Angela Huston

Anyone who watches NCIS is familiar with the famous Gibbs Gut; he proves repeatedly that your gut can definitely be a reliable "indicator" in many situations. I found myself in a position one morning recently when I had to decide whether or not to pay attention to my own questioning instincts.

My goal for that morning was to bake zucchini bread with the bounty my friend had shared from her family's garden. Over the years I have made countless loaves of this fall treat, but not recently. I was excited about getting back to this homemade familiar comfort food.

After much searching (with short stops to investigate some interesting-sounding creations such as Fluffy Meatloaf, Neiman's $250 Cookie Recipe, Presbyterian Casserole, and Dump Cake -- no I did not make up any of those titles), I finally found a zucchini bread recipe, one I had not used before, and eagerly began the mixing process.

I shredded the zucchini, beat the eggs, combined all the other ingredients --- the batter was coming together nicely ---until I suddenly realized there certainly was a lot of it; no way it was going to fit into my ready and waiting loaf pan.

In my eagerness to begin, I had neglected to follow a well-known rule: when given a sheet with specific directions written on it, be sure to read ALL those directions before proceeding with whatever you are doing.

After the fact, naturally, I looked at the recipe more closely (better late than never?), but no matter how carefully I read and reread it, there was nothing indicating the size of pan that should be used, or how long the bread was to bake. At that point, I began to be concerned that perhaps I had not been careful in my measuring of the ingredients. What to do??

The consistency of the batter looked just right, but I was nevertheless faced with making a decision. I had made perhaps hundreds of loaves of zucchini bread in years past so I decided I was going to take a chance and trust my gut on this one; there was no way I could bring myself to throw that batter away.

I scoured my cupboards and finally found what I hoped would be a suitable-sized baking dish: bigger than a bread pan but smaller than a bread box. I poured the batter into it, stuck it into the oven at what I hoped was the correct temperature, set the timer for 30 minutes, and crossed my fingers. Did I mention the baking time and temperature were not indicated, either.

After 30 minutes, the bread was far from done, so I began increasing the time in 10-minute increments. By the time the total baking time reached a little over one hour, I felt comfortable removing it from the oven after giving it a final toothpick test, fingers still crossed. The real test came later that evening when we cut into a very large pan of zucchini bread that turned out to be delicious!

I have made notes on the recipe to remind me this was probably intended to be a doubled portion, inserted the other important details about the baking process, and then made another mental note: read ALL directions before you begin! To save yourself a lot of mental anguish, that is still the best policy, especially when preparing an unfamiliar recipe could easily become a culinary disaster.

Of course, had I done that this time, I probably would have discarded that recipe, which would have been too bad. It was perhaps one of the best zucchini breads we have ever had.

Yes, by all means, do remember that caution is still its own reward and should not be ignored but, believe me, there are those occasions when you can trust your gut. Give it some credit --it may be uncanny, but it often does know best.