Let’s Talk with Lois Winston

Zucchini Madness

by Lois Winston

I’m a city girl exiled in the suburbs. I grew up surrounded by concrete. But since living in the suburbs means having a backyard, over the years I’ve tried to cultivate the fine art of gardening. Unfortunately, long ago I had to accept the fact that I was born without the Green Thumb Gene. When plants see me coming, they wither up and die. With one exception: I can grow zucchini.

Decades ago, when I first tried growing zucchini, I made the mistake of planting three plants. It was a good thing we had a separate freezer back then, and raw zucchini freezes well. We ate zucchini at just about every meal all winter. Ever since then, I’ve planted one zucchini a season.

Recently we were away for two weeks. I knew I’d come home to a bumper crop of zucchini, and I did. However, we’ve had a very hot, wet summer. When you combine heat and rain and leave your zucchini to itself for two weeks, you come home to zucchinis larger than most newborn babies. So I spent a day grating, baking, and freezing. My freezer is now filled with zucchini breads, muffins, cakes, and dozens of freezer bags, each filled with two cups of grated zucchini for future use, all from only one of the ginormous zucchinis. The other has been sitting in my refrigerator, awaiting another day of grating, baking, and freezing. Meanwhile, I’ve been picking and serving normal size zucchini.

And that brings me to the other day when I once again abandoned my zucchini plant for two days to head down the shore with a couple of girlfriends. I checked my zucchini plant before I left. There wasn’t a single microscopic zucchini hiding anywhere, but when I came home yesterday, I was greeted by another bumper crop, including one more ginormous zucchini. I swear zucchini grows faster than kudzu! So my plan was to spend today grating, baking, and freezing.

However, I’m not grating, baking, and freezing because we woke up this morning to no air-conditioning. It’s about 90 degrees in the house. No way am I turning on the oven. As I write this, the HVAC guys are packing up because it turns out we need a new unit. That’s going to cost thousands of dollars, but the even worse news is that there’s no way they’re going to be able to install one before we go to bed tonight. Enough bad news? Not quite. We’re expecting torrential rains tonight. So we won’t even be able to open the windows.

Meanwhile, for those of you with an abundance of zucchini and a cool house, here’s one of my favorite zucchini recipes.

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bundt Cake

Ingredients:
6 Tbsp. cocoa
2 Tbsp. butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups grated zucchini, packed
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
confectioner’s sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray bundt pan with non-stick baking spray with flour.

Set aside 1/8 cup flour. Sift together remaining flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside. Mix together cocoa, butter, and sugar. Beat in eggs, oil, and vanilla. Blend in grated zucchini. Add flour mixture.

Toss chocolate chips with remaining flour. This helps keep chocolate chips from all sinking to the bottom of the cake batter once the cake is in the oven. Fold chocolate chips into batter. Pour batter into prepared bundt pan.

Bake for about 70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of cake comes out clean.

Let cake cool for several minutes, then unmold onto cake plate to finish cooling.

When completely cool, dust with confectioner’s sugar.
~~~
How are your gardening skills? Do you cultivate bushels of Blue Ribbon quality produce throughout the summer? Or do you, like me, lack the Green Thumb Gene?

AND, while you’re here, click over to our Contest page where there are lovely reading choices you could win to help you Fall into a Good Mystery! Click HERE.

Comments

  1. Yum, Lois, Your post made me hungry. There’s another thing you can do with zucchini and it’s easy and fairly healthy. Spread a thin film of olive oil on cookie sheet, slice zucchini and spread over the sheet. Lightly season (or if you like it extra spicy) add more with Tony Chachere’s Original Creole Seasoning. Bake at 350 for thirty 20-30 minutes. My son made this for me when I was in Colorado this summer and we’re not even Cajun. Who knew? It’s great!

    • Hmm…trying this again because it doesn’t seem to have gone through. I do something similar but spiral cut the zucchini and use sea salt.

  2. Lovely to garden! It’s one of the things I miss having down-sized to a co-op from a house with a yard. Congrats on your gardening success. Great recipe!

    • Thanks, Jacqueline. We once had zucchini into early Nov. during a warm autumn. This year the plant seems ready for the town mulch pile, but I still have one huge one in the refrigerator and lots of frozen zucchini for future use.

  3. It seems air-conditioning woes are hitting a lot of people we know. We just spent four digits yesterday on a rebuild on one of our units that was leaking into a wall. I am praying it dries out in there and doesn’t grow mold. I hope yours is fixed fast. I don’t have a green thumb either, but I do like zucchini recipes. So it can be grated and frozen, huh? Do you peel it first?

    • Nancy, you don’t peel the zucchini before grating it, whether for baking or freezing. I use the grater attachment on my food processor. You can also use a spiral veggie cutter. I’ve never tried using frozen zucchini in a baking recipe. There’s a lot of moisture when it defrosts, and that would affect the recipe. You’d have to make sure you completely drain the defrosted zucchini if you wanted to bake with it. I use my frozen zucchini in soups, pasta sauces, meatloaf, etc. You can also use it to make zucchini fritters. Just make sure you’ve patted all the moisture out of the zucchini first before mixing it with your eggs and cornmeal or flour.

      Good luck with your AC. Mold is an awful thing. We had to spend $3000 to bring in huge drying machines after our basement flooded from Hurricane Irene to make sure we didn’t wind up with mold growing in the walls.

  4. caralynnjames says

    I can’t grow a houseplant, let alone an outdoor vegetable. (I also have two disrespectful dogs who think every square inch of the yard belongs to them.) But I can bake. That zucchini cake recipe looks wonderful!

  5. dianestuckart says

    My thumb is a very light green. Mostly, my problem is that once the initial planting is done, I get sloppy with the follow-up care. If I really wanted to do well with plants, I’m pretty sure I could. 😛

    • I hear you, Diane. I’m much the same way. Hate all the time I have to spend weeding, feeding, watering, and otherwise coaxing, only to have the plants not cooperate anyway–especially in the heat. We’re beginning to think about moving to a condo where someone else maintains the landscaping. I’ll take a weekly trip to the farmers market for my zucchini. I already have to do that for all the other veggies.

  6. I’m a black thumb kind of gal. I used to have some indicator plants that would wilt and let me know to water the houseplants. Then the indicator plants died and so did everything else. We’re big on putting sink-or-swim plants in the yard, but nobody in this household enjoys weeding, so parts of the yard alternately resemble a jungle or a desert. I am fond of of spiced zucchini bread that I used to make. These days zucchini is on the “avoid” list of my autoimmune diet so I’m not on the zucchini train. I do love chocolate, though, so I will save your recipe in hopes that at some point I can add more foods back into my diet.

    • Maggie, I had no idea certain veggies were a no-no on autoimmune diets. We’re always being told to eat more vegetables to stay healthy. Weird. I hope you get to expand your food selections soon.

  7. I think I’m coming to visit you…..gardening and baking/cooking aren’t my thing….eating is. Let me know when the air-conditioning is fixed.

    • Air-conditioning is up and running, Debra. I had to write that post and get it off to Maggie ahead of time. So we’re no longer sweltering in 90+ temps, although it’s actually quite pleasant here today–a high of 75. Definitely my kind of weather. Of course, this morning I swapped AC headaches for computer headaches. Took 2-1/2 hrs. to figure out and correct the problem. It’s always something, isn’t it?

  8. Hi Lois, I have inherited my mother’s green thumb. I’ve been known to bring dead plants back from the brink of death. However, we’ve moved into an apartment downtown and I haven’t yet selected plants for the balcony. I have considered getting a small herb garden to keep me in fresh basil and cilantro. I think you’ve inspired me!