Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

When my neighbor was away a couple weeks ago, she told me to help myself to her garden. She had some ginormous zucchini, and I was still working my way through the first of the two I picked. I've made a couple of zucchini dishes, a chocolate-orange zucchini bundt cake, and today some chocolate zucchini muffins with chocolate chips. When the baking itch set in this afternoon (I think it was the cool weather that prompted it), I checked out my favorite cooking/baking blogs. On For the Love of Cooking I found the muffin recipe and thought it'd be a great way to use up the rest of the zucchini. I liked that the recipe used whole wheat flour, making the muffins somewhat nutritious between the flour and zucchini.

1 cup of whole wheat flour
1 cup of flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup of cocoa powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
3/4 cup of milk
3/4 cup of canola oil
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cup of zucchini, shredded (I usually shred mine in the food processor, but today I just did it by hand on a box grater)
1 cup of semi sweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat a muffin tray with cooking spray.

In a large bowl combine the flours, sugar, baking soda, salt, baking powder, cocoa, cinnamon and nutmeg. Mix thoroughly.

In another bowl, whisk together the milk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. Add the shredded zucchini and stir. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients until just combined then add the chocolate chips. Spoon batter into the prepared muffin tray, filling each cup to the top.

Bake in the oven for 17-20 minutes or until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the muffins cool before serving.

I was a bit surprised at how runny the batter was, but the muffins came out great. They are light and moist.

And while I'm showing off the muffins, why not show off the beautiful flowers the hubs picked up for me...just because?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Do Chickens Have Ovaries?

The hubs works with a woman who has a farm, and she brings in fresh eggs for her co-workers to buy. In the dozen eggs we got from her, there is one teeny, tiny egg. I guess it's not that tiny, just tiny relative to a standard large chicken egg. So then I got to thinking: what determines the size of the egg? How often do chickens lay eggs? And where do the eggs come from? Human females are born with all of their eggs and then once they reach menstruation age during adolescence, they release on egg per month. Chickens, being as small as they are, can't be born with all of their eggs. At least not full sized ones, right? So then I wondered if chickens even have ovaries?

So I did what any good researcher would do: I Googled it. The exact phrase I Googled was "do chickens have ovaries?" Now the results weren't from any academic source, such as the ones I require my students to use when doing research. But I did find some information posted by chicken farmers, so I figured that they probably know what they're talking about. Here is some interesting information about chickens, eggs, and ovaries.

1) Yes, they do have ovaries.
2) Believe it or not, the egg laying process for a chicken begins in its eye. Chickens lay eggs only after receiving a light cue, either from natural sunlight entering a coop or artificial light illuminating a commercial egg hatchery. The light stimulates a photo-receptive gland near the chicken's eye, which in turn triggers the release of an egg cell from the chicken's ovary. (So I guess this means that they already have eggs in their ovaries, yes? But they must be microscopic. They can't be full-sized Grade A large eggs. A chicken ovary can't hold all of those eggs.)

3) Chickens lay about one egg every 26 hours. They tend to lay one egg per day for about six days before resting for a day. This is particularly true for chickens in captivity. Wild chickens and other wild birds may rest for months before laying more eggs.
4) Chickens less than one year old (called pullets) lay small eggs and will lay larger ones when they get older. Pullets also tend to lay one egg every three to four days and then increase the frequency of their laying (sounds dirty - like a chicken whore!) when they get older.
5) Chickens do not need a rooster to lay eggs. In fact, if the goal of the farmer is to produce eggs, the roosters must be kept away. The eggs we get at the grocery store are unfertilized. If the egg becomes fertilized, it'll turn into a chick. (I guess this makes sense - human women can ovulate without a male but needs male sperm to create a baby.)
6) And finally, one tidbit of info that I already knew: there is no nutritional difference between white and brown eggs.

So now I have learned a number of very interesting facts about chickens, eggs, and ovaries. In fact, I think I've learned a lot about birds in general this year. For example, in the spring, I learned that blue jays and cardinals don't mate and produce purple birds because blue jays and cardinals are different species. Good to know.

Friday, August 13, 2010

A Case of the Blues

Before I explain why I have a case of the blues, I need to give you the back-story.

Christmas 2006. Yep. That's when the back-story begins. For Christmas 2006, the hubs (then just the boyfriend) bought me a French press. (It's important to note that a French press wasn't my only gift for those of you who are thinking, "Wow - what a crappy gift." And for those who love coffee, such as myself, a French press is a splendid gift. Especially when it also comes with a pair of diamond earrings.) So the French press from 2006 lasted until July 2010 when I ever-so-gingerly bumped it on the side of the sink and it shattered. So I bought a new one, which we had for about a week until it shattered on a camping trip. (There has to be a better option for making coffee while camping.) Then I learned that one can purchase a replacement carafe (I suppose carafe-shattering is a relatively common occurrence) and did just that. The replacement carafe arrived via UPS yesterday, and I was glad to see how perfectly it fit into the French press. But then it took a fall out of the cabinet not three hours after it was received and it, too, shattered.

Perhaps this is a message from above that we are no longer French press people. Perhaps we are automatic drip people. Luckily, after the shattering of the second carafe I must have had a hunch that we have evolved into automatic drip people and began researching coffee makers. My Cuisinart Brew Central coffee maker arrived today!

OK, now onto the blues.

When the French press carafe shattered on the kitchen floor yesterday, it prompted a necessary thorough sweeping, vacuuming, and mopping of the kitchen floor. Thus, the rugs we have at the back door and in front of the sink needed to be picked up. The hubs placed the rugs outside, and neither one of us thought to grab them when the floor dried. Of course, there was a torrential thunderstorm last night, so the rugs were drenched.

This morning I took out the recycling and when I returned inside, I noticed that my Crocs were leaving blue footprints on the kitchen floor. I looked outside and noticed that there were dark blue puddles under where the rugs were hung, and I put two and two together and realized the dye from the rugs had bled onto the ground. First, I threw my Crocs in the sink to make sure I didn't track the dye any farther. Then I grabbed the rugs, holding them away from myself as not to stain my clothes, and brought them inside to take to the washing machine. Two steps into the kitchen, I realized that the rugs were still dripping. It looked as if someone was dripping blue food coloring all over the kitchen. I was able to wrap up the rugs in such a way to contain the dripping, and I successfully got them into the washer without staining the carpet.

After turning on the washer, I realized my hands were completely blue. I tried to wash them with soap and water, which proved to be futile. I came upstairs and wiped up the kitchen floor and then went up to the bathroom. I squirted soap on my nail brush and scrubbed. And scrubbed. And scrubbed. And after about five solid minutes of scrubbing, my hands were no longer a dark blue but rather a lighter blue. That was as good as it was going to get.

After an hour of my hands sweating through a Body Pump class at the gym, washing some dishes, and showering, I was able to get the rest of the dye off of my hands. The rugs are now clean and dry, and I ran an empty cycle with bleach through the washer.

Hopefully now that we have a regular coffee maker, these types of things won't happen anymore.