanilla ice cream. There is a teeny little bit of crunch from crushed up granola bars, but other than that it's rich chocolate all the way! I got to use a new find of mine that I've fallen in love with too - coconut sugar. It's halfway in-between moist light brown sugar and thick honey, almost like how those "creamed" spreadable honeys are, but with a flavour accented just enough with tropical nuttiness to let you know it's anything but ordinary. Of course, if you can't find a jar of coconut sugar, the absolute moistest brown sugar you can get your hands on will do.
 
Sneaky Summer Snacking Cake
Serves 12
1/4 cup oil
3/4 cup coconut palm sugar
1 egg white
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 cup flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
4 oz finely grated yellow summer squash or zucchini (about 1/2 large)

  1. Preheat oven to 350F, grease a 9" square pan.
  2. In a large bowl, beat together oil, sugar, egg white and vanilla.
  3. Sift in cocoa, then add flour, baking soda and salt, blending gently but thoroughly.
  4. Fold in squash and granola bar cumbles.
  5. Bake for 28 minutes.
  6. Cool completely in the pan and chill before cutting and serving.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 156.0
Total Fat: 5.6 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 22.6 mg
Total Carbs: 30.3 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.3 g
Protein: 2.4 g

1 comment :

Lynn said...

I think I might cucumber in muffins next summer, it sounds interesting. The coconut sugar I use looks almost like turbinado sugar in colour and texture. I'm going to have to keep an eye out for the jars you're using.