When I was little, I heard a story in church about how Jesus walked on water, and because Peter had faith, he was able to walk on water as well. Inspired by that story, the next time my dad took me to the community pool, I walked straight over to the deep end of the pool, focused intently on believing both in God and my possession of the ability to walk on water, and stepped off the edge. Needless to say, I sank like a boulder.
Sometimes my aspirations are a little unrealistic. I don't mean unrealistic in that my aspirations defy the odds, as in, "I'm definitely going to be one of the twelve out of 300 applicants who get accepted into this particular graduate program", but unrealistic in that they defy the laws of physics, chemistry, gravity, time, and everything that defines how the world as we know it operates.
Case in point: David thought it might be nice if I made a cake for his grandpa's 94th birthday, as his grandpa doesn't get to eat many treats and subsists mostly on frozen tv dinners. I excitedly began planning the cake - I was going to make him an almond 1-2-3-4 cake, because my father-in-law told me that Grandpa-Great used to make it all the time for Grandpa P. I was going to coat and fill it with chocolate ganache, and decorate it with swoops and swirls of blue and yellow buttercream frosting.
Unfortunately, I hit a few roadblocks. We were leaving early Saturday morning. "That's fine," I told myself. "I'll just make it Friday night."
But then I remembered how the last 1-2-3-4 cake I made got dry and stale the next day. "I'll wake up really early Saturday morning," said the girl who pressed her snooze button eight times the Saturday morning she had wanted to go to the Farmer's Market right when it opened.
"I guess I'll use a different recipe," I persisted. But then I thought that a frosted cake might not last the 3-hour trip to Grandpa P's house.
"Well, I'll just stop by Michael's on the way home tonight, and buy a cake carrier, and I'll put the cake in the cake carrier and put the cake carrier in a large cooler that I'll buy at Rite-Aid later tonight and surround it gallon-sized ziploc bags filled with ice...it will last."
And when did I land on this "solution"? Friday afternoon, the day before we were going to leave, two hours before dinner with my friend who was visiting from L.A. Needless to say, I did not end up making a two-layer cake for Grandpa P. There are not enough hours in the day, people.
All this to say, I made zucchini bread instead. It's tasty, easily transportable, and contains enough veggies to convince anyone that it's actually very healthy. I adapted a Martha Stewart recipe, which I have done before to great results. I made a few changes - I replaced the dark brown sugar with light brown sugar and the walnuts with pistachios and chocolate chips to accomodate what was in my pantry. I also didn't line the loaf pans with parchment paper, choosing to simply grease it instead.
I know the story made it sound like I settled (or that I made Grandpa P. settle) - how could zucchini bread possibly compare to a two-layer almond cake smothered in chocolate ganache? But as humble as zucchini bread is, it really is very delicious. The zucchini helps the bread to stay moist and tender for days, and the dark green flecks in the bread makes it pretty even when unadorned. The pistachios and chocolate chips add complexity in taste, texture, and visual appeal. Personally, I thought the saltiness of the pistachios and the sweetness of the chocolate complimented each other perfectly without overwhelming the cinnamony goodness of the zucchini bread.
This recipe yields two loaves. I left Grandpa P.'s loaf plain because I wasn't sure whether or not he was allergic to nuts. If you want to put pistachios and chocolate chips in both loaves, use the amount listed in the recipe; if you only want it in one loaf, half it. You could also leave them out altogether.
The pictures do not accurately display the amount of nuts and chocolate chips called for in the recipe. I put in a little less because I was worried that David wouldn't like the nuts. That being said, I really wish that I had added the amount called for, so do it, okay?
Zucchini Bread with Pistachios and Chocolate Chips
Adapted from Martha Stewart
2 zucchinis, grated
1 cup sugar
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
3 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp almond extract
1/2 cup roasted and salted pistachios, roughly chopped
1/2 cup milk chocolate chips
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Grease two 4 1/2 by 8 1/2 inch loaf pans.
Combine zucchini, sugars, oil, and eggs. Add dry ingredients. Mix well. Stir in almond extract. Fold in pistachios and chocolate chips. Split the batter between the two loaf pans. Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes.