The Fourth of July comes with its very own food culture - there are foods that come out on this day that just shout summer. Tomorrow my mom and I have planned a food and drink filled get together with some friends and family that will be topped off by the very first concert of The Living Room Band!
More than anything, this day is about celebrating all that is American and the glory of Freedom. The past year I have really been searching for a way to find freedom in my own life as a mom, wife, and aspiring something or other (there are lots).It is not always easy to find that place where you can let go when the roles we play in life can take over so completely. There can be an overwhelming feeling of being shut in, with nothing you can call your own anymore.
The turning point for me came after my grandfather's passing last year. He was pretty much one of best people on the planet (in my opinion). He never said negative things about people no matter what, and was really kind to everyone. He saw the other person's point of view, he appreciated every day he had on the planet, never took anything for granted, gave away everything to everyone, and he was always the first one in the food line with me. We always had a laugh about that. He was a patriot, he loved America and freedom. He always included a prayer for the troops and their families when he blessed Sunday dinners.
So the first thing that happened to me after he left us was this desire to run. Just run and feel my body breathe, sweat, move. I signed up for the gym, and now run, bike, swim. I find freedom there in that hour while my kids are wildly making mischief in the kids club, and I feel alive.
Grandpa always told me I had missed my calling when ever I would show up to one of our family dinners with a little movie I had made or edited together. He was my biggest fan, and always seemed amazed at what I could do. I don't know if that is because of the 'newfangled technology' or because he saw something more in me that I didn't see. On May 14th of this year, what would have been his 92nd birthday, I sent in my application for the Next Food TV Star competition, and made it as one of the 8 finalists. It was one of the coolest experiences of my life. I felt the freedom that comes with finally doing something you know you were meant to do.
The Living Room Band, the one I mentioned at the beginning of this long-winded post having little to do with food so far (to those of you still reading, I will surly get to it eventually ), is where I find myself most free. I get to sing and be part of this great group of musicians who just make every Thursday the best Thursday ever. Singing is something I really always loved, but never pursued, probably out of fear or something lame like that. But now I stand there and really just leave it out on the living room floor when I sing. I make time for music thanks to grandpa who showed me to appreciate every day. It isn't always easy, I feel guilty sometimes, but then we have a moment as a band where everything is just perfect, and I know I am doing the right thing. It is important to find and celebrate small freedoms.
Then there is this whole food thing. I am getting to a point of knowledge now that I am kinda proud of. Lots of reading, and tons cooking of course, has started to pay off; mostly when I can share what I know with someone else. We all have to eat, so I love to show people ways they can be more creative, more free, in their own kitchens.
Ok, enough of the babble! When I think of abundance and summer, the mighty zucchini comes to my mind. So tomorrow, for my part of the cooking, along with the cabbage slaw, homemade mac and cheese, and fruit salad I am going to make my zucchini cake. Actually it is a zucchini bread recipe, but I make it in a rectangle cake pan and it is excellent. Slather it with cream cheese frosting, and no one will ever imagine they are eating something with zucchini.
Shred 1 pound of zucchini in a food processor with the shredding attachment and put in a mesh strainer (or if you don't have that, use a colander). Let this mess of green drain for an hour or more. If you want to help it along by squeezing the juices out, do it. The dryer the better.
Here are the ingredients:
1 lb zucchini shredded
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup yogurt (I use an entire Activia yogurt - peach, strawberry, whatever I have!)
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon lemon juice
6 tablespoons of canola oil
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and spray a 13x9" rectangular cake pan with cooking spray. Whisk flour, baking soda and powder, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl. Whisk sugar, yogurt, eggs, lemon juice, and canola oil in another bowl until combined. Fold the yogurt mixture into the flour mixture just until combined. Transfer the batter to your cake pan and bake for 25-30 minutes until the cake springs back when you touch the center. Let it cool for at least 30 minutes before you cut.
Slather with that delightfully evil cream cheese frosting and find people falling at your feet in amazement that they are eating zucchini anything.