Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: quick

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This time of year is great for baking. Spring has its own flavor profiles. Winter is a time for cinnamon, nutmeg, spice and chocolate. Spring is the time to shed those heavy flavors and transition to lighter flavors such as citrus, herbs and berries. This is the time to lighten up desserts and have a little fun trying out new flavor combinations. I do all our baking – breads and desserts- but I don’t like very sweet things, so our breads and desserts tend to be on the savory side or fruit based.

Fig Scones

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These are not your typical scones. Instead of butter, the recipe uses cream. I serve them with lemon curd. You can also dust them with powdered sugar before serving.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 10 ounces dried figs, diced small
  • 2 cups heavy cream, cold
  • ¼ cup honey

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir in the diced figs.

In a small bowl, whisk together the heavy cream and honey.

Using a wooden spoon, stir the heavy cream mixture into the flour mixture, stirring just until the ingredients are moistened.

Turn the mixture out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead gently until a soft dough forms, sprinkling more flour in if needed. Divide the dough into two equal balls.

Working with one at a time, pat each one into an 8-inch circle and cut into 8 triangles. Transfer the triangles to the prepared baking sheets, spacing them 2 inches apart.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until lightly browned. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Pecan Sourdough Bread

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup (about 8 ounces) fed sourdough starter, room temperature
  • 1 cup water
  • 3/4 cup pumpernickel flour
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 2 cups chopped pecans

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Directions

Mix all of the ingredients (except the nuts) in the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment until the dough comes together. Switch to the dough hook attachment.

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Add the nuts, kneading until they’re evenly incorporated and the dough is smooth and elastic.

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Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover and let rise for 2 hours.

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Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and form it into a long loaf. Place the log into a long stoneware baker that has been lined with parchment.

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Cover the loaf, and let it rise for 1 hour, or until it springs back very slowly when lightly pressed.

Place the covered stoneware baker into a cold oven, set the oven to 400°F and bake for 40 minutes. Take the cover off and cook an additional 10-15 minutes.

Check the bread. The internal temperature should be about 190°F when measured on an instant-read thermometer. If not, bake for a few minutes longer.

Remove the bread from the oven and cool it on a rack. Yield: 1 loaf.

Blackberry Galette

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Ingredients

1 (9″) refrigerated pie crust, at room temperature or make the cream cheese pastry recipe below

Dough

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, diced
  • 8 ounces cold cream cheese, diced
  • 1 tablespoon cold milk

Filling

  • 3 cups blackberries
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup sugar, plus 1 teaspoon
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 egg lightly beaten with 1 teaspoon water

Directions

In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, sugar, salt and thyme and pulse about 5 times to evenly distribute the thyme. Add butter and pulse until it is the size of peas.

Add cream cheese and pulse until a dough begins to form. Add milk and pulse until the dough comes together. Form the dough into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill in refrigerator for 1 hour.

Preheat an oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and roll out into a 12-inch round. Fold the round in half, transfer to the prepared baking sheet and unfold the round.

In a bowl, lightly stir together the berries, lemon juice, ¼ cup sugar and flour.

Spoon the filling onto the dough, leaving a 2-inch border uncovered around the edge.

Fold the edge up and over the filling, forming loose pleats.

Brush dough with the egg wash and sprinkle with the  remaining 1 teaspoon sugar.

Bake until the filling is bubbling and the pastry is golden brown, about 25 minutes.

Transfer the galette to a wire rack and let cool. Cut into wedges and serve with whipped cream or frozen yogurt.

Lemon Rosemary Zucchini Bread

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This savory bread goes very well with scrambled eggs or an omelet.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups (390 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup melted unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoons salt (omit if you use salted butter)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 3 cups grated zucchini (from about 1 pound of zucchini), squeezed dry

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Coat a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan with cooking spray and dust the bottom with flour.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and rosemary.

Beat the eggs in a mixer until frothy. Beat in the sugar. Beat in the melted butter, olive oil and milk. Stir in the lemon zest and grated zucchini.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet, a third at a time, stirring after each incorporation.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Bake for 60-70 minutes. If you gently press down on the surface of the loaf, it should bounce back and a bamboo skewer or toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean.

Remove the pan from the oven. Let cool for a few minutes and then remove the loaf from the pan to cool on a rack.

Healthy Fruit and Oat Bars

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These easy-to-make granola bars are lower in fat than many commercial snack bars and don’t have any of the additives or preservatives. I store them individually in zip-lock snack bags in the freezer. My husband is a golfer and he loves to put one in his bag on golfing days.

12 bars

Ingredients

  • ½ cup refrigerated egg substitute or 2 eggs
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups oats
  • 1 cup dried fruit (apricots, berries, cranberries, etc.) chopped
  • 1 cup walnuts or nuts of choice, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup mini chocolate chips

Directions

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Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Use a silicone dessert bar pan and coat with cooking spray. Place the pan on a cookie sheet

In a large bowl, whisk the egg substitute, brown sugar, oil, cinnamon, salt and vanilla extract.

Stir in the oats, dried fruit, nuts and flour.

Divide the mixture evenly in the pan and flatten each slightly with a spatula.

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Bake for 45 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool; turn out.

Put each bar in a zip-lock snack bag and place bags in a larger freezer bag to store in freezer.


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A few weeks ago I started receiving my weekly CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) delivery from a nearby farm. You can find more information on how a CSA works by visiting the Local Harvest site.

I look forward to this season every year because I now have available the freshest produce to cook with each week. The cover photo above shows what vegetables I received in my box last week. Jeta Farms is a family owned local farm, operated by Eddie Frank, and the farm sells their produce at local farmers’ markets, including the Palafox Market in Pensacola, FL on Saturday mornings.

Here are a few recipes I made with the vegetables in this week’s share.

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Jeta Farms

Italian Frying Peppers

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Ingredients

  • 6 Italian frying peppers
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove smashed and cut in half
  • Pinch of salt and pepper

Directions

Heat oil and garlic in a small saute pan. Lower heat and add the whole peppers. Saute slowly until lightly brown on all sides. Serve at room temperature. These peppers are delicious as an appetizer or as a side dish.

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Homemade Refrigerator Dill Pickles

Makes 2 quarts. I use old mayonnaise jars with screw top lids.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups white distilled vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon crushed black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dill seed
  • 6 thinly sliced garlic cloves
  • 6-8 pickling cucumbers (Kirby)
  • A few sprigs of dill
  • 2 clean quart size jars

Directions

Combine water, vinegar, sugar, kosher salt, pepper, dill seed and garlic in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil; stir.

Quarter pickling cucumbers lengthwise and divide evenly in the jars; add fresh dill.

Top with the hot vinegar mixture. Cover and refrigerate for several days before eating. The pickles keep for a few months in the refrigerator.

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Potato Leek Soup

Ingredients

  • 3 cups chopped leeks, light green and white parts
  • 1 cup chopped sweet onions
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 ½ pounds peeled potatoes, cubed
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 ½ teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, chopped
  • 8 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup evaporated canned milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
  • 2 strips cooked bacon, crumbled

Directions

Heat butter in a Dutch oven or soup pot. Add the celery, leeks and onion and saute until tender. Add garlic and potatoes and cook for 5 minutes.

Add the chicken broth, thyme and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, lower heat, cover the pot and cook until the potatoes are soft, about 20 minutes.

Remove the bay leaf. Puree the soup with an immersion blender or in a processor.

Add the evaporated milk, salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer (do not boil). Serve in individual bowls and top each bowl with chives and bacon.

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Grilled Yellow Squash

This is a favorite in our family – well – anything I put basil pesto on becomes a favorite with them.

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup fresh basil pesto
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine (pignoli) nuts
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for the grill
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 medium summer squash, (about 1 pound), sliced diagonally 1/4 inch thick

Directions

Preheat grill to medium-high. Oil the grates.

Combine pesto and lemon juice in a small bowl.

Brush both sides of the squash slices with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with the salt.

Grill the squash until browned and tender, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Serve topped with the pesto and the toasted nuts.

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Eggplant And Fresh Tomato Bake

Jeta Farms grows the most delicious eggplant, Rosa Bianca, an  Italian Heirloom eggplant. It is a medium size, round shaped eggplant with lavender-white skin and creamy white flesh with no taste of bitterness and very mild in flavor.

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This is my summer version of eggplant parmesan.

Ingredients

  • 2 Rosa Bianca Heirloom Eggplants (14-15 oz each)
  • Dried Italian bread crumbs
  • !/2 cup refrigerated egg substitute or 2 eggs
  • 8 oz mozzarella cheese, sliced thin
  • 5-6 fresh plum tomatoes, sliced thin
  • Salt and pepper
  • Dried Italian seasoning
  • Olive oil

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Oil two baking sheets.

Place the sliced tomatoes on a plate lined with paper towels. Sprinkle lightly with salt. Let the tomatoes drain while you prepare the eggplant.

Dip eggplant slices in the egg substitute and then coat in the dried bread crumbs. Place the breaded eggplant on the prepared baking pans and bake until brown, about 20 minutes, turning the slices over halfway through baking.

Oil an 8 inch square glass baking pan. Cover the bottom of the pan with eggplant slices and add half the sliced tomatoes and half of the cheese.

Add another layer of eggplant slices, tomatoes and cheese. Sprinkle the top layer with dried Italian seasoning. Cover the dish with foil.

Bake in the oven for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake 10 minutes more.

Let rest 10 minutes before slicing.

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Brown Sugar Zucchini Bread

Ingredients

  • 3 cups self-rising flour (King Arthur brand is what I use)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 cups shredded zucchini
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • Cooking spray

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Spray two 8-inch loaf pans with cooking spray and set aside.

Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon and brown sugar in a large mixing bowl. Stir until thoroughly mixed.

In a smaller bowl combine eggs, oil and vanilla. Add to the flour mixture and mix well.

Fold in the zucchini and walnuts.

Divide the mixture evenly between the two baking pans.

Bake until deep golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 60 minutes.

Cool in pans on wire racks for 30 minutes; then remove bread from the pans and continue cooling on wire racks.

This bread freezes well.


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“Quick bread” refers to any bread that uses leaveners, like baking powder or baking soda instead of yeast, and requires no kneading or rising time. Quick breads are always popular; blueberry muffins and zucchini bread in summer, pumpkin muffins in the fall or coffee cakes and banana bread, any time of the year! More versatile than most other baked goods, quick breads give you greater freedom to add ingredients (like nuts and dried fruit) and make healthy substitutions. To lower the fat, for example, you can substitute some of the oil with an equal amount of almost any fruit puree (applesauce, plum, pumpkin, bananas).

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If you’re adding dried fruit, try soaking it first. This will moisten the fruit, make it tender and juicy and also preserve the bread’s moisture. To soak dried fruit, place it in a heatproof bowl and pour over just enough boiling water to cover. Let it soak about 15 minutes, then drain and add to the finished batter. For added flavor, soak fruit in hot apple or orange juice–or soak it overnight in rum or brandy. Don’t sprinkle dried fruit on top of quick breads before baking, as it will burn before the loaf is done.

The secret to moist, tender quick bread is in the mixing: use a gentle touch. Combine in a bowl the dry ingredients–flour, leavening, salt, and spices; sift them together or mix them thoroughly with a wire whisk. In another bowl, beat together the fat, sugar and eggs in the order the recipe advises. Stir any other ingredients (fruit puree, flavorings or extracts) into the wet ingredients. Only when each bowl of ingredients is mixed thoroughly should they be combined. When you are ready, pour the dry ingredients into the wet ones and fold them together gently. Do this part by hand rather than with a mixer. Add nuts and fruits; stir just until incorporated. Over-mixing will cause “tunnels”–holes where the air bubbles escaped–and will make the bread tough.

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Unless you’re using high-quality non stick metal or silicone baking pans, you should always grease the pans before you pour in the batter. The best thing to use for greasing the pan is shortening, because its melting point is higher than any other kind of fat, which helps maintain a “shield” between the pan and the batter while the bread is baking. A high-quality cooking spray–one that won’t bake on to your pans and discolor them–is also a fast, easy fix. Let the bread cool for at least twenty minutes before inverting the pan and removing the bread.

The crack on top of the bread happens when the loaf “sets” in the heat of the oven before the bread is finished rising. Don’t worry–it’s normal for quick breads. Drizzle the loaf with icing or dust with confectioners’ sugar to cover the crack.

The bread looks done on the outside but it’s still raw in the middle. This is one of the most common quick bread problems and it can be caused by a few different factors:

  • The oven temperature could be too high. (Use an oven thermometer to check.)
  • Try lowering the oven temperature and/or putting a loose tent of foil over the top of the bread so it won’t burn before the middle has time to catch up.
  • Another cause of a “raw center” could be using a different pan size than the recipe calls for. One of the advantages of baking quick breads is that you can use the same batter to make muffins, mini loaves or large loaves. Each size, however, requires different baking times–and some require different baking temperatures. The larger and thicker the loaf, the longer it’s going to take to bake. If you’re using a different size pan than your recipe calls for, adjust the baking time accordingly and check the bread often.

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Pear and White Cheddar Bread

Makes 16 servings.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour or white whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup flaxseed meal or toasted wheat germ
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups shredded pears
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup refrigerated egg substitute or 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup shredded white cheddar cheese (2 ounces)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease the bottom and 1/2 inch up the sides of one 9x5x3-inch loaf pan or two 7 x 3 1/2×2-inch loaf pans; set aside.

In a large bowl, stir together all-purpose flour, whole wheat pastry flour, flaxseed meal, baking powder and salt. Make a well in center of flour mixture; set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine pears, sugar, eggs, oil, buttermilk, honey and vanilla. Add pear mixture all at once to flour mixture. Stir just until moistened (batter should be lumpy). Fold in cheese. Spoon batter into the prepared pan.

Bake for 55 to 60 minutes (45 to 50 minutes for the smaller pans) or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove bread from pan.

Cool completely on wire rack. Wrap and store overnight before slicing.

Variations: 

Cinnamon, Chocolate, and Pear Quick Bread:

Prepare as directed, except stir 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon into the flour mixture and substitute 1/2 cup miniature semisweet chocolate pieces for the cheese.

Fig, Ginger, and Pear Quick Bread:

Prepare as directed, except stir 1-1/2 teaspoons finely shredded lemon peel and 1 teaspoon ground ginger into the flour mixture and substitute 1/2 cup finely snipped dried figs for the cheese.

Blue Cheese, Pecan, and Pear Quick Bread:

Prepare as directed, except substitute 1/4 cup finely crumbled blue cheese and 1/4 cup chopped toasted pecans for the white cheddar cheese.

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Healthy Banana Bread

One 9 x 5-inch loaf (about 15 slices)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs or 1/2 cup refrigerated egg substitute
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup plain low-fat yogurt or buttermilk
  • 1 cup mashed bananas (2 very ripe bananas)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the middle.

Spray a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with pan spray, and line the bottom with parchment. Spray the parchment.

Sift together the flours, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.

In a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat together the eggs and sugar until thick; five to eight minutes. Beat in the oil, the yogurt or buttermilk, bananas and vanilla.

At low-speed, beat in the flour in three separate additions. Fold in the nuts.

Pour into the loaf pan and bake 50 to 60 minutes, until the bread is firm and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Let cool in the pan for 10 to 15 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool completely.

This bread will keep for several days, but put it in the refrigerator after three days and the bread freezes well if wrapped air-tight.

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Apricot Bread

Makes 1 loaf

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup dried apricots
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch loaf pan and set aside.

Soak apricots for 20 minutes in hot water to cover. Drain and chop apricots into 1/4-inch pieces. Set aside.

Beat sugar, oil and egg together in a mixing bowl. Stir in water and orange juice. Add the flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt, mixing until thoroughly combined. Stir in walnuts and apricots.

Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake for 55 to 65 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Remove to a wire rack to continue cooling.

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Blueberry Oatmeal Bread

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup quick-cooking or old-fashioned oats, plus extra for the top of the bread.
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

Directions
Heat oven to 350ºF. Grease bottom only a 9-inch loaf pan.

In large bowl, mix brown sugar, milk, oil, vanilla and eggs with spoon. Stir in remaining ingredients except blueberries; mix thoroughly. Fold in blueberries. Pour into pan. Sprinkle with additional oats if desired.

Bake 45  minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes. Loosen sides of loaf from pan with a thin spatula; remove from pan to wire rack. Cool completely, about 2 hours, before slicing. Wrap tightly and store at room temperature up to 4 days or refrigerate up to 10 days.

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Whole Wheat Fruit-Nut Bread

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 6 ounce carton plain low-fat yogurt
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/3 cup dried cherries or cranberries
  • 1 tablespoon toasted wheat germ

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease the bottom and 1 inch up the side of a 1-1/2-quart ovenproof casserole; set aside.

In a large bowl, stir together whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and baking soda. Make a well in center of the flour mixture; set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine eggs, applesauce, yogurt, brown sugar and oil. Add egg mixture all at once to the flour mixture. Stir just until moistened (batter should be lumpy.) Fold in nuts and dried fruit. Spoon batter into the prepared casserole. Sprinkle with wheat germ.

Bake for 60 to 70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cover loosely with foil during the last 15 minutes to prevent overbrowning.

Cool in the casserole dish on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove bread from the casserole. Cool completely on wire rack. If desired, wrap and store overnight before slicing (bread will be slightly moister the second day). Makes 12 servings


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Tips To Make Your Baked Goods Better

Use Room-Temperature Ingredients

Many baked goods start by creaming together butter and sugar, which is made easier with warm ingredients. The exception – biscuits and pie dough need chilled butter to make a tender dough.

Invest in Quality Bakeware

Flimsy, thin pans and sheet trays won’t conduct heat efficiently, causing your cake, pie, cookies or pastries to bake unevenly.

Butter and Flour Your Pans Generously

When a recipe calls for a greased and/or floured pans, it’s for a reason: Your batter has the potential to stick to the pan and the cake will be difficult to get out of the pan in one piece.

Use Fresh Ingredients

The majority of ingredients used in baked goods—like baking soda, baking powder, yeast, and flour—have a relatively short shelf life, so if you don’t bake frequently, purchase them in small quantities so they don’t sit in your cupboard and become stale.

Measure Accurately or Weigh Ingredients

Successful baking means eliminating as much potential for error as possible and, that means, making sure your measurements are exact.

Use Salt

If you’re looking to cut down on the sodium, baked goods are not the place to do so. The half teaspoon of salt added to two dozen cookies won’t set you over your daily allotment, but leaving it out will drastically change the taste of the cookies.

Rotate Halfway Through Baking

Every oven has a hot spot, and if you don’t correct for it, you run the risk of unevenly cooked pastries—or worse, some that burn or wind up underbaked.Don’t, however, open the oven constantly to check on progress—it’ll lower the temperature and alter the baking time.

Follow Directions

Pay attention to key instructions like “cream until light and fluffy,” “mix until just combined” and “fold in gently.” Otherwise, your end result will be dense and heavy.

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Chive Biscuits

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups white whole-wheat flour, plus additional for dusting
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, well chilled and cut into pieces
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Sift the whole wheat flour to make sure there are no clumps.

In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, pulse flour, baking powder and salt until well combined.

Add cold butter and pulse until a fine crumb is formed, about 10 pulses.

Through the feed tube of the processor, drizzle in the milk and process until a ball of dough forms.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until no longer sticky; knead in the chives.

Press dough into an oval shape about 1/4-inch thick. Cut dough into 8 equal parts and place on prepared baking sheet. Bake until golden, 15 to 18 minutes.

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Squash Muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup mashed roasted butternut squash or 1 cup frozen cooked winter squash, thawed
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/3 cup milk

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line sixteen 2 1/2-inch muffin cups with paper bake cups; set aside.

In a medium bowl combine all-purpose flour, white whole wheat flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and cayenne pepper; set aside.

In a large bowl beat butter with an electric mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add brown sugar; beat until combined. Add squash, ginger, egg and vanilla; beat until combined.

Alternately add the flour mixture and milk to the squash mixture, beating on low speed after each addition, just until combined.

Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups, filling each about two-thirds full.

Bake in the preheated oven about 20 minutes or until muffin tops spring back when lightly touched.

Cool in the muffin pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Remove muffins from the pan. Serve warm.

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Walnut-Yogurt Zucchini Bread

Ingredients

  • 1 cup walnut halves (4 ounces)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup fat-free plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup coarsely grated zucchini (from about 1 medium zucchini)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Butter and flour a 9-by-4 1/2-inch loaf pan.

Spread the walnut halves in a pie plate and toast them for about 8 minutes, until very lightly brown. Transfer the toasted walnuts to a cutting board and coarsely chop them; then freeze for 5 minutes to cool.

In a large bowl, whisk the flour with the baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In a medium bowl, mix the sugar with the eggs, oil and yogurt. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients along with the grated zucchini and toasted walnuts and stir until the batter is evenly moistened.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 1 hour and 10 minutes or until the loaf is risen and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let the loaf cool on a rack for 30 minutes before unmolding and serving.

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Spinach Corn Muffins

Makes 12

Ingredients

  • 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats (or 3/4 cups oat flour)
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 oz baby spinach, finely chopped
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons sage leaves, minced

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F. In a blender, blend oats to the consistency of flour.

In a large bowl, combine oat flour, cornmeal, baking soda and salt.

In a medium bowl, whisk eggs, buttermilk, honey and oil. Fold wet ingredients into dry ingredients and stir. Stir in spinach and sage.

Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners. Fill three-quarters full with the batter. Bake muffins for 15 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in center.

Let muffins cool in the pan for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

quickbreads5

Garlic Knots

Ingredients

  • All-purpose flour, for shaping dough
  • 1 pound pizza dough from your supermarket or homemade and thawed if frozen
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out dough into a 16 x 10-inch rectangle; with a knife or pizza cutter, cut crosswise into 16 strips.

Tie each strip into a knot and place on a large rimmed baking sheet. Brush knots with 1 tablespoon oil. Bake until golden, 15 to 20 minutes; transfer to a large bowl.

While the rolls are baking, heat garlic and the remaining 3 tablespoons oil in a small saucepan over medium heat until garlic, about 5 minutes.

Pour garlic and oil over the bread knots in bowl; season with salt and pepper and toss gently. Serve.


 

The exact history of quick bread is not known, but most quick breads were not developed until the 18th century, after the discovery of the first leavening agent, ‘pearlash’. The first published recipe to call for pearlash — a type of gingerbread — was published in 1796 by Amelia Simmons. It was the beginning of a chemical leavening revolution that would spread around the world.

The early colonists had hardwood forests as a resource. Aside from being a logical building material and fuel, hardwoods provided another important resource, ashes. Ashes were a major export two hundred years ago, both to Canada and Britain. They were valuable for sweetening gardens and for providing lye for making soap. They were also a source of potash and its derivative, pearlash, which proved to be a leavening agent.

To make pearlash, you first have to make potash and to make potash, you first have to make lye. To make lye, you pass water through a barrel of hardwood ashes over and over. To make potash, you evaporate the lye water until you have a solid. Pearlash is a purified version of potash. It is an alkaline compound and when paired with an acidic ingredient, such as sour milk, buttermilk or molasses, will produce carbon dioxide bubbles, the very same thing that yeast produces. Pearlash was used primarily in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, but because of its bitter aftertaste, it not did not replace yeast and was eventually replaced by saleratus (baking soda).

Baking soda comes from several sources, but the bulk of it is derived from an ore called “trona” which is mined in the Green River Basin in Wyoming. (Technology is being developed now to produce baking soda from sea water.)

When baking soda is heated, it slowly breaks down into sodium carbonate, water and carbon dioxide. When mixed with something acidic and wet, it starts producing carbon dioxide right away without waiting to be heated.

The next step after developing baking soda (which only worked when there was something acidic in a batter) was to create a “combination” powder which just needed to get wet to become active. To do this, baking soda was combined with a powdered acid, along with a little cornstarch, to keep the two dry and inactive. Scientists next added a second powder, cream of tartar, (a fruit acid that accumulates on the inside of wine casks as a wine matures) to the combination.  When baking soda and cream of tartar are moistened in a batter or dough, they begin to react to each other right away producing carbon dioxide bubbles.

This combination powder is still a very effective leavening agent, although it has a couple of drawbacks. It is “single acting, meaning that when it’s mixed into a batter or dough, it starts and finishes its reaction then and there. When you bake with it, you must get whatever you’re making into a preheated oven as quickly as possible before the bubbles begin to disappear. The second drawback is, that no matter how dry these combination powders are kept, they lose their potency after a short time.

Double acting baking powder is single acting baking powder taken one step further. The baking soda is still there, but the cream of tartar has been replaced by two acids, one like cream of tartar that reacts to the baking soda as soon as it’s wet and the other agent that doesn’t begin to react until it’s heated. This means you can be more leisurely about getting a dough or batter into the oven.

Like single acting baking powder, double acting baking powder contains a little cornstarch to prevent the baking soda and acids from reacting. However, it too will lose its leavening ability after about six months. Baking powder should be stored at room temperature in a dry place. A cabinet or pantry away from the sink or heat source is a perfect place. Do not store baking powder in the refrigerator, as it may shorten the shelf life due to condensation that occurs on the can.

Make Your Own Baking Powder

If you have run out of baking powder you may be able to make a substitution by using the following:  for one teaspoon baking powder = mix 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar plus 1/4 teaspoon baking soda. If you are not using the mixture immediately, add 1/4 teaspoon cornstarch to absorb any moisture in the air and to prevent a premature chemical reaction between the acid and alkali.

When baking powder was fairly new, bakers felt that it was going to replace yeast for all bread baking. It produced the same gas that yeast did (carbon dioxide) and its action was indeed “quick” compared to that of yeast. It has, in fact, replaced yeast as a leavening agent for cakes almost entirely, but not in bread dough. Quick breads cover a wide range of baked goods from biscuits and scones that are made from a dough,to muffins and loaves that are made from a batter. They can be large or small, savory or sweet. The major thing that identifies them is the fact that they are, as their name implies, quick to make.

Quick breads can be made from many kinds of ingredients. Banana bread and pumpkin bread are popular, but for the gardener with too much zucchini, a good zucchini bread recipe is a great way to use up some of that surplus squash. Zucchini, a green striped squash with a sweet flavor, is excellent to use in a quick bread. Modern squash, like zucchini, are descendants of plants that were first cultivated around 10,000 years ago, in what is today Mexico and Guatemala. Evidence suggests these ancient squash were originally grown for their seeds before eventually being bred as a vegetable. Shortly after Europeans arrived in the Americas, they began bringing squash back to Europe. The Italians are credited with breeding today’s modern zucchini from the original American squash.

How to keep your Zucchini Bread healthy:

  • Substituting whole wheat flour for white flour adds fiber and you’ll get about 3 grams of fiber in each serving.
  • Applesauce is a naturally fat-free ingredient that can be substituted for oil in many recipes.
  • Yogurt, an excellent source of calcium, phosphorus, riboflavin (vitamin B2) and iodine, is another ingredient that can be substituted for some of the oil in recipes.
  • Use sugar (Truvia or Domino Light) and whole egg substitutes (Egg Beaters) to reduce fat and calories in baked goods.
  • Zucchini is the low-calorie, naturally fat-free secret ingredient and hidden vegetable in the recipes below. A cup of zucchini used in a recipe contributes essential nutrients and keeps the bread moist.
  • Add nuts. They are lower in saturated fats, higher in mono and polyunsaturated fatty acids and an excellent source of omega-3 essential fatty acids.

Zucchini Chip Bread

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour (or 1-1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour and 1-1/2 cups of all-purpose flour.
  • 3/4 cups sugar or sugar substitute blend equivalent to 3/4 cups of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 cup refrigerated egg substitute
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon finely shredded orange peel
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 cups shredded zucchini
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate pieces

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease bottom and 1/2 inch up the sides of two 8x4x2-inch loaf pans. Set aside.

In a large bowl combine flour, sugar, baking soda, nutmeg, salt, cinnamon and baking powder. In a small bowl combine egg substitute, applesauce, oil, orange peel and vanilla; add to flour mixture. Stir until just moistened. Fold in zucchini, walnuts and chocolate pieces.

Divide mixture evenly between the two prepared pans. Bake about 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near centers comes out clean. Cool in pans on a wire rack 10 minutes. Remove bread from pans and cool completely on wire racks. For easier slicing, wrap and store overnight before serving. Makes 2 loaves (24 servings).

Vegan Gluten Free Zucchini Bread

Wet Ingredients:

  • 2 cups grated fresh zucchini
  • 1 cup organic applesauce
  • 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

Dry Ingredients:

  • 1 cup white sorghum flour
  • 1 cup gluten free all purpose flour (Bob’s Red Mill or King Arthur)
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon xanthan gum

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large mixing bowl, combine zucchini, applesauce, sugar, oil, vanilla and apple cider vinegar.

Whisk together the dry ingredients in a separate bowl and sprinkle over the wet ingredients. Mix thoroughly.

Pour batter into a lightly greased (9×5) loaf pan.

Bake for 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pan. Place the bread on a cooling rack and allow to cool completely before serving.

Zucchini-Carrot Muffins

Yield: 12 muffins

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (or 1 cup of all purpose flour and 1 cup of whole wheat pastry flour)
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 pinch ground cloves
  • 2 eggs or 1/2 cup refrigerated egg substitute
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cups sugar or sugar substitute equivalent
  • 1 small zucchini, shredded (3/4 cup)
  • 1 small carrot, grated (1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds

Directions:

Heat oven to 350 degree F. Coat the wells of a standard-sized (12)  muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray.

Whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, ginger, cinnamon and cloves in a large bowl.

Mix eggs, oil and sugar in a medium-size bowl. Whisk for 30 seconds to dissolve sugar. Stir in shredded zucchini and carrot.

Stir egg mixture into flour mixture. Stir in sunflower seeds. Divide batter equally among muffin cups, a slightly heaping 1/4 cup in each.

Bake for 23 to 25 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from pan to wire racks to cool.

Zucchini Pancakes

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound zucchini, shredded
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 1/2 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup refrigerated egg substitute
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil plus 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1/4 cup light dairy sour cream with chives (optional)

Directions:

Combine the zucchini and salt in a large bowl. Let stand 30 minutes. Place zucchini in a strainer and press firmly with a rubber spatula to force out water.

Combine zucchini, 1/2 cup red onion, the Parmesan cheese, flour, egg, 1 tablespoon olive oil, garlic powder and pepper in a large bowl. If the batter is not thick enough to hold together, add a little more flour, one tablespoon at a time, until the mixture is the right consistency.

Lightly coat a large skillet or griddle with nonstick cooking spray. Add 1 teaspoon olive oil to skillet and heat over medium heat. Using 1/4 cup zucchini mixture per pancake, drop zucchini mixture onto hot skillet, leaving 2 to 3 inches between mounds. Flatten mounds to about 1/2-inch thickness. Cook pancakes about 4 minutes or until golden brown, carefully turning once halfway through cooking.

Keep pancakes warm in a 300 degree F oven while cooking the remaining pancakes. If desired, top pancakes with sour cream .

Zucchini Scones

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup butter, cut up into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup refrigerated egg substitute or 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup shredded zucchini
  • 1/2 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips or finely chopped pecans

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In a large bowl,  stir together all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda and salt. Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Make a well in center of the flour mixture.

In a small bowl, combine egg and buttermilk; stir in zucchini and chocolate pieces or pecans. Add the buttermilk mixture all at once to the flour mixture. Using a fork, stir just until moistened.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead dough by folding and gently pressing it for 10 to 12 strokes or until nearly smooth. Pat or lightly roll dough into an 8-inch circle. Cut dough circle into 12 wedges.

Place dough wedges, 2 inches apart, on ungreased baking sheets. Bake for 13 to 15 minutes or until edges are light brown. Remove scones from the baking pans and cool on a wire rack. Serve warm. Makes 12 scones. Scones freeze and reheat well.

Zucchini Cornbread

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter or butter alternative, such as Smart Balance (or 1/4 cup butter and 1/4 cup applesauce)
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten or 1/2 cup refrigerated egg substitute
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 large zucchini (about 10 ounces)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar or sugar substitute equivalent
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 cup medium-grind cornmeal

Directions:

Position a rack in the middle of oven and preheat to 350° F. Coat a 9 x 5 x 3″ loaf pan with cooking spray.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat or in the microwave. Set aside and let cool. Whisk in (applesauce if using) eggs and buttermilk.

Trim zucchini ends. Thinly slice five 1/8″ rounds from 1 end of the zucchini and reserve for garnish. Coarsely grate remaining zucchini. Add to the bowl with the butter mixture and stir until well blended.

Sift both flours, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda into a large bowl. Whisk in cornmeal. Add zucchini mixture; fold just to blend (mixture will be very thick). Transfer batter to prepared pan and smooth top. Place reserved zucchini slices on top of the batter down the center in a single layer.

Bake bread until golden and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 55-65 minutes. Let cool in pan 10 minutes. Remove from pan; let cool completely on a wire rack. Store airtight at room temperature.

Zucchini Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 6 egg whites
  • 1 cup natural applesauce
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar or sugar substitute equivalent
  • 2 cups grated zucchini
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup finely chopped walnuts

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 12 ounces reduced fat cream cheese
  • 3/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 13×9 inch baking pan.

Combine egg whites, applesauce, sugar, grated zucchini and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat until well mixed.

Combine the flour, baking soda, salt, baking powder and cinnamon in a large measuring cup and add to the egg mixture. Mix on low speed until just combined. Fold in the walnuts with a spatula.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 45 minutes.

To make the frosting:

Beat cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar and vanilla in the bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Spread on the top of the cake. Chill before serving.



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