Chicken Gyros

One week to go.  I think I can make it, but for the record, I was not in favor of waiting until after Labor Day for school to start.  All it means is that at least once a day over the next week Cranky, Grouchy and Short-Tempered Mom will emerge.  Pray for my children.  They'll need it.

This week also brings back the PTA lifestyle as I continue to sacrifice myself to the school service gods.  I'm seriously doubting my abilities to serve as President this year, especially with baby #6 due in 8 weeks.  I hope the PTA survives a year of my noble leadership.
With summer coming quickly to a close, this was a recipe I had to squeeze in while there were fresh tomatoes in the garden.  I had never made gyros before but knew I would make my own pita bread if I was going to give it a try.  So much better than store bought so give my homemade pita bread a try.  Our family really enjoyed the gyros and I would really like to try this same recipe with a different meat as well.
Chicken Gyros
(from Elly Says Opa!)
Tzatziki sauce:
16 oz plain yogurt (not nonfat)
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and shredded
3 cloves garlic, minced fine
1 tsp white wine vinegar
salt and pepper
squeeze fresh lemon juice
extra virgin olive oil

4 cloves garlic, smashed
1 lemon, juiced
2 tsp red wine vinegar
2 Tb extra virgin olive oil
2 heaping Tb plain yogurt
1 Tb dried oregano
salt and pepper
1 1/2 lbs boneless chicken breasts

tomatoes, diced
red onion, thinly sliced

1.  To make the tzatziki sauce, strain the yogurt overnight in cheesecloth over a bowl.  Shred the cucumber and wrap in a towel to squeeze out as much water as possible.  Mix together all the sauce ingredients, drizzle with olive oil and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.
2.  To prepare the chicken, whisk together all the chicken ingredients in a medium bowl, then add the chicken to coat well.  Cover and let marinade for 1-2 hours.  Cook the chicken on the grill over medium heat until the juices run clear.  Let rest 5 minutes then slice into strips.
3.  Heat the pitas and top with chicken, tzatziki sauce, tomatoes and onions.

Zucchini Pineapple Carrot Muffins

As much as I love the garden bounty late summer brings, it is also very overwhelming.  I wish there was a way to spread it out over the year so I could give proper appreciation to each and every crop.  By the end of the summer, I'm desperately trying to keep it all from going to waste.

Even though my zucchini plants got a disease that turned the main stem into a granular powder, I still got quite the harvest from my two little plants before they died.  I love zucchini that are small and tender, but once they get past about 8" long, I will only use them in baking form.  
I really loved this zucchini recipe.  It was a cross between carrot cake and zucchini bread.  They were light, moist and truly delicious.  I actually doubled the recipe because I have so much large zucchini to use up.  I made two loaves and 24 muffins.  My kids preferred the muffin form, probably because they felt like they were eating cupcakes.   My hubby wanted me to whip up some cream cheese frosting to top them with but that would definitely turn them into cupcakes!  I will be making another double recipe this weekend and freezing the muffins for when school starts and I need a quick breakfast.  I think that will use up the rest of my zucchini and then I can turn my attention to the bushels of tomatoes......

Zucchini Pineapple Carrot Muffins
makes 24 muffins or 2 loaves
3 eggs
1/2 C oil
1/2 C unsweetened applesauce
2 C sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 C shredded zucchini
3/4 C shredded carrots
10 oz crushed pineapple, drained
3 C flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 C chopped nuts (optional)

1.  In a large bowl, beat together eggs, oil and applesauce with a whisk.  Add the sugar, vanilla, zucchini, carrot and pineapple then mix well.  Add all the dry ingredients and mix together just until combined.  Do not overmix!
2.  Divide among 24 muffin tins lined with paper liners, or two greased loaf pans.  Bake muffins for 20-22 minutes and loaves for 45-50 minutes.  

Oatmeal Sandwich Bread

Last week, we made our annual trek to Minneapolis so we could buy boatloads of school clothes for our boatloads of children.  It is always a painful reminder how expensive a big family can be but we try our best to make it a fun few days.  This year we took on Nickelodeon Universe at Mall of America and our kids had a blast.  Especially our two year old, Jonathan.  
He was in heaven when he got to meet his hero, Spongebob.  Yes, we wish he loved someone more two year old appropriate, but he is heavily influenced by two big brothers.
Swimming in the hotel pool for hours and hours everyday made for great naptimes!
He absolutely LOVED the rides and his siblings fought over their turn to take him.  They loved watching his reactions just as much as I did!

After three days of eating in restaurants, I was ready to get back home and into the kitchen.  While I do enjoy the break, the food starts to taste the same after the few couple of meals.  I made a new bread recipe and boy was I thrilled with the results.  It makes a delicious loaf, but it makes outstanding toast!! 
Since it is a whole grain bread, I suggest using vital wheat gluten to enhance your results.  It helps your whole grain breads turn out light, moist and not crumbly.

Oatmeal Sandwich Bread
(makes 1 loaf)
adapted from King Aurthur Flour
1 C water
1/3 C milk
1/4 C butter, softened
2 Tb brown sugar
2 Tb honey
1 C whole rolled oats
1/2 C rolled oats, ground in food processor or blender
1 pckg instant yeast
1 Tb vital wheat gluten
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 C whole wheat flour
1 1/2 C bread flour

1.  In the bowl of your mixer with the dough hook, combine all the ingredients.  Mix to form a shaggy dough.  Knead for 5-10 minutes until it is smooth and begins to clean the sides of the bowl.  Add a bit of additional flour if it doesn't.
2.  Shape dough into a ball and place in a lightly greased bowl and allow to rise, covered, for 1 hour.  Shape dough into a log and allow to rise in a greased bread pan until bread is about 1-2 inches over the rim of the pan, about an hour.
3.  Bake bread in a 350 oven for 35-40 minutes.  Remove from pan and allow to cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.

Root Beer Float Cake

Moist.  That is the most hated word in the English language.  I find that hard to believe, but according to NPR's Wait Wait.....Don't Tell Me people hate the sound of that word more than any other. 

I love the little tidbits of useless information I can pick up from that show.  If you have never listened in, I highly recommend it....especially if you are driving all night across the country trying to stay awake at 3:00am.  An iPod full of episodes does the trick for me.

Now back to the most hated can you hate the word moist?!?!  These people must not be true foodies otherwise the word moist alone would make their hearts beat faster and their mouths begin to water.  

I'm sorry but there is no other word to better describe this cake.  It is moist, dense, rich and indulgent.  Just how I like my cakes.  Thanks so much to Joy the Baker for hooking me up with this outstanding recipe!  Now I don't want you to think this will be a big bite of root beer as the name implies.  The root beer gives the cake it's moistness and enhances the chocolate flavor.  I also found that this cake gets better each day it sits around.  We left town for three days and stuck it in the fridge.....even better when it was cold and three days old!!!

Root Beer Float Cake
from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking
2 C root beer (no diet!!)
1 C dark unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 C unsalted butter, cut into 1/2" cubes
1 1/4 C granulated sugar
1/2 C dark brown sugar
2 C flour
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 large eggs

1.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Spray the inside of a 10" Bundt pan with nonstick spray.
2.  In a medium saucepan, heat the root beer, cocoa powder and butter over medium heat until butter is melted.  Add sugars and whisk until dissolved.  Remove from heat and let cool.
3.  In large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt.  In small bowl, whisk together the eggs then whisk into cooled cocoa mixture until combined.  Pour cocoa mixture over your dry ingredients and gently fold with your whisk.  Batter will be slightly lumpy.  Don't overbeat or your cake will become tough.
4.  Pour batter into prepared pan and cook for 35-40 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely before inserting onto your cake plate.  (I put my cake in an airtight container overnight at this point and didn't frost and serve until the next day.)

Chocolate Root Beer Frosting
2 ounces 60% cocoa, melted
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 C root beer
2/3 C unsweetened cocoa powder
2 1/2 C powdered sugar

1.  In a large bowl using an electric hand mixer, beat butter and cocoa powder together until smooth.  Add the melted chocolate and beat again.  Add salt, root beer and powdered sugar.  Beat together until smooth.  Spread on top of cooled cake.