Ashley Mason is one of my WONDERFUL students at Cosumnes River College, with aspirations of becoming an Orthopedic Surgeon. She has worked at Tom’s Books in downtown Lodi for the better part of four years, and in addition to school, she is doing a fabulous job as the Secretary of our TOP Club – Thrive on Plants. Her recipe below combines several of my favorite ingredients: pumpkin, zucchini, flax and cinnamon, and could be made into mini-loaves to give to friends and neighbors.
In Ashley’s words…When I think about my childhood, memories of spending time with my grandparents flood my mind. They collected antiques, so I spent a lot of time as their shadow at flea markets and garage sales in and around Lodi. If we weren’t looking at antiques, we were probably cooking, as my grandmother enjoyed spending time with me in the kitchen. While I wish that all of my family memories were happy, having to watch my grandparents and parents suffer from health problems for the majority of my life has been difficult and heart-breaking. My mom had breast cancer, my dad is now on medication for heart issues, and my grandpa has had several heart attacks, open heart surgery, and multiple battles with various cancers. However, the most difficult for me was my grandmother’s diagnosis with lung cancer. I was a freshman in high school, and she did not get to see me graduate. Looking back, I realize my memories with my grandmother revolved around food and her illness, in equal proportion. We were always stopping for ice cream or frozen yogurt after school, or preparing the standard suppers of steak, potatoes, and corn, up until the point when most of our trips were driving to and from medical facilities. I inherited great knowledge from my grandmother, along with her love of cooking, but I have chosen not to inherit her cookbook, with the hope that I can break the cycle, and my family members will not have to watch me suffer from chronic disease.
The holiday season was a special time around my grandparents’ house, especially when it came to food. Family members would prepare multiple batches of each recipe to share with one another, so there was a steady stream of delicious offerings. One of my favorites was my great aunt’s zucchini bread. When I first transitioned to a whole food, plant-based way of eating, I thought I would have to say goodbye to my favorite baked treats. I never thought that I would be able to create my own version, with the same wonderful taste of my great aunt’s bread, but without the eggs, dairy or oil. While it is a simple recipe that satisfies my nostalgic hunger, any time of year, this zucchini bread is also a delicious holiday treat to share with those you love! I have made some tweaks to the original recipe, featured at www.cearaskitchen.com, to deliver even more nutrients and flavor. Be warned, I actually have to make multiple loaves or hide it from my family members, if I expect it to last more than a day!
Ashley’s Pumpkin Zucchini Bread
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon, ground
1 tsp nutmeg, ground
1 tsp ginger, powdered
2 flax eggs* (2 tbsp ground flax seed + 6 tbsp water)
1/2 cup pumpkin (roasted from fresh or canned)
1/2 cup coconut sugar (in place of dark brown sugar)
1 TBSP maple syrup (optional)
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 Tbsp lemon or orange juice
1 cup of shredded zucchini*
3/4 cup walnuts, chopped
- Preheat oven to 350F. Line a metal loaf pan with parchment paper.
- Make flax eggs* by mixing ground flax seeds and water in a large bowl and leave to thicken.
- In a medium mixing bowl mix together the dry ingredients (flour through ginger).
- Grate* zucchini (small side of box grater works best) and pack into a measuring cup over the sink. Press as you pack, pour out excess moisture and combine with sugar and wet ingredients, including flax eggs.
- Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet, mixing as you go.
- Spoon the very thick batter into pan and bake for 37-45 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. (Glass loaf pan will require longer cooking time.)
This plant-based path has gotten me so excited about experimenting in the kitchen that I was even ready to tackle preparing pumpkin from scratch! I sliced off a bit of skin along one side, so that the pumpkin would not roll when I began cutting it. Then, I divided the pumpkin into 4-8 wedges, scooped out the seeds, but left most of the stringy bits, which turned out to be much easier to remove after baking. I arranged the pieces, cut side down, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and baked at 350F for ~1 hr, or until soft. Then, I pureed the roasted pumpkin in the food processor and strained it through a colander with cheesecloth, overnight in the refrigerator. I used some for a batch of zucchini bread, then measured the rest in one cup amounts and froze them in zip-top baggies.