Lemon Zucchini Muffins and Family Reunion Fun


I really should be posting a recipe for something like plain oatmeal, or even gruel, after the long weekend of eating at my family reunion. Not only did I bake up a storm before I got there, but I fulfilled a few requests after we arrived.

We hadn’t been in the door at my Aunt Linda’s house for more than five minutes when I was mixing up peach cobbler for dessert that night. We didn’t have quite enough peaches (last year’s summer bounty, from my freezer), so we threw in a pint of blueberries we had picked up at an orchard on the trip. I made a slightly sweet, whole wheat pie crust to top the fruit. You will just have to imagine how good it looked and tasted, since I totally forgot to take pictures. And the cobbler was gone almost as soon as it came out of the oven, so there wasn’t even a little dab to take a picture of later.

Linda was on a quest to clean out her freezer before garden produce starts ripening in earnest. The second night we had last fall’s fried apples for dessert. I made a double batch of caramel sauce, at her request, to top them. Let me tell you, it is an interesting experience to cook with at least fifteen relatives milling in and out of the kitchen, hovering over the stove to check the progress of the sauce. I did get everyone to let it cool for a few minutes before they pounced, but only with dire warnings about how hot it really was.

Lest you think all we did was eat all weekend, we did spend a lot of time visiting and taking pictures. Of course, most of us are perfectly capable of catching up and eating at the same time. The kids fit in quite a few card games, washer tournaments and electronic entertainment. And we had a white elephant auction that distracted us from eating for at least a little while. But mostly we ate and talked.


Family members ambled into town over several days. By Saturday, when we had the biggest shindig, there were thirty-two of us, comprising three generations. Not that you really care to look at my family photos, but I thought I would include one. We managed to corral most everyone, though several people are missing in this one. Note the dog getting in on the action in the front row.

The family is spread out both in age and geography, so there were some in-laws and kids who hadn’t met everyone. I had a son of one of my cousins (a second cousin?) ask me exactly what a generation was. I think I explained it as briefly as possible, but his eyes still glazed over just a bit. And one of the littlest guys was just figuring out that his grandpa wasn’t every kid’s grandpa. Great uncle is a hard concept to explain. But it’s all family, and it’s all good.

The lemon zucchini muffins were one of the successes of the weekend – lemony, flecked with green zucchini bits, not too sweet, just rich enough to serve as dessert but healthy enough to double as breakfast. I baked them on Monday and froze them until we left on Thursday. They were still fairly moist on Sunday. Of course, a little butter and a few seconds in the microwave brought out the lemon and made them even better. A few people had them with leftover caramel sauce and apples, but that was too many flavors going on for me. Butter was perfect.

Download or print the recipe here.

Lemon Zucchini Muffins
Adapted by The Cook’s Life
From “Country Baking” by Ken Haedrich
Makes 12 muffins, easy to double

The original recipe was for bread, baked in an 8 ½ by 4 ½ inch loaf pan. Baking time was 50 minutes.

1⅔ cups white whole wheat flour
⅔ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
⅓ cup canola or vegetable oil
2-3 tablespoons lemon juice (the juice of one lemon)
2-3 teaspoons lemon zest (the zest of one lemon)
1 cup grated zucchini (don’t peel it and don’t squeeze it dry, you want all the moisture)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease 12 muffin cups. Mix the white whole wheat flour, the all-purpose flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs; then add the oil, lemon juice and zest. Mix well, then add the zucchini and mix again.

Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture and mix gently until all the flour is mixed in and there are no dry streaks. Do not beat. Batter will be very thick.

Divide the batter evenly between the muffin cups, filling them almost full. Bake 15-18 minutes, or until the centers are firm when pressed or a toothpick inserted in the middle of a muffin comes out clean.

Cool the muffins in the pan on a rack for 5-10 minutes, then remove from the pan and let cool to room temperature on a rack. Store in an airtight container for a few days or freeze for longer storage.

Family Reunion Baking


Everyone bakes when they are getting ready for a family reunion, right? I know the first thing I think of, even before deciding what to pack, is what I am going to bake. I suspect I might be blackballed if I showed up without at least some baked treats. In fact, this year, one of my aunts called me last weekend to ask what I was bringing. One of my cousins (grown, mind you) wanted to know what I was baking so he could start anticipating. High praise, in any book.

When I was in high school I started baking cookies a week ahead of time so we would have enough for the long reunion weekend. Everyone loved the cookies, but they moaned about all the calories, usually as they were eating another one. I only baked a few the next year, so everyone wouldn’t be tempted. And I was greeted with a chorus of disappointment when I showed up without the cookies. You just can’t win sometimes!


This year I am taking chocolate oat bars and oatmeal chocolate chip cookie bars. At least the oatmeal chocolate chip bars are semi-healthy – or a little less unhealthy. I am also taking a lemon variation of my whole wheat zucchini muffins (recipe coming soon). I needed to use up some of last year’s frozen produce to make room for this year’s and a double batch of muffins took care of two bags of grated zucchini. On that same note I am taking some of last year’s frozen peaches to make into peach cobbler after we get there. Nothing beats warm peach cobbler, and it isn’t exactly a good traveler.


I am skipping the huge batch of bread this year – the one that popped the top off its container while it was rising and then baked up into four huge loaves of bread. I figured I could do without a repeat of that adventure. Instead I am taking a homemade mix for hamburger buns. We are arriving a couple of days before the big reunion dinner, so I am waiting to bake the buns there to make sure they will be as fresh as possible.

Now that the baking is done and everything is in the freezer, waiting to go in the car at the last minute, I can think about packing. Priorities, you know.

Wedding Weekend

I am just getting back from a long weekend away from home – my parents and I traveled together to my cousin’s wedding in Springfield, Missouri (does every state have a Springfield?). It was a family reunion, of sorts, and it was good to see most of my aunts and uncles and some of my cousins. Our family is too big for everyone to be able to make it, but there were still a crowd of us (we missed everyone who wasn’t able to come!).

Rich and Calvin had work and school, so I played carefree woman for a few days while they held down the fort at home. They survived, though it meant a lot of eating out (they didn’t complain about that) and almost missing the school bus in the morning. I think (hope!) they are glad to have me back.

I took the chance to talk to my aunts and uncles about their childhoods and my grandmother’s cooking. I wish I had recorded more of the stories with my phone (thanks for the suggestion, Uncle John!), but there will be other visits. I have asked my dad about what he remembers about his mother’s cooking, and he has plenty of stories, but it is always good to hear other perspectives and memories. It also makes for some lively conversations when the siblings’ memories don’t agree.

Dad had told me about his mother’s method of mixing biscuits – she did everything by feel – no measuring – and mixed them totally with her hands, even after she added the milk. And she could put together a batch of biscuits for her large family in about five minutes. My aunt told me what she remembered; adding more details, but the method was pretty much the same in her version. She told me that Grandma made biscuits every day of the week until they bought a country grocery store and moved away from the farm.

I need to make a project of it and call my aunts and uncles in turn to get their different memories of Grandma’s cooking and their growing up years in general. It is a large, spread-out family and the older ones definitely have different memories than the babies of the family. There will always be new stories I haven’t heard, but you better believe that I am going to start collecting them in earnest before more are forgotten.

It was a nice few days of extended family time with lots of time to catch up – at least for those of us not in the wedding party. The wedding was beautiful, the days of visiting were fun and we were sorry to leave (which is always a sign of a good party).