Zucchini Walnut Whoopie Pies

I have a very small family. It’s just me, my mom and my dad. Extended family hasn’t been a part of my family’s culture since I was about 10, but I have the most vivid memories of the food that was served in my Father’s family’s home.

Holidays have a way of searing memories into your head though. And as a curious 5-year-old, I was completely enamored with the 3D lamb shaped cake my Grandmother would painstakingly assemble each Easter and lovingly coat in a thick swath of coconut flakes. I remember the enormous, thick, caramel colored wood dining table the family would sit around for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinners. More importantly I remember my Grandfather would turn the huge lazy Susan that was the middle of the table until he had a clear view of me, sitting opposite him, and declare that it was my turn to do the dishes and that I’d better get to it or else I’d be doing them all night. I would smile, knowing he was joking, but my Grandmother would always cry out, “Johnny! Leave her alone!”

I remember spending a lot of time with my dad’s oldest sister and my Grandmother when I was little. I will always associate my Grandmother with blue corn pancake mix, and my Aunt with zucchini walnut muffins. Sometimes she would come to the house with a white pastry bag in her hand and she’d let me have some of her muffin. I remember thinking they were just about the oddest thing I’d ever tried, but I loved them. The irony of putting a vegetable into a sweet treat was not lost on me, even at a young age.

When I got into baking quite heavily three years ago now, zucchini walnut muffins were one of the first things I tackled. Nowadays, whenever I see the words zucchini and walnut together in a recipe I get giddy, bookmark or tag said recipe and get right to grating zucchini and chopping walnuts as soon as I can.

Martha Stewart’s recent March issue of Living featured what I can only call zucchini walnut whoopie pies. She called them cookie sandwiches or something, but that’s a gross misrepresentation of these chewy, soft, salty-sweet, cream cheesy pies. My respect for Martha only grew when, after making the cream cheese filling, I realized she’d figured out the loveliest ratio of cream cheese to confectioner’s sugar in any icing recipe I’d ever tried.

High five to Martha, this one is for Aunt Miriam.

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Veggie No-Bake Lasagna

When I was asked to participate in recipe demos at the 14th and U St farmers market with fellow food bloggers Mango and Tomato, Florida Girl In DC and Thrifty DC Cook I was a) totally flattered and b) freakin’ the heck out! The recipe needed to include farmers market finds (duh!) but also be as no-cook/no-bake as possible.

Yikes! I love using farm fresh ingredients in all sorts of things…but it’s rare that I go the no-cook/no-bake route. I’m the girl who makes cheesecakes and brownies in the dead of summer. It could be 100 degrees out and I’m thinking about what to bake.

At any rate…Martha Stewart gave me some inspiration at the last minute. She had a photo and brief “recipe” for a veggie “lasagna” that looked so fresh and pretty. Turns out it was easy enough to make but was sorta bland. So I added in my favorite vinaigrette, some salt and pepper and all was well in the world again.

I hope you guys like it as much as I did! Enjoy!

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Zucchini Walnut Muffins

For some reason, I associate zucchini walnut muffins with my Aunt. Maybe it was her favorite kind? I just remember her bringing them over to my Grandmother’s house once when I was about counter top-height and I was fascinated by them.  Loved the suckers ever since.

Then there’s this silly thing…my Dad will often refer to a zucchini as a “zuke” or “zukes” for plural. Oh Dad! He makes me giggle.

Not too many notes on this recipe, folks. It’s a good one…the original recipe throws out the option to include raisins or dried cranberries…meh. I’m not too keen on that. Plus I was trying recreate a childhood memory here. I imagine you could bake this batter in a loaf pan rather than muffin cups if you made a few temperature/time adjustments.

I also had a thought last night:  maybe subbing the nutmeg/cinnamon combo for some pumpkin pie spice…or maybe even throwing in a half cup of pumpkin puree might deepen the flavors in this recipe? I’ll have to give it a try next time I make these! Or if you try, let me know how it goes!


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Cheater’s Minestrone

Want something easy to make for dinner? Something that’s tasty and carby and mmmm it’s cold outside!? This is the soup for you!

It’s from Giada De Laurentis who I generally regard as the cutest cook on Food Network. She’s the kinda girl I’d like to be gal pals with. We would make big yummy Italian dinners and then eat chocolate ricotta mousse afterward laughing about the night’s events. Or something.

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