From the time I was four years old in the early 60’s, I was in the kitchen with my Nana and Mom. Baking, cooking, and most kitchen-related activities were a part of every-day life for me.
I vividly remember proudly stirring up a cake for my Easy Bake Oven to present to my beloved Dad when he and the tractor-trailer with my name, “Miss Lori Ann” emblazoned across the front bumper pulled into the driveway
Graduating from the Easy Bake Oven to the full-size range in our Coal Region kitchen was a seamless transition. Because I was a constant presence by their side, Nana and Mom put me to good use by giving me small (and safe) tasks during meal prep. I quickly moved on to learning knife skills and was at the stovetop creating dishes.
Maybe it was my early introduction to baking through the Easy Bake Oven, but I quickly discovered I could accomplish many baking projects on my own. And so, over the years, my family was the beneficiary of my efforts — both good and not so good.
By the time I got to high school, I was rather accomplished in the kitchen, thanks to the wonderful tutoring of the outstanding cooks in my life. So, it was with total dismay I found myself sitting in Home Economics class being lectured about the basics of cooking and baking. Boredom rolled over me and all I could think was, “This is going to be a very long semester…”
Around that time, the Home Ec teacher announced that the annual recipe contest held by the local newspaper was coming up. She pulled me aside after class and encouraged me to enter. I initially brushed the suggestion off, but as I kicked it around that week, it became more appealing. The million-dollar question was, what recipe should I enter.
The weekend found my family the recipient of a bag-full of end of season items from our neighbor’s garden. Inside the bag were several picture perfect zucchini. After grilling, sauteing, and “casserole-ing” several, we were running out of steam in our enthusiasm for zucchini.
My Coal Region/Dutchie instinct does not do well with allowing anything to go to waste, so I set out to find one more use for the leftovers. I had just received both a Betty Crocker and Better Homes and Gardens cookbook as birthday gifts that year. In one of them — and all these years later I cannot recall which one — I found a recipe for Zucchini Bread in the “Quickbread” section.
Keep in mind, at that time, Zucchini Bread was not as well-known as it is now. Recipes came from cookbooks or from friends and family members on hand-written cards or note paper. There was no internet to research or share recipes on far and wide. None of my family had ever had zucchini bread, but the ingredients were at hand, so I thought, “This is it!”
I could tell my Pop was a little skeptical about the whole zucchini part, but my dad was always a good sport eating anything I baked, and I had hoped this would be no different. The next morning as I entered the kitchen, there was my father sitting at the table with a cup of coffee in hand and a loaf of zucchini bread next to him on the table. As I passed by and turned my head, I could see that half of the loaf was gone. Pop looked up at me with a sheepish grin and said, “I would say this is a keeper.”
The recipe made two loaves; by the end of the following day, there was not a crumb of zucchini bread left. As I basked in the glow of success, i decided that the recipe for zucchini bread was the one I would enter into the contest at the newspaper. I filled in the entry form and sent off the recipe. Kept busy with school and extracurricular activities, I completely forgot about the contest and my entry.
Several weeks later, I was sitting in my last class of the day when the PA system crackled alive for the end of day announcements. Usually filled with information about upcoming sports matches and meets, general school related information, and any notable changes in events for the upcoming days or weeks, I normally tuned out the bulk of the announcements. As I gathered my books and belongings in preparation for a hasty departure upon the ringing of the dismissal bell something in the periphery of my consciousness caught my attention.
Apparently someone in the principal’s office had obtained a copy of the day’s newspaper which happened to included the special insert with the names of the winners, runners-up, and honorable mentions of the various categories in the recipe contest along with their accompanying recipes.
My eagle-eyed Home Ec teacher had spotted the fact I snagged an honorable mention for my zucchini bread recipe and wanted to share that fact with the entire student body. As I became aware that my name had just gone out school-wide on the public address system — and why — I slowly raised my eyes up from the paper I had been doodling on to find every student in the class turned to face me, staring at me like I had two heads. Apparently it took more than a zucchini bread recipe to impress them, because no one said a word.
By the time i got home that afternoon, the delivery boy (remember those) had left the day’s paper and my Mom had found the insert. She had also found my name and recipe printed inside. My folks acted like I had just won the lottery! My protests of, “It’s just honorable mention…” went unheeded. Dad beamed and stuck out his chest a little more than usual, Mom had that, “I taught you well” look written all over her. Through my embarrassment, a little part of me pushed aside my humility and enjoyed the moment.
Years later, shortly before she died, I came across the newspaper insert that included my name and recipe tucked away in a box. “Mom”, I said, “I don’t understand why you’d want to hang on to this old thing.” As my Mom turned to me, she took my hand in hers, pressed it to her cheek, looked at me with a tear forming in the corner of her eye and whispered, “You will, honey…someday, you will.”
I still have that special insert from the newspaper in which the recipe I submitted was published. Yellowed from age, it is stored in a box of mementos along with others from my childhood that my Mother cherished. In my youth, I may not have understood why she kept such things, but now, these many decades later in the senior years of my life, I understand all too well…and I am so very glad she did.
I try to use small zucchini, 3 inches in diameter or less, but larger are fine — simply scoop out the seed pocket before grating. Use the coarse holes in a box grater and leave the zucchini un-peeled. Pile the zucchini loosely in the measuring cup; don’t pack it firmly.
The recipe calls for toasted nuts; toasting brings out the flavor, but you can use untoasted. You can oit the nuts completely if you prefer.
I love to make this recipe in mini loaf pans, then freeze the loaves for holiday gatherings. If down-sizing from full-0size loaf pans, adjust your baking time accordingly.
Zucchini Nut BreadCourse: Snacks, DessertsCuisine: GeneralDifficulty: Intermediate
Nuts may be omitted from this recipe, if you desire.
3 whole eggs
2 cups of granulated sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups loosely packed and coarsely grated un-peeled zucchini
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup coarsely chopped toasted walnuts or pecans
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
- Grease and generously flour two 8-1/2 x 4-1/2 inch loaf pans or line with parchment paper. Set aside.
- in a large mixing bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the eggs until frothy. Add the granulated sugar, vegetable oil, and vanilla. Beat several minutes until thick and lemon colored. Using a spoon or spatula, stir in the grated zucchini.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, the cinnamon, and baking powder until blended. Fold this into the zucchini mixture until blended. Do not over-mix; mix until no dry clumps remain, but do into try to beat the batter smooth. Fold in toasted nuts..
- Divide the batter evenly between the two loaf pans. Bake 55 to 60 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Allow to cool in pans 15 to 20 minutes then turn out on their side onto a cooling rack. Allow to cool completely. Best if not sliced until the following day. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap once cooled. Can be frozen.