Sunday, September 11, 2011

Zucchini-Spice Cupcakes

My earliest memory of zucchini is from my very early childhood when I used to go to my babysitters, and for lunch one day we had to eat raw zucchini. Of course, we were given other, more delicious food during that meal, but all I remember is the zucchini and how I wanted to gag when I had to eat it. Lovely visual I provided for you. Needless to say from that point on, I have had no interest in eating zucchini... raw, cooked or otherwise. About a year ago I tried zucchini bread for the first time, hesitantly of course, and I have to say, it was very good. So, when it came time to make zucchini-spice cupcakes I figured they had a chance of being tasty.

I was not expecting it to be so difficult to find zucchini. I figured it'd be right there next to the cucumbers or squash and that would be that. I was wrong... kind of. I made several passes through the produce department trying to find zucchini with no luck. There were several kinds of cucumbers, there was yellow squash and green squash, but no zucchini. Stop and Shop failed me... not the first time. The other grocery store in town, Price Chopper is less than 5 minutes down the road so I decided to make a stop there to see if they'd have any zucchini. I figured at the very least I could get a loaf of bread that they sell, that I really like and haven't had in awhile because I don't normally shop there anymore (Stop and Shop is closer). Again, I stalked the produce department with no luck. Nothing was labeled zucchini, but I was becoming suspicious of the "green squash" that looked an awful lot like zucchini. Then I thought maybe the freezer section would have frozen zucchini, and while not ideal, could still work. No luck.

It was then I decided I would give the produce department one last try, but before I did I was going to use my trusty iPhone and do a little Google research to see if there was another name for zucchini that may be living in the produce department. I didn't find that much that I didn't already know. So, as a last-ditch effort I mustered up all my courage and decided to just ask an employee of the store. I honed in on a nice young gentleman and asked him if the store had any zucchini because I wasn't having any luck finding it. He said yes (wahoo!) and led me to the zucchini a.k.a. green squash. I still wasn't completely convinced that this was the right thing, but I wasn't going to drive 20 minutes to Whole Foods and I wanted to make the cupcakes today. I grabbed 2 "zucchini" and headed to the checkout line.

This is the most efficient I have been with a recipe to date. I read through all the ingredients and the steps to make sure I had all the prep work done before I got started so I knew what I was in for. First, I grated the zucchini using my food processor. The recipe calls for 3 cups of grated zucchini and I came up just shy of 3 cups. I didn't care. I wasn't making another trip to the store. If I was a little short, I was a little short. Once the zucchini was grated I started preheating the oven so I could toast the walnuts. I figured by the time the oven was warmed up and the walnuts toasted I would be ready to fold the walnuts into the batter... and I was! Go me.

While I was pouring the batter from the mixing bowl into a large measuring cup (if the batter is more liquidy I like to pour it into the cupcake pan from my large glass measuring cup, it's less of a mess) I spotted some larger chunks of not-so-grated zucchini and pulled them out. I didn't want someone to bite into a cupcake and get a chunk of zucchini. I know these are zucchini cupcakes, but they're not supposed to be chunky zucchini cupcakes.

I baked the cupcakes for 20 minutes, rotating them halfway through the total baking time and they came out perfect. Naturally I gave one taste test soon after it came out of the oven and they were good. It turns out green squash and zucchini are the same thing, or at the very least they can be interchanged. I'm still not really sure. All I know is the cupcakes turned out to be delicious. The only thing I would change if I ever make them again is the walnuts. I would choose to omit them the second time around. They're not terrible, I just know I would enjoy the cupcake more without them. The cream cheese frosting I have made before to accompany these carrot cupcakes and while it is delicious, it still didn't help to mask the taste of the walnuts.

Recently I've started sharing the cupcakes I've been making with our neighbors (in addition to co-workers) because I figure it's a nice neighborly thing to do and you never know when you might need a favor. Plus, these particular neighbors are very good to us. I had taken them a few cupcakes for their family, and a couple days later the wife, Diane, came over with 2 huge zucchinis in her hands and asked if I'd like them to cook or bake with since I had just made the zucchini cupcakes. I said sure, thanked her and told her I'd make her some zucchini bread in the not-too-distant future. In my head I was thinking where were these bad boys 2 days ago when I was driving all over town looking for zucchini! Only in my world do things like this happen. But now, if I ever need it, I've got a whole freezer-sized Ziploc bag full of grated zucchini waiting for me in the freezer.