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Got beets or zucchini? Then you have the secrets to tasty quick breads

No sneaky nutrition here. Vegetables are proud ingredients in these quick breads. (Jerry Holt/Minneapolis Star Tribune/TNS)

We love summer's fresh produce. We dream about it in January, wait impatiently for it through May, then revel in the embarrassment of riches come August.

Then, sometimes, we kinda panic.

How many ways can we deal with zucchini? The cherry tomato plant resembles a scarlet tornado, it's so prolific. And here comes the next CSA box with, yup, more beets.

Consider quick breads as a tasty solution.

Quick breads are so named because they don't rely on yeast to rise, but on the more lively ambitions of baking powder and baking soda. They're also best eaten quickly, or at least within two days, because they are more tender than yeast breads.

Zucchini bread, of course, is the most familiar summer loaf, with a "love it or leave it" following. It's like banana bread with a punchline.

Our version is flecked with bright green zucchini bits, a hint of ginger and the surprise of orange peel that's chopped instead of grated for more texture. This recipe deserves to be passed down among the family.

Beets are the surprise ingredient in a chocolate bread, lending moisture without betraying their presence. The earthy loaf gets a whiff of sophistication with some chopped rosemary. This loaf is not overly sweet, which sometimes is just what the summer ordered.

Consider taking a quick bread all the way to savory with a colorful pizza-like loaf infused with roasted cherry tomatoes, cheeses and herbs. It's not in the recipe, but adding a chopped jalapeño would not be out of line.

And that's the spirit of looking at your vegetables as source for baked goods: Would a few leaves of spinach enhance the zucchini bread? Maybe instead of rosemary, we try basil with the beets and chocolate. That last quarter-cup of sweet corn kernels might be nice in the roasted tomato loaf.

You get the drift.

At least until the snowy ones arrive. ?

CHOCOLATE-BEET QUICK BREAD

Makes 1 loaf.

Note: This bread, from thelunacafe.com, includes rosemary, but if its herbal nature isn't your thing, you can leave it out.

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour

1/2 cup high quality cocoa powder, such as Scharffenberger or Ghirardelli, plus a spoonful for coating the pan

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted (vegetable oil works too, but the bread's flavor is better with butter.)

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar

2 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla

1½ cups peeled and grated raw beet, loosely packed (about 1 medium-large beet)

1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary

Place oven rack in the middle position and preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Coat just the bottom of an 8½-inch loaf pan with baking spray, then add a spoonful of cocoa, shaking the pan to cover the bottom with a light film, then knocking out any excess.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Peel the beet, then place a box grater over a double layer of paper toweling laid on a nonabsorbent surface such as a baking sheet. Grate beet, then gently fold and press the paper toweling to absorb any excess moisture. Measure 1½ cups.

In a large bowl, whisk together the butter or oil, sugars, eggs and vanilla until creamy and smooth, about 2 minutes. Stir in the grated beet and chopped rosemary.

Add the flour mixture to the butter-beet mixture and, with a large spatula, combine gently but well. No flour should be visible.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, and bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Set on wire rack for 10 minutes, then turn out of pan to continue cooling before slicing.

Nutrition information per each of 12 slices: 205 calories, 9 g fat, 190 mg sodium, 30 g carbohydrates, 5 g saturated fat, 18 mg total sugars, 3 g protein, 50 mg cholesterol, 2 g dietary fiber

Exchanges per serving: 1 starch, 1 carb, 2 fat.

TOMATO-CHEESE QUICK BREAD

Makes 1 loaf.

Note: Slightly adapted from "Bernard Clayton's New Complete Book of Breads." This bread is best eaten the day it's baked. Travels well for picnics.

1½ cups cherry tomatoes

1 teaspoon olive oil

Salt and pepper

2 cups whole-wheat flour, plus a spoonful for coating the pan

2 teaspoons baking powder

Pinch of baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

1 large garlic clove, grated or pressed

1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1 cup milk

2 eggs

1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil

1 tablespoon honey

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Combine the tomatoes and oil in a bowl, stirring to coat, then season with salt and pepper. Place them on prepared sheet. Roast for 20 minutes, until the skins start to blister. Set aside to cool slightly.

Coat just the bottom of an 8½-inch loaf pan with baking spray, then add a spoonful of flour, shaking the pan to cover the bottom with a light film, then knocking out any excess.

Lower oven heat to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, basil, garlic and cheeses.

In a second bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, oil and honey until well combined. Gently stir in the roasted tomatoes.

Add this to the flour mixture and gently stir until it becomes a moist, thick batter. Scrape into the prepared pan, smoothing the surface.

Bake for 60 to 70 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let rest on a cooling rack for 10 minutes, then turn out of the pan onto the rack to continue cooling thoroughly before slicing.

Nutrition information per each of 12 slices: 170 calories, 9 g fat, 380 mg sodium, 18 g carbohydrates, 2 g saturated fat, 3 mg total sugars, 7 g protein, 40 mg cholesterol, 2 g dietary fiber

Exchanges per serving: 1 starch, 1/2 medium-fat protein, 1 fat.

BRONWYN'S ORANGE-FLAVORED ZUCCHINI BREAD

Makes 1 loaf.

Note: From "The Book of Breads," by Evan Jones. Adapted slightly to reduce the sugar and boost the orange peel.

1½ cups white flour, plus a spoonful for coating the pan

3/4 cup sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon coarse salt or 1/4 teaspoon table salt

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

2 eggs

1/2 cup oil

1½ cups grated zucchini

2 teaspoons chopped orange peel

1/2 cup chopped walnuts, optional

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Coat just the bottom of an 8?1/2-inch loaf pan with baking spray, then add a spoonful of flour, shaking the pan to cover the bottom with a light film, then knocking out any excess.

Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and ginger together thoroughly.

Place a box grater over a double layer of paper toweling. Grate the zucchini, then gently fold and press the paper toweling to absorb any excess moisture. Measure out 1 1/2 cups.

In a medium-size bowl, whisk together the eggs and oil, then stir in the grated zucchini.

For more texture, don't grate the orange peel, but strip it from the orange, avoiding any bitter white pith, and finely chop.

Gently stir the dry ingredients, orange peel and walnuts into the zucchini mixture until mixed.

Scrape the batter into the pan and bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to continue cooling before slicing.

Nutrition information per each of 12 slices: 200 calories, 10 g fat, 220 mg sodium, 25 g carbohydrates, 2 g saturated fat, 13 mg total sugars, 3 g protein, 30 mg cholesterol, 1 g dietary fiber

Exchanges per serving: 1 starch, 1/2 carb, 2 fat.

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