Funny thing about gardening – it’s a problem to do it poorly (our usual dried flower arrangement out front in the flower eternal-rest bed), and a problem to do it prolifically (zucchini). I love Mary’s “Darwin Garden” term – it's a tough world, and the only survivors are the ones who fight for it.
After last year’s stunning success with a basil plant – it produced basil! – I confidently aimed higher this year. Yup, I bought another basil plant. Plus two tomato plants, an jalapeno (bush? shrub? It doesn’t look vine-ish… should it? Have I messed up already?), and actual living thyme and oregano.
Lessons learned thus far:
a) It’s probably much easier to get a pre-made tomato cage around the plant when it’s small, and not when it’s 3 feet tall and bearing fruit. And hopefully not pointless.
b) Plants need water. Not that I didn’t already know that, but a trip out of town with no rain reinforced the lesson.
c) One thyme plant doesn’t produce a heck of a lot of thyme. I probably need several.
d)You can spin yourself into a tizzy with this organic thing. I was trying to buy organic seeds, but then I realized I’d plant them into soil I know nothing about and they’d be watered with rain in one of America’s worst air-quality cities. Then I stopped thinking about it altogether, hummed a happy tune, and focused on sending cheerful, leaf-affirming thoughts to my fledgling tomaters.
e)Tossing the grill cover on the basil plant – and leaving it there – makes for an unhappy plant.
f) In fact, it may not be a great idea to keep a super-hot grill near the plants at all. Hmmmm…..
One thing I stayed away from was the afore-mentioned zucchini, which produce like the rabbits of the vegetable kingdom. Two reasons – first, there are just two people in the household and we can only eat so much of any one vegetable.
More poignantly, what if it died? Could my self-esteem handle not being able to grow zucchini? It’s like not being able to grow dandelions in the middle of the lawn. I think it would have unpleasant emotional consequences.
For those of you blessed with an abundance of zucchini, a) call me, we’d be happy to take some off your hands! and b) two unusual recipes to use it up are below. I’m not a huge pineapple fan, but I like this bread.
Zucchini-Pineapple Quick Bread
Yield 2 loaves
3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 large eggs
2 cups sugar
2 cups grated zucchini (about 1 1/2 medium zucchini)
2/3 cup canola oil
1/2 cup egg substitute
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 (8-ounce) cans crushed pineapple in juice, drained
Baking spray with flour
1. Preheat oven to 325°.
2. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. Combine flour, salt, and next 3 ingredients (through ground cinnamon) in a large bowl, stirring well with a whisk.
3. Beat eggs with a mixer at medium speed until foamy. Add sugar, zucchini, oil, egg substitute, and vanilla, beating until well blended. Add zucchini mixture to flour mixture, stirring just until moist. Fold in pineapple. Spoon batter into 2 (9 x 5–inch) loaf pans coated with baking spray. Bake at 325° for 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pans on a wire rack; remove from pans. Cool completely on wire rack.
I've never made the glaze, so I'm not vouching for it. Also, if you think this is a great way to sneak veggies into kids and they just won't notice something green in their chocolate cake, well, good luck with that. At age 4 it didn't escape Cutie's notice that there was something going on with this cake that she wasn't used to seeing. She ate it and she liked it, but she has always been a good eater (particularly of dessert).
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup (4 ounces) block-style fat-free cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
2 large egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup fat-free buttermilk
2 cups shredded zucchini
2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
3/4 cup powdered sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
8 teaspoons fat-free milk
2 tablespoons semisweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon instant coffee granules
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350°.
To prepare cake, coat a 12-cup Bundt pan with cooking spray; dust pan with 1 tablespoon flour.
Place sugars, cream cheese, and vegetable oil in a large bowl, and beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended (about 5 minutes). Add eggs and egg whites, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.
Lightly spoon 2 1/2 cups flour into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. Combine 2 1/2 cups flour and next 5 ingredients (2 1/2 cups flour through cinnamon) in a medium bowl, stirring well with a whisk.
Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Stir in zucchini, 2/3 cup chocolate chips, and nuts. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake at 350° for 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in cake comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack.
To prepare glaze, combine 3/4 cup powdered sugar and 3 tablespoons cocoa in a small bowl; stir with a whisk. Combine milk, 2 tablespoons chocolate chips, coffee, and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract in a 1-cup glass measure. Microwave at medium 45 seconds or until chocolate melts, stirring after 20 seconds. Combine powdered sugar mixture with chocolate mixture, stirring with a whisk. Drizzle glaze over cake.