Carrot Zucchini Cupcake Tailgate Snack

Mexican Free-tail bat flyout at Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area

Recently two grandmas and five grandchildren headed west looking for adventure. We had reserved spaces at Yolo Basin Foundation’s Bat Walk & Talk, a presentation by Corky Quirk, the renowned “Bat Lady” of Northern California, followed by a trip out to the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area to watch thousands of Mexican Free-tailed bats emerge from their daytime sleeping space under the Yolo Causeway and fly into sunset tinted skies.

Corky’s presentation was about 45 minutes long it’s content great for both adults and kids. It’s informative and fun and towards the shared up close projected images of three different live bats showing us their differences. She even fed one mealworms and we watched it munch them down.

Now it was time to load into our cars and caravan out to the Wildlife Area to see the bats fly into the night sky where they would spend their time hunting moths. We followed the line of cars, led by Corky, to a spot far on the eastern side of the property. There we parked and gathered at a place not too far from where the bats would emerge from under the causeway. We stood and waited and then they appeared, thousands of little Mexican Free-tailed bats flying in a long ribbon like formation into the evening sky. It was a beautiful sight.

muffin tail gate party

Carrot Zucchini cupcake tailgate snack

Since there are literally thousands (estimated to be around 250,000 at last count) of bats that need to emerge, the flights come in waves and there can be some time in between where no bats are visible. Just the perfect amount of time for boys of 8 & 9 and girls aged 6 to become totally distracted and start looking for something to do. During one of these breaks I had the kids follow me back to our car for a little tailgate snack; homemade Cream Cheese frosted Carrot Zucchini cupcakes and a glass of pineapple/mango/passion fruit juice. Since I had a few finicky eaters, when asked what kind of cupcakes they were, I just said carrot cake; no sense complicating the veggie issue by mentioning that there was also grated summer squash in them. Two of the kids decided they loved the icing, which they licked completely off of the cupcake before returning it to me to say they didn’t like the cake part even though they didn’t even try it. The other three grandkids and the grandmas ate theirs without complaint and in fact, we found them to be delicious.  After our snack it was back down to watch more bats and a peregrine falcon that had come to see if it could catch a few snacks of its own. It was pretty exciting to watch it cut through the ribbon of bats and snatch one.  The excitement of the evening over we caravanned back through the wildlife area listening to the sounds of the frogs and seeing lots of Black-crowned Night herons flying around, also out hunting. It was deemed a good adventure by all and one we would recommend to all that have not had a chance to see this amazing spectacular.

Carrot Zucchini Cupcake

Carrot Zucchini Cupcake with Cream Cheese Frosting

The recipe I used for the cupcakes was a modification of Carrot and Zucchini Bars with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting, published by Real Mom Kitchen, Aug, 2011 a recipe she adapted from a Better Homes & Gardens recipe. I omitted the ginger and instead added the zest of one lemon and the juice of half a lemon. I didn’t put any zest in the frosting only because I didn’t have any more lemons. This is a great little recipe that I’ll be using again and again.

You can find other cake-like recipes where I have used zucchini on the following links:

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

A California Gal Makes Hawaiian Muffins

A Tangelo and a Zucchini Met One Morning


Chocolate + Zucchini

I have procrastinated all week regarding an invitation to a Potluck/Barn Dance. It sounded fun, but the thought of coming up with a recipe for the potluck was where I was stuck. It’s been a long week with lots going on and so the procrastination happily continued until this afternoon when I either had to commit and get on with it, or beg out. I decided to get online and buy my ticket. That was the bait. I hate paying for something I won’t use. Ticket bought (or you could say hook firmly in mouth) I started thinking about what I was going to make. I really wanted to do something with ingredients I have on hand, with one of those ingredients being zucchini. I thought about a squash casserole but only for a minute. Since it is more like a quiche, and folks are a little edgy about eggs right now, I decided to think up something else. And then it came to me; Chocolate Zucchini Cake. Who doesn’t love chocolate cake?

Off to the kitchen to check ingredients. Yes sir eeeee! I have everything. Chocolate Zucchini Cake it is.

This recipe is from a 1974 Sunset Magazine clipping.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour, unsifted

½ cup cocoa

2 ½ teaspoons baking powder

1 ½ teaspoons soda

1 teaspoon each salt and cinnamon

¾ cup soft butter

2 cups sugar

3 eggs (mine were from a local grower who’s chickens run loose in his garden by day and sleep in a coop at night so the critters don’t get em)

2 teaspoons each vanilla and grated orange peel (I didn’t have a fresh orange so I omitted the peel)

2 cups coarsely shredded zucchini (any summer squash, yellow or green, will work)

½ cup milk

1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (I used the pecans)

Glaze. Mix together 2 cups powdered sugar, 3 tablespoons milk, and 1 teaspoon vanilla;

Beat until smooth.

Combine the four, cocoa, baking powder, soda, salt, and cinnamon; set aside. With a rotary mixer beat together the butter and sugar until they are smoothly blended.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. With a spoon, stir in the vanilla, orange peel, and zucchini. Alternately stir the dry ingredients and the milk into zucchini mixture, including the nuts with last addition.

Pourbatter into a greased and flour-dusted 10” tube pan or bundt pan. Bake in a 350° oven for about 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 15 minutes; turn out on wire rack to cool thoroughly. Drizzle glaze over cake. Cut in thin slices to serve. Makes 10 to 12 servings.

Annie’s Grilled Vegetable Lasagna

If you have been reading my posts you know that the Ichiban Japanese eggplant I planted in a pot on my patio has been the best producing eggplant I have ever had. It has supplied a neighbor friend and myself with more than enough eggplant. We have made all kinds of dishes with it. A couple of weeks ago I made up a vegetable lasagna that doesn’t use any noodles, just grilled veggies, cheese and some very delicious Trader Joe’s Tuscano Marinara Sauce. This week I decided to grill the extra veggies that have been ripening faster than I can eat them and store them in the refrigerator with the idea that when I had enough variety I would make another vegetable lasagna.

Today was the day that version-two of the lasagna took shape. It is cool and windy outside with the sun popping in and out from behind the clouds. If we were having a normal August it would be hot outside by now and I certainly wouldn’t consider turning on the oven. Not even the small convection oven I used today. But it’s not hot and so the lasagna creation began. I gathered the grilled eggplant, Butterstick zucchini, and red peppers from the refrigerator. Next I sliced a beautiful red onion I had just bought at the Farmers’ Market and sautéed it in a little olive oil until it was beautifully browned and tender. A trip out to the patio yielded fresh basil leaves.

Lasagna is a process of layers; a layer of marinara (which I strained the excess liquid out of since there are no noodles to absorb the liquid), then the eggplant topped with whole basil leaves and mozzarella cheese, another layer of marinara, zucchini, basil leaves, peppers, onions and cheese. I finished it off with the last bit of marinara, mozzarella and some shredded Parmesan. I baked the lasagna at 350° for about 30 minutes, or until the top was browned. I let it sit for about 10 minutes before I cut it into serving size pieces.

This is one of those great recipes that you can modify to fit the ingredients you have. If I had had some ricotta I would have added a layer. Pine nuts might add some nice texture. I might even be tempted to try a pepper that has a little heat in it. I do love the red bells for their sweetness but it might be nice to  add just a little kick to the mix. I also think I’ll add a little fresh parsley next time since I have some in my garden. And, since the eggplant has started a whole new round of flowering and producing, I’m sure there will be a next time.

If you give my grilled vegetable lasagna a try let me know how it turned out for you or how you modified the ingredients to fit your likes and vegetable abundance. There’s more on grilling vegetables here. I’m always looking for new ways to cook vegetables and would love to share your ideas with my readers.


Ichiban eggplant

Abundance, when defined in an ecologic way, refers to the relative representation of a species in a particular ecosystem. That’s what’s going on in the ecosystem that is my backyard. My Japanese eggplant is producing like crazy, which is good and bad at the same time. How much eggplant can one person eat? The other veggie that is producing heavily is a Butterstick zucchini. This abundance is one of the reasons I sometimes wish I didn’t’ have my own plants and could just buy what I really want at the Farmers’ Market. But then there’s that other part of me that just loves being able to pick something and then take it straight to the kitchen. This year that is the side that won out so, I’m dealing with my abundance by eating a lot of eggplant and zucchini and sharing with my friends for as long as they will accept. Abundance has brought about need, the need to find interesting ways to fix both zucchini and eggplant.

About three years ago I found this recipe in Bon Appetite and have been using it every summer since. But, while the recipe is only focused on eggplant preparation I want to recommend that you also try it on summer squash. For this version I used the Japanese eggplant and the Butterstick zucchini in almost equal amounts slicing them to ½-inch thickness then placing them in a zip-lock with the marinade and refrigerating it for the afternoon, if you can, for 1-hour minimum. Bring the package room temperature before you grill. I usually take it out about an hour before grilling time. Grill until they are browned nicely on one side then turn. As in the original these are good right off the grill or served at room temperature.

Enjoy your weekend and don’t forget that shopping your local Farmers’ Market is the best way to buy the freshest fruits and vegetables possible. The only way to get fresher is to grow your own. Another bonus of shopping the Farmers’ Market is you can  sample before you buy and you can’t do that at your local market.

Sesame eggplant & zucchini

Sesame Eggplant with Green Onions

Bon Appetite, Jun 2007

½ cup olive oil

4 large green onions coarsely chopped

2 T soy sauce

2 t Asian sesame oil

2 t sesame seeds

2 eggplants (about 2 ½ lbs cut crosswise into ½-inch thick slices

Puree olive oil, chopped green onions, soy sauce, and sesame oil in blender. Transfer mixture to small bowl. Stir in sesame seeds; season mixture with pepper. Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.

Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Generously brush 1 side each eggplant slice with green onion mixture. Cook until tender and charred in spots, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer to platter. Serve warm or at room temperature. Can be made 4 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.

Serves 6

A California Gal Makes Hawaiian Muffins

Pineapple-Zucchini Muffins With Coconut and Macadamia Nuts

The other day I was thinking about a very old recipe I have for Spicy Pineapple-Zucchini Bread (Sunset Magazine, September 1974). I really like this recipe and thought it could be the basis for a modification I had been thinking about.

My idea was to make a Hawaiian style muffin, all be it a California version. To this end I dropped the cinnamon, nutmeg, currants and walnuts from the ingredients and added macadamia nuts and coconut. I also substituted pineapple juice for the vanilla. The final result was definitely one I’ll try again. They were very light, moist and delicious. If they don’t all get eaten the first day, they’ll keep well stored in an airtight container for several days. They also freeze well.

Pineapple-Zucchini Muffins with Coconut and Macadamia Nuts

Makes 2 dozen

3 eggs

1 cup Canola oil

2 cups sugar

2 teaspoons pineapple juice

Beat eggs to blend. Add oil, sugar and pineapple juice; continue beating mixture until thick and foamy.

2 cups grated zucchini

2/3 cup well drained crushed pineapple.

With a spoon stir the zucchini and pineapple into the egg and sugar mixture

3 cups all-purpose flour (unsifted)

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon baking powder

¾ to 1 cup chopped unsalted roasted macadamia nuts

1 cup shredded coconut

Combine the dry ingredients, nuts and coconut and gently stir into zucchini mixture just until blended.

Fill greased (or use paper liners) muffin tins 2/3 full and bake in a 350° oven for 25 – 35 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans for 10 minutes; turn out on wire racks to cool thoroughly. Makes two-dozen medium sized muffins. If you would prefer to try this as bread, you can divide the batter equally between two greased and flour-dusted 5 by 9-inch loaf pans. Bake for 1 hour or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.

Next time you have some zucchini that needs to be used and you know the family won’t put up with yet another dinner including it, try this. I’ll guarantee they’ll look at zucchini in a whole different way.

A tangelo and zucchini met one morning and formed a beautiful partnership.

Like most mornings I awoke bright and early Sunday and ambled into the kitchen to make my morning tea. It was beautiful outside, not too cool, which it has been for the last few days, you could feel that summer just might be really going to come. Teacup in hand I found myself in my garden puttering around as I am apt to do. Often puttering involves watering the many potted plants that line the patio and that’s where I was when I found myself thinking about the many errands that I needed to run after I finished my weekly trip to the Farmers Market. But, it was so nice out. Was I really going to drive to the Farmers Market then continuing driving around doing errands? NOPE! Not this Sunday. As soon as I finished my puttering, I was off to the garage, to check the air in my bike tires and attach my

The ride was really beautiful. I decided to check out the new section of the Sacramento Riverfront bikeway which runs parallel to the river and then cross over the freeway on the newly opened pedestrian/bike way. The new section of trail is really great.  I wish I had taken some pictures so I could show you. From the Riverfront trail and freeway overcrossing it is just a few blocks, through urban streets lined with beautiful mature trees, until I arrive at the market where my focus would be to see if I could pick up a few tangelos and for a muffin recipe I would make upon my return. Oh, and get some fruit and veggies for the week, which I did; a couple ears of corn, assorted summer squash, some green and yellow wax beans, two red onions, eight white nectarines and peaches, and three tangelos.

Today is the first day of summer and with its heat comes the real beginning of the summer squash season. In about another month the newness of summer squash will have started to wear off and those of us with squash plants will be getting more than we need much less want. We’ll be eating it often and giving the excess away. And then, there will come that day when we and even our friends and neighbors have had enough squash. Before it comes to that and while we’re all excited about summer squash I wanted to give you idea for another way you can use it. Bake up a nice batch of Tangelo-Zucchini Muffins. Bake them in the morning like I did and serve them warm, preferably on the patio or in the garden. A beautiful, and I might add tasty, way to celebrate a summer morning.

Tangelo-Zucchini Muffins

makes 12 muffins

1 cup shredded summer squash (I used zucchini but any summer squash will do. If the squash is really large discard the seedy part before shredding.)

2 eggs

½ cup safflower or other high-quality vegetable oil (I used canola and a little olive oil since I didn’t have enough of the canola.)

2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed juice (I used tangelo. You could use orange if you’d prefer.)

1 ½ teaspoons grated zest (I used the zest from one tangelo.)

1-teaspoon vanilla extract

1 ¼ cups unbleached flour

½ teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ cup chopped pecans (you could use walnuts instead)

½ cup dried cranberries (you could use golden raisins instead)

Preheat oven to 35o° F. Grease 12 regular-sized muffin tin or I used paper cupcake liners

Beat the egg in a mixing bowl until lemon colored. Add the sugar, oil, juice, zest and vanilla. Beat until thick and smooth.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, pecans and cranberries. Fold the dry mixture into the egg mixture, stirring just until well blended. Spoon batter into the prepared muffin-tin, filling each hole about three-fourths full. Bake until a wooden skewer inserted in the center of a muffin tests clean, about 20 – 25 minutes. Cool in the muffin tins for about 3 minutes before turning out. Serve warm.

Variation: To bake as a loaf, pour the batter into a greased 9 by 5-inch loaf pan and bake for about 1 hour. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes before turning out.


It’s Friday night and I’m tired. I really don’t want to take a lot of time to cook something and the urge to just snack on junk is strong. I’ve had a busy week and have been fighting off a sinus infection so my energy level is real low and my attitude is not a pretty thing. Pushing myself into the kitchen I avoid the pantry, where the snacks are, and browse the fridge for ingredients. There are 4 small zucchini, a few mushrooms, carrots and some salad greens. Ok that’s easy. I’ll fix a zucchini frittata (or open-faced omelet if you prefer) and a nice little salad. Sometimes  I forget how meditative preparing a meal can be for me. It gets me out of my head, out of feeling sorry for myself and into caring for myself. This week that’s a good place for me to be.

For the frittata I slice a shallot and some garlic and brown then add the sliced zucchini, add a little water, cover and steam for a few minutes till almost tender then I add 2 eggs that have been beaten and some shredded cheese. I put the cover back on and cook over a medium heat until the egg is cooked. At this point if you want to go the extra mile, which tonight I didn’t you can put the frittata under the broiler to brown it, or you could fold it into an omelet.

For the salad I sliced several mushrooms thinly and grated some carrot then added some vinaigrette, then tossed the mixture with the greens and topped the salad with some toasted sliced almonds.

The meal was just right and I’m really glad I won’t be going to bed tonight with “snack guilt”.

I’m looking forward to getting to the farmers’ market this weekend where I hope to buy some white peaches and nectarines and of course a nice selection of veggies.