Whoopie! For the past couple of weeks, Peach anticipated this week with great excitement. It’s back to school. With our move across the country and basically no friends in the area with little ones (save for Eat’s cousin and her two kids in the suburbs and our recent visit to Maine to visit more cousins), Peach could NOT wait to start school. She and Grub had their summer playtime full of making pirates’ boats, fashioning swords from duct tape, creating archery sets from straws and rubber bands, drawing pictures for me, and plenty of picking on each other. Just like her first day of kindergarten, she woke up very early and readied herself before the rest of us. She carefully matched her outfit. Her sticker earrings were placed just so. Her backpack was packed. School supplies organized. Just like last year, I walked her into school, only this time I have a much larger Sky-Girl connected to me. While I did feel a sense of losing my baby when I walked out of the school, I do not feel like I did the previous year when she started kindergarten (see my strawberry cream cheese frosting recipe post for that story). Chalk it up to not having weep-inducing postpartum hormones rushing through my veins this year, at least in part.
But the onset of this school year does change my focus. It is the first time since we’ve moved that Sky-Girl and I had time to ourselves the whole day, if I so choose. It reminds me of when Grub was a baby, before I went back to work and Peach was in preschool. And how I wished I had that time when Peach was a baby. It also helps me focus on the now. There is a daily mourning that comes along with parenting. It is a mourning that your babies will never be younger than what they are now. They continue to grow and fly from the nest. And since Sky-Girl is our youngest, these are our last baby days. Her short trial in daycare, again, has not gone well. I question the usefulness of it: I may get to blog in peace at home, or cook without interruption, or plan for an hour of exercise without pushing a running stroller, but what about her? Is trying to help her adjust to other caregivers really worth it for the screaming and exhaustion that it brings her? Isn’t her history (hours of screaming for months) enough to give me pause and just scrap the whole daycare idea? My focus is family right now, as we adjust to a new home and city.
Compare this year’s face to my initially reserved countenance last year. Inside, I feel a little blubbery or weepy sometimes, wondering when that emotion will hook into me, opening me up a little more to vulnerability. Yet whoopie! prevails eventually, as the excitement of each child percolates through our days, about school and new friends (Peach has started these conversations with vigor), about catching bugs and storing cat food in pockets (Grub likes to be prepared), or even giving smirky kisses and cuddles (when Sky-Girl is away from daycare). There is an abundance of these joys, freckled with the frustrations. Abundance comes in so many ways, whether child or otherwise. One common abundance of summer is from the garden. We are not graced with a garden this year, given our cross-country move and recently decimated yellow jacket nest in the backyard, but I can remember our bounty last year. Garden bounty is often met with unwelcome eyes when one is overflowing: I hear this refrain about zucchini year after year, much like the here-and-now frustrations of parenting. But the joy peeks through, those smirks, acorns, and school stories. And the zucchini is a happy addition to my kitchen because I am an unashamed zucchini zealot.
This is the first of my zucchini recipes this month: the zucchini whoopie pie. It’s a riff on zucchini bread with a marvelous cream cream frosting: cakey and delicate. Gourmet magazine does it well (from July 2009). My zealousness will continue this month in zucchini and family. Next up: latkes!
One year ago: peach-blueberry pie and nectarine murabba with cardamom, rosewater, and lemon
- CAKES: 2 cups coarsely grated zucchini (10 ounces)
- 2½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1¼ teaspoons baking soda
- 1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ¾ teaspoon ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¾ cup well-shaken buttermilk
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 cup walnuts (4 ounces), chopped
- FILLING: 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
- ½ stick unsalted butter, softened
- 1½ cups confectioners sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- scant ¼ teaspoon salt
- FOR CAKES: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F with racks in upper and lower thirds. Butter 2 large baking sheets or line with parchment or silicone mat.
- Squeeze handfuls of zucchini wrapped in a kitchen towel to remove moisture, especially if previously frozen and thawed.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, spices, and salt until combined. Whisk together buttermilk and vanilla in a small bowl.
- Beat together butter and brown sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add egg and beat until combined well.
- At low speed, mix in flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately in batches, beginning and ending with flour mixture and mixing until smooth. Mix in zucchini and walnuts until just incorporated.
- Spoon ¼-cup mounds of batter 2 inches apart on baking sheets (Peach enjoyed doing this step with me).
- Bake, switching position of sheets halfway through, until tops are puffed and golden and spring back when touched, 18 to 22 minutes. Transfer with a spatula to a rack to cool completely.
- FILLING: Beat together cream cheese, butter, confectioners sugar, vanilla, and salt with clean beaters at medium-high speed until smooth, about 3 minutes. I did this by hand without a problem.
- ASSEMBLY: Spread a rounded 2 tablespoons of filling on flat sides of half of cakes and top with remaining cakes.
- The whoopie pies keep 3 days chilled in an airtight container. Bring to room temperature before serving.